‘Outdoors in the Southwest’ writer, contributor visit Breckenridge | SummitDaily.com

‘Outdoors in the Southwest’ writer, contributor visit Breckenridge

Krista Driscoll
kdriscoll@summitdaily.com

Experience stories of the Southwest from the viewpoint of two well-known authors, scholars and outdoorspeople at a book reading and signing with Andrew Gulliford and Jane Koerner at Colorado Mountain College on Saturday, Jan. 24.

Gulliford, professor of history at Fort Lewis College in Durango and an instructor at Colorado Mountain College, and author Jane Koerner will give readings from Gulliford's recently published book, "Outdoors in the Southwest: An Adventure Anthology," followed by a question-and-answer session and a book signing.

BACKCOUNTRY DANGERS

"Outdoors in the Southwest" is divided into various themes and includes stories ranging from encounters with devastating floods to near-fatal falls and wild animals. Both Koerner and Gulliford are graduates of Colorado College and both write occasionally for High Country News, which is how they became acquainted, Koerner said in an email, and how one of her essays ended up in his book.

"My chapter contributes to the section on backcountry dangers," said Koerner, a three-time managing editor in the magazine industry. "I write about an accident with a boulder, which could have cost me my right leg, even my life. The point of the essay is to show the risks of hiking alone."

As the first woman to climb the 100 highest peaks of Colorado, Koerner has done many solo climbs, she said, but fortunately, on this particular climb, she had two friends with her on the peak.

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"No way could I have moved the boulder that toppled over, pinning my right calf beneath more than a ton of weight. We were on an unnamed peak that only gets climbed a few times a summer. Had I been alone, I would have died a slow, agonizing death. When an excerpt of this essay was published in High Country News, I heard from readers who recounted similar stories with fatal consequences."

OUTDOOR ATTACHMENT

Koerner moved from Kansas to Colorado in 1968 to attend college and has spent the majority of her life in the West, 28 years in Colorado and 18 in Utah, she said.

"I've hiked extensively in the Colorado Rockies and the canyons of southern Utah," she said. "Wherever I go in the backcountry, I feel a deep connection with the people who preceded me — from the hunters and gatherers who followed the deer and bighorn sheep on their seasonal migrations across the Colorado Plateau to Isabella Bird, the English travel writer who climbed Longs Peak in October 1873 with the notorious fur trapper Rocky Mountain Jim."

The wolves and grizzlies and buffalo herds that Bird and others of her time frequently encountered are long gone, or greatly diminished, Koerner said, but she still has the privilege of interacting with wildlife, even as their habitat shrinks before the onslaught of human development.

"And, gazing out at millions-year-old rock, I can contemplate, as Bird did, my humble place in the universe," she said.

LEARNING STEWARDSHIP

Gulliford not only has published many books and articles but also has led tours across the West via boat, horseback, train and jet and is deeply involved with national environmental and historical organizations.

In addition to hearing highlights from "Outdoors in the Southwest," those who attend the presentation at Colorado Mountain College will learn how giving back to our public lands through stewardship, volunteering and eco-advocacy builds awareness and knowledge so we can better understand the changing landscapes of the West.

Koerner said as an expert skier who has climbed all the 13ers in the Ten Mile and Mosquito ranges, many of them numerous times, she feels very at home in Breckenridge and is looking forward to returning for the event.

"I enjoy sharing my knowledge of the backcountry with fellow enthusiasts," she said.

If you go

What: “Outdoors in the Southwest: An Adventure Anthology,” author reading and book signing with Andrew Gulliford and Jane Koerner

When: 7-9 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 24

Where: Eileen and Paul Finkel Auditorium, Colorado Mountain College, 107 Denison Placer Road, Breckenridge

Cost: Free and open to the public

More information: Call Heidi Kunzek at (970) 453-6757, ext. 2614, or go to http://www.cmcspeaks.com