Saturday, December 1, 2018

Mt. Whitney

If you listen carefully
You can hear the voices on the wind
Echoing down the canyons
Reverbing off the granite towers
Cascading in the falling creeks
Scattered in the leaves of autumn

Voices that ring through time
Encouraging to explore the old ways
Showing the paths through the darkness
Singing to the rhythms of the ancient drums

Voices of the past
Ages and ages ago
Calling to journey along with them
To the high mountain halls of lore

The song of the Otzal Alps
From the Italian and Austrian borderlands
Frozen in ice for thousands of years
Had been released from it's bindings
And sent around the world
On the notes of its renewal

The song flowed out of the passes
Raced down the glacier carved valleys
Traveled long over endless oceans
Swept clean in the prairie wind
Slowed in the western desert sand
And rested amongst the peaks
That loomed over the sagebrush in bloom

A song older than the Piutes
Who gathered pine nuts in the pinyons
Who sang of Tumanguyah
The old man who sits atop the mountain
Judging passage to those who hold the code

The tune found one from the forests of the lone star
Tended the flames inside
Gathered it's strength over the years
And spread like wildfire across the land

Sending smoke up among the goldening birch
Swirling in the clinging lodgepole
Rolling over steps carved in the rock
And soaring above the treeline

Following paths covered in new snow
And settling upon glacial remains in the shadows
Locking in again in the talus and ice
Home again for a handful of millennia

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Otzi Expedition - Mt. Whitney Part I

In 2015, Mr. Black from Operational Extras fame - attempted with a few other fellows to make the trek up to the top of Mt. Whitney with clothes and gear inspired by 5,300 year old Otzi the Iceman. However, their attempt was shut down by an untimely blizzard of snow and rain and sleet that made conditions just too hazardous to get very far. The journey would have to wait for another time. "Too be continued is better than the end" was the mantra. And 3 years later, the attempt would be made again.

The journey really began soon after Otzi was discovered and news began to spread around of the man found frozen in ice in the Tirolean Alps on the Italian/Austrian border. Images and descriptions of the kit he carried were circulated worldwide. This kit and knowledge of how humans lived 5,300 years ago sparked a young Mr. Black's interest. It's all history from there.

Over the years, Black had developed various elements of the replica kit. But in 2014, the news was made that Black was going to attempt this and the kit really kicked into gear. Goat hide clothes and pack, wooden and natural fiber pack frame, leather snow boots with fiber netting, bearskin hat, arrows and quiver, knife, belt kit with tinder and fungus, leather thongs to keep the bugs off, various pouches and containers, antler, bone, and stone bits of kit, even a couple of copper axes made in the style. Otzi and ancient humans were being rediscovered as the kit evolved.

The spirit of the adventure had caught on. Auctions and donations and encouragement had developed out of the kindness of peoples' hearts as the time for the journey had neared. It was a beautiful thing to see.

After the first attempt, Mr. Black made a few presentations on the kit and its inspirations at bushcraft gatherings in Texas and Nebraska. And good times were had by all.

The years went by, but no one forgot about the journey to the top. And in early 2018, the call went out that the expedition was to be attempted again. Being situated in California's Central Valley on the opposite side of the Sierras almost directly west of Mt. Whitney, I couldn't pass up the opportunity at the second round.

So to make a long story short, after 8 months of waiting, the time had come. With Black coming in from Texas, and CY coming in from the SERE School in Spokane, we met up at the basecamp in October for a couple nights to camp and acclimate to the altitude.

Continued in the next post...

The Otzi Expedition - Mt. Whitney Part II

We really enjoyed our time at the basecamp going over various stories and what not. Me getting to know Black and CY since we had never met before and vise versa. And them two reminiscing stories over many years of training others at the various Air Force SERE Schools and the adventures they've had in that arena. We had fun, but thoughts of the mountain were always there to put a hint of trepidation in the air. On the night before the journey uphill, Black had gone to bed and CY and I had stayed up a bit longer, discussing farming in California and Ohio among other things. As the fire died down, it.... began.... to.... snow!

A brief little dusting of powder puff balls fell for a few minutes. We could hear Black wondering what was going on as we told him "Wouldn't be the iceman without a little ice". But we all laughed as it only lasted a few minutes. Just enough to remind Black of the fury of three years ago. Just enough to remind all of us that this was not going to be some cake walk in the woods.

