Wanderings through life, landscapes, and occasional loopiness. So pull up a log and have a bit of a sit-down ’round the virtual campfire.

Molehills to Mountains

All right, I don’t pretend to be the world’s greatest mountaineer. That’s a job I leave to qualified professionals and assorted wildlife. However, I am a pretty outdoorsy and active person, so I figured I’d be okay on the hike my colleagues dragged me on yesterday.

Bless my heart, as they say in the South.

First, I haven’t done a hike like that in about 4 years, because the hills in Middle Tennessee look something like this:

rolling hills of Middle Tennessee

Look beyond the bovine-type wildlife. See how the ground kind of slopes up? Okay. Now compare to this:

Mt. Lamborn, Paonia CO

Just sayin’.

Not to diss some of the hills in Middle Tennessee. There are some good ones. And of course, the Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee are another matter entirely. Anyway, my point is this: I’m in pretty good shape. I’ve been running out here since January, getting acclimated to the altitude again. I ain’t no pushover. But holy hell, yesterday kicked my ass! I made the summit–dragged my happy butt up there, after several pitched battles with scrub oak, mud, snow (yes, snow still lingers up there), and a pissed-off cactus.

But by god, I did it. Me. Fifteen years older than my outdoor-livin’ and lovin’ colleagues. So damn right I got up there and did a serious butt dance to commemorate the event. And then we went down. A hell of a lot faster than we went up. So every muscle I ever thought I might have in my body got put to good use. Today I feel like somebody hitched me to a team of sled dogs and ran the Iditarod. Without a sled. SO not a special feeling.

So here I sit, popping ibuprofen like pez, wondering if it’s possible to sprain your butt. And I think “what the hell was I doing up there?” And then I remember the astonishing view across the North Fork Valley, where the border between earth and sky is marked by mountains and on a clear day, like yesterday, you can see the San Juans and maybe, if you look really close, you might even see the deep-down parts of yourself, and feel how the wind can knife right through your clothing and your skin and sandpaper across your bones. And you might see the way life and death close a circle, in the carcass of a deer melting into the hard mountain soil and the track of a cougar on the summit’s ridgeline.

And talking to friends and colleagues afterward, watching antelope steaks and salmon cooking on a grill, I raised my glass and toasted the way the rhythms of predator and prey and seasonal changes feed me, body and soul, and I breathe deep and smell spring in the new buds of trees and the rich odor of wet earth and I remember that cougar track and I know that maybe on some other day, I’d be like that deer carcass, leaching my blood and body into the dirt of a snow-carved wash.

Yeah, it was a hard-ass hike. And yeah, I almost didn’t go to the summit of the peak. But something made me do it, something made me haul my butt up there. And in the wind and cold and on the cloud-shadowed spine of that microcosm of the world, I think I saw some of the deep-down parts of myself.

Thanks for stopping by and happy hiking, y’all.

Molehills to Mountains

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