Just Three Things to Remember

Just Three Things to Remember

Why do they call it golf?
Because all the other four-letter words were taken.

Targhee Village (aka Spudgusta; bordering Idaho potato country). Men’s informal Thursday. Random foursomes, two dollars each in the pot.

First up, hole #1.

I reach for my driver. Well, it’s not actually my driver, as I broke mine over a tree three days ago. Fucking thing misbehaved. Markida reluctantly handed me a loaner.

The three other guys drive it out there pretty good. One guy clears Ditch Creek by twenty yards. I get my stance, few Sergio wiggles, head down, eyes on the dimple at the back of the ball, easy back swing, balanced athletic position, coming down … wrists releasing …

… then comes that 3/100ths of a second where I semi-consciously decide to change it all … I break one of those 87 different commandments … I start to look up … and it’s a top-spinning worm-burner skimming along earth-bound for all of 57 yards …

“Damn it!”

I approach that foul egg of a demon dragon, a Top Flite 3 … as if … select my Rescue 3. This club performed very nicely when I first got her. A hybrid between a wood and an iron, designed to get me out of the rough. But over this summer she’s performed sporadically. I had to slam her head into the ground a couple of times. Fickle bitch.

This ball I hit more squarely, it lasers out of there, not more than two feet above the fairway where it hits … rolls … oh no … don’t start off like … into the ditch.

“Arrrggghhh!”

The other guys hit good shots. I’m lying “two in three out” as I pluck my wet ball from the one-foot-wide ditch and drop it two feet farther from the flag.

Okay, nine iron. This is an easy club for most golfers to hit. Just one or two things to remember here … and I flash back to my first lesson, the pro demonstrating in slow motion …

“ … the grip, so the Vs are pointing to your arm pits, the ball a ball-width or two behind in my stance, athletic position, I bring the club back slowly, left arm straight, left knee bending slightly, weight shifting back, the turn … slightest pause at the back swing, then open up with my hips, hands and elbows still close, weight shifting forward, releasing my wrists, club face square, the club striking down on the back of the ball before it hits the ground, through my divot, follow through with my belt buckle facing my target. This is a club that most recreational players will hit between 100 and 120 yards from the flag. Now I’ll hit it at a regular tempo.”

That’s how fuckin’ nutz  this sport is. Golf’s an all-too-true metaphor for life. Undulating terrain … unbalanced swings … traps … hazards … penalties … bad shots good lies … good shots unlucky bounces … finesse and etiquette in and around the populated greens … all that concentrated effort only to finally end up in a hole in the ground. I try so hard to stay on par, but the truth is I’ve carded a lot of bogeys, double bogeys and two days ago an 8 on the par 3 sixth hole.

Those standard and upright citizens (shirts with collars are expected for men) who can synthesize the most components and compete evenly among others in a socially accepted behavior prevail. We rogue-ish mountain types flail.

I take a deep breath, draw the 9-iron back, just think of one thing that one dimple and I hit it with that perfect click … club center, and toward the flag … bouncing one foot from the flag … and carrying recklessly onward … and beyond the green, into the steep rough.

By now, my mind and body tense up, breathing short, gritting my teeth … just the opposite of what you hear: “Loosey goosey,” “easy when it’s breezy, easy all the time,” “slow it all down.” “Relax.” Relax hell, I want to beat something, someone, anyone. So if all else fails, “Grip it and rip it!”

Okay, here comes the 60-degree. A lob wedge. Designed to lift the ball out of the rough … delicately … just keep my head and upper body still and legs planted … practice swing … now hit it just like that pop out she comes and it looks good for the first bounce, but Miss Dimples defies all laws of nature as she gains speed running past the hole six feet … I can sense my three playing partners’ disgust and pity.

Now, the putter. The other three have holed out so I step up, a few practice sings, yes, just there … plink … and it takes an impossible right turn before she stops two feet from the hole.

“Ugh.”

My putter was forged two levels beneath Hell’s Deepest Cellars …

Even top pros miss the easy two- and three-footers. You anticipate the “yips.” That means right at the last instant you question your performance: Did you grasp your shaft too tightly and how hard do you strike the ball and there is two or maybe three inches of break? And the “miss it” part of “don’t miss it” echoes in your brain and you twitch right at the crucial moment …

Golf is a game of confidence, a good player once told me.

