Saturday, February 13, 2010

3 Days in a Sethspool

Big things are happening in my world. It seems as though I will be working in Zion National Park in less than a month, as an apprentice guide for a reputable outfit whose designation as such I do not wish to tarnish with a mention in this sultry publication...

I was invited to be a dummy for my man Franks (a la Devil's Tower) lead guide assessment this past week and that experience will actually be the focal point of the text of this entry in the ethereal journal.

Wed-Thurs were the intended assessment dates, so I traveled up on Tuesday night, later than I had anticipated, getting into Joshua Tree about 2 AM. It was raining lightly in town and I headed up into the park to camp anticipating a miserable night. My suspicions were confirmed and then some as I discovered the fact that drainage systems do not exist in desert counties; rather, water covers the road and people just plow on through in the rare instances of wet weather.

I got to my intended camp site at 2:35 in the morning and found it in full alpine conditions. I slept fitfully in the front seat of my faithful little Tercel envisioning myriad scenarios in which Frank and his assessor keep showing up dressed in mountaineering garb, insisting that it's not too cold to climb. I cry out that I haven't slept more than 30 consecutive minutes over 3 hours since I pulled into camp; they each drink another gallon of scalding coffee and proceed to build an improvised 5:1 hauling system to extract me from my car. 'We are climbers' they say. 'We have to be prepared for contingencies like this.'

I start awake for the 40th time and realize that the cold, dank sensation plaguing my feet is not in fact the result of having been summarily levered out of my car by two fascist climbers by rather a sad reminder that driving through multiple puddles yields saturated floor mats.

Looking out of my windows I can see several inches of wet snow blanketing the surrounding landscape. It is surreal and I am really wishing that I could summon the sack to put on some clothes and get out and take some shots of a snowy desert. Ten minutes of idling the car has failed to generate enough heat to pull me back from the brink of hypothermia and I am no longer concerned with scenery.

It occurs to me that if I get a move on I might be able to get to McDonalds for breakfast where I can put my nightmares behind me and perhaps even summon the strength to make up some lie about how my car blew up and I wouldnt be able to make it out of San Diego if indeed they planned to go ahead and climb in purely miserable conditions.

As it turned out, my fears were allayed=--Seth and Frank were not going to be climbing in such weather and decided to postpone. Aside from the fact that the people in the 29 Palms McDs have NO idea how to stir coffee or how to put sufficient cream in it, my day was off do a pretty good start.

Being a kind individual Seth invited me to come over to his place where Frank had been staying. Here I met Seth's girlfriend Sara(h?) whose name I am going to risk misspelling because I have never seen it in print. I know a few Saras and they are all pretty touchy about the omission or inclusion of the letter "h" and so I am setting myself up for a fall here no matter what, but such are the risks of being a writer...

Long story short, my faith in climbing humanity has been restored. Not only was it a treat to be entertained by Frank for the two days following during which the weather improved to the point of tropical beauty and warmth but I was treated very kindly and with extraordinary warmth by Seth and Sara who invited me to join the party at the "Sethspool" as his abode is known. I will mention here and now that my dreams are never accurate anyways, so I was not LITERALLY expecting to awake to a hauling system extracting me from my car that morning...So we all just hung out and waited for the weather to pass.

Oh, well we did pass the time by digging a ditch for the new water lines at Sethspool, but I agreed to the task and it built character. Later that night Frank took us all out for a wonderful Sushi dinner. The next morning Frank and I were awoken by an a cappella serenade of "You are my sunshine", performed by the Sethspool residential staff. The closest thing I think I have gotten to this type of wake up was when I had an alarm set to play "Kyle's mom's a bitch" in D yeah, it was super cool!

Two days of climbing and learning during Franks assessment were totally awesome. I didnt get any shots of the climbing but let me say that Frank is one Bitchin' dude, for those of you not aware. I also learned a great deal, technically, which will no doubt be a huge boon in the upcoming months.

We hung out, watched a movie one night, and Seth read us a few chapters from his book about the life of a meth-head the next. Sara made us an amazing dinner too and we were regaled with tales of desert life and adventures. I decided that a book of short stories will be in order after hearing the one about 'butchering an emu we found wandering around in the desert with a leatherman and a shovel'.

While the desert is not an oft romanticized location, the fact that everyone out there seems to have these amazing nicknames like Jewboy-Johnny, Dick the Butcher and Chili-Dog (to name but a few) makes this barren landscape come alive in my minds eye; it burns with color at the telling and my only regret is that my fragmented memory will not serve to do it justice in the recollection.

Thanks again to our kind hosts for being real kind people when no one would have thought less of them for just being normally disengaged. Big ups to Frank for getting his Lead Guide cert!!!

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