Showing posts sorted by relevance for query pilgrims. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query pilgrims. Sort by date Show all posts

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Pilgrims of Mosquito Pass

Leadville, CO. The Benchmark Atlas labeled nearby Mosquito Pass, elevation 13,186 feet, as the "highest auto (jeep) pass in the US." Which of my four bicycles would be best?

I smiled thinking of the beginning of the Spaghetti Western, "For a Few Dollars More." The bounty hunter, Lee Van Cleef, has only a few seconds to shoot the bad guy who is getting away. The bounty hunter pulls a string on his saddle, and a leather rack of four guns rolls down the side of the horse: his tools of the trade, for every occasion.

The road started smooth and steep, which is my favorite kind of road. It wasn't long before I saw something unusual: a large group of fully-loaded backpackers, who would coalesce and then disperse. It was a church group from Texas, on its way over the pass. We caught up with them at the last mining tower, near tree-line, where you can faintly see the two thousand feet of switchbacks that await these hikers from sea-level homes. Faith can move mountains, indeed!

They were quite impressed with the intrepidness of my little poodle. When I told them that he was adopted in "Krrvull", Texas, and therefore "ain't no li'l dashboard dawg," they nodded their approval.

They didn't mention the name of their church, but presumably it was a Bible-oriented Protestant church. Can we at least agree, without hurting any feelings, that Protestants have always been rather un-picturesque compared to Catholics? And that is what made this chance encounter so special to me. When people backpack over rough roads, they look down and move slowly, solemnly. They appear to be praying. 

With the high country in the background, they seemed like peregrinos (pilgrims), walking through the Pyrenees on their way to the shrine of Santiago de Compestela, in the northwest corner of Spain. This famous old pilgrimage has been going on for more than a thousand years.

It's too bad one of them didn't have a shaggy, white Great Pyrenees dog to guard them on the way. Actually, I'll bet my little poodle could have out-skedaddled him. Here is the little poodle celebrating triumphantly at Mosquito Pass.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Pilgrims of Gringo Road

They plod past my driveway, the last one before heading out to the remaining 750 miles of the Arizona Trail. One part of me wants to open up to the spirit of adventure emanating from them. But it is difficult.

It would be easy to fantasize about camel trekking in Morocco, or riding long sections of the Silk Road, or sea kayaking between Asia and North America, across the Bering Strait.

But walking, plodding, and trodding in Arizona heat? They are visualizing something that I can't, although I would like to. All I can see is a slow-moving sport that lacks all pizzazz or sex appeal. Their sport is the perfect activity for a puritan's Sunday.

Perhaps I am being unfair, for demographic and cultural reasons. Hikers tend to be Greens, urbanites, Democrats, veggies, etc. 

A few of them had real panache. For example I have seen a couple hike with silver umbrellas fastened to their backpacks. Correction: parasols. And of course that appeals to the romantic imagination of a retro-grouch.

One day I even saw a man and woman trying to coax their German short-haired pointer across a cattle gate on the Trail. Oh sure, I rolled my eyes, thinking, "Damned city slickers. Their dawg ain't even seen a cattle gate before!"

But at least they had a dog, rather than a cat on a leash, which is about what you would expect from a city slicker. Later in the day I ran into the same couple in the town post office. They had wrapped duct tape over the dog's pads to try to protect them. I told them about real hiking shoes for dogs, made by Neo-Paws. She was interested, but it was too late to do her any good.

On another day I saw a hiker running from side to side on the road (the Trail, for a short distance). She was picking up empty plastic bottles. Didn't she know she could buy a plastic bottle at the upcoming grocery store?

But there was something else: she seemed so ostentatious about it. Was she a Green picking up litter, and enjoying it a bit too much -- perhaps because somebody would see her? The more you think about this whole activity, the more it seems analogous to religious pilgrimages of yore. Weren't they supposed to Suffer, even if they had to indulge in self-flagellation to do it?

But what Sins are these modern urbanite metro-sexual secularists trying to expiate? How does it work, that is, how many units of sin are erased by how many units of heat and drudgery?  

For those who haven't seen it, I recommend Bergman's "The Seventh Seal." The march of the flagellants might make quite an impression on you.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Aesthetics Bend Under Strain

Some types of outdoor enjoyments are easier than others. Getting a kick out of desert poppies takes little effort. But experiences of that type don't stick with you very long either.

