My ass was suspended in space.
My right shoulder leaning toward the inside of the trial.
Random boulders had guided my quad Atv right to edge of the trail.
I slammed on the break. Engaged the emergency hand break and took a breath.
I was not going another inch until I corrected my course which if continued would send me down sailing 1500 feet to a canyon of the San Joaquin headwaters, splattering my innerds all over rocks and shrubs.
Not ready for that yet. And because of the rocky boulder strewn trail up to Shuteye lookout, not sure my arms still had enough strength for the course adjustment.
So I took a deep breath, shifted into park, and took in the view. Incredible peaks 40 to 50 miles in the distance. A deep gorge awesome as Kings Canyon to my left and I wanted to make sure I still had enough shoulder strength to correct my course.
I needed to turn my handle bars fully to the right, butting them against a the vertical surface of a ten inch boulder, pop over it, retain control of the bike and bring myself down on the other side.
One couldn’t die with less beautiful view before him. I released the break, swithched back to 2 wheel drive because the front lift over the boulder would raise my rear wheel into the air, and the only traction I wanted was from my rear left wheel which would hopefully drive me toward the inner bank of the trail—and not out into 5 seconds of fresh air followed by oblivion.
And as my ass gradually unpuckered, I knew that I had just catalogued another nightmare that would haunt me in the future, along with black widow spiders and the time I walked in on my grandma while she was getting out of the shower.
It worked. I headed up the trail toward Shuteye Lookout, 8300 feet, and according to my friend Bob who had suggested this “trail” a twenty minute jaunt before we went back to camp for lunch in the Miami Creek off road vehicle area. It had been twice twenty minutes and I suspected we weren’t even half way. Like the old Gilligan’s Isle themesong, just a “Three Hour Tour”.
Bob was ahead of me, I could tell by the density of his dust and I eventually caught up with him. We both admired strange rocks, massive monolitihs over 50 feet high like someone had stacked pancackes haphazardly. We continued around these marvels, happy to be alive, regretful that we had not thought to bring a camera.
After another 30 minutes or so we still hadn’t sighted the National Forest Fire lookout but saw movement ahead, the last thing we thought possible. A green truck, labeled “Super Duty” heading straight down toward us. We pulled to the side rather than be knocked off the trail. When the driver got to us his expression looked a little strained. I wondered what to say and “how much longer was at the top of my list.
He spoke to Bob briefly then rolled on toward me.
“Nice smooth, relaxing drive, eh?”
I laughed. Nice tension breaker and he eased carefully by me.
And on we went. More unbelievable rocks, even more fields of homicidal boulders until eventually we reached a plateau and saw the lookout, on top of the world and providing a view clear to the ocean according to the forest service worker who blithely recommended this route.
There was actually a person in the window looking down on us. Would he/she be friendly? Would we be allowed to scale the tower and tour his perch? Would be able to see to the shores of Japan?
I couldn’t wait to take in the view on a stationary platform, never realizing the horrifying nature of what we were about to see. No wonder the platform was named “Shuteye” lookout. There are some views where it would be best to just shut your eyes.
At first all seemed good. Giant boulder pancacks led up to a large sign “Visitors Welcome”
I crawled up toward the sign still out of breath. Was it the altitude (8300 feet), my being out of shape, or shear breathlessness because I had survived to live another day?
I gripped coarse granite and heard snatches of conversation above.
How ya doing? (Bob)
Okay except I injured my butt. In fact , I think I I may ha e torn my ass.
No comment from Bob.
I finaly reached the metal catwalk surrouding the tower. What a view. I tried to slow down my breathing as I walked the permimeter of the lookout. Vaguely, I heard Bob introduce himself to a man named Bob. About our age, grey, stubbled beard slim but something about his mouth said bitter.
Are you guys hunters?
Now this pissed me off. The third time in a two days thaty someone had asked that question. We weren’t carrying guns. Was it because we were over 60 riding atv’s and onlyt hunters would be up here this time of the year?
Nobody ever considers we might be riding bikes because thagt is in itself fun?
So I answered quickly, “No, we don’t hunt. We get on these bikes and drive them to improbable place simply because we don’t feel good about ourselves unless we occasionally scare ourselves shitless.”
No answer from John, our host, who had already launched into a condemnagtion of
“The guy had brain tumor, inoperable and terminal. I now have to work 10 on 4 off just because of him.”
“What happened to him?” Bob asked.
“He died of course… but he didn’t tell us about it until a week before his funeral. How rude is that? Now here I am, too late to hire a replacement, working 10 and 4. God that pisses me off!”
And another thing that pisses me off is people who had vehicles gthe did not clean or maintain. I mean where is the pride? MY service vehicle would be spoqtless.?
I walked around and away from this converstation, hoping bob would fill me in on the gaps later. The wind was brisk, the view magnificanct. I could see a small fire in a disgtant canyon, naked peaks thagt were probably the last range before the Eastern sidee and Bishop, andforested ranges b efore that were probably the wilds of Yosemite.
When I came around fiull circle, trying to be social, our host went back to the injury issue and told bob ghag he had slipped while unloading his gear from the truck tht had brought him here, (probably the one we saw on the way down, the good natured rager who was gtrying to get himself safely down the mountqin.
“Yeah and you know, I don’t like that guy. There’s something kind of weird about him.”
“And because of his damned sloppiness while unloading my water and gear, I slipped. I fell. And my legs did this ballerina split and I felt something rip.
I decided to continue may walk around the tower and looked now toward the valley, blanket by haze, probably because of the rim fire., I thought at the time.
When I came back around they were still discussing his injury.
“Would you guys mind checking it out, making sure everything’s okay? I mean, I’m not going to show you my asshole—I already checked that.”
Bob tentavively said “yes” having no clue about what was to follow.
And Bob and I stood there amidst this glorious top of the world view while our ranger host began to pull his pants down. And I mean all the way down.
“Do you see anything, a mark, any bleeding?”
After an astounded pause, Bob dutifully answered, “Well, there is tan spot, probably just a birthmark.”
“Where?” our host asked in a tone of near panic.
“Well, kind of left ofq, uh, cheek.”
“Well, actually a little to the right.”
“No, down a little.”
He moved his hand deeper into the valley…
Meanwhile, my mind had blanked out to this spectacle, protecting itself from implosion by imagining what it would be like to stand on the most distant highest peak, far, far away from “Shuteye Lookout”
And damn it! Why didn’t I the sense to just shut my eyes? Here was another moment to be catalogued in my list of future nightmares.
But the moment would not end.
Finally, I said, “You know, I don’t see anything abnormal and I’m a trained EMT (trained in the sense I took and passed the classes is all, never done it.)
And then he pulled up his pants, thank God.
“Well good because if I start bleeding from my rectum, I’m going to get on the radio and they better get me the hell off this mountain immediately.”
“All this haze to the west, just smoke from the Rim fire, right?” I was desperately wanted to quit talking about his ass.
“Hell, no! That’s from China. The most poluteted nation in the world?
“China?” Bob asked.
“Of course, didn’t you know that 17 to 29 percent of our pollution rolls in from China?”
“Really, John?” I asked. Why are so many weird people John? I tried to counter this argument.
“You’d think all that distance over the ocean would disperse it by the time it got here.”
“Guess not or they wouldn’t being wearing face masks, even when visiting the states.
Affable Bob weighed in, “They are kind of quick to wear those things.”I took another circuit around the tower, breathing deap, not realizing that it was a deeper circle into Dante’s Hell. When I made it around the conversation had changed