There was a story in the paper last week about 69-year-old Nick Isenberg hiking Iron Mountain in Glenwood Springs 70 times (so far).
Did I mention he is legally blind? Not sure what that means but I don’t think I’d want to be illegally blind. It’s probably safe to assume that being legally blind makes that kind of hike just a bit more challenging.
Isenberg found something he likes to sink his teeth into, and he held on and kept up. I can relate. I’m the same way about running rivers. And as I become a day closer to being legally blind myself, I find great pleasure in looking at the bigger stuff. The hike up Iron Mountain has some nice big stuff to look at, like Mt. Sopris and the Colorado River.
Locally, I really like bobbing my boats down the Crystal River. I start as early as possible, usually March or April and go as late as possible, which is probably next week at the rate things are going. I especially like what is known as the “Avalanche” run because it has lively twists and turns, some fun rapids, breathtaking views and it is right in my back yard.
Some are always looking for that next peak and that next thrill. I don’t run and hide from those things, but at my age I have nothing left to prove. I do not need to run Niagara Falls in a kayak, for example. If the only way to get to a very astonishing place is by dropping in by parachute, I might do it, but I won’t jump just for the thrill of jumping.
Now, the big challenge for me is to really get to know a place. Sure I’ve been here before but do I remember that landmark, that crack in the rocks, that eagle’s nest in that big cottonwood? Have I pulled into that eddy before? Better do it now.
The Avalanche run on the Crystal has much nuance to study, both in the river and alongside it. When the water is really high like last year, you get to know how those rocks you’ve been avoiding influence the flow when they are covered by thundering snowmelt.
This year I am getting a good look at all those rocks on the river bottom. Navigating and noting are today’s priorities. Next time I get down there when the water is up, I will know what’s underneath.
When something changes, you notice. A couple of years ago a big, high, home was constructed 50 feet from a lovely bend in the Crystal River. I was saddened. It was so close to the water (minimum setback is 100 feet today). It was as large a home as the law would allow, taking it to the edges of the lot lines. It was out of place with the other funky dwellings that line most of the Crystal River above River Valley Ranch.
I was trying to think of who would want to live in this new house. There are no close neighbors. Some would consider that a plus, I guess. The short driveway comes right off Highway 133 where cars and trucks are roaring by at least 55 miles-per-hour. Even though it is certainly big enough, this is not a family home. Kids can’t play on Highway 133.
As soon as the home was built and furnished it went on the market and has been sitting there ever since. Now I see that the price is reduced. I think that finding a buyer for this luxury home is going to be near impossible and I’d be surprised if anyone has ever spent a night inside. This is just one of those things along the river that you cringe at and never really get used to. Makes you think of the good-old days.
I could probably spend the rest of my days studying and spinning down the Crystal and the Colorado rivers from Grand Junction to Lake Powell. In my retirement, I’d like to make 70 runs at it. But the pressure on the waterway is getting distracting.
Downstream, permits are required at Rubey/Horsethief, Westwater Canyon and Cataract Canyon. The roar of mining is overpowering the yellow warblers down below Moab and tourists in a hurry shatter the peace with their giant motorized river rafts between Potash and the confluence with the Green River. You can’t get to know the rocks and warblers at 25 mph.
I might be sick of boating if and when the time comes for me to retire. In the meantime, I will study the dippers and the dips on the Crystal, the eddies and the eagles on the Colorado, and the sandstones and signs of ancient civilizations at the confluence.
I better look around now. By the time I retire I may be legally blind and will have to rely on the maps and memories in my mind for navigation.
Steve Skinner hopes you find your place. Reach him at email@example.com.