Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Nine Peaks of the Desert Divide

Photos by Daniel Gray
Text by Matt Gray

Fog down in the valley turns the landmass to sea.  Calm, wispy, gray.  First light ends the eerie pre-dawn hour, awakens my mind, and hides the shadows and ghosts that taunted me up the trail. Steinbeck called this "the Hour of the Pearl."  He had a knack for being exactly right about such common, everyday beauty that most of us race through life and miss.

We started up South Ridge Trail from Idyllwild before 5 am.  Our destination, Highway 74, lay 35 miles ahead of us, with mellow rock scrambling and cross-country travel to nine peaks in between. This would be both mine and Daniel's longest one-day push on a trail. And with the two-lane road as our final stopping point, we knew from the beginning that the journey had to be the destination.

Though we didn't run a single step, this hike taught our legs how to keep moving for 14 hours, strengthened the resolve in our feet to hold us up for the duration, and revealed our minds ability to overcome "the wall," a notorious mental hurtle that drops even Iron Man and Triathlon athletes to their knees. With the Beyond Limits 50-mile Ultra less than ten days away, I hope all the lessons I learned out there on that Desert Divide adventure remain sharp in the forefront of my run.

In keeping with Daniel's theme of meditation from his Tuesday post, here are some reflections and photos from that day, when by 10 am we were traveling together as a blackhole, drawing even rattlesnakes into our movement. We were on the loose, and loving every moment . . .

 We saw these mountains every morning of our youth, but today they open up with a new hospitality.  Give the hills your respect, and they will give you freedom.

 Monks of many faiths observe church bells, meditation bells, and prayer bells . . . bells that call us back to the present moment, reminding us to be mindful of where we are and what we're doing.  Wilderness provides many such bells; a man-made cairn offers a similar meditation.

 And so do rattlesnakes.  Here on Antsell Peak, a snake I never saw shook its tail at me for a long time, and another warned Daniel away.  There's no better way to be reminded about living than meeting such a creature while coming down a steep gulch through a tight field of boulders.

Where we came from looks farther and farther away.  Fortunately, where we're headed, still looks like quite a distance.

Some peaks are not as significant as others.  Palm Peak is just a little rocky knoll.
We should learn to love this humble kind the best.

Unopened at Mile 23.  Mmmmmmm . . . food!
Believe me, Marie, I'm tempted.

I am just a single cloud, floating through this world.  Some say its a lonely place, but me? 
I am filled with wonder, 
wandering through the marvel.

 The one on the right used to tease the one on the left.  But the one on the left still follows the one on the right, down rocky trails, over the hills, through the woods . . . onward we shall go.

"Ha, ha!"  Says the smiling Wilder Beast.  "Tis' glorious on God's greened earth. I think I'll stay for a while, despite how tired I've become."

The greatest bell of all? That mighty sun sneaking behind the western hills. 
The glow cast across the trees, into the valley, upon their path, lights the final steps. 
My muscles scream for the awaiting car; my heart earns for the freedom of the hills.  
Another adventure becomes a nostalgia; another day inspires us onward til tomorrow.

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