Posted by: kassandrahardy | October 27, 2010

Answers to questions that I didn’t even know I had.

Nights 78-79, October 25-26, 2010

Tuesday morning in Moraine Park – Rocky Mountain NP, CO

Rocky Mountain NP


The dark eyes of a bull elk pierce through me as I trudge down the trail from Deer Mountain. His ladies maintain their focus on grazing. He’s guarding them. I assure him in a soft tone that I’ll be on my way.

The ridge line that divides our continent’s watersheds has a very distinct look this time of year, especially east of the divide. The mountains are nearly dissolved by the cloud cover. When I’m in the backcountry, it’s a ghostly sight. From the front country, this sight warms me. It’s the first notice of winter. My mind draws a jagged contour for the missing peaks and my eyes slowly lift to the clouds. And like my departure from Rocky, the top of the clouds dissipate into the clear blue sky above.

Longs Peak - Rocky Mountain NP

As I drop into town, faded blue jeans are tightly wrapped around legs, buckling at the knees, and tucked into high boots. Messy hair sits atop loose scarfs around everyone’s neck. Colorado is dressed for winter.

Tuesday evening in Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area – Salida, CO

I stole this line, but it’s relevant to me today: lately I have had answers to questions that I didn’t even know I had. Answers pertaining to what adventure means to me and how to motivate others to protect places that we all depend on. And likewise, questions that have been tugging at my mind for months – I may have known those answers, as well.

If I stay in Montana, the outcome of my life is fairly drawn out (as in known – not necessarily long.) If I move on to another place my future is more unwritten. I’m more comfortable (today) with the idea of leaving a place that I’ve really connected with. I know I’ll return to Glacier. I know that one day I will, again, directly help to keep that landscape intact.

The real answer for me today is that my being is a being that thrives on adventure. And, in my mind, an adventure is an activity that emits the feeling of being truly alive and in the moment. I have developed my ethos of wild land conservation through that feeling I get when I adventure in places like Glacier, Yosemite, and Canyonlands. Spending time in a place increases my understanding of a place. Increasing my knowledge of that place develops the sense of responsibility in caring for that place. Simply put, having a life in the outdoors soldifies my understanding of my role and my responsibility in helping to preserve these places. Here’s the hard and unanswered question: how do we ensure continued preservation in a fast changing, short attention, technology reliant, and urban society – 90% of which never think about – let alone spend time in a wild landscape? How do we relay that their wants and needs depend on the well-being of wild landscapes? How do we reach those audiences without waiting for a catastrophe to set in motion a society who admires and values wild landscapes?

Wednesday morning at Cafe Dawn – Salida, CO

Steep Switchbacks (future) Coffee Shop


And here it is – another answer. Here’s one way we can reach out to society to encourage wild land stewardship: infuse ideas into their everyday routines – surround them with it.

I’m sitting in a sunny spot in the middle of historic downtown Salida. Cafe Dawn is what I want to have someday. The structure is an old garage or gas station – retrofitted into a usable, soul filling space. Wooden chairs of all styles surround each wooden table. Even a row of old theater chairs help fill the space. Large paintings of the vista that borders the town hang from the walls, while two happy and healthy young faces greet you. Everything here looks worn in, yet the doors opened up a few years ago. Their logo is nearly identical to the logo for my coffee/wine shop (Steep Switchbacks) that I sketched out on the AT in ‘05. A single coffee mug sitting below a mountainscape. The only difference lies in their steam, which they portray as being synonymous with the streams flowing down from the mountains. My steam doubles as trails switchbacking up a peak.



  1. Wow Kass, seriously, I think you are one of those people who really should be in DC to make all those changes to save these areas, BUT it would probably also be one of the hardest places for you to be. What a contradiction!

    Thank you for your journey to enlighten us! I look forward to see where your journeys take you. I love the coffee shop idea too! I can smell the aroma 🙂

  2. Go get em Kass.

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