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Desert Rat
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[*] posted on 4-26-2009 at 12:56 PM
Mike's Mountain climb


MIKE'S MOUNTAIN

"About how long should it take to climb to the
top of Mike's Mountain?", I asked Doc Abraham, owner
of Camp Gecko.
"Well, it took me close to three hours to reach
the top and maybe two hours to climb back down."
"Hmm", I thought. " A five hour day hike ought
to be within my capability. After all, I had just
made a ten mile hike along the bay; I was frazzled at
the moment, but with a good night's rest, I should be
able to tackle the mountain."
Silvia, Doc's wife. said that I could ride into
town with her in the morning when she drove the
children to school. Sounded good to me, because it
would eliminate a tiring three mile walk to the base
of the mountain.
We all said our "buenos noches", and I packed my
backpack with the items I thought I would need for a
day hike. In went my windbreaker jacket, binoculars,
camera, first-aid pouch, small machete, lighter,
whistle, and compass. For food, I would carry a can
of sardines, crackers, two apples, two small bottles
of fruit punch, and a Snicker candybar. I planned to
carry a gallon and a half of water with me, also.
I climbed into the hammock that was stretched
out between two poles supporting the palapa that I had
rented. I wanted to lie down and relax a bit and
observe the star-studded night sky a while, before I
finally crawled into my tent to call it a night.
In the morning I hustled up to the dirt road to
catch the ride into town with Silvia. As she dropped
her children off at the school, I got out and headed
for the store to get a morning snack before facing the
mountain.
As I nibbled on cinnamon rolls, and sipped a
coke, I struck up a conversation with the store owner.
I questioned him about the feasability of climbing
the mountain. He said that many of the townspeople
climbed as far as the old mine shafts, but few of them
continued the climb to the top. He told me that I
should have no problem, but I should have left earlier
if I wasn't planning to spend the night atop the
mountain.
It was close to nine o'clock by the time I left
the store. "Heck", I thought! "I should have plenty
of time to make the hike before nightfall."
I put two quart bottles of water in my pack, and
carrried the gallon jug in my hand as I made my way to
the museum. All I had to do was follow the the road
from the museum toward the mountain, and when I
reached the last house on the road, I should veer to
the right and continue on until I saw the path leading
up the mountain.
When I reached the last house, I noticed a
well-worn path leading straight toward the base of the
mountain. I assumed that it was a shortcut.
However, I stuck to the road, because I found in the
past that taking the "shortcut" can sometimes lead
you astray.
The road made a few twists and turns before it
eventually led me up to the base of the mountain.
After a ten minute walk, the path up the mountain was
easily seen on the left side of the road.. I made the
turn onto the path and started immedately uphill.
It was a good trail at the beginning; a nice
gradual climb with switchbacks cut into the
mountainside. It made for a fairly comfortable climb.
Fifteen minutes into the climb, I stopped to
drink as much water as I could from the gallon jug,
not because I was very thirsty; I just didn't want to
carry the jug by hand any further than I had to,
because it was interfering with my hiking sticks as I
walked. I was saving the two quart bottles in my pack
for later, when I would start back down the mountain.
I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly the
town was falling away as I walked. Up,up, I went. At
first, as I climbed, I could only see the town and bay
down to my left, and nothing but the rocky
mountainside on my right. But eventually I reached a
height that enabled me to see beyond the
mountainside, and there as far as the eye could see,
lay the exposed expanse of Baja. Gullies, hills,
arroyos, mountains, valleys, all arrayed in various
shades of brown, were set before me. Tufts of
greenery were peppered throughout the scene,
representing the sparse vegetation that struggled to
exist in this sun-baked section of Baja.
I was excited! That was why I was there! I
wanted the mountain to lift me from the common lower
level of the bay and carry me thousands of feet up to
its shoulder, allowing me to see what the birds saw as
they circled on high. And I was on my way!
Soon I reached a fork in the road! Left went
straight up the side of the mountain, with no
switchbacks. Right continued on around the backside
of the mountain. I was told that the trail would be
marked with small stacks of stones,(called cairns) so
I searched for the markers. There were three rocks
stacked one atop the other in the direction of the
small trail to the left--- straight up.
Being curious, I wanted to see where the trail to
the right would lead since it was wider, smoother and
easier to follow. It curved around the backside of
the mountain and dipped slightly downhill a bit.
Suddenly to my left, I saw the dark entrance to a
mine shaft. Doc Abraham had mentioned the mines to me
and suggested that I take a look at them.
I eased over to the entrance and stuck my head
inside for a little looky-see. I didn't dare crawl
inside for further investigation. An incident that
happened to me while exploring an old mine shaft in
Batopilas, Chihuahua (Copper Canyon
country) reinforced the warning "Never explore a deep
cave by yourself!"
Since the mines were on the cooler, shaded side
of the mountain, I decided to rest and eat the
sardines and crackers. I filled up with water from
the gallon jug once more, and decided to leave the
half full jug near the mine site. That way I knew if
