Mountain Passages: My Last Word on Patrolling Front Range Cross-Country Trailheads

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”     —The Buddha

There is no one out at seven this morning but the other dog walkers in my Breckenridge neighborhood. We nod and smile at each other and encourage our dogs to take a dump so we can go back for that first cup of coffee. Willy is straining at the leash.

There are poop bag stations everywhere in Breck and I’m guessing there are at least twenty-eight Breckenridge city employee whose job it is to refill the stations Green Bagwith additional bags. But I’m carrying a green bag that once housed a Boulder Daily Camera. Boulder is my life-long base camp. The green poop bag is often the only thing of real value that I get from the Camera. I also keep the blue bag from the Sunday New York Times, the only edition of the Times I can afford. I feel particularly sophisticated picking up Willy’s poop in a blue New York Times bag.

Willy completes his dump and we both head back for coffee, breakfast, and kibbles. As we are walking, I get to ruminate on a number of things, including the lack of civility when people post on blogs.

By our independent nature, mountain people can appear to be uncivil in a hundred different ways. To an outsider, what we say and do may appear to be downright rude, but we are graced by the place we get to live. In most of our hearts, we want to do everything possible to protect this place and people.

As part of a mountain ethic, we also want to protect flatlanders from doing stupid things in the mountains. So when some fool finds himself above tree line, after noon in cotton shorts and a T-shirt with most of his liter of water he bought at the Jiffy Mart gone, he shouldn’t be surprised when a mountain person tells him to turn around and get off the mountain before the sky explodes with the usual afternoon thunder boomer.

To a certain extent, a lack of civility is in the eye of the beholder. That fool above tree line thinks we have been uncivil. All we are trying to do is prevent him from having a miserable time at best , and ending his vacation injured or hypothermic or dead at worst.

But let’s talk a little bit about posts to blogs and how a good number of people use their anonymity on the Internet to vent in an uncivil manner.

A couple of weeks ago I posted a blog (July 2, 1913) on Mountain Gazette asking what folks though of ski patrol volunteers working the high volume trails in the Front Range. Nothing was said about patrolling wilderness areas, mainly because most of the folks in wilderness areas know what they are doing. Go take a look at the post if you have time, you’ll find a good number of thoughtful responses mostly against ski patrollers in red vests and crosses patrolling trails in the Front Range. But not against mountain people looking out for folks who are unskilled in winter mountain travel in the backcountry.

I’m fine with the negative responses and appreciate the time and thought that went into the replies, negative and positive. The responses made me think about what we are planning on doing out on high volume Front Range cross-country trailheads. And no, we haven’t figured out the red vest and cross issue yet. I suspect that will resolve itself with time. Maybe yes, maybe no, on the red vests and crosses. But for sure we are going to propose to the Forest Service that Bryan Mountain Nordic Ski Patrol works out of Front Range trailheads next winter.

But what struck me was a kind of a self-involved, rabid ranting that generally lacked both civility and logic. This depravity struck me as sadly funny, slightly scary, and ultimately as pissing into the wind.

Let’s not name names, because to be honest, most of the folks who rant online hide behind pseudonyms. Let’s take Mike for example who said, “If I want to climb a Fourteener in the nude on a cloudy July afternoon, then I don’t want your volley buddies harshing my mellow.”

Say what?

“Harshing my mellow?”

Is that the same as calling bullshit on your total self-involvement?

Dave suggested that, “If Fayhee puts out a contract on you, I’m interested.”

First, There is a clear lack of civility when you want to kill someone because you don’t like their opinion. Second, I count Fayhee as a friend. Plus, the salient fact that he can’t put a contract out on me, as he can’t afford the $500.

Robert said, “There are a lot of Sierra Club/Bambi arse Wyatt Earp wanna bees who would like nothing better than to run around with quasi-official standing telling people what to do.”

This one goes to some logical gaps…it’s a real stretch to lump together the Sierra Club, for all it’s good and bad, Bambi, a cartoon character, and a semi-psychotic nineteenth century marshal. You can do it of course, but no one will understand what you mean. But Robert has probably run into that before.

So what to do with these kernels of depravity?

Pretty simple, I printed them out, crumpled them up and dumped them on the grass. Then I pulled out one of my handy-dandy green bags from the Camera and pulled it over my hand. I ever so carefully picked up the dumped paper, pulled the bag back over my hand and tied it off. Then I threw it in the trash as usual.

Mountain Gazette is about an exchange of mountain ideas, poems and pictures, stories, lies, laughter, and anything you can make up about mountains—if you just want to piss into the wind, go someplace else to do it.


Alan Stark is a freelance writer and recovering book publisher who splits his time between Boulder and Breckenridge.