Nights spent on the ground offer 
a cure for what ails this columnist

There’s a cure for the weariness that’s inevitable after dealing with the sort of topics an editorial page columnist is expected to tackle on a weekly basis. Topics such as oil shale and other energy issues, the national debates over Obamacare and the federal budget, natural disasters such as the fires and floods that have plagued Colorado in recent months, threats of secession by some Colorado counties and another anniversary of 9/11 are topics we’ve considered together in recent weeks.

Wandering the White Rim Trail in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park last weekend was certainly a welcome respite, a bit of a positive renewal of spirit that’s needed from time to time. Maybe that’s why my late friend Randy Udall used to say life would be better if everyone spentat least 10 nights a year sleeping on the ground.

Saturday night at the Potato Bottom campground along the Green River marked my eleventh night in our tent in the past twelve months. Other nights have been spent along the Dolores near Gateway, in Joshua Tree National Park, on the backside of the Great Sand Dunes National Park, at our annual family gathering near Crested Butte and along the Kokopelli Trail. One, sadly but fittingly, was at Randy’s memorial service near Marble not long ago.

To be honest, I wasn’t the happiest of campers while loading up the old Land Cruiser last Friday. I’m a mountain person. Bonnie’s the desert rat. She was the one eager for time away after a hectic start to the new school year and who picked our destination. 

Heading west on Interstate 70 always provides memories of outdoor getaways. For Bonnie, it’s five years of enjoying all the Colorado National Monument has to offer as a seasonal ranger. There are long ago hikes into Rattlesnake and Mee Canyons, adventures starting at the Loma boat launch, trail runs along Mary’s Loop and into Rabbit Valley, retrieving lost luggage blown off the roof rack on one of our many family trips to Lake Powell.

Friday evening I realized it’s pretty hard to worry about what John Boehner and Harry Reid might do next when you’re sitting beside a warm fire underneath a sky filled with bright western stars.

I did recall one of my favorite quotes from someone familiar with Utah’s canyon country. Author Edward Abby suggested being a “part-time crusader.” He added, “It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it.”

“Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by a desk calculator,” Abbey said. “I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”

■ ■ ■


Someone else who enjoyed the outdoors and an occasional night under the stars was former Gov. John Vanderhoof, who died recently after a long and full life.

One of the joys of living a portion of your life in the public arena is rubbing shoulders once in awhile with folks like Vanderhoof. As others have noted, it’d sure be nice if we had the kind of leadership he exhibited as we battle our way through current issues.

One of my favorite memories is enlisting John Vanderhoof in the 2003 statewide battle against Referendum A, the ill-conceived water bonding proposal advanced by then-Gov. Bill Owens that went down to deserved defeat, losing resoundingly even in parched Front Range counties struggling through severe drought a decade ago.

Ron Teck, Matt Smith and I were on the steering committee for the group leading the fight againt Referendum A. We’d enlisted leaders like then-Sen. Ken Salazar and former Gov. Dick Lamm on our side and I volunteered to talk with Vanderhoof.

He agreed to join us and together we drafted the letter he’d sign, to be read at a Denver news conference featuring Lamm, Salazar and others.

“We are one Colorado,” he wanted to emphasize.  If only that sentiment could be shared by those fighting vaious intra-state battles today.


Jim Spehar can hang in there another month until hunting season.  He welcomes your comments at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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