Malala, Mountains and More Parks….

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An early fall morning in Jackson Hole gives me pause…it’s time to head south in the Ranger-Doug-Mobile, my 1948 (serial #3) Airstream.  The annual American Dental Association is in Denver this year and even though I’m retired, off I go to hear the guest speaker……

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….who is Malala Yousafzai, the 14 (now 19) year old Pakistani girl who was shot in the face by the Taliban for encouraging girls to attend school in the Swat Valley.  She is also the youngest person to receive the Nobel Prize.  This is one remarkable young woman, who will become President of Pakistan some day perhaps.  Of the 3000 in the audience, about 1/3 filmed her talk on their cell phones–a great distraction of bobbing lights and occasional flashes, especially after being asked to stow these devices beforehand.  I snapped this during a minutes-long standing ovation after her talk.  A truly remarkable young woman….

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My turn to speak is next, at the Denver Service Center, National Park Service. The Denver Service Center is the central planning, design, and construction management project office for the National Park Service.  I didn’t get 3000 in my audience, only 40, however these were a most enthusiastic bunch.  I spent a total of almost three hours there complete with a tour of the facility.

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After Denver, it’s backtracking to Estes Park, the gateway community to Rocky Mountain National Park where I gave a talk last month. This is one beautiful place.  This photo is from a very windy and steep access road to Pleasant Peak where I took a short hike.

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My “rope-mates” are Tom and Kathy Hornbein and Steve Komito, bootmaker extraordinaire–saving soles one boot at a time.  I last saw Steve 48 years ago when I climbed Longs Peak.  In those days we were required to have a back-up rescue team as no one in the NPS could climb the “Diamond” or vertical east face.  So my climbing partner, John Brottem, and I scouted all the available area climbers and brashly presented their names to the NPS so we could get through the gate and on the East Face….  Steve got a chuckle over this.   We climbed about 2/3 “Diamond” before falling ice suggested to us that we retreat.

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It was Tom and Kathy who, during a climbing stay at our NPS cabin in the Tetons 45 years ago,  convinced me and my (then) wife, Liz, to attend Medical and Dental school.  Thanks to you both–you changed our lives!  They endured 24 hours of my story telling and I got an earful (and eyeful) about Mt. Everest from the last surviving West Ridge team member.

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The “Diamond” is partially eclipsed by the shoulder of Longs Peak.  I made a WPA style poster print for Rocky Mountain National Park which  shows this perspective which you can see here.

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Heading south again, I drive along the Colorado Mountain Front to Boulder and am not surprised to be greeted by the suburban sprawl.  Fifty years ago, it was actually a nice little mountain town…..   I’m getting old.

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I had never visited Great Sand Dune National Park and Preserve and it’s right on my way–that is to say–in the middle of nowhere.  It is my 176th park unit visited.  This is one beautiful place and preserves a whole ecosystem on the eastern edge of the San Luis Valley.  The wind carries sand up against the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, creating the tallest sand dunes in the country.  Go there!

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Someone’s lonely abode in the middle of the San Luis Valley.

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The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, billed the “Best Train Ride in America,” is located in the small southern Colorado town of Antonito.  This amazing museum runs a steam passenger train all the way to Chama, New Mexico.  They were rolling (literally) up the carpet when I arrived, pushing cars by hand and forklift out of the winter weather.  But, I’ll return.

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It’s Santa Fe for a week’s R&R–I’m frazzled with all this park travel.  I give a talk Saturday morning 9 am at the Santa Fe Hotel, downtown to the Association of National Park Rangers; attend if you can.  This is my 66th formal NPS talk in 14 months.  I’ve driven over 40,000 miles, on my second set of tires on my second car.  Three weeks to go!  Stand by!

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