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Remember: Adventure on South Mountain

Monday, January 11, 2010

Adventure on South Mountain

I parked my station wagon where I always do, alongside the water on the upper road at South Mountain. This day, I parked on ice and getting out of the car, I looked around as I had many times before and before me under snow a new world emerged. I took the same picture I always took, just next to the door of my car.

Walking the short steps towards what is usually the lapping edge of water, I was greeted by a solid body, frozen deeply by the long cold of this short January.

I took slow steps onto the ice. My ears were straining to hear any sound of cracking. My brother stood on solid ground reminding me of how dumb it was to walk on the ice but we both agreed that the deer tracks were a positive sign of thick ice. We knew it had to be at least 4 inches to support our weight.

While I stood there, my body as motionless in fear as the ice, Bryan looked around for a large rock to throw farther towards the center of the frozen water body. He could not find one. I barely made it twenty feet across the ice.

We agreed to end our stupidity and head towards the old lookout on top of the mountain. I laughed and told Bryan what we were doing was simply asking for it and he hesitantly conceded to that truth. Bryan has an adventurous spirit, more like that of an indestructible 16 year old than a man of 23. I have the adventurous spirit of a 75 year old. The snow around us hid the path that would usually take us to the mountaintop.

The forest here, in summer, is dynamic. There are thousands of trees close together, all about the same age. In the underbrush, a thick invasion of spicebush adds eyefuls of dense leaves. In those leaves, this forest is loud with life. Today, the forest is church quiet and everything looks similar.

With no path, Bryan jumped up the icy hillside as if the spirit of a mountain goat possessed his thin legs. I trudged up slowly on my tree trunk legs, looking back at the ever steepening angle of our climb while contemplating sliding down the mountainside to death. I yelled ahead to my brother who had disappeared farther up to make sure we were headed in the right direction. “I can see it Andrew, It’s right over here.”

Bryan did not know it, but at this moment he had become a bastard. I was sweating and my lungs burned with breathe. I leaned against the mountainside, pressing my hands into the cold snow to take a rest and looked around. As afraid of change as I can be, I thought of all the change of the last year and the way that even at this moment of exhaustion my perception of the forest had changed forever.

A few heaving minutes later I joined the bastard on the top of the mountain. He smiled and half-laughed at my breathless form. We shot a video for the blog and I stopped again to look around. I thought of, of the young age of the forest, of the tree types. I thought of things that a year ago I would have never considered. I thought of how lucky I was to think exactly what I was thinking at this moment.

I made sure to keep closer to a path on our descent rather than careening down the side of South Mountain. Bryan was trying to predict how many more times I would fall before we got back to my station wagon. I assured him that I had faith in my footing and I did not intend on falling again.

The walk down was quick and easy. Wiping the sweat from my forehead on a twenty degree day seemed odd but felt refreshing. We reached the lower lookout and I had not fallen.

Bryan and I both looked longingly at the frozen lake that had come before us again. We both wanted to walk across it but with no assurances of safety, we decided to stick to the path. Here, the path winds itself around the lake about twenty feet above its shore.

Bryan saw something he deemed worthy of investigation and bounded down the hillside repossessed by a mountain goat. I decided to join him on the frozen shore, promptly slipped and fell all the way down to land at the feet of my brother cackling. The bastard.

Here, you can see the swath of my fall:

- The ice there is unsafe. DO Not walk on it!

(Part 2 to come tomorrow, Video Post)



Blogger LVCI said...

Again may I remind you these were not "lookouts". They were pavilions before vandels burned them down.

The lower one had a fountain in it (which you can see in the picture) overlooking the two very large water filled sink holes.

Here's a video that shows those from an old video I took in 1989 with my very 1st video camera.

This same lower area here had two stone structures for grilling along with picnic benches.

January 11, 2010 at 8:29 AM  
Blogger LVCI said...

Oh.. I also wanted to note, standing on the ice not too...

The thing is fed by underground water runoff (springs). Whereas those waters are well above freezing there are numerous parts (hidden by the light snow dusting) that are less then 4" thick.

Call it just luck that nothing happened

January 11, 2010 at 8:47 AM  
Blogger Andrew Kleiner said...

Thanks for the info LVCI, and yes as I acknowledged in the post, walking on the ice is a poor idea.

January 11, 2010 at 9:43 AM  
Blogger michael molovinsky said...

andrew, sorry for going off topic, BUT; you may have seen the editorial today by a bikeclub member referring to critics who want to see the city decline by not supporting their plan for additional PAVED paths. you have mentioned several times that you would be opposed if the paths were paved. the literature says that they are too be PAVED, weitzel plan's for cedar park show additional paths which are PAVED, he has already PAVED the area around the mirror ponds. your blog has documented many existing features in the parks that should be the priority for the park system. some, such as the pavilions on south mountain, or the boat landing, have been neglected so long people don't even know what they were. i hope you come to realize that connecting broken parks doesn't fix them

January 11, 2010 at 10:32 AM  
Blogger Andrew Kleiner said...


I hope you haven't inferred somewhere on Remember that I believe paved paths are going to remove invasive species in Trout Creek Parkway or reestablish the stream banks in Jordan Park.

Of course the paths shouldn't be paved paths, and I won't support that. Whatever Greg Weitzel does at Cedar Beach is unrelated to the discussion that will take place on Wed. night. Im hoping to hear the right things.

We'll see.

January 11, 2010 at 10:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrew, please help save the parks from paved trails. Please.

January 11, 2010 at 3:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Using numbers 1-5 or whatever the amount, 1-3, etc. please state the exact reasons why paving is a really bad idea for the parks.
thank you Mr. Kleiner

January 12, 2010 at 12:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with you annon. 12:16. Pave it all, what the hell!

January 12, 2010 at 8:07 PM  

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