Luck is when opportunity meets skill

Return to Lake City

To her, it was a heavy place.  Heavy for its memories, its memories of her father that she never experienced, the memories she only heard about, the memories that she had to imagine and play out behind her eyes while they were orated or written to her.  Her father lived there before she was born, before the family was complete, before the new beginnings, before the difficult endings.   Lake City was heavy from her expectations.  It was heavy with curiosity.  It was heavy with a certain amount of joy and heavy with a certain amount of pain.  She went there to climb the town’s surrounding fourteeners, she went there with a kind friend, but returned alone.  It was a place she had to go to alone.  It was a place she needed to experience and face, one on one.  She needed to hear its songs, to meet its people, to smell its air, to feel its wind, to learn its story…in solitude.

She had lost her confidence long ago.  She was no longer that brave-rambunctious-sparks in her eyes girl.  In fact, her eyes were more of a melancholy blue and her eyebrows were often bunched up and pensive.  She no longer lived up to the nickname her father gave her, “Mad Dr. X.”  He gave that name to her for her mischievous reputation as a child.  It wasn’t who she was anymore, yet, she had the name tattooed on the inside of her left forearm.  She got the tattoo in an attempt to force herself to be a rascal again, fearless and full of fire.  But it didn’t work.  In some ways, yes, she was brave:  she hiked up mountains alone and she also climbed mountains with random strangers, she slept anywhere her car or feet took her, she hitched rides, she backhanded a bear, she traveled, she tried new jobs, she rode wild horses.  She was rarely afraid of the adventures that presented themselves to her, she was rarely afraid of the strangers she met, she was rarely afraid to go for broke…but she was always afraid of herself and afraid to show too much of who she was in front of the minds and eyes of others.  Unaccompanied on a basketball court she could sink five three-pointers in a row, dibble between her legs and behind her back without bobbling once…but if a single pair of eyes saw her, she lost her magic.  She could think the deepest thoughts and understand the universe with crystal clarity, but if someone asked her a question about her beliefs, she would choke and stutter and talk in pitch of voice that commanded no attention.  She got talked over at every social gathering, rarely did she feel heard, and seldom could she speak with conviction.  She hoped that this journey to Lake City would help destroy the weak parts of herself and resurrect the strong parts.

When she returned to Lake City, she stayed in a hostel that was run by a kind man named Lucky that she knew little about.  She heard tidbits about him from locals: he was a good carpenter, a good guy, a hard worker.  At his hostel she met people who were like her: on a journey, with a future full of mystery and unanswerable questions.  She met a young woman from Portland with wild hair and a strong voice.  She exchanged words with the woman, only briefly, but she felt an instant kinship and connection.  They had a love of cars and horses in common.  Another woman at the hostel, who surpassed the girl in age by a few decades, told her of a battle she had with Lime’s Disease.  She was educated and had a full-bodied vocabulary, but there were still things she didn’t know or understand.  She was a good talker, she made the girl feel at ease because moments of awkward silence were rare, the woman was good at filling up those gaps.  There was a thin, light-haired, bearded man who was at the hostel as well.  He was sweet and strong in his own way, but the girl knew he lacked confidence.  He got talked over often and was slightly aloof, but clearly wanted to connect with people…with someone, but that someone wasn’t going to be her.  Three construction workers came to the hostel and listened to the girl play guitar.  One of the men loved to strum his fingers across six strings; he loved the way his fingers danced from fret to fret.  But his love was stolen from him when his left arm was crushed in an accident at work.  He laid the girl’s guitar down and tap-slap-pinged the strings in a style that was truly his own, it was a beautiful and resilient act.  All three of the construction workers had strange but intriguing voices that pulled the girl into listening to even the silliest and most meaningless discussions.  The girl went to a fly shop in town that her mother had told her about.  She didn’t know the people who owned it, but her mother did and her father did.  She cracked open the front door and was greeted by a kind older man.  She told him the names of her parents and he immediately knew who she was talking about.  The man took the girl to the back office of the shop to meet his wife, who gave the girl a genuinely sweet-loving hug and asked her about her family and how they were doing.

The girl was happy she went back to Lake City, she was happy to have met all the people she did.  But she felt overwhelmed and overstimulated.  She was ready to run, she didn’t honestly know where she was headed…just somewhere else.  She rushed around and gathered her things from the hostel with a sense of urgency and panic.  She went to thank Lucky, the owner of the place, and say good bye.  But she somehow invited herself on his climbing trip that he was going on that evening with one of his friends.  She re-packed her bags in preparation for the excursion to Kit Carson and hoped she wasn’t going to be a nuisance.

