A Journalist's Archive

Tales From The Trails
T. Duren Jones
Reviewed by Kathy Hare

          Welcome to summer!
          Remember why you moved to Colorado? Come on, it’s not hard. Look up, the mountains are calling, the trails await, and it’s time to infuse our bodies and spirits with the beauty that surrounds us. But should you need more than my little pep talk to get moving, “Tales from the Trails,” by T. Duren Jones, is the surefire remedy. It’s the equivalent to drinking five cans of Red Bull while inhaling a massive gulp of laughing gas. Once you’ve read his “mostly-true” adventures, you’ll experience an overwhelming compulsion to hit the trails.
          Readers of “The New Falcon Herald” already get to enjoy snippets of Jones’ writing style in his “Trail Mix” column. Since I always get pleasure from authors who inspire us, while poking fun at their own shortcomings, I had to read his book. Believe me, I wasn’t disappointed and you won’t be either.
          Jones’ love for the great outdoors began in his childhood. Now in his fifties, he grew up during a time when children were allowed to roam freely, exploring their world without adult supervision. Together with his band of friends he hiked Bailey Canyon, “near the small community of Sierra Madre,” California. They nicknamed the spot “12 Falls Canyon” for the number of spillways rushing over the boulders, and under the right weather conditions it  also had a convenient swimming hole. What child could resist that?
          His passion for hiking became an “extreme sport” after his family moved to Colorado, in 1991. Since then, Jones managed to scramble up “all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000 ft. peaks.” And as if that wasn’t enough to pop every muscle in his legs, he and his brother-in-law, Kevin Anderson, hiked the entire length of the 468 mile Colorado Trail – but not all at once. Limited by the time required to hold down a job, they exercised a bit of sense, tackling sections of the CT over time, in chunks of about 20 miles a day.
          Each chapter begins with a quote providing a clue to its theme. For example, in “Steep Cliffs and Frozen Feet,” Sophocles warns, “No enemy is worse than bad advice.” Sure enough, during a winter trek to Castle Valley Overlook, in Moab, Utah, Jones and Anderson discovered you should do more than consult a hotel clerk about trail conditions before beginning a winter hike. “Grin and Bear It” begins with Edward Abby’s sage advice, “Wilderness can be defined as a place where humans enjoy the opportunity of being attacked by a wild animal.” When a black bear blocks the path leading to the summit of Culebra Peak in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, both men realize they should have read the instructions on that can of bear spray, before leaving home. Then in his hilarious style, Jones tells us how to tell the difference between black bear and grizzly bear droppings.
          To reveal that passage would be considered a real “spoiler,” since it is indeed the biggest belly laugh in the book. But then every bit of “Tales from the Trails” is punctuated with mirth, as Jones describes the predicaments he found himself in because of sudden changes in the weather, or his own bad judgment. But as we laugh, the author  would like us to learn some valuable lessons, too. Check out his list of “dos and don’ts” at the end of the chapter entitled “Mistakes Happen.” While few of us will attempt to climb even one 14,000 ft. peak, he and his son, Cary, wanted to bag three Sangre de Cristo peaks – all in one day.
          Live and learn! It only makes sense to be prepared for whatever nature may deliver, but we should also realize it’s called the “wilderness” for a reason. Jones reminds us: “slips happen,” a GPS doesn’t always get you where you want to be, and if you’re not careful, that detailed trail map can be carried off in a strong wind. But that’s no excuse for remaining planted in a chair, falls occur at home too, and driving has become the biggest risk we take each day.
          What I found most impressive about Jones’ hobby is how he and his wife, Diane, turned camping and hiking into a family sport, beginning with “Vernal Fall” in Yosemite National Park. Yes, times have changed. Letting your children roam freely today may result in a visit from Social Services. But children still have boundless energy and curiosity. And they should be out there investigating nature, climbing boulders, and splashing through water. As the couple explored the American West with their young children, they did more than teach them about their environment. Children who learn that sometimes you need to push yourself to get over the next hill, gain the self-confidence to accomplish their adult goals.
          I’ve said it before, Colorado inspires a lot of fantastic writers, and Jones is one more great example. Today, he is re-climbing “Colorado’s 14ers” with his granddaughter, Maren. If that takes more oxygen than you possess, don’t fret. “Tales from the Trails” wasn’t written to turn you into a mountain climber. But if it doesn’t motivate you to shake off the cobwebs and start experiencing Mother Nature’s magnificence, then it’s time to check your pulse!

First published in The New Falcon Herald
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