I think it’s because I have the protester gene welded into my DNA from the ’60s with Nam and Nixon and all the nuts stuff oozing out directly opposite the explosion of artistic and musical and so many other enhancements so we’d all vacillate, shape-shifting our consciousness back and forth between paranoia and Peak Experience. Three-one-hundredths of a second and you think of too many things or the wrong thing and you doubt your swing your life your very reason for existence and it’s manifested in a “yip” and you miss the two-foot putt. Your cerebral cortex didn’t want to. Something misfired in your reptilian complex.

Hell, dude, professional baseball players are hitting a 5-ounce baseball being thrown directly at them at speeds upwards of 100 mph, spinning, curving, and any decent batter can take a 30-ounce round stick of wood and hit that 5-ounce spinning sphere squarely in 38/100ths of a second and you can’t hit this bright white 1.62-ounce dimpled ball perched up on a tee lying dormant right beneath you? And help yourself to a couple of practice swings …

I line up for the two-footer and the other three guys are standing oh so silently around me, one has picked up the flag. One good player told me Tiger Woods says grip it as lightly as possible. Just because it reflects my weird-ass life, I hit the ball right handed, but putt lefty. Don’t ask. I read a two-inch break here. I strike the ball and it breaks … toward the edge … catching the edge … spinning around the cup 270 degrees … and in! Kerplinkadink. The drug is in the kerplinkadink. The scores reported: 4, 4, 5 … and my 7.

Okay, next hole. Par 4.

This time I don’t hit the worst drive, but it hooks left and brings the water hazard into play. Golf doesn’t seem to attract the scientist types, but it should, as the cosmologists  would find there’s a black hole right here at Spudgusta. It has swallowed up entire solar systems and even galaxies and at least two hundred of my golf balls. But it brings out the club I am most adept with, my ball retriever, a recent birthday present; replete with telescopic extenders and a ball-size day-glo basket.

Now the four-iron. This club brings instant anxiety. The hardest clubs to hit are the lower irons, as six-time-major winner Lee Trevino, the “Merry Mex,” said, “If it starts lightning hold up your 1-iron. God can’t even hit a 1-iron.”

At this point you’re asking, “Why do you keep playing?”

It’s because I have logged lots of miles running in them thar hills in and around Yellowstone and Jackson Hole. In fact, as of this writing 38,189. Add a hundred-thousand moguls + or – and a few thousand miles of schussing and crashing on light cross-country ski gear. All that mountain biking. Motorcycle accidents. Sixty planet revolutions. Arrggghh. The left knee is gone. In fact, when Obama Care slides through, I’m going in for an entire skeleton replacement.

So I was looking for another way/reason to stay outside. Golf! You’re outside, beautiful places. Make some new friends. Satisfy the old competitive urges. So I just took it up. Nine years ago.

My best score here at Spudgusta is a 41 for our nine-hole course. Five over par. The record round, from the best golfer in these parts is Chris Inglis. He’s one-quarter Nez Perce Native American. He’s carded a 28!

My four iron from about 150. Of course it splashes into the water. What else did you expect? But one of the other guys lands his ball in the thicket, one other hits into the tall grass, so I don’t feel that bad. They shall share my suffering.

I pull out my 56-degree for my penalty shot, 40-yard shot to the hole. With a miracle, I can make par. And don’t watch, you’re making me nervous …

You gotta hit under the ball, practice swings skim the grass just like that step up, pause, how long to pause? Shite, I didn’t check my impact point keep going they’re waiting … hit it squarely just that hard club back now forward aim there which dimple … and I skull it. Hit it one-quarter inch too high … but it bounces out of the duff and onto the green  stopping five feet away from the hole.”

“Good shot, Cal.”

“Lucky.”

I miss the five-footer by a foot, then almost missed the tap in, so it’s a 6.

Now, let’s move onto the epicenter of horror and mayhem, hole #6. Par three. Over a dank brown lagoon. Draining it in the fall reveals a golf ball graveyard.

One local guy I played with a couple of years ago boiled the whole game down this way:

“There are just three things to remember in golf. One, keep your head down. Two, keep your fucking head down and three, keep your goddamned fucking head down.”

I’m having problems with that one lately. I keep looking up and seeing scary shit going on all around me. The planet and its citizens veering into deep rough. Into the thick stuff, and we’re gonna have to pull out that rescue hybrid and get back on the fairway.

