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ISSUE II Beau Ewan - Dan Schwartz Albert Leichtfried - Klaus Kranebitter Kris Holm - Melissa Carroll - Jeff Sands Wally Swist - Jenna McCoy -Helen Ruggieri Shannon Polson - Eleanor Bennett Brendan Buzzard - And More ...

CONTENTS Essays SHANNON POLSON An Encounter 04 JEFF SANDS My First Recovery


ALBERT LEICHTFRIED 70 Degrees North 12 BEAU EWAN Timing the Lines


KRIS HOLM The Game of Mountain Unicycling DAN SCHWARTZ Headed Home



BRENDAN BUZZARD Finding Common Ground


MELISSA CARROLL In the Kingdom of Scorpions and Skinny Jeans 54 62

PHIL GALLAGHER The Snow Leopard Manuscript








Cover photograph and this page by Klaus Kranebitter (Norway)

VICTOR WALSH Into the Wilderness


EDITOR’S NOTE Winter is taking its time in Vermont. As I write this, in midDecember, it is raining. A thick, cool fog is rolling over the mountain behind my house as I glance from my cross country skis, which I like to step into right outside my door, to the mud and slush in my driveway. Yet, as I’ve collected submissions for the winter/spring issue of Adventum, I feel as if I’ve traveled deep into winter. This issue takes us ice climbing in Norway with climber Albert Leichtfried and photog-

rapher Klaus Kranebitter, hiking in the Arctic with adventuress Shannon Polson, mountaineering in Alaska with adventurer Dan Schwartz, and skiing down powder-filled chutes in the Pacific Northwest with backcountry skier Phil Gallagher. Each of the adventures captured in issue II, whether on the page or through the lens, depicts a distinctive experience. We also venture into the legendary waves of Maui with surfer Beau Ewan, through Kenya’s northern desert with writer and conservationist Brendan Buzzard, into the


Weminuche Wilderness of Colorado with Victor Walsh, into a particularly insect-ridden cabin in Arizona with writer Melissa Carroll, and into the world of mountain unicycling with Kris Holm. Looking at this issue, I am impressed by the images and descriptions of nature’s power and beauty. I believe these pages showcase how nature, in its various forms, can instill fear, gratitude, and admiration, sometimes simultaneously.

— Naomi Mahala Farr

AN ENCOUNTER Shannon Polson


ertain encounters spring on us without warning. In the midst of life, as suddenly as a blush or a lightning bolt, creation itself is upon us, encompassing ancient and future, millennia in a moment. There is no way to prepare for these meetings. But we can be sure they will change us forever. This was my husband Peter’s and my first trip to the Western Arctic. It was also our last long trip together before our baby arrived. We set up camp in the far north-western corner of Alaska, only accessible by an hour-and-a-half flight on a Beaver de Havilland from the outpost of Coldfoot. Our first day on the banks of the narrow, serpentine Nigu River, we left to explore the foothills of the mountains just beyond our tent. A cool east wind blew. I was four and a half months pregnant, and my belly was too big to zip up my rain parka, so I wore it open. With each step, the uneven tundra humbled me, along with my diminishing muscular and lung capacity. My body had its own agenda now, and I was not first priority. Peter slung the steel 12-gauge loaded with slugs over his shoulder; both of us carried bear spray on the belts of our daypacks.

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We knew as we began our hike that it was unlikely we would see much wildlife at all, other than the scattered groups of caribou beginning to make their way south and the occasional ground squirrel. We heard wolves howl within an hour of arriving in this wild space, but to see a wolf is uncommon. Barren ground grizzlies require a great deal of land to roam. Food is scarce. Each travels great distances in a day in his search for sustenance, and perhaps impatient with this requirement, is more aggressive than grizzlies living to the south where food supplies are more plentiful. Still, his diet is almost exclusively plant based, long claws developed for digging roots and berries. And because of his large range, he is a rarity as well. The shotgun and bear spray we brought with us were merely precautions. Fast moving weather played across the Arctic amphitheater, alternately shining swaths of soft sunlight across smooth verdant hillsides, quickly swallowed by dark clouds emerging to spatter rain which, within tens of minutes, was replaced again by scattered sunlight. Deep grey clouds clinging to the mountains to our south lit up with a rainbow, the ancient promise of life emerging from darkness. The

clean lines of landscape outlined a stage on which creation entire played. Not more than fifteen minutes from camp, heading up a nearby foothill, Peter stopped, and pointed at the middle of the hill. “What’s that?” Our typical inquiries to each other on any number of hikes resulted in the careful observation of what would turn out to be a serenely settled boulder. I squinted at the hill, the tundra green in the short summer, small deeper green copses of dwarfbirch and willow. This time the boulder moved. “Grizzly,” I said. “He’s huge. He’s coming right at us - and we’re downwind.” I spoke as though exposition might somehow distance the danger. “He can’t see us yet, either.” The river bordered us to our right, and the mountain soared up to our left. The grizzly was coming down the mountain on the most sensible path, which happened to be the one we were also following, each toward the other.

An Encounter

my internal genuflections to His Majesty, I hoped for a distant and respectful meeting. Peter and I waved our trekking poles over our heads. “He-llo! HE-llo!” we yelled into the wind. It felt futile. How would he ever hear us? How close would he need to get? Undeterred, mostly because we did not have another option, we continued to yell. Native Americans believe that bear always knows when you talk about him, and could be angered, so out of respect they never mention him by name. They will call him other names: brother, grandmother, but never bear. So we continued to simply greet the rapid advance. Our feet stayed anchored. My heart sprinted ahead. I pulled out my bear spray. I unclipped the locking mechanism. The wind direction did not favor its deployment. Then he stopped, still a distance away, a slow, rolling halt. He stood up on his hind legs, tall, immense, his powerful front legs, strong enough to decapitate an animal in a single blow, hanging at

The grizzly was coming down the mountain on the most sensible path, which happened to be the one we were also following, each toward the other. The bear moved forward. His head was down, highlighting the telltale hump of the grizzly, the genetic adaptation of bone and muscle between his massive shoulders to help with digging and quick bursts of speed in pursuit of prey. Though seemingly unhurried, he covered ground quickly. Even at a distance, his thick tawny coat rippled like the cape of a king. Power emanating from each of his movements pulsed in the air around him. I fancied the hill quaking under his feet, the tundra bowing down before him. I would have happily bowed along with it - inside I did- but it violated the general principles of “look big, stay still and talk or yell loudly.” Despite

his sides like arms. As he stood, for just a moment, my lungs emptied involuntarily. I stopped yelling. I rested my hand gently on my belly. A prayer. “He’s beautiful,” I whispered to Peter. Have you ever had a grizzly consider you closely? The previous summer we watched a grizzly from similar distance moving away from us; one’s perspective on a grizzly moving directly toward you is considerably different. There is little else in life to so thoroughly convince you, in an instant, of the naked vulnerability of mere humanity. What must this tundra king have thought of two brightly colored fleece and Gore-tex clad two-legged creatures


Shannon Polson standing in his path? What furnace of wildness roiled in him? What internal urge propelled him over this mountain, at this time? It was an animal just like this – a healthy male barren-ground grizzly – that four years ago killed my father and step-mother, coming into their camp a few hundred miles east of where we stood, perhaps surprised and reacting in fear, perhaps acting on his predatory nature. The attack was unprecedented and inexplicable, even to wildlife biologists. My Dad and step-mom traveled to the Arctic for its remote beauty. I followed them to the Arctic to understand the peace that only the purity of true wilderness can bring, even in the wake of its cruelty. But either way he killed them, violently, quickly, and I lost them forever. The bear followed them into the other world when the authorities put four shotgun slugs through his chest. Killing is not left only to animals. I’d been waiting for this meeting for some time. This was my third trip to the Arctic since the bear and two of the people I loved most intercepted

vated people from the beginning of time. Circumpolar peoples for tens of thousands of years have remarkably intricate and similar ceremonies around the killing of bear, and cave paintings and skeletal arrangements show evidence of bear cults as long ago as thirty-thousand years. In most native cultures, bear either is a god himself, or an interlocutor with the gods. Many native ceremonies for initiation to secret societies or shamanism involve bear, reduction of the initiate to nothing and reconstitution to new life. Humans and bear compete for similar resources. Bear encouraged the formation of human communities, bonding to protect themselves from bear and other predators. From the earliest humans, we humans and bear have been inextricably linked, body and soul. Watching him standing there on the tundra, looking at me, smelling the air, I suddenly saw him not only as the other, not only as the wild, the powerful, the terrifying, but as myself. How often did I move forward, head down, and coming across something I didn’t understand, stand tall, arms dangling, and sniff

The next move was entirely his. We would have to try to understand with a quick interpretation. This was his land, his game. He only took a half-minute to consider. on their fatal paths. Each time I came expecting a meeting. My first trip, embarking with a sophomoric and absurd defiance born of terror and mitigated only by remnants of numbness, I saw no sign at all. On my second trip, a healthy respect still tinged with fear walked with me; numerous healthy piles of fresh scat and aggressive, extensive diggings told me of grizzly’s presence, but he never showed his face. This trip there had been no scat, no digging, only a few pigeon-toed human-like prints on the sandy beaches, bordered on the front with the distinctive deep punctures of the grizzly’s long claws. This physical similarity of bear to humans in footprint and stature, along with the hibernation-like slumber and protracted nurturing of young, has capti-

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the air? If this King of the Arctic sometimes reacted with violence, how often did I, out of fear or anger, sometimes stand to sense the unknown or a potential threat, and lash out, and charge, destroying everything in my wake or retreating covered in blood and bruises? Or check the scent, and bolt in the opposite direction, looking for a place to curl up and hide? Looking at him standing there on the tundra, I was startled; I looked at my own reflection, crossing species, crossing time, and I was scared because I saw myself, and I loved him, because I saw myself. We were of different worlds, and yet we were not so different, he and I. Watching him, a piece of memory I had never known unrolled in front of me. Color painted on to image. Beauty drawn onto a recollection of pain.

Peter gazed on, evenly, with awe. It is how Peter considers most things. I envied him that. I fingered the smooth top of the nozzle on the bear spray, which felt inadequate, and even absurd. The grizzly remained on his hind legs, towering, still, his small eyes peering in our direction, huge head tilted to sniff the air. We stood waving poles and hollering. In the chess game of wilderness, only he knew the rules. The next move was entirely his. We would have to try to understand with a quick interpretation. This was his land, his game. He only took a half-minute to consider. Turning a darker brown bottom to us, he bounded back up and over the mountain from where he had come, long strong bounds, covering great distances, so that it took him only perhaps a minute to ascend the hill and disappear over the other side. Why in the world he would turn and run from us still baffles me. Perhaps looking at us, he saw himself, too. I had envisioned a meeting with grizzly. I envisioned meeting him alone, or with my husband, or my unborn child, or my child once born – with those that meant more to me than life. He saunters toward me and stops, knowing that somehow he owed me one. He looks at me with confusion or surprise, but he knows. He knows and he turns away. My visions were of course ridiculous. There is no mercy or fairness in the wild. There is only untamed innocence. And in that there are no guarantees. My reaction demonstrated this: I froze. I did not rationally consider anything. But no matter. My shortcomings notwithstanding, I had been expecting him. We had to meet. Our meeting marked far more than merely satisfying my sense of eventual inevitability. To espy a grizzly was to rendezvous with no less than the creation which formed and still today forms these ancient lands. Grizzly, as the other large predators, is an indicator of the completeness and complexity of the Arctic eco-system. The Arctic is the last great wild space for them to thrive. I was face to face with creation. I was in and of creation. That night we crawled into our sleeping bags, zipping up the tent behind us. Outside a set of thin

the frosted spirals of its sepia translucence— wild cucumber vine

Wally Swist’s selected haiku, The Silence Between Us, was published by Brooks Books in their Goodrich Haiku Masters Series in 2005. He is also the author of several other books of poetry, including the forthcoming Huang Po and the Dimensions of Love, that was chosen by Yusef Komunyakaa as a co-winner in the Crab Orchard Series Open Poetry Competition, and will be published by Southern Illinois University Press in the spring of 2012. His scholarly monograph, The Friendship of Two New England Poets: Robert Frost and Robert Francis, was published by The Edwin Mellen Press in 2009.


Shannon Polson wires carrying an electric current surrounded the tent to discourage any larger visitors; while the wild offers no assurances, we can take precautions. I lay down and snuggled against Peter, hiding in the comforting curve of his body. His arm draped across me, and his hand rested on my protruding belly. I felt his breath in my hair and against my neck. I looked through the mesh wall at the bottom of the tent into the soft tundra plants just outside. In meeting the bear, I had met part of myself. Perhaps Peter had met part of himself. Who was I, really, a creature even I did not fully know, needing to learn about myself from this bear? And who was he whose arms held me, now a different person after our experience? We lay there together, still under a spell, until in the same way as it must happen for each creature in this wild place, sleep overcame us. The Western Arctic is a term used to encompass the vast Gates of the Arctic National Park, as well as the even larger National Petroleum Reserve of Alaska, unfortu-

nately named, but indicating our nation’s largest block of public lands at 23 million acres. Originally set aside in 1923 by President Harding because of possible oil reserves, this landscape has been more recently understood for its extreme environmental sensitivity. The past four administrations have protected its northernmost lands and oceans serving as a summer home to hundreds of thousands of caribou, millions of migrating birds and sea mammals. Unfortunately, no part of it has any kind of permanent protection. Scientists frequently judge the health of a given eco-system by the presence of large predators, and for some time have expressed alarm at the extirpation of large predators across the continental U.S. and the resulting degradation of eco-systems. The grizzly, previously populous across North America to Mexico, has been hunted to extinction except in areas of Alaska and Canada and in limited numbers of the Western U.S. Alaska has 98% of the United States’ grizzly population, and 70% of the population in all of North America.

Shannon Polson writes from her home in Seattle, from a cabin in Alaska, and from anywhere she can use a keyboard or a notepad. She is finishing a book on a 2006 trip to the Arctic and writes essays and articles about the borders of heart and place. Find her at

one spring day there it is: the burden of possibility.

Cliff Saunders’ poems have appeared recently in Hawai’i Pacific Review, Pilgrimage, Marco Polo Quarterly, bluestem, and Hot Air Quarterly. He lives and teaches Creative Writing in the Myrtle Beach, SC area.

