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High Uintas Project Inspires Poetry

Ashley National Forest, Utah, 2000
by Inge Schaefer, PIT Volunteer

Come Back, Duchesne

My old Beetle and I hit the dusty trail
with dollars gambled that it would fail.
From California eastward bound,
our mission clear: flat stones (and ground!).
Reno, Elko, Temple Square—
Come on, old girl, we’re almost there!

The ranger station/make-shift corral
was our first test of team morale.
We pitched our tents to get some sleep
and plugged our ears against equine feet.
A horse’s belly was my view from bed,
not exactly where I’d planned to lay my head!

Next day we heaved a cow of jerky on our hips.
This is progress over digging sticks?
Into the High Uintas we made our ascension,
metates and grindstones the focus of our attention.

We wagered there were tasty greens
that folk of old held in esteem.
And surely above 10,000 feet
were comestibles that can’t be beat!
We pondered a time before Minute Rice:
Did the Austrians eat edelweiss?
In case those delectibles passed us by
Mike and Nick brought rations nigh.

Our first day in camp was quickly done
as rain poured down and thunder rung.
I lay awake, blind as a bat
and suddenly thought, “What the heck was that?”
It came again, a ghostly plea.
I heard Mike cry, “Help! I’m down here!”

I stumbled out to give Nick a nudge.
He slumbered on; he did not budge!
I needed a moon and some new fallen snow
to give the luster of midday to objects below.
It was chilly enough, that was not a good wish.
I addressed Nick again and heightened the pitch.

While Robin dreamt of bitterroot
and Gina of the coming loot
and Utah Blaine dreamt of traffic lights
a horse broke loose and then took flight.

Mike had heard its bell as it passed by,
and sprang from his bed with but a sigh.
He cornered the horse that had gotten free
with unmistakable agility.

By then Nick awakened from slumberland
and bound for the meadow, halter in hand.
I went back to sleep to the familiar bell sounds
and dreamt of the Alps and large Swiss cheese rounds.

The art of fire and coffee were the next morning’s discussions,
the deep sleep of our camp mates and its repercussions.
Mike upped the amount of coffee to each steaming latte
lest a sleepy eye miss a much-sought-after metate.
Fueled by oatmeal and caffeine measured in pounds
our mission was clear: flat stones (and ground!).
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