Monday, February 16, 2009

The Organ Mountain Death March

OK, here it is: I’m afraid of heights. And clowns. And cats and shag carpet and fast food. But my absolute scariest fear is that of being hopelessly lost in the wilderness and dying there.

So a group of my friends and I, all male, decided to hike to the top of the Organ mountains here in Las Cruces. We set out early in the day and hiked up the mountain without incident. Everyone got to the top and celebrated by taking pictures of themselves flexing their muscles while standing on the peak. Then we ate some trail mix, drank out of our canteens and headed back down.

Somewhere the hike down became a testosterone-fueled contest to see who could get to the bottom first. I wasn’t interested in winning any manliness contests, but, as I’ve mentioned, I’m scared to death of getting lost, so I tried to keep up.

Pretty soon the pack had thinned out. One guy was way far ahead of me and seven other guys were way far behind me. I was all alone. After about 10 minutes, I realized I had lost the trail and was getting more lost with every step I took.

Right about then I lost my footing and started rolling down the mountain. When I wasn’t watching my life flash before my eyes or making peace with God, I marveled at how easily, efficiently and expeditiously a human being can roll down a mountain. Just when I had accepted the fact that I was pretty much going to roll forever (or at least until I ran out of mountain) my death roll was mercifully stopped… by the spiniest cactus found in nature.

Vulgar words filled the mountain air as I got painfully to my feet and looked for my friends. I couldn’t see them, even though I thought I had made good time while I was rolling. I yelled and yelled for my friend who was ahead of me, and finally a reluctant response drifted up the mountain: “What do you want? I’m winning.”

“I think I’m lost,” I yelled. “Okay, actually I know I’m lost. No doubt about it.”

“Oh, all right. I’ll help you,” came the less-than-comforting reply. “I still win, though.”

Soon we were back on the trail together, and my friend proceeded to tell me why he was so good at hiking.

“The outdoors are like a good book,” he philosophized. “You just read it a lot and then you start to understand it. I love the outdoors and the outdoors loves me. I speak to the trail, and it tells me where it’s going.”

About a minute later we were hopelessly lost.

“We’re lost,” my friend said. “But I can find the way back. I’m an outdoorsman. That means I like the outdoors. In fact, I was born outdoors.”

“No you weren’t! You were born in a hospital!” I challenged.

“Well, yeah. But when my head started to come out my mom excused herself from the delivery room and had me outside. She loves the outdoors too, you know.”

“Lies! Get her on the phone. I want to hear the story.”

“Oh, look. No reception.”

My friend then decided that the only way to get back on the trail was to wade through a huge ravine filled with cactuses and waist-high thorn bushes. Eventually we made it to the base of the mountains where we had parked. We looked like we had been mauled by an angry pack of stray cats, but we made it. I quickly climbed into the truck and locked my friend out.

“You like the outdoors so much,” I said through the glass, “why don’t you just stay out there?”