This is the final Part IV of a four part story. (See Part I for Index). It is a story about relationships between and among teenagers. This includes intimate relationships between young males. If you don't approve or are offended, then how come you're reading this? Find a different story. Or perhaps read on; you may be persuaded to think differently.
If, for some legal reason, you are not allowed to read this in your area of the world because of illogical laws, again I will not condone (publicly) anyone breaking the law, so either move or read sentence six. I definitely don't want the thought police after either of our butts.
Please, this story is sort of my property, so if you ever want to quote some of it, please e-mail me and also give proper attribution.
Note that an author welcomes any feedback. Constructive criticism is appreciated, and all e-mails will be answered.
PLEASE NOTE: This story is finally coming to a conclusion. The entire story, including the last Chapter 104, plus the Epilogue, is now hosted at http://crackerwriter.us and at http://storylover.us . I hope you enjoy it.
Chapter 100b -- Life As It Was Meant To Be (part b)
That evening after dinner, Jade and I were lying in our sleeping bag, talking about the fabulous sights we'd seen on our travels around the highest elevations of the Spanish Peaks when I realized that Jade had fallen to sleep. The trip to the ridges on two sides of Beehive Peak and the trek up Gallatin Peak will be treasured memories forever. But I was still awake myself with my hands really hurting after a day holding an ice axe and using them a lot. Many of the scabs had broken open and I had on new bandages. And waiting for the three aspirin to take effect. I use the time to good effort recapping in my mind the entire first couple of weeks of our vacation.
I was thinking of that day before we left, and was thinking that Jade could still surprise me.
We had finally finished up our last finals and the tension had evaporated so totally I felt like singing. (Unfortunately Jade never feels like listening to my singing. He once said that I reminded him of Jerry Lee Lewis -- only an octave too high and off key. I disputed this claim to no avail). Of course since Jade wasn't here -- I started singing the treble tenor part of Mendelssohn's Wings of a Dove. The song got caught in a small rarely accessed lobe of my brain and seems quite lodged.
Unfortunately that high G-flat was REALLY flat! I found I could no longer hit the treble tenor high notes except in falsetto. I also decided to quell my enthusiasm when I heard a stomping on the floor above me.
Jade bought me the record of the Vienna Boys' Choir and it had that song on it. This was last April and he bought it for ME for HIS birthday! He is like that. He claimed that the gift for him was seeing how happy the gesture made me. And it sure worked. (That night for some reason I was totally at his mercy -- and he had NO mercy. Tim (math class Tim) asked me the next morning how come I was walking funny).
And then I noticed a note on Jade's desk in his distinctive block printing -- it still amazed me how he could print so neatly. It was the name and room number of that girl who did both boys and girls hair. And that was quite strange as I started thinking about it. Normally Jade would have casually mentioned if he were getting his hair cut. And to think further `about it,' why go to a girl who charges higher prices for `styling'? "What the heck did Jade have to `style'," I mused. And suddenly I had a premonition. Surprising as it was I was sure that Jade was going to do something radical. I wasn't sure what Jade had in mind but I was certain that I'd better be WELL prepared. Well prepared meaning NOT TO REACT BADLY to whatever he does with his hair! "Wow," I thought to myself, "this could have invited disaster." I was too prone to react and say something off the cuff which could hurt other people's feelings. And the LAST thing I wanted was `other people' to include Jade!
Twenty minutes later I was driving the back roads transporting several students to the airport. I was glad to help out. Quite a few of the students didn't have cars and it was only right that those of us who could afford them help out now and then. The three students were so hyped up talking among themselves about their Summer plans that I got into this thinking-about-things mood.
Jade always amazed me. All the time. Nothing much seemed to faze him. (Except when I try to get him into trouble). In fact it seemed the more pressure there was the more he smiled. It wasn't fair! This week of finals he was walking around as if we'd already started our vacation. I don't know how Jade does it, but he never seems overly apprehensive about anything. Now I was the `inventor' of apprehension. I wished I could be more like him. But no. I have to keep putting more and more pressure on myself to get not only all A's, but for some reason I also `had' to get `the highest grade.' And Damn! Xia, that girl who tried to ask me on a date earlier this year, I think was even smarter that Jerry Price. We both got 99% in DiffEQ, but I think I had to work a lot harder doing it. (OK so I admit it. I finally found a math course I had to work at).
I still remember the last problem of our mid-term.
"It started snowing one day at a heavy and steady rate. A snowplow started plowing a level road at noon. By 1 p. m. it had gone one mile. By 2 p.m. it had gone an additional ½ mile. When did it start snowing?"
At first I thought it was a joke. But it wasn't. I spent about 3 or 4 minutes just thinking about it. Then I realized that what was calculus all about? The ratio of changing rates. Then the bulb lit. But I still barely got the test done in the 2 hours allotted. And Xia was finished 30 minutes earlier.
And she's going to be in many of my upper division math courses. We both have Abstract Algebra next year. Arrrrgh! Ever have diametrically opposed desires? It was great to have her input when studying together, but on the other hand I keep putting all this pressure on myself to compete for the best grade. Jade thinks I`m nuts. (I think in this regard I am too -- but my ego is just too darn big)!
Well I've finally taken some of his advice and stopped competing so much. And I'm TRYING to not take things so seriously. I promise Jade I'm trying. Abstract Algebra was the first of the theory courses and I knew I`d have to `work at it.' I had challenged the Set Theory course for credit so I could to take Abstract Algebra a year early.
Yesterday when Jade and I were pre-registering for Fall Quarter I was smugly smiling thinking that I'd gotten a jump on Xia. I wouldn't have her in my class to compete against. That was until she came over to us just as we were leaving the small auditorium.
"Hi Xia, pre-registering too?"
"Yes. I've just come from my advisor in the math department. I am so pleased Rocco."
"Pleased?" I was starting to get a certain feeling in the brain lobe that deals with `conspiracies-directed-against-oneself' and other world-class disasters.
She replied: "I see that I will have you to study with again next year in Abstract Algebra." Unfortunately Xia said this so nicely and so totally without guile that I couldn't even be annoyed.
I was abruptly taken out of my reverie.
"Holy shit Rocco," I heard from behind me, "where you going?"
I realized that I was almost to the turn for Fairchild Air Force Base; I'd past our turn by a couple of miles. Oh well. We had plenty of time. As I drove back toward Cheney after dropping off the three students, I again started thinking about the past year and how Jade and I got through everything pretty well. There were only a few difficult times in an otherwise almost idyllic and successful school year.
Like the time Jade got that terrible flue bug that went through both the campus and even the whole country. They were calling it the Asian Flu, and it was pretty bad for Jade. (And for a lot of other people). I was sick for a couple days but never had it really bad. But Jade had a 103 fever for three days. He had such a bad time keeping any thing down in pure desperation -- HIS desperation -- I went to a drugstore and got some aspirin suppositories. But that turned out to be not much better.
