Next Stop: The Summit of Missouri Mountain! (Elevation 14,067′)

How do you stay awake, after the alarm comes to life at 0300 hours?   After a couple of cups of coffee, an omelette prepared by my loving wife at 0330… why it’s all about some loud (inspirational) music blaring in the truck as I motor on out to climb another of Colorado’s famous “14ers”, 54 defined peaks in the state that rise above 14,000′.

With four bars present on my iPhone, I dial up some fiery Louisiana Blues and on comes Clarence Frogman Henry wailin’ on some tune called, “I Ain’t Got No Home”:  perfect.

So while a lonely pair of headlights makes it way along remote dirt roads to a trailhead some two hours away, I’m mentally preparing for a very long, long day.   The plan unfolds:

0300:  Wake up your sorry 58 year old butt,

0400:   Drive off for a two hour’s drive through the Colorado Rockies

0600:   Arrive at the Missouri Gulch Trailhead

1100:   Summit

1430:   Return to the Trailhead, open up cooler, savor one tasty IPA

1500:   Drive back home

1700:   Arrive back home and stumble on in to regale wife with heroic tales of mountaineering…

Yeah, plans.   At least it’s a nod to some serious and responsible planning, but things always slip.  And so, as the sun began to rise, painting the the tips of the pretty mountains surrounding me on all sides, so my mood and anticipate rose as well.   It was going to be another fully-charged, great day to be alive!

Pulling into the parking area on time, I had expected to see a good number of cars.   Most serious hikers and climbers arrive well before sunrise so that they can summit and come down before the expected early afternoon thunderstorm unleash their fury (lightning, hail, rain…) .   Missouri Mountain was my sixteenth attempt, having summited on the prior 14 of 15, the latter unsuccessful due to a nasty hail storm near the summit! (Mt. Lindsey).

 

Over the pretty bridge over the creek I went, hoping not to encounter any enterprising, toll-taking Trolls, a gateway to the upper basin on a perfect day!   From the research, I knew I’d be in for a good 10 miles (16 km) of hiking (roundtrip) with a total elevation gain of 4,712′ (~ 1,420 meters).  Barring any ugly weather or surprisingly challenging terrain, this could be reasonably done at my slow pace.

Clear Creek
Crossing Clear Creek by the parking lot.

And up I went; over the wobbly, skinny logs over the upper creek, up the steep trail, past the remnants of an old log cabin and them up onto an amazingly beautiful basin with a clear and robust creek flowing down in the middle.  Frogman Henry’s catchy, little blues tunes were still ringin’ in my old ears when I came upon another hiker, a guy originally from Louisiana stopped at a fork in the trail at around 12,600′:  Dave.

2
Breaking up above tree line, with Missouri Mountain just coming into view (center).

“Hey!   Fantastic morning to be alive, ain’t it?”, I said to him enthusiastically

“Heck yeah!   But, I’m totally gassed.   Not sure I want to continue.   Climbed a 14er yesterday…”

“Oh man!  Two in two days?”

“Yeah…”

I’ve found that there are typically two types deep in the wilderness; those who really want to be left alone… and then… people like Dave and I who enjoy the surprise of finding like-minded people with stories to share along the trail.   And so, having planned to drop my pack at this point for a decent break before heading up the steep wall to the saddle above, another good 1,300′ or so on slippery scree and rock trail, I spent time to chat with Dave.

After about 10 minutes, I politely broke and told Dave that if I did not keep on truckin’, I’d be doomed… a mental thing.   He laughed and waved me on, wishing me well as I did him.

After about 10 minutes of pure “Hell on Steep Scree”, something told me to look back; and there slogging up the mountain was my new buddy for the day, Dave!   I did not want to get into his personal space so I kept on my pace up the mountain and planned for another decent break at the saddle.   Only a couple of minutes behind, Dave crested the ridge and once, again, we picked up our effortless conversation from our point about 1,300′ below in the valley!   Next stop: the Summit of Missouri Mountain!

3
Summit! Ok… Dave’s sign is a few feet off. No sweat. Close enough!

“Hey… why don’t we hang together on this last 0.7 miles (1 km) to the summit.   Looks a little sketchy.”, I suggested

“Sure!”

And for the balance of the climb and the descent back down to the trailhead, we teamed up for an epic day on top of the world!   Dave told me that he was an EMS Tech and I tried to impress him with my having recently joined my county’s mountain Search and Rescue!  All good along the ridge.

