Tales of an Incompetent Adventurer
Boundary Lines
by Ram

Stevee and I had been in the Sierras for nearly a week—my first trip there in 18 years, with brick–hard glaciers, multi–pitch arêtes at 14,000 feet, and frigid nights at near 12,000 feet with the wind whipping. We needed to sleep with the water bottles to keep them liquid, with ice axe chopping in the frozen pools in the AM to get more .... but the climbing was superb, even if we had to wear every piece of clothing we had as we climbed. Skies blue, granite white, and views endless—it was a fine finish to what had been a great alpine season in Washington, Colorado, and California.

The cold gave notice that the season was at an end, for me anyway. We had packed our canyon gear along with our mountain gear. We spent our last day in California high on Mt. Humphreys. This peak, a tad under 14,000 feet, is noted for its endless East Arête route. 2,300 feet of class 4–5 dancing on the knife edge. After 10 hours ‘out there,’ we arrived back at camp. While on the ridge, Stevee had mentioned wanting to do Boundary Canyon. With a Zion exploration overnight planned for the day after next, I thought, “Not much time to squeeze one in there.”

Nevertheless ...

We got to the car at 5 PM—over 400 miles from Zion and miles up a rugged 4–wheel drive road. Might as well start the drive and see what develops. We had pizza in Lone Pine. Stevee had coveted it. Great to watch him enjoy life. It was dark as we passed below sea level, just hours after nearly topping 14,000 feet. Harry Potter on tape, loaned to me by my daughter Amy, engrossed me. Poor Stevee. His iPod and the Simpsons on the computer with headphones saved him from that fate. 12:30 AM and my eyelids drooped. Learned my lesson this last spring with my 8 second sleeping/driving epic. An hour past Beatty, Nevada, I call it quits.

There is something special about laying out one’s bag in the middle of desolate nowhere. Warm breezes, a moon too bright and the sound of nothing at all. Sleep. I awake naturally in 3 hours, a few REM cycles under my belt. Stevee crawls in the passenger front seat, cranked back to near prone, bag wrapped about him. He is quickly out and it is Harry P. and me again.

He awakes in Hurricane and goes for the coffee again. I watch him consume it with passion. I have never indulged but see the pleasure in his eye. Up to Lava Point and the West Rim Trailhead. Pack we do and off we go. We probe a new way down to Boundary and arrive at 10 AM. Ummm ... it is flowing—maybe 2 cfs. The route was set in dry conditions. One must assume that the raps will go through the waterfalls. The water is cold. We have no wet suits. That smile comes across my face. Sensible to turn tail and run, but to go would be a sensual experience. Stevee sees that look in my eye and backs away. Understand, this is a superbly conditioned athlete. No excess fat to warm him in cold water. He says that he will run back to the car, grab the suits and return. He estimates 1.5 hours, which will bring him back by Noon. Late, but not out of game. I am skeptical and say so. Now the gleam comes into his eye and he takes off, at a full run, up the steep, trailess hill, sticks snapping, leaves rustling. In no time, he is gone from earshot.

Alone—the water going over the lip is making a pleasant sound. The sun on the north flank is full on, but the ground is scratchy. On the south side, tuffs of grass invite, but the shade, altitude, and the breeze ... a bit too cool. Through the trees, sun patches dot the grass and I am seduced ... for 15 minutes at a time, I am warm and wrapped up in the fetal—heaven. Then the sun patches pass by, shade descends, and the chill returns. I reposition into the sun and repeat the drill. Soon, I learn to plan ahead and the sun arrives were I lay curled up waiting. More heaven and I doze. The sound of “YO!” invades my sleep. Down that same hill barrels our hero. And the time? Noon. True to his word, wetsuits in the pack, wound up with enthusiasm. It is canyon season at last.

This canyon, with flow, shows at its very best. A huge turkey vacates the landing spot of the first rap. Water fills our ears and eyes. Wonderful. Smoothly we descend to the final rap. The flowing water slips underground and only the swaying treetops make a sound. Kolob comes quickly. It is flowing, filling the canyon mostly wall to wall. Slow and go. Finally the MIA arrives and we strip down for the haul up the hill. We share last sun with a yellow jacket nest. I notice that the bank leading to the MIA start has washed away and a new trail has formed 15 feet upcanyon. Enough cairns and stick arrows to make it look like Times Square. I choose to tone it down. The fire pit from someone’s recent bivy is still intact. I break it down a bit. The next folks through may wish to continue to return it to its natural state.

Up the hill we ramble, conversation mingling with sweat. The trail has stabilized a bit. There are 2 trails making their way to the pass midway up the hill. The lower one, is a scar across the unstable slope. I recommend taking the higher one which stays right then traverses left at the level of the pass. Soon we are at the road. Took 47 minutes. Good but not great. I love the ramble up the slope. It is the roads that cause my body to stiffen, and so it is again. The views near the top compensate for the aches and soon we are back at the car. We pack up and head toward Tom and Bucky and our appointment with exploration (Isaac Canyon). We feel lucky to have snuck in a fine canyon day. My late night/early morning power drive, his power run, and our powerful desire to get back into the slots have conspired to help us pull it off.

This day in Boundary was the boundary between my adventure seasons—the mountains and the canyons. One season done and another begun.


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