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

Mountain Biking

Colorado Single Track

Rolling,
Flowing,
Spinning,
Floating.

Down,
Across,
Up,
Over.

Gripping,
Braking,
Screaming,
Breathing.

Squeeze,
Push,
Lean,
Feel.

Gasping,
Hacking,
Hurting,
Snorting.

Relax,
Look,
Focus,
Squeal.

Shifting,
Laughing,
Weaving,
Grinning.

Hot,
Cold,
Thirsty,
Hungry,

Guessing,
Feeling,
Hoping,
And always thinking.

Audio Version: 

 

Downhill

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

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

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

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

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

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