where moth and rust destroy

I remember thinking about this as a kid:

I wondered if there was anywhere that I walked, any square foot of earth, that no one else had.  I believed somewhere in my fenced wild backyard, there was a place, a coveted square of pristine virginal land. I realized later, as I got taller and took more steps, that this piece of grass, rocks, or dirt was not located within the confines of my backyard. 

Is there anywhere, no matter how small, that I've walked on that other human beings haven't?

Where are the places of no human footprints?

A quick google search has told me that 107 billion Lindas, Kevins, Howards, Ediths, Toms, Sues, Sharons, have walked on God's green earth in all of human history. It's probably unlikely that these squares exist. The places without steps would be extreme the North Pole, the middle of the Amazon, sides of big mountains in Nepal, somewhere in the Sahara.

The problem is that there isn't a really good way to know where people have been. The footprints fade. 

Maybe a little corner of somewhere less remote has been passed by. It is possible.

There was a little flashback to my quest for a virginal land square this summer.

A couple of friends and I backpacked up to some high alpine lakes in the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness. It was a long and bumpy drive to the trailhead, where there were no other cars parked.

The hike was short, but it is always hard walking up hill with a backpack. Don't let anyone tell you different.

We arrived at the turquoise lakes pretty early in the day. We spent the afternoon sharing hunks of meat and cheese and fishing and reading books and trying to swim in very cold algae filled lakes. 

The bottom of these lakes was very silty. I was scared to put my head under the water. My friend Heather had been swimming in a different lake the day before and complained that her eyes were swollen. I didn't want to risk it without a nearby eye washing station.

Time passed and before we knew it the sun wanted to take a rest. It's very nice to hurry up and get somewhere and to be able to lounge around, to take time to not do much.

For dinner, there was more of the same hunks of meat and cheese and some Twizzlers (the pull-n-peel variety). 

I began to feel antsy and I wanted to see what was outside of this dreamy basin with turquoise waters and big red walls and wildflowers a little past their prime. The Maroon Formation (of Permian siltstone, conglomerate, and limestone) walls had me trapped and I wanted to peer over them. 

I needed to tire myself out before sleeping on the ground. 

Keegan agreed to come with me and hike up this very steep scree filled ridge to the east. We gained a lot of elevation very quickly in some challenging terrain. The size of rocks varied greatly. There were boulders bigger than baby grand pianos, and rocks the size of a can of beans.

There wasn't a trail.

Thunder cracked behind Teocalli mountain as we struggled up up up 1000 ft in maybe a mile. 

Keegan turned back and asked a simple question.

"Do you think anyone has ever been up here before?" 

I don't know if I responded out loud,  "Maybe no one has been up here." My mind drew a 1 foot squared checker board and I thought about if we could see the invisible footsteps, if humans had first stepped on ink pads, what this rocky ridge would look like.

Surely almost all the human visitors hiked up to the lake and then turned around, staying on trail, keeping their hands in their pockets, their heads down focused on the trail.

Remember we have to consider footprints from all of time -from Native Americans, to prospectors, and now those who take part in the noble field of recreation.


Maybe my childhood notion of first stepping on the moon, the "discovery" of the New World, maybe this was also a pivotal moment, my first step on this steepness. The thought consumed me and made me happy. I was the first out in this small square of faraway wilderness. By getting off a trail, I had finally made my mark.

The earth is a big and there are untouched places perched high up in the sky. And for those of us who aren't afraid to breath hard and take some chances keeping our balance ascending the steepness, there's empty space to flap your wings.

As I got carried away with the good work and the pats on the back I deserved, Keegan picked up something that didn't necessarily belong in the rubble of the eroding mountains.

The question was answered.

The item Keegan picked up was a rusty can, presumably that used to contain beer, with thick metal sides. Thick metal means old. 

And with that, we knew someone else had crawled up all these rocks to see what was on the other side. 

We didn't say much up at 12,000 feet. Keegan threw the can back where he had found it.


Even though I would really like to be the first woman to plant the American Flag on this ridge and claim it and exclaim "Let Freedom Ring!" It's kind of nice to know that people, somewhat long ago, had that same good idea to climb up above the lakes, gain the proverbial high ground, and to be one of the few to see what it looks like above that basin of Eden.