The Path That Circles the Graveyard

Over the past week my social media feeds exploded with pleas from many outdoor gear related concerns that were focused on the plight of Kyle Dempster and Scott Adamson. They were getting the word out about how the pair had disappeared while attempting a climb in Pakistan’s Karakorum Range. Their families were attempting to raise funds for an emergency rescue attempt via a GoFundMe campaign. Based purely on the number of appeals from different sources it was apparent that these two had touched many lives during their climbing careers.

I’ve read a lot about that area of the world and have always wanted to visit but never had the balls to go for it, let alone go there and climb dangerous peaks. Like many others, I started following the story and began sending some positive vibes out into the universe with hope for a sunny outcome. I can only imagine how gut wrenching an emergency like this can be on the families of those left waiting behind.

As I read more about their lives it struck me: I sorta know Kyle Dempsey. Not personally, but in this vastly connected world of ours a couple years back I had come across an inspiring film he had created of his bike travels in Kyrgyzstan looking for peaks to climb: The Road From Karakol. If you’ve never seen the video please take the time to at least watch the opening sequence of him standing naked getting ready to cross a raging river. How can you not like this guy? Pure unadulterated living! What an amazing adventure he had detailed with his inspiring outlook on life.

In no small way had that little film inspired me to get up off my ass and go do something. I told myself (and still do) that it doesn’t have to be a grand adventure like Kyle’s it just has to be SOMETHING. Those like Kyle inspire the rest of us to get out and explore a new trail, learn a new sport or whatever – just try something new!  Get off your ass and go do something!

Which is why I was saddened to read the other day that while the fundraising had been successful,  the search had been called off. Feeling a little bummed I headed off into the afternoon sun for a bike ride. Somehow I wound up on a trail I don’t often ride.

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The winding trail around the abandoned cemetery (which is off to the right in this photo)

I ended up in a quiet patch of woods off on the far side of town. A trail winds though here along the edge of a tidal estuary as if it’s trying to find something, unsure of where it leads. It seems lost, but the trail eventually winds around a small wooded height of land that rises ever so slightly from the edge of the water. From here it returns to an open field where artists frequently gather to paint in the soft evening light. It’s a pretty spot.

Off to the south a church steeple juts into the sky barely within view, an unseen graveyard at the foot of the church Off to the west an open view of the marsh reaches toward the setting sun each night with fingers of swaying cattails and long grasses. I stopped for a second to take in the scene and listen to the calls of the birds and the buzz of late summer insects. Just then I noticed something jutting from the earth at the top of the rise.

Headstones, or as I realized as I drew closer: old, forgotten headstones from the early 1800’s. A handful of them. I had never noticed that this trail winds around the edge of sacred ground. I looked closer and realized that there were other stones arrayed in a discernible pattern throughout this overgrown height of land. They looked even older and more weather beaten than the handful at the crest of the hill, some of them broken at the base. I felt like I was intruding, so I left to continue my little journey homeward beneath the grand summer sky.

There’s no tidy little ending to this post, just a path that circles a graveyard. Someday I’ll return and find out more about the history of this forgotten land, but today I know nothing.

Let’s hope those guys can pull off a miracle in the Karakorum.

“Every adventure has both the light , the dark, the toil ,the reward. To experience that alone is to become absorbed by an activity, by a place , by its people. The wall of daily noise, the modern trappings that  define our identities give way.  Our mental defenses grow thin.  You no longer know where you end and the world begins. We become raw. This is why we take the trip.  That is what we’ve come for” – Kyle Dempster, from The Road From Karakol

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