At twilight nature becomes a wonderfully suggestive effect, and is not without loveliness, though perhaps its chief use is to illustrate quotations from the poets.

The Zanskar Trek, I: Darcha to Padum

I just finished reading Chris Willett’s journals from the Indian Himalaya that I tumbled a while ago.

The purity of the alpine is not a reassuring quality. It is a fearful one, one that does not invite a person to linger or lounge. It is an abode that is best visited and not one to be domesticated, the living room of everything that is not the village, everything that is outside the bounds of settled, civil life.

But it is a place that one calls to some of us, bringing us to the hostile place to breathe the air and feel the sterility. It is a place, like the floor of Death Valley or, presumably, the ice floes of the Antarctic, that amplifies human existence. One does not feel insignificant in such places. Rather, one feels a sense of importance for no other reason that being alive.

It is not an importance born and cultivated to be ego satisfying or one that inspires arrogance. No, it is a sense that to be alive is an important quality and that to be alive is better than to be dead. Barren, lifeless places teach us this better than anything written, drawn, or recorded. And, besides, the alpine is a beautiful place to visit in fine weather.

The Zanskar Trek, I: Darcha to Padum

Trekking in the Indian Trans-Himalaya. Chris Willett’s journals from a July-August trip to Ladakh and Zanskar, India. I still agree with my claim that he has pretty much the best hiking journal on the internet when you consider the double-whammy of writing and photography. Usually pretty unvarnished. Sometimes travel is damn hard.

It was here that Tibetans fled when the Chinese liberated their country, and it was here that I was told Tibetan culture was still intact. Desert peaks leading to handing glaciers soared above irrigated valleys, with monasteries carved into the sides of mountains and an outdoor paradise, this was the objective for the summer. But as always seems to happen, my time was more an experience within myself, an experience that helped to bring clarity to my own life at a time of transition. I will not be back.

Via mhsteger, a few of Sydney Smith’s prescriptions for low spirits, from a February, 1820 letter to Lady Georgiana Morpeth:

6th. See as much as you can of those friends who respect and like you.

7th. And of those acquaintances who amuse you.

11th. Don’t expect too much from human life—a sorry business at the best.

14th. Be as much as you can in the open air without fatigue.

15th. Make the room where you commonly sit gay and pleasant.

17th. Don’t be too severe upon yourself, or underrate yourself, but do yourself justice.

18th. Keep good blazing fires.

The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature – William Cronon

A very good essay on how the twin ideas of the sublime and the frontier coalesced into the American environmental movement, and how the modern idea of wilderness sets a dangerous sort of man vs. nature dualism that we’re better off without. There’s also the class/race issues, of course, and how modern outdoor experience became not a way of life but a consumptive pastime. And ironically, “Frontier nostalgia became an important vehicle for expressing a peculiarly bourgeois form of antimodernism.” Good stuff.

The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature – William Cronon

The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature – William Cronon

A very good essay on how the twin ideas of the sublime and the frontier coalesced into the American environmental movement, and how the modern idea of wilderness sets a dangerous sort of man vs. nature dualism that we’re better off without. There’s also the class/race issues, of course, and how modern outdoor experience became not a way of life but a consumptive pastime. And ironically, “Frontier nostalgia became an important vehicle for expressing a peculiarly bourgeois form of antimodernism.” Good stuff.

The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature – William Cronon

Trevor Clark (@trevorclark), a guy I knew back in the old high school days of yore, recently did a two-part interview about his life as an adventure photographer.

The main thing I need for any deadline is a fast and reliable Internet source. Working away from my van, I just make sure I have a plan and if all else fails, I do the old-fashioned journalistic thing and find Internet, no matter what.

One time I even ended up in a couple’s bedroom (absolute strangers) at midnight, fixing their router so that I could use their internet to upload a set of images that needed to be ready for Italian distribution within the hour.

Badass.

This past weekend I did the 40-mile hike I’d been pondering for a while. It was hard. It was worth it. I will do it again. I hadn’t done proper hiking since early January, so I was feeling a bit like Dickens:

Restlessness, you will say. Whatever it is, it is always driving me, and I cannot help it. I have rested nine or ten weeks, and sometimes feel as if it had been a year—though I had the strangest nervous miseries before I stopped. If I couldn’t walk fast and far I should just explode and perish.

Looks like a couple people already wrote the book I was thinking about creating: Appalachian Pages, a thru-hikers’ guide for the Appalachian Trail. The real winning idea here, the one that I wanted to see, was having the elevation profile watermarked on each page so you can sneak a peek at the day’s challenges in a glance:

sample page from Appalachian Pages

Thank God they saved me the work. It looks great. If I ever end up on the AT again, I wouldn’t be surprised if I carried this book instead of the classic AT Data Book.