Praising Mystery & Beer
Juan: Can you please pass along congrats to Jen Jackson for her piece in MG #169? (“In Praise of Mystery and Beer.”)
Just read it. Really good.
Wildness and Coming Home
John: I took a trip across the country recently. I drove from my state of primordial origin (Colorado) to the states of my finding-myself-early-to-mid-twenties-reckless-years (Massachusetts and New York) and back. I got home yesterday. It was a long drive. I’m 25 at the moment and re-discovering how wildly important and ontologically vital this mountain-strewn state has been to the youngish person I always was here, to the now adult-ish, silliness-seeking, view-finding, often-lost “grown-up” I’ve become.
I made a choice to come back here because I missed the wilderness mostly. I missed knowing myself the way the snow and the breeze and the Arkansas River know me. The messy city crunch of Boston and New York City were important steps for me/myself/my becoming myself/etc, but when I went out to visit my college friends (now making names for themselves either in the film industry or the industry of Alcoholics Anonymous — or both), I found that I was, to put it bluntly, over it. I’d always felt a little off-kilter out there. Living without the mountains felt like what living without the ocean must feel like to my coastal-born buds: off-putting and vaguely, persistently, unreal.
It was like I’d been turning in little circles for five years, never quite sure which way west was. At any rate, I’m glad to be back, both from my ill-advised cross-country visit and my longer-term collegial stay.
All of this brings me to Molly Murfee and the fact that her three-column mini-epic wryly and joyously summed up exactly why I found myself called to this unbelievable state again and exactly why it is I feel so damned BLESSED and EXCITED to keep waking up as a human being 10 days out of 10 (“The Wild Within, MG #169). “We are wild as we thrash around in bed. Wild as we fight and love. Wild as we eat and drink … It is a question of whether the wild lives inherently in us, or is fostered by living within its parameters.”
Molly, you’re a wild one. Keep thrashing. I promise to do the same.
Not all gun-toters are crazy
To Whom It May Concern: I’m writing in regards to Laura Pritchett’s article “Death: Germ vs. Bear” (MG #169.). Though overall it was a good article, I take issue with the author painting people who carry guns as “off.” As someone who has guided and led trips in areas with large grizzly bear populations, I can tell you that I’d take a .45 over a can of bear spray any day of the week. Though statistically speaking, your chances of getting attacked by a bear are small, painting people as “crazy” because they are carrying guns for peace of mind not only stereotypes people, it gives all gun owners a bad name. In my case, I’ve known plenty of backcountry users that carry a firearm and 99.999% were cordial and just wanted to be left alone. Now maybe I wasn’t there. Maybe the people Pritchett wrote about actually were crazies just released from a big white building with padded walls. The fact they are carrying guns doesn’t make them crazy, just like the fact that a magazine based out of Boulder, CO doesn’t necessarily make it a liberal propaganda machine bent on taking away guns from law-abiding citizens and creating a socialist state … anyhow.
Another issue I have with the article is her contention that she’d rather die by bear then MRSA. If Laura wants to know how “fun” it is to be eaten by a bear, all she needs to do is go to her local DVD rental shop and rent “Grizzly Man.” That movie will give her first hand insight into how much fun playing with bears can be.
20 Cool Things I Have Done
Hi, John: I saw some of the other reader’s lists (inspired by your Smoke Signals, “Listing Who We Are,” MG # 166) and got inspired to send in mine.
1. Climbed Mt. Copeland with one of my sons and Hagues Peak with the other one.
2. Biked 300 miles in 24 hours.
3. Carried water by hand to my borrowed Steamboat Springs cabin for three weeks after the truck with the water tank got stuck.
4. Climbed the Snazz with my wife.
5. Worked, ate, slept and drank at the Red Onion.
6. Climbed in the Calanque near Marseilles as a student in the late John Harlin’s climbing school.
7. Guided my blind friend in a 10-mile running race.
8. Flew around the Grand Teton in hopes of seeing Bill Briggs make the first ski descent. (Didn’t happen that day.)
9. Led the 3rd Flatiron so my brother could carry a cardboard submarine to the summit.
10. Saw Aspen’s first hot dog ski contest and wet T-shirt contest on the same day.
11. Got lost running in Venice.
12. I might be the worst skier to get down Corbett’s Couloir in one piece.
13. Rescued a lost hiker after he had bivouacked 200 feet below the summit of Mt. Owen.
14. Air dried at zero degrees after a hot sauna
15. Lost three teeth when a squirrel tried to run through my bike’s front wheel.
16. Snuck into Sky Top and climbed a route I’d pumped out on 30 years previously. We got lost on the descent despite being in the company of two local climbing guides.
