Everything Is Beautiful

When I moved to Colorado Springs twenty-five years ago, I didn’t get a chance to see much of the city. Settling my two kids, then 11 and 4, into a new apartment, new school, and new daycare – while I figured out my new job as a Unix systems administrator at a high-tech firm – took all my time and focus. I was also a full-time college student (yes, working single moms have an unbelievable reserve of energy and resolve).

For the cross-country drive, I strapped my kids and computer into the Camry, arriving just ahead of a blizzard. The semitruck carrying the household goods got stranded on a mountain pass, and it would be days before any of that stuff made it to the apartment. With no furniture, I set up my computer on the living room floor and logged in to find that one of my college groupmates had dropped the ball on a team project, so I stayed up late to do his part and turn the paper in. With several feet of fresh snow on the ground, I couldn’t even make it out of the driveway for my first day of work, so that morning my new boss and her husband picked me up in their Subaru.

This is my long way of telling you that I had more on my mind than visiting all the sights of this fair city, Colorado Springs, and the state of Colorado back then. But the next year I vowed to see it all. That August, I took a week off from work and the kids and I went everywhere. We rode the cog railway to the summit of Pikes Peak, took the Lantern Tour at Cave of the Winds, walked the bridge over the Royal Gorge and rode every ride in the park. We did Elitch Gardens – the rides and the water park – hit the fine art and science museums and spent a day at the Downtown Aquarium. It was a crazy, hectic week, but my kids loved it. And I finally got to see a little more of Colorado beyond my cubicle and computer screen.

Since then, I’ve seen much more. I credit hiking and mountaineering for that. Doing all the 14ers (mountains over 14,000 feet above sea level) and county highpoints gets you out of the office and all over the state. Then I visited 47 hot springs, hiked to more than 100 lakes and more than 150 waterfalls, and summited over 700 mountaintops, and I’m still out there, camping, hiking, and climbing every week.

I always remind myself not to take this for granted. Don’t think everyone lives like this. Not everyone wakes up to a day like today, with blue skies, puffy white clouds, sparkling snow on America’s Mountain, and endless possibilities. I tell myself: “Enjoy this day, every minute of it, and don’t take it for granted. Somehow (don’t ask me how), you got really, really lucky, Susan.”

But no matter how many times I tell myself this, I do get used to it. I’ve camped and hiked in Rocky Mountain National Park so many times – three long weekends this year alone – I’ve lost count. Hiked every trail and climbed most of the rock formations in Garden of the Gods. And hit the trail to the summit of Pikes Peak nine times from four different routes – one time in snowshoes, in January. After a while, the beauty of this place fails to register. It’s as if I’m taking it in with all of my senses, but my brain doesn’t get it. My brain doesn’t say “Wow, this is amazing.”

Last fall, my sister, Carolyn, and her husband Andy came to visit. I hadn’t seen family in years, so it was quite a treat! They were doing a three-week cross-country loop, and only had one day to spend in Rocky Mountain National Park, and one day in Colorado Springs. Of course, I put together itineraries for them. I went online and got tickets to visit the new summit house on Pikes Peak. I got tickets to the new US Olympic and Paralympic Museum too. I found a doggy daycare for their pup, a nice dog-friendly trail in Garden of the Gods, and a restaurant that was both vegan-friendly (for me) and dog-friendly (for them).

It was a great day. Perfect, in fact. If you haven’t been to the summit house on Pikes Peak or the US Olympic and Paralympic Museum, I can’t recommend them enough. If you can, get weekday tickets and avoid the crowds. We did the peak on a Monday morning at 8 a.m. and stopped by the Devils Playground parking lot on the way down. There’s a trail there now to the top of Devils Playground Peak, the highpoint of Teller County. After lunch downtown, we hit the museum. My brother-in-law’s words as we entered the top floor sum up the experience: “I’m going to need a lot of time in here.” I agree. We spent two hours and could have easily spent three. It’s not your typical museum.

After picking up their pup for a walk around the Garden and watching the sun go down from the rocky ridge between Keyhole and Easter Rocks, we headed to Trinity Brewing. At an outdoor table, we dined on pizza and beer, and watched a lightning storm over the mountains to the west. They were leaving that night, headed out of town again, so I wanted to know how their trip had been.

“So, how was Rocky Mountain National Park,” I asked, “Did you enjoy the hikes and the waterfalls?”

“Um, we drove up Old Fall River Road and down Trail Ridge Road,” my sister said.

“And, where else?”

“That was it.”

I wondered whether they had the dog with them, because pets aren’t allowed on park trails, but no, they said, they had boarded him in Fort Collins that morning.

“You spent seven hours in Rocky Mountain National Park, and that’s all you did? How is that possible?” I thought about my weekends in the park and all the hikes I’d crammed in – Deer Mountain, Mount Ida, Flattop Mountain, Hallett Peak…not to mention all the lakes and waterfalls.

My sister smiled and told me about all the sights along the roadways. Just the views from the pullouts.

“We had to keep stopping. Everything was so beautiful.”

Ah, yeah. There it was. Everything is so beautiful. And sometimes just getting away from my computer to see it isn’t enough. Sometimes I need to see it through someone else’s eyes, someone who’s never seen it before, to be reminded of that. Maybe I need to retrain my eyes, my nose, my ears…my brain, too. Because we are very, very lucky to live here and I never want to take it for granted.

This blog first appeared as a column in the October 26, 2021, Gazette North Springs Edition.

Pikes Peak above Mason Reservoir, Colorado Springs. One of many hikes in Best Lakes Colorado, to be released summer 2022, by FalconGuides. Photo by Susan Joy Paul.

Don’t Get Stuck Redux

Coming up with 26 column ideas a year can be harder than you might think, especially after five years. I often look to my earlier columns for inspiration. About a year ago, I wrote “Don’t Get Stuck,” a story about 4×4 driving classes that could teach me safe backroad driving and recovery skills, and wouldn’t you know it: I attended a class like that this past November.

I was invited to a 10-hour “off-roadeo” in Moab, Utah, and of course, I accepted (then again, I would say yes to a vegan weenie roast or a mud wrestling tournament in beautiful Moab, so this shouldn’t surprise you). Still, I was apprehensive. As an active outdoorsperson (because as Coloradans, aren’t we all?) I worried about the impact of 4×4 vehicles on the precious natural aspects of the backcountry. And I wasn’t alone, because among all the discussion about technique, the guides eventually got around to addressing that very subject.

