When in the Flat Tops Wilderness

At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled
after a night of rain.
I dip my cupped hands. I drink
a long time. It tastes
like stone, leaves, fire. It falls cold
into my body, waking the bones. I hear them
deep inside me, whispering
oh what is that beautiful thing
that just happened?
– At Blackwater Pond, Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver’s last two lines can perfectly express the entirety of my feelings about the weekend I just spent in the Flat Tops Wilderness, but she can’t describe the place to you if weren’t there. Here is my attempt.  Continue reading →

13,000 Hours in the Mountains: Whose Mountain Is It Anyway?

A big cat family roams Alaska Hill. Their presence has been been confirmed. At first, the evidence was inconclusive: sounds of an animal splashing around in the creek at the bottom of the hill and a barely visible tail near the sound of a branch snapping in the dark. Perhaps a murderous mountain lion, but perhaps a charming bobcat. Then, a cache was discovered near a neighbor’s propane tank. And then a spate of sightings around the area of the cache: the momma coming up a driveway, the cub disappearing into the woods, the duo crossing the road.

I have an unjustified feeling of certainty that I will be the feline’s victim. Much the way people panic when they see a gun, I’m certain, now that several people on my street have seen the beast (and its offspring), that it’s going to eat me, my dog, or both of us. Guns are all around; we simply aren’t aware of them because the owners have concealed carry permits, emphasis on concealed. The mountain lion has always been around but its territory is enormous and it’s mainly active at night. Logic often goes out the window when confronted visually with something you don’t like. I’ve hiked these woods many times with only my trusty but useless dog for protection. Now, suddenly, the caves and pits pockmarking the land terrify me, although my rational brain knows nothing has actually changed. Continue reading →