06 September 2008

Next Time, I Swear I'm Not Coming Back

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The leaves turning on the maple tree across the street is making me pine for summer. I hardly got in any hiking this year. One of these days, when my dowsing stick finally hits the underground money stream, I'm going to hike my ass out of here and never come back.

When we went up to Deer Park in Olympic National Park this last time, I almost didn't come back. At one point John and I were sitting on top of Blue Mountain sharing the same fantasy. (You were somewhere downhill, avoiding the altitude.) In this fantasy, we call our wives, tell them to sell all our stuff, and to come meet us up there in the mountains where we belong. We live happily ever after. Cue sunset. Roll credits. (But who delivers the Indian food? You won't survive without Indian food. Or cable. Just sayin'. -Ed.)

That same mad, lycanthropic euphoria bubbles up every time I go into the mountains, the mania that wants me chuck it all and not come back. You know, like Col. Kurtz, but not quite so batshit homicidal crazy and stuff.

When I hiked out to Skoki Lodge in the Banff NP backcountry last year, my inner Amish almost got the upper hand and kept me there for good, too. If it were not for my very sane, very-disinclined-to-bathe-in-ass-freezing-mountain-streams wife, I’d prolly still be there, picking my teeth with a marmot or warming my hands over a blazing hiker.

Speaking of being on top of a mountain, I understand your concern about how I like to hang near the edge of the biggest drop-off I can find. I’m only doing it for therapeutic value. Honestly. I started going up into the mountains to help overcome anxiety. As folks like myself who have an anxiety disorder often do, I was becoming afraid of heights. Anxiety disorders often "morph" to include basic phobias. (The five basic phobias are water, spiders, snakes, heights and small spaces. And, if you're male, that list may include commitment. -
Ed.) While I was educating myself on how to get over anxiety, I found out that the best way to deal with a phobia is through exposure. (Not of one's loins and whatnot, but exposure to the phobia-inducing stimulus.) So I started getting myself up as high as I could reasonably get without standing on the ledge of a building or filling a recliner with helium.

I’m not afraid of heights anymore, that’s for sure. But now it’s kinda like I have to get a little dose of the medicine that cured me every once in a while, lest it wear off. Call it a “booster shot”. At least I’m not doing anything truly goddamn crazy, like mountaineering. Mountaineering is not my bag, and and I’ll tell ya why. There are certain activities I abjure, chief among them:

  • Falling into giant icy crevasses.
  • Eating the dead.
  • Sustaining frostbite injuries. (I've actually done this one before. I frostbit my face in 1984. Parts of it turned all black and fell off. And it fuckin' hurts like you would not believe.)
  • Having a pulmonary embolism for dinner.
  • Wigging out on hypoxia.
  • Pooping in a bag.
  • Starring in a book by Jon Krakauer.

These are all things that you either must do or may wind up doing if mountaineering is your cup of freeze-dried tea. But please don’t confuse me those peak-hopping, ice-axe-wielding bag-shitters. The things that I like aren't usually found where you find alpinists, f'rinstance:

  • Fragrant alpine meadows.
  • Piney pine trees.
  • Surly marmots.
  • Tranquil mountain lakes.
  • Lunch.

In other words, if it's below the tree line, count me in. Likewise, if trees won't live there, why should I go?

The other reason I'm belaboring the distinction is because some hiker recently took a couple-hundred-foot drop and creamed himself into human chip dip on a pile of granite. This was of course covered in the paper which of course means Dad read it which of course means he gave me several stern warnings and admonitions (replete with the appropriate finger-stabbing of the appropriate story column in the local paper) about doing the same to myself. So I had to give him the requisite assurances that Mister Salad Bar Item was (or at least fancied himself to be) mountaineering whereas all I do is hike. I don't even use ropes. Hell, I wouldn't tie myself to something I
liked, let alone some mountain.

Okay, so if I've done nothing more than set the record straight (assuming it needed to be set straight), me = hiker, not mountain climber. Hope that puts you at ease.

Picking up dog turds not as fun as it sounds

Before the monsoon season strikes (I mean strikes and any harder than is has already struck for the past few months of our goddamn soaking wet 58-degree "summer"), I'm trying to get things in and about the yard put away. This includes dog turds which - come to find out - are not as water soluble as you would think. I've been finding chalk-white turd carcasses all over the yard, or "turd bones", if you will. And come to think of it, there's no way our wee little Corgy can produce that many boluses. She must be recruiting help. She's not asking you to chip in, is she? If so, help me out and use a trowel. Or just scratch like a cat.

Hauling rat-pee-covered insulation to the dump not as fun as it sounds

Since I was over at E's house dropping off some stuff that she so graciously offered to store for me, I counter-offered to help haul another load of that rat pee covered insulation and wallboard that you tore out of her basement. I only mention this because I made an interesting discovery while at the transfer station. You know how I keep all those fancy essential oils in my truck so I can mix my own air fresheners? (Yeah, I do, so what? Shut up!) Well bitter almond oil effectively cancels the crushing, mephitic redolence that only a steaming hot garbage dump can produce. Might be a good thing to keep in your lunchbox next time you want to carry along another ptomaine-laced hot dog. Might make it easier to choke down.




thatgregory said...

Need a convenient "booster shot" for acrophobia? Try this: ropes course zipline, 60 feet up, no net.


It works for me, but then I get paid to do stuff like this - apparently wads of money also cure fear of heights.

The General said...

My dad has been known to, on occasion, finish reading a book by Mr. Krakauer, stare into the distance, and mumble to himself about how wonderful it would be to summit Everest.

Generally, I will counter with the argument that perhaps it would be wonderful to summit Everest, but that everything imediately before and directly after the summit would suck the proverbial marmot balls. Including the fact that I would most likely die at either point A or point C, thus undermining my ability to enjoy point B.

Thaddeus Gunn said...

So in closing, we can say that summitting Everest is akin to sucking marmot balls. And then dying. The End.