“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.
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.
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.
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.
Where did Garrett go? A misplaced backpacker out in the Wind River Range backcountry.
If all went as planned, we’d get to our campsite by late afternoon, which would give us plenty of daylight for setting up the tents, organizing gear and even resting some before cooking supper. Our backpacks were heavy, but being mostly young and fit, by lunch we’d already covered well over half of the 15 miles planned for the day. At just a little after 1 o’clock, we crossed the Roaring Fork and stopped on the other side to change out of our river shoes and eat our midday meal of tuna, crackers and gorp. Among other things, the stop also provided a nice break from the uphill grind we’d been on for several hours.