“the shock of the real”

En route to Observation Point, Zion National Park, 09.2011.
En route to Observation Point, Zion National Park, 09.2011.

“A weird, lovely, fantastic object out of nature like Delicate Arch [Arches National Park] has the curious ability to remind us–like rock and sunlight and wind and wilderness–that out there is a different world, older and greater and deeper by far than ours, a world which surrounds and sustains the little world of men as sea and sky surround and sustain a ship. The shock of the real. For a little while we are again able to see, as the child sees, a world of marvels. For a few moments we discover that nothing can be taken for granted, for if this ring of stone is marvelous then all which shaped it is marvelous, and our journey here on earth, able to see and touch and hear in the midst of tangible and mysterious things-in-themselves, is the most strange and daring of all adventures.”

Edward Abbey, “Cliffrose and Bayonets,” in Desert Solitaire; A Season in the Wilderness (1968)



finding solitude among the grizzlies

finding solitude among the grizzlies

“We spend our days trying to be big. In the middle of nowhere, though, we can surrender to smallness again and instead find where we fit in the landscape. Out there, where there’s nothing, is where there’s the most to learn.”

-Christopher Solomon, “A Case for Getting Far, Far Away,” The New York Times, May 16, 2013

con las estrellas encima, pensamientos de la aventura y del desconocido

Caminante, son tus huellas
el camino, y nada más;
caminante, no hay camino,
se hace camino al andar.
Al andar se hace camino,
y al volver la vista atrás
se ve la senda que nunca
se ha de volver a pisar.
Caminante, no hay camino,
sino estelas en la mar.


Wanderer, your footsteps are
the road, and nothing more;
wanderer, there is no road,
the road is made by walking.
By walking one makes the road,
and upon glancing back
one sees the path
that must never be trod again.
Wanderer, there is no road—
Only wakes upon the sea.

-Antonio Machado, Campos de Castilla (1912)

part 1: “i believe in the future / i may live in my car,” an ode to the North American summer

**A quick apology to those of you who may have received an erroneous notification from WordPress yesterday about a new Going Glacial post. Technology briefly got the best of me.

With the turning of leaves from vivid green to fiery shades of red, yellow, and orange, and the first dustings of white gracing our highest peaks in the West, I am suddenly made aware of the imminent change in seasons (and thus, of the pressing need to at last emerge from blogging hibernation). The summer of 2012 in the Salt Lake Valley proved to be a scorcher, with record-high temperatures and raging wildfires prompting steady use of air-conditioning, ample ice cream consumption, escapes on-foot and on-bike into the high-alpine enclaves of the Wasatch, and, quite often, more dramatic excursions to mountains, lakes, sea, and even to overseas snow for those changes in scenery so integral to satisfying the daily leaps and bounds of my imagination. The mountains climbed, food (as well as snow and dirt) tasted, conversation and company experienced, and languages spoken during these toasty few months have all done their part to contribute to a fulfilling and high-adrenaline, if not eclectic, summer, and to a compel a new period of hibernation for early autumn writing, picture-making, and editing…perhaps even before those fiery leaves fall to the ground and our beloved mountains welcome the graceful falling of snowflakes and make way for the delightful cold of winter.