The best part of the off-roadeo was that I didn’t have to bring my own vehicle, which was a good thing, because my little Suzuki SX4 isn’t exactly a rock-crawling machine. Instead, the vehicles were provided as loaners. Ten hours seems like a long time, and it is when you’re working, but on the backroads east of Arches National Park, north of the Colorado River, the time flew.

I got pretty good at controlled braking on steep, rutted sections of trail that tilted the 4×4 onto just three tires at the Bronco Off-Roadeo in Moab.

I was late out of the gate because I didn’t know that I had to have my foot on the brake to start the engine (not necessary in my Suzuki). And oh yeah, the off-road vehicle had a push-button start (this was also new to me). Among a party of eight, I trailed behind but with a guide up front and another bringing up the rear, there was no fear of getting lost.

Off the pavement and into the desert, I learned a lot more. First off, I couldn’t just flip from 2H, or 2-High, which I used to go fast in 2-wheel drive on the dry pavement, to 4L (4-Low) or even 4H or 4A (4-High, Advanced 4×4) without stopping the vehicle and shifting into neutral. My current vehicle has a rocker switch for AWD, so this was new to me. Also, unlike my little SX4, the locking differentials, or lockers, didn’t kick in automatically as needed – I had to use the hero switches on the dashboard to engage the front and rear lockers individually. Granted, this ability provided more control and was far superior; it was just new to me. I also learned how to use “trail control” which is like cruise control at very low speeds, as slow as 1 mph, which is as fast as I could go on some sections of the trail. By trail I mean road. The terminology was also new – I think of trail as something I walk on, not drive on.

The trail comprised a mix of dirt, gravel, rocks, and slickrock. I always thought slickrock was slick, but the guides explained that it was slick for original cross-country visitors to the West who drove wagons with wooden, metal-banded wheels. For bike tires, and 4×4 tires, it provides excellent traction. Speaking of traction: combined with momentum, it’s what’s required to get up the steep sections. So, less air pressure in the tires (we aired down from 30+ to 20 pounds per tire) gave us more traction.

My earlier worries about impact were addressed by the guides. Access to places like the Utah desert, they told us, depends on responsible off-roading. That means sticking to the trail and off the cryptobiotic soil. We were instructed to follow the main trail, even when easier routes appeared alongside it, to avoid widening the trail. We were also told, and reminded again after stopping for lunch, to pick up after ourselves and leave nothing behind. I couldn’t help thinking that the off-roading protocols sounded a lot like hiking protocols.

The other guidance was around recovery gear and methods. Here again, the conversation reminded me of the same rules I follow for hiking, rock climbing, and mountaineering: Have the right gear and know how to use it.

I went to the off-roadeo wondering if off-roading was for me, and my answer is no, not exactly. I had a blast, but I still prefer putting hand and foot (rather than wheel and tire) to rock and trail. However, the skills I learned from the guides and behind the wheel will come in handy to get me from home to trailhead and back again safely. It was worth the time, it was different than anything I’ve ever done, and it was a whole lot of fun.

This blog first appeared as a column in the November 23, 2021 Gazette North Springs Edition.

A few videos of my Moab Off-Roadeo adventure:

Super-Celebrating the New Bronco and Bronco Sport at Super Celebration West

Last fall, I headed to Buena Vista, Colorado to wander around a big field and look at a lot of used SUVs, crossovers, and 4x4s, plus a few new ones. This was different than your typical Sunday drive through dealership car lots though. None of the vehicles were for sale, and I had to pay $10 to get in. Why would I drive two hours and pay ten bucks just to look at a bunch of not-for-sale vehicles? Because the event was Bronco Super Celebration West, and the new vehicles were Ford’s latest additions to the world of 4x4s, SUVs, and crossovers: the all-new Bronco and Bronco Sport.

Confession: I’m not, nor have I ever been, a “car person.” But Ford’s latest offerings have gotten my attention. It seems like, over the past few years, cars – crossovers and SUVs in particular – have all started to look alike. I’ve seen $30,000 vehicles behind $60,000 ones at stop lights, and if it weren’t for the make or model badge, I couldn’t tell them apart. So when Ford blasted commercials for their latest models in 2020, I had to take another look.

The Sport, which is based on Ford’s unitized body-and-chassis Escape crossover, just looked cooler. It had something called GOAT modes, which apparently stands for “goes over any type of terrain.” And the Sport’s big brother, the sixth-generation, body-on-frame Bronco, modeled after the Ranger pickup truck and available with factory options like front and rear lockers, sway-bar disconnect, HOSS suspension, Bilstein shocks, and 35” tires, was like a breath of fresh air from the past, but with all the tech of the modern age. Here was a vehicle that could stand up against the Jeep, the Defender, the 4Runner, and the FJ Cruiser, without modifications – and without breaking the bank. And more importantly, it did not look like anything else on the road.

Let’s back up a bit and talk about Bronco Super Celebration, or “Super Cel.” Produced by Bronco Driver Magazine, the annual event is a place for Bronco owners to showcase their vintage vehicles, vendors to show off their options, and fans to show up and check it all out. The western version debuted in Buena Vista in 2020, and apparently the magazine liked the location so much, they held it there again in 2021. The rodeo grounds on the south side of town provide plenty of open space to line up row after row of vintage Broncos, with mighty Mount Princeton serving up a dramatic backdrop for the four-day event.

Owners and enthusiasts turned out, and Broncos were judged and awarded prizes in generational categories ranging from 1966 LUBRs (lifted, uncut Bronco rides) to 1978 Bronco Stock vehicles, 1984 Bronco IIs and even the latest model. I admired the many vintage rigs and spent some time speaking with Jerry Phelps, a Ford product specialist, who answered my questions about the 2021 Bronco. A jerrycan line-up displayed the 2021 paint colors and 2022’s Eruption Green (the other 2022 color, Hot Pepper Red, was not on display).

Checking out the Bronco exterior color line-up including 2022’s “Eruption Green” at Super Cel West in Buena Vista.

The highlights of the event were the drive-alongs and ride-alongs. After checking in and signing a waiver, I went for a spin in one of the Bronco’s lower trims, a Race Red Big Bend. The ride took place on the twisting, turning backroads of Buena Vista’s Four Mile Area and the driver was none other than Mark Stahl, former NASCAR driver and four-time winner of the Baja 1000 off-road race. Needless to say, it was not the typical Sunday drive through the countryside. Mark demonstrated all the bells and whistles of the vehicle, from high-speed driving on gravel in Baja mode to doing doughnuts with Trail Turn Assist, where one rear wheel is locked and the Bronco pivots in place. He crept down a steep, rocky slope with one-pedal driving, then switched on the lockers and put it in 4 low for crawling over and between boulders. All the while, he regaled me with stories of his driving history, from slot car racing for money when he was ten years old to his latest experiences traveling the country as a Ford Pro Driver.

