Saturday, September 25, 2004

Back from vacation!

Damn! Chris took off for the last week, stone cold lying on various sides of his body on the beaches of Kauai, and right before he left he told us to shove off and take vacations of our own! I did something really unusual for myself: I fired up the Escalade, filled the back up with all kinds of hardcore gear from REI, and headed to the hills late last Friday night! No one else could come at such late notice, so it was mano-a-solo. Before too long I got up to this place called The Sonora Pass, which is pretty rugged terrain on the way to Nevada. Lots of cliffs and rivers, perfect for my new rappelling and kayaking equipment. I couldn't wait to scout out some good rapids and climbs. Say what you will about Ray Smuckles, but I do enjoy pitting myself against the elements now and then. It's invigorating. Remind me to tell you about the time we went waterskiing.

First things first, I hoofed on up to a nice secluded place where I wasn't gonna be seen by backpackers, and set up base camp. I had the new VikingXtreme ultra-lightweight 20,000 BTU cook stove, a fold-out chef's prep table, a mini set of Wusthof chef's travel knives, a snuggly North Face sub-zero chef's jacket and windproof toque (it had a chin strap and super-warm ear flaps), and a travel set of infused olive oils. All I needed was to provide the meat! I figured I'd shoot a rabbit or wild boar or something, or at least catch a wild trout or bass, so I set out with Tic Tac and this lightweight little telescoping Fenwick fishing rod (I also had the toque strapped on since a wind was pickin' up). I saw a rabbit run across the trail on my way down to the river, but I was takin' a blast from my travel flask at the time and couldn't get the gun out fast enough to drop the hammer. That was fine, though, as I was gettin' into the idea of some fresh fish with rosemary oil and crisped potatoes.

I had on these new Scarpa Freney XT boots, which the salesman had said were pretty much the best, but they didn't do too well on this big loose shale hillside I had to traverse in order to reach the river. You ever been on anything like that? It's like a 45-degree slope covered a couple feet deep in broken dinner plates, and when you step on it, you immediately start sliding. You kind of have to ride it like you're skiing: just go with the momentum and stay alert. I got about halfway down when my boot snagged on a piece of wood and I took a tumble. The first thing you do in this situation is cover your face: shale is sharp enough to turn exposed skin into deli meat. Pretty soon I had come to a stop, and I carefully took a look around.

Damned but if my entire outfit wasn't shredded to ribbons. I looked like a spent piñata. Remembering the flask in my chest pocket, I took it out and drained it before trying to stand up and see if anything was broken (they used to do this in the Civil War). It hit me pretty hard since the altitude was so high—the last thing I remember before passing out was burying myself under more rocks in case some hiker came along.

I don't know how much later I came to, but I'm glad I did because water was crawling up my sides! The river had risen a few feet due to a rainstorm, and I was in serious danger of drowning. Something in the Jameson must have given me unusual strength, because one of the rocks I had hauled over my legs was now too heavy to move. I was like, crap. That hiker in Utah cut his own arm off to save himself, and here I was, wastedly pulling heavy rocks onto my legs and passing out in a river. No wonder Brokaw doesn't call.

The water was halfway up my body when I went all lucid and devised a plan for getting myself out of this tangle. Long story short, I used the telescoping fishing rod against itself, gaining a mechanical advantage from the reel, having replaced the 12-lb test line with my carbon fiber boot laces. After a little bit of cranking, the rock had risen enough that I could wriggle free. As I was getting up, a big fat trout swam into my open boot, and half an hour later he was sizzling up in a single-weight Calphalon with home fries, crumbled andouille, and wild mountain thyme! I sat with a glass of '97 Cinnabar zin and reflected on the events as the morning sun rose.

After a good nap I loaded back up and headed home. I figured nature was trying to tell me something, and I was all ears. I spent the rest of the week watching Curb Your Enthusiasm DVDs and working on my new line of lagers.