Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Searching for Some Cairn or Chasm to Explain

From yesterday's hike, a four-miler up Norumbega Mountain in Acadia National Park. It's been years since I hiked in New England, most of the trails are old and were built before switchbacks became standard practice to avoid erosion. Steep ascents and descents. A mile of trail here equals three on Appalachian Trail in  Maryland, two on AT in Shenandoah, a mile and a half up and down the trails of the spine off the AT in Shenandoah. Uphill I'm good, I dig the uphill. Downhill takes sticks and strap-on knee-braces and post-hike naproxen.

Heights are 800-1200 feet depending (park and start at sea level), so it's not altitude that creates the tree line and the exposed tops of mountains that require cairns to mark trails. I imagine that wind and winter prevent all but scrub brushes and pines from growing on the peaks, but one hikes over bare granite along the crests - there are no trees to blaze, hence cairns to mark trail and indicate direction (the ends of each top rock on the cairn indicates the trail's direction).

At bottom of yesterday's descent we walked along a creek in a dense dark spruce forest. The black granite rocks are egg-shaped from millions of years of water carving, and the creek flowed over a solid granite bed which, where sun worked its way through the spruce, orange lichen (?) moss (?) grows. The photo below is undoctored - no setting beyond automatic on the camera.

  • Reminder: Lesser-evilism condemns Palestinians to continuing apartheid and genocide
  • Reminder: Hillary Clinton is Trump's strongest asset. There is no advantage she can't fuck up.
  • The uncertain future and the American election.
  • I have not seen a single political sign in Maine. We took US1A from Bangor to Ellsworth then Maine 3 to Trenton to Mount Desert Island and have driven all over Mount Desert Island and not seen anything overtly political but the photos of Ronald Reagan in the lobster pound we ate the first night. Half or more of the cars on the roads have out-of-state plates, but I don't recall seeing bumperstickers of any political tribe on the locals cars. I doubt it's a strategy - don't locally politicize at peak of tourist season - but I'm ever-so-very-micro curious whether signage gets posted here come October.
  • I've seen one Confederate Flag.
  • Sue Aside.
  • Despedida.

  • That one? I was fucking around with the settings.
  • Loons sing all day and night and especially evenings here. Hummingbirds ring the nectar feeders. I've seen birds in colors I've never seen on birds, the bird life here is incredible. I've never been a birder - I now understand why some people are birders.
  • Ambition and the novel.
  • Writing is a foreign language.
  • We're whalers on the moon.
  • Candid photos of Siouxsie from late '70s! (h/t Mr Alarum).
  • I'm trying to talk Earthgirl into the Moosehead Pinnacle Challenge next week. One buys a week pass into Acadia, so one way or other we're gonna Acadia until this Sunday, but the week after we can either buy another pass or explore elsewhere, and I vote elsewhere (though Death to the Either/Or, yo).
  • Tindersticks came up on the shuffle, lordy, I love Tindersticks.


Campbell McGrath

The last two sherpas were the strongest,
faithful companions, their faces wind-peeled,
streaked with soot and glacier-light on the snowfield
below the summit where we stopped to rest.

The first was my body, snug in its cap of lynx-
fur, smelling of yak butter and fine mineral dirt,
agile, impetuous, broad-shouldered,
alive to the frozen bite of oxygen in the larynx.

The second was my intellect, dour and thirsty,
furrowing its fox-like brow, my calculating brain
searching for some cairn or chasm to explain
my decision to send them back without me.

Looking down from the next, ax-cleft serac
I saw them turn and dwindle and felt unafraid.
Blind as a diamond, sun-pure and rarefied,
whatever I was then, there was no turning back.


  1. Terrific descriptions. In prose. For the rest of us.

    And yes. My knees are still recovering from the hike down Kalaupapa in May. Blue Ridge merely exacerbated them again. I feel you, 'bro.

  2. The most recent of whom I was writing (thanks) absolutely loved Tindersticks.

  3. Acadia is the best NE has to offer. Amazingly beautiful place.