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here’s been an avalanche and we still have one person missing…” was the message greeting me after a long day of work. I knew the routine and quickly ran about my house collecting gear while dialing friends who would help with the rescue. At the parking lot I promptly caught a snowmobile headed out to the accident scene. The mountains rose higher as we motored up the valley, civilization slipping away behind us. The sled strained under our weight as it climbed into a shallow cirque containing several rescuers canvassing the debris field. As night fell, our Herculean efforts secretly passed the ominous threshold from Rescue to Recovery. Our probe grids became tight squares as we stood shoulder to shoulder methodically following the leaders commands of; “Probe Right, up, Probe Center, up …” Through the rising wind a response called out with the emotion of great certainty, “I hit something.” I know we’re not supposed to stop, but we all did. Three shovelers stepped in to test the probe. Hesitantly, but on cue, our line stepped forward while our eyes and attention remained fixed on the sunken probe behind us. Without sound, we could almost hear the slender metal probe striking something as it moved up and down in six-inch stabs. Something was buried eight feet beneath them. “Not too hard,” I thought, he might still be alive. There’s always that chance. At least

... we could almost hear the slender metal probe striking something as it moved up and down in six-inch stabs.


Jeff Sands it’s our responsibility to always believe that a rescue is still possible. Probes were down and a widening circle of shovelers began moving snow. Looking around I realized that our initial response had now grown to over 150 volunteers along with portable light stands and generators, a State Trooper helicopter and a small fleet of snowmobiles. The lights of Anchorage glistened beneath our impromptu worksite. Overhead an aurora shimmered waves of green in front of Ursa Major. Our work team self-regulated into concentric rings of shovelers moving snow outward as the inner core dug deeper into the frozen debris. We all dug with the urgency of life, heads down, hoping for the best. The worksite could only accommodate half of our rescuers so 75 volunteers would shovel like John Henry for five minutes while the other half rested. Like a football drill, the whistle would blow and 75 fresh people would run in to begin their five-minute shift. During one break I glanced at the man on my right. He wore Carhartts and was leaning on a longhandled spade. I gazed into his eyes and was pulled into their infinite depth. A sorrow more expansive than the cosmos poured from his soul. I was transfixed in his bottomless stare and knew that only a parent could carry the burden of such pain and loss. My gloved hand touched his shoulder but fell off for lack of confidence. After 45 minutes of furious excavation, we hit a helmet. The outer rings continued shoveling while

EMT’s raced in to clear the airway and check for vitals. A silence fell upon the evening. It would take another 45 minutes to dig out the body. I was one of the last shovelers in the hole as we waited for a sled. The few of us standing there struggled to avert our eyes. Above us rose the seemingly benign terrain trap that had tempted and killed this formerly vibrant young man. Perhaps I still had hope or maybe I just needed to know, but I slipped my bare hand under his collar to check for a pulse. Cold, rubbery blue skin met my blood-warmed hand. I held, hoping. H o p i n g . Nothing. We struggled to lift and drag the dead weight out of the pit and onto the sled. My mind was flooded with emotions and I ended up just wandering off before the others had finished strapping him in. I walked for a while then eventually got a ride back to the parking lot. There I saw his mother staring upward, beseechingly, right into the face of God. The widow passed me veiled behind teary scarlet eyes. The fatherless infant held tightly in her arms. A Red Cross volunteer offered me a cup of hot chocolate and took my pack. I stood there exhausted and speechless as the deepest of all human love played out around me. That night I slipped into bed and spooned tightly against Alex’s sleeping body. Emotion poured from me in cold tears as I held her warm body more firmly than ever before.

Jeff Sands enjoys adventuring with his children more these days than climbing or chasing first descents.

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Helen Ruggieri

rabbit tracks across the snowy field the long commute

pressed fern in the old book still green

sinking deeper and deeper into the weeds the old barn

zero degrees a little bit of gold in the finches twilight tints the snow a deep lavender – headlights come on

Helen Ruggieri lives in Olean, NY and has had haiku recently in Asahi and other poems in Paterson Literary Review and Prairie Schooner.

Photo by Naomi M. Farr


70 DEGREES NORTH Ice Climbing Above the Polar Circle Photos by Klaus Kranebitter Words by Albert Leichtfried

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he air in the Lyngenfjord is flickering in an ominously light bluish tone. Drifts of smoke are spreading all over the surface of the ocean, just like somebody had soused it with petrol and set it on fire. The unbelievable masses of ice directly beside the road to Nordkojsboten are shining in dark blue and green. Not a single soul seems to be outside. Those are all indica-

70 Degrees North due to high temperatures and the ice’s urge to dilute into its original form. When I coincidentally bumped into my old mate, Graham Austick last winter, I did not know that our meeting would be the starting point of a new chapter in my collection of adventures. Graham has been operating a lodge at the northern end of Norway for the past few years, offering extraordinary ski touring adventures in the Lyngen

Drifts of smoke are spreading all over the surface of the ocean, just like somebody had soused it with petrol and set it on fire. tions that temperatures must be very low. Almost every time adventures emerge out of the attempt to realize an extraordinary idea and put it into action. Already, one year ago, Benedikt Purner and I visited the land of the trolls to find out about the notorious and unique possibilities for ice climbing up there. Unfortunately, our last trip was rather short,

Alps. The fact that the only possible access of the start points for the ski touring is using Graham’s speed boat, as well as the fascinating landscape, make those trips a special and unique adventure. When Graham showed me pictures of the breathtaking scenery I was straight away inspired from this obviously one-of-a-kind ambience: The mountain ranges and their striking peaks


Albert Leichtfried/Klaus Kranebitter and ridges poke directly out of the ocean. Due to the fact that my mind reacts in a very sensitive way when it comes to the matter of ice, a rather unspectacular remark from Graham – which he only mentioned, by the way – caught my attention: he showed me pictures and told me about all the spectacular premier downhill ski runs on the steep faces and channels of the

Lyngenfjord, but my eyes caught sight of a prominent ice line in one of the pictures. A smile unwound on my face and I was sure that an extraordinary idea was born just then. The look on the outside thermometer of our car confirms our assumption. Temperatures at -23° Fahrenheit

...even the Vikings, who are usually used to the bitter climate, were talking about temperatures being abnormally low. and strong winds from the southeast usually freeze any pleasure to move. Already Tromsö welcomed us with a shivering light-blue frostiness. And even the Vikings, who are usually used to the bitter climate, were talking about temperatures being abnormally low. Usually the Gulf Stream is successfully fighting against the arctic cold, but this time it seems to be the other way ‘round and the iciness, which directly came from Russia, is transforming the North of Norway into some kind of giant world of ice…which we are absolutely happy about. Knowing from our experience of former adventures we rent a Japanese four-wheel-drive, which turns out to be a perfect choice only a few kilometres after we leave the airport. The 220 km on the road up North to the Lyngenfjord are comparable to a huge ice rink. Once the roads are icy in this 70 ° Northern latitude, the conditions hardly change

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Gullivers Reisen WI 5+ (Gullivers travels) is, perhaps, the most aesthetic line we climbed in Norway. Situated in a small gully between crazy and perfect rock formations, climbing this amazing structure is a special experience. The sound of any noise in this gully is much more intense, so falling ice sounds almost like an icefall.

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On the other side of the Fjord, a huge 700-meter line was waiting for its first ascent, only accessible by boat. Unluckily, we had chosen the wrong day. Several centimeters of fresh snow was enough cause to quit the project after some nasty spindrift avalanches hit us directly.


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due to the fact that the sun is very low, not reaching over the mountain ridges even at midday. It seems like the centre of our solar system has been dimmed. What cheers us up from the horrible cold are the sights of the ice formations on the sides of the roads that appear to be huge due to the lack of warmth. Relieved by these perspectives we arrive in Djupvik where Graham has organized a very special accommodation with Torbjörn, the owner of a fishing lodge in Sparkenes, a settling of three houses on the North-Eastern end of the Lyngenfjord. Torbjörn shows us our temporary home using only a few words – just like you would expect from the Norwegian mentality. Stress does not seem to exist here; everything moves in a slow and steady way. Our home is an exceptional place indeed – right on the side of the beach, surrounded by the amazing peaks of the Lyngenalps we have a house of our own, sauna included – which will be used quite often in the next few weeks. Trying to ignore the uncomfortable cold, we start work on our climbing plans straight away when we arrive in Nordkjosboten. With temperatures that low, the ice gets extremely brittle and climbing on it gets even more demanding. Climbing on “Startfossen” WI4 made our day worthwhile, despite the two-hour access in sugar snow reaching up to our hips. When we got back to the bottom of the route, film-maker Hannes Mair and photographer Klaus Kranebitter were already waiting on us. With clammy fingers and chattering teeth, all four of us were happy to get back inside, drink coffee and eat monster-muffins. The special atmosphere of Lyngen is noticeable from the beginning: the ice-covered rocks on ‘our’ beach, the agitated ocean after the storm, the bizarre ridges and peaks in the background and, most of all, the unbelievable peace and silence which has an immediate relaxing effect. Hannes and Klaus are very busy capturing the countless impressions on pictures and sounds. Work does not end until after midnight, when the amazing Northern lights finally disappear. We feel fortunate to ice climb in a region where apparently no local ice climbing scene exists,


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but we have to trust our instinct and Graham’s pictures of the Lyngenfjord, to find some ice lines. It’s hard to find out whether we’re doing first ascents or not, but to be honest it doesn’t really matter. It’s an adventure of its own to go out in this absolute wilderness – to simply search for a line and then decide to climb it. Because we do not find any signs of former ascents, we name and grade all the lines we climb. The second day brings us to the Kafjorddalen where we find a hidden line that turns out to be a small but worthwhile icefall – climbing the 130 meters of ‘Gullyvers Reisen’ WI5 is a real pleasure. The next morning we decide to have an early start. We take the ferry to Lyngseidet, where two lines, shimmering in bluish-green and gold, have been waiting on us since we first got here. In comparably mild temperatures of -12° C (10° F) we climb ‘Goldrush’ 200m, WI5+ and ‘Rapunzel’ 230m WI5. Hannes and Klaus work hard snowshoeing on steep terrain to finally play us into the gallery with the amazing landscape. We’re lucky to get stunning views on the top of the Fjord just before the day turns into night and masses

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the next day. According to the weather prognosis, the cold should have already moved back to Russia, but the air is still shimmering in cold blue and icy tones. Our next goal is already set at the back of the canyon, where masses of water fall down and make their way into it – they tell us that ‘Storfossen’ is frequently visited by tourists in summer. In winter nobody apart from us seems to be interested or even approaching the ice fall. In extreme cold periods a totally strange formation is built that continuously changes due to the enormous pressure of the constantly falling water. Obviously we’re at the right place, even at the right time. Warming up, we climb the free-standing parts of ‘Kälteschock’ 80m WI6 X. Our pulse rises when we abseil down. Benni and I know exactly what is expecting us right now. A few hundred meters back, an ice spitting, 150 meter high monster is awaiting us. On the way there we already start to feel the danger that fills the air. All over the canyon countless blocks of ice lie broken off the monster, as big as cars. The fall itself looks rather bizarre with tons of ice hanging unstable in the wall. It’s not that easy to find an obvious

All over the canyon countless blocks of ice lie broken off the monster, as big as cars. of snow start tumbling down. In complete darkness we make our way home, accompanied by greenish-purple Northern lights that make a perfect day complete. Far and wide, no soul can be seen in this snowstorm and the drive to the Spesiell Canyon becomes an adventure on its own. Benni and I start exploring the canyon step by step. At some places the gorge is only a few meters wide, but up to 200 meters high. It’s likely to get claustrophobic in here. We find a great variety of lines and decide to climb one of the most beautiful ones, the thin and steep ‘Manner mag man eben’ 120m M6, WI5+. Looking at the temperatures of -19° C (-2° F) it’s a quick and unanimous decision to rest

safe way through the monster. We decide to be light and fast and after an exhausting ascent we reach the top of ‘Storfossen’ WI7-, one of the most demanding icefalls we’ve climbed so far. Thrilled by all the first-class ice climbing, we go and get original Norwegian salmon and a crate of cups (Norwegian sort of beer). The trip draws to a close and we’re watching out for some relaxed climbs close by. The sun is directly lighting the formations of a new spot we call ‘roadside’. We’re struck by an extraordinary line right in its centre and our relaxing day turns out to end in some serious climbing again. Thin layers of ice on the overhanging wall and freestanding icicles


Albert Leichtfried/Klaus Kranebitter on ‘Roadside’ WI7 are rather demanding. The scenery and the ambience of the shining ice and the mystical Lyngenfjord couldn’t be more atmospheric and impressive – the ingenious pictures taken by Hannes and Klaus are expressing the atmosphere in a perfect way. For the last day we save an adventure of its own – we want to climb ice on the other side of the Fjord which can only be reached by boat. We ask Torbjörn where we could rent a boat and a skipper. Trusting our watery skills he straight away prepares a 50 horsepower fisher boat with an outboard engine, tells us the most important things about how to handle

the boat, and wishes us good luck. He adds that if the storm gets too strong in the afternoon, and we can’t make our way back on our own, he will pick us up at the harbour. I push down the accelerator and we fly over the Fjord. The boat seems extremely fast and the spindrift is splashing over Benni and our haulbags. On the other side we climb ‘Lyngen magic’ WI5 in direct sunlight. There couldn’t have been a better end to our trip. The storm stays away and the low standing sun is reflected in the waves. A state of total satisfaction is spreading all over my body and mind. I am prosperous and thankful to be able to live my dream.

