"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

25 February 2014

Kind of Day

It was the kind of day that the chinook blew with a gentle strength. Meteorological prophecy spoke of a potential upslope later in the day, but none of the portents were there. Even later, the few flakes upon the afternoon breezes seemed more orographic than borne of any storm.

I found myself wanting to say it was spring, despite the date on the calendar. It was the feel of the air and consistency of the snow. Mud and slush. The sun comes earlier and stays later, rising higher into the sky. There is a different interplay of light along the ridge lines and mountainsides. Those who have been around long enough have no doubt spotted on to my abstracted view of time. I rarely call out the seasons by virtue of celestial trivialities like equinoxes and solstices. For me, it's something felt within the marrow.

So it goes...

It was the kind of day I set about doing yard work. Certainly, those not in the know-that might be most of you-would wonder what kind of yard work I can do at ninety-one sixty in the waning days of February with close to a foot and a half of snow around my house. The answer is glaringly simple; three dogs. A grim, but necessary, task indeed.

It was the kind of day I wore gaiters instead of snowpants. Carried my microspike crampons instead of snowshoes. For walkabout, I went just a bit up the 730. I didn't have a lot fuel in Old Scratch and not much motivation to go further afield, in part from fuel, yard work, and getting up a little later in the morning than anticipated.

The streets around town were a study in ice, slush, mud, and great puddles of dark, cold water that may have made a hovercraft a good idea for getting around. I kind of see it as what happens when there's only one paved road in town. Getting to my destination, I saw I wasn't the only one who was doing some outdoor maintenance in gentle light of a warm High Country day. Others set about digging out more proper paths in and out, instead of ones made by tramping down snow, which sank in the sunlight and became lanes of glare ice come nightfall.

Going up the trail, I didn't need my crampons. Solar radiation saw to that. After the second switchback, the human tracks were obviously old. No one had been that way in a bit. Those tracks were left by boots. Because the 730 is south-facing and exposed to the winds, I could never really see it as a place to go snowshoeing.

Stopping at the small bowl where the ruins of the Pelican-Dives mine were, just below Cherokee Gulch, another switchback up, I could see a few broken trees from an avalanche that happened eight years back. A few weeks ago, I might not have come this far, even though it's below treeline. Here and now, I gazed up at the summit of my personal Kilimanjaro from a different vantage point. Turned to look out upon our Sahel framed by brilliant early afternoon light and broken clouds, which created ever-changing patchworks of light and shadow across the valley.

It was the kind of day I swung by Miguel Loco's shoppe to get a cha'i and play ketchup. We spoke of his new girlfriend and the how the season had been so far, both in terms of snow and getting out in it and how we were fairing. I apologized that we'd have to wait until next year for him to teach me the discipline of ice climbing because, out of all the places to do that sort of thing here, the ice is what could be called rotten. Although it may have been one of the first days of High Country spring, and the omens of mud were everywhere, spring and summer seemed like far-off, almost mythological, concepts. There was still the spring-breakers to deal with and April.

It was the kind of day where I drove home with the window down and Paul Simon's Graceland-on cassette, muthfuckas!-was my jam. The last of my cha'i was my roadie. When I let out the hounds, even arthritic Chevy lopped about like a puppy. It got me to smile. I sat out on porch to catch the last of the sun's ray's before it dipped below the ridge line. It was just that kind of day.

23 February 2014

Rock Whisperer

She didn't really make a lasting impression. Just someone drifting by inquiring what there was to do. I am paid in folding paper and jingling coins to tell people where to go and suggest what they do when they get there. It is more rewarding an interesting than you might think. Next to dancing with the dead for money, it's been my coolest form of bankrolling my adventures and paying my mortgage.

She mentioned an interest in history, which is auspicious, what with being a in a funky-gotta have the funk!-mining town. I mentioned the couple hundred Victorian-era structures, a large concentration for the region. Much later, I would mention my town, two miles and six-hundred vertical away, and how both municipalities have hosted summer home tours over the years.

