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KINDNESS across AMERICA - Chapter 09: Mountain Kindness

KINDNESS across AMERICA - Chapter 09: Mountain Kindness

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Published by Kirk D. Sinclair
This chapter features my favorite quote from the journey:, from the director of the community meals program in Leadville
This chapter features my favorite quote from the journey:, from the director of the community meals program in Leadville

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Published by: Kirk D. Sinclair on Sep 16, 2012
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09/19/2012

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CHAPTER 09: MOUNTAIN KINDNESSRedstone to Argentine Pass; Days 102-110; Distance = 107 Miles; People Met = 92We hiked on roads out of Redstone, heading upstream along the Crystal River. We were told thatthe Crystal River was one of the most pristine in Colorado and we could well believe that. This was themountain landscape I remembered from my youth. Steep, majestic mountains ascended from the river valley, reaching far beyond treeline. At the “lower” elevations, about 7500 feet, were toweringevergreens competing with the mountains for their own majestic claims. You could see clear through thefast moving yet even-flowing water to the rocky bottoms.Surrounded by such physical beauty, my mind was immersed as well in the beauty of the meetingthat occurred between Jean Owens and us. She viewed us as carrying on a torch for her. I juxtaposedthat meeting with the gratitude expressed by Dre from Moab and Brandon from Redlands for providing avoice to their housing challenges. These thoughts flowed through my mind with the same energy as theCrystal River coursing next to us. At times my eyes grew misty.At a break I announced to Cindy that I was going to write a book about the journey; my firstworking title at that moment was “Walking with Humanity,” with an emphasis on “with” instead of “for.”I felt caught up in something that went beyond me; my mission was no longer to give talks or raise fundsfor organizations but to work with humanity in raising awareness about the virtues of kindness andcommunity to enhance our lives.Our destination for that first night out of Redstone was a campground in Marble. Pastor BruceGledhill referred us to Miriam, with the implication that dropping his name would bring results. Alongthe way we encountered a former railroad station now used by cowboys. We met one cowboy, LarryDarien, who also recommended we drop his name in speaking with Miriam.Larry was an outgoing, jovial and perhaps liberal cowboy. I guess the latter because he asked meif I thought evolution was a theory. Larry already knew I was a scientist with a PhD, and his questionwas prompted by Rick Perry's creationist platform positioning himself for the Republican presidential
 
nomination. Larry was taken aback when I said: “Yes, I believe evolution is a theory.” I had to explainthat I believed in the theory, but an empiricist should hold all beliefs as theories rather than dogma.Some people seem to feel that you can't act on your beliefs unless you hold them as absolutedogma rather than working theories. Not true. People act on their uncertain beliefs all the time withgreat tenacity and perseverance. Knowing something is the right thing to do counts for little;impassioned feeling moves us to action. Science would not have progressed if scientists held to their  beliefs as dogma rather than theories; our passion rather than our certainty moving us forward. Not onlythat, treating your beliefs as theories fosters humility; treating them like dogma fosters arrogance. Giveme the humble scientist or religious person over the dogmatic, arrogant ones any day. Incidentally, manyatheists and secular humanists fit into the dogmatic category as well.Upon reaching the campground in Marble, Miriam was nowhere to be found. We stopped at acampsite hosting a large gathering of friends. They pointed us to Miriam's trailer and added that if wecould not find her we could stay with them, which is what we did.The central figure in bringing this gathering together was George, a realtor whose son attended aChristian college serving as the main link between the friends. The first person to engage us in longconversation was Rachel, who was from back east and attended the University of Connecticut. As far as beliefs go, this gathering parted from Larry the cowboy and leaned towards “conservative Christian.”They welcomed my message of kindness and community, particularly Rachel, but thought the head of their college, also a politician, would not because of the anti-ideological stance involved. Ah, politicians.I guess that's enough said about that.After a delicious chicken barbecue, we chatted and played music around the campfire. We got toknow Randy and our similar travails in raising sons. We got to know Vaughn's adventures coming to thiscountry from Europe, moving from job to job. We got to know a diverse collection of people in adelightful but short amount of time. If not for the call of the beautiful Crystal River heading up into thespectacular mountain country we love, parting with our kind and interesting group of new friends would
 
have been a severe challenge.The road narrowed into more of an ATV path at the old mining town of Crystal. In the miningdays they used to load donkeys up from the train station down below to bring supplies to the miners.After delivering the supplies they would be sent back down on their own, “homing donkeys” you mightcall them. We learned this from Ginger, a senior citizen who tended a gift shop among the handful of  buildings that now form this isolated tourist spot. She worked there as a volunteer, very fond of theowner and glad to be living rustically in the mountains during the summer.Ginger had just taken up climbing 15 years ago and in short order became a climbing instructor.She asked us how heavy our packs were. At that moment I guessed mine to be about 40 pounds. Shecountered with a clear sense of pride she had carried a 65 pound pack. I revealed the heaviest pack Icarried, 102 pounds for an eighteen day stretch on the High Sierra. Yup, that's me. Engaging inoneupmanship with a female senior citizen.As we ascended higher along the Crystal River we reached the subalpine zone, first in a narrowcanyon with rushing cascades, then in a broad meadow rimmed by peaks. They were no longer astowering from our elevated angle, but still majestic. We met many people throughout this Labor DaySunday including Neal, another bow hunter from Texas. Neal and his father were scoping the broadsubalpine meadow. He mentioned that being in this mountain country was the main enjoyment; asuccessful hunt would merely be an added bonus. Neal tried to give us virtually all the snacks and water he had on him while bemoaning the fact he could not give us more. He invited us to stay at his camp thatevening but we were headed in a different direction.We ended the day at Emerald Lake, a high subalpine lake that was just over the pass above theCrystal River and at the head of the drainage that would lead us down to Crested Butte. This was another top five camp spot (we are now up to four), a high mountain lake with steep mountain backdrop and patches of evergreens, a scene you might find on postcards. Yet the biggest attraction while we werethere proved not to be the natural beauty.

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Kirk D. Sinclair added this note
Errata: This stretch was from Redstone to Leadville, not Argentine Pass.

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