Tuesday, November 22, 2011


There are two "Six Shooters" in Indian Creek, the North and the South. They dominate the horizon for 30 miles in every direction, making them an irresistible goal for a rock climber.

I was enjoying the morning eating a leisurely breakfast at the campground. A car drove by sporting an Alaska license plate. What?? I looked at the driver: it was my great friend Mark from Talkeetna. Amazing. "Mark I screamed and waved my arms; he didn't see me, but folks at the next campsite flagged him down. What a great coincidence. After a brief exchange, we decided to climb together the next day. Mark had planned to climb towers with his friend Stoney, now I was the third. I had just bought a 4-wheel drive truck, and the 4 1/2 mile hike in the powdery sand would be a slog, so I volunteered to drive us in the truck. A little cramped in a single cab, but with the big bench seat we all fit. It seemed to take as long to drive the road as we could have walked it. But, in the heat of the day, the truck was a welcome addition to our tool kit. We wound around the gullies, over some steep rocks, then down into a dry river bed following the tracks of other jeeps and trucks. The area is popular with the off-road vehicle crowd who had followed the old ranching roads up the wash to the base of the climb.
Hiking up South Six Shooter

I had met Mark in 1996 when I and my friend Rick were in Mount Rainer National Park investigating the deaths of two park employees; Mark was our contact and guide on the mountain. We kept in touch over the years. Then Mark moved to Alaska, married Lisa who is the Base Camp Manager on Denali. Eventually he joined the Park Service as a ranger in Talkeetna. In 2010, Mark invited me to join his patrol on Denali; I couldn't resist. I wrote a little blog on the trip:

Mark, one of the finest alpinists in the country, has accumulated an impressive list of climbs, including The Escalator on Mt. Johnson in the Ruth Gorge, The East Face of Mount Grosvenor, the Denali Diamond route on Mt. McKinley's southwest face in less than 48 hours, and as I arrived in base camp he and Jesse Huey were climbing the Slovak Direct Route on Denali. He seems so humble about it all. I was delighted to be with him and Stoney today.

Mark at the top of the first pitch

It is still a hike up the trailless boulders and scree to the base of the actual climbing, but we made it in about 45 minutes; it took longer to drive the dirt road. At the base, another party was climbing ahead of us, so we took our time roping up. Stony flew up the 4th class cracks, Mark followed; I finished. Technically, the climb is unlike any other in Indian Creek. Very few long splitter cracks lead to the summit: mostly boulder hopping, a few hard moves and shaky boulders lead the way. I was having a blast with my two friends and hardly noticed the climbing. It was all about the friendship.
Stoney brings Mark up to the final pitch

Stoney peeks around the corner

The summit was fantastic. We took in the views, made friends with two folks from Boulder, Colorado. Nice folks. Almost everyone I've met in the mountains has been special. It must take a certain kind of person to slog up a cliff.
Stoney and Mark on the summit
North Six Shooter in the distance

Mark called Lisa from the summit. I was amazed that a cell phone could get reception through several mountain ranges to a cell tower 50 miles away, as the crow flies. It's a miracle.
Mark finds a signal and calls Lisa from the summit.

After hanging out on the east, or higher summit, we rappelled down, climbed over and up the slightly more difficult west summit. Time to go. We set the ropes, rappelled down and took pictures of Ashley rappelling down the sheer face from the summit. Once down we took a nice lunch break at the start of the climbing where we had left our packs. As we hopped down the trail-like trace in the rock following cairns, Mark talked about his father, and I reminisced about mine.

*************************************INTERMISSION ************************************

That evening my friend Chris and her friend Noel arrived at the campsite after the long drive from Boulder. Chris and I had climbed here before, but this would be Noel's first experience on the splitter cracks. It's a brutal learning curve, so I thought that the South Six Shooter, which I had just climbed, would be a worthy goal for the day. I now knew the route, particularly the driving route in the truck! Back on the dusty road. I felt like a tour guide, but only after one trip to the rock. Bagging a desert tower the first day at 'The Creek' would be a great start to the trip.
Noel and Chris

Chris had quit her job in Denver and had spent the previous month supporting her niece on her Ph.D. dissertation field work on the San Juan river, just down the way from Indian Creek. She was in great shape and eager to climb. Noel, an excellent rock climber, was enthusiastic. We made an excellent team.

