(Hiking Up and Over 3500 Feet-Wittenberg and Cornell, Two More Catskill High Peaks) 

It occurs to me

That I require an ideal

To summit these peaks. Something more than a patch.

My tenacity shouts above my perception

Shooting over the trees

Soliciting the breeze

Questioning my knees

As the goal sticks out its tongue and then darts

Off like a chipmunk to peek back at me from 

The enduring rocks and ledges that loom ahead.

My companions and I 

Pray to a silent God

Mindful of our mission

And that our bodies not 

Fail us, at least, not today.

The round red footpath signs 

Point diagonally ahead, 

Tree to tree towards

The relentless uphill, and my breathless 

Scramble over the ledges to come. 

The reward still sketchy 

After three hours in; 

When I am eager to drink in the summit. 

Finally, the dark path brightens. 

And I bow to the chipmunk in an

Attempt to feed it a non-GMO potato chip. 

It darts instead behind a bush, 

Then shows me its tail, and informs me to eat 

But not to get too comfortable.

We have another mountain to bag.

Notified later 

By our fearless leader 

That I will have to CLIMB DOWN 

And then up again, for another mile   

Progressing first to the infamous 

Cornell Crack, where 

Mistakes in either direction 

Will not be tolerated. 

The Purple ribbon and I 

Contemplating our virgin review. 

My knees hiss a warning, which I promptly ignore.  

They vow to render their discourse later 

During our descent as they rant about where 

I place my feet, how to steady my stride, 

Harping that the path less taken 

Comes at a precipitous price.

The brilliant sun pierces the canopy, 

As before us, emerges another ledge.

Another feat to capture 

Is the epic as it continues to unfold.

We descend past yet another group of

Masked climbers at three p.m. 

Still on their ascent with their two children, 

An infant strapped to its mother

And the three-year-old

Proclaiming, then bawling 

Over the never-ending mountain ahead, 

His father, a tongueless statue, 

Their progress halted to let us pass.

Miles to go, both ways.

The smug star 

Reclines in the west

Pointing at loose rocks, 

Protruding roots 

Our heel-toe-heel cautious descent, 

My hiking poles that clock-like catch 

Between soft earth and a hard place

Slowing my forward motion

Tipping my resolve. 

My reserve approaching empty. 

The chipmunk scampering ahead 

Turns to salute me as our last steps 

Steer us back to our chariots in

The near-empty lot

To untie shoelaces

Remove mud-caked boots

Release tired toes

From their dark prisons

Slip-on our winged victory to

Toast at the evening feast.

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