Be bold and accomplish great things! This saying by my father etched its way, as a heated sword, into my heart. These days I seem to always have multiple outdoor adventure projects I am working on or dreaming about professionally or personally. This need for adventure and discovery was fueled at a young age in the White and Green Mountain of New Hampshire and Vermont. My mother, my first outdoor role model, showed my brother and me the wilds of New England by foot, ski, rope, boat and bicycle, and my father furthered my passion for exploration through his use of athletic metaphors and training.One of my current personal projects is attempting to re-trace the footsteps of the 10th Mountain Division during WW2 as they ascended The Riva Ridge Operation and overtook the Germans at this strategically important location in southern Europe. This idea was spawned after I stumbled upon a book of WW2 battle sites along the Gothic Line in North Central Italy. Two years later and multiple trips into this area, while hiking and climbing in the Apuan Alps and Central Apennine Mountains, my fascination has only grown.
Adding fuel to the fire, last year two friends and I attempted to ski from Aspen to Vail (100 miles in 5 five days) in a single push using the huts of the 10th Mountain Division. The huts and the men they are named after inspire a number of backcountry skiers and this hallowed training ground is located only a few hours from my home in Colorado. Although high avalanche conditions caused us to reassess and modify our plans, the research and stories of the heroic soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division hit home. The icing on the cake was finding out that the only Medal of Honor recipient (John Magrath) from the 10th mountain division during the WW2 Italian campaign was born and raised less than 15 miles away from my childhood home in Norwalk, Connecticut. Here was a boy similar to myself that left the lowlands of southern Connecticut to tackle bigger mountains and goals far from our families and birth place.
I will go back to Italy this year to continue working on the project of ascending or descending the routes of the 86th, 87th, and 85th Mountain Infantry of the 10th Mountain Division. As with any journey, my project has expanded to fly fishing along the Lima River as it descends toward Bagni di Lucca from the Central Apennine Mountains. Nature has a way of acting as place of healing as it has done for me and fly fishing is one of the ways in which I re-connect to nature. I have talked with some local anglers and learned that the wildlife and fishery in this area healed itself. I now want to see first-hand how nature acts of source of strength and healing in light of sometimes great struggles, death and destruction, especially those that occurred in this area during the fierce battles of the 1940’s.
Written by Urban Conversion contributor, Joshua Baruch. April 2015
Other Articles written by Joshua Baruch: A Great American Invention – The National Park Service