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KINDNESS across AMERICA - Chapter 08: Turning Points

KINDNESS across AMERICA - Chapter 08: Turning Points

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Published by Kirk D. Sinclair
Chapter 08 for the book about the 5,000 mile, year long hike along the American Discovery Trail
Chapter 08 for the book about the 5,000 mile, year long hike along the American Discovery Trail

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Published by: Kirk D. Sinclair on Sep 04, 2012
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CHAPTER 8: TURNING POINTSColorado Border to Redstone; Days = 13 (3 rest); Distance = 139 Miles; People Met = 82Long distance journeys often have turning points. One obvious turning point is when the breaking in period ends and one handles the daily exertion as a normal regimen. Physical turning pointscould come later as well, when one finally gets over the hump with an injury or, in the opposite vein, aninjury or illness occurs to dampen or derail a journey.Emotional turning points abound on long distance journeys. A dramatic turning point came for me on the Pacific Crest Trail in 1977, as I stood high up in the Sierra Nevada surrounded by wet snow,gazing far down on a village with smoke enticingly billowing up from cozy fireplaces. I was two-thirdsdone with the PCT and, having already completed the Appalachian Trail, knew with absolute certainty Icould finish the trail if I wanted. That begged the question of why I should, when such comfort awaiteddown below and reaching the goal was not important for my self-esteem. The answer I discovered onthat ridge, which subsequently became THE ANSWER for most of my endeavors, was that the ongoingexperiences of a journey offered more to life than the accomplishment of reaching your destination.With that thought I turned away from looking at the cozy village far below and headed on towardsMexico. That was the last time I questioned why I should continue a journey.A trail as long and diverse as the American Discovery Trail presents turning points brought about by different terrains, different cultures, different pathways and/or different seasons. Before the journeyeven started we viewed the Colorado border as a major turning-point-to-be for us. By reaching this border we were leaving the water barren states for a water bountiful one. Even in the arid places of Colorado we would be going through towns with water frequently.Without needing to meet Ky for water, we left our first Colorado campsite with full packs.Everything had the aura of change. The road surface changed from dirt to pavement. We were still in thedesert, but now passed by irrigated land that featured crops and even cattails. In Utah we went by a townevery hundred miles or so; on our first day alone in Colorado we would pass through two towns.
 
Within a few hours we met the Lacey family as they were out bicycling to the Utah border and back to their home in Redlands. Marie, David and son Zephyr stopped to chat with us both coming andgoing, inviting us to stay at their house when we passed through Redland, which we did. They were avidoutdoors folk in a part of the country where opportunities for outdoor recreation was everywhere. Theygave us a tour of Colorado National Monument, which for us was a last glimpse of red rock canyoncountry. Marie later made it to a talk I gave in Grand Junction, leaving us with a parting gift of homemade cookies.We stayed with the Elisha family just on the other side of Grand Junction. Ky connected withLori Jo Elisha while in Grand Junction ahead of us. Lori Jo was a transplant from Ithaca, NY, married toKevin who was from the area. In addition to their jobs in the school system they worked a small farm,featuring a cow who was more like a pet. Their son Mansor had a huge passion for fly-fishing, whiledaughter Svea loved photography.The day after our stay with the Elishas we came to the Kannah Creek Trail. The starting elevationfor this trail was around 6,000 feet, still in desert country, which in the area of Grand Junction wasexperiencing a heat wave in late August. Eight miles and 4,000 feet of elevation gain later we were ontop of the Grand Mesa, expansive table top mountain terrain with mountain climate and 300 lakes. Wewent from sagebrush to fir, from 100 degree days to 70 degree days, from little water to abundant water everywhere. In one day we suddenly ascended into heaven.We were now going through National Forest where I noticed two things about the pathways. TheATV trails here contrasted with Nevada and Utah where an empty Bud Light can was found every fewhundred feet. In Colorado there are ATV clubs who adopt ATV trails similar to Adopt-a-Highway programs. The results are an impressive display of stewardship. This is a program that needs to catch onin other places.As for the hiking trails on our route, I tried to scout these out ahead of time similar to what we didin Beaver. Rangers Denay, Susan and Andy at the Grand Mesa Visitor Center were happy to see us and
 
looked over our potential routes, but could only vouch for what was in their jurisdiction. They called aGunnison National Forest ranger station for their input on our preferred route. The report back: “Trailsare cleared and in good shape!”Um, well, not exactly. We spent a night at Fairmont Park Reservoir near the boundary of GrandMesa and Gunnison National Forests, along with three ATVers from Texas up for bow hunting season.I've been in the wilderness now for many a hunting season. I have to admit to being a little leery whenrifle season begins, because many rifle hunters are simply yahoos. I feel completely safe during bowhunting season. People don't adopt such a craft unless they are serious about it. Our evening spentaround the campfire with father Kevin, son Jacob and friend Cody was tinged with mutual respect for what we all were doing.The next morning we entered Gunnison National Forest on a hiking trail and soon encountered blow downs. We were heading down a drainage at this point to Overland Reservoir and eventually cameout to open fields; route finding was never a problem. Yet I wondered at why hiking trails were neglectedin comparison with ATV trails, in quantity as well as maintenance. Our Grand Mesa National Forest mapdisplayed non-motorized pathways in black or gray, motorized vehicle pathways in a thicker green. Iunderstand making the motorized pathways more noticeable on the map; there are more motorized users.Yet the other thing of note on the map was the huge increase in mileage of green over black and gray.Back in the “good ol' days” the relative mileage of motorized to nonmotorized would have been reversed.At the Overland Reservoir I asked Forest Service range Albert Borkowski why this should be soand he provided a revealing answer. ATVers have a much greater financial investment in their sport thando hikers. They accordingly invest more effort and money into influencing decisions than do hikers. Inother words, as with other endeavors of government, the basic principle behind lobbying is at work here.For my part I do not have a problem with the quantity of ATV trails as long as they are maintainedas well as in Colorado. Nor did the route finding along a neglected trail bother me anywhere near asmuch as in Nevada or Utah. Cindy and I were just glad to be back in our beloved mountains, leaving

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