Trophy hunting

September 23, 2009  •  Leave a Comment

What a roller coaster the past few weeks have been. First I sprain my ankle on the first step on the descent of a training hike to Arthur's Rock (Lory State Park). Nothing broke and I have 4 weeks to heal before the Spearhead. Two weeks later I'm running out the driveway to get Matthew's clarinet out of the car before Annie heads to work and bam -down I go again. I'm finished, I think as I'm laying on the ground moaning, visions of my lost permit rushing through my head. Two Wednesdays ago was a very, very bad day.


A week later I'm talking to mom on the phone who tells me to go to the doctor. Now I'm not one to run to the doctor too often, but in this case it seemed like a pretty good idea. So I go see T, he looks at my ankle, does the clunk test, writes me a perscription for some heavy-duty Ibuprofen and tells me to get a brace and go on my trip. I'm OK with some PT later...
 
I'm elated. I'd already called Ben and told him I wasn't going - but now this news from a qualified source brought the visions of a high-alpine fall back into view.
 
We head in Sunday. We're planning gear and it's always one of the hardest parts of the trip. I was reading in a Galen Rowell's Retrospective a while back and one of his climbing buddies talked about how Galen would agonize over which lenses to bring - much like we're doing now. Good to know I'm not alone in this.
 
I've been struggling with strategy and have finally arrived at this point...

When I was in the Red Desert last weekend I was trucking around the middle of no where in the dusty dark using the Trib's compass and my Wyoming atlas by the car's dome light. My 3-D cell Mag-light cut through clouds of dust to county road signs as I tried to figure out where to turn in the pitch black. I came across this pickup stopped in the middle of the dirt track they called a road. There was an aluminum ramp down the back to the ground, and a guy in an orange cap stepped from around the driver's side door into my headlights and approached the car. Right about now all kinds of things were going through my mind...but I rolled my window down and asked if he was OK, if he had everything he needed.

"Our truck broke down and my buddy took the ATV to try and get some help." I jumped his truck with the Trib and got him going again, then contemplated what would have happened if I hadn't come along. His buddy ended up making it to a power plant 20 miles away via a literal maze of county roads - in pitch black - and we ran into him on the way back. Still... there's just nothing out there. I mean, nothing. Especially at night, with no moon, no lights of any kind, no landmarks on the horizon to get your bearings, no stars. Nothing but dust kicked up by your tires on the dirt track they call a road. Every once in a while jack rabbits would appear along side the car, confused by the sudden presence of light, and more often then not run head long into it. The Red Desert is less approximately 10 rabbits after my trip - I lost track after a while. There's no avoiding it - it just happens too quickly.
 
I digress...
These guys were trophy hunting for antelope. They weren't interested in the smaller, common animals, but the trophy animals. The ones you have to drive around out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night to find with infrared scopes. The smart ones - that learned years ago to identify the sound of an ATV and what an orange hat meant. So - all that to say after a lot of deliberation, I'm going for the great shot this trip. Not the lesser, common shot everyone else would take with a garden variety digital camera, but the great shot. In medium format, 6x7 frame of Velvia 50 film, at the perfect time of day, under perfect light, composed and exposed perfectly. Perfect. It's been said and I believe that "great" is the enemy of good enough, and it may well mean I come back with nothing but memories of a great trip. But if it pans out, I'll come back with that - and a killer shot or 2 of Glacier Gorge and the Spearhead.
 
Oh-and the swelling is down in my ankle, and I'll have it double-braced, but I have to admit a lack of confidence in it. That's tough for me - the idea of my body unable to deliver what I ask of it. I feel a bit like an epileptic (not to compare the severity of epilepsy with the comparative temporary nature of an ankle sprain...) but more in the sense that at any time on virtually any terrain, the ankle can buckle and boom-down you go with no warning. Holding thousands of dollars of camera gear, off a cliff, down a ravine... anything's possible. Pray it holds up.

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