Stories

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

 

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

Sitting on the Summit

Looking Toward the Conchos

On the top.
Looking out,
Seeing things
You didn’t know
Were there.

Clouds float past,
Racing fast,
Where do they go?
Perhaps,
We cannot know.

But for the moment-
Rest, relax, ponder, breathe.
Soak it in.

Sitting still,
A moment longer,
Thinking harder,
Feeling stronger.

And then……….

A Marmot scampers,
A warm wind whistles,
A crow soars past,
A distant storm erupts,
A Pika chirps,

No mystery has been solved,
No thing resolved.
More questions,
Than answers.

But for another moment,
Rest, relax, ponder, breathe,
Soak it all in.

Audio Version:

The Summit of Huayna Potosi- Bolivia

 

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