I used up the two quarts of water on the rest of the
climb, I would have water waiting for me at the mine.
After the break, I continued to follow the trail
around the mountain, thinking that it would lead me
onward and upward to the top. I had only gone about a
hundred feet before I hit a dead-end. The trail
simply ended at the edge of a drop-off. Nothing to do
but put it in reverse and return to the place where
the trail had split.
I started up the stone-marked (cairn) path and
discovered right away that it was going to be a more
difficult endeavor. The trail was now nothing more
than a narrow, slightly worn path that headed straight
up the mountain. I slowed down considerably! I was
beginning to feel the tiring effect of the extra
exertion needed to push myself up the incline.
I began to encounter the various forms of spiney,
green predators lurking along the trail. No matter
how hard I tried to evade these fierce little beast,
the all powerful "Jumping Cholla" bit me twice on the
calf of my leg. "Did it hurt?" "Well, it hurt when
it stuck, but HURT LIKE HELL when I tried to pull it
off of me!"
Within minutes, I reached a large, flat area that
would have been ideal for establishing an overnight
camp. However, overnight camping was not on my
agenda. My plan was to reach the top of the
mountain, find Mike's cave, spend some time at the
cave, and then make the return trip down the mountain
before dark. (Someone once told me that if you want
to make God laugh, simply tell Him your plans!)
Beyond the flat area, the trail began another
climb. Now I faced not only more cactus, but
rocks---large rocks, even boulders. I was having to
exercise more caution as I picked my way around the
barbs and over the rocks.
There was no more dirt trail to follow. I had
to rely on the small cairns to lead the way. The
cairns, though they were very small, were helpful in
the fact that they led me to the path of least
resistance.
With my head down, I leaped from one rock to
another as I bounced my way up. BAM! I felt a
terrific blow to the top of my head that sent a
stunning shock wave down my neck, through my
shoulders, and into my arms. Startled and stupified,
I fell to my knees. Oh wow! My first thought, once I
regained my senses, was that I had possibly fractured
my neck. I was hesitant to make any sudden move,
thinking that I could make things worse. There was no
paralysis in any part of me, so I slowly raised my
head and saw the overhanging rock that I had collided
with when I had made the long leap.
I slowly sat down and began to feel along my
head and neck to see if there were any painful, tender
spots that could pinpoint a fracture. I felt a knot
on my head that was growing larger by the seconds. My
neck seemed to be okay, but I wanted to stay seated
for a few minutes before testing out my shakey legs.
Now that little episode gave me pause to think!
A lot of "what-ifs" came to mind as I sat there. Do I
count myself lucky, call it a day, and retreat down
the mountain? Or, do I shrug it off, hope there's no
damage done, and continue with the climb?
After ten minutes of checking and double
checking my noggin and neck, I decided I was good to
go. I stood up and started on my way again. Because
of the head-bashing, I slowed down and took extra
precaution as I hunted and picked my way towards the
stone markers.
I finally reached a height that presented a
truly wonderful view of the bay and its surroundings.
I reasoned that I should snap a few shots of the view
in case I couldn't make it to the top. At least I
would have a few nice photos to bring back home to
show the folks.
After the camera shots were taken, I climbed to
the top of a rise which gave access to a knife-edge
ridge, which in turn led to a steep, rock laden hill.
I noticed a small den to my left that offered shade,
so I dropped my pack and used the shade for another
rest. Also, time to eat one of the tasty apples that
I was toting along.
I guesstimated that I had already put
three-fourths of the mountain behind me. Only a
fourth to go! Now would be a good time to remove
everything from my pack except a quart of water, and
the emergency kit. I placed the items in the den and
would pick them up on the way back down. The less I
had on my back, the easier it would be to maneuver as
I climbed. Physically, I was pooped! My .legs were
strained, my knees were wobbly, and my energy level
was low. Maybe my body had needed more rest after
yesterday's long bay walk. Too late to worry about it
now!
As I crossed the short distance across the
"knife-edge", I was afforded an even greater view of
Baja. Looking from either side of the "knife-edge", I
saw the mountainsides steeply fall away. I looked
down into a rock-slide canyon that stretched half way
back to the Camp Gecko dirt road. Great scenery! So
far the trip was worth the price of the ticket!
At this point began the toughest part of the
climb. It was steeper, more rock hopping involved,
and more chances of a mistep and falling. Weary or
not, I was determined to continue. I still had a
sufficient supply of water, but I wasn't sure about
sufficient time.
Up I went Higher and higher. As I topped each
successive hill, I assumed that the next hill I faced
would be the much sought after summit.
At one turn on the trail, I saw two flashs of
white. Someone had painted two white splotches on
some rocks. I walked over to the spotted rocks and
saw a smaller path that led along the bayside of the
mountain. Naturally I had to check it out. It led
directly to a cave overlooking the bay.
The cave was perfect for two or three people to
make camp if need be. For an instant I thought I had
reached Mike's cave, but I realized it was too small,
plus I hadn't reached the top of the mountain yet. .
I checked the time. It was already 2:30pm! I
