"I dream of a hard and brutal mysticism in which the naked self merges with the nonhuman world and somehow survives...Paradox and bedrock."-Edward Abbey

24 July 2012


The thing I like most about the trail, despite the blue markers, is how not used it is. As I tread past overgrown places along the path in the summer, I can almost believe I'm the only biped whose walked this way or that in years, if not centuries. In winter, the only hominid foot prints are the ones from my boots on a previous walkabout.

But, perhaps it's just my delusion; I know I've told a few trekkers how to find the trail, and why it's one of my favorites. Sabina and my daughter have wandered it with me, as well as one of my close friends and my sister and whitie. Although, most of the time, it's a walk in the woods, it follows the canyon just above the narrow gage's tracks. During the summer, the train's whistle can break the silence with a start. There are the places on can catch glimpse of the Road.

Despite that, it is amongst my favorite trails, and most assuredly within walking distance of the house. For the most part, a nature hike, but there are one or two mines ruins along the way to remind me of the previous passings of Man. I am acquainted with its twists and turns, and know its secret passages to the Argentine if I am so inclined.

There is an overlook, which takes in the canyon; the train tracks, the river, the Road, and the rest of the valley around it. I sometimes look down as I munch on my apple. Most of the time, I watch the sky, that brilliant turquoise blue, observing the thunderheads drifting by like coiling Chinese dragons. My eyes will track west, toward Mount Sniktau, to the Roof of the World, the the summit of my personal Kilimanjaro. There, I meditatively listen to rhythms and rhymes of the cosmos on the mountain breezes, the whole time musing where I might go exploring next.

21 July 2012

Read Backflash

It's been a long time since someone looked at me like that; her pale blue eyes moving side to side, as if reading a book. The facial features were similar and her hair, though spun-gold honey blond, was just as curly. When we made eye contact, I found myself taken back to that one summer, that one month. I confess to conflicted emotions, but perhaps that has to do with something that was said into the either recently and then was attempted to be erased.

Really think I wouldn't see? I do not forget these things. One should know better.

There was the bittersweetness; remembering the afternoons in the French restaurant over mussels or that night when Lovecraft was read in the manner of a lullaby. There was the resentment; remembering how it ended confusingly, the asinine French-film complicated games, which were played in the after-ash. There was the acceptance; knowing that one month was quite wonderful, but, it would seem, that was all that was to be allotted, and where I am now is light years-geographically and mentally-from where I was that one summer.

The interaction lasted but a heartbeat, and she was gone, leaving me with memories and a dysfunctional tale to tell. It was queer being looked at like that again; her pale blue moving side to side as if reading a book. In the after-ash, I find myself left one lingering question; what exactly was she reading as she looked at me?

19 July 2012

About the Queen and the Princess...

Back then; all hail the vampire queen!

Back during that summer, the night would almost always start the same; I'd meet Lee at the shop where he worked with a bag of take-out Chinese from across the street, sometimes getting a tattoo or a touch-up out of the deal. After he closed up, we'd go back to his place so he could change clothes. I would harass him he worried more about his appearance at the juke joint than most women and he'd remind me it had been some years since I'd known the touch of a woman, period, whereas he might've gotten laid, twice, the previous night. Once finished, we'd stuff my pockets with bottles of cheap Mexican beer and head out across the Hill to the vampire den.

It was great being twenty-nine years old in the city...

Lee knew the guy at the door and had slept with at least one of the bartenders, so we never had to worry about cover. The song Shake the Disease from Depeche Mode seemed to always be starting up as soon as we walked in, followed by either Indigo Eyes or All Night Long from Peter Murphy. I found this fantastic, or, at least, interesting, our time of arrival and the timing of the DJ's set. Lee would dart for the bar for our first round and I would light up a pensive cigarette and head into main room to assess the crowds and scope out my perches for a night of monkey watching.

That particular night, we were on a mission; five nights before, Lee had introduced me to a girl that I didn't want to strangle within the first few heartbeats of interaction. In fact, at the time, I wanted this girl to take me home and read me Nietzsche. The kicker was I did not copy down her phone number right, and was unable to get in touch with her to even ask her out for a film and an ice cream cone. If this would've happened to anyone else, I might have found it funny, but it didn't. This happened to me, and it simply would not do. I was playing odds between Lee knowing pretty well everyone in the vampire caste, the rotation of nights at the gin and juke joints, and strange luck that I might see her again. I at least wanted to apologize for not phoning, what with having been raised with manners.