Pro driver Mark Stahl took attendees to 2021’s Super Celebration West for drives through Buena Vista’s Four Mile Area, and of course, he posed for photos too.

As if that weren’t enough fun, I test drove a Bronco Sport, the “baby Bronco,” with Ford driving specialist Jessica Morelli as my guide. She led a group of drivers on Buena Vista’s backroads and even over a minor stream crossing, returning through the paved downtown area. It was cool to see all the new Broncos and Bronco Sports driving through town. I felt like I was in a parade.

Highlights of Super Celebration West included test drives led by Ford driving specialist Jessica Morelli.

Super Celebration West will return to Buena Vista from September 7th through the 10th this year. If you’ve got your own rig to show off, be sure to register ahead of time. If you don’t own a rig but you want to check out some cool vintage models, chat with owners and drivers, and see what’s new, put Super Cel on your calendar. And if you can’t wait that long, check out the local car lots for all the latest models, and schedule a test drive if you like. They may not let you crawl over rocks or plow through streams with the borrowed ride, but just getting on the road in a new vehicle can make you feel like you’re driving in a parade.

Ford product specialist Jerry Phelps was on hand at Super Cel to answer questions and show off Ford paint colors, including 2022’s Eruption Green.

This blog first appeared as a column in the October 12th, 2021 Gazette North Springs Edition.

The Hundred Highest, in Record Time

Gaining the summits of all of Colorado’s 14ers, or mountains that rise higher than 14,000 feet above sea level, is practically a rite of passage for our state’s hikers and mountaineers. Once you’ve done all the 14ers, you can take a break. There’s nothing left to prove. Except when there is.

Some people go on to summit Colorado’s 100 highest peaks, the Centennials, then the 200 highest, the Bicentennials, or “Bis,” and the 300 highest, the Tricentennials, or “Tris.” Truly motivated mountaineers do all the 13ers in the state, then the 12ers, 11ers, and even the 10ers. At this point, you’re at well over 1,000 peaks. That’s a lot of hiking and climbing.

I stopped at the 14ers, not because I didn’t want to do more lists – I just got busy with other things and didn’t have the time to commit to these kinds of endeavors. So even though I’ve racked up more than 1,000 ascents on more than 700 unique peaks, mostly in Colorado, those other lists elude me. I used to think I’d get to them eventually, but as the years passed, I knew I probably never would. As I’ve gotten older (and slower), I’ve reluctantly put them aside and set my sights on other, more practical and achievable (read: easier) goals.

Until something happens that makes me think “Hmmm…maybe.” Like this past July, when Andrew Hamilton completed all the Centennials in 22 days, 16 hours, and 54 minutes. That’s the unofficial time, anyway, as tracked by “glenmiz” (his username), who, along with Andrew’s main support person on this remarkable feat, Andrea Sansone, posted regular updates on the website 14ers.com. Andrew’s also the guy who set a 14ers speed record back in 2015 in 9 days, 21 hours, and 51 minutes, breaking the previous record set 15 years earlier by Teddy “Cave Dog” Keizer. Andrew’s latest feat – 100 peaks, and not just any peaks, the highest ones – in under 23 days is beyond my comprehension. These mountains are spread across the state, in every major mountain range, from the Front Range south to the Sangre de Cristos, west to the San Juans and all the ranges in between: the Sawatch, Tenmile, Mosquito, and the notorious Elk Range, home to some of the toughest high peaks like the Maroon Bells, Capitol Peak, and Thunder Pyramid. And because access to three peaks on the list – Democrat, Lincoln, and Bross – was closed at the time, Andrew did a few additional peaks to make up for them (he did end up getting permission from the landowners in the middle of all this and went back for them, solidifying his record). He did them in typical high-altitude weather conditions too: heat, cold, sunshine, rain, sleet, wind, hail, and snow.

No doubt you’ve hiked up at least one Centennial, say Pikes Peak. I’ve been up that peak nine times by four different routes. One time, during the November 2006 Bicentennial celebration of Zebulon Pike’s attempt on the peak, it took me three days to get up the thing. Granted, my team and I were repeating the route believed to have been taken by Pike, beginning far south and east of the mountain near what is now Fort Carson. But I wasn’t moving very fast either. Not Hamilton fast.

I carry a GPS on my hikes and every now and then, I glance at the trip computer to see my moving time average. I know from doing a whole lot of hikes that on an average incline of say, 1,000 feet of elevation per mile, I move at only about 1 ½ miles per hour. So I’m not breaking any records. It took me roughly six years to complete the 14ers, with a first ascent on Pikes via the Crags in October 2003 and my final summit, Mount Wilson, in August 2009. My first Centennial was also Pikes, and my last one was Vermilion Peak, the highpoint of San Juan County. I wasn’t even thinking about the Centennials when I did it back in 2015 – I was working on the Colorado County Highpoints, and Vermilion was my last, my “finisher” on that list. It was my 67th Centennial, so I have many more to do if I want to complete all of those.

Descending my last Centennial, Vermilion Peak, in September 2015. I don’t intend to complete the list of 100 highest mountains in Colorado. Photo by Stewart M. Green.

At my current pace of about two-thirds of the Centennials in 12 years, I should be able to do the remaining 33 in about six. Adding in the six-year “break” from 2015 to 2021, that would make my overall time to complete the Centennials 24 years, or more than 365 times how long it took Andrew. So maybe it’s not out of the question. I may have to pick up a little speed though, because a mile and a half an hour isn’t going to cut it. For now, I’ll marvel at the accomplishments of others. I’ll follow people like Andrew, and other fast-moving Coloradans. People like John and Alyson Kirk, who’ve hiked everything over 10,000 feet in the state, or Teresa Gergen, who’s summited everything over 13,000 feet in 49 states. Andrea Sansone, who holds the women’s speed record on California’s 14,000-foot peaks. Or Justin Simoni, who set a self-supported record on the Centennials by biking between them and summiting all 100 in 60 days, 14 hours, 59 minutes, and 42 seconds. And when I see another record set, or watch one fall, I’ll think, “Hmmm…maybe.”

