22 August 2023

I'd Hike That

     If the world is divided into beach people and mountain people, I fall solidly into the latter category. I have nothing against the beach, but I prefer to pad about a hiking trail instead of slathering myself in some high-grade, oily SPF. 

    These days, the desire to escape to the mountains may be due to heat fatigue as another month of triple-digit temperatures pound Texas. 

    So as this blog posts, I'll be hiding for a few days in a cooler climate, somewhere among the mountains of Colorado. 

    A couple of years back, my wife and I journeyed up here. As usually happens, we tried out a variety of different hikes. One morning, our favorite guidebook led us to the Alpine Tunnel Trail. The drive there featured an axle-busting bounce along a casually maintained logging road. It was easily as stressful as any sheer drop-off along the trail. It may dissuade a few. If you go, don't let the drive put you off. The hike was worth it--forests, meadows, wildflowers, and long-range views. 

    The Alpine Tunnel is an out-and-back hike unless you're the ambitious sort. Then, you can connect to the Colorado Trail and walk to the state border. 

A.L. Salzanski photo

Some folks hiked faster than we did and passed us on our trek. Others, we caught. Some traded places with us, back and forth, like race cars jockeying for position. Everybody showed a little fatigue. Only the accompanying dogs appeared unphased by the rock scrambling and elevation. 

    Among the common questions asked of writers is the source of our ideas. My common answer is to advise aspiring writers to keep their heads up and look and listen as they move through life. The inspiration for stories is everywhere. I've described before finding it in abandoned buildings and city streets. Sometimes it comes along in high places. 

    I am delighted to have my story, "The Ties That Bind," in the September/October issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. The tale had its genesis on the Alpine Tunnel hike. The pristine setting, the conversations with our fellow hikers, and the struggles of those who carved  a railroad line all niggled my thoughts on the return walk down. The trailhead begins in a ghost town and the terminus is a caved-in tunnel. The landscape is both a beautiful bit of nature and a graveyard for hopes and dreams. 

    I wanted my picture of the setting to come through in "The Ties That Bind." Good storytellers employ the location to establish a mood for the story, to reveal something about the characters as they interact in that environment, to suggest the conflicts of the story, and to hint at the themes. As we returned to the car, my mind's ear heard all those elements in the multifaceted piece of Colorado through which we traveled. The story that emerged, I hope, used the setting to accomplish a few of those goals.  

    As we looked around the scant remains of the old ghost town at the trailhead, I pictured the old saloon. That thought experiment led to an idea for another story that is currently scheduled to appear in print. Two stories from one hike. It must have been the lack of oxygen. 

    Until next time. 


  1. I'm with you re mountains. I used to hike the Appalachian Trail every weekend with a friend, and we had some great times. And some not so great - one of those, involving an Irish Setter with her own backpack and a nest of hornets, led to a story that AHMM bought years ago. Congratulations! I look forward to reading your story!

  2. All sorts of congratulations, Mark, books and boots. Well done.

    For me, it's not so much the beach, but the water that I love. Except when it's waaaay to much water, Noah style.

    But I confess when I was sent on assignment to Boise, I was blown away. Idaho is gorgeous. The university even offered me a job, and silly me didn't take it. But I'd love to go back.

    (The one thing I didn't expect was sunburn. I hadn't counted on thin atmosphere doing to me what Florida hadn't!)


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