GREEN TRAIL MAPS: ONE OF THE TEN ESSENTIALS.
100 YEARS OF THE WONDERLAND TRAIL.
THE MAP AROUND COLUMBIA CREST ON MOUNT RAINIER.
LOOKING UP AT THE GLACIERS ON THE MOUNTAIN.
ELEVATION GAINS WALKING THE WONDERLAND: 25,000 FEET.
CAMPS WHERE I STOPPED WALKING:
LONGMIRE, DEVILS DREAM, KLAPATCHE PARK,
GOLDEN LAKES, MOWICH LAKE CAMPGROUND,
DICK CREEK CAMPGROUND, MYSTIC LAKE, SUNRISE CAMP,
WHITE RIVER CAMPGROUND, INDIAN BAR.
Two old growth Douglas Fir trees,
one on each side of the trail,
20 yards from the trailhead,
Mister Old Man Walking,
beginning your walk in the woods,
walking the Mountain, opening.
How’s that for threshold, gate,
path to the Wonderworld?
As a child I walked railroad tracks in North Dakota.
Walking the trail with the poems at 70
makes me dizzy, waking my railroad heart—
walking Wonderland conditions the soul beat.
Wordsworth opens The Prelude and those
who remember follow, creating, perceiving,
spots of time on the trail, spots of time on tracks.
—A tale of the trail, reworking the ancestors.
Like Wordsworth in that poem,
walking the trail brings up the poems,
but it doesn’t prepare the back,
and it is the back that has to keep pace
with the plan Rangers make,
ten-plus miles a day.
Walking continues the practice
that work narrows for what comes up
from that place of the deeper image.
What comes out comes out unedited.
If there’s choice, it’s spontaneous,
yet choosing doesn’t seem like what it is—
what comes feels like the only option.
I have to fight through voices,
they’re there, and there’s no script,
and a decision to follow
I’ve got this time for this
is what I think starting out,
but I don’t, there’s no poem
to be had at Devil’s Dream
I’m too pooped to eat,
I’m too pooped to eat,
get the tent up look at stars
and the visitor walks into camp.
How can I tell him?
Context is this. Those fires
in my part of the state.
And this drought.
Those dead firefighters
Those days with Karen
at Cougar Rock in the mothership,
the hike with my brother
on the Skyline Trail before this Wonderland,
wonder itself, all that’s gone
and what’s left—
I didn’t think any of it would be this hard.
I thought I’d write poems
sitting with Basho and Issa,
but that’s not the way it’s shaking out.
No reading around campfires.
Outside this Mountain
fires jump the Columbia River.
Canonical prayer hours in monasteries
have rigor, but there’s time
to pray seven times a day.
Prayer maintains focus.
When I put my pack against that tree
below Devils Dream I don’t know
if I’ll get it back on my shoulders.
Then I see that cliff face—dream face
in rock—I would have missed it.
Talking out loud.
Walk and meander. Trekking poles.
Carry water, even when water’s around.
These birds in the meadow.
Taking off from these alpine trees
cruising airstreams, feeding in morning light.
That drive around the Mountain
before this, with Karen,
stashing food with Carbon River rangers,
dried up Alder Lake, all those stumps.
Already full of images walking in.
Misreading the map. I will take pictures
of any trail. And this west-side moss
and the motherlogs. Indian Henry’s cabin.
Make a note on that meandering streambed:
It hasn’t seen water all summer.
This walking alone.
Preparing for this morning.
Trail taking the self.
And the poems.
I find that out again.
On the trail.
With what comes up.
No controlling that.
“Jesus is a man of the road.”
A new sentence.
Part of me, canceling, too,
anything still left.
Rumi in my pocket,
Rumi at random.
Jesus and Rumi.
Jesus would talk to Rumi.
Jesus could talk with Rumi
about the Baptist,
Rumi could listen,
flush out that anger.
Jesus never got a hearing on that one.
On John. What happened.
I’d like to be on the trail with those two.
This Mountain now.
This camera around my neck.
The one in my pocket.
Camera or notebook?
Notebook or Rumi.
These trees and this descent
bringing the sounds of water below.
Gates and bridges and thresholds.
There’s sustaining power here
come from the Mountain.
When you’re too close
if flattens out into something
like a cloud, but from here!
Dried pineapple and a cup of coffee.
How things come up
How they surface
How they don’t
That Ranger on the trail appears
when I need him. Locates me on the map,
as we look at Emerald Ridge and the Tahoma Glacier.
It feeds into South Puyallup River he says.
All of Rainier’s glaciers receding.
Drought and dry conditions
causing glacial outbursts, debris flows—
South Tahoma’s especially.
Seattle Times story—did you see that?
Last week—the glacier’s toe, now stagnant.
cut off from upper reaches of ice—
one of those sections—measuring
about a half acre, breaks off,
unleashing trapped melt water.
