Tag Archives: King of the Mountain

King Of The Mountain (part 2)

What did I get myself into? How much further could it possibly be? Why on earth did I start off this journey by jogging? Those were a few of the questions swirling through my mind as I’d periodically raise my weary head and gaze into the heavens. I had been clambering up Mount Elden, for well over 2 hours, and I was more than a little disappointed I had not yet reached the crest. I still had plenty of water (although dehydration was not the problem) because I had been rationing the first bottle, and I was saving the second one for after reaching the peak.

The higher I ascended the more strenuous the terrain had become, and I was having some difficulty catching my breath. The 9,000 ft. plus elevation was surely contributing to my exhaustive state. A few times throughout the hike I found myself gently falling to my knees, in apparent defeat, only to regain my footing and my perseverance. I strongly considered turning back, but that’s not who I am, so I kept climbing. Three hours had passed, since I’d left the comforts of the campground, when at last I reached the mountain’s summit.

I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment after conquering the 3-mile high Mount Elden. I celebrated by munching on trail mix and tapping into my second bottle of water. I phoned my wife so we could wave to one another, but neither of us could see the other’s flailing arms from that distance. I disappointedly placed the phone back into my pocket, rested a few more minutes, and then began retreating down the massive heap. I was hungry, and I was extremely eager to return to the campsite. I previously had been told hiking to the top of the mountain and back would most-likely only take a couple of hours. It did not.

I was also informed my skater shoes would be sufficient enough for the quest. They were not. Several times I lost my footing, as I hurriedly descended down the mountain, but I was able to keep my balance with my catlike prowess…for awhile anyway. Suddenly, while slowly jogging around a bend, I found myself in a horizontal position. I had slipped on the graveled path and out towards the rim of the mountain. I somehow managed to grasp onto a rock along the trail, as I went sliding past, and fortunately the protruding formation was stable enough to halt any further momentum. Both of my legs, from the knees down, were dangling over the side of the mountain.

I breathed a sigh of relief, carefully morphed back into a vertical position, and brushed the embedded pebbles off my arms. Out of curiosity I took a peek over the edge just to see what might’ve been. I was a tad taken aback when I did not spy any boulders or jagged rocks down below. The only thing visible, over the rim, was a colossal cluster of enormous pine trees. Regardless, I doubt if landing on the tree tops, several feet below, would’ve been a whole lot better than landing on rocks. I thanked the Lord. I then continued my descent, but this time I did not jog, scurry, or scamper. I simply walked this time although apparently it didn’t really matter.

Once more my feet failed me, but at least this time I fell backwards onto the path. However, my left knee was bent underneath my body, and the “popping” sound I heard while going down wasn’t all that comforting. I detected a burning sensation in my knee, but I was able to rise up and continue on down the mountain…with a limp. I was flabbergasted when I saw my lovely wife at the base of the vast heap. She had gotten worried and sent out a search party (of one) to look for me. My wife was ecstatic, as was I, when our paths finally crossed. Neither of us had imagined that hiking Mount Elden would’ve been anywhere near a 5 hour ordeal.

I told the missus all about my completed mission, purposely omitting the part about my dangling legs of course, as we walked back to the campsite hand in hand. My entire body was sore (I had knee surgery a few months later), but the elation I felt, mainly for being back on level ground, overshadowed all of the aches and pains. I took a much needed shower before scarfing down my breakfast even though the clock on the wall said it was lunchtime. I’m pretty sure I ate some lunch, with the rest of the “happy campers”, as well. A short while later the 24 hours I had promised my wife were over, so we loaded up the car, said our goodbyes, and headed home to sweet civilization. I thought I had permanently satisfied my wife’s desires, but I’m afraid her yearning to camp has resurfaced. It has already gotten to the point where she is willing to inconvenience herself solely for the purpose of letting her wishes be known.

Recently, while my wife and I were shopping, I ventured off to take a gander at whatever manly things the department store had to offer. During that time my wife came across a t-shirt she felt she needed to show me. She carried around the garment (she had no intentions of buying) throughout the store, for several minutes, until she saw me coming towards her. My wife playfully held up the t-shirt which read, “Take Me Camping!” (or so we thought). Upon further investigation it actually read, “Take Me Champing!” Neither of us could decipher what champing meant, but I got her point nonetheless. However, if the next time we go camping I find myself saying, “I must climb that mountain,” I will know to be better prepared (hiking boots in tow), and I certainly will be better at pacing myself. I don’t want to have to labor so much, or risk my life, to once again become King of the Mountain.