Albert Leichtfried spends most of his time outdoors. Water, in all its manifestations, has influenced him daily – as an active ski racer, frenetic windsurfer, qualified Meteorologist, mountain guide, and ice climber. His passion for climbing leads him to search for the untouched, and he has been successful in numerous difficult first ascents on rock and ice. He lives with his wife, Vroni and dog, Mira in Lans near Innsbruck, Austria, and is considered by many to be one of the best ice climbers of his generation. Klaus Kranebitter has been photographing for sixteen years and climbing for twenty. He has a degree in electrical engineering, and is the founder of and He is an international certified mountain guide, and currently spends most of his time working on guiding projects such as public avalanche education, ski-guiding, and outdoor photography mostly for Marmot, Dynafit, Adidas, the Austrian Alpine Club, and numerous outdoor magazines. He lives in Innsbruck, Austria. Learn more at

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TIMING THE LINES Words and Photos by Beau Ewan

“I like to tell people who never surf that surfing is like taking a shower, except it lasts a lifetime. We are the lucky few who get to play in God’s soup and we are better humans because of it.” ~Bill Hamilton (Famous surfer and surfboard shaper)


he island sun is slowly dwindling away. But there are waves to ride. As long as we can see them, Charlie and I are stoked. We come out here, down a jungle trail, beyond the winding workdays and past the complications of town, to escape the concrete confusion we’ve all become addicted to. Some of us are addicted to the idea that we can escape it. And it works, if only for the few moments we’re riding waves. “So have you’ve ever surfed P’eahi?” I ask Charlie. I’m always asking him questions. His beady mahogany eyes stare down an approaching set of waves. He drops his torso onto the board and digs his arms into the shallow water. He tilts his pale bald head towards me as he paddles past.

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“I wrote THE book on that place,” he says. “And I gave you a copy.” Charlie Lyon is a surfer, a painter, and a writer. He wrote, photographed, and published a book titled Jaws, which sits on surfers’ coffee tables worldwide. Jaws is the biggest wave discovered in all of the oceans. But here on Maui, we call the wave by its Hawaiian name, P’eahi. Its translation means “the calling,” because when the wave breaks, its thunderous rage can be heard from miles away. “I know you wrote the book,” I tell Charlie. “But that doesn’t mean you’ve surfed it. I mean you’re kind of a geezer.” Charlie is old school. I check the Internet for wind direction. Charlie stares at trees. I drive to the

beach. Charlie walks. I use buoy readings and wave models from NOAA to anticipate swell. Charlie uses patience. When I find Charlie staring at an ocean I’ve calculated to be firing with surf, I curse the Internet. This amuses him. “Do you think there’s gonna be waves?” I always ask. “Eventually,” he always says. Charlie and I are out here surfing our favorite spot, Shark Pit. I could never figure out the name for certain. I see a lot of sharks out here yes, but I think the name serves more to keep the novice surfers and tourists on the beach. Sharks or no sharks, the wave is perfect; the risk seems worth the reward. And the waves are so much bigger and more powerful in Hawaii, I’m usually too focused on not drowning, and rarely consider the possible consequences of being lower on the food chain. One time Charlie and I were standing on the beach checking out the surf when a family approached

Timing the Lines

us. They wore big hats and sneakers and carried beach bags with too many bottles of spf 50. The dad asked, “So tell me fellas, any sharks out there?” “In the Pacific Ocean? Yes,” Charlie answered with a smirk. The poor tourists didn’t have the faintest clue how to respond. I know this feeling well. When I got accepted into graduate school, I asked Charlie: “Do you think I should move back to the mainland?” “Hell yeah,” he said. “They’ll be more waves for me.” It’s no wonder that on the website artonmaui. com, under the “hobbies” section of his profile, Charlie lists: “surfing, paddling, being a cynical bastard.” We sit alongside one another with our surfboards half-submerged underwater, patiently waiting in the shallows for waves from the depths. “Here we go,” Charlie says, and he paddles out to meet an approaching wave. Charlie grins as he paddles, catches the ripple, and descends down onto its face. His board drops


Beau Ewan

onto the lower half of the wave and he pivots it to the right with a flawless bottom turn. It’s not a big wave, only up to his waist or so, but Charlie makes every wave look fun, regardless of its size. He pumps the right rail up onto the parallel face before launching his wiry frame into a cutback. Charlie flies along the face of the wave and applies pressure with his feet onto the left rail, he cut’s the board back into the opposite direction for a split-second, then turns it back again to the opposite rail and continues his ride. It looks like the letter “S,”—only written in the most beautiful cursive you’ve ever seen— where Charlies’ board is the pencil and his feet are his hands. He applies the most precise pressure along every turn of the letter, beginning from the top and ending at the bottom, where he ends in a straight line, where the laws of physics want the board to go. Although he’s some forty odd years old, Charlie Lyon is the best surfer I know. Not the fastest. Not the most progressive. He’s certainly not the most flexible or the most athletic. But he’s the best. A cutback is a relatively basic move. But when Charlie executes one, his face is smiling, his legs are relaxed, and his

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body is poised with the humble confidence of an artist who has drawn these lines for over four decades. It’s as if Charlie’s body, board, and the wave he’s riding are all in sync with one another. Its aesthetically moving. And I’ve been trying to emulate this for years. “It’s not big today,” says Charlie. “But it’s worth getting wet.” “So tell me about P’eahi,” I demand. “Its big. I mean really, really, big.” He paddles away to chase after another ripple. Shark Pit has two waves breaking onto its reef, one that breaks from left to right, and the other in the opposite direction. There’s a natural channel that separates the two waves, formed by a divot in the volcanic coral. For my first two years on the island, I surfed the left at Shark Pit regularly. But time and time again, sitting amongst the huge crowd of surfers that congregates on the left, I would look over to the right to see this bald guy just tearing the place apart. Eventually, I paddled over to him nervously, and lined up right next to him. He threw me the stink-eye, the kind of look I get from the TSA people when I go through airport security.

I didn’t say a word to Charlie during that first session. But I caught plenty of waves to let him know that I wasn’t some kook fresh off of a surf lesson. And anytime I was paddling back out for another wave, and he was catching one, I would give him a hoot. After a few more sessions, Charlie was giving me hoots for my waves. Eventually, hoots became conversations and conversations became friendship. A wave comes towards me. I quickly turn my board towards shore, reel back, scratch down onto its face, and pop up. As Charlie is paddling back from his last ride, I almost run him over, with the fins of my surfboard nearly grazing his Achilles tendon. He doesn’t even seem to notice. “Nice one! Bust a cutback,” he screams at me. Charlie is always thinking about drawing lines. Charlie was a mainland artist. He worked with corporate advertising layouts, point of purchase displays, and made various industry logos before jumping ship off the mainland and moving to Maui for better waves and thus a better life. Now, Charlie’s an island artist. He’s a respected one, too. When Charlie first moved to Maui, he met with several Hawaiian artists and transplants alike, and helped support an arts and crafts fair that operates every weekend at the southern end of Lahaina’s tourist-laden Front Street. Every weekend, Charlie is organizing the artists and their displays, and selling his own paintings underneath the town’s famous banyan tree. For the most part, Charlie paints only palm trees. “Why the hell do you paint only palm trees?” I once asked him. “A single palm tree,” he said, “is like a whisper heard through a crowd.” I’m not an artist, and so maybe I can’t hear this whisper. But other people obviously do. Charlie’s palm tree paintings have been sold to private collectors in Japan, Hong Kong, Belgium, Australia, Bahrain, Great Britain, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria. They sway in the Standford University Hospital Collection. Hawaiian-born president Barack Obama and his administration proposed buying Charlie’s palm tree paintings to give them away as gifts to visiting digni-

Timing the Lines taries. At the end of my wave, I paddle back out to Charlie and sit alongside him. “I think I’m gonna catch a few more waves and head home,” I tell him. “Gonna go online and check the surf reports? They have an app for that now,” he says with a laugh. Every time I surf with Charlie, I can’t help but think about how close we’ve become. Maui is such a transient place. So many people my age come out here after college, find work in the resorts, the restaurants, or on some boat. They come out here to escape the reality of finding a “real job” back in the so-called “real world.” But they all leave, if not after a few months, then surely before a year is up. I refuse to attend anymore goodbye parties. Maybe I too am a cynical bastard. It can happen easily here. Charlie and I are haoles. In 1778, when Captain James Cook discovered these remote islands, he officially became the first haole. The ancient Hawaiians greeted one another with a salutary custom that included bending down face to face and exchanging a breath with one another. Cook found this unorthodox and did not partake, nor did his crewmen. In Hawaii’s ancient language, the ha was the “breath of life,” and ole meant “no.” The original meaning of haole simply meant: “those who do not share the sacred breathe.” This meaning would be lost in translation and adapted into a degrading ethnic slur used towards Caucasians. Today, many Hawaiians say haole means “those without a soul.” Everyone knows that Charlie’s got a lot of soul. He’s loved. He’s respected. He’s part of this island. And he tells me that I, too, am lucky, that teaching 5th grade is, “one of the best damn jobs a twentysomething year old can expect to have on Maui.” He tells me, “Your writing has changed this island for the better, but for you, there are better things to come.” Once you break through his cynicism, Charlie is really a hopeless idealist. He’s s also a writer. Charlie has been published in several international surfing magazines and he loves to feed me stories to write. He would probably do more writing if he weren’t so busy whispering with the palm trees.


Beau Ewan “You know Beau, I still really think you should write something on Ole,” he tells me. Bob “Ole” Olson is Charlie’s best friend. The guy is a legend on this island. He’s been shaping surfboards longer than any other shaper in the world. He’s been living in Maui forever, and holds several annual surf contests for the local kids. Many of the proceeds from Ole’s contests and the profits from his business go to various charitable donations throughout the island. “Didn’t you paint a portrait of Ole?” I ask Charlie, already knowing the answer, having seen the piece in a local art magazine. It had struck me that Charlie painted something other than a palm tree. “Yes I did,” Charlie says. “I named it Timing.” “Why Timing?” I ask. “Timing’s everything,” he says. “Ole has always been at the right place at the right time.” “That’s pretty cool man,” I tell Charlie, not

knowing exactly what he means. This happens often. “I’m paddling in, Charlie,” I tell him. “Alright buddy. It was a good session, as always.” After Charlie says this, I look at him and notice the wrinkled crows’ feet beneath his dark eyes. He turns away, towards the open sea, and I paddle my surfboard back through the divot in the reef, and walk onto the beach. Before I wander down the jungle trail, back to the concrete confusion and the complications of town, back to where all this tranquil nirvana will surely fade away, I stare for a moment at Charlie’s silhouette. He loves to watch the setting sun, more than anyone I’ve ever known. Charlie is also a cancer survivor. So much of his life is waiting for waves, squinting and smiling at horizons.

Beau Ewan is a second year MFA student in creative nonfiction at Florida Atlantic University, where he teaches English composition. Originally from New Jersey, surfing has brought him throughout the Caribbean, Central America, and Hawaii. Before attending FAU, Beau spent five years teaching fifth grade on the island of Maui, where he was also a regular contributor to Maui Time Weekly. His writing has been published in several surfing magazines including Surfing, Surfer, The Surfer’s Path, Eastern Surf Magazine, and Tracks.

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Train Hopping

Tuckahoe, New Jersey, 2011: “We went back there looking for the giant Pitch Pines, and found these giants instead. Kevin’s a giant too—mid-motion on the old, old tracks.”

Jenna McCoy is an undergraduate studying literature at Richard Stockton College—a small state school located dangerously close to her hometown of Ocean City, New Jersey. When not in class, and sometimes when she should be, Jenna’s travels take her across the globe. Her most recent adventures have included studying in Indiaadministered Kashmir, glacier climbing in Iceland, and hiking the Appalachian Trail. Her creative nonfiction has been published in Polaris.


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{This chapter is adapted from Kris’ forthcoming book, The Essential Guide to Mountain and Trials Unicycling. For more information, go to}


here’s something compelling about simplicity. Mountain unicycling takes a simple concept – riding on one wheel – into remarkable places, from urban obstacles to remote wilderness trails. I recall a trip to Mount St. Helens, a volcano in Washington State, on the way back to Canada from a U.S. road trip. I was alone, and like many good unicycle rides, it was totally spontaneous; I knew little about the place except its 1980 eruption and a 50 km trail I’d heard about called the Smith Creek Loop. Parking low on the south side of the volcano and clutching my map, I quietly pedaled up a forested ridge to emerge directly into the alpine blast zone. It was stunning: endless blue skies, not another soul

in sight, and eruption devastation stretching across the Plains of Abraham and down huge mud flows in Smith Creek. I wound my way across the Plains and down several thousand feet of twisty singletrack, past huge trees stuck like matchsticks in the old flow. One of the best things about a unicycle is that it’s so minimal that you forget it’s even there - it becomes an extension of your body as you twist back and forth to roll around rocks and roots. My quads screamed for mercy on the climb out of Smith Creek back to the car, but despite the pain it felt just so good to be out once again discovering new places on my unicycle. There’s no doubt that riding a unicycle on a road, let alone a trail, can feel hard at first, even impossible. Learning the basics requires persistence and


it’s all too easy to give up before you succeed. But talk to a runner and they won’t say they wished they had a bike. Talk to a mountain biker and they won’t say they want a motor. Talk to a mountain unicyclist and there’s no way they’ve forgotten their other wheel. If you like the game, it turns out that you can take a unicycle anywhere you like, including offroad climbs and descents that are epic on either one or two wheels. It’s an uncommon sport that’s perhaps the most underestimated in all of cycling. I started riding in 1986, after receiving a unicycle for my 12th birthday. As a kid growing up in Victoria, Canada, I also spent many hours outside with my family on hiking and skiing trips. Lacking outside influences, it seemed a natural enough progression to take my unicycle off-road as soon as I could ride it down the street. This was not the first time that anyone had ridden off-road. Unicycling in its entirety is nearly as old as biking, dating back to the late 19th century, and undoubtedly many riders have ventured onto rough terrain in the years since then. But in the late 1980’s a handful of riders focused on muni and trials in much the same way that cyclists took to mountain biking in the 1970’s, and this period has become known as the beginning of muni and trials as legitimate sports. Some of these riders will forever be unknown. Others shaped the popular growth of muni and trials, which today number in the many thousands of riders worldwide. The more well-known of these individuals include George Peck, an Alaska based rider who produced the first trials and muni instructional video in 1991; cross-country riders Roger Davies and Duncan Castling in the UK; technical downhill rider Thierry Bouche in France; cross-country and freestyle rider John Foss in the USA; and myself. Later, street riding pioneer Dan Heaton, a new generation of urban riders alongside muni and trials. My earliest rides happened locally, at a rocky, log-strewn ocean beach near my home. I’d pick lines across rocks, and muster the courage to traverse logs jammed above a surge channel after winter storms. Like the few other individuals riding off-road at that

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time, my equipment was terribly inadequate – a cheap 24” unicycle with a wickedly painful saddle, weak steel rim, and cranks that chronically broke or fell off. Into my teens I started riding longer trails at a nearby mountain as I pursued a different sport that took most of my focus - rock climbing. Climbing became my biggest obsession through the 1990’s, but I’d still take my unicycle on climbing trips across Western North America to play on trails and obstacles near camp. It was twelve years before I thought to find out whether or not I was alone in the sport. In the Spring of 1997 I moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, and a year later discovered the Vancouver North Shore - the epicenter of the original Freeride mountain biking movement. With steep descents and trails built with wooden ladder bridges and teeter totters, it was a playground for mountain unicycling like I had never seen. As a climber I felt like I’d entered the early days of Yosemite, only it was myself and my unicycle with an ocean of firsts available and no precedents influencing how I might attempt them. Then, in July 1998, I typed “mountain unicycling” into an internet search engine, and was amazed to get results. A riding community already existed! I contacted Roger Davies, George Peck, and John Foss, and in September headed to John’s third annual California Muni Weekend, equipped with my first custom designed muni. This was the first time that I had ever ridden with other off-road unicyclists. With a burgeoning riding community for inspiration and nearly endless opportunities for riding adventures at home, muni and trials replaced climbing as my primary focus in sport. In the late 1990’s, Vancouver, Canada was also the prime location for anyone wanting to be a professional freeride mountain biker. The biggest bike action videos were filmed here, bike magazines featured the North Shore in practically every issue, major bike brands called Vancouver their headquarters and – most importantly – there were riders building ever harder trails and inspiring each other to attempt them. As the lone one-wheeled rider of this group, it didn’t take long for word to get out. A few local media interviews followed, snowballing into segments in

Right: Kris Holm descends slickrock on the Amasaback trail, Moab, Utah. Previous page: Kris Holm.