Back up the hour-long hike through the arroyos and boulders to the base of the climb. Since I was doing the leading, we have few photos of the climb, except for the fine summit shot!
Noel, Chris, and I on the summit

Desert towers are fantastic places. The panoramas from the summit range from huge snow-capped mountains like the Abajos, the La Sals, and the Henry's, all visible from the Six Shooters. The La Sal mountains sit above Moab, Utah, and are my landmark from a hundred miles away as I drive I-70 south to Indian Creek each year. Twelve of the peaks in the range are over 12,000 feet high; Mount Peale, the highest peak rises to 12,721 feet. They, like the four other ranges in the viewshed are composed of igneous intrusions of porphyry.
The view from the Top: The La Sal Mountains

The Henry Mountains are the last mountain range in the U.S. to be mapped. John Wesley Powell mapped and named them during his field work floating the Colorado river in 1872, doing so in honour of Joseph Henry, the first secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. The Henry Mountains are composed of igneous rocks, a 25 million year old intrusion into the Colorado Plateau. They are the home of about 500 bison; the herd is one of only four free-roaming and genetically-pure herds in North America.
View to the west: the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park
The Henry Mountains in the distance

The rappel from the top is spectacular! A vertical to overhanging wall about 100' high rises directly from the base. I enjoyed photographing Chris and Noel as they roped down the rock.
Chris rappels down the cliff

In the evening, we walked over to the big campfire at the end of the campground. All the Silverbacks were holding court in their camp chairs. The stories grew, the legends increased, the we were part of it all.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


George and Marthe in the campground

"Ralph, I met this French woman, Marthe, in Yosemite this week; I told her I'd teach her to climb cracks in Indian Creek. She's suppose to be there this weekend, and she'll be looking for you by your white Ford truck at Creek Pasture campground." Jim is my main climbing partner: past president of the American Alpine Club, all-around great guy, calling on the cell phone from Yosemite.

The next morning Marthe walked by my truck, stopped and spoke with a beautiful French accent in perfect English, "Are you Ralph?" Thus began a most excellent week.

My campsite was perched on a slight rise with a short red sandstone cliff behind it to the west. A large folding table, 2-burner camp stove, cooler, grub box, and another full of dishes, pots, pans, and utensils surrounded the cooking area. I slept on a mattress in the back of the truck. Marthe eyed the setup, and I invited her to dinner: salmon steaks with broccoli and a salad. Many folks equate camping with suffering; I do not. Eating well in the out-of-doors is a reason to camp!

Jim drove over the next morning, and Marthe and I met him at the Donnelly Canyon parking area. The cliffs on both sides of the canyon are the most famous and usually fill with climbers by late morning. We are early risers, so we were first onto the cliffs. Our first venue was "Generic Crack", named because it is a pure 'splitter', a split straight up a flat face. Jim led up the one hundred foot climb, clipped the rope into two fixed anchors and lowered down. Now Marthe's turn.
"Generic Crack", an Indian Creek classic

Crack climbing is the most difficult type of climbing to learn and to do well. It takes a special technique that does not feel natural, unlike climbing on handholds and footholds. Depending on the size of the crack, a hand or fingers are inserted into the crack, cupped or squeezed to form a wedge, then the arm or fingers twisted downward to cam the hand into the crack. This hurts! To minimize the pain and the blood, the hands are wrapped with adhesive tape to make a glove on the back where all the pressure is exerted. After the taping session, Marthe headed up.
Marthe's first crack climb on "Organic Crack"

Grunts, complaints, excuses, swearing... Crack climbing is brutal, and Marthe was getting a lesson akin to being thrown into the deep end of the pool. She kept at it and little by little her technique improved as she moved up the crack. I was impressed.
Moving up

By now the sun was cooking us and the rock, so we hiked down the hill and up to the west-facing wall of Super Crack Buttress, home to the most elegant climbs. 'Double Cracks' was next on the tic list. It has a variety of holds and hand sizes, so it's a great place to learn the secrets. The feet are the most important; certainly learning to cam your hands into the crack is the more interesting, but the feet push you upwards. To make the feet work, you need to slide the toe in sideways with the knee out, then twist the knee in strait thus caming the foot into the crack in a tight wedge. It hurts. This is the downfall of most climbers who give up and don't end up liking to climb cracks.

