Some people you never know if you’ll see them again.
Life is like that.
We’re not really out of this pandemic, yet, as the U.S. tentatively
emerges from the Health Safety Lockdown of the past 16 months.
Danger still lurks.
Death is waiting around corners.
So much has changed.
I spent most of the time
walking in the nearby mountains.
I really feel for those stuck in their homes.
We have 10,000-footers looming over Albuquerque
with many trails, canyons, arroyos
I give thanks to the Great Spirit
and the Goddess of Creation
For this mystery and
for giving me the strength to walk in these wild places.
The day begins innocently enough. The unexpected has other designs. I park truck at Three Gun Springs Trailhead and three hours later I’m on the ridge. Earlier, the only other person seen on trail this day, young lady returning down trail mid-morning, I told her where I was heading, you meet the nicest people out in the wild, was concerned, I told her I was fine (I must look my age?) she relented and said, “Well, BE CAREFUL!”
By 2:30 I made Oso Pass, the point of this reconnaissance today is to strategize which route I’ll take later in summer in my climb up South Peak. Oso Pass is the junction of the 3 approaches. I must have suspected something was amiss as my Shirtpocket Notes has a notation about two friends of mine who died recently on these mountains, old guys. I was inordinately tired. I’m not usually this tired. And I needed to start down, it was going to be a slog. After a shorter than needed rest (the gnats bothersome this time of year), and in retrospect, this is where things went weird. How I took off down the wrong trail is spooky.
An hour later I make a note that I’m lost and confused, don’t know where I am? Unbeknownst to me I was experiencing Heat Exhaustion —- 95-degrees and altitude, I misjudged the day, ran out of water. I know these mountains fairly well, I’ve been in them for 30 years and this past 16 months three four times a week, I even hiked through the winter, nothing stopped me, but the Sun had other ideas. I begin to lose control of my leg muscles, they were wobbly, weak, I fell quite a few times. I might have fainted a few times, I don’t remember. (I hope this story not descending into the overly-dramatic?)
It wasn’t until I rounded this escarpment and came out of the trees late in the day and saw the city water tank in Embudo Canyon, miles below, did I realize where I was: a cosmic joke to be on Whitewash Ridge, a brutal straight up straight down tumble of colluvium and scree and cactus. In my delirium I made few phone calls, my throat so dry I could barely speak. Left messages. All of which I have no memory. Cal came and rescued me with water, “It has electrolytes,” which I gather’d was a good thing? There are parts of this world I am not a part of. I lost 5 pounds in water weight (gained it all back after I rehydrated). My ankles were a rash of blood red broken blood vessels.
Janet said, “Subdural bleeding —- Your body was about to shut down!” so were my hands (I didn’t show Cal, didn’t want to alarm him any more) were vibrant red, Janet said, “a mechanism to dispel body heat, your body was in shutdown.” She was a little angry with me. SO, in summary: I’m writing a book about these mountains. My dear friends look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them, this whole misadventure was merely research <grin> Now I know something else about these mountains. They almost took me.
I’m writing this 3 weeks later —- That day still lingers —- I’ve gone out many times since, always careful, it wasn’t as bad as it sounds, just a close call.
