SustainAbility: Exploring the great outdoors

I have lived in the Grand Valley for more than 17 years, but it’s only been in the past couple of months that have I started to explore the awe-inspiring natural beauty of this area.

I enjoy hiking and outdoorsy activities, but lacked initiative to get out on the trails.

My husband prefers to get his outdoor exposure on the golf course, so without a partner for adventure, my interest in nature was withering on the vine.

Then, this May, I noticed on Facebook that a friend of a friend was going on a hike and looking for followers.

I am not usually a follower, preferring to forge a new path for myself. However, I had no knowledge base or experience with local hiking, so I decided to give it a whirl.

That first hike on Colorado National Monument was the beginning of a new phase in my life I call “Following Carol.”

My intrepid leader, Carol LeCrone, was in the process of taking early retirement as a middle school teacher. Most recently, she was the computer guru at Mount Garfield Middle School.

Even when school was in session, Carol managed to take several strenuous hikes a week and locate geocaches on the way.

By following Carol, I get to tag along for geocaching fun without having to do any of the work.

I have followed Carol on hikes to the Palisade Petroglyphs, down Monument Valley, up and down Serpents Trail in the moonlight and on the Riverfront Trail in the wee hours of the morning.

The beauty of this area is truly astounding. I simply cannot believe it has taken me so long to discover this.

Now, I join Carol on her daily hikes at least two times a week. I just tell her when I am available and Carol does the rest.

Following Carol also is challenging since I am not in very good shape. I am snail-like on uphill hauls and need lots of rest stops, but Carol is patient.

My husband was savvy enough to give me my very own Camelbak for our 30th wedding anniversary.

I can always count on an adventurous time with Carol, and I have even found a few geocaches.

Last weekend, I was in Estes Park at YWCA of the Rockies for a family reunion and my daughter’s wedding. At 8,000 feet, this jewel was another example of nature at its finest.

I hiked along the Big Thompson River and marveled at the power of the roaring water too wild to be conquered by a kayak.

We drove over Trail Ridge Road on the way home and saw fragile tundra ecosystems and alpine lakes. Magnificent views are so commonplace in Colorado we tend to take them for granted.

Paul Andersen, who writes a weekly column for the Aspen Times, recently addressed the subject of wilderness in conjunction with the Hidden Gems Wilderness proposal. Here are some excerpts that resonated with my recent experience: “American democracy was inspired by wilderness and born of it. American history is rich with wilderness experiences that provided a crucible for the young, the strong, the adventuresome, the risk-takers, the pioneers.

“Wilderness exposed its witnesses to an awe and drama that opened hearts and minds to the divine. Wilderness preserves an all-too-rare experience of silent wonder at the beauty and drama with which nature has blessed this land.”

Andersen’s words are fitting for this Fourth of July weekend.

Let’s protect our natural assets and preserve the superlative quality of life offered in western Colorado.

Now, I understand on a deeper level why people say, “Tis a privilege to live in Colorado!”

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Adele Israel is a Grand Junction writer who has been involved in sustainability efforts for some 20 years. Have a question or column idea for Adele? E-mail her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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