Lucky’s friend pulled up in a little white car and cleaned it out with the help of his longtime girlfriend.  They were both lean and strong, they were tanned from the sun, they looked like they knew how to live.  His name was Mad Dog, and his girlfriend was staying behind, but he told her he wished she would come with…he told her how much he loved her, and then they said goodbye to each other with a palpable longing.  They were sweet together.

The girl loaded her things in the back of the small white car and headed off with the two men.  She had no real idea what she was doing or what route she would take.  She figured if worst came to worst…it would at least be an adventure.  After a few hours of driving and listening to her new friends exchange stories, she arrived at the Spanish Creek Trailhead.  She weeded out the things from her pack that she didn’t need, and in the dark she took off…and headed toward Kit Carson Peak, where the men were going to climb the Prow.  The trail was strong in some places and faint in others, but the bright moon helped guide the way.  Every now and then they would all get off the trail, but always found it again, until the final stretch of the night hike when it disappeared altogether.  They found a shrine at one point that sparkled and twinkled and glowed in the light of headlamps and stars above that peaked out from behind scattered blue-white clouds.  They had to pass through a place of religious retreat, an Ashram, to get to where they needed to go.  The girl knew this place at this time was sacred, there was no denial.  Mysticism shot up and exploded in her mind like colorful Fourth of July fireworks.

Sometime after midnight the men and the girl stopped to sleep at the base of the Prow.  Mad Dog had a brief discussion with himself out loud, “Is that the Prow?”  “Oh yeah, that’s the Prow!”  “Is that the Prow?”  “I don’t think that’s it.”  “Is it?” “That’s definitely it little buddy!”  Mad Dog was one of those guys that made people feel like they were his lifelong friends…even if he had just met them.  He called Lucky “little buddy” and he called the girl “little sis.”  He joked and laughed and seemed comfortable with who he was at all times.  The girl wondered if he had always been that way, or if he learned to be that way.  He had a clear growling hunger for life and clear opinions for how life should be lived.  He was exciting but also made the girl a little nervous, she felt out of her league and very uncool.  Lucky was quiet and calm, he had happy eyes and an honest smile.  He was humble and acted unassuming, but the girl saw past his cloak, she saw that he was an impactful person with a wild life-story that she would probably never hear.  But that didn’t matter; because she was there in that moment…she was a part of the adventure!

The three adventurers bedded down for the night.  The girl was cold, nervous, but elated.  She woke up to a shy sun that slowly peaked over the blue-tinted mountains that surrounded her.  She gathered her things and split ways with Mad Dog and Lucky.  She decided to hike up a couloir that was a short distance from the Prow.  She made good time, and quickly found herself at Kit Carson Avenue.  The men were still climbing, so she decided to scramble up Challenger while she waited for them.  When she was done, they were still climbing…so she decided to hike up Kit Carson.  She didn’t stay at the summit for long, just long enough to take a few pictures and catch her breath.  Then she headed back down, nervous she’d miss Lucky and Mad Dog.  When she returned to Kit Carson Avenue, the men still hadn’t finished their climb.  She decided to hang out at the top of the Prow; she set down her big puffy jacket, put her sunglasses on, and took a little nap.  Before she could truly fall asleep, she heard Mad Dog talking about an Eagle feather he found, then he popped over the top of the Prow and greeted the girl.  Not long after, Lucky came into sight.  The two men collected their gear, changed shoes, and decided to see what the top of Challenger was all about.  The girl wasn’t about to stay behind, so she followed along and visited the summit once more.  From Challenger, Lucky and Mad Dog contemplated an easy climbing route up the final piece of Kit Carson.  They asked the girl if she wanted to climb it with them, and she told them she would do it…as long as they felt alright about it, as long as she wasn’t going to be a nuisance.  They kindly insisted that she tag along with them, and so she did.

It had been a long time since she had done any kind of climbing; it was another one of those things she had given up on.  But that day, it came back into her life and she greeted it like an old friend: awkwardly at first, but then comfortably as time passed.  In no time, the climb was over and all three of the adventurers were at the summit of Kit Carson.  They were ready to make their descent after a few moments of appreciating the views.  They made it back to their campsite after some downhill scrambling and sliding, where they met a man who was lost.  They helped him find his way to the Spanish Creek Trailhead and Mad Dog gave him a ride back to his car.  Later, the three adventurers and the lost man stopped at a bar and ordered a few beers and shot the breeze for a while.  Then it was time to head back to Lake City.

It was late when the girl found herself back at the hostel.  She debated whether or not to stay there, she felt like she needed to disappear before the magic was ruined.  She thought about pulling off an Irish Goodbye, but her eyes were burning and drooping…she needed to sleep, so she stayed.

