"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

26 December 2013

Backcountry Birthday

The night before we left we attended the services, which started once upon at time at midnight before people either got old or had kids and had since been moved to ten. There was afterward, a reception with high-octane eggnog-I stuck with Sri Lankan beer. Sabina took this opportunity to tell some of our neighbors who didn't already know about our upcoming trip. Even going as far as to quote bastardized football mantras;

"Twelve! Twenty-six! Fifty! Hut! Hut! Hut! Hike!"

I have resolved she perhaps never needs to have any of that high-octane eggnog ever again...

The service and our yearly pilgrimage to the Great Stupa our way of getting holy. At least in the institutional human construct. The older I get, I see it as more contrived and otherwise fake. A dog and pony show. It's when I get to walking, out in the bush, that I find the shit gets real.


The air was crisp and clean when we arrived at the trailhead. There was fresh snow and turquoise blue sky. Perfect for snowshoeing the two miles up a jeep road to our destination.

Although I can move at a good clip on my long shanks, I learned quickly, carrying our liquid; four and half liters of water, a bottle of wine, four twelve ounce cans of beer, and a three-hundred seventy-five milliliter bottle of spiced rum-gotta be prepared-that there's no hurry. A mile an hour is fine. I took the framepack's discipline-an estimated thirty pounds of weight total-in stride. It could be seen as training for a summer backpacking walkabout.

It took two hours to reach the cabin, whereupon we met some of our eighteen new friends, most of whom were skiers, although there were a couple of fellow snowshoers. We found a couple of beds, opened two of the beers, and settled in. There is something just so very right about arriving somewhere that has books both by and about Edward Abbey.

This is one of the more family-friendly huts and there were children. Whilst loud when playing, they weren't horrifically obnoxious. One was just fascinated with my trinkets.

"You have rings and bracelets and earrings and a nose ring," she observed.

"Yeh, and tattoos too," I said, pulling up a sleeve to show some ink. "Terrifying, ain't it?"

"Not really."

"My goal in life is to play as much as possible," one of our cabin-mates quipped when asked what he did.

A wise philosophy to have, and one I embrace as well. I like to be entertained. Part of it I could say is purely environmental; we live somewhere that playing outside is hardly kid's stuff or an occasional weekend hobby, it's a lifestyle choice. Nay, a sacrament.

For the duration of our stay, Sabina's name was birthday girl, and exhortations of merry Christmas were replaced with happy birthday. This was kind of cool. I suppose after you survive a half century you most assuredly earn that.

We slept fairly well for being in a strange place with well-worn pillows. Bacon, eggs, and mashed potatoes take on a special divinity when you're in the outback that language cannot properly describe. With the sun out and the air still at eleven-thousand two-hundred sixty-four feet, twenty above doesn't feel bad at all. I didn't bother with a shell when we set out.

One hour down. It was more the grade than the shedding of three-quarters of our liquid weight. We discussed returning to the cabin in summer to check it out in another season, when we'd deal with mountain bikers, jeepers, and fellow walkers. Both of us were beaming from the adventure.

"We did it!" The birthday girl exclaimed. "And we didn't get mauled by mountain goats!"

"I only saw one cougar up there," I said with a smirk.

"Oh, fuck off," she said somewhat flippantly, although I cannot fathom why. It wasn't like I was going to start humming Mrs Robinson to her. At least not straight away.

24 December 2013

In the Himalayan Mood

There's a bit of a Himalayan feel to the day. Not enough to justify my coveted final infusion's worth of black Nepali tea, but I certainly don't mind rocking the lapsang souchong. A little Nawang Khehog and Manose on the stereo, and I've got me a mood going. It's fantastic.

Soft flakes waft down from the clouds coiled across the high peaks. When out on walkabout-last minute snowshoe conditioning, of course-I was caught in a thirty minute blizzard. I read a meteorologist describing it as an angry inch of snow falling. In summer, we'd have called it a downpour of a gully-washer, depending upon one's geographical bent.

It's not supposed to snow much. Just enough to give a little fresh powder. Something extra for our snowshoe to Francie's Cabin for Sabina's birthday. Such a lucky girl.

It cost me a fortune...

I get my framepack as ready as I can for early the next morning. There is the matter of perishable foodstuffs and libations. Sabina said something about wanting to make herself a cake. I might be a little handy in the kitchen, but I never mastered the discipline of baking.

Outside is chilly and overcast with passing squalls of snow. Perfect for lapsang souchong tea and Himalayan folk music. Perfect for snowshoeing, and I should know. The next two days, those of our trek, are supposed to be sunny and mild. Bluebird days as some snowbums call it. I'm excited for our walkabout, and it's not even my birthday, just an adventure. One of many. Then again, the day I can't get even the slightest bit excited about a potential adventure is the day I check to see if bullets are edible.

22 December 2013


It was four years ago this past Tuesday that you went into the sickhouse and never came back out. You told me it wasn't your last rodeo and I spent longer than I'd like to admit being angry at you for unintentionally lying to me. Whenever I look up at the ridge of Leavenworth Mountain, toward the ruins of Waldorf on the other side of that ridge, where we scattered your immolated bones, I smile bittersweetly, thinking perhaps you're really not that far away after all.

When I saw her kneeling to snap a photograph, I saw you. Right down to the Carhartt ranch jacket. The same hair-before you got sick and the chemo shaved you bald-and the same smile. Even a similar lack of chin. I tried very hard not to stare.

With purposeful stride I put some distance between us. Once I rounded a corner, I caught myself trembling slightly. As with most any time I see a ghost of memory, I found myself rattled. There were so many things I wanted to ask and tell, but she wouldn't have understood. But part of me thinks I should be grateful for that doppelganger in the Carhartt ranch jacket that looked so disturbingly like you. If I allow myself a moment of superstition, I could theorize it was your way of letting me know you're really not that far away after all.

18 December 2013


The moon looked down like the unblinking eye of a detached and distant ancestor. Only the brightest of stars were visible. The river, almost completely covered by its icy carapace shimmered like liquid mercury. There was a low illumination given off by the reflecting snow that could best be described as mystical.

We walked up to the old gravel quarry on the west end of town, no headlamps needed. It wasn't terribly cold out. Although, I was a little disappointed we didn't partake of any spiced rum. Still, the company and walkabout itself was worth it. Then again, when isn't a walkabout worth it?

The moon looked on impassively, and, there was mystical comfort in that...

15 December 2013

Slumming Amongst the Glitterati

Back when I lived down below, when, during one of my urban walkabouts, I happened into a wealthier district, I’d say I was slumming. There are those who would say-quite baselessly, I might add-that I am paradoxical and otherwise contrary, which is a bunch of who shot john. See, I don’t have a contrary bone in my body. My daughter agrees, although, she went on to say I had two-hundred six such bones. Contemptuous fucking child.

She gets that from her mother…

It really wasn't my fault how I ended up slumming amongst some of the local glitterati. In fact, having just got home from obligations, I was beginning to contemplate a Sri Lankan beer. It was going to be pizza night at the House of Owls and Bats.

Then my phone buzzed. The message in a digital bottle was from a friend whom was at the holiday shin-dig for the Hamill House. Initially, she'd contacted Sabina, under the auspice of a girls night out playing pretty-pretty princesses, but Sabina had her own obligations she was still engaged in. So I was asked to be a date. Apparently there were snacks and a free! bar.

That's how I ended up at the historic mansion of a mine owner in the getup I normally reserve for marryings, buryings, and the summer melodrama. I'd dug out my Hungarian wool-cashmere blend overcoat, with a skull and crossbones pin on one lapel and my Scottish clan crest on the other and the multi-colored Doctor Who scarf the bruja made for me several birthdays ago. I'd told my date I'd be looking like a bohemian version of the help.

This event was put on by one of the historical groups. One of which is kissing-with tongue-cousins with the organization of which I receive my patronage from to bankroll my adventures and pay my mortgage. There's a certain sense of incest here-cue the banjos-because the memberships are to both groups and many of these cats are my volunteers. There's also my affiliation with my town's historical group and being on our museum board, not to mention living within a small aggregate of communities within a narrow rift-like valley in the mountains.

Despite my misanthropy, I know people...

It was queer to turn heads. I've never liked that kind of attention. Both the magistrate and matron gave me compliments. My date said she'd never seen me so dressed up, and I told her unless we were seeing someone to the altar or into the ground, she'd not see me that way again.

"You clean up really well," one of my acquaintances/volunteers said, taking in my raiment.

"What? This old thing? This rag I picked up off my closet floor?" I said. "I only wear this when I don't give a fuck what I look like."

I chuckled at her eye-roll, trying to think of when I give a fuck what I look like...

There were Christmas carols and the lighting of a tree in the grand old Victorian style. Mulled wine and a host of toasts. Moments of simple humanity, those moments, which I'm a sucker for, but maybe I just suck.

Sabina got a brief second to catch me in playing-dress-up-clothes when she first got home. I was all but cutting myself out of them in favor of some cotton Nepali-style cargo pants with Buddhist symbology on them, a Live t-shirt, and what I call my grandpa sweater. Quite soon I felt more at ease within my own skin instead of wanting to flay it off, playing dress-up does that to me, despite how well I can do it. I relaxed. There was pizza to make. The whole time, since when I'd received the initial invite, I had a Ministry song playing within the walls of my skull;

Albeit more rocking....

