The Grandeur of Winter Rainier

•December 4, 2011 • Leave a Comment

                                                           [Click for slideshow]

“All life and action upon the snow have an added emphasis and significance. Every expression is underscored.”  -John Burroughs

Orion rising to the belt over the Nisqually Glacier, half-moon light behind.  Quiet ridge walk, crampon squeak-crunch and the stars over Adams, Hood, and St. Helens.  Nearing 10,000 feet I feel the curious eyes again, as on the frozen asphalt at Longmire when we arrived in Rainier National Park.  The fox stopped as I turned, amazed to meet the eyes of this seemingly identical grey-black furred creature up here amongst the rock and snow between two glaciers.  He fled the ridge after a moment, trotting lightly, perhaps going to visit Jamie in his tent below, who had reached his limit.   Icefall avalanche crack and thunder from the upper Nisqually Glacier is heard, then I see it’s plume of white.  The second witnessed from afar on the Kautz route.  I snuggle up to a rock outcrop for a solo bivy just below Turtle Snowfield.  Alternating bursts of glacial backed wind buffet, and Cassiopeia is glimpsed above before brief sleep.

The deafening wind began in earnest around midnight [sustained speeds over 80mph, gusts over 100], threatening to levitate and dislodge the entire bivy.   I cling to my anchored pack during hard gusts, eventually wrapping my toes around the handle of the buried shovel at my feet to keep from being blasted off my pad.  The inside of God’s vacuum is as loud as a freight train.

During six hours of hunkering, thoughts swirl and push like the wind.   Gratitude for the enveloping beauty of the cold clear mountain, for its power to diminish and enlighten.  For the world of man, for the same reasons.   For the series of experience that we enclose as a life.  Exhaustion, joy, exhaustion.

First light–movement.  The world expands from a mind in a dark tube of wind to towering snow and rock cliffs, diminishing stars, and glowing distance.  Up the snowfield until impenetrable fluted ice crust stops any wise further advance.  New sunlight sets crevasse fields and falls shimmering a shade of rose-orange.  Rivers of flowing snowdust dance downward.  The impression implants its glory.

Down to see how James fared in the tent–not well.  Its broken poles jut, half buried under hard windpack he was unable to keep at bay in the night.  Shaken and worried for me in my bivy, he had preliminarily contacted the rangers in case I didn’t show up for the agreed decent.  We had a job of digging out buried gear in the warming sunshine and melting snow for parched lips.

A glissade romp down and out.  The mountain remains in its undiminished grandeur for a future summit attempt.

Running: Furthermore…

•October 23, 2011 • 1 Comment

I stopped running to step onto the slanting log bridge over the creek.  As I crossed in a light-headed wobble the trees and rocks of the world continued to slide past at running pace,  indoctrinated during the last 27 miles of movement.   A new dimension of I-less striving opened up when running resumed, the soreness and meditation pushing mind/body into a state where the trail, lake, and trees almost willed the action of themselves; body and world, pain and thought, sensation and rain– no longer separate, erupted in unified being.   Uphill running was soon beyond the push left in each step, so long walking strides took its place.  After much anticipation I emerged from the dark close forest to gravel downhill road with only a mile and a half remaining.  With pure endorphin blood and legs like hypersensitive wooden pegs, I ran laughing to stop.  The Baker Lake Dam’s speed bumps took all the mental acuteness remaining to me to overcome.  I finished, wobbled to a chair, and sat vacantly staring–every blink creating a sparkling aura of light around all.    50 K.  4 hours, 51 minutes, and 50 seconds.  First Ultramarathon.

 

“There is a feeling of the ground holding you up, and of hills lifting you when you climb them.  Air breathes itself in and out of your lungs, and instead of looking and listening, light and sound come to you on their own.  Eyes see and ears hear as wind blows and water flows.  All space becomes your mind.  Time carries you along like a river, but never flows out of the present: the more it goes, the more it stays, and you no longer have to fight or kill it.”

“Furthermore, running is not something other than myself, which I (the organism) do.  For the organism is sometimes a running process, sometimes a standing process, sometimes a sleeping process, and so on, and in each instance the “cause” of the behavior is the situation as a whole, the organism/environment.  Indeed, it would be best to drop the idea of causality and use instead the idea of relativity.”

-Alan Watts

Snippets

•March 3, 2011 • Leave a Comment

“There is no greater joke than this:  that being the Reality ourselves, we seek to gain Reality.  A day will dawn when you will yourself laugh at your effort.  That which is on the day of laughter is also now.”

-Ramana Maharshi

“Have no fear.  Everything exists, everything is true, and the earth is only a little dust under our feet.”

-W.B. Yeats

“We shall not cease from exploration

and the end of all our exploring

will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.”

-T.S. Eliot

“I aspire to be as little as possible; that precisely is the core of my melancholy.”

-Kierkegaard

“My hut lies in the middle of a dense forest;

Every year the green ivy grows longer.

No news of the affairs of men,

Only the occasional song of a woodcutter.

The sun shines and I mend my robe;

When the moon comes out I read Buddhist poems.

I have nothing to report, my friends.

If you want to find the meaning, stop chasing after so many things.”

-Ryokan

Pacific Crest Trail Reflections

•October 17, 2010 • Leave a Comment

10/13/10 PCT Day 132

Holman Pass–17 miles from the Canadian Border.  Still ill–23 mile days out of Stehekin have been taking everything I have.  No appetite, nauseous, weak, fever–but still striding ever northward.  Cold rainless days through the jaggedy wonder of the North Cascades–a stunning and fitting finish.

10/15/10.

Up just before dawn, as usual, head full of reflections.  A lifetime of wonderous sights packed into a single season are hard to comprehend. Looking out over my tea to the lightening sky and sound, I am grateful for the experience of the last five months, and for the opportunity to merely sit indoors.