The next day she played basketball at Lake City’s outdoor basketball court for a few hours, she wrote, she edited photos and video, she said very little to anyone.  Then she went to the Packer Saloon where there was live music in the evening.  It was there that she ran into Lucky again, who invited her to sit at his table.  His three children quietly meandered around the outdoor patio, they had messy hair and tired eyes. The girl could tell they had been playing freely and happily before she encountered them that night.  She was pleased to see such cheery children spending time with their dad.  They clearly loved him dearly and he was equally infatuated with them.  She felt a lump in her throat, she thought about when she was little, about the times she sat on her dad’s lap and tried to grab the curling smoke from his cigarettes…how it always disappeared and puffed out between her fingers.  She thought about how she always had to remind him to wear his seatbelt.  She thought about the night she was snuggled in bed with him and neither of them could sleep.  She remembered making Frog’s Eye Salad with him at midnight, she recalled the way the foam from his toothpaste spilled out of his mouth and made a white Trident mustache.  She remembered trying to copy him by brushing her lips.  She remembered how he laughed at her.  She thought about the wrinkles between his eyebrows.  She recalled their not so secret handshake.  Anytime she saw a dad and his kids she felt this urge to say something, to say “don’t take it for granted, don’t miss a thing, love your children, and know how much they love you, know that they want to be with you, they want to be like you!”  But she never did say it, she always held it in like a secret.

Later that night, after the musical performer was finished with his set, she played a few songs for people she had never met before.  She was more nervous than usual, her voice wasn’t strong in any way, but she tried.  She felt a little embarrassed, but she knew that she couldn’t always count on herself to sing and play boldly.  The people she played for invited her to come hang out with them at their friend’s house.  Normally, she would’ve passed…but that night she took them up on their offer.  She tried to play and sing with them a little bit, but they were much better than she was.  She listened to their conversations about where life was taking them and what made them happy and what made them sad.  When it was time to leave, she felt strange and felt a heaviness leaning on her mind again.  All of the people she had met in Lake City were so kind and talented.  They all embraced adventure and craved a certain knowledge about existence that most people seemed to sluff off.  They were an elusive breed, they were a rare find, an endangered species, and who was she to be so lucky to see them in their natural habitat?

The girl sat at a coffee shop the next day, after sleeping in her car, and tried to recall the recent series of events.  She wondered where she would go and what she would do next?

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No Radio

A star in the sky reflects upon your eye.

Blink too long, and the moment passes by.

A wave in the water is the whole ocean’s motion,

like a Smile on your face makes up your emotion.

I say these words, but what do they mean?

The only thing I know is nothing is what it seems.

Go where I want, See what I want to See,

but everyone keeps asking, what I want to be?

They don’t understand when I try to say it plain,

maybe my guitar will help me to explain.

That I…..

Started off singing when I didn’t have a radio,

Then I got swaggin’ when I didn’t have a friend to show.

Spitting out my dreams when everybody told me, “No, no, no!”

I, I know I’ve got a way to go.

Sunshine and water, now I’m growing like a Miracle.

Try, but won’t let them say, “I told you so.”

Cause when you sing without a radio, life gets pretty lyrical!

 

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Goldilocks and The Three Bears

With nothing between her and the stark black sky and the twinkling stars, she slept peacefully.  She never heard the gunshots or the yelling in the distance.  She was deep in that mysterious world that people go to when their eyes are closed and their minds are open, she was dreaming…dreaming…drifting away.  She loved that place, she went to it as often as she could.  Then, suddenly, she felt someone breathing on her and grabbing at her.  She couldn’t distinguish between the sleep world and the awake-world.  Was this a vivid dream or a real life nightmare?  The breathing and clawing continued, she immediately came to the conclusion that some creepy bastard was trying to molest her.  She thought, “Fuck, this is it!”  But then, the girl arrived in a half-awake-world to discover it was no pervert, but rather a mama bear and her two cubs.  The girl swatted at the bears and wiggled about and made noises to scare them away.  And as they trotted away casually, she still couldn’t be certain if she was dreaming or experiencing reality.  She blinked hard and looked around with her flashlight and watched the bears disappear, this was real life…those were real bears!

A few minutes later a frantic man drove down a rocky road in an old jeep, whose glowing yellow headlights juxtaposed the last hours of darkness before sunrise.  He told the girl that there were bears nearby and his fear was palpable.  He told her that he shot off five rounds to scare them away from his camp, and that they were not easily deterred, they were aggressive.  He told her of the dent that they put in his camping trailer.  He asked her if she had seen them, and she told him what happened just moments before, to which he replied, “HOLY SHIT!  Really?  Are you ok?  How did you not shit your pants?  I would’ve shit my pants!”