10 December 2013

Relative Balmy

The full implications of how cold it had been hit me around six-thirty in the morning when I was letting the hounds out, thus answering the gnawing metaphysical question of our time. There was no wind and my weather station stated it was positive sixteen out. I found this pleasant.

Of course, the day before, horrific gales lashed our Sahel at sustained speeds of between fifteen and twenty miles per hour. I'd rather not discuss the gusts. It was type of wind, which was that of icy talons and surgically sharpened blades; ripping and cutting through any kind of armor as though it was wet paper. The ambient air temperature hovered at a paltry eight or nine above, with a wind chill of minus ten to fifteen. There are very few times I might say it was miserable up here, but the day before was one of them.

The wind had turned the snow around the house into hardpack and I feared for conditions on the trails for a walkabout. Thankfully, it was not that bad as I started my snowshoe up Grizzly Gulch. There was a breeze, but the surrounding trees pretty much kept me shielded. I found myself comfortable in my gear, if not a little hot now and again, with the excursion.

Gray's and Torrey's were cloaked in phantasmal smoke-gray clouds and orographic snow. In the distance, I heard the roar of an avalanche, and deduced it was from the slope of Kelso Mountain along nearby Stevens Gulch. I hoped it wasn't human-caused, and, if it was, there was no one caught in it.

At home in the fading daylight, I took my tea on the porch, musing places for Sabina and I to snowshoe the next time the sun rose, whilst the hounds milled about. My weather station told me it was positive twenty-three and the high had been twenty-six. I sat back, taking in my tiny snow-covered world. It was so warm out I considered cracking open a beer out there on the porch and grilling for supper.

08 December 2013

Powdery Frolic

My personal Kilimanjaro, Brown, and Silver Plume Mountain respectively, as well town itself as seen from a ruin on the Argentine trail...

There are some righteous icicles hanging from the back of the house. It's been nearly a week since the mercury has risen above freezing, and for quite a few of those days, it's been sub-zero. This is something to be taken in stride, given the Roof of the World is but ten miles away, and it's winter. I have a down parka for just such events. 

I woke up to a light dusting of snow to add to ten inches we'd received from the previous storm. There were no obligations and I had a new set of snow pants to break in. It was with the most wicked grin of joy that, after a breakfast of Cambodian curried eggs, I grabbed my snowshoes.

The avalanche danger was just high enough to make a Backcountry walkabout unwise. Even and especially solo. The Argentine is close, as in walking distance, and on a north face. Not to mentioned rather heavily treed.

Of course, the trail is a whore, so there were already tracks. Although, I know enough hidden places along there that I could go frolic in the fresh powder. That was how I ended up at a particular ruin Sabina and I have stopped at before. The snow was shin-deep on me. Fantastic.

Ice crystals clung to my beard. I couldn't help but chuckle at that. All things considered, I was toasty, bordering on hot, from the trekking. There was that profound snowbound silence and the landscape transformed under the coat of winter.

I came down a back way and hopped down-valley to see Miguel Loco to tell him about conditions and have a mocha. He pressed me to go on longer excursions whilst I'm still in good shape and I told him this snowshoe was the first of conditioning runs for the upcoming hut trip. 

It's supposed to warm up in the coming days and there's no snow foretold for perhaps the next ten. At least that means the avi danger will decrease and I could perhaps do Grizzly or Watrous come Tuesday. This first snowshoe of the season filled me with joy, and I found myself reciting part of a Christmas carol as a mantra in context;

"Let it snow,
let it snow,
let it snow...."

And Om mani padme hum to that, muthafuckas...

03 December 2013

Those Old Honeymooners

Margot MacFadden had hair the color of polished copper and eyes that shown like brilliantly-cut emeralds. There was a light play of freckles across her face that resembled the mask of a badger. Even as she grew into adulthood there was something child-like and carefree in her manner. An ex of hers once postulated she belonged to one of the races whom dwelt beneath Fey Hill; some manner of pixie or sprite. Something she took as a compliment.

She was very proud of her Celtic ancestry. There were tales she could recite from memory, as if she had been there. Stories of battle against tyranny for the good Earth of her kin and adventures to brave new lands. Some of them may have been true, and, to her mind; all of them were.

Years later, her copper-colored locks teased her jawline and were striped with cords of pure silver. Sometimes she considered a dye-job to conceal the suggestion she might be aging. Her eyes still twinkled with youthful exuberance and the freckles still danced playfully across her older face.

She had been called a sexy grandma, which she took as a pleasing, albeit backhanded, compliment, having been born without a uterus. Never having the maternal pull, she did not regret not having children, and, there were plenty of the adopteds-never, ever, fosters-coming in and out, which she felt more like the occasional guide to than a parent. When asked, she could say with all honesty that satisfied her.


Counting almost to the day, it was thirty years since she first met Solomon Chance. That night, her world changed. It had been at a gallery opening and her lead-singer boyfriend was doing a set. Solomon had just come from living three years in Spain for no other reason than to live in Spain. In his wool jacket pocket was a book of Rumi’s poems-“I read it once a year, whether I need to or not,” he told her-he was drinking something dark and esoteric and was smoking a fat cigar, which smelled of hundred-dollar bills and a thousand places that didn’t exist. Margo would never admit it, but it was love at first sight. Doubly so after he shook her hand.

“You realize I’m going to marry you someday,” he said.

“My boyfriend’s with the band,” she shot back, trying not to let her electric arousal seep into her words.

“An obstacle,” Solomon said with a shrug. “Obstacles can be overcome.”

In their first encounters, Margot felt shame in her ancestral pride. She could speak of glory and battle, but those were tales of those who had come before. Solomon spoke of places he had been; the three years in Spain. Before that, travels through the Mediterranean, Middle East, and all through Africa. Those ten years backpacking all through south and east Asia, Australia, and South America because he did.

She remembered asking him why

“Because I wanted to,” he said without the slightest blush of arrogance. “Maybe I was looking for something, but I didn’t know what it was.”

He was fascinated by her ancestral tales. Having grown up on a Wyoming ranch, he didn’t know much of his family’s history beyond his great-grandparents. The fact Margot had family whom she could trace back centuries was of savage interest to him.

“You’re already established,” he said. “Me? I’ve got to make a name for myself.”

“With your last name? You won’t have to try too hard,” Margot teased with a wink of emerald.

A year and a half after they met, the lead-singer was gone. Five years later, they were a couple. Fabulous, some would say. Five years after that, as Solomon warned, they were married. It was on the Patagonian coast against the long-beached skeleton of a minke whale. Both agreed it was tragic in its romance. A wedding and funeral all in one.


She had been away on personal business. When she walked into the salon there was the usual mournful wailing of Hank Williams and the faces of people she knew. With a slight pixie-ish smile, she singled out a patron sitting at the bar.

These days, his hair was that of brushed steel, but his eyes were that of ball lightning. Those were the eyes that got her in the end. A gaze that could tell you a thousand secrets or slice you apart. Sometimes, he spoke more with a glance than with words. She found that fascinating to this day, some thirty years from that night in the gallery.

He was at the bar, hunched over a snifter of brandy and his book of Rumi’s poems-“I read it once a year, whether I need to or not”. She sat down next to him, her nails working their way into his hair. He seemed to scarcely notice, but she knew better.

“Hello, handsome,” she cooed. “What’re you reading?”

“It’s called a book,” he replied without a sidelong glance. “In some places in the world, these are the work of the Devil.”

“Devilish man,” she teased. “Can I get you another drink?”

“I didn’t miss you,” he said.

“I’d question you if you did,” she shot back.

His eyes shifted over her. She felt the electric current of his gaze. It told her everything. She smiled as the bartender walked up to them.

“Doing okay, Sol?”

“Another brandy, please,” he replied, and then motioned to Margot. “And something special for my date here. She says she’ll pay.”

“Martini?” The bartender inquired with a knowing wink.

“Oh, of course,” she replied, placing a kiss on Solomon’s cheek like it was their first date.

01 December 2013


Early winter continues apace. Meteorological prophecy speaks of a dusting between night and the next day. Mid-week, there's suppose to be a fairly decent storm. As I purge these words, it is the century anniversary of a particularly vicious blizzard. Apocrypha says that six-hundred vertical feet bellow was the location of the largest amount of snow to fall for one day anywhere in this part of the world, and that includes Alaska. 

I have come to the conclusion that, during winter, I want it either to snow a little every few days, or not at all. It's a matter of aesthetics. When there longer periods between the storms, the snow on the ground becomes crusty. Streaks of grime from the dust of passing vehicles and soot from fires tarnish the diamond countenance. It's really no mystery where the hounds have been and what they did at that location, and, the subsequent clean-up does not bring the snow back to pristine. Don't think I haven't tried.

Sometimes, I find it comical that I wish for just a little snow. Time was, I wished against it. That was a very long time ago.

It's one of those cool days between the storms. The sky above is that shade of turquoise, although, to the west, there is a rather definite line of white clouds. On occasion, the wind blows Tibetan off the Roof of the World. Perhaps a harbinger of things to come.

Sabina and I mean to drive to the summit of Guanella Pass for the last time this season before the county closes the gates, making the top only accessible on foot, by ski or snowshoe. We had discussed snowshoeing the Rosalie Trail a few days back, but that was before Sabina was downed by a twenty-four bout with what may have been malaria. As it stands, the drive is done for something to do and a way to celebrate her return to the lands of the living.