On the "Double Cracks"

Double Cracks seemed made for her; she moved right up and completed the climb in short order. The named climbs have been done often, and two expansion bolts have been permanently set at the top of the climb. The leader puts the rope through the bolts, then the following climbers have a rope securing them from the top. When the climb is finished, the last person can pull one end of the rope through and coil it for the next climb.

A belayer is the second person who holds the end of the rope secure to catch a fall of the person who is climbing. Marthe had been climbing quite a bit in her native France and was adept at face climbing and certainly rope handling methods like belaying the leader. Here she is belaying Jim as he set the rope up in the double cracks.

Belaying Jim

Jim was eager to show Marthe "The Incredible Hand Crack", or just Incredible as it's known here. It's one of the great classics of Indian Creek, a crack in a dihedral wall that overhangs about 10 feet half-way up the 100' pitch of climbing. Here Jim is leading the overhanging portion. He puts his hands way into the crack, makes a fist to jam the hands into a cam that will hold his body weight, then inserts and twists his feet and pushes up.
Jim leading "Incredible Hand Crack"

Marthe now had the technique and made short work of the first 30'. You can see her hands jammed into the crack, her left leg twisted a bit to the left, and the right toes cammed tight in the crack.
Marthe on "Incredible"

The overhang is difficult, both mentally and physically. Marthe tried to lay back, push her feet against the sandstone and pull out on the edge of the crack with her hands. This is possible for a short ways, but at Indian Creek with the huge climbs, you tire within 10 feet and fall off. It wasn't until she trusted her feet in the crack that she was able to master the moves, with Jim shouting encouragement and technique tips.
On the big overhang

We met a whole group of French climbers at the cliff. They live in a more concentrated society than we in the western US do, so there was a lot of grumbled criticism when they stole one of Jim's climbs. But the women were so beautiful it was hard to remain angry very long. By evening I had met two other climbers, Dougal from Wales, and Stephanie, an alpine guide from Chamonix, France. I invited them to dinner, excited that now Marthe would have a fellow country-woman to talk to. Stephanie is an outstanding climber; sometimes it's easier for women to teach other women climbing. I've picked up some of the terminology, like 'Push the bush' to make a woman pull her hips forward and get her correct balance. Women seem to be comfortable shouting that up to their friends. I'm more squeamish.
Stephanie, Dougal, Marthe, George at 'Creek Pasture' campground

The next day our friend George from Ridgway, Colorado, joined us. So, Jim, George, Marthe, and I spent the next few days climbing a variety of climbs all over Indian Creek. Jim had befriended folks from the Philippines, so he divided his time as best he could. Marthe had been on an extended trip climbing throughout the United States, but in two days she had to be in Las Vegas to fly out. So, one more day. Bummer! She wanted to visit the Grand Canyon on the way, so she left by noon after one more session. We bid her a sad farewell and wished her luck on her trip.
Dougal, Marthe around the campfire

Next morning we were off to the Scarface buttress, home to a variety of climbs...some very hard. I was impressed at Dougal and Stephanie attempting very difficult climbs and ticking them off one by one. I was at ease. The sun was warm, the company was the best, and the scenery was stunning. Couldn't ask for more.