My heart’s in the mountains. Escapism. These thirty years of running over these wonderful mountain trails, uphill forever, to 10,000 feet! The Top of the World! Grinding above all that complicated humanism. And also shuffling across the volcanic caldera that is Yellowstone Park. My heart and mind soar freely out there, past sour pyschodramas, beyond cities, living in that exact moment.

No score, no parameters, no penalty shots, no bad swings.

But as I’m running low on miles, I try to spread out what’s left. Some days, some rounds, better than others, yes? On sore knee days, there’s the bike or easy ski touring. On good days, do I have one more Pikes Peak Ascent left in me?

Only one of the other three guys lands his ball on the green, one goes over, the other guy flirts with disaster as his ball stops on the edge of the slope above the lagoon. I step up, tee my Callaway (yeah, I drowned the Top Flite on hole #5). A practice swing, then I remember tip #79, about the torso and I turn my shoulders … slight pause … balanced there open up the hips swinging through and CLICK! That beautiful sound when you hit it right “on the screws” … the whistle of the ball through the air when it’s hit perfectly. The ball flies up … arching toward the flag … down from its pinnacle … toward the flag … “Go!” … it lands with a heavy thud four feet from the flag … takes two short bounces and stops three feet from the hole.

“Good shot, Cal.”

“There ya go.”

“Nice one!”

Okay, FYI, I compensated for the two inches of break … and made the putt. A birdie! Won points for the team. It would be the only hole to which I contributed, but the other guys played well and our team won. I begrudgingly accepted my eight dollars.

Golf backwards is Flog. So you now have MJF’s, MG’s and my permission to flog any friend, relative or spouse even hinting at taking up this *%#&! sport. Remember, for every 400 yards of fairway, there are 800 yards of rough. But for every 400 yards of mountain trail there are 400 yards of  birdies, eagles … you tell me …

So golf and life: The meta-four-iron. It’s that comeback shot. Not the 150-yard 9-irons the pros hit that land on the green and roll back to within inches of the hole. No, the 7-iron I hit on #6; it makes me want to come back and play one more time. One more perfect mountain trail, evoking exuberance. One more perfect swing.

Kerplinkadink. 

Long-time contributor Cal Glover, a tour guide in the Greater Yellowstone area, passed away last December. This story was submitted several months before his death. 

Best Dog Ever

Man's Best FriendOkay, then. My dog is tied with your dog at the top of the list as Best Dog Ever.

April, 1995. Lonelier than the Unabomber, living in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a ski town with the ratio of something like seven hundred guys to every girl, I begged my trailer-lord to relent on the covenant of no dogs. A few genuine sniffles surely didn’t hurt my cause.

So I declined on two different litters of AKC-registered $300 Labs that were destined to grow up barrel-chested, 120 pounds. I wanted a training partner.

With my curmudgeon friend’s words echoing in my ear — “Well, you can forget about running in the national parks … no dogs allowed” — I had about given up on my quest when, on a rainy day, between errands, I swung by the shelter. One black Lab. We seemed to get along. We played. I asked him if he wanted to come home with me. He didn’t say no. Momentous decision looming. I was about to treat myself to lunch at Bubba’s, think it over, when local paragliding legend John Patterson walked in, said, “Are you going to take that dog?”

Pause … pause … paws …  “Yes. I am.”

Some paperwork, some money, and we’re off. I have a new best friend. That day I did not know he was destined to be the Best Dog Ever. Name? Toby Tyler, after a novel and movie about a boy who ran off with the circus in search of escape and adventure …  hmmm … who does that remind me of?

The next day, April 25th, to the vet’s for shots, etc. The vet said he looked to be about four months old. Four months minus April 25th = Christmas Day.

Monks of New Skete in hand for training sessions; followed by lots of play time. Toby got “stay,” “sit,” and “come” down quickly. He became good at “fetch,” was not worth a damn at “bring it.” Played a top-notch game of tag.

My child-bearing friends scolded me for not having insurance; I was no longer being included in any reindeer games. But now I had reassurance!

October 25th, 2011. After seven months of going back and forth, my girlfriend and I decided. The next day we were to put Toby down. On one side: he was almost 17 years old. Daily, nightly, he peed and pooped on himself, laid down in it. He could barely stand or walk. He was mostly deaf, partly blind. The growing lump might be cancerous. Friends said it was time, perhaps past time. On the other side: he didn’t seem to be in pain, still had a voracious appetite for canned food, seemed interested in our daily lives, and he was my best friend.

