The Night Hike

Sunset

Into the night,
Intently gaze,
And while you do,
A mystery plays.

There were 9 teenagers in Will’s group. He was sure of it. He knew each of them by both their name and quantity of snacks they possessed. They’d been backpacking in the boonies for 10 days and he’d headcounted them a bunch of times. Making sure everyone was accounted for, was one of his prime responsibilities as the group leader. The nine kids and two leaders made for a total group size of 11, a fact engrained in his mind.

Continue reading “The Night Hike”

Mountain

 

Mountain

Last light,
First light,
And the North Face
Begins to smile.

Magic moment,
Brilliantly bright,
Summit shines,
In all its might.

Suddenly, abruptly,
The crowning glory
Roars to life.

A twinkle of limelight
On the mountaintop.
Briefly highlighted
By the glowing sun.

In a fleeting instant,
The peak shows-off
Its entirety
In one broad stroke.

Ponderance erupts.

For a short time
Life is large, possible,
Loud, tough, and magnificent,
Because a chunk of dirt, rock, and snow,
Reminds you that it is.

Audio Version:

Aconcagua

Alpine Summit Revisited

Summit of Huayna Potosi, Bolivia

Rocky, icy
Mountain summit,
Peaks above
The clouds.

Alpine world
Of wind and cold.
But also,
Warm and calm.

I go ascending,
Mostly upward.
Climbing, slogging
Pushing, moving.

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

Glaring sun,
Burning lungs.
Frozen fingers,
And biting wind.

Pain gives way to persistence.
A deep breath of anticipation
Supercharges my lungs.

My focus sharpens.
No more blurry,
No more struggle,
No more doubt.

Within moments,
The horizon magically sinks,
As the mountaintop rises,
And welcomes me
Onto its crest.

I’ve won the battle of my efforts,
And the mountain the war for my soul.

Audio Version: 

On the Summit

The Tarryall

The Tarryalls from Sand Creek

Tarryall Mountains,
Colorado treasure.
Smack dab in the middle of the state,
And overlooking South Park.

Improbable and majestic granite towers,
Boulders of all sizes,
Alpine tundra,
Bighorn Sheep,
And Bristlecone Pines.

Rambling streams and beaver ponds.
Smoky Quartz and Topaz.
Calypso Orchids,
Old-growth forest,
And a creek that disappears.

Tales of Utes,
The last wild buffalo,
Wolves,
Gunfights,
Walt Whitman on a train,
Homesteaders,
And miners rich with gold.

Bison Peak, McCurdy Mountain,
McCurdy Tower, and McCurdy Park.
X Rock, the Sand Creek Buttress,
Twin Eagles,
And Spruce Grove.

Humongous crystals, albino trout,
Ute Creek, and Bison Pass.
The Hourglass Burn, Lost Park Wilderness,
Brookside-McCurdy Trail,
And the Old Miner’s Cabin.

A wild place with few people,
Plenty of mystery,
And a warm wind that whispers “Tarryall.”

Audio Version:

McCurdy Mountain,
Tarryalls

Sunset

Sunset

Whether you’re sitting on a ridge,
Leaning against a tree,
Propped against a rock,
Resting on a bench,
Or rocking in a chair.
It doesn’t matter.

It’s all good,
And you can watch it unfold every day.

The Sun falls
Onto the horizon.
And then,
Disappears.

It happens differently everywhere.

But in the mountains,
A final burst of light,
Comes before the night.
It’s called Alpenglow.
For a brief moment,
Distant peaks come to life.
Mutedly brilliant,
Spectacular, and subtly bright.

Then,
The shadows take over.
After a short time,
They melt together,
Into a big invisible mass,
And finally, just disappear.

At that point,
The night is in control.
Light and color take a much deserved rest.
A first star appears,
The day is done,
Gone the sun.

Audio Version:

Evening Light on the Tarryall Mountains

In Celebration of the Winds

Cirque of the Towers,
Wind River Range

Rumbling rivers, creeks, and streams.
Water left pure,
From the moment it falls
On the Continental Divide, as rain or snow,
And begins its journey
Down to the oceans.

Some of it goes into the ground.
Some fills my cup.
Some provides the Brook Trout a place to live.
Some gives the Spruces a drink.
Some makes wallows for the elk.
Some creates glaciers.
And some goes back into the sky and falls again.

Up here, the water is guarded for a while,
By the Winds,
The Wind River Mountains that is.

The range of mountains is inhospitable to some,
But beckoning to others.
The place is too rough for roads,
But covered with paths.

People go there,
To hike, fish, climb, camp,
Meander, sit, ponder, and dream.

But few remain–
There are other places
Better suited to
Building, driving, using, living,
And staying.

Besides,
Protecting the water
Is a full time job.

The mountains, forest,
Creeks, and meadows,
Are left free to do
What they do best.
And they do it well.

The water will move on
And nourish the flatlands.
It’ll irrigate corn, bathe babies,
Water lawns, and get purified
For drinking.

One way or another, the water will change
Once it flows beyond
The protection of the Winds–
For better or worse.

But up in this neck of the woods,
All is well for a time.
And the water is clear
Thanks to Pingora, Gannett, and Fremont.
Dinwoody, Lizard Head,
Desolation, and The Sphinx.
Washakie Pass, Titcomb Basin,
Dickinson Park, and The Cirque of the Towers.
Popo Agie River, Deep Creek Lakes,
Mitchell Peak, and Wolf’s Head.
Stough Creek, Three Fork’s Park, Wind River Peak,
And so many more…

The world is a better place
Because of them.

Audio Version:

Lizard Head, Wind River Range

The Trip to Corcovado

Sleeping in the Jungle

Corcovado,
Costa Rica,
Rivers, jungles,
Pura Vida.

To the station
Called Sirena.
Must cross the inlet,
Before dark.
When rising tide
Will let the sharks
Into the river to feed.

Heavy backpacks,
Walk on beach,
Sloping sand,
Glaring sun,
And Howler Monkeys
Screeching in the forest.

That race is won,
And we arrive unscathed.

So, we…

Unpack the packs,
Set up the tents.
Cook the supper,
Then dishes rinse.

Restless night,
Hot and sweaty,
Lot’s to see,
We will be ready.

Trees and bushes,
Bugs and birds.
A world alive,
Beyond mere words.

Down the runway,
One dark night.
Perhaps a Tapir,
Will catch our light.
And it does.

The next day…

We walk to ocean,
To fish and look.
A great big shark,
Just bends the hook.

The big fish are everywhere,
And a feeding frenzy begins.

The next day it happens,
We pack the gear.
Time to go,
The end is near.

Into the forest,
A path is taken.
With heavy packs,
And legs a achin’.

Thorns and vines,
Mud and sand.
To the north,
Lay promised land.

Unseen gold miners,
A guard with gun.
Miles of walking,
But all still fun.

Then like always,
The end arrives.
One last step taken,
Our lives awakened

Audio Version:

Not a Shark

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

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