Here's to life...

We'll still take our gear, just in case. I keep my eyes to west, for the next storm. It'd be great to go snowshoeing today, but I know not to be upset if I don't. See, I've heard Watrous Gulch has some righteous snow, and Tuesday ain't but a few days off.   

24 November 2013

Base Coat

In terms of severity, it wasn't the worst storm, but it was serious enough to close the Road over a twenty mile stretch for a few hours. Ever notice there are never any comedic or ironic storms? Queer.

It was amateur day; those who felt invincible their four-by-fours and all-wheel drives, flatlanders who had only seen snow on television and le cinema screens, and those getting their snow legs on who were unfortunate enough to be in the way. It was something, which made my obligations border upon agonizing in terms of the perceived passage of time. That night, there was to be a shin-dig, but night seemed days away.

"What a lovely day out," the preservationist of my acquaintance said in reference to the portrait of diamond-dust and polished ivory accumulating upon the ground and playful squalls of snow dancing in the thin mountain air.

"Snowshoeing weather," I said. We both smiled. Almost every one I'm acquainted with knows of the scheme for Sabina's birthday and how anxious I am to get out there.

In the days following that storm, I've had travelers query me about places to go snowshoeing and conditions. I keep my envy in check, thinking of where I can go in the next few days, and advise them to become well-acquainted with the CAIC. Either that or I just send them over to Miguel Loco for advice.

The day before the flakes started to fly, whilst doing errands, Sabina observed snow-encrusted the shark-tooth countenance of Mount Sniktau. She waxed melancholy; three days prior, we lost the direct sunlight, marking the Long Dark and the start of our winter. There was lamentation for warmer times. I shot her a sidelong glance.

"Mi amore, with what we mean to do for your birthday, you best hope it dumps on us," I said.

She sighed in agreement and the conversation turned to this upcoming trek. Once more, we talked about our route and what to take. Still almost a month off and we've made the walkabout several times in our minds and discussions. It'll be interesting to see how the real thing plays out.

Ya'll might not know this about me, but I'm always up for an adventure...

And it looks like we've started to get a decent base coat. The landscape begins to change shape in variation to snow and temperature and wind. Every season is different, which is part of the magic of this place. I cast a glance toward my snowshoes, a simple one-word mantra rattling within the walls of my skull;


19 November 2013


We first met in a diner. I was using a set of Chinese medicine balls as stage-prop in what could be considered a lewd joke. You came back with one better. We spent the first half of the evening trading dirty jokes. I might have blushed once or twice whilst giggling guiltily, had all the capillaries in my face not been damaged by the ugly incident in Calcutta when I went toe-to-toe with that militant faction of Up with People, but that's another story.

I was twenty-one. A young, impressionable, philosophy and theology student who was probably far too impressed with my own intelligence. I kept talking about writing a book. Being published someday was my rockstar fantasy back then.

You were eleven years my senior. Already, you had worked a molybdenum mine outside of Leadville and been involved in the constabulary. You had a vocabulary that made my other philosopher friend seem like a monosyllabic hick. When I told you I was starting to dig on far eastern philosophy, you implored me to check out Sun Tzu.

Some of the others may not have liked you as much as I did. Thinking back, you might be right about that. No subject was taboo to you. At all. You stood your ground in a dialogue and refused to mollycoddle. It could be that made some others, weaker in their constitutions and convictions, uncomfortable. Perhaps it was that shocking, violent honesty that fascinated me. Maybe it was because you were willing to hang out with me until night became another day whilst we drank coffee and discussed the whichnesses and wherefores.

You taught me the concept of the alligator mouth and the hummingbird ass. Something both of us still have a problem with-although, I like to say I have come to a place of acceptance and the rest of the world needs to catch up. During those dark days of my divorce, you offered unflinching advice, much like you did the time I quired you about a restraining order against an x-girlfriend. Some of what you said hurt my feelings, but I desperately needed to hear it anyway. I was perhaps the second person in the whole of creation you told you were going to marry your second x-wife the night you met her.

Over the years and lifetimes we've known each other, I've called you one of my gurus. A guru, after all, aids one in finding enlightenment. Whilst I'll not be pretentious and say enlightenment is something I'm even close to achieving, you have helped me pull away some of the cobwebs of ignorance.

When you told me you were born again, I flippantly wanted to ask what was wrong with the first time. You may have laughed. You might have entreated me to go fuck myself. Either response would've been appropriate. I did tell you I am pretty happy with my beliefs and we'd just have to agree to disagree.

"Robbie Grey, I didn't call you to convert you," you said. "I called because you're my friend and I wanted to talk to you."

Just like that, everything was zen...

And the shit you've been through in the last few years; divorce, bad health, loss of home, hearth, and income, you describe as your living perdition. Meanwhile, I am so very happy in my existence here in paradise. The dichotomy is enough to get me to believe that blasphemous rumor that god has a sick sense of humor. That, the Problem of Evil, is why I cannot even pretend to believe in an anthropomorphic deity that even remotely cares. Yet, to your credit, you've kept your faith.

And I name thee Job...

So, naturally, when you phone me up sounding all but broken beneath the blade, I catch myself worrying. Not that you'll go and do something utterly stupid and rash; I do believe you that you'll not go quietly. I worry that the man I've spent the last nearly twenty years admiring for calling it as it's seen and going where the angels fear tread for a laugh and intellectual curiosity, is considering bearing his jugular.

I understand; it's been a long time in this downward spiral. Kafka, Milton, and Dante would cross their legs and blush. But I've heard your stories, Sir. Those ones from further back. Back from before that night in a diner with a set of Chinese medicine balls and a volley of crass humor. You've gone toe-to-toe with worse infernals than this and they were the ones who limped away with scars.

There was that night during the bardo after my x-wife left and when my divorce became official. I was scribbling manic poetry to a soundtrack of Nine Inch Nails. Words fail in describing the psychic devastation and Shakespearian betrayal of it all. It, to this day, was one time in my life that I was closest to being heartbroken, which is queer, given my heart has no bones. You sat down with me and told me how sick to death you were with my wallowing.

"The fact you have fallen is interesting," you said in a steady, yet harsh voice. "The time you remain down is important."
Job, my guru...mon ami, you have fallen, and ain't that about interesting?

How long will you remain down?

16 November 2013

A Night at the Cantina

"I want you to try this," she says to me, pouring the amber liquid into a glass. "It's whiskey, rock candy, and citrus peal. Supposedly, it was a formula for cough syrup."

"It's vile," I say taking a sip. "You better just give me that bottle for proper disposal."

"I think we'll put it back on the shelf now," she giggles, toasting me. "But I have another new whiskey for you to try."

After five months, she's started to figure me out. Good or ill. I do appreciate a bartender who drinks, even and especially with her customers. Otherwise, I might fear I was being poisoned.

She looks very much like a flapper girl, and, even though I know her given name, I'm tempted to call her Miss Parker. I don't, because Miss Parker was a cat of the gypsy's that turned out to be a boy. Of course the gypsy's pussy-cat!-would be male with a female name. That's just how things like this play out.

It's a Friday night down at the local watering hole. We talk about the week that's passed since we last all saw one another. There's musing of whether or not it'll snow. The weather seems to be an often-visited topic in the mountains.

Familiar faces come and go. It's because I brought a book. If I didn't, it'd have been quieter, and I'd have been staring blankly out the window, watching the lengthening twilight shadows. All in the name of a shot and a beer, I catch myself being social.

At some point, it gets brought up I'm Buddhist. One neighbor asks if that means facing Mecca, and I have to correct him. Another neighbor, a schoolteacher for money, eyes me oddly.

"I never said I was a good Buddhist," I say taking a sip of beer.

"It's just I never imagined you identifying with a major cult," the schoolteacher muses.

"Closest thing to my beliefs," I reply with a shrug, the cult thing not being insulting. After all, they have some great songs. Besides, a cult is merely the church down the lane from yours.

The man from Minnesota, who lives in the old hotel in town, comes in to do some open stage. His accent reminds me of the gypsy, and I want to ask him about finding me the culinary rarity of Canadian bacon. Again, I resist temptation. It's pointless to ask someone from Minnesota about Canadian bacon no matter how Canadian he sounds.

He starts up with a Neil Young song, the Canadian motif continues, though I'm the only one who notices. I turn to for my beer and notice a fresh tumbler of whiskey waiting for me. The bartender shoots me an innocent smirk.

"It's magic," she says.

"Praises be!" I take on my father's accent. "A miracle!"

I listen to a few songs and share a few conversations. It's only seven at night, but it's dark far too early these days, and it feels so much later. I tab out, say my good nights, promising to show up in a week. Outside, a few soft flakes of snow have started to fall.

12 November 2013

Native Moments

Looking down at Naylor Lake. Squaretop Mountain stands in the distance...

I've been working on rocking the winter beard; thicker, and letting the scruff to vine its way further up my cheeks. There are a few more flecks of gray. So it goes and what are you going to do about it anyway? Gray hair doesn't terrify me as it once did.

There has been the joke that come late, late April or early May, I'll shave it all off and be baby-faced for a week, thus giving me a reminder of what my chin looks like. See, with the exception of a few periods, I've worn a beard since I was twenty-seven. The last time I completely shaved it off, the bruja said I looked like I was twelve, but taller.


