Slowing Down in the Absarokas

By NOLS Blog

Aug 2, 2015


Enjoying the Absarokas The Outdoor Educator Course enjoying the Absarokas. Photo by Bill Minard.


By Justin Alexandre

June 2015 was the most unforgettable month of my 25 years of life as I took part in a NOLS Outdoor Educator course in the Absaroka Range in Wyoming.

During the course, my group and I camped in an area known as the Thorofare. Deep in the heart of the Absarokas, Thorofare Mountain is considered to be one of the most remote peaks in the lower 48. Aside from areas in Alaska, this is the furthest that you can be from any paved road, building, street light, television screen or sensory distraction of modern life. It’s a wild place, perhaps one of the wildest places in our country, and I walked away from it with not only a better understanding of the term “wilderness,” but a reverence for it.

This is the furthest that you can be from any paved road, building, street light, television screen or sensory distraction of modern life.

While on the trip, my group and I crossed turbulent rivers, trekked high mountain passes, witnessed grizzlies (through binoculars!), elk, mountain goats, moose, hawks, eagles and weasels. Throughout the journey, we learned much about working with others and even more about ourselves.

The Thorofare, while especially meaningful to me, represents all the wild places that we can still visit and experience. It’s a bastion of pristine wilderness. It’s a reminder that the world was once completely wild and adhered to a more primal set of rules than we do today. It was eye-opening to be able to share that area with its various inhabitants and work toward leaving everything exactly as we found it.

In the few days spent in the Thorofare, through reflection and experience, I wrote this poem.


Walking to the Wilderness Walk into the wilderness. Photo by Jordan Taylor.


The Thorofare

TV screens and billboard ads
preach of pretty things that you can have.
But what's the use of luxuries
when this good free world has so much to see?
I'll pass on that mundane TV glare
for a moment in the Thorofare.

Buildings rise with greedy eyes
while some poor fool reaches for some poor prize.
At the final finish line, you'll find,
you've only wasted up your time.
At the end with your pockets bare,
You'd wish you'd been to the Thorofare.

Don't stop! They say, and don't be late.
As life goes by at a breakneck pace.
While mountain lakes and alpine glades
effortlessly cease to fade.
They're waiting for you in plain air.
You'll find them in the Thorofare.


Sunset in the Mountains Pausing to think. Photo by Kathleen Murphy-Geiss.


Cities beat to endless drum
as life flies by for everyone.
Will you stay there for the ride?
Or climb above the smog-filled skies?
Puppets won't, but heroes dare,
to walk along the Thorofare.

As for me I'll take my chance
with the bears, the winds, and wild wolf packs.
For the only real danger near
is standing still when you feel fear.
So if the day-to-day leaves you worse for wear,
come join me in the Thorofare.

Dear Cohorts, I know you know
the sweetness of that alpine glow.
But many more will never see
what seems so clear to you and me.
Our wild world, pristine, true, and fair,
isn't guaranteed to always be there.
So it’s up to us to protect and care
and preach to all of the Thorofare.


Justin Alexandre from NOLS Photo courtesy of Justin Alexandre.


Justin Alexandre is an avid adventurer and photographer living in Lander, Wyoming. Originally from Massachusetts, Justin moved to Lander in 2013 to work as the Student Services Representative for the NOLS Wilderness Medicine. He is a graduate of NOLS OECW 6/8/2015 (Outdoor Educator Course).

Do you have any poems, stories, photo journals, etc. from your course or adventures around that world that you would like to share on the NOLS Blog? Email with your ideas!

Interested in learning how you can get into the wilds of the Absarokas? Take a look at a course at NOLS Rocky Mountain.

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