Canadians are nice, it rains a lot in the Cascades, and Idaho is quiet and quaint. I’d heard these things were true, but I had to see for myself.
by Luke Mehall, publisher The Climbing Zine
I just returned home to Durango after a nice two-week tour to some places I’d never been to. British Columbia gave us her fruits of the most perfect granite climbs overlooking the ocean, friendly locals that showed us the way, and smiling, fit, beautiful women that seemed to be everywhere, but then drove us out with a rainstorm.
Washington showed us the odd, German themed village of Leavenworth, and led us into a sublime and pristine alpine wilderness where we shouldered heavy packs and hiked miles and miles to climb on salt and pepper granite.
City of Rocks in Idaho unveiled hundreds of granite domes, and showed us the California Trail, where immigrants moved west on wagons; for a minute my tiny little brain tried to grasp the monumental ways technology has altered our existences in just over 100 years.
I am not a man of riches, yet by working hard at my night job and writing nearly every day I can afford to float across the West, burning up precious fossil fuels in search of what I am seeking. And what am I seeking? To find myself? No, I think I know who I am, or at least who I am not, by now. I am looking for stories, and I’m trying to get away from glowing rectangular screens for a couple weeks.
At the end of the trip, inside my tent, curling up with my journal to write out a few contemplative thoughts, I could only think of one thing: my bed. My spacious, comfortable queen sized mattress, one I inherited from some friends who left the country; my first ever bed that sits off the ground on a frame and makes me feel like a grown man. Yes, that would be the prize for two weeks of sleeping on the ground inside a tent. Bed, sweet bed.
And then more revelations came: the most important being that I never dread coming back to Durango, even while facing a 60 hour work week. In fact, of all the places I’ve seen I would rather live here than any of them, no matter how beautiful or exotic.
To quote a recent New York Times “Opinionator” editorial piece by Costica Bradatan, “To live is to sink roots. Life is possible only to the extent that you find a place hospitable enough to receive you and allow you to settle down. What follows is a sort of symbiosis: just as you grow into the world, the world grows into you. Not only do you occupy a certain place, but that place, in turn, occupies you. Its culture shapes the way you see the world, its language informs the way you think, its customs structure you as a social being. Who you ultimately are is determined to an important degree by the vast web entanglements of “home”.”
Home. Even the most vagabond travelers inflicted with dire cases of wanderlust come to the realization that home is necessary. And, what a modern luxury we have to travel about (Canadian translation: abuut) and still call somewhere home.
So with Durango, and the advent of the automobile and relatively cheap gasoline, we so often take for granted, I feel home extends all the way west until the majestic, alluring, simple, dry and dusty red rock desert two hours away. And why should it not be included as part of home, I spend as much time outdoors there as I do here in Durango. And after five days of working around the clock, a buddy and I hopped in my Subaru, turned off the cell phones and transported to the crimson land of rocks, wind, and the open sky.
Indian Creek is known far and wide, but at the moment, the climbing tribe has yet to fully inhabit its confines, leaving it open and free for the “locals” who transport for the weekend from Salt Lake, Moab, Durango and other Colorado towns. On Sunday, we didn’t see a soul as we climbed the perfectly fractured cracks on Wingate sandstone.
“Its like climbing in a painting,” we mused. Puffy clouds dotted the blue sky, the desert floor with a hint of green from a recent rain, and crimson cliffs as far as the eye can see. At home, in a work of art, simultaneously appreciating the ability to live so close and within this landscape, but also with the luxury of technology to flee it back to civilization. Home is more of a basecamp, than a place that you rarely leave. Even within a couple hours of Durango there’s more to see and experience than a lifetime will allow.
I’m back in the middle of a workweek now, going through the motions of writing, working, and the modern day to day of earning a living (Durango style of holding down at least two jobs of course). What I live for is exploring the wild places, near, and far, and then hoping to squeeze some juice of meaning out of them. I think many of us in Durango live for that.
And what a blessing that is, to know the time allotted in our lives will run out before the adventures do. To have the accessibility of wild places, and a small town filled with likeminded folk. A place where we can simultaneously be rooted, but find the inspiration to constantly grow and spread our breadth of experience and knowledge.
This piece was originally published in the Durango Telegraph.
About us: The Climbing Zine was started in 2010 by Al Smith III and Luke Mehall. It continues to the day with the mission of representing the true essence of climbing. Our crown jewel is our printed version, but we also do the interweb thing, and Kindle.