White Mountain Peak: love atop hell

When I think of the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, I think of White Mountain Peak.

White Mountain Peak

White Mountain Peak is an arid and lifeless mountain emerging from the desolate desert floor in Eastern California.  There are no trees.  There is no water.  Only shrubs and shards of rock.  It is as barren a piece of earth as there ever was.  And some of my fondest memories were forged on its slopes.

Looking back, it’s all too tempting to identify a mythical Golden Age within our pasts.  One seldom notices a Golden Age while one is living it – such is a tragedy of life.  But, if my memory does not deceive me, I was well aware that I was living my Golden Age atop White Mountain Peak.  I had just graduated college, I had just realized the means and desire to explore the world, and I had three close friends and cohorts who shared my passion of exploration.

The Team

There isn’t much to say about the four of us.  We once had our lives together, hiking around obtrusive pieces of forgotten earth, and we have since parted ways.  I live in Texas.  One lives in Arizona.  One lives in Colorado.  One still resides in California.  An extremely small fragment of the past belongs to the four of us.  The future will probably never see us all together again.

They’re still my friends.  I still talk to them and visit them when I can.  But we are adults now.  Life took us in its currents and spread us downriver.  No more tomfoolery; it’s either swim or drown.

Sierra View

I’m in awe of the sheer eternity that the White Mountains represent to me.  The oldest known trees on Earth, the Bristlecone Pines, reside in these mountains.  They have lived for 5,000 years, persevering through volatile, high-altitude weather conditions, droughts, fires, and mankind.  When the oldest of them sprouted, prehistory was just becoming history.  5,000 years later, we were fortunate to walk among them, cracking jokes and laughing.

Yes, for a brief moment in the history of these timeless mountains, the four of us stood atop them and enjoyed ourselves, as if we weren’t somehow standing on the surface of Hell itself.

Friends atop hell

Perhaps therein lies a contradiction inherent in the existence of humanity.  The story of ourselves atop White Mountain Peak is the story of Mankind within the Universe.  There lie the mountain slopes forever – lifeless, stoic, still.  And for a brief moment, four friends, bringing with them camaraderie, love, joy, and benevolence, suddenly appeared and shared that joy with the mountain’s eternal indifference.  And then we vanished.

We found a moment of paradise atop an eternity of lifeless hell.

This is the infinitesimally brief moment of human existence versus the unfathomably eternal duration of the universe within which it exists.  It is not unlike the brevity of our interpersonal relationships within our lifetimes.  Is not the fact that we can find camaraderie atop a lifeless moonscape a tribute to the magnificence of the human spirit?  That the warmth of humanity can be birthed out of something so coldly inhumane?

Walking to space.

In the pursuit of greatness, the Artist must eventually come to terms with the idea that greatness is merely a delusion.  When the Artist Creator, he who has the arrogant pompousness to seek eternal glory, comes face to face with the sheer eternity of lifelessness represented by rock and sky, there is no choice but to accept a disheartening, crushing humility that greatness is but a fool’s dream, a myth to entice the petulant and woefully self-important.

I, a seeker of greatness confronted by the aimless, meaninglessness of my existence, am humbled by the vast emptiness of the White Mountains.  I try to find solace in knowing that they will continue to exist long after I am gone, that the world does not live and die by my consciousness, that future generations will continue to share their humanity with its inhuman trails, and even after humanity has long since perished, its rocky slopes will continue to exist.  I try, but admittedly, it is hard to do.

The speck of humanity.

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About Doctor Quack

Just another bonehead with an internet connection.
This entry was posted in Autobiography, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to White Mountain Peak: love atop hell

  1. probinso2013 says:

    Excellent, excellent post–you have an uncanny ability to capture what’s so great about being in nature

  2. Sean Gasser says:

    Interesting post as always. That 3rd photo down reminds me of that wall of mountains we saw on the way up to Wyoming (not the same ones, no?). Your story evokes many times and similar events with friends, especially ones where we traveled together to be out in a natural environment – such as our trip to WY – which I hope years down the road we can remember quite fondly like this trip you recalled above.

  3. Mountains have always engendered an awe and panic in me – they represent everything I want to do but cannot. I want to be on top -but am afraid of heights. But yes, they seem eternal and somehow, strangely, that aspect is comforting. As if I’ll always have a chance to try and try again – they’re not going anywhere.

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