On the way down was a dude in his late 50s or so, with a smile that seemed to stretch from one end of the horizon to the other.   Mental note that would serve me well later that day…

The photos included pretty much speak for themselves.   It was a fantastic day and we were mildly delirious to return to our respective vehicles in the parking lot after a long day, particularly for Dave who had bagged two 14ers in as many days!

4
Dave, negotiating a Class 3 portion of the trail at the ridge line.
7
Portions of the trail along the ridge (13,700′ to 14,067′) were a bit sketchy, requiring some careful placement of hands and feet.
8
Back down in the valley at the approximate place where we had met earlier that day. Dave (at left) pointing back at the Fear-Factor ridge line from which we had just descended!

After crossing the bridge, I had the pleasure to meet Dave’s wife and friendly Lab, both who had climbed with him the day before.   Then, perhaps the funniest part of the day unfolded.

Sitting behind my pickup truck in the parking lot, flip-flops on instead of boots (!), one IPA going down the old gullet, a lady’s voice calls out from across the lot…

“How was your climb?”

“Uh… great!  Thanks!”

“Mind if I ask what mountain your were on?”

“Missouri”

“Did you happen to see a guy with a bushy, red beard (not her words exactly)?”

“Yeah!   I saw him!   He looked very happy to have summited!”

So we began to chat and realized that he should have been down before us.   We had not seen him along the one trail heading down and I got a little concerned… as I realize, in retrospect, so was she.

Something dogged me as I bade her farewell and drove off; a feeling that I should not have left before her husband returned.   Darn…   bad call.  Lesson learned.

Then, about six miles farther down the dirt, forest road I see him under a tree!   Without looking in my rearview mirror, I instinctively (and rather dramatically) slam on my brakes effecting a massive dust storm behind me…

“Hey there!   Your wife is waiting for you at the parking lot!”

Ha, ha, ha…   life is funny, eh?   “PJ” jumps into my truck for the ride back to the trailhead.  Turns out, we both fled Maryland for Colorado and are both now hooked on climbing!   PJ, looking very relieved, kinda looks like a more fit and outdoorsy version the bearded fella of the Grateful Dead.

I laugh all the way home, reflecting on this hilarious and satisfying day, set in a dramatic terrain filled with like-minded explorers all drawn to the beauty of this magnificent landscape.

… another day not wasted.  Check.

“I’m a lover not a fighter…”, the Louisiana Blues lyrics carry me all the way home to my loving wife.

 

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Rockin’ in La Plaza Major (de Madrid)

Summer of 1977

Madrid, Spain

Funny, the ancient memories that slowly come back to life as we get older and have more time to reflect.   Sometimes all it takes is an old tune not heard in 40 years to bring things back to life.   Incredible to think it has been that long since I lived in Madrid.

Real Summer jobs were no fun.  Sure, the paychecks were more steady than playing rock and roll in smokey bars, but life’s so short and even at 17, I knew you had to grab your fun while the going was good and carefree.

And that sure was the case in Madrid back in the day.   No restrictions on the weekend and pocket change got you a Metro ticket to the heart of the city.   So, I’d drag my acoustic guitar in its case and head down to the old center to play for “bar cash”.

Back in the day, I had “big”, blonde hair and a bit of a wild attitude and so when I emerged from the depths of the underground, suddenly the streets were alive with people on their way to restaurants, discos, and cafes and I knew it was just a flight of stairs up and through the grand arches into the old Plaza Major.

Past the steamed up window of the place that sold fresh Calamare sandwiches, a place almost impossible to resist.   Then a little more into the center and I’d open my guitar case and let the old rock n roll tunes begin…

Johnny b Good, some Lynyrd Skynyrd, and a few classic tunes from the Stones.

… and some Aretha, naturally.   “R   Eee  S  Pee  Eee  See  Tee!”

but, Johnny b Good was by far, the crowd favorite.

Easy and recognizable tunes and before long, I’d have a sweet crowd of about 40 to 50 people merrily singing along.   It really didn’t matter that I kinda sucked…   so long as I projected the right energy, all was good.   There was always an extrovert in the crowd who helped me woo the crowd.   Always.

… and then, the pile of Pesetas and coins would build and when things finally died down, I’d smile and thank the crowd and not infrequently, would be invited to party in the area at the outdoor cafes, the nearby discos, or the Flamenco places that were around the corner down cobblestoned streets and a couple of flights down in some dungeon.

