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IndyWest'98

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Starring:

Erik & Natalie
Highway
Scott & Linda
Sherpa Daryl & family
Rangerette Jessica (aka, 'Pronghorn Girl')
Rangerette Courtney
Caver Scott
Wendy & the Boulderites
Sandy Landsberg & Martha Patenaude
Christine Shields & sister
Chris 'Cave-Dude' Anderson & Tom 'The Consumate Outdoorsman' Miller
Prologue: Early 1998

One day while Indy was monitoring the Top Secret Data gathered by the Hubble Space Telescope about The Universe At Large(tm) he received an anonymous signal that the Ark, the very Ark which has been eluding him for years, would make a brief appearance somewhere out West in the middle of the year. Consulting the regional HorrorScope, Indy determined that it would not be appearing in California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, or Arizona. All else was fair game. So Indy alerted his contacts out West that he was coming out in a few months. Indy's contacts out West began preparations for floods.

Indy also contacted two local East Coast climbers he knew about joining him out West on this run. Not altogether aware of the rain that the Weather God visits on Indy while out climbing (although they have experienced it before), they agreed to join him for a week. Thus plans set, Indy made arrangements to have the Hubble manned by others during his 5 week hiatus.

The Journey Begins: July 10/11, 1998

Indy spent 2 days packing his (new) Indymobile (the old one having died a couple months before), and headed off by mid-morning on the 10th. A long hot drive back to Ohio, fortunately he encountered little traffic or problems on the road. Only a couple areas of construction that cost him an hour on the drive, and a Nazi driver who insisted on driving in the left land and that no one would pass him. When Indy did get past him the Nazi did what he could to drive Indy off the road, but he had too many other targets passing him, too, so Indy eventually got away from him. Onward into Pennsylvania Indy encountered two tractor-trailer rigs which decided to meet and get personal the hardway against the Jersey wall. Fortunately they were in the Eastbound lanes of traffic; Indy wasn't slowed by this much (except for rubber-neckers in front). The people heading East, on the otherhand, were toast, destined to sit for hours...

Indy's first stop was originally to be Tennessee, but one of his brothers, Erik, decided this would be a prime weekend to hold a wedding celebration with his fiance', Natalie, and insisted Indy be there, thus the sidetrip to Ohio. Being 'best man', Indy had little choices, and attended the fanfare as best as his abilities allowed (given that he's never done anything like this before, it seemed to work okay). Much rejoicing was done by all who attended. Indy discovered this 'best man' routine is a lot of work. Hoo boy.

Bright and early on the morning after the wedding, Indy departed and headed for Mississippi, while the revellers slumbered on.

The Southern Peaks: July 12-13, 1998

Destination: Mississippi. Indy thought it would be good to get a little high-altitude acclimatization in before he tackled the Greater Peaks of New Mexico, Colorado, and Montana. His initial stops for High Altitude Acclimatization would be Woodall Mtn (Miss), Magazine Mtn/Signal Hill (Ark), and Driskill Mtn (La). So Indy fired diagnolly through Ohio and down into Kentucky, where he discovered that the rest stops in Kentucky are actually fairly high-tech. They have travel and Weather God monitors in them! The monitors cycle through a series of informational screens, listing current traffic slow-downs, construction sites, current weather conditions, weather radar returns, and near-term weather forecasts. Damn! This was better than the 'Net... Onward Indy pushed, into Tennessee.

There was a noticeable transition between Kentucky and Tennessee. This primarily manifested itself in the amount of beer cans that littered the sides of the highway. Kentucky: none. Tennessee: a veritable trail of breadcrumbs consisting exclusively of beer cans - all the way to Nashville! It was sad to see, a whole state leading it's travellers by beer cans to a single city.

Outside of Nashville Indy stopped to gas up. There he met a wayward wanderer, Highway. They spoke briefly. Highway had been travelling about homeless for about 13 years now, hopping trains and hitching rides. He apparently lived under the bridge for the highway into Nashville, and took great pride in keeping it clean for passersby who travelled underneath. After this meeting, Indy continued on through Tennessee, and then finally into Mississippi (at which point when he crossed the border the beer cans making up the shoulders of the road ceased to be).

Finally, ~12 hours after he departed Ohio, Indy arrived at the lofty heights of Woodall Mountain - 806' above sea level. Indy noted that the lookout tower had been knocked over. Guess he wasn't going to climb up and see how far he could see...

Indy then figured it was time to depart. Yes, he was in the Central Time Zone, so yes, the sun would set an hour later than he was used to, but he still had a long, long ways to go. He figured he would try and get as far as he possibly could into Arkansas before pulling over and sleeping for the night.