The frantic man patrolled the area all night, but the girl merely packed up her sleeping bag and tarp…then went back to sleep in her car.  Maybe she wished the bears had just eaten her so she could stay in the dream world forever.  Maybe she wished they would come back.

Sometimes I don’t know what world I am in, especially lately.  I often feel like I am residing on the pages of a strange book.  Some days Mark Twain is the author, some days it’s Fitzgerald, some days it’s Hemingway, Emerson, Hunter S. Thompson, Krakauer, or Salinger.  The old man who danced in the downtown neon lights that reflected in rain puddles on Leadville’s main street, who drunkenly told me he was one of the fastest runners of all time, was he an unpublished piece of Salinger’s writing that he typed up in his red-brick bunker?  My Fairy Godmother who gave me a heart shaped rock in Lake City, was she real?  The bartender whose glasses fogged up in the steam of the dishes he washed, who played a twelve string guitar, who wore a tiny sweater he took from the lost and found, and talked about consciousness and the magnitude of the universe and how the location of zippers determined if clothing is masculine or feminine…was he a figment of my imagination?  Did I ever really ride wild mustangs, or paint cars, or put up guardrail?  Did my spurs really ping-rattle-and spin as I worked horses in Utah?  Did I really climb those mountains? Or am I just a character in a book, written by some phony hiding from the world in a red-brick bunker?  How is it all going to end?

I’m stuck: between happiness and sadness, between reality and some crazy colorful dreamland, between being ok and totally losing it.

I climbed Sneffels yesterday and it was fine and beautiful and challenging.  As always, the flowers in the valley reached out to me and asked me to stay.  As always, the summit was amazing and the world seemed big and small all at once.  As always, I met strangers along the way who told me where they were from and what mountains they had climbed.  As always, as always, as always, as always, as always.  As always, here I am now…lost and found… with a lump in my throat.

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Minnesota

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Sparky

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Summit

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Inside the box

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Heart Shaped Rocks

My last two climbs near the Lake City area were Uncompahgre and Wetterhorn, they were both fun- easy hikes.  I particularly enjoyed Wetterhorn, which was my first more “technical” climb.  It was gentle the entire way up to the final leg of the climb, where I encountered some exciting scrambling.  Some poor guy was really freaking himself out climbing up some of it, I felt bad and tried to help him…but he was too deep in his own head to be able to accept help.  I understood, I’ve been there…just in a different situation.  He eventually made it up and his morale was boosted back up to optimum levels, until he had to go back down.  Luckily he had a very patient climbing partner who guided him back to safety.

My favorite part of my hikes is the part where I return to the valleys, where I enjoy the gentle descents in the company of colorful-hardy flowers and lush greens.  This is where the butterflies whisper their secrets and snowmelt streams tell silly jokes, this is where my imagination runs wild, this is where the world makes sense, where I feel calm and true and right.  My climbing partner, Minnesota, likes to get this part over with as quickly as possible and she runs down.  I don’t mind because it gives me alone time.  The most right I have felt in a long time, was on the descent of Redcloud.  I was alone, just re-entering the trees and the wind was blowing gently against them.  I was listening to an Alan Watts recording, his calming voice floated on the wind and wiggled into my ears, “All the idea of you being scared, and put out and worried, and so on, this is nothing, it’s a dream.  Because you’re really nothing. But this is most incredible nothing. So cheer up!… Nothingness is really like the nothingness of space, which contains the whole universe.  All the sun and the stars and the mountains, and rivers, and the good men and bad men, and the animals, and insects, and the whole bit.  All are contained in void. So out of this void comes everything and You Are IT.”  It was a perfect moment, where I found peace within my often restless soul.

I didn’t get to spend as much time exploring and enjoying Lake City as I had hoped, but I did spend a couple hours walking around downtown.  I bought a black shirt with a moose on it that said “Lake City” in turquoise blue letters.  I got stuck in an antique store after some teenage drug experimentalists locked me in without realizing it.  After I got out, I went to an art gallery where I met a very kind woman.  She was blonde and well put together, her hair was done, and her clothes were nice and wrinkle-free.  She inquired about my origins and why I was in Lake City.  When I told her that my dad’s prior occupation and exploration of the town drew me there, she gave me a rock…a heart-shaped rock.  She said, “Lake City is known for its heart-shaped rocks, and you should have one for your dad.”  My heart raced, and I wanted to cry.  I want to cry right now just thinking about it.  I really liked her, she just seemed so benevolent; she told me of a hostel where I could shower and of a great place to watch the sunset.  I didn’t want to leave the gallery, I wanted her to adopt me, I wanted her to be my Fairy Godmother.

