29 October 2014
Ice is starting to form on the river...
By and large, it is has been a rather mild autumn. I've caught myself going without a jacket more often than not. Although, part of me wonders if it is not in defiance of the season, and, the season to come, instead of the ambient air temperature. Every year, as it cools down, I find myself silently wondering if I have truly gotten used to living up here, that my body has adapted to climate as my mind has to the environment. Most often, I know the answer is yes, but that doesn't stop the questioning.
There are the omens of change in the air. Breath being visible at night and the early morning. The snow on the very high peaks is not melting away. Shadows grow longer. The sun ducks behind the ridge between three-thirty and four in the afternoon, giving one a slight chill at first. In another few days, the idiocy of Daylight Savings starts, and it'll get darker that much quicker. A few weeks after that, the sun will not rise over Pendleton's massif and those of us along Rue Maji will not get direct sunlight again until the end of January. In my mind, the beginning of winter is the day I notice we've entered the Long Dark.
The other day, we went up Grizzly Gulch. On the peak for which the trail is named, as well as along Torrey's, snow devils danced is the high alpine gales. Where we were, the breeze had a slight chill, but was gentle. I managed to get a better look at the bones of the avalanche that occurred sometime last winter. It was amazing and terrifying to figure out where the slab ran and the scale of destruction it caused.
"Snow can do that?" Sampai asked me the time I showed him the photographs from that fateful June walkabout.
"Um, yeh," I replied. "It's compacted water, and water is actually pretty fucking heavy."
True to fact, the thing that kills people in avalanches, besides suffocation, is blunt force trauma...
In another month to month and a half, we'll be snowshoeing. A place like Grizzly Gulch will be a place we only go so far, as to avoid those avalanche chutes. The rhythms of the seasons. Sabina and I have already booked a hut trip for her birthday snowshoe and I imagine kicking up some powder. The other day, a fellow proletariat offered me a pair of cross-country skis and was utterly shocked that I didn't telemark.
Here and now, it's late autumn, and a mild one at that. I know what's coming. I can feel it in the marrow of my twisted skeleton. That is not now. Now is a hike up a bit of Dry Gulch. Might need gaiters. The sky is that shade of blue, the sun is shining, there's little breeze, and the air is mild. What a time to get caught up in the moment.
21 October 2014
Mount Sniktau and the Roof of the World as seen from atop the Bull's Head the other day...
A-Basin has opened, being the first such ski area to do so this season. Part of me is amazed by this, given the how little snow there is up on the tundra. Were it not for the wonders of modern technology, this would've never happened.
Desperate skiers and boarders head up, looking for a thrill. There's only one run open, which one meteorological prophet whose gospels I read called a WROD-White Ribbon of Death. I imagine it must be like the hardest of the hardcore surfers on the beach when the first signs of a new season are upon them.
Pass Lake, looking toward A-Basin...
I brought gaiters, microspikes, and had my down sweater in my pack, but needed none of it. Better to be over-prepared than under. My pack thermometer read forty degrees, eight above the temperature of frozen water on the fahrenheit scale. The slate colored clouds made what little snow there was on the ridges and in the shady spots that much more dramatic.
There were some rock formations I wanted to commit to my montane memory. Share some alpine intimacy with as I explored. Up along some of the terraces, I found a few excellent camping spots. Already, I think that far ahead. Having been up to Pass Lake during a meteor shower, I know the stars at night would be nothing short of striking.
Wandering along the ridges and rivulets, I eventually got to where I could see the lone run of A-Basin. Little black forms, like ants swarming over a clean and sun-bleached bone, sped up and down. The hardest of the hardcore. Part of me wanted to chide them for what I perceived as an act of desperation.
Yet, there I was, on a high tundra ridge surrounded by the mountain silence with chilled gentle breezes blowing by. It was sublime, certainly. I was endeavoring to experience some more alpine intimacy before the snow really starts flying and the snowpack really starts to build. Obviously, I was no better or worse.
Hardcore? Desperate? I reckon it is all a matter of aspect.
14 October 2014
Seasonal mole stout beer, something that makes autumn grand...
The seasonal paradigm has led to thermals under t-shirts, instead of flannels over them. At some point, come deep winter, there'll be times when the regiment is thermal, t-shirt, then flannel, or even a sweater. Layers are never put away here, just rotated throughout the closet. So it goes.
A few days back, the snowline was at ten-thousand, and it was a rather definite line. Down at ninety-one sixty, it was flurries that at the heaviest point left a dusting upon windshields. We made a big pot of chili.
