The view from on high By Lauren...

A MEMORABLE PLACE

January 14, 2001

A MEMORABLE PLACE

The view from on high

By Lauren Keister

SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The climb to the top of Mount Burwell took an hour and a half. Quads and calves burning, my breath coming in short gasps, I finally arrived at the summit of this 12,313-foot peak in the midst of Wyoming's rugged Absaroka Mountains. Far in the distance, the Wind River range stretched out purple and hazy across the horizon.

The wind became more fierce the higher I climbed, and it whipped though my four layers of clothing as though they didn't exist. At that altitude, the air is thin, the sunlight blindingly intense and the clouds so close it seems as if you could reach out and comb your fingers through them.

Last June, instead of rushing home from school to get a summer job, I spent a month in the Wyoming wilderness on a backpacking expedition offered by the National Outdoor Leadership School. For 30 days, 16 of us -- mostly college-age kids like myself -- along with three instructors trekked through the heart of some of the most remote terrain in the country.

We were many miles from any known or maintained trails. The only people I saw, other than those in our group, were horse-packers who twice brought in our rations.

We carried all our equipment, food and clothing in 60-pound backpacks, no small feat when grunting up steep mountain passes. We learned how to cook calzones on a tiny gas stove, how to hang food in trees to keep bears from getting it, how to map out routes and navigate our way safely to the next campsite.

I learned quickly to have the utmost respect for the land, which is beautiful but capricious. Fretful clouds might suddenly appear and start spitting out rain, instantly making a sunny, 80-degree day cold and miserable. At Emerald Lake, I woke up one morning to 8 inches of fresh snow lying on the ground. So much for the plan to go fly fishing: The lake was frozen solid.

Despite discomforts (lack of toilet paper and perpetually wet hiking boots being at the top of the list), I reveled in the solitude and splendor of the back country. I found myself more than willing to escape the frenetic world of cell phones, e-mail and television and slip into the slower rhythms of life in the mountains, where you wake up at dawn, hike all day and go to bed in fading light.

I feel privileged to have seen Wyoming from high within the mountains, and to have looked out over sweeping river valleys and cathedral rock formations with not a road in sight. I learned a great deal about self reliance and survival skills on this trip. I also realized that I will never be satisfied with the view from the car window again.

Lauren Keister lives in Monkton.

MY BEST SHOT

Water and iron

By Theresa Garrett

Perry Hall

The upper falls of the 17-mile gorge at Letchworth State Park in Castile, N.Y., was really flowing from the spring rains. It was exciting to see trains crossing the iron bridge that spans the falls.

READERS RECOMMEND

Pebble Beach, Calif.

Nancy Slaybaugh, Towson

"Pebble Beach Golf Course is one of the loveliest spots I've been to. The 17-mile drive along Carmel Beach is spectacular, and the restaurants are marvelous. The beach, too, is one of the prettiest I've seen."

Rotorua, New Zealand

Marlene Welty, Frederick

"The Bath House in Rotorua is especially beautiful with its wonderful gardens. Some friends and I were able to do a 'home visit' with a local family who had a wonderful dinner prepared for us."

LET US HEAR FROM YOU

We want to know about your travels, your experiences, your memories, your pictures. Here's how to participate in this page:

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In 500 words or less, tell us about a travel experience that changed you, about the nostalgia a certain place evokes, about the power of a favorite beach, the mountains, a city cafe. (Cash value: $150.)

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