had been on the mountain for five hours and still no
summit. That meant that if it took five more hours to
descend, it would be 7:30pm and nightfall before I got
off the mountain. Surely it wouldn't take five hours
to go down!
I didn't want to be faced with the prospect of
hiking down the trail in the night, but I still had a
strong desire to reach the top and see Mike's cave. I
was running out of time! I returned to the main trail
and tried to estimate the number of hills needed to be
crossed before reaching my goal. I could see only two
from where I stood. I need to put the pedal to the
metal if I wanted to beat the clock.
Off I went, with a twinge of worry kicking me in
my khaki pants. By this time, I was having to use my
hands at times to scramble over and around the ever
present boulders. I crossed hill number one, then
hill number two, but what I had figured to be the last
hill turned out to be next to last.
I checked my watch again...3:00pm! Gotta go,
gotta go! I was stumbling and bumbling my way as I
hurried along. Finally, I toppped the last rise, and
there it was--the summit--about one hundred yards away
and above me. One last steep climb and I would be
there. One last push for the top! That's all that
was needed! Yet, I knew that if I pushed on, I would
be way past the window of opportunity to get down
before dark. Was it worth the risk? I had already
slipped and fallen twice on the last hill; Not hard
falls, but falls none the less. I was physically
whipped and "fatigue makes cowards of us all."
I made the decision to be content with the
height I had reached and stopped short of the summit.
From where I stood, I had a wonderful 360 degree view
of BOLA--front and back door! It could only be
surpassed by the view from the summit. I saw the area
where Mike Humfreville's family spent a fabulous summer;
I saw all of the bay and all of the islands; I saw the
entire town; and looking to the right I saw Paulina's
beach residence where several BBBB'ers spent the 4th
of July; and lastly I saw Camp Gecko nestled on the
beach.
Again, I retrieved my camera and spent several
minutes taking photos of the memorable sight.
I took one last wistful look toward the summit
of the mountain, and headed back down.
The sun slowly made its way across the western
sky as I made my way down the northern slope of the
mountain. I knew that if there was enough light for
me to reach the mine shafts, then I could make it the
rest of the way in the dark. I was in a race with the
sun.
Thankgoodness I had my trusty hiking poles with
me as I hot-footed my way down. A great amount of
stress was taken off my unsteady knees, and gave me
the much needed support as I hopscotched from rock to
rock.
Back to the den, to pick up the items I had left
behind; back across the "knife-edge"; down, down, and
across the small plateau. The light was fading, but I
was making good time. I was hesitant to take any rest
stops, but I knew my legs needed some time off from
the mad down-hill dash.
By the time I stumbled down to the mines, I could
see electric lights twinklng from the houses below. I
picked up the gallon jug of water and drank my fill.
Five minutes later, I was on my way again, but I had
decelerated and relaxed considerably, because the
trail was a "cake walk" from the mine to the base of
the mountain. Yet, by the time I coasted to the
outskirt of town, I was cotton-mouthed and wavering on
my feet. I could not believe how beat I was!
It had taken me three hours to come off the
mountain. I was thirsty, hungry, and my feet were
calling for a taxi. Darkness had overtaken me as I
slowly followed the dirt road back into town, back to
the museum, and back to the store.
The store sold tacos from a side window, so I
ordered up two pork tacos and two cokes, right away.
As the tacos were being prepared, I sat at the table,
downed a coke, took off my boots, leaned forward and
rested my knotty head on my folded arms..
When the tacos were placed in front of me, I put
a hurt on them! I tossed a few crumbs to a stray dog
that was licking its chops and giving me that " what
about me" look.
I finished my meal, replaced my boots, saddled
up my pack, and aimed for Camp Gecko. I had high
hopes that someone would drive by and offer me a lift.
Down the darkened, dirt road I plodded. Not a
single vehicle came my way until I had traipsed a
mile or more.
Finally, I saw headlights in the distance behind
me, coming my way. As soon as I was caught in the
light beams, I stuck out my thumb and hoped for the
best. The vehicle rolled past and continued down the
road. Looked like I was gonna have to hoof it all the
way to Camp.
Suddenly the bright red glow of brakelights
flashed, and the vehicle backed up to where I stood.
"Hey D'Rat, is that you?" yelled the driver. Luck was
with me! The driver was another camper who I had met
the day before. He and his family were returning to
camp after having been in town.
Minutes later we pulled up to their cabin, said
our "goodnights" and I did a hop,skip,and jump back to
my palapa.
Even though I was exhausted, it was too early to
hit the sack. Instead, I walked to the camp office
and got a beer from the fridge, pulled up a chair
outside, leaned back and did nothing but quietly stare
at the night sky. I savored the moment;
congratulating myself for having made a safe hike up
and down the mountain.
While sipping on my second beer, Doc Abraham
drove up, so I gave him a re-cap of the climb. He
seemed to be as disappointed as I was about missing
the summit and cave. Since he had a special guest at
his home that night, he couldn't stay long. I stayed
outside a while longer after he had left for home.
I began to nodoff as I sat in the chair; so I
wearily stood up and shuffled back to my tent, crawled
in and slept like I had just climbed Mike's Mountain.