It was also one of the extremely rare times I've ever seen Jade loose his temper concerning his lack of hands. The anguish and frustration that he normally keeps buried REALLY DEEP surfaced for several hours that terrible third day. It happened when he got so weak he needed help just going back and forth to the bathroom. For those three days he could keep nothing down more than a couple hours and every so often I had to rush him to the toilet for not just his vomiting but also because of his sudden bouts of diarrhea. That third day, when I'd gotten him back into bed for the third time that morning, after having cleaned his bottom, he started crying.
I was suddenly concerned. Jade just didn't cry over things like this!
Jade started moaning: "I hate it! I hate it!" Over and over. He was half delirious from the fever.
When I tried to ask what was the matter he wouldn't answer. I just climbed into bed with him and held him tight until he fell asleep again. I must have fallen asleep myself and when I awoke I realized that I was starting to ache a bit myself. I guessed it was my turn.
I felt Jade stirring and heard him saying something. "Hay White-boy, you're going to catch it too if you keep this up." I could hear the real concern in his voice.
"Too late `black-boy' I'm already getting the aches. You better get better fast so you can then take better care of me . . .until I'm all better."
I gave him some fruit juice to drink hoping this time it would all stay down. I'd spent the past three days only leaving the room to eat and get stuff for Jade. I only missed one day of classes though since Thursday's and Friday's classes had been cancelled. The bug had hit the entire campus pretty bad. Finally that night his fever broke and the next day he was even sitting up in bed. But boy did he need a shower!
"I hate to say it Jade but you stink!"
Whether to smile or be annoyed seemed to war inside him for a moment. But then I knew I had the normal Jade back when he smiled. "Well you're going to have to wash a lot of my parts."
I smiled back. There were a few parts that I was ALWAYS interested in. And I said so.
On a slightly more sober note he added: "And my hair is going to be difficult as long as it's gotten. See if that comb is on my desk." He was referring to a big comb he'd gotten a few months ago. And I also noted that his very sparse "beard" needing shaving. Actually Jade was almost as smooth as I was. His "beard" was mostly limited to his chin. I'd gotten him a Norelco for last Christmas since it didn't shave so close that he'd break out. I occasionally joked that his face was as tender as his butt. But depending on his `mood' that remark could so easily backfire. I still had not a whisker in sight. And even in one other important area my hair was pretty `wispy.' And both of us had totally smooth butts. (I examined his regularly).
In the shower Jade laughed for the first time in two days, as I had to literally hold him up against the wall. He was still pretty weak. It was the specific body part that I used in the `holding' that had us both laughing.
I changed all the sheets and did laundry as Jade sat at his desk eating some soup, wearing his hooks for the first time in three days. His fever was just 99 that morning. I HAD started getting really worried. I was determined to get him to a doctor if his fever had gotten any worse. When I got back with the clean clothes and sheets, Jade had this serious look on his face.
"I'm sorry White-boy for losing it yesterday."
I immediately knew what he was talking about and was pretty sure exactly what had happened. I tried to make it all into `no big deal.'
"Look Jade. Let me be as sick as you were for three days and I'd be just as sick and tired of being so sick and tired too."
"Not this time Rocco."
Now I new Jade was being quite serious. The way he said my name. And I knew what he meant too. He needed to talk about this.
"OK Jade. But I know what you are going to say anyway. So maybe you can consider it said and then forget about it."
I was starting to cry now myself since I knew how terrible those moments must have been for Jade. And it was Jade who now came over and hugged me tight holding me in front of him the way he knew I liked so much, with my back against his chest.
"I got so frustrated!" Jade started talking. "For three days I couldn't even wipe my own butt!"
I replied: "And it sure stunk too." I tried to make it a joke.
Jade even laughed a bit. Then he got serious again. "I suddenly hated so much not having my hands. You'd think by now I'd be so used to it. You had to . . ." Jade stopped mid-sentence.
But of course I understood quite well. But I was thinking full tilt trying to figure how best to respond. Then I realized that I didn't have to reply. We both understood completely. I just leaned back further into his body and Jade held me tighter.
And then Jade explained about how he had been feeling. He just needed me to listen. For once I knew to keep my mouth shut. And also realize that some things DID faze Jade. But he mostly kept his `bad things' buried pretty deep. But I suspected it was good to `unearth' some of them on occasions like this. So we could `share' them.
Eventually I wiped my eyes (on Jade's shirt) and was able to change the direction of our conversation. "Remember, Jade, that time when you first talked me into wiping your butt and your Mama caught us in the act? Your Mama laughed. And after we both died from embarrassment, we laughed too."
That got Jade and I reminiscing. We had quite a talk about past, and then present and future.
"Remember White-boy when you used the `nigger' word that time you met Teague? I was trying to figure if I should call an ambulance right then and there. And then he laughed."
"Well, I don't remember that event at all."
We both suddenly burst out laughing. Jade occasionally commented on my `convenient memory.'
"And it's amazing. Who would ever have thought four or five years ago that it'd be me and Teague -- of all the gang -- who would be in college right now."
"Know how he's doing?"
"He's like an entirely different person. All his amazing drive is being directed towards school. Joey said that he's even pushing some of the other high school kids to think about college. And he even got some playing time in a few of the varsity games." Teague was going to Drexel on a basketball scholarship.
Eventually our meandering thoughts got back to much more personal things. Toward the end of our heart-to-heart Jade and I agreed that we were among the most fortunate people alive.
And we haven't mentioned his being so sick since. I got sick for a couple days too but nowhere near as bad. I only heaved once. Jade took care of me for those two days -- he insisted even though I suspected he still felt almost as bad as I did.
I loved him so much for that.
To celebrate being alive, the next Saturday we accompanied Mike and Pat on a drive to Lake Coeur d'Alene. The day was beautiful and the temperature was supposed to get into the high 40s. The setting was beautiful but we couldn't drive around the lake much because the snow was too deep. People there said they were getting one of their snowiest winters on record. We then drove over Fourth of July Pass and eventually got to a small town taking up all the available space in the narrow mountain valley leading up to Lookout Pass, and the border with Montana. The town was called Mullen. It was an old mining town and some of the buildings were quite old. The silver mine nearby though was still going strong. We ate an early dinner at a greasy spoon and just as we were starting to head back I almost whip-lashed myself as I did a double take looking back at one of the big porches around this big stone house.
"Holy smoke Jade, look at that!"
But we had already gone too far down the street. I was finally able to talk Mike into turning around for a second look. There on the porch were three ladies in what looked like fancy lingerie. Not a coat or anything else in sight! It turned out that it was a brothel! And right out in the open!
On the way out-of-town Pat decided that he was going to practice being a comedian.
"Hay Rocco, I guess you need an explanation. Those women back there are called prostitutes. It has to do with normal sex stuff. Now let me explain. . . ."
He got no further. Mike said something and I was pretty sure Pat was also rubbing a "hook bruise."