Magic was always in the air on the weekend in Madrid.

And as I sit now in my camping chair in my garage high over the valley, here in this remote part of Colorado enjoying another glorious sunset over the mountains in the distance, I smile as I reflect of a simple and carefree chapter of my youth, now long, long gone.

… well, not in spirit.

Good Karma Way up High

Why not see what is possible in our short lives…?  I’ve found that some of the great pleasures of discovery await only when we quietly slip away from the noise and make our way into wilderness.

Upper South Colony Lake
Early morning rays light up the grand headwall of Crestone Peak.

I’d been climbing up into the Sangre de Cristo mountain range for a couple of years now, ever since retiring early to Colorado from the Washington, DC area.   Thankin’ me lucky stars that I’d thought to spend the time to craft a simple plan to break free before we were too old to enjoy our freedom!

And so here now was a chance to return the good Karma that I’d felt when I had gone down to climb in Ecuador shortly after my mother’s death.   Reminded me how fleeting life was…   Ten years had passed since I had seen Roger.   He had led our small group of eager mountaineers for a glorious tour of some of Ecuador’s high volcanos, some of which we managed to summit.   Now, it was my turn to repay that favor!

Joe and Emilie and their fun dog, Uschi came rolling up in their customized van, having recently ditched their jobs in Ohio in favor of living on the road!   That evening at the house was wonderful, as the wine flowed and the tasty fish sat sizzling on the grill.   Great times that, at this age, we knew were precious and certainly worth savoring.

And as the sun set and the Milky Way rose, as it were, anticipation grew as we plotted our upcoming adventures in the mountains across the valley, 18 miles away.  Rocking on the chairs on the front porch, I pointed out certain peaks and described the characteristics of each of the valleys, lakes, and cirques.  I knew that there was simply no way of making a bad decision!

Loading up my adventure-rigged F-150 the following morning, the four of us piled in for a gnarly ride up a remote forest road to a trailhead up at 9,850′.   We’d disembark, grab our heavy packs, and hike up about five miles up to about 12,000′ at the upper South Colony Lakes, spend the night, and then press on for a sweet climb up to the summit of Humboldt Peak, one of Colorado’s 14ers (one of 53 peaks that rise above 14,000′).   The promise of blue-bird skies had us on a natural high as we made our way up into the mountains.

It had been ten years since we’d climbed together and back then, I was certainly the weak link, but no more.   I’d logged in almost 162,000′ of vertical gain since January and I felt worthy to hang with my bros and sistas.   Felt great, both physically and mentally!

Having been up here a few times before, I knew this trail would be a guaranteed hit and, judging from the widening grins of my climbing partners, I could see I had made the right call.   With the sun now set well behind the imposing headwalls, it was getting cooler and we quickly deployed our tents, grabbed our fishing poles and made our way to the lake to fish.

Campsite
Hasty tent deployment!

While I must admit that my fishing skills lacked in a big way, thankfully Roger (pictured at right of photo, above, snagged a sweet trout within the first couple of tries!   Bonus!   We’d grill her up and split the prize among us, making a rather Spartan meal of mashed potatoes topped with fish!

Simple Pleasures!
Joe, Roger, and me, savoring our first trout from the upper lake!

Despite the great weather and it being Labor Day Weekend, we found ourselves all alone at the upper lake!   Incredible, but we’d happy for that.   And so the evening’s conversation flowed effortlessly as we enjoyed great company, our day’s accomplishment, and the glorious scenery around us.   Perched high on a rock outcropping, we each silently thanked our good health and good fortunes.

Dinner, lakeside
Roger, Emilie, and Uschi relaxing by the lake.

It’s funny how the simple things in life give us the most pleasure.  For me, some of the best moments come after struggle and discomfort, being far from “civilization” for a spell, so that we may regenerate our tired souls…

Once the sun set, we found ourselves eager to retire for the evening in anticipation of tomorrow’s climb to the summit of Humboldt Peak.   The setting was indescribably awesome in the purest sense of that overused word.

Rising the following morning at 0400, I caught sight of the headlamps following the trail up across the way to the more technical Crestone Peak and Needles.   Spaced apart, the climbers made their way slowly up the talus sloped terrain, gaining the upper couloir then over to the ridge.

Moon Setting
The moon setting over the Ridgeline.

