Getting to know … J.T. Thompson | VailDaily.com
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Getting to know … J.T. Thompson

Ruth Moon
Dominique TaylorJ.T. Thompson from the Bag and Pack in Vail enjoys the outdoors so much he says he tries to get out camping every weekend.
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J.T. Thompson, owner of the Bag and Pack shop in Vail and Avon, has been in the valley for around 30 years. He headed out west after graduating from college in Maryland; his plan was to train as a wildfire fighter in Montana, but he got sidetracked in Vail and never left. The 55-year-old originally lived in East Vail, but has migrated west as the town has grown, and now lives in Eagle. Thompson has taken backpacking trips in the Himalayas, Alaska, the Yukon and around Colorado, and taught at a mountaineering school in the valley in the early ’80s. The Vail Trail got the chance to talk with J.T. recently about his adventures in the outdoors.

It’s so big. You come in from different directions, and when you do that it just takes on a whole new look. I have a huge amount of respect for McKinley ” it can be very challenging; it can be very dangerous, and the weather can make or break the trip for you … I mean to wake up, to go outside at night, check the weather, see the aurora borealis on fire, it’s just ” what else do you need? That does it. If you summit, great; if you don’t, you’re still having a great time playing cards in the tent.

It’s just such a great feeling. … Most people go on vacation and they go to a beach and they read a book and they get waited on and it’s like they never really got out of a mode that they’re accustomed to. And yet when you go climb, from the minute the sun comes up to the minute it goes down your head is so full of logistics and doing things and making sure you’re not forgetting anything along the way, carrying camps, moving gear, placing equipment, that you realize after a two to four week climbing trip you haven’t thought about any of this stuff in a while. That’s clearing your head.

Twenty-four years. That’s a long time ” we probably overstayed our welcome … I needed a job, and there really wasn’t an outdoor store per se here. It’s what I loved, so it was kind of a natural ‘let’s start it.’

Back in the 80s, just to find a lease was tough. There wasn’t much available, and so we found a space that was available, we grabbed it and it was like, what are we going to do now? And this is what evolved out of that.

There will always be mountains I want to climb. I don’t think I’m going to pursue that too much any more … I did Kilimanjaro with one of my sons when he was 13, and I think that’s what it would revolve around, is if my kids want to keep hiking up to the top of a few peaks, we would definitely do that. As far as technical climbing … I don’t know if I can muster myself to do more.

>> Want to see someone profiled in our Getting to Know feature? E-mail editor@vailtrail.com, or call (970) 748-0049.


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