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Friday, January 19, 2018

On Wonder...Sustenance for the Soul

I've been to places of incomprehensible beauty...in driving snow when flashes of lightning shuddered the atmosphere...quiet nights perched below immaculate stars. At such times, wonder saturates every cell in my body, provides me with a deep well of energy and an infinite capacity to love. It changes who I am. As much as I have transformed I am still a kid, full of curiosity about the world, chasing dreams and summits.  "The Push," Tommy Caldwell

Finally, isnows.  It's a crisp, sun-kissed morning, the kind that slowly dissipates the foggy void after a winter storm. Bobbie and I decide to snow-slog up Oak Creek Trail's south-facing switchbacks...after I finish shoveling the deck.

The elastic stirrups that secure gators to boots finally wore through on a recent post-hole hike up to Yankee Girl Mine. Having too much childlike fun, I didn't notice my lower legs going numb. A closer examination reveals both gators wadded up into something that resembles garter belts just below my knees. Fortunately, I have a roll of electrical tape in my pack (don't ask) and effect a Rube Goldberg repair. 

With only low-top summer gators as back-up—designed to keep twigs and skin-pricking shards of grass seed from getting into boots and socks—I'm ill prepared for a snow-slog. But it's sunny. How bad could it be?

We labor up, through delightful and much needed snow. It glistens and dazzles under full sun, like rubies and diamonds. Stubborn remnants of the storm clings to peaks that ring Lovely Ouray... a breathtaking alpine perspective that elicits wonder and awe. The "wonder" is, why would anyone choose to live Elsewhere?  We are pleasantly alone on the trail, breaking a path through virgin snow a mere half mile from town. Oh the luck of my landing. If only I could build a wall...

I feel good, and when I feel good I'm hardwired to push the pace. I can't help myself. It's not so much that I'm in a hurry as it is because I still can. Those days are numbered so I push harder, till I break a full sweat. 

Pushing the pace on a clear winter day with fresh snow is akin to being caught in a solar oven. Tall pines offer temporary relief with intermittent shade. I welcome the occasional slough of snow that finds its way down my neck and back. On days like this I am a mountain eating machine, and my mood soars with the effort.

I miss my tall gators, but make do with "anklets." 
In my humble, albeit, ostensible, outdoor life, I've found nothing—not drugs, not alcohol, not even sexlifts a finger to assuaging world pathos...not to mention nagging neuritis and neuralgia that evolves with advancing years... than the simple act of "Pushing.

Being human, it helps to reward a Push with what my son, Caleb, refers to as "a payoff." For some it's a Scrap Cookie from Mouse's Chocolates. Others, a green chile cheeseburger from Maggie's. But what Caleb means by "Payoff" transcends physical cravings. It's more about sustenance for the soul. While our bodies are sustained through mouths, souls are sustained with eyes, ears, nose, and touch. 

This hike's "payoff" is Twin Peaks...

Here are a few more examples of the kinds of places and things that sustain my soul... 
Zion's Subway:

Exploring any slot canyon, preferably one overflowing with ice water and challenge:

Successfully negotiating the "Cowbell Cliffhanger" near Virgin, Utah:

Ascending Slickrock...anywhere:

Spring snow-hikes:

Fat Tire excursions:


Looking down on clouds without being in a plane:

Far curve-of-the-earth views:

Update: We departed Lovely Ouray for our annual winter migration to Arid-zona shortly after "the storm."  Goldie is currently parked at Catherine's Landing on the shore of Mohave Lake, just north of Bullhead City. 

I hope to forge new ground in old territory. Arizona holds my childhood, and with it so many memories, both kind and unfortunate. Memories can fuck with your mind. It's difficult to know whether the source of my affection for desert is based in good memories or bad. Certainly, the landscape speaks to me, perhaps because it's all I knew...perhaps because it's "home." I'm reminded of a passage from Richard Flanagans' "The Narrow Road to the Deep North:" A happy man has no past, while an unhappy man has nothing else." But it's so difficult to move forward without looking back. All my life has been a journey to this point, and there are but two guiding constants: Deserts and Mountains. Purpose and meaning and love and all the lessons required in life, I found in deserts and mountains.

As I look beyond our camp, rugged volcanic mountains reflect from Mohave's placid blue waters. The sun is warm upon my face and knees, and it feels good to be on the move to no place in particular, with mountains and deserts within view. 

Life is Good.
Peace out,
mark and bobbie 


    Yes those were some of the best Highlight Shots
    Have a great rest of the Winter &
    Stay Thirsty

  2. Is that blood on the snow in that photo of you postholing???

    I must say it looks like some fun pushing through the snow, but I bet it also felt mighty nice to head to warmer climes.

    1. What can I say...ice shards, thin skin, and blood thinners don't mix :(

  3. Love the snow, as long as I can see it on someone else's blog:)

  4. Totally agree, those "pay-off" moments are seared in my memory forever.

  5. Great thoughts and photos. Glad to see you are keeping alive the tradition of hiking in the snow in shorts! Hope to see you guys in Arizona before long.

  6. Yes, had to laugh at you in your shorts hiking through that much snow :-)
    That payoff photo of Twin Peaks should be a postcard.

  7. Beautifully written-fabulous photographs of gorgeous places. You do live the life!

  8. Deserts and mountains! The dichotomy of beauty. Have you read any books by Rebecca Solnit? She does such a great job of describing the beauty of the desert. Anyway, I'll be in Tucson with Dad Feb 10-14!