Most years, I have a good idea of what I want to accomplish with a long hike. Other years, not so much. This year I didn’t have a good idea of what my annual Colorado Trail hike was about. I simply wanted to be on the trail. The uncertainty may have been exacerbated by other commitments. I had to hike half the trail in July, and the other half at the end of August and into September. The whole enterprise felt a little schizophrenic to me. Which, in retrospect, probably led me to poetry.
I have been following a Colorado poet, Rosemary Wahtola Trommer, and her daily poetry practice, A Hundred Falling Veils, for several years now. I think these poems originated in that daily poetry emersion. But, even so, I was surprised to find myself walking along thinking about and writing poems in my head.
Every ounce of the trash
You so casually tossed in the bushes
Irritates me as I trudge up the pass
This morning, thinking of punishment.
Hanging is too good for you.
I would toss you off a cliff,
Make you hang by your fingernails
Over the chasm
Until you cry out how now
You understand the purpose
Of poetry and beauty in the world.
Then, I would give you another chance.
Why Three Times?
“Why in the world would you do
This hike three times!,” the gentleman
Asks me. “I don’t mean to brag,
But I’ve done all the long trails
And I would never do one over again.”
Maybe your love is different from mine,
I think. Casual, less intimate,
More conquering. Maybe you
Are not interested in how love
Deepens and renews itself,
Over and over again,
This! This is why,
I’ll tell my grandkids
When they ponder walking
This trail three times.
That ship named Uncompahgre
Over there I have never seen before
On this vast and empty plain.
I was never here in fair weather.
“You’re that guy that writes the poems!”
No, I’m the guy up before the sun,
Fixing coffee, breaking camp.
The one watching the sun touch the peak
And filter through the forest, top to bottom
The one walking in the morning chill
Until the sun finally reaches even me.
“I read’em all, man. Love’em!”
On this hot, dusty trail I walk along
Thinking impure thoughts, when
Out of the forest steps a vision.
Tall, topless, nothing but hiking boots
And shorts. Oh, and a beer belly.
I can’t figure out why my prayers
Are getting so garbled in transmission.
Sharing the Trail
SOBO or NOBO, such a choice!
Walk into beauty, they say.
Save the Weminuche for last.
Good advice, but let me counter
With one salient fact.
If you are going to be run over
It is better to be facing your fate!
The Blue Bird
In a town in which each house
Is painted a different pastel color,
Adorned according to whim and worry,
I thought the blue bird on the post
Was decoration. Until it flew away
Upon my close approach.
The Easy Hitch
Tennessee Pass, easy hitch to Leadville.
I wait five minutes, ten at most
For a big black pick-up
To swerve to the side for me.
I pitch my pack in back, open the door.
“Empty your pockets!
Do you have any weapons?,” the driver asks.
Sure, I say. My pockets are full of poems.
“Get in ”
Music blares at about 100 decibels.
We weave over the line while
The driver plays with his iPad,
Searching for music from the 80s,
Suitable for his passenger.
“Do I smell like alcohol?, he asks me.
Strange question. No, I say.
“That’s good. I’ve had a few beers.”
The Trail Encounter
She wears dark glasses, is looking down.
A man, sitting on her shoulder,
Talks in her ear about a wire.
I have no idea why.
She jumps at my “Good morning,”
The man her mother warned her
Would molest her on the train.
A creature in nature, but not a part of nature.
I listen another moment to the forest birds,
Feel my heart beating in my chest,
And move along, uphill, as always.
Committee of One
I’m told one advantage of solo hiking
is unanimous decision making. But
as I sit here at the foot of Blackhawk Pass,
listening intently, watching black clouds gather,
it seems a committee of angry, unruly councilmen
is holding a raucous meeting inside my head.
Should I Hike East or West Collegiate?
What time do you get started in the morning?
Do you sleep on your side or on your back?
If you hike with poles, do you use one or two?
If you could, would you start your hike on a night with a full moon or a new moon?
Do you prefer Snickers or Payday candy bars?
There are just so many factors that affect a decision like this.
Mess it up and you can turn an incredible experience into a nightmare!