"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

30 July 2013

Lazy Day

After last week's epic trek, followed the next day by a four by four and hiking expedition around the Indian Peaks Wilderness area, my legs were not very happy with me. I could hear the phantasmal voices whispering ugly things about the memory of my mother that would be uncivilized to repeat. It took me a few days to recover. That Wolverine-esque healing ability of mine has slowed down just a little as I've grown older. So it goes.

I had contemplated Watrous Gulch, or maybe Dry Gulch for the day's walkabout. A little more toward Watrous, even and especially since Sabina wanted to be with me to see what Dry looked like during the summer with the wildflowers. Maybe we could even go hunting for the wreckage of the ancient airplane crash up Mount Trelease.

Watrous Gulch is only two and a half miles, but you gain twenty-five hundred feet in elevation. As I looked up the valley in the direction of the trail, remembering last week's adventures, something in the back of my skull whispered something along the lines of fuck that noise. I was feeling lazy.

So, I go to pull out the push-mower. It's been two weeks and the monsoon has been plentiful here. Afterward, I'll run the Bull's Head. It's only nearly two miles and three-hundred twenty feet vertical. A milk run. Even scrabbling some of the rock formation, I'll be in my sandals. It'll take an hour, if that. At least I can say I've been out in the bush for a bit.

There'll be the mundanity of running trash. Maybe pop into the library. Tomorrow Sabina and I will do laundry and run some errands up over, taking Loveland Pass home. We already discuss what we'll be grilling for dinner.

I've already promised and/or committed-or should be?-myself to Watrous Gulch next week. Perhaps the day after that Sabina and I will hike Dry Gulch. That other viewpoint of the Citadel will no doubt be spectacular. It is said you can reach some pretty cool camping spots and then hike down the other side of Herman's Gulch-were one so inclined-from there.

However, that's a week off, today I'm just going to be lazy...

23 July 2013


Looking south from the summit of my personal Kilimanjaro...

At twelve-thousand two-hundred eighty-seven feet, even on a hot summer day-it was eight-two at my house-the mountain breeze can carry a Himalayan bite. It cools and drys sweat-soaked skin in a way, that after a two and a half hour steady, if not sometimes rigorous-to put it mildly-ascent, can be refreshing. As I took in the views, part of me simplistically wondered if the mountain was offering its grudging respect that I kept true to my word to stand upon its summit within a year's time. A silly thought, but one, which brought a wicked grin of joy to my face, none the less.


As I was making an epic breakfast and getting my pack together, Sabina kept on throwing in things and suggesting odds and ends. She had her obligations so would not be coming. That didn't stop her from reminding me to take two trek poles-which I normally only do when snowshoeing-and to rub muscle balms on my arms and legs both before and after the walkabout. 

It was tempting to tell her my mother had been dead for three and a half years and I was not in the market for another one, or that she does indeed make a wonderful wife, what for all the nagging. However, it's been quite some time since I've been backhanded. Though, some might find this strange, I thought I'd continue the trend.

"Have fun climbing the mountain!" She said in a Princess Bride-esque voice.

"I'll have a miserable time without you, promise," I said. She shook her head in disbelief, but kissed me anyway.


After the ruins of the 730, the trail, following the drainage of Brown's Gulch, something of a dubious proposition, starting and stopping at odd times, places, and elevations. A hallucination more than a trail. Seeing the odd bearing tree marker or old can is one of the few reminders that humans have indeed been up this way. There is a cabin up about midway through the gulch that has a pair of skies in it. I know. I have seen them, though not the owner.

Then comes finding a crossing and the dead reckoning up. Hence, the need for a second trek pole. By this point, I've removed my shirt, because I'm hot and only Milarepa's around. Not like she would criticize my skeletal build, even if she could. After all, under her fur coat, she's naked.

How unladylike...

It's work. There is no trail I've found to reach where I mean to go. So it goes. This is a pilgrimage, and some believe self-flagellation is all part of a pilgrimage. Well, if you want to keep it real. I keep it so real it bleeds into the surreal. It's how I roll, as the hip kids say on the streets.


We reach the summit and all but collapse. Two bighorn rams, having sighted, or perhaps scented, a half-bald primate and a herd dog, run for the krumholtz. I take note of this with relief it didn't grab Milarepa's attention. She's still young and spazzy enough to still want to prove something.