The gang at the base of the Scarface cliff

George puts tape on his hands; Stephanie, Dougal

George hanging by his feet about 100' up "Big Guy"

Looking up at George

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Ouray, Colorado, snug in the middle of the San Juan mountains of southwestern Colorado, has become my winter home for the past six years. I migrate down from Anchorage, Alaska, each fall to my friends' home where I store all my winter climbing gear. Ouray, where I climb the frozen waterfalls in the ice park, take a backcountry ski tour in the high mountains about Red Mountain Pass, or scoot over to Telluride for a day's downhill skiing. I had driven from Salt Lake City on Sunday, arrived late, and checked into the "Chalet" above Jim and Angela's garage.
The view of Corbett Peak out my front window

It took a full day to haul out all my camping and climbing gear from the basement, take inventory, and repack it into my newly acquired pickup. Angela and I caught up over dinner, talked about her pending retirement, and exchanged the latest information about our mutual friends. It is always relaxing to hang out in Ouray. Jim arrived the next day from climbing in Yosemite, so I stuck around, and Angela and I had dinner at Dr. Debbie's with some fine old friends. Finally it was time for me to head to Indian Creek. I took the long route over Red Mountain Pass, through Durango, so I could see the fall colors and visit friends.
An avalanche bridge over the Million Dollar Highway up Red Mountain

The fall colors were at their peak, so my camera sat on the seat of the truck next to me. The speed limit is only 25 mph for much of the winding two-lane road with its huge drop-off on the river side. I stopped several times to get photos, and I even shot some out the car window.
Prime fall colors: yellow aspens, pines, cottonwoods

I looked up at the high peaks and cliffs. Several of the peaks in the area are over 14,000' high. Red Mountain Pass itself is 11,099' high. Up, up, up!
limestone cliffs

I had left Ouray in brilliant sunshine, but as I ascended the mountains, the weather changed. Snow started to blow, the temperature dropped, and I began to swivel my head looking at the white caps on the highest peaks.
First snow

By the time I got the the top of the pass, I was driving in an inch of slush and blowing snow. A huge semi-trailer crept up the hill ahead of me. No chance for speeding now. The driver was generous and pulled over at the summit to let me pass. It was such a terrific day I didn't need to go any faster. The trip down the other side of the pass to Silverton is fast, but winding and dangerous, particularly in the winter when it's snow covered.
The snow deepens

It's not a long drive to get to Durango, but it's a steep and windy one. Down the hill to Silverton, then up a long incline to Molas Pass, 10,910' where snowplows were already at work the first of October. I passed carefully. Still one more pass to go, Coal Bank Pass at 10,640', then down the long, long, long incline to Durango. I stocked up on groceries at the supermarket, filled the cooler with ice and decided to have lunch at the Serious Texas BBQ, where my daughter, Daphne had taken me a year ago. I opted for the pulled pork sandwich.
The stark decor of the Serious Texas BBQ, Durango

My goal was Indian Creek, my twice-yearly home in the desert south of Moab, Utah, home to rock climbing, hiking, and camping. over the next three weeks I spent most of my days climbing the splitter cracks in the Wingate sandstone cliffs, hiking the trails in Canyonlands National Park, and cooking great food. The next four episodes of the road trip take place her.

Indian Creek: the greatest crack climbing in the world

North Six shooter as seen from my campsite

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


The candy-apple red bike caught my eye. Thor, Sarah, and I were walking up the street through Truckee, California, to meet Garry and Linda at "Burger Me", our favorite watering hole. Although there are millions of motorcycles, and some very cool ones, I couldn't help taking a photo. There must have been some great gathering, because everywhere I looked, groups of bikers were tooling through town. I think they must have been lawyers and doctors dressed in headbands and leather, because the bikes were just too elegant. I couldn't afford one, I know, so we wandered up the street and ordered a beer and a burger.
A beauty seen on the street

Garry and Linda at "Burger Me"

Just a few blocks from my brother Tony's home in Salt Lake City, is The Blue Plate Diner, a regular breakfast stop on my migration route. This little Honda 125, totally restored was sitting in front. A group of guys were hanging out in front and as I admired the bike, they told me its story. They had found the bike and totally restored it as a present to the owner's daughter when she graduated from school. I told them my brother had a Honda 50 in about 1970...a similar vintage. Now this was a bike I could love! I drooled over it for a minute and stepped inside for the Blue Plate Special and a cup of coffee, wondering where I might find an old beater to restore.
The little restored Honda

