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on roads out of Redstone, heading upstream along the Crystal River. We were told that the Crystal River was one of the most pristine in Colorado and we could well believe that. This was the mountain 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 towering evergreens competing with the mountains for their own majestic claims. You could see clear through the fast 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 meeting that occurred between Jean Owens and us. She viewed us as carrying on a torch for her. I juxtaposed that meeting with the gratitude expressed by Dre from Moab and Brandon from Redlands for providing a voice to their housing challenges. These thoughts flowed through my mind with the same energy as the Crystal 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 first working 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 funds for organizations but to work with humanity in raising awareness about the virtues of kindness and community to enhance our lives. Our destination for that first night out of Redstone was a campground in Marble. Pastor Bruce Gledhill referred us to Miriam, with the implication that dropping his name would bring results. Along the way we encountered a former railroad station now used by cowboys. We met one cowboy, Larry Darien, 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 me if I thought evolution was a theory. Larry already knew I was a scientist with a PhD, and his question was 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 explain that 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 absolute dogma rather than working theories. Not true. People act on their uncertain beliefs all the time with great 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 only that, treating your beliefs as theories fosters humility; treating them like dogma fosters arrogance. Give me the humble scientist or religious person over the dogmatic, arrogant ones any day. Incidentally, many atheists 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 a campsite hosting a large gathering of friends. They pointed us to Miriam's trailer and added that if we could 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 a Christian college serving as the main link between the friends. The first person to engage us in long conversation 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 to know Randy and our similar travails in raising sons. We got to know Vaughn's adventures coming to this country from Europe, moving from job to job. We got to know a diverse collection of people in a delightful but short amount of time. If not for the call of the beautiful Crystal River heading up into the spectacular 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 mining days 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 might call 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 the owner 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. She countered with a clear sense of pride she had carried a 65 pound pack. I revealed the heaviest pack I carried, 102 pounds for an eighteen day stretch on the High Sierra. Yup, that's me. Engaging in oneupmanship with a female senior citizen. As we ascended higher along the Crystal River we reached the subalpine zone, first in a narrow canyon with rushing cascades, then in a broad meadow rimmed by peaks. They were no longer as towering from our elevated angle, but still majestic. We met many people throughout this Labor Day Sunday including Neal, another bow hunter from Texas. Neal and his father were scoping the broad subalpine meadow. He mentioned that being in this mountain country was the main enjoyment; a successful 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 that evening 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 the Crystal 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 were there proved not to be the natural beauty.
A Forest Service road by the lake was blocked by a snow field, another remnant of the huge snow pack that occurred throughout the land the previous winter. We had been informed in advance that no motorized traffic was allowed up that road near the pass because of the snow plug. One person did not heed the message. An abandoned Blazer had skidded down the snowfield, off from where the dirt road went and down to the outlet from the lake. Early the next morning we sat and watched as a tow truck came down from the pass to wench the Blazer back up to the road. We went down and talked to the driver; he good-naturedly admitted he was not the sharpest tool in the shed.
We followed a bike trail down into Crested Butte. As we neared a road crossing an approaching motorist in a red minivan stopped well before we got there, waiting for us to cross. She waved as we passed in front of her, then called out to us through her window when we reached the other side. We explained what we were doing which excited her and she exclaimed: “I'm glad I met you!” before driving off. Except she did not drive far. There was a bench along the bike path once we crossed the road and we decided to take a break there. Perhaps the woman noticed that, or perhaps she was inclined to stop and turn around anyways. In either case we witnessed her coming towards us again. She parked the car and came up to us announcing: “I've decided I'm never going to let moments pass that I might regret and I just had to learn more about you two.” That's how we met Delreena. We sat on the bench together a good while and during that time Delreena went from being a curious passerby to our publicist. I say that because while we were there a family of Maryland stopped to get their picture taken by a Mount Crested Butte welcome sign. The effervescent Delreena quickly volunteered to take their picture and, while doing so, told them who we were and encouraged them to visit our web site. She instructed me to give them my card. Delreena and husband Jim were from Texas but had a condominium in Crested Butte. Delreena invited us to dinner and to spend the night. We would be meeting Ky in Crested Butte as well and gladly
