Fat Man Walking

Chapter 1


Hamilton D. Moore 2000


Fat Man Walking

By Hamilton D. Moore


Chapter 1  The Question And The Revelation


What does a morbidly obese, divorced father of two do for his fiftieth birthday? 


Drag the kids to a national park, Washington DC, Club Med, leave the kids for romance?


Beaten to submission by alcoholism in my late 30s, Id turned to God for help, and been rescued.  As a part of the process, God told me to climb the 20 or so peaks I see from my home.  My son, then 10, was less than enthusiastic about the revelation; in fact, he was adamantly opposed. 


Unnamed Peak South of Railroad Pass


My son refused to do the first peak, a two thousand foot elevation gain separating the El Dorado valley from the Vegas Valley.  I left at 4am; he slept.  I met my hiking partner and up we went.  My estimate of 4 hours proved wrong by 3; I returned late and beat.  But we had made it to the top.  We learned, by watching, cars disappear at 4 miles, something I thought would be useful for navigation.  We also learned climbing ridges was easier than climbing shale slopes.  I left some business cards in the can at the top promising a free will to any who called.  I still wait.


In October, my son and I went to Supai, Arizona, a place Id been with my Dad when I was my sons age.  This is one of the most beautiful destinations in the world.  We drove to the Peach Springs Hotel, operated by the Hualapi Indians.  The mutiny began, a barrage of irrefutable arguments relating to how no children should be forced into such tortuous activity etc. Nonetheless, we left that outpost of civilization around 4am, we were moving down the hilltop switchbacks an hour later.  We hiked for 40 minutes and read for 20, a routine wed developed on a 17-mile hike we took together when he was 4.  All went well till we got deep into the canyon near the first water when a fit of rage overtook, the perceived senselessness of it all overwhelmed my son and manifest in a pitiful wail, echoing majestically off the wall.  Even the petroglyphs Id missed when his age didnt assuage him.  We persevered to the river where another plague of immobility attached.  Finally, we reached Supai and enjoyed two six packs of diet coke and some food prepared in the cafeteria. 


The homes were decorated with Halloween symbols but the fields had gone to weeds.  The tribe imported electricity to their paradise and is now, apparently, solely dependant on tourist dollars. A resort is built and used by folks who must walk 200 yards from the helipad to spend the night in what is billed as luxurious comfort.  The guardians, stone figures which dominate the cliff  geology of this beautiful canyon, are depicted on a mural in the cafeteria which explains their significance to this small tribe of 500 or so people who live where no road and only biweekly helicopter service goes.   While in the cafeteria, we talked briefly with the tribal judge, who wed seen ride in on horseback.  She told us about 500 cases are filed in the court there each year, about one for every man woman and child.  She was of a different tribe, a custom she told us is common and protects against the appearance of impropriety, as any local judge would certainly be intimately acquainted with all the local litigants.


We preceded the additional two miles, past a waterfall or two, to the falls and campground.  This large falls forms a huge pool at the bottom.  When I had been there 35 years earlier, the large pool had been followed by hundreds of cascading pools formed naturally by the travertine in the water.  A flood had eliminated most of the pools but enough for a photo op had been rebuilt by a contractor which helicoptered in heavy equipment it needed.


On the way, we met a tribesman who was the pastor of the 25 member Christian Church which struggles to survive the disdain of tribe in general.  He was a wealth of information about the electrification of the community, the prejudice and hatred his flock endures and the corruption of the tribal council.


Soon after our arrival, shortly before dusk, my sun began complaining of a grievous injury to an extremely important part of his anatomy.  After some trepidation and reluctance, he allowed me to examine the member whereupon I noticed a dime-sized area of discoloration about a quarter on an inch from its end. Applying some antibacterial ointment to the injury, which looked like it might have been abrasive in origin, I thought the matter was closed.  However, one facet of our discussions in town had escaped me but been well remembered by my son.  That facet was the departure of a helicopter from Supai the next day at 2pm.  I awoke to the moans, whimpers, and subdued screams of manhood severely injured, importuning the necessity of emergency medical treatment.  A decision was made, the two miles walked, the heliocopter mounted and all the joy of seeing the beauty of Gods creation thwarted.  Apparently, in the air, a miraculous cure was had because no more complaints were heard.  To confirm my suspicions my diagnosis of malingering was appropriate, a trip to the emergency room was made.


