A hiking mentor

I live here, but I am new.

She is my guest, but she has been here many times before.

I am getting acquainted with all the trails and only take the long ones on weekends – days off from work.

She knows this place like the back of her hand.

I live in housing with four walls and have not yet camped seven miles out under the stars.

She has spent many October birthday weeks 4 X 4 camping at the end of Salt Creek and taking daily forays further into the wilderness.

Salt Creek is closed to wheeled vehicles now, open only to those visitors on foot. But she remembers exploring after hearty dinners around the campfire.

She is older than I – not much-but her memory is sharp. Her memories are good. Very good. This is her favorite place.

Now she is showing me around, introducing me to my own neighborhood. “Right over this hill,” she says, “right around this rock, I found a couple granaries and pictographs I don’t think the rangers know about. Over there, you can see a panel if you have binoculars. The ranger pointed that out, but I have never seen it.”

There are other things she teaches me too, like how to eat well while hiking or camping. What to prepare. Which items to bring. What footwear to choose.

Hiking alone is always inspiring. Wandering is fine. But sooner or later you need a hiking mentor to show you the good stuff.

I doubt I will ever attain her status – the ability to cook chicken cacciatore for eight and then pack it to the hut on Nordic skis.

But I do aspire to her confidence and belief in the abilities of others. Also, her calm patience when backtracking for a lost camera. The camera that carelessly slipped from my pocket and to the ground right after I took the eagle picture. The backtrack that added an extra mile to the ten for which I had steeled myself. The backtrack that we felt acutely in the heat of the day on the last two miles that terminated our trek and restored us to hot running water.

Never-the-less, we venture on another trail today, unflagging. Well-guided. Mentored. Ever learning.



There is no Target in Cortez – nor in the backcountry

Yesterday was my day off, so I escaped the Utah backcountry and headed for the comparative metropolis  of Cortez, Colorado.

There is no Target in Cortez, but I planned to do some shopping anyway. Some of my friends may be aghast that I mention shopping at Target, but that’s the way it is. I’ve never been adept at boycotting. I shop at Wal Mart when my limited paycheck determines I need something cheap for cheap. I eat at Chik -Fil -A when I fancy a chicken sandwich. I continue to shop at Target for some items I value.

I will admit to thinking twice about using the restroom at Target these days. But, in truth I really don’t like to use public restrooms in general. I have long been under the impression you could just go in whichever restroom you identified with. If you were wearing a skirt, you went to the women’s restroom. If you were wearing pants, well, do you need to sit down?

After arriving in Cortez – 105 miles as the car drives – and negotiating the somewhat confusing road construction signs -I stopped into the Cortez Welcome Center. Newly remodeled with Kiva décor, the bookstore operated by MVA (Mesa Verde Association) was nicely appointed.

“Where are you headed?” asked the welcome center representative.

“I’m just wandering, today, “ I replied.

Turns out wandering was an understatement.

I enjoyed the well-stocked gift shop. Chatted with the MVA bookstore staff. Something fell in my road weary eye and irritated a contact. Blinking and in pain, I asked for the restroom which I had not yet located. She pointed, directed me right around the adobe plastered curve in the hall. No doors. Open. Outfitted in cheery coral and white. I wandered right in, past the baby-changing table and to the sink, eye smarting, blinking all the way. The sink was brand new. Sparkling clean. I washed off my contact and replaced it. Not good. Still gritty. Now my face was wet and the lens would not pop back out. I reached for a paper towel. Motion operated hand dryer. I stepped toward the stall for tissue paper. Beyond the coral dividers, out of my good eye, I saw….urinals! What? Oh. Maybe they are outfitting all restrooms with urinals these days. This is Colorado. Maybe you can use whichever restroom you want.  Hurriedly, I backed around the corner and took the right berm of the hallway which emptied into… teal stall dividers. Baby-changing table. No urinals.

Today I will wander some more – with a map. I’ll take a pretty normal back-country hike where I can squat behind any tree I choose. Yesterday I was a trend-setter. I identified with coral.

I do have some new contacts waiting for me when I get back to civilization. But what to do about perceiving coral as pink and teal as blue? Which color do you identify with?