Spaghetti On A Mountaintop
Alaska Travel Blog› entry 1 of 2 › view all entries
December 6th, 2007 – by: BohemianVagabond
The rational decision to scale the mountain was made on a clear, idyllic morning in Alaska, USA. In retrospect, all such decisions seem rational when being made, although circumstances, i.e., my propensity for pushing such outings to the limits of irrationality once ad hoc logistical considerations are implemented, often deem otherwise.
With the usual abundance of optimism and naivete, I methodically began my ascent, meandering along the serpentine trail snaking through the Sitka spruce and hemlock which dominated the forest. I carried plenty of water in my backpack, along with food, a flashlight, whistle, binoculars, an extra shirt and hat, and some miscellaneous items - in the event that I might spend the night in the wilderness or perhaps find myself cascading over some cliff.
As is inevitably the case when attempting such ascensions, hiking up, up, up places a considerable strain on the human body. I have learned to pace myself and to rest at appropriate intervals, taking into account such variables as my metabolic rate, weather conditions, and the nature of the trail (if any). Thus far I have identified a four-step taxonomy concerning mountain trails, as follows:
1. This type of trail is like a ramp, which is fairly benign in the sense that the surface is relatively smooth, although the slope of the incline can be substantial. Often such a ramp will contain rocks and gravel, but it is nonetheless fairly smooth walking.
2. Another version of a ramp will have occasional "steps". These units all vary in size from each other as they consist of relatively large rocks or irregularities in the terrain. Such a ramp is more strenuous than the smooth ramp because one is intermittantly climbing stairs, so to speak. And they keep going and going ...
3. Then there are inclines that require improvising. These are steep and are interspersed with rocks of varying sizes, roots, and maybe a few holes. These inclines require considerable forethought and perseverance, inasmuch as they may be a signal to turn around.
4. The next type in this meticulously conceived taxonomy involves the use of one's hands. The term used in "the literature" is scramble. Each step and hand placement is to be carefully considered, inasmuch as they are intertwined. Usually this scrambling begets great introspection as I contemplate what will occur if, for example, the root I am grabbing breaks or the protruding rock that I am about to step on cannot support my weight before I can grab the next item. Understand that there is always an imminent descent under consideration. Such a mode also initiates thoughts of "never again," but for some reason there is always an "again."
So as I continued up this particular trail it went from type 1 to 2 to 3 and back erratically. A few sections of type 4 were brief.
Having passed the tree line, I was walking along a relatively flat ridge. One step to the left or right meant a meeting with the Grim Reaper, so I was careful with each step. I was able to see for miles and miles on either side on this relatively clear day, noting the seemingly infinite array of mountain peaks that kept popping up indefinitely into the horizon.
As I was precariously navigating a type 3 incline, I saw a man descending the trail with a baby fastened to him in one of those inverted backpacks that wrap around one's chest. I could not understand why he would drag the extra weight of a child up such an incline. Also, if he falls, the kid could get smashed under this man's weight. I allowed him to pass without interrogation.
After considerable effort and courage, I finally made it to the top of the mountain. There was no sound and no plant life - just rocks and boulders and dirt. I considered how easy it would be to spend a night or a week up there since there weren't animals or trees or much of anything to encumber such an undertaking.
At this point I had discharged a considerable amount of energy and contemplated whether I should continue down the other side of the mountain and then attempt the steep incline to the top of the next peak. I proceeded tentatively, and after 15 minutes sat down and ate a sandwich. A curious bald eagle hovered overhead and looked down on the odd human (me) not blending in with the rocks.
I decided to retrace my steps and hopefully make it back to civilization before sunset. Approaching the top of the mountain, I saw two individuals at the summit, so I slowed down thinking maybe they would leave, but, alas, they seemed quite stabilized. As I neared the aforementioned humans, I realized that they were two men in their 50s, messing around with their cameras and conversing animatedly. I tried to walk past them without acknowledging their existence, hoping they would do the same, but the shorter one buttonholed me and asked me to take their picture. As I am inclined to do, I turned this into an act of Congress, requiring explicit instructions concerning the operation of the camera (it involved a certain arcane process of pressing a button.)
The shorter guy asked me if I would like him to take my picture, so I handed him my $4 disposable camera and, always being prepared for a spontaneous photo session, I reached into my backpack to retrieve one of several fake noses that I was hauling around. I chose the elephant nose and placed it upon my face, whereupon the gentleman took a couple of pictures with my camera.
Now he was totally enamored and asked if he could videotape me. He pulled out a video camera and I made history by singing the "Spaghetti Song" wearing an elephant nose on top of this isolated Alaskan peak. Perhaps this video will show up some day on YouTube. Prepare thyself, dear reader.
"What is the Spaghetti Song?" one might ask. Click here to hear the song and see the lyrics.
Further discussion revealed that the shorter of the two fellows was visiting from the Czech Republic and that his friend is an Alaska resident. They started videotaping me again and were discussing where I am "from" while the tape was running.
"He sure is big."
"Yes, quite big." (Note to the reader: Size 16 feet form the base of my 6'6" 240 lb. frame)
"He must be from Norway, or a Swede. So big."
"Yes, I think he is a Norwegian."
The Czech then started telling me that his employment involved designing trucks with a team of German colleagues. He lamented that they never have been able to finish a project because, in his experience, Germans always want to make adjustments. I was about to supplement his anthropological insights with a few of my own, when, suddenly, right on cue, 2 people popped up from around a curve in the trail below us. "Vill you take owuh picture?" asked the figure skater-ish brunette 20-something German-accented female half of the couple. The Czech told them that I was the tech expert up there and she handed me some monstrosity of a camera. She went to pose with the figure skater-ish brunette 20-something German-accented male half of this coupling. Unable to operate the camera, I confessed my ignorance while the Czech and his companion giggled gleefully.
After much coaching, I was finally able to take pictures of the two Austrians, Karolina and Johan. As they started talking to the chatty Czech, I tried to sneak away. However, the Czech fellow saw me leaving and yelled something. I responded in Polish and continued down the mountain. He asked me my name.
I concocted "Marek Molinski," and conveyed the same to the Czech as I forged ahead down the mountain.
Now watch for me on YouTube.
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