The Search

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The Tarryall Mountains

It was a Fall Sunday during what should’ve been the slow part of the year. My lodge in Colorado’s Tarryall Mountains had burned to the ground, and I was there dealing with it. I was sharing an old log cabin, which had not burned, with an 18-year-old intern—so, was not alone. On the day in question, I was piddling around the job site doing various rebuilding chores. Since it was our off day, Lee (the intern) asked if he could go on a leisurely and straightforward hike toward Bison Peak. I considered the fact that he’d been on several backcountry trips with my outdoor program in the past. And since there was no work planned for him that afternoon, it seemed reasonable. And so, I gave him my blessing.

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Adventure Climbing- Wind River Range (part 2)

The second part of an adventure climb in the Wind River Range

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The Valley of the Monks

From the bottom, we had envisioned how both the scramble to the rope-up spot and the first pitch would unfold. And so, we were mentally prepared for each. But things above were a bit fuzzy, although we were confident that it would all become more apparent once we got up there. Better not to confuse the issue with too much of a plan, we’d determined.

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Place Names

The names of places……

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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 a lot of naivety that got the three of us there. That and my Ford pickup. A thousand or so miles of driving took us from Texas up to Montana’s Glacier National Park, where we planned to live out our dreams of winter camping and cross-country skiing. We had the place pretty much to ourselves when we arrived, probably because it was January. We were alone when we pulled in, except for the two park rangers operating the Polebridge Ranger Station (where we entered the park) and the plethora of wildlife still out and about.

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The Mine in Potosi’

Exploring the Cerro Rico mine.

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A Bridge to Somewhere

For whatever reason, my wife, Lori, and I ended up in Potosi, Bolivia, on that particular part of our vacation. After considering various things to do around the city, we ended up selecting the “mine tour” option. The city is over 200 miles south of the capital city of La Paz. Sitting at 13,400 feet, it’s one of the highest cities in the world. And, it’s nearly entirely dominated by the mountain, Cerro Rico, which has been mined regularly for silver since back in the days of the Spaniards.

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Lost and Found on the Silver Trail

“You’re not lost, if you don’t care where you are.”

Mountain biking the Silver Trail

By this point, we were some 20 miles from the last little outpost of a town that we’d been through. But theoretically, at least, we were about to come to another. Jerry had the best available maps of the area loaded onto his GPS. But it only told us where we were relative to whatever data it was loaded with. The old adage, “garbage in, garbage out,” came to mind and was soon followed by the vision of a web page that simply said, “no data available.”

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Boquillas Canyon

Canoeing and rafting down the Rio Grande through Boquillas Canyon.

The entrance into Boquillas Canyon

The third time I floated the Rio Grande River through Boquillas Canyon was smoother than the first two. Since it was my first time to lead an actual group into the backcountry, that seemingly simple fact was especially good. There were twelve of us on that particular trip, paddling two per aluminum canoe. We made the 33-mile excursion down the river on the east side of Big Bend National Park over three days, with two nights spent camping out along the way, only a couple of inconsequential technical canoeing problems, and a straightforward vehicle shuttle at the end. Other than dealing with a certain amount of teenager chaos, we mostly just went with the flow, gazed out at the mighty Sierra del Carmen mountains rising off to the southeast, and pondered the majesty and complexities of the humongous cliff walls surrounding us.

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Fire in the Tarryalls

A tree catches fire in the Colorado backcountry at a particularly inopportune time.

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Penitente Canyon, Colorado

Lightning streaked across the sky and was followed instantly by an explosion of thunder, telling me that the thunderstorm was somewhere right above us. It was unsettling, but there wasn’t time to worry about it. I didn’t see any sort of flash hit the ground but had to wonder if there was one up there, wherever it was that lightning came from, that had one of our names written on it. The wind kept blowing relentlessly and the constant gusting made the whole situation seem all the more chaotic. But, where’s the rain, I thought? The Tarryall Mountains needed it. A real downpour might put an end to the monstrous Hayman Fire as well as whatever the smaller thing was that was visibly burning above us on the mountainside.

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