Following the mountain goat

by Katie on November 13, 2009

Hunting season is officially over for us. And thank goodness. The farm needs attention, and I’m ready to stay out of the cactus.

I had another close encounter with the beloved desert plant last weekend. As if sitting in it weren’t enough.
And it was all because I made a conscious choice to follow my husband over the mountains, through the canyons, up the rock walls, …and eventually into the cactus.
Anyone who has ever traipsed through the mountains with Brandon knows he has the climbing abilities of a mountain goat.
I, on the other hand, do not.
I was always one of those kids everyone called grace. Due to my lack of it. Let’s just say things haven’t changed much.
I fared rather well on Friday, kept up with him, and really can’t complain one bit about that day.
Saturday was a different story.
The morning was great. We made a nice little trek to a mountain top where we had a rock cubby hole and an excellent vantage point for glassing.
But for some crazy reason, Brandon wasn’t satisfied to remain there all day. Despite the good view and all the deer we had seen. No, he wanted to go across to the next mountain, through a little draw, and up and around another mountain.
After all that, we didn’t see one deer that evening.
Just before dark, we set off to make our way back to the trail. Brandon’s “hunch” on the best way back led us to three different sets of rock bluffs, each with a 40 to 50 foot drop. Not exactly ideal.
So, we backtracked to find a new route. At this point, dark was quickly approaching. And Brandon was in a bigger hurry than usual. He was not handling my slower-paced mountain descent very well. But it was dark. And steep. I thought I was moving fast.
At some point when I was practically running to catch up with him, I got tangled in a cactus, tripped, and sent a giant piece of it into the flesh on my shin. When I finally caught up, I told him what had slowed me down some. He said, “Well let’s get it out.”
But I wanted off that mountain.
So we forged on.
By the time we arrived back at camp, all the rubbing my leg did on my overalls had broken off the cactus thorns flush with my skin. There was no pulling them out. For the following two days, my leg was red and puffy around the thorns, and I ended up removing some bits and pieces.
After all this, I had to watch him scale a rock above me Monday morning. I was supposed to follow. He was seriously rock climbing. Hanging mid-air from a giant bluff, where one slip of a hiking boot would have had dire consequences. I couldn’t even watch him do it. No way was I taking that same route.
When he was halfway up, I yelled at him, “Brandon Leister, if you don’t come off this mountain today, I will never forgive you.” And I meant it.
Luckily, we found a different route for me. Still climbing across giant rocks, just not up the side of a completely vertical one.
Brandon had the opportunity to see me absolutely petrified this weekend. Like the kind of pure terror where tears are streaming down your face and you’re shaking all over and just can’t stop. He found it extremely entertaining.
Some of the rocks boulders on these mountains look like they could topple over on top of you any second. They are leaning on edge, supported by a corner, and stacked only against one another.
All I was doing to scare myself to death was climbing down from the exact same rocks I climbed up through. Only going down, I could see below me. The only way I got up those rocks in the first place was by telling myself, “These rocks hold bears. They can hold 140 pounds of human.”
That’s right. The fact the rocks I was climbing into held bears was my only comforting thought.
But, I made it down (obviously). Without a scratch.
Well, except for the remaining cactus thorns in my leg, anyway.
Which brings us to Tuesday night. Three days after the cactus incident. I got out a pair of tweezers, and pulled this out of my leg:
A full half-inch of cactus thorn.
There’s just one left I can feel under the skin, but can’t find where it needs to pop out. Other than that, I’m all healed.
And that’s what I get for following a mountain goat.

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