What a way to go:
Wandering the mountains sundazed
Gloriously confused, delirious
It was light of the Sun
From which we came
And now the Sun is reclaiming me
The blood vessels in my ankles and hands
bursting in flames, swirling
Universe, thirst and fatigue
Always a galaxy we
THE GALILEO TREE
Poems Winter 2020 – Winter 2021
First edition * 300 copies * March 2021 / This is Zerx chap #76 / Printed at Speedzone, Albuquerque / Layout and functional design by Nanette Ely-Davies / Author photo Self-portrait in Sandia Mountains early Spring 2021 / Front cover art & design by Tim Oswald / All doodles by the author / These poems are the book my jazz trio uses in sessions/ Cal Haines (drums) and Carol Liebowitz (piano) —- / Other alliances, with Virg Dzurinko (piano), duets w/ Charley Krachy (tenor), improvisations with Nick Lyons (alto), / deep dives w/Kazzrie Jaxen (piano), and a long-deferred project with bassist Ken Filiano, as well as further duets with bassist Ratzo Harris, and Andrea Wolper —- All put on hold during this Covid-19/ Safety Lockdown Limbo we’re presently awaiting an end / Some have appeared on my defunct FB page and a few others were read on Scott MacNicholl’s Saturday night radio show Psychedelic Radio Head Shoppe (KUNM), and some others appeared at my website JAZZ FOR MOSTLY / And some were borrowed from YESTERDAY TOOK THE SKY my unpublished memoir I wrote during the early months of the pandemic when we were all asked to stay home / (c)2021 Mark Alan Weber / firstname.lastname@example.org / Zerx Press, 725 Van Buren Place SE, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87108
Absoulty beautiful pictures, but jeeezzz …close call..!!!
You’re becoming a ‘crazy adept’! Amazing photos ( is that in my backyard?) and those mountains/Sun have teeth and can bite your ass. Be as mindful as you are poetic. Please.
What Charley said.
And … thanks for the reminder that it can get weird out there, could happen to anyone.
” . . . Maybe we feel the need to test ourselves more, to see how much we can take
and survive. Bravery is personal.” —- Marie Colvin (1956-2012) essay Courage Knows
No Gender (1999) —- Marie was war correspondent KIA in Syria by Bashar al-Assad’s
bombing annihilation of a city that didn’t agree with him.
Great photos. Gone are the snow patches. 95-degrees, old lightning strikes and gnats… another season of endurance. I can just imagine you on your scuffed ass making a phone call… “ Hey Father Death, I’m flying home
Hey poor man, you’re all alone
Hey old daddy, I know where I’m going” (Ginsberg)
Well thankfully you didn’t know where you were going. When Father Death showed up, you weren’t there, having wandered off with a pine cone…
Keep trekking!… being mindful of bodily resources such as water and such…
So much for becoming a wiser person as we age. Not that I would know much about such wisdom myself. From your stories of the past, this is but one in a long line of close calls. It is a sign of supreme optimism that we expect to see another sunrise, which makes each day so beautiful when we are able to rise again to wish the best to all of our friends
Shirtpocket Notes —- Wednesday June 23, 2021 South Sandias
TH parking at Three Gun Springs —- elevation 6,086 feet (the Coltrin book has it at 6,340)
Only 4 cars plus my truck —– I feel excited to be out today, evergized, heat be damned, wish
I had got here earlier! I woke at 6 but various home chores kept me
“Moral sentiments originate in man’s sense of unity” —- Seems simple enough, from rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s first book MAN IS NOT ALONE (1951) was reading this morning,
I’ll ponder further as I walk today
Blue Haze (like Miles Davis tune)
Particulate must be high
Gnats —- I’m slathering Jungle Juice
Cottontail scurries off into the rabbitbrush, appropriately —- As Mary Austin has it (essay
“Water Trails of the Ceriso,” 1903) : “Rabbits appear to have no reason for existence but to furnish meals for meat eaters”
This is the year of the Whiptail (Checkered Whiptail —- spotted)
Very very had to nose breath when moving fast uphill, I feel like I’m suffocating, need
gulp of air, or faint —- Maybe I’ll have breakfast at First Post (I packed 2 homemade carnitas
burritos) For now, I’ll have an apple (Gala) while trudging —-
Cute young girl startled me, I must have jumped, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t sneaking up on you!”
I had been photographing yucca in upward shot to show horizon of mountain range
She was moving up trail with her floppy hat & Hollywood starlet sunglasses
I asked where she was headed?
“To the top”
I didn’t think she meant South Sandia Peak, so late in the day, so, said “Third Post?”
She said, “Yeh”
I said, “I’ll see you there in about 5 hours, I go slow”
and she endearingly coo’d, “Oh no, you’ll make it!”
