Footsteps echo down the hall and a belt buckle jingles as a drawer closes and cigarette smoke wafts from somewhere outside and in a memory maybe, a goblin walking, a haunt, something.
Thomas, say the prayer.
I said say the prayer.
But I don’t usua….
That’s right, I do, but since you’re so perfect, you get to say it tonight.
My cheeks burned like I’d been smacked just sitting there…but then that had happened, too, during a prayer that he was saying, just reached over and hit me full in the mouth as he offered the blessing to his god and the god of our family…and my mom sat there on that Sunday afternoon much like she was sitting here on this one, whatever day it was…just sat there with her head bowed and her eyes closed, folded hands near her forehead, waiting…listening to her man…witness to the results of her betrayal, one that she wrought on some morning or afternoon after we had sat here at the same table, those two or three evenings ago as the house was quiet in sleep and we alone were awake, sharing moments of conversation and…shared trust…. I looked at the side of her face for a couple of seconds while my little sister looked across the table at me and wondered how I was suddenly so perfect…wondered why such sarcasm was brought to the dinner table when there had been no hint of anyone’s wrongdoing before we had all gathered there, me in my seat and all of them in theirs where they belonged…where we all belonged in someone else’s imagination of family and unity and the way things are or ought to be…beneath the decorated sign on the wall that said as for me and my house we will serve the lord.
I stumbled across prayed words said by rote, empty requests and thanks for whatever and bless the hands which prepared it, in jesus’s name, amen…and the words were there and the prayer said and dinner commenced and mouths moved only to eat and I looked through the back window at the gray concrete wall that separated our yard from the alley and the cemetery beyond with desert behind that and more…a slag heap of desiccated wreaths and green plastic covered stands all in a jumble as the ceremonies had passed and the tears had been shed…loved ones gone and buried and I wondered in my seat…cracks in the gray wall and mourning doves cooing beneath the young palo-verde…yellow feather-petals dropping lightly in the warm breeze, landing on the top of the wall and tumbling, scurrying away, floating to the yard below and remaining stuck in the un-watered grass, brown against the waning sun, forks scraping on plates, and water forming and glistening on the sides of glasses in the too warm air, becoming heavy with breath and rolling downward in a single droplet avalanche to pool on the polished wooden tabletop.
Kind of tuned-out there for a while, keeping my eyes forward, watching his hands and hearing him swallow, feeling the tightness of the tiny dining room, a nook really, feeling the desk and cabinets behind me, lightly pushing against the carpet beneath and the dog rang the bell at the back door to go out into the yard and do her business. I rose from the table and took those steps to the door and went out with her, stood there against the porch post and looked up at the dry-rotting wood of the overhang. No voices came through the door and I caught glimpses of arms moving in the window…I saw eyes behind their glasses behind the window watching me watching the little dog walk down the brick pathway towards the back gate, sniffing at the grass beneath the bottom edge, wondering at what might have recently passed down the alleyway.
My footsteps were loud in the dry brown grass as I crossed the yard walking toward the back wall, toward the tree stump that was my perch when I stood and gazed out into the alley and cemetery beyond, my haven and place where I didn’t need them anymore, where my heartbeat slowed and I learned not to care, to remove myself…they didn’t talk back out there, didn’t have glaring condemning eyes stuck in their empty faces…they were taking care of other things, being away…with echoes of a conversation ringing, bouncing in my head…why doesn’t he pray about it, ask god to help him stop…that’s what you guys say we should do…ask for his help…he’s done it since he was a kid and you don’t understand what it’s like…but it doesn’t seem like that should matter…isn’t he supposed to be stronger than our cravings…isn’t he supposed to help us overcome whatever it is that we need his help in overcoming…of course he is…then why doesn’t he…?
Three levels of falls down Bells Canyon Stream…along a favored trail that goes up, up, up into the mountains. The first photograph was taken in the middle of June, 2012….
And the second shot, with a slightly different perspective, is from near the end of August, 2012…about nine weeks later….