Lee was talking to some vampires at the bar with two beers in his hand, and two tumblers of whiskey on a nearby table. I retrieved my beer and whiskey with an inclination of my head. Out of the corner of my eye I saw her; not the girl I was looking for, but someone who definitely had a certain bearing to her. Her two-tone hair was a combination of silvery blond and swirls of black stripes that got me to think of the coat of a zebra. A crass and vulgar man might've noticed how...flatteringly...her corset hugged her frame, but being neither crass nor vulgar, I noticed her big iridescent doe eyes, which glittered like abalone shells in the half-light. There was something rather regal about how she brought her clove cigarette to her lips.

"Hello, my pretty," I whispered to myself. "Ain't you about striking?"

It wasn't love at first sight. Nor lust. But I approached her. It'd been a few weeks since I'd had a clove and it never hurt to ask. Vampires could be fairly giving of those little Indonesian death-sticks.

"Can I get one of those?" I asked her, offering her two of my 'Merican Spirits. The gutter-punk rate of exchange; two regular fags for every one clove.

"Sure," she said. "But I don't smoke regular cigarettes."

"Thank you, Ma'am," I said, taking my newly acquired clove and lighting it. "You saved me two cigarettes for later. Kai pei."

I said something to her boyfriend, a barrel-chested man in a Motley Crue t-shirt, but he blew me off. A gothic aristocrat, a vampire snob. I was not impressed to rocket science, an opinion that never really changed over the years. In fact, only soured further as time went on. With a shrug, I ventured back into the main room to continue my fruitless search and do a spot of monkey watching.

My most vivid memory of that night, aside from the girl I bummed the clove from, was when another Peter Murphy song, I'll Fall with Your Knife, came on. The dance floor was packed and beheld simple smiles of bliss to the tune, to the heat of the night and comradery, to the moment. I'm a sucker for those moments of pure and simple humanity. It gets me to smile, to almost have hope for the species. Almost.

The world has gone around the sun ten times since that night, and I still smile longingly at the the opening notes of that Peter Murphy song...

The jewel-eyed girl had once dated Sabina's musician x, that barrel-chested bass player of a local band of some repute. At the juke joint, I could set my watch to their arguments, and yet they were one of the couples, even if it was all about facades. Being one of the popular kids, I would refer to Sabina as the vampire queen, sometimes, even to her face.

It was nearly a year and half from that first night I bummed a clove from that we really talked. It was shortly after my grandmother died, and she expressed sympathies for someone she never met and would never know, but I was still comforted. Of course, it was when we were both dancing with the dead for money that our acquaintance began to grow. We even had a death-pact at that place, but that's another story. First, it started out as a friendship with some unintentional challenges, but some indeterminable time later morphed to something else entirely, which Sabina will say is all my fault because once I innocently, wholesomely, threatened to stab her in the gallbladder.

Never mind that she's the one who started it...

I had mentioned to her working up the escape velocity to leave the vampire caste, or at least go on sabbatical. Sabina encouraged this under the auspice of Jibril having died, moving on to something new, and whisper games of Machiavellian drama some of our x's would play. Up in the mountains, in a stretch of landscape we came to know as our Kashmir, nestled within our own Sahel, when I mentioned wanting to move there, she was right there with me, being as tenacious about putting the greater metroplex behind us, and starting a new life.

Once, before much of anything happened between us, I dreamt of the two of us living out in the badlands, a place that looked a lot like my parents' house, in fact. In the dream, I asked her if she wanted to go to the juke joint and she said she'd think about it. The night I confessed this nocturnal hallucination to her might've been the first night she ended up in my bed, despite my efforts to stop her. Years later, having just moved to the mountains, but visiting my parents out in the Rub 'al Khali, I thanked her for moving to a never-never with me, but also that it wasn't those badlands out in eastern Colorado.

Depending on the day and my bent of superstition upon the sanctity of dreams, I might call that all a vision...

I could rhetorically ask if anyone else would've been crazy or strong enough to make such leaps with me, but I already know the answer. No one else could've been because it could only be her. She was the only one who could read me ancient love poetry whilst the Misfits sang Die! Die! My Darling. It was her actions and reactions to the factors at hand. That's just the way of it.

Ten years from that night with the bummed clove and the moment of pure and simple humanity with Peter Murphy as backbeat, and I have a hard time remembering why I found cigarettes so interesting, let alone urban living. It was another time. A past life, not the present one.