So we sit, truly relaxing for the first time in a couple hours. There's water and food. I marvel at the world folded out before me; the outback of Guanella, Waldorf, and Mount Bierstadt to the south, perhaps even on to the borders of the South Park region itself. West is Gray's, Torrey's, Mount Sniktau, and the rest of the Roof of the World coiling and rising in the manner of dragon's teeth and giant's spines. Up north is Bard Creek and Berthod Pass. Toward the east is Mount Evans, Squaw and Chief Mountains respectively, and finally, that opening, exposing the haze and endless expanse of the flatlands of down below. I am in awe.

Often, I will tell travelers that in the mountains of Colorado one does not get a bad view. This one smacks me between the eyes with its perspective and magnificence. For a moment, it seems as if I behold all things.


I have yet to tell which is more difficult; going up or down. The climb up can be grueling at times, getting you to question your resolve, if not outright sanity. Down is where the tentacles of gravity seize upon you with savage strength. It can be almost crushing.

Toward the ruins, I pick up an elk skull I spied on the way up. It's extra weight and my shoulders are sore from the sheer uphill with the two trek poles. Still, I found it, and it's my trail-booty. Trifle with me about it, and I'll get indignant. Milarepa tries to, wanting something to chew on.

My daughter meets us at the trailhead. Walking two miles with probably twenty-five pounds of bone and a dog that wants to chase every living it sees is not comfortable. I'm grateful for the ride.

Later, I take out the binoculars. I find the rock outcropping I was seated upon. A feeling of accomplishment washes over me. I show my daughter.

"That's so cool!" She says. "I totally want to do that hike."

"Someday," I tell her. "But I do advise two trek poles."

19 July 2013


The monsoon has come to our Sahel, and with it, the air has taken on the quality of oppressive weight. It is a strange thing, despite the river and willow bogs, this is ultimately an arid region. Although the monsoons do come annually, the way the air gets heavy is still a shock.

Those I know with straight hair, like Sabina, bemoan how it gets flat and greasy-looking when the weather gets like this. They avoid the outside and rain as much as possible. I think this a bunch of who shot john hair dysmorphia, personally.

"Oh, times is hard," I growl unsympathetically. "My hair gets all kinds of frizzy. It's a miracle I don't have an afro right now."

"I wish I had wavy hair with curls like yours," more than one straight-haired, including Sabina, has said to me.

"No. You don't," I reply, but no one ever listens to me. Fucking women and their fucking vanity.

Even as the atmosphere has become pendulous with an adhesive quality, I remind myself this is not North Carolina, or anywhere out east I've been for that matter. Praises be. When I lived down south, I saw Hostess cupcakes and oreos mold. True story, and there are those in lab coats that insist such things are incapable of decomposition. Bullshit, I was there. It was wet and rot and kudzu and Klansmen burning crosses and hypocritical Elmer Gantry preachers and NASCAR.

Ever wonder why I'm not scared of Hell? Aside from it's mythology and I was once married to a Catholic? Think of where I lived for a few years.

But my Paradise is a little sticky these days. It's for just a bit. A few short weeks when it comes down to brass tacks and bedposts. Even now, meteorological prophecy hints that things might be drying out. At least for a few days. Which is good. See, I tire of the pseudo-fro.

16 July 2013

With Sympathy

It is a horrible thing to watch someone die. Even and especially by slow degrees; chronic illness, terminal disease-one and the same?-mechanical pantomimes. It is a slow torture for all the parties involved, and anyone who would say different is either daft or selling something.

She's gone now, and, as the worst kind of bastard with the morals-ha!-of an alley cat, as your friend, I can only speak in truths...

You are not going to get over this. Ever. Sure, after a while you reach a point where the void where that person was is not so cold and bottomless, but it'll always be there. Something, anything, will reach out of the nowhere and remind you of what you've lost. What was once there and can never be recovered.

There will be regrets. All the memories and stories and little moments. Gone now. You will wish you listened more. Took more note. Relished those small times. Shown more gratitude for what was soft and warm and unspoken.

You might not sleep much at first. Your dreams will be haunted by that phantasm. Then, one day, you will just crash; entering into a dreamless sleep that seems to last for days. That may just be the day the psychic scab starts to form.

Cry. Be angry. Shout and scream and punch something. Purge the ire, do not let it fester and poison you. Mourn. Allow yourself that.

Watch the sun rise. Watch it set. Snuggle with your daughter and your boyfriend, perhaps at the same time. Tell stories and smile. Walk. Breathe. Live. Allow yourself that.

It's not going to be easy. How the fuck could it be? This is Hell and cobwebs and gravedust and razorblades and maggots. It'd be an outright lie to say otherwise.

But, you're a fighter. You will survive this. If for no other reason than it is not in your nature to just up and quit.