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[Edited on 3-29-2010 by Desert Rat]
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bajalou
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[*] posted on 4-26-2009 at 01:22 PM


Thanks Ron



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[*] posted on 4-26-2009 at 01:48 PM


Thank you Desert Rat for telling your story. You had me hooked and right along with you the entire time.

If I remember right, Mike had another route that began from his trailer. Maybe Wiles might be able to shed some light on that.

Knowing the walking shape that you are in gives me some worry about making it to the top. Maybe I should give myself three days, and that would be just the upward part of the trek!

I would like to spend the night up there, and from the sounds of things I'm not going to have a choice.

Thanks again for sharing your adventure.

P<*)))>{




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[*] posted on 4-26-2009 at 06:09 PM


Quote:
Originally posted by Desert Rat
De nada, Lou. As you know, I had planned to challenge Picacho this month, but it looks like it will have to be May. If I miss May, then it will have to be October. If it isn't one thing then it's another.


With the changing weather we've had around here, April probably wouldn't have been very good.


I won't be here in May after the 10th, and probably not Oct. Return to Baja around Nov 1st. If you try it when I'm around let me know if I can help you out in any way.




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[*] posted on 4-26-2009 at 07:11 PM


Great read D'Rat.

Only age and experience can give us the wisdom to make the decision to turn around when we need to. Looks like you made the prudent choice. I know how much it hurts to be within striking distance only to have to turn back.

Sorry to hear that you had to postpone your Diablo trip. Hopefully you can make it in May.




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[*] posted on 4-26-2009 at 07:40 PM


Thanks for the cool story! One of these years I'm hopefully heading to Pico Sandia, a few miles south of BOLA...these remote peaks are fun to climb--not necessarily because of the climbing difficulty but because so few folks have done it before..and of course the amazing pristineness makes it so worthwhile.
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[*] posted on 4-26-2009 at 09:43 PM
Thank You D'Rat


I love your stories...thank you!



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[*] posted on 4-27-2009 at 08:23 AM


Thank you Ron!

I will be happy to help you get the photos posted... also!




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[*] posted on 4-27-2009 at 05:22 PM


Rat,

Great read, thanks. Glad you made it all the way to Mike's on a later visit. Camping overnight is a must. Dusk and dawn are incredible from the top.

Any pictures?

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[*] posted on 4-27-2009 at 08:13 PM


Hey Rat, Thanks for such a great hike/climb report. What a beautiful spot!And congrats on a job well done.++C++:yes:
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[*] posted on 4-27-2009 at 11:18 PM


Thank you for the great entertainment. You went alone? Did you bring a radio?

Where and what happened to Mike? He musta been some kinda moutain goat. Did he blaze the existing trail/path.

Baja lore is so very cool. Keep on truckin' man!




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[*] posted on 4-28-2009 at 08:44 AM


2-26-08 from Wiles showing Mike in his cave:


http://forums.bajanomad.com/viewthread.php?action=attachment...

[Edited on 4-28-2009 by David K]




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[*] posted on 4-29-2009 at 07:54 PM


Great story! It makes me want to go climb it again!



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[*] posted on 4-29-2009 at 08:42 PM


Quote:
Originally posted by Sharksbaja
Thank you for the great entertainment. You went alone? Did you bring a radio?

Where and what happened to Mike? He musta been some kinda moutain goat. Did he blaze the existing trail/path.

Baja lore is so very cool. Keep on truckin' man!


To the best of my knowledge Mike has passed away. He suffered from Alzheimers and didn't remember his mountain.




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