Then I’ll remember how hard it was to work my way up a mere 700+ peaks at my snail’s pace. I’ll remember the lightning storm on the Maroon Bells Traverse, the loose rock on Ice Mountain, the blizzard on Horseshoe Mountain, and the soft snow on down-sloping rock on El Diente high above Navajo Basin. I’ll consider how nice it is to just sit here, and write, and watch other people break records and knock off lists. And I’ll think, “Hmmm…on the other hand, maybe not.”

This blog first appeared as a column in the July 27, 2021 Gazette North Springs Edition.

First Aid in the Field

Like many Coloradans, I spend a lot of time in the backcountry. And I’ve seen my share of accidents, illnesses, and injuries. When you’re sick or hurt, and miles from medical assistance, what do you do? You hope someone comes by with Wilderness First Aid (WFA) training.

I took my first WFA course about fifteen years ago, recertified five years ago, and in September, I took the course again. Offered by NOLS, a nonprofit global wilderness school, WFA comprises two full days of in-classroom and in-the-field training on how to assess the status of a person’s illness or injuries in the backcountry, provide first aid, and decide whether to evacuate them. This year, the class was held at Cheyenne Mountain State Park, and it was a full group – twenty-one students in all, and two instructors, Geoff Irons and Molly Barnes.

You may know Geoff from outdoor retailer REI in Colorado Springs. A West Point grad with a twenty-six-year Army career behind him, Geoff’s been in retail and training at the shop for almost two decades. In addition to teaching courses for NOLS, he’s also volunteered his time as an ambulance squad EMT, a Wilderness EMT, and a Ski Patroller, and he currently serves on the El Paso County Search and Rescue team. So if you run into Geoff at REI and want advice on the best first aid kit, skis, or satellite communicator for your adventures, expect a great answer. The guy knows his stuff.

I’ve taken courses with Geoff before, but Molly was new to me. A co-founder of the High Mountain Institute, she was the Head of School there for eighteen years. Molly worked for that organization and with NOLS for more than two decades, taking kids on extended wilderness expeditions. A few years ago, she, her husband, and their two sons left Leadville for a three-year, 36,000-mile sailing adventure, settling in California. Molly returned to NOLS as a WFA instructor, and now she visits Colorado as often as she can.

Like I said, this was my third time around, and it was the best. The days are long – 8 to 5, with few breaks – and I don’t know how Geoff pulled it off in the past all by himself. I taught K-12 and college years ago and being “on” for hours at a time wore me out. It was exhausting. Having two instructors take turns with the class instruction, and then monitoring students’ fieldwork, seemed like the perfect balance.

The other difference I noticed this time around was my ability to remember all the steps to assess a scene and a patient, and what to do next. Geoff and Molly enlisted mnemonics: 1-2-3-4-5 and A-B-C-D-E:

  • Number 1 was a reminder that “I’m #1,” so no matter what, take care of myself first.
  • Number 2 rhymed with “What’s the matter with you?” This is where I would quickly size up the scene.
  • Number 3 rhymed with “Nothing on me,” a reminder to put on my PPE (personal protective equipment).
  • Number 4 was “Are there any more?” where I’d look for other potential patients at the scene.
  • Number 5 was “Dead or alive?” where I would quickly assess whether anyone else required my assistance or were beyond help.

Next came the ABC’s:

  • Airway: Is their airway obstructed?
  • Breathing: Are they breathing?
  • Cardiovascular: Check for a pulse, then check for blood.
  • Disability: What is the nature of their injury or illness?
  • Expose: If there’s a wound or area of disability, expose it and prepare to treat.

After that, the process got more complicated, but we had handy laminated pocket guides for the next steps.

The PPE stuff was new, probably added due to COVID. The rest was a refresher for me, and I needed it. Unless you use first aid in your job, teach it, or practice it, you won’t remember everything. Geoff and Molly drilled it into us though: After each class session to discuss things like wound management, burn treatment, musculoskeletal injury care, shock, altitude sickness, heat stroke, and hypothermia, they’d send us outside where we’d have to go through the whole 1-2-3-4-5-A-B-C-D-E process on a student/patient, diagnose their injury or illness, and treat them. The repetition was invaluable and necessary. By the middle of the first day, students had the initial scene and patient assessment dialed in and could focus on the treatments.

During lunch breaks, I got a chance to talk to other people in the class. One woman was getting certified as a Wilderness First Responder (or WFR, a more in-depth, 9-day program) and a guy was getting WFR recertified. A few people had come down from Denver for the class. Apparently, Colorado Springs was the closest site that had openings available. I talked with more people: two women from Dallas and two from Austin. I asked if they were here on vacation and just decided to take the course, and they told me no, this was the closest location for the class, so they were here specifically for WFA training.

Here in Colorado Springs, we’re lucky to have access to so many outdoor adventures. And we’re lucky to have instructors like Geoff and Molly, locations like Cheyenne Mountain State Park, and courses like Wilderness First Aid, where we can pay a few hundred bucks, drive a few miles, and get a class that draws people from across the state, and even Texas. You can sign up for NOLS classes on their website at https://www.nols.edu/en/courses/ or through local retailer REI at https://www.rei.com/events. Once you’ve completed a course and are an official NOLS alumnus, you have access to training expeditions, and you can even train to be an instructor yourself – something to consider if you’re retired or just have some flexibility with your time in this new mid-pandemic, work-from-home, gig economy. Courses can make a great gift too, but if you go that route, make sure the giftee is interested in the class topic and has availability, and consider taking the class with them.

Enjoying the great outdoors is a gift. Being a responsible outdoorsperson means being safe and doing what you can to keep others safe too. And a WFA course is a great place to start getting the A-B-Cs and 1-2-3s of safe outdoor adventure.

This blog first appeared as a column in the September 20, 2021 Gazette North Springs Edition.

WFA-1.jpg

NOLS students assess “patients” during a Wilderness First Aid course at Cheyenne Mountain State Park, Colorado Springs. Photo by Geoff Irons

Like Jon and Albert

I lost some people recently. Not family, and not even friends in the traditional sense of the word. Just random people who I came in contact with over, of all things, a vehicle.