accepted Delreena's offer on behalf of all three of us. Two other couples were invited to dinner that evening as well. The guests had backgrounds in academia; Jim was retired but had been involved in academia and with energy exploration as a geologist. The conversation around the dinner table turned to energy and the environment. Everyone at the table had problems with molybdenum mining going on in Colorado, feeling that there were environmental hazards being ignored. Another topic was the recent push across the country for hydrofracking, which Jim supported. At the time I did not have much information nor an opinion on hydrofracking. In hind sight, this conversation was the start of a very important issue that cropped up throughout the course of our journey. For now I was silent, but foreshadowing came when I was asked about my opinion on nuclear energy. I oppose nuclear energy, though not for environmental reasons. Nuclear energy has to be large scale, which also means a concentration of resources and paternal decision-making at the least, along with a separation of where costs and benefits occur. To date nuclear energy also means heavy subsidization, but even if we give dubious credence to think tanks claiming that can be avoided (though we should follow the money in assessing what any think tank spews), the fact remains that without pervasive involvement from national government nuclear energy has no chance of existing in this or any other country. Some guests at the table countered that there could be small scale nuclear energy in the works. They caused me to backpedal somewhat on my opposition. Small scale means the costs and benefits can be applied at the same locus, and both become manageable at that locus. Neither communal nor environmental impacts are as great if something can be small scale, but this particular angle is not promoted by the same think tanks making excuses for the nuclear energy industry. Once again, follow the money. We stayed an extra day with Delreena and Jim because of bad weather coming into mountain country. There was heavy rain in Crested Butte with snow in higher elevations. Fortunately, there was
no cozier place for us to take refuge. Delreena and Jim obviously had much respect and love for each other and their aura extended to the people around them.
Two days out of Crested Butte brought us up into the alpine country above Taylor Lake where we spotted our first backpacker. For months we encountered bicyclists, ATVers, horsepackers, day hikers and even a rollerblader, but no one else was backpacking. That prompted me to confront the young man and say: “Let me shake your hand, you're the first backpacker we've seen.” That backpacker turned out to be another ADT thru-hiker, Marc Turner, now the fourth ADT hiker we met on our journey. Since there are so few past and present ADT hikers I knew a little about Marc beforehand. He originally accompanied a person who was hiking the ADT for the cause of clean water. That person dropped out while Marc continued on, though he took a break during winters. We sat across the trail surrounded by alpine tundra chatting with each other, us older folks bundled up on a day that featured hail and even snow, Marc with just a sleeveless shirt on. Ah, the metabolism of youth. We wished we could have met in a town and swap more stories, but location and weather put a short end to our encounter. That evening we had the good fortune of getting lost. I mean that. As we traversed high ridges we went off route and ended up at a hut maintained by the Forest Service for cross-country skiers. Two hunters were there when we arrived eating supper, but they left for the evening. Meanwhile, we hunkered down and kept the wood stove going while thunderstorms, hail and a little snow continued through the night. The next day I used map and compass to chart a new route towards Leadville. In the morning there was only a dusting of snow on the alpine tundra we traversed at 12,000 feet, which soon melted, but the panoramic backdrop was of stark mountains speckled in white. That altitude got to Cindy a bit. For most of our journey she was a better conditioned hiker, with my foot and aging joints slowing me down. I was better conditioned for steep ascents and high altitudes. Fortunately I had enough enthusiasm for
doing cross-country work in open mountain country to buoy the both of us. We came down to follow trails and dirt roads for a bit before ascending again to our first crossing of the Continental Divide towards the end of the day. The ascent was orienteering as I remembered it from our Continental Divide Trail days. We climbed up some steep rock faces, we traversed some steep slopes taking great care not to slip, yet throughout we adjusted our route to our tastes while making our way up to an unnamed pass at 13,000 feet. At the pass we were on top of the world, with but a slight rise along the ridge to the high points on either side of us. The spirit elevates with the terrain as you stand in command of such remote grandeur. Unfortunately, such moments must pass. The descent was nowhere near as exhilarating as the ascent, nor was the cross-country work. There was supposed to be a trail on the other side of the pass, but we spotted no trace of a path in the alpine portion of the canyon. Rather than simply making our way down in the best way possible, the reverse or our cross-county ascent, I weaved us up and down, back and forth in search of a trail. This was like the Arc Dome Wilderness in Nevada again and I should have learned from that experience to just forget about finding a trail and make our way to where I thought the trail might pick up below treeline. In a sense we were doing the same type of backpacking while going up and down from that unnamed pass, but whether we were ignoring or searching for a trail determined whether that same type was enjoyable. The lesson here seemingly would be to just ignore trails when above treeline. Yet alpine areas are fragile, a place where hikers are supposed to stay on trails if they exist. Here was a spectacular area in a state noted for hiking where you might expect the foot “traffic” to be channeled to the trails. This brings up a tangential point. Why are hiking trails being neglected in Colorado, as they were in Utah and Nevada? In the seventies and eighties hiking trails proliferated and were maintained, at least in a state like Colorado. We ran into some motorized dirt bikers on this stretch near where we met Marc Turner and I complimented them on ATV trails here being much better maintained than in Utah and Nevada. They
offered the perspective that recreationists here are more likely to be local, and accept the responsibility of a local in maintaining their backyard. Add to this the perspective of a hiker we met who mentioned that in this state there is a responsibility for motorized recreationists to demonstrate they are not going to degrade natural resources in a state where nonmotorized recreation frequently occurs. This all made sense. Responsibility is a local, communal thing rather than the well-documented diffusion of responsibility that occurs with mass society and its institutions. This now begs the question of why hikers in Colorado do not show the same dedication as ATVers for maintaining their “backyard” trails. In the east many of the trails are created and maintained precisely by local volunteers; in the west people rely heavily on (paternal) federal agencies. That is the rub.