The best part was snuggling at night. Last thing, after dinner, TV, music, in silence, before sleep, was to get down and hug Toby T. Tyler, pet him, massage him, whisper in his ear. He liked that a lot. A low, comfortable moan told me so. I got kisses. I was in love.

But, soon, May and tourist season rolled around and, being a Yellowstone/Grand Teton tour meant I was working for 13-14-hour days. What to do with Toby? I bought a dog house, leashed him, left copious amounts of food and water within reach. But, coming home, I’d find him wrapped up around his house, or sitting on the roof in the sun, out of reach of water and kibbles, which were often dumped over in his quest for broader horizons.

Option two: Give him free rein. I’d leave the front door open, ask my neighbor, who ran a day care out of her trailer, to keep an eye on him. Yeah. Sure.

Home one day, gone the next. “Have him fixed,” said some I asked. “No, it will take away his spirit,” said others. Three times in a row nowhere in sight = snip snip. That slowed him down … not one bit.

Then we went camping one night. Late and dark, “Toby, stay close by.” Twenty seconds later he came back … with a snout full of quills. Porcupined. He would not let me take them out, despite my best strong-armed attempts. To the vet’s. They knocked him out. Pulled out like twenty quills. Sixty dollars. Okay then.

Into July, and something was wrong with him. He became lethargic, his appetite diminished. July 12th birthday night found me back at the vet’s. Pneumonia. The vet kept him. Over the next four days, his condition worsened. The vet speculated that one small quill might have gone through, punctured and infected his lung. Death was looming. Three options, said the vet. 1. A drive to Fort Collins, operation, open his chest, $2,400. 2. A specialist in Cody, Wyoming, perhaps $1,200. 3. Very strong antibiotics. “But I doubt he’ll make it,” said the vet. Having no money meant option three.

I had a tour that next day. A worried father was not at his best. Hurrying things along. I pulled in at 6:30 and there he was, on top of his dog house, tail wagging, sparkle in his eyes … lots of hugs and kisses. Toby was back from the dead!

His rap sheet over the next few years: Confessions of an Unruly Teenager.

Hating to see anything tied up except, perhaps, Cameron Diaz, Toby gained in-and-out access. I taught him to scratch at the door once cold weather came. But his wanderings, like my own, led him to wonderful places. He developed a penchant for getting rescued by totally hot babes. How many phone calls started with, “Yeah, I found your dog … ” “Keep him with you, I’ll be right there.” I’d knock and Princess Hottay would open the door. “He’s such a cutie!” To myself: “Good boy, Toby.”

Another summer evening, I got a call from Bubba’s, the local barbecue joint, at the busy five-way intersection. I raced down and there was the voluptuous cashier, adding up a check with one hand, the other hand outside the open window, holding up a piece of beef, keeping it just out of his leaping reach.

He made it down to Skinny Skis on another occasion, which meant, again, finding his way through busy downtown pedestrian and car traffic — sure hope he didn’t cause any wrecks.

Then how on Earth did he make it all the way to the vet’s office, across Broadway and four lanes of summer traffic, over a mile away?

Or that time in Durango, when I floated the Animas River, and was taking apart my Pack Cat, then it was 45 minutes of driving around and yelling his name before, yup, he checked himself into the local animal shelter. I got scolded by the director, who had started to process him in.

Or that night I got a call from Albertson’s. “Yeah, Cal, we have your dog down here. He keeps running back and forth between the meat section and the dog food aisle. Can you please come get him?”

It’s just not fair that we don’t age at the same rate. Isn’t there a pill?

I went for a long run the day before the vet was to show up to put him down. My emotions swung back and forth. Doubts. Arriving home, Kim was a wreck, lavishing affection on him, couldn’t stop holding him. A few minutes before the vet closed for the day, I entered seven numbers, took a deep breath, hit send. We cancelled. The receptionist said it happened all the time. Rescheduled a week later. We’d see how he’s doing.

Toby learned things, too. My Master’s degree in Sport Psychology gave me the credentials to drive a taxi in Jackson Hole in the winters. Five, six times a night I would breeze into my trailer, pee, make some tea, let Mutthead out, grab a snack. But on that seventh time, as bar rush was coming to a close, when I reached in the refrigerator for a coupla beers, Toby would stand and stretch, he knew he was coming along for the last fare or two of the night. How in hell did he pick up on that?