The other night, after dinner, sitting back with a relaxing glass of red, we were listening to the Grateful Dead. It wasn't until recent years that I could tolerate the Dead enough to own an album from them, and, nowadays, we have a few, and yet we don't smoke weed-it interferes with the drinking, you know. The Dead, along with folk/Americana/bluegrass, and reggae are the soundtrack of these mountains. Perhaps we have truly gone native.

"Imagine if someone would have told you ten years ago that you'd be staying in, reading a book, and listening to the Grateful Dead," Sabina mused. A long-running game between us.

Early November, ten years back, I just found out my grandmother had an aneurysm in her chest the size of a softball, and might live six months, if she didn't get surgery and just die on the table. She did opt for surgery, because she was my grandmother; a tough old broad who was going to be in charge of her own fate, and not the other way around. She died three months later. I got a tattoo in memorandum.

Early November, ten years back, I was trying to understand how a bright-burning relationship had suddenly drifted into a cold void that made interstellar space seem tropical. Like Joe Strummer, I wondered if I should stay or should I go. Perhaps I was just overreacting, and she'd come back, as it were. Maybe I knew better, but wanted to be wrong.

Perhaps me ten years back, depressed and confused, would have heard of sitting in a one-hundred thirty-three year old house high in the mountains, sipping after dinner wine and grooving to the Grateful Dead and figured fuck it, why not?, after all, it wasn't like there was a lot to lose. Maybe he would've scoffed, thinking such a state unlikely. It could be he would've said not yet, because whatever intangible he was looking for, that, which had drawn him into the greater metroplex in the first place, had yet to be found. But once it was found, he'd be gone so fast his pants would have to catch the next bus out.

When it comes down to brass tacks and bedposts, it's kind of irrelevant. The me of ten years back is alien and distant. The mental exercise, whilst amusing, is akin to trying to imagine what the me at twenty-one, or even eleven, would think of me at forty-one. Those after-images may be aliens, but we share similar features and a string of memories and experiences which would shape that monster that stares back at me in the mirror. The aberration that spits these words out into ether, either, and or.


My neighbors got to see me in the closest thing I have to a suit the other day. See, we were burying one of our own. The only time one should wear a suit is when seeing someone go to the altar, into the ground, or, perhaps, some unfortunate moment in front of a magistrate, like a murder trial-or so I've heard. Anything else is the pompous try-too-hard that inspires murder thoughts or drug addiction, if not both in the same instance.

Two of my neighbors noticed the anarchy pin I wear on the left lapel of my fine pinstripe jacket. One commented I wear anarchy well-I'm pretty sure that was a compliment-and the other told me of all the old political buttons she had from the sixties and seventies. I mentioned that my anarchy pin, like the Free Tibet sticker I have on Old Scratch, is the closest I come to advertising my politics.

"Once a punk, always a punk," Sabina said with a sly wink. I cocked an eyebrow in her direction, but said nothing.

After all, what's more punk-rock than the mountains? Living where I want to, how I want to, with the person I want to is its own bold statement. High-powered corporate executives jerk-off like ugly apes in humping season to this kind of success. You can see it in their eyes when they come up for vacation.

We knew the deceased peripherally, but we are better acquainted with her mother, and that's why we went. Still, we were subjected to empathic overload, as there was not a dry eye in the place. Even the neighbor giving the requiem's voice crackled with emotion, and when the preacher-man's voice breaks, the shit gets real.

The wake was at the rathskeller of a restaurant down-valley. Because of our peripheral acquaintance with the deceased, we bowed out. There were some ruins we wanted to explore and my daughter was up. This was the closest we were to get to hanging out for her birthday.

After a hard-scrabble and hard-won discovery, we had cha'i at Miguel Loco's shoppe. Stories and the marvels of how quick the kids grow were exchanged. My daughter left after a dinner of wild rice, roasted potatoes, and buffalo chicken legs. I sometimes felt like I was being a little clingy with her, but I just saw a neighbor bury one of their babies. Perhaps I was justified. Maybe I was being simpy. It could be that, however unlikely, I might be a little more sentimental than I let on.


I reacquaint myself with the concept of upper and lower lots. Summer and winter. Snow has come to our Sahel. This early in the season, cramp-ons and gaiters are advisable. In perhaps another month, snow pants and either skis or snowshoes, depending upon one's preference.

It's possible I could've driven to the upper lot, but I do not regret playing it safe and parking lower. After all, I go solo trekking a fair amount, thus taking a risk when I go on walkabout in one aspect. I saw snowshoe tracks, which I found absurd; the snow was too hard-packed and not deep enough. There were bare muddy patches where the sun shone through the trees. As much as I want to go snowshoeing, I know I must be patient, and my patients is formidable.

I found a rock outcropping overlooking a mountain lake to stop and relax. The alpine sun was warm upon my shoulders. It was profoundly quite. As I walked, the only sounds were that of my breathing and my boots and poles crunching against the snow. There was not even the song of wind. It was as if the universe itself was holding its breath.

Looking out, I meditated upon perceptions of success and how successful I perceive myself. I thought back to that memorial and the thing, which is said any time someone walks on; enjoy the moment, because when the number's up, it's up. Trite, but so very true.

I could go on one of my solo treks and never be heard from again. We could all get hit by an asteroid the size of Pavarotti's ass tomorrow and it'd be lights out. Even the wise cannot foresee all ends, but that's because there is no future, just as there is no past. There's just this, the moment. Everything else is memory and jack-off fantasy.

This song makes me think of living in the mountains, though, I'm not sure if it's because of the title or the instrumentation...

05 November 2013

Days of Bitter Strength

Okay, it's their most poppy song, and I lack ganja to fully appreciate this band, but the lyrics speak profound truth.Besides, I'm sucker for a touch of Grey...

I was at the local watering hole early in the evening on Día de Muertos drinking lemonade and reading the bible. Some might argue, in context, me saying I was drinking lemonade and reading the bible means I was having a pint of stout beer and tumbler of whiskey. Even if such a baseless assertion was true, both libations would've been locally made, and if I'm going to be a locavore, I'm going to keep the shit real. Bordering upon surreal.

"You ready for winter?" The man sitting next to me inquired. Outside, flurries of soft flakes wafted down in the manner of soft down feathers and willo'-the-wisp.

"'Ready' has very little to do with it," I replied. "It's November; winter's inevitable." 

We talked about trails; ones he Backcountry skis and I snowshoe. My eyes would drift outside to fading light, watching the snowflakes dancing upon the wind. I caught myself smiling bittersweetly. Simultaneously I look forward to the coming season and dreading it.

Superstition dictates that the recent holidays of Samhain and  Día de Muertos are the times when the veils between the lands of the living and realms of the dead are at their very thinest. On those days, they touch and maybe even kiss. Maybe with a little tongue.

November in our Sahel is when the veils between seasons, between light and shadow, are at their thinest. Hours, both in terms of sunlight and professional obligations, reduce. Things slow down. It's colder.

A contemporary of mine despises the month of April. I wrestle with November, when my reptile zen and crippling depression crush up against one another like glacial ice across bare rock. The direct sun is gone by mid-month and I always remember Thanksgiving as the last holiday with my mother before those last seventeen days in the sickhouse. The bruja and her unborn babe died this month, and one of my neighbors has just been introduced to the macabre of having to bury one her babies. It was strangely flattering that she asked me for Buddhist prayer for her recently departed daughter. 

Both my daughter and father have birthdays in November. Thanksgiving, for all its personal melancholy and socially expected gluttony, is the time I am most likely to see my brother, sister, their spouses, nephew, and niece. Trails, even the whore ones, become less crowded, blessing me with deeper solitude, even when only a little ways from home.

Some of the first real snows fall in November. Sometimes quite viciously. As I've watched the first flakes fall, coating the high peaks, I've caught tings of excitement, visions of snowshoeing dancing in my head.

Sabina's birthday is on Boxing Day, and, in the years we've lived here, have gone snowshoeing to celebrate it, much like we grill for mine. This birthday is a big one, and we mean to snowshoe to one of the Tenth Mountain Division Huts and spend the night to mark it. The snow means a new adventures on several levels. I find myself barely able to wait.

November is this time when we cross the veil. Into the darkness. Into the cold. Into the snow. This is the way of things here in our Sahel. I fight to maintain my equilibrium, knowing, despite my psychic scars from this time of year, this is the way of things. One must have the dark to appreciate the light, and light without shadow is blindness.

A touch of Grey, if you will...

It has been a chilly mountain autumn day. A thin dusting greeted me upon waking. The high peaks have been muted by phantasmal curtains of blowing snow refracting the pale sunlight. There is a bite to the breeze, which made my fleece and beanie a good idea when I wandered the Bull's Head.

I looked west, toward the Roof of the World, seeing the snow clouds churn. Despite myself, I thought of Yuki-Onna. The seasons were changing before my eyes.

"Are you ready for winter?" I was asked.

Fucking bring it...

29 October 2013

Tiny Treasures

There was a certain harshness to the breeze and the growing curtain of cotton-gauze white and phantasm-smoke gray to the west that disinclined me from wandering into the Backcountry. More to the point, up onto the tundra. Of course, I wanted to get out. The question became where.

Sabina had a book come in at the library, but had obligations to attend to. So, I took one of my favorite local trails the two miles down-valley to get it for her. It's not the first time I've walked two miles, if not more, just to acquire a book. I even contemplated getting a cha'i at one of the local coffeehouses.