The vampire queen is pretty far from being vampiric these days. She'd probably punch me in the neck, or at least say something sponsored by the letter fuck if I called her that now, and I'd not blame her, much. Although, she never minds it when I refer to her as my mountain princess. Strange.

Of course me and royalty of any kind often get on like oil and water, thus adding to queerness of how I pulled this off without drugs or torture...

Years and lifetimes later, she still puts up with my aberrant paradoxically misanthropic ass. Sometimes she suggests a walkabout before I do. When that  happens, as with thousands of small things, I catch myself smiling  inwardly. Most cats, if they say they're embonded to someone from a past life mean something flaky and ridiculous like Atlantis. Hypocritically, I can say I met Sabina in a past life and she's stuck with me through the innumerable psychic incarnations since and I'd be honest about it. Perhaps that means something. It could mean nothing. In any case, I can say for us, because there's always been a sense of balance, it's worked both ways.

 These days; the mountain princess, a blurred photograph of the elusive wild Sabina in her native habitat...roar...

18 July 2012

A Tuesday in the Life

Back when I was younger and omniscient, the idea of being tied to professional obligations on the weekends was abhorrent. That's when all the cool things were happening; the big-name bands, the important parties. Even if I was never one of the cool kids, I may have wanted a small scavenger's piece of that action.

What a fool I used to be...

Older now, perhaps not as wise as I was during my youthful omniscience, I have come to embrace the divinity of the free weekday. If nothing else, my misanthropy digs it; less mutherfuckingmonkeys. These days, the very idea of a weekend free equates to a marrying, a burying, or sheer lunacy, because who would do that shit willingly?

I should qualify that once, long ago, Sabina, in wanting to be accepting of my solitary tendencies, told me if I ever needed me time to let her know. This was refreshing from previous relationships where I had to sometimes say something along the lines of; I'm disappearing for a bit, don't try to fucking find me. That stated, I look forward to Tuesday. That's my day. The only company I have, if I so desire, are the quadrupeds we share the house with. Tuesday is my favorite day of the week.

Let me tell you about one...

It was dawn when the hounds let me know going outside might be a nice idea, so half-asleep, barely conscious, I opened the front door. It was five minutes of bardo between awake and dreamtime before I stumbled back to bed for another few hours, rising shortly after Sabina. It was then I fed the hounds and brewed us coffee whilst examining breakfast prospects. Sabina had an early brunch at the Tibetan place before her obligations, so a frittata was right out. It would just have to be some eggs and grains.

My own agenda included a quick bit of mowing, then a ride up to the trail heads for lower parking of Grizzly and the fourteeners as well as the BLT, five miles up valley. There was really no reason to do this other than the exercise and the fact Sabina and I had been on walkabout a couple of days before. Part of me began to reconsider the whole affair.

"You don't have to prove anything to anyone but yourself," Sabina said when I confessed my second thoughts. Words of encouragement.

I have mentioned it was the more athletic and popular castes that comprised the bulk of the si lai nan jen who so fucked with me growing up. That's why I have taken umbrage to being accused of being athletic, and why I maintain, sometimes quite vehemently, that I've not a competitive bone in my body. Those were aspects of those I hated.

So it begs the question; why do this to myself? Why ride five miles uphill, some of which is steep grade? Am I trying to prove something?

Not long ago, I told Miguel Loco that in living to one-hundred twenty-at the least-I needed to make myself impervious to such trivialities as pain and exhaustion. I suppose it's as good a rationalization as any. It's not very likely I'll ever encounter one of those si lai nan jen who called me wimpy way back when to tell them what I can do in the name of endurance, and I got over the idea of retribution toward those cats a very long time ago.   

There comes a point when stopping, even to catch a breath or have some water, means defeat. Whether it's on walkabout or riding my bicycle, I get to that point where the place I'm trying to reach is just a little further. Hang in there, you'll make it. I promise myself water and a few minutes of rest when I get there.

When I reached the trail heads, part of me contemplated going up the BLT a bit. The grade is not as steep, and it's only five miles to road that leads to Loveland Pass. With a big swig of water I resolved the day I would do that was not the one I was in the middle of. Instead, I decided on riding seven miles down valley to treat myself to something at the Buzz. The two miles back uphill after the fact would be gravy.

It was early afternoon when I got home, with a belly full of beef hot dog and a sense of accomplishment. I've sometimes doubted my physical strength. However, between my walkabouts and the riding I've been doing since summer kicked in, I'm fairly confident in my stamina. Perhaps that's arrogant of me, but I have a hard time feeling bad about it.

