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A Trail That Stops At The Sea
Bil Gilbert
July 05, 1976
As Route 40 sinks slowly in the West, travelers who push on to the Pacific can sense the spirit that moved explorer Joe Walker
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July 05, 1976

A Trail That Stops At The Sea

As Route 40 sinks slowly in the West, travelers who push on to the Pacific can sense the spirit that moved explorer Joe Walker

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"When I get a day off I go by myself to climb or pack. I see too many people in this job, so I want to be alone. Usually I go to a national forest rather than a park. There aren't so many people and not so many rules. I know there have to be regulations, to keep people from wrecking what's left of the Park, but it seems that all the rules get between the people and the Park. I don't know what the answer is and that depresses me, too."

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, COLO.

Two disparate recreational philosophies, cultures in a sense, meet head on in the mountain playgrounds of northern Colorado. On the one hand there is the horse-rodeo-hunting-and-shooting crowd, and on the other the climbing-white watering-backpacking-ecology set. A good place to observe the differences between the two is in outfitting stores. Steamboat Springs has a lot of them catering to both sets of customers. "Western" stores sell hard-type goods, lots of leather boots, belts, tack, things made out of stainless steel and gunmetal. In contrast, "recreational suppliers" push softer and lighter items made from aluminum, nylon, and especially feathers. (Only in hats do Westerns go soft and Recreationists hard.) For working purposes, representatives of the first culture can be called Leather people and those of the second, Feather people.

Leather people are birthright Westerners, or at least pretend they are. The region has great mystique for them and they are proud provincials. Feather people come from all over and like to brag about being cosmopolitans, catching the Green River rapids in July and the Great Barrier Reef surf in January.

Leather dudes tote steaks and beer to the back country on pack horses, trail bikes or in pickups. Feather folk walk, paddle or rappel in by rope with freeze-dried vegetables and surprising white wines. Leathers listen to Marty Robbins and watch John Wayne while Feathers go for Bob Dylan and Peter Fonda.

In Leather stores there are usually posters advertising turkey shoots, rodeos and ox roasts. Feather merchants advertise raft trips, rugby games and edible-weed walks.

"Is there a jackpot rodeo going on around here anyplace this weekend?"

"Who knows, man. I don't pay much attention to what the rednecks do."

"Who do you see about a raft trip?"

"Couldn't say, pardner, but anybody you smell smoking dope could probably tell you. You all hurry back."

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