In those past lives I remember, but you do not, down below, in the badlands of eastern Colorado, or within the borders of the greater metroplex, a big pot of chili and snow, even if it was just flurries, meant holing up. Perhaps watching a film, or several, or perhaps grooving it out to some Mozart and/or jazz.
We went for a walkabout. These days, even when it's sub-zero out, I can only make through about two hours of streaming documentaries before I get restless. I have the ways and means and live somewhere that playing outside is a holy sacrament. It seems madness to waste the whole day indoors.
I catch myself fascinated by the myriad of mentalities. Country and city. Destination/resort and office. My siblings are both quite happy in their suburban enclaves with their respective families, thinking their elder brother is strange, bordering on crazy, for being a mounting man. Yet, I'd rather shoot myself in the face-twice, in case I missed the first time-than live in a land of perceived tickie-tackie.
Neither of us are in the wrong, it's just we have different paradigms. Simple as that. Things would be rather fucking boring if we all saw it the same way. It's something I have to remember when I encounter the traveler who looks at me funny for saying there's no bad weather on a blizzard day in mid-February, or the couple from California, heading to Vail, who gaze down their snouts at anyone they see as lesser than themselves. I don't always do the best job of it, but at least I can acknowledge that.
It is interesting to think of the shifts in paradigms. What was important once verses what has become so in the present. For instance, how I enjoyed reading Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg so much down below, and these days groove on Edward Abbey and Aldo Leopold. I find myself rather grateful for this, actually, seeing it as a way of rounding me out.
Certainly, I have regrets; I've yet to be to Brazil, the only language I have full fluency or literacy in is English, and other than bitch, I've never rode a motorcycle. Horrible. However, any time I might get the delusion my life has been boring-if looking at the pointed things I'm surrounded by doesn't shock me out of apathy-it seems something comes up in conversation; like the Sub Genius conspiracy theorist I once knew, the time at an artist's loft where I ended up with my own bottle of Spanish red because the hostess ran out of glasses and I'm not proud, or bushwhacking up some rockface for kicks reminds me that I've had, and, continue to have, a good time.
This meditation-brought to you by the First Syllable Om-coalesced as I wandered the canyon in the early morning hours. Old Scratch required some maintenance-baby needs a new pair of shoes-and I wasn't about to waste part of the day by going back home to cat nap. Time was I would have. That time is not now.
At the Lair of the Boogieman...
The Boogieman in question. What? Did you think I make this shit up?
The paradigm these days is I can find zen bliss in an early morning walkabout as the sun first starts to paint the valley walls of our Sahel with golden brilliance. There is silence and the air is pleasantly crisp. It's sublime. My morning tea had a new mysticism to it when I got home. I have found when you ride the currents of your shifting paradigms like that of a cosmic river, you find yourself having more adventures than if you planned them, which is good, because the quickest way to make a deity laugh is to make a plan.
07 October 2014
Looking down the river from my sitting rock across the street from the house...
As I finished up with my obligations Saturday, noting it was havemanyintoxicants-thirty, all I could think was thank the gods and bodhisattvas the calendar had turned October. The weekend before, that last weekend in September, saw my love-with malicious intent-of crowds in its full flower. One of my volunteers even noticed. I told her come January, I'd be begging for such crazy, crowded days. January is when it is dark and quiet and cold and liner time stops working.
It is not January or even close...
The leaf-peepers are not as legion as they had been in the waning weeks of September. Some struggle to understand how our leaves could be past peak here, or how the winds could be as audacious as to strip many from the trees. There's still some color, lower and on south faces, but that, which draws the lookie-loos like locusts to crops, has faded. Now comes the time we catch our breath and get ready for winter.
Cornices begin to form on the stark and sheer tundra ridges. It was a warm day without wind, which is a rarity so high up. Even and especially this time of year. I relished the quiet and mild as I watched a group of three marmots sun themselves on a rock just below my vantage point. Sniffing the air, I wondered how many more times I'd be out here before the snow and avalanche danger barred my way for the next several months. I don't have an answer, so I cherish the time I've got.
It's not like there'll be nothing to do once the snow starts flying. Just the other day, Sabina and I came across several new-to-us ruins along some obscured side trails of the 730. This, of course, is just another facet of the magic of this place; wander the same roads for years, and make a different turn and there's something else to discover. Were I a romantic, I'd say it's like falling in love all over again. I don't have a romantic bone in my body, but it certainly reminds me that this is the place I need to be.