Monday, February 16, 2009
For the life of me, I don't understand why people come to Utah to ride and hike with Dangerous and his buddy Utah Jack. They get to see some beautiful country, but they have to put up with a lot. If the unending, nothing is sacred, teasing doesn't get them, Dangerous will blister their butts on horseback by riding them too far, or hike them 'till they drop. These days, more often than not, you will find Dangerous treating his own blisters or resting by the side of the trail.
A few intrepid souls like "Nature Dan" return year after year to face the psychological and physical punishment Dangerous and Utah dish out. At six feet four inches tall and size fourteen shoes, Dan wasn't designed to fit a horse, but he endures the punishment anyway. He much prefers the long hikes we take along the Escalante River.
I like hiking with "Nature Dan." He brings a level of sophistication to the trail not often found among the cast of characters that Dangerous usually hikes or rides with. Who else will sacrifice food and water in his pack for pipe tobacco and booze. We might be a bit short on groceries, but smoking a good pipe before dinner is essential for "Nature Dan." And, how can you end a long day on the trail without "happy hour." At 5:00 PM sharp, Dan breaks out his flask, and soon forgets that dinner might be a bit skimpy. After a few nips, those freeze dried meals actually seem appetizing. I carry my own food, so I usually don't go hungry.
"Tree-hugger" is a term of derision in some circles, but not with "Nature Dan." As you can see in the second picture, he deserves the name, and is proud of it. He tells Dangerous and me that Ponderosa Pine smells just like vanilla. Dangerous and Utah seem to believe him, but I remain unconvinced. Maybe I can't get high enough on the tree to catch the vanilla smell, or the wind might not be just right.
When he isn't smelling trees, Dan is usually gathering materials to handcraft walking sticks, arrows, and other items. At times, Dangerous sends me back or goes himself to look for "Nature Dan." We haven't lost him yet, but frequently, he disappears somewhere along the trail to gather construction materials or study a beetle, plant, pine cone, rock, or natural anomaly. I understand his sniffing around, because I like to do it. But, there are times when it drives Dangerous to distraction.
Sometimes, I suspect that Dan has a little Aussie blood coursing through his veins. Sheep dogs can't pass up water, and neither can Dan. You might think he is taking a bath, but that's not necessarily the case. I have seen him strip down in November and take a quick dip. Frequently, he gets Dangerous to join him, but Utah Jack has an aversion to water and never gets wet above his ankles.
I suspect that most of you are like me. You really wonder if these guys will ever grow up. They are all sixty plus, and still think they are Huckleberry Finn or Butch Cassidy. Well, maybe that's what keeps them eternally young. What do you think?