Firing up the camp-stove for a quick breakfast prior to our climb, each of us sat in awe of the alpenglow that was lighting up our high alpine world…   Nourished, inspired, and ready, Joe, Roger and I set off for the summit, leaving Emilie and Uschi behind.   After some debate, we had decided that the large boulder field up higher as well as the 40-50 degree pitch would be a bit much for our four-legged partner.  With some sadness, we all turned back to wave back at Emilie and Uschi, promising a safe return!

And up we went…

Upper South Colony Lakes
Joe, looking down on the upper lake.

What fun to be climbing again with my old friends!   This time, it was my turn to guide, though Joe quickly like a mountain goat, blasted up way ahead, Roger and I took our time, savoring the unfolding scenes all around us.

Humboldt Peak
Nearing the summit.

As is typical of the upper trails near the summits, we found ourselves in boulderfields marked (thankfully!) by rock cairns.   And up we went, slowly, determined.

View to valley below
Looking down to the Wet Mountain Valley from near the summit of Humboldt Peak.

With the summit in view, we found a swarm of dark clouds making their way up from the south and knew that we’d have a limited amount of time to linger.   Views from up here are absolutely phenomenal!   Otherworldly, almost, with the dramatic headwall of the Crestone Peaks on the opposite side of the cirque, we savored our hard-won prize, sipped some Spanish wine from our bota, and traded tasty treats to regenerate our tired bodies.

All in all, it was a grand adventure worthy of inclusion in my blog!   Not unlike Napoleon’s retreating army from Russia, we eventually dragged our way back to the truck, drove the insanely-rutted forest road back down to green valley below, returned to basecamp back home, dropped into comfy chairs around the fire pit, and poured more than a few glasses of wine as the sun set on the mountains across the way.

And, once again, life is great and spirits renewed!

 

When you need a friend…

Sleeping in the back of my truck, next to my spare tire and the camping gear piled upon it here up high in the Colorado Rockies with the Milky Way in full view out my windows, a random thought whirled into my tired mind; my companion, my old Airedale Percy.

Funny how in life, we come into people and animals and, in those precious and rare times, a true bond forms immediately.   And this was the case with my companion, a true loyal friend who never betrayed me, who never judged, who always greeted me after school hoping that I’d take him for long, long walks through the still-battle scarred streets of Warsaw so many years ago.

I saw him again two years ago, though it really wasn’t him but someone else’s Airedale, the two having recently come back off trail…   Perfect timing for a chance to say “hi” to these two.

“I used to have one”

“Oh?”

“Yes…”, and my hasty exit onto the trail must have seemed odd to these two.

The heartbreak of seeing him being given to a new family back in the Spring of 1973 was still too painful to bear and it hits me every time I see an Airedale.   Odd how the memories of these wonderful animals still seem so fresh decades later.

Walking home from school a few days prior, I could see that my mom had some tough news to deliver.   She’d see me grab the leash in the early afternoons and wouldn’t expect me and Percy to be back until dinner.   Those long walks were like a sweet therapy to the end of school days in a place I never felt I belonged anyway.   Never gave it a second thought.   Always preferred the reliable tranquility that came with quiet time with Percy in the Northern Virginia woods.

We’d been uprooted every couple of years and finally, it seemed, my furry friend could be a constant in a very confusing though fascinating upbringing…

“Alec, we can’t bring Percy to Turkey with us.   The Turks don’t like dogs and will likely kill him if he were ever to escape”, my mother did not seem like herself as she broke the heartbreaking news.

The day that the new family came to pick him up, I remember standing by the front door numb.  If I work a little, I can still see the excitement in the younger children in the back of the large station wagon and the mother with a very sad and compassionate expression as I said goodbye.

“Mom.   How come come some of my friends here have dogs?  I thought you said…”

And as I reflected on this a couple of days ago, listening to the soothing sounds of the rushing creek under the billions of stars so high up in the mountains, I realized it was my dad who would’ve given the tough job to my mother to deliver.

She loved him as much as I had.  I know this.   Dad, well, what to say there.  I can still remember coming home to see him beating my dog, when I pulled him away to go for a long, long walk away from his inner turmoil.

Now, as I go deep into the mountain wilderness here in the Rocky Mountains, I sometimes feel as though my old friend is still by my side.

 

 

 

No Rest for Old Mountaineers

The iPhone vibrated against my ribcage at an uncivilized 0500 hours on “Day 2” of our mountain adventure.   Somehow, it was a TedTalk from a couple of years ago on the subject of activation energy that infused a bolt of temporary vigor and willpower to get me to leave my cozy and almost warm sleeping bag to start our day’s adventure.

