"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

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.