A last trip searching for the Ute Trail | PostIndependent.com

A last trip searching for the Ute Trail

This year could be the last time we gather along the old Ute Trail searching for the Ute Ancestor’s elusive footprints.

The sense of having become a part of something larger than ourselves sustains our endeavor each year.

It was the last day my youngest daughter Amber would be with us, so she and I decided to hike by ourselves. We drove a few miles down the mountain to a good starting place along Deep Creek.

The rest of our group would start in a big open meadow pursuing the most practical route downhill toward us and the last confirmed location of the old Ute Trail.

As the group’s leader, it had been a frustrating week. All other possible locations for the trail had been carefully searched. None of them had panned out. There was one last place left where the trail could be.

Our trip had been canceled last year due to the unprecedented fire season. One year’s efforts lost.

But Amber and I were determined to make the best of our time together. There would be less of it as she becomes a busy teenager. This was a special time for us.

We easily crossed the creek. It was a dry year and the water wasn’t deep. Things felt right as we followed a faint trail left by the sheep. The lay of the land funneled us into only one way up into a saddle along a timbered ridge.

“I don’t know about this,” I said, more to myself than to Amber.

“The trees may not have been so thick back then,” she said, and I reluctantly conceded to my child’s wisdom with a nod.

Before long we caught sight of everyone else in a clearing and we waited. Amber began searching the area around us out of curiosity. Soon she found an interesting rock.

“Look Dad. It’s a bear.” It did resemble a bear. My mind went back to three years before when we combined our annual Ute Trail trip with a youth camp. A sow and her cub had visited our camp one night.

“It does look like a bear. Are you going to keep it?”

The gleam in her eyes was answer enough. We joined the others and decided it was time for lunch. Amber and I chose an old downed log at the edge of the trees and sat down.

Too soon we shuttled everyone back to camp and packed up Amber’s stuff for her trip down the mountain and back home. She said her goodbyes and we were off.

“We need to go back and get my bear rock,” was all she said as we headed out.

“I can go back for it later,” I answered.

“No. I want to get it now.”

Like all parents do with their children, I weighed all the adult possibilities. There was only one way. The path of childhood wonder and magic won.

By honoring my daughter’s wish I honor the Ute Ancestors … and the child within me.

– Writing from 25 years of experience in federal land management agencies, Bill Kight of Glenwood Springs shares his stories with readers every other Sunday.

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