Boulders smashing and rolling—
I know the sound from White River
in our back yard—
came down the mountain.
Two young hikers say it sounded like a train,
and film the rushing, muddy water
on their cell phones.
Phil Hertzog’s the Ranger.
A backcountry volunteer.
Biology teacher from Tacoma.
He checks my permit.
“I don’t know if I can reach South Puyallup Camp,”
I tell him. “Let’s see what we can do.—
We like to keep people on schedule.
Only so many campsites.”
He radios Longmire on his Walkie Talkie.
There’s been a cancellation at Klapachie Peak.
“I was there last night. You’ll like the sunset.”
We stand on a ridge above the River.
Trail cut into the side, steep, dramatic.
Small strip of bleached grass before the cliff
to my right. He checks my condition.
He’s 60, knows I’m ten years older.
River a half mile down, browns and tans below,
bands of colors on the other side, it looks like a painting—
what emerges from erosion,
from river force, channel changes.
Standing on a mountain,
one foot shorter than the other.
This man, he’s here to look out
for people like me—keeps us safe,
Search and Rescue—
a shot of confidence
as I begin my descent—
descending, what I love about the poem,
Williams’s language, beckoning—
Exploration of the inner world.
Trekking poles give me two extra legs.
Let them take the body weight,
provide rhythm, knee savers,
closer to the four leggeds.
Deep into the second day,
the Mountain, too has a voice,
and that which makes man insignificant
calls man to listen. The Mountain,
and these few Rangers.
Walking the steps.
The last one, the next one.
Wanting to sit with them.
Wanting to study their trunks.
Mis-reading their message.
Thinking they’re sentries,
that camp is close.
Greeting no one.
Klapache Park in a Hemlock Grove.
St. Andrews Lake drying up.
Sunset with the camera.
The Mountain before me walking on.
St. Andrews Lake all dried up.
Backpack reporting my age, sending signals.
Stay present to the camera. Use it.
Feel Rumi in the pant pocket.
Death is the beginning of beauty.
Not an abstraction, the man in the Canal Zone
who taught me that poem 50 years ago.
Walk the Mountain.
Let the Mountain walk you.
Opening the Mountain
opens the man.
At Golden Lakes a man gives you a map.
You sit by the Lake and talk of gear.
He tells the fishing story
of the young man who he was, walking
to the brown trout. You find the Carver poem
in your notebook, and read it,
changing brook to brown,
declaring this an old path
and a new waterfall.
You hand him the camera
and ask him his story.
He won’t know how to answer
and he’ll never be the same.
He’ll tell you this later.
Neither will you, old man,
walking into your age.
The storm is on its way
but you don’t know that yet.
On this hike you meet two veterans.
One tells you about the Colonel
who defended Tan Son Nhut Air Base
during Tet, who might have saved your life
when you were flying in
from skiing in Japan on R&R.
You meet the other man
in a storm alongside Carbon Glacier.
He looks at you and says,
I won’t leave you behind.
Two encounters on a mountain.
Ten minutes in your life.
Mistakes with your pack.
Errors in conditioning.
State of the body.
State of the Mountain.
What you did right.
The gift of empathy from your mother.
The lifetime of practice.
Learning to listen so you could listen to her.
To listen for her.
Empathy walking you to Blake and vision.
Blake taking you to Keats.
and long life living with its great call.
Accompanimnent with trees.
Good luck, compañero. Suerte.
Walking down Ipsut Pass,
you say to yourself, This is China.
The 4-day rain fills the trail,
dry streambeds reclaim their music.
Mountain gets a new white suit.
Pumping water at the stream,
you will put your recorder
close to the water recording
the joyful morning.
Standing up from the rock
the recorder will fall
from your shirt pocket into the water
making the sound of Basho’s frog.
You put your arm into water
up to your elbows retrieving it.
The recorder’s done for
but the music’s in your head.
You’re in a valley of an old growth forest.
This is your peak experience.
You’re 70 years old
walking a 100-year old trail.
Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims
have been here before you.
This is your village singing.
Out of Mystic Lake crossing White River
you’re moving alongside Winthrop Glacier
on the backside of Burroughs Mountain
to SkyScraper Pass and your part of the State.
The Mountain watches over the State of Washington.
Sunrise, Burroughs, Frying Pan Creek,
Summerland, Panhandle Gap.
Bear on the trail, all of it, day hikes with old friends.
Ohanapecosh Park to Indian Bar and Nickel Creek
from the other direction. You made
this one with your son 20 years ago.
and North Dakota when you were ten.
You’ve returned and gone on and returned.
Indian tobacco and peace pipe
from a souvenir store.
Your father’s story and your mother’s voice.
Carrying it with you on the Mountain.
Room in your pack for baseball cards
wrapped in a red rubber band.
20 August 2015-18 September 2015
Cougar Rock-Paradise, Sunrise, Yakima
The Wonderland Trail
Mount Rainier National Park