Time traveling in the Wind River Range


August 16, 2017

What if you were on a long trip, and away from all media, and when you came back everything had changed? I always liked the “Planet of the Apes” movies. You go on a little space-ship ride, and look what you come back to. My immediate future holds this prospect.

I plan to be high and far away in the Wind River Range, for the total solar eclipse, on Aug. 21.

I’ll be out there with my friend Jeff. This might be a 10-day hike. Between the two of us, we might have one phone, but we know that reception is often impossible up there. We’ll likely run into other hikers, but they’ll probably also be cut off. We’ll all just be clueless.

By the end of the trip, Jeff predicts that Trump will no longer be president. Mike Pence will be the new Gerald Ford. Sometimes our future happened in the past.

So I was living in a remote part of Colorado, in a little cabin without television or radio when a neighbor came by to tell me that the government had just shot down 20 passenger planes and we’re now under martial law.

I said, like, “No way.”

He said, “Look up in the sky. See any contrails?” There were none, and indeed this was a little unusual. Walking to a store, where a television had been set up outside, someone said, trancelike, “It is the beginning of The End Times.”

The next person shouted at me, “Set up triage! We need triage units! Get bandages…”

The date was, of course, Sept. 11, 2001. Though all the details were wrong, certainly something big had happened, and none of our psyches would ever be the same.

Dark Canyon is really great. It’s in a remote part of a remote place. It’s in the newly designated Bears Ears National Monument, in southeastern Utah. After my approaching solar-eclipse hike, will Bears Ears, which protects over one hundred thousand archeological sites, still be a landscape-scale national monument? Will Trump green light a bunch of roads and drilling pads? Maybe another golf course?

While there for a week in April and May of 1992, buddy Ken and I hiked along for three days and didn’t see anyone, not even human footprints.

Water was really scarce in the soft-sand floor of the canyon. I tried to encourage Ken with some nasty green water. Suddenly, where the canyon narrowed and the center ran over bedrock, clear water gushed out of the ground. We walked on hydratedly.

Later, near the base of the Sundance Trail, an alternative way into the canyon, we ran into a multi-racial group from Los Angeles.

There were Koreans, African Americans, a couple of Hispanics, and one or two Anglo Americans. Like us, they had been out for a few days, so they didn’t have any national news to share.

Frankly, though, absolutely no one cared. We were in Dark Canyon, we had food, scenery out of this world, and water.

It was late and sleeping bags and camp stoves came out, and somebody, by golly, brought out a pipe and a bag-o’-pot.

I can’t remember if I took a hit, but things became pretty laughy and splashy in the creek. It was probably just a minor earthquake, but suddenly the canyon walls started warping and morphing. It was the talking birds, though, that really got me. I now wonder, what would happen to the United States’ Congress if they took such a hike?

Next day, after some shared breakfast, handfuls of gorp and fruit, everyone shook hands goodbye, and hugged and giggled memories aloud.

Back in civilization, Ken’s wife met us in their driveway. She had been really worried because there had been rioting all over America. Sara said that there was tension even here in Durango, Colo.

In Los Angeles, 53 people had been killed, 4,000 people injured, and the property destruction amounted to a billion dollars.

The Rodney King riots had just occurred.

Back to the Wind River Range, what will change and what will stay the same?

I’ll give a full report, assuming there is still a civilization, or at least an old printing press somewhere, in my next column in September. I think Jeff’s prediction has about a 50/50 chance of coming true. I give Trump till Halloween, when the goblins and monsters are undeniable to everybody.


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