Monthly Archives: April 2008

Landscape: Castleton Tower

Castleton TowerCastleton Tower is one of the most distinctive desert rock towers along Utah SR-128. It sticks up all alone out there, a red sandstone pillar, weathered and webbed with vertical cracks characteristic of this type of rock. The cracks make for good rock climbing, as you can wedge your hands and feet into them and scoot upwards, and the mild springtime temperatures make now a good time of the year to take up the challenge. Now that the ski lifts have closed at Vail, I am finding that it is just as easy to convince me to go climb as it was to convince me to go ski during the winter. Last week, I decided to roadtrip out to Moab for a few days to climb with my friend John, who is a local with a great van. I had never climbed Castleton Tower, and he had not done it in a while, so we camped nearby the night before and set out early in order to beat the crowds that turn up there at this time of the year.

It was a super-windy day out, and a bit on the cold side, but after a few hours of grunting and moaning through the tight chimneys on the Kor-Ingalls route, we topped out for a view of the other magnificent towers in the area.

Fine Jade and more desert towers

John led, and I climbed second behind him, mostly glad that I was not the one leading (but, of course, wishing that I were good enough to do it as smoothly as he did).

Traci J. Macnamara Cartwheeling on Castleton

Yee haw. More springtime adventures upcoming.

Life: Last Snow?

Beanie the Snow GoddessIt may be over, the winter. This will not surprise a bunch of you who have been out running around in shorts and sandals for a few weeks now, but things are just starting to melt here in Vail, CO. It still snowed a few inches one eve last week, though, and every time I see flurries, I wonder if it will be the last snow. The ski lifts closed two weekends ago now (and just last weekend at Breckenridge). The end of the season went out with a bunch of live music and other activities here in Vail, such as the final Street Beat and a car giveaway (which I was determined to win, but did not). One of my best gal pals (pictured at right) came out to visit from Michigan, and as soon as the music got going, the snow started coming down in big, wet flakes. It was one of those soaking snows, and I was glad for it, as it hopefully gave her an accurate taste of what it is like to live somewhere where it just snowed over 500 inches in one season.

Street Beat

Speaking of tasting things…

One Flake at a Time

There is nothing like catching snowflakes on the tip of your tongue. I may have to wait a few months to do it again. In the meantime, there is a lot of living to do out there, folks. So drop me a comment every now and then to let me know what life is looking like in your neck of the woods.

Literature: Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale

Away! away! for I will fly to thee, / Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards, / But on the viewless wings of Poesy…
-John Keats, in “Ode to a Nightingale”

Ah. The sounds of spring are finally in the air. The birds are singing, which of course brings to mind some of my favorite poems in the English language, including “Hope is the thing with feathers” (Emily Dickinson), “To a Skylark” (Percy Shelley) and—of course—John Keats: “Ode to a Nightingale.”

“Ode to a Nightingale” is 80 lines long (eight 10-line stanzas), and you can read the entire poem by clicking on this link to I am not going to summarize it all here, but I would like to make a few comments on the final two stanzas. Keats takes a pretty gloomy tone at the beginning of the poem and admits that he has been having thoughts of Death and dying, but a bird that he sees singing in a tree seems to bring his thoughts back to life. This is the theme that I pick up on when I read the poem: how something so simple such as a singing bird can have the power to elevate our moods or to “toll” us into living. The final two stanzas, in which Keats addresses the bird and then reflects on its power to transform his thoughts read:

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the selfsame song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that ofttimes hath
Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my sole self.
Adieu! the Fancy cannot cheat so well
As she is famed to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hillside; and now ’tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades.
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:—do I wake or sleep?

Thanks to the following source for the above quotations from John Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale”–
Palgrave, Francis T. The Golden Treasury. London: Macmillan, 1875;, 1999. [April 14, 2008].

Landscape: The Dream Backyard

Living in a yurt probably would not be all that convenient. It is not like you would just want to set one of these things up in the suburbs, which is okay by me. The bigger the backyard, the better. As mentioned in the last post, the Tennessee Pass Cookhouse (pictured below)

had me thinking about what it would be like to live in a yurt. After we finished our dinner and walked back outside, the sun had set, and nightlight was coloring the snow in shades of purple and gray.

Maybe if I lived in a place like this, I would have to snowshoe or ski home each night. But then I would sit out on the porch, and I would look out over a backyard like this and take a deep breath. Then slowly, slowly, I would watch stars hang themselves over the mountains in an inky night sky.

Life: Yurt Dreams

Snowshoeing with the SistaIt’s true: I dream about living in a yurt. Yes, a yurt: a portable circular tent-type structure of Mongolian design. Yurts were once used by nomadic people in Central Asia, but today they’re being sold and set up on mountain property by companies such as Pacific Yurts. Since I’m now living in Vail, Colorado, and real estate prices are ridiculous (hundreds of thousands of dollars for a wimpy studio apartment), the idea of living in a yurt has become more attractive. It would work, I think, to have some land and live in a yurt. I know two people who do this (one in Idaho and another in Colorado), and I’m sure that there are some challenges with this idea, such as where to put the outhouse and how to manhaul in your supplies, but there are plenty of people out there who are making it happen. When The Sister recently visited, we showshoed into the Tennessee Pass Cookhouse, located about a mile away from the base of the Cooper ski area, near Leadville, Colorado.

Tennessee Pass Cookhouse Yurt

The Cookhouse is a yurt that has been set up as a nice restaurant—I would definitely recommend it for anyone coming to visit the area (and go for the elk tenderloin; it was good). Visitors can choose to either strap on showshoes or cross-country ski in through the forest.

Yurt Outhouse

I thought that they did the outhouse quite nicely (above, back right). It was built near the yurt, and they had decorated the inner walls with vintage ski posters and had candles burning inside so that you could see what you were doing.

Yurt Stove

The inside of the yurt was warmed by a wood stove, and the windows allowed for some good natural lighting. I think that this yurt was 34- or 36-feet in diameter, which would allow for a crowd of up to 30 diners. I couldn’t help but sit there and sip wine while thinking about what it would be like to have a yurt of my own…