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. 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.

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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 ridge and then over the saddle that led us out of Paradise Park and down into Hell Canyon.

This is how we got to that point:

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Frolicking in the Alps

 

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A Rope Team

I could tell the story from my first Alps trip about the Swiss barmaid who was hovering around outside of my tent late one night asking for my tentmate, Matt. Or the one about Matt and I racing our Swiss guides back down from the top of the Argentine Miroir (a famous rock climb) to a nearby café where our group was waiting. Both occurred amid an adventure trip that the two of us were leading made up of people of varying ages including, teenagers, a doctor who was even older than me, and my non-alpinism-experienced wife, Lori. As one of the leaders, I was making every effort to look out for the well-being of the group, but even so, interesting sorts of “things” kept happening.
I’m going to leave the details of those two events mentioned above up to the reader’s imagination and tell the one about Lori, Doctor Bob, and Big Chris crossing a glacier.

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The Beer Truck

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Tarahumara house in Copper Canyon, Mexico

I was down in Mexico’s Copper Canyon leading a small group of adventure traveler “Chavochi’s” (non indigenous Tarahumara/devil people as some of us Gringo’s are fondly known among the Tarahumara), in the early 2000’s and some things happened while we were down there in Batopilas Canyon and the town of Batopilas, itself, which may or may not be related to each other. I think they are.

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Treble Hook in the Eye

A treble hook catches an eyelid in the backcountry.

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Controlled Fishing Chaos

Thankfully, we only got a few miles up the Wind River Range’s Middle Fork Trail, before stopping and setting up our first night’s camp. As it turned out, the whole treble hook situation would’ve been way more complicated had we gone further that first day.

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The Fly

Hooking a fishing fly with a spinner

Fly fishing the Tarryall.

The kid walked up while I was down in the creek fiddling around with a big rock, to tell me that he’d lost his last fly. I was the guide and supposedly the person who’d take care of that sort of thing and thus, knew that I needed to act quickly. The most obvious solution would’ve been for me to just give him one. Normally that’d be a simple and straight forward thing to do– but since, in this particular case I didn’t have any, it wasn’t even an option.

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The 24 Hours of Moab

Interesting events late at night during a 24 Hour mountain bike race.

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Mountain biking

Things got progressively weirder as the Utah mountain bike race/event known as the 24 Hours of Moab continued. At some point in the middle of the night, two tandem bikes with riders dressed as frogs rode in from a direction that I was certain had nothing to do with the race course. During the first lap, I’d been concerned when another racer didn’t correctly yield the trail to me on a long climb, but by the time the frog thing happened, nothing of that sort was bothering me. I was just pleased that the creatures stopped and were waiting off to the side of the trail for me to pass before continuing on. From that moment on, as I passed and rode on up toward the crest of the hill and far end of the race course each time, I was consumed by the thought that the frog riders might just turn onto the same 15 mile long trail that me and several hundred other riders were in the midst of riding. As I rode on, I hoped that if so, they’d at least go in the same counterclockwise direction as the rest of us.

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Crevasse

Tents on the snow, perhaps above a crevasse
A snow camp.

He was not a big person and since I outweighed him by 60 or so pounds, I was confident that I could hold him, if he were to break through and fall into a crevasse. There was no doubt that those sometimes-bottomless cracks that are found all over glaciers were running underneath us everywhere, although most of them were hidden from view beneath thin layers of the snow and ice of the Ruth Glacier. While probing out the route as we moved along was tedious, it was especially imperative since it was June and things were thawing more than freezing. We knew that the crevasse field was there below us, but were hoping to find a relatively safe way through it that could be used as a way to get our whole group up onto the ridge directly above us.

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A Special Waipio Backpacking Trip

Backpackers crossing from Waipio to Waimanu Valleys on the Big Island are treated to some interesting guests.

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Fly fishing the Tarryall.

Our day of backpacking up the Z switchback on the Mulawai Trail as we hiked toward Waimanu had been hot at first, but a breath of fresh and cool air had hit us smack dab head-on once we got up on top of the ridge. While the refreshingly pleasant conifer forest up there was a welcomed surprise, the fact that we were in the midst of a well known part of Hawaii’s Big Island and that there was a camping shelter midway along the trail, was completely expected. We reached the elevated platform in the middle of the afternoon after several hours of hot and humid backpacking. Since there was plenty of daylight left and we were all physically drained, everyone picked a spot and stretched out on the shaded and relatively clean plywood for a quick nap. As I drifted off, I thought contentedly of black sand beaches, juicy and sweet Liliko’I fruit, and shade before dozing off into dream world. Josh and I were the oldest and the leaders of the group of 8 or so teenage boys, a fact that would eventually come into play. But for the moment, we all just slept.

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Hamburgers and Lizard Head

A group of backpackers attempts to climb Lizard Head and learns the true meaning of climbing.

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Pingora, Cirque of the Towers, Wind River Range, Wyoming

Lizard Head is a big peak just to the north and east of the well- known, long, and breathtakingly majestic line of mountains, ridges, and spires in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, known as the Cirque of the Towers. On one particular Outpost Wilderness Adventure trip, we backpacked with two groups of 7, via different routes that both came in from the east to Bear Lake. The lake sits just on the east side of Lizard Head and would be the location for our backcountry base camp. Once there, we set up two close, but separate camps each located between the lake and mountain with the plan to use them as a base from which to explore the area. Since it was during the Fourth of July holiday, we knew that there’d be a lot of people in the general area, but that few, if any, would venture into that particular neck of the woods. Our plan included a non-technical ascent of the nearby mountain, fishing in area streams and lakes, and a special Fourth of July supper, which was to include freeze-dried hamburger patties- a cutting edge item back in the ’80s.

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