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.
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."