The Tarryall

The Tarryalls from Sand Creek

Tarryall Mountains,
Colorado treasure.
Smack dab in the middle of the state,
And overlooking South Park.

Improbable and majestic granite towers,
Boulders of all sizes,
Alpine tundra,
Bighorn Sheep,
And Bristlecone Pines.

Rambling streams and beaver ponds.
Smoky Quartz and Topaz.
Calypso Orchids,
Old-growth forest,
And a creek that disappears.

Tales of Utes,
The last wild buffalo,
Wolves,
Gunfights,
Walt Whitman on a train,
Homesteaders,
And miners rich with gold.

Bison Peak, McCurdy Mountain,
McCurdy Tower, and McCurdy Park.
X Rock, the Sand Creek Buttress,
Twin Eagles,
And Spruce Grove.

Humongous crystals, albino trout,
Ute Creek, and Bison Pass.
The Hourglass Burn, Lost Park Wilderness,
Brookside-McCurdy Trail,
And the Old Miner’s Cabin.

A wild place with few people,
Plenty of mystery,
And a warm wind that whispers “Tarryall.”

Audio Version:

McCurdy Mountain,
Tarryalls

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.

Audio Version:

 

Camp at the end of a bushwhack
A Mountain Campsite

The Search

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The Tarryall Mountains

It was a Fall Sunday during what was normally the slow part of the year. Autumn in Colorado’s Tarryall Mountains is spectacular with Aspen trees turning gold and warm sunny days interrupted only by the occasional and temporary arrival of winter. Most years, late September is an ideal time to be there, with long pleasant days that are almost perfect for mountain biking, hiking, and climbing area peaks. But this particular year, my days were occupied with the aftermath of the burning down of the OWA base camp lodge rather than recreation. Instead of the comforts of my private lodge bedroom and bath, I was sharing an old one-room log cabin with an 18-year-old intern, and not doing much besides clean-up and prep for the new construction. On the day in question, I was piddling around the job site doing various chores. Since it was something of an 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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Metabolic Acidosis (aka Bonking) on the Colorado Trail and Elsewhere

Mountain biking in Colorado
                                                    Mountain biking in the Tarryall Mountains

Ryan had never bonked before, at least in the metabolic shock/ overexertion sense of the word. When he started to bumble around and losing more and more of his edge, I knew that something was up and figured that’s what had happened. Not realizing what was going on, he kept on trying to mountain bike further up the Colorado Trail, although with diminishing returns. The big patches of snow that remained on the trail, even though it was June, were probably a good thing since they ultimately turned us all around. His disrupted mental and physical state likely made the retreat more palatable to the 13-year-old, since he wasn’t one to be prone to turn around before his goal was reached.

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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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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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Place Names

The names of places……

Climb VOM
Valley of the Monks, Copper Canyon

The various names that are attached to places are intriguing. Some are obvious since they either reflect a physical characteristic or commemorate an individual of importance. But, others not quite so. Many place names tell a story in a few short words—some less straightforward 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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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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The Meatgrinder and Puke Loop

Two trails, seven years later…

Base Camp area trails
The Puke Loop

         

             Old trails never die, they just get harder to see.

The names of the two trails do an excellent job of describing them in a few short words- The Puke Loop and The Meatgrinder. Their heydays of being a few open and pleasantly flowing pieces of path connecting extended sections of tight turns, horrendously steep climbs, and complicated descents have long passed. But the unfortunately angled roots, cactus, mal-placed rocks, and riding/hiking/trail running memories endure. More than just a few body scars remain on people to help tell something about what the two were like back in the day. And undoubtedly, some think of mountain biking the Puke Loop whenever they find themselves hugging a commode.

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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 a lightning flash hit the ground but wondered if there was one up there 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 both the monstrous Hayman Fire, and the smaller thing was that was visibly burning above us on the mountainside.

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