Far Out Expeditions closed up shop about a year earlier than founder Vaughn Hadenfeldt had hoped to. Covid-19 and its effect on travel into the area was cited as a major part of Vaughns early departure from the business end of leading visitors to the archaeological sites of Canyon Country.
In a recent interview Vaugh said he opened Far Out Expeditions in 1990 managing to meld his education in Anthropology from Colorado State University with his love of mountaineering and climbing.
Prior to moving to Bluff, Vaughn and wife Marsha had an outfitters store in Colorado catering to those who wanted an adventure vacation when the niche was still new.. He was already pretty well established in Colorado when a friend suggested he check out Bluff. The die was cast. The move allowed for him use his climbing and guiding skills with his college studies to give his clients an experience and an eduction. And sometimes the other way around
It was a career that allowed him to brush up against giants in the field of archaeology guiding noted professors and writers into some of the most remote and pristine sites in North America. Expeditions to study and record these places put photos of Vaughn between the pages of National Geographic Magazine, landed him in more than a couple books on the area, and placed Far Out Expeditions in articles by writers featured in Conde Nast guides.
Vaughn reflected with a little hint of grateful wonder in his voice that he rarely had to advertise in his 30 year career in Bluff. Knowledge of the sites and a respect for the places he took clients gained him a reputation of being the guy to take you there.
That made it a lot easier to fill the days he would have been out on his own anyway, exploring the places he loved, but with paying customers.
Research on this piece turned up photos from The Wetherill Grand Gulch Project in 1989. Vaughn stands in the back row of a group photo, surrounded by other members of the project including Winston Hurst, then curator of the collection at Edge of the Cedars State Park in Blanding.
Hurst gave us a few minutes when we called asking about Vaughn. The dialogue started with a lot of silence as he worked to pare down what was probably volumes he could speak after their adventures together.
“A lot of guides dabbled in the business, but not one did I trust more or could depend on more. He was one of those guys who early on knew his bones, knew the country well, even before moving to Bluff he already knew the country very well. He had his priorities worked out from the beginning and never strayed from them. He made his living off the land and he had a humility you don’t often find in pro guides. He didn’t just guide, he educated those who went with him.” Hurst said.
Another archaeologist, Sally Cole, instituted field camps to research the Earthwatch Basketmaker Rock Art Project, another enormous undertaking. For at least 8 years those field camps were run by Vaughn.
His love of the area and ingrained obsession to protect the treasures it holds has him shaking his head. Even before Covid-19 created, as Vaughn likes to call them “Covid Refugees”, the word was out about this place.
Vaughn recalled a not so long ago trip with friends through Butler Wash. The inspiration for the Covid Refugee tag. “It looked like a refugee camp, not one empty space, and the trailheads packed with cars. Monarch Cave parking area filled, these were places that used to be way off the beaten path.”
“I believe I was the longest continuous permittee to lead tours in the region.” He said. “It has been a privilege to make my living for the last 20 years in this way. I know I will miss the human contact I had with some very special people, those that I would call passionate visitors.”
Now in retirement, Vaughn will be working with The Friends of Cedar Mesa. Leading by example and taking on the challenge. Working as a volunteer in the education effort to get our visitors to recreate responsibly, leave no trace and above all else visit with respect.
He says he’s no longer guiding, "But there is one thing for sure, I’m still out there walking”.