23 December 2001
By: Mars Bonfire
Walking the Walk with Dorothy D.
It begins with a potential pool of millions, a little over one thousand make it to the 100 mark, under four hundred make it to 200, slightly over two hundred make it to their first completion, and then we're down to around 30 men and 8 women. What is "it"? It's the quest of THE MULTIPLE LIST FINISHER!
We can study maps and read guide books, peruse mountaineering catalogs and play with gear, devise clever and complicated car shuttle schemes, check out that obsolete mountain bike dusting in the garage to determine if it might be up to the challenge, even have fleeting and heretical thoughts of hitching a ride on a dirt bike or arranging a helicopter flight -- we can spend hours talking the talk. And then can put "it" off for a time. Yet the only worthwhile way to the summit is to show up at the trailhead, shoulder a pack, and start heading up -- finally, we must walk the walk on the great adventure. The great adventure that derives from Weldon Heald's great idea: a list of diverse, interesting, and satisfying peaks within a day of the creeping megatropolis of Los Angeles. And what an adventure it is -- everything from fire road walks through rock scrambles to ice axe and crampon challenges for those who seek them. Ever changing with the seasons, the weather, and the time of day with always something new to notice, new to learn, new to appreciate. A wilderness of enchantments for those willing to place one foot in front of the other throughout the course of a resplendent day.
Dorothy D. specializes in walking the walk. And this one began with a delightful moonlit car camp including a gratis yipping serenade by the Thimble Trail Family Values Coyote Chorus. After such a perfect desert night we eagerly awoke well refreshed and were ready to hike by headlamp at 5:00am. We took a map bearing from Thimble to the mouth of Polo Verde Cyn and noticed that in the real world it lined up with a distinctive star just above the outline of the mountain -- an auspicious beginning to our quest. Keeping that point of light in sight we carefully walked the desert floor avoiding cholla and rocks that might roll underfoot. Then, just as we thought we were entering the canyon, enough morning light diffused the sky to clarify the situation and confirm that indeed we were. After proceeding about 1.25 miles further to near the "e" in "Verde" on the topo, we then ascended a ridge to our left (west), which we marked, until it intersected the usual route along the south to north ascending ridge line. Our thought was that we could be in darkness around this area on our return and it would be easier to follow the canyon out rather than deal with the ridgeline, which has secondary ridges branching off it. Going at a very relaxed pace we effortlessly ascended to the wide and shallow gully that angles down to the northeast and creates a crossing point for Palo Verde Cyn. At the bottom we stashed some water, took a long break, and enjoyed the mesmerizing views. Just as we were about to head up the other side we spotted a family of nine Bighorn Sheep on the very ridge we were heading for (and that number "nine" would turn out to have special meaning by the end of the day). As we advanced they progressively moved up, turning now and then to stare at us, seeming to encourage us on by silently saying: "Yes, slow and clumsy humans this is the ridge to Rosa Pt and we shall be your guides until it is time for us to branch off and graze." thanks gang. You're permanently a part of our experience now. We owe you something and we won't forget you. As we hiked we improved the markers along this ridge, for it too has some branches that could be confusing on the return, and then, and again it seemed to be without much effort, we excitedly reached the dark rock pile on the rounded bump that is mysteriously called Rosa Point rather than Rosa Bump! There are some points in the area but Rosa is not among them.
After a very long festive and congratulatory break, with Joshua Tree, the Salton Sea, Laguna Mountains, and Mile High Ridge forming the panoramic backdrop, we headed down making better time than expected, in part because of the improved marking of the route. Soon we were descending our well-marked ridge back into Palo Verde Cyn near its mouth and it was still 45 minutes from sunset. We were out of the canyon and heading across the desert floor as the sun went down behind Volcan Mountains and the headlights of cars on S22 started to come on. Still there was enough scattered sunlight plus the glow of an early rising moon to see us safely back to the trail head by 5:30pm without having to use our headlamps.
The quest was over. Victory was ours. And thus by the simple and primal act of walking the walk week after week, month after month, year after year, as did our forebearers for uncounted generations back to an unknown beginning, Dorothy went to the mountain a humble LIST FINISHER and returned the ninth woman to complete THE LIST two times. Next!
|HPS Archives Index | Hundred Peaks Section|