Last week I spent about five days in a cabin with Kaitlin and family along the Gunnison River, over the Collegiate Mountains - in the sufficiently remote ranch land braced by Signal Peak and Gunnison National Forest.
Gunnison County is home to the Gunnison, East, and Taylor rivers which boast some of the best trout fishing in Colorado - in addition to an average temperature that is ten degrees lower than anywhere in the state. Though Colorado is experiencing an "early winter" (having just turned to autumn) the low of nine degrees our first morning in Gunnison was quite a shock.
The temperatures gradually rose throughout the stay, but falling in a mountain fed river and leaking waiters will certainly give your feet a different perspective.
Above there are pictures from a hike Kaitlin and I ventured on into the West Elk Wilderness - Mill Creek Trail. The week before the canyon had experienced 80mph winds, leaving giant aspen and ponderosa strewn across the valley and in many places blocking the trail. It is difficult to glean from just photos, but the hike was quite eerie. The canyon was still but for the constant rustling of the aspen leaves. Only birds and small rodents appeared, though we found mountain lion tracks and scat. In fact, we were in prime mountain lion country (large boulders, high yellow grass, downed trees, high canyon walls), a realization that made the hike all the more tense - despite their reclusive nature. Featured also are just two pictures from days of fly fishing activities. Kaitlin's father (The Gillie Man) tying leaders and flies. Then we have me on day five. After spending most of the day on our hike is West Elk, there was too little daylight left to rent boots, so I hit the Gunnison in my slippers. Not recommended.
Back in Denver now, it might be easy to forget the presence of the wild. My good friend Taylor posed the question to me the other day: How is the American Frontier? Does the American Dream reside in Colorado?
Well, I gave him more than he bargained for and more than I will burden anyone reading this with..
But the answer is of course, "yes" and "no"..
I have come to find, through Ed Abbey and driving in my own steel dinosaur through eastern Utah - that the rail fence that I once thought plagued the American West (lining miles and miles of uninhabited prairie) does not confine nature - it does not make the land our eunuch - it confines us, it protects us. From a force that, despite the industrial mechanization of our lives, can still reek absolute havoc. The fences protect us from facing all of the forces that we no longer have the instinctual capacity to maneuver. In this manner, the frontier is still a vibrant throng, a population unrivaled. Yet, there are those who come to the frontier with no tolerance, no adventure in their heart. They will remain the urban mob, with no interest in equilibrium. If by chance they do venture into the hills - it is for a resort like cabin with tens of thousands of square footage and fenced in acreage. For these individuals and indeed for most of us in our daily lives, there is no frontier. However, in those rare moments when we dream of wild things and in the rarer moments when we let ourselves be hunted - when we reenter the chain - then we have reclaimed both frontiers (our mind and our surrounding).
Lastly, thirty days until our departure. Nearly every loose end is tied. Kaitlin's grandmother has offered to store my car in her garage in Colorado Springs. The scent of South America is so strong now that it is difficult to pursue any of the administrative details left. I just know that the days are going by and not too long from now we will be on a plane and everything will change. For now though, we will call the airlines, dry-run packing, and make our last excursions in the American West. I leave for Phoenix tomorrow, but will be back by Tuesday. Then later this month we will head five or six hours south to the sand dunes.