Fletch and I drove to Vantage Wednesday night and stayed through Saturday morning. I had just been there on Tuesday with Christine and Emily where I led Steel Grill cleanly and followed Bob’s Your Uncle, with one fall.
Fletch and I climbed Pony Keg, Air Guitar, George & Martha, Seven Virgins and Ride Em’ Cowboy. It got so hot we almost fell asleep resting in the chimney after the Virgins route. I walked out into the broiling sun to switch out my climbing shoes for boots but quickly retreated back to the cool shade of the chimney where Fletch and his dog Winston were zoning off.
I brought my second 40 oz water bottle back to the shade. As I took a sip of the almost empty bottle Fletch asked if he could have some, that he was out of water. He’d brought one quart for both him and the dog.
“Dude, I depend on you to be organized and have extra water!” I joked. Later we hiked out dry through the sage scented air, enjoying the endless views of the mesas and cliffs surrounding Vantage. The weekenders had begun to show up, it being Friday night and our neighbor was running her minivan to power an electric pump for her 10 inch queen sized air mattress.
She had 3 kids who were climbing at the Feathers with her brother, plus a little girl who was still wearing her homemade swami harness made from 1 inch tubular. The full size standing room tent and air mattress made it clear she wasn’t a regular climber. We don’t bother with all those luxuries. Still it’s always great to see people enjoying the outdoors though the droning of the air mattress pump was annoying.
We were surprised to see her suddenly in our campsite holding out two cold beers.
“Hey guys, sorry about my dog and the dumb air pump. Here’s a couple beers for your trouble.”
“Oh, jeez, you didn’t have to do that, but thanks a lot, we forgot to bring beer, this will help a lot!” we said.
She was super friendly and a very fit young mom. She hung out with us for a while, talking climbing and where we were all from.
“Don’t worry too much about the noise,” I said, pointing at our two guitars, “We’ll be making some noise of our own after dinner. But don’t worry, we won’t play late.”
“Oh, no worries, we’re not going to bed early, we’ve got teenagers.”
Fletch and I had forgot to pack a can opener so I had to jab my can of beans with a bendy knife and saw it open. By the time I’d done that to my tuna and black beans I was so hungry I decided to eat them cold. As Fletch said “Why heat them up? They don’t taste any better and it’s more dishes to wash.”
As we sat there in the fading light, eating dinner out of our cans I got out a small brick of greasy sun warmed goat cheese. Every couple bites of tuna and beans I took a bite off the cheese. Fletch noticed my eating process and commented that we were really living the dirt bag life. We didn’t have camp chairs, just sitting on boulders strewn around the fire pit.
Fletch the (fire whisperer) soon had a nice fire crackling and we broke out our guitars. We started with a couple songs on which I could add harmonica: “To make you feel my love” (Adele & Dylan) and “Sweet Carolina” (Ryan Adams).
As we finished Carolina, we heard applause and saw 5 of our neighbors lined up nearby, watching us play and soaking in the vivid red sunset over the distant hills above the Columbia River. We’ve worked hard over the last 12 years refining and polishing our sound. We’re far from great musicians, but for a couple of old climbers we have a decent sound.
The brother walked over with his teenage son: “That was awesome guys, I love that song! We really hit the jackpot with this camp spot. Spectacular sunset and live music!”
We thanked him and continued through our usual routine, playing all our favorites as the evening light faded into darkness lit only by our little fire and headlamps. Fletch had seen Elton John at the Tacoma Dome two nights before so of course we played Your Song & Goodbye Norma Jean. We knocked off when the whiskey ran out around 8. I’d only brought a little hip flask…just enough to warm the belly.
We talked quietly for a while after that, discussing all the usual topics climbers yarn about: the meaning of life, hard climbing moves, future trips, etc. Soon the stars were out in all their glory, lighting the way for a half moon.
I crawled into my old Bibler mountaineering tent feeling thankful for good friends and amazing hobbies. At 65, I know I can’t keep climbing forever. There is an end game coming where my body will start objecting to pulling hard on 5.10 crack climbs. It seems to take a little longer each year to warm up.
I’ve spent 5 days drawing cows with pen and ink. I’ll post them later. It’s more fun to show my drawings in person. When my friends see them online first, their reactions are muted on seeing them live. They’ll say: “Oh, yeah, I saw that online, very nice.”
I love that expression of wonder in peoples faces when they see my artwork for the first time live and in person…especially the good stuff. I’ll never sell a cow drawing, but the experience of watching it come to life under my hands is worth all the trouble. There are moments with a great drawing or painting where I can step outside myself and simply stare in wonder. This latest pen drawing might be my best work yet.