Appreciating geology is far more difficult. Geology is huge and fundamental. Despite being able to see it raw and exposed in arid lands, such as the American West, it is difficult to actually enjoy it in the normal sense of the word. For one thing it doesn't move, except in the case of active volcanoes. It is also hard to pronounce all the scientific terminology. The whole thing can be off-putting because it seems cold and technical.

Go for a hike or a mountain bike ride through the mountains and you will occasionally see some impressive folds. Sometimes they're just little guys at road cuts. And yet something keeps you from doing backflips about them. How could hard, strong, brittle rocks be permanently deformed? Bent into arcs.

When possible, I try to anthropomorphize "uninteresting" things in nature. It doesn't matter if it is scientifically unrespectable.  

That's not the only possible technique. How about wallowing in any imagery that grabs you, wherever it be from? Don't be proud, politically correct, or anything else. Outside of Leadville CO, I once had great fun wallowing in imagery that should be quite alien to an atheist with a Protestant background: a large group of backpackers -- probably Baptists from Texas! -- resembled pilgrims in the high Pyrenees on their way to Santiago. Rocks aren't the only thing that can bend and deform under heat and pressure; so too can your aesthetic sensibilities.

The other day I was having a rematch with a rough road that goes up to a saddle at the north end of the Santa Rita mountains, south of Tucson. The mountain bike has to be pushed most of the last mile. (Fortunately I had remembered to wear regular trail sneakers, rather than cycling shoes.) But I had forgotten to wear a helmet. I only had a sombrero, and was quite conscious of it, since a helmet would be necessary to protect me from an "end-over" on the way down.

I will lose readers by talking about the rest of this experience, since secularists can be such prigs (and hypocrites), but here it goes anyway: halfway up the final push I stepped away from myself and grinned at what I saw: a fellow pushing his mountain bike up the hill like Christ carrying his cross up Calvary. Even the sombrero, that I was worried about, had become a crown of thorns. I was actually milking the act by bending the back and altering the stride, as if to glory in the suffering. 

But, at the same time, the experience was completely real and serious. Those are great moments when you experience something as if 100% of you is focused right there and then. You remember such moments for a long time.

Of course at the top was the usual bliss that comes at a saddle. I could see the viewscape to the east, all the way across the San Rafael grasslands. 

I do feel sorry for rigid atheists who won't allow their imaginations to run. Religious imagery should be seen as part of a continuum that includes mythological, poetic, sentimental, or romantic imagery of all kinds. If nothing else, surrendering my usual anti-religious prejudices honored the occasion. I bent to a special setting; in an indirect sense it was at least a partial success in appreciating those geological folds at the beginning of this post.

Monday, November 8, 2010

"Wagon Train" for Retirees

The other day I finally looked systematically into the links followed by readers who follow this blog, in order to find new websites to read. It's always been easy to be lazy about this sort of thing, in part because the number of websites soon mushrooms into an unmanageable number.

The results were surprising: I was led to websites run by Rousseau or Thoreau wannabees. What commonality does the reader see between such blogs and mine? For one thing I do not see Mobility as a journey to the promised land. Some of these 'Freedom of the Open Road' blogs have the same attitude towards travel that religious pilgrims had, in the Middle Ages. The difference is that the latter had a more optimistic belief: they could actually make it to the sacred shrine. They could finish.

In Rob Reiner's wonderful coming-of-age movie, Stand by Me, the boys were having a philosophical conversation around the campfire, at least by the standards of 12 year olds. One boy mused: Wagon Train is such a cool TV show, but did you ever notice that, even though they are always traveling, they never really get anywhere? So it goes with the websites in question.
Combined with Mobility worship there is a Rousseau-ian romanticism of nature. They are always preaching about simplicity or swooning over windmills and solar panels, as they drag 20,000 pounds of stuff over every mile of highway in North America. If they want to expunge evil materialism and luxury from their lives, why don't they start with gasoline?

With the newbies in the Brotherhood of the Wheel there is usually an idolatry of pretty scenery that is plum-silly. It seems as though the most important step in joining the Brotherhood is to act as though you have no body parts above the neck, other than a pair of eyeballs.

So why is this blog linked in with the Brotherhood? I really don't know; maybe I need to write more clearly.