Kris Holm

The Game of Mountain Unicycling


Kris Holm

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adventure films, magazine and TV features, and riding trails and mountain descents in places such as Bhutan, Mongolia and Mexico. While most of my riding was still personal trips away from crowds and media, I found myself in a position to impact how unicycling was viewed in the mainstream. Since then, mountain unicycling has grown to become an established niche and the question of why one might unicycle off-road has become much harder to answer. There’s no longer a single or even a dozen reasons that fit everyone, if there ever was in

The Game of Mountain Unicycling

the first place. The reasons have become as diverse as the styles of riding and the number of places possible to ride. I’ve talked to riders convinced it was safe or dangerous, exciting or relaxing, technical or uncomplicated, social or solitary, and trendy or eccentric. Ultimately, I think the only common element I’ve seen among every rider has been persistence. It’s not always hard to ride a unicycle off-road, but it’s often hard to start. The trick is not to give up before the thrill kicks in that you can actually do it.

Above: Full commitment by Kris Holm on the Great Wall of China. Photo by Nathan Hoover, courtesy of Kris Holm. Left: John Drummond, Mark McCann, and Josh torrans cruise down iron Mountain, California. Photo by Jim Meyer, courtesy of Kris Holm.

Kris Holm is one of the early mountain and trials unicycling pioneers and is the founder of competitive unicycle trials. He was the first rider to bring mountain unicycling to a mainstream audience through film, television and magazine features, and played a key role in the innovation of modern unicycling equipment through his brand, Kris Holm Unicycles. Kris lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.


HEADED HOME Words and Photos by Dan Schwartz


lood seeps from the last three knuckles on my left hand, staining the snow pink. I pat my chin, the first point that hit the edge of the crevasse I have just fallen into – no blood there. Charlie, Andrew, Caleb and Clay gawk as I stagger to my feet, weary of my 70-pound backpack swinging me back into the crevasse. We’re ready to be out. Our 21 days in the Alaskan backcountry has been taxing. Just three more days

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and five miles left up the Boundary Glacier, over One Shot Pass, past our cache, up Head Shot Pass with all its craggy projectiles and down to Tundra Camp, where Sam will pick us up in the Suburban. Much of the expedition has been a suffer-fest. My right knee – hinging on a six-month-fresh ACL – aches with large steps, and my left is constantly sore from overcompensating. Both my thumbs have split at the tips and bleed periodically, and my left ring finger has only just stopped dribbling puss. And, for over

two weeks now, I’ve been pining for a vat of Ben and Jerry’s. “Jack Daniel’s Hot Sauce,” says Charlie just behind me. In the first week, Charlie, the adorable 18-year-old Brit, had well established himself as a You Tube connoisseur, sporadically quoting from several viral videos – “Epic Meal Time” among his most popular. “Oh Charlieee,” croons Andrew in his Polish accent. The two of us, having shared a tent with


Dan Schwartz Charlie for almost a month, had developed an affectionate spin on “Charlie” – drawing out the “ie” in his name like a long breath. I’m close to them both by now, but despite our camaraderie, at times I’m still quite lonely. On the day we summited Mt. Cliché (our personal title as the peak had likely never been climbed), I was almost despondent. While Charlie and Andrew giddily snapped photos, and Caleb and Clay reclined in the granite rubble, I stared bleakly into the wilderness – the black spines of unclimbed mountains jutted from the flanks of glaciers, stabbing through wisps of airbrushed clouds. All this beauty, and yet I wasn’t struck by any of it, as if I was watching through a monitor. When we were back in base camp Andrew asked me what my favorite aspect of the climb was. He told me he climbs for the views. I told him I climb for the technical challenge; although I quickly realized that was a lie. I wasn’t searching for transcendence, just … what? Sport? Pain? Views? Death? “Shit!” I yell as the glacier jumps to eye level. We’ve only slogged about a half-mile up the glacier

42 Adventum

and I’ve already fallen into another crevasse. Fortunately the snow bridge I punched through caught my outstretched arms and stopped me before I pulled on Clay, attached at the other end of the rope. “You got me?” I yell to Clay. “Yep,” says Clay, “I’ve got you.” With my pack pressed against the wall behind me, I stab the front points of my crampons into the beryl-blue ice in front of me and, reaching behind, slowly shift my weight up. Between my feet, a dark corridor drops into an abyss. When my waist is just outside of the hole, I drop back and squirm over like an upturned turtle. Everyone’s laughing. I pat myself down and inspect my bloodied and congealed fingers. “Alright.” We trudge on. Five hours later, after a 30-minute lunch, I’ve fallen into another crevasse and have begun stumbling with exhaustion. The foot of the glacier had been all ice and navigable with crampons, but as we rose in elevation, the snow pack thickened until we were entirely off the ice. Now with snow-caked crampons, I plod up-

ward to One Shot Pass – each step tugging like a small child on my legs. Once we climb the 1,000 vertical feet up the pass, this day of misery and masochism will end. I begin fantasizing about my reunion with a pint of Coffee Heath Bar Crunch as I plunge through another snow bridge up to my waist. The day before I flew out from Boston, I was restive and eager to drop the overwhelming amount of responsibility I’d accumulated. Just think about it, I told myself, 24 days. That meant no more 7 a.m. swimming sessions in the rain with JP; no more laundry; no more physical therapy; and no more unpaid eight-tofour, five days a week at my Alpinist internship. My only chore – so primitive and selfish – was to live. (Not that I expected to die; life is just more deliberate in the backcountry.) Yet, several weeks into the expedition, that novelty had worn off. I can weather physical discomfort – torn fingers and blistered feet – but I’m consumed when my mind fatigues. When I return, will I still be able to write? Will I still want to? Will my friends still be in Johnson? Will she still feel

Headed Home that way about me? I just couldn’t dump those thoughts and I still can’t, no matter how many crevasses I stumble in. Apparently, it takes more than geological distance. My only condolence is the looming 1,000-foot pass a quarter-mile ahead of us and the thickening curtain of fog. By 4:00 p.m. I kick the last steps for the team to follow into the 40-degree face of One Shot Pass and pant heavily as I belay Clay in. “We’re here,” I stammer incoherently. All that remains is glissading down the back side, erecting camp for the night, and trudging over a few days to our pick-up site. After a 10-minute packs-off break, I lead us just over the last several feet of elevation in the pass and fall neck-deep into my fifth crevasse. “Dan, I’m glad you have a good sense of humor,” says Caleb. I cackle manically. On an expedition like this, your life is literally in the hands of others. Mine, of course, are now caked with scabs, blisters and blood.

Dan is currently completing his ninth and final semester at Johnson State College, where he is Editor in Chief of the college paper, Basement Medicine. When Dan is out of Vermont, he looks forward to a transient life of relative-unemployment while skiing, climbing and writing.




t has not rained in three months, and the dry riverbed in Kenya’s northern desert is a layer of memory. Crusted ridges of sand are all that remain from a forgotten surge of water, and I feel their contours under my feet as I squat in the shade of a palm, its fronds rustling in the mid-morning breeze. Footprints of various sizes and shapes trail back and forth across the sand, hinting at the life in this deceptively quiet thorn-scrub rangeland: an oryx and her calf crossed from one side to the other sometime ago; two male lions, perhaps brothers, walked side by side down the center of the riverbed early one morning; a flock of sandgrouse, one evening just before dark, gathered near a now-dried pool of water; and last night a lone elephant lingered here for a few moments before continuing on his journey west. Samuel and I linger too, and we contemplate these memories. Squatting next to me in the shade, Samuel rests his weight on his rifle, its butt buried in the sand, and I watch as he presses his palm, fingers open, into one of the elephant’s footprints. “Do you think he knows we are following

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him?” Samuel asks in quiet Kiswahili. I nod my head and shift my weight. “Maybe.” “I think he knows,” Samuel continues, withdrawing his hand from the sand, leaving a mark that looks small compared to the large circular track that engulfs it. Samuel and I have been following this elephant for a week, and all we have seen of him are footprints. Travelling forty to fifty kilometers a day he doesn’t seem to stop, an unusual behavior in a landscape with little surface water, and sometimes it has felt like we are following a shadow. His route, covering a few hundred kilometers and leading from east to west, makes sense when viewed through the lenses of the desert—he seems to know where all the water points are, leaving one and heading exactly in the direction of another, arching his way from oasis to oasis across this northern region of Kenya. This path makes sense to Samuel. A member of the Samburu community, he comes from a culture of livestock keeping, an intimate relationship between human and animal that makes these rangelands habit-

able. The livestock, for their part, provide milk and meat, companionship, and in return their human caretakers give protection, guidance towards grass and water, healing hands in times of stress. As a young man Samuel would have walked these ranges—perhaps the same route the elephant has chosen—leading the herd of his father’s cattle from water to water, grazing the range as they went, sleeping side by side with them in thorn brush enclosures under the stars, digging to find water for them in the dry riverbeds, and withering and suffering with them during times of drought. Now, as an elder, many of those experiences and many of his cows are memories, footprints on the faded trajectory of the past, and instead of the colorful cloth and beaded necklaces of a warrior he now wears the faded green uniform of a wildlife ranger. With the goal of someday setting up a conservation area on the fringes of his tribe’s territory, he is tasked with patrolling it, caring for the wildlife as he once would have done his livestock, looking at the land in their terms, through their elements of life: food, water, companionship.

Finding Common Ground vitality, of wildness in its various forms. Following the bull elephant is part of this process, an attempt at learning, understanding pattern and change so that decisions, informed ones, can be made about the future of this place. With the distance that he walks he might, in some small way, add to our interpretations of this landscape mosaic and finding him, seeing him, knowing the shape of his tusks and the form of his body—the way he holds his trunk— lends character to this process, a sense of individuality, an identity of purpose. The elephant’s footprints leave the riverbed towards the west, up over a sandy rise where a mixed grove of acacia and commiphora trees stand in a haze, the heat radiating off the ground. We measure his direction on the maps in our minds, searching for water somewhere out there to the west. “It must be Kisima Hamsini,” Samuel suggests, standing up in the shade, cradling his rifle. Kisima Hamsini is a Swahili name, meaning

With the distance that he walks he might, in some small way, add to our interpretations of this landscape mosaic [...] I have learned to see the land in a similar way. Having worked as a wildlife conservationist in these northern ranges, I have traversed them looking for pattern, signs of continuity and change, trying to discern the spatial and temporal features the animals require. There is an urgency to it, for the forces on this landscape are changing. Footpaths are being turned to roads, and roads are being paved. Land is being bought and sold where the concept of ownership once took different forms. Animals, both wild and domestic, are being herded, pushed, erased, and it feels as though I am watching a flood of water surge down a riverbed, washing animal memory from the substrate of time, and that, when the water clears, there will be little left to populate the sand, to dot the interior landscapes of our imaginations with the thrill, the raw

‘fifty wells.’ They have, according to pastoralists I have spoken with, always had water even during the driest of times, when droughts last through two, three years without a drop of rain. Stepping out of the shade we follow his tracks up out of the riverbed, to check if they continue going west. They do. The elephant, somewhere between forty and fifty years old, knows where the water is, the way across this landscape—he knows Kisima Hamsini. We know it too, and we decide to follow. Perhaps, if we can get there before him, we will catch a glimpse of this shadow. It takes Samuel and I about an hour to return to the Land Cruiser, a dusty, graying machine, the top piled with spare tires and jerry cans of diesel. There are few

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Brendan Buzzard

tracks in the landscape, meaning that we do much of our work on foot, depositing the vehicle under a tree and wiping away the tracks to make it harder to find. There are not many people who would find it, yet here we are largely beyond the boundaries of administration, and a few decades ago this region was an elephant slaughter-ground, where heavily armed gangs of men supplied the international ivory trade. The weapons are still around, and poaching still goes on. Sometimes at night we hear the report of machine gun fire, and see tracers in the sky. Samuel calls the track we follow towards Kisima Hamsini the “elephant road.” It goes all the way across northern Kenya, he tells me, from the “Somalis to the Borana, the Samburu, even to Turkana.” Waving his hand from east to west, wiping the land in a half-circle, he mentions some of the ethnic pastoral groups in this part of Kenya. “But I cannot follow it the whole way,” he continues. “I would be killed.” He refers to the fact that he is Samburu, and that he would be unwelcome on the ranges or at the wells outside the borders of the lands occupied by his tribe. “But him,” he nods out the window into the bush, “he can walk how he wants.” When early engineers surveyed Africa to find the best routes for roads and rails, constructing their way into the interior of the continent in search of slaves, ivory, rubber, timber, riches and adventure, they often followed elephant trails. Elephants took the most level grade, they said. Not far from Kisima Hamsini another old track intercepts the one we are on, established in the days when Kenya was still a British colony. It is little used now; some of it washed out by intermittent rains, and in many places it has reverted to footpath. To the south, the track leads towards military training grounds. Artillery, tanks, infantry; both the Kenyan and British armies maneuver. The British have used it as a staging ground, a place to accustom young men and women to the desert before sending them on to Afghanistan. Sometimes they shell the hills, sparse islands that stand up out of the range, and the sound

