Nighttime Revisited

on the Glacier

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 for him. 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.

Continue reading “Nighttime Revisited”

Borders

 

Alpine Peak Ascent

No boundaries here,
Just rocks and snow,
And brutal gales,
That often blow.

There’s cold and rivers
That give you shivers.
And desert heat,
That can’t be beat.

You’ll sink in mud,
Wade many creeks,
Cross deep canyons,
And struggle up peaks.

The drizzle and rain
Will drive you insane.
Cold and numbness
Will mess with your brain.

Mountains will block you,
Jungles will hide you,
Crevasses confound you,
And dryness astound you.

Without a doubt,
There will be dirt,
Thirst, and hunger-
And sometimes hurt.

But,

After the summit,
It’s all downhill.
You’ll snooze and cruise
And know the thrill.

Of facing hardships
That come your way,
And dealing with them,
Come what may.

If you persevere and reach
Whatever goal it is you seek,
You’ll soon forget the pain and strife,
That took you up that mighty peak.

So,

Take on each challenge,
And don’t give-in,
Move always forward,
Become the wind.

Audio Version: 

 

Hike-a-Bike

Rain on My Tent

Anchoring the Tent

Raindrops pounding my tent,
They sound like thunderous applause,
Every time the wind gusts,
And throws them in bunches
Against the fly.

Lightning flashes remind me
Of other power surges.

Thin sheets of nylon
Are all that shield me
From the wet and chaos.

But all is well,
Because the dome protecting me
Is well anchored.
And I am warm and dry,
Zipped-up inside it.

I’m getting sleepy,
Even though it’s only 4:00 in the afternoon.

It’s good to be
Settled into my sleeping bag,
Just as the music begins.

I close my eyes and listen.
As the Rain Symphony gets underway.

I’m intent on absorbing its every nuance.
The subtle pauses, the crescendos,
The somber moments, the tempo changes.

Have I heard this one before, I wonder?
Some parts sound familiar.

But I know better.
Because every Rain Symphony is unique.
Each performance only happens once.
There will be other concerts
That are nearly,
But not quite,
The same.

Each is composed of
Familiar and comfortable sounds,
Blended with surprise.

Like always, the music is spectacular.
Contentedly,
I let my mind wander,
And begin to dream.

Audio Version:

Camp at the end of a bushwhack
A Mountain Campsite

The Pre-trip Orientation

Getting Organized

Latimer pulled his F150 into an opportune parking spot near the Green Cow’s front door and stopped. He got out, locked the door, and went inside– eager to hear about the trip and meet the others. A fit-looking young man wearing a Wildbrink Adventures t-shirt met him just inside the door, introduced himself as the Assistant Trip Leader, and directed him into a back room. A group of six were already there and standing around in a jumbled circle, with drinks in hand and making small talk. Like him, most were in their 40’s, except for one especially hardened and hearty older woman whom he recognized from her photo in the brochure as the group leader. Instantly, he saw her as just the kind of person he wanted to be with in the South American wilds.

Before he even finished his first beer, the leader elevated her voice and addressed the entire group, saying, “okay, everyone, take a seat and let’s talk about the trip.”

Within minutes, everyone was seated and quiet, and she began. “Welcome, and I look forward to spending two weeks with each of you in the Andes. My name is Regina Gurgola, but everyone just calls me Gurgles. That guy sitting over there is my cohort and second in command, Kevin. The two of us want to do all we can to help you get the most out of your experience and to keep everyone as safe as possible. Of course, safe is a relative term since nothing is actually guaranteed to be safe. But we do make an effort to be well prepared for dealing with whatever situations might arise. To that end, expect the unexpected, and just embrace it.”

“A few things to know about the area,” she continued. “It’s a really majestic and wild place that’s probably unlike anything you’re used to. Don’t be thinking that where we are is a bad place, because it’s not- it’s just different. Undoubtedly, you’ll experience many amazing and interesting things. A few hints or insider tips to help you get the most out of the experience: first off, the water system down there is not like what you’re used to, so don’t drink the water out of the tap—only put bottled water in your stomach. That’s especially important because your time down there is limited, and you don’t want to waste it dealing with the yilly yally ying-yang. Also, in that regard, avoid eating any fresh produce that you can’t peel. We’ll have bottled water available to us all of the time and just plan to eat cooked meat and potatoes. More often than not, at least they’re predictably overcooked and sterile. Salads are a big no-no, and don’t even think about biting into one of the apples you’ll see in the markets. And on that note, you also might want to think about what meat you’re eating and if it is actually fully cooked. FYI, Guinea Pig is considered a delicacy in the area, and reliable cold storage can be a problem. A lot of people also try to conserve what gas they have and tend to eat their meats on the rare side. So just beware.”

