It was a Fall Sunday during what should’ve been the slow part of the year. Our Colorado lodge in the Tarryall Mountains had burned to the ground a month or so before and I was up there dealing with it. I was sharing an old log cabin, which had not burned, with an 18-year- old intern—so, I was not alone. On the day in question, I was piddling around doing various things that needed to happen in the midst of rebuilding. That afternoon, Lee (the intern) had some leisure time and came up to the building site to let me know that he wanted to go on a simple and physically easy hike up the Ute Creek Trail toward Bison Peak and would plan to be back to the cabin before dark. Since he’d been on several backcountry trips with us in the past and I wouldn’t be needing his help with the work that I had planned for the afternoon, it sounded reasonable to me. And so, I gave him my blessing.
The second part of an adventure climb in the Wind River Range
From down at the bottom of the climb, we’d envisioned what the scramble up to the rope-up spot and to a lesser extent the first pitch would be like and were mentally prepared for both. But things above that point were 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.
The names of places……
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………………..
Winter camping and cross country skiing in Glacier National Park.
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 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. Since it was January, we had the place pretty much to ourselves when we got there, except for the two park rangers who were 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.
Exploring the Cerro Rico mine.
For whatever reason, we ended up in Potosi’, Bolivia on that particular part of our vacation and were looking for interesting things to do and ended up selecting the “mine tour” option. The city is several hundred miles south of La Paz, sits at around 13,400 feet (making it one of the highest cities in the world) and is completely dominated by the mountain, Cerro Potosi’, which has been mined regularly for silver, since back in the days of the Spanish heyday.
“You’re not lost, if you don’t care where you are.”
By this point, we were probably some 20 miles from the last little outpost of a town that we’d been through but were theoretically about to come to another. Jerry had the best maps of the area available loaded onto his GPS, but it only told us where we were in relation to the relatively paltry data that it was loaded with. The realization that we might actually be the first people ever out in that part of Mexico’s Copper Canyon trying to figure out and quantify where the hell the old trail went left me with the feeling of simply being overwhelmed. The old adage of, “garbage in, garbage out” came to mind and was soon followed by the vision of a web page that simply said, “no data available.”
I was momentarily depressed as I looked at the convergence of three trails, all of which seemed to head up toward the top of a wrong ridge. Just as we were each desperately searching for any sort of clues about it all, I was saved, once again, by the quote- “you’re not lost, if you don’t care where you are.”
Canoeing and rafting down the Rio Grande through Boquillas Canyon.
The third time that I floated the Rio Grande River through Boquillas Canyon, things went more smoothly. Since that 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 Rio Grande on the east side of Big Bend National Park over three days, with two nights spent camping out along the way, only one simple “getting knocked out of the canoe” situation, and a straightforward vehicle shuttle at the end. Mostly, all we did was to go with the flow, gaze out at the mighty Sierra del Carmen mountains rising above us off to the southeast in Mexico, and ponder the magnificence and complexities of the humongous cliff walls which engulfed us much of the time.
A tree catches fire in the Colorado backcountry at a particularly inopportune time.
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.