It's a horrible thing to watch someone die. I know this. You know this. We've both been here before and we'll be here again. That's just the way of it. Just know, I can only speak to you in truths and I've got your shadow.

My sympathies...

14 July 2013


We'd not been to this set of ruins since our first full summer of living in the mountains. Under monsoon skies we marveled at the remnants of the old mine. A wall of snow that never melts choked the still-open main tunnel, making it nigh on impossible to go more than a few hundred feet down. Of course, there are those who would say crawling into the belly of the earth willingly is tantamount to madness.

Years later, under monsoon skies, there was some new graffiti on the walls. A few things had weathered, and some had weathered away. So it goes. All around the compound were signs stating the site was under reclamation of the Santiago Mill Stewards, and to respect the historical buildings.

It was why we were up there...

I documented only one group, but they were very interested in what we were doing. See, the Forest Service was ready to tear the place down under the auspice of attractive  nuisance-pot hunters and vandals-had some group not stepped up to intervene. Take stewardship. The preservationist got a mess of together for the cause. I've never been one for joining, and causes, other than my own sense of go-my-own-way, have often been a dubious proposition, but this one captured my imagination.

As the storm clouds slithered and coiled along the highest peaks in the manner of Chinese dragons we shared knowledge and stories with a small group of prospectors. They headed down the mountain after giving well-wishes and signing our little notebook when the last of the sun and turquoise was swallowed by slate and the first fat drops of rain started to fall upon the tundra. We waited for the sky to open up.

Those of you playing along at home know I do not believe in good and evil. Such things are human made constructs, attempting to make order in a universe filled with chaos. Be that as it may, when one of our lot made a remark about doing something on the side of light, I couldn't help but smile slightly. Perhaps, in context, good wasn't such a black and white concept, and we were, indeed, doing a good thing. 

10 July 2013

Long Shanks

Given the trail is considered part of the Continental Divide Trail, I really should not have been shocked to have encountered so many people, even on a Tuesday. Still, I was a little aggravated, calling the trail a whore within the walls of my skull. After all, everyone was on her. Even me, making me quite the hypocrite, but, then again, my hypocrisy knows no bounds.

At the lake, I cut around to where the trail disappears into indistinct along the tundra. Here, was where the headwaters of the gulch were. This provided me with the backcountry solitude I sought. I looked out toward the Citadel. For those of you have read my tales from Marrakech, Colorado, the feature called Hell's Watchtower was inspired by the Citadel. I may or may not climb it some day, but I'll always marvel at it.

On the way back down I passed a man I'd passed on the way up. As he huffed and wheezed, I told him he was nearly there and it was worth it. He asked me if I walked a seven minute mile and his wife said I was fast. Funny, I spent a half hour in the shadow of the Citadel contemplating a route to another drainage.

My daughter recently told me how her friends would get after her for walking fast. In reply she mentioned growing up with a father who is nearly six and a half feet tall. She said she had to walk fast just to keep up with my walkabout pace.

I thought of that as I passed other groups, some of which I'd passed either coming up or down. There was the time I dared Sabina to keep up with me on a walk from Netherworld to the Temple of the Jinn. She did. Although, she had to work a little to keep pace with my long shanks, but she'll brag she did it in heels. Strange girl.

When I was a whelp, I was sometimes bullied for not being able to run. For being slow. I moved awkwardly. Both Sabina and the gypsy have noted I move differently. The gypsy once said she thought I could fly, whilst Sabina at one point was convinced I could teleport.

Maybe, maybe not. I just move the way I do, at the pace I do. Be that as it may, as I passed fellow trekkers on that whore of a trail I began to realize I might just be a little faster than I ever thought I was.  

07 July 2013

Okay?!? and Let it Be

Perhaps the most poignant sermon/Dharma talk I've ever experienced; I've come to this one right before my mother died and when the bruja walked on. It keeps me from screaming in a universe filled with chaos and unremitting horror.

I remember recognizing the lie of it's okay and/or it'll be okay when I saw my mother after her first bits of chemotherapy. My father had her take me alone into the bedroom, where she pulled off the knitted cap Sabina made for her. There she stood; bald, skeletal, in pain, dying before my eyes. She reached out for me, and-I was a horrible son in that moment-I recoiled; angry, mortified, frightened.

"It's okay," she tried to tell me in sobbing tongues. I cried too. I also drank a bottle of whiskey myself that visit, and it fixed nothing.

Bullshit! Your hair is gone and you're still sick. Don't fucking start this conversation with a lie!

