Lost Dutchman: Our Just Deserts

Apache Junction, Ariz., February 2010

Kats and Kittens,

     It has been by pleasure, nay, my duty, these last weeks, to share the terrors and triumphs of my pilgrimage to the blunted point of our nation’s southern spear. Likewise, it has been your grateful pleasure to receive these humble illustrations, which I present more for your edification than entertainment – to develop, rather than to divert. It is with considerable apprehension that I briefly describe a bizarre episode I recently endured – an episode so utterly lacking any particle of emotional interest, social significance, or academic consequence that it could have been ripped from the pages of last week’s Newsweek. Even so, if my poor travelogue helps you fill the long, empty hours between “The View” and “Late Night,” then I’ll deem my efforts worthwhile.

The mystery!

After almost 20 solid minutes spent applying my mental energies to the problem of restoring southern Arizona’s fast-depleting aquifer (Mission Accomplished, I’m happy to report!) I received the Keys to the City of Tucson, a buy-1-get-1 coupon for Karichimaca’s Mexican Restaurant and Septic, and a used stick of “Big Red” chewing gum wrapped in a scrap of coffee-stained Arizona State Parks brochure. As I coaxed the last suggestion of cinnamon-y goodness from my prize, my attention turned to its wrapping, and immediately resolved to visit Lost Dutchman State Park for three (3) very good reasons. First, (1st), it’s in the “Superstition” Mountains, and I hankered to apply my scrupulously empirical hiking method to those undisciplined peaks. Second, (2nd), it’s in the “Tonto” National Forest, which appealed to love of 1950s pseudo-allegorical TV serials. And third, (3rd), the fabled “gold mine of” loopy 19th-century prospector Nils Van der Vanderhoof is rumored to lie somewhere “in the” vicinity, which just “makes” good economic sense. If anyone deserved those mislaid riches, I thought, it’s “Yours Truly”, and I meant to have them.

Sketchy characters

Can you believe it? These two green-eyed Johnny-Come-Latelys drop in out of nowhere before I’d even finished picking my ass. (Geez, what are you guys, 6 years old? I was selecting a burro! Grow up, already.) Doug gave me some lame booshwah about taking the wrong exit off of the Morris ‘Mush-Mouth’ Udall Memorial Throughway, but I knew only too well that he and the acquisitive Miss Christa were after my gold. Doug’s unlikely story about being in town for a hockey tournament now seemed patently absurd. Hockey…in Arizona! Just what kind of fool did he take me for? There’s a saying in the Southwest – keep your friends close, and your low-down, dad-blamed, claim-jumping sidewinders closer. I smiled warmly, disengaged the safety on the 9mm “Miner’s Helper” in my pocket, and offered myself as their guide. The varmints accepted my kind offer with cruel grins, and set about fashioning nasty-looking garrotes from raw yucca fiber. “After you,” I said.

What sunstroke looks like

 It was a mild trek, maybe 10 miles straight up and thickly carpeted with Punji sticks. We might have accomplished it in a few short hours if those two tenderfoots had spent as much time hiking as they did belly-aching, grabbing park benches from exhausted elderly hikers, and stealing Flintstones-brand boxed-juice beverages from thirsty Li’l Hombres. They do have a very aggressive style of outdoor appreciation, I’ll give them that, and Christa turned out to be quite knowledgeable regarding south-central Arizona’s geographic nomenclature. The name “Tonto,” she explained, exactly as if she knew what she was talking about, means “stupid” in Spanish, or Quetzal, or maybe Moldavian, or some other equally base tongue. What’s the Moldavian for “let’s do this again some time after you’ve had a chance to shower,” I wondered?

Local hippy

 A particularly nice thing about Lost Dutchman – if you’re a Sonoran Brain-Sucking Bat or Doug – is the abundance of deeply perforated rock features littering the landscape. Never one to neglect the drama in even the most routine endeavor, Doug took several minutes to prepare himself for the rock, carefully crafting hip rock-climbing asides like “this is, like, totally dangerous”, and “if I wasn’t scared, I wouldn’t be human,” and (my personal favorite), “bow down before your God, creeping pismires.” We’d both heard that one before. In his hand-tailored Shao-Lin climbing-hoodie, Christa thought he looked like the nefarious emperor from Star Wars. More generous in my assessment, I reckoned he looked more like Sean Connery in The Name of the Rose. As it turned out, we were both wrong – he actually looked exactly like Charlton Heston’s screen-sister, Miriam, at the moment she’s cured of leprosy at the end of Ben Hur.

An encounter

 Perhaps the single most important thing a climber can do to ensure a successful ascent is understand his opponent. Here, Doug performs a mysterious rite called the “Welshman Mind Meld,” getting inside the rock’s head and sharing its very thoughts. “No climb I,” said the rock, etching the words with sulfuric acid into the side of a comically surprised Gila monster. Strange, I’ve don’t recall ever seeing that happen in Deer Creek Canyon…

The aforementioned Dutchman

Conveniently enough, Doug decided the rock’s enigmatic statement was intended to assure rather than proscribe, and he scrambled up the sheer face as easily as a desert bighorn, assuming that the desert bighorn is in a chemically-induced coma after having all four legs amputated with a field Howitzer. Note that he’s wearing ghetto sneaks instead of his usual climbing footwear. Before Memorial Day. Is there no end to his fashion outrages?

Points to ponder

Yeah, these are definitely imposing rocks, alright, they’re just not the ones that Doug climbed, no matter what he’s already told you. On the other hand, these towering spires aren’t entirely dissimilar to Dgoal’s conquest, both being made of the same igneous material and neither having a “raspado” stand halfway up. In his defense, I thought the rocks Doug climbed were much dustier.

Western exposure

According to Christa Webster, “saguaro” is Flemish for “stupid.” I’m not saying I believe her, I’m just saying that nobody had better call me saguaro from now on, or there’ll be consequences. While Doug posed heroically among the rocks and Christa made a stunning belt and matching clutch out of a slow-moving rattler, I located Van der Vanderhoof’s mother lode cleverly concealed beneath a flat stone upon which were crudely scratched the runes “Here it is – N.V.V. Enjoy!” I was about to reveal the treasure to Dgoal and Hi-C when I chanced to reflect on the warm esteem in which I hold them both. I realized, in my selfless way, that it is their degrading poverty and charming simplicity that endears them to me. That sudden, unearned wealth might change their psychological dynamic in a way less palatable to me, personally, was a risk I could not take, particularly as I know that both Christa and Doug value my good opinion above any amount of material riches. For their sakes, I said nothing and, so, assured their future happiness. Even now, I get misty when I
think of the great kindness I’ve done them, although my natural modesty will forever prevent me from telling them.

 We’ll take a break here, and give each of you a chance to meditate on my good example. When we resume, be prepared to give three reasons why I’m better than Mahatma Gandhi, and use specific instances to support your choices.

Saint Stavros

Next Time: Among the Townies!