I was thinking again how fortunate that Jade and I had each other. And I was feeling so grateful that at least these two guys were so at ease around us that they could joke like that.
A car horn tooted behind me. The light was green. As I went through the intersection I realized I had a few tears thinking how much I loved Jade. I stopped at the bank to pick up some traveler's checks for our trip. We decided to bring several hundred more than we thought we`d need for possible emergencies. And we sure didn't want to end our vacation too soon just because we ran out of money.
When I got back to campus I loaded the car getting ready for our trip. Jade still wasn't back. "What the heck could take so long?" I wondered. We had to leave for our big dinner in Medical Lake pretty soon. Then I saw his note to pick him up at Cecil Hall.
And it was a VERY good thing I was ready for what I suspected Jade was going to do something `different' with his hair. But holy smoke! This redefined the word `different.' I was almost in shock so I used control I never knew I possessed and said nothing. Until I could figure out just what to say. I concentrated instead on the ring I saw Jade wearing. He was telling me that he was OK with telling Xia about us. And except for perfectly mediocre food the evening went well. Xia reacted as I expected. She was fine with knowing about Jade and I. Except she had to then kiss me. That shocked me almost as much as Jade's hair.
And I also realized that I actually LIKED Jade's new hair. But I got into one of my contrary moods and made him sweat it out some before he finally cornered me and made me comment.
A week and a half later we were camping among the giant trees that populated Ross Creek Giant Cedar Area. Our attempted trip to Glacier Park had been largely a bust. Because of all the snow the middle portion of the Going To The Sun Highway was still closed. So we saw what we could and then headed south, backtracking all the way to northern Idaho where we stayed in small-town called Yaak. We drove around the mountains there but again most of the access roads to the trailheads were not open yet. We finally wended our way back to the Cabinet Mountains southwest of Glacier.
Jade made fun of me when he took the big Hitchcock plant key and walked up to one of the big trees. After a few seconds of `concentration' he announced: "This is a cedar tree."
"Funny. And OK if you're so smart, which type, red cedar or yellow?"
Jade put the book up to his forehead and pretended to go into a trance. "Thuja plicata, Red Cedar."
Ouch. He had even memorized its taxonomic name. I did the first thing that occurred to me in retaliation. I stuck my tongue out at him. That led to other things. And that in turn led to other REALLY NICE things.
The cedars were huge and we quite enjoyed our day hiking all through them. We got quite excited that afternoon when we saw this totally huge woodpecker. When we got back to camp we looked it up in our Peterson's Guide and discovered we'd seen a Pileated Woodpecker. I decided right then to try to have the guides with me wherever we went.
The next day, after an incident with an old wooden bridge which I KNEW Jade was going to rib me about forever if I didn't do something drastic, we started out on a small hike to the top of Scotchman's Peak.
OK, if you must know about the bridge, here is a synopsis. I drove across a rickety bridge since I thought why walk when you could just as easily drive. Unfortunately the bridge had a lot more "rickety-ness" than I first realized. When I also realized that I had to re-cross the bridge in spite of hearing one of its planks snap on the first pass, I decided to do it before I thought about it too much. So I put my brain on hold, turned the car as fast as I could, and floored it. And cringed as the car swayed onto the now swaying bridge. A whole lot of `tire-on-board' noises and a couple of spectacularly loud `board-snapping' noises later and I started breathing again. But I was sure not going to let Jade know just how scared I really was. I smiled as I saw him gripping his seat with his hooks.
A short time later we discovered a real live-in-the-flesh beaver. I was quite taken by it as I watched it apparently adding to a dam that he had build across the small stream. The water behind had backed up into quite a large pond. I couldn't believe how huge it was -- the beaver, not the pond. And those teeth! And I laughed as it slapped its large tail when it submerged getting Jade's pants wet.
What happened next I will let any jury in the land judge me for. ANYONE would have laughed. There were maybe 20 mosquitoes in the entire valley and Jade took out a type of hat he simply NEVER wore and which looked pretty stupid with all those rows of hair and beads dangling below and this small mosquito net. The entire thing was 100% overkill and looked totally absurd. ANYONE would have laughed. And the more he tried to justify the whole thing the funnier it got. And when I got this image of him being attacked with all those mosquitoes and him trying to slap at them with his hooks -- well I guess I went just a tiny bit too far.
I have to admit that later, when I was trying to wring out my wet clothing as well as I could under the circumstances, that well, I probably went a smidge too far with my remark about Jade slapping at mosquitoes and then needing to fix up the hook injuries. But the image was just too funny. And then of course Jade decided that revenge was necessary and I took a VERY cold bath in the stream.
We were both being quite wild by the time we got back to our hike. And I was FINALLY able to get a plant keyed out using that Hitchcock plant key. It was quite a steep learning curve. But finally, success! Jade thought I was being too smug about it. And I probably was.
Jade stirred beside me in our sleeping bag and my thoughts jumped several days ahead to our aborted attempt to climb Snowshoe Mountain in the Cabinet Mountains. I will forever regret that moment of thoughtlessness as I stepped out onto that snow. We were so lucky that nothing serious happened.
As I started to slide down the couloir I immediately lost almost all control. I tried to dig in my hands behind me to stop but it barely slowed me down. I was so certain that I was REALLY in trouble this time! At the end of this couloir were a mass of giant boulders -- HARD boulders -- each one more unforgiving than the other. And I suddenly realized that I'd finally done that one thing that Jade kept trying to stop me from doing. That something which would finally end in disaster. As I slid down the chute of snow I kept thinking: "I'm sorry Jade. I'm sorry." That phrase kept blocking out all other rational thought. I could only think about what I was going to do to Jade: "Please forgive me Jade. I'm so sorry!"
Finally, right before contact with a world totally filled with angry boulders something happened. I suddenly got very calm. Like all emotion stopped. It almost felt like anger -- but anger without emotion if this was possible. It came to me with perfect clarity. "I WAS NOT GOING TO ALLOW MYSELF TO GET HURT! I HAD TO SAVE MYSELF FOR JADE."
In almost slow motion I could see the first of the boulders coming toward me. I was ready. I positioned my feet and legs to hit it square on. I was going too fast but I slowed appreciably as my legs took quite a jolt. Then I started flipping forward. But I realized I was not flipping fast enough. I deliberately pulled in my arms and legs to spin faster. At the last second I extended my hands to take the next contact. My hands and arms took quite a scraping but I never actually felt any pain. I was too focused on what I had to do. To keep from hitting my head. My body kept spinning and my feet were again aimed downward, but not quite far enough. Fortunately I was now going pretty slowly. I hit feet first but then dropped down and slid partly sideways the last few feet on my hip and at the last moment clobbered my knee on just a little boulder.
I finally came to a stop. And started shaking all over.
"Damn it Rocco, not now! You avoided disaster! Don`t come unglued now!" I wasn't sure if I thought that aloud or not.