Although, in those past lives I remember and you do not, there was not a six-hundred vertical foot elevation change on those walks, and the wildlife of a city-those villains, vandals, and vagrants-was far more threatening than the thought of a mountain lion finding my aberrant tall and lanky ass even remotely appetizing. Even in the depths of starvation. So it goes.

It'd been quite awhile since I'd walked the trail, and it was like playing ketchup with an old, old friend. Part of me chided myself for not wandering this route a little more than I had. Briefly, I wondered why I'd not, but that answer played obvious as I advanced along the uphills at the speed of owl feathers; I'd been off exploring. Collecting stories from places I'd either never been or had seen maybe once before.

It could've been said I was collecting the small treasure of a story even as I walked a familiar local favorite trail of mine. Why not? Years and lifetimes ago, I told a dragon of my acquaintance there was a story in everything. Perhaps that is profound cosmic truth, but I think my uttering it was simply a case of being far too impressed with my own intelligence and dragging a friend along for the ride.

The coffeeshop was closed, but the library was not. It wasn't like I didn't have the fixings for cha'i at home, and those slowly advancing western clouds seem to give context to such a beverage. In the interest of doing a loop and having a bit more of an adventure, I opted to take the trails following narrow-gauge railroad tracks. It was there I encountered a few railroad workers cutting down dead trees by the tracks for firewood. Our exchanges were pleasant.

Going up the six-hundred vertical did not take as long as going down. Queer, but the terrains of the respective trails were different. I was given a fresh perspective upon some of the trails within walking distance of home. Perhaps that was a lesson, a story, and one of the tiny treasures I acquired along the way.

Another tiny treasure; a little trail booty to hang up on the House of Owls and Bats. Oh, happy day...

22 October 2013


It was one of those deliciously perfect autumn days. Clear and mild. The sun shone upon the snow of the massifs of the high peaks in the countenance of finely polished ivory. The breeze, whilst crisp, wasn't biting, and helped to keep us comfortable.

Milarepa is five and a half years old now, but is still that spazzy little puppy I picked up from my parents' farm all those years ago. Whistler, four years younger than my daughter, makes it a point to prove he is the canine definition of active senior. In the view point of my own species I have started to enter into middle age, although, my two quadrupedal companions could be forgiven for thinking me immortal.

We only went as far as the third major water-crossing. I wanted to make sure Whistler could make it back without either needing to be carried or completely broken. He laid down in a grass patch at my feet. Chevy's home-sentencing arthritis first manifested after a fourteen mile round-trip walkabout a few years back. Milarepa frolicked in the snow. I watched them both and smiled at the sky.

I endeavor not to antropomorphize, finding it to be one of the more offensive forms of hubris. We are what we are; canid and primate, yet a definite bond exists between us. Maybe it could be called friendship. Perhaps it's something else entirely, which defies any language in any tongue, real or imagined. There's a possibility it doesn't matter.

In those nameless moments, sitting looking out at the sky and thirteen and fourteen-thousand foot peaks that surrounded us, sunning in the cool grass, frolicking in the snow, perhaps the triviality of the barrier of species melted away. It was kiss of divinity. In those nameless moments, we were all one and the same, equal and one.

And perhaps there's some sort of poetry in that... 

20 October 2013

Ghost Call

I have not spoken to you in almost ten years. There are distances I cannot cross and places my voice cannot carry. Yet there we were, speaking on the telephone as though it was just yesterday. You started the conversation the way you always did;

"Tell me what's new and interesting."

I was standing outside, across the street from my house, gazing down at the river. Warm sunlight danced upon the water, caressed my face, whilst gentle breezes played with my hair. I told you about wild mushrooms and our community garden plot. Walkabouts and the hounds.

I didn't have to tell you I'd moved to the mountains; because apparently you already knew. Sabina, someone you never met and never will, was a familiar name in our conversation. The book I published and the fact my mother, your daughter, died nearly four years ago were all givens. We spoke of getting together for dinner and I was grateful you didn't ask me for my opinions about the politics of the day. I doubt you'd have wanted my company for dinner then.

"I think the dogs want to go out," Sabina's half-asleep voice was jarring in my ear.

It was all gone in a flash; your voice, the gentle sun upon the river, the breeze in my hair. I was fumbling through the dark of early morning to let out the hounds. Bittersweet melancholy swept through my thin frame as I opened the front door to a crisp autumn day. It'd been almost ten years since I heard your voice and it was just as crisp and clear as yesterday.

"I got to talk to my grandmother," I whispered into the empty air. There might have been a smile on my face. It might have been one of gratitude.

17 October 2013

Pale Sun, Pale Moon

A pale moon sheds its thin light across the summit of Sunrise Peak and highlights the avalanche chutes of the sheer slopes of mount Pendelton. As the season progresses, and the snows deepen, there will be nights that the landscape will be illuminated in the countenance of diamond and liquid mercury. On some of those nights, in the quiet stillness, we might go for a bit of a walk, marveling at the stark interplay of light and shadow.

 After a walkabout, finding new ruins upon a familiar trail-because we stepped off the accepted path-we had a shot and a beer on the front porch. A pale autumn sun had just dipped below the ridge line, and the valley floor became blanket in cool shadow. We mused how it was about a month away that we'll lose direct sunlight upon the house. That, for us, marks the beginning of winter. So it goes.

The clouds of the day gave the sunlight a checkered pattern across the mountainsides. The clouds of the night scatter the moonlight in phantasmal ways. I used to call nights like that Ghost Moon Nights, and when there was a Ghost Moon things seemed to take a turn for the surreal-even for me-but, perhaps I was looking for omens. Patterns in the chaos. The folly of youth.

It has come to that point in autumn when the light has shifted; gone is warm softness of spring and summer or the golden haze of aspen season. This is when the light becomes pale, stark, almost insubstantial at times. The casts of light that speak of snow and fires and breath seen as mist clouds and warming drinks.

I watch with a that fascination I have toward the movement of the cycles with all its magic, mystery, and koo-koo-kachu. It hardly seems long at all before just after the sun comes back that the light starts to soften once more. There is substance once more. The wheel keeps spinning whether or not you bother to pay attention, but it's within those small moments between the heartbeats that real magic happens.

15 October 2013

Early Snow Walkers

From the ruins of the Illinois Mine, off the 730 Trail...

I woke to snow and mist with a bit of a growl. Making my morning tea and prepping nine bean soup for the slow cooker I wondered where I might go for the day. Part of me questioned even leaving the house. There was a small part of me that considered vegging in front of the 'puter, streaming documentaries.

That notion was quickly dismissed. I know me. Even when it's been sub-zero out, I get cabin fever, stepping out for at least an hour. A saying I came across recently that's become a mantra to me;

"There's no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothing."

Amen and/or a woman to that...

Some trails I'd thought of trekking were either Dry Gulch or Grizzly Gulch. The weather got me to reconsider. Certainly, I had boots, gaiters, and layers. It was the accessibility of trail heads in the snow. Whilst at the House of Owls and Bats, the snow was only sticking to the grass, both trails were further up-valley. At ten-five and eleven-five respectively, the snow accumulation might be quiet different.

Besides, Dry Gulch is right by Loveland Pass, and the last time I was up that way I had an interesting encounter with a snowboarder. It occurred to me it might be a better idea to hold off until it was at least proper snowshoeing weather. Or at least when it wasn't so mist-shrouded so high up that myself and any other potential wanderer have a better chance of seeing one another.

After a breakfast of leftover jambalaya, I got my pack together. One of the many grand things about where I live is I'm in walking distance of five trailheads, not mention the warren of paths following the narrow-gage tracks down the valley. I'd not really gone on those trails much lately, opting to explore newer ones.

With Whistler in tow, I struck out up the 730. Because of my mother's death and my father's move to the greater metroplex, Whistler has some amount of separation anxiety, a recent manifestation of which included him running down the Road looking for me and a good samaritan getting him back home.

Now, he's going to be fifteen in January. About a year ago, I learned the hard way he cannot climb about with me or go on the longer walkabouts. Be that as it may, he can still go on the shorter wanders. The whole time, I kept checking on him.

"You okay, lo jen?" I'd ask him, and he'd chomp his approval at being able to hike with me. "You're doing great! I'm proud of you."

Going from ninety-one sixty up we became vividly aware of the difference altitude can make. The snow started to stick to the trail itself around Cherokee Gulch-between nine-eight to ten-thousand feet-and the low-hanging clouds obscured the high peaks. There are those who might lament the perceived loss of views, but, and I often tell travelers this; in the mountains of Colorado, you don't get a bad view.  

It was a different perspective, being within the belly of the clouds. The softly falling snowflakes against the last vanguard of of golden aspen was striking. Below, I could see town shrouded in a phantasmal gauze like a child's play set seen through the haze of a half-remembered dream. There was the occasional grumble of traffic along the Road, but the image of such was often obscured by drifting curtains of gray.

We didn't go all the way to the end of the trail, but to a point just before it narrows. This was twofold; the narrower parts are single file-at best-across scree, and Whistler's equilibrium is not as it used to be and the thought of ice. Also, we'd not visited a particular set of ruins in almost two years, which required a side jaunt up an overgrown side trail.

It was within this ruin we had water and snacks. Whistler chomped his approval at going on walkabout and I heaped praise on him for how well he was doing. I have little doubt he'd have walked with me to the end of the trail and beyond if I kept going. There was a look he gave me, and perhaps I antropomorphize, but it seemed to say;

"The day I don't want to walk with you, dig a hole..."

