Sunday, October 09, 2005

10-09 Wenonah Finally Found

10-9-05 Wenonah's finally found
"There's the jeep, right where I parked it. I wonder where Leigh is? There isn't any sign of him, or the bike. Wait, that looks like Leigh's backpack, the one he carried his water in. And there's a note, written in the dust on the side of the door."
And with that there is a flash of the jeep door. In the dust there is a note, only marginally legible.
Wenonah, I can't find you. I'm worried. I've ridden bike to ranger station for help. Leigh
And there ends the video tape and its recorded monologue. It also marks the end of our objective account of what happened on her hike.
From here we have only Wenonah's account, given later that night, of what happened. I have no reason, of course, to doubt that this report is anything but absolutely factual.
Remember, at this time, I'm in the ranger's jeep with the ranger driving (I don't know if that's the correct term for traveling in a vehicle through a rocky desert on what can not be really, in all honesty, be called a road).
It's getting dark.
And Wenonah, standing at the jeep door, picks up my pack, takes the key out of her pack, unlocks the door, opens it, throws my empty pack on the passenger's seat, picks up a water bottle, takes a long drink of water.
And starts the jeep.
Now she can drive in two directions. She can take the jeep back up over the rocks to the end of the fin where our camp is set up.
She could slowly driv e over the rocks. Go to the camp. Wash up with the water in the container we had sitting up on a rock in the sun inside a black trash bag. (a little solar water heater if you will).
She could have even turned on the gas camp stove, heated up some water. Fixed some coffee. Maybe even started up dinner. (we were going to have pasta).
But she didn't do that.
Instead, she decided to go in the other direction.
She started up the jeep, threw it in reverse, backed up, (almost to the edge of the cliff), slammed on the brakes. Put it into drive.
Shot forward.
Hit the breaks again with the front bumper almost smacking into a large boulder.
Threw it in reverse.
Back to the edge of the cliff. The tires only inches away from slipping over the edge).
And then she put it in drive again and hit the gas, spinning the tires.
And headed up the trail in the direction of the ranger's station.
Now you get the picture?
The ranger and I are barreling down the rocky trail bouncing from one ledge to the next, going m uch to fast. Going so fast if we didn't have our seat belts on we would be bouncing out of our seats, probably banging our heads against the roof.
We were going so fast, trying to get to where Wenonah before dark. Sometimes we would come up on drops in the road so quickly that we wouldn't have time to see what was just feet in front of us.
And Wenonah, driving like a mad woman. Up the hill, the tires slipping on the ledges, scraping the underbelly of the car on the large rocks.
Up over one rise and speeding up along a flat, and then bouncing up the rocks along another set of rock ledges,
Bam, wam, striking the underside of the car, scraping over the rocks.
And it's gotten darker.
The ranger turned on her lights.
Wenonah turned on her lights.
We were both intent, going so recklessly fast, bouncing and skidding and sliding on the trail right toward each other.
Wenonah later reported, over dinner that night, that she thought she was going to catch up with me. Catch me with the jeep, before I had gone very far up the trail on my bike.
"I was thinking that I was going to catch up with you and tell you that I hadn't been lost was wrong. You just hadn't looked in the right place.
And we were still dropping down the rocky desert slope, dropping off one hill after the other.
And Wenonah driving the jeep much to fast, scraping the under-carrage, the bumpers, the wheel rims as she slid over one rock after the other.
And we had just dropped off of one hill and had speeded up going over a relatively flat and level piece of road.
And Wenonah was at the bottom of a steep hill. She got about half way up, her tires just spinning, in the sand,
She backed the jeep up. Hesitated for a moment and then, putting it in forward, hit the gas.
Her foot to the floor.
And the jeep shot foward.
We, on the other hand, had covered the flat stretch of road and ahead of us was yet another drop off.
The ranger was late hitting the brakes, we went over the rise and down the other side.
And you don't really think we ran in to each other do you?
Wenonah coming up the hill much to fast and the ranger's jeep flying over the top.
You can almost see the jeeps crashing. One landing on the hood of the other.
Breaking glass and steam.
Tat would be really something. A head on collison, one jeep coming up a hill. Going much to fast. Bouncing up over boulders, skidding.
And the ranger, thinking she has a woman lost out in the dry desert, maybe having fallen off of a cliff, or dehydrated, having crawled under a pinon tree.
Driving much too fast to the rescue.
Bouncing down the road, reaching a rise and being just a fraction of a second late in hitting the brakes before dropping off the other side.
What are the chances of a wreck like that happening? Out there in the desert, no other humans, no other vehicles. Jeez, hardly any mammals for scores and scores of miles.
How do you figure out that sort of probability?
(I don't need to tell you the chance is almost non existent, do I?).
But back to Wenonah.
There was this big boulder, She couldn't get the jeep up over it, So she backed down the hill, pointed the jeep between two large boulders and...
Hit the gas and..
there was an explosion.
Well, not really an explosion.
Maybe, more like a large bang.
With a red light on the dash flashing
And hissing coming from somewhere out the window.
And the ranger and I, going over the top of the rise, flew in the air, landed, banged on a rock, swerved to miss a large rock, and then the ranger had control of her vehicle and we were again off down the road, speeding away, going, going, what must have been way over a safe speed, we must have been going almost twenty miles an hour.
Down the hill, along a flat section and then down the next hill.
And when we finally went over one last steep hill.
There was Wenonah.
She had the jeep's doors open and the back hatch thrown open.
And the spare tire down on the ground.
And there she was down on her back in the sand and dust with the jack handle.
Jacking up the jeep.
She'd hit that rock and had blown out a tire.
A large gash in the side of the tire.
That night, back at our camp we did have pasta. and the night sky was still unbelieveably impressive, with the Milky Way so bright and close it seemed you could almost reach up and touch it, and all of those falling stars.
While we had been gone, something had broken into our camp and pecking into the end of the watermelon had eaten half of it.
(a large raven that again flew around the camp at first light looking for more unguarded food).
But I wasn't all that picky, dehydrated and especially drained of electrolites, I wasn't opposed to eating the other half after the raven.
Within an hour I felt whole again. And over dinner Wenonah told her version of the story.
How she couldn't understand how I'd failed to find the trail she was on, the one that slipped around behind Cleopatra's Chair.
"You even read the description of the trail to me before I went hiking. It's right there in the guide book."
And so it was.


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