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Stone Johnny

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posted on Feb, 27 2014 @ 01:40 PM
Three young men assuming the role of great adventurers set out to climb up to Stone Johnny lookout. I had recently heard of the trail's existence and felt it was worthy of a great adventure. We had talked about it for most of the last two weeks of school and agreed we would do it the first week of summer vacation. We knew we had to do it. It was a trial of manhood.

We had ridden our bikes from Oldtown along the Pend O'reille River and up to Marshall Lake after a long uphill ride. We asked the lodge owner where the trail was and he pointed it out to us. So after asking permission to leave our bikes we began climbing a steep switchback trail. There were white tail deer already ahead of us foraging on the new spring grass on the south facing slope. They were obviously enjoying the sweet and tender shoots as they barely took notice of us as we passed by.

We had come enormously unprepared with only one canteen of water and no food. We were only armed with youthful muscle and over confidence. The weather was sunny and only encouraged us to continue climbing higher. The trail swung through the forest and brush avoiding the thickets. I could see an abundance of deer tracks showing proof they were taking advantage of the cleared trail as well.

The trail gave us opportunity to view Marshall Lake below us and the Pend O'reille River off in the distance. We followed ridge lines and ducked into small gullies that were still shaded and contained remnants of snow. None of us were wearing boots so our Converse tennis shoes were quickly wet. A small inconvenience to explorers like us.

As we left the southern slope of the mountain we began to encounter more and more snowdrifts. Most of them were not large and we could easily pick up the trail on the other side. But eventually we came to a very large one and became perplexed because we couldn't find where the trail continued. I am sure all of of us shared the thought of turning back but adolescent pride would not allow us to do that. So we just continued up hill since that was our ultimate goal anyway. Our compass direction was up.

Now the trail began to be physically forced through brush and over dead limbs as we struck off through the woods. Each of us with failing bravado, getting poked and jabbed, made our way up. The damp black moss hitchhiked with us as we fought our way through the brush. Small red and bleeding scratches attested to our determination. Legs were getting heavier to lift and feet growing tired when suddenly we rediscovered the trail and our hearts were lifted and we started joking and laughing again.

We would periodically take small sips from the canteen to wet our throats while trying to conserve our water. We were now beginning to realize how foolish it had been not to bring food. We consoled ourselves with a promise to stuff ourselves when we got home.

We continued our climb and finally arrived at the last obstacle to clear before attaining the summit. One last gully to cross and then up a steep slope. Problem was the entire slope was covered in downed trees from a mighty wind that must have blown across the face. It looked like an ancient god had dropped a handful of pick-up-sticks. Somehow we all took our own line and we lost cooperation. Each tree trunk had to be mastered by either climbing over it or under it. Our hands and arms became raw from the rough bark, our clothes became wet from climbing under the trees and from the sweat of our exertion.

Ray and I made it to the top and called down to our friend Don to hurry up with the canteen. We waited impatiently calling down insults and not being very encouraging or supportive. At one point we looked at each other but neither of us was willing to climb down and help him up. We were exhausted and realized we had a long way to go to get back down.

Eventually Don cleared the last remaining obstacle and joined us at the top. Ray reached out for the canteen and began to curse, for he found it empty. Don had downed the entire canteen in his survival mode to get up to the summit. Now we stood on top of the world looking down on the river and two lakes and their shimmering waters and we had none to quench our thirsts. Our throats were like burning deserts, parched to the point of not being able to even create spit. We had reached the summit but there was no celebration. We didn't even have the time to truly enjoy the marvelous view.

It was obvious we needed to climb down to the water below. We knew we could not backtrack so we set off down the mountain toward Freeman Lake. Our route would take us down the sunny south side so we knew there would be no snow. As we walked along the ridge line before dropping over the side and heading to the lake I noticed Don had something in his mouth.

It turned out to be our life saver. He was sucking on a giant cinnamon jaw breaker. Ray and I stood before him and demanded he share. Reluctantly he spit it out and for the rest of the climb down we took turns sharing this life giving candy. Nothing in life has ever tasted as good. As it progressively got smaller we new it would be gone soon. We all agreed that no one was to crunch it. It disappeared before it got to my last turn. What are the odds that three teenage boys would share a jaw breaker and the spit that went with it under normal circumstances. But this wasn't normal, now was it?

Our descent was anything but controlled. We slid and jumped our way down, risking life and limb to get to that blue lake. Periodically reaching out to the buck brush for handholds and to stop our sliding. We finally got to a place where we could descend down into the drainage that fed the lake and there we dropped to our bellies and drank from the shallow creek like salamanders.

