Damn good question. Twice we made the endless slog up over clumping-snow ridge to the mid-point shelter, then dragged our heavily laden carcasses along the plateau past the airstrip and down the icy, fall on your butt repeatedly and then haul your ass up along with the couple hundred pound pack on your back slope, and into the where-the-hell-is-Van Vleck’s meadow. Twice we awoke to more of the same, at least this time without packs, but a slog nevertheless, westward and upward toward the Crystal Ridge, of course failing to attain it because it was just too damn far and we lacked sufficient daylight let alone energy. Twice we laid awake on the eve of departure wondering how we were going to be able to find the will and the strength to haul all that shit back. But there was no choice so we did it. Twice indeed we asked ourselves, “why Van Vleck’s, why?”
They say that time heals, but it also deludes. Four years since the last Van Vleck’s slog it’s on the agenda yet again. I can’t freakin’ wait. Aldous Womakinnon is back for an encore as official party mule. Horsebadordies, super salesman that he is, will be there in his standard role to try seducing us into some infernal shortcut which will cause us unnecessary boundless torment. Modest Max will wear his vague smile while enduring all. We’ll push our way to the haven of the gas-heated, no electricity, shelter of bliss, to no doubt discover the toilet isn’t working once again. We’ll consume our anchovies, herb, and rum, toast our victory at attaining the goal, ruminate upon our upcoming adventures, get sauced a bit more and go out skiing under moonlight, and then collapse on the spartan, forest-service issue cots.
OK, I’m not falling for it. Memory intrudes. It will be hell. So why the hell Van Vleck’s, I ask one last stinking time? I’ll tell you my answer. Because it kicked my ass, that’s why. The first year I celebrated my birthday in the hotel the night before hitting the trail and I greeted it with a blast of puke. It was all downhill from there. I should say uphill. The snow was deep, my ancient wooden skis had lost their camber, I let Horse do a disproportionate share of the trail breaking I’m shamed to say. The second year was a little better, until my ancient boots had their farewell kiss of agony to inflict upon my weary feet. I was never to use them again.
This year I’m ready. This year I’ve been working out, climbing Peak Mtn two to three times a week while Horse has been bicycling up to the top of Mt. Diablo. Aldous doesn’t need to prepare. He’s a fucking stud. That’s why we roped him into this. Damn mule will never learn. We may even have the services of a brand new comrade, Reed the super nerd, electric guitar master, all around party specialist and renowned trail breaker. Oh what luxury, to have four of us taking turns plowing ahead! We’ll be able to spread the load more, build the manifest to include even more potentially puke-inducing victuals. We can’t fail to make this trip legendary in the annals. Or else, Van Vleck’s will find a way to kick our asses one more time and we’ll never in our right minds consider returning… until the next time.
God I hate that place. Bring it on.