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Sometimes people can be silly

They spent four hours driving 11 miles. And then they turned around and came back.

Sometimes people do silly things.

It was a crisp mountain morning in June near the headwaters of the Rio Grande, someplace close to Creede, Colo.

The one of their number who awoke first struggled from the coziness of the down-filled sleeping bag and pulled on his cold boots. Quietly, so as not to wake the others.

As he pumped air into the bright red tank on the old Coleman stove, he heard a rustling in the tent and, pausing just long enough to light the stove’s main burner, hurried there.

Putting a finger to his lips in the universal signal for silence, he moved to help his oldest child dress in the cold of the canvas shelter.

Then, together, they went outside.

Fine tuning the fire until the flame was an almost invisible blue, he put the coffee pot on it.

By then, his brother was up and out of the nearby pickup camper.

In the Colorado cold, they exchanged greetings.

“Morning.”

“H’lo. You sleep pretty good?”

“Yeah, gets pretty cramped in there with the kids getting as big as they are, though.”

“I bet.”

Leaving his brother to watch the coffee, the first to rise, with his daughter, walked a hundred yards or so to the place where, maybe 200 feet below, the roaring river made a sharp turn.

They sat on the precipice and talked of the river’s constant nibbling at the rock as it made that turn.

And then they walked back.

After breakfast n sausage and eggs and biscuits cooked in a dutch oven n they all piled into the vehicle with four-wheel drive. A little while later, they piled back out and posed for photos around the sign that said, “Danger! No two-wheel drive vehicles beyond this point!”

They stopped a lot during the next four hours. Once to marvel at the pond created by a family of beaver and at the home the animals had built in the center of that pond. Once to admire the delicate tracery of ice formed as a kind of shell over a tiny but swiftly moving stream. Again to gaze in awe at the mountain panorama spread before them as their vehicle clung precariously to the single-lane track carved from the side of the mountain by men now long dead.

They crossed the river n its water lapping at the truck’s doors as the big tires clawed their way across slick rocks as big around as a man’s head n and they climbed the mountain on the other side.

At one point they had to use the winch to pull themselves through a mud hole left by the melting snow that still was visible in patches along the trail.

Finally, they stopped. They ate lunch with the ghosts of a town that didn’t survive. Around them were the remains of what once had been the homes of men and women who fought the earth for their very existence.

They had intended to go on across the mountains to Silverton, but a guy in a big cowboy hat driving a Ford pickup with monster tires and Colorado plates stopped to visit as they loaded up and told them the pass was blocked by snow too deep for their rig.

So they returned the way they had come.

Four hours to go 11 miles.

Silly.

But what better could they have done with their four hours n their eight hours?

Together they saw and did things they’d not seen or done before. Things they’ll probably not do again.

They exchanged their hours for memories. And those memories have lingered long after the little girl who walked with her father to the edge of that cliff had grown and begun to make memories for her own children.

Silly?

Perhaps not.

Perhaps indeed very wise.

David Sullens is president of Roanoke-Chowan Publications and publisher of the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald and Gates County Index. He can be reached via email at david.sullens@r-cnews.com.