Read the beginning of Beneath Blossom Rain: Discovering Bhutan on the Toughest Trek in the World by Kevin Grange:
"Stepping up to the first pass of the snowman trek in the Land of the Thunder Dragon, my heart pounding, I removed each arm from my shoulder straps, set my backpack down, and stood tall to have a look around. The pass was totally socked in, but with short fitful bursts, the highest mountain range on earth slowly revealed itself. A vast expanse of snowy peaks, rocky spires, and immense glaciers flashed through brief openings in the dark clouds.
The pass was marked by two mounds of rocks shaped like small, thigh-high pyramids and set ten feet apart. Weather-beaten branches, wedged between the rocks, stuck up like bony fingers and anchored numerous strings of prayer flags, flapping and fraying in the whipping wind. With fast-numbing hands, I quickly wrapped my string of flags around a barkless tree branch and tied a knot. But before I could hurry to the second rock pile to tie the other end of my rope, the wind kicked up and the cold cut my fingers. Shivering uncontrollably, I thrust my hands into my pockets. When the wind died moments later, I saw my opportunity. I grabbed my string of prayer flags, shuffled to the other side, and set about tying the second knot. But by then, my fingers were painfully slow and bone cold. Before I could secure the knot, I rushed them back into my pockets a second time.
“Come on,” I muttered, my teeth chattering.
Over the next few moments, the wind picked up and moody clouds massed overhead. A storm was blowing in. As I sunk deep into my jacket and drew my hands high into my coat sleeves, I realized the wind wasn’t going to let up. If I was planning to tie my prayer flags, I had to do it then. And fast. I took a deep breath, gathered my energy, and leapt to my feet. But as I did, a great gust of wind tore the string of prayer flags out of my hand and tossed them into the sky like a kite.
Norbu, my Bhutanese guide, hurried over. “I will help you.”
“Please,” I managed. “I’m freezing!”
Like a cowboy about to tame a colt, Norbu stood back a moment, watching the flags bucking wildly. It was this loose end of the rope I had come to Bhutan to contemplate, for it seemed to represent all the loose ends in my life that were, at once, alluring and elusive—all the dreams that invited my reach but then retreated the moment I did.
The moment the wind died, Norbu pounced, and as he wrestled with the prayer flags, I sat back and watched. “Why couldn’t I do that?” I lamented softly to myself. As Norbu tied the second end of my rope, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated. But in my defense, I hadn’t yet hiked 216 miles of the most beautiful and challenging trail on earth or visited time-lost villages and hidden valleys. I hadn’t yet sat with a spell-spitting shaman or truly understood the Divine Madman’s precept that “whatever happens is the path of release.” Despite the glory of my surroundings, I was in exile that morning, for I hadn’t yet stood beneath blossom rain and discovered its secret of lasting grace. But little did I know as I grabbed my backpack and started down the trail . . . I was about to."
To read a longer excerpt or to purchase Beneath Blossom Rain, visit https://www.nebraskapress.unl.edu/product/Beneath-Blossom-Rain,674765.aspx.