So from here on, the rest of the story plays out in the video. It was the most difficult two days of hiking I've ever done, but we made it to the top and accomplished our goal. This journey was not just for us, but for all those who joined in along the way. And it was a good feeling to be a part of it all.

I'll just say this though, this hike is for someone in their 20's and 30's. Not for those in their 40's and 50's like we were haha !


Lone Pine Lake

Bighorn Park

Rest stop at Outpost Camp - 10,360'

Looking back at Bighorn Park

Otzi Find Complex Elevation - 10,531' - Here Mr. Black paid tribute by caching some red deer meat and einkorn wheat flower

Consultation Lake

Trail Camp and a frosty night down into the teens. No fires allowed so had to get in the sleeping bags as soon as possible.

Mt. Whitney (far right) and the ridge in the morning light

Otzi Glacier

Looking back at some of the 99 Switchbacks and Wotan's Throne - Trail Camp is near the tarn

Trail Crest second breakfast

Hitchcock Lakes below Mt. Hitchcock - beyond that the Kern River Gorge, the Kaweah Peaks, and the Mineral King area off in the distance

Looking back at the trail with the Siberian Plateau in the middle distance

Many short breaks to catch our breaths - the goal is in sight!

Crabtree Meadow, the Kern River Gorge, and the Kaweah Peaks

CY and Black on the summit!

Mission Accomplished!! Now to get down off this thing...

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Blackdirt Bottomlands

Peaceful ride down wooded lane.
Where fences old with weather stain.
Where mushrooms round in fairy ring,
Along roadside growth of waning spring.

Where sunlight shines in dappled ray
Upon webs woven between all that sway.
And leaves of green return again
The swoop and chirp of flitting wren.

Through summer's swelt and drying air.
These crops grow with fruit to share.
Now autumn's fade and harvests bound.
And what remains gets turned in ground.

Came across a relic in a field.
One with age had broken and peeled.
It's sturdy boughs barred entry down.
The depths remain unknown for now.

A tree bears a cross in western shade,
As dust rolls a plain of level grade.
Sage blue flowers on cracked dry earth
Coloring the gray for what it's worth.

Standing corn rows solid and straight.
Ready for harvest, no more to wait.
Farm house sits under oaken trees,
With truck and trailer and cows and bees.

With freestalls, pens, and feeding lanes,
The heifers grow with steady gains.
And dairy barn moans echo the call,
To milk and honey and butter for all.

Forested oaks upon the slough
In wild bend and tangled grew.
Once backwatered from the lake and mist.
Now downhill run in swirl and twist.

Further along the road forgotten,
Coyotes disappear in tufted cotton.
Where water wells up from the ground,
Running through the alfalfa without a sound.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Mineral King

The high alpine valleys
Royal gardens of the Blessed One
Sprouting new life each summer
After the winter storms have gone

The savory scents of sage in the aspens
Meadows sprinkled with fresh seasonings
A grand feast for the senses
Their life and words breathed in deeply
And repeated in the ethereal

Up here the gates of heaven found
Whose hinges bear the weight upon
In golden sunlight and broken stone
Granite slab tables set for all

The mountains shed their shale scales
Red and gold dishes slide underfoot
Crash beneath the whitethorn brambles
Clinging in the grindings

Lakes of emerald and saphire
Inset among the high granite peaks
Gemstones in the crown of kings
Starlight shining in darkened pools

Words mingling upon the ripples
Slipping across as the spirals collide
Sending vibrations in the cool night air
Saturating the minerals with stardust in your hand

Sitting silently in riverside retreat
Listening to the lyrics sing upon the waters
As day breaks across the land
Seeing it all with new eyes

Everything from here on in is born again
Has a brighter shine upon the surface
Glowing in the shadows
Glistening on the waves

Diamonds gleaming in the splashes
Ice melting with grand abundance
Boulders tumbling and drumming the beat
Washing clean in the rolling torrents

Spirit strengthening in the hold
The Earth quakes beneath
Peace rolling through grinding gravel into dust
Tea leaves melting below rising steam

A mountain valley eden to enjoy
Healer of body, spirit, and flavor all rolled into one
Carpets of sage under aspens in the breeze
Like headings on a compass showing the way