Soon after, I went to the hostel that my Fairy Godmother told me about and met a dark-haired, bearded man with a birthmark just below his right eye, his name was Lucky.  He was busy juggling three young children, all of which were cute to the point of ridiculousness.  They tended to a fire and cooked hot dogs for themselves, they were covered in soot and dirt, they were full of joyful giggles and squeals. Lucky let me shower for free after he saw me playing guitar with the owner of the coffee shop next door, who I had met the previous day.  I developed an immediate crush on Lucky; maybe because I have a weakness for men who are good dads…I think it was probably some weird Freudian thing that made me like him.  I liked him, probably, for the same reason I like men who smoke cigarettes.  Maybe I liked him because of his birthmark, or because he just seemed sweet and I knew he didn’t want anything from me.  I made him a “Thank You” card before I left and headed out to Ouray to climb Sneffels.

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Old pup outside of the Country Store in Lake City

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Old pup outside of the Country Store in Lake City

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My hike log at the back of the book “Wild”

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Man pondering on Uncompahgre

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Melting Snow

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Wetterhorn’s scramble

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Big Rock, Little Man in the Distance

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Summit

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Dang it!

What I’m listening to:

Redcloud and Sunshine: 

Well I just wrote up a post for Redcloud and Sunshine, but it deleted as I tried to upload it.  I guess it wasn’t meant to be.  I assure you it was award worthy writing, my best yet, the best writing that’s ever been written.  Just kidding…it was kinda crappy anyway (lesson learned, save it on word then paste it to wordpress).  However, since a picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll just put up my pictures from Sunshine and Redcloud…that ought to make up for the lack of wordage today.  I’m too brain dead to re-do this.  One day I’ll go back and do something much more organized and eloquent with all these blabbering posts.  For now I just get down what I can when I can.

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Minnesota-girl with a plan

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snow cave

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Ceiling of snow cave

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summit of Redcloud

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Blue Skies and Dancing Flowers: Handies Peak

After finishing Quandary and Evans I headed down to the San Juan Range with the intention of climbing a few peaks on my own, but I got a last minute text from my Minnesota Partner In Crime–she was game for climbing with me!  We met up in Buena Vista, got dinner, and headed to what we thought was a passable road to the trailhead for Handies.  When we got to the Alpine Loop near Ouray we both decided our small 2WD cars weren’t up for the trek, and we weren’t about to walk an extra 20+ miles to climb Handies.  Our only option was to drive a few hours back to Lake City.  At one point we slept in our cars and then kept driving.  We got almost all the way to the trailhead from our new approach, much to the surprise of the tricked out jeep drivers we encountered along the way.  The road was rugged, but doable at this point for both Minnesota and me.  We parked, put on our packs, and got to hiking.

The day was clear and the sun was shinning, there wasn’t one cloud in the ultra-blue sky.  There was a gentle breeze now and then that made the flowers dance.  Some flowers were still colorful and vibrant, while others had began to ready themselves for a new season–a new season that I still can’t believe is almost here!  The path to Handies was pretty straight forward and it wasn’t what I would consider to be difficult, but like any 14er it was enough to get my heart pumping.  Every now and again I’d catch myself out of breath or feeling the burn in my legs.  When Minnesota and I reached the final leg of the climb, we decided to run!  It was fun, I always like running up the last little bit when it’s possible, I don’t know why.

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At the summit there were a lot of hardened older hikers who gave Minnesota and I tips for the more difficult peaks we have coming up.  There were a bunch of sweet labs at the top too, they were all well behaved and respectful.  There was one in particular that I liked.  He was so sleepy and calm and happy to be laying against his owner in the bright warmth of the sun, so I took his picture!

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A smooch session with Sparky

On the way down, Minnesota and I paid a visit to a little lake.  I looked at it, took pictures of it, contemplated its existence, then I went for a swim in it!  It was cold but fresh, it took my breath away but made me feel more alive, it was perfect.  I couldn’t tread its turquoise beauty for more than a few minutes, but I was glad I took a dip.  After I was done with my shenanigans it was time to continue along the descent.  Minnesota and I talked and laughed and told each other stories, it was so fun having company again!

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Minnesota by the water

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butterfly I caught near the trailhead at the end of the day

When Minnesota and I got back to our cars, we were ready for a nap!  I put down my tarp and sleeping bag near some happy-dancing flowers, and then fell asleep.

