The sun goes down
And once again
The nightly spectacle begins.
The stars begin arriving early.
The bright light of the full moon
The masterpiece of the skies.
It makes everything else invisible to the eye.
But thankfully, like always,
The situation is only temporary.
And the show will go on.
So, for the moment, I relish the things I do see.
I stretch out in my sleeping bag
In an open meadow and look up.
I stay awake
Long enough to
See the moon set.
The temperature is dropping,
But my sleeping bag
Is made for that.
So, I warmly
Look up as the stars
Begin to take control.
And I imagine.
The afternoon’s storm
Has long passed
And cleaned the air.
The night is brilliantly clear.
The Milky Way
Shows up in all its glory.
To the south,
The constellations of the Zodiac
Are on the march.
One of them,
Scorpio, Scorpius– the Scorpion, is particularly obvious.
At least for the moment.
But it’ll soon disappear into the horizon.
Because it always does.
For me, it’s the constellation of summer,
And adds to my warmth.
But it also makes me think of Orion,
My constellation of winter.
The thought of it sends a chill to my feet.
Mars casts its red light
In untwinkling brilliance.
The untwinkling part is proof that it’s a planet.
I scan the sky for another planet.
But everything is twinkling.
Points of light are everywhere,
Inundating my senses.
My eyes are full of stars and galaxies.
But what of the millions
That are there, but beyond
What I can see.
And then, the fog begins to roll in.
Think fast before it fully arrives, I conclude.
Did my Kentucky great, great grandparents
Look up at the same sky, I wonder?
Is their vision of what they saw floating around out there in space?
Is a vision a concrete thing?
How far away can anything go?
The questions begin to accumulate.
Will they be answered before
The clouds takeover?
Then suddenly, I arrive at a non-answer
As I decide to figure it out later.
And the sky goes dark
As I drift off to sleep.
The night was long and restless. He was cold inside his sleeping bag even though the three of them had worked so hard to make things cozy. And then, there was the wind. It blasted the tent relentlessly, and he was worried about getting blown off the ridge. What would that be like, he tried to imagine? There was no actual sleep. But there was a sort of vigilant grogginess. While his body was mostly still, his mind actively raced in a frenzy of hyperactive speculation. He was uncomfortable, and the situation was damn near depressing. But thankfully, he wasn’t outside climbing toward the summit- yet. That would happen soon enough.
The last time I canoed the Rio Grande through Boquillas Canyon was in 1979. After 40 years, it became time for me to remind myself of some of the lessons that 33 mile stretch of river taught me way back then. And so, I floated it.
It was a long downhill and flowed well. The section of the Colorado Trail we were riding drops slowly and steadily for miles as it winds its way down the Craig Creek drainage. It’s a fast, fun, and mostly effortless ride. Sure, there are plenty of obstacles along the way, such as unfortunately positioned rocks, encroaching Potentilla bushes, and washed-out ruts. But the only tricky spots occur where small creeks, thick with willows, come in from the sides. While you can successfully ride most of the trail by using a combination of vigilance and good riding technique, the creek crossings generally require something a little more. And with all of their mud, roots, and big rocks, those parts often end up being walked. Despite the downsides, it’s mountain biking in the wilds of Colorado at its best.
The entrance to a horizontal mine shaft that we could ride our mountain bikes into was music to our eyes. The stone opening to the Porfirio Diaz Tunnel sat solemnly on a hillside in the middle of a barrio in Batopilas, Mexico. Sure, it’d been abandoned for 70 or 80 years. But that was of no consequence to us at the time. The entrance was circular and at about 12 feet in diameter, a little bigger than we’d each envisioned it to be previously. A flat dirt surface/pathway- perfect for mountain bikes– led into the darkness. Even though the place had the ominous appearance of almost being eaten by the solid rock, its beckoning call was persistent and ultimately won us over.
It was a Fall Sunday during what was normally the slow part of the year. Autumn in Colorado’s Tarryall Mountains is spectacular with Aspen trees turning gold and warm sunny days interrupted only by the occasional and temporary arrival of winter. Most years, late September is an ideal time to be there, with long pleasant days that are almost perfect for mountain biking, hiking, and climbing area peaks. But this particular year, my days were occupied with the aftermath of the burning down of the OWA base camp lodge rather than recreation. Instead of the comforts of my private lodge bedroom and bath, I was sharing an old one-room log cabin with an 18-year-old intern, and not doing much besides clean-up and prep for the new construction. On the day in question, I was piddling around the job site doing various chores. Since it was something of an off day, Lee (the intern) asked if he could go on a leisurely and straightforward hike toward Bison Peak. I considered the fact that he’d been on several backcountry trips with my outdoor program in the past. And since there was no work planned for him that afternoon, it seemed reasonable. And so, I gave him my blessing.
Ryan had never bonked before, at least in the metabolic shock/ overexertion sense of the word. When he started to bumble around and losing more and more of his edge, I knew that something was up and figured that’s what had happened. Not realizing what was going on, he kept on trying to mountain bike further up the Colorado Trail, although with diminishing returns. The big patches of snow that remained on the trail, even though it was June, were probably a good thing since they ultimately turned us all around. His disrupted mental and physical state likely made the retreat more palatable to the 13-year-old, since he wasn’t one to be prone to turn around before his goal was reached.