Bottoms Up

Expedition to a bath

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

It was just past noon and the sun beat mercilessly down upon an exposed stretch of remote North Cascadian mountainside where Uncle Don and I were attempting to overpower a violently out-of-control rock drill before it bounced into the ruinous abyss below.

“Hit the kill switch!” Uncle Don screamed as he pinned the roaring, jerking, noxious-exhaust-belching contrivance against the ground with every inch of his rangy scarecrow-like body.

Hissing and snarling, I kept swatting my hand between Uncle Don’s outstretched legs until I finally hit the button causing the engine to pop, let out a couple of convulsive gurgles and shudder to a stop. 

“That’s the best sound I’ve heard all day,” Uncle Don said, drinking in the hard-won silence as we carefully disentangled ourselves from our vanquished steel-plated foe.

Although I could have just as easily heaved the entire unit off the cliff without compunction, I wound up kicking a few retaliatory sprays of dirt all over the damned thing instead.  

Meanwhile, in the same vein, Uncle Don felt compelled to verbalize his feelings in the form of a personal admonishment.

“Took us three hours of honest tinkering just to get you started this morning,” he harangued the lifeless drill. “And then, for all that, you give us hell just to turn you off.”

Shaking his head, Uncle Don cast a long, soulful gaze at the deep blue sky, searching for the precise words to utter. Finally, after a few thoughtful minutes, his squinting eyes began to twinkle and he raised a fist in righteous fervor.

However, before Uncle Don could extrapolate the fevered pitch of his rectitude, our supervisor—alarmed by all the exuberant howling—came clomping down the trail to assess our situation.

Unsurprisingly, it only took a quick sniff and a glance at our clothing for him to conclude that the most essential thing we required was a bath—a cold, icy bath in a partially melted-out lake.

So, under the intrepid guidance of this indefatigable goat-footed brush ape we soon relinquished our fraught drilling project to undertake a “quick zip” up the ridgeline into the next basin over, where alpine ablution options were plentiful and pristine.

Our initial ascent proved restoratively straightforward, with only one sketchy deep-gully traverse and the incessant piping of hoary marmots to enliven the flower-flecked meadows as we kick-stepped though emergent vegetation and diminished snow patches.

Summiting the rocky crown of the ridge, we were immediately confronted with an accumulation of deep, lingering snow that stretched unbroken downslope for about half a mile all the way to the shore of nearest Gatorade-colored lake. 

“That’ll do!” Uncle Don hooted as he whipped out a pick-mattock-turned-ice-axe and dropped expertly into the snow for a screaming glissade.

Journeying to the lake in likewise fashion, I plopped myself, dirty clothes and all, into the frigid water and joyously endured the first of many brain-numbing shocks. Our skin turned blue and our teeth chattered, but it felt fantastic. 

We kept climbing out just to plunge back in. And eventually, somewhere in the process, we finally got clean.

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