I would guess that there is some historical significance to the name, but I haven’t been able to identify it yet…but Broads Fork itself is located about four miles into Big Cottonwood Canyon, which is just south and east of Salt Lake City, and is one of the three or four main canyons that lead into the Wasatch Mountain front that is the eastern border for the Salt Lake Valley. The trail is reported to be just over four and a half miles in length from the parking lot to the cirque, or bowl-shaped meadow at the end, and gains just over 2,000 feet in elevation.
I’m not sure of the exact length of this portion of the trail, but it starts out as something resembling a logging trail and then turns into a single track that winds through very thick brush that is often waist to shoulder high….
I haven’t been able to identify these flowers in any of the sources I have at hand, but they look like a variation of hops to me….
UPDATE: While I was out hiking yesterday, Sunday July 15, I met Knick Knickerbocker from the Wasatch Mountain Club and gave him one of my blog cards. He emailed me this morning after reading this post to tell me that these flowers are called Mountain Horsemint…and the taxonomic name is something like Agastache urticifolia…if anyone wanted to know that. Thank you again, Knick.
This was the first view of what the on-line literature calls the “lower meadow” in Broads Fork. After climbing through old-growth pine forest and then a thick stand of aspen and the brush that I mentioned above, the trail makes a sharp turn around a rise in the terrain and this panorama is suddenly in front of you…it is so unexpected…breath-taking, jaw-dropping, however you want to describe it.
This is the view looking to the left of the above meadow….
The trail proceeds through the meadow and immediately into a stand of aspen and pines, again with the thick brush on each side…slowly climbing higher and higher as it makes its way out of this lower meadow and on toward the upper meadow.
When I’m hiking, especially when I’m on a trail for the first time, I frequently stop and turn around to take a look at the trail coming from the opposite direction…it helps with orientation on the way back if I will be taking the same route. It’s amazing sometimes to see what’s behind you as you come out of the woods, arrive at the top of a ridge, or otherwise gain a dramatically different view of your surroundings than you had only moments before…. This is the view I encountered upon leaving the thick aspen that covers the side of the bowl where the lower meadow is situated. I stood on the rise in the trail as it makes its entry into the upper meadow and turned around….
Here’s an infrequent ”people picture” offered to demonstrate scale…. It’s rather difficult to feel significant or important out here…the notions of “Self” and “Me” seem to disolve somewhere between the first few steps on the trail…. This photo was taken near that rise in the trail mentioned above, but a little further down and facing into the second meadow, and with a nearly full view of the rest of the fork or gulch.
And this is a wider view that encompasses more of the area to the right of the location in the above photograph…I understand the peak in the middle to be Sunrise Peak, the one on the left to be Dromedary Peak, and the one in the upper right of the photo to be the western peak of the Twin Peaks set. The western summit has been measured at 11,330 ft and the eastern summit at 11,328 ft in elevation. These peaks are reported to be the tallest of the Wasatch Mountains that border Salt Lake City.
More to follow…in Broads Fork – Park II.
Photo by my daughter, KCM. Used with permission.
Yes, sometimes alone is good, for it can be and often is, when we are in that state of separation from others, that we have the liberty of thought and volition to see ourselves through our own eyes…and maybe find ourselves again. While input and feedback are good, as those others’ eyes can see things that we do not or cannot see in ourselves, self-reflection can be as healthy…and necessary.
In this alone-time, we can also find confidence to persevere in whatever circumstances, or to re-orient ourselves toward earlier and possibly more important goals, redirect ourselves, reprioritize…or even resign, let go after the stress of life and reflection, because we know or understand that further effort would be a waste or a surrendering, or even a sacrificing of ourselves for something or someone who is no longer worth the emotion and energy to do more, or to futilely attempt to do more. The quiet helps us regroup when a room is too loud, when our life is too loud, or even when it’s just too loud in our heads…our minds.
Sometimes alone is good, in that it allows us to empty our minds of the pressures or concerns that are so draining; we can remove those issues and simply be in a state of openness of mind that has nothing in it, maybe nothing other than an awareness of ourselves, or an awareness of nature and its awesome enormity that allows or urges us to see that our own concerns are nothing, or very minimal, in the grand scale of life and time that exists outside of ourselves, and out in the ever that is.