-AK, Alta, Utah, 09.2012


Red rock reconnaissance on the flanks of Pikes Peak after a day of bouldering and climbing in the Pike National Forest. Near Manitou Springs, Colorado, 04.2012.
May in Half Moon Bay. Seeking opportunities for exfoliation and exploration on the Northern California coast, 05.2012.
Record “low” snowfall during the 2011-2012 ski season (a meager 400 inches), alongside rapid melting from ample spring sunshine, made way for an early show of Little Cottonwood Canyon’s riotous wildflowers in mid-July. Snowbird, 07.2012.
On an innocent Thursday night in early July, I sat with a good friend in a popular Mediterranean restaurant in Salt Lake City, devouring hummus with piping hot pita, sipping potent Armenian beer, and, inevitably, travel-plotting. Early the next morning, we hit the road, mountain bikes, comparatively uninteresting Utah beer, and a puny, single-wall tent in tow, en route to Jackson, Wyoming, and Grand Teton National Park. While we initially fancied ourselves clever for dodging a grim Salt Lake City forecast, we soon found ourselves in the midst of classic, but nonetheless epic, Teton summer thunderstorms, strong enough to frighten even the bison that linger near the shores of Jackson Lake. The clouds parted for a few photogenic moments as we hit the trail with plans to complete an epic loop linking Paintbrush and Cascade Canyons. While menacing clouds ultimately turned us around near the lush shores of Holly Lake, decorated with rampant wildflowers, our quick bolt back to Jackson and a subsequent feast on bison sausage-adorned, hand spun pizza and full-strength Wyoming beer were satiating enough. Grand Teton National Park, 07.2012.
Pink petals and a burbling mountain brook lined the rigorous switchbacks up Paintbrush Canyon, providing a natural distraction from the ominous thunderheads. 07.2012.
Back in Utah, I welcomed my family for on-trail delights in the Wasatch, July 4th revelry, and a sunset trip to Jordanelle Reservoir for an evening of waterskiing with convivial conversation, retro wetsuits, and, par for the course, evening thunderstorms. Once the thunderheads had passed, I plunged into the water, skis, wetsuit, and all, ready to reinitiate a long-held tradition of summer slalom waterskiing. I lasted all of five impressive seconds before some serious muscle spasm in my hip took me down in the middle of Jordanelle, cause unknown (although weeks of mountain biking without sufficient stretching followed by a random waterskiing session seem plausible culprits). While I certainly took pleasure in watching my family glide over glassy waters as the clouds moved east and as the sun hung low over the verdant hills, I focused my reserves of energy on looking forward to a certain Johnnie Walker Red to help ease my age-inappropriate hip pain. Jordanelle Reservoir near Park City, Utah, 07.2012.
Slalom shenanigans.
You can’t claim true familiarity with the state of Utah without knowledge of Pioneer Day, an ode to the state’s Mormon heritage, an institution in the state’s cultural mythology, and a “follow-up” holiday of sorts that actually seems to eclipse our celebration of nation on July 4th. Rather than hang around a town for what local ski bums have affectionately (or perhaps offensively) dubbed “Pie and Beer Day,” a friend and I took to the road on the Friday preceding the long weekend, mountain bikes perched on the back of the car and trunk stuffed with sleeping bags, tents, helmets, and an oversized cooler bursting with exuberant quantities of hummus, avocados, salami, cheddar cheese, and Clif products of various shapes and sizes. 700 miles, several shrimp burritos, and a few too many car games later, we found ourselves in the outdoor enclave of Bend, Oregon, at the unholy hour of 3:00 a.m. After catching a few hours of much-needed shut eye in an RV parked haphazardly in a friend’s driveway there, we initiated an action-packed weekend of mountain biking, beer drinking, dirtbag camping, and spectating a rowdy criterion (a genre of road bike race). Rather than opt for a day of rest after a character-building mountain bike ride of 27 miles among the lava fields and lush vegetation that line the banks of the McKenzie River, we convinced ourselves to drive further west–both to glimpse the famous Oregon coast in the town of Newport and to feast on fish and fresh brew at the Rogue Brewery, an ode to Oregon beer heritage and the purveyor of a certain Hazelnut Nectar Brown Ale. Suffice it to say that the nectar flowing at Rogue provided ample distraction from our hefty task set for the Pioneer Day holiday–making the ~900-mile trek back to Salt Lake City in time to go to work, to seek out pie leftovers from local “pioneers,” and to place our treasured trove of fresh Oregon brew on ice. “Good to Sea,” Newport, Oregon, 07.2012.
Backyard bluebird. Despite my persistent state-hopping and travel-plotting, I reserved plenty of summer afternoons for two-wheel playtime among the craggy limestone peaks, riotous wildflowers, and high-alpine lakes of my own Little Cottonwood backyard. Alta, Utah, 07.2012.
On a whirlwind research trip to Washington, D.C., at the end of July, I explored the concrete, albeit humbling, environs of the National Mall, indeed protected and preserved by the National Park Service. I escaped the windowless confines of my research room at the Library of Congress for an early-morning stroll with all-too-potent coffee and a strange amalgam of American history tidbits and the lyrics to “Wagon Wheel” swirling in my tired head. Washington, D.C., 07.2012.
Wildflower welcome. Despite my persistent travel-plotting and state-hopping, I made haste back to Alta to catch a glimpse of Little Cottonwood’s yearly explosion of riotous wildflowers. Albion Basin in the majestic presence of Mount Superior, Alta, Utah, 07.2012.
Back in the Salt Lake City vicinity after a wild odyssey through the mountains and desert of Chile (which surely merits its own distinct post on the wonders of summer turned to South American winter), I explored some singletrack only minutes away from and a few hundred feet above the swelter and bustle of the Valley. On the Bonneville Shoreline Trail en route to the famous, adrenaline-inducing Bobsled descent, Salt Lake City, 09.2012.
A visit to the dwindling waters of Red Pine Lake, perched high among the steep walls of Little Cottonwood Canyon and patiently awaiting rehydration by imminent snowfall. 09.2012.
View from on high, from the summit of the Pfeifferhorn at 11,326 feet. Little Cottonwood Canyon, 09.2012.