I splashed the cold water on my face and in my hair and was reinvigorated. We walked on down the creek and came upon two small black bear cubs that ran up a nearby tree and we knew their mother wouldn't be far away. The hair on the back of my neck was standing on end. We all knew the danger we were in and made a hasty exit. On reflection, the cubs were very different from each other. One was coal black and the other reddish brown. I am glad mother bear let us by.

We finally reached the road that ran around the lake and the air carried the smell of lily pads and cattails. We trudged past the old silica mine and over the crushed white rock beneath our feet. You could feel the increased heat from their reflected light and smell their white dust. We finally arrived at the home of some family friends. They just happened to be going into town and offered to give us a lift.

The first thing I did was drink a tall glasses of milk and ate some fresh baked cookies. I felt slightly let down by the fact there was no welcoming party to celebrate my great victory. No laurel leaf for my head. No key to the city. When she finally came home from visiting a neighbor I downplayed my day to be more in tune with my new internal sense of personal accomplishment. Later in the day my dad drove me up to Marshal Lake and collected our bikes. My dad thought it was amazing that we had made the hike in just one day and it made me proud. Because wasn't that what it was all about. We had tested ourselves and we had proven we could do it. The detail of the jaw breaker was usually not brought up in our retelling of our triumph. Life savers can come in all kinds of shapes and sizes but none tasted as good as that one

posted on Feb, 27 2014 @ 01:45 PM
reply to post by grayeagle

Another great story.

Another adventure from your youth?

posted on Feb, 27 2014 @ 02:31 PM
reply to post by TDawgRex

Yes, it is another adventure. I am assembling a group of experiences from my past that influenced who I am. They are stories that happened mostly in the panhandle of Idaho or very nearby. It is my plan to periodically post them here on ATS until I have assembled enough to put into book form under the title of "Panhandled Imagined". I hope you will read them and please feel free to give feed back. I am not going for the great American Novel nor slick perfect dialog. That is not who I am. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Peace.
edit on 06/02/2011 by grayeagle because: (no reason given)

posted on Feb, 27 2014 @ 02:42 PM
I enjoyed this as well.

posted on Feb, 27 2014 @ 02:58 PM
reply to post by Night Star

Thanks Night Star!

Whenever I smell cinnamon I experience a memory flash!

posted on Feb, 27 2014 @ 04:10 PM
reply to post by grayeagle

I would buy that book. You write much like my Father does. Very nice prose.

Both stories that I have read from you recently have brought back memories that I hadn't thought about in a long time. Thanks for sharing.

posted on Feb, 27 2014 @ 09:42 PM

You are working up a good set of reflections for your book! Great story...and you included a lot of details I could experience with the "young adventurers" as they were making their way up the mountain - appreciated that!!!

Have you ever read anything by Barry Lopez? (Author of Arctic Dreams, and one of my favorite collections of landscape/place-story: Desert Notes: Reflections in the Eye of a Raven / River Notes: The Dance of Herons) If you haven't read these (especially the "Notes"), I think you would enjoy them quite a bit.

Keep taking us on these journeys!

- AB

posted on Feb, 27 2014 @ 10:33 PM
reply to post by AboveBoard

Thank you for your comments and the references. I am a 66 year old novice just experiencing the wonderful joy of writing. I value your input into my life. I will definitely pursue the writers you highlighted. I have embarked on this journey and I am powerless to retreat. I want you to know that whatever help or encouragement you give me will be much appreciated. Thanks so much friend.

posted on Feb, 28 2014 @ 12:30 AM
reply to post by grayeagle

A quote - pg 28, Desert Notes, "Twilight" - Barry Lopez

"This is the only time you hear the flight of the grey eagle over the desert. You cannot see him because he fades with the sun and is born out of it in the morning but it is possible to hear his wings pumping against the columns of warm air rising and hear the slip of the wind in his feathers as he tilts his gyre out over the desert floor. There is nothing out there for him, no rabbits to hunt, no cliff faces to fall from, no rock on which to roost, but he is always out there at this time fading to grey and then to nothing, turning on the wind with his eyes closed. It doesn't matter how high he goes or how far away he drifts, you will be able to hear him. It is only necessary to lie out flat somewhere and listen for the sound, like the wrinkling of the ocean."

Opened the book and saw this quote - thought it was appropriate to share since I just mentioned this author to you! A bit of sychronicity I thought you might appreciate.

I will keep listening for your flight, greyeagle. Thanks for the appreciation in return, my friend!

- AB

edit on 28-2-2014 by AboveBoard because: (no reason given)

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