Jun 23, 2009

A mountain, a storm, near death, LSD and a few boy scouts...

ill prepared © the cinemascapist 2009

One of favorite real life stories that I've never photographed until now. It's both humorous and horrifying and somewhat embarrassing at the same time. Not one to explain a photo and I don't think I need to at all, but this story is too good to not share to the 2 or 3 readers of this blog.

The story begins a few months after my ex-girlfriend and I moved out of the city (Pittsburgh) and to the 6 million acre Adirondack Park where I still reside. One weekend we decided to try some camping. Being relative camping neophytes, there was little to know forethought other than choosing a lean-to that was on the back side of a mountain. This entailed summiting the mountain and then traversing down to the lake and cozy lean-to on it's shore. No big deal.

First things first being young, dumb city folk, we drop a few hits of LSD to better enjoy the nature. We head out from the car and pick up the trail to the summit. Less than 2 miles into the trip we heard distant rumbling of thunder and above were dark dark clouds (one of many oversights; the weather). After about an hour of meandering the flats we approach the base of the mountain and start our ascent as the storm grows nearer. Not long into this leg of the trip the storm erupts overhead and we push on with our waterproof gear. Several hours later (not sure how many) we are approaching what appears to be the summit... short windblown and ravaged trees, weird bushes and tough plants that can withstand the winter exposed up here at this altitude. Everything is becoming increasingly intense. The wind seems to be a category 4 storm, the rain is huge and the unearthed balding head of this mountain is starting to become exposed. It's rock head, like many in the Adirondacks, is one of the oldest and most worn down "rock" in North America (5 million years old). Stepping on it almost seemed wrong and very weird.

I was starting to feel a little freaked out at this point. Then it went from kinda freaked out to "what the fuck" in a split second. My girlfriend had collapsed into a ball of tears on the trail. Crying that we're going to die and the hurricane was going to take us away, etc..., etc.... With adrenaline kicked in now, I picked up her pack (mine and hers were at least 50lbs each) and begged her to get up and follow me until I could find a flat area to pitch the tent.

That is when I was starting to think we were on the wrong mountain or way off the trail we started on. There was no flat in site. It's just kept going up and up. Tight, narrow trails with thick bush on either side. Not even solid ground except for the exposed bedrock every once in a while along the path. Panic was setting in as I was struggling to carry both packs (quite uncomfortable) and my ex was still panicked and talking about laying down on the path and that she couldn't go on.

At last, the peak was in sight. The trail started to lose it's pitch and was leveling off. After a few more turns we were there. There just happened to be a football field sized rock with zero cover from the wind, rain, lightning and thunder. Lovely. I found a spot behind a boulder and tried to figure out the damn tent pole situation. Pole after pole, they seemed never ending with their opening and expanding. This took the patience and attention that I was so lacking at this point. An agonizing amount of time went by and the tent was up. We crept inside and bundled up in the down bags to regain warmth and sanity.

The storm only lasted a little bit longer and then it passed completely. It was summer and the sun seemed to be coming out and birds were singing. At this point I realized it was only 4pm. What happened next really stunned me. I heard people talking and approaching the summit. I immediately get out of my tent to offer towels or help to these other people that had to endure what we had just gone through. Imagine my surprise when two 14 year olds come skipping along with their water bottles and small fanny packs on. They seemed startled by the grissled looking wet dude standing there to greet them outside of his tent on the summit.

I asked how they got up here and they said they took the trail. I asked which trail and they responded the only one that was accesible to this peak. I continued to ask questions as I was befuddled on how they got here. They told me that their mother was waiting in the car while they climbed up here. They told me we were only a little under two hours from the road and the trailhead. I was in complete denial and probably freaking them out. How the hell did it take us a fucking eternity to get here. An epic 6, maybe 7 hour adventure. Too battered and too confused to even dare attempt descending down to the lake and lean-to that, for all we knew, was 30 more miles away. I mumbled something at them about my journey up and then crawled back into the tent. They didn't seem to hang out for too long and headed back down to their mother quite swiftly.

The next morning we were human again. Everything was soaked and we were hungry and exhausted. I was unable to cook the previous night for fear of unleashing the fumes from my butane camp stove. It all seemed way too complicated at the time. We quickly packed up our belongings and leftover brainwaves and headed out. It was not surprising that it was a quick trip down back to the car, although absolutely nothing looked familiar. The edges weren't as extreme, the sky wasn't bloodred and spilling waves on us, and the wind was calm.

It was a lesson learned and unfortunately a good amount of time passed before even thinking about camping again.

So that's my story. Long story. Glad I finaly got that one out in photo form.


Steven said...

good read, Aaron! (cityfolk, meh.)


Joe Reifer said...

So the lesson is "say nope to dope and ugh to drugs," right?

t j brearton said...

woah. i feel harried just having read this.

jimmieknuckles said...

i thought this was a true story until i read the part about you picking up both packs.
keep in mind,i read this shortly after i heard a story about you failing to pick up my ladyfriend.
one day my man, we need to get a few drinks in us, and tell out tales. actually itd probably take a few days

Aaron said...

thanks steven...country folk now.

yes Joe, just say no or if you must, do some planning first.

@ hollywood...do not attempt to recreate.

knuckles: it would take quite a while! oh, and I blame my back for not being able to lift your lady friend. That's another story altogether.

jimmieknuckles said...

blame it on the broken controller, i see how it is hahhaa

Anonymous said...

you left out the part about the giant metal fire tower at the top that can act as a brilliant lightning rod!

PS You're a loser for missing the party!