On our way from Boulder to Paonia we had planned to go to Crested Butte but the mountains are so vast that time and distance seem to be distorted. All hope of accurately gauging arrival times is obliterated. What appears to be 20 miles on the map is really 60 miles of ups and downs and long curve through valleys and passes. Not to mention it was mostly bumpy dirt roads, hugging the mountain side with no rail guard (not the type of road you want to be driving on at night). So we headed back down the mountains and enjoyed the view through Gunnison Park. Nowhere else but in the deep mountains can one perceive such atmospheric perspective – ridges and mountains in the distance stack on top of one another. Your vision cannot absorb so much detail. So the whole sight becomes abstraction – planes layered on planes like paper cutouts arranged in a pop up book.
We spent the night at Erikson Springs – part of Gunnison State Park. Here we met Jim, the park’s attendant and one of our favorite people so far on the trip. He was a lively, jovial man who probably related his enthusiasm and love for the beauty of the state to everyone he met. He got to telling us that he was from the east coast and had moved with his family at a young age to the west. When he was in his twenties he left for Colorado and never went back. It’s the beautiful country – the mountains – the vast landscape that makes you wonder if there’d ever be a way to see it all. He was very encouraging and enjoyed hearing about our own journey across the states. “Do it while your young..,” he’d say, “before your body starts to fall apart.” He said there are too many people in life always saying “when are you gonna grow up and settle down.. buy a house..” and Jim’s response was to never grow up because “if you grow up you don’t have no fun anymore.”
He took a pause and said with purpose, “don’t listen to nobody… listen to yourself.”
He told us a story about his father – a man who had worked his whole life and never did anything else – never saw anything new. That when he was 88 he told Jim, “I was on your case all your life and I was wrong…. you were right and I was wrong.” He finally admitted it to Jim after all that time.
That spirit that Jim has actuated, that lives inside all of us that we just need to harness and explore brings everything into focus – self. When you trust yourself, you know yourself and you will never truly do that without taking chances. We all need to live life a little bit more .. to change .. to see new ways of life .. to get lost in the wilderness away from the noise and light that pollutes our day to day life. To find what really matters in this world… to know oneself.