Amid warm mountain sunlight patchworked by towering cottonball thunderheads, I headed out back with the hounds, Edward Abbey's One Life at a Time, Please and a mug of gunpowder tea. It was relaxing, which I felt I deserved after my ride. Deep into an essay, I heard a commotion next door.

We all looked up to behold something large and mahogany; a moose. It was fantastic and Northern Exposure all at once. In our Sahel, our funky little mountain town is sometimes referred to as the Colorado version of that show. However, I had three herd dogs in my presence. Chevy is so arthritic he cannot move fast anymore, which is sad, but Milarepa is young and spazzy, bordering upon feral at times, and Whistler, the eldest, embodies the concept of active senior. Quickly, I got everyone inside, by which time the moose was chewing on aspen leaves near our folly.

For the next few hours, this was big doings. Yes, there's a moose down on Rue Maji. A cow, probably a two year old. Yes, it's behind the House of Owls and Bats. Apparently, Grey asked if he could call her Simone. No shit. Oh, she's run across street for the river and the willows? Well, that's cool. It's neat to see one around.

The excitement of a small mountain town. In a past life, I dealt with big city excitement, and a sampling of the local wildlife being out back of my house is a far less traumatic proposition. So it goes.

I am a sucker for sunsets, but maybe I just suck. The one I beheld, the sky turning shades of gold, flame, and pastel whilst a thunderstorm raged up Guanella, toward the ruins of Waldorf, was spectacular. Whilst working on a dinner of chickpea, chorizo, and chicken paella, I would step out to watch the fading daylight. I remembered back to a certain sunset back in the greater metroplex in which the twilight reflected majestically across the face of an all-glass monolith. That particular sunset reminded me after years of forgetting, how much I enjoyed watching the day slough its skin into night. I've not allowed myself to forget since.

Folk music was blaring when Sabina got home. I attempted to explain that, if you think about it, cats like Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Bob Dylan were edgy and aware and punk rock long before punk rock was even a musical twinkle in Joe Strummer's eye. Just like old blues like Robert Johnson and Son House, or reggae like Peter Tosh or the sainted Bob Marley. She just shook her head, something about of course I'd come up with a tangent like that. Queer.

After dinner and the cleaning of dishes, Sabina fixed us dessert. I fought to stay conscious on the couch. We talked about a roadtrip to Leadville the next day. Maybe even Tibetan for lunch. Our next big adventure. I caught myself excited about the prospect. After all, I could used the rest.

16 July 2012

100 Words; Milk and Honey

By the grin on Miguel Loco's face you'd think he was a wide-eyed whelp on Christmas Day. His shoppe was packed with lookie-loos and serious propositions. Outside, the streets were packed; eking, scratching, half-bald monkeys throbbing and pulsing like army ants.

The trail was crowded, but the tundra was striking in the late afternoon sun of high summer. Our last push to the upper lake was worth it, the best part. We got free glasses of wine upon our return. Miguel Loco grinned with whimsiy when we told our tale.

"This is the high season," he said. "Milk and honey."

08 July 2012

Trail Macabre

Sabina has a certain knack for memorizing license plates. My daughter wants to climb the fourteeners before her ultimate mountaineering goal of summiting Denali. Due to a string of tragedies, both personal and observed from a distance, over the recent years, my belief and tolerance of the fantastical has become less embracing, instead favoring chaos. All three of us go on walkabouts, and quite often.

All of these little incidentals have a part to play in this story...

The silver sedan was unremarkable, something you would see anywhere. Seeing it at the trail-head did not really register. We noticed it along with a host of other vehicles at the summer lot. It was a good day for a walkabout, which Sabina, my daughter, and I took full advantage of. We went, had our adventure, encountering a few other trekkers along the way, and then headed back. The sedan was still there.

"There are some campsites around here," Sabina remarked to my daughter. "Chances are, if we looked, we'd probably see a tent."

Our dinner conversation drifted toward my daughter's desire to climb the fourteeners. I think her mountaineering interest might ultimate turn her toward Nepal, which she has an affinity for, not unlike mine for Africa. There was a particular peak that she and Sabina wanted to research whilst I was doing dishes. I was outside covering the grill when I heard Sabina all but screaming my name.

"That silver car," she began, and she recited the license plate. "Does that sound right?"

"I'm pretty sure," I said. "Especially the last three letters."

"Fuck!" She exclaimed. "Thanks."

