Wednesday, November 16, 2011

west, vol. 8

-i woke up next to the bald & bearded andreas butler. considering how many times i've lived with the dude, this may have been the first time waking up next to the man. though the bed was the most comfortable thing i'd slept in or on since leaving indiana, i knew i had to get up. the pound of bacon in the fridge (or was it two?) wasn't going to cook itself. i wandered down to the kitchen, started some coffee, and grated several pounds of potatoes, diced a few onions, tossing them together in the biggest plastic bowl i could find. had to get the starch started first, essential in an 8-person breakfast.

-unfortunately, only two of the burners on the stove functioned, and they were the smaller ones. i turned them both to high, began sauteeing the taters-n-onions, warming the oven to keep everything evenly done. midway through the bacon fry, bodies began to rise, lurching out of sleep towards the downright magical combination of onion, oil, bacon, and coffee. i don't know what the first explorers ate while winding out of the mountain passes towards the pacific ocean, but i like to imagine it was the same combination of pork fat, rough-ground coffee, and starch. i am nothing if not a descendent of lewis & clark.

The scene of the crime. Modelo-addled as I was, I managed to finishing everything simultaneously, a heroic breakfast achievement.

-after finishing the potatoes & bacon, slipped them in the oven and whisked two dozen eggs with some milk & a block of american-orange cheddar. scrambling these over a small burner took longer than expected; tyler stepped in to keep stirring (and sipping the day's first brew) while i washed the hot tub & cigar off of me.

-post-breakfast & coffee, we headed out in two car-loads in search of the Nooksack Falls, a winding drive towards the end of the highway. along the way we passed strung-out lines of bikers, whose ability to ride that far uphill disturbed me almost as much as the motorcycle-death-wish-brigade who flew around tight corners, passing a dude (me) driving another dude's (chris) car dangerously close to said bikers. still, it was over 70-degrees, sunny, and the day soon mellowed when we reached the turn-off to the falls.

The top-third of the roughly 90-foot falls. Signs indicated at least 8 people had gone over to meet their fate at the ageless rocks and broken trees below. Despite the warnings, edging up to a precipice was needfully done---not often can you experience the simultaneous feeling of being so close to oblivion & so close to the constancy of nature.

-even when the falls began to busy with a few hikers & tourists, i still felt drawn to the strange age of the place, carved with the sweat of the even-nearer glacier over thousands of years. having recently watched werner herzog's cave of forgotten dreams, another examination of the tiny glint of humanity in the timeless eye of the universe, the falls gave me that sense of being incredibly young, unimportant, and vague, merely sucking up as much sunshine and intense pine aroma as possible in a space more old & venerable than all the cathedrals of the world laid end-to-end.

-enough philosophizing already. after wandering in the woods a bit, getting close enough to the stream for a brave few to take a freezing, fear-no-bacteria gulp, and ben climbing into a tall, hollow tree-trunk; we decamped in search of a trail that might take us up the mountainside a bit. unfortunately, upon finding it, we realized it would involve a 15-mile drive on a gravel path till we even got to the beginning of the trail. we had laid in no supplies, so settled for the horseshoe bend trail, which ran along the Nooksack a few miles further downstream from the falls.

Contemplating the odd notion that I should swim in water meant for mammals with a coat of body fat that weighs more than my car. I would soon give in to this temptation; glacier-flow-swimming as performance-art.

-noting that "bear season" was in effect, the crew made sure to permeate the early-afternoon river's edge with various bird calls, alien mating sounds, caribou grunts, and what was soon to be determined to be the true & actual call of a bear, "huuyh-ahhh!" after weaving up and down the riverbank for a time, the trail eventually came to rest a a spot looking up into the mountains, logs laying across large stones created swirling pools of ice blue water, and small stacks of disc-like stones adorned the sun-bleached dusty rock bed. after building some stacks of our own, the sun had me sweating and shirtless, and i realized that...yes, i needed to swim in the nooksack.

-part of the river had been almost sealed off by a fallen tree, and the fast-running current present everywhere else merely swirled to a crawl in a six-foot circle of two-foot deep, amazingly ice-clouded water. i put my hand in, and it felt cold, but do-able. after cajoling some dudes to join me, and none obliged, the crowd was getting restless; it was swim-or-go-home. next to a sun-soaked boulder, i checked the trail for square-looking hikers, then shucked shoes & clothes down to underwear, and took a deep breath. oh shit!

Pre-dip phase of Operation Tea-Bag the Nooksack. At this point, I'm thinking, "This is very probably not the best idea I've ever had." Soon, I would be in extreme pain and unable to form a cogent defense of what I'd done...

-i stepped into the water. "hey, this isn't bad," i said out-loud. a couple seconds later, as i began descending to get my waist underwater, i realized i couldn't feel my feet. at all. by the time the water hit my torso, both my legs were shrieking in pain. i probably began howling, and jumped up & out of the water. compelled by my near-religious experience, maxson doffed his footwear to wade in. the second voyage was worse than the first---too cold to make the five-foot run back to shore, we opted for the tree trunk suspended over the water, letting the air put feeling back in my toes. courage summoned (or stupidity swallowed); the gap was bridged and seventy degree sand stomped upon in an attempt to regain feeling. the serious pain subsided, and the warm walk back to the vehicles was welcome, fake wildlife calls and all.

part nine & rest of day to follow

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