The Blue Plate

My friend Heather Sanchez owns "Eggs in the City", a favorite breakfast stop in Salt Lake City. It's close to my old friend Ted Wilson's place. Ted was may of Salt Lake for 3 terms, and I often meet him her for breakfast when I'm in town. This particular morning, I sneaked over to grab an early morning breakfast and spied this little gem. Not exactly a motorcycle, but I'd love to take it for a spin. I tried to figure out the owner inside, since the polka dot helmet was maybe the coolest ever. It would certainly turn my head if I saw it driving down the street. More in my price range, too!Check out the polka-dot helmet on this classy scooter

Eggs in the City

Monday, November 14, 2011


"A good pickup is a thing of beauty and a joy forever." John Keats

At one time I drove a pink Cadillac, but it disappeared to the Kidney Foundation. Renting a car for every road trip has cost me a ton of cash. So! On my recent road trip through the West, I decided to buy a car in Salt Lake City, and spent two days on KSL.com at my brother Tony's house looking for the perfect vehicle. First, I checked out Subarus; I drive one in Alaska, they have all-wheel drive, hold up well, and seem to be one of the two cars of choice for outdoor types like myself. The other choice is a Toyota Tacoma, however, I'm not really a small-car type guy. My last truck was a diesel, so I checked out all the diesel trucks and found a beauty, a long-bed, extended cab 1992 Chevy with a new engine. It drove like a firetruck; I wanted someone to steer the rear wheels around a corner. Harumpf!

I've owned several Ford F150, 6 cylinder, single cab, long-bed pickup trucks, ranging from 1967 to the mid-1980's. I know that engine intimately. After two and a half days searching I found almost the perfect vehicle, except it was a short-bed. I decided that it had other redeeming features, like a short wheel base for driving over desert roads, and a 5-speed on the floor transmission. Perfect!

It was in Pleasant Grove, Utah, a 45-minute drive south. So, my lovely sister-in-law, Shelly, hopped in her Jeep and drove me south to check it out. There it sat amid a pile of broken glass, trash, and weeds behind a store in the middle of town. It had been sitting for five years, so the tires were hardened and flattened on one side. However, it was otherwise in pristine condition. The guy selling it had put in a new battery, so it started instantly. I checked it out, examined the engine, took it for a test drive and listened to all the sounds it made as I drove it, and knew I had a winner. I do all my own mechanical work; this baby was in very sound condition.
The New truck stares at me from Tony's garage

The price was super cheap! After emptying the ATM at the local bank, I handed the guy a stack of $20 bills (about 75 of them) and drove down the road behind Shelly. Once on the freeway, the set in the tires rattled the truck all the way home. Only one fix: new tires. There was still time that evening to buy them, so for a few more bucks, I had a brand new ride. Awesome.
My new baby!

This would be my new 'home away from home', so I needed a cap to contain all my gear: my 1975 Stella French racing bicycle, a gigantic tub of climbing gear and ropes, a box of tents, sleeping bags and clothes, my stove, a box of cooking gear, and a grub box. These were stored between Tony's garage, and my friends, the Donini's basement in Ouray, Colorado, my next destination. Back to KSL.com. I found the perfect cap; unfortunately it was also in Pleasant Grove. Bummer! Back on the road with Tony. On the way we stopped at an auto parts store to score four C-clamps to hold the camper on. It was night when we arrived at the home; the fellow called his son, "I just sold the camper top. Where's the key?" The son arrived, we lifted the cap onto my new truck, exchanged a hundred bucks, and I was off.
The cap on the bed of the truck.

Insurance next; a phone call to my agent, then to an agent in Salt Lake, decided to register it in Utah; I know Alaska plates are cooler, but Utah is great, too! I dreaded the visit to the DMV, but it was smooth as could be. The clerk ushered me through the whole registration process which turned out to be cheaper than at home. Then she wanted to know about traveling to Alaska for a fishing trip. Now we were bonded.

