Thursday, March 6, 2014

Not really lost...

Many years ago I worked hard, and I played hard.  The hard play was almost always outdoor-oriented, and was often high adventure.  These activities included open boat white water paddling, backpacking, cross-country skiing, camping, and nature photography.  One of my favorites was underwater videography.

Yep - that's me, taken by either Millard or Kathleen.

Another favorite, and perhaps the one most "high adventure" in nature, was rock climbing.  One of my favorite climbs was a 5.3 climb in the Gunks called Three Pines, shown in the shot below.

If you look carefully, the yellow rope, leading from the two climbers toward me and up is my rope.  I am on top of a rock outcrop about 200 feet above our starting point.

The years, and some medical issues, stripped much of that life away.  What remains for me now is my hiking and my nature photography, or exploring places like the Monticello Box, about as far off the beaten path as you can take a car that is not designed and modified for rock crawling.  (Thanks, Jim, for the photo.)

I enjoy these things, but I missed the challenges that I had enjoyed confronting in my younger days.

In southern New Mexico, I found a kindred soul in my hiking buddy, Jim.  His hiking range and speed is similar to mine.  Like me, he likes wandering off the beaten path, exploring, and delving into the more adventurous routes.  We have spent the past 4 1/2 months wandering through the desert, no trails, walking ravines, climbing up steep hillsides, and slowly increasing our distance and the challenges we are willing to take on.  The slopes have been getting steeper.
I think Jim is saying, "I think I can, I think I can…"

On our last hike, we left the realm of simple walking/hiking.  At one point, about 400 feet above our car, the rocks were on a grade somewhere between 60 and 70 degrees.  Our hiking poles became more of a hindrance than a help.  Fortunately, the rock was hard and tight, and gave us good footholds - and handholds.  Yep - handholds.  I was climbing again.

No pics of that spot - it was too extreme, but a bit later, Jim lead the way up another steep part.

It felt good, as if I had regained, in a small way, some of that adventure that had been such a part of my younger self.

On our hikes we have been collecting interesting rocks - chunks of quartz, schist, gneiss, and chert. After exhausting the availability of new areas to hike based from the campground, we moved our starting point to a place beyond the first ridge, and found new rocks, and fossils.  That was fun, and the fossils brought a renewed interest in putting dead weight in our packs.

One afternoon, we drove to the top of Caballo Peak.  The views were dramatic, as were the drop-offs. From this point, on a ledge below me, there are supposedly a LOT of fossils.

Looking back at the car, however (upper right corner), you can get a sense of the drop-off that is there.  The ledge is topped by a slope with much loose rock.  Beyond the edge is - nothing.  Well… air…

We may be reaching out for, and embracing challenges and high adventure, but neither of us has lost our sense of caution or good judgment.  Those fossils in the rock will not be disturbed by these two old fossils.


Pleinguy said...

Wow! Those are some exciting climbs. Glad to hear you're being careful out there.

Jim and Gayle said...

It's fun to push yourself a bit out of your comfort zone once in awhile, as long as you know your limits. Looks like some good hikes, and always nice to have someone else to share them with, or to go get help!