Posted by: highmountainmuse | June 26, 2009

Ditch Diaries

a view of the rio grande pyramid and window through the early morning mist

a view of the rio grande pyramid and window through the early morning mist

At ditch camp, without the computer on which to type my morning muses, I bring along a spiral notebook and sit bundled by the little camp fire in the early morning hours before the boys awake to write, sipping steaming coffee from an enamel cup, and writing the old fashioned way, pen on paper. Forrest calls this the Ditch Diaries.  Sounds somewhat romantic, doesn’t it?  And you know, in a way, it is. You know how I love camping, having the opportunity to be closer to nature, to be an unobtrusive observer, to be more at one with the mountain than I can ever be here inside my cabin looking out the window.

However… in case you might be mistaking me for a modern Thoreau (I know, a joke, though at time you can be sure I wish I was both as brave and as talented), rest assured, I’m just a simple observer, up there digging ditch…

So here is an excerpt from the Ditch Diaries to bring you a touch of the human in this often surreal and pastoral picture I portray for you.

a pot of coffee on the fire

a pot of coffee on the fire

“I sit here huddled over the fire, as close as I can sit before risking my rubber boots melting or popping sparks burning yet another hole in this flimsy camp chair repaired over and over again with bailing wire and duct tape. The sun is rising, which in the mountain always appears as a settling, as the line of light begins high on the mountain peaks and slowly oozes its way downward until spreading across the valley below. The warmth of the sun on the peaks creates a stir in the air, as the raw settled air begins to rise, and the chill spreads as the frost forms across the meadow. This is always the coldest time of day, or so it feels.

“Alan has his nose out of the tent, opening his eyes from time to time to make sure I’m here.  But as long as the boys are still asleep, he can justify his remaining in the warmth of the tent.  He can say that’s his job.  He’s caring for them. Comfortably.

“The hardest part of being here is not the digging, not the sawing, not the cooking over the smoky fire, or working off the chill from rain soaked clothing.  It is getting dressed in the morning.  Slipping off the cozy, warm fleece sweats and putting on the cold damp jeans.  Doing my best to avoid direct contact with my own icy fingers and the frozen buckles on my Levis…”



  1. Dont say you dont have talent . Your words eye view of life around you is a talent few people have .I can feel the soggy jeans and taste the coffee .The cold around you makes me shiver and its 100 here . I miss your writings when your gone .Ditch diaries are good you can always have a note pad and pen around . Get some rest i know you need it and will wait for the next epasode .

  2. 😀 Mmmmmm, I too can smell the coffee and campfire smoke. I love your writings Gin! God has certainly blessed you with the pose of the pen. It’s been way too long since I’ve been camping and I long for those days. My Ben was wildernessing it last night with a buddy. I can’t wait to hear his stories. He’s sure to have many.

    Just wanted to also say hello to Don. How are you? I think of you every now and then and hope you are doing well.

  3. From looking at the photo ya’ll must be camped opposite of Black Lake. I remembered the Window on the right of the Pyramid. It’s been so long ago I just might have it all wrong. Hank always told me to keep my clothes in the sleeping bad so they’ll be warm when you put them on in the morning. But mine were always dry. I didn’t do near the work that ya’ll do.
    Looking forward to seeing ya’ll. Please keep the stories coming. I do share them with my flatlander friends.

  4. yuuummmm . . . I can smell the fire and the fresh mountain air . . . why is it some of us so love that . . . .thanks for sharing ;o)

  5. Having gone through the Window and spent some time on top of the Pyramid, I absolutely love the first picture this morning. It makes me homesick. We had 103 degrees yesterday with hotter days for this weekend,so I envy your cold morning by the fire. See you next month.

  6. Frances,
    Forrest and I have never been up the Pyramid yet, only to the Window. So after years of staring at, we’re planning on taking a day off this summer (!!!) and hiking up! Will let you know how it goes…

  7. Lisa, we’re actually on the other side of the mountain from the Ute trail, we go up the Weminuche trail which starts down at 30 Mile, so it’s the same image you get riding up Middle Ute, only in reverse!

  8. Diane, I hope Don sees your note – I am still learning and don’t know how comments work on blogs, but that to me is what it’s all about!!!

  9. A fire and sips from a hot drink feel so good in the morning chill. Can just smell it from here.

  10. Did you developed all your writing skills after you moved to the mountains? You show such love and warmth to everything around you. You EXPRESS YOURSELF and your writings come alive.

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