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I drove over the Alpine Loop a few weeks ago on my way home from Park City. The aspens hadn't begun to turn yet, but the maples in the lower parts of the canyon were like fiery furnaces. As I wound around the narrow curves I realized how much I have neglected experiencing the canyons the past few years - a mere 10 minutes away from home, yet this was the first time in years that I had taken time to really savor the leaves of fall.

So I have gone back often in the past few weeks to watch the leaves. The changes that occur from day to day are overwhelming.Before last weekend, for example, the high passes were still a lemony green. Then suddenly within two days a golden glow covered the ridges. Clusters of yellow appeared on the rocky shoulders of Timp in places I hadn't even noted earlier, spilling down the steep ravines in a golden tide that would take your breath away.

One day, about 5:30 in the afternoon, I took off with barely enough sun left to make it worthwhile. But by now I had become so hypnotized that I went anyway, this time driving up the north fork of the canyon.

Already, the high cliffs were casting cool shadows. But when I drove into the clearing at Tibble Fork Reservoir, shafts of light were spilling over the steep ridges to the east. The contrast between the brilliant color above and the dimness below made the glow even more intense, drawing me on up the steep dugway to Silver Lake, where a few fishermen were still casting their lines into the quiet water.

I parked the car along the side of the lake, got out a folding chair and just sat for awhile until the sun faded from the highest peaks. I thought about how often I have missed such experiences just for the sake of time, and I promised myself to try to take time in the future for such simple jaunts - and to invite friends or family members along - though being there alone seemed nice, too.

And then for some reason I got to thinking about taxes.

It kills me when I think about all the money we pay to keep the city, state and country afloat. Yet I seldom focus on the benefits.

So I thought about the highway that had brought me so casually up the canyon. I thought about the campsites and the people who take care of them. I thought about the parking area near the reservoir where, as I had passed, several people were ambling along the trail to watch trout jump on the mirror surface in the evening air.

Even the narrow dugway above the reservoir that I had taken to this higher perch was a wonder of energy and cost beyond anything I could ever have created for myself.

All within a half hour of leaving home.

And the thing that impressed me most was the thought that it was mine, to be savored whenever I choose to take advantage of it. That wonderful view, for example, looking south toward Timpanogos from above Tibble Fork, is as genuinely wonderful as anything I have seen in all the foreign places I have ever visited.

I thought about how all the Wasatch National Forest land, and the Uintah Forest, and Yellowstone and Canyonlands - they don't belong to the government at all.

They belong to me. Because I am the government.

The thought of which makes the idea of taking proper care of it a little more like keeping trash off the living room carpet, and makes the idea of paying taxes a little less painful.