This reflection especially has struck in many forms while on the trail:

—Cease attempting to stop, contain, and cling to the unending flow, it is too playful and changeable for such attempts.  There is no securing your security.  Realize the futility and tragedy of a distinct ego or self.  Fill your eyes with the beauty of all and cultivate instead peace of mind.—

I am also reminded of the words of John Muir to a friend about to re-enter city life.  I copied them into the register at Monument 78 in Canada, and repeat them here in hopes of heeding them:

“You are going on a strange journey this time, my friend.  I don’t envy you.  You’ll have a hard time keeping your heart light and simple in the midst of this crowd of madmen.  Instead of the music of the wind among the spruce-tops and the tinkling of the waterfalls, your ears will be filled with the oaths and groans of these poor, deluded, self-burdened people.  Keep close to Nature’s heart, yourself; and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain, or spend a week in the woods.”

An incredible journey this skinny, long-bearded, joy-infused ascetic will never forget.

Weariness and Suffering and Joy

•October 2, 2010 • 1 Comment

“‘Art thou pale for weariness

of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth,

Wandering companionless…”

He repeated to himself the lines of Shelley’

There is a point where one is able to laugh at the suffering one is enduring, and it is crucial, for then not only is there misery, but also joy.

Everyone still on the trail has reached this point, and some of the loudest and most joyous laughter can be heard at the recounting of previous trials of the trail.  There is a mental and physical exhaustion that enters and cannot be placated.  The drive to finish in Canada butts up against it and pushes through with the help of the opening of the doors of beauty such weariness can accomplish.   Mountain eyes expand and the tiniest glimpses of trail-side drops on leaves or roiling fog or a slab of open blue sky push one onward.  The sensation often occurs that the world is simply rolling past or rushing toward, and walking simply keeps you in place.  [I would go so far as to say the feeling becomes not of  “you” in a “place”, but merely “All” simultaneously “arising” into existence in a very complex dance].  But it is hard to describe.

Sun has been limited, rain and cold abundant, and every opportunity for dry shelter embraced.  The scenery has been stunning–Mt. Adams, Goat Rocks, Rainier–were all glimpsed between storms.  With only 260 miles to go, I fell ill in Seattle on a one day resupply run that turned into four.  I think my body saw an opportunity to shut down and took it.  Feeling better, I return tomorrow to the more rugged Northern Cascade section via Snoqualmie Pass.   With some gear upgrades and a decent weather outlook, I hope to finish by mid-month.

How to Walk 40 Miles in a Day

•September 12, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Get up at five, cook and eat breakfast in the dark [because headlamp is broken]

Immediately lean over in bivy and throw it all up [because new brand of ibuprofen disagrees with once empty stomach]

Start walking at 6:30 [looking for landmark road to join that turns out not to exist]

Stop at nine and eat entire package of fig newtons meant to last four days.

Hit 10 miles by 10am.

Wolf PB and Honey sandwiches and explode pack to dry out after hard frost during half hour break.

In attempt to be efficient keep trekking poles on wrists and pack on while filling water bottle [as a result slip, trip, and fall in shallow muddy lake]

Eat bologna and cream cheese sandwich while walking to make 20 miles by 2 pm checkpoint.

Develop rhythmic breathing to lull the mind into acquiescence.

In mid afternoon give up all hope of achieving 4o miles–convince self you are miles behind and your feet hurt far too much to make it.

Hit late afternoon checkpoint precisely on time.  Boost spirits with granola, honey, and peanut butter.

Just before dark push out the final miles in a pole-driven hunched stance while singing “Running on Empty” and laughing.

Arrive at camp, cook in the dusk, and see a never ending kaleidescope of exploding white figures when you shut your eyes [something to do with all the green going by all day]

-Red Cache Folsom

“The Fool Who Persists…”

•September 1, 2010 • 1 Comment

“…in his folly will become wise.” -Blake

Late in the day there is only breath and the functions necessary to move forward and avoid sharp rocks. The longer I am out here the more I realize how fundamentally misguided our world-view has become. Language and differentiation, or perhaps merely the instincts of survival, have blinded us. Watts knows: “We have attained a view of the world and a type of sanity which is dried -out like a rusty beer can on the beach. It is a world of objects, of nothing-buts…”

Click for full slideshow

A spring cub skidding to a stop around a blind manzanita slope, straddling a big green rattlesnake after nearly stepping on him, watching fire helicopters circle the Belden fire,  scaring a bear larger than me into a tree 15 feet away by my presence, sleeping on the metal deck of a fire lookout atop the Sierra Buttes –these have been some of the exciting points during the long beautiful days in which I have met a range of people; from three round ladies who had blessed America to death with their apparel, to a 75 year old who goes by the name Tarp Man, to an Iraq war veteran bow hunting deer.

“Hence this life of yours which you are living is not merely a piece of the entire existence, but is in a certain sense the whole; only this whole is not so constituted that it can be surveyed in one single glance.”

“Thus you can throw yourself flat on the ground, stretched out upon Mother Earth, with the certain conviction that you are one with her and she with you. You are as firmly established, as invulnerable as she, indeed a thousand times firmer and more invulnerable. As surely as she will engulf you tomorrow, so surely will she bring you forth anew to new striving and suffering. And not merely ‘some day’: now, today, every day she is bringing you forth, not once but thousands upon thousands of times, just as every day she engulfs you a thousand times over. For eternally and always there is only now, one and the same now; the present is the only thing that has no end.”

–Erwin Schrodinger

The golden setting sun has spruced each needle, Mt. Shasta glows purple, and I am nearly out of the long glorious state of California.