Settled In

The roads have been closed for three days now. I think the closure is what I finally needed to feel settled in for the season. Each day is coming together with a clear head and without worry. It takes a week or two for the mind to quiet down once I’m in the woods. The lack of artificial distraction allows me to dwell on the present moment. Only the squirrels and chickadees vie for my attention. I give it to them gladly. My days tend to be pretty simple. If I can take photos, read a book and go for a run, the day is a three star success. 

I’m out the door before the sun climbs over distant peaks. It’s important that I make the trek for sunrise each morning, even if it’s obvious that the sun will not be shining. The act of discipline sets me up for a good day on the mountain. Mt. Le Conte is showing-off today. I can’t help but smile as I turn onto the untouched trail up to Cliff Tops. The short way to the cliff was well trafficked, but this longer route has remained untouched. I’m surprised no one has broken it yet. I left a few trails untouched for others; but after a couple days, I’m considering them free game. It’s a treat slogging along the untouched trail - not easy, but a treat none-the-less. I end up taking the bulk of my daily photos during my golden hour hike.

After the morning photography session, I get ready for work. With a cup of hot tea, I begin uploading and categorizing all of the photos. This process can take quite a while, especially when the light is amazing during the morning shoot; loading a time-lapse can take ages. Once I’m done with wrestling photos, I shift gears for the High on LeConte daily blog. There’s no rehearsal or rough draft. I sit down, close my eyes, and churn thoughts into words. Today, this comes easy; some days it is a challenge to synthesize the thoughts. I don’t feel talented as a writer, but I push aside the negative thoughts and gently place my thoughts onto the computer screen. Things are going well, I can have the photos and the writing completed by nine-thirty. Uploading and posting the blog ends up taking more time than I care to admit, but that’s the price to pay for living on top of a mountain. With my duties complete, I might head off to my cabin or into the woods to read, train, or take a nap. By three or four I’m ready to have something to eat.

In the kitchen, my eyes are watering from fresh chopped onion. I’m stubborn and hungry; I finish chopping by hiding behind my eyelids. I throw in the vegetables and listen to them sizzle musically in the piping skillet. My attention drifts to icicles on the window sill. Pausing for a moment, the weight of today’s effort down the Boulevard Trail begin to creep in. 

Every step felt like I was pushing through a foot of sand. Three inches of soft surface snow met a stiff frozen mantel and was followed by another core of fluffy snow. I post-holed awkwardly down the mountain. Struggling to find a rhythm, I did my best to duck and dodge trees whose ice laden branches drooped like hangmen in the center of the trail. Losing focus, I smash into one of the ice sentinels; it nearly knocks me off the trail. Debating if I would even call this running, my feet move slowly down the trail. Even when the snow is challenging beyond reason, the desire to break fresh trail will win out.

My attention comes back to the sizzling onions. Savoring the potential of each ingredient, I combine eggs to the mix and check the red-skin potatoes gurgling in the oven. My stomach chimes in. Transferring the skillet to a place-mat, I begin eating directly from the cast-iron.

Full to the brim, I pull out my lighter and start the stove, again. I need hot water for tea and dishes. I methodically wash the dishes, using as little water as possible. I find myself enjoying the process. The habit seemed to stick with me since thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail; and to be honest, a simple feels good to complete at the end of day. My thoughts go to the times I didn’t do the dishes; I waited too long to start. Once the food begins to settle in my stomach, all bets are off. 

Dishes done, I head to my loft and settle into a book or a mobility routine. Some aspects of each day seem to change; but in general, this simple day to day routine is the result. Having been nomadic the last few years; being able to have  a routine with all my favorite ingredients mixed-in is all I can ask for. Being away from friends, family, and my significant other makes the life tough. I start to get down; but remember, at least everyone knows where to find me…

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