Marolt: Never, never let this land go | AspenTimes.com

Marolt: Never, never let this land go

Roger Marolt
Roger This

There is a special place within this special place we live where children go and return to be young until the day they pass from this world; they learn to ask questions that don't occur to most, to see things that others don't know to look for and to become adventurers in all challenging things. If it isn't a magical place, then how come most kids who spend just one week there agree that it changes their lives? Some will think this a nonsensical piece of fantasy from the figment of imagination. I know better. I journeyed into that land 40 years ago and stepped out of it a blur of days later a more understanding human being.

You can drive to this place, but if you do, you will never enter it the way it was designed to welcome you. The front door, where the incredible works of nature and self are unleashed, is only entered on foot — after two days and many miles covered, over high mountain passes and past reflective pools holding last winter's snow in its new form — a sign of things to come. The trail is long and tiring. At times, you will doubt yourself and others with you. You probably will be scared at some point. You certainly will feel lonesome.

Yes, I said "lonesome." It's not something we ever volunteer to be except for here, on the way to the special place. Some might say, "It's only for 24 hours." And your mind will say, when you are there, "Uh-huh, and how many times has anyone not had contact with another human being for that amount of time in their life?" The surprising answer for most is "never."

Being alone by choice without even a morsel of food to keep you comforted is an experience for those prepared to meet their soul. Whatever tendril of thought you sprout, nobody will be there to cut it off. You go with it until you are tired or until it twines with another of your own. The process goes on. It picks up momentum. The strong will cry. The sentimental will become bold. It is as unimaginable as it is indescribable what you will discover about yourself if left uninterrupted in thought for one long day. As I said, it can be frightening. In the end, it is empowering.

And then you are at the special place to meet up with others who came from different routes on the same journey. You won't believe me when I say it, but I will speak it nonetheless: Friends who haven't seen each other for only 21/2 days see a profound difference in each other before they even speak and feel a new bond that they will share over distances and time that invariably will separate them in only a few more short years in their hometown school. You have arrived at Basecamp in this special place.

Then there comes rock climbing, the high rappel, the Super Man, the Silent Wall, the rope course, the Trust Fall, Jog and Dip, and so much more. It is a crime of omission to try listing the activities like this, but I have to commit it if only to give you a taste of what it is like here. But it's not even a taste; I've used words on a page in a weak attempt to describe growth of an adolescent's awareness of who they are and what they actually can become. It's confidence. Yes, that's it; if I can only use a word to describe this transformation, it is "confidence" I choose!

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Now for the unfortunate part. We are in jeopardy of losing this special place. Like so many truly great things we mourn the loss of and can't believe we let slip from our grasps, the modern world is ready to sign on the dotted line to acquire this property in the name of progress.

The only way to stop the hands of time and preserve this special place forever is to care. We have to care about this place more than we care about the money that will take it away to the next-highest bidder. Do you hear what I'm saying? We, the people who want to save this special place for our children and our memories forever, have to be the highest bidders this time to keep all the highest bidders in the future from ever taking this place away.

Roger Marolt hopes our community can raise the remaining $200,000 necessary to keep the eighth-grade Outdoor Education Basecamp land preserved in perpetuity. Please make your contribution for this cause to the Aspen Valley Land Trust today! December will be too late.