The horizon is our reminder that the way things are now is not the way things have to be. Exploring, even just backpacking into the hills at the edge of town, expands the known and opens us up to the possibility of more.
By Ben Kilbourne
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By the time the pixelated image of Barry Lopez’s face appeared on my computer screen, I had not read a single word he had written. I knew nothing of his accomplishments, writing mastery, or desire to explore the world, observing viewpoints other than his own. I looked curiously at his 70-something face, his balding head with gray tufts of hair on the sides, and the book-filled room in which he sat, without knowing that his ideas surrounding exploration would come to shape my own, articulating inclinations I had already felt but could not put words to.
Southern Utah University Professor Emeritus Jim Aton was going to be interviewing his friend Barry for the In Site Podcast. I was just there to record and make sure there were no issues with the overall sound. So, when the interview began, I turned off my video and just listened. Within the first few minutes, I was floored by this man’s brilliant and compassionate character. I knew right away I’d have to read everything he had ever written.
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Ben Kilbourne has been backpacking since his days in the womb. Once born, his explorations have taken him all over the west, but especially the canyon country of the Colorado Plateau. The geography of the west has become familiar to him. He has developed a rudimentary understanding of its geology, and an awareness of the subtle changes in flora and fauna due to soil, elevation, aspect, and precipitation and how these elemental things interact with both ancient and modern humans. His experiences on the land, whether triumphant or thwarted by events either in or out of his control, have provided the foundation for the work he does. Find Ben’s essays, trip reports, gear reviews, paintings, songs, and other work at benkilbourne.com.
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