September 19 (1986)
Climbing Mountains on Skis

9/19/86    I just had the pleasure of seeing both eagles, one of them circling low over the grassy area in front of the cabin, then perching in the smaller of the cliff firs, and then, or so I thought, mounting the other bird briefly, which I had not (until then) noticed perching in the same tree. Both adult eagles, fortunately; no premarital sex around here, thank god, praise the lord.

Today is cloudy and cold and threatens rain without delivering. A fire heats the cabin. [...]

Cross-country skiing: when Janet Bickford turned me on to John Muir's Mountains of California in the summer of 1969, it inspired me to visit the Sierra, which during much of the 60s I knew only from family visits to Lake Alpine. In the early fall I drove up to to Tuolumne Meadows with Katie, a friend from the Sunday Satsang—I was then preparing for initiation into Surat Shabd Yoga, working at the Stanford Bookstore, and living in various apartments in Palo Alto, living in my 47 Chevy pickup, Tom Bombadil, which Katie and I took to the high country. It was a platonic relationship with Katie, who with her cute WASP looks, blond and blue-eyed and freckled, and her Southern drawling accent—pure South Carolina, if she hadn't stumbled into Kirpal Singh she would have been a born-again —

Someone—who?—Had told me of Saddlebag Lake, a few miles north of Tioga Pass. We found the campground deserted, and spent about an hour putting out a fire that had spread through the duff from another camper's fire days before, weird, smoke rising from the ground…

We camped there for a few days. I really don't remember much—did we go to Mono Lake?

I climbed the ridge east of Saddlebag Lake and got a view out into Nevada, to Mono Lake and the volcanoes…

Found a ballpoint pen which I kept for a totem, high on the rocky slopes. I lost track of it only a few years ago.

But at any rate, that trip re-awoke my love for the Sierras, and mountains in general, and mountain climbing, and I began to read about mountains and climbing, and I checked David Brower's book on ski mountaineering out of the Palo Alto library, and I read about…

Ski mountaineering. Climbing mountains on cross-country skis.

It sounded really neat, so I decided that I would do that.

I read more books. But not until the late 1970s did I ever put on a pair of cross-country skis. And since then, I have skied and skied and skied and skied. It's really wonderful. And there is much I should write about, except that I am reaching my limit today, but just memories that I should record, memories of skiing on ice at night on skis without metal edges, in the dark of the moon, and I know, that, like so many things, my own link has been forged to higher degrees than is common.

I wish I'd started long before, but it's great that I started when I did. I have, if I'm lucky, decades ahead when I'll be able to climb mountains on skis.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

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