In July 2020, I reserved a new Ford Bronco. Not the little Bronco Sport that you’ve seen cruising around town, but one of the big boys—a body-on-frame, 4×4, off-roading, 6th generation Bronco. Coming from a Suzuki SX4 hatchback, this was a big step up for me, but considering all the trail-driving I do to get to the hiking trails, it made sense. So on July 13th last year, I logged onto Ford’s website and waited patiently. At 6 p.m., the reservation page opened – and immediately crashed. After about fifteen minutes – and a lot of refreshing – I got my name on the list for a 2021 Bronco.

The next step was finding a dealership. With demand for the Bronco so high, I was leery of ADMs – additional dealer markups. The way Ford set this up, once you had an order (not a reservation, but an order) in with a dealership, you could only buy it from that one place (note that Ford has since changed this policy). I worried about sales departments jacking me around. I’m not putting down salespeople here – I was in sales myself for years – but I’m not naïve either. I know the deal. If a salesperson locks you in with an order without first giving you a price in writing, you lose all your leverage. They can charge as much as they want, and if you don’t want to pay it, they can turn around and sell the vehicle to someone else. I saw this playing out in a lot of ugly ways: car dealerships “stealing” people’s reservations and selling them to their top clientele; or adding 5, 10, 20, even $50,000 on top of MSRP to the cost and then, if the person who reserved the Bronco didn’t want to pay it, selling it to the highest bidder (think this doesn’t happen? A quick google proves otherwise – that’s exactly what happened).

Anyway, last summer I didn’t want to end up in that situation, so I called dealerships all over the state. I just wanted to know one thing: If I place my order with you, are you going to charge me MSRP – which is the price quoted on Ford’s website when I made my reservation – or are you going to add a markup to the price? After dozens of conversations, and no clear answer, I finally landed on one salesperson who said he wasn’t adding a markup. Not only that, but his dealership was also currently running a special: $1,000 below invoice, or roughly $4,000 below MSRP. Could I get that in writing? Yes. And so the deal was done.

Albert, the salesguy, wasn’t a regular salesperson. If I emailed him at 5 a.m. to tell him I was thinking of changing my trim from Base to Big Bend, or from Big Bend to Outer Banks, he’d call me. He would actually call me on the telephone to discuss the differences: what I would lose, what I would gain, and what it would cost. “Did it make sense to get the 4A, on top of the 2H, 4H, and 4L?” I’d ask. “Yes,” he said, “in Colorado you’d be crazy not to.” “With the high demand, how can I get my Bronco sooner?” “Switch to a 4-door Big Bend,” he said, “the 2-doors, which have a hard top, are going to be delayed.” (He was right on both accounts – adding the 4A was the right choice, and my 2-door Outer Banks has been delayed until 2022.)

Albert loved Broncos, and he loved Colorado. He would talk at length about his favorite mountain towns and trails. And he knew the Bronco inside and out: the details of every trim, transmission, tire, and engine. Honestly, I have never been so happy to get a phone call from a salesperson as I was on those mornings when my phone rang, and the caller ID said “Albert.” Over time, I met some of Albert’s other customers online. They all shared their experiences, which were similar to mine: long talks with our favorite car salesman about Colorado towns and trails, and about the Bronco.

One thing Albert didn’t talk about was his health. But we all kind of sensed it: he was not well, and probably wasn’t going to get better. The calls were shorter because he had to rest his voice. Then he was working from home, and eventually, we were communicating online and through email. Still, it came as a shock last month when the owner of the dealership contacted Albert’s customers to let us know that he had passed.

None of us were family, or even friends of the family, yet we had to do something to honor this man. He had brought together hundreds of Bronco enthusiasts from across the country, who shared one other thing in common: an appreciation for this man and his upbeat attitude, indomitable spirit, and his drive to do right by his customers. One person raised funds for flowers, and another guy picked them out and made sure they got to the memorial. There was so much money left over – about $4,500 – that another customer found out Albert’s favorite charity was a fire and rescue operation in a tiny town in Iowa, and the funds were donated. Still another one of Albert’s customers, Jon, designed patches, stickers, T-shirts, and tote bags and sold them, with the proceeds going to the same charity. I couldn’t believe all that people were doing to honor this man who had made such an impression on all of our lives. I ordered some stickers, a magnet, and a patch. Jon shipped them to me with a nice note, and I reached out to thank him for his lovely work. I mean, who does this for their car salesman?

A few days ago, I was notified by Jon’s wife that he, too, had passed away. It happened suddenly – a heart attack at work. I couldn’t believe it. I had just spoken to him online a couple of days ago. She wanted to make sure that I didn’t have any outstanding orders that Jon hadn’t shipped. She wanted to take care of the orders and get the proceeds to the charity honoring Albert.

Last night, I sewed the patch on my jean jacket. And I thought about friendships, and people, and how one person’s attitude and actions can have such a profound impact on the lives of so many other people. And how you don’t have to be a celebrity, or a politician, or a CEO, or a church leader, to bring people together and show them what it means to be treated well. To make so many other people want to be better people too. You can be a guy who designs stickers and patches to raise money for charity. You can be a car salesman. You can be like Jon and Albert.

This blog first appeared as a column in the September 7, 2021 Gazette North Springs Edition.

Campground FULL

If you tried to book a campsite this summer, you were probably caught by surprise: the campgrounds were full. Maybe not every campground, and maybe not every day, but trying to reserve a weekend spot to set up a tent got a lot harder this year.

I found this out the hard way. The first week of April, I logged into Recreation.gov prepared to book campsites throughout the summer. I had a detailed plan of all the places I wanted to visit around the state. So you can imagine the look on my face when, clicking from one campground to the next, I saw row after row of Rs – as in “reserved.” I’m not new to this process – I book campsites every year, and even in a pinch, I’ve been able to locate a first come, first served site. (OK, I’ve spent a few nights in my car parked in a gas station or Walmart parking lot, but those times were few and far between.)

I wanted to avoid the parking lot nights this year, so I started booking early. Yet, the campgrounds were already full. What happened, and how did I miss the clues?

Last year’s adventures should have tipped me off. COVID kept people out of movie theaters, malls, and restaurants. They had to go somewhere, and that somewhere was outside. I witnessed this phenomenon first-hand at Rocky Mountain National Park last summer, one of many areas that initiated a permit system to manage the overwhelming demand on resources. The parking lots were full, the trails were packed, and the park rangers were struggling with impatient visitors. The second major clue to the new popularity of Colorado’s campgrounds appeared on the highways: campers, motorhomes, RVs, and travel trailers were everywhere. And whether you drive them, tow them, or stick them on top of a truck bed, you have to park those things somewhere – usually, a campground.

