“The roads of life are paved wide and skirt the mountains. And these very roads are choked with a steady stream of pathetically pedantic travelers who in reality have no intent of traveling. And if we are to discover the real travelers, much less join them, we will find them out on precarious paths that defy the roads and scale the mountains.” Craig D. Lounsbrough
While scrambling up a hellish slant of scree, boulders, and rotten rock a couple weeks ago—across a vast and glorious basin—a sweeping rusty crest caught my attention and imagination. Six miles of continuous running ridge, 13,000 feet or better, populated by with a series of near 14'er summits too numerous to count.
A pronounced "scar" of a trail zigzagged up through a massive tumble of scree, blemishing an otherwise unadulterated landscape. I need to walk that ridge.
|Note the scar, right of center and just before the ridge disappears behind the darker mountain.|
|Here it is again, zoomed in. It appears too steep to be an old mining road.|
|Then again... maybe not. Lord, how would you like to be the guy on the dozer with the assignment of putting a road up and over that ridge?|
So a couple weeks pass, we are still alive, and I remind my hiking partner of the opportunity to "connect a few more dots" up on that ridge. Of course this "opportunity" comes at the expense of enduring a rough four wheel drive in Pet Rex... a narrow, cliffed-out single-lane, etched onto the side of a mountain. It's not Bobbie's favorite thing in the world, to endure a bone-jarring, clenched jaw jaunt along the edge of a precipitous chasm. She'd rather hike it than ride it any day, but it is what it is and we must deal with reality.
Additionally, her legs aren't feeling "fresh." That scar looked steep and long, with an abundance of elevation gain, not to mention, how are we even going to find it? Bobbie suggests Red Mountain #3. Ugh. I'd rather kiss a slug. I need some new "dots." Another cup of coffee and she relents. Quick, before the caffeine wears off. It's like Edison said, "Opportunity is missed by most people when it's dressed in overalls and looks like work." This is what we do. It's our job, let's get to work. It's the long, brutal hikes that stand out in memory, and we'll remember Ocar's Pass well into our nursing home days.
|From the driver's window...a small sky blue lake, the cute little town of Ophir, and 14'ers right to left, Wilson Peak, Mount Wilson, and El Diente ("the tooth"). All those "boxes" checked...dot's connected.|
|This long section does not allow enough room for oncoming vehicles to pass, always nerve wracking...who's going to back up?|
After two false starts, Bobbie and I stumble upon what we think is "the trail," which is actually a long untraveled road, now reduced to single-track.
Having started well below timberline where nary a cooling breeze could be felt, we are soon soaked with perspiration. I'm not keen on boring, see-nothing hikes through dense forests, and long for the alpine zone. The "trail" appears to have once been a rather ambitious mining road, steep, with long, merciless switchbacks that add miles between Point A and B. But the views? Priceless; memorable.
Some 3,000 vertical feet and countless profanities later, we top Oscar's Pass. I had hoped to peer down on Columbine Lake from the ridge, but alas, it's one basin over blocked from view. We settle for Lewis Lake, a disappointment at best, and munch down a couple of energy bars. Though the moment has arrived, there is no visible sign of an eclipse. Oh well, we have no glasses anyway.
Rising above us, just another 300 vertical feet, Oscar Mountain beckons. Bobbie and I confer, then agree that we don't have enough "gas" left in our tanks, especially on loose, cobbled scree. We still have to get down, and if there is one thing more difficult than climbing 3,000 feet, it's descending 3,000 feet. Oscar is one handsome devil, though.
Dots connected, a few Demons cast out, mission accomplished. Time to start down. What took a little over two hours to climb up, sadly, wasn't much quicker going back down...maybe 25 minutes at best. I blame the marble footing, and creaky knees.
Light and shadow put on a quite a show...
|Little Ophir, way down at the bottom.|
|Looking back at the ridge from Ophir.|
It's hard to explain, you either get it or you don't: There is something deeply satisfying about earning one's "views," the objective so high, the struggle to achieve it, the reward of having done it, and the sweet, sweet buzz of a celebratory beer after having pushed yourself to the limit. It doesn't do away with war, prejudice, strife, doesn't cure cancer in those who deserve better from whimsical gods, but it does do something inexplicable inside, something that empowers me to brave the "meantime" between summits, to cope with lunacy, bigotry, irreverence, greed, and filthy rich braggarts who don't have a clue as to what it's like to be stuck in the middle. Mountains are humbling, and remind me of my insignificance.
I hope you enjoyed yet another excursion above timberline, the very best place to be. Life is good.
"...accept the mountain’s invitation to journey and create meaning in each step, (where) success is manifest...” T.A. Loeffler