The Perfect Shoe for Back Country Wanderlust

Editor’s Note: We hear this week from guest columnist Aidan Gaughran. The ColoradoOutsider played four seasons of NCAA soccer at Dickinson College before joining the Peace Corps and heading to Panama. Now back in the States, he’s busy catching up on hikes and treks in southwestern Colorado.

Gaughran writes:

Most of the time I go outside, I do not travel on predetermined routes. One moment I can be on a well-traveled trail; the next I can be bushwhacking through the woods; the next I

Salomon Odyssey Pro

could be climbing over rock debris.

I never know precisely where the adventure calls, nor the precise terrain my feet will pass over. I value spontaneity and the ability to change course on a whim. In this regard, the Salomon Odyssey Pro makes an ideal partner-in-crime.

The first thing you will notice is that these shoes are ready to go right out of the box. They seemed already broken-in to my feet, an impressive feat considering a) my wide feet and b) that the shoes are advertised as Hiking Shoes.

Most hiking shoes require a get-to-know-you period. Not these ones. They weigh a slim 11.6 ounces, and with the Ortholite impressions (soles) and mesh/nylon upper layer, it feels as if you are wearing a light, athletic sneaker.

Out on the trail (wherever that may be), you start to notice the shoes’ hiking attributes. The Odyssey has a thick midsole – but not thick so as to be chunky or unsavory on the eyes – that keeps the feet cushioned and supported for those longer, higher-mileage days.

It has an outsole that whisks away small debris and that seems to grip whatever terrain the trail throws at it. The marriage between the support and the light, athletic upper is the shoes’ defining quality, and is the main reason why I love it.

I’m not sure how the shoe would handle extended, multi-day trips, but if I was leaving tomorrow, I would probably take the Odyssey Pro over other options.

I recently ran a half-marathon, in which half the terrain was pavement and the other a mix of dirt and gravel on uneven, up-and-down terrain. I wore the Odysseys. The next morning, most everything in my body ached – except for my feet.

Remember when ‘unplugged’ wasn’t a thing?

Now I see the secret of making the best persons: It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth. Walt Whitman

Summertime is my favorite time ‘to grow in the open air.’ Mostly I’ve been camping with my horses on nearby parcel of Bureau of Land Management Land where the area’s steep ridges serve as fences. I can camp without putting up fencing and let the topography and the abutting private fencing do the trick.

It’s quiet. Actually, it’s pretty noisy with bird calls, but little else.

Before cell phones and the Internet, we could get away like this without any thought of being ‘out of pocket’ or ‘unplugging’ or ‘unavailable and out of cell range.’

Now, getting away is either extra cool or extra inconvenient, depending on the person. The electronic leash has wormed its way into our psyches and intellect.

First and foremost, ‘getting away’ (camping, backpacking, horse riding, etc.) is now seen as a deliberate breaking away from connectivity. Actually enjoying the backcountry seems secondary in many people’s minds. It’s like we don’t have the mental tenacity to disconnect when otherwise we could be connected. We need the connectivity to fail us because we’re too feeble-minded to disconnect on our own.

Once that happens, though, we give ourselves permission to relish the surroundings. We give ourselves a hall pass to being present.

Will we enjoy the wilderness less when connectivity reaches us there, too?


Sturdy Salomons Make for Happier Hiking

Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX

I live at about 7,500 feet elevation. If I’m not walking north and south on a flat gravel road, I’m heading up steep climbs to the east and west. The ridges rise quickly to 8,500 feet and the terrain is variant, with plenty of sandstone boulders to navigate.

I try to scramble up to these ridges several times a week for the rich reward: views of the LaPlata mountains in the San Juan National Forest, Mesa Verde National Park, and even Shiprock, the impressive monolith on the Navajo Nation in New Mexico.

The Salomon Speed Cross trail shoes have suited me well, but when I found myself sometimes switching to heavier hiking boots, I knew a swap was in order.

Enter the Salomon X Ultra GTX (which, if ColoradoOutsider had any say, would be renamed Happy Hiker).

Up and away with the Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX

At about one pound for the pair, the X Ultra GTX is five ounces heavier than the SpeedCross. Here’s what you gain with those added ounces:

– greater stability in the heel

– more toe protection

– tougher, more durable and waterproof coverage.

The X Ultra GTX is still a quarter the weight of most leather hiking boots and as I rarely carry more than 10-15 pounds in a daypack, this shoe was the perfect middle ground between the more serious, clunky hikers and the less solid trail running shoe.

Those of us with iffy ankles will love the protective heel cap which keeps the back of the foot stable, especially when moving along the sides of ridges.

The Quicklace system is easy and capable except when you want to snug up the toe area for steep descents; the thin cords tend to work less well than traditional, thicker laces. But thick laces also attract burrs, seeds, and thorns which can work their way aggravatingly to your feet over the course of a hike and make plucking them out of the shoe an unwelcome daily ritual. Not so here. The X Ultra GTX virtually sheds sticky vegetation.