While campground camping may not provide the wilderness experience some people are looking for, it’s the best option for anyone who’s on a tight schedule and doesn’t have the time to find a suitable backcountry site. I’m usually doing research for a book (or two, or this year, three) so I fall into that category. I need to know that when I arrive at 6 p.m., there’s a parking spot for my car, a flat spot for my tent, and a picnic table for my laptop.

I’ve spent a lot of nights at campgrounds this year. Most had camp hosts, and I chatted with them to get their take on what’s going on out there in campground world. They all said pretty much the same thing: Colorado camping got really popular since COVID. One man, a camp host in Dillon, told me that his site opens for bookings at midnight in late November, and that people set their alarm clocks and wake up to log in and book the sites they want for the next summer. A woman who runs a site on the west side of Cottonwood Pass said that her bookings open at 8 a.m. and start filling up immediately. I asked her about first come, first served spots, which aren’t reservable, and she said, “We have six. People know when they open, and they show up first thing in the morning and stay for the full fourteen days – that’s the maximum time we allow.”

OK, so it wasn’t just my imagination. In the past, getting a site has never been an issue. This year, it was a major headache, but with a lot of searching, flexibility, and determination, I was able to book all the sites I needed – at least those that were open for booking. I have to wait on a few that were closed due to wildfires or restoration due to overpopularity. In the meantime, I put together a list of lessons learned so I don’t go through this again next year. With more books on the horizon, the summer of 2022 looks to be just as busy as the summer of 2021, and I’m going to do my best to avoid waking up in a Walmart parking lot.

  • Start planning early. Get all your dates together, plus back-up dates, and put them on your calendar. Add information from the next few bullets to your calendar as well.
  • Create an account on Recreation.gov. Locate all the campgrounds in the areas you’re visiting. Make these your primary targets, but also look for ones outside the preferred perimeter. I’ve stayed at a couple campgrounds that were 20 miles from the trailhead, but they were right off major highways, so I could still get to the trails very early.
  • Find out the date and time the reservation system opens for these campgrounds and put notifications in your calendar to remind you to book them.
  • Look at the maps of each campground. They’ll show you which sites are closest to the camp host, the road, bathrooms, and other features that you may want to be close to, or far away from.
  • Be flexible with your dates. The weekends fill quickly, and it may be easier, for a three-day trip, to book a Monday through Wednesday or a Wednesday through Friday. Then use the Sunday before your trip to pack, or the Saturday after your trip to unpack.
  • Be flexible with your location too. Campgrounds around national parks fill quickly but Colorado has amazing trails everywhere. Get away from the Front Range and enjoy some peace and quiet on the Western Slope, Grand Mesa, and Southwest Colorado.
  • If you’re driving an RV or towing a camper, consider tent camping. Tents have gotten a lot bigger and easier to manage. Sleeping pads have gotten more comfortable and robust. You may find a tent site at a campground where all the RV sites are filled.
  • Be open to walk-up (first come, first served) sites, but know how many there are and when they become available. I camped in Westcliffe this summer thinking I could easily grab a walk-up site. I got the last one, and I believe the only reason it was available was because the parking spot was too steep and narrow for a camper to negotiate.
  • If you’re tent camping, be open to walk-in sites, where you have to walk a short distance from car to campsite. Most campgrounds with walk-in sites have carts you can use to haul your tent and other gear.
  • Some areas are booked through sites other than Recreation.gov, so find that out ahead of time. Ridgway State Park reservations are made through the Colorado Parks and Wildlife site, for example.
  • While you’re booking campsites, also be sure to find out if your destination is open, closed, on a reservation system, and whether a shuttle is required. The Brainard Lake Recreation Area, Rocky Mountain National Park, Maroon Bells Recreation Area, Hanging Lake, Ice Lake Basin, and a number of other popular spots require some research to ensure you get where you want to go, when you want to be there. Do your homework and avoid disappointment.
  • If your favorite campground is fully booked, don’t give up. People cancel. I was able to snag a Friday night in Rocky Mountain National Park this year in addition to two other weekends I had booked early. Someone cancelled and I, on a whim, just happened to log into the booking site that day.
  • Finally, be careful out there. Getting from home to campsite to trailhead isn’t a race, and nothing ruins a vacation faster than a car accident. Obey the speed limits, don’t pass on two-lane roads unless you can absolutely see far enough up the road to make the pass safely, and be considerate of all the other drivers who want to get out there just as much as you do.

This blog first appeared as a column in the August 24, 2021 Gazette North Springs Edition.

Bring on the Aliens

Earlier this summer I waited in anticipation for the government’s report on UFOs. I had high expectations: finally, after decades of rumors, fuzzy photos, and artists’ renditions, we were going to find out what was really out there. Up there. Somewhere.

You can imagine my disappointment when the intelligence community noted the existence of unidentified flying objects, as expected, but it didn’t acknowledge any signs of intelligent life. In other words, yup, there’s stuff flying around, but nope, we don’t think it’s alien beings from Mars…or Venus…or Pluto. Bummer. I don’t know about you, but I was really looking forward to aliens. After all, I’ve been preparing for them for decades.

My introduction to aliens was either the first film version of The War of the Worlds, based on H.G. Wells’ 1898 book of the same name, or it was The Twilight Zone’s 64th episode, “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” Back then it was all about Martians. Even as a kid I knew those aliens on the TV set were fake, but what about the ones on the covers of the tabloid newspapers and magazines? Could those be real? I wondered.

As I got older, I realized pretty much nothing in those publications was real, but I still wondered about non-human, interplanetary travelers. I kept looking for evidence (in more reliable publications) but there was little to satisfy my curiosity. Over the years, I’ve learned to settle for sci-fi novels and movies and there’s been plenty to keep me occupied. This summer, after getting the disappointing news from the intelligence community, I started binge-watching all my old favorites. Some have stood the test of time (The Thing) while others weren’t nearly as good as I remembered (Mars Attacks!). I also realized there are a lot that I haven’t seen (Super 8). With Friday the 13th approaching [note, this column first appeared in August 2021], I put together a list of my Top 13 Alien Films. So get out the tin foil hats and pour the bubbly drinks. Pop some popcorn, or if you want to get fancy, google “alien themed snacks” and whip something up. Then settle in for thirteen nights of extra-weird, extra-creepy, extraterrestrial movies that’ll satisfy your cosmogonal creature cravings.