King Of The Mountain (part 1)

One day my lovely wife suggested we go camping with her aunt and uncle. I was a bit baffled by her increasing fascination with the great outdoors. I’ve only gone camping two or three times, throughout my entire life, if sleeping in a tent in one’s own backyard counts as doing the deed. My criteria for camping is having immediate access to indoor plumbing, air-conditioning, and television. My wife’s aunt and uncle’s newly purchased camper offered all three amenities, so I was willing to sacrifice part of my weekend to make the missus happy. That’s what good husbands do for their spouses. It’s not that my wife has ever been an avid outdoorswoman, at least not in the thirty-two plus years we’ve been together, but suddenly she was adamant about giving it a try.

My wife and I arrived at the campsite, located in Flagstaff, Arizona, and quickly unloaded our car before settling into our “new home” for the next 24 hours. Our “roughing it” experience began with a harmless cookout. The outdoor gas grill churned out some delicious burgers, and the refrigerator inside the camper kept the side dishes from spoiling. Afterwards, the four of us congregated to our comfy lawn chairs, situated on a small cement slab next to the camper, so we could chat and simply enjoy the summer’s eve. We were accompanied by a cooler of ice-cold beer. It rained off and on, but it really didn’t matter since we were nestled underneath the camper’s extended awning.

I could not help but notice the gigantic mountain towering above us in the near distance. I kept glancing at the magnificent mound, in between our enlightening conversations and swigs of craft beer, until I finally decided to inquire about what I’d been spying. I found out I was looking at Mount Elden, and it was within walking distance from the campsite. I continued probing into the matter throughout the evening, and eventually I was reminded of a quote from the classic holiday movie, A Christmas Carol. After coming to his senses, and being overcome with a childlike excitement, Ebenezer Scrooge declares, “I must stand on my head.” I found myself to be outright giddy, like the former curmudgeon, while surveying the mountain, and ultimately I concluded, “I must climb that mountain.”

The humongous heap I had been observing all evening was a far cry from the mountains I had scaled back home at Thunderbird Park. It certainly was nothing like the snowbanks I used to conquer as a rambunctious adolescent growing up in Iowa. I fondly remember when a pile of snow and a couple of friends typically meant only one thing: playing a testosterone-fueled game of King of the Mountain. It was good to be king, but sometimes the consequence of playing the physical game was “his royal majesty” would be left with one or two less friends by game’s end although usually for only a day or two at the most. No, the beast now currently before my eyes was definitely going to be more challenging than anything I’d ever climbed before.

The next morning I got up early, had a cup of coffee, and grabbed two bottles of water, some trail mix, and my cellphone before heading out on my newfound mission. I jogged on a dusty path leading from the campsite to the numerous trails beginning at the bottom of Mount Elden. I found the sign pointing to where I desired to go, looked up to the heavens above, and then began my anticipated 2 hour roundtrip journey. After following the trail a short distance I came across what I could only assume was a family of visiting tourists. They obviously were of a different nationality because I could not understand a word they were saying. They were taking turns snapping pictures of one another while posing atop an assortment of boulders along the trail. I flashed them a smile as I meandered through all of the commotion.

I soon noticed the path I was navigating seemed to be heading downwards. It’s not uncommon to encounter a few patches of declining land when mountain climbing; however, experiencing them so early on, and at such a rapid descent, was undoubtedly confusing and too much for me to simply ignore. Thankfully, at my time of uncertainty I was greeted by someone heading in the opposite direction. I informed him of the situation at hand, and I asked if he knew what might be happening. He did. The local man explained how we were on the Fatman’s Loop trail, which only went around the mountain, and how I must have wandered off the Elden Lookout Trail; therefore, missing the entrance to Mount Elden.

The friendly hiker assured me there were signs, a ways back from where I had just come from, indicating where I should go. I traipsed back a bit, and sure enough there were the signs: labeled with bold letters and in plain sight. I contemplated how I possibly could’ve missed them until I realized I was standing in the exact spot where I had earlier run into the presumed family of tourists. The posing family members surely would’ve blocked anyone’s view, of the informative signage, when standing on top of the boulders. I had lost a little time (and energy) in search of the correct path to take, but I was now officially ready to scale Mount Elden.