Ode to Upper Ross Creek

My right knee is troubling me.
I’ve gashes in my forearm.
I lately closely inspected
the Belt formation’s charms.

A talus slope, a faulty set
of my black Diamond pole.
It sank a foot and I went down
my head, not in a hole.

But on a rock, ‘twas quite a sock,
but I didn’t come up bleeding;
at least not from the temple,
or this you may not be reading.

I did come up like Donald Duck.
The bad words were a-flyin’.
And then I note blood on my coat,
but still I was not dyin’.

The intern put her skills to work,
wrapped up my arm and finger.
I would have stayed and broke that rock,
but we had no time to linger.

On across the stony patch,
and into the brushy wood.
Progress varied; mefe slow,
distinctive game trail , good.

Through the still-green hucks we trekked,
and down a cliff or two,
along the stone base of Mike’s Peak,
past great piles of bear poo.

We sang our bear songs loud and long
and clacked our sticks together;
crawled through alder thin and thick;
found a mystery feather.

Closer, closer. There is camp,
just across the way.
Between us is rough country.
Will we be there today?

The crossing of Emily Creek
I judge too brushy for us,
so upstream we climb a ways
to avoid that alder forest.

Proudly, I dive down into a track
the elk have left to find;
relieved and happy to discover
a ford of the easy kind.

One step, two. Across the creek
my right foot finds a rock
related evidently to
the one that gave me a sock.

I slip, I slide, I start to cuss.
Dammit! Down I go;
boot in the creek, head in the ferns.
My arrival wasn’t slow.

Donald Duck comes on full tilt.
I hold back some invectives.
The rest are right behind me.
Checking temper is effective

in not teaching new combinations
of words I know they know.
I save some good ones for next time
this country gives me a blow.

Just two more spates of alder
and we find ourselves in camp,
resplendent in green and yellow,
somewhat buggy and damp.

Dinner passes. The DEET comes out.
My leg swells ankle to knee.
I find myself wondering just
what the hell’s wrong with me

That I would return again and again
to a place that fights so long
to keep me out, reminding always
what doesn’t kill you makes you strong.

I patch my holes and rest my knee;
listen to the nutcrackers sing
raucous notes of warning
to every living thing.

“He’s here again, the clumsy beast
that walks upon hind feet;
and he’s brought some others with him,
and boy, do they look beat.”

The picas squeak, the ground squirrels peep,
the hummers harvest nectar.
The rock stands piled above us;
strata following common vector.

Ice cut, muted witnesses
to times we’ll never know;
growing out of the very core
of the planet down below.

Over all lies silence rare
as anything on Earth
and air as clear as space itself;
and water wholly worth

reverence as sacred blood
of that self-same layered rock
that tripped me up and pulled me down
and administered that sock.

I supposed I must forgive it
and admit I’m an admirer,
even though I’ve called it names
when it has raised my ire.

It keeps this place just what it is;
keeps the undetermined out;
protects the elk and grizzly bears;
as it proves me clumsy lout.

Here in this wild and wondrous place
peace and pain lie close together.
It ain’t an easy place to come,
even in good weather.

And that reminds me of the night before
the rock made my arm gory.
But that’s a tale I’ll wait to tell.
That’s another story.