Or reaching for my running shoes: his cue to stretch. Oh boy, dad! Time to go running up Cache Creek?

I started dating Kim, and after a few years and some bargaining, it was decided: Toby and I were moving in. He got to chase magpies, voice his displeasure over the hot air balloons, share country life with a couple of cats and run freely.

More resume:

On the mother of all road trips — Driggs, Idaho, to Cabo San Lucas, Toby figured out body surfing. He got to chase a buffalo off the 8th green at Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis. I taught him to walk on my back, give me a back massage. Toby had an amazing success rate for sitting and pawing at, “Which hand?” (held the treat?)

Most Labs live 10-12 years. At 12, Toby was still leading me in my four-mile runs/ski tours. Somewhere in there, he punctured through crusty snow and tore his ACL. Where are those pictures of him and his blue cast?

But then came that day when he didn’t seem interested in going for our daily run. He sat on his chair, staring blankly at me, and I wasn’t sure how much to coax him. “Maybe take today off, Tobes.”

Toby T. Tyler got to run through redwoods and over red slickrock. Down tropical beaches, up 10,000-foot mountains. He’s chased cows, deer, rabbits and pronghorn and never, except for one adventurous Uinta Ground Squirrel, a chiseler, never hurt a thing.

Then, at 14, the lump, growing by his throat might, said the vet, might be cancer. Four days of me worrying before the biopsy came back negative.

That next week, the days slipped past as they always do. Then came November 2nd. Could I cancel again? He was only seven weeks away from making it to Christmas Day and 17. I entered the vet’s phone number … to cancel … but I could not hit send. Kim and I were worthless that day. 1:40 p.m. was approaching. We put him on the couch, reminded him he was the Best Dog Ever … and cried like babies. Tears wetting his fur, me imbibing his smell, wiping my tears in his elegant black fur, stroking him, trying to take his essence inside me. 1:20 … can my best friend soon be gone? Besides a lucky shot at a robin with a BB gun when I was 13, and my share of cutthroat trout, I’d never killed anything, and now you’re telling me I’m gonna kill my best friend?

Ten minutes. An eerie silence in our cabin, the day too still and quiet. Toby’s still here! Can Time please Stop? Oh, please make him a puppy again!

One minute. There’s the vet, coming down the drive. No! Go back! Turn around, get an emergency! 

He pulls up and parks. I lift my companion and best friend up from the couch. Kim’s losing it. I’m gone. Sobbing, carrying Toby T. Tyler in my arms.

Kim: “Doc, are you sure we’re doing the right thing?”

Vet: “I thought it should have been done a long time ago.”

Thanks for that.

Then I lie him in the front lawn … the vet pulls out a syringe … damn it … shit … stop here … sorry, guys … he was the Best Dog Ever.

Senior correspondent Cal Glover lives just over Teton Pass from Jackson. He has recently taken up golf. 

The Devil’s Stairway

“There’s just one particular harbor … so far, and yet so near … ” — Jimmy Buffett, 1987

So how was I to know that in June of 1971, standing at the on ramp to I-95 outside Fort Liquordale, Florida, with my protruding thumb pointed north and west, that 72 hours later I would land a job washing dishes in Yellowstone National Park?

And how could I know that in 1976, after three years of being caught up in the running “boom,” that on b-day July 12th I would run 22 miles across Yellowstone’s Central Plateau, three times longer than any run I’d previously attempted?

Then surely I couldn’t know that after turning fiddy in 2001, that, in defiance of that fiddy milestone, I would run up Pikes Peak in the Ascent race, and even go back again in 2002.

Or that, left with a residue of fitness, I would go back and do the long Yellowstone run again that fall? Or that, in 2009, with the stiff heaviness of years of running skiing biking abusing, I would be back at it?

Best thing I’ve ever done.

Hayden Valley, the Central Plateau, is one of the few remaining wild epicenters in the Lower 48. The place crackles with electricity, charisma, danger. I’ve only gone in there alone.

It’s home of the grizzly — Hayden is where the famous brothers, Frank and John Craighead, did much of their research in the 1960s for their heralded book, “Track of the Grizzly.” I’ve never not seen grizzly sign back there.

It’s the stomping ground of the Nez Perce pack of wolves (and where, on another run, I was one sock away from slithering nekkid into a hot spring, and saw two cans of lupus adults that had been watching me from twenty yards away the whole time. They sauntered off; I slithered in).

