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Walking the walk, singing the song

Peter Frigeri
A hike to remember: Sawmill Canyon


About halfway up Sawmill Canyon Road, I stopped in the shade of a piñon tree and leaned on my trekking poles to rest. As Peter caught up to me I said, “I know why Jim (Boone) doesn’t list this hike” (on his canonical website, “Why?” my husband asked. “Because it’s so stinking unpleasant,” I complained. 

To be honest, I used a stronger word than “stinking.” That’s how unpleasant it was. Like walking uphill in cat litter. For five miles. In 90 degrees. 

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Worse, on our third attempt, we failed to find the supposed Sawmill Spring, which has now attained unicorn or punctual-cable-guy status in our two-person backpacking club. Thanks, Jim.

Still, I love this route for a short getaway, and here’s why: Because, apparently, no one else does. Which means that once we — finally! — got out of the gravel wash and well into the ponderosa pines, we could relax, find a needle-covered flat spot to pitch our tent, and be completely, luxuriously alone.

After taking off our hiking boots, cooling off and eating dinner, we were able to appreciate the multicolored wildflowers all around, the sawmill remnants (“Look! This must have been the outhouse!) strewn among the pines. I leaned against a log and read as the sun set behind John’s Peak. My husband lounged in the tent, lulled by the sounds of forest busy-work. With no neighbor dogs barking through their fences or party-house renters frolicking in their pools, we were asleep by 8 p.m.

And the walk down the wash the following morning was much more pleasant, too. — Heidi Kyser


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