Seasons

Mountain biking through the Aspens

Journeys start, end,
And then,
A new one begins.

Each builds upon
The one that came before,
Like a snowball rolling down a hill.

Aspen trees
Bud-out in the spring.
Their first leaves
A luminescent green.

Then, summer rolls around
The same leaves mature,
Become darker,
And toughen.

In the Fall
They turn
Brilliantly golden,
Before falling off
And blowing away.

Finally, winter arrives
And cold and snow
Overwhelm
The bare limbs.

But then spring returns,
And it all begins
To happen again.

Life is a journey that keeps repeating.
Just like seasons moving through the trees.

Audio Version:

The Silver Trail
Copper Canyon, Mexico

Glaciers

The Kahiltna Glacier

Oozing forward.
Glaciers grow,
Or at least they used to.

Sometimes tumbling,
But mostly flowing,
And relentlessly scouring
The ground below.

Slow, deliberate,
Always persistent.
Marching to the sea.

Their rumbling movements ebb and flow.
Causing pressures to come and go.
Somewhere something has to give,
And so, they crack.

That’s what a crevasse is.

Some of those are open,
But many go unseen.
At times they seem like pits of peril,
Cold, and dark, and deep.

But in most cases,
They’re awe-inspiring, magical places
Filled with intricate light.

The bottom line is
If you’re in one looking ‘round
The kind of place you’ll see.
Depends upon just why you’re there
The reason is the key.

And the same can be said
For the whole of these magnificent rivers of ice.

On the one hand,
They’re intimidating, frozen, and indestructible.
But on the other,
They’re alluring, invigorating, and easily broken.

on the Glacier

Life’s Mysteries

Alpine View

Open the gate.
They await.

Unknown, unique;
Unanticipated,
Beyond imagination.

So simple,
So complex.

You might reach a summit
In the middle of a foggy night,
And stand on a rock looking out
At distant peaks
Poking out above the clouds,
And illuminated by a full moon.
It could happen.

Perhaps, you’ll walk for miles
Along a hot beach
To get to a place
Where you can see sharks
In a feeding frenzy,
And where Tapirs still
Roam around at night.
It could happen.

It’s possible that you’ll retreat
From a poorly conceived climb,
And walk-up on a naked beauty
In the middle of nowhere
Washing off under a waterfall.
It could happen.

It’s not out of the question,
That an unknown young Tarahumara man
Will walk into your camp
And invite you to a
Dutuburi.
It could happen.

Perhaps you will be lucky enough
To see elk calves
Sliding down a snowfield,
And being scolded by their elders
When they reach the bottom.
It could happen.

Maybe, an Andean wolf
Will appear
Out of the clouds,
On your way down
From a high-altitude hut,
Look you over,
And just disappear back into the clouds.
It could happen.

Sometimes:
Upper stories of hotels are uncompleted;
Moths fly into ears;
Anchors hold;
Treble hooks get lodged in eyelids;
Rattlesnakes don’t strike;
Storms end;
Trees go up in flames;
Boats show up with your gear;
The Corona truck falls off a cliff;
The fish are biting;
The trail just stops;
The Northern Lights appear where they’re not supposed to;
Handlebars break;
Your hair stands on end;
Shortnosed Spearfish take the hook;
The wind blows your raft upstream;
Climbing routes run out;

Don’t close the gate.
Just be ready for the unexpected,
Because mysteries happen.

Audio Version:

3 Climbers

Backcountry

Cirque of the Towers

In the backcountry, at last.
Far from the trailhead.

Where the clear sky is bluer
And the blue mind clearer.

Where everything is over yonder,
Except for the things close-by.

Where the bare ground
Is comfortable to sleep on.

Where the fish
Are as big as you want them to be.

Where trails
Go on forever.

Where the weather
Sets the agenda.

Where sardines, Spam, and Nutella
Taste good, all mixed together.

Where you can drink the water
Straight from the creek.

Where the wind
Both begins and ends.

Where rocks and plants
Are considered works of art.

Where shouting
Usually means someone needs help.

Where each minute
Has more than 60 seconds.

Where you have to rely
On the information in your head.

Where maps matter
And wild is a good thing.

Audio Version:

On the Rio Grande River

The Ruth

On the Ruth

Looking out the window
Of the little plane,
As we near our landing site
On the Ruth Glacier.

In the Alaska Range.

First, we flew over trees, rivers, and the lower Glacier.
Now, we’re flying through the Great Gorge
Between startlingly huge mountains
And above the river of ice.
The world is the color of snow, rock, and sky.