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It is Better to Be an Honest Street Sweeper Than a Dishonest King

What I Am Listening to These Days:

I definitely used to hold up this “thing” that I thought I was supposed to be, I avoided the “seething sea of anger and sadness” in myself by looking up at it.  I tried to be someone I wasn’t for a long time.  I was unkind to myself, and even sometimes others, because I was frustrated by how hard it was to try and become something that I wasn’t meant to be.  Then, I went down into that dark place, and I let that “thing” I was trying to be disappear into the black tar that enveloped my sunless world.  I was in a shadowy forest for a long time, but this summer has been a time of transformation.  Enlightening is the only way to describe my journey.  On my birthday everything was falling apart and I was incredibly depressed.  My aunt told me that she and my dad had promised each other that if there was anything after death, whoever went first would find a way to break through and tell the other one.  She said he never has made any connection with her since his death.  So, she said, there is nothing after we die.  It wasn’t that statement alone that made me sad, everything and everyone around me seemed to be falling apart.  I felt useless and unaccomplished, like my life had no significance or meaning.  On top of that I felt ugly and stupid.  I fell into this mental pit that I just couldn’t crawl out of, but then, as I was wallowing in my own sadness in my bedroom…….my dad came to help.  When I was little I somehow decided that my dad’s color was yellow.  The day he came to visit I felt like the color yellow blanketed over my whole mind, there was a feeling of immense brightness but also hints of darkness.  I was too afraid to move, but I felt him behind me, he wrapped around me and in my head I heard the words, “You’ll be here with me soon.”  I didn’t know whether to be afraid that that meant I was going to die soon, or to be happy because maybe it meant I was going to connect with him in some way I couldn’t understand yet.

During the days that followed my dad’s visit I became motivated to start planning my summer adventure that I had dreamed about for so long.  Then I ended up spending the month of June at the cabin, then in July and August I started climbing mountain after mountain.  And here I am now, I just finished my 18th peak of the summer and my 26th overall.  And in the process of it all I came out of that dark pit that I used to reside in.  It’s just been one step at a time, one mile at a time, one peak at a time…but it all feels like magic.  Some days are harder than others, but I don’t feel like I used to.  Certain things just aren’t important anymore.  Certain philosophers, authors, and occurrences have taken my mind down new roads; they have widened my eyes and expanded my capacity to understand and accept.  I don’t know what’s next or where things are going…but I understand and accept that wherever I go and whatever happens… it will all be perfect.  Everything is what it is for a very specific purpose. I accept that accomplishments and material things are insignificant.  I accept who I am, as I am.

My dad passed away when I was just a little girl.  Most people say they don’t have memories of the age I was when he died.  But I REMEMBER!  All I had after he died were my memories, so I replayed them over and over again.  He has been a significant part of my life, for my entire life.  I think about him almost every day.  He has been my source of sadness, motivation, pain, enlightenment, joy, etc.  I think his death created my tendency toward cyclical thinking, which was a very bad habit for a while.  Alan Watts said something like, compulsive thinking is like a drug, a very dangerous drug that we become addicted to.   Recently, I have been able to quiet my mind without thinking about not thinking, if that makes sense?  Because I have been able to do that…I think I am with my dad now more than ever before.  It’s really hard to explain how the sight of the world has changed in my eyes.  But the best way I can describe it would be to say: the world once seemed blurry and sad and mean and judgmental…and now everything works together and flows and connects and is crisp and clear.  I am fine with being a hobo-vagabond, I’d rather be that than something I am not.  The whole metaphor of my blog was about “killing King Sisyphus”…killing the asshole within myself…killing the part of me that pushes a meaningless thing up a hill just to watch it fall because it’s what I think people want me to do.  If I can now happily claim to be an honest form of street sweeper (metaphorically speaking), does that mean I have killed my inner Sisyphus?  I don’t know if he is clinically dead, I don’t even know if “killing” him is even what I want to do anymore…I just know I want to nourish the street sweeper and see her thrive.

I told my friend, Minnesota, about seeing my dad and she said, “They say there is no pain in heaven, but maybe seeing his child in so much pain made him feel like he had to help you.”  He did help me and I am grateful!

What I’m Reading These Days:

“Beyond the road where the snakes sunned themselves was a dense young thicket, and through a dim-lighted path led a quarter of a mile; then out of the dimness one emerged abruptly upon a level great prairie which was covered with wild strawberry plants, vividly starred with prairie pinks, and walled in on all sides by forests.  The strawberries were fragrant and fine, and in the season we were generally there in the crisp freshness of the early morning while the dew-beads still sparkled upon the grass and the woods were ringing with the fine songs of the birds.”     –p. 214 Autobiography of Mark Twain Volume 1

I’m a moron for putting that right before my writing.  Oh well!

