Backpacking for gold, part whatever-the final!

As I’ve reviewed my backpacking for gold mini saga, even I’M getting tired of reading it. So let’s finish this adventure and move on to something else! The problem is I’m long-winded when I write…and not much better in person! So today I’m going to try a different storytelling approach. YOU are my guinea pigs in this writing adventure that some call a ‘blog’, so feedback is always welcome.


We’re never doing THAT again!

The desert road out was beautiful. We had decided to take the ‘back way’ all the way back to my buddy’s house. We were all so worn out. If somebody had suggested we all be shot back to town out of a catapult, we probably would have agreed to it-as long as we could rest along the way! But we bounced along in silence in Owen’s truck, listening to brush scraping the sides, occasional rocks bouncing off the undercarriage, or hearing the groans from one or the other when we hit some obstacle that gave us a hard jolt.

The problem with heavy exertion isn’t the pain and weariness that accompanies the task at the moment you’re engaged in it, it’s what comes after. We had pushed ourselves way past the limits of our conditioning, and now, relaxing in the truck, we were stiffening up and soreness was really setting in. We were also beginning to realize how many minor injuries, embedded cactus spines, cuts, scrapes, and bruises we had acquired along our hike out. When you’re tired and just want to get back, you just don’t feel like using the extra steps to go around obstacles. I remember looking downtrail and thinking that I could take the pain and cuts from a few catclaw if I squeaked between those bushes, rather than take a detour around them. Or maybe I don’t have to give such a wide berth to that patch of prickly pear. The toll of our heavy packs plus water on the way in, a couple days exploration in steep terrain, and then hiking back out with packs that were still pushing 35-40 pounds had every one of us cringing with every step. First we had to push through the pain of going uphill, then about a minute of relief at a small downhill stretch, only to be greeted with sore and overused muscles, resulting in more of a careening descent than a thoughtful and careful one.

As I sat in the back seat, using my multi-tool to pull out cactus spines, I began noticing how beat up I was. My salt stained heavy long sleeve T shirt had a couple holes in it, and one outright tear. My boots looked like cactuses in their own right, they had so many spines sticking out! And where was all the blood coming from anyway? I had blood soaking into a spot on my right sleeve, and even though I had been wearing gloves, my hands looked like I had been playing with a rabid cat. I knew for sure one knee was going to bother me for at least a week or two, because I could feel it swelling. Were Owen and Curt as beat up as me, or them being desert rats, was I the only ‘soft’ one? Remembering one nasty tumble, I chuckled, and decided that maybe more than my pride had been hurt, even though we all had such a good laugh over it.

It was on a downhill stretch that was covered in loose scree. I remembered us having trouble going up, but it seemed like maybe it was steeper now as Curt walked up to the crest of this small steep spot. Not wanting to break stride he took one step down and suddenly his feet flew out from under him, he fell on his pack, and slid down the hill of small sharp rocks with jutting bedrock points, pretty much keeping right in the centerline where water had eroded a small channel. He reached the bottom with plenty of leftover momentum, gaining his footing and literally using that momentum to stand straight up at the bottom. ‘I’m alright, who’s next?’ he said, kind of chuckling while wincing. Owen was the next closest, and he picked his route carefully, taking a couple steps down…before doing some sort of midair cat-trying-to-land-on-it’s-feet attempt, landing on his butt, and taking off downhill like a bobsledder on fresh snow. I tried to stifle my laughter while asking if he was ok, but Curt chuckling at the bottom of the hill didn’t help! I busted out laughing and said, ‘here, let me show y’all how it’s done!’ With that, I made about a step and a half before my sleigh ride began! I was genuinely surprised, embarrassed, and maybe even a little happy to be off my feet for a few seconds, but I was especially happy to be wearing tough pants with double material in the seat! We all shared a laugh at each other as well as ourselves. Honestly it was a bonding moment in a weird way.

I cracked open the back window as the familiar smell of cigarrette smoke wafted to the back seat and continued to laugh, somewhat quietly, as I tried to envision what my particular ride down the scree covered slope must have looked like. Curt grumbled from the front, ‘what the hell are you laughing at?’. ‘You and Owen doing the downhill sled ride without a sled!’ I said. ‘And at myself too..’ I added. He just grinned a little and Owen suddenly hit the gas a little, making me bounce my head off the back window. I noticed him looking in the rear view mirror and could tell he was trying not to laugh! At that moment, the aches and pains didn’t seem so bad. At least I now remembered how I had acquired so many odd injuries.

Funny how weird things will start conversations about ‘the elephant in the room’. I guess it’s just that ice breaker moment that brings the best opportunity to express your thoughts. I said, ‘I can’t believe none of us found any gold.’, which broke the ice for all of us, almost in unison, to say, ‘I ain’t ever doing that crap again!’. We all laughed out loud. We still had miles to go, several hours ahead of us, including one hour to get the truck unstuck after I picked a bad line for Owen to drive over some loose boulders. It was the best worst time I’ve ever had.

Oh, and I ordered more lightweight backpacking gear when I got home!

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