  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers: Based on Jack Finney’s 1955 novel, the 1978 film is the best of the three versions. Starring Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum, and Leonard Nimoy. Rated PG and streaming on Prime Video, free on Pluto TV.
  • Independence Day: Will Smith stars in this patriotic family favorite, along with Bill Pullman and again, Jeff Goldblum. It gets a PG-13 rating and you can watch it on HBO and HBO Max or rent/buy on Prime Video.
  • War of the Worlds: No doubt you’ve seen the 2005 film starring Tom Cruise. This version’s entertaining enough for a second viewing. Rated PG-13, and you can rent or buy it on Prime Video and YouTube.
  • Signs: Ever since The Sixth Sense, movie-goers have looked forward to director M. Night Shyamalan’s twisted endings, and 2002’s Signs delivers. Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix star in this PG-13 film that you can rent or buy on Prime Video.
  • Pitch Black: It’s hard to believe this film came out 21 years ago, a year before Vin Diesel got famous for some car franchise. It ranks among my top alien films, and you can watch it on Showtime or rent/buy on Prime Video. Rated R.
  • District 9: This R-rated film is also one of my favorites, not only among alien-themed movies but all my favorite films. Wait until the kids are in bed then enjoy on STARZ or rent/buy on Prime Video.
  • Alien, Aliens, and the rest of the franchise. Rated R, but I’m pretty sure I let my kids watch all of them anyway. This is my favorite Sigourney Weaver role, and it makes me wonder why there aren’t more alien films with female leads. Watch the first two for free on Tubi TV, rent or buy Alien 3 on Prime Video.
  • E.T. The Extraterrestrial: The first adorable alien movie and still the best. Rated PG and you can stream it on Prime.
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Another PG film – yay! Maybe not as endearing as E.T., but still a family-pleaser. Rent or buy on Prime Video.
  • Total Recall: Arnold Schwarzenegger made a lot of action films, and I probably took my kids to every one of them. This one’s directed by Paul Verhoeven of RoboCop fame. Rated R. See it on Netflix or free on Pluto TV.
  • Starship Troopers: Another Verhoeven classic. I don’t even know why I love this movie so much, but I’ve probably watched it a dozen times. It’s just…fun. The book by Robert A. Heinlein is much more serious, but also terrific and worth a read. For now, watch the R-rated film on Starz, or rent/buy on Prime Video.
  • Ghosts of Mars: OK, it’s a horror film, but it has Martians in it, so it fits here too. Rated R and with Natasha Henstridge, Ice Cube, and Pam Grier. Starz or Prime Video.
  • Cloverfield: Another horror film but again, there’s aliens. I remember hearing a lot about this film when it came out in 2008 – it only took me twelve years to watch it. Make the popcorn ahead of time because you won’t be able to take your eyes off the screen. PG-13 and OK for kids who don’t scare easily. Rent or buy on Prime Video.

What did I miss? Let me know and I’ll add it to my watch list.

Some alien movies have aged better than others, but they’re all still fun to watch, and rewatch. Mars Attacks! t-shirt by Cavity Colors.

This blog first appeared as a column in the August 10, 2021 Gazette North Springs Edition.

Help with the Scary Stuff

Around the middle of May, I found out that I had basal cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer. I learned a lot about the condition since then, and most surprising to me was how many people I know who have had it too. Once I started talking about it, it seemed everyone had a story to tell about their basal and squamous cell carcinomas and their melanomas. These are all people who spend a lot of time outdoors in the sunshine and often at altitude, so maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. They also all had good outcomes, which was a relief.

The toughest part was the initial shock. After getting over that, everything went smoothly. My doctor referred me to Optum, a dermatology clinic, where PA Hubbard and Melissa took care of me. They applied a local anesthetic and performed an elliptical excision, which is an outpatient surgery where a football-shaped section of skin is cut away, or excised. A four-millimeter margin around the carcinoma ensures all the cancer cells are removed. The excised skin is checked again in a lab, after the surgery, to make sure they get all of it.

I must have been numbed up pretty good because I didn’t feel the cut at all. The eleven stitches – three on the inside and eight on the outside – felt like a gentle tugging. I was reminded of hemming my jeans when I was a teen and decided that’s what they must have felt like. In under an hour I was done. All I had to do now was keep it clean, keep it from drying out by applying petroleum jelly, and change the bandage twice a day. Easy enough.

What I didn’t count on was how hard it would be to change the bandage. When I broke my arm last fall, I came up with all kinds of ways to get things done with just one hand. And as much of a pain as putting a plastic bag over it was every time I took a shower, I could reach it just fine. This bandage-changing thing was a whole new challenge. The stitches were low on my right shoulder blade, just out of reach of my fingertips. After struggling through twists, turns, and contortions, I looked around for tools to help me out. Tweezers were just long enough to grasp the edges and pull a bandage off. A cotton swab dipped in petroleum jelly could reach the stitches, and my toothbrush was enlisted to smooth the adhesive onto my skin. Yes, changing my bandage was as fun as it sounds.

My biggest concern was sweating it off. The day after the surgery, I went up 11,499′ Mount Rosa, a roughly 14-mile, 4,000 feet of elevation gain hike round-trip. The new paved parking at the Powell Trailhead was a welcome sight, but the day was sweltering. Surprisingly, the bandage held up against the heat, the sweat, and my daypack. A few days later I hiked to Sandbeach Lake, then Flattop Mountain, in Rocky Mountain National Park. No problems, at least with the bandage. The following week, I spent a few days in the Flat Tops Wilderness. This was at the height of the heat wave, and the humidity was through the roof. I had four hikes planned, and everything was going well until hike #2. As I slung my pack over my back at the Outlet Trailhead, I happened to catch a glimpse of my shoulder in my car’s side mirror. The bandage was hanging by one edge, exposing the stitches. My toothbrush was back at camp, in a bear locker, along with my food and all the other smelly stuff I had brought with me. This was not good. I looked around helplessly – and locked eyes with a guy on the other side of the parking lot.

“Can you do me a huge favor?” I hollered.

I felt silly asking, but when I explained the situation, the guy, Mike, didn’t hesitate. He grabbed some nitrile gloves from his car (COVID leftovers, he said), removed the old bandage, dropped it in my baggy, and described the appearance of the stitched area.

“It’s healing nicely,” he said, “No infection. You should be able to stop covering this in a couple of weeks.” He finished up, applying a fresh bandage, then he told me about all the best hiking trails in the area.

