The New Year started in it’s usual manor with some really good live local music shared with friends and some great food and wine. It proceeded onto my 65th birthday, which I celebrated with my best friends at a remote hut in the high rockies. We used our own power and backcountry ski equipment to travel 10 miles and 3,000 vertical feet into the Eiseman hut near Vail, and spent a joyous weekend indulging in untracked powder, an awesome wilderness setting, and lots of food and fine wine. Having 3 holidays in a row nearly wore me out, but it was snowing in Steam Boat Springs, so I proceeded north. My season pass included 6 days there, a huge storm was predicted, and one of my best adventure buddies calls it home, so it was impossible to resist.
My old body keeps hanging in there, so I feel obligated to use it, and skiing is still my biggest passion. The snow Gods cooperated and I enjoyed another incredible winter and tallied 97 days of skiing bliss. But the winter ended all too soon and springtime at 9,000 feet can be a bit wintry, so I packed my van and headed west. Part of my family was planning a reunion in Yosemite in late June, so I headed out a month early.
I love Colorado! but California has the best geography in the US and maybe the world. It is filled with mystical ancient forests, pristine deserts, the best rivers on the planet, the magnificent high Sierras, and they also have a beach. I had spent a lot of time kayaking there in the 90‘s and I was anxious to return to this remarkable paradise.
It’s a bit of a drive, so I decided to stop at a remote climbing area in central Utah, which I had read about in one of my climbing magazines. “Maple Canyon” is smack dab in the middle of Utah and offers a world famous climbing mecca in the middle of no where. The primitive local sheep herders are amazed at the visitors that have come to this barren land to test their skills on the steep rocks, but they don’t seem to mind and the remote canyon offers solitude and some intriguing routes. I was traveling alone, but lots of other climbers do too, so it’s usually quite easy to team up, and I’ve met a few of my best friends that way. I lucked out again, and managed to instantly mingle with some awesome strangers and spent a very enjoyable week in this remote paradise. “Birds of a feather flock together” and the adventure world is really small. Most people laugh when I say this, but I really believe that climbing is the safest way for an old geezer to get an adrenaline buzz, and I am a confessed adrenaline junkie. Adrenaline is a natural drug that was genetically intended to help us survive, and I truly believe that it is one of the secrets to staying youthful. You obviously have to be cautious and know what you’re doing, but unlike kayaking, the moves can be carefully contemplated, and the rope offers a safety net.
My next stop was Bishop California in the eastern Sierra Madres, where I discovered the “Hostel California!” This friendly oasis is a melting point for adventurers of all sorts including a bunch of backpackers who were hiking from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail, and had stopped to relax and wait for the snow to melt on the high passes. It was also a hanging spot for climbers, so I made new friends, and enjoyed some great routes in the Owen River Gorge and a few other nearby Crags. The hiking in the Sierras is also fantastic, and I savored about a dozen blissful days in the ancient forests, with vistas of high alpine lakes and lofty peaks.
This area also boasts numerous free hot springs that spew out of the ground from a tiny version of Yellowstone park. The nearby resort of Mammoth Mountain offers world class skiing and it was still open with excellent conditions and spring discounts, so that’s were I tallied day 96 & 97. Yosemite Park was extremely crowded, but It was great to see LuAnn, Bob, Tiff, Julie, and Tim and we spent two very pleasant days conversing, hiking and enjoying the scenery of this stunning paradise. The gigantic waterfalls were raging, and filled the valley with a fine mist, and the giant walls brought back some fond memories of climbing there in the 70’s.
I’m officially semi-retired, but I still enjoy challenging projects and I was approached with the opportunity to build a pair of tiny houses. Designing and building two 8 x 15 foot cabins was a fun challenge, and the finished project turned out to be quite livable.
Kayaking, unlike climbing, is a very dynamic sport and the water is very powerful, so I’ve decided to cherish my old memories and paddle very little. But, I do still love the rivers, so I joined an expedition with old friends on the Colorado river through Cataract Canyon, and enjoyed 5 remarkable days of rafting and hiking in this remote paradise. Most of the participants had worked as raft guides on the Zambezi river in Africa, so it was a fun reunion of very interesting adventurers.
I’m still pursuing a retirement career of inspirational speaking and writing, which has been very interesting. Oprah still hasn’t called, but it’s turning into a great hobby, and I’ve really enjoyed membership in our local toastmasters club. The key to staying young is to have a good attitude, and to keep moving both mentally and physically, and I think that a bit of adrenaline really helps. I feel very fortunate to live in the paradise of the rocky mountains and I enjoyed another invigorating summer of climbing on the local peaks. Our fall weather was incredibly warm, but winter has finally arrived, and the change of seasons offers new energy. Skiing is like dancing on snow, and it always brings a smile to my face. Nature is my religion, and the only thing that keeps me sane in this crazy world. I must admit that I am somewhat shattered at the current events in our country, but I continue to hope for peace and prosperity for everyone on this incredible planet and I plan to spend most of the next four years hiding in nature. I never worry about the world when I’m hanging by my fingertips on a great mountain. Please check out www.danceonedge.com if you want to read some more stories. Happy Holidays John Mattson