Two intrepid travelers taking a break on the trail...

08 October 2013

Autumnal Muses and Adventures

When my daughter and I went on walkabout up Kearney Gulch, I noted, quite excitedly, that our footprints in the fresh-fallen snow were the first bipedal ones. During the antiquity of the mining days, it was said a dragon lived here. One neighbor told me the Irish miners believed you'd see the Devil, what for the scent of sulfur further up the gulch, a motivation he had to seek out natural hot springs. We saw neither, but we didn't really go looking for that. We were seeking an adventure.

Whether or not any of those tall tales were true seem irrelevant. It's not a well-known trail outside of the locos. There's no map. When you get told of it, it appears you've been truly welcomed into the tribe.

Oh, fuck yes. Not bad for a misanthropic non-joiner. Strange luck.


A week before, Sabina and I went up to Steamboat Springs. She'd lived there for a season some twenty-five years ago and I'd never been. My impression was that of if Estes Park and Breckenridge had a baby. Frightening, but at least it wasn't Vail; contrived, devoid of any funk whatsoever. After all, you gotta have the funk.

The autumn colors were striking, though I didn't like the sulfur scent from all the hot springs. Flippantly, I can thank or blame Dante or Milton for that. Of course, even on a weekday, it was crowded. Leaving to check out the two-hundred forty foot waterfall named Fish Creek and picnicing from the tailgate of Old Scratch with a bottle of wine was preferable.


In our Sahel, the autumn colors, though late, have been more muted. Wind and snow have stripped some aspens, but, by early October, they're generally bald anyway. As I drove up to the summit of Loveland Pass I took note of the colors of rust and khaki against the snow and evergreen. It's been a queer year, but every year, every moment, is unique, and that's the beauty of it.

I'd wanted to walk up along the north ridge, heading vaguely in the direction of the Citadel, over the ski area itself. Almost immediately, it became a bad idea. There was more snow and ice than I anticipated, and I didn't bring crampons-on a twelve-thousand foot north face after recent snows? What was I thinking? Clearly, I wasn't-and, on the fledgling snowfields, the early-season skiers and snowboarders were out, eking, scratching, and welcoming the incoming season. I'd come part way up the ridge when one flew over my head, no mean feat, given my height. He crashed into a snowbank off to my left side and I helped him out of it.

"Nicely done," I said, too genuinely impressed with his jump to really be cross with him.

"Whoa! Thanks, dude!" He replied, dazed and impressed by his own act of acrobatic insanity.

So, I headed back down, toward the southern ridge; the trails for Sniktau and Grizzly Peak. Walkabouts I'd done before, but there was less snow and I could leave the school-ditching teenagers and twenty-somethings to play with their skies and boards-their cries of joyous abandon following me for almost a mile-showing their bodies were still made of rubber and springs. I'd still be able to see the Citadel. After all, I was on the Roof of the World.

I walked up to a group of windbreaks at one of the trail forks between Sniktau and Grizzly. From there, I found a cairn to sit by and have some trail mix whilst taking in the world from its roof. To the east, I could see toward home, and on into the Front Range. Beyond that was a break somewhere far off, denoting down below and the badlands to the east. Looking west, I could see the Gore Range, perhaps even the Mount of the Holy Cross, though, I wasn't sure. Beyond that, somewhere past the great frozen waves of mountain peaks, lay the Great Basin and the rest of the 'Merican Maghreb

Heading down, I mused how my original scheme had been usurped. Mei fei tsu. The fastest way to make a deity to laugh is to have a plan and itineraries are for those who lack imagination. It was nice to improvise.

Back after I was first divorced and without any prospects of companionship, I felt depressed, battered, burnt to the core-but not broken-and bored. It was then, in that Edgar Allen Poe and Henry Rollins laced wallowing, I resolved to never allow myself to be bored. I've sought adventure in some form or fashion ever since; whether it was the neon novelty of the city or the magical mystery of the mountains. I've not been really bored yet. The day it happens, I find out what a bullet tastes like.

Shortly before reaching Old Scratch, catching once more the whoops and hollers or the early-season snowbums echoing across the peaks, I cut through my own snowfield. It was just a couple inches deep and I thought of snowshoeing. I thought of the ecstasy of those calls at the coming season. They had every reason to; it held the promise of a whole different set of adventures.   

01 October 2013


Gentle breezes blew in the chill breath of the ending of a Tibetan summer. The beginning of a Rockies autumn. The start of an Andean spring.

All around me the cyclic wheel spun along the tundra path in rust and dunn. Diamond white and curious silver. Brilliant and fading greens along with brilliant golds and fire tongues of orange. Above me, above the highest of peaks, was that shade of blue that only our skies get; turquoise, which fades into the deepest of sapphire as it reaches into the inky black of outer space.

I walked without destination, just wanting to get into the high back country once more before it became a good idea to wear gaiters-at the very least- and carry snowshoes. To wear pants. I wanted to be somewhere that the calls of pikas disturbed the low song of wind, which was sometimes rudely interrupted by the low rumble of a jet engine. Places where I could stand and see for miles, and take note of how insignificant we can be, drinking in that beauty to the point of metaphysical intoxication.

Going without destination is the way some grand adventures happen, though, I had no expectations. A wise man once said expectations can lead to disappointment, but if you expect nothing, then, sometimes, you can be pleasantly surprised.  I loathe surprises, but knowing the Tao of Chaos, I know better than to expect anything. A paradox, to be sure. There are those who say-quite baselessly, I might add-that I am rife with paradox.

Walking can lead to meditation. I've known this since long ago, when I walked down below. So it goes.

It occurred to me that I've been doing this for a decade now; purging the words from my skull unto a spider's web of cyber. Not always here, of course, but in this type of venue. It was an interesting revelation. I still remember some of those first words, vomited out on a delicious autumn day;

"I somehow imagined I would have more to say, when I finally started, but the cosmic law of irony dictates otherwise. Mei fei tsu. In a way, it is almost funny..."

It is funny, when I think about it. Ten years on, I find I do not have the words to elaborate on purging words unto a spider's web of cyber for so long anymore than I having any words for impressive start. How about that? I walked then and I walked now. Different worlds. Different lives.

So it goes...

I found a rock to perch upon and take in the day with its cyclic countenance. The pale sunlight was gentle and warming against the bite of the high breezes. I was nowhere near the beginning or the end of the trail, but the rock vantage seemed the perfect point to turn around. I had neither destination nor expectation.

What I had was an open view of my tiny slice of world before me. A place I've always sensed is full of stories. Stories I mean to collect. My trek is nowhere near its end, and that is the grandest of all adventures.

29 September 2013

Slow Turn

A couple of evenings ago, snow flew at ninety-one sixty, leaving barely a dusting on the grass. Barely worth the notation, other than to say it was the first snow and a harbinger of things to come. I made chili.

The next day was warm with a breeze. That wacky Colorado weather-wait five minutes. I could've worn shorts. So it goes.

It's been a slow turn toward autumn. The aspens are just now getting underway. Maybe they'll peak this week. Perhaps next. I don't pretend to know. The days are still warm enough, and the nights, whilst cooler, have not dipped into the bite of a hard frost just yet. We can still grill, which is the dinner scheme for the evening.

Slow though it is, I can sense the seasonal wheel turning. My tea consumption goes up as it gets cooler. The day is probably not long in coming when there is a snow, Himalayan in its countenance, of which I'll be brewing lapsang souchong to be in context. There'll be magic then too; when the world sheds its skin between green and snow-covered, it becomes a different landscape of white from year to year. You can bet I'll be out exploring. As the hip kids on the street would say; that's just how I roll. 

24 September 2013

Epilogue; The Education of the Serpent

After the incident with the Wolffe brothers; witnessing a murder, being kidnapped, having her arm broken, and almost being raped in her sleep, Sydney found it odd that she didn’t have nightmares. In fact, the nightmares which had plagued her for years no longer haunted her sleep. She found herself feeling strangely...freed. Still, this newfound freedom troubled her.

At first, she didn’t talk about it, speculating the trauma of the incident hadn’t truly hit her yet. Then, as the weeks turned into a couple of months, she started mentioning what she noticed. It was Bast, during a breakfast at Ira Milligan’s Café, who offered a possible answer.

“You saw a demon out there, near the Dragon’s Teeth,” she said. “One from your past. One of whom was far more frightening than the monsters who held you.”


The facility was outside Denver. It was a gentle autumn day. Looking back toward the mountains, there were the first dustings of snow upon the very highest peaks.

Sydney sat anxiously in her chair, unable to read the magazine she had taken from the table. Her eyes went to Lankin, who stood staring out the window, his eyes riveted to the mountains. Finally, she stood up and walked up to him.

“I want to thank you again for coming with me, Lazarus,” she said, placing a hand on his shoulder.

“This is as far as I go, Just Sydney,” his voice was just above a whisper. “I once told you this is something from which I cannot rescue you. This is something you must face on your own.”

“I know,” she said softly, placing a light kiss on his cheek. “Thank you for coming with me this far. Thank you for waiting for me to come back."

“Miss Pollack?” The man in a white coat appeared as if on cue. “We’re ready for you now.”


