Craig Wisner


Black Friday on the PCT. (11/27-11/28 2015).


A drive into the high country, watching clouds brewing over Mt. San Antonio in the distance, a considerable amount of fresh snow left behind.



Five miles of northbound hiking on the PCT, the air feeling especially brisk this weekend.  He’s as fast as me now, doesn’t complain about his pack or shoes anymore.  We can get places.



I wasn’t quite prepared for temperatures below 20 degrees.  It was one of those nights when the cold hurt, when you need the fire and fear having to step away from it.  He had my 5 degree bag; his heavy, slow breathing and stillness were all the reassurance I needed that he was warm.  I shivered in my bag with all my clothing on, counted the hours, watched the moon arc over our tent.  The type of night that brings renewed appreciation for every comfort of my house.



By 4:30AM I couldn’t take it anymore, crawled out into the painful dark and prayed for a quick starting fire.  Ice crystals glittered on everything in the headlamp light.  I roused him long enough to get the unfrozen water and fuel out of the foot of his sleeping bag, got the pot boiling and stoked the fire in a cold panic, making quick work of my first two cups of coffee.  Something resembling warmth finally came, with it silence, a few hours to myself under the pre-dawn sky.  At first light he joined me for tea; talk of life and friends, ideas and happenings.  His world increasingly revolves around people and places I do not know.  Here, we can get back together.



There are mornings when it seems the sun will never come and when it finally does you open yourself to it wholly, absorb it as deeply as you can.  So often I run from it; this morning I couldn’t meet it fast enough.



He set a surprisingly fast pace getting out, hearts pumping, air stinging our throats, stopping only to touch the moss and lichen he is so fond of.

Sipping tea and looking over the trip’s pictures, feet finally thawed after a hot shower.  Nothing else to do.




An Old Friend This Morning.

riding broken streets to work
-ahead, rounding a corner
I catch the eye of another cyclist
and there is sudden recognition
and we stop
and there’s a bewildered smile
and an old friend standing there,
an old friend from the lean old days
of art school, cheap malt liquor,
and not thinking much
beyond tomorrow.
20 years ago.
How the fuck
could it be 20 years.
We pull into a driveway out of traffic
hug, trade laughs
and disbelief
that we found each other
just after sunrise
rolling along in the gutter
off Venice and Crenshaw.
He looked old
and tired
and I know if I saw the same man
when I was younger,
I would have thought
he was just another old man
on a beat-up bike
going to a beat-up job
with bloodshot eyes
and dirty pants.
But after promising to meet
for memories and a beer
I pedal away, wondering
and I look down
and I notice my dirty pants
and I can feel my tired eyes
and I can trace the lines in my face
and I realize that I’ve completely forgotten
about what I, too
have become.

No Cars Necessary. (Overnight Bikepack, 11/14-11/15)

I’ve been trying to explore more close to home, to take advantage of the resources at hand.  Trying to save money, weary of driving, always driving, my time has been increasingly spent riding, hiking, and running to my destinations outdoors.  It’s brought about a new mindset, or perhaps I should say I’m trying to develop this new mindset, of trying to do more with less, to simplify and increase the frequency of my outings, and learn to be content within my home range.  There are so many quality, quiet mountain refuges right on my doorstep.  I’m very fortunate that a brief escape by a stream can be had in literally minutes by bike or foot from my front door, that the trails of the front range of the San Gabriel Mountains quickly branch in every direction, opening so many possibilities.  It’s almost preposterous that isolation in a streamside trail camp can be found so quickly outside of Los Angeles and all of its people.  For all of the gear being sold, the mountains are conspicuously empty, especially if you know how to pick your peaks, canyons, and trails.

Michael has been good company in forgoing the car and exploring, joining me on Saturday after a morning of trains and biking, riding up from the southern coast.  In twenty minutes of pedaling from my house we’re on dirt, an hour and a half later we’re finishing our climb and descending into a local, fairly untraveled canyon, making camp in the same spot I was alone in last weekend.  Campfire, sweat, sake, good food, and two ticks (you can’t always win).

I feel like I’ve figured out how to live here.

Downtown Los Angeles in the distance.

Downtown Los Angeles in the distance.  Josh, your Fargo likes its new home.

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Perfecting the soft-boiled egg...

Perfecting the soft-boiled egg…

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My current mountain rig: Gary Fisher Aquilla, full rigid 26

I sold my fancy suspension bike a while ago…just too much bike.  My current mountain rig: Gary Fisher Aquilla, full rigid 26″ old-timey steel.  It’s simple and it works.  And it only cost $120.  I’ll “upgrade” parts when they stop working, but if a shifter shifts, I’ve never understood how another shifter is “better”.  So it’s still pretty much stock.  Thus far I’ve stayed away from racks and frame bags, opting for a very light pack on my back.  For short stuff, it’s all you need.  I’m currently designing and patterning a frame bag and underseat bag for the longer trips.

Lone King.

camp set, waiting for dark now

a joy spreads through me

walking alone through meadows, black oaks

wheat colored fall light

filtering through the canopy




dark bodies

darting about the pool

-no, there are no trout here

only ripples

and too much wine





sipping wine

beside the stream


for a poem to arrive




climbing back to camp

trading the sound of water

for gray mountain squirrels

chattering like monkies

at my arrival





a poem is hiding


in these fern covered cliffs






I was a Lone King.


I cannot recall the names or faces of my ancestors

further back than a single great grandfather

and this only seems to reaffirm

that we come from nothing

and return to nothing

dead and forgotten

in due time


I was lost again.

Following a stream, looking for sanctuary

temporary hermitage

-a canyon on the right catches my attention

its entrance a dry waterfall twice my height.

I start climbing

top out in a dry rock basin

carved by once raging floods.

A new fall is revealed

beyond this another

and another.

I keep climbing

tracing the rock walls

until finding a face too high to climb.


I lost myself again

in movement and breath

and an empty mind.

Red poison oak leaves, sticks

and  scree in my sandals, between toes

squatting on an outcropping

-comfortable at last





Three Coyotes.

Three coyotes

in the arroyo tonight-

yammering, snarling, squealing

excited by something cornered in a bush.

Two adults and a pup, a family

rubbing necks and biting

all mangy, ribs protruding

lean snouts scanning the air

strangely unconcerned by my presence.

Bald spots and matted fur

bodies thin and stressed

their eyes burn with wariness

a feral light

ears erect and alert.

Survivors, born and tempered

by the indifference of drought,

vanishing streams and chain-link fences

-mouse eaters, beetle eaters, cat eaters

always looking, always looking

never stopping

out there hanging on, if only by a strand.


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