“We may need to moderate some of Ed’s impulses.” An unexpected comment from Rob, who in all the years I have known him has never expressed a desire to alter anyone’s behavior. But Ed is out in front of us, “dancing down the street like a dingledodie” on an early Sunday morning in Silver Plume, Colorado, and I realize that I am finally a character in a Jack Kerouac novel.
To get to Silver Plume, you first need to ascend both Torrey’s and Gray’s Peaks, each of which surpasses 14,000 feet in altitude. My thinking before starting this trip was that if we began by reaching the two highest points on the Continental Divide, everything afterward would logically be downhill, and we did indeed descend Gray’s via several thousand feet of rough scree into a pleasant valley. The view from the bottom is magnificent, until you realize that on the opposite side of the valley is a narrow trail ascending another 13,800 foot mountain that appears to be the only way out. If you really want to visit Silver Plume, you can also just take the highway.
Ed is in Silver Plume looking for a good cup of coffee. We had camped the night before at the top of the Pavilion Trail, several additional mountains and valleys beyond our beginning at Torrey’s and Gray’s, just at the spot where you are certain that now, finally, all that is possibly left of this place is downhill (this assumption would also prove, alas, incorrect). Ed had mentioned that night that we really needed to find a good cup of coffee in the morning, and he seemed even more enthusiastic than usual. But I was still getting to know Ed, didn’t realize yet that he was, like Rob, one of “the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing . . . .” I just figured he really liked coffee.
Silver Plume on that Sunday morning seemed just like me: dead. You don’t get to be dead just like that; you acquire it gradually, step-by-step, up and down the Continental Divide. After years of saying I was going to do it, and years of Rob asking me to do it, I finally decided–as I do frequently these days–that it was time to either do what I said I wanted to do or just shut up. So I had flown into Denver Thursday afternoon, where Ed graciously picked me up for the drive 2 1/2 hours or so out west where we’d meet Rob at the trail head. Thinking “trail head” was probably my mistake, because my mind was imagining a starting point, and maps, and an itinerary. I was wrong.
Dead is an acquired state.