With brute mental force I stopped myself from `coming unglued.' But I was so shaken I was having trouble standing as I was at the same time mentally `checking myself out.' I was pretty amazed that all I felt were a few sore spots like on my right hip and knee. But I HAD to let Jade know I was OK. Trembling I forced myself to stand. I waved to him.
"I'm OK! I'm OK!"
That was when I discovered the tears on my palms and forearms. I was trying to figure out how to hide them from Jade. And then thoughts started `blitzkrieging' through my mind.
I don't know why but it seemed so important to find my sunglasses which I now remembered slid down ahead of me. Then the next thing I knew Jade was trying to do what the rocks failed to do -- crush me to death. We were both getting quite emotional. Eventually the Streets arrived and after I was unsuccessful in convincing them that we should continue with the climb we finally returned to camp, got our packs and then headed out. I finally realized that I was still not 100% thinking right.
The next several hours did not quite seem real with my thoughts bouncing all over the place. Happy because I was relatively unhurt. Happy because Jade wouldn't be visiting me in a hospital -- or worse. I was most happy for Jade. But I could tell Jade was definitely unhappy about something, but for once I could not read him. By the time we got back to the cars, my knee was throbbing pretty good, but otherwise I felt much better than I had any right to feel. Dr. Street insisted he check me over one last time. My worst pain was not physical. I had caused us to miss out on the main part of the climb. I felt wretched. I kept trying to apologize.
Jade and Mrs. Street had been talking but I wasn't paying much attention until I suddenly glommed on to her question: "You're really in love with him aren't you?"
Dr. Street looked up also at this. His wife looked over at her husband and said: "Garry, it's been there for anyone to see. Jade and Rocco are much more than just good friends."
Both Dr. Street and I were quite startled when Jade answered with a few tears: "I love him more than my own life."
Dr. Street's entire demeanor changed abruptly. His expression turned sour with disgust, while his wife was actually smiling. I think both of us wanted to get away from the situation as fast as possible, but of course for different reasons. I tried to totally just focus on what Jade had just said.
A few days later I was pretty well on the way to being healed. It was now my hands which still caused the most trouble, but Jade convinced me -- in both word and deed, to just enjoy our vacation and put the incident behind us. His deeds in bed those two nights were especially convincing. We stayed in a motel in Missoula where we also rested up. I loved Jade's thoughtfulness. He even bought some soothing bath salts. The water soothed my body and Jade soothed my soul.
We spent the next several days hiking, and climbing to the top of the world in the Spanish Peaks southwest of Bozeman. What incredible scenery! Every time I glimpsed another mountain, I wanted to get on top.
Shortly after we got camp set up that first day I went to the lake to get water for cooking and there was this monster fish just looking at me. After unsuccessfully trying to capture it, Jade had to get me out of my pants because I suddenly discovered I was freezing. Later that evening, after an unsatisfying spaghetti dinner, we were in the tent just talking. It was times like this when we had gotten into the habit of saying what "needed" to be said. We always thought of it sour "real communication" time.
"White-boy, sometimes you can be entirely exasperating."
"Yes officer." I was pretending Jade was still the cop who had arrested me that evening. "And before you even ask about it the answer is yes. But only for a few seconds. Before all of my brain engaged." I was talking about the few moments that I was quite angry at him for laughing when the fish got away. He hadn`t even tried to help.
Jade replied: "I have to admit that for a few seconds I was even hurt. I can't remember the last time you've been angry at me. It's been that long. So it shocked me for a moment."
"Well, that's your fault!" I got Jade looking into my eyes at that remark. I smiled. "If you weren't so nearly perfect you wouldn't have been so out of practice seeing me angry." I kissed Jade and he kissed me back with quite some passion.
There were a lot of two or three word sentences that followed but we both very soon forgot about the whole incident except for Jade still being in "cop" mode. He still had me under arrest and proceeded to "punish" me. I sure liked being punished.
For our hike the next day -- that was earlier today -- we only took what we needed for the day and decided to hike up toward Summit Lake to the south. The main trail was supposed to go over the divide that looked into Bear Basin but I was able to talk Jade into climbing up the snow filled valley to our right and get a look into Beehive Basin instead. The actual trail had become totally impossible to find anyway with all the snow on the north facing slopes. We had our ice axes just in case but the travel was pretty easy. Just keep going up! And besides I was going to try and talk Jade into climbing Beehive Peak. The entire area was so amazing that we were constantly stopping to take in the view. Jade started complaining about the constant "up" and invented a couple more of his `Laws of the Uphill Trail Gods."
As we were sitting on a couple rocks and looking down into Beehive Basin I broke out what I was calling an "give me energy bar." A Three Musketeer Bar.
"Hay White-boy. Any water left?" We only brought one canteen since we only needed a cup when we were down lower. There were all kinds of little streamlets flowing down the rocks and each seemed to taste better than the last.
"Here." Then I sort of sighed as I looked over at Beehive Peak. From this direction, the climb to the top seemed quite precarious. Especially since I "promised" Jade I would not fall off or down any more mountains. Jade read my mind.
"Absolutely not. Maybe from another angle but not this way."
Another hour of contouring around to the north and then west to see into the Spanish Lakes Basin had Jade complaining that the flat sides of all the boulders were "always" facing the wrong direction. He also invented his third law of the Uphill Trail Gods. I thought he was quite inventive.
"Hooolllly smoke, White-boy!" Jade exclaimed as he caught up to me as I was gazing down into Beehive Lake and the basin beyond. Beehive Lake was still iced over and barely recognizable. The scene was impossible to put into words.
We ate lunch there and made plans for the afternoon. Jade finally "convinced" me to back track to the east and see if Gallatin Peak would be any easier to climb. Going down was so much simpler. And then easily crossed the snow filled slope and quickly got back onto the trail that went to Summit Lake. When snow wasn't obscuring it that is. Summit Lake was almost entirely frozen over. There was water only at one edge. There we finished off there remainder of our food and looked up at Gallatin Peak. This time the climb was relatively simple. No cliffs, no drop-offs making Jade paranoid if I got too close to, just a simple slog upwards. But from the top the peak the view of the world made you totally forget about the effort to get there. Thompson Lake was below us to the north along with Beacon Point. To the south in the distance stood Lone Mountain. Blaze Mountain was directly west and Beehive to the west southwest. We stayed there for at least an hour soaking up the view.
"OK White-boy, the sun sets in just a couple hours and I do NOT want to be hiking in the dark."
And it was getting cooler with the wind finally picking up. It had been glorious day but I finally had to give in.
"Jade, wouldn't it be wonderful to see a sunset from up here?"
Jade for just a second thought I wanted to do just that. "For a second there White-boy I thought I was going to have to push you down the mountain myself."
The trip back was actually pretty easy. In fact we were able to get the hang of glissading and we got back to Summit Lake in short order even if we went a bit to the north and had to climb back up a short pace. We got back to camp with enough light to fix a hot dinner. This day will be etched into my memory forever. And sharing it with Jade made it infinitely better.>
The next morning we slept in. It was after 10 o'clock when we finally stirred and it was mostly due to all the noise we heard outside our tent.
