Johnson: Male Mental-Pause on Mount Abram
I was reminded to count blessings while wedged in a long line of vacation traffic trying to squeeze into Lovely Ouray. Who could blame them; it doesn’t get any better than July to come drool at our eye-candy and play in our bountiful “backyard.” Through bug-crusted windshields appeared Mount Abram, a Great Pyramid that fills a prime notch of skyline above our humble crevice-town…between lesser mountain knaves who in a heartbeat would pilfer its eye-commanding center of attention.
I've studied Abram's moods from the comfort of my living room, from alpenglow to surly, to shimmering light wars between double rainbows. There is an exquisite symmetry to its north face; chiseled features, ruggedly handsome, like a young Kirk Douglas. Abram is there to be adored and wandered, and I am here to bid its calling.
Tundra crunched underfoot like corn flakes, crying out for tardy monsoons. "Stairway to Heaven" seemed appropriate, so I sang along—knowledgeable of the price one must pay for a piece of Mount Abram’s Heaven. It's a punishing 45 degree angle of ascent—the ultimate Thigh Master. Of course I knew that, Abram is one of my regular sanctuaries of worship. It was just me and a nearly 13,000-foot Mountain, grappling with our love-hate relationship.
I had to let Robert Plant go it alone about halfway up the "Stairway," as my brain directed singing breath to “please muster in the quad area.” I was definitely feeling the "Lead" in my "Zeppelin," if you know what I mean.
No real trail, I held to a boring, relentless, drainage with a dribbling stream not worthy of a Goretex upgrade, then jettisoned left into a dry side gully once the ridge line saddle came into view. With the aid of a flurry of adrenaline, I polished off the last flight with haste. What a relief to finally be on the ridge and to have survived this year’s first cardiac stress test.
I looked at my watch; “Damn, under 40 minutes…a personal best.” It’s embarrassingly “young male” to still be timing physical endeavors at my age, but see if this justification makes a little bit of sense. Warning: Type B personalities might want to skip the next couple paragraphs in order to avoid a series of painful eye-rolls.
In a nutshell, aside from “maleness” and an endorphin addiction second only to fine IPA’s, it’s good to know where I stand fitness wise. Well into my 60s, I want to know if (maybe "when" is a better word) I'm reaching the beginning of the end of physical triumphs—like those premature “Your credit card is about to expire!” notices that come in the mail—so I can prepare myself for the let-down. Then, as estrogen supplants testosterone (sniff), when I can't, or shouldn’t, put the pedal to the metal anymore, I’ll throw away my rubber-banded Casio, attempt to embrace the new “now” and savor lesser outings as if each were “the finale.”
I find age related decline insidious—a sneaky, thieving little bastard that I work hard at fending off. One sip of my morning "spinach smoothie" will divulge just how seriously I take beating back Father Time. Clocking summits and bike rides and shooting for "personal bests" are not necessarily neuroses. They are “tools,” no different than you getting on the bathroom scale, or pinching an inch of midriff or taking your blood pressure. You see, “Numbers” gives us information about how we’re doing…and if we’re doing enough "homework." I figure as long as I can gain Abram's ridge line from timberline in 30-some minutes, climb Twin Peaks under an hour and 30 and power hike from home to Oak Creek in 40 minutes, I’ve got father time in a headlock. Of course I could be wrong, so here’s a “fine print” disclaimer: Always Consult your Doctor before beginning an exercise program. Side effects may include weight loss, a violent mood swing toward happiness and an overall feeling of having just “kicked ass.”
Bobbie and I are of one mind on this, that we would prefer to depart this life on a mountain—preferably a notable ascent—to die reaching beyond our grasp (epitaph copyright pending). Sometimes "shit happens" when you lace up boots, just like sometimes it happens when you get behind the wheel. Life is at best a crapshoot; ask anyone in NYC, Boston or on Asiana Flight 214.
Personally, I'm not too excited about the possibility of outliving options to be active and mobile. I don't want to sit in pee and watch TV, at least that's how I feel now. The trick is in sticking to those “guns” later on in life, when you can't remember where you put the damned things.
I hung around on Abram's summit, alone, watching intermittent shadows cast from dry-as-cottonball clouds, dance across landscapes. To the south were the always-spectacular Red Mountains, iron bleeding peak to timber. Below, off dusty boot-tips, laid Lovely Ouray, cradled in her crevice, showing visitors a vacation to remember.
Mark Johnson is a restless soul who lives in Ouray, Colorado with his wife, Bobbie. He is happiest when exploring the West's nooks and crannies, hiking, climbing and mountain biking. He authors two "wanderlust" based blogs: www.Artfulrvadventures.com and www.Boxcanyonblog.com.