I’m going back to the dermatologist this fall. He recommended full-body skin scans every six months for a few years, and if there are no recurrences, annually. I’ve traded up from SPF 30 to SPF 50, and I’m more diligent about applying it regularly on my hikes. But I’m less worried now. I know that a lot of people in Colorado get skin cancer and have good outcomes. I know there are people out there who can do pain-free surgeries. And I know there are people who will change your bandage, too, if you ask.

There’s a lot of scary stuff in the world. The shock of finding out I had skin cancer was tough, and changing the bandage was tough too. But learning there are kind people in the world willing to help me through it makes it a lot less scary.

This blog first appeared as a column in the July 13, 2021 Gazette North Springs Edition.

Colorado Author Talks Training, Tragedy, Resilience, and Mount Everest

“I lunged toward the tent door and reached for the zipper, but I missed when our tent jumped violently. We, the tent, and the thousand-foot-thick glacier underneath us all lifted half a foot in the air…Then I got it. Earthquake!”

Anyone who’s been through an earthquake understands that feeling of uncertainty, then the knowing, then the fear. Imagine those feelings when you’re in a tent at 6,065 meters (19,900 feet) on the world’s highest mountain. That’s the story detailed in “The Next Everest” by Colorado author and speaker Jim Davidson, who was at Camp 1 on Mount Everest during the April 25, 2015, earthquake that took the lives of nearly 9,000 people in Nepal, including 22 climbers who perished in an avalanche on the mountain’s deadliest day.

I first met Jim in 2018 at the Pikes Peak Library District’s Mountain of Authors, an annual event where local authors and readers mingle to discuss new publications. I was showcasing my books alongside those of the few other nonfiction authors in attendance, including Jim and his first book, “The Ledge,” a New York Times bestseller. In that book, co-authored with Kevin Vaughan, Jim tells the story of another tragedy: how he barely survived a climbing accident on Mount Rainier that took the life of his climbing partner and best friend, Mike Price.

At Mountain of Authors, Jim and I hit it off immediately over our love for all things mountaineering. Since then, I’ve followed his adventures in the news and on social media and have had the pleasure to meet with him again at events such as the annual trade show Outdoor Retailer. I won’t spoil the book for you, but I will recommend it. Jim wrote this book in a style that makes it accessible to everyone, no matter how much or how little you know about high-altitude mountaineering. It’s intense, it’s human, and it’s much more than an adventure tale.

Jim Davidson at Camp Three (23,700 feet) on Mount Everest during his summit push in May 2017.

When I spoke with Jim recently, I asked him how he got started mountaineering. He told me, “In 1981 I went on a ten-day backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail in Maine, and that opened my eyes to wilderness travel. I soon took a rock-climbing class and did my first winter mountaineering trip on Mount Washington in New Hampshire. Those early experiences filled me with awe, so I soon dropped all my other hobbies, and have focused on high, snowy mountains ever since.”

For training, Jim believes that multiple formats – including formal education, reading, practice, and mentors – are “all necessary to develop the broad skill set needed to be a safe and successful mountaineer.” He added, “I’ve taken many technical training classes during my 39 years of mountaineering: rock climbing, ice climbing, first aid, avalanche awareness, vertical rescue, and a dozen others. I believe that every climbing and survival book contains key lessons that could someday save your life, or help you get out of a jam.”

 Jim said, “I have been fortunate to be mentored by some excellent veteran climbers, and they really helped me develop my ‘mountain sense,’ which has been invaluable to me and my team many times. As an older climber now, I try to pay it back by sharing what I know with younger climbers.” In fact, he noted that sharing hard-won survival lessons that might help somebody else were one of his motivations for becoming an adventure writer.

I prodded Jim for his big mountain training plan. “Long before I went to Everest,” he said, “I worked out a plan to eventually get myself ready for the world’s tallest mountain. I did a decade of alpine climbing to build my technical skills and base fitness. Then I climbed higher peaks (14,000 to 22,000 feet tall) for another decade to understand how I function at ever higher altitudes, and to develop the judgment that becomes so critical when the air is thin and it’s hard to think straight. Then, I climbed the sixth-highest peak in the world (Cho Oyu, 26,906 feet) to get some extreme altitude experience under my harness. With that foundation, I spent an intense year doing a mapped-out fitness plan that focused on extreme endurance, functional strength, and good nutrition. For the last two months, I built up to stacking long mountain days one after the other, without any rest days in between.”

Jim is grateful for the opportunity to train close to his Fort Collins home. “Colorado is a fantastic place to train for 8,000-meter peaks (those higher than 26,000 feet),” he said. “Multi-peak days, high traverses, and winter fourteeners are excellent expedition training for people who must balance their mountaineering with a job, school, and daily life.” At the same time, he cautions would-be big mountain climbers to take their time. “Don’t be in a rush to try Mount Everest,” he said. “There are so many difficulties and dangers up that high, that you need very broad and deep mountaineering experience before climbing into the Death Zone. Spend years crafting yourself into the fittest, smartest climber and teammate that you can become, and then ask yourself if you’re ready for Everest.”

In addition to Asia’s Mount Everest, Jim’s summited other continental highpoints – known as the Seven Summits – Aconcagua (South America) and Kilimanjaro (Africa), and attempted US highpoint Denali. He shared, “My teammates and I were two hours from the top of Denali in good weather but gave up our summit to help rescue a very ill solo climber. I think that difficult rescue taught me far more about being a resilient team member than standing on top of Denali would have.” That story is included in “The Next Everest.”

Jim talked about his future peak plans. “I intend to keep climbing until injury or old age force me to stop,” he said. “My friends and I try to do an expedition about every other year. We climbed in Peru in 2019, and once international travel is safe for everyone, including the host country, I hope to climb some high peaks in South America.” He’s going to keep writing too. “I’m busy doing presentations and interviews about my current book and it will soon publish in five international editions,” he said, “but I’ve already started outlining some ideas for a third mountaineering book. We shall see.”

You can pick up “The Next Everest” at any bookstore and online. To catch Jim on the road, at a book signing or presentation, check out his site “Speaking of Adventure.” And be sure to attend next spring’s Mountain of Authors. You just never know who you might meet, where they have been, or what they’ve survived.

Davidson’s “The Next Everest” details his 2015 Everest attempt, when a 7.8 earthquake derailed his summit bid but strengthened his resilience to return to the world’s highest mountain in 2017.

This blog first appeared as a column in the June 22, 2021 Gazette North Springs Edition.