"Holy smoke Rocco, horses!" Jade had just returned from "finding a tree." Or up here it was a bush.
There were six horses picketed to a simple poll and three guys were taking supplies off their three pack horses. One thing I noticed right away was a huge two handled saw. It turned out that this was a trail crew fixing up the trails. They were from the Gallatin Ranger Station. After they got used to Jade's hooks (and maybe his being black), they got pretty friendly. Two were students from MSU in Bozeman and the older guy was a regular ranger. They said they worked ten days at a time and then had four days off. I was certainly happy that Jade and I did not have to work this summer.
(When Jade said he too was a college student and we didn`t have to work I was pretty sure one of the guys started taking an instant disliking toward Jade. I wanted to leave then as soon as we could).
We finally got back to the car late that day and drove about a mile south and rented a small cabin for the night. This time for dinner we used our cook stove and cooked up a couple steaks we bought from the tiny store right there. They were quite expensive -- over two dollars each -- but we decided to splurge. We also fed a couple fat Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels who got bold enough to come right up onto the picnic table. (Jade even went to the store and bought some nuts; he said it would be better for them then the bread we had). The cabin was right on the swollen Gallatin River and the noise sort of lolled us to sleep that night.
The next morning we were off for the Beartooth Mountains just northeast of Yellowstone Park. Looking over a lot of maps and through the picture book we had, we figured that was where some of the best alpine scenery was located. We drove to Bozeman, over Bozeman Pass to Livingston, and then on to Laurel, Montana where we turned south. We took this longer round about route so that we could see the mountains in Summer which we had passed while on the train the previous Winter.
The entire area around Laurel stunk pretty badly. First there were all the feedlots before Laurel and then the oil refinery in the town itself.
A short ways past Laurel both Jade and I got excited as we approached the snow covered Beartooth Mountains. We ate lunch in the small town of Red Lodge and then begun to travel a road which both Jade and I believed had to be about the most scenic mountain road in the entire country. It began with a series of long switchbacks that climbed ever upwards. We felt like we were climbing into the sky. Near the top we kept stopping at all the pull-outs. The mountain scenery was breathtaking.
Eventually we crossed over two passes both over 10,000 feet. After using up the entire rest of the day traveling just 20 miles through some of the most beautiful alpine scenery in the world we stopped at Island Lake Campground and pitched our tent. After dinner we walked down to the lake and watched the sunset. The snow capped mountains in the distance glowed first orange and then pink as the sun was reflected off the thin wavy high clouds. We thought the light show quite fitting. It was the Forth of July.
And then I realized that I had forgotten to send my youngest sister a birthday card.
It got quite cold that night as the clouds cleared. There was even some new ice on the lake that morning as we set out on a day hike to the top of a peak about 5 miles away. It was called Lonesome Mountain (at 11399 feet) which aptly described its setting. It stuck up mostly by itself, its sides somewhat rounded and smoothed off by glaciers. I had a small thermometer with me and declared that it was 26 degrees as we were starting out. The air was cold and crystal clear. Not even the slightest haze. The hike was pretty tame until the actual climb up the mountain. It was mostly "lake hopping" with a gradual elevation gain. From Island Lake to Night Lake, then along a long skinny lake that didn't have any name on our map, to Becker Lake, and finally Albino Lake. It was not very strenuous since Albino Lake was at about 10,000 feet, and we were already starting out at about 9,600. From there to the top of Lonesome was the only dedicated climb.
When we left that morning we had on our heaviest shirts, sweaters, and coats. When we got back we were carrying it all. At four o'clock that afternoon when we got back, it was then an unbelievable 96 degrees! With the exceptionally dry air that day there was a 70 degree change in less than 8 hours!
And from the top of Lonesome Mountain the view was truly awesome. We could see everything so clearly as there was absolutely no haze in the air. Jade and I were going crazy with our maps trying to identify all the ranges of mountains we could make out in the far distance. Fortunately the air was quite still and we could lay out the maps without any trouble. The Grand Teton stuck up way in the distance to the south. We thought we could make out just which mountain was Granite Peak, the highest not just in the Absarokas but in Montana as well.
After all the excitement of figuring out all the various ranges, Jade and I ate our lunch and then just sat down leaning up against a boulder and quietly took pleasure in our lonesome (but not lonely) watch on the very top of Lonesome Mountain. Our closest neighbor was probably a few hikers we parted from at Albino Lake as we began our climb up the mountainside. There was no trail but the way was quite easy and obvious.
I leaned back against Jade`s chest and remarked: "Jade, to quote a great philosopher: `this is life as it was meant to be'." Jade responded without words. As I was partly leaning back on him he turned me toward himself and gave me a gentle kiss. I reached around and pulled him tight.
We were both now quite caught up in our soaring emotions. Jade then suggested: "White-boy, this would be a perfect time to renew our marriage vows." I agreed. And we did. I was so emotional my voice was climbing as I spoke. By the end of it I was dripping tears. In a high cracked voice I said: "Jade, I love you with my entire being. You said last week that you loved me more than your own life. Well Jade, you ARE my life."
And we kissed again a bit more passionately.
And were quite startled to hear another voice: "That has got to be the sweetest thing I've witnessed in years."
We turned in shock. Not fifteen feet away was a woman of somewhat indeterminate age. She was alone. We quickly stood and I could see the woman's eyes widen.
Looking directly at me she exclaimed: "My god, you're a boy!"
My first reaction was to panic. But Jade held on to me tightly and answered: "Thank you for your sentiments. My name is Jade and this is my life partner, Rocco."
Jade's words and strong hold on me took away all my fear. I was always so fearful of Jade and I being `discovered' it took a few moments for me to realize that at worst we just had a scandalized woman confronting us.
But the woman then just smiled. And replied after a few moments of her own mental 'adjustings.' "Well, my name is Constance and I am very glad to meet you both." And she looked around and added: "And this is quite a marvelous place to meet anyone!"
Eventually we engaged in the usual camaraderie hikers engage in when meeting in a beautiful setting. And Jade and I eventually started pointing out to her all the mountain ranges we could see.
The lady joined us in our enthusiastic review. She eventually picked up one of our maps and said: "I think if you two would examine this map more closely I am sure you would come to the conclusion that the range in the very distance there is the Tobacco Roots. And those over there are still the Bridgers, the Crazy Mountains beyond can not actually be seen from here."
Then she went on to talk about how some of the names came to be put on these mountains. It was quite interesting.