“For those of you non-Spanish speakers, you’ll want to know the word “bano,” which means bathroom. That’s one you’ll use more than any other, but hopefully not in an emergency situation. This brings me to toilet paper. Don’t put it in the commode! There will be a separate bin for that, and the plumbing systems aren’t built to accommodate it. Don’t forget or challenge the technique because the result can lead to a big mess that you certainly don’t want to deal with. I know it sounds gross, but it’s just the way things are.”

Then, Gurgles seamlessly turned the discussion to poison insects, but Latimer didn’t hear anything she was saying from that point on. That’s because he was deeply engrossed in trying to figure out what to do if he got stuck on a bus amid a personal intestinal emergency situation. The “what ifs” instantaneously began overwhelming his thoughts. What if I’m in the middle of a town? Do they have public bathrooms? What if I get water in my mouth during a shower or forget and rinse out my toothpaste with tap water? What if a Guinea Pig’s eyes are staring at me while I try and eat it? What if I take a bite of chicken and it’s not fully cooked? What do I do with the toilet paper if there’s no trash can? What if I wash my hands with tap water and then eat a hamburger?

And the questions continued until there was a moment of silence, and his focus returned to Gurgle’s words as she said, “well, that’s the most important stuff. Thanks for coming, and we’re both looking forward to the adventures we’re sure to share. If you have any questions, just stick around, and we can talk them through. If you need to get going, don’t feel compelled to stay- we’ll have plenty of time to talk as things develop. Latimer stayed because he had the time and a lot of questions.

Audio Version:

The Leaders

 

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

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

 

Recipe

On the Summit

Water,
Sand,
Snow,
And rock.

Fly fish,
Cycle,
Ride,
And walk

Gravel,
Grass,
Mud,
And scree.

Backpack,
Wander,
Scale,
And ski.

Mountain,
Cavern,
Dirt,
And ice.

Explore,
Trek,
Cave,
And climb.

Talus,
Forest,
Stream,
And crag.

Summit
Surf,
Sail,
And cast.

Tundra,
River,
Lake,
And hill.

Yoga,
Swim,
Camp,
And chill.

Ocean,
Desert,
Cirque,
And peak.

Prepare,
Proceed,
Persist,
And Seek.

Simple,
Treasures,
Pure,
And sweet.

Audio Version:

On the Road

The Night Sky

The Milky Way

The sun goes down
And once again
The nightly spectacle begins.

The stars begin arriving early.

But wait!
The bright light of the full moon
Is overwhelming
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.

And suddenly,
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.
Though unseen,
The thought of it sends a chill to my feet.

Almost overhead,
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.

Audio Version:

Before the Stars Arrive

Some of Life’s Good Things

After a Storm

The wind at your back.
Warm sun on your face,
And a bluebird sky.

Hot unflavored dark roast coffee.
A climbing rope that holds your fall,
And a self-arrest that works.

The first time a trout takes your fly.
A big stack of dry firewood,
And burned-bottom cornbread.

Rain pelting your tent with you inside it and dry.
A full water bottle,
And tires with enough air.

Arriving back.
A trail that flows well,
And a Snickers bar.

Shifters that work.
A hoppy IPA,
And a thunderhead in the distance.

Good sitting spots next to a campfire.
A warm coat,
And chips and salsa.

Extra room in your backpack.
A tank full of gas,
And shoelaces that stay tied.

Heading out on a journey.
A flat place to sleep,
And new terrain.

Star-filled skies.
A light switch that works,
And money in your pocket.

A crime report that doesn’t include your name.
A colorful sunset,
And paint that doesn’t peel.

Someone to tell your stories to.
A rock that breaks where it’s supposed to,
And lightning that strikes something besides you.

Sitting on a mountain summit when it’s not windy.
A bear that leaves you alone,
And a falling tree that misses you.

Crawling into your sleeping bag on a cold night.
A near-miss,
And homegrown tomatoes.

Tent zippers that work at 2:00 am.
A river that’s not flooding,
And fresh batteries in your headlamp.

Trouble-free audio on a Zoom call.
A door that only opens when it’s supposed to,
And a full roll of toilet paper.

The smell of a forest after a rain.
A waterfall where there’s not supposed to be one,
And duct tape.

Someone to tell you stories.
A red sky at night,
And new places to go.

Audio Version:

10.5 mm of rope

Boquillas Canyon Revisited

IMG_6128
Headed Into Boquillas Canyon

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.

Continue reading “Boquillas Canyon Revisited”