Josh and Lindsay were back in time to meet Roger (we hope to see you on Mt. Rogers in Virginia, Roger!)… and then we were on the road.
The trip to Montana was mostly in the dark, through the twisted roads of Yellowstone and out the other side into the Beartooth Wilderness adjacent to the park.
I longed to see the hills and valleys of Yellowstone in daytime; I longed to see the springs we smelled, to catch a glimpse of Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon. Indeed, I longed to make it a ways up Borah. And I longed for a more spectacular view from foot of the mountain. Borah was largely shrouded from view by other mountains, and I saw not one inch of Granite Mountain in Montana.
It was only two days into the world record clock and I was feverish with longing. More than the spectacles before me, and in the ways they were. It was somehow inadequate to have my feet on the feet of millenia-old ranges, not mediated by a screen or a frame or a narrator. Indeed, the only barriers anywhere are barely-visible barbed-wire fences and my own will to seeing what’s over, around, or on-top-of.
In that very lack of mediation—it’s imminentness—The West holds in one hand an unmatched power to create longing for discovery and revelation, and in the other, a keen ability to remind me of my limitations and smallness. It’s an ever-present challenge to one’s will, determination, and ability to put one boot in from of the other.
But, the same longing and hope that brought homesteaders and prospectors west—the same promise of freedom and Milk and Honey that Bierstadt and Moran painted—easily rots into a ruining and inconsolable discontent. And the same humility that properly reminds of our existential state—our creature-hood and mortality—can easily turn into despair that quits looking for the soul of things.
So, while I didn’t set eyes on Granite Mountain, I was the only human witness to sunrise over a quintessentially-Montana lake in the heart of bear country. It was rugged and primordial: buggy, muddy, ungroomed and overgrown. It existed, exists, and will exist for no one’s gaze. The ancient moss and lichen that covered the granite hills mocked my shortness of life just as completely as any mountain could. And just as any mountain can slap us silly with its grandeur just to get us to marvel for a mere moment, a skinny & bearded man on a golf cart can accomplish the very same task.