Balance: A Middle Kings Story

The idea of doing the Middle Kings about 4 months after its regular season seemed preposterous. 
I hadn't done anything physically demanding in months. Embarking on the hike alone would be like attacking a fully armored gladiator with a hot fudge sundae. 

Looking back down at the first series of lakes.

Usually, life happens too fast for you to do anything about it, but on a snowy hike up Bishop Pass you have plenty of time to think about all that amassed information you haven't bothered thinking about again. 

Score on the page 249 quiz in the latest Vogue: trend-savvy and taste-making sense of fashion.
(Ill-focused photo of Rush making his way up Bishop. Steep, snow-filled ravine of doom seen below.)

It's either tears or laughter. I'm not sure how Darin was feeling at this point, but he was on the verge of one of the above due to frustration and exhaustion. 
Laughter, I think. Physiological response to knowing how far we still had to go. 
Like so many of us, here are Ben and Darin trying to make sense of life from things found in the wilderness. 

The sign at the top of Bishop Pass might say "Only by destroying yourself can you find the true strength of your spirit."
It might also say "Elevation 11,972 Feet. Pets, weapons and wheeled vehicles are prohibited."

Darin sat down next to me after he passed the sign and may have said under his breath, "If this isn't nice, I don't know what is." Sometimes you just have to notice when things are good.

Clearly, he was referencing our discussion on how easy the hike would be since we would be able to drag our boats most of the way. 
Or paddle across lakes!

You know, when I went out hiking to this river I didn't think I was really going to have a great time. I knew the river was going to be great, but the hike I was sure I could do without. It's true too, I could have done without it. 
But the hike comes free with the river experience, so we had to take it too. 
It was not the kind of walk you can just dance along and have a hell of a good time. There are no babes or fire engines to wave at. I mean, you're not going to meet any great people out there in the middle of October. Maybe just some random day hiker who is going to bombard you with questions and exclamations about how you are truly crazy. 
Not as crazy, good friend, as the folks in the parking lot who asked how far the trail goes and how long it takes to get there. 
"Well, it goes all the way to Canada." 
"Oh that's nice," the computer guy replied. "Honey, I think we can make it to Denny's before it closes." Bit of an ill-contrived excuse, don't you think. Using a 24 hour restaurant as a premise to get away from the trail to Canada as fast as possible. 
See, we've got to be here on earth to mess around a bit. The computer guy is trying to stay away from that. Maybe he doesn't realize that. That we are dancing animals and we love to move around. Maybe we aren't supposed to dance at all anymore though. 

It's the trick of perspective that makes it look like Ben is wading through waist-deep snow. Really, it was only mid-thigh deep. 

Finally at 'The Brink' overlooking Le Conte Canyon. The great thing about amassing a bunch of beautiful images and memories is that they never end up owning you. You know, it's like I wanted this perfect view of Le Conte Canyon at dusk. So now I'm satisfied for a while that no matter what goes wrong, I have the "Le Conte at dusk" issue settled. Then it was the perfect first view of the river. Then just the right rapid. Then the perfect meadow. The camp. The bedrock. The miles of whitewater.

Maybe they do own me. 
Tehipite is on the map, but it's an experience not on any map.
I think a lot of addictions hide truth from the user. The river won't wait to show you truth. There's no label for it though. What it shows can't be crammed into a single word. A story. 
There's something in the experience that's undefined. A mystery. A sphinx. A real adventure.