Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Miserly Travel


Yesterday I rambled about my trek up to Juniper Basin where I camped in the Rincon Mountains of Saguaro National Park.  Today, I give you the rest of the story.

It was a cold night in my little tent with ice on the drinking water, and as you know, winter nights are long.  Maybe I’m getting too old for this.  It’s a place I can never forget if only because I didn’t sleep much, having brought the lighter of my two sleeping bags and spent most of the night wishing I’d brought the heavy, bulky one.

I camped high above the desert at about six thousand feet, among pinion pines, junipers and live oaks, without a single call of bird—the quietest place I have ever camped. 

Starting up the trail at sunrise, I was soon warm and ready for the summit of Tanque Verde Peak, walking with less than half of the thirty-five pounds I had carried the day before; I left all the camping gear at my campsite to which I would return before dark.

There had been just a trickle of water in the dry wash near my camp.  It carried the melt from a snowstorm two weeks ago, and allowed me to fill my canteens after filtering out any giardia.

Soon I began to see my destination—Tanque Verde Peak at seven thousand feet.  It stands there now to guide me, and I become impatient.  But as Merwin says, “What is hard to see is the mortal hurry.”  So I slow down and enjoy the last few miles of a long arduous climb, a cold night, and the anticipation of visual reward at the top.


 Many times I have driven past arid mountain ranges like this one, looking at them as backdrops to life as I knew it.  Now I am on the top of a forested mountain island, surrounded by a sea of desert.  But when the valley finally fills with sediment carried down from this mountain, then a requiem should be sung for this now grand peak, just as it should be sung for the now buried mountains under the Sonora Desert.


  1. It's never as much fun when you've wrongly guessed what you'll need for an excursion; but I'll bet the thrill was on when the chill was gone. And no, you're not too old for this. Next time you'll remember your Sleep Number.

  2. I also wish you had your warmest sleeping bag. I think you brought the equivalent of your white sweater for a frigid poetry meeting... sigh... what can be done, it's not that you are too old... you are too stubborn! Giggle okay well I am happy your guide was Merwin... his elegant poised vision from above is inspiring and powerful and your last steps with his word in your mind make me happy. I hope the next night you had a reaaalllly good sleep! Looking forward to the next installment... let's set a date for telling this story at out salon, after Red Door Poetry, we are looking forward to it!

  3. Yes, Steven, I wrongly guessed. About many things. But I do it again, and again. When I grow up maybe I'll have learned. We go on, don't we?

    Kathabela, I was born stubborn, and so I cannot die easily, with or without the right sleeping bag.

  4. Giggle we never grow up... we grow other ways...!

  5. Gee, Kath, that's swell.

  6. I remember shivery nights on long motorcycle trips. I'm not good at staying warm alone. Even tonight, as I wait for Gail to come home, I feel chilly. :o|

  7. There's no like button on this blog!!! I often want to click on "like"!! Please give Gail a hug from us toooo!!!!! Sharon's asleep so we can just be silly here by ourselves!!! But I am serious!!

  8. Wednesday January 11, 2012 8:00 PM - 9:30 PM
    Location: 147 Noyes, Sturdivant Lecture Hall - Find on Campus Map

    Come join ace climber Mike Libecki as he takes us on a ride to find mystery, flora, fauna, culture and unclimbed rock walls around the world, to places like Antarctica, Afghanistan, Baffin Island, China, Greenland, and Venezuela.

    Expect the unknown, laughter and inspiration to stop making excuses. The time is now...What are you waiting for? No excuses. Dream big...And climb those dreams. After all, it is not only life, but the quality of this life. Death and/or old age is coming...We must live sweet. Why ration passion? - Libecki

    The Caltech Alpine Club is hosting this event for free (no tickets required); there will be food, drinks, good company, and an awesome talk!

    I'll go to this tonight... it sounds like you talking Sharon... "climb those dreams" !

    and me too "we must live sweet" !

    I know if you were here, you'd come with me. But you are busy with your own dreams... and so far no one said they would join me. I will give a report! love
    from Caltech
    and environs... Kathabela

  9. Well, I see you've all been having fun here in my parlor during my absence. It's ok, please feel at home. I am back from the mountain, Mt. Kitts, and another cold night, this time zooming in on the universe and minds that observe it. Will tell about it later today, after I wake up.

  10. Sharon, we were just talking during a critique time of Amir's poem. I brought it up relating parallel construction.
    Before travelling, it's always a conflict between comfortable but heavy and uncomfortable but light. It's a risky business.
    I hope you are okay.