Archive

Archive for the ‘Blogroll’ Category

What I Know for Sure

October 18th, 2009

Saturday morning Spencer and I left early. He was off to take a practice ACT test (remember college entrance tests). And since his testing center was near the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon, I was off to Snowbird to pick up my season pass.

Spencer, not terribly worried about taking his first college entrance exam.

Spencer, not terribly worried about taking his first college entrance exam.

I got my pass quickly enough and was planning to head back down the canyon to my office, where I needed to catch up on a bunch of things. But it was one of those perfect fall mornings. The kind you know cannot last, as if fall was borrowing time from winter and the debt was coming due any day now.

I stared up at the massif of Mt. Superior in the brilliant morning sun. I thought of the many hikes I had made on that mountain in all seasons. It wouldn’t just be a shame to not linger a bit and attempt a quick sprint to the top, it would be criminal.

As the crow flies, I live maybe five miles from Snowbird. Too bad I'm not a crow.

As the crow flies, I live maybe five miles from Snowbird. Too bad I'm not a crow.

It was almost 10a.m. I had to pick up Spence at 12:30, so I gave myself till 11:30 to get as close to the summit as I could before starting my scramble down. I started near the base of Hellgate cliffs and scrambled up through steep but relatively easy class 5 rock climbing, enjoying the gritty feel of the cool granite and the thrill of a few hundred feet of exposure in many spots.

About halfway up I heard rock fall and the sound of hooves on stone. I’d had a showdown with a large billy (mountain goat) ten years earlier in nearly the same spot. I knew there was a small herd of the white goats nearby, but they were just out of view in one of the steep bony canyons just below me. [I would spot three goats on my way down.]

I plodded onward and upward, drinking in the sights of High Rustler (one of the steepest in-bounds runs in America), and the Pfiefferhorn and the chutes into Peruvian basin that Spence and I had skied in almost total whiteout conditions last winter. I thought about my bachelor party, a day of backcountry skiing with close friends and two brothers on this same mountain almost 20 years ago now.

I thought about my friend, Dug Anderson, who I had to beg to join me for some backcountry hiking years ago, who is now a bona fide master backcountry skier. He probably logged more runs on this very mountain just last winter than I did in all my years of post-holing combined. Props to you Dug.

My turnaround time of 11:30 found me on the shoulder just below the final push to the summit. I sucked on handfulls of snow to stay hydrated. The view into Big Cottonwood Canyon and all the bowls that open up from the ridge that divides the two canyons was, in a word, breathtaking.

I literally sat there on the ridge and hyperventilated at the sight in front of me.

And I decided that in spite of all the major life decisions I am facing right now, and in spite of all the fear and indecision I feel over the prospect of uprooting my family to keep my job, there is at least one thing I absolutely know for sure: there is almost no place I feel more rooted, more happy, more clear than I do in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Whatever else happens, I also know that every weekend my family and I will be at Snowbird drinking all this in for at least one more winter.

Blogroll

Smell is the Strongest Sense

September 26th, 2009
Comments Off

There are some smells that are so interwoven with memories of place and people that even just a whiff can bring back vivid recollections of moments. The sweet, fermented smell of summer rain on sagebrush in August, the distinct fragrance of a cottonwood tree, the aroma of my mom’s chocolate chip cookies wafting through the house on Sunday night–all scents that are peppered with the joy and freedom from my youth, growing up half wild in Southern Utah.

Drove by my old high school last weekend and had a strange flood of memories, including some olfactory ones. I could remember exactly what it smelled like in there, particularly during Friday night dances, which were held in the lunch room, oddly enough.

Forgive me if I share a poem I wrote about those days.

 

dance

Forty years of small-town Fridays

Clog the pent-up pores of brick and lacquered dance floor

With yellow light and teenage sweat

 

Bad music, humorless chaperones and three other guys

With the same terry cloth shirt

Couldn’t ruin this night

 

“Wanna dance?”

Sure

 

I can almost see around that corner

Where mirror ball magic and drugstore cologne spill into the hall

And beckon me back

 

But I’m in the dark at my locker

Cooling off and wondering about places

That look and smell better than this

 

All my friends are in there

And I’ll join them soon enough

But let me listen from here for now

 

wake up

 

I used to dream about the future

Beyond that dim-lit hall

All those beautiful people living monogrammed marmalade lives

Somewhere far from this red dirt town

 

Just never thought I’d miss the small-town sanctuary

Of knowing everyone

And being known

And dancing

 

Now sometimes I dream of yellow light and teenage sweat

Blogroll

Tuna

September 20th, 2009

Fifteen years ago, in the same week that my middle son, Johah, was born, a good friend of mine drove to Colorado with a combined wad of our hard-earned cash and bought us both complete whitewater kayaking setups. We loved running rivers and we had both guided professionally, but we knew precious little about how to kayak.

That friend was Ryan Ollivier, AKA, Tuna. How he got that nickname is another story entirely.

After a run on the Payette River in Idaho

After a run on the Payette River in Idaho, circa August 1998.

We got all of one easy run in that fall before the cold weather came. But we spent all winter in a pool at the University of Utah, learning and practicing our eskimo rolls till we both had them down cold and locked into muscle memory.

Even now, you could tip me over in a kayak and my body will automatically go through my set-up routine: tuck up against the deck, find the surface with my paddle, sweep it in a big arc across the surface while pulling myself upright with a quick snap of the hips. Just like riding a bike. In a swimming pool anyway.

Minutes after a successful run through Skull rapid on the Colorado River

Minutes after a successful run through Skull rapid on the Colorado River. Photo: Ryan Ollivier

 Once we had our own eskimo rolls down, lots of friends and brothers and cousins were recruited into the fold and what followed was a lot of great kayaking trips on rivers all over the West.

Tuna could make a 13-foot boat dance in a way the short-boaters of today never will. Provo River at high water, 1994

Tuna could make a 13-foot boat dance in a way the short-boaters of today never will. Provo River at high water, 1994

Tuna spent one summer guiding on the Salmon River in Idaho, then he followed that up by guiding on the two most challenging sections of the Colorado River this side of the Grand Canyon–Westwater and Cataract.

He’s a professional businessman now and has ditched the nickname, but he still considers this his favorite office.

Ryan Ollivier at the Westwater put-in, August 2009.

Ryan Ollivier at the Westwater put-in, August 2009.

 

The crux of Sock it to Me, August 2009. photo: Ryan Ollivier

The crux of Sock it to Me, August 2009. photo: Ryan Ollivier

It just seems appropriate to mark this 15th anniversary of learning to kayak with a simple thanks to a friend who has gotten me out to see and experience a lot of things I might never have done on my own.

Thanks Tuna. Sorry we missed the Westwater trip this year.

Blogroll