Quandary and Evans:

Yesterday, I climbed Quandary and took my dog Prince with me.  It was his first fourteener and I was excited to have his company, but also nervous that he might be (for lack of a better word) annoying.  When I pulled in to the parking area at the base of Quandary there were tons of cars.  I drove from Fountain and didn’t arrive until about 7:30 in the morning, which was a very late start for such a popular mountain…and on a Friday…forget about it.  I know I said bringing music on a fourteener is like bringing your own food to a restaurant, but when a peak is crawling with people having conversations that I don’t care to overhear…then I am ok with some kind of a buffer.  I had downloaded a bunch of Alan Watts audio, so I decided I’d listen to him the whole way up.  Prince barfed on his leash and took off after a ground squirrel immediately after he got out of the car, and I thought, this is going to be rough.  But after a stern conversation between the two of us, things ran smoothly and he was very well behaved.  I passed quite a few weekend warriors as I ascended, there was one group of guys who were clearly trying to keep ahead of me, but eventually I wore them out and passed them.  I don’t honestly care about passing or being passed, I just think it’s funny when I come across people who do care.

The hike was a steady and fairly kind incline that was just steep enough to get my heart pumping, and it made me have a hankering for a beer.  I never crave beer…but something about fourteeners really makes me acquire a taste for a bubbly golden glass of the good stuff.  When I summited, there were people drinking ice cold ones on a nearby boulder, arrrgggggg it was torture!  Prince and I hung out for a little bit and took pictures, and then we made our way down.  When I got to my car I didn’t even change out of my boots, I headed straight for Alma.  When I got there it was pouring rain and pinging hail, I thought I would just be able to sit outside with my puppy and drink a cold one, but that wasn’t going to happen.  The bartender kindly let Prince and me come in, even though they didn’t allow dogs normally.  I got my drink and had a DELICIOUS taco salad!  MMMMMmmmmmm!  I snuck pieces of chicken to Prince as he quietly hung out under the table.  Shhh!

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Sweet spot just below Quandary

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Resident of Quandary

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After I finished eating I decided I’d head out to Mt. Evans, which I had tried to do a few weeks ago but the byway was closed.  When I got there I parked at the Summit Lakes parking lot.  There was one other car and I only saw a few people here and there.  I found a little chalet type building and claimed it as mine for the night.  I played guitar and sang to my puppy briefly, but I was quite ready to greet a good night of slumber.  I woke up to Prince growling at people walking and talking outside of the shelter, when I opened the door at 6:00am the, once empty, parking lot was overflowing and people were buzzing around the whole place; chatting and prepping for their hikes.  Luckily, the hike I did from Summit Lakes was one that nobody else was doing when I started ascending.  That meant I could take Prince off his leash and let him GO!  He had a blast running around chasing wildlife that he definitely was not supposed to be disturbing.  I made my way up the trail slowly but surely and before long I hit the summit parking lot.  I snapped a few pictures and then hit the last few switchbacks that led to the top.  I had enough energy to run and race my pup up the final push.  We scrambled and hopped from boulder to boulder, then found little nooks and crannies to hide in.  Later,  we returned to the summit parking lot where we encountered a mama goat and her baby.  I watched them for a little bit and then retraced my steps back down the path I came up.  Eventually, I found myself back at Summit Lakes and was I ready to go.  But where was I going to go next?  Lake City!  Why?  Because a Lion Mountain tracker (that I met on La Plata) told me that would be a cool spot to hit next, with great peaks to climb…and because of this email from one of my dad’s best friends:

“Mike was a rare once in a lifetime friend and father. I’m so glad you are embarking upon this quest…Many years ago before <your mom> and children your dad did a 21 day wilderness experience in the Gunnison National Forest with residents from Brockhurst Boys Ranch where he was a counselor. I think that’s where he fell in love with the Lake City area…Looks like you take after him.”

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Squat Spot

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rainy evening before the climb

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Morning of the climb

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Parking lot

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BABY!

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And because I love this song, here’s more of what I have been listening to:

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Happiness, Choices, and the Real Me

(Video of my Seattle trip, not the best quality as usual…but something, at the very least, to represent the experience.  Alan Watts on the audio).

“The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.”

–Watts

Is the road to happiness a lonely one?  I guess that depends on the person travelling on the road.  Some people find happiness and companionship all at once.  For me, it’s a multi-step program.  When I am alone everything makes sense and I see that much of my life and how I feel about it is a matter of choice.  Rather, it is a series of choices or options for how I feel about:  each word that I said or was uttered to me in the past, each itchy mosquito bite, each gust of wind, each moment of eye contact, each exchange of confessions, each drop of rain that falls from the sky, each perfectly unique snowflake, each bite of food that agrees or disagrees with my taste buds, each swig of water, each loss or death, each birth or gain, each friendship, and so on, and so on.  Admittedly, I have used anger and sadness so much, in the past, as a default that those emotions used to be the first ones I wanted to turn to…even when something good happened.  But now I slowly feel myself moving toward positivity, toward the notion that even bad things are good and they will help other things coalesce down the road.  When I am alone in my own quiet and happy world I am Zen, or at least I have moments of true and powerful clarity.  I have connected with something far larger than myself, its presence is abundantly clear!  Sometimes I can see the greater purpose of everything in my life and I transform into something else.  I am still me, but instead of being something that meanders and stalls…I become something that floats and progresses.  My heart beats differently, my lungs smile at the air that fills them, my stomach is calm, and my brain becomes bright as it hums.  This feeling cannot be truly captured with my words, at least not yet, but it is very real and it is the most beautiful feeling I have ever had!