And she quickly marched back into the house, leaving me a little confused. I merely shrugged and went back to covering the grill. The other dishes were done and there was a glass of after-dinner wine waiting for me. I was tired from the eight mile roundtrip walkabout. Whatever Sabina was on about didn't register.

I came into the parlor to the sight of my girls riveted to the 'puter. On the screen was a page set up to find a hiker who had gone missing three days before. Sabina was furiously typing in a message;

We believe we saw his car...

"Tell me you're fucking with me," I said.

"We came across the link at the fourteener's site," Sabina said. "I don't know why, but I clicked on it, and, sonuvabitch, if they didn't have a description of his car and it's the same one we saw up there."

"It's just creepy," my daughter put in. "I don't know if I'm going to be able to sleep."

Within an hour of Sabina's message, she received correspondence from a family member, giving a phone number and imploring her to call. They chatted for just a few minutes, but Sabina explained her quirk of remembering license plates, numbers in general, and it was enough to prompt other family members to drive at high speed into our Sahel to the trail-head she named. An hour and a half later, she received another phone call, confirming it was the missing hiker's vehicle. Sabina was thanked over and over, and called an angel.

"I don't have a good feeling about this," she confessed.

"Living in the hills long enough, hiking like we do, something like this is bound to happen," my daughter mused.

She was right; a few years before, whilst hiking the Bull's Head, we were in proximity to where woman had overdosed herself. The body was recovered a day or two after our walkabout. Her vehicle had been parked by the cantina for a week.

The next morning, a search was organized at the trail-head. Within a few hours, the body was found. Suicide. He had been dead at least three days.

Since then, Sabina has received correspondence from friends and family members of the deceased, thanking her. Stories of prayers and fasting and how this stranger up the mountains with knack for remembering license plates was nothing short of angelic. She's taken this a little hard, because he was still dead, so there's so little to be thanked for. All the same, she wonders if perhaps something didn't guide her to click on that link when she and my daughter were researching the fourteeners.

I mention the roll of the bones chaos. It was a matter of odds that we were there on that day, and noticed what we did. Sabina once compiled coroner notes of flood victims, we both danced with the dead for money once upon a time, and she's got an interest in cemeteries, thus, showing a certain sense of morbidity. Between Miguel Loco and myself, she's heard a fair amount of stupid hiker stories, which leads to schadenfreude. Add this to the alchemy of the fourteener research and being instilled with something humans made up to maintain pack order, commonly called morality, upon the realization this was happening in our here and now, and there it is; a set of random factors all coalescing at the same time. Chaos, nothing more, although perhaps fantastic in its own rite.

Despite the macabre, I still suggest that trail to hikers because it is an amazing trek. I will do that walkabout again. An acquaintance of ours, slightly flaky new-agey in her countenance, told me we shouldn't let that person's unhappiness taint our enjoyment of the bush, and she's right. We still go to the Bull's Head, even though it's milk run of a walkabout compared to what we usually do.

I have mentioned the Confirmation Bias before. Simply put, as a species that seeks patterns to cope with the chaos that permeates the cosmos, we find facts to fit our particular world view. One example I came across was that political pundits are not listened to because they might be right, but because they validate a certain set of opinions. What happened to us in the outback shows this theory in all its glory; a family and set of friends who believe someone was guided by the hand of a god, and someone who thinks it was all pure roll of the bones chaos made manifest. It probably doesn't matter which is right, just choose your superstition.

06 July 2012


Rain has come to the mountains. Dark clouds and a dragon's roar of thunder and the sky opens up. It rains like Africa, like Borneo, like Brazil, and London and all those other places where slate-skies are the norm. The air has become heavy with the taste of moisture. After heat and dry and fire, there is wet and cool and flash floods and mudslides. The sliding scale of paradoxical balance. Were one to anthropomorphize, it would be irrefutable truth of a maniacal humor inherent in the universe.

The ground, once dessicated, no longer seems to scream-whether in pain or joy is conjecture-when the rain comes. Now, it greedily slurps at the water falling from the sky, drunkenly allowing excesses to puddle up. Once more, there is mud and rainbows and the peaks become mist-shrouded. The rides in the rain intimately acquaint me with the Gore-Tex of my hardshell and the rain-fly on my pack. Two innovations I am grateful for.

"Does it always rain like this?" We were asked.

"Sometimes, it rains harder," I replied with a shrug that was meant to answer everything. "And, these days, we are grateful for every drop."

"Did you see the locos out there dancing in glee?" The matron put in.

"We were getting ready to sacrifice a chicken for this," I added. When I off-handedly remarked about hoping not to get caught in a deluge on my way back up-valley, the matron smirked in my direction.