I’m easily more than twice her age
10:58 First Post
Ready for breakfast but gnats a nuisance
I’ll have to go up to the ridge where the wind blows them away
Finally, cicadas! Wish I could see them when they’re making this racket, but, it’s such
a white noise, can’t tell where they are —– (I did photo one inactive cicada on an opuntia
about an hour ago)
11:15 —- 7,402 feet
Gnats or no gnats I need a rest
Have to remember keep camera in shade, it doesn’t like sun or heat —- That book BREATH
is losing its viability with me (Shew gave it to me), the young author blames everything from
nighttime frequent urination, to low energy, HBP, snoring, low attention span, to the war
in Mideast to the leaky kitchen faucet on mouth breathing —- I’m beginning to disagree —-
I try nose breathing coming up trail as long as possible until gasp for fulsome big breath
Incomprehensibly, that young girl coming down trail while I munch burrito, she says
she made it —- I say, “Oh, come on!” she laughs and says, “It’s not far you’ll make it”
dear girl that she is
I switched to Macro lens to photo close up of rocks where I’m sitting
You get to a certain age, Grasshopper
All you want to do
Be in the mountains
Walking the Back of Beyond
Cicada —- an odd sound —- You can be close to it but it sounds distant —- old Pinon,
there he is! They must expend a lot of energy buzzy so furiously
I’m high enough to see Embudo Canyon Saddle and the hazy city beyond to the west
Gambel Oak (it was Turbinella previous to First Post)
Lower back muscles seizing up, I need to stop
Still in Pinon-Juniper Zone, I should start seeing Ponderosa soon, if I recall correctly —-
Cool welcome breeze
I wonder what that portends?
I wonder if this not Wavy Leaf Oak [photo] for a Gambel it has a prickley tip on leaf?
Might be hybrid —- They look different
Both are present along here and no doubt further up
This jaunt today merely a reconnaissance to look into the various approaches for my
eventual climb to South Sandia Peak
12:35 Third Post
Well, that girl was about right: “It’s only an hour away, you’ll make it!” tender reassurances
always welcome —- I told her I was 68, my pace a little more measured
She said, “That’s awesome! Well, you take your time and look at all the flowers!”
I said, “What flowers?”
She said, “All of those lovely purple flowers”
I said that I hate cholla but their flowers do win me over, “Were you up here April and
May? That’s when all the flowers were out”
She said Yes she was.
I seem to have missed Second Post? (Or, somebody yanked it out)
I’m sitting in a swarm of gnats —- I must need put on more Jungle Juice AND
SPF55 sunscreen —- Took me 3 hours to get here —- Blame it on Covid-damaged lungs
12:50 —- 8,013
I’m just a little further up trail from Third Post Saddle (junction with Embudo Trail)
Took 2 aspirin
Slathered on Jungle Juice (never put on forehead as the sweat intermingles with eyes
and that burns to high hell), even put it on my pants and backpack (hope it doesn’t stain)
Rubbed Voltaren onto lower back muscles — Topical NSAID (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug)
I’m right under South Peak
Very very green up there
I won’t attempt ascent of South Peak until gnats are history
I can see Whitewash Trail and how it approaches Oso Pass
Looks to be advanced hiking
This is the Land of Tall Pinon
Even tho, no Ponderosa, it seems like I should be seeing Hornytoads, I can feel
My gawd, at first I thought I was seeing the tallest Pinon in creation, standing as tall as
the Ponderosa next to it, and here’s another! but, telltale bracted pine cones in the understory
makes it Doug-fir
Wind —- medallion tree: Pennsylvania Statehood 1787
This Ponderosa is 233 years old
Somebody has scratched a gouge in medallion since I last saw it last summer —- There’s
a new type of hiker these days, that destroys trail posts and signs and any other trail
markers —- Hard to understand why —- Since Trump has unleashed such ruination and
disruption and immaturity out of these blighted people, probably more to come? But, up
here? Makes no sense
I remove Macro and go back to my regular lens: 16-50mm zoom
Too many gnats to have lunch, not that hungry luckily, the heat takes away appetite,
these are slim “backpacking burritos” but the one I had at 1:22 is sufficient
1:30 4 hours and counting —- 8.088
I’m a little further up from medallion tree and now trail begins to descend
I’m in the “Mixed Conifer Zone”
Around every bend I keep thinking I must be within striking distance of Oso Pass —-
I’ve never been on this leg of trail this far, so . . .
