Monday, February 1, 2016

Don't Ask

Don’t ask if I’m out of touch with human affairs:
kings, marquises—I leave all to them now.
Boorish by nature, no harm if I let it show,...

the way I did when I lived in the mountains.
In quiet moments I enter the soundless music,
in my madness reject properly ordered poems.
I act for myself, look after myself,
hoping the man in charge will understand.

-Ch’i-chi (864-937) As interpreted by Burton Watson

“Don’t Ask” was written in the year 921 when the poet was appointed to head a temple called Lung-hsing-ssu in Chinag-ling, Hupei. The appointment was made by Kao Tsung-hui, the military commissioner of the area. In a brief introduction to the series, Ch’i-chi describes his new appointment by saying: “Originally I was a monk of the green mountains, sitting in solitary meditation on a white rock. But now these noblemen have built rooms to house me, provided funds to feed me, and arranged for my complete comfort. Relieved of all the ten thousand concerns, at liberty to roam or rest as I choose, I hence no longer need keep company with the clouds and springs, the wild monkeys and birds. If I can be as carefree as this, what could there be to tie me down?”
     - both quotes from
The Clouds Should Know Me By Now, Buddhist Poet Monks of China as excerpted in Wild Waters and The Tao

Ask Me

Sometime when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether...
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

- William Stafford

Monday, November 9, 2015

A Woe that is Madness

There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness. And there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he for ever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than other birds upon the plain, even though they soar. 

    - Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Saturday, October 3, 2015

White Rim in a Day - Canyonlands National Park

I was invited by a dear friend to join her and two other friends to ride the White Rim in a day (WRIAD).  I was plenty intimidated - the White Rim Trail is a 103-mile loop on a jeep road through Canyonlands National Park. We did 85 miles by cutting off the boring pavement section.  

The route isn't technical.  Still, I had to train for it and truth be told, I'm a tad lazy.  My most favorite thing to do is ride downhill ~ as fast as a middle-aged mom can. But I was intrigued with the one question: "Can I do it?"  Plus, I knew that 1) this bunch of women would be a blast to ride with 2) it would be beautiful; and 3) you are only young once (as said to me by a very courageous and adventurous woman that I admire!) But cheese and rice, I'd never ridden more than 50 miles on my mountain bike in day (and the 50-miler was when I was 22 years old).

As for elevation gain, the bulk of the ride is pretty easy. Most of the climbing is tackled with three major climbs (Murphy's Hogback, Hardscrabble Hill, and Mineral Bottom Switchbacks).  The average grade is only 2% and the maximum grade is 56%.  The killer is at the end with the Mineral Bottom Switchbacks netting 1400 feet in elevation gain in the last mile and a half.

The major climbs add up to 4000 vertical feet, but if you recorded every little up-and-down it's more like 6000 feet total.  Most riders spend 3 or 4 days riding this trail and use a support vehicle to haul their gear to the campsites. (Two days = Monster. One day = Lunatic.) (from

We were going for lunatic, but w
e did have a support vehicle, which met us for lunch and resupplied us with water.  It would have been near impossible to carry enough water for 90-degree heat.  He was also our shuttle at the end.

The riding surface on the four wheel drive jeep road was packed sediment, sand pits, silt pits and slick rock.

It was an amazing and epic trip.   The country is so vast that you can't even fathom it.  The area is by permit only so we only saw about a dozen vehicles and people the entire day.  And at the end of the day, I felt pretty darn good.   I was saddle sore and my triceps ached, maybe from hanging on to the brakes at the first descent.  I would do it again -- but next time I'm riding fat.

I love this picture.  You can see the barest hint of a headlamp on the right, and two morning stars.  There was no ambient light when we started out.  Kristin's headlamp died and so I had to be her wingman on the descent.  It was a little hairy.

These are the Shaffer Switchbacks that we descended in the dark.   We knew it was a drop but I don't think we grasped how big. 

Another view of the switchback descent.

Easy miles - while it was cool out.

Suzanne, who did a fabulous job planning it all!
Kristin.  We put away a good number of miles before the sun even came up.

It wasn't technical but most of the road was varied enough to be interesting.

Emma - who never once walked her bike - not through sand or silt nor up the steepest hill.

Murphy's Hogback was the first major hill of the climb.  We hit it right before lunch at about mile 40.  It was so hot on the back side (with no breeze) that I felt like throwing up.  Except for right after lunch when I ate too much, this was the only time that I didn't feel so great. 

The bathrooms were about 10 miles apart and the only shade.  We took advantage of them.

This is later in the day when we plugged into our music and dug deep.  I was listening to a kick-ass soundtrack (from Where the Trail Ends) and watching these women fly through the vast desert.  It was magical.

It was great when we finally dropped down next to the Green River.  It felt a little bit cooler, at least psychologically.

Emma, climbing everything. 

The last 20 miles or so had a series of sand and silt pits.

Lunch included cold watermelon and ice water, woo-hoo!

Shade at lunch.

Next time I'm carrying my water like this.

There were some fun sections, too.  Punchy little uphill and downhill.

Em and K

My family wrote inspirational messages that were sealed in an envelope - to be opened at mile 40, 60, 70 and at the end.  For me, I dedicated a 10 mile section to different friends and family.  The last 15 miles were for a very special family friend, Chryssie, that encouraged me to do the trip.  I probably wouldn't have done it if it weren't for her.  


This is the end.  Climbing from the river bottom 1400 feet to the top of the rim.

When I finished I felt like I had just joined the bad-ass girls' club.  These women are amazing.

Suzanne - YESSSSS!
Friends, a beautiful sunset and beer.