When I connect back with people, sometimes things go really well.  I feel like they can finally hear me because I can finally speak.  Recently, I connected with friends who I have known for years, but they never really met me until about a week ago.  I just finally opened up a little bit, not all the way, but enough for them to catch a glimpse.  I was elated after I left their presence and felt hopeful.  I think it went well because they knew that they didn’t know me and they jumped at the opportunity to see me when I offered to reveal a part of myself to them.  But the people who have already formed an opinion of me, the people who falsely believe that they know me…those are the ones that I struggle with.  It isn’t even a struggle, that word doesn’t do it justice; it is an epic-bloody-raging battle.  This battle field is full of passive aggressive quips, backhanded compliments, yelling, crying, and even sometimes a total ignoring of my existence.  Oh, and it hurts!  It hurts so badly!  As they swing their swords at me, I try to help heal their wounds, I try to maintain positivity, I try to be understanding of the fact that the battle they are fighting is not against me…it just hurts when their swords stab through my heart as I continue to try stitch their weeping cuts.  In these circumstances I don’t know how to balance the “me” who floats and sees unity in life, and the “me” who hurts and feels unbearable pain.  I think it must be a test; it must be the next step in the progression of my existence.  I need to try and see the purpose in the battle, I need to continue to leave my sword behind and refuse to contribute to any form of destruction or devastation.

Happiness, what a curious thing it is!  It is elusive and mysterious, but at the same time powerful and overwhelmingly good!  I am certainly on a quest to maintain a life that is more inclined toward joy.  I recognize the need for balance and the purpose of other (less pleasurable) emotions or states of being, but I don’t want to live my life so far away from the light anymore.  I promise myself that I will try to see the opportunity for joy before I see the opportunity for pain, I promise I will be strong for the ones love—even when they decide to hurt me, I promise I won’t give up, I promise to be constructive, I promise to be helpful, I promise to forgive, I promise to be genuine, I promise to face fear, I promise to be the light.

After a day of exploration and a night of sleeplessness near Seattle, I started thinking: what if every person I encounter is a person that I once was or will be in the future?  What if every person that makes me mad, sad, happy, excited, or exhausted is just me?  What if every wrong doing or injustice is self-inflicted?  To me this is a captivating contemplation and possibility, and it really makes me turn my head and see things in a new way.  It’s true that I (as in me, the one person that I believe I am right now) have been guilty of enraging myself to the point of screaming in the same way that I have been guilty of making myself laugh to the point of tears.  But the idea that each and every person is just another version of themselves (or me) is a bit mind boggling.  It really makes sense to me though.  It would be a genius way to test a person and to teach them all at once.  And what if it goes beyond that?  What if every fly swatted, every rat trapped, every bird shot, every dog loved is another me?  What if I am me for X amount of years and then I become you…and you become me?  What if you treat me like shit this time and I treat you like shit next time, when you become me?  What if I love you fearlessly in this life, and in the next life it is you who loves me?  What if the person you fear most, is the person you used to be?  What if you are about to become the rabbit that you just hit while driving down the road?  Bump, bump!  Does this mean that I should treat everyone the way I would treat myself if I were them?  I know I need to be better at seeing the world through the eyes of others.  I really do try a lot of the time, to be empathetic and sympathetic whenever possible, however, I am guilty of heartlessness and cruelty and judgment…just as much as you are guilty of it.  But since you are another version of me, I guess we both already know that?  I’ll be perfectly honest here…it is 4:45am and I have barely slept a wink, so all of this is probably mumbo jumbo—blabbering madness.  I just woke up out of a scarce sleep and felt like I needed to write this down.  I will also admit that I have been listening to a lot of philosophy-type podcasts and Sir Alan Watts, so I am sure that has something to do with all this too.  No doubt, someone else has thought of this before and written it down in a much clearer and well-expressed way.  But then, if someone else did it, and if they are just another version of me, then I once wrote this down and did a damn good job!  I also, then, invented the wheel and all the other marvelous and terrible things in the universe.  What does that mean when it comes to the Creator (or Creators)?  Does it mean that we are all the Creator(s) and the Undertaker(s)?????????  Mind—explode!

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