"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

07 August 2012


Taken a few years back from the front porch; the peak in question...

 Back during the halcyon antiquity of the mining days, the explorers, and prospectors, and settlers, which swarmed into these mountains like ravenous locusts to crops, named the mountain Sherman Mountain-not to be confused with the fourteener, Mount Sherman. Perhaps the first tribes, those exterminated and exiled in the name of greed and Manifest Destiny, had a name for it too, though I've yet to learn it. When I first started coming here and falling in love, the mountain captivated me, though I cannot rationally explain why; certainly, there are several other mountains throughout our Sahel, and I've never been, nor wanted to be, a mountaineer, scaling peaks for the junkie-rush of accomplishment.

But that one held my attention. Eventually, I beheld it, encrusted in diamond-white snow. It was then I decided I'd give it my own name, just because; Kilimanjaro. My personal Kilimanjaro, in fact. I decided this would be the one mountain I would summit, no matter what. 

Perhaps that's where the trouble started...


I have spoken about the divinity I find in Tuesdays. This one was especially special, I had made a mental date with a mountain, and, up until that day, only told Whistler about it. After all, I didn't think he'd go running his yap in tongues mere monkeys could comprehend. The last time I took Sabina toward my personal Kilimanjaro, she got frustrated because we were past any ruins and it just seemed like the walkabout was a steady uphill toward a snowfield that was nowhere near our goal. My daughter was down below registering for her final year of high school. Another adventuring companion of ours was probably off doing something else even more awesome, making my little trek seem amateurish, and, well, I'd made no mention of this to him, so it'd have been a little late to extend the invitation.   

When I told Sabina my scheme for the day, she expressed her trepidations; I was going into the outback with just a dog. It was later in the morning and we had still been getting the occasional afternoon thunderstorm, the last bits of fallout from the summer monsoons. I promised to watch the sky and otherwise not get myself killed, seeing as I have little time for such nonsense, and that was the absolute limit of it.

To reach the route up my personal Kilimanjaro, Whistler and I had to take the 730 trail. With it being Tuesday, we encountered one other hiker; a man from Minnesota, come out to scatter the ashes of his wife at the Clifford Griffin monument. I might not be romantic, but I found this very sweet, thinking of my father, and the scattering of my mother's ashes up by the ruins of Waldorf.

There is a chance I might be making it up to that spot this year, but that's a story that's yet to be told...

The 730 Mine itself sits along Brown's Gulch. Water cascades down from a thousand feet to the valley floor, joining the river. During the winter, ice climbers will scale those heights. Our course was to follow the gulch up a bit, though I resolved not to go as far as the snowfield, since it was ass to elbow to reach my goal. Experience taught me that.

The gulch though, in some ways, is an example of that silly feel-good saying; 'the journey's the destination'. Despite a rather steady uphill pitch, the sound of rushing water is relaxing and the views of the outback of our Sahel are impressive. Every time I've gone up that way it's been warm and there's been wildflowers to take in.

I reached a spot at which I figured I'd have the best of luck and spent the next hour bushwhacking; following possible runoff courses and bighorn sheep trails, relishing the few level spots I found. This was work. I could see the tundra, just past a tangle of krummholz, which looked like and amalgam of baobabs and bonsais. It was close, I just needed to keep going up.

Up. Past sun-bleached bones of sheep and the last visages of human passing. Up. Past the bones of trees, felled by lightning, avalanches, or just the passage of uncounted time on the mountainside.


At treeline, we stopped for water. To catch our breath. The view of the tundra, of so much for the outback of the upper part of the valley made it worth it. I looked up at the summit, not so far away now. Although there were cotton ball candy thunderheads in the sky, nothing had coalesced into anything menacing. I re-shouldered my pack and started on the last push.

"Here we go," I said over my shoulder to Whistler. "Tally-ho, muthafucka!"

It took a half hour. At the summit, it leveled out, and I almost ran the rest of the way. There was a wicked grin of joy on my face, and I caught myself almost giggling with child-like glee over what was happening.

I'm here. This is really happening. I made it...

The summit of my personal Kilimanjaro...

Looking east; although my crappy telephone camera does not show it, I could see flatlands, including the monoliths of downtown...

Looking west; two of the local fourteeners as well as the Roof of the World...

Looking downward; my house is down there, I could see it...

And, it case there was any doubt of us making it, the handsome devil there is Whistler...

We ate apples, dog food-well, Whistler did, almonds-that was all me, and drank more water. I wandered around a bit, letting the hot sun and cool breezes dry my sweat-soaked skin. Whistler took the time to catch a quick nap before we headed down.

Retrospectively, I wished I'd brought some prayer flags to leave upon the summit. Although, at twelve-thousand two-hundred eighty-two feet, I'd have been attaching them to a cairn, and I would've had to make one for the occasion. I'm sure disciples of Thoreau, Muir, and Abbey might say it was better I didn't leave anything. Perhaps my bow and namaste-choose your anthropomorphic superstition as to whether or not the mountain heard me, or even cared, about the action, of which I can find no rational for the act other than habit-was enough. I resolved I would do this again in a year. A pilgrimage of sorts, like my one to the Stupa. Although, thinking about it, it's hard to think which will be more holy in my heretical worldview.

Two hours down. Soaking my feet in the cold waters of Brown's Gulch at the ruins of the 730 Mine. Gunpowder tea and east African lentils upon arriving home. Whistler dropped into a coma and I found myself with words to purge.

I'm pretty sure a hardcore mountaineer would see my twelve-thousand foot accomplishment as a milk run. That's fine, I've  never been, nor wanted to be, a mountaineer, scaling peaks for the junkie-rush of accomplishment. Be that as it may, when I've looked out the parlor window, when I've stepped out on to the front porch and beheld my personal Kilimanjaro, I've caught myself feeling pretty fucking cool.

I don't think I need to tell the mountain I'll see its crown again next year. After all, I don't think it would, nor do I expect it to, answer me back. Still, I figure I'll keep the date if for no other reason than to take in those views again.       


  1. Totally, amazingly cool! Now every time you look up at that mountain, the connection will always be there.

    Oh, and Whistler? Tell Rob he did okay, too.

  2. Thank you. It was a rather spiritual experience.

  3. Congrats! I'm happy to hear you made it, though I never had any doubts. Whistler, however, I'm suprised he made it.

    So you're in good enough shape to hike up Audubon with me. ;)

    1. Thanx! Sometimes, i think Whsitler's in better shape than I am; my legs did not like me the next day.

      How high is Audubon?

  4. Wow! This is impressive! I can barely look at the elliptical on the patio, let alone think about trekking up a mountain.