Columbia Falls to Banff
What I naturally feel I should do is suffer, while what I want to do is enjoy myself. I am compelled to suffer regardless of the scenario. Yet I need to smile, and eventually, one day, the story I tell myself will change. The story has always been a convenience, a crutch, an ailment of sorts that justifies me in my harsh treatment of myself. I am aware this is an all too well feeling in most people, however, I feel my torment stems from something deeper. Couple that with my penchant for pushing endurance, the feeling is incessantly unending. Albeit similar to Sisyphus pushing the rock forever up hill in agonizing purgatory, I count each tumble down as a goal achieved. This gutted feeling is my drive.
The narrative has always been there. This feeling of doing the abandoning, guilt driven by my selfish goals and soft heart. I do not wish to change the past. I simply think about how the story has not changed. When I am on an adventure I feel the freedom is not deserved, let alone earned. I think that is part of the reason I keep going, to disprove the notion I cannot live the life I so desperately crave. This fucks with me, turns a screw all up inside of me, gouging and gouging the steel tip to poison any inside flesh and taint the spirit.
Really, it all is family related. From a skid row bummy father who left us before I was two, to abusive familial circumstances only enhanced by a victimized and traumatized mother, to having these vagabond thoughts in a weak family structure. I think I have cared too much, feeling so bad for others that I made myself feel guilty to leave. Honestly, no one instilled this in me. Although I understand the inadvertent and experiential affliction, I firmly believe I control my mental fortitude.
The story has continued on in this adventure. For weeks in the beginning I couldn’t shake the depression. I thought it would go away like all the other times. I sank deeper and deeper into a depression while clinging on to the hopes and cleanliness of nature. My connection to others struggled, my intimacy hinged to a snap-shut while closing myself off to others, forbidding myself from feeling love. Paralleling this phase, my granny feel ill from a car accident. Her body broke down, then, eventually, her mind collapsed. Every time I walked into a town I had to pluck my strings of courage to disembark from my sunken swale to face the reality if my granny had died. I had striven for composure within a battered and dispirited heart that warped my bones and sapped my marrow. I walked into towns empty to try and fill myself up.
Finally, thankfully, she died. That is truth. That is relief. Relief from enduring pain, giving the pain a final rest; that of which I’m predetermined to suffer through a self-inflicted story. Through her release I felt a banishment lifted, or at least an exhaustion of an exasperated story built and built over again. A stale truth had been lifted; the death of my granny provided an exit.
Truth(s), that which we tell ourselves, the sliver within the narrative that has basis for sensible reasoning; this matters regardless of the influence of a weird foible or an impressionable influence. There’s more, nonetheless. This is truth: I cannot live in a mundane environment constantly, burrowed in a normal life, a monotone drone of insufferable complacency and staleness—this I cannot ever forget. The falseness of truth lies in my insecurities. This is truth: I am not banished to hike in a loneliness drummed up from a story I have told myself. Truth is I am a vagabond, and I am doing what I am most compelled, most love, to do.
In the high lonesome, through Glacier National Park, in my own head stirring shit up, I just felt achingly lonely. Not the norm for me, but the longing for connection hung on me overwhelmingly. I thought of my granny, my mom whom two days prior experienced another death with her cat. I thought of my blockage, that which prevents me from being a good family member. This guilt is not only scarring from childhood, the reverberation of trauma, but brought on by my wont to wander. This is confusing, as I cannot find the words to elaborate any semblance of meaning. The truth is that I am sick and tired of the story I have been telling myself. Regardless of the past, or what I have created to protect myself—I am done with it.
At the Waterton River camp, I stopped. I stopped the self-indulgence. At the camp I fell into a crossroads with the others, with all the different paths and journeys, a blending of wavelengths. And we sat there: 1 CDT hiker, 3 PNT hikers, and 3 GDT hikers. All of us triangulated at a pivotal beginning of a journey. I recalled the first time I walked to this place, some 7 years ago. The feelings, the wishes and dreams, a happiness strummed through achieved action and a proliferated life, and the community I now felt a part of. All of this felt deeper than what I had experienced in a traditional family, yet that support was all I ever needed. I found my exit, and the exit existed as a bonafide traveler, a professional vagabond, my portal away from all the monotony and untruths.