If this recon has revealed anything, it’s that I’ll need bring a sleeping bag if I’m to
make South Peak
I’ll continue till 2:30 at 5 hours then turn around, giving safe amount of time to return
I’m starting to question my sanity to keep this up
What a slog
Ridge of some sort, tree cover —- 8,578
2:30 —- 5 hours — 8,529 feet (I came down a little)
Elation and exhaustion —- Here I am! OSO PASS, 3-way junction with Embudito and
Three-Gun Spring Trail is all the post says —- I gather Embudito is to continue up to Peak
And to think I almost turned around five minutes ago
when that wave of heat hit me as I came up onto that ridge
Well, I’ll lighten my load and drink can of V8
I always remember Jim Fish dying on Mt Taylor and Tomas on La Luz Trail in the heat
When is it my turn?
Starting back down —- These molesting gnats make it impossible to rest
I’m facing the massif of South Peak and just looking at it, and the way I feel, makes me
think it might be out of my reach —- Maybe 20 years ago or 30, but no more . . .
Totally lost and confused
Don’t know where I am
It appears I’m on Whitewash Trail —- I can see Embudo Canyon City Water Tank
These gnats, you can hardly think, let alone, rest —- Must keep moving —-
For the last hour I didn’t know where I was, and now some sort of cosmic joke that I wind
up on Whitewash Ridge Trail —- brutal —- My leg muscles quivering
Called Cal, he’s going to pick me up at Embudo Trailhead parking at 5:30
I’m heading down the cut-down trail off Whitewash
Slipping & falling
The mountain kicked my ass today, I guess it was bound to happen before long
[I had quit taking photos when it became apparent I had come off my hinges —- Rather,
my disorientation didn’t result in picture taking ——- And my hands turned bright red, Janet
said that it was a capillary mechanism for dispensing heat from over-heated body —-
I’m very thirsty and my throat hurts, very sore, must be swollen —- Sun stroke? certainly
heat exhaustion —- I ran out of water at 4 —- I took 2 quarts plus V8—- When I got to
parking lot I called Cal and said “Where are you?” Said he’d walked up Embudo Trail looking
for me, “Stay put, I’ll be right there, I guess I sounded pretty bad on the phone, when I first called him it wasn’t until he said, “ARE YOU ALRIGHT?” my voice was ragged and I could
barely get a sound out, it wasn’t until he said that, that I realized that I might not be alright —-
Sure good to have him as a friend—- He got me home and Janet was freaked and yelled at
me for not leaving my phone on, she said Tim (Oswald) had called worried, too —- In my
delerium I must have called him and left a message as he told Janet what I’d croaked into
his message machine] —- Apparently, I had also called Betty Jo & Gary . . . .
+ Interesting how specific to this planet and latitude our bodies are, how temperatures
and altitudes can trip us up —– Another clue that I was dehydrating: I didn’t urinate
Textbook case of Heat Exhaustion (look it up) disorientation, muddy thinking, fatigue,
decrease and loss of muscle coordination, balance, fainting —– And that night massive
cramps in my legs that Janet had to massage and rub ointment, very painful
Notable that my last photo was 3:22 —- I didn’t reach Embudo Canyon parking until 5:30 —-
I shot 225 frames this hike
In this kind of heat you need a whole lot more water than 2 quarts
I happen’d to have weighed myself that morning on our new weigher (I’m not in the habit
of weighing myself) and so, after this misadventure I weighed myself and I lost 5 pounds,
all in water weight no doubt
In the last hour coming down off the Whitewash Ridge my muscles uncontrollable I kept
falling on this talus and so spent some of the steeper parts scooting along on my butt