Alone in the Mountains

I have a conflicted passion for hiking alone in the mountains, simultaneously reveling in and terrified by the solitude. This Aqaara excerpt reflects that:

It was clear ahead, the sky suddenly bright, all the trees gone. The summit was close, the trial suddenly steep. A small tree acted as a handhold and then a shelf of rock. It was unavoidable to not kick the edge, to not let it gouge into my ankle and thigh. The pain was almost good. It wasn’t a surprise to see it not there, to see more trees ahead, that this was just a blow-down, the trees twisted into a brambled heap, like a massive hand had swiped through. I watched my hand reach out ahead, pulling me up, watched the sleeve rumple up and flatten down again, over and over again, like I was a machine, reaching, pulling, moving ahead, a marvelous, thoughtless thing, moving on, knowing there were miles yet to the top. It was good knowing that it would not stop, that my legs and feet would have to not stop, that the path would wind ahead to the next false summit and I would turn and find more ahead. There was something on the horizon, far off through the trees. It was coming, slowly at first, seeing me move away, and was then moving faster. That feeling ground into me, about to be eaten, as I returned down the trail, jumping rock to rock and then climbed up into a tree, breaking the branches. The beast was still far and yet it wasn’t. It was awful how it crept closer, watching my ridiculous attempts to climb further, knowing what I would do, more than me, dreadful. The thing was still coming, methodical. It looked like a lion but stood on its hind legs and looked at her like something else, with awareness. I broke the final branch and clung to the peak, but the only escape was jumping now, and that is what I had to do, except the thing grabbed me by the neck and held until I stretched out like a cartoon, and then shook myself awake, and lay there, still, the images still hard and real.

Mortality on Crown Mountain, British Columbia

I did West Vancouver’s Grouse Grind in 52:20 – a straight-up climb of 2800 feet – and was ready for more.

Goat Mountain

Goat Mountain

We carried on over Dam Mountain and then around Goat to the steep descent to the Lynn Valley Saddle. And then It was time for the climb up Crown. Crown25That’s when it hit me. I was flagging, bumping into branches, tripping over roots. I was stopping, looking up, thinking too much about the daunting journey ahead, psyching myself out, getting more and more exhausted, staring at my sweat dripping onto the rocks. Crown18I had to stop again and again, seriously considering turning back, Micaela far ahead, waiting. I thought I might not make it but moved my foot ahead, toiled on, step to step, dragging my inert legs over root ledges, and at long last made it to the top. Crown12I sat, mute, only able to think about the long descent and that horrible climb back up Goat and realized that this might indeed be the last time I would be here on this mountain.

Peak of Crown Mountain

Peak of Crown Mountain

I ate and ate – something I had stupidly neglected to do on the way up – and we began our long return, which amounted to a lot of slips and half falls through the labyrinth of exposed rock and dirt. We devoured our final batch of chocolate and attacked the ascent back up Goat. It wasn’t as bad as I expected. Not at all. It was almost a game again. Crown24We were going to make it after all. I was elated to be back, whole, in the parking lot and then in the fair city of Vancouver with a cold Steam Whistle in my hand.steam_whistleThe next morning was not so joyous. My knees were done. I had suddenly degraded to a state of gimpy and old. I glowered across Burrard Inlet, at the distant mountain top, and wondered when I would return. Soon, I promised myself. As soon as I could.

Obsession III: Rocks

I picked up my first rock with purpose in the summer of 1983. IMAG2547I was sitting beside the road in Prince Edward Island on a hitch-hiking journey across Canada when I saw this rock and decided I should keep a memento from each province. I continued to collect sporadically over the years. IMAG2559It became ingrained in me when I hiked the mountain trails around Vancouver, beginning in the early 1990s, bringing a rock home every time.

Crown Mountain, British Columbia

Crown Mountain, British Columbia

I don’t know where all of the rocks are from, although a few do stand out.

Hot Springs Cove, Vancouver Island

Hot Springs Cove, Vancouver Island

Acropolis, Athens, Greece

Acropolis, Athens, Greece

Rasafa, Syria

Rasafa, Syria

John Street, New York City

John Street, New York City

The collection continues to grow, maybe around 400 now. IMAG2567More space is needed. IMAG2539I just have to get my partner to agree.