Burn areas have always inspired me. By the stark and rawness of an exposed landscape, the fragility of a landscape barren, the wrinkles of time—acceptance, an embrace of the death and newness, of a petrified essence frozen in time forever; of a looseness where nothing is kept and all is taken for a brief moment until the till of erosion demarcates randomness. Then, the wildflowers sprout up lacing the trail overgrown amongst wood pillars scared stiff. The peaks of Blakiston Creek appeared ashen, glazed by a sorrow from thousands of feet up high, like something needed wet. I am in it, I thought. Quit the harping, I pleaded to myself. Stop over expressing the inability to be inexpressible, I jived on in a riddle. The Divide loomed over the burnt valley with dark skies above. I thought: push. The effort paid off and the wetness of an ashen heart prevailed, my glance fulfilled by a buffeted camp on a broad nose along an alpine bench. To the northwest the alpenglow shimmered in the curtains of drizzling rain, a chandelier of pink and purple light highlighting an endless chain of pointy peaks.
Gazing at the drooping sunset I felt as diffracted as alpenglow, dispersed like a diminished family. At least that’s how I was seeing the scene. A diminution of family compounded in me and I felt loss. I thought about pain, the loss of control within a small family, the continuity gone, the sensitive tenderness of relative isolation not only within a community and family, but personal length to pull away through wandering and intent of remoteness—I felt as diffracted as alpenglow over distant and rainy skies, porous and weak.
Then in Coleman it stopped. I found Shroomer and Coyote amongst other hikers at a B&B. I found the camaraderie of people who live on the fringe while rejecting the normalcy, a contrariness to a fissure within or from a small family, a fusion of coyotes. I found my community. One that I have neglected and refused to be a part of over recent years. Shit, I chose the lonesome path consciously. And now I welled up with spirit in yapping with Shroomer. Regardless of what I said, I knew he understood. Regardless of what I rejected, I understood him. Instead of bota bags we have backpacks, rather than motorcycles or hitchhiking across the country we utilize our feet, we scoff at politics and flow with the rhyme of nature; we are gluttonous, sensualists in a purest essence, and we strive for nonconformity—-We are the new Beats.
This is my community. My niche of a family. Acceptance. Right then and there I stopped fretting, I banished the inability of trying to comprehend what I couldn’t feel, or to understand something emotionally enigmatic inside of me. Plain as day, I needed to be present; I just wanted to walk.
I found Pepperflake at a BBQ restaurant in Coleman. I knew him from the Pa’lante boys. I also knew he would be out here. We chatted a bit and left town separately. However, all of us thru’s met a clandestine camp in the forest along a forested road 20m from town. We had a slumber party that night. We made the woods loud with our clatter of laughter. Pep and I left early the next morning, and after a couple hours we strolled into the high country, a new world of solid rock alpine. Tornado Pass wowed us as Pep and I spoke about routes from various places as well as homemade gear.
Awaken in dampness, the air hung heavy on the head. Sweat poured like a torrent, a cascade of salty water, as we hiked through overgrown yet discernible paths. The High Rock bragged for miles on our high left. Walls shot straight up and bridged the long rock expanse between beehive domes of coarse limestone. The scenery entertained us during a tough day. Really, I needed company. I was thankful for Pep quite soon enough. 14 years younger, patient, quiet, a pensive air of confidence with an amorous gaze at the high and technical aspect of the alpine. He reminded me of a mountain goat. He also reminded me of being 28. That time in my life, that specific age where I finally started to really put myself first and started to try to achieve my dreams into a reality. I was thankful of his company because I was envious. Because I hadn’t left earlier way back when.
The language I even use shows scarring, even when feeling admiration for another human being. Really I mean really living my own life the way I want. At 28 I became utterly exhausted of being responsible for how others felt around me. The number pulls a numbness out of a recall, a strung out playback of frustration, a boozy clarity of sacrifice drowned in pity, guilt, and this weird sense of need that people depended on from me—-the story I told myself, the script I pulled from in a corner seat at a dingy red-dimmed bar.
But now I can see the conservativeness of experience over the years. I can see the age shelved for future use. Not like myself, I felt I had been taking an unusual and awkward approach. I still pushed myself extensively, however, I felt a downshift in in-the-moment decisions, like my fuck-it impulse was gone. But, I felt empty, the trigger pulled with no ammo, gun shy and stupidly wise. I lacked confidence which I knew stemmed from all the emotional build up I could not comprehend. I felt dumb. I thought with the gumption of nostalgia, a wondering iffiness of what would happen if I took a giant leap across a river. Nonetheless, I felt inspired. Nevertheless, I prohibited thinking.