"You're the one who chose to ride your bike all summer," she said.

And all I could do was acknowledge the obviousness of the truth. I am either that hardcore or that stupid. Take your pick, though it's probably a little of both. This is part of the price; and all things for a price is the very nature of the deal. Only the cheap things get purchased with folding paper and jingling coins. Sometimes the penance is blood and karma, sometimes it's bicycling up the hill in a monsoon downpour.

Despite these gully-washing deluges, I am not naive enough to believe this will alleviate the fire danger. If we're lucky, the fire ban will drop to stage one, instead the stage two it's been at since half the state caught fire. It's queerly comforting to hear of floods and mudslides and heavy rains instead of thousands of acres being devoured by rampant flames.

Meteorological prophecy foretells of another few days before the jetstream slips to a drier and warmer pattern, thus perhaps making the monsoon fleeting. A lesson in impermanence. But before that, I watch it rain like Africa, like Borneo, like Brazil and London and all those other places where slate-skies are the norm, allowing the presence of moisture to seep in past the skin and marrow. Water is the most precious of substances, after all. Aman iman as it is said in Tamashek, which means; water is life. I might be a heretical bastard who doesn't believe in much, but, here and now, you better believe I'm thanking the Divine for every drop that falls from the sky.    

03 July 2012


The first epic walkabout of the summer was up Grizzly, in the shadow of two of the nearby fourteeners. Here, beyond the mine ruins and four by four tracks we wandered out into the outback, the Backcountry, the wilderness. A realm of profound silences and unspoiled expanse.

I told my daughter that philosophically I am still very much a Buddhist, despite the heresies. Yet, as the years in mountains and the distance of the walkabouts increase, I find my theology, if it can even be called that, more in line with that of John Muir and Edward Abbey. Their writings becoming more gospels than the sutras. And I quoted from the book of Desert Solitare;

"I dream of a hard and brutal mysticism in which the naked self merges with the nonhuman world and somehow survives...Paradox and bedrock."

"You're just crazy-scary mountain man, Dad," my daughter said. "But you've been everything at one point or another."

"Crazy?!? Me?!? My dear, I'm amongst the sanest cats I know," I said. My daughter just smirked and patted my shoulder.

"Of course you are."

Both the mountains and deserts fascinate me; both environments being portraits of extremes. It is within the high bosom of a great mountain chain I have found home and myriads of adventure. Although, I ache for the lifespan of a star, so I may explore both landscapes throughly, and then perhaps the rest of the cosmos. I told Sabina's mother once I was going to live to at least one-hundred twenty, and then seeing about going beyond that.

So far, so good...

I promised Sabina an exploration of ruins we spied along our trek if we could spend some time in gulch at the foot of the great peaks. Despite my archaeological intrigues, I find when I go on walkabout, I prefer to Hansel and Gretel amongst the wildflowers and rocks and aspens. She likes the ruins and has several books on the subject. The mining history of our Sahel fascinates her, which is almost comical, given my position on the board of our local historical society.

"You two monkeys just wanted to go climbing," Sabina teased when she caught my daughter and I scrabbling up a rock face, Whistler whining plaintively after us because he could not follow.

"And?" I called back to her, as though that answered everything. Perhaps it did.

I perched in the sun on top of the great rock, spying thousands of potential campsites and places to explore in that stretch of borderlands between the tundra and montane. The scope of the sky was humbling and the landscape seductive. These days, the outback of the Backcountry are my badlands, which are quite different from the ones I cut my teeth upon down below, and somewhere I have no desperate desire to escape from. Here, the Divine speaks in incorporeal voices with the tongues of the wind and rain, raven and rock, pika and river, tree and snow. If you listen, you can hear these whispered riddles that can take lifetimes to solve, but are never fully answered.

True to my word, we explored ruins that appeared to be from a more recent era than the antiquity of the mining days. Perhaps a half-century or a little more. Still, Sabina and my daughter clambered about every abandon structure the could reach, Sabina telling my daughter what various pieces of equipment were for. There was talk of looking up the mine's history in a borrowed book for further details. In the meantime, Whistler and I followed the course of a river, finding flat places to relax.

Epic walkabouts mean epic meals; grilled leg of lamb and potatoes. Wine and recounting the day. Loose talk of the next great adventure. That good kind of sore and exhaustion that comes with epic miles of wandering and exploration. It reminds you that you are, indeed, alive, which is always a wonderful sensation to have.