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of the artillery rumbles across the landscape. During last year’s drought, it took the place of thunder. A year without rain, the drought hit this region hard. In an effort to keep their animals alive, herders moved further and further from their homes, looking for grass and water in the borderlands. Kisima Hamsini, like it always has, retained its water, drawing men and cattle and animals out of the bush, further from their homes, and the wells became necessary, as water will when there is hardly any left, as food does when people are hungry, and a group of Samburu and Borana warriors met. Fifteen young men were reported killed. We reach the wells in the late afternoon, the sun at a sideways angle, the shadows of the palms growing longer across the sand and green grass that grows, out of character in this land, with lushness. I do not know if there are actually fifty wells, but they dot a rocky depression, the geology forcing an underground stream near the surface, where people—from some long ago time—dug wells that have written themselves into the permanency of cultural and natural pattern. Squatting at one of them I dip my hand, cuplike, into the water. It is cool. I drink from my palm. It does not taste of salt. Searching the wells for sign of the elephant, I find a bullet casing half buried in sand. It is faded, almost weightless. Drawing it to my lips I blow and dispersing the dust I disperse time, wondering how long it has rested here at the edge of the well, over how many seasons the sand has gathered. The rangelands of northern Kenya generally have two rainy seasons a year, but last year none of them came. Is this casing from the drought, the fifteen men, or is it from further back in time? Could it have been an ivory poacher who, after slaying his prey, took an axe to the elephant’s giant skull, hacking the tusks away, for this is the only way they can be removed. The elephant, perhaps, would know more about this history. And, looking around, we see no sign of him. He hasn’t yet arrived. We climb to the top of a nearby outcrop of rock, giv-

ing a good view over the wells. Samuel is smiling, thrilled at the possibility of seeing and he sits, like a stone amidst stone, still. As we wait, afternoon begins to turn to night, the drifting clouds purpling in the uninterrupted desert sky. The breeze picks up briefly, and the fronds of the palms knock against each other, tapping in the dusk, while flocks of sandgrouse flutter in, on the darkening air, and gather to drink and dust bathe on the edges of the wells. In the distance we hear the grunt of a waking lion, its calls feel almost physical, the breath of a predator vibrating through the air. “At night,” Samuel whispers as the light fades, “the wells sometimes sing.” “When I came here as a warrior,” he continues, “I was sometimes afraid. The singing keeps you safe.” The evening, now, has darkened, blending land with sky, and elephants and bushes take on similar shapes. I stop looking at the land and lay on my back to look away from it. Stars emerge. They stretch from one horizon to another, across a landscape that is at once mysterious and at the same time deeply known.

Finding Common Ground For Samuel, for the elephant, for the human condition, this land is home. If it is wild, then all those things are wrapped in its wildness, and for me, I am alive. Pressed against the stars, I listen for the singing. In the morning we walk down to the wells. In the sand is an elephant trail, large footsteps coming from the east and leading west. In his shadowy stature the elephant came, and he went, in the quiet of the night. He did pause though, on the edge of the well, and I see how he shifted his weight onto his left side, his feet sinking deeper in the sand, as he stooped to drink. I do the same. Imagining his trunk I drape my arm down past layers of earth, of time and memory, into the water, cradling it in my hand. Turning to follow the tracks I ask Samuel if the tribes have always fought. He shakes his head, he doesn’t know. Maybe, he suggests, “in the time of our grandfathers’ grandfathers,” there was enough food and water. “But now there is not enough, now we are divided.” I look back down at the bull’s tracks, the elephant road, crossing from east to west.

Brendan Buzzard is a writer and a conservationist. With a background in both science and creative writing, he is trying to bridge these two cultures, engaging in applied conservation while also attempting to share these issues through writing. Recently, he has been spending much of his time in the wildlife landscapes of East Africa, and is currently writing a book set in Northern Kenya.


Eleanor Bennett

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Do You Feel White Frost

See page 61 to learn about Eleanor Bennett’s award-winning photography.


HAIGA Haiku by NealWhitman Photos by ElaineWhitman

“Don’t move,” she whispers. Is she setting up her shot, or does she mean me?

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open to possibilities still morning

silence below us we took the Ranger’s advice — a vertical wave


Neal and Elaine Whitman

poets work the beach on which stones and sounds are tossed — no holding back now

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“Last Cup of Coffee” a Point Arena promise — Hawaii next stop

Elaine and Neal Whitman live in Pacific Grove on California’s Monterey Peninsula where they are inspired to combine her photography and his haiku. Their haiga have been published in several journals and are a regular feature at the start of each new season in a local newspaper, The Cedar Street Times. In their collaboration, they aim for the image and the words to resonate, not repeat.




downpour unleashes on the zipline of I-40 between Flagstaff and the Petrified National Forest. My rental car’s windshield wipers shuck back the torrents like two schizophrenic metronomes, at a pace that matches my heart rate. I hate driving in storms, especially in a place I’ve never been. To avoid freaking out, I focus on the highway delights through the rain. There are the names of the exits: Two Guns, Twin Arrows, Gallup, Mormon Lake. There are the billboards advertising the Knife Outlet and Geronimo’s Moccasin Superstore. There are the washes, the dry gulches that fill after heavy summer rains: my favorite names are Tanner Flat Wash, Little Lithodendron Wash and, only a few miles down the freeway, Big Lithodendron Wash. And there is terrible beauty here. The clay earth unspools from the windshield of my rented Nissan Versa. Miles and miles of desert scrub, as if nothing else in the world exists. The redtinged mesas jut high above in jaggy rectangles edging the sky. It is powerful, and stunning, and indifferent to me, and I feel very tiny next to these huge, majestic hunks of rock, and I’m suddenly giddy driving through the desert. I’ve traveled from Florida to Arizona to con-

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nect with nature, to be immersed in its mysteries, to write about said mysteries among the cacti. I received a writer’s residency through the National Parks Service, and will spend the next two weeks in pure Thoreauean glory. For years I’ve fantasized about escaping into the quiet splendor of nature. I’ve yearned to reconnect to the world from which I come, the world of which I am inextricably a part, but the world I have not spent much time with. I always complain about wanting to “get away from it all” and really sink my teeth into the wilderness, so here I am. And there is this need for adventure that bakes in my gut. I desperately want to be the type of down-to-earth girl who can go camping and get her fingernails dirty and know which berries are edible. I am not this girl—I was raised in a New Jersey suburb, and spending time outdoors for me in Tampa now mostly involves a beach towel and a pink frozen cocktail. The Petrified National Forest stretches for twenty miles in Navajo and Apache counties, an expanse of burnt earth dotted with shrubs and junipers. The land cleaves and molds in what looks more like rolls than

jagged edges, due to summer rains eroding the sandstone and siltstone. It might seem like a misnomer to call the place forest. But dappled across the desert are ancient logs that have crystallized into a kaleidoscope of colors with the passage of time. These cross sections of petrified wood are a reminder that 225 million years ago, in the Triassic era, this place was subtropical. A thick, wild river once surged through where there is now caprock, and the once-lush trees have been preserved as quartz beneath the bark. When I arrive, the ground sweeps down in shadowy rills. A Mexican cliffrose grips the ledge of the earth, twisting its limbs to the sun. The road curves and I turn from a popular lookout point where a sign says “Authorized Vehicles Only.” I swell with pride because my vehicle is authorized. How special. I affix the “Writer in Residence” tag to my windshield and another gush of pride punches through my body. An adobe pueblo is built into the hillside. I step outside and let the panorama wash over me. My view is the Painted Desert, known for the reddish, orange, and blue bands of color that wrap around each high mesa. Vastness. The rugged plateaus stretch across the dome of sky. And quiet. So quiet the lack of sound takes up space, it leavens in the dry air. Occasionally the wind talks and the smoke trees shake their silvered leaves. Sand grains are lifted up and tossed. In the distance a sandstorm swirls like a tornado, a long finder sweeping into the sky. I feel my normally tense, turbulent mind calming down. My breath distills as I drink in the view. The healing properties of nature are no new thing. For thousands of years people have sought the solace the wild earth provides. And now we need these spaces more than ever, so coiled up in stress. So we stand still for a little while and take in some fresh air, and we are renewed. I dream of these two weeks as not only renewal, but hardcore mental overhaul. I want to return to Tampa a sage, a calm Zen master who knows the names of all the desert’s moods. I haul my luggage out of the car, and my bag is so overstuffed I can’t wheel it properly anymore, so I resort to dragging it upside down across the gravel path. Soon I’m grunting, sweating and swearing in my tight skinny jeans and pink Puma sneakers. I feel like Zsa Zsa Gabor in Green Acres. A family in a Chevy

In the Kingdom of Scorpions and Skinny Jeans Tahoe stops in the middle of the road, rolls down the windows and watches me awkwardly lug my bags up the hill. My long hair is matted to my face with sweat. Not a good season for me to have bangs, which are now glued to my forehead. I string together a lively amalgamation of curse words as I jiggle the keys in the old door. The place in rustic, certainly, but spacious and complete with the modern luxuries of working outlets, indoor plumbing, a fridge, and even a microwave. Sure, the soap is caked with dirt. Sure, it makes Motel 6 look like the Ritz Carlton. But I love it. Our fair nation’s Department of the Interior has entrusted me, mois, to be a writer-in-residence at this incredible place. I scope out my new digs feeling like a celebrity, until I start feeling dizzy. It’s as if I’m on a cruise ship, which I was two weeks before — a Carnival 5-dayer to the Bahamas, where I drank liters of beer and ate platefuls of French fries from the all night buffet. I’m now reliving my seasickness, which was probably also due to the liters of beer. Yet I’m in the opposite of a cruise ship. I’m convinced I have altitude sickness, since the elevation here is 5,681 feet above sea level, and normally in Tampa I live at a whopping 48 feet. Then, a second realization: I’m alone. Really alone. Thousands of miles from a soul I know, in quite literally the middle of nowhere. The aloneness stalemates over me. I have no TV. I have no internet—which means no Facebook, no YouTube, no email, no online horoscopes, no reruns of The Colbert Report to distract me. I have to be here, right now, in the moment. In nature. By myself. Every day we collectively spend 2.6 million minutes on Facebook. Many peoples’ lives are catalogued by their status updates and Tweets. Famed New York writer Fran Lebowitz, who doesn’t even own a microwave, has said that as she walks through the city, she’s the only one really walking through the city. Everyone else is absorbed by their cell phones, looking down into their own hands, living through a screen, and they’re missing the strange, fascinating world spin around them. When our computer or phone takes longer than three seconds to load or do whatever it is that


Melissa Carroll

we’ve commanded it to do, we sigh, we roll our eyes, we tap our fingers, unable to handle the spaciousness of waiting. I am one of those finger tappers. I am tapping my fingers now, but there is nothing to wait for in the desert. I know it will be good for me to confront this astonishing need for distraction, for false connection with other members of my species through social networking sites. But confronting things is really hard, and before I can reach the peaceful state of acceptance, I’m stuck here twitching like a heroin addict for the sweet electric glow of a television set. Hell, I’d even take a Two and a Half Men episode at this point. Time ticks loudly in the cabin. Though when I think about it, I’m not entirely alone. There are my books: I’ve brought along Lao Tzu, Rachel Carson, Wayne Dwyer, and Dinty Moore. And there are my bug roommates. An inch and a half long dragonfly-moth hybrid, two wasplooking fellows, a few regular old moths, one large locust-looking dude, a fly, a defiant white spider who seems to own the kitchen, a few other smaller white spiders along the doors and windows, and a beetle on the ceiling. We’re a happy bunch.

here. I wonder what it is about this place that draws us, why we stand so close to emptiness. What is it that stirs us to these drop off points? Why do we come to the edge? Maybe we seek to see ourselves inside the landscape, enmeshed in its wild ministrations. We don’t just want to look at the vista, we want to stitch our identity into it. We want to run our fingers through the siltstone, feel the fine grains crunch in our teeth. Maybe we are pulled by our instinct to return home. To the earth. To knock down the steel and drywall we’ve built up, even momentarily, and lie down in the grass, or in my case, the sand. John Muir said “the river runs not past us, but through us.” I have come to feel the rush of the land in my own lungs, to swallow what I already am. Thoreauean glory does not come quickly for me. The first night in the desert is tough; I’m not used to such solitude. My mind jars with thoughts of midnight bandits breaking through the glass door of the pueblo, or coyotes mauling me to pieces. I jump at the slight-

What is it that stirs us to these drop off points? Why do we come to the edge? Until I kill one of the moths with Dinty Moore’s book, The Accidental Buddhist. I’m not sure if this is irony, hypocrisy, or both. That afternoon I stand at the Blue Mesa trailhead and look down. The path slopes through ancient floodplains, the earth now arid and cracked. The pattern of time is encased in these stones. Geologists read the history of the world in these hills like maps to the past. I read the scenery like a poem, beautiful and mysterious. My stomach swirls as I step closer to the cliff. There are no barriers shielding me from the thousandfoot descent. I’m not the only one— there are travelers snapping photographs of the canyon, hikers gazing in khaki shorts and wide brimmed hats, little kids asking their parents if they’re going to see any snakes out