I'll not even get into my reaction of my mother fucking dying on all of us after she told me it wasn't her last rodeo...

When the bruja was nothing more than meat, kept breathing on machines, I didn't bother saying it'd be okay. I told my friends it was going to be and that was that. Words like fair and right were deception. It was to be and what was to be not what was wanted or expected. Of course, in such context as life and death, want and get are such diametrical opposites I'd not waste oxygen in the explanation.

We were having coffee at the neighbor's when Sabina got the word; a compatriot of hers, a kind-hearted deadhead near her age, had been felled by cancer. I love her too much to lie and tell her it was okay. It wasn't. I walked back home and grabbed the half bottle of whiskey from the freezer. We let her cry and told stories of chaos and loss and the how such things as bills and traffic are really fucking trivial, but in the small moments, there's all the life and magic you'll ever need.

In a bit, we'll go for a walk, because that's what she wants to do. I'll make us dinner, because we should probably eat at some point. It's not okay and it won't be. So it goes. We'll just let it be and be in the moment, because, when it comes down to brass tacks and bedposts, the moment is all any of us have.

"Oh, child of a noble family,
Listen, and be without distraction,
You have now entered the bardo
you can choose to be reborn, 
Or you can choose to attain liberation
and free yourself of the cycle of death and rebirth..." -The Bardo Thodo, The Tibetan Book or the Dead

02 July 2013

The Happy Place

The end of Grizzly Gulch, the basin of Grizzly Peak; standing at thirteen-thousand, four-hundred twenty-seven feet, between Torrey's Peak, which is fourteen-thousand, two-hundred sixty-seven on one side and Mount Sniktau that's thirteen-thousand, two-hundred thirty-four feet on the other.

There is something fantastic shutting off my phone before my feet really begin to kick up trail dust. Down below, in those past lives I remember but you do not, before we were all hardwired to our cell phones, I'd sometimes go out just to escape my telephone. Although, being misanthropic, I'm not given to getting lots of calls. Still, my outback walkabouts sometimes remind me of those days. 

I'm wandering. See you when I see you. Leave a message at the beep.

Tourists will ask me about my favorite trail, and, because I am [chaotic] neutral-sometimes to a fault-I will say it depends upon the day and what kind of walkabout I want to have. This is not entirely untrue. Every place I go within our little Sahel holds its own magic and mystery and coo-kook-ka-khuche that remind me of what an extraordinary place I live. Out on walkabout, I always find something new, and I fall in love all over again, and that's what love's all about. Well, at least that's romantics like to say, and I wouldn't know anything about that.

Be that as it may, in all of the places I've been within our Sahel, civilized or outback, it is Grizzly Gulch, and, especially the basin and the foot of Grizzly Peak itself, that is my happy place. It's all those bits of purple prose the nature writers ranted about. It's all the wonderful things Howard Carter claimed to see-there is that mine off to beginning of the trail. One of those places where I hear divine voices in the tongues of breeze and water and profound silence. I walk next to two fourteeners-Gray's and Torrey's-and gain perspective of just how massive fourteen-thousand feet of mountain can truly be.

Along the trail, I spied a deer. I thought of an incident, a year to the day before, which has somewhat soured Sabina's feelings toward it. I found myself thinking of reincarnation. Although, in Buddhist thought, the realm of animals is one of fear and hunger, but, be that as it may, it certainly beats out the hellscapes, where Lord Yama, the King of the Dead and the Lord of Hell, pours molten copper down one's throat for an eon-at least-until the negative karma is burned off.

The Buddhist concept of hell is vaguely like the Catholic concept of Purgatory, I once told my daughter; you can eventually escape it, but that's another story...

Despite this being the trail whereupon I most love to get my John Muir/Edward Abbey on, I make no delusions that I am the only one whose been there. The trail itself is well defined and there are fire-rings here and there-Miguel Loco encourages me to dismantle the lesser ones under the auspice of trying to prevent wildfires, a bit of monkey-wrenching, as it were. Still, as I wandered, there was no one else. The only other biped I saw on the trail was toward the very end, when Milarepa and I were but yards from Old Scratch.

Have I ever mentioned how much I looooooooooooove having Tuesdays free?

Up in the basin, amongst the krumholtz and silence, I smiled the most wicked grin of joy. The moment was as perfect as one can have without it getting boring. Part of me wanted it to last forever, and, dependent upon one's philosophical bent, it did. As it came time to leave, I blew a kiss to Grizzly Peak. A queer showing of respect to something that could care less about my existence how grateful was for its. I know I'll be back again, because that's just the way of it. That mountain calls, and I must go.