My good friend, Paul and I had driven over five hours two nights ago to arrive at a remote campsite in another high alpine valley, in fact just a  kind of flat spot next to a pull-off by a gnarly forest road at around 11,400′ to begin our weekend of “fun” with the goal of climbing two mountains.

We’d climbed a mountain in the same range the day before and now hoping our aging bodies would recover mercifully to allow for today’s hike up Uncompahgre Peak at 14,309′ (4,365m) the tallest mountain in this region and the 6th highest of the Colorado 14ers (regional parlance to describe mountains that rise in excess of 14,000′).   Having carefully examined the route on Google Earth before our departure, it seemed quite benign; almost a casual stroll in the Highlands, if you will.

But the very nature of the word, adventure, reminds us to keep a wary eye for the unexpected.   Would it come in the way of a flat tire on a steep, unpaved and deeply rutted and rocky US Forest Service road leading up to the trailhead, personal injury, or in the need to assist in helping a fellow hiker return safely down?   Never can predict.

And, once again, the cruel cycle repeats…

  •  Recover from last hike and forget the pain, close call(s), discomfort,
  • Feel a growing agitation,
  • Locate source of agitation (or not),
  • Leave impulsively for the mountains to climb again…   repeat (i.e., lesson not learned and no hope of ever learning it!)

Oh, the human mind…  you unpredictable thing!

Signing in to the kiosk that early morning and seeing hundreds of names in the register from earlier in the year, anticipation grew as we once again set foot on brand-new trail.   The weather was just right as we ascended into the higher plateaus and… soon, there she was, in full splendor; Uncompahgre Peak beckoning us, rising a good 2,500′ from where we stood.

No need for scheduled breaks for it seemed that every few minutes, we’d see another angle, a changed light, and another chance to capture this wonderful spot on Earth.

View down from the summit looking down to the trail that led up here.

Up we went to find climbers returning from sun-rise ascents, Marmots eyeing us quizzically like natives in the Peruvian Andes, tents grouped upon magnificent perches with dizzyingly stunning views of the peaks beyond, and fellow hikers way up on the mountain making their way to the summit.

And up we went with anticipation of expanding views to the valleys below.

Hiking down, savoring views missed from behind!

Stopping for a much-needed break at around 13,500′, we spied the approaching group of three climbing up at a brisk pace,

“Looks like the trail runners we saw yesterday, eh Paul?”, I remarked.   The young ladies had literally been running up and down valleys that day.

“Oh to be young again…”

“Yeah”

… except as the three passed us, the husband trailing behind stopped to chat.  They were in their mid-seventies with bodies of 20 year olds!   His wife and her girlfriend were in the process of bagging their 41st 14er and for her 70th birthday, he had surprised her with a planned  through-hike of the entire length of the Colorado Trail (486 miles with about 88,000′ of elevation gain and loss).  What a “gift”.

The old chap knew very well the effect this comment would have on us…

Mindset, reasonably healthy respect for our bodies, and a will to push through imaginary barriers largely created by society’s relentless efforts to numb us down… (nice try) and the world’s adventures await you as well.

Why, maybe in 15 years, I’ll be the 72 year old with some funny stories to share with fellow hikers…    or with some luck in 30 or, hell,  why set timid goals …in 45.   Why not?

Keep the Horizon a Mystery

Why, if you are not careful, Life will seem like you have stepped in between two large mirrors where your days past and future all seem the same.   Never let that happen.

Stepping into Custer County’s Search and Rescue Barn that afternoon to be interviewed for the unpaid position of mountain rescue, I had to laugh for a split second inside my head as I approached the two leaders of this fascinating organization.   One had served in Vietnam while the other of similar age had rushed back from his golf game wearing an elegant polo shirt with “Alfa Romeo” stitched in an equally elegant font:  Ying/Yang!   Nothing in this remote mountain valley is what it appears on the surface.

“Alec.   These are standard questions we ask our prospective members.   Are you ok with that?”, asked the military veteran.

“Yes Sir.  Happy to answer any questions you may have.”, I replied, working to maintain a crisp demeanor in front of these two who I’m certain have seen quite a lot in their lives.   Alfa Romeo?  My mind drifts to Lake Como in the Northern Italian Alps…

“Have you ever seen a dead person up close?”, question one.

I knew this one was coming.