Flattop 1


Our next trip was to a mountain we called flat top.  We allotted a whole day, from 6am on, for this 3000 foot climb.  Although the peak is less than 10 air miles from the house, it took about 3 hours to get there; we went before light across desert roads wed never traveled.  Id learned to read topo maps in Boy Scouts.  Later I took up sailing and was taught piloting and celestial navigation by the US Navy.  I took up flying and learned some more.  Our navigation, in the dark, to the unfamiliar parking destination was flawless. 


The peaks Im climbing have no trails; most have little evidence of humans ever having been there.  This peak was no different.  We worked 2 miles up a gully to a top of a small plateau taking pictures of the flowers and scat along the way.  We saw evidence of coyote, old, and mountain sheep, steaming.  Finally, about a mile away, we saw the herd of mountain sheep edging their way over a ridge.  Wed planned this as a day hike and, by noon, wed made half of our elevation gain.  The original route, selected carefully after studying the range from 10 miles away though binoculars and looking for hours at the topo maps, had rapidly been abandoned as being too punctuated by cliffs, and an alternate selected.  Across the plateau we found ourselves crossing large fingers of  basketball sized boulders in a large valley, most of which were loose. 


We hiked in heavy, La Sportiva Makilus, and were thankful for the support.  We wore light long sleeve shirts for protection from the desert sun which, even in November, evoked substantial perspiration.  We carried a gallon of water apiece, 24 pounds, and carried jackets for the cool of the evening on our return.  We had c cell flash lights, a compass, food for the day and light climbing gear.  All this, for three people, probably totaled 60 pounds.


Half the day gone and wed just made the 4 miles to the base of the mountain.  Suffice it to say the picture Id formed of how the terrain would look and how long it would take to traverse was seriously flawed.  At least one of the two routes Id thought would allow access to the top had panned out.  I was reminded of the passage in Fletchers The Man Who Walked Through Time to the effect that a 40 foot cliff can be impassable and not even apparent from the map because the contours are 40 feet intervals.  What had looked like a broad wash was really a steep gully strewn with boulders and sides which steepened as we climbed. 


We decided to scout the route wed finally selected to see if there was hope.  To the North, we were faced with 500 foot cliffs and to the South some rugged cliffs we could not surmount.  But, in front of us appeared a narrow, steep, boulder strewn ravine which disappeared behind the cliff to the North.  We entered the ravine and shortly noticed a cave on our right.  We clamored up; inside we found dripping water and some man made bins to catch it.  The abundance of mountain sheep scat indicated they watered here regularly and the pelvic and vertebral bones of a small one indicated the cats or coyote kept an eye on the place.  We determined the ravine was passable, and the path from there to the top looked doable.  We had lunch in the cave, enjoying the view of the valley below, the spectacular 500 foot cliffs across our narrow gully, and speculating whether the dripping water once quenched the thirst of Native Americans. 


Looking down from our perspective, we discerned a different route out and began.  Against the base of the cliff we noted a large collection of coyote scat, indicating where the coyote protected his back and surveyed the landscape for his dinner.  We dropped down into a ravine where cat claws grabbed and scraped us, traversed the boulder fields and found ourselves in the polka dot rocks. This was a large area of solid rounded rock the color of  Bits OHoney, with pink and black rock embedded in it flush with the surface as if it had been done by a mason.  A friend of mine who knows such things claimed the rock volcanic; I suppose it must have been.  From there, we had an easy walk down a firm gravel wash  to the road which we reached at dusk.  My son and hiking partner waited until I returned with the truck.  We drove out for three hours and went, stinky and happy, to the movies.


Hamilton D. Moore 2000



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