Until the next…go on, get out there!


when outside: “the winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves…”

As a preface to a forthcoming blog post (finally, some words! it has been awhile, indeed), I wanted to share two photos, one new, the other old, from outdoor adventures in two of my favorite locations. I had the opportunity to attend a presentation last night by Mike Libecki (mikelibecki.com). I’ll take a quick crack at describing this guy, and it most likely won’t be particularly eloquent: crazy, epic, amazing adventurer who goes on solo expeditions to “virgin earth” in hot pursuit of untouched rock climbing routes in the Earth’s remotest places. Let’s face it: anyone whose lingo features most prominently such phrases as “oh, the sweetness of life,” “the time is now,” and “don’t ration your passion” is simply awesome, and should serve as model for the “rest of us,” for those of us that struggle to adopt Eckhart’s “live in the present” tactic at all turns. I’m saying too much, when in fact I should be allowing the photographs to speak for themselves, but just a few more words…apparently I’m not so keen on rationing my passion on this pristine, bluebird morning in Utah’s Wasatch. At the conclusion of Libecki’s presentation on mind-blowing adventures in eastern Greenland and in Afghanistan, he started calling out numbers for a small raffle featuring gear/trail snacks donated by some of his big-name sponsors. It’s human nature to get stoked about winning “free” stuff, but I honestly didn’t need any of the gear that he was giving away, even for $5.00/ticket. Serendipity struck. When Libecki called out my ticket number for the “grand finale” item, I accepted into my possession a beautiful ice ax-like dagger that he picked up on his latest adventure in Afghanistan. Needless to say, I was delighted to receive a genuine memento from Libecki’s adventures and from his interaction with local cultures and populations, a sense of connection to his passion, to his adventure, and to his broader story. On my walk home under pristinely starry skies and through a welcoming cluster of snow-covered spruce trees, I started thinking about the passion that fuels our adventure in the first place, the in-the-moment experiences that keep the flame alive, the thoughts and emotions that we take with us at the conclusion of adventure, and the itch to venture forth, yet again, that develops soon thereafter. For me, the constant in this wild and wonderful constellation is an urgent sense of connectedness to and appreciation for the natural world. The knowledge that mountains, rivers, valleys, fjords, glaciers, and even beaches (yes, I like to unwind with some mindless lounging…occasionally) await my light and respectful footprints whets my appetite for more…every single day.

I’ve already said too much, and now it’s time to feel some winter sun on my weathered cheeks.

Flowery, Muir-like language aside: the world is simply an amazing, amazing place.

On the beach in Puerto Rico; exact location undisclosed.
A stealthy look at superior beauty through towering spruce trees.