Hours later Indy finally gave up trying to get any further. He had come a long ways, but it was now well after midnight and Indy was beat tired. He wasn't going to make it to the state campground he was aiming for, so he opted to snooze for a while at the next rest stop. Once he got there he realized that he hadn't noticed just how hot and humid it was out. Gah!! Blah. Well, sleep wouldn't be real restful, but he was too tired to drive. Cracking the window for ventilation, Indy turned in to sleep.

But sleep was not meant to be for Indy. Moments after he opened the window and pulled the sheet over his head, blood-sucking insects from the bottom-most levels of Hell descended upon his car, and through the window. And proceeded to suck Indy dry. Indy spent the next few hours trying to kill things that were draining is very life essence, and get some sleep, but in both he almost failed. He killed a great number of insects, but was chewed to pieces in the meantime. He did get an hour and a half of sleep, but this was only due to sheer exhaustion and physical inability to stay awake. But finally Indy could stand it no more, and decided the only thing left to do would be to drive on. So he did.

A few hours later sunrise came. Indy found another rest area and pulled into it, maybe an hour or so from his destination in Arkansas. He again could not push on any further. So he napped. This time insect-free.

Awaking after a few hours rest Indy noted that his legs were literally covered in insect bites. And his arms, face, neck...if it was exposed, it was bitten. The itching was incredible! But there was little he could do about it but to do his best not to scratch (didn't always succeed; at least he didn't scratch himself raw and bleeding). A bit more than an hour later Indy found Magazine Mountain, and followed the path up to the top of Signal Hill.

Now, why it's called 'Signal Hill' is beyond Indy. The highest point in Arkansas, although at 2,753' above sea level, is buried in the woods; you can't see anything but trees from there, much less send signals. *shrug*

After snacking there (breakfast!) a bit, Indy did a recon of Magazine Mountain, having heard that there is climbing potential here. He found some nice overlooks, some potential cliffs, but nothing definite as a climbing area. Alas, oh well, Indy pushed on. There was a lot of ground to be covered between here and Driskill Mountain in Louisiana.

A bunch of hours later, Indy finally arrived at the base of Driskill Mountain, which rose about 100 or so feet in front of Indy, about a mile away, hidden in the woods. Indy bravely (or foolishly) decided to attempt this summit (which is at a whopping 535' above sea level) without supplemental oxygen, bivy gear, all-weather clothing - or even extra food (no food?? gasp!). Long, long minutes later, as Indy swam through the humid airmass that saturated the state known as Louisiana, the trail took an upward turn. Trudging ahead, Indy finally attained the summit.

Of course, the hill was surrounded by trees (again), so Indy could see nothing in the far distance. Alas, Indy returned to the Indymobile, and headed West...west, into the expanse that is Texas...

Texas...Texas...a broad expanse of land that was suffering from a killer heatwave. By this time it had been going on for nigh 2 weeks, and Indy was heading straight for the teeth of it. Indy knew it was going to take a full day to get across this place, and when he crossed over the border, and saw that the speed limit was *70*(!), Indy knew it was going to be a long, long drive across the state (largest state in the Lower 48, and their speed limit is daytime 70/nighttime 65?? oy vey!). Indy's legs and arms also itched madly. Indy was considering finding a state park and pitching the tent, but as the sun lowered and the temps didn't, Indy started considering a motel (it would offer air conditioning and a shower - and Indy really could use a shower now!) but as he closed on Dallas, he realized he had a friend living there, Lady-Godiva. Maybe he could swing in and say hi, and ask if he could borrow her shower real quick. He wasn't exactly sure where she lived, but knew her name and figured he could find out from local information. So he made his way into Dallas...and quickly got lost in the 'wrong' part of town after he got off the highway to find a phone.

'Wrong part' is kind of an understatement, actually. Not only did the stores (which were all closed, although it was 'only' 10pm locally) have bars on their windows, but so did two taxi cabs which drove by! This scared Indy. Taxi cabs with bars on the windows? Urrrr... Indy finally found a phone, but it was already occupied by someone in a shiney and dangerous-looking Lincoln towncar. Looking around Indy saw people hanging out in doorways, just watching. Indy decided that maybe Dallas wasn't meant to be a stop, and somehow found his way back onto the highway, heading out away from Dallas and westward once more. Alas, Indy did not get to hook up with Lady-Godiva.