A trip to Home Depot found the basic tools, and for $19.88 I bought a 4" foam pad for the back so I could sleep in the truck while I went climbing in the south-west desert. A 5-gallon bright orange Home Depot water jug, and a big tarp completed the gear. My brother lent me his huge 5-day cooler, and I was pretty set.

It had taken a week to get the whole rig together, but now I was a happy camper. Sunday Morning was special for Tony and Shelly: the LDS church conference was in session, so they invited Shelly's father and wife to brunch. The two spent the morning making crepes with two kinds of filling: fruit with cream, whipping cream and yummies, or sausage and onions. I had two of each. Now that I was fueled, it was finally time to hit the road.

The previous week I'd flown from Anchorage to Portland to meet my son, Thor, and daughter-in-law, Sarah, ridden south to Lake Tahoe with them (on a wild mountain biking and camping trip), and then hitched a ride with Tony to Salt Lake City. I'd been on the road only a week and had covered about 1,500 miles already. The second half of my road trip was about to begin. My friends Jim and Angela were expecting me in Ouray, Colorado, a 6-hour drive from Salt Lake.

Memories began to fill me as I flew south on I-15; I felt so free, so full of life. One of my favorite books is Jack Kerouac's "On the Road", a volume that has spoken to me many times since I first read it at was age 14. As soon as I got my drivers license I began driving north to the Tetons to go climbing. Then far south into the desert to Shiprock, New Mexico, with my friends Milt and Dave to climb the famous volcanic plug "Shiprock". My parents likely didn't have a clue about my road adventures. During the '60's I drove across the country at least twice a year to attend graduate school in Baltimore, rarely stopping for rest on the 44-hour lightning push before the advent of the 55 mph speed limits set by the Nixon administration. In those days, neither Nevada nor Montana had speed limits, and my 1959 Chevy Bel Air ate up the road on 25 cent/gallon gas. I turned up the radio, searching for good rock and roll music. Today life was good, and I was going climbing.

The old Ford cruised past American Fork, Orem, Provo, then up the Spanish Fork on US 6, over Soldier summit and down the long glide to Price where the great coal mine disaster took place a few years ago. I turned off and grabbed lunch for the road. Another hour and we were past 9-Mile Canyon full of petroglyphs and the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry and turned east on I-70 towards Green River. I wondered if the truck would make it to 75 mph; no problem! I searched for a station playing rock and roll, but it's tough in this part of the country to find anything but country-western.

I had my sights set on Ouray, but the hour was getting late, and I'd gotten a much later start than I'd planned. By the time I reached Grand Junction, it was dark. Angela had wondered if we would be having dinner together, so I called and said I'd likely not arrive till 9:30, so I stopped in Delta, Colorado, and choked down a McDonalds, but not the whole thing--what wretched fare. It was pouring rain. The wipers afforded me a changing screen of the black road littered with deer at this time of night. Flashing signs told me to slow from 65 to 55 from Oct 1 to May 1 for deer on the road. I know; they are everywhere from Montrose to Ouray. I turned up County Road 14 and into the driveway. The Donini's were in bed, so I slipped into the guest house and lit the fire. The old truck had done a days work and we were both ready for a rest.


In the mid-1950's my uncle, Bill Hurst, whom we called "Dee" by his middle initial to distinguish him from his father, grandfather, and son, was a forest ranger on the east side of the Uintah Mountains of eastern Utah. I and my sister Judy spent part of those summers living with Aunt Dolly and Uncle Dee, playing with my cousins. My cousin Bill J. and I often tagged along with Uncle Dee on his horse patrols in the Uintahs. Those days were a major influence on the rest of my life and career.

Dad, who was a doctor in Salt Lake City, would meet us and we'd end up camped at Tamarack Lake where Dad could fly fish for cutthroat trout. The horses allowed us to pack just about everything: a wooden grub box full of food, canvas tepee tents, the Dutch oven, and coffee pot. I can still smell the boiling coffee, the trout frying in butter, and the smell of browned biscuits from the Dutch oven as the coals were brushed off the top and the lid opened.