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est creak. How did Bill Bryson spend more than five minutes on the Appalachian Trail? How did Julia Butterfly withstand thunderstorms perched in a Redwood Forest treehouse? What was Edward Abbey on, exactly? How can I do this? And then, as with most things, it just sort of happens. I fall asleep for an hour or two before waking fitfully, remembering that I’m not in my comfy, relatively bug-free apartment in Tampa. I’m awake at 4:30am to catch the sunrise. I walk down to the Painted Desert Rim Trail that overlooks the red-hued badlands, and it makes me feel as if I’m on the edge of the very world. The sky stirs toward morning. There is birdsong. A rabbit hops across my path. No wonder the Zuni Indians, indigenous to this region, call the east the sacred direction. In literature,

dawn has metaphorically represented new beginnings. Standing here at the cusp of possibility, the sky pinking and oranging across the horizon, it’s easy to see why. There is that singular moment where the globe of sun births over the horizon and sends the mesa gold, as if to say a hearty, “Good morning! Good morning! I love you!” My frenetic mind eases as I, too, am bathed in golden light among the smoke trees and pinacate beetles. I know the sun can’t really love me or the beetles, but in this moment dawn sure does feel like an act of complete and total devotion. The next morning I step outside to practice yoga and meditation, and in the early light I’m feeling pretty good. I stretch my arms overhead as the sun warms my skin. I reconnect to my breath, which helps soften my constantly frazzled nerves. I’m not a normally peaceful, calm person. My natural state is uptight, anxious, fearful, and reactive. I’ve had my showdowns with anxiety disorders and depression. I guess that’s why I practice yoga and meditation. I love it. I need it. After spending some time in nature or breathing deeply on my mat, I feel like an entirely different person— someone gentle, compassionate, who looks upon everything and slowly, wisely, smiles. Someone like that girl who goes camping and picks the right berries. I close my yoga practice by internally reciting the Reiki principles, which are also called The Secret Recipe for Happiness. The saying goes like this: Just for today, I will not worry. Just for today, I will not anger. Just for today, I will do my work honestly. Just for today, I will be grateful. Just for today, I will be kind to every living thing. I’m thinking about this saying hours later, after an evening rain, as I go all Stalin in the cabin. I’m berserk, murdering bugs left and right. There are about thirty of them crawling on the walls. I mean, this is biblical shit. My weapon is Australian Gold SPF 30 lotion in a spray bottle. I can remain at a safe killing distance while scenting the cabin in a chemical coconut aroma. It takes about fifteen sprays to really kill the bug; this

In the Kingdom of Scorpions and Skinny Jeans is very determinate killing. I have no bug spray, except for some all-natural DEET-free stuff that would probably only anger the insects. When the strike seems right, I also use my AAA Arizona and New Mexico Tour Book as an effective crushing device. I’m lying in bed over my sheets with my sneakers on, because A) I’m disgusted and feel less vulnerable with shoes, and B) I can squash my roommates easily, or C) I can run back to Florida if needed. I’m murdering harmless termites, but at almost an inch long they are ghastly. I know this is not a good enough reason for them to die. But for me, right now, it is. Buddhists believe all sentient beings, from annoying mosquitoes to corrupt politicians, are necessary for our enlightenment. In fact, our enlightenment depends on them, and so we should view them as precious. These termites are the perfect opportunity for me to practice compassion and patience. Swat, smack, smack. I’ve also discovered a spotted spider taking up residence in my suitcase, and another unidentifiable insect on my bed sheet, which brings a whole depth of meaning to the phrase don’t let the bed bugs bite. Normally I try to keep bugs alive. I’m the annoying friend who, when someone is screaming about a cockroach or lizard stuck in the house, will say “ohh, don’t kill it! Let’s shoo it outside.” This behavior makes me feel very saintly. But the desert has turned me into a blood-eyed killer. There are splotches of white SPF lotion all over the curtains, globbing up the floor, dripping down the walls. At least none of us will get skin cancer. Just for today, I will not worry. Every muscle is clenched. I’m worried in the way most humans are worried about bugs and other yucky things; we’re afraid the imaginary yuckiness will come into contact with us, and then we’ll be covered with that invisible film of ick. It’s not the thing itself that terrifies us, but the idea of the thing that makes our minds roil and flit. I keep itching my head and readjusting my shirt, fretful that something’s landed on me. I’ve got the darting, glassy eyes of a soldier or a homeless person trained to constantly check their surroundings for threats. It’s pitch black out, and it’s only 9pm. The nearest town is twenty-five miles away. Is this why they call it cabin fever?


Melissa Carroll

Just for today, I will not anger. I spritz another termite to its slow, poisonous death. The violence has made me rabid, breathing heavy and wielding my Australian Gold like a maniac. Certainly not the loving, nonreactive sage I want to be. One time over tea, my Buddhist friend said a group of monks had to move because their meditation center became infested with termites. Rather than fumigate, the monks vacated the premises. They hauled up everything—though monks don’t own much— and left. I find that to be particularly admirable. The strength to be so compassionate. When I told my mom that story, she said “Oh, how stupid.” The desert is one of the few places left on earth, that I’ve seen at least, where nature is still large and in charge. Back in Tampa, we’ve tamed our swampland quite nicely, rezoning for imported palm trees and perfect sod squares. We carve our beaches back behind pink hotels, tiki bars, seafood restaurants, and all manner of glassy waterfront real estate. Floridians know how to turn a tropical Eden into a plastic tourist mecca. Even the everglades is constantly in danger from developers and careless industrial pollution, which threatens to destroy the strange and unique ecosystem forever. But here, I’m gradually losing my shit. Every time I get out of bed another beetle is crossing my floor. Naturally, I take the un-Buddhist path and smash his brains out. Every time I glance nervously at any of the walls I see a termite or some other equally hideous creature. If they were ladybugs I’m sure I’d let them all live, but I guess I’m a cruel dictator who slaughters her minions based on looks alone. All this death and violence is getting to me. There is a tightening in my chest. I start tearing up, the kind of anxious, panicky tears I’ve become so good at over the years. Then I go to the bathroom and see him. I’m on the toilet peeing. He’s on the tile a foot away from me. If one is to come into contact with a scorpion, I’d highly recommend doing so with one’s pants on. I felt quite vulnerable with my drawers around my ankles. The scorpion is relatively small—only about

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an inch and a half—and the color of sand. The smaller, the more venomous. I’ve never wanted to see that curved, demonic tail and those ferocious pincers close up. But alas, fate hath brought us together. Now I full on lose my shit. I throw on a sweatshirt and storm outside, stumbling in the dark to my rental car. The Allied Forces have kicked Stalin out of the cabin. But who’s invaded whose territory here? The desert reminds us of our meekness. Flat-topped mesas loom like ancient wise ones, and the sky presses down on us like a sneaker on carpenter ants. It intimidates the hell out of me. I feel temporal and fragile, which I am. I’m nothing next to these enormous ridges that have seen 225 million summers. While this can be very profound and beautiful, it is also very disconcerting. In my brief breaths on this planet— a nanosecond relative to the prehistoric mesa— my species has worked diligently to control nature and make her subservient. I walk on cement sidewalks, drive on paved roads, all the while appreciating nature at my own behest, sitting dreamily at a local park for an hour before returning to my precious air conditioning. I’ve lived very comfortably in houses sealed from the elements, with plenty of insect repellant cans to give any “intruder” a gruesome death. But in the desert I’m the intruder. The scorpion and these termites are probably asking what the hell I’m doing in their summer home. Terrified of being bitten by the Arizona bark scorpion in my bathroom, one of the deadliest in the world, I’m exiled to my rental car. It’s 10:45pm. The battle has been waging for three hours, and I’m exhausted, but I can’t sleep. Too worked up, my nerves coiled in my bowels, my mind a faulty electrical switchboard. Fear has gotten the best of me. I’m jittery, like a crackhead, terrified of all the venomous wildlife out here, of human murderers, of aliens surely looming in the giant black sky. The interior light is on as I read The Accidental Buddhist. Then I look up through the windshield. With no light pollution for a 25 mile radius, layer after layer of glimmer fills the sky. It’s so clear I can see the galaxy streaked across like wisps of smoke. Like everything else in the desert, it’s humbling. OK, I get it, earth. I’m small and insignificant. There is too much

bigness on the ground and above for my human pea brain to comprehend. And even though right now I feel entirely separate from nature even in the heart of the desert, deep down I know I am interconnected to all of it. Astronomers say the carbon that makes us is the same carbon found in stars. On a biological level, we are not just this land but the galaxy and the darkness stretching beyond it. Our cells are stardust. I love a good stargaze, and this was the best sky I’ve seen since I was in the Australian bush ten years ago with a high school travel group, a very safe, bug-free, tourist-friendly escapade. I’d dreamed that staring into this stunning chasm would be peaceful, spiritual. But in this moment I’m not overcome with awe and mystery and oneness. I do not want to chant Om. I do not feel waves of love for all sentient beings. I want to lie in my fucking bed. Unable to sleep, I alternate between reading and watching the sky through the windshield of the Nissan. I’ve finally escaped cement and asphalt for the wilderness, where I’ve wanted to go for years, and have dreamed idyllically about for weeks, and now that I’m here I’m experiencing it from the safety and comfort of my rental car. I’m angry with myself for not being that dirty-fingernail type of girl. I’m disappointed I’m not hardier. I stay up all night. My eyes are rimmed red and dry and goddamnit I don’t know if I’ve ever been so tired. But I’m too shaken up, and honestly, too afraid out here to sleep. I feel vulnerable under the massive black cape of sky. The scene is less enchanting and more menacing. Now I fully understand why man created condos and skyscrapers. Was this supposed to be my desert revelation, my big awakening? The desert is marked by erosion, but not marred by it. Here, erosion is creation.

In the Kingdom of Scorpions and Skinny Jeans The rifting landscape, the rain pluming in gullies down soft red slopes, is beauty in motion. It is the nature of nature to change. Just because the mesas are moving—ever so imperceptibly—doesn’t mean disaster; it simply means the mesa is taking new shape. I am leaving the high desert. I am not the wilderness girl I imagined I could be. Like a baby, like a wimpy child with a scraped knee, I have been bawling from stress. I’m embarrassed I can’t handle even a week out here. I’m frustrated my idyllic fantasy has sputtered like a deflated whoopee cushion. If I had to characterize the sound of my days in the Petrified National Forest, it would be the farting noise of a whoopee cushion, too, a bad joke. But really, I’m frustrated with myself. There will be no marathon meditation sessions, reaching the pinnacles of bliss with cacti in the backdrop. There will be no reverent poetry, no odes to the mesa. There will be the opposite of enlightenment, retreating deeper into my tense, spitfiring mind. But before I haul my stuff into the rental car and book it back to Florida, I take a hike. I meander through the trail strewn with petrified trees. Hundreds of millennia ago, these trees drowned in river channels and were flooded with bits of silica, which transformed into quartz, gradually eating away at the organic matter of the tree, though most of the bark still remains intact. I kneel down and touch the past, my fingertips against the rough wood, the smooth white, gleaming crystal. These trees are extinct, and yet they’re still here, as if time were compressed and bent. Some logs reveal swirls of various quartz colors as iron and other particles become part of this ancient artwork. I press my palm to the stone center, hot from noonday sunlight, and breathe deeply, and in this moment I am connected to the earth, and for now this is all I need.

Melissa Carroll’s chapbook The Karma Machine won the Peter Meinke Prize and is published by YellowJacket Press. Her work has been published in The Literary Bohemian, New South Review, Blood Lotus Journal, The Splinter Generation, and elsewhere. She teaches creative writing at the University of South Florida, where she is pursuing an MFA and is an editor for Sweet: A Literary Confection.


Karla Linn Merrifield

The bottom of time is lustrous, polished black schist— welcome home to Earth.

Here jade waters flow designing waves and whirlpools— first peril, then peace.

My wildness is brown— days of desert sun on my skin turn me to driftwood.

A recent “Best of the Net” nominee, five-time Pushcart Prize nominee, and Everglades National Park Fellow, Karla Linn Merrifield has published poems in dozens of publications and has six books to her credit, including Godwit: Poems of Canada, which received the 2009 Andrew Eiseman Writers Award for Poetry, and her new chapbook, The Urn, from Finishing Line Press. Forthcoming from Salmon Press is her full-length collection Athabaskan Fractal and Other Poems of the Far North. and The Ice Decides: Poems of Antarctica, from Finishing Line. She was founding poetry editor of Sea Stories, and is now book reviewer and assistant editor for The Centrifugal Eye. She teaches at Writers & Books, Rochester, NY. You can read more about her and sample her poems and photographs at

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Sleep Anywhere

Eleanor Leonne Bennett is a 15 year old photographer and artist who has won contests with National Geographic, The Woodland Trust, The World Photography Organisation, Winstons Wish, Papworth Trust, Mencap, Big Issue, Wrexham science , Fennel and Fern and Nature’s Best Photography. She has had her photographs published in exhibitions and magazines across the world including the Guardian (2010), RSPB Birds (2010), RSPB Bird Life (2010), Dot Dot Dash (2010 and 2011), Alabama Coast (2010), Alabama Seaport (2010) and NG Kids Magazine (2010). She was also the only person from the UK to have her work displayed in the National Geographic and Airbus run See The Bigger Picture global exhibition tour with the United Nations International Year Of Biodiversity 2010. Only visual artist published in the Taj Mahal Review June 2011. Youngest artist to be displayed in Charnwood Art’s Vision 09 Exhibition (2009) and New Mill’s Artlounge Dark Colours Exhibition (2011).Youngest to be published in Grey Sparrow Press (2011). Featured artist in Able Muse (2011) .

