Pursuing the ultimate high

Durango author chronicles ‘dirtbags’ life in second book

Keywords: Book, Climbing,
Living the dirtbag lifestyle: Luke Mehall climbs No Take on the Flake at Indian Creek, Utah. Enlargephoto

Courtesy of Braden Gunem

Living the dirtbag lifestyle: Luke Mehall climbs No Take on the Flake at Indian Creek, Utah.

First there were the beatniks. Then came the hippies. Now, as elucidated in Durango author Luke Mehall’s writings, it’s the dirtbags.

Mehall, a simple-living rock and mountain climber, has released his second book, The Great American Dirtbags, and will discuss it and sign copies Tuesday at Maria’s Bookshop.

“For me, the dirtbag counterculture kind of follows that of the beatniks and the hippies,” Mehall said in a phone interview. “And for me, the next logical progression is the dirtbags.”

The dirtbags have a similar outlook on life as their predecessors – it’s a counterculture in which societal norms are rejected.

But there’s one major difference, Mehall said: “The ultimate high is exercise and experiences in the outdoors.”

Mehall moved to the West in 1999 and has been in Durango for about three years. He has a small publishing company, Benighted Publications, and runs The Climbing Zine. His first book was Climbing Out of Bed, and he has been published in Rock and Ice, Climbing and the Mountain Gazette. At night, he’s a manager at Zia Taqueria on north Main Avenue.

During our interview, he watched as his friend, who has been living in a van in Mehall’s front yard, got dressed and prepared to drive across the country. It’s the epitome of the dirtbag lifestyle.

“At its essence, a dirtbag lives in the dirt, out of a bag,” Mehall says in the introduction to Dirtbags. “She or he spends their days in the outdoors, engaged with some recreational activity, and works just enough to pay for the basic necessities of a dirtbag existence.”

Mehall said his book is a collection of short stories that complements his first book. It’s about everything from tying his first figure 8 to “really going through some depression issues, and not being super happy with my life in the Midwest,” then moving to Durango and scraping by.

Among his experiences were house-sitting, which included chasing sheep for an hour, and milking a goat.

Climbing Out of Bed was released in book form a year ago and was available first as an ebook two years ago.

johnp@durangoherald.com

The Great American Dirtbags is Luke Mehall’s second book. Enlargephoto

Courtesy of Luke Mehall

The Great American Dirtbags is Luke Mehall’s second book.