They are huge mountains: Kings Peak, the highest point in Utah rises 13,528 ft. It's the highest east-west range in the country; its quartzite rock is is about 700 million years old; the range uplifted between 70 and 50 million years ago. I learned all these things when I was a young boy and fascinated by geology. Vernal, Utah, where the cousins lived had a fantastic museum, full of dinosaurs, and Dinosaur National Monument is just a few miles away.

I hadn't been to the Uintahs since I was a boy. While I was in Salt Lake City on my most recent road trip, my brother Tony and his wife Shelly asked if I wanted to drive up to the mountains and check out their cabin site they had purchased. It had been a dream of theirs to build a little cabin there and retreat on the weekends. We hopped into their Jeep and headed east, up Parley's canyon, up, up to the town of Kamas, up the Provo river to Smith-Morehouse canyon.

Tony and Shelly walk up the road to the homesite

The magic key to the gate didn't work, so we parked outside and walked the mile up to their property. It was pretty overgrown, but Tony looked for the corners, while Shelly wandered through the trees. Tony's dogs, Pepper and Jack, ran amok, picking up thousands of prickly burrs. I was careful but still managed to be covered with the sticky seeds. Lots of work needed here to build a cabin.
Shelly in the aspens

Tony finds a corner post

I can see why they fell in love with the property; perched on a hillside, it had a great view of the surrounding mountains. Memories of an earlier era flooded through my mind. My first Boy Scout camp was near here at Camp Steiner. The last time I saw my T-shirt, my daughter Daphne was wearing it.

We hiked back to the car, drove up Smith-Morehouse for a hike. I was amazed at the number of people here and the variety of motorized equipment they carried: 4-wheelers, motorcycles, jet boats, motor boats. I never remembered seeing anyone when I was a kid.
Tony drives past the reservoir

We parked the car and started hiking. As I walked, I looked up at the peaks, the quartzite and shale shown pink and gray through the vegetation. These mountains are very old, so there are very few sharp cliffs like my beloved Teton range, a young pile of granite only 10 million years old.
The mountains peek through the pines and aspens

As I headed up the trail, the fall colors were just at their peak. I constantly turned on my camera and snapped shots of Tony's and Shelly's butts ahead of me framed by the brilliant golden aspen leaves. I could smell the pine gum on the lodgepoles and pinions which took me back again. I would break off a piece of dried sap and chew it into gum, which made my breath smell like turpentine, but was a great fun for a kid.

Shelly and Tony hike ahead

Tony and Shelly were preparing for a huge hike the next weekend: they and friends were hiking from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to the South Rim, the equivalent of a marathon, but with several thousand feet of elevation change. I hustled along behind them, the high altitude making me pant like a chicken that is too hot.
Red scrub oak

Every now and then scrub oak would give a brilliant red contrast to the green and yellow of the pines and aspens. Even though it was late in the year, purple daisies were still in bloom. We stopped at an open meadow and took photos of the panorama, then each of us posed atop a large boulder.
Shelly, Tony, and Jack pose on a boulder

Yours Truly atop the boulder; the aspens in full splendor

Jack, Tony, and Shelly share lunch at the forks

At the forks of the creek, we stopped and sat down on the flat boulders over the tiny trickle of stream still flowing late in the dry year. Jack rooted around looking for a handout. I ate my peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the staple of the mountains, full of calories and taste. Tony and Shelly looked like marathon runners. I, of course always look like a mountain climber.
Tony, Shelly, and myself in the stream bed at the forks

Time to turn around and head down. Tony, Shelly, and Jack left me in the dust. I hoofed the five miles as fast as my senior legs could carry me. They were on a mission; I was just having a great time. Every scene needed a photograph. I looked over the edge down to the stream; Jack was gulping a bit of water. In an instant he was back up on the trail.
Jack runs down to the stream

As I rounded a bend, a huge caterpillar was lumbering across the trail. His gold and black 'fur' shown in bright contrast to the dirt and leaves on the ground. I had to take a final photo.
A caterpillar crosses the trail