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INTO THE WILDERNESS Words and Photos by VictorWalsh

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immed by towering peaks and steeped in a rich mining history, south-central Colorado beckons with adventure. You can raft down the icy headwaters of the Arkansas, take a jeep ride up one of many 13,000-foot passes, soak up the Victorian charm of historic silver mining towns, or marvel at the geological wonders of Black Canyon in Gunnison National Park. But I came here for a different reason: to explore wild places and through them, myself. Approaching 50, having recently been laid off, I felt the urge to drift. Maybe Buddhists are right to believe that expectation is one of the great sources of suffering. Nothing in my life had worked out as planned. It had been 15 years since I had been on a long backpacking trek—a summer romp in the Montana wilderness that hung in my memory like a shadow on a wall. Could I relive that memory, despite being 15 years older? I packed into Colorado’s Maroon Bells Wilderness, well known to climbers for its distinctive bowl-shaped cirques. Squeezed between the ski resorts of Snowmass Village and Aspen, it unfortunately proved to be an overcrowded Mecca. The Elk Wilderness just west of Gunnison wasn’t much better—too many fishermen, horseback riders and day hikers. Growth is the cultural fault line in Colorado—the dominant issue looming on the political horizon. Dozens of Coloradans I met—ranchers, retirees, river guides, and bartenders—all voiced anxiety about the state’s hectic growth and influx of new money. “Too much new money coming in; the place is becoming gentrified, over-built with ski resorts and trophy homes,” Mark, a soft-spoken Libertarian with long blond hair, told me at the Avalanche Coffee House in Silverton. So I kept drifting, driving south on 550, then east on 160 before swinging north into the mountains on two-lane Highway 149. That evening I reached Creede, one of Colorado’s last wild-eyed, silver-boom towns. In the 1890s it boasted 10,000 people—most of them miners hell-bent on striking it rich. Today, it’s a fashionable tourist resort, like many other one-time mining towns. But it’s off the beaten track, and even in late August, not cluttered with visitors. At the Creede Hotel, the town’s landmark, I


Victor Walsh

bumped into Rich Ormsby, the owner. I told him that I was looking for a place in the Weminuche Wilderness that’s empty. “I don’t want to go into the San Juan Mountains by way of the Durango and Silverton Railroad, like most packers do.” Rich told me to follow 149 another 20 or so miles southwest to the Fern Creek drainage and then turn left onto a dirt road. “You can hike up to the Continental Divide. You won’t see anyone in there, and if you come back this way, I’ll give you a discount. You can sleep in Bat Masterson’s old room for half the tab.” I followed his advice. The trail along the Fern Creek drainage was a gradual steady climb through glinting aspen forests beginning to turn a golden yellow. The leaves radiated with tremulous light beneath an August sun. About 2.5 miles from the trailhead, I stopped for a late lunch on the outskirts of a massive field of

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rocks that had tumbled down from the mountainside. An hour later, after huffing up a series of steep switchbacks and chewing handfuls of almond cookies, I crossed a wide-flowing alpine meadow. The wind whirled through the narrow ravine. Beyond Little Ruby Lake, the trail climbed steeply through a dark and gloomy evergreen forest. The stillness haunted my memory, spinning a web of images of the brooding forests of central Maine that I had hiked years ago. I picked up the pace. Within the hour, after crossing a trestle-like trail skirting Fuchs Reservoir, I reached Ruby Lake about 3:30 in the afternoon. Just off to the right stood an old weathered cabin—its splintered pine logs and rusting tin roof a testament to the abandoned dream of a long-forgotten prospector. The cabin had two rooms, and as I entered, a half-dozen mice scampered away. On a rickety

ledge in what was once the food pantry, someone had left a package of Aunt Jamina pancake mix In the woods near the lake, I pitched my small tent, gathered firewood, and boiled water for tea. I was looking forward to a hot meal of couscous and sausage and then a blazing campfire. But it didn’t happen because nature at 11,000 plus feet can be a spoiler. There was a definite chill in the air. The sky overhead had turned a translucent gray. Off to the west, huge storm clouds drifted across the darkening skyline and within minutes a storm was screaming through the woods. It snapped twigs, knocked over my stove, and sent embers from the campfire flying every which way. My plastic tarp flew across the campsite. The storm rolled down the ridge behind the lake, then across the water, heading directly towards me, like a huge unfurling black wave out of the film, The Perfect Storm. Pellet-size hailstones exploded off the bark, the rocks, and sent me scurrying into my tent. Hit by fierce winds, the tent pitched back and forth like a lifeboat in distress. Out I stumbled into the pelting rain to check the fly lines. Once inside, I spread-eagled my body to keep the tent upright. Fortunately, it held. In the darkness I could see quivering sheets of yellow flash across the tent roof. Although the lightning was many miles away, I felt its awesome power. The storm lasted nearly two hours, leaving me not only in a very bad mood, but also without matches. In my haste to get to the tent, I had left the matches outside in an unzipped waterproof bag. The next morning I found the matchbox: it was soaked through and useless. By noon that day, I was just below the Continental Divide. To the west, I saw the massive rimrocked peaks of The Window and Rio Grande Pyramid. Below me were the Red Lakes. Marble green, absolutely calm, they looked like pools of painted glass. On my right to the northwest, there were rolling meadows of lush green tundra, splattered with waisthigh willows and dwarf-size fir. To my left, the peaks

Into the Wilderness

rolled out in all directions, like a wrinkled, windblown sheet. The drama up here is surely in the sky. Pouring with light or bursting with clouds, it is always moving, while the earth is passive. And yet, the beauty is a fusion for the sky would not be spectacular without the mountains to change and glow and darken under it. I followed the postmarks across the face of the tundra-covered slopes, and by mid-afternoon arrived at the juncture where the Texas Creek and Red Lakes Trails meet. My destination, Trout Lake, was another mile down the face of a steep ridge. It took me almost another hour to reach the lake because the trail was strewn with boulders. I missed a spur trail to the lake just beyond a creek that crosses the Texas Creek Trail, and didn’t arrive at Trout Lake until early evening. At the base of a wide-sweeping ridge, the lake was a luminous pale blue. The sunlight flitted across the sky like a thief. At 12,500 feet, the place exuded an eerie, lunar-like presence. Winter, I thought, must punish it severely. Wind, ice and erosion had hammered and chiseled the shards of rock into a tumbled mass of shapes. It was too dark to do anything but curl up inside the tent and wait for sleep. An hour later, I heard the quavering yelp of a coyote. It was close by, probably below my campsite along the lake. The wind rattled through the trees overhead. By this time, the cry was a long sonorous whine—primeval, shrill, mournful. It pierced the blackness like the wail of a grieving mother. Then, from the far side of the lake, a chorus of scattered yelps filled the silence. The next day the sun blazed off the ridge tops and peaks. But unlike the Maroon Bells and West Elk no one was here. Stillness, utter stillness, surrounded me. It seemed to carry me away to other places and times. I thought about my backpacking treks into Montana’s wildernesses 15 years ago. That was a long time ago, and I couldn’t relive them, nor should I try. They were a memory, just like this trek would soon be a memory. John Audubon, the aging hunter-naturalist, claimed that his adventure up the wide-flowing Mis-


Victor Walsh souri in 1843 brought back his youth. He was fiftynine. I now realized what he meant: the spirit to imagine, to use the elements of the physical universe to see beyond it. I was 15 years older, slowed by diabetes and hearing loss. But up here, alone on a knife-edge trail straddling the Continental Divide, there was enough space for me to swing my mind as well as my elbows. Experiences are transitory moments; it is only through the power of memory that they unfold into a meaningful life history. That evening I ate early some bread and hard cheese, climbed into my tent, and waited for the pack to return. But they did not return. I stared for a long time into the darkness. There were only a few stars in this vast black void. I felt like I was submerged within the ocean’s depths—entombed in an awful, deadening silence. I wondered where the coyotes had gone. Did my scent drive them away? Were they passing through on their way to another destination? It was too spooky to be up here without them. There was no wood to build a fire, no starlight; nothing but a thread of flashlight flickering across the black abyss. After a restless sleep, I woke up the next morning early. Mist covered everything, except for the faint outline of the ridge tops. But unlike other mornings, it continued to linger blocking out the sun and clouds in a stultifying gray. Uneasy about weather, with two days of food left, I decided to hike out—at least to Ruby Lake. After clambering up over the boulder-strewn pass, I reached the juncture at the Texas Creek and Red Lakes Trails. Texas Creek is an unmarked trail. I followed the slashes on the rocks made by the hooves of horses. After about a half mile it became increasingly difficult to follow the trail. Time was a factor, and with the weather still overcast, I decided to head back to the Red Lakes Trail juncture. By noon the sky was swollen with big ashcolored clouds. The minutes slipped by as I picked up the pace, desperately trying to get off the exposed ridgeline. Then, the sky just burst—caboom and a sheet of rain poured down. The narrow, deeply cut

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trail became a trench of water and the rocks were very slick. Thunder echoed off the distant peaks. The wind blasted my face like sandpaper. Hail bounced off everything. There was no place to hide, except under sodden willow bushes, and I was soaked to the bone. Beginning to loose sensation in my fingers, I put on every stitch of clothing I had: two layers of polypro, wool shirt, fleece jacket, windbreaker and Gore-Tex parka. But I continued to get drenched. Fortunately, I didn’t see any lightning strikes. When I reached Ruby Lake, I took refuge inside the cabin. The storm had passed, but I was a shivering mess, and every stitch of clothing was soaked. I had no matches to light my stove. I was weak, clammy, disoriented—unaware that my blood sugar had dropped perilously low. While rummaging through my backpack, I found my diabetic kit and checked my blood sugar. It registered only 38 (normal is 80-125). The screen on my Lifescan test kit flashed: “Do You Need A SNACK?” The words jarred my energy-starved mind, and I gobbled down two granola bars. Gradually, my blood sugar crept up. I ate some jerky and wrapped myself in my sleeping bag, thinking of Bat Masterson’s room. A thick mist hovered over the lake, and splotches of popcorn snow lay along the bank and meadow. Cold but no longer shivering and mindful that the storm was at a lull, I decided to hike the remaining five miles out to the Fern Creek trailhead. The evergreen forest above the Little Ruby was layered under a mantle of snow. It reminded me of early winter ski treks into the Allegheny Mountains of central Pennsylvania. A whole season seemed to have flown by in five short days. At the trailhead, I met Bill Freeman, an older man with big-knotted hands who owns the Freeman Guest Ranch, just north on Highway 149. He was sitting in the cab of a big horse trailer, and asked me if I’d seen any riders. I told him that I had seen three riders along the Red Lakes Trail below the Continental Divide just before the big storm sent me scurrying down the mountainside. They were the only people I saw

Photo by Naomi M. Judd

during the five-day trip. We fell into an easy-going conversation while waiting for the riders. He told me that he had lost three horses to lightning strikes the summer before on the very ridge I had hiked. Evidently, horse stirrups are an excellent conductor. I didn’t dare ask him what had happened to the riders. According to Bill, lightning is Colorado’s biggest outdoor danger, comparable to earthquakes in California or tornadoes in the Midwest. “More people in Colorado have died from lightning than have won the lottery,” he told me good naturally. “Well, that’s ‘cause no one has won the lottery in Colorado,” I shot

Into the Wilderness

back. The retort got a chuckle as well as a cross-eyed look from Bill. Sheer-face, remote, battered by fierce storms in all seasons, the San Juans are daunting—a remnant of an older, primeval world where mankind is a stranger. Now, there are only memories: a black wave of hail blowing across a lake, those ice-scoured peaks straddling the Divide, a coyote’s lonely howl. The mountains offered no revelations or answers to life’s quandaries, only a foreboding emptiness in which to look for them.

Victor Walsh’s travel and feature stories have appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, San Antonio ExpressNews, Coast To Coast Magazine, Sunset, VIA, Sierra, Austin American Statesman, Arizona Daily Star, Desert Leaf Magazine, and Irish America.




he space the trees afforded was so narrow, so tight, I was neatly wedged between two large timbers as I stepped, then shuffled on my skis through the primeval living portal. I was searching for those open spaces that turn into elfin paths covered in swaths of deep, untouched snow, elk trails that meander through forest and wood heralding meadows and glades filled with a pure aroma; the bouquet of sap, bark and pine needles. The sun appeared after days and nights of storm and cloud. It put to shame every work of art dedicated to its brilliance. Under a canopy of light I plowed through snow over my knees and feather-soft, as fast as the cheetah, as powerful as any lion carved into the ancient gates of Ishtar. The snow-covered trees, barren of leaf, bore mute witness as trunk and branch bathed in warming sunshine. Snow lay on the branches of the tamaracks in a layer. On the ground white fluff covered all. It came up and over my calves as I moved through the woods. Fresh tracks from small animals appeared here and there, the only sign of life other than the sound of my own breath. I stood within a silence and peace that is

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a cathedral’s claim. Away from the city, far from the noise and bustle, the blaring din of all that is bought and sold, breathing cold, storm-touched air; alone in the forest. In life I entered a path where harmony, peace and some understanding of nature came as a result of a journey which I pursue to this day. I call it “The Way of the Ski.” It is a meditation in adventure and danger. Strength, fortitude and perseverance are required. Without these qualities one will fail to find the path. It is necessary to climb in order to ski. This is The Way, a step backwards in time, back to the simple and true beginning. Those on the path will tell you about tree skiing in knee-deep snows, where only they go, or climbing two thousand foot cordilleras to ski powder filled chutes, bowls and faces that are visited by a rare few, they reveal little and keep quietly to the rituals of physical training and a nourishing diet. Each day away from the mountain one grows weaker, while its strength is never diminished. It is earth; solid, immutable, rock, tree and water. A skier can ascend to summits in winter and in ever changing conditions ski their bold contours. This is the mountain’s gift

to those strong of heart and sturdy of leg, for powder snow takes effort to hike and to ski. In heavy snows the legs tire and breath comes hard, especially in the late days of autumn. At these times the adept discover if wind, stamina, endurance and fitness are all in balance. The result is a confidence and sureness of purpose that helps the skier in the lifelong pursuit of The Way. Perched on a ledge of rock, near the top of the cliff, a wall of fresh snowfall dropped below about the length of four football fields, the face long and steep all the way down to the clear waters of Dog Lake; waters that embraced the base of the peak, frigid, waiting and covered in layers of ice and snow. The view from the wide chute was mesmerizing. Shaded eyes stared at the early morning powder. It covered all in soft contours of sparkling white. The boot track that ran the distance of the climb was made from my sweat and determination. Thousands of steps at twelve-inch intervals marked the passage. There was no time at this point, only fascination, relief and bliss. It’s understood that a slide would carry me down the mountain to crash through the ice of the lake, but my lone ascent was testament to the stability of the snowpack. A sheer drop from this vantage point, and the initial entry never failed to exhilarate. Once ready, I slid in from the rock, weighted the downhill ski to control speed, launched into the fall-line, made the first turn, sank into the snow, planted a pole, and from then on it was all intuition and feeling. Twenty feet ahead, a carpet of crystals, like slivers cut from diamonds, glistened where the light of the sun radiated past the shadows of the conifers. Skis exploded into the sunshine, plowing tight “S” turns, savoring every foot of vertical. The mountain gave snow that kissed my knees and it was fast because the temperature was in the teens, making the powder dry. I was Master of this small universe gliding and speeding at will, near the bottom my skis turned in long arcs until stopping several feet from the edge of the water. Being a skier of exceptional skill is not enough. Standing on the parapet of high peaks and looking down to the valleys below, it is not unusual

