Settling Into Stanzas: “The Shortness of Life” at Copper’s Jacques Peak
August 20, 2016
What is a life?
Mr. Francis Quarels wrote "The Shortness of Life" in the 17th century, when it was popular to ask abstract questions like this with poetry — so popular that a select group of poets from that era are now known as the "metaphysical poets."
The answers to such abstract questions usually require abstract answers and Mr. Quarels is no exception. His poem is full of metaphors:
Life is a pilgrimage, a play, a summer meadow; life is a sun dial, a lily, a winter day.
Each metaphor is instructive, but not completely satisfactory. By the end of the poem it is difficult to say how much closer the answer lies.
Alongside the metaphors, Mr. Quarels relentlessly focuses on the movement of time. This is understandable, given his occupation as the chronologer for the city of London.
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Even the tone of the poem moves like a clock. The top of many stanzas begins optimistically:
The glory of the stage, the flourishing summer meadow, the fair lilies.
As time passes by, the tone follows the hands of a clock — slowly downward. Every stanza ends wearily:
Decrepit age, green grass turning to hay, lilies drooping and fading.
Then, by end of the poem, the mood is glum: "nothing worth a smile."
Journey to Jacques Peak
Jacques Peak is worth more than a few smiles, especially if you enjoy the challenge of hiking 14ers without the crowds that accompany them.
Jacques Peak is located on the southwestern edge of the Copper Mountain ski area. If you ski Copper, you may recall Jacques Peak as the prominent, snow-covered peak on your right as you ride up the front-side chairlifts.
Hiking to Jacques Peak is both demanding and rewarding. Depending on the route you choose, the trail gains 3,500 vertical feet over 6 or 10 miles (one-way). The views along the way are worth every foot of gain.
The hike begins at the base of Copper Mountain. To get there from Interstate 70, take Exit 195 south onto Highway 91 to Leadville. After a few hundred feet, turn right onto Copper Road and park at one of public parking lots.
The first leg of the hike begins at any one of the Copper Mountain villages and ends at the base of the Rendezvous Lift.
There are multiple routes up the first leg. To choose one, grab a trail map at the base and decide your own path. A combination of the A-Road and R-Road are the simplest and most straightforward choices.
Once you reach the base of the Rendezvous lift, continue up the dirt road to the saddle between Copper and Union peaks. At the saddle, turn right and bear west up the ridge to the top of Union Peak. At this point, the trail will be faint.
When you reach the top of Union Peak, you will see the top of the Mountain Chief chairlift and a ski patrol building. Sitting prominently in front of you is Jacques Peak. Between you and the summit of Jacques Peak is the long ridge that you'll follow to the top.
Continue southwest along the ridge for another two miles. Along the way, you'll pass the signs for a number of ski runs. As you near the summit, the trail will require some easy Class 2 scrambling.
At 13,200 feet you reach the summit of Jacques Peak. From here, spectacular 360-degree views of all the surrounding mountain ranges abound. When you're ready, return the same way you came.
A hamburger, beer and chairlift ride down from Solitude Station is tempting. If you'd prefer to ride down (riding up is also an option), make sure to purchase your lift ticket at the Center Village before the hike.
As you make your pilgrimage up the summer meadows, enjoy the glory, the flourishing array of Jacques Peak.