2005, the way home: day 9

Original post: 2005-06-01: Return from Mojave, Day 9

Photos: Mojave to Illinois, May 2005

I've been trying to make sense out of days 8 to 10. I remember staying in Missoula for one night, but I know it was two nights—and apparently it was three nights. Time has a way of mashing itself together—what was once a a number of distinct layers  of time events compresses into a dense blob of time spans as more time events are heaped onto the pile, or maybe it is that each subsequent time event just represents a smaller and smaller percentage of your life as you get further down the road so that the relief becomes smaller and smaller and smaller. [1]

The memories I wish that got captured and held are conversations and small things and perhaps-meaningless details about where Aunt Sandy and I went out to eat, for example, or if we just ate lunch at her house, or if we ate dinner together at all. Those kinds of things blur—maybe after a week of traveling, see new things, seeing just so many things passing by, that given an opportunity to relax into the comfortable banal there is also an opportunity to turn off the internal recording device that captures and holds. Maybe mindfulness is the mechanism [2] that lets you keep running the tape, but that explanation seems off, and I've been searching for some reason to justify being always-on but none has been forthcoming, so I think I can comfortably relax back into my baseline thought, however padded with anxiety that it is, that you can just miss some of the details.

Minor detail that did stick for whatever reason: I remember buying two books on this day. One would have been a hiking guide to the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness area, which I've since purged. The other was a paperback copy of Henry David Thoreau's Walden, bundled up nicely and neatly with Civil Disobedience. That copy I gave away in summer 2006 to Natalie R. while in Strasbourg.

Another detail is talking to someone on the phone on the road back into Missoula later that afternoon. A hillside cutout for the highway remains stamped in my memory at the point of picking up the call—again, for whatever reason—although I can feel the dimensions of the highway and the road stretching themselves like soft plastic in my memory.

The main part of the day was a hike to—or at least toward St. Mary Peak. [3] I didn't make it to the top of this one. As a native cornlander, again, the idea of snow in June is roughly equivalent to the idea of pigs with wings. Pigs exist, wings exist—but together? Seems unlikely. But the main trailhead is up over 2000m, and it wasn't too far in before the trail started to accumulate wet packed snow, and then snow, and then as I entered the clouds the snow came down from above as well. There is no concept of this in the flatlands. You might get some variation of it where there are some limestone formations underground, and the air passing through the hollows [4] is much colder than the air in the rest of the environment. Otherwise, that old saw about "if you don't like the weather just wait 15 minutes" aligns the change in weather along the time axis as compared to the vertical axis which, of course, we don't even have a vertical axis at home. So I've found it easy to get caught off guard by an obvious but unexpected change—which isn't even proper to call it a change because the environment was already there, I just walked into it.

Suffice it to say that postholing through snow is no bueno and I made it as far as the wilderness boundary before calling it Good Enough and turning around. The clouds had already packed the scenery away and I didn't have any bearings about how far I had gone. Looking at the map recently while geotagging pictures, I was not that far away from the top—but "not that far away" is relative, an exercise in useless stubbornness to keep going but a pinprick in the ego balloon to quit.

One other memory: Montana is bear country—the western half up in the mountains, at least. I do remember tying something (a spoon? a pen?) to a metal cup and hanging it on my daypack for the hike to make a little noise for the bears. Bears and humans agree: surprises are nice, but not all surprises.

edge of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness area

[1] For another time (unintentional pun, etc.): Bejan, Adrian. "Why the Days Seem Shorter as We Get Older." European Review 27.2 (2019): 187-194. (pdf) And a summary of the same: Ephrat Livni. "Physics explains why time passes faster as you age." Quartz (2019-01-08).

[2] "Mindfulness is a slick word, full of snake oil imagery, but awareness I can tolerate." Forget the brake (2020-05-09)

[3] Peakbagger: https://peakbagger.com/peak.aspx?pid=17193

[4] [sic] hollers

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