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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Hiking Memory Lane

Eyeing our Vulture Peak objective from afar, I didn't have a single specific recollection of climbing it. But my Bobbie App says we did, and she's seldom wrong about such things. It's highly unusual for me to forget a "checkmark" on a summit during our Peak-Bagging youth. However, as my dear ol' Daddy used to say, when there comes a marital difference of opinion, always defer to beauty :).   

Peak Bagging Youth... 
All decked out in Richard Simmons "Hot Pants." And get a load of all that thick hair!  
Left is Nephew Brent, on a hike up Quandary, a Colorado 14er.
 We're both nearly bald now... hair having migrated off to nose and ears 😭😭
As close friends will attest, Bobbie and I are living examples that, sometimes, repeating mistakes makes for good stories, "Oh, remember that time we took Jim and Gayle... For those forced to endure our misadventures, we sincerely apologize :).

Sonoran Desert: What's not to love... 
My "Bobbie App" has an absurdly keen memory for names and dates. I, on the other hand, have a keen sense of direction, route, and places been. On this (alleged) re-climb of Vulture, I assumed we'd eventually happen across some-thing or some-place that would blow the dust off a lost "file," you know, one of those "Ah Ha" lightbulb moments. “Voila!”  But the "bulb" never lights up. Defective synapse? Misplaced file? Note to self: Look under "Birds, then "S" for scavengers." 

Making our way toward a rather menacing looking summit, I noticed not one familiar thing as we wound through Vulture's beauteous foothill approach. "I'll a bet you a "Ben Franklin" that I've never set foot on top of that mountain." 
The "App" disagrees... then thinks of fun ways to spend the money.

Bobbie App; Headed for the top
Speaking of Alzheimers/dementia... 
I understand that short-term memory is the first thing to go (second, actually... but we won't get into that). But Vulture's missing file is more an issue of longterm memory loss as it happened almost 20 years ago. Perhaps I don't have the dreaded disease... yet, anyway. 

Padding along the lovely, still unfamiliar trail, thoughts drifted back to when I took my 80 year-old mom to see her doctor after noticing a few signs of memory loss. 

Cholla... looks soft and furry, but every one of those spines has a "fish hook" barb,  It takes needle nose pliers to pull them out (right Bobbie?)
She was nervous about going, fearing there was going to be some sort of "test." But Doc put her at ease. 
"Hilda, I'd like to have a chat, get to know you better. Can I ask a few questions?" 

He began by asking where she was from, when she was born... how old she was. Mom did pretty good, and relished the spotlight. Of course she gave her usual rambling, long-version answers to the simplest questions, and eventually got around to a favorite story, the one about my Immaculate ConceptionIf I had a dollar for every time she told that story to some stranger. Brother...
Thankfully, Doc was a patient man and indulged her, while I resigned myself to the futility of attempting to keep Mom on point.

Fine desert wandering...
Doc gets around to asking Mom a series of "short term" questions—today's date, day of the week, what she had for dinner last night. Her performance fell off considerably. He asked if she could recall three numbers he had asked her to remember a few minutes earlier. She couldn't. I still remember those numbers today, but did get a little concerned when it took me a while to recall what we had for dinner the previous night.

Neon palo verdes 
As far as long-term childhood memories go, I seem to have more recall than my Bobbie App, whose childhood memories are often blurred. It's mostly weird things that I remember... for instance, our phone number when we lived on 52nd Street in East Phoenix (BR 5 8016, the BR stood for Bridge). I also remember the license plate number on our behemoth 1960 Oldsmobile (CPW 554), and other odds and ends that are of no use and does little to nothing to enhance my life today. Those memories just sit there, taking up space on the "hard drive" while I'm turning Goldie inside-out searching for keys or sunglasses... only to find them in my pocket or on my head. Scary shit. 

Headed up there...
We paused at Vulture's desert-garden base, where the climb began in earnest. Statuesque saguaros, plumped from recent rains, silhouette against azure blue skies and puffs of clouds. Lime-green Palo verde trees glow against Vulture's burnt umber rock. Cholla, colloquially dubbed, "jumping cactus," is robust. Their barbed spines catch the sun and casts LED halos around each segment. The familiar scent of damp desert is pervasive. 

From Vulture's saddle... looking at the taller West summit. Got to make our way up that steep couloir... surely I'd remember doing that. 

Prodded by this sensual overload—the sight of lush desert, the sound of muttering quail, the sweet-pungent aroma of creosote bush—the dam of memories breaks. My childhood gushes in a flash flood... dusty files held captive in some locked drawer caught in the wake. I hear Mom's voice:  

Watch out for rattlesnakes, honey, They'll be out today. Scorpions, too.

Go get cleaned up young man... we don't want to be late for Bible Study again.

You know your are going to get a whipping for these grades when your daddy gets home from work...

And my own voice:

Where in the Bible does it say dancing a sin? Why is everything fun a sin?

How come you and Dad can hear God talk and I can't? 

