The rugged basin formed by Hesperus (13,132), Moss (13,192), Babcock (13,149) and Spiller (13,123) gives rise to the headwaters of the South Fork of the Mancos River. The area is raw, rocky and primitive in the extreme. Great walls and steeples of stone rise around one in a long, horseshoe-shaped basin. Throughout the La Plata Mountains, igneous sills like the spires of Mount Moss intruded into overlying Pennsylvanian sandstone and buckled the strata. Not having walked in on any known path, our camp was quite secluded and we saw no one for three days. Meditation becomes natural in the purity of this silence allowing us to see aspects of world and self that we do not often notice with any real clarity.
We park the VW van, pull on our packs and lock up. Shugchang explains that we will walk up the valley on the right flank, and end up near the high end of the basin. We move along, fanning out. There's a fast moving stream, the South Mancos, at the bottom of the valley. Off we go. It is a strenuous climb along a steep hillside, through tall forests without a path, then across rock slides of flat boulders. Having heard voices up that way, my daughter turns right and climbs higher up the slope, The last thing I heard from her was, 'Go up!' Soon, I am separated from the group and grow apprehensive, want to catch up, and feel a little desperation creeping in.
So I scramble up a chute tilted up past forty-five degrees, carrying a full pack, on all fours. Finally I reach the top; hot, eager to see my friends, or a path. No one there and no path. Ahead a daunting precipice, above, more climbing, and I don't want to back-track. I'm grumbling to myself, 'One minute up, next minute down, what the hell... Why can't people communicate better, or figure out the trail better... shit, I'm going back down.' It didn't take long for that mood to manifest as external karma. I caught my foot between two small boulders, twist the knee and felt pain so sharp I fell to the ground. Damn! 'Now I've done it!'
I hobble over to the rock slide and perch myself in the sunlight, grimacing in its warmth. A storm is brewing and the wind is picking up. I sit there for a little while and then decide to pull out my trusty whistle and sound out. Having heard my whistle and calls, Chödön responded; I heard the first call but the wind swirled took over and I heard no more. She had decided to catch up with the rest of our party and get help. I felt abandoned. Why would I hear a response to my whistle, then no one show up? Now I'm getting pissed. Lord, have I got some issues around feeling left behind!
As my knee swells, apprehensively, I notice the storm moving in and wonder how much further I can get with my injured knee? I don't know how far up the valley they've made camp, maybe I should hobble back to the van and hole up there... Dumb idea! There's good reason for the agreement to stay put, pull out an emergency blanket, or foul weather gear and call out with the whistle now and then -- hang in, keep the faith, they'll be back.
Not me. Possessed by emotions, I start trudging back toward the van. And what desirable thing the van represented, I don't know, but off I went. About one-third of the way, I give up and sit on a rock. Aside from the pain, I realize it's stupid. Soon after, two of my compañeros bound into view. I start to cry with relief and gratitude; I feel stupid and self-involved. I apologize, they grab my pack and I tag along to the camp site that was but a mile from where I'd turned back...
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