When she returned, she thanked me for my suggestions and set about looking at bobbles and gee-gaws. Part of the dance. Her attention became focused on some pieces with turquoise.

"This one has a tree, and, this one, a butterfly. There's something deeper in this one." She then looked up at me. "I only get rocks if they have a story in them."

I smiled slightly and courteously. Perhaps a Voodoo mask of understanding. Although, I believe there's a story in everything. I watched with predatory fascination as her fingers cautiously stroke the stones, teasing out the whispers in esoteric tongues borne deep from within the belly of the earth.

"I'll take this one," she said finally, pointing at the one she said held a tree.

"Life's short, get them all," I said with equal parts flippancy and truth.

"I can't," she said with quiet reverence. "Those stories are for other people. You can't steal other people's stories."

"Of course," I wondered if she could read the thievery I was engaging in within my smirk.

We finished our dance with the exchange of paper and coins for piece of polished turquoise on a leather cord. The necessary civilities were traded. She promised to return in the summer, to see the museums and perhaps catch a home tour.

"And the other people will be here for their stories soon enough," she said over her shoulder as she left.

"Of course, Mademoiselle," I said with a slight inclination of my head, wondering if she knew of the story I'd collected, if not outright stolen, from her.

21 February 2014


I was not that well acquainted with the deceased. In fact, what I did know of him, I didn't like. However, his girlfriend and I got along fairly well. We might have even made out once or twice, early twenties between any commitment type of things, but that's another story. She, of course, was devastated by his death.

I may be the worst kind of bastard with the morals of an alley cat, but, on occasion, I've been known to something that could be construed as kind. Sometimes, I'll mention I'm full of metta, the Buddhist concept of loving kindness. Sabina, in an attempt to enrage me, will say I'm full of something. Fucking woman.

As a philosophy and theology student who was digging on far, far eastern mysticisms and philosophies, I went to the Bardo Thotol, more commonly called the Tibetan Book of the Dead in western circles. From there I copied down in black India ink a prayer translated as the Main Verses of the Six Bardos. I gave that to the devastated girlfriend with as much sympathy as I could muster for the deceased. It was the best I could do.

Over the course of the next month I had three very vivid dreams of a distinctly Buddhist flavor. Being in my early twenties, hanging out with Pagans and others of mystical inclinations, I took this as something of an omen. I was already rather intrigued by Buddhism. It made sense. So, there I was, suddenly calling myself a Buddhist with Taoist and Shinto leanings, which sounds like a mental disorder. Then again, ask an over-zealous atheist, and they'll say any religion is a mental disorder. I'd later shorten it heretical Tibetan Buddhist by virtue of how I used to smoke, I drink, and I'm not above eating meat-hey, for me to live, something's got to die, be it plant, animal, or fungus, deal.

I'd call those set of dreams my religious experience. A few years after that, I postulated to a doomsday zealot evangelical preacher on the Sixteenth Street Mall how my experience was sort of like the apostle formerly known as Saul on the road to Damascus. The way I figured it, the Divine, were it anthropomorphic, knew I was the questioning sort, and the fact Buddhism didn't like the idea of blind faith was the reason for me being pointed in that direction. That preacher actually liked my argument. We had a few on the street theology discussions before he abruptly disappeared one winter.


I'd just turned twenty-nine when I went on that daytrip with my parents and siblings to Phantom Canyon and up through Cripple Creek and Victor. On the way back out of the mountains, I half-dozed. In a brief flash, I saw the silhouetted figure of a girl in a cowboy hat dancing in a mountain meadow against the warm late afternoon sun. The dream got me to smile as I opened my eyes to lovely Colorado sunset.

Years later, in the half-light of a gin joint, I'd see Sabina in a cowboy hat. I confess I did a double-take, although, I didn't know why at the time. We weren't going to be that way to one another for another year yet. Never mind the dream I'd have of the two of us living together far and away from the greater metroplex but a month later.

