A milestone backpacking trip

As I’ve mentioned, I don’t think we’ll ever lack things to see, do, and experience while living here.

The canyon’s twists and turns make a small area on the map seem much more extensive than walking to a mountain peak.

What we see along these twists and turns seems to bring something new to us each time.

And this past weekend proved no exception.

We started camping in the ponderosa on a cool evening and then went to the canyon floor.

But first, Joan made pancakes for breakfast!

Importantly, Joan made me a cheesecake for our first night of camp because she’s awesome (and it’s my birthday weekend, and it’s my favorite).

Then, we backpacked along old rancher trails, bushwhacked through trails only found on USGS maps, followed abandoned roads, meandered along elk and deer paths, and enjoyed awesome scenery, ancient structures, and solitude.

Along one of the old rancher trails. PCO Joan.

“Rancher-glyph,” we think, is from a well-known family in the area.

This area contains cliff dwellings that seem more like Mea Verde National Park. And just as grand.

Yet, few people make their way out here. We had the area to ourselves.

We meandered among the old trails and roads and followed old cowboy trails that invariably follow older paths.

With our gift of time, we spent another night out, contemplated more structured rambling, and saw the remains of a more prominent tower the following day. If the cliff dwelling seemed reminiscent of Mesa Verde, the tower would not look out of place in Chaco Canyon.

Yet the large amount of living soil crust again indicates the spareness of visitation to these quiet structures found at the canyon junctions.

But it’s perhaps the subtle indications that also resonate.

The fingerprints, still found in the masonry, connect to public lands’ rich history and culture. My great-grandfather worked as a mason in Providence until his untimely death at thirty-three. Could I see his fingerprints among the banks, churches, and other buildings still around from the 1920s?

After another night in the desert, we returned via older roads.

We then returned to the older paths we had followed the previous day. We again admired the way we could take in more distant features, such as “The Doll House” across the river and  in “The Maze.”

We could see the world we call home.

I also celebrated a milestone this past week. And I did not want a party or an exotic vacation. I wanted to celebrate by being in the wild places and with the person I shared it with.

“At fifty, everyone has the face he deserves.” George Orwell famously said.

I look at my mug with my bald head, bushy eyebrows, dark eyes, and a so-called “Mediterranean complexion” (great in middle age for desert living; I cursed it in my teens on the humid coast!) I’m thinking more about genetics than anything else for my current visage. Oh, that and more sunscreen in the past couple of decades, coupled with some regular exercise!
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But I do feel fortunate at this point in my life.
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I live in an amazing place with an equally amazing person to share it with. I’ve finally acquired a job that respects my free-time firewall and, dare I say, a potential longer-term career (it only took me over two decades!).
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I’ve had the good fortune to spend countless days and nights in some stunning places. And, of course, the people I’ve known over the years, be it Rhode Island, Colorado, the outdoor community, and now Utah, have added much richness and satisfaction to this sometimes frustrating, sometimes crazy, but overall incredible journey we call “life.”
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So here’s to many more years of enjoying craft beer, getting overly amped up on coffee, always insisting it’s “Ah-ranges in Flah-rah-duh” no matter how long I’ve lived out west, making way too much food for any occasion, and finding myself in the canyons, mountains, and wild places and sharing it with one person in particular!
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A ~400-year-old Celtic tune sums it up to this point –
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“Of all the money that e’er I had, I spent it in good company
and all the harm that e’er I did, alas, it was to none but me
And all I’ve done for want of wit to memory now I can’t recall
so fill to me the parting glass; good night and joy be to you all.”
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I’ll save the last stanzas for a while if all goes well!
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We took the photo this past fall when I was only 49 and a half years old. But I rather like this photo of Joan and me.

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Mike
Mike
18 days ago

Happy Birthday,
It’s only a number.

Mel Church
Mel Church
18 days ago

Happy birthday. A wonderful story of your desert travels and beautiful partnership with your wife.

johncooksjunk@gmail.com
johncooksjunk@gmail.com
18 days ago

Happy Birthday. Glad you are in a place of happiness and contentment with a special person in your life. Those are great gifts to have on your birthday.

K C
K C
17 days ago

Happy Birthday!
and a very nice Story

PaulW
PaulW
17 days ago

Happy Birthday Mr Mags. Thanks for all your inspiring posts. May there be many more!

Evan
Evan
17 days ago

You’re only 50? According to the Cherokees you’ll be an adult next year, so you’re still a kid. Many happy returns!

Jake (Astro)
Jake (Astro)
17 days ago

Happy Birthday!!!
At 50, you are still a young man. Thanks again for sharing your adventures with the rest of us.