A couple hours later Indy finally found a cheap-ish motel (most of the ones before Dallas were pretty inexpensive - ~$22/night - but the ones around and west of Dallas were pushing $30+/night; Indy, being on a serious budget, was loathe to spend more than necessary). He managed to get a room with both a shower and air conditioner. Alright! There were millions of grasshoppers all over the countryside here, and as Indy moved between his car and the motel a cloud of them would spread out in from of him. It was weird.

Once he was situated in his room, his first priority was...turning on the air conditioning, to start cooling the room down a little. Next priority - a shower! WAHOO!!!!

20 minutes later Indy's massed itching had been set free by the shower. Ahhhh! The maddening itching that had plagued him for the past 24+ hours...he was finally free of it! (well, most of it; Indy counted well over 70 bites on just his left leg alone, and opted to not count the other legs or either arms guessing the numbers would be similar; with 70+ bites/leg, some itching would remain - but it was negligible compared to what it was!). Indy then crashed in bed, letting sleep take him into darkness...

The Guadalupe Mountains: July 14-15, 1998

Midmorning, 10am, Indy finally got himself out of bed. It had been a long, hard few days; Indy was still beat. But...the shower, the air conditioning...they helped. But the day was already brutal; the heat up into the 100s. The grasshoppers were still present, doing their 'cloud' thing as people walked or drove around the area. The motel proprieter mentioned that they blew in 2 hours before the storm that came in 2 days before, but haven't left yet. Indy packed his car, settled his bill, and headed west, for the first time turning on the air conditioning in his car.

This kept the in-car temperature down to 105 degrees. Outside...much hotter.

Indy's next destination: Guadalupe National Park in western Texas.

A few hours later Indy made an unscheduled stop (a lot of Indy's stops on this trip were or would be 'unscheduled'   ;-) near Kent, Texas, upon discovering an old, abandoned school building, built long ago in decades past. A quick photo-tour about the structure and Indy was on his way again. He noticed that since leaving Maryland gas prices had lowered...until he crossed the Mississippi, when gas prices started to increase, and dramatically (they would top out when he reached New Mexico and Colorado at $1.25/gal; they were $1.03 in Maryland, and as low as $0.89 in Ohio). He gassed up and resupplied in Van Horn, the last 'major' civilian establishment he would encounter before he headed the final 50 miles to....Guadalupe National Park, and the Guadalupe Mountains (the nearest facilities - gas/food - to this park was 35 miles to the east in Carlsbad, NM, so Indy would not be able to resupply easily while here).

As he drove north, Indy noticed a growing darkness on the horizon straight ahead. It was mid-late afternoon, the sun was still high in the sky...what was this...Indy finally recognized it. The Weather God was waiting for him at the Guadalupe Mountains. Joy, joy; Indy was wondering when this encounter would happen. He's been on the road almost a week and managed to dodge the ol' WG so far. Well, couldn't last forever! Indy drove on.

Soon Indy started to notice that there were shallow, long dips in the road, and signs warning that if you see any water across the road, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CONTINUE ONWARD! Hmmm. Indy wondered how serious these warnings were...until he started coming across Flood Gauge markers in the middle of these 'dips'...Flood Gauge markers that towered over 5' in height. Hmmmm! If they need markers that tall....Indy was glad there was no water to negotiate - yet! Ahead of him, the darkness had taken on substance and form, and was one of the most massive electrical storms Indy had ever seen. Indy stopped to watch from a distance, before driving into the teeth of it. As he opened his car door to step out, the door was slammed back into his face! Indy looked around; no one out there. What the heck?? Indy pushed his door open. The wind was fierce. Wow...and then Indy noticed that adjacent to the storm, to the west of the thunderstorm, was a dust storm! Oh, joy! If the rain didn't get him, the dust would bury him! Dust storm to the left, t-storm to the right, here he was, stuck in the middle with...well, no one else was around. So Indy sat in his car for a while as the edge of both storms brushed against the Indymobile, and felt the thunder, which was several miles away, roar in his chest as if it were like being under massive 4th of July fireworks. Indy was kinda impressed. But finally it let up, neither storm smashing into the Indymobile, and Indy drove on.

15-20 minutes later Indy was in the park, and had camp set up. A quick dinner he ate, then attended the Ranger Talk being presented in the Visitor Center. There he learned of the geologic history of the region, more than he had imagined he would want to know, and about the current area, the trails, the flora, the fauna. If Indy had more time he thought it would be interesting to explore the myriad of trails that permeated deep into the parklands. But Indy only had time to climb Guadalupe Peak (highest point in Texas), and then head on, ultimately being in Santa Fe in a few days to meet friends there. So after the presentation Indy retired. It had been another long day. The sky was partly clear, partly cloudy; a storm raged to the south (likely directly over Van Horn). Where the sky was clear the stars shone. But Indy was too tired, and needed to get up too early, to wait for the clouds to finally clear.