A few especially prominent peaks dominate.
Denali, the great one, is straight ahead but not close.
The Moose’s Tooth is to our right but nearby,
Imposing in scale but welcoming.

In the Alaska Range.

Suddenly, we break free of the Gorge
And enter the Ruth Amphitheater.
The venue of venues.

The Cessna turns left
Toward the Mountain House.
We haven’t even landed yet,
But the concert has already begun.

In the Alaska Range.

What do we do, I wonder?
I take a deep breath,
And realize that thankfully we’re not too late,
Because the music never ends.

The sky is clear
And the landing site on the snow vivid.
The closer we get to the ground,
The more massive and magnificent the peaks become.

In the Alaska Range.

The plane touches down and stops.
I open the door and step
Out onto the Ruth.

Warm in my parka
And astounded by what I see in every direction.

There are few people, no instruments,
No conductor,
And not much of an audience.

But I feel the full force of the music
And am compelled
To whisper to myself where all can hear, “Bravo.”

Audio Version:

In the Glacier Plane

Alpine Summit

Summit of Huayna Potosi, Bolivia

Mountain summit
Rock and ice.
Peaks above
The clouds.

Alpine world
Of wind and cold.
But also warm
And calm.

Ascending always,
Mostly upward.
Climbing, slogging
Pushing, moving.

Ice axe, rope teams,
Crampons, prusik.
Crevasses, glaciers,
Headwalls, ridges.

Confidence and
Proud persistence
Get you to the top.
And once you’re there,
Just look around,
The vision will astound.

Audio Version:

On the Summit

The Trail

Backpacking

Like a ribbon,
That snakes from here,
To there.

Starting,
Then disappearing,
Into thin air.

The path,
The way,
The natural trail.
Where does it lead?

Dirt, sand, gravel, and rocks.
They’re all a combination
Of individual grains
That rest against each other
And connect the first one,
To the last.

It begins,
It ends,
With plenty in between.

Just because
The whole of it
Can’t be seen
All at once, together,
And from start
To finish;
Doesn’t mean
It isn’t going somewhere.

Audio Version:

A Long Bridge

Rock Climbing

Climbing in Fremont Canyon

Up.
Vertical.
Mostly face to off-width.
Fingertips, edge, and arm jam.
Control, breathe,
First ledge.

Up.
Keep moving.
Touching and feeling.
Conserve energy.
Climbing
With your feet.

Up.
Don’t look down,
But do look around
At your world
Within reach.
One move
At a time.

Up.
Thank God hold,
Blocky granite, cold.
Three pitches
To the top.
But first things,
First.

Up.
To the left, a ledge,
Trust your edge.
Shift your weight,
Over your foot.

Up,
Pinch the roundish nub.
Balance and
Trust your instinct.
Think up.

Up,
Only the next move matters.
Everything
Is within five square feet.
One step,
Changes your world.

Audio Version:

Reaching for a Hold

The Mountain Bike Ride

Mountain biking down a hill
Downhill

There’s a limit to the number of times your bike pedals will turn in your lifetime.
So, make them count.

Whoosh,
Damp and soft.
Fresh,
Smooth and fast.

Rolling,
Clean and free.
Feeling,
Strong and loose.

Leaves,
Yellow or red.
Trees,
Aspens, oaks, and pines.

Climb,
Up and onward.
Time,
Grinding and frozen.

Rocks,
Somehow over the top.
Ledges
That make you pucker.

Spin,
Faster, not harder.
Win,
Whatever that is.

Down,
Flowing and momentum.
Sound,
Silent, but alive.

Effort,
Easy or intense.
Curves,
Sweeping and weaving,

Turns,
Expect the unexpected.
Feel the trail
With your mind.

Adrenaline, fatigue, happy, and sad.
Confident, regret, proud, and glad.
Satisfied, worried, joy, and mad.

The destination– often unknown.
But no matter,
Cause the best rides never end.

Audio Version:

Riding Through the Aspens

Hiking in the Rain

Soaked and cold
Through and through.
Dirt’s turned to mud,
The rocks are slick.

No more sun,
But lots of fog,
Clouds, and a wind
That stings the skin.

Too cold to stop,
Too tired to walk.
And raingear gets you
Wet from sweat.

Inside your boots,
Feet are sloshing.
While in your mouth,
Teeth are rattling.

Saturated, frigid,
Miserable, and brutal.
Words of pain,
Share the air.

Bone-chilling
Comes to mind.
But you slog on anyway
Toward the darkening sky.

Because you know,
That just beyond
The ridge ahead,
Awaits a cabin
And warm bed.

Audio Version:

Rain Brewing