|Mike Colpo will be remembered as a champion of the wilderness|
|Monday, 12 December 2011 12:45|
Many of you have heard the sad news that Mike Colpo passed away unexpectedly this past week. This is the kind of tragic event that sharpens our intent to live each moment to its fullest. Most of us will meet few people as fit and energetic, accomplished in the skills of backcountry living or as passionate about protecting wild places as Mike. There are no words that can adequately capture the shock of this for us or any of his friends or family, but we still wish to honor Mike and let others know a little bit about the man we knew and why he was so special to us. Below are a few stories from NWP past and present that we wish to share that capture his spirit as we knew it.
Mike had a desk next to the NWP world headquarters for the many years we were stationed at the Patagonia building in Reno. One day early last spring, the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives introduced a bill that that attacked the Antiquities Act, the great 1906 conservation law that has afforded powers to U.S. presidents from Roosevelt onward to preserve some of our country's most impressive wild places. When that anti-Antiquities Act bill was introduced, we initially felt distraught and powerless to try and help tackle such a daunting, national issue. How could we, as a handful of Nevada Wilderness Project employees, help raise meaningful opposition to this horrible bill? Mike overheard our conversations on this topic and immediately agreed to reach out to the larger Patagonia customer base through Facebook. With his help, we reached 100,000 people instead of just 3,000, and more than tripled the number of people who came to our website to take action against this lousy bill! Public outcry from people around the country resulted in its defeat, and Mike threw the heft of Patagonia into the mix for us, something that made a tremendous difference.
Folks who know Mike no doubt knew he was a "foodie," and others can speak to the depth of his passion for this. On one backcountry ski trip with NWP staff and friends in the Schell Creek Range, in a cramped cabin after a long ski in, Mike was fresh off a plane from Chamonix. He had spent the past several months working for Patagonia in France. In the dim light of a crackling fire and in the dank smell of a cabin filled with sweaty people and wet gear, Mike hauled out some contraband–some of the stinkiest and best French cheese to have ever made its way to Nevada. His eyes gleamed and his smile was broad as he recounted his smuggling strategy to get it past Customs.
Mike saw and relished in the deep and often overlooked beauty of Nevada. He bristled at those who thumbed their noses at the state and her mountains. He was also restless in his pursuit of adventure in the Silver State and NWP was often the beneficiary of his creativity. He did the initial wilderness inventories for Wovoka , when we still called it Bald Mountain, in Lyon County and the Kern Mountains, including the Blue Mass area, in White Pine County on BIKE! (Read Mike’s firsthand account of the Kern Mountains adventure.) The former inventory led to several wild and capsized float trips down the east fork of the Walker River, a rare if not first descent. His second inventory resulted in a call to NWP from a bewildered Sheriff inquiring if Mike was missing, befuddled to find his car parked in a seemingly random location in rural Nevada. And though Mike had kindly left a note informing any potential reader that his ancient Subaru had nothing of value in it and that there was some cold beer in the creek to thank anyone for their effort and checking in on his car, neither worked. The beer was gone and the car had been broken into.
Mike's physical forays into wilderness are legendary. He skied, ran, backpacked and paddled into amazing nooks and crannies of Nevada (among so many other places). But he also made forays into activism that resulted in meaningful political and social support for these wild places he loved. He was quietly–though firmly–supportive and encouraging to all of us at NWP, and we will always be grateful and remember him for that.
It doesn't make it easier on anyone when such undeserved tragedy strikes. But we hope it is some comfort to Mike's family and friends that his was a life lived well and fully, and with a purposefulness and a passion that has left a lasting legacy on people he knew and the lands he loved to roam.
(We invite our NWP friends and readers to share your stories and memories of Mike and his Nevada adventures in wild places in the comments section.)