"Where the name Tobacco Root came from people have different opinions. Some people say it comes from the drying of mullein which grows there and mixing it with kinnikinic (bearberry) to replace tobacco. Others clam that tobacco root was a variety of the bitterroot Montana's state flower. The Shoshone cooked the root and ate it, and it supposedly smelled like tobacco. Now the Crazy Mountains got their name way back in the fur trapper days. It is said that a woman got lost there and went quite berserk. That the original name was Crazy Woman Mountains. Now the name Absaroka comes from an Indian word meaning the Crow Indians, the name they called themselves in the Hidatsa language. The Grand Tetons, however, acquired a name first given by French fur trappers who visited the area of south central Idaho. They called the three large volcanic cones they saw in the distance sticking up above the Snake River Valley floor, the Grand Tetons, or the Trois Tetons. The name was later incorrectly transferred to where they are today. Trois Tetons, of course, means the Three Tits."
This strange lady said this last without the slightest embarrassment. Jade and I walked all the way back to the trailhead with this enigmatic lady. A lady who seemed quite at ease with `two boys in love.' A phrase she used herself. We were soon to learn that Constance had been climbing to the top of this peak on or near the Forth of July for almost thirty years.
By the time we ended our hike together, she had made a number of suggestions just where we might wish to hike to and other things of interest.
"If you two get a chance please visit me. I work in the Top of the World Store just down the road from here. I've been coming here every Summer for longer than you've been alive. It's been a pleasure meeting you both."
With that she left. Without saying very much about herself at all. "Jade, it's very possible that the heat this afternoon had caused some hallucinations. Did we really just meet a quite strange woman who seemed perfectly OK with two boy's kissing?"
"Yes Rocco, as a great philosopher once said: `This is life as it was meant to be'."
We both laughed. And sweated. As we made it back to our campsite.
Because of a suggestion by Constance -- whose last name we never did get -- we decided to make a several day hike into Grasshopper Glacier, past Wolf Lake, over to the Upper and Lower Arrow Lakes, and then to Rough Lake and finally into the Skytop Lakes at the very base of Granite Peak, the highest mountain in the Beartooths and also in Montana at 12,799 feet.
On the way to the Skytop Lakes we had left the trail just south of Grasshopper Glacier -- where we failed to find even a single grasshopper though the glacier was quite spectacular -- and to make a sort of shortcut over the ridge to Upper Arrow Lake. It was all open country above the tree line and virtually impossible to get lost with the topo maps we had picked up in Missoula.
Grasshopper Glacier with Mt Villard's spires in back
I was intent on climbing to the top of a small peak above Upper Arrow Lake while Jade decided he did not want to do all that climbing. Especially with our backpacks. Before we parted for a couple hours we decided to meet back at Upper Arrow Lake. Looking at the map we decided it was quite impossible to get lost no matter which way we went.
On my way up the mountain I suddenly felt so alone without Jade and almost turned around. But finally thought it a bit pathetic if we could not allow ourselves to be parted for just a couple of hours.
The top of the ridge was simple to climb. Just a steady walk upwards. It was all open terrain with barely a bush in sight. As I reached the top I could not only see the lake below but even the dot that was Jade as he made his way toward it.
A sudden cloud came up so fast I was quite stunned. Especially when the hail and sleet begun. I pulled out my poncho and looked around for shelter. Of course there was none. But I decided to drop down from the top of the peak just in case there was any lightening. Just as fast as it came, the storm left. I started dropping down and because of an intermediate rise lost sight of both Jade and the lake below. And this side of the ridge was quite a bit steeper. I eventually started sliding down a scree slope as it was an easy way to descend. Soon I decided I'd better sit down to try and slow myself a bit. Toward the bottom of the scree there was just a very small drop of about three feet. Concentrating on the ground immediately in front of me, when I came to the drop I instinctively extended my arms for balance just as I came to a stop.
And holy smoke! My right hand was suddenly grasping something FURRY! In near shock I pulled away my right hand at the same time looked in the same direction. I had actually grabbed a hold of a small yearling goat by the hind leg! Right next to the small goat was a quite cute baby goat which was looking right at me. But there was also big momma goat who was definitely not pleased. She made a very rude noise and immediately leaped away with the other two following. By the time I'd gotten over my surprise they had rounded beyond a small rise and were out of sight. I quickly stood and started running after them as fast as possible even with my backpack, but I never saw them again. About 20 minutes later I made my way to where I again had a view of Upper Arrow Lake. Jade was already there and setting up camp in one of the now uncommon grassy areas.
As we greeted each other we both exclaimed: "Wow, do I have a story to tell you!" (Or similar words). I let Jade go first.
"Rocco, you will not believe this but I swear it's true. I was almost run over by three goats!"
He described watching as the noise alerted him to three goats running full tilt down the mountainside.
"And damn Rocco, you'd never believe how fast they can go. There even was this baby one that was going just as fast."
Jade continued: "Well, they just kept coming closer and closer and I finally realized that they plain didn't see me or didn't care. I had to dive out of the way to not get run over! Honest. I'm not exaggerating!"
"I believe you." I said.
Jade added: "The only thing I can think is that maybe something like a bear must have really spooked them. Are there any bears in this area?"
I started laughing. "Only if they walk on two feet and slide down scree slopes."
"What the heck are you talking about?"
I told him. We had a good laugh.
"Damn it White-boy. Wait `til I start telling people how you single handedly caught a wild goat."
We had a good laugh, and then a good dinner, and then a quiet watch as the sun dropped below the horizon. The next morning we set off down along a small stream toward Lower Arrow Lake. The terrain became steeper and we soon found ourselves walking through a miniature canyon. We then came out into a beautiful open valley and started walking upstream. The Skytop Lakes were a series of small lakes sitting on barren rock. The area had been scoured by glaciers thousands of years earlier. It was quite breathtaking. Immediately to the West was Mount Villard with its dramatic finger spires and Mount Tempest at the edge of Froze to Death Plateau to the East. But looking almost like pictures of the Matterhorn stuck up Granite Peak to the North standing more than a couple thousand feet above us at the end of the valley.
Granite Peak -- Highest Peak in Montana
The next day we took a short cut back avoiding both the Lower Arrow Lake and Wolf Lake, and traversing the middle heights well above Upper Arrow Lake.
A day after that we pulled into the Top of the World Store where we again met up with Constance. She filled our car with gas, and we followed her into the small store. I bought a few things we were out of at exorbitant prices. Jade snickered as I bought another six pack of Mountain Dew.
"Absolute necessities only we said right?"
"Right," I answered as I kept a firm hold of the six pack.
While talking about our trip and our somewhat vague plans, Constance mentioned that just a few hundred yards away was a place where some people had been finding trilobite fossils. After explaining just what they were we decided to go `trilobite hunting.' OK, I decided to go and I pulled Jade with me. We parked just up the road and crossed Little Bear Creek. The area was quite open with no trees until you reached the hillside about 60 yards away. And just where another tiny creek was trickling down the hillside was an area of bare shale rock where we could see someone had been digging. So we started digging ourselves. Well I started digging with one of our ice axes while Jade sat smirking.
I kept taking very small sections of rock out of the hillside and looking through them layer by layer. After about a half hour of fruitless labor, not seeing even a hint of a fossil, and more importantly seeing how bored Jade was getting I stood up and wiped off my now quite muddy pants.
