Tag Archives: mountains

20 Mule Team (for Smoke Blanchard)

1

Whip that 20 mule team
“just so” he declared

They’ll drag up
to the pass
to commune with
the ghost of
ole rambler Smoke

2

Peanut butter
wrapped in wax
wooden staff
machined to the end

Wanderer equipped with gaiters
bearded mischievous serene
the Sierras to the Wasatch
forays to box canyons
hidden from those who see
trees stunted by degrees

But clear to those who keep
their Sanskrit skrimshaws
bundled up in rock and sage

3

Gathered in a desert
witnessed only by peregrines
and rising orbs
named for Roman lords

4

O’er the pass
20 mule team
Mojave plateau
to the spaceport
shiny glassy steel

5.

Passing Shasta and the sidekick
– noble in diminution
~ shaggy crags below
Shasta’s silver flank…
the signs point to Weed

6.

Somehow Jupiter and Venus
came along – glancing from the high right –
mighty mass of glorious gas

the longhaulers swing before the
end of the Cascade blowers
Baker to Lassen
with all peaks between.

Jamaican Ganja Field

High up a mountaintop of ancient uplifted coral, unaccompanied by bodyguards, escalades or a single Marley (unlike “reincarnated” snoop), I found a happy place– surrounded by thousands of little ladies. I squeezed the buds to savour the moment and smells of mangos and papayas, limes and skunks. 

Note audio recorder in hand. My wanders are different now. I still wonder. Snapped with a single-use disposable camera

 

 

“Art on High: Beat Poets on the Fire Lookouts” in Seattle Met

 (Yet another yet very welcome) article about Beat Poets working as Fire Lookouts in North Cascades.


Desolation Lookout Jack Kerouac’s post still stands. IMAGE: COURTESY NPS

How to pick a Fire Lookout Cabin to visit? Are you capable?
Perhaps these remarks from Gary Snyder and Jack Kerouac will inspire (or retire) your ideas.

Art on High: Beat Poets on the Fire Lookouts

What was Jack Kerouac doing on top of a North Cascade peak?
By Allison Williams 8/1/2013 in the August 2013 issue of Seattle Met

Excerpt, Regarding the remarkable Mr. Snyder:

Gary Snyder was the first poet to get a job as a fire lookout, manning the now-gone station atop Crater Mountain in 1952 while writing and studying Zen; his old friend and fellow poet Philip Whalen took a nearby post the next year. Then, on the night of a now-famous 1955 poetry reading in San Francisco, Snyder was introduced to the young Jack Kerouac. (Allen Ginsberg, drunk on wine to calm his nerves, did the introducing before going onstage to perform a new poem called “Howl.”) Snyder convinced Kerouac to try a stint as a fire lookout, since he himself—a burgeoning anarchist, albeit a pacifist—had been banned due to McCarthy-era blacklisting.

Excerpt: 

Kerouac later wrote about the summer in Desolation Angels and The Dharma Bums, giving his pal Snyder the pseudonym Japhy Ryder. Snyder himself penned poems about the experience throughout his life; “Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout” concludes:

I cannot remember things I once read
A few friends, but they are in cities.
Drinking cold snow-water from a tin cup
Looking down for miles
Through high still air.

& (by the end)

“I wanta go where there’s lamps and telephones and rumpled couches with women on them.”

 

Mountain Fire Lookouts / in the hills and The Guardian

Mountain Fire Lookouts in the next topic.

Fans of Beat Lit heroes are no doubt aware that Gary Snyder, Jack Kerouac and Phillip Whalen (among others), spent time thinking, writing, meditating, spacing out in remote forest fire lookout cabins.

Usually the job would include a few weeks of RipRap trail making before being dropped off with a burro worth of supplies to spend a few months being stunned by beauty, accepting solitude, riding out wild storms and growing beards.

These jobs still exists – even with all the technology, nothing is better than a practiced eye up in the sky.

There are several articles about this job and these places which seem to appear from time to time.

Anyhow, so who’s sending in a job application?

This one from The Guardian:

‘Freaks on the peaks’: the lonely lives of the last remaining forest fire lookouts

Rory Carroll at Stonewall fire lookout, Montana
@rorycarroll72
Tue 30 Aug 2016 11.00 BST

There were 10,000 lookouts, scanning the wilderness for signs of smoke. Now just a few hundred remain, and they pass the time hiking, writing and knitting

Fire Watchers and their Towers in the North Cascades / Skagit Valley Journal

More about Fire lookout tower in Cascadia… the low down the mechanics of running these operations and the rugged folks who made it happen. Plus name checks for the town of Sedro-Wooley which i’ve spent time in years ago.

Fire Watchers and their Towers in the North Cascades

Story posted on Aug. 12, 2002, last updated June 15, 2010

Regarding Jack, Gary and Phillip:

The most famous firewatcher was Jack Kerouac, who spent part of the summer of 1956 in the tower at Desolation Peak near Mount Hozomeen and the U.S.-Canada border. Like some other watchers of the day, he anticipated his time there as a period of reflection and meditation and cleansing in the solitude. His friend, poet Gary Snyder, signed on as a fire lookout earlier — at Crater in 1952 and Sourdough in 1953, but was blacklisted by the Feds and did not return for 1954, the “high summer of the great fear,” as historian David Caute described it. Snyder’s Reed College friend and fellow poet Philip Whalen manned Sauk Mountain in 1953, then Sourdough in 1954 and 1955. Snyder was the one who alerted Kerouac to the joys and solitude of the mountains. All those sites north of the Skagit are part of the Mount Baker National Forest that was originally patrolled by the legendary ranger Tommy Thompson.

Whatever Kerouac thought he was seeking, he found what many others did: monotony and boredom after the initial excitement. We learn from the Ann Charters biography, Kerouac, a Biography, that Jack came up from California in mid-June 1956, attended a fire-watching school for a week and then spent eight weeks on the mountain after being packed in on muleback. On the climb upwards he saw the charred snags that stood witness to the flash fire of 1919 that led to name of Desolation, part of the Starvation Ridge area. Nary a fire threatened his assigned area that summer so he spent much of his time on the routine chores of chopping wood, collecting bucketsful of snow for washing and cooking, communicating on the two-way radio, pacing about on the narrow trails, chewing Beech Nut gum and smoking his roll-yer-owns.

He slept on a wooden bunk with a rope mattress in the sleeping bag Snyder helped him pick out in Oakland. To amuse himself he baked rye muffins, played a baseball game with a pack of cards that he’d invented when he was a boy in Lowell, and picked a few sprigs of alpine fire and a wild flower every day to put in a coffee cup on his desk. Jack wrote at the desk facing away from looming Mount Hozomeen on his north, the dark, naked rock of Hozomeen coming to symbolize for him ‘the Void,’ with its clouds and thunderstorms, the two sharp peaks of Hozomeen looming in his window as he lay in bed, ‘the Northern Lights behind it reflecting all the ice of the North Pole from the other side of the world.’ During the long afternoons he sat in his canvas chair facing ‘Void Hozomeen,’ listening to the silence of his cabin and making up haikus. His experience that summer is the kernel of his later book, Desolation Angels, the companions he imagined dancing out of the fog along the ridge. The North Cascades Institute in Sedro-Woolley offers a course based on the experience of Jack Kerouac and his writing.