The two mountain towns of Crested Butte and Leadville provided much “food for thought” in regards to our Housing, Health and Hunger mission. When we met Ky at Crested Butte she exclaimed: “There's someone you've GOT TO talk to!” That someone was Kevin McGruther; Ky brought us over to find him at the United Church of Christ food pantry in town. Crested Butte is a mountain town noted for recreation rather than farming. On the one hand this would seem to fit Kevin's lifestyle, a young man at ease with either a guitar or a pair of skis. Yet Kevin discovered a problem for himself relating to his diet when he moved to Crested Butte. He needed fresh produce to counter some of the health problems he had experienced, but Crested Butte was 90 miles away from the closest working farm. As a young man and new to the town Kevin started a farmers market to attract the fresh produce he felt important to his own health and the health of everyone. Farmers do not want to drive 90 miles or more into the mountains for a farmers market and have to bring much of their produce back home with them. In lieu of payment to participate in the market, Kevin arranged for farmers to leave their extra produce behind. This extra produce then became the main staple at the UCC's Monday afternoon food pantry. Anyone could get this fresh produce from the food pantry, the less and more fortunate alike. This
seems to undermine the system. Why would someone buy anything from the farmer's market when they could just wait for the food pantry. The system worked because human behavior in the context of community differs from what we come to expect from corporate economics or other large, institutionalized systems. If people could afford to buy from the farmer's market they did. No doubt they felt some responsibility in the context of community for doing so, but also because many people enjoy going to local farmers markets and are willing to buy something once there. Perhaps some more fortunate folks got produce from the Monday food pantry, particularly if they were not around for the Saturday market, but is there any real harm in that? Before you answer that question for yourself let me share our experience in Leadville. In particular, the most memorable quote from our entire journey came from Aly Lufkin, the director of the community meals program sponsored by the St. Georges Episcopal Church. The church had been dwindling in members, a common fate for denominational churches across the country. They were at a crucial juncture where they needed to find a reason for their continued existence. That reason became a community meals program offering four lunches a week. Their goal for the program was to “Confuse who is giving and who is receiving.” They got their food similar to many food pantries and community meal programs: donations, grants and supermarket excess. With food in hand they got both the more and less fortunate involved in preparing the meals. They also got both the more and less fortunate involved in eating the meals. The mayor came to these community meals, as did faculty from Colorado Mountain College located in Leadville. Finally, they had a stipulation that if you prepared the meals you sat down with those who came to eat them. The more and less fortunate thus broke bread together in an approach designed to “Confuse who is giving and who is receiving.” The mantra “confuse who is giving and who is receiving” is part of a philosophy that a real community initiative engages the diverse spectrum of a community: rich and poor, young and old, male and female. St. Georges demonstrated this philosophy when they became concerned about Hispanics not
attending the community meals. Hispanics make up a sizable portion of the Leadville community, hence, St. Georges solicited one to be in charge of putting the meals together. The Hispanics started coming and this real community approach was made whole. Later on in the journey I would be prompted to come up with specific ingredients for community engagement. Leadville and “The Quote” came first to mind and has been at the forefront of my community talks ever since. Podcast: Crystal Donkeys Podcast: Crested Butte's Farmers Market Podcast: Cross-Country Backpacking Podcast: Leadville Community Meals
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