How to terrorize friends from the flat land when they visit |

How to terrorize friends from the flat land when they visit

Ryan Slabaugh

As somebody who enjoys outdoor sports, I usually entertain guests in the High Country with camping, skiing, hiking or some other experience that force feeds nature down the traveler’s throat.

Usually, I forget they came from a flat land, unaware of the ensuing oxygen depravation. About half way through a hike, they’ll look at me with cross-eyes and ask, “How much farther?”

A little ways to us, my friends, is a long way to a guy from Kansas City.

Or, the opposite happens.

They gear up and sprint down the trail, focused on showing up the local with their fitness level and grit. I don’t go to a gym. When I want exercise, I head out on the trail and hike until I get tired. Then I go home. When an intense visitor arrives and attempts to show off, I let them go. Sooner or later, they get worried.

So many trees. So few people.

This week, a friend of mine who’s never seen the mountains will arrive. He lives in Washington D.C., and the stories he tells describe the cultural renaissance in his neighborhood. A police helicopter at 3 a.m. shines spotlights through his house. Subways. His big annoyance is umbrellas on tight sidewalks. Every time he writes, he provides small justifications for the reasons I live in the mountains.

Which made me wonder. Am I a mountain man? I do live at high elevation. I have a forest behind my house. But if that’s the case, the evolution of mountain men at some point took a strange, twisting turn. The bearded men who grunted out of their log homes to check traps every morning somehow morphed into a skinny dude who enjoys beer league softball.

But compared to my incoming friend, I am. I find comfort, not fear, in being alone in the woods. On the contrary, when I visited him in Washington D.C., I lost my wallet and knew the security guard at his stop by name. Every time, the frustrated old man had to explain to me that I needed a ticket to ride the train.

Finally, as I sat waiting for it to arrive, I noticed trash blowing along the tracks from a barren basketball court. “Recreation Center,” the sign read above it.

“So why aren’t there any trash cans on the subways?” I asked.

“Terrorists,” he said. “They can hide bombs there.”

“Oh yeah,” I replied.

I long for the flight home. The return to Colorado. The option to walk out my back door and hike up a lonely, remote mountain. As I explained all this to my friend, who’s finally returning the visitation favor, he asked if there are any caves.

“Tons,” I say.

“Oh,” he replies. “Isn’t that where terrorists like to hide?”

Ryan Slabaugh can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext .257, or at

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