She sat in a chair, bound at her wrists and ankles, swaying side to side slowly. Her amber eyes, while still reptilian, seemed duller than Sydney remembered. She realized it was drugs. The woman in front of her was surely almost always in some state of sedation.


“Jackrabbit?” Her voice had a slight slur to it, confirming Sydney's supposition. “What are you doing here?”

“I came to see you,” Sydney replied simply.

“Why?” Darcy hissed, leaning forward. “To gloat? I’m going to get out of here soon. Then I’ll finish what I started with you.”

“No, you won’t,” Sydney said flatly. “That has been seen to.”

Darcy sat back, letting out a disgusted hiss. The jackrabbit was no longer frightened of her, and that was frustrating. Insulting. This made her feel powerless; not the drugs that dulled her senses, not the restraints which held her to the chair.

“Then why are you here?” The hate in her voice was a tangible venom.

“You hurt me, Darcy,” Sydney replied coolly. “You frightened me. You tried to take everything away from me. Tried to break me. Make me a victim. You wanted to kill me.”

“But I failed…”

“You did,” Sydney Said. “What you did to me taught me not to be victim. Not to be scared.” She leaned forward, meeting the reptilian amber eyes that used to stalk her dreams “You’re the most hateful, angry, evil person I’ve ever met, Darcy, but I owe you something.” She then pressed her lips to Darcy’s brow. “I owe you my thanks; thank you for teaching me to be strong.”

Sydney pulled away and walked out of the room with a sense of purpose and confidence that radiated around her. Darcy watched in disbelief, finding herself feeling that she was somehow now in the debt of the jackrabbit.

20 September 2013

First Frost

There was a thin sheen of translucent white across the grass. My breath was quite visible as I ran the hounds and noted a cold full moon setting in the dawn's early light of Sunrise Peak. I had to fish out the scraper out of the backseat to use on Old Scratch.

Despite this, I wore shorts. Meteorological prophecy foretold of mid-sixties and light breezes. I had my vest, and learned from the time I was caught upon the tundra in a graupel storm; as long as my core is warm and I stay in motion, I'll be fine. The sun was starting to flood into the valley.

The aspens will start turning very soon. Those first flakes a nearer than further. I will be snowshoeing and not wearing shorts before long.

But, not yet. Not yet...

18 September 2013

Trekker's Pilgrimage

Yesterday was the first day in a week I was able to wear shorts. You have no idea how thrilled I was by this circumstance. We were lucky; the maelstrom that made national news was an upslope. At ninety-one sixty, we got our fair share of rain, but we were up top. The river swelled but one night like early runoff and then it was murk and dragons and rain like Africa.

Since it was the first day it didn't rain at all, and, of course my solitary walkabout day, I fucked off for the outback. The Rosalie Trail runs along the southwestern edge of the Mount Evans Wilderness, from which one could trek as far as Abyss Lake-a commitment I'm up for, it's just finding the time. Were I given to pride-a sin, I've heard, there was even a film about it with Brad Pitt-I'd be proud of myself for keeping my bastard new year's resolution.

Looking down along Scott Gormer Creek...

 I have never been one for titles, finding labels to be oh so limiting, creating a social expectation-and we all know I'm no good at being social or doing what's expected. Be that as it may, I could not help but wonder if with recent walkabouts I could call myself a trekker or mountaineer, but perhaps I give myself way too much credit. I like to walk. It's meditative.

Today Sabina and I mean to wander Butler Gulch. Woods, tundra, and mine ruins. Everybody wins. A week to the day we made our annual pilgrimage to the Great Stupa. We got home just before the maelstrom truly hit. The stupa was one of those places that was cut off by flooding. We were lucky.

And we are lucky enough to go on walkabout. Just as we are lucky enough to live in an extraordinary place that others come to vacation at and be acquainted with extraordinary people. As we finish breakfast and get our packs together, I cannot help but muse how as we head into the Backcountry we are once again going on pilgrimage, and such a thought pleases me.

15 September 2013

The Gentle Art of Dismemberment

Thomas Wolffe was in a foul mood. His jacket had been burnt in the fire and his jaw ached from where Sydney had punched him. Instead of chasing after her, Christopher made them break camp and start out for the Dragon’s Teeth in the dark. As the first light of day colored the sky, Thomas; cold, hurt, humiliated, and angry, muttered curses under his breath well aware his older brother could hear them.

“One more word outta you, Tommy, and I’m gonna whack you upside your head with the Louisville,” Christopher said finally, with a motion to the baseball bat sticking out of his pack.

“Just can’t believe you let her go, Chris.”

“Me neither,” Byron chimed in. “Especially the way you were going on about her after that night at Magpie Jack’s.”

“Plenty of other bitches out there,” Christopher muttered.

“Bullshit!” Thomas snapped. “You took to her because she was Lazarus Lankin’s girl! And now you’re afraid ‘cause he’s coming for her!”

Christopher roared and punched his younger brother, sending him sprawling across the ground. In a single fluid motion, he pulled the baseball bat from his pack and twirled it in his hand before pointing it at Thomas’s face. He grinned with satisfaction as his brother bared his jugular in submission.

“Fuck you and fuck Lazarus Lankin!” Christopher growled. “I’m not afraid of him, but of course he’s gonna come for her. In fact…” he paused to sniff the air. “Yes! We’re being followed.”

He began walking in slowly-growing circles, twirling the bat. The other Wolffe brothers started to fan out, flanking Christopher. In a voice laced with homicidal malice, he began to sing.

“The cat came back
the very next day,
The cat came back
they thought he was a goner,
The cat came back
he just wouldn’t stay away…”

There was nothing but the early-morning calls of birds. Christopher growled again, the head of the bat smacking absently across his palm. He scanned the lessening shadows, knowing someone was out there.

“Here kitty, kitty…”

“Such a lovely singing voice you have there, Christopher,” Lankin appeared at the top of a rock outcropping. He hopped down, landing inches from the eldest Wolffe brother, his trek pole held down like a baton. “A crooner like you could’ve seduced Just Sydney with your voice instead of resorting to savaging her arm with a baseball bat.”

“That why you’re here? Tell me how to pick up a woman?”

“We’ll discuss that later,” Lankin said off-handedly. “What I really wanted to talk to you about was your assault on the Queen of Marrakech.”

“Ira got in the way,” Christopher said coldly. “Collateral damage is all.”

“Same goes for Connelly?” Lankin inquired, his voice dropping to a low growl. “Just got in the way?”

“Fuck Connelly!” Christopher snapped. “He had it coming from when he was with the sheriff and they busted me for shoplifting.”

“You were fourteen when that happened, Christopher,” Lankin shot back. “Holding a grudge like that for over twenty-five years isn’t healthy.”

“After that, him and the sheriff; they were always after me! Me and my brothers.”

“It is not as though you didn’t give them reason,” Lankin’s gaze shifted to Thomas and Byron, assessing their positions. “Any of you! Would you like me to cite particulars from your respective records?”

“Fuck you!” Christopher snapped. “You got it coming too, you know!”

“Because I was sharing my company with a girl you took a shine to?”

“Because you let our father die!” Christopher roared. “You didn’t even try to rescue him!”

“Your father went skinny-dipping in Deneb Gulch at the height of runoff!” Lankin retorted. “He was the kind of drunk that made Donnie Tabor look like a teetotaler! What he did was suicide; plain and simple, and you fucking know it!” He chuckled. “It’s really no wonder your mother ran away to Arkansas the first chance she got.”

“I’m tired of this shit and I’m tired of you, Lazarus Lankin, you self-righteous cocksucker!” Christopher snarled as he closed the distance between them. “It’s just you and the three of us out here now.”

There was a deafening crack as Lankin’s forehead smashed down across the bridge of Christopher’s nose. He drove his trek pole into Christopher’s belly, and snatched away the baseball bat before the man had hit the ground. Already, Thomas was coming at him.

Using his trek pole, he caught Thomas behind the knees. He fell backward, his head crashing against a rock. Upon seeing Thomas was unconscious, Lankin chuckled. Something which sounded like a growl bubbled in the back of his throat as he started to stalk toward Byron.

“When faced with greater numbers, go after the mouthy one first,” Lankin said casually. “That is most likely the brain, and the body cannot function without the brain. Although, the muscles might still spasm, which is why you go after the biggest one next. That leaves the heart; seat of the soul and the well of emotion.” He raised the bat as he got closer. “How about it, Byron?”

Byron dropped to his knees, baring his jugular. Lankin was almost satisfied with the thought of surrender when he noticed a glint in the other man’s eye. Spinning around, he saw Christopher coming at him. It was the sudden thrown rock smacking into his temple and dropping the Wolffe to the ground that stopped him. Sydney stepped out of the shadows with Tarot following close behind.

“Very nice, Just Sydney,” Lankin said. “I am impressed.”

“Didn’t I tell you I was the pitcher on my high school girl’s baseball team?” She asked somewhat playfully. “Good thing I’m a southpaw.”

“Holy shit, I can’t believe this is happening!” Tarot said. “But we got them!”

“Oh, it’s not finished yet, Jimmy,” Lankin said, once more turning his attention to Byron.

He stopped. There was the distant, but familiar thwock of a helicopter. Lankin turned back to Sydney and Tarot with a puzzled snarl.

“I got a signal and I let the sheriff know,” Tarot said, not backing down from Lankin’s stare. “You know, ‘Beware the monsters we fight’...”

