Slowly Up the Mountain, Coming Down Fast
After a few good weeks of being properly depressed on account of being laid off from a job we’d worked together for over 5 years, my buddy and I decided to hit Sedona to climb something, probably a small mountain.
We made sure to fold the contents of our backpacks just so, and even though they’d looked stupid, our fanny packs were ideal for holding our herb. We didn’t have to pack much since it’d only be a day’s trip and it was pretty warm out, even up on those big red rocks.
“These formations are gorgeous, yaknow?” we’d been hiking a trail leading up the base of the biggest rock we could spot. He’d been quiet the whole drive up - just bobbed his head to that good rock and roll shit the whole drive up - and now that we were there with our packs on our backs and sweat on our face he couldn’t shut up. “Like, they’re just really something if you think about it. All this natural splendor? How can you not - yaknow? I bet there’s poetry about this place out there. Really great poetry. And if there isn’t somebody should write it, yaknow? Maybe that’s what we could do now. Be poets of nature. Prophets of the universe and shit.” He was talking between breaths and smiling the whole time from behind his dirty, stubbly face.
“Alright, Japhy. Let’s just get up this thing, first.”
“What’s a Japhy?”
“…you mean WHO is Japhy.”
“…you haven’t read much Kerouac, huh?”
“That’s the guy who wrote Gatsby, right?” He wasn’t dumb and he wasn’t stoned yet but I guess he wasn’t well-read, either.
“How are we friends?” I groaned. He chuckled and stopped to turn and look at me.
“We’ve come a long way already,” he said as he admired the cayenne pepper dirt and the deep, lush green foliage around us.
“Still a long way to go, though.”
He turned and looked ahead and nodded with his hands planted on his hips and looked up and the blue-painted ceiling of a sky above us. “Mmm. Mhm.” He turned back and smiled again. Looked like a dirty hobo, save for the pearly whites in his mouth.
Looking to get high in at least two ways, we stopped halfway through our journey to light up a bowl of that premium kush. We’d stopped to rest on a natural bridge - this strip of smoothed red rock that stretched out over a small canyon with a river of green trees and cacti at the bottom of it - and I remember taking off my baseball cap and throwing it high into the air. “Maybe I’ll find it again on the way back,” I smiled and let myself lay down on the rock bridge for a bit while my pal took a hit on that bowl of his.
He smiled, holding that smoke in, and when he let it out nice and slow he said “or maybe we’ll hear stories later about a coyote wearing a Diamondbacks hat,” he chuckled as his eyes narrowed. “How bout that? Hm? Wouldn’t that be somethin’.”
When we woke up we were still pretty stoned and didn’t feel the pain of our sunburn. We were thankful for that and for not being robbed or mauled or pushed off the narrow bridge during our nap. Barely two hours had passed and the sun was just starting to hint at its descent towards the horizon so we pushed our shit into high gear and got moving back up the mountain.
“Holy hell, I’m still buzzin’,” I tried to complain, but couldn’t ‘cause I just felt so damn good. Tired, but good. “Where’d you get that shit, man?”
“Laguna. Remember when we were out there? I got it off some dreadhead on the beach.”
We’d started really climbing now. Had to go vertical at some point, but luckily there wasn’t anything so big or so steep to make us need real climbing gear.
“Hey, Laguna,” something had occurred to the bum stoner poet. “That’s where you met that really cool chick, right? What was her name?”
“Idunno, man,” I lied. He knew it, too.
“Sure. Right. Well, hey, what happened with that anyway?”
“Try to not kick rocks in my face, please.”
He reached down to help pull me up a small, eight-foot ledge. I brushed some dry dust and dirt of my pants and thanked him.
“Ya good?” he was still smiling and we were both catching our breath. Then he put a hand on my shoulder and said “Just don’t give up, man. You can conquer this thing. You just gotta pace yourself, yaknow?”
I nodded and he smiled even wider and somehow that never got annoying.
After twenty minutes or so, there wasn’t anymore bushes or cacti or small trees and the breeze got nice and cool so we weren’t sweating anymore either. As my trailblazing partner disappeared over one final ledge I could hear him let out a long, satisfied whistle.
“Would you look at that,” the goofy bastard grinned as I joined his side. I uncapped my canteen and let some cold water slosh into my belly before handing it to my friend to share. “Let’s see Kerouac say somethin’ about THIS.”
It was perfectly clear and the sun had painted the sky purple and pink and orange and white. We were standing on top of the world and birds flew below us and the moon tried to reach out and pat us on our backs, and looking over the western ledge of that rock I swear I could see forever. Clear past the southern tip of Nevada. Clear across Cali. Right through Laguna and out into that water.
My buddy clapped me on the back and knocked me out of deep thought.
“You wanna rest a bit?”
“You want first?”
I shook my head and gestured out to the air. “Be my guest.”
He checked his fanny pack and made sure all was secure. He tugged on his shoulder straps and looked at me, the slightest reflection of moon is his eye.
“See ya on the other side.”
I watched him break into a sprint and throw himself off the side of that big fuckin’ rock. I heard his hearty “whoo-hoo”s as he plummeted towards the earth and tugged on my own shoulder straps as he did.
“Pace yourself” I heard myself say before taking a deep breath and allowing my lungs to fill with poetic splendor and nature and all that satisfying bullshit. Then I let my legs tense up and hopped into full stride.
My ears filled with the roar of the evening sky as I let my body roll backwards in a flip through the air. Five seconds felt like a lifetime, and yes I pulled my chute just a little bit late and yes I sprained my ankle coming in a little hot, but I landed right next to the hat that I had thrown off the bridge earlier and I swear to God I’ve never felt so full ever before or ever since.
“That looked hot,” my buddy said as he ran up to hug me.
“It felt hot,” I limped. He embraced me and held me by both shoulders at arms length and smiled that big fucking smile that ended up being pretty contagious.
“Faith, balls, and hope, man.”
“Yeah,” I couldn’t help but grin and understand. “Faith, balls, and hope.”