That summer, I had a dream of Africa, which reawakened my fascination with that stretch of geography. I still mean to travel there some day. I've always been drawn to mountains, and my dreams have featured those. Objectively, I blame this on having been born in Colorado, and, with the exception of those three and a half unfortunate years in North Carolina, I've always been able to at least see mountains. I could further suppose the Tibetan aspect of my Buddhism, and, well, have you ever seen images of Tibet?

Not like I can be blamed for this...


I admit I oscillate between hard-boiled skeptic and queerly superstitious. It used to drive some of my more fantastical-minded Pagan friends mad as I'd dissect their mystical explanations. A sadistic man would have taken glee in it, but I am full of metta.

Yet, and perhaps it is where and how I live, but there are those times of magic and mystery and coo-coo-kachoo, which can render me speechless. Perhaps that is paradoxical of me. There are those whom have said-baselessly!-I am contrary and otherwise paradoxical.


I can remember the dreams of Alaska starting whilst I was reading The Blue Bear, but I can think of a thousand documentaries and episodes of Northern Exposure that may helped feed that dragon. Perhaps even those stripped copies of trail magazines Sabina sometimes brings home-the hiker version of Vogue or Cosmopolitan, like Shambala Sun and Tricycle are for Buddhists...there, I said it-with their images of the Land of the Midnight Sun added fuel too. There is something interesting about the juxtaposition of the wild cold Pacific kissing against mountains, some taller than the Rockies. Like the environment I live in, but oh so very different.

In my dreams, there are whales. Humpback leviathans prancing and cavorting in the vast blue against a backdrop of grand peaks. I've never done a bucket list because I have no time to die and that's what one of those lists imply. Be that as it may, like Africa, like Tibet, I'd like to see whales other than as photographs and video images someday.


Years and lifetimes ago, during my exile in the rural south, I remember speaking with a mystical fondness and mournful homesickness of the Rocky Mountains. Of Colorado. Of home. The cat I was talking to spoke in the tongues of a lobotomized shangha when they said there was possibly something for me up in the mountains and one day I might just find it.

It took me years and lifetimes to get to the mountains. Really get to them. What I have found here I am still excavating and dissecting and learning the shape of. There are still so many secrets and stories to find. I still remember those words from so long ago, and, in the context of my dreams, it begs a question;

What is there for me in Alaska?      

18 February 2014

Epic Mundanities

I felt a little lame when I decided to just do the Bull's Head for my walkabout. One of the places I have wanted to go is up on Berthoud Pass, but, given its terrain, there's been a lot of avalanche blasting as of late. The trail I thought of as a fall-back was decided as something for Sabina and I to do together the next time the sun rose. Hence, my at-least-I-got-out-of-the-house-for-a-bit hike.

Perhaps, it could be argued, I had other reasons as well. Either on my way to a trailhead or after a trek, I run the trash and recyclables for the week. What with having a motorized vehicle, I needed to register it for another year, and, with it being the day after a government holiday, I might have a line of at least one other person making my wait around five minutes, which was a bit of Kafkaesque bureaucracy I wasn't necessarily looking forward to. There was also the historical society meeting later in the evening, and having an longer trek might have left me too wasted to pay attention, much less care.

It seemed as though my day was packed. Packed with mundanities. Although, I suppose no matter how epic your life is, or, how epic you think your life is, there are moments of the mundane. Groceries need to be gotten, bills need to be paid, and laundry needs to be done. That's just the way of it.

Perhaps then, it could be argued, it's how you deal with the mundanities that tells you who and what you really are...

It was a warm enough day as to not bother with a jacket. The sun was bright and omens of melting were all over town. Once more, the river can been seen from past its battered armor of now rotten ice. March is closer than December. The taste of warmer days is on the wind.

Once I got past the museum, the hominid tracks gave way to either pristine snow or the passing of quadrupeds. Although I loath surprises, this was a pleasant shock. Even when I reached to ruins of the Diamond Mine, it was obvious I was the only one who'd been that way in good long time. It wasn't until I rejoined the 730 trail that I saw human tracks once more. I noticed there was enough snow that Sabina and I could probably snowshoe as far as the avalanche chute at Cherokee Gulch before calling it good.

