Back from the Spearhead, and from three weeks of non-stop travel across the US, Canada, Caribbean. Happy to report that I didn’t die in the mountains or get stuck inside a glacier. Also happy to report that the rest of the world, as observed from the windows of many planes, trains, buses, seats of bicycles, back-seats of cars, etc — appears to still exist — a fact that is easy to forget when you live in a small semi-rural town.
As expected, keeping good notes was nearly impossible given the pace and complexity of navigating 13 glaciers and 9 mountains in 2 days, particularly because by the second day, my phone, spare battery, and Garmin watch (upon which I was recording a GPX track of our route) had perished from cold, and I was forced to rely on paper and pen during rare breaks from locomotion. Still, I captured a few nuggets:
We shuffle-step-glide. Occasionally, a ski slips off a narrow or icy section of track, requiring quick reflexes to avoid tipping over on the slope, or (worse) tumbling down it. Calves, knees, inner thighs, glutes complain as they are yanked unceremoniously around. The skin-track is a jarring, bouncy, slog; a never-ending effortful litany of pushing and pulling and exertion and bracing against the forces of gravity.
And yet, the sun is shining, the sky is blue, and we are alone in a vast snowy hinterland and everything is enormous and expansive and our screaming thighs and glutes remind us, in the moments when we have the presence to be reminded of anything, that we are alive amidst this magnificence… tiny insignificant specs moving slowly across an endless white plane.
In the latter half, my notes became decidedly less poetic:
My body feels like it has been beaten with a sack of potatoes, then stuffed into said potato sack and hurled down a rocky escarpment. For some reason, my legs still work well enough to continue moving. Why this is true is beyond me.
I am still processing. Will likely be processing for a long time. I returned to civilization in a daze, ran into some friends in the middle of a pleasant Sunday-evening barbecue while unpacking my car — I think I was limping a little, and obviously half-crazed with exhaustion/adrenaline from the whole ordeal, because I was promptly offered a seat and a plate of hamburgers. I gratefully ate three, made a few feeble attempts at socializing, then excused myself and went home to sleep.
24 hours later, I was on a plane headed to San Fransisco, California, and then New York City (Brooklyn) to complete a few days of exploratory walking which turned into a couple of weird little short pieces here and here. These were partially inspired by the CDMX walk, but are organized into sets of long-form notes rather than the shorter point-release format of CDMX. I’m intrigued by the idea of doing more of these sorts of things in the future (somewhere in-between rough notes and cogent, polished essays), as I can write/edit them in a day or two.
I have been in-between day-jobs in design for a few months now, which has given me some much needed time to work on these writing projects, ideate, organize, step back, and blow off a little steam. I am eternally gratefully to have had this opportunity, but tomorrow, it is back to work-day world — a world in which I have historically struggled to leave enough creative energy on the table for writing. I have a backlog of essays to write and publish, but it is anyone’s guess how many of these I will actually complete.
I will also be preparing over the coming weeks for the next adventure — crossing the Atlantic Ocean to pursue some entirely new lines of inquiry. I will have much more to say on this subject over the coming weeks/months, but for now I am in transition mode and recalling the wisdom of walking in the mountains: be present, keep your head up, and keep moving forward — one small step-shuffle at a time.
In any case, I remain committed to narrating this whole mess. Here are some images from the Spearhead: