| Do Androids Dream of Electric Rednecks?
Too much time has passed. Too many gas stations and highway miles. Too many front seat dinners and crushed beer cans. Too many roadside memorials. Too many vacant late night towns with quiet windows and boarded up dreams. Too many desolate trailheads.
I can no longer discern between real and unreal. It is a byproduct of overextension – both physical and mental – and I have no choice but to ride it out. The project requires it.
Days and weeks and seasons have become virtually indistinguishable. They pass by swiftly and cruelly like unknown faces on a commuter train. The city barely registers on my radar. Its pollution and people are temporary amusements, contact buzzes until I can get back out there.
I don’t know what will happen next but I’ve got to ride it out. I have no choice. The project requires it.
DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC REDNECKS?
“The following is true because if it were not true it would not be believable.”
Prosecutor, Manson Murders
Saturday. May 11. Sangres.
14 miles and 4800 vert (roughly)
Earlier in the week, I was looking pretty hard at a north-facing coolie in the sawatch. One that I’ve had my eye on for some time. But another spring storm coupled with a slabby CAIC forecast left me searching for more gentle ops. I wanted some good miles and vert. I wanted 13K and I wanted something nearby to put on the Sunday docket. Eagle Peak in the Sangres fit the bill.
We stealth camped Friday evening at the Lake Creek Campground just outside the commune of Hillside, CO. I knocked down a meatball Snarfs and nursed two beers before hitting the sack a little before 11 PM.
In the morning we drove a few hundred yards up the road to the Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp. There was activity at the camp and a parking lot but I wasn’t sure if it was cool to park there so we found a spot just outside the camp and geared up with Eagle Peak looking down at us.
Eagle Peak is dead center.
I had read The Baker Boys TR as homework. They jumped off the road a little past the Balman Reservoir and bushwhacked up to treeline. But from my vantage point, that looked like a pretty intense bushwhack. I checked their topo map and concluded that it was possibly the longest continuous bushwhack in the history of foot travel. I had visions of booby-trapped whiskey stills and mutant preteens "pickin' the banjo"(1) in those woods. And the bear potential. My God…
So we decided to follow the road all the way to Rainbow Lake (roughly five miles) and then try to punch our way up to the ridge before running it. Contours looked tame. I liked our chances.
The road is high clearance but not terribly rough until you get to the reservoir. It was dry for the first mile or so with several dispersed campsites along the way. Rock rings, flat surfaces, potential good times to be had.
We passed through the charred remains of the Duckett Fire and fell into a leisurely pace. The sun was bright and the skies were clear. It felt great to be out and the route was definitely no pressure.
Woody usually does the pacing but I was out in front when the road took a hard bend to the left. The view around the corner was nothing short of pure rock n'roll.
"Ain't never seen anyone so shit-all stupid as you driving off that road. You musta got manure for your brains."
Yeah, well, we're from out of town."(2)
I yelled back that we had a potential problem and locked my eyes onto the exhaust pipe to see if the truck was still running. I stood there frozen searching for movement, signs of life, dazed and confused occupants, brake light taps, etc. But there was nothing. Woody arrived and we both stood there in silence for five or ten or one hundred minutes. I don't know.
Upon closer inspection, the truck was being held up by two or three shaky looking trees. And there was a good 30-foot drop if the trees decided to call it a day.
The ground exhibited signs of panic: A steel cable running up the opposite hill, a jack and multiple tools scattered about, profanities still hanging in the air. I can't even imagine trying to extricate myself from this in total darkness. And I can say with near total confidence that I would've probably s--- my pants if it happened to me.
Finding no signs of life and having nothing to offer, we continued up the road. Snow was patchy. The shaded and north facing bends held the most but it also held us so we were making good time. About thirty minutes later the road climbed steeply before making another sharp left.
"Don't these people ever give up?"(3)
I didn't really know what to say or think. The abandoned vehicles seemed like shipwrecks to me, only I wasn't skin diving in the Caribbean. There were no azure horizons or bikini girls or 7-foot Jamaicans saying "Dah you go" every time I raised a glass of rum to my lips. I was walking up a thawing Colorado two-track that doubled as an automotive graveyard.
Fact morphed into fiction. I performed a hot search of the vehicle hoping to find something that could provide me with quick and cheap gratification -- bombers of Dogfish Head, bottles of Horsetooth hot sauce, the last container of powdered fierce grape Gatorade ever sold, unmarked sleeves of top secret flavored Pringles, the latest issue of "Barely Legal Basin Cleaner"… but no dice.
Hours later, in a whirlwind turn of events, we would learn the vehicles were connected.
We eventually arrived at Rainbow Lake without the aid of flotation. It took 1:45. The summit of Eagle Peak and its long long ridge were visible in our left skyline.
We took a short break and then headed north into the trees. The downfall was minimal and we made good time, hanging a sharp right and climbing east to the ridge line. I figured it was about 800 feet. We donned snowshoes for the last few hundred because we were punching through the snow but overall, the ascent could've been a lot worse and I'll take it any day.
"Peek through the pines."(4)
Gaining the ridge
From the top of the ridge, it is about 1.6 miles to the summit. I was hoping for/expecting a barren and blown tundra walk but there was quite a bit of snow hanging around. So we kept the snowshoes on and plodded toward the summit. Sunny skies and zero wind. Our surroundings bathed in white.
"It's a long way to Mardi Gras, baby..."(5)
We took a break next to this log.
Kaos Pizza (shameless plug)
Halfway to the top, we dumped the snowshoes and booted up to the summit ridge. There was a pretty decent runout to climber's left and the right side seemed corniced. We carefully picked our way across the final few hundred feet. Nothing dicey. I felt no need for the axe or microspikes, just a little bit of diligence and no grab ass. On the whole, I think this route will go year round.
Dry ground to the summit ridge
Not so dry ground to the summit
Tarns take on the look of droplets of mercury.
"Hold it there, kitty cat."(6)
We made quick time back to the stash and then even quicker time dropping down to the lake. Having footsteps to follow was definitely helpful. We kept the snowshoes on all the way back to the higher vehicle and then a little ways beyond. Temps and sunshine were warming things up. The mush will soon be mud. Barring another storm, I figure the road will melt out soon. Probably too soon.
We reached dry ground, strapped the snowshoes and headed for home. After several minutes we noticed a large red truck slowly making its way up the road toward us. What is it with people wanting to drive this road in early May? I mean, the ATVers are usually the first ones off the blocks, armed with saws and shovels and Skynyrd, hoping to clear things for the holiday weekend. But I had seen no signs of them. Bizarre.
The red truck approaches and the window rolls down. Two dudes and two chicks. We chat about things.
"What do you think of that obstacle back there?"
"You mean that f---ing truck?"
"Well, there is another one about half a click up the road."
"I know. It's his." (he points to the backseat)
"Yeah. I rolled mine comin' to get him out."
"I want to get them both out before people come up and start f---ing with them."
"That's a wise move. This place will soon be crawling with rednecks."
"Tell me about it."
And with that, we went our separate ways.
(1)Deliverance. Warner Bros. 1972.
(2)National Lampoon's Vacation. Warner Bros. 1983.
(3)Apocalypse Now. Zoetrope Studios. 1979.
(4)Postcard from Zodiac Killer to San Francisco Chronicle. March 22, 1971.
(5)Easy Rider. Raybert Productions. 1969.
(6)Chinatown. Paramount Pictures. 1974.
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