"All right, let's move on." I said starting to pick up some of our things.
Jade replied: "But you didn't find anything yet."
"Do I have to?" I guess I said this showing some irritation.
"No." Jade answered. And then said: "And how come this almost sounds like we're having an argument?"
And I thought for a moment without answering immediately. And then said: "Because we seem to be having a disagreement. I know you're somewhat bored. So I'd rather accommodate your wishes. That's more important to me than finding any trilobite."
"OK then." That's all Jade said but then surprised me by sitting back down. He scooted to where there was a small dry spot to sit and started digging into the soft greenish gray shale layers with his left hook. "Well? I'm not going to do ALL the work." With that he cleared away all the crumbling rock and then dug his hook between the layers of the soft shale, and sort of twisted his arm. About five inches of layered shale almost 4 inches deep came loose from the hillside. I grabbed the clump of rock and started peeling away layer after layer. No luck. But about 30 minutes and six clumps later I yelled.
"Jade, look!" I was quite excited.
I wasn`t sure what I was saying; just say I was excited as I showed the small specimen to Jade. It was maybe 5/8th inch long.
"Well. Your first trilobite fossil."
"OUR first trilobite!" You'd have thought one of us had given birth I was so excited. The rock was so soft, we wrapped it in the paper towels we brought with us with our lunch. About ten minutes later we found a second one. A bit larger.
"Well White-boy. You've even got me interested. Now all we need to do is find out what type of trilobite these things are."
I hoped we could look it up when we got back to the college. It was in a Middle Cambrian formation but I couldn`t remember the name of the shale layer Constance had told us. But I know I have it written down somewhere.
As we were getting ready to leave, Jade reached up and started pushing on a harder sheet of rock sticking out of the bank. I looked up and commented that it looked like a layer of limestone. Quite a lot harder. Jade loosened it and I reached up and pulled a slab out about a foot square and maybe a quarter inch thick. It slipped and I dropped it into the little stream.
Jade picked it up and tossed it onto the grassy bank on the other side.
"Wow." I head as I reached for my small day pack. I turned and looked. Jade had turned the rock over and besides seeing a few disjointed parts of fossils, right near the back edge was a beautifully raised relief form in the sparkling rock. It was not only a trilobite fossil about 2 inches across, but amazingly detailed in relief, its color subtly brownish contrasting with the very dark grey of the rock. And it glistened. It was quite beautiful.
We looked at each other and we both smiled. Jade then picked the slab up to examine it closer. "See. Aren't you glad I made you stay?"
I resisted clobbering him. Just barely. We walked back to our car carrying our prized possession. Before we left the area we had to go back to the store and showed Constance. She pulled out a book and showed us a picture: Glyphaspis capella.
"It's quite rare to find a complete fossil in the upper limestone layers. Congratulations."
We left quite happy.
On the way to Cook City we first stopped at the pull off at Crazy Creek Campground. Constance said we had to at least make that one stop. After a walk of barely 200 feet we got to a view of an amazing torrent of water running down several huge channels in a magnificent cascade. Just 200 feet away you would have never suspected its existence. And with the snow melt being way above average this year it was awesome. Jade and I spent a full hour traversing its entire length much of which was out of sight from the first vantage point.
We drove through Cooke City (barely a village), Silver Gate (quite a pretty setting), into Yellowstone Park, and eventually made our way to Mammoth Hot Springs. One special place where we had to stop was in front of this huge mountain which had all kinds of small water falls coming down all over it. The biggest ones formed a `Y' as two streams met in the middle. On the map of the park which we got at the entrance gate it was shown as Barronette Peak, over 10,000 feet high. Jade disappeared for a few minutes while I was trying to find that old guide book we found in a shop in Missoula. I was also getting out things for lunch when Jade came running back.
"Reading my mind again White-boy?" He was looking at the food I was getting out.
I smiled. And then I was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion as I saw Jade standing there framed by the waterfall mountain behind him. I started crying as all kinds of thoughts about my hopes for the future seemed to collide in my brain. I realized that the future was now. Both Jade and I were in college with all money problems taken care of. I was in a place that I always dreamed about seeing. And there in front of me was my reason for living.
Jade looked at me with concern. "Holy smoke White-boy, what so . . ." and then his expression changed. He smiled himself. "Being emotional again I see." Jade looked around and then back at me. "Yes. It seems dreams can come true."
I put my arms around Jade and squeezed as hard as I could.
"Jade, you seem to be reading my mind too. I was just thinking that so much that I always dreamed about has come true."
Jade squeezed back and leaned over. Our lips touched lightly and then with more emotion. And I also got this weird idea that I wished we could share our happiness with others.
"God damned fucking queers!" bellowed out at us from behind. I startled and the mood was broken. I turned and saw a guy standing across the road where his family was getting out of their own car. I somehow felt not so scared assuming that he'd do nothing in front of his family. But for once I couldn't think what to say.
Jade's brain though did work. "Only in your own mind are we damned. But yes, we are a couple of fucking queers."
His wife evidently didn't see us kissing and remarked: "Did that boy just say what I thought he said? What's happened George?"
After a few words they quickly took their sour faces, and their two small kids, and got back into their car and drove off. I was quite upset.
"Damn Jade. One dream I have I'm not too sure about. Will we ever be able to show our affection in public where people will only be happy for us?"
"Don't know White-boy. But let's just have out lunch and breathe in the beauty around us. And I was about to mention. I found this cute waterfall just a short ways from here."
I followed Jade just a short distance to this big creek which we followed up for a hundred yards or so. And suddenly there was this shelf of rock and a pretty good flow of water over it. Our own private falls. Here we ate and made plans for the next few days. (Even if we seemed to change them all the time).
Jade made the observation while we were there. "I wish we could bring this falls with us."
I was just thinking the same thing. In spite of how cold it was that morning, with the hot sun and cloudless sky it had gotten almost uncomfortably warm. The shade and also the cool air next to the falls were refreshing. And I said so.
"But one even more important thing." Jade added. He paused as if challenging me to figure out what he was about to reveal. "No mosquitoes! I think the cooler air next to the falls they don't like."
And I then realized that what Jade said was true. The mosquitoes we were bothered with as soon as we got into the trees were gone. We finely decided that it was probably because they were attracted to heat. We felt proud of our discovery.
We finally continued on our way towards Mammoth Hot Springs where we intended to stay for the night.
Jade still teased me occasionally about looking so young, and most of the time it didn't really cause problems. In fact sometimes I even get a charge out of surprising people. But it can also cause trouble when some people just refuse to take me seriously. In some instances they ask me where my parents are. Jade and I had just set up our tent at the established campground down the road from the Mammoth Hotel and the Mammoth Terraces. We were both quite excited to finally see some of the hot springs for which Yellowstone was famous. The only thing we'd seen so far was a mostly dead old cone we stopped at a while back called Soda Butte, which was not a butte but a large mostly extinct cone, and where the small seeping spring leaking out of the side of the cone could never be confused for soda water. It had tasted quite vile.
