Nighttime

The night before Summit Day…..

Climbers in Alaska
The Climb

The night was long and restless. He was cold inside his sleeping bag even though the three of them had worked so hard to make things cozy. And then, there was the wind. It blasted the tent relentlessly, and he was worried about getting blown off the ridge. What would that be like, he tried to imagine? There was no actual sleep. But there was a sort of vigilant grogginess. While his body was mostly still, his mind actively raced in a frenzy of hyperactive speculation. He was uncomfortable, and the situation was damn near depressing. But thankfully, he wasn’t outside climbing toward the summit- yet. That would happen soon enough.

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Clearing in the West- A Poem

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Clearing in the West

It’s clearing in the west.

Without a doubt,
It’s brighter over in the west,
Beyond
The far ridge.

The storm is moving on.
The wind has dropped,
The clouds persist.
And snow is everywhere.

For now,
Zip up the door
And settle
Back into your bag.

Because it’s clearing in the west.

So,
Grab the stove,
Clear off a spot.
Find the pot,
Wipe it out.

Set it up,
Make it stable,
Fire the burner,
Add some water,

Ready your cup,
Break out the snacks,
Wait for steam,
It’s time for tea.

Adjust your seat,
Take off a fleece,
Stretch your legs,
But mind your feet.

It’s getting warmer,
Crack the door,
Forget the gloves,
Pull off the cap.

Ready your drink,
What will it be?
Spiced cider, hot chocolate,
Coffee or tea?

Finally, it boils.
Turn off the stove.
Add the mix.
Pour in the water.
Sip the hot drink.
Unzip the door.
Look out and note,

It’s clearing in the west.

 

Camp at the end of a bushwhack
A Mountain Campsite

Boquillas Canyon Revisited

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Headed Into Boquillas Canyon

The last time I canoed the Rio Grande through Boquillas Canyon was in 1979. After 40 years, it became time for me to remind myself of some of the lessons that 33 mile stretch of river taught me way back then. And so, I floated it.

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Backpacking in the Winds

A group of OWA vets return to the Wind River Range for a backpacking trip.

 

Groupl at Popo Agie Wilderness Boundary
The Group at the Popo Agie Wilderness Boundary

The seven of us met up in Lander, Wyoming on Sunday, Sept 22, 2019, for a backpacking trip into the Wind River Range. For many years, the town had served as the base of operations for a multitude of Outpost Wilderness Adventure trips in the area, so we all felt like we knew it well. It was the logical choice for our meet-up spot, and so that’s how we used it. At some point in the past, each of us had been involved with Outpost (or OWA). Now, some years later and as OWA veterans, this was our third return into the wild outdoors. The group consisted of David and Brian Barrow, Chris Brown, David Guillory, Barry Hunt, Patrick Cone, and David Appleton. The ages ranged from Brian’s early ’30s to Barrow and Appleton’s mid-’60s. Most everyone had ventured into the “Winds” previously, but none in the past 15 years. While some change had crept into the town, once we got on the trail the following day, it was nice to see that the backcountry was as wild and spectacular as ever.

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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 the thick fog, headed toward the summit of Chiefs Head, in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park. I was bringing up the rear of a group of ten, mostly teenage backpackers. Typically, I was confident about wherever Mike was leading us. But in this instance, one of his Colorado Mountain School guides, Dennis, was at the back of the line with me and kept muttering about how we were going up the wrong mountain, which caused me to be a tad bit skeptical of our route.

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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 them down with the others. They were a good conversation piece while sitting out there in the open. But when he found a spider in one, and since he needed to move them anyway, he put them into some empty slots in the Fanta case down on the floor. After he tidied things up, he thought about dragging the whole box of empties out from behind the Sabritas rack, so that they would still be visible. That way, they would continue to be the talk of the town, but he realized that if he did so, they would just be in the way and would make things look disorganized. And so he just stuck the case 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

Deep in the heart of Wyoming’s Wind River Range, there’s a place that we called Golden Lake. No marked or named trails go there, and if you look on a map or search a guide book for information about it, you’ll find nothing. While there is a lake there, it has another name. It sits in a glacial cirque, or basin, along with two others at the top of an obscure drainage that leads down to the North 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 ended up choosing 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.

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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 humongous rock formations that were scattered all around. They dominated the remote high valley in Colorado’s Tarryall Mountains with their sheer size. And they breathed a strange sort of life into the area that had convinced me 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 gut feeling that had me convinced. I was consumed by the place’s pure and simple beauty. And I sensed the place was 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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Elk

A herd of elk in the Colorado high country

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The Colorado Rockies

There must’ve been close to 100 elk filling the valley below me, and I was astounded. I didn’t want to do anything to call attention to myself, so I just sat there quietly, peering over the boulder from afar. It was some sort of luck or fate that put me in that right place and at the right time, because getting into a position to see a big bunch of wild animals was not one of my goals for that day.

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