My wife, Lori, and I ended up in the city of Potosi on the last part of our Bolivian vacation. After considering various things to do around the city, we selected the “mine tour” option. The city is over 200 miles south of the capital city of La Paz. At 13,400 feet of elevation, it’s one of the world’s highest cities. And, as we found out, it’s dominated by a big mountain named Cerro Rico, which has been mined regularly for silver since the Spaniards were the rulers.
It was Christmas break of my sophomore year in high school when Jake and I took off from Denton. We geared up and drove his parent’s VW Camper/van (with their permission), bound for Mexico with a stop in Douglas, Arizona. The plan was to meet up in Douglas with an older, more mature person named Jim, whom I knew from the summer camp where I had worked the previous summer. From there, the three of us would travel to Guaymas, Mexico, where we’d camp, have some quality beach time, and experience a bunch of “neat adventure stuff.” In the van, we had scuba gear packed away under one of the seats in cardboard boxes, places to sleep, and we must have had some food somewhere. (Note- I’m not sure how we got our parents to agree to the plan. Although I do remember it being a good thing that we would be under the supervision of someone older).
Jake and I drove to Douglas, where we connected with Jim at his parent’s house. We spent a day there doing “the friends visiting from out of town” routine, which included supper across the border in Agua Prieta. The next day we loaded Jim’s baggage into the van and took off across the border toward the coastal city of Guaymas, which we had randomly chosen as our destination.
Out of the tent and into the morning,
What will the new day have to say?
The fresh morning air is crisp and clear,
The soon-to-be coffee will be hot and dear,
And my mind is most certainly full of cheer.
The air is filled with a calming breeze,
I ponder how last night it got down to 38 degrees.
Heavy dew got everything wet,
I was that way, too, but mine was from sweat.
High in the sky, movement catches my eye,
I focus and see it’s a hawk floating by,
And I wish that I could also fly.
Two chipmunks scurry between nearby rocks,
The big one squeaking like a chatterbox.
I also hear the tumbling creek,
Yesterday, things were looking awfully bleak,
But today, we’ll forget that and climb the peak.
Sunlight is shining on the summit we seek,
Looking at the steepness makes my knees feel weak.
I’ll worry about that later on,
But for now, I’m just gonna relish the dawn,
And enjoy watching the newborn fawn.
Since we’re climbing Big Sandy, then returning here for the night,
We can limit our gear and travel light.
For the climb, we won’t need a big backpack.
We’re only taking raingear, water, and snack,
And can fit all of that into a knapsack.
I need to get the group up and going,
Before the wind starts really blowing.
The storms have started building every day at noon.
Just like during monsoon season, but it’s only June.
All the more reason to get going soon.
Thank goodness my rain jacket’s been working well,
It’s kept me dry and it’s only a shell.
The climb’s gonna be long, so I need to fill my bottles with water.
Look over there, is that an otter?
I swear those rocks are beginning to totter.
My thoughts sharply focus on the pending climb,
And I realize it’s become that time.
The sun’s rising fast,
The time for leaving has almost passed.
We won’t be cooking oatmeal,
Cause beating the storm’s, a big deal.
Our need to leave has now become real.
“Get up, pack your stuff, we’re leaving,” I shout.
“If we wanna beat the rain, we need to get out.”
“Just eat a snack,
While you get ready and pack,
We’ll do some cookin’ when we get back.”
“And zip up your tent, before we head out,
If you don’t and it rains things will get wet no doubt.”
After the flurry of action, we finally head out,
With the peak our goal, but without a route.
We cross the creek and see it’s full of trout,
And suddenly that’s all we’re thinking about.
We stop and talk about our goal for the day,
And decide it best to fish and stay.
Plus, avoiding the storm will help make it okay.
So, we turn around, and off we tramp,
From where we just left, it’s back to camp.
Once we get there, most get out their poles,
Then head back to the creek and the various fishing holes.
I stay behind and consider what’s changed,
And ponder the plan that’s been disarranged.
The climb to the top would’ve been fun,
Especially, that is, if the summit we won.
But the fish grabbed our attention,
And changed our intention.
As soon as we saw them, there was no more ascension.
And now here we are, on the banks of the creek,
Instead of climbing toward the peak.
We still have a “goal,” so to speak,
But it’s no longer the summit, it’s Brookies we seek.
Days are full of changes to plans,
Partly because there are so many cans.
Relish the moments, both subtle and profound,
Embrace all that happens and keep looking around.
Ryan had never bonked before, at least in the metabolic shock/ overexertion sense of the word. When he started to bumble around and lose more and more of his edge, I knew that something was up and figured that’s what had happened. Not realizing what was going on, he kept on trying to mountain bike further up the Colorado Trail, although with diminishing returns. The big patches of snow that remained on the trail, even though it was June, were probably a good thing since they ultimately turned us all around. His disrupted mental and physical state likely made the retreat more palatable to the 13-year-old, since he wasn’t one to be prone to turn around before his goal was reached.
It was cold and restless sleep at our high camp on Bolivia’s Huayna Potosi. As I think back, it was actually more like quiet time, except for the constant banging of the tent flap out in the frigid, high-altitude night. Sometime in the very early morning, I got up and went outside to relieve myself and, while doing my business, marveled at how clear and full of stars the sky was. But that marvel was tempered by my personal acknowledgment that ultimately the clear skies would just mean even colder temperatures. At least, I reasoned, since there was no threat of snow, I wasn’t going to have to get up and shovel any of it away from the tent in the wee hours of the morning. I quickly got chilled, and so, once back in the tent, I pushed myself deeper into my minus 25-degree bag and cinched the hood tightly down around my head. Cinching down and tightening the hood, along with a persistent need to go outside and relieve myself, periodic dozing off, and a mental organization of the rope-up logistics, occupied the bulk of my supposed sleep time.
You must be logged in to post a comment.