Across the Central Plateau. Past geothermal areas that a dozen … few dozen? … of Yellowstone’s 3.5 million yearly visitors ever see, perhaps 0.0005%. (The Park Service does not permit backpacking anywhere along that 22-mile route.)

The trail over Mary Mountain and the Central Plateau follows the old stagecoach route before there was a Craig Pass out of Old Faithful in 1892. Coming in from the west, you still follow two-track before it crosses Nez Perce Creek and into thick lodgepole pine forests.

You sick MG-reading adrenaline-addicted enduro-fux don’t wanna do this chit. Go away.

Okay? Reason with me here.

Reason 1: It’s either 22 or 24 miles across, depending which signs you believe. Or 20.2 if you ask the backcountry office. Yes, the major predators are there (evidence of recent activity abounds): grizzlies and wolves, also the tormenting mosquitoes and the kamikaze deer flies in July. If you stop to adjust or glance at the map, you’re done. Blood donor. They’re insane back there. You bathe yourself in DEET, then you gotta keep moving. Your options are one.

Oh yes — it’s gorgeous in that primal Yellowstone kind of way as you jog along Nez Perce Creek, crossing the old wooden bridges, into the shady forest, across the floor of a volcanic caldera. Entering a special place. A portal back in time some eighty thousand years, before homo e-wrecked-us.

Reason 2: You’re gonna get mad at the trail. Because no one goes back there, and because there’s so much verdurous growth, you run into these open meadows and the trail disappears and you slow as you jog

through uneven sedges in the direction that feels right. The white part of an otherwise green topo map denotes marsh and it does not lie.

There’s one! An orange sign, and you pick up the pace back to an Anasazi Shuffle and consume more miles.

You stop and read a 60-year-old inter- pretive sign; you’re standing where Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce camped out on their terrible and sad retreat from the U.S. Army in August 1877.

Onward, then, through uncleared fallen lodgepoles. Damn lodgepoles! They’re ev- erywhere, and you gotta decide if walking around or climbing over is better again and now where’s the trail?

Then you get to run up and over Mary Mountain. Did I mention the mountain?

Dusty, crusty, obsidian and pulverized volcanic tuff, and it’s steep. You gotta leap back and forth over a small drainage for the best line, and the crushed obsidian acts like ball bearings, so you slip as it climbs to a twelve-percent grade.

(This was the Devil’s Stairway in the old stagecoach days. The dudes and dudettes were requested to walk to lighten the loads for the four-horse teams. In 1890 Congressman Guy Pelton died while walking up this road; the beginning of the end for this route.)

Me likes this part. I start at eight in the morning. Now the sun’s climbing high, I’m baking … basking … in the glow of a good mountain sweat, a semi truck in low gear grinding my way uphill and …

“Whoa … !” Large male grizzly track, unmistakable in the powdery volcanic ash … “Whoa! Hello!?” … scratch marks on that lodgepole … seven feet up … You wanna come up with a song at this point. You wanna make a lot of noise.

“Hello bear … are you there … I do care … if you eat me…”

And just because your panting-ass lungs are having a heave, forget about it — you better keep making some noise. Old Ephraim (in mountain man lingo) is around, and he’s close.

“There’s no business like show business … ”

And no puking, either.

So you’re on high alert and the safety cap is off your pepper spray, but the forest opens up and finally you’re over and … there’s the cabin.

A log cabin with a personality (as most do). Safe, solid, cozy and gracefully Feng shuied in the center of a stately lodgepole forest. Thirty steps to the lake, twenty to the pooper.

Eleven miles in now, half way, I empty out my Camelbak onto the picnic table, shoot up more DEET (skeeters not as bad here, 700 feet above the swamps), and gag down a Clif Bar. (Please send me a case of the choco p-butter for the dubious plug, thx. cg.)

Now you’re probably ten miles from the nearest human and you gotta think about the last time you were ten miles from another human.

And: No Service (yeah, I ran with one), no television, no CNN, no escaped convicts, no pooters.

How many people have never been a mile away from another person? A hundred yards?

I’m thinking that after owning and operating Callowishus (!) Tours for twenty years, the Park Service might bequeath the Mary Mountain patrol cabin to me. Backcountry ranger Becky riding up on Saturdays with supplies. I’ll have to ask.

Ten minutes of being epicentered, a short stretch, and it’s back on the trail. Before every tendon and muscle freezes, starved of glycogen.