Pep brought out the weed. I smoked, puffed, and let the mind quell the unending cog machine. I walked hard all day, but finally slept. I relished in the wiseness of youth, or the youthful nonchalant and carefree attitude. I dug it. I forgot things. I looked up more. Smiled more for no reason. I thought of nothing for the first time ever. I didn’t care if I was wet, sore, tired, hungry, or whatever.
The days went splendidly slow, the long hours of the north, the enhanced day of light only oozed along over a dimmed arc in the atmosphere above. I lost track of time because of the dimness. Midmorning still felt like early morning, while midevening felt like early afternoon. I drowned myself in a dreamscape. The insouciant weed pursued utter indifference. Not a care in the world, I fucking surprised myself. I drugged on without even thinking about it.
Clouds strung like curtains over rocky spires, draped over aretes like gloved knuckles, clung over pinnacled limestone walls like an invisible mass pressing down on a trembling earth, a gravity of mist, a spackling of stucco over drywall, the mouthy ridgecrest sprung tightly open like a beartrap with the teeth absorbing all the alpenglow, a panorama of light on ma nature’s organic movie screen of savage teeth, a film noir of romance. Ominous, the light display was beautifully ominous. The brush shook the water droplets off in the wind like a wet dog. We absorbed the water, our surface tension layered in our rain gear, a worn tarp flapped with the force of condensation. I felt like a cat, uncomfortable with the force of wetness. My body a surfactant, a detergent that which cleanses yet I do not want to be cleansed. But I observe Pep. That age of 28. He has guts when I didn’t while I am not sure where my have gone; he absorbs the water rather than repels it. He is the boat that won’t sink. I am the submarine that is coming to the surface again after drifting in the depths again.
How conservative and cautious I’ve gotten over the years, really, in relation to the young Pep. How really what someone may call wise is somewhat a fear based off experiences fallen from time worn. Frankly, shit hurts more as you get older. Choices, decisions, so freely dredged from a deep and intuitively curious place, a wont to roam, to starve, to thirst, to quiver, to fall... Getting wise is a form of protection, a life of less withering in the sun, a desk job, a futile existence...fuck that, let’s rove and be wild; no cage of sensibility can hold me in. I want to live free of that fear no matter what oldness I keep. So, here’s to never being wise, ever.
Let’s get this straight, I do not see a lot of myself in him, however, I am envious of his path, his unwavering confidence, and an uncogged mind. I am seeing that being wise may be a subterfuge for being unconfident. And I see that in Pep. Strident in strut, brash in decisions yet patient when shit gets hairy; his self-awareness and inward self unapologetic to anyone, his standards held high to his oneness.
Part of the story we tell ourselves is pushed along from behind, informed by old fears still scarring a heart. Part of the story is protection, a self preservation from further scarring. Part of the story is nostalgia, a time stamp on what was felt, a road map with an artery branched with nodes of connections. But now... Looking in the past is like farting. When I fart and I look behind, I just don’t want to see shit. Justified by a lingering smell rather than attached to an accident that smears my understanding of things vented, of something that has passed, an ephemeral event; I want to understand the past, and when I look back I merely want to smell a fart rather than to see shit.
Finally striding into the ski hamlet tied to Banff, Sunshine Village, we drank pitchers of strong beer. What I am good it is not stopping, pushing. This which I am explaining has been unwisely unfamiliar to me made more sense with an arrogance of an unnecessary pitcher of beer dangerously nostalgic in feeling earned. To share something with someone, a pint, one pitcher, a grand meal...yea, that mattered more than my personal over indulgence on self-flattery. Even at this age of 42, rather than 28, I am still heavily and deeply insecure. As I drowned a pint I felt the need to still free my dirt. We stumbled to a tunnel connecting the ski lodge to the gondola that dripped from cracks in the large culvert to the cold concrete from the dreary rain outside. We succumbed to the dark and the booze, the covers we needed to sly away unnoticed and secretly sleep in the tunnel. I laid down dreaming of being a kid again. Of being 28 again. And of waking up the next day and ruffling my beard to a mess, wiping the cold out of my eye, feeling the mischievous pride of leaving the tunnel furtively sneaking off down hill, and resting in a place where my older body would relish a rest.