That night, it rained.

Not much, not long, but enough to wake Indy briefly. But it passed and Indy slumbered on for another couple hours.

Finally he awoke. It was not long before dawn twilight would start, so Indy geared up for the hike and started forward, 4 miles between him and his goal.

A few hours later Indy finally attained the summit of Guadalupe Peak, and at 8,749', the highest thing he's been on this trip so far. He could feel the elevated altitude, but wasn't thoroughly drained of oxygen yet (it's at 9,000' that the air has half the oxygen content that is at sea level). The views were quite nice, though. Sunny, clear skies. Not nearly as hot and humid as central and eastern Texas was. But as the sun rose higher in the sky, it was getting warmer. Indy started heading back down, taking some side trips to the Guadalupe Peak backpack camping area, and into Devil's Hall, turning an 8-mile hike into a 12-mile crunch. Indy had brought with him 2 liters of water and a liter of gatorade. By the time he returned to his camp, he was down to a single swallow of water. And the day had turned hot (but only around 100 degrees, though). And Indy had foolishly left his cooler in the car the whole time. The ice had melted and perishables about to perish. Indy had to make the 70-mile round trip trek to Carlsbad to get ice (and more food!). That night Indy slept hard.

Onward to Santa Fe: July 16-20, 1998

The next morning Indy packed up and headed east/northeast, into New Mexico. His ultimate destination: Black Mesa, highest point in Oklahoma. He didn't think he'd make it that day, or rather, he could, but he had 2 days to play before needing to be in Santa Fe, so stopped in at Carlsbad and visited the Caverns for a short while, taking one of the 'wild tours'. Then onward he went...to discover that the road before him would go right through Roswell! Woo!! Aliens. Indy decided to stop in and find out about them.

Roswell, New Mexico, is pretty much an average town in the middle of nowhere New Mexico. Except for one block which was devoted to 'the' incident from many years ago, and other related incidents. Indy stopped in at the UFO Museum, poked around for a while, looking for information. He discovered some cryptic writings that he was able to translate. Yes, indeed, aliens had landed, long ago. Yes, they resided in Area 51. Yes, Area 51 was over in Nevada. Indy wasn't going to make it over there this trip. A destination for another time.

As Indy departed, he noticed that he was being tailed by suspicious-looking men in dark coats and glasses. He managed to elude them by ducking around a corner and pretending to be a parked car (it worked!). Then he headed on, out of Roswell, to explore the less-touristy spots of New Mexico (and he found them!).

Outside of Logan, NM, Indy discovered some side 'roads' off the main road. Indy was thinking maybe these might lead to a secluded area to set up camp. Only he discovered they led to those 'date' spots overlooking a canyon on the far side of town ('date spots' are those secluded spots that in Hollywood movies guys take their dates to - or in this day and age, girls take their dates to! - just before the murder/serial killer attacks them). Nice places, these date spots - Indy's never been to one before (they don't have these things in Ohio near as Indy's ever been able to tell). But not where he wanted to really camp out for the night. So he moved on.

Finally he ended up at a state park, and camped out. Middle of the week, no one else was around, and they had showers (first shower Indy had seen since the motel in Texas!). Indy went to wash off. Upon returning he discovered that an extended family had decided to pull in and camp two spots over from him. A whole freaking park, with nearly 60 campsites scattered all over creation, and they chose one two over from him. Big ol' pick-em-up truck (towing a boat), a car or two, and a large, expanded RV. It was late, Indy was exhausted, so crawled into his tent, listening to the din that the family was creating. Sleep came hard, but finally Indy went under, vowing to make a lot of noise bright and early in the morning (since he planned on being up before sunrise in order to get on the road again; Black Mesa was still a few hours away).

Morning came and Indy decided to not make a lot of noise by slamming his car doors every time he packed something away. After all, it wasn't his car's fault. So he left his neighbors a note, thanking them for sharing their family conversation all night long; it was right neighborly of them. Then Indy headed off. Off into the sunrise and backroads that criss-crossed between where he was now and where he was going.

People out in the country, the deep country, are a friendly bunch. As cars went by Indy in the other direction, they almost without fail would wave 'hi!'. All morning Indy experienced this, and it was cool. Indy waved back.

A few hours later, an hour or so more than Indy had anticipated, he arrived at the trailhead to Black Mesa, Oklahoma. And discovered to his dismay that he was looking at another 8+ mile round-trip hike. Gah! It was mid-late morning already, the day heating up pretty fast, and Indy still had to be in Santa Fe to meet some friends in about 8 hours. And Santa Fe was a long ways away...