The Snow Leopard Manuscript to gain perspective. The strength and skills which enable a person to hike and climb and ski in the wildest places of winter can cloud the mind and feed the ego. A proud and haughty character skeptical and derisive will rob the soul of essential elements necessary to flow and be as one with the universal spirit. Joy, elation, and bliss will give way to the ego’s sense of self and realization will remain ever elusive. Masters of Karate-Do, like Gichin Funakoshi in his Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate, say that in the pursuit of a spiritual path it is necessary to overcome the restraints fostered from egoism and practice the virtues of humility and self-control in order to free the mind. It is so in The Way of the Ski. Years of tireless repetition and practice are required to learn the nuances of turning, balance and how to pressure and weight the skis at high speeds in a myriad of conditions and terrain. Nature’s brute force visible and powerful in the forms of wind, cold, snow and avalanche affect one in god-like fashion. Through perseverance and commitment a mountain’s spirit will come to those who seek it, step by step. The trail takes many turns. It merges with other trails which lead to other paths and ways for there are many. How does one know when they are on the path and The Way of the Ski? The mountains are the oracle, not men, or companies, or officials; not crowds, or trophies, or medals. Rock and earth over time bestow such enlightenment to the seekers, because it is to the natural world the climbers give their love, their time, their water. Is not water the most precious of all things? From the sweat of the body and sometimes tears, those on The Way offer the gift of their simple endeavor, climbing and in silence understanding is bestowed. On the summit before the descent I poured water upon the snow as an offering of sacrifice. Early in the season with over a foot of new overnight on top of a crusty wind slab, studying the steep chute, trying to remember its contours, searching my memory in order to avoid any boulders or rocks beneath the fresh snow; a split second before the push off into the vertical funnel, the face slid in quick time, while I watched


Phil Gallagher astounded at my luck as a light breeze singing, came from nowhere and blew gently across my face. Perfection in the human condition is rare, yet it is everywhere in nature. The Way is marked by one’s mistakes. In the alpine on death-defying peaks, in giant bowls filled with untold volumes of winter snowfall, unwise actions can prove fatal. Danger is ever-present and must always be considered, even when one is comfortable in the terrain and conditions. It is best to always think as if you were a thief come to take what is guarded and precious. This way the seeker will never be surprised and will always be prepared for any eventuality. I dropped in from the exact center of the summit and cranked a first turn that took me between two pine trees and into space with several more trees a bit further down before it opened up into the broad face of the bowl. The line through the trees offered anchor to the slope in case the wind-loaded powder followed behind my trail. I felt okay dealing with the slough because I had skied this route many times and always outraced the sliding snow. Speed increased with the next turn as snow released behind me. Velocity needed to be turned up a notch to stay ahead of it, so a longer radius turn followed with shin deep fluff coursing up and over the knees as I floated through the powder. Suddenly in slow motion the large area of snow that lay before me moved, buckled and ever so slowly picked up speed as huge cracks in the surface appeared. I looked up to see everything in the short space above avalanching. It was impossible to ski down or sideways to avoid the slide so I turned my skis to brake and sideslip while sitting into the mountain face to arrest my descent. The snow pulled off one ski, and with the other I maintained control skidding, using both arms and pole grips to drag on the slope. There was the same feeling as being carried along in the ocean by a wave’s white water after it has broken, except I was able to keep my body and head above it. A small stand of trees below helped diminish the energy as I slid by them into the open and finally past another larger group,

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where I was released just beneath their timber wall. It proved impossible to direct my passage as the evergreen branches remained just inches away from my grasp. Breath came deep. The slide continued on for over a football field’s length before it slowed and settled. I took off the one ski and used both poles to help boot pack up the settled face and find the ski that was wrenched away. After passing the trees, the top of the peak came into view and showed a crown fracture from the chute’s rock spine all the way across to the horn of granite that marked the other side, a distance of perhaps forty yards. I found my ski very near the point of its departure from the binding. The lower bowl’s slide path was nearly a hundred-yards wide and traveled twice that distance before reaching its conclusion. The mass of debris at the bottom was nearly sixfeet deep and the crown well over two-feet thick. I survived with some discomfort and the fact that there was not much area above me to come down in great volume was taken into account, but there was the nagging thought that if it had happened after a few more turns, when I was further down the face, the larger amount of snow would have carried me farther and buried my body with relative ease towards the bottom of the run out. Upon returning home and changing clothes, the shiny copper penny that I had picked up in the parking area next to the highway on the way to the lifts fell out of my bib’s side pocket, where I had placed it, thinking, “is it really good luck to pick up one cent, or is it the humbling of one’s self to bend down and retrieve it, regardless of what others may think, that is behind the myth of the lucky penny?” Staring at the burnished coin, holding it between thumb and forefinger, I knew it was both. Fear and doubt come silent with weight subtle as fog. It is best to confront these thoughts and view them objectively dissecting weaknesses and shortcomings so that a how and why is realized. Experience becomes lessons to learn from, never to be repeated. They are something encountered on The Way and must be considered as tools in the quest, nothing more.

On the eve before the battle the young samurai asked the older swordsman what he must face, in Akira Kurosawa’s film The Seven Samurai. The experienced warrior of many battles explained. “You must accept the fact that you will die and fight as well as you can. Knowing he is going to die anyway, a samurai must give a good showing of himself. If he lives, then he fought well.” “What is the true spirit of the samurai?” This question was asked of the ronin Lone Wolf after defeating another in a duel in the Japanese film Shogun Assassin. After a moments reflection he responds. “It is to stay alive when death is certain.” In his acceptance of death the samurai finds peace and with peace there is no fear. The mind is empty. Without fear or doubt the warrior is free to fight with all of his skill and spirit. This is so in The Way of the Ski. Those on the path accomplish feats rarely witnessed by others. Their experience, skill, sacrifice and effort take them where so many fear to tread. The reward is awareness within, a sense of self that is in harmony with the dangerous nature of winter and mountains. It is an immersion of body and soul in a struggle which results in a celebration of joy and wonder, all instrumental in leading the skier to a higher development of character. Those on the path come from different walks of life, some from the higher rungs of society’s ladder and many from the bottom living paycheck to paycheck performing menial tasks usually farmed out to cheap immigrant laborers. These are the skiers who have shunned the prospect of living a normal existence within the realm of materialism. They are called ski bums. Not all are on the path, but the few who find The Way are welcomed with warmth and respect by those in the small world of the mountains To hike, to climb, to ski you come to know yourself. Along this path none are judged; all are welcomed by stone, by cold, by nature. Some will die in this high country, most will not. Forgiveness, acceptance, and redemption come not from mountains, but from within. The mountains offer sanctuary to those who come in need. They are safe harbor to lost souls. There was no place in the modern world for my army broth-

leafless limbs rattle within autumn’s dark nights uncertain rhythms

Douglas G. Campbell is a professor of art at George Fox University. His poems have appeared in Borderlands, RiverSedge, Flint Hills Review and numerous other publications.


Phil Gallagher er Ran. Fitting into a work cubicle with a computer screen would suit a pelican better than he. Authority troubled his life. Expelled from learning institutions, finishing the curriculum of one was an accomplishment. Society had little use for his nature. After the war and time as a soldier he discovered the mountains. They opened doors to understanding and served as a place to heal a spirit troubled by the blows of shield and sword. A quiet life of alpine seasons guided his way. He became a climber and powder skier. Something about the hardship, the skills, the sacrifice and the joy defined him, yet he knew that he was too inarticulate to ever explain why. Confusion is a part of “The Way.” Nothing is perfect or easy on this journey. Responsibilities, work, studies, commitments, fears, doubts, hardship, injury, these are the many faces of confusion. Without them there is little hope, for hope is the seed of promise and the promise is the skiing. The climb is the path and the ski is the purpose. A door to the universe is opened to those who have found it through grace, destiny, fate and desire. It is steep mountains covered in fresh fallen snow; virgin powder awaiting the skier who has made the pilgrimage. The ascent is always a match for stamina and purpose. It is testament to the hardest of efforts. The descent; a display of power, style and garnered skills, an accomplishment so transient and fleeting, yet so personal it is seared into memory like scar on flesh never to be erased. Thirsty, soaked with sweat, falling snow, freezing wind, numbed fingers and toes, tired legs, cramped feet, blisters, heavy boots, a gnawing hunger from hours of hiking through deep snow; all are forgotten at the summit, just before dropping in for that first turn. You never see an eagle at the resort, or a raven floating on a wind current an arm’s length away from your shoulder; hovering, silent, obsidian feathers shining in luminescent hues, their one eye staring as if to say, “I see you here on knife-edged ridge with me.” In the forests and glades quiet skiers flash down through deep snowfalls in sprays of powder far away from the

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hum of machines and the babble of conversation. In the hinterlands of wood, branch and bough the stillness and the wind are the breath of the universe; the heartbeat. The deep snow skier knows something happens up there, it’s not about glory or prestige; it is about what touches the soul. The snows of winter become nature’s playground. The mountains reveal themselves in fields of splendor, thresholds of wonder; pristine, dangerous, alluring. They call in a pure song that beckons and pulls one away from the resort and into the wilderness, where infinite lines, steep faces and immense bowls lay at your feet like wild beasts who know your scent and bid you welcome; welcome to their world. The solo skiers are not unusual. Alone, climbing high through forests, past creeks that spout and flow from rock, above tree line on windswept ridges and barren cliff tops, they climb, sweat, and endure in order to plunder snow-filled faces and bowls. By themselves they understand, there is no one else, but rarely if ever do they feel alone. Spike was one of the old timers who had been climbing and skiing for decades. It took years to know the snow the way he did. The privileged learned it the easy way, the less fortunate the hard way, sacrificing everything, accepting the mantle of bum-like mongrel dogs escaped from the pound; no collar, strong and free. On big powder days charging through deep crystals of untracked snow I would run into him, all the time, where it was steep and the snow was deepest and hard to get to; the best places. He would extend his hand and say, “this is it man, it’s the only place to be,” or after hiking together and summiting, standing at the edge of an entry into a beautiful, untouched panorama of virgin powder he’d look at me with this huge grin before speaking my favorite words, “go ahead bud, take the shot, after breaking so much trail you deserve first tracks.” In April, on a volcanic peak in northern Oregon, late storms arrive and dump snow in heaps. Patrollers at a ski area keep backcountry gates closed for corporate reasons too numerous to mention. Like lemmings the

resort skiers follow each other, like sheep they obey all signs, while I with a hunter’s stealth and the knowledge of the hunted, shy as any forest creature, plunder fifteen-hundred foot vertical descents in wooded chutes wide enough to drive a semi through, all day long, a stone’s throw away, never to tell a soul about the untouched powder. Sometimes, at night by moonlight, I ski the resort. Quiet, stealthy, wary like the snow leopard, rarely seen by any, my track is all that is left to greet the dawn of morning, unless it is covered by new-fallen snow A Buddhist monk of note from ancient times talked about actions one takes. Thich-Thieu-Ahn described them in this manner: “For a deed to be totally pure it must be done without any thought of reward, whether worldly or divine. It is this kind of deed which is called a deed of merit and because no merit is sought, it is a deed of immeasurable merit, of infinite merit.” I walked up the highway keeping to the soft snow along the edge; skis carried diagonally across my back, the click-clack of poles upon the asphalt a beat the ravens in the trees turned their feathered heads to. Eyes down, purpose and intent my mantle, I wasn’t out of the woods yet. To the west, the hazy disc of the sun barely above the horizon sank minute by minute towards the soft light of dusk. Carefully, as if on steep slopes, the place where each boot stepped was meticulously observed, while an occasional glance up to take in the surroundings and look for approaching vehicles

The Snow Leopard Manuscript filled my vision with the green and white of snowy forest timbers. Later, in the bar at the resort, a pint of ale served in an icy glass frosted to the amber of dry wheat and prairie grass slaked a parched thirst, as flames blazed in a hearth and a sea of people moved about the room. The comfort of the ale, the fire and the soft cushion of the chair washed over me as thoughts about where I had been illuminated a quiet reverie. The picture was clear. At the top of the escarpment peering down into a huge bowl that stretched for hundreds and hundreds of meters, two routes were possible. A spine of rock separated them, a dog leg to the right and a direct line of descent from the left. Standing at the pinnacle, the highest point of the semi-circular ridge, it was late morning and both lines would be skied before the day was over. Dropping into the right, making short turns in the soft, new snow, I navigated the difficult, rocky area below the summit then moved into the long pitch of the mountain’s concave face. This all seen from a spectator’s view, high on the precipice, watching the skier’s back, fresh powder flying in his wake, leaving the track of a serpent chiseled into the pure, chalk-hued surface, neither falling nor stopping until the flat at the bottom was reached. Descending within that spray of blowing powder I counted a few turns while exhaling, but mostly just looked where to go and skied intuitively with a mind free; free of everything, joyously lost in the world that is the magic of snow.

Phil Gallagher learned to ski as a soldier in the US Army during the Vietnam War, while stationed in Germany. Upon discharge, he spent the winter of ‘68 in Jackson Hole, then traveled the world with his surfboard until he planted his toes in the sand on the north shore of Kauai in 1973. In 1986 he returned to the mainland, got his old skis out of his parents’ garage and spent a few winters in Colorado and Utah before settling down in Washington State on the east slope of the Cascades. His work has been published in Off Piste: The Backcountry Ski Journal, the Black Diamond 04/05 Winter Catalog, and the Fall 2010 Main Street Rag Anthology: Coming Home.


Nancy Cook

The tents are pitched. Let frost, like chalk, sketch bare branches. Meanwhile, we will sleep.

Nancy Cook is currently a teacher, writer, and parent in the Minneapolis/St Paul area, but has lived in several other places, including New Mexico, New England, and the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her work has appeared in a variety of literary, social policy, and law journals, including the Southern Anthology, Florida Review, Virginia Journal of Social Policy, and Harvard Women’s Law Journal. She holds an M.F.A. from American University and a law degree from Georgetown University.

74 Adventum

ADVENTUM A Literary Magazine

TAKE PART IN THIS NEW LITERARY ADVENTURE Issues I and II of Adventum are available in digital and print-on-demand formats. Adventum will always offer a digital format, but would also love to offer more affordable print copies and subscriptions. Even a modest print run will bring down the cost of issues compared to print-on-demand prices, which means Adventum will be available to more people. Help print the next issue of this independent literary magazine by donating today! For submission guidelines, advertisement inquiries, donations, or comments, please visit:


Back cover photo by Klaus Kranebitter (Norway)

Adventum Issue II Winter/Spring 2012  

Issue II of Adventum is full of stunning photography from around the world as well as quality haiku, and stories about encountering wildlife...

Adventum Issue II Winter/Spring 2012  

Issue II of Adventum is full of stunning photography from around the world as well as quality haiku, and stories about encountering wildlife...