Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Osborn Mountain

"You Don't Know Why?" This is what my wife said to me after I couldn't answer the question posed to me..."Why do you climb your stupid mountains?" She wasn't being terribly critical. Just an offhand question one evening. I just shrugged and tried to ignore her.

Sweetheart....if you have to ask, you won't understand. But I will try.......

Explanation to My Wife

Perhaps long ago I should have put into writing why I have this need to disappear every weekend to go climb some obscure, out of the way mountain. It is not for the danger, for I rarely climb anything all that hard. There have been times and places where it got a little dicey, but I prefer to stay in the Class 3 to easy Class 4. Perhaps this report will help her understand.

I will start with the planning...not much goes into it other than stuffing all my crap into the outfit, making sure I have everything, double checking that I have everything, a kiss for my wife goodbye and informing her of my destination. "I don't know where the hell Osborn Mountain is!" she says. “In the Northern Winds, near the Green River Lakes” I tell her, “it is written on a note pad on the fridge”.

I hop in the outfit, drive to the end of the street and ask myself, “Did I forget anything?” It is late in the afternoon, traffic is light, the scenery familiar, I am excited about the trip. Some good tunes on the CD to round it off.

As I drive, I let my eyes wander over the surrounding mountains. I ponder about those that I have yet to climb. I think to myself that someday, perhaps I will get around to it. But this weekend it is off to the Winds. New country. Excitement. I have been in the area but most of it is new to me.

The sun starts to set. The sky behind me is full of smoke. Farmers burning stubble fields. The setting sun is spectacular. Funny how on one hand I disapprove of the burning, but enjoy the amazing colors it produces.

Dark now and I have to watch out for deer in the Snake River and Hoback canyons as I travel east. Soon I detect lightning ahead. Then FLASH! And another one to my right. Two cells of weather are producing amazing flashes of light. I can see the mountain tops of the staggering Wind River Range light up from every flash. Awesome! Strangely beautiful in the second or two that they stand out each time it lights up.

I pull into the Green River Lakes parking lot. It is quiet. I can still see lightning flashes, but cannot hear the thunder. It is late but I decide to walk down to the lake shore. It is dark, no moon. Even the stars, as bright as they are give no light to guide me. I come to the shore and feel the wind on my face. It is blowing hard, bringing with it the smell of smoke from a distant fire.

To bed I go, already made in the back of my outfit. Sleep comes after a while, not soon enough though, as I anticipate tomorrows adventure.

6 am comes and it is time to rise, does not take long to get ready, and soon I am off. I note that the parking lot is full. Colorado plates dominate (after Wyoming) and Utah comes in second. Ohio, Minnesota, Kansas. More. Idaho is represented by a couple of outfits.

My surroundings are very quiet. I try to be quiet. I see no one. It is a beautiful morning with the promise of a beautiful day. I take a few pictures and find that I have forgotten one of my memory cards at home in the reader. Oh well, I will have to switch back and forth, from the Minolta to the Kodak. A bit of a hassle, but hey, how hard was it for Jackson? This was just a minor inconvenience.

I quietly hike down the trail. The route I have chosen is seldom used and is a little hard to follow. That is ok, I have done this sort of thing before, I feel confident that I can find the way. I climb through sagebrush and aspen. The smells are of my childhood. I briefly reminisce about my early years. They are fairly good memories, especially of those summers I spent in east Idaho with my grandparents.

Quaking Aspens
Osborn Mountain Trail

The route becomes steep. The faint trail goes straight up. No switch backs here. I rest often. Soaking in the views. A chickadee does acrobatics in a dead tree. I watch it for a while. Bouncing around from limb to limb. Amazing stunts. More steep hiking and then a green upper basin to give me a break. My endorphins kick in a little. Got a small buzz going.

The views up stream are spectacular. Steep walls on both sides. Boulders the size of small houses greet me.

I stop to decide on what route to take. Up the bottom of the basin to a gap on the horizon? Or hump it up the canyon side to gain a ridge top? I opt for the ridge and soon find the going steep. 20 steps and then rest. Repeat. Again. And Again. Soon it is 15 steps and then rest. Then 10. Then 5. I can see the top of the ridge. Just 50 feet away. So close, yet so far. I make it after a couple of short breathing stops…Gasp….

But now I find the ridge to be instead - a slanted mountain top. And I am at the bottom end of a fell-field. It becomes a pleasure walk. A walk in the park. It is perhaps a mile and a half to the top with about a 1000 feet of elevation gain. It is grassy, and amazingly shaped boulders are strewn everywhere.

I sit down and have lunch. A Mormon cricket makes a strange chirping noise by my left hand.

Man are they ugly. I reach for it to have a better look. It really makes a noise now. I decide not to disturb it, as life on the wind swept plateau must be hard enough as it is.

I watch the clouds zoom by overhead. They are light and fluffy, but are traveling fast. I watch the western sky. Looks OK for now, but I decide to get going. Weather can change fast.

The going is easy, the views are spectacular to the right. Squaretop is partially hidden behind White Mountain.

View From the Top

I stroll across the top, eventually coming to the SE edge of this massive mountain top. The view is nothing less than stunning. Peak after peak cut across the horizon. The highest core of the Wind River Range jump out at me. So close, yet so far away. I walk to the very edge. The drop is startling. I find a place to sit and munch a chocolate bar while I try to orient myself to the peaks. Squaretop and Flat Top I can identify. I see a peak that I think is Gannett, but I am not 100% sure. I later find that it is indeed the King of the Winds.

I linger for a while, not wanting to leave. I walk along the edge a bit, crossing some snow left over from last winter. I wonder to myself, not many people can say they touched snow today. A few, but not many I surmise. I am one of the few. One of the few who find themselves in high, remote places. Alone. But not lonesome. I smile to myself. I am one lucky bastard.

I start back reluctantly. The walk down is pleasant. I see a low saddle a little further down the slope from where I topped out earlier and decide to try it on the descent. As I stand at the top of saddle, I look left. A beautiful view over to the Slide Lake area. I tell myself that there is another place I need to investigate. I mentally add it to the hundred other places I need to explore.

The remainder of the trip down is pleasant. Steep in places, and hard on the knees. I will feel it tomorrow. A reminder. I will wake up with sore legs and remember.

I stroll into the parking lot. Most of the outfits are gone. I am glad to be down. But I am also a bit sad. I pack my stuff in the back and as I am backing out of my parking space I am already thinking about my next trip. My next adventure. Where will it be? Could be anywhere. Almost anywhere I want. Cool.

As I drive back down the road towards home, I reflect back on the day, and observe that familiar feeling of complete satisfaction for a day well spent. I feel a contentment of my soul. Memories to get me through the mundane times, which occasionally overtake me on the 9-5 routine.

The drive home through the Hoback and Snake River Canyons are just icing on the cake. The mountains and ridges fade to shades of gray as the sun sets. The perfect end to a perfect day.

To my dear wife….Why do I do it? Well, because I like to, simple as that. I doubt you will, or can, understand. Don’t worry though, I still love you!

1 comment:

  1. Just read this again...simply beautiful. There is so much poetry to the prose, and so much truth. Maybe I'll ask my wife to read this; it won't answer her same question any more than I have been able to already, but she will know there are others like me out there, that we (and she) are not alone.