In the last month of 2015 I turned sixty. In July, prior to that, I had a cycling accident that resulted in a full hip replacement, four surgeries—two on each arm to reroute the ulnar nerve, and a couple more to repair injuries to my upper-jaw. All of that resulted in a change of some of the plans to celebrate my sixth decade. In particular, those with my sons. But in August of this year it all came together…
After months of waiting, Justin, Josh, and I went into the John Muir Wilderness of the Sierras on horseback with pack mules in tow. We traversed switchbacks, crossed streams, sat through a half dozen earthquakes (really!), and rode thin trails along rocky cliffs. Vistas we had never before seen captured all our senses: stubborn snowpack stained by windblown dirt still remained from last winter; boulders several stories high towered over us; turquoise lakes and mountain streams as clear as bottled water reflected a cloudless sky, and at our highest point we topped out at 12000 feet above sea level. By the end of the first day we had straddled horses for 7 hours and descended to 9600 feet to set up camp.
Nine other riders were in our posse, but compared to the two genuine cowboys leading the trip, every last one of us might as well been wearing rhinestones. Those boys were tough as pine knots.
Even more so than the epic vistas of the Sierras, it was my sons—both grown men now—that impressed me most. Actually, they impressed everyone. Without forcing themselves forward they were leaders. Their interaction with the rest of the group was something to behold. Tough as nails, they are also as tenderhearted as a child. Whether it was chasing down horses, helping set up camp, or joining in the conversations around the dancing light of a campfire as one of the cowboys, with hands as calloused as a camel's knees, created a surreal atmosphere playing a fiddle. Yes, sitting in a massive, high altitude granite bowl, surrounded by rugged craggy mountains stretching to the heavens, one of the cowboys played ol’ timey, brokenhearted, country/folk music.
It’s been days since we returned, yet I am still recalling and processing images and the dialogue that took place between father and sons. It’s nearly four in the morning as I write. Memories of two boys, who entered this world at just over eight pounds each, flash forward to a couple of grown men covered in trail dust, but with hearts pure as gold.