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“I may not be where I want to be, but I'm thankful for not being where I used to be.”
– Habeeb Akanea  
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  Volume No. 17 Issue No. 11 November 2020  

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Bill Radford

  Avid outdoorsman savors and saves the trails
  By Bill Radford

   Larry Fariss grew up in a small community in southern Oregon. "An outdoors kind of existence," he said. "A lot of hiking and woodsmanship."
   
   That love of the outdoors has remained strong. One way he has been able to show — and share — that love has been as president of the Black Forest Trails Association. He left that post last month after 10 years, although he will remain active on the board; Rich Mock is now president.
   
   "It'll be good for the organization, Fariss said. "Change is good."
   
   The nonprofit BFTA describes its mission on its homepage at blackforesttrails.org: "to create a safe, legitimate, non-motorized, multi-use recreational trail system that connects Black Forest neighborhoods to each other and the El Paso County (Colorado Springs) Regional Trail System." Among other things, the group works with local residents and various government agencies to ensure area public trails are maintained and new trails are included in new development plans. In his last "President's Corner" in the BFTA newsletter, Fariss reflected on the group's accomplishments in the last decade, including the recent opening by the county of the Pineries Open Space.
   
   The association's membership ranges from 100 to 150; Fariss would love to see that number grow. "The bigger group you represent, the more the county listens," he said.
   
   "There are thousands of people who use the trails. I have a hard time understanding why they don't all join," he said, noting that membership is only $15 a year.
   
   It was the gridiron, not nature, that first drew Fariss to Colorado. He was recruited to play football at the U.S. Air Force Academy and once he got there, he found he "really liked the Air Force aspect of it."
   
   He graduated from the academy in 1975 and served on active duty for almost 30 years; his last years in the Air Force were spent back at the academy, including serving as director of athletic programs and commander of the Preparatory School.
   
   Upon retiring in 2004, he moved to Black Forest. He and his wife, Michelle, have three sons, including one who followed in his dad's footsteps and is in the Air Force, and five grandchildren.
   
   He and Michelle now live on the northern outskirts of Black Forest; they previously lived closer to the heart of the community, but theirs was among the roughly 500 homes consumed by the Black Forest fire.
   
   Their house "went up that very first evening," Fariss recalled. "We got out of there with a couple of cars and a few things, but not too much."
   
   They found their new home within a year or so, but also kept the old property — not to rebuild on it, but "to heal" the land. "It's still a nice piece of land," he said.
   
   If he is not out hiking, he might be out pedaling; he is both an avid hiker and avid cyclist. His epic bicycling trips include a trek across the country, from San Francisco to Boston. He also is a triathlete who has competed in the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii, which, of course, includes biking, running and swimming.
   
   He also hiked from Mexico to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail; he completed the 2,600 miles in chunks spread over five years. When he finished in 2010, there was still just "a modest amount of people" hitting the trail, but that was before Cheryl Strayed's book "Wild," and the subsequent movie with Reese Witherspoon, popularized it. Fariss said these days it is "pretty packed" –- but not this past summer, as it was essentially closed because of COVID-19.
   
   In September, Fariss completed another epic trek, hiking the Colorado Trail –- more than 560 miles of trail between Denver and Durango. He was part of a group of five guys, all in their 60s and 70s. He had intended to only hike a section, since he had a knee replacement scheduled at that time. "So I figured I would limp along for a while, but the knee responded so well I canceled the surgery and continued to the finish."
   
   The trail's website notes: “It passes through some of the most spectacular scenery in the Colorado Rockies.”
   
   "It's a great way to see Colorado," Fariss said .
  
Larry Fariss recently stepped down as president of the Black Forest Trails Association, but he will remain active with the group. Photo by Bill Radford
 
In August, Larry Farris hiked on the Colorado Trail; he is standing in front of San Luis Peak. Photo submitted
 
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