“I sure have.   Saw a motorcycle under a semi and the rider under the truck.  Just happened.   I was ten.   Seen three others, one by their own hand.  Gruesome.   I’m ok with being close to death.   I guess you guys see this in the mountains every so often.”, came my impulsive reply.

And more questions followed and, oddly, I felt right at home in this setting; much more so than many of the interviews I could recall in the stultifying, corporate offices years ago.   Somehow, this felt natural, as though Fate had finally brought me to where I was supposed to be.   Home.

“Looking over your application, I think we’ll be assigning you to the team that goes high.”

A good feeling came over me just then as I realized not only that I’d have the privilege of joining this good group but that I’d actually find myself up higher where direct/initial contact is made with the climbers in need.

Sitting in my tomb-like office at the headquarters of Lockheed Martin back in the 1990s, why I would never have imagined doing something like this in my late fifties.   Never.  Sipping espressos in a cafe on the island of Capri, yes.   Hauling gear up high in the middle of the night here in the Colorado Rockies, never.

And why wrestle with Fate?   Fate wins.  Always.   And so, as I now begin to look back on my odd and disjointed life, I have finally begun to surrender to the greater forces and that, my friends, is actually quite liberating.

And so…

I’ve held a heavy vulture in Mongolia, worked alongside rough laborers on an 8″ pipeline in South Georgia, sailed in an elegant wooden racing sailboat with an elderly Austrian count on a pretty lake in Austria, smoked a $30 Cuban cigar on the balcony of the Hôtel de la Cigogne in Geneva, and recently followed my crazy wife up a class four smooth granite rock chute to the top of a mountain we own in the Colorado Rockies.

What the future holds is anyone’s guess…

And when this old dog returns to this wonderful valley next May, I’ll be issued some Search and Rescue stickers for my truck, some rather bright jackets, shirts, and reflective cap… and likely, the call will come in the middle of the night and within 30 minutes, I’ll be dragging myself into the SAR Barn to be briefed about a mission to go up high into the mountains to either recover or rescue a climber in need; hopefully rescue…

The road detours in the most interesting ways if only we relax our minds, surround ourselves with those with equally crazy tales to tell, and begin to see, really see…

And in the timeless words of Marcus Aurelius, we are encouraged to:

“Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.”

Inspirations…

Sipping wine late into the evening, I watch the sun set behind the wonderful Sangre de Cristo mountains across the valley on this still night and wonder what my mother, a true Austrian alpinist would have thought of what my wife and I have pulled off.   My gaze drifts over to the Austrian Pine that we had planted in her honor and know that in a hundred years, others will sit here and have their own thoughts … when the young tree then towers majestically in their presence.

We don’t have forever to get in our groove in life, do we.   Best if we find a way to forgive ourselves and others and quietly move in the direction of that soulful piano player in the distance calling us to smile, dance a little, and savor our existence on this planet of ours.

Looking at these ancient photos of mom and her friends roped up high in the Alps, I’ve got to believe that these were some of her best moments; precious and uninhibited moments disconnected from the travails of humanity and its fabricated problems… a place where the views grow to farther horizons with each step up.

These shots were taken about 65 years ago, but nothing much changes on the looks of those who find themselves high up in the mountains.   The grins are all the same, the elegant and stylish clothes a little different, ok.

 

So, intuitively, we understand that we stand at a crossroads in life and the choice is ours, really; do we squander our gift of time with distraction, or… do we say “screw that” and find what makes us come alive!   The choice is ours.

When my mother died in my arms in our home that summer of 2006, she passed on to us her torch to live life to it’s extreme potential, without harm to self, to others, or to our planet.  The people she touched along the way… all felt a piece of that energy as well.  She had inspired many, many who would call me over the coming weeks to tell me how she touched their lives.

Yes, indeed.  I hear the distant music playing its soulful tune and the call is clear; waste not a minute of the time you have left.   Find and reconnect with old friends, make new ones, and go out and spread some inspiration of your own.

Tomorrow, my wife and I will take a short drive across this wonderful valley to hike at our leisure, the Rainbow Trail; what a delightful name for a trail, yes?   Later, this weekend, I pick up my good friend Paul for what promises to be another epic hike up to a remote mountaintop in the San Juan Mountains (Uncompahgre Peak) smiling on the way up, giddy at the top, and possibly skipping with delight on the way down.

It’s a great life…   Why not be an inspiration to others along life’s Grand Journey?

Cheers