two days ago:
a window of bullet blue skies opened between storms.
i took aim for the Summit of the highest peak in Arizona, determined to run to Her lofty heights while chanting the name of my baby girl to christen her spirit with those of the high mountain Kachinas.
this cell phone camera self portrait gets my chilling snotty face at the col between Humphreys (Doko Oosliid) and Agassiz Peaks. Elevation here is 11,800′. it took me just over an hour to cover the 4 miles, 2,000’+ of uphill trail running to reach this spot. From here, i leave the protection of the trees and dance up and over 3 false summits and another mile of jagged, rocky terrain to reach the top. My left thumb points to the summit ridge of the Sacred Peak that hovers still another 1,000′ over my left shoulder.

the changing aspens of the Inner Basin spread beneath my flying feet.
this shot is taken looking east, the direction in which this massive volcano blew its lid from her former height estimated to be over 16,000′!
in the distance is Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monument within the volcanic cones bordering the Painted Desert and Hopi Land.

The summit of Doko Oosliid. Looking south over Agassiz Peak in the foreground and Sedona on the horizon. My ascent time was a 1:37. A strong hiker, accustomed to altitude can get up to the summit in around 3 hours. During my God-Intoxicated ascent and descent, repeatedly was i reminded of how inspiring a mountain runner can be to recreational hikers. Half naked and breathing like a race horse, a mountain runner that can go up and down a peak in far less time than it takes a hiker to just get to the summit often brings forth an ongoing stream of encouragement to the runner;
“I dink you are crazy, but i admire you!” shouted one heavily clothed German hiker at me over the windblown barren terrain near the summit.

“You are our inspiration!” called out a family of five traveling slowly up the massive mountain.

At the summit, a teenager with his dog stuggled up the final few meters, “Did you jog all the way up here?” he asked.
“Yea,” i answered quickly following with my standard, “great day isn’t it?”
He shrugged off the comment, “Wow, i was just walking and nearly turned around several times.”
“Oh wow,” i immediately encouraged him, “That is a HUGE spiritual victory for you then! Congratulations and welcome to the the Highest Point in Arizona!”

“Oooh, here comes my hero!” said one large fellow as i slipped past him on the narrow descent.

When such kindness is pointed my way, i do my best to bow in Namaste and say something like, “Oh no, no, no…but thank you! You are doing great!”

If someone asks me, “How much farther?” which is not uncommon, i will say to them, “Oh, you just keep an eye on the Summit and you’ll be there soon!”

I love running up mountains. always have. the feel of foot smitten with frozen, tough terrain high above timberline is my Sacred Space. though, after breaking my spine, the sheer act of running is especially painful, i will not give up. it’s too special for my soul, regardless of the toll the pain takes on my body/mind. i am slow these days compared to my youth, stopping every twenty minutes to drop into a searingly painful yogi squat to relieve some of the neural impingement under the guise of taking water. i call this, ‘the ilg wheelchair.’ yet without a doubt, the terrain that i cover in the high altitudes on foot make more indelibly precious footprints in my soul. refusing surgery and drugs for my back and hip pain over the past 20+ years is part and parcel of my spiritual conviction; i accept my karma and consider the dance with Chronic Pain to be training to kiss Yama**.

about a mile from the bottom, slithering my way through the towering conifers and old growth aspens, Brahman rewarded my effort and pilgrimage by flushing out a Dusky* Grouse right before my feet. She flew up with a pheasant like roar of feathers to perch, curious, on a pine limb twenty feet over my head. yogi squatting, smiling, i entered her energetically and sat for a long while, contemplating the Om So Ti moment of encountering this Sacred Spiral Medicine of Grouse. According to Jamie Sams, when Grouse Medicine enters our Path, we are being encouraged to literally find the dance within our spiritual practices instead of the more typical cease-all-activity approach to spiritual training. Grouse says, “Dance Yogi! Dance in as many ways as you can and offer that dance to the Great Spirit!” i must say, literally running into a 20″+ Grouse like i did on that special day was such a Gift! such an Om So Ti!

a day after my ascent, Doko Oosliid (shown here to the right of Agassi Peak) had already shut the window of opportunity as She donned her winter clothes. when it comes to running high mountain peaks?

timing is everything.

like so much of this amazingly precious thing called; life!

May your Practice be as Sacred as a Spiral Dance up and down the Highest Peak,

the mountain yogi

*; formerly called the “Blue” Grouse

**; Yama is the most ferocious wrathful deity of all Bardo Realms and is said to turn even the most stalwart spiritual warrior due to His absolutely terrifying force and skills.

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