17. Had pizza and beer brought to me on a descent in the dark.
18. Ran in the Madison-to-Chicago relay.
19. Celebrated the New Year in the Glenwood Springs pool.
20. Played sheep’s head with my wife and kids on the summit of Mt. Lady Washington.
10 Cool Things I Have Done
Hey John: We’ve never met, but here’s my list, in no particular ranking.
1. Slept under a tarp next to my bicycle for three straight nights waiting out a late New Mexico snowstorm.
2. Won the 13.1-mile “Run thru Hell” half-marathon in Hell, Michigan.
3. Watched my son be born.
4. Won the Green Mountain 200-mile relay foot race in Vermont with a group of high school runners from small towns in Colorado.
5. Crossed the finish line of the Detroit Free Press Marathon in 25th place and promptly threw up.
6. Sat in my one-man tent for 36 hours watching the rain in the middle of the Sand Hills of Nebraska.
7. Sat on the rim of the Grand Canyon from sun-up to sunset watching tourists unload and reload from the buses, among other things, like shadows moving across the canyon, a fox and a lot of ravens.
8. Sat on a dock on the coast of Maine for a complete tide cycle.
9. Cried during my wedding vows.
10. Gave a bum on the street 20 bucks.
Thanks for your great magazine!
Whither art thou, MG poetry?
Hi John: Love reading the MG. As an old lady of almost 60 and not having known the West till 1998 — well I’m still figuring it out … and a working person at that … sooooo … Missed the poetry in River Issue!!!!! Yes, it is the first thing I turn to and then to Smoke Signals (have not figured out Morse code… but thoroughly enjoy your mind) and feeling more connected to this amazing place. Drinking coffee from new independent coffee shop in Summit Cove, looking at Elbert. FYI: My son was one of the firemen at JT’s beautiful purple house! (“Up in Smoke,” Smoke Signals, MG #167.)
I am working on my list of amazing things. This winter, I went to the top of Chicago Ridge, but, better yet was the place about 100 feet below in a small grove of willows where the ptarmigans nest, where the brown branches turned blood red.
What not to do: Glissading without knowledge
M. John: This is in reference to your call for stories titled, “What Not To Do” (“Stories of Us,” Smoke Signals,” MG #169). I needed fresh air and that meant getting out of Greeley, so I decided on a climb of Mount Lady Washington (13,281 ft.), just east of Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a very windy March day. Conditions were so bad, in fact, that every person I encountered as I started to pull the grade was retreating early and heading back to the trailhead. I witnessed several “snow devils” whirl across the east face as I worked my way to the top, scrambling the 3,880-foot gain in elevation.
On the summit, the full force of the westerly winds found me clambering like a spider to keep from getting blown off my feet. I looked for a summit register to sign and found it in inside a capped length of pipe along with a tip-less pencil. I sharpened the pencil on a rock, then took my glove off to offer my information. By the time I was done, I could barely move my hand. My eyelashes were freezing together, though I could still force them apart. A little voice inside said: “You need to get off this summit.”
As I left the dome of the mountain, the Diamond of Longs Peak was barely visible through the veil of blowing snow. Soon I encountered a snowfield, and the idea of a quick, fun way down the mountain was irresistible. I got on my butt and slid more than halfway, digging my heels in and enjoying the ride. What I wasn’t expecting was the bottom third of the snowy belt being solid ice! The boot heels didn’t do a thing to slow me and I took off like a luge racer. I didn’t have an ice axe. As I hurtled to the edge of the ice, I imagined breaking my legs and being stuck up there, helpless, with no one around. I hit the rocks amongst the patches of grass and tumbled forward wildly. I slowly got to my feet and I felt nothing … but the exhilaration of being alive! I stood and yelled out: Thank you, God!
I had no injuries whatsoever. The ass was torn out of my acrylic thrift-store sweats and my underwear was hanging out. No one was around to razz me about it, and my VW bug was the only car in the lot.
I guess if I’m going to go glissading down mountain snowfields, I’ll do a little investigating on the way up, so I know what I’m in for.
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