“Lest monsters we ourselves become.” Lankin finished. “You did a good thing, Jimmy, although it is unfortunate…” he looked at Sydney. “…for us.” Then he looked back at the Wolffe brothers. “But exceedingly fortunate for them.”

12 September 2013

Shadow Salvation

She had no idea how long she had been running. How many times she stumbled over the uneven ground, causing her to nearly fall completely. How many times she kept checking to make sure her clothing was on correctly because she could still feel Thomas Wolffe’s hands on her and smell his breath on her face.

Every so often, the idea of exhaustion set in. Her arm was screaming in fiery tones and her lungs burned as she kept running. Still, she didn’t dare stop. Anytime she considered it, she thought she heard other foot steps, other voices. She was sure of it; she was being followed. Hunted.

Along a turn, she felt her foot catch a root. Her balance was gone. She tired to brace herself, hoping not to land on her broken arm.

Suddenly, she was stopped. A strong arm encircled her waist and drew her close. Another covered her mouth, stopping the yelp springing from the back of her throat. A set of lips brushed her ear. Hot breath, of which she was intimately familiar with spoke in hushed and urgent tones.

“It’s alright, you’re okay,” Lankin whispered. “I’ve got you. I won’t let you fall.”

Sydney spun around and threw her arms around his neck. Her right arm cried out in pained protest, but she squeezed as tightly as she could. Over Lankin’s shoulder she could see Tarot watching them. There was a look in his eye suspended between elation at seeing her and fear of what had happened to her.

“Glad we found you, Syd,” he said.

“Me too!” She whispered back. “You have no idea. Are we safe?”

“Relatively speaking,” Lankin said impassively. He was studying Sydney’s broken arm. “This is not set right, you know.”

“Yes,” she replied. “Either from when it was first broken or when I punched Thomas to get away.”

Lankin drew her close and pressed his lips to hers. At first, she was completely shocked; getting kissed, especially with the tender intensity he reserved for when they went to bed together, given the circumstances, hardly seemed right. She started to pull away, but, it was Lankin, she found herself being absorbed, like pine needles and dry leaves in kindling flames. Then, as unexpectedly as it started, he pulled away. There was an expression in his gray eyes she Sydney only rarely saw; that of regret.

“I want you to know how deeply sorry I am…”

The sound of breaking bone echoed across the darkened expanse of Backcountry. White-hot flashes of pain strobed across her vision as she dropped to her knees. Tears streamed from her eyes. A scream raced out of her mouth, but was intercepted by Lankin’s hand.

“It’s alright, you’re okay,” he hissed. “Your arm is set correctly now. The endorphins will start shortly, helping to mitigate the pain.” His eyes moved to Tarot. “Get some painkillers from your first aid kit, Jimmy, and make her a sling."

“Right now, I hate you only slightly less than the Wolffe brothers,” Sydney panted as she stood up.

“Understandable,” Lankin said off-handedly. “But you realize it needed to be done. Perhaps someone else might have cooed at you more, but the result would’ve been the same.”

“You should have warned her, Lankin,” Tarot said, handing Sydney some aspirin.

“I did.”

“Now what?” Sydney asked.

“Jimmy is going to get you back to Marrakech,” Lankin replied. “The Wolffe boys and I need to have a…conversation.”

“What?!? Lankin, are you crazy?!?” Tarot exclaimed. “It’s the Wolffes! They killed Connelly! They almost killed Ira!”

“I know. That’s precisely what I mean to discuss with them. At length.”

“Lazarus, listen to Tarot,” Sydney put in. “There’s three of them!”

“Your advice is duly noted, Just Sydney,” he said wearing an expression of mountain lion stalking its prey. “Don’t worry; I’ll provide them an opportunity to surrender.”

10 September 2013

Trekking Amongst the Dragons

Kearney Gulch as seen from twelve and thirteen thousand feet en-route to Grizzly Peak...

The day before, the sky turned the color of tar and slate. Dragon clouds slithered and coiled along the high peaks. Then, with a roar of sound and fury, the sky opened up. It rained like Africa. Borneo. Brazil. The dragons roared and growled way into the night, the sky illuminated by great flashes of false daylight. Perhaps the summer monsoons going out with a bang rather than a whimper.

I was not terribly thrilled to wake up to overcast and drizzle. There were places I wanted to go. I went about my morning; checking meteorological prophecy, feeding the hounds, making coffee and breakfast, the whole time, watching for a break in the clouds. A window in which to do what I wanted.

Auspiciously, eye for the main chance came about when I was wanting to leave anyway. I wasted no time getting to the summit of Loveland Pass. Even then, there was mist and rain amongst the fleeting shards of turquoise sky and sunlight.

What does that matter? I have a hardshell and a rain-fly for my pack. At nearly twelve-thousand to start, the breeze had a nip to it, making it my first walkabout in several months for my to wear my beanie; a black affair with African colors interspersed and tassels strung with Andean beads. Fucking fantastic.

For the first bit of the trek, the dragons curled about me, their foggy breath misting my spectacles now and again. I didn't mind their company. There was something memorizing about watching them slither and coil and frolic across the highest peaks and rust of the season-changing tundra.

Looking down at Grizzly Gulch...

I had a break in the clouds when I reached my stopping point. It is doubtful that either words or images could do what I saw justice. I would've stayed longer, but to the west, the sky was black. The dragons had been merciful during my trek, but that could change without warning. It would be hubris to assume the weather, though wet, was mild, just for the benefit of my walkabout.

An arrogant man would claim kith or kin to dragons. I've met those cats. As a joke, I could say because I have a tattoo with a pictogram for the word demon to correspond with the other pictogram for Man that further link with the mantra across my back; I and the Beast are One was a reason for the dragons being the way they were, respecting someone who endeavors to see to it that instinct and intellect work in concert, not conflict. In truth, it was most likely blind luck, and by virtue of oxygen deprivation I saw Chinese dragons frolicking across the high peaks in fantastical and sometimes ominous ways.

I suppose in making that observation I've removed any sense of whimsy from this meditation...

Heading down, the world would sometimes be enveloped in mist or opened up by high breezes. I was more often hot by virtue of exertion, than chilled by the weather around me. It didn't bother me. I got to hang out with the dragons. Though they sometimes obscured the peaks around me, they provided me a phantasmal perspective all their own.

05 September 2013

The Damsel and the Dragon

During the altercation at Ira Milligan’s café, her lower right arm was broken by the baseball bat, which Christopher took with him as a weapon. Taking her jeep, they drove to far edge of Gaia’s Backbone. She overheard the Wolffe brothers talking about making for the old ghost town of Hell and Gone. Lankin had told her about the place once. He promised to take her there someday.

Exhausted, they stopped at sunset, the Dragon’s Teeth only a few miles away. Strangely, Sydney was not truly afraid. She had been truly afraid before. By way of comparison, her situation was merely worrisome. That was probably why, coupled with the exertion of their hike and the pain of her broken arm, she found herself drifting into sleep.


When she saw the familiar face, the familiar set of reptilian amber eyes, swaying before her, Sydney moaned audibly. If Darcy was at all offended she made no indication. Instead, she pushed herself closer, pulling herself on top of Sydney.

“Hello, jackrabbit,” she hissed.

“Oh, fuck you! Fuck you!” Sydney snapped. “Like I need you showing up in my dreams right now! If I ever doubted it, this proves it; there is no god!”

“My, my, jackrabbit, you’re awfully riled up,” Darcy persisted, pushing Sydney onto her back. “You’re in trouble again. Trouble seems to love you.”

“Oh, you’re an observant one.”

“You know he’s coming for you,” Darcy said coldly, leaning closer. Her wieght and the heat of her breath was so very real. “An Interested Party. I’m sure that excites you.”

“Fuck you!” Sydeny spat squarely into Darcy’s face. “Yes, I know he’s coming, but it has more to do with what those fuckers did to Will and Ira than with me.”

“Does that hurt your feelings?”

“Why should it? I didn’t enjoy being a victim when you found me in Leeds, and I don’t like the idea of being the victim now.”

Darcy’s face hardened and then screwed into a malicious smile. Sydney felt a hand being jammed up her shirt and another working its way into her pants. Darcy leaned in so close their lips brushed together, her breath stank of cheap liquor and rotten teeth.

“Then pull yourself together, jackrabbit!” She hissed. “Stop being the damsel in distress and become the fucking dragon!"


Her eyes flew open to Thomas Wolffe on top of her, groping at her. She spat and screamed. Her right fist connected firmly with his jaw, sent him flailing.

“Get the fuck off me!” She shouted, biting back the exploding pain shooting up her arm. “Don’t you ever fucking touch me!”

Before Thomas could do much more than wipe the blood from his mouth, Christopher was between them, flanked by Byron. He regarded Sydney with twisted arousal as she tried to readjust her clothing.

“I have dibs, Tommy, we discussed that,” Christopher said calmly, not even offering his brother a sidelong glance. Slowly, he stepped forward. “Spunk, fire, that’s what you got. I like that. A lot.” He licked his lips. “When we get to Hell and Gone, me and you…”

Whatever he was going to say next was interrupted by the impact of the toe of her boot against his testicles. Even as he doubled over, Sydney pushed him into Thomas, who then rolled into the fire. She didn’t see what happened next. Before she even fully realized it she was running through the new moon Backcountry shadows with the sounds of the Wolffe brothers howling and yipping behind her like feral dogs.