While I stayed in the tent blowing up our air mattress, Jade had gone down to get ice from this big black ugly ice machine next to the restrooms. Then I heard some guy outside asking if "anyone was at home." I poked my head out of the tent and smiled as I saw one of the rangers. When I got out of the tent I noticed that this guy had a gun and was actually one of the park cops -- or protectives as they called themselves here. He was driving an old white Ford but the red globe on the roof gave away the fact of who this guy was. And he was making a circuit of the campground collecting the camping fees.
After he introduced himself, he gave me a half smile and asked where my parents were. Unfortunately I was still not completely out of the stage in life where I no longer gave out `wise guy' answers when frustrated so I gave him the literal truth: "Philadelphia."
He frowned for a second and then said: "No, I didn't ask where you're from, but where your parents were now."
I replied: "And I answered. They're back in Philadelphia."
He seemed to get the message but not the circumstances. He still obviously took me for a kid needing an adult around. "Oh. Then who are you here with?"
Jade and I had decided the best way to handle any questions like this was to just claim to be friends and college roommates. Though I was getting irritated I tried to answer as forthrightly as possible. "I'm here with my college roommate. We're on vacation." I tried to put emphasis on the word `college.' I gave him my best smile. Unfortunately I could tell he just didn't believe me.
"Sir. I know I look a lot younger, and I get this frequently, but I'm almost 19 and I have my Driver's License I can show you. My name is also on the registration of that car." I pointed.
He was wavering. I pulled out my Pennsylvania driver's license which showed my date of birth and a very terse description. Height 5' 3", weight 105 (so I stretched it a bit), hair brown, eyes brown. He looked at the green card and started frowning. He seemed not to want to believe it.
Just then Jade showed up. The lowering sun was glinting off both the block of ice he was carrying and also the hooks he was holding it with. I could still see his expression though as he noted I was talking to a cop.
The cop must have heard him coming up from behind and looked around and then all the craziness of the world decided to visit our single campsite. In one fluid motion the cop swiveled around, and actually put his hand on his gun!
Jade was scared and obviously didn't understand what the cop was thinking. The block of ice smashed into the ground as Jade swung his arms into the air and shouted: "Don't shoot! Don't shoot!"
By this time I guess the cop realized that he had made a big mistake. He had mistaken one of Jade's hooks for a weapon. (Which they were but not the type he thought). We were still pretty shook up. All three of us tried to explain and finally after a couple of minutes of stressed conversation we all pretty much made ourselves understood. But hell! By this time I was pretty damn pissed.
Looking at Jade the cop finally asked incredulously: "YOU'RE his college roommate?"
"Yes sir." I couldn't believe what a calm front Jade put on. "We've just finished our Freshmen year at Eastern Washington State College and are here on our vacation."
"I will need to see your Driver's License?"
"Sorry I don't drive." The cop seemed to be embarrassed as Jade lifted his both prosthetics again. Jade continued: "But I have both a State ID card, and my college ID."
The cop looked at the cards and frowned again. "How do I know these are yours?"
Jade I could see from how his shoulders flexed was now REALLY angry. By now I was happy to see a couple bystanders watching. At least we were no longer alone. But I couldn't believe how calm Jade appeared as he answered. "Sir, if you will note under distinguishing characteristics on that ID card it will state that I have two prosthetic arms."
This seemed to deflate the cop who had seemed intent on discovering something on which he could arrest us. He still insisted on seeing the car registration and insurance. Finally the cop was satisfied and took our camping fee.
Then Jade showed just how angry he was. He did something definitely uncharacteristic of him; he asked: "Sir, perhaps you could deduct a nickel for the ice you made me drop."
The cop was not amused. Nor inclined to reimburse us. And for the life of me I was still totally unsure just why the cop had stayed so hostile. After he left, one of our neighbors, who had been listening in for about half of the `fun,' asked: "What the heck started all that?"
I was still pretty peeved. "Not sure. Except I think I was accused of looking too young."
But it was what Jade said next that bothered me for not understanding earlier. "And I was accused of what we're always accused of. Being too black."
Then the neighbor said something I'd not heard of before. "Yeah. Damn redneck state." He was from New Jersey -- almost a neighbor.
Later that evening Jade even let loose with some profanity as we were discussing what had happened and that was quite a departure for him. He also explained to naïve me what `redneck' meant.
Fortunately the other 99.5% of all the people we met in the park were quite friendly. And also fortunately the beauty and wonders of the park had us back to our usual good moods that next morning. And what Jade and I did with each others' bodies during that evening and the next morning didn't hurt either.
Later Jade and I talked about what had happened with that cop and I think I wound up being more outraged at the guy's prejudice against Jade than Jade was himself.
"And Rocco, thanks for keeping your temper. As I said it can never do any good."
"Well, I could see how positively angry you were and was amazed how you kept calmly answering that idiot." I smiled: "You inspired me."
"Damn! I was scared shitless when I saw his hand on his gun."
I chuckled: "I think I have some brown stains in my pants too."
But seeing the beauty of Jupiter and Minerva Terraces the next day, along with all the other springs and terraces, had me completely refocused. Jade too. And the other thing I was so thrilled about were all the elk just walking around and even eating the grass around all the buildings. I'd never seen elk before. Jade had to eventually drag me back to our car. He called them over-grown deer. I also saw a medium sized dog which I pointed out to Jade had no collar. It took Jade a second and then he threw something at me. The coyote took off and I think another tourist was not thinking kindly about us as he blamed us for running it off before he could get a picture.
Jupiter Terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs
The day assenting first waking around the entire area of the Lower Terraces, and then later driving up to the Upper Terraces. The Angel Terraces were especially spectacular. After driving the loop and stopping a hundred times, we went back the trail that started near Orange Spring Mound and went exploring on foot. Right across from the mound was a small double cone with a tiny tepid pool and a smaller side vent at its summit. But as I was touching the water to see how hot it might be the vent within actually started erupting. It reached fully six inches high. Jade and I both laughed at it's pretensions of being true geyser. The water was a bit too hot to touch for long but still nowhere near boiling. We decided that the mechanism behind its activity must has been carbon dioxide rather then steam. We called it Pretensive Geyser.*
[ * Today informally called "Little Burper" and not active as a geysers since about the mid 1990s.]
We gradually meandered uphill frequently quitting the trail to explore something of interest. We found several small spouting mounds, and large half hidden terrace which we figured must be Squirrel Spring. It was barely active at one end of its narrow formation which we with some difficulty climbed on top of.
One thing we discovered late in the day, about a quarter mile up the trail, had us both marveling and thinking we had possibly stumbled across something nobody else knew about. We had gone probably a mile or more and were coming back. First we noticed a big depression in the ground. It was in an area about 30 yards off the