The Mountain Cycle

I’ve just returned from the Territory Run Camp, hosted/presented by Aspire. This seasonal celebration showcasing my backyard trails is staged out of a mountain lodge on the edge of the Mt. Baker Wilderness. This event captures the community, ethos, and placed based connections that Aspire exists to support. Inspired by Ian Ramsey’s presentation on beat poets in the North Cascades, I took some time to play with my own trail lyricism and interspersed the words with a few photos from the year.

Mt. McGreggor, Stehekin, WA

It’s not a voice. It’s not audible. Unnamed, but not unknown. A frequency, emanating from an ancient psyche, juxtaposed against the static of modernity. Spoken by an orchestra of wind. Riding on echoes from the collision of continents. Originating from a wild place, far from the packaged, plasticized, polarized, politicized, punctual pretenses of comfort and security.  An invitation, an allure, a call to venture, to the mountains, to places further and deeper into the hills than I’ve traveled before. 

In hearkening to this siren song, suffering is my sacrifice. The terms are clear: only what I can carry. My choice, light, fast, and exposed. My physio-psycho capacity is my only currency. What will I receive in exchange? Miles of trail, relentless climbing, and access to the cathedral. 

Church Mountain, Mt. Baker Wilderness, WA

Initially, the miles are easy. I move swiftly, but reserserved, on wings of anticipation and fresh legs. The trail is familiar and well trodden by those holding close to the borderlands. However, as the day lengthens and the miles accumulate, I approach the junction, the furthest point, the beginning of the new, the point separating where I’ve been and where I’ve yet to trod. The edge of my experience.

Here every ridge crest, summit, and turn in the trail is a revelation. Running in a state of perpetual unfolding. Childlike, everything is captured in itself, and I remain in that eternal present so long as I can persist and resist the intrusion of anything that is not now. In this liminal space I can hear the universe. The sounds of creation unfolding. Here I receive the gifts and the questions the wild holds for me. Here my self is revealed to myself. Here I can make peace with my demons and my dreams, reconcile my ego, and clarify which concerns and commitments I most want to attend. 

Panhandle Gap, Mt. Rainier, WA

Alive, alert, and attuned, I negotiate the trail, submit to the unfolding landscape, and seek an impossible balance to continue while also face to face with the constraints of time and ability. My legs and lungs always falling short of the pace I envision, but persisting nonetheless. Continuing, I find my movement, my form, my gait, my imperfect but own perfect negotiation of pain and progress. 

The miles fall away and inevitably I turn towards home. I crave the finish and the permission I will give myself to stop. My mind jolts in and out of focus on my feet, the trail, the forest, my home, my family, my responsibilities, my feet, my form, the encroaching darkness. Any pretense of enlightenment muddled by a desire for the comforts I so recently forsook. 

Summerland, Mt. Rainier, WA

In a long anticipated instant, the trailhead is in sight signaling the end of my interancy. The satisfaction of stillness washes over the ache and fatigue. A celebration with waiting refreshment. Negotiating a jumble of gadgetry and amenities through the tunnel of my headlamp. The ritual donning of dry clothes. Satisfaction ringing with every ache and stumble. 

Sitting. Collapsing.  A long exhalation. It is a sweet but restless peace. Already the beckoning has been heard anew.  

Stehekin Valley Ranch, WA