I flew out to Ohio for my sister's wedding over the weekend. I had a great time, and I was very happy to re- connect with my family. On both flights I got stuck in the middle seat so I couldn't look out the window. Also, both trips had layovers in Denver with a few hours to kill. While I sat in the airport chairs reading the paper in Denver, there was a strong presence looming. An elephant in the room if you will: The Rocky Mountains. For some reason, I only took a quick peek at the mountain range through the airport windows. I did, but I also didn't want to look at them. Maybe it was because I knew that I would be getting to know them all too well very soon. Their sight and presence also terrified me. Most big mountain ranges do when I look at them from the valley.
I remember the first time I saw the Rockies. I was 19 years old and embarking on a western hitchhiking trip with my college roommate Zach. We had just finished our freshman year in college and summer had arrived. We were ready for adventure. Zach had just cut his waste long hair to a new shorter look, and had died his brown hair blond. We were riding out with our friends Jaimie, Drew and Chris. Jaime was the quintessential hippy goddess. High positive energy, and beautiful. She gave me the book Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac to read. Drew, had a long mane of black curly hair and a beard and was tall. He reminded me of Black Beard the pirate. He was a great guitar player, and threw parties at his house every Thursday called "Tequilla Night" during the school year. Those parties used to rage out of control. We were also riding with a guy named Chris, a quiet guy with a blond curly afro. Chris was the driver, and we all piled into his pickup truck. It's not often that I feel cool, but this was one time in my life, where I felt pretty hip. We all brought our backpacks, camping gear, and musical instruments. The five of us were heading out to Colorado!
Growing up in Maryland, this was a big deal. I remember as our truck left the eastern shore of Maryland, crossed the Bay Bridge and eventually arrived in the Appalachian mountains. Jaimie shrieked with delight upon seeing the Appalachians. "I love the mountains!" she exclaimed. I had never seen anyone so excited to see mountains before. I still think of her every time I see mountains in the distance. Her excitement awoke something inside me that day as well. I remember we all took shifts driving while heading out to Colorado. We drove nonstop.We were slowly gaining elevation as we got closer to Denver. The landscape began to roll. I remember seeing clouds that looked so close, only to see another layer way above. Windmills dotted the hillsides.
Then we saw them. The Rocky Mountains. Large jagged peaks on the horizon. I was amazed how big they became the closer we drove to Denver. I had never seen mountains like this. Eventually, it looked like an incredible wall, jutting out of the ground. We were all excited and in awe. We passed Denver and entered the foothills. Development seemed to just be beginning in the foothills. We saw new, large houses being built. We saw a house that looked like a spaceship. Not long after, we saw waterfalls, and snowy peaks for the first time in our lives. I was experiencing my first "Rocky Mountain High." None of us knew what the summer had in store for us. We were young, impressionable, and open to experience. I was seeing places I had never imagined. Even though this was my first time in the Rockies, I already knew it would not be my last...
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
I was probably 15 years old believe it or not. It occurred at my buddy John's house in the suburbs of Maryland. John's room was the ultimate "man cave." He had a kick ass stereo, it was always dark, but lit up by the soft light of a neon Budweiser sign. We played guitars, in fact John was my inspiration for learning the instrument. He had a sweet effects processor and a brand new Fender amplifier. I remember him playing the opening riff to "Back in Black" by ACDC, and "Spirit of the Radio" by Rush on his red Les Paul guitar. I was completely blown away. "I've got to learn how to do that!" I told him. John's older sister would buy us beer, and John always had a stash of pot to smoke. I was never a big pot smoker, but I had a lot to learn about life.
That night, John invited Jason, one of his neighborhood friends, over to the house. Jason was our age and he looked and played guitar like a rockstar. He already had tattoos covering his arms and his guitar playing was way above our level. Jason introduced us to some new music. The three of us grabbed our guitars and jammed while we drank our beers and passed the bowl around. One of the unique things about John's house was that he had a fire pit in his backyard. After we had our fill with music, we went out to the backyard. John threw a few logs into the firepit and lit it ablaze. This was a new experience, a campfire in the suburbs.
We were all feeling pretty good at this point. John had some nice reclining lawn chairs. We each grabbed one. John and Jason were talking about something I can't remember, and I was looking up at the stars. I was coherent enough to realize that I was getting ready to fall asleep and that I'd better get inside under a roof. Before I knew it, John and Jason were both asleep on their chairs, under the stars, out in the open air. Whoa, it occurred to me in that moment that I had never slept directly under the stars before without some kind of roof over my head. I also realized that I was probably missing out on some sort of spritual experience that somehow seemed to be ingrained in my DNA somewhere. I grabbed a blanket and a pillow and stared at the stars as the fire burned down into glowing coals. I fell asleep and woke up in the morning to a cold damp sunrise. I felt rejuvinated, ALIVE! Somehow, I knew this was probably the first night of many I hoped to spend under the stars...
Saturday, May 18, 2013
|Delorme Maps and Beacon's Data Book|
It's hard to believe that some Northbounders are already wrapping up New Mexico as I type this. For me, everything is starting to look different now. Nervousness and excitement comes and goes throughout the day. Whenever I read and look at pictures of the blogs of the northbounders, I get a little nervous. I feel closure beginning to set in on some of the relationships with people I have made friends with while living here in Northern California. Summer seems to be settling in around here. The days are longer, the sun rising earlier each morning. I'm ready to get hiking but it is not quite time yet. I'm trying to mentally prepare myself for Glacier. It has been described as walking into the Sierra on your first week. Blam! You are in THE mountains right at the get go. I haven't been having any dreams of the trail. It's strange, I don't think I've ever had a trail dream in my entire life, despite spending so much time on them...
Sunday, May 12, 2013
|Smaller redwoods in higher elevation. This tree still had some girth.|
|Douglas Fir: cbh 21 feet, 7 in.|
|Douglas Fir: cbh 27 feet|
|Douglas Fir 30 feet, 5 in.|
|Doing a backwoods jig at Johnson Trail Camp|
|Campsite for the night|
Sunday, May 5, 2013
|Poison Oak covered trail|