Posted By Kevin J. Anderson on August 13, 2014
Many of you have followed my blogs about my adventures while hiking, often with my brother-in-law Tim. We both just completed the 500-mile Colorado Trail together, and we’ve both summited all 54 mountain peaks in Colorado over 14,000 ft. Along the way we’ve learned much, experienced much, and built up some great stories to tell.
WordFire Press just released Tim’s book TALES FROM THE TRAILS, which collects the best stories of those adventures. It is available now in trade paperback and in all eBook formats. Here’s the introduction I wrote for the book:
Getting away from it all—and
getting to the heart of it all.
o far the dentist appointment has been the best part of the day—and that should tell you what kind of day it was. Numerous deadlines, complications, and administrative details as the publisher of Wordfire Press; several new releases coming out at once as well as some major revisions to a six hundred page novel manuscript of my own; a looming deadline for an entirely different (an entirely unfinished) novel manuscript and travel arrangements for a convention appearance; ninety-six story submissions to read for two anthologies my wife and I are editing … and on top of it all getting a new crown put on at the dentist. Bombarded by all that, as I was driving back home from the dentist appointment, I saw how beautiful it was outside. A Colorado February day: sixty degrees, blue skies, only a few patches of un-melted snow remaining, it made me recall how long it had been since I went hiking
Which of course reminded me that I had to write this introduction for my hiking partner and brother-in-law Tim’s book. Sigh. Another deadline. Then I realized that writing the introduction was not actually a burden—but an opportunity. Rather than being locked in my office, strapped to the keyboard to fight back the constant flood of emails or to wince each time the phone rang with someone requesting “just a quick little thing,” I could think about all of the wonderful hiking adventures I’d done with Tim. And since I do all of my writing by dictating into a digital recorder, I could actually go outside in this beautiful day, walk along a few wonderful trails, breathe the fresh air, listen to the trickle of melting snow. No, that wasn’t a burden at all. I could get away from it all, I could be outside, surrounded by beautiful Colorado scenery and just recharge my batteries.
When my wife and I had moved to Colorado seventeen years ago, I was already an avid hiker in California, but I did most of those hikes alone, climbing Half Dome in Yosemite, Mt. Whitney, Lassen Peak, wandering dozen miles of trails in King’s Canyon or Sequoia National Park, exploring the deserts of Death Valley. Tim and his family had moved to Colorado a few years ahead of us. An avid hiker and outdoorsman, he had done plenty of exploring on his own and had discovered many places that I simply had to see.
On the Christmas before we moved to Colorado, Tim gave me two books, a set of books as a gift. Trails and instructions on how to climb all fifty-four of the mountain peaks in Colorado that were over fourteen thousand feet high, comma dubbed the “Fourteeners.” Tim had decided to climb them himself and was hoping for a hiking partner. I spent that winter (as many forlorn hikers do) looking at the guidebooks, reading descriptions of trails and imagining myself out there on those dotted lines, wending their way up ridges, over saddles, and up to the final ascent.
When we did move to Colorado that following July, I already had my marching orders and Tim had his plans. Although I did climb some of those peaks solo, Tim and I ascended many of them together. We tried to get friends to join us, most of whom had insufficient lung capacity or endurance. We did the harder and harder ones. Each summit had its own unique character; each name checked off on the list felt like another triumph. While staying in shape throughout the winter season we would go snowshoeing up around Rocky Mountain National Park or in other high mountain trails. We’d exchange tips and maps of new places we had discovered, new trails to explore.
As a prolific writer, I produce several novels a year and numerous short stories and articles. To me when I’m out on the trail, I find the inspiration to describe alien worlds and interesting characters. In the silence and the solitude, I can walk for miles and dictate dozens of pages.
After we finished all the Fourteeners, Tim and I decided to tackle the Colorado Trail. Nearly five hundred miles winding through the most beautiful mountainous terrain in the state. As of this writing, we’ve done all but one segment, only twenty miles left, and you can bet we’ll finish it this summer.
Tim and I have a system down, how we’ll walk together, but far enough apart so that I can have the concentration I need to dictate my stories and he can revel in the beautiful scenery and take all the photos he likes. Oftentimes we’ll start at opposite ends of the trail and hike toward each other and swap cars on the way home.
We both find the wilderness a place to get away from the chaos and pressure of modern life, from deadlines and bills and family obligations. It’s an environment where we can simply get to our roots, clear our heads and just be filled with all the majesty around us.
Even though we’re both in our fifties, we can do things that most of our peers can’t. A few years ago, we drove to Arizona and hiked down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up in a day, passing signs warning us not to do that and winded, muscular German hikers who were struggling to keep up. Twenty more miles in a day is no longer an impossible challenge, we would simply do it and we work hard to stay in shape so we can keep doing these things we enjoy so much.
And even though there are times we are snowed in, trapped by a raging blizzard close to the summit of fourteen thousand foot Columbia Peak, huddled between rocks and shivering; or dancing across the treacherous Sawtooth Ridge that connects Mt. Evans and Mt. Bierstadt as thunder rumbles and lightning flashes all around and the hair stands up on our heads and arms; or when we’re plodding along through a Noah-worthy downpour with miles to go before we reach our cars, it’s all part of the adventure. While dangling on ropes climbing a six hundred foot sheer dry waterfall on the face of Little Bear Peak, or when Tim missed the trail turn off and walked for miles out of the way (after already having hiked sixteen miles that day), we still wouldn’t trade that for anything.
When I tell these stories to my wife, Rebecca, she doesn’t understand why we would consider that to be “fun.” But if you have to ask, you won’t understand. There’s something indefinably special about walking hard for hours and hours, reaching a saddle and seeing a pristine and untouched vista of mountain and valleys spreading out in front of you, knowing that you are quite likely the only human being within miles. It’s not just to get away from all the frenzy of modern life, it’s to get in touch with your core.
It’s good for your soul.
Tim has discovered that and this book includes some of his most heartwarming and nerve-wracking adventures. Some of them include me without (much) exaggeration. Some of them are escapades and insights Tim had with other companions or just by himself.
I hope you enjoy the vicarious journey and I hope that Tim and I continue to have real outdoor adventures of our own.
— Kevin J. Anderson —
TALES FROM THE TRAILS is available in print and in all eBook formats.