all energy is only borrowed; someday you have to give it back.
to understand the mountains you have to live in them, cross them, have them crush your spirit.
the adirondack mountains challenge your will. to traverse sixteen miles of ridges takes five days of climbing and charging downhill for hours and hours. in the summer, the mayflies rule and they will drive you mad unless you run. they’re small black flies bigger than a gnat and they sting. they get in your sweating eyes, in your nose and ears.
when the weather changes up there, it is sudden, and you are pressed to get somewhere safe. the rain is so thick you can’t think. if you have a good contour map, you may survive to the closest leanto.
i remember so well how grateful we were, we five friends, to have a coffee pot. it was an italian style espresso pot. reniwicki even had some long thin cigarettes called ‘vogues’… all the colors of the rainbow. to draw on them and sip the espresso as we watched the river of water flowing down the trunk of an elder tree in front of the leanto, was the closest to paradise i ever felt.
you know what it means to conquer mountains? it means to conquer nature, to conquer myself. to walk with friends over the earth with the earth calling out loud, “i am nature, your force and your enemy.” across the gothics, haystack, saddleback, basin and marcy, i heard my inner voice saying yes to it all. yes to my body. yes to being a snake to wiggle up the crack in the wall, yes to the antelope leaping from rock to rock. the best of all was running without fear of falling down the mountain, leaping without thinking, trusting the forces within.
from ausable lodge to marcy dam, s. and his friends scrambled from rock to rock…
sixteen miles as the crow flies. but s’s aching muscles said 120.
that was the second time for s. in these rainforest green mountains of upstate new york. the first time, he forgot the salt and enough food. but the worst was that he had brought his dog. well, it was the son of a friend’s dog.
anyway, dogs don’t do too well in some of the ascents; especially the gothics, a row of peaks like gothic church steeples.
s. knew that he would not get away from the city again for at least two years. he had made a vow not to quit or get fired from the job he was starting in september.
for a year and a half he had changed jobs about four times.
s. had called l.p. one day complaining about his situation.
the conversation was brief. “it’s time for you to start thinking about a real career, scott.”
he sat down at a table at the 14th street horn and hardart cafeteria, with a nickle coffee and a ten cent slice of apple pie, and made a list of all the jobs he could think of. then he began crossing them out one by one. the last profession was architect. he would need to go back to school.
through the telephone book he found a night school on 18th st., walked over and signed up for the ninth grade; algebra, french, english, biology and civics. four hours a night, five days a week, beginning after labor day.
then he called l.p. and said, “i am going to be an architect and i just signed up for night high school.”
“i like the way you did that.” said simply, but s’s heart kind of glowed.