It was lovely to catch some beloved solitude so close to home. Although, it's rare as hen's teeth I run into another person on the Bull's Head, despite its accessibility and proximity to town. The reality of no human footprints across the snow was oh so very seductive. Suddenly, I didn't feel that lame at all for my choice of trails. In fact, despite it's mundanity, I felt quite epic.  

15 February 2014

100 Words; Snow Eater

The wind blows Tibetan from the Roof of the World. Although, the breeze is possessed of a queer warmth, like the whispers of the jinn across the wastelands and within the shadows of ruins, or the breath of a dragon as it speaks in its tongue of riddles. Oddly comforting, but also strangely chilling.

The texture of the snow becomes soft, like that of mashed potatoes. Slush and the preludes of mud. Whorls of bare ground appear for the first time in months. The winds are commonly called chinook, but I prefer their fabled, if not erroneous, moniker; the snow-eater.

11 February 2014

A Break from the Clouds

Yes, it fit. I also had to purge that insipid song about the sun coming out tomorrow from my skull...  

It was the first time in a week I'd not started the day with an infusion of lapsang souchong. For the first time in seven days there was more clear to the sky than clouds. A light breeze blew at ninety-one sixty. Looking up higher, catching the snow devils dancing headlong into the stratosphere, you could tell wind-speed increased with elevation. Looking toward the Roof of the World, the peaks were shrouded in a cloak of orographic snow. It is said, in winter, the jetstream dips as low as fourteen-thousand feet. On days like this, in times like theses, I believe it.  

The warren of trails, all that is left of an old townsite, is a milk run and whore, but I repeat myself. Be that as it may, it'd been a bit since I'd been there, the snow was fresh, and the avalanche danger was still scary-stupid high further out. Rationalization enough. I wandered past the ruins of a mill from the early twentieth century, where paint-ballers have been known to play war, and rounded down by a local lake. A cross-country skier I encountered thanked me for breaking trail, and I chuckled, remembering how I oftentimes do not encounter the cats I do that for.

I wasn't long. Enough to get that zen sensation of having gone out to frolic, meditation coupled with the most sacred of communion, and a bit of exercise. These are the spices of a good walkabout.

After stopping at the library's book sale, because one can never have enough books, I was standing on my front porch watching the snow devils dance headlong into the stratosphere. It was a haunting juxtaposition against the turquoise of the clear sky above. The snow gleamed in the mild sunshine, a countenance of diamond and polished ivory. Sublime. Such is the treasure of the high country in winter.

09 February 2014

Snow Day Thoughts

The blessings and curses of winter walkabouts; vodka at the end of the trek and frost in the facial hair...

It has been lapsang souchong weather for the last week. Murky clouds have cloaked the Roof of the world and it has snowed at least an inch every day. During our last walkabout, my thermometer I keep on my pack read fifteen above-remember, no bad weather, just the wrong clothes. It was brisk when we'd stop, but we reached our destination. Both of us were spent, but we-meaning I-were breaking trail. Rare is it when two miles feels so long, but it was worth it in the end, if for no other reason than the downhill stride.

Since that walkabout, it's warmed up some. The ambient air temperature hovers near or slightly above that of frozen water. I question if this storm is not the first of the spring snows, given how the texture has morphed from fluffy powder to paste at times. There's a bit more slush on the roadways. Greasy, as I recall it once described.

Big, fat flakes fall slowly and softly. Having finished a late breakfast, I work on my last cup of tea before getting ready. Yes, we're going walking. Off to the canyon, because the avalanche danger is high, thus making Backcountry travel ill-advised, and neither of us feel the need to get out on the Road with the other idiots. That's the nice thing about having so many trailheads close to home, it's the nice thing about living where others come vacation; just stepping out the door holds the potential for an adventure.

04 February 2014


Some of the righteous icicles along the back of the House of Owls and Bats. A bit of trivia; those back windows were once in a train car...

Sabina knitted me a new cap. The fucker is warm!

A couple days back, whilst snowshoeing, and having a throughly good time of it, I asked Sabina, somewhat rhetorically if she'd wished she'd been doing this sort of thing sooner. Something I've caught myself thinking from time to time. I already know my answer.

There was acknowledgement of that, but also of our respective past lives. A reckoning perhaps we needed to have our experiences within the borders of the great metroplex, good and ill. Do what we wanted and needed to do and find what we wanted to or needed to find. There was also the matter of finding one another, so to speak, although, that speaks to the subject of destiny, and I have a very hard time believing in fate.

I believe I can live with that. After all, I once gave my position on the concept of regret. One thing I wanted to be if I grew up was one of those well-rounded cats who'd perhaps done a little of everything and possessed some of the more esoteric knowledges. Joy to the world and watch what you wish for. Of course, Jezebel, my daughter, and Sabina would say that's because I tend to try, consciously or not, to be different, sometimes just for the sake of it. Were I try to argue this point, any one of them would chuckle and say of course in an attempt to drive me mad.

Fucking women...


It's been almost two months since I'd been to Grizzly Gulch and a little longer than that since I'd taken Milarepa out into the Backcountry with me. Like Whistler, she always knows when I'm going on walkabout. When I don't take her, she's been known to yip and howl her disappointment at being left behind. Sometimes, I feel bad about that.

She was out back as I stowed gear in Old Scratch. I could hear her sounds of anticipation. As I walked toward her with a leash, I caught myself speaking to her the way mother would have, albeit slightly paraphrased.

"Who's the cute puppy? Who's the cute puppy who wants to go on walkabout with me?" She danced and jumped all around me as I dropped the leash to snow-cover ground. "Perhaps you need to sit."

Out of the three of them, Milarepa is the least disciplined. I got her before my mother could ever even start to train her for dog shows, herding trials, or being a working dog. I never took the time to train her to my mother's regiment, and perhaps that was bad of me. Be that as it may, me dropping a leash in front of her and telling her to sit gets her attention.

A walkabout with the tall lanky bastard? Perhaps into the outback? Suddenly, she becomes rather well-behaved as her attentions become single-pointedly focused.

At fifty-five pounds-of love!-my daughter would say, but also youthful exuberance, Milarepa sets a cruel pace when we first start out. My trek poles are used more as like shepherd's crooks. I think of my mother, remembering her working with dogs like Whistler and Chevy, but also their parents, and even their parents before that. We got the first brood-bitch when I was thirteen, and the first litter was born when I was fifteen. That's when my mother started raising the breed in earnest.

It never takes long for Milarepa to calm into a good walking rhythm. Every so often, I'd tell her how good she was being, but, often, we walked in the silence that only falling snow can cause. Any time I would stop, she would sit, patiently waiting for me to usher her on again. We only encountered two other people on the trail.

Who's the majestic and adorable mountain puppy?

Although, I've heard the stories, I've never had a negative encounter on the trail. My exchanges are short and pleasant. The two we encountered joked they'd broken the trail for us. I offered my thanks, knowing I sometimes return the favor, most often, to strangers I never see.

It was one of those times Milarepa got ice-balls on her feet. Any time that happens, I remind myself I should research booties for her. Although, it doesn't always happen, so I don't always think about it. Still, the discomfort she was experiencing was justification for turning around. A mile in, it wasn't like I'd not given myself a good workout. Having snowshoed two days before and knowing I was going to the next day, I didn't feel bad. My days were rounded out with more walkabouts than not. Exactly the way I like my life these days.

On the way down, I mused the discussion I had with Sabina just two days before. I thought of the magic of this place I live now and the mystic of the last place I left behind. Watching Milarepa walk ahead of me, I thought about my mother and life back on those farmsteads in the badlands growing up. When I first came to the mountains and started going on my first walkabouts, my mother said she was happy to see her nature boy was back. Truthfully, he never went away, but he had to experience a few different worlds, lives, and landscapes to become the rounded individual that would truly appreciate where his feet finally landed.