Now the trail meanders through Highland Hot Springs and it does not seem possible that out there somewhere, out past your envelope of sweat and endorphin and wonder, the world can be going on. There can’t be a rush hour and Wall Street and hate-war violence and environmental destruction and how could anyone not clamor to be where you were right then? Sneaking across an impending volcano, seething, hissing and geologically late for a big eruption. The caldera. The crucible for all things good and vibrant.

The hypnotic buzz from running hours at this pace, shivering in the glow of it all.

And don’t forget about Old Ephraim.

Singing, “Hello hello, what is it, you want to know?”

You catch the signed cutoff — thanks Ranger Bob — away from the old stagecoach road that thins out into nothing.

“Ohhhh!” You jump three feet in the air … “Fuck!”… Big Bison, wide-eyed, he jolts then you skid backwards grasping a tree. “Ahhh!” He stampedes away through the young trees, tossing up a dust storm.

“Dude, you scared the crap out of me!” Bitch.

You moron. With that squirt of adrenalin, you used up 18% of your remaining energy … coulda touched him! If that was a bear …

Then ninety minutes after Mary Cabin, it’s all about to change again: Hayden Valley! A huge rolling meadow of green stretching forever and the brown dots are buffalo and where’s the trail? Well, you still have like seven miles and it runs northeasterly. Shuffle.

The Park Service puts up posts with orange markers, but say the buffalo like to rub up against them, knocking them over.

You keep plodding east, jog when you can, walk if you must, uneven sage meadows. You know to run on your toes in rough terrain, but the muscles balk. It’s hot. Slight tail breeze. Long way to go.

You have topo-choices and get lucky, up that middle ridge was correct … and there’s a fallen Park Service post with an orange trail marker. You prop it up, again commence the shuffle.

A little map surveillance. There’s a big, inviting geothermal steaming way over there, but you’re not about to veer two miles extra.

Trail on, trail off.

You think about getting back, what you want to drink first, second, then third. The water warming in your sweat-soaked Camelbak isn’t cutting it. Civilization is six miles ahead, and you just want a root beer float before you go back to the cabin to stay.

You’re eighteen miles in, you pick up the scant trail, up and over yet one more ridge and there, orange marker, obvious trail that leads out.

You don’t want to go back to the mechoworld, but you can’t go back the way you came, so you sit. You think to yourself, this is it, I found it here, but you’re not sure what “it” is. Perhaps it’s the combination of fatigue, endorphins, the primal beauty, of the sense of impending accomplishment.

Why Abbey went on those long walks toward the end, I suppose.

You’re mainly trail shuffling, but then

again you got your buffalo. 2,000-pound bull standing two yards from the trail and your choices are again: one.

Snorting: the rut has commenced.

Around, preferably upslope toward the trees. If the grizz was to get you now, you really don’t care that much. You’re ’bout done.

Your shuffle is no faster than Elder Hostellers advancing toward the vegan buffet line after a five-mile hike.

And did I mention the seeps? Go way up high again where those people went? Or right through the middle? Yep. Slosh slosh suck muck squish slosh muck suck. Add heavy muddy shoes and now, whacking through sage and sedge, a bit of decorative plant life chaffs your heel and a coupla small rocks are annoying your feet and you’re down to two miles.

And I won’t mention the two secret treats …

Quit walking, you lactic-acid pussy.

So you trudge because it counts for running miles in the story, and you’re try- ing to break six hours. Hikers with poles coming your way … you don’t want to see them or the cars in the distance now, but you shuffle on and there is that root beer float … I bet they can make it with chocolate ice cream. Then grape juice on the rocks then beer. Lots of beer. The buf- fet back at the Inn. Rum and hot chocolate and Advil for dessert.

One more seep crossing, two more buffalo aversions, and damn: there’s the end. Cars everywhere and plump tourists taking pictures of Canada Geese. They don’t know that I’ve just returned from eighty thousand years ago. That I found an epicenter.

1:58 p.m. I walk to the turnout, stick out my thumb.

Well, for reasons aplenty, I’m gonna do this run again come fall; dry trails are just one positive.

I might even entertain the idea of tak- ing along a co-pilot or two. email me. I left a scratch mark on this thin piece of tree, how to find me.

You don’t want to do this chit. Best thing I’ve ever done.

Long-time contributor Cal Glover lives just over the Teton Pass from Jackson.