Indy got set and headed out along the trail. Not a bad trail overall, but it could have been about a mile shorter and be a little more interesting if it were closer to the bluffs than what it was. But Indy didn't build the trail, so just took it where it went. A few hours later he was at the summit. After a quick look around, and a stroll over to the precipitous edge of the bluff about 500' away, Indy headed back down, encountering horned toads as he went (ain't never seen one of them before!). Eventually he reached the Indymobile and headed West.

The road Indy chosen across the top end of New Mexico turned into a 20-mile long dirt road about 10 miles into it. Urk! Indy didn't see that on the map; the gray 'tertiary road' lines and the 'hollow' lines indicating 'unimproved' roads weren't that easy to tell apart on his atlas. Indy shrugged. Oh well. This was the most expedient way to go. Going back would add far too much time to his travelling. So forward he continued.

In Petersburg, West Virginia, there is a spatial anomaly that has always puzzled Indy on his travels to Seneca Rocks. One sign in the middle of town reads Seneca Rocks is 21 miles away. About a mile later another sign says the same is 22 miles away - and the whole time one travels in the direction of Seneca. Indy's never been able to figure this one, and chalked it up to one of those 'Star Trek type' spatial anomalies. Now here in New Mexico he encountered it again.

As Indy approached Capulin, the distance signs kept either putting Capulin further away than the previous sign, or would not update as fast as Indy was approaching (eg, Indy would travel 8 miles towards Capulin, but the signs would only say he's gotten 5 miles closer). Indy couldn't figure it, but in time he did reach Capulin. Tired, he opted to take a stop off at the Volcano National Monument. Here Indy learned more about volcanos than he thought he wanted to know. Fascinating stuff. But the day was drawing to a close, and Indy had a ways to travel. He pushed on.

Reaching the highway, I-25, which would lead Indy to Santa Fe, Indy was elated to discover...the speed limit here was 75!! Yee-hah! Indy cranked it up to 78 and cruised (though he could feel the Indymobile was beginning to feel strained at these speeds; 73-75 seemed like a good upper limit cruising speed). A few hours later Indy arrived Santa Fe, a distressing 2 hours behind his scheduled arrival time. Fortunately, or unfortunately(?), his friends Scott and Linda were not there. In fact...they hadn't yet returned from their trip out to Arizona. So Indy wasn't late...well, okay, only technically.

Eventually Indy gained access to Scott and Linda's place by a key they left with a neighbor (a very funny hispanic guy who has some far out stories of his first time on a plane). After Indy unpacked into the guest room, Scott and Linda returned. It was late, and the three ended up staying up way way later than they intended, catching up on many things. Scott also told Indy at this time that they would not be able to go climb Wheeler Peak the next day as they had planned. Being a high-calibre FBI-guy, he had been suddenly placed in an 'on-call' status for all of northern New Mexico. There had been some trouble in southwest New Mexico with alien invaders, and every law-enforcement man in the state had been called in to repel boarders. Covering northern New Mexico from alien invasion was now Scott's purview. Indy pledged Scott his whip to help should anything happen over the weekend.

The next few days Indy finally rested, relaxed...took a load off his feet (and didn't travel very far!). He took a tour of the FBI facilities, saw all the high-tech (and low-tech) devices they use to keep monitoring of potential alien incursions. Indy said that he would help their monitoring and space-defence by using the secret capabilities onboard the Hubble, so Scott said he would use his resources to track down any information on the Ark.

The evening before Indy was to push on he and Scott went to a posh party way out in the boonies. Some very well-off people out there; some very nice houses they have built. After that Indy joined a couple of ladies for a couple hours of dancing. Although the place they took Indy to didn't have much dancing going on that evening, what with some sort of golf dinner party taking over most of the place. So Indy didn't get a lot of dancing in. Which was just as well; it's been years since he tried that stuff, and was tripping over his own three left feet.

Monday, July 20th. Departure day. Indy re-supplied again for the next few days travel, planning on being in Fort Collins, Colorado, in two days. In the meantime he would attempt to tackle the heights of Wheeler Peak, then meander through Colorado for a while, discovering what he could discover. That evening he fixed dinner for Scott and Linda, and then headed out to Taos. A few hours later he arrived at the Taos Ski Lodge and camped out there in his car at the base of Bull-of-the-Woods Mountain and the Twining Blue Lake trailhead. It was chilly out...no, very chilly out. This was the coldest Indy had felt since last winter. Wow...

[Continued...]


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