I don't know how it happened. Me and Roger were just throwing rocks and one of them hit the windshield... I'm pretty sure it was his rock.

Hey Mom, what's masturbate mean?

Why did God let Sally Jo kill herself? 

Sculptures on the smaller East summit, taken from Vulture's saddle... 
"Are you absolutely sure we climbed Vulture?" I questioned The App. "Maybe we just talked about it but never got around to doing it?" The App is sure. She remembers the forests of cholla we're tromping through. 

Being a life-long skeptic/cynic, I'm not convinced... at least not this approach. 
"Maybe we climbed it from the other side," I mumble. 

Getting closer; getting steeper...
A short section of near vertical... Another flattering shot of bobbie's butt :)
Finally, the couloir steepened to near vertical, and we had to go into four-wheel-climb mode. A blooming bush fed a swarm of bees. We had good sweats going by then, and you know how bees love moisture. It took great self control to resist swatting them away. But clinging to a ledge of rock is no place to piss off a hive of Africanized bees. Ultimately, one lands on the back of my sopping-wet neck. I pause to let him water.

On top... a broad summit that holds no memory that "I've been here before."
Once on top, I pulled the Trail Register from an old ammo box and read notes left by previous summiteers. I'm surprised that some 73 year old lady made it, till it dawns on me that we're in the same demographic. 
We hang out, eat an orange... which attracts more bees. 

The Ammo Box holds a Trail Register... interesting read. Time to head down... slowly, carefully.
Looking Northwest, toward Wickenburg
Looking East from the summit ridge

Getting down the steep couloir proves slower and harder than going up. And we had to pass the bee-bush again...

Back on the Saddle... the car is sooo far away...

We met another couple coming up as we reached the saddle. They were from some Detroit suburb and just purchased a winter home west of Wickenburg in a new 3,000 unit development. The couple normally wintered in Florida, but after seeing Arizona they fell in love with its wide open space, sunsets, and recreational opportunities. After praying about it and getting the okay from God, they signed the papers. I think God prefers Arizona over Florida, anyway, as it's too crowed down there :). Heading down, I tell Bobbie that it'd be our luck God would send us to Oklahoma. Remind me to never consult His (or Her) opinion :). 


  1. In the midst of the great photos, and the wonderful stories, and the Bobbie app cool thing, the memories made me laugh right out loud. Really. LOL at its finest. My 7 year old voice whining, "But, mommie, David danced in the temple so why it is a sin if I take ballet?". Short term memory, internal disc space, retrieval speeds...all an issue as I crawl around in my 70's. Geez, Mark, thank goodness you have great photos and great stories and a wonderful mind.

  2. We love being a part of your misadventures. Gives us some good stories, too.
    The bees would have done me in on that hike!

  3. Awesome read Mark! And what a great hike. The nice thing about those memory lapses is that you get a totally new adventure! Happy trails!

  4. One of my favorite sayings: We'll be good friends until we are old and senile and then we will be "new" friends!
    Rock on!

    1. Good read as I enjoy my morning coffee in another part of the Sonoran Desert. Ah yes, approaching 70. Yikes!

  5. Your not losing your mind, we just get distracted with other thoughts.

    Wish I had a dollar for every time I misplaced my coffee cup around the house. It's embarrassing to have my wife watch me going room to room looking for the cup I just had two minutes ago. First I check the microwave to see if I was reheating the cup, if not, then I go up stairs and check my study room, nope not there. The search continues, check the bedroom, the bathroom, go back down stairs check the kitchen, family room, laundry room. Maybe it's on my workbench in the garage? Nope, but I did find a cup from last week so I'm even and call off the search.

    Looks like a great hike up Vulture with blue skies, thanks for sharing!

  6. I am almost back to the saguaro!! Thanks for making me smile with all those gorgeous desert and mountain climbing photos:)

  7. Hey when I heard "bushwhacking & boulders", "Catalina Mts" I thought oh boy they are going searching for a lost gold mine, now this is going to be a good tale and then you go off on that memory thing, bummer, hearing that from to many these days. What I would like to forget is this last election ;so now that you have committed to more adventures in the wilds of the SW perhaps you could get one of those old mining maps and go searching for something that could make all that bushwhacking pay off:)

  8. LOVE this post. The stories...the thought processes..the photos...the smiles of recognition from me. Thanks.

  9. Rose tells me you look handsome in those Richard Simmons shorts.

    I am rolling down that road in and out of the mist as I visit old haunts and names, places, things, roads, trails resurface triggering mostly excitingly tingly sensations like good dark chocolate on your sensory tongue.

  10. Enjoyed everything about this! I guess I won't see you in Ouray this week. Next time!


  11. Loved the post! Keep them coming. -Caleb & Kelli

  12. Wonderful writing, Mark! You make what would be boring so much fun. I'm sure most of us live with our own
    App. We just never thought of giving it that name! Of course, as expected, the postcards are beautiful. Please keep on keeping on. You are a bright spot in a world that desperately needs bright spots right now!!


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