These shoes are built with GoreTex and therefore shed water. This feature might not be so vital here in southwestern Colorado, but is an excellent feature for wetter climes.

Excellent grip on boulders

Species Parade, Episode 19

The snow is mostly gone. Migrating birds are mostly back. It is a noisy place around here and I find myself scrambling to identify birds by call. Why do the need for a refresher course every year? And did you know that Steller’s Jays sometimes mimic Red-tailed Hawks?

I’m especially fond of raptors, even though I struggle with identification. Seeing two Golden Eagles hang out on BLM land (where I have camped) and these two Red-tailed Hawks together is a special treat.

Next month, the game camera goes up and I’ll hope to add bear and who-knows-what-else to the list. 45 species this time around.




Mule Deer

Cottontail Rabbit

Brush Mouse

Rock Squirrel

Golden Mantled Squirrel

Pocket Gopher




Golden Eagle

Bald Eagle

Lewis’s Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker


House Sparrow

Red-Winged Black Bird

Canada Goose



Great Blue Heron

Townsend’s Solitaire

Mountain Bluebird

Western Bluebird


Red Shafted Flicker

Red-winged Blackbird

Steller’s Jay

Black Capped Chickadee

American Crow

Common Raven

Scrub Jay



Dark-Eyed Junco (and its many varieties)

Ringed Turtle Dove

Rock Dove

American Kestrel

Turkey Vulture

Red-Tailed Hawk


American Robin

Great Horned Owl

Western Screech Owl

Hummingbird (un-id’ed)

Bring back Wild West Journalism

You might think we journalists struggle more than other folks when accusations of “fake news” and “alternative facts” splash across our virtual desktops.

That’s because the attack is not just on liberal news outlets but on media and the propagation of information in general. It’s an attack on journalism’s basic mission to fairly inform readers.

I may be a reporter but I’m also a reader. And when university research shows that most people think that we journalists are actually enemies of the state, well, let’s just say I can take a hint. (For those of you who are so darn persnickety about sources, I’m referring to the recent Suffolk University poll which shows that two-thirds of Fox News watchers believe that mainstream media is the enemy of the people.),

I’ve seen a lawyer! I’ve seen the light!

Party line! Party on!

Wild West journalism is so much more fun anyway. Remember when frontier reports promised water and farmland aplenty to any Easterner with an ear to bend? Remember when reports of “Gold in Them Thar Hills” was the real, honest-to-god headline on news stands?

Author Timothy Snyder reminded me of Wild West journalism in a recent interview. He said:

“In the descent from a world of factual discourse into a world of emotions and alternative realities, the first step you take… [is to] manufacture lots of stuff that isn’t true. The second step is that you claim that everyone is like this. You spread this kind of cynicism that you shouldn’t really trust anybody…Once that belief spreads we’re then in the world …which is ripe for fascism.”

His book is called “On Tyranny” and he teaches at Yale. But the guy lacks a sense of humor, don’t you think? We need writers and reporters who are more easy-going and have better senses of humor. More and more, I look at my old journalism life and laugh.

I remember, for example, reporting on a large, intense animal cruelty case. Thanks to the coverage, the animal welfare officials investigated. Thanks to the coverage, the county District Attorney prosecuted. Scores of horses, goats, pigs, and other animals were removed from the abusers’ possession and the couple in question was convicted.

Not surprisingly, these folks did not appreciate the coverage and called it untrue and “fake news.”

I see their point of view now. More and more, the truth is just so much trouble. More and more, I prefer the news to reflect my social media newsfeed: sound bites and images that affirm my beliefs. No questioning or contrariness please. Embracing an ideology of doubt? No thanks!

When I was a young mom, I used to love meal times with my three sons. It was a time to bounce around ideas. I tried to extoll the French essayist Joseph Joubert: “The aim of an argument or discussion should be not victory but progress.”

Back then, I said.

— If we only listen to the news that makes us feel good, how do we grow?

— If journalists only write about approved topics with supportive bias, how is the reader (and therefore the greater society) helped?

— If we are not encouraged to ask questions, think critically, and occasionally argue, what’s the point of having a thinking brain and living in a community?

Back then, I thought that as reporters and readers we should be encouraged to dig deep, look for the sources’ angles, and weigh alternative points of view. We should be aware of conflicts of interests and ulterior motives. Abusers, people with something to hide, vested parties all routinely blame the messengers, I thought.

Around the dinner table and around the newsroom, I thought transparency and objectivity were good things. Discourse and shining the mirror back on ourselves? All good!

Now, thankfully, I’ve been liberated from the fray. If I was back at the table with my boys and they said something like “sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me” I would scold them for not thinking about the math. You know – If A = B and B = C, then A = C. C’mon folks, learn it with me!

  • Discussion is Argument.
  • Argument is Verbal Combat.
  • Verbal Combat is Combat.
  • Combat is War.
  • War is bad.

We need more love in this world!

Some folks might say I’m slipping from Synder’s “fact-based discourse into an alternative reality promulgated mostly by emotions.”

But love is emotions, right? And even journalists want to be loved.

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