(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.
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,
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.