We Must Have Been a Sight!
We old dodderers can’t stop taking to the woods.
My nephew Kenn Petsch is my favorite hiking companion.
We have hiked dozens of times in the Grand Canyon, doing it just about end to end on almost every trail in the Park, including a large number of miles of off-trail backpacking.
Kenn introduced me to desert backpacking a generation or so ago and we have trudged our share of trails in the deserts of several national parks in California and the Southwest, as well as several slick rock canyons.
We’ve camped in some of the most beautiful places in the world. Our favorite was a full-moon night in the Monument Valley National Tribal Park. We camped on a Native-American’s rustic camp spot where she said movie director John Ford camped when he was shooting Westerns in the Valley. Perhaps. But, nonetheless is was on a strip of sand right next to “The Hub” that tall butte that gives the valley its signature mark, a high tower of rock in the center of the valley, which you see in those famous John Wayne Westerns.
It was a still, balmy evening. We witnessed the moon rising before us while the sun dropped slowly behind.
Kenn was visiting me in my hometown in Northern New Mexico. We are two dodderers, me in my 88th year, and Kenn in his advanced stages of Parkinson’s disease.
But, one day we did my usual daily hike up the South Boundary Trail for a two-mile round trip. And the day before we hiked the three-mile loop in Amole Canyon, one of my favorite trails ever.
The next day we went off jeeping with my friend, Roland, on Forest Service roads at the edges of the Latir Wilderness.
We had lunch at a site of the long-deserted Bitter Creek village of miners in a now wild, lonely stretch of prime Doug fir and Englemann Spruce forest at about 8,700 feet elevation.
About a hundred years ago there were two hundred people living here who worked the sixteen near-by gold mines, the biggest being the Midnight Mine.
We drove down another forest service road into Red River, the once booming gold miners’ town, turned summer and ski resort town near the Colorado border, enjoying the brilliant golden autumn leaves of aspens glowing among the evergreens.
And, you know what? We’re having the time of our lives!
Incidentally, my friend Roland was also an avid hiker who hiked many of the same trails as me around our part of the Southwest.
But, he too is now a dodderer. He had the misfortune recently of losing his left leg to cancer.
So, four-wheeling is now his way of visiting the remote forests of Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado.
He and I did a three-day visit to the Conejos region of Southern Colorado a couple of weeks ago.
And before Kenn left, he and I tented alongside the Rio Grande River in one of the most advanced handicap-friendly campsites we have ever seen. It is managed by the BLM for the National Park Service because it is in the new Northern Rio Grande National Monument.
I think, once addicted to the mountains and deserts there is no cure! We’ll keep on until we have to stop keeping on.
By the way, I have a good chapter in my book on Senior Backpacking. Check it out Backpacker & Hiker’s Handbook.
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