Bonking on the Colorado Trail and Elsewhere

Mountain biking in Colorado
Mountain biking in the Tarryall Mountains

Ryan had never bonked before. When he started to bumble around and kept losing more and more of his edge, I knew something was up. Not really realizing what was going on, he kept on trying to mountain bike further up the Colorado Trail, although with diminishing returns. The big patches of snow that still littered the trail, even though it was June, were probably a good thing, since they ultimately turned us all, including him, around. His disrupted mental and physical state likely made the retreat more palatable to the 13 year old, since he wasn’t one to be prone to turn around before his goal was reached, regardless of the level of difficulty that he faced.

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The Wrong Mountain

Backpacking

“You’re not lost if you don’t care where you are”, or something to that effect, is a famous quote. I repeated it several times to myself as we kept walking into a thick fog, headed toward the summit of Chiefshead, in Rocky Mountain National Park. I was bringing up the rear of a group of 10, mostly teenage backpackers, and would’ve been completely confident in where Mike was leading us, except that one of his guides, Dennis, was at the back of the line with me and kept muttering things about how we were going up the wrong mountain.

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Wuss

Crossing Pinto Park Pass
Crossing Pinto Park Pass

He hadn’t felt very strong, ever since lunch. His backpack felt increasingly heavy and the big uphill into Pinto Park was yet to come. He was not a complainer and was intent on not becoming one at this point. He wondered if it maybe had something to do with the water he’d gotten out of the creek during the break before lunch. He realized that he hadn’t even looked at his water in the bottle before drinking it. What if it was full of all kinds of weird stuff, he wondered to himself.

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Thirst

A mysterious thirst is quenched.

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Wild Copper Canyon

The sixteen empty soda bottles sat on the counter in the Cerro Colorado store for two days, before the shopkeeper finally stuck ‘em down with others. They’d been a good conversation piece sitting out there in the open, but he’d found a spider in one of ‘em just that morning and since he needed to move them anyway, he just did what needed to be done and put them into some of the empty slots in the wooden Fanta case down on the floor. After he’d tidied things up, he thought about dragging the whole box of empties out from behind the Sabrita’s rack where it would be more visible, but realized that if he did so, it would just be in the way and would make things look disorganized, and so he just put it in the back room.

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Adventure Climbing- Wind River Range

Climbing an unnamed buttress in the Winds…..

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Lead Climbing

In Two Parts………..

Part 1

There’s a place deep in the heart of the Wind River Range that we called Golden Lake. There are no marked trails that go there and if you look on a map there’s nothing with that name. There actually is a lake up there, but it has another name. It sits in a basin of sorts, along with two others. The basin is actually a glacial cirque which sits at the top of an obscure drainage which leads down to the Middle Fork of the Popo Agie River. The main lake of the three is full of Golden Trout. Thus, the name.

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Hell Canyon

 

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Up High in the Colorado Rockies

It wasn’t the easy way out of the predicament, but we chose the more physically painful of the two options and climbed up the steep saddle that led us out of Paradise Park and down into Hell Canyon. As we began setting up our tents and otherwise organizing our campsite at the theoretical end of a long day of backpacking, I did what I should’ve done at least a few days before and read the entry in the guidebook for Rocky Mountain National Park and environs that discussed the area where we were currently setting up camp. There was no ambiguity in what it said, which was simply that “there is no overnight camping allowed anywhere in Paradise Park”. I was sure that I was just reading it wrong the first time I read the words, but they were the same the second time around and I realized the besides violating federal regulations if we stayed, even more importantly, we might just be doing something really negative to the location if we went ahead and camped there.

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Nacho Kino

Missing a Tutuburi

Copper Canyon Kino Springs campsite
Camping at Kino Springs

The countryside opened up as the trail left the Valley of the Iglesias. Our group of seven had passed a young Tarahumara (the indigenous people of Mexico’s Copper Canyon) earlier in the day and I’d asked about Nacho Kino, an old Tarahumara man that I’d met while mapping the Silver Trail a few years before.

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Bushwhacking

Relaxing after a long bushwhack
Soaking in the Backcountry

We called it the Valley of the Dinosaurs mostly because of the monstrous rock formations that were scattered all around. Besides just overwhelming the high mountain valley with their size, they breathed a strange sort of life into the area that had convinced me from early on that the whole place was on the move. I could never pick out any one thing that caused me to think that—it was more like a general, overwhelming and deep in the gut feeling that had me convinced. I was consumed by the place’s pure and simple beauty and a feeling that the whole area was way more alive than me from the very first time I blundered into it. Through the years, I took every opportunity to return and while the physical cost of getting there was never cheap- without fail, it was always worth it.

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Place Names

The names of places……

Climb VOM
Valley of the Monks, Copper Canyon

The various names that are attached to places are intriguing. Some that are acquired are obvious, since they either reflect some sort of location characteristic or simply commemorate an individual who was important to the place. But, others not quite so. Regardless of how or why, the names all tell a story in a few short words—some less straight-forward than others, but each worthy of knowing. Here’s a few such stories that I’ve heard. Listen, and maybe you will, too………………..

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Winter Camping in Montana

Winter camping and cross country skiing in Glacier National Park.

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Winter-like Camping

It was mostly naivety that got the three of us to where we were to begin with. That and my Ford pickup. A thousand or so miles of driving had taken us from Texas and up into Montana’s Glacier National Park, where we planned to live out our dreams of winter camping and cross country skiing. Since it was January, we had the place pretty much to ourselves, except for the two Park Rangers manning the Polebridge Ranger Station (where we entered the park)  and the plethora of wildlife still out and about, such as elk and Gray Wolves.

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