Excerpt from “Graduating From College Me, A Dirtbag Climber Grows Up,” by Luke Mehall.
I shotgunned a beer for the first time the other night—not something I ever expected to do since I’m thirty-seven
years old. But I said, what the hell, this is the last time I’ll ever stay in the Creek Pasture campsite in Indian Creek for free again. Plus,
it was Utah 3.2 beer, and that stuff is mostly water anyways.
What’s changing is not the worst thing in the world: the BLM is starting to charge five bucks a night
per site. It is, however, worth noting that Indian Creek was the last major climbing destination in the United States that did not charge for camping.
But, our tribe is growing, services must be maintained, and those services are not free. There’s a price for being free, that’s for sure. But yeah,
freedom should be free. So should love. We live in a complex world.
I’ve been climbing at Indian Creek for almost two decades now, something that when I tell younger climbers makes me sound old school. I sense a hunger
in a lot of these younger climbers. A person who doesn’t have that hunger and desire is never going to achieve anything in climbing. But more than
that, I want young Creek aficionados to understand the value of struggling to achieve their goals out here, and a respect for the land.
I wish I could connect with more of them. The mentorship component in climbing has a hard time keeping up with our sport’s exploding popularity, and climbing
in Indian Creek gets more popular every year.
It’s popularity surprises me, considering how painful crack-climbing masochism can be. It was many, many years
before I realized that this environment was the ultimate. I just didn’t see it at first. The climbing was too hard, too painful, too demanding. Perhaps
I just had to get through the fire, the burnout, before I fell in love.
In those early years, I recall camping at the lower Bridger Jack campsites, sites that are now closed off. I recall the older climbers talking of bigger
objectives, and mostly, I recall a statement that one of them made about forgetting what month it was. There was a kind of brilliant, beautiful absentmindedness
to this lifestyle. I remember how they would use their old juice bottles as their water bottles. I remember when the trip was coming to an end, all
they would talk about was when they would return.
Sometimes I never want to leave, but of course, everyone has to leave, eventually.
Luke Mehall lives in Durango, Colorado. He is the publisher of The Climbing Zine,
an independent print publication and website, and he is the author of The Great American Dirtbags, Climbing Out of Bed and American Climber. Mehall loves hearing from readers and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book, Graduating From College Me, A Dirtbag Climber Grows Up, is available on amazon.com in paperback for $13.99 or on Kindle for $5.99.