Tag Archives: Adventure

A Fish Story

18 Aug

 

A fox walking on the beach had drawn him out of the cabin into the gray, pre-dawn light. The fire had gone out during the night, but the cabin was warm compared with the chill of the morning. He grabbed at his coat and hugged himself to suppress a shiver in what he thought was silence.

Slowly he became aware of the faint sound of water falling off the mountain a mile across the bay. As his ears were straining to hear the cascade, a whale breached with a whoosh and a spray of water. Then the resident seal splashed at the end of the spit, a gull cried, and a salmon jumped, as salmon do, for reasons known only to salmon. This was not silence; it was a natural symphony played just for him.

The boy and the old man were still asleep in the cabin. The adrenaline from yesterday’s encounter with the bear had worn off leaving the man with a slightly hung-over feeling. He was not hooked on danger as some people said. He was simply a collector of life experiences and the more exciting the better.

The bear had popped out of the brush thirty feet from where they were fishing and challenged their right to extract fish from the stream. The ensuing war of wills, strong words, and a few thrown rocks had convinced the bear to find another fishing spot. The man was triumphant and the boy was exhilarated, but the old man did not like that kind of excitement.

Today was a new day. The stunning natural beauty of the place was worth the pain and suffering and potential bear attacks. Today he would teach the boy how to fill a freezer, how to cast and how to set a hook, how to keep a tight line, how to talk among men, how to casually handle discomfort, and how to make it all look easy. It was also a day for him to show the old man that real life is not lived in the living room. No one ever complains of cold, or rain, or sea sickness, or sore muscles, or wet socks when they are reeling in a monster. The rush of emotion when a big fish strikes is indescribable.

The man snapped to when he realized that the sun was coming up over the water. He said a soft goodbye to the seal and set off to continue the boy’s unfinished education in adventurous living. He wanted to make sure that his son was conscious of his choices. You rarely encounter bears or land a fish that weighs more than you do while sitting in an easy chair. Neither of them was ever going to get old.

Van Horn, Texas

23 Apr

Running virtually across the state of Texas is once again proving to be a challenge. With working, adventuring and recovering from the injuries sustained while adventuring, I am having a hard time getting in the miles and am pretty far behind schedule in both running and writing. A few weeks back I blew through Van Horn, population 1,907 and falling fast. I suspect that a fair percentage of the “locals” are in the federal witness protection program. This little community is 140 long miles from the state’s western border outside of El Paso.

The town is not named for U.S. Army Major Jefferson Van Horne who passed through the area in 1849 on his way to taking command of Fort Bliss. It is, instead, named for Lt. James Judson Van Horn who ten years later commanded an army garrison near some local springs that were strategic in this desert environment. Lt. Van Horn’s post was seized by Confederate forces in 1861 and he was taken prisoner. I guess that neither rank nor military success are requirements for having a town named after you in far west Texas.

The world might little note what goes on in Van Horn if not for two interesting developments. The first is that Jeff Bezos, of Amazon.com fame, bought 290,000 acres of land north of town as a launch site for his space tourism business, Blue Origin. The company is working to lower the cost of space flight so that we can all go. They actually have local job openings posted on their website. Pretty innovative stuff.

The second bunch of crazies working in Van Horn is a group of scientists from the Long Now Foundation. The foundation provides a counterpoint to today’s accelerating culture and helps make long-term thinking more common. They hope to creatively foster responsibility in the framework of the next ten millennia. The group is building a 10,000 year clock deep inside a mountain outside of Van Horn. This is an implicit statement of optimism about the fate of civilization. They are building the clock just so that you will ask why they are building the clock.

Admittedly, Van Horn doesn’t look like much on the surface, but there is some strange stuff going on out here where no one seems to be paying attention. Next stop on the journey is Balmorhea for some underwater meditation in the middle of the desert.

Sunset

11 Mar

The first star appeared well before sundown. A big, bright mama star with a toddler tight at her heels. Two stars and a washed out light blue sky that faded toward the horizon to almost white. Dragonflies darted about on the breeze. The ever present surf pounded the timeless reef with waves that had begun their journey in a far-off land. The man thought of his time in the Far East, far to the west where the waves had started their trip. It was nearing the socially acceptable time for end-of-day cocktails, but the heat created a preference for chilled white wine. “That is what she will want,” thought the man to himself. Moving from the lounge chair to open the bottle required more energy than he currently possessed. The heat had overstayed its welcome and intensified in defiance of its imminent eviction.

The man heard the first grackle before he saw it. A loud inelegant squawk. The bird landed in the palm trees that ringed the pool and lined the path to the beach. And then came another and started an argument with the first. The sun quickened its pace as it headed for a swim. The man heard the waves, the buzzing of the dragonflies, and the harsh cry of the grackles. Soon the sky was filled with the big, black birds and their shrilly protests. There seemed to be some giant quarrel among them as to the proper social order and their relative position in the trees. The uninvited happy hour guests created a cacophonous commotion. Nothing else could be heard. Even thoughts in the man’s head could not compete with the raucous cries of this unwelcome crowd. Time to get the wine.

He returned to the patio and the clamor with a chilled bottle wrapped in a towel. It was time to toast the end of day. The woman joined him just in time to see the sun extinguish itself in the ocean. “Did you see the green flash?” she asked. He thought briefly about lying to her once again, but chose to merely shake his head slowly from side to side as he sipped his chardonnay. The setting of the sun marked the beginning of the end of the grackle’s riot. They each appeared to recognize that they had been rude and intrusive and settled quietly into their perches among the palm trees. Quiet returned to the yard and the sound of the surf once more reached the man’s ears. He thought again of the waves and sipped his wine. More stars appeared as the evening breeze chased away the heat. He had a good life and a good woman next to him and he was content.

It was a good day.

Beaten Paths

20 Feb

Beaten paths are for beaten men.

My team is undefeated. These mountains are here to be conquered. We are in the backcountry of British Columbia accessing pristine slopes covered with a foot of fresh powder by helicopter. No lift lines, no boundary ropes, no signs of humanity. Unlimited vertical is our mantra. We are making new tracks with every run. Testing ourselves against the wide open spaces of our friendly northern neighbor. Total exhaustion never felt better.

We are making our own paths and remain unbeaten.

More to come.

El Paso

30 Jan

Injury, apathy and potentially misplaced priorities prevented me from completing my virtual run across the state of Texas last year. I made it from the far western border to somewhere east of San Antonio before bingeing over the holidays. This year I have vowed to complete the journey and, after a somewhat slow start, am picking up the pace. I’ll check in from time to time with updates from points of interest along the trail. Starting to the west of El Paso, the town is now behind me, but since there is nothing too interesting out here in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert, I am going to tell you about the city.

The home of Rose’s Cantina exists in most people’s minds as a place in a song with whirling Mexican maidens and jealous cowboys. Or it is often pointed out by informative pilots while cruising at 35,000 feet on your way to somewhere more important. But El Paso has character and history. Nicknamed “The Sun City,” it is the fourth sunniest city in the US and Franklin Peak at 7,192 feet above sea level can be seen for sixty miles in all directions. Largely ignoring history, culture, and geography, El Paso was officially ceded to Texas by the US Senate in the Compromise of 1850. The city is closer to Arizona’s capital of Phoenix than its own in Austin, almost 600 miles to the east.

I like having El Paso in Texas. It allows us to claim Stevie Nicks, who first joined Fleetwood Mac in the city in 1975. It is also where Billy Joe and Molly Sue “ran into a great big hassle” before they decided to “take the money and run.” This is exactly what this Billy Joe intends to do now. Next stop is Van Horn, Texas, population 2,435.

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