To Venture; Sow Seeds

This might be an uphill battle.
Have you ever tried to build a fire in the wild, wild winter?
But if I don’t venture, I may lose myself.
More importantly —
If they don’t venture, they may never find themselves.

Can’t avoid the chilly hands of winter forever–shall we meet her then?
I’m nervous about the cold–never have slept on the ground before, nope.
Come, let us walk the road that goes ever on and on–so weary already?
I’m afraid of bears, she says.
But your eyes don’t seem to fear anything. What’s the real bear, then?

Fluctuating contours introduce her Are-we-there-yet’s and How-much-farther’s.
And he sure doesn’t give a spit about the type of Jerusalem we’re passing through.
Walking slow to prove it.
Maybe all of it really is just so many boring, boring, burned-out trees.
But I smudge my face with ash and carry on.

Hey, how hard could it be to establish a campsite?
Let me show you.
Traverse down a hill, discover a disappointing and slanted situation, then bear-crawl back up carrying the weight of your world in the pack strapped to your shoulders.
I wanna go back home now, he says.
My bad. I swear it looked decent from up top.
Story of my life, to be honest. (Wonder about yours)
Oh well, she cuts in like a cymbal’s laugh —
The same one who glanced shy at the ground when she told me her name means “beautiful girl.”

Moving slower than a mile an hour
Oh well
Forgot the menu of meal recipes
Oh well
Spilled the store of purified creek water with freezing hands
Oh well
The guys got their own tent toppled just in time for bedtime
Oh well

As for me, laid awake hearing coyotes in the blank night.
Silence too loud to sleep.
Sunrise met with a weak cup of coffee.
Oh well

Time to edge in a couple more miles.
From what I understand, the most nomadic he gets is walking to the 7 Eleven between his house and school.
But now two step with walking sticks to attend to the journey.
Destination: Footbridge.

Sun-warmed granite rocks, level ground above the banks of a rushing creek.
The view looking out towards the Valley.
Can we stay here?
The sunset glows pink and purple. I notice how he sinks into it.
You ever saw a spark ignite?

Speaking of which–
How about a fire tonight?
The smoke and crackle of gathered kindling now warming its crown of hearts.
And the same way a pinecone’s resin cracks open under the melting heat to release its seeds, their hands open.
See what we can do when Together, when Each Other.
You ever watch something grow before your eyes?

And now he’s smudged his face with ash like mine.
Topographic maps spread out with green.
Pointing to the path to El Capitan.
How far?
Nearly 6 miles away.
What happens if we don’t make it?

Has it been an hour yet?
Keeping a store of potential energy, granola bars unwrapped.
Summit, 5 miles away.
What happens if we don’t make it?
Tell me your favorite places to go to in San Fran.
My turn to be the leader, she says.
Summit, 4 miles away.
What happens if we don’t make it?
Retelling difficult stories to make this seem less difficult.
Summit, 3 miles away.
What happens if we don’t make it?
5,000 feet of elevation gain.
Can I borrow some antibacterial for my tattoo?
Of course.
Hey, we need to find water.
Summit, 3 miles away.

What happens if we don’t make it?
The sun started sinking long ago. Cursing the winter solstice.
What happens if we really shouldn’t hike downhill in the dark? Did anyone bring a headlamp?
What happens if we don’t make it?
What happens if —

Back down 5,000 feet of elevation. Maybe next time, kids.

Maybe next time.
Will there be a next time?
Well, will there? And why not?
He shrugs.
But I see him eyeing the cliffs the next day in the gaze of We’ll meet again.

Perhaps nothing quite so inspiring as the road towards home.
A rise at dawn to set out in the sweet air.
Quick enough to the trail to leave a stove pan behind.
But I hear him say, I’m gonna miss the views, though.

Perhaps nothing quite so inspiring as the road towards home.
Not thirst or even the fear of heights can deter.
Climbing over fallen trees and Talus fields.
But I hear him say, I like climbing down these rocks, though, as we race each other down the hill of boulders.

And when I glance back, I see a faint glimmer of Jerusalem in his eyes.

Topographical

I drive up the mountain smelling like suitcases and sandalwood
And lay my blankets on the bottom bunk in the middle bedroom.

He hands me a compass to map out the trail to Taft Point,
Unaware that I wish it could just point me to where I lost myself.

Feeling like myself, feeling like myself

In 30-degree weather.
Let’s tread the miles that surround us. 
The snow shimmering like diamonds under a triple-A battery beam.
The privilege to be wrapped in down feathers and cranberry fleece.
Dried strawberries with walnut halves,
A feast at the top of Dewey Point,
Where I saw something so massive

I began to remember my existence.

Backpacking: a different paradigm

There’s a big difference between backpacking and hiking.

Hiking–dayhiking–is essentially sightseeing that gives you a sweat. Great fun, refreshing and perhaps challenging at times–and you go home at the end of the day and have a nice meal and sleep in your bed.

Backpacking, on the other hand, is hiking and camping all rolled into one and then some. You put everything you are going to live on for the next few days or weeks on your back and start trodding a landscape where there is no one.552

So as you are in the environment you are walking through, you become a part of it. When you roll out your sleeping bag under the sky, that patch of ground and wild brush becomes your temporary home. All you have is the most essential provisions to live in this place. And you begin to realize that this nature you have stepped into is not under your control, and all it will give you is brutal honesty–the honesty that what you see in this wilderness is what you get, and you must make the best of it in the way you know how.

When you’re backpacking, you realize that mother nature, as beautiful as she is, could kill you whenever she well pleased.

So you let the humility of your situation sink in–because as often as not, the animals and sky and trees are going to let you live (though you still might have freezing feet at night), and we have invented portable water purifying systems. Because you are permitted to live and adventure as you have hoped, gratitude and awe and perhaps respect begins to well up a subtle fondness, and then love, for the place you are in. This is when you begin to understand how something can be beautiful and terrible at the same time.

Hiking is a good way to find adventure. Backpacking will change your life.

Photography: In the mountains, there you feel free

“In the mountains, there you feel free. I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.” –T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland

Last fall/winter semester, I went on some awesome backpacking and hiking adventures in Yosemite and the Ansel Adams Wilderness. I took a lot of pictures of trees and big rocks and stuff…but seriously, it’s so amazing that trees and big rocks and stuff can be so magical and full of life. I hope you enjoy some of the pictures I edited up–you can click on them for bigger sizes. :)