Solitude can also help us remember the precious or special things that exist in the people who people our lives; it helps us remember the things that drew us to them in the beginning and have sustained our desires to be with them since; it can give us a glimpse of absence and what comes after…. Sometimes, alone is good.
So I stopped along the trail on the way back, as my stomach was growling and it was 11:40. I had only had two cups of coffee and a granola bar so far for the day, so I was hungry. As I sat there along the trail, I started to hear voices off in the distance, nothing real clear, just occasional sounds coming through the trees, human voice sounds, higher pitched to carry through the thin air and bounce long and forever off rocks and clefts and out into the never. I looked around and saw a scree field just to the left of the trail, rather, on the side of the ridge that is facing me, but I am far to the right of the trail that I mentioned, and up on the ridge to the right.
So, I could see it there, the scree field that is situated on the ridge or side of the mountain that is to the left of the trail as one is hiking up to the Red Pine Lakes.
That particular spot is just past the marker that lets you know that you’ve come two and a half miles from the parking lot and still have a mile to go to the lake. At that small junction, there is a bridge on your right.
If you cross it, and then follow the trail, you will find yourself at the lowest of three lakes that are situated in Maybird Gulch, which is located in the greater Little Cottonwood Canyon area that is just south and east of Salt Lake City.
So, there I was, 40 minutes back down the trail from the lowest lake and I heard the first voices that I had heard since I got out of my truck at 7:25 that morning and said “Hey” to another person in the parking lot. There had been no other voices, no other footsteps along the rock trail, and the pine-needle-covered trail, and the crusted-snow crunching trail that I had followed so far.
As I sat there eating my granola bar and apple, I looked around at what was my company, what would be my company for another two and a half to three miles before I got back to my truck. It would be at least another week before I could be out there again in that natural haven against life and traffic and taxes.
As I was sitting there, a group of hikers came down from the trail behind me; they had spent the night up in Maybird Gulch, exploring around the two lower lakes, and after they walked past and said “Goodbye,” another couple came up the trail, said “Hello,” and kept going…and then it was quiet again.
The wind was blowing through the tall white-pine trees and I could hear the stream that ran along the trail that I would soon be on again, the trail that leads to and from Red Pine Lakes.
There were white granite rocks and chunks scattered throughout the forest around me, and yellowed and mashed leaves that, only weeks ago and before our first mountain snow, were broad and shiny and green.
There were also patches of the beautiful and cold and white stuff around me, and pine cones and needles and broken branches from the trees above me and the dead and decaying ones that lay akimbo and everywhere, some thin, some larger, some across the trail that have been cut to allow hikers’ passage, and others, of course, out there and everywhere around me, shiny gray and silver branches and trunks, old rotting logs that were huge trees those years ago, and were then and now turning into forest mulch and home for bugs and moss and that little green something that sometimes covers the ground-side of old and fallen trees.
Off to my left, which was north, I could see the caps of darker red rock that lined and lines the top of the white granite mountain that is the northern ridge and side along Little Cottonwood Canyon; it is called Dromedary Ridge for the camel-like peaks that run the length of that stretch of four or five miles of the canyon walls.
As I continued to sit there, I noticed again that my toes were cold from the snow that had melted down into my boots and had soaked my socks, and my fingers were chilled as I wrote with pencil in this little notebook as the stream still went and rumbled and the wind still blew lightly through the trees over and around me…and it was time to go. I would have loved to go up that last mile to the Red Pine Lakes and see them again.
It seemed that my hike that day just didn’t take enough time…I wasn’t out there long enough. But I didn’t tell anyone that I was going there, up to the lakes, so I should just head back, I thought…and enjoy the last two and a half to three miles of forest and trail that would take me away from there and back into daily life with its people and traffic and taxes.
I love this place…and its everything.
A few weeks ago, I purchased my first set of gaiters for deep snow hiking in the wintry Wasatch. When I went out on the Little Cottonwood Trail last weekend, I had the opportunity to see how well they did with snow in the mid-calf range. This weekend, I was able to try them out in the above-knee range of snow depth as I hiked the trail up to the Bells Canyon Upper Falls in the mountains just south and east of Salt Lake City. The gaiters worked wonderfully…I didn’t have to stop every five or six steps to dig the snow out of the sides of my boots to keep it from melting down into my soon-to-be-soaked socks like I did last year.
I hope you enjoy the pictures of my second snow-hike of the season…Bells Canyon Reservoir and beyond….
The weather forecast for the day mentioned something about a seventy percent chance of snow…and the clouds were very convincing. It was too warm for just snow, however, so I had the rain-jacket on to help keep me dry. Low clouds and looming…they were almost mysterious…and threatening….
If you could look to the left, or north, of where the above picture was taken, you could see into the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon…more low clouds….
It is still quite early in the winter season; it’s not even late fall, actually, but the lower reservoir of Bells Canyon is already almost completely frozen-over.
It’s strange and beautiful how the shifting clouds can change the whole appearance of the mountains in a matter of minutes.
I’ve been up here almost a dozen times already, and I still find it breath-taking to watch these falls…. Even though they’re not flowing with crazy and raging white water, the lacy ice and snow create an incredible frame for this natural water-feature.
The falls shown above are about an hour to ninety minutes up the trail from the parking lot, depending on the weather and the condition of the hiker. Somewhere between another half to full hour, you will come to a house-sized rock that will be an indication that you are about another fifteen minutes or so away from the upper falls. This is what the trail looks like between the lower and upper falls. The red slash on the tree tells you that you’re headed in the right direction…when you can’t see anything that resembles a trail….
I think these are the prettiest of the many types of cones on the fir and pine trees in these forested mountains. These are cones from the White Fir tree.
As I was looking down and choosing my next step in the almost knee-deep snow, I noticed that a black fleck seemed to be sliding or moving along the surface of the snow. A closer look revealed that it was a little beetle…not yet dead or hiding away from the freeze….
A little while later, I lost sight of any further red slashes on the trees and decided to go “off-trail” and see what I could see. It seemed safe and that the chances of getting lost were pretty much nil, as I only had to turn around and follow my tracks to take me back to what I knew was the trail. As I slogged through the deepening snow the further up the mountain I progressed, I happened to round a little bend or protrusion on the mountainside and almost bumped into an elephant…first a beetle and now an elephant in the snow-covered Wasatch!
Another half hour of hiking through the still-deepening snow led me to a boulder field and white powder that was at least half a foot over my knees. Given that I was hiking alone and had never been this far up the side of the mountain, it seemed like a good idea to turn around and head back to more familiar territory. Sometimes when I’m hiking and watching the actual trail to see where my feet are going, it’s easy to miss part of the scenery. As I turned around and was making my way back down the trail, I noticed the snowy granite sides of the mountain. It was almost like seeing them for the first time….
Through the spring and summer of this past year, I’ve found that the return trip from wherever I’ve hiked usually takes about half as much time as it took to get there. With the snow, it took a bit longer. While I knew where I was going and had been the one that made all of the tracks on the trail, there was quite a bit of difference between going down a snowy trail and climbing up one…it’s much easier to lose your footing and slip.
When I reached the bottom of the trail from the waterfalls and was back near the lower reservoir, the clouds were still moving all over the valley….
Looking to the north…
And then to the south…
Overall, it was a wonderful day for a hike…cloudy and rainy and snowy and even a little sunny…with temperatures in the low to mid thirties up in the mountains.
As for the gaiters…they passed the second trail trial.
This final picture is actually from last week when I was trying the gaiters for the first time….
The stars rained tears of gold that burned my cheeks in their falling. I was caught unawares and didn’t know what was happening. The song was playing with some mystical guitar notes that crept into my heart and caused the feelings to come, unbidden and not wanted, yet there and not able to be stopped. They sang of a sorrow that was nameless until the notes captured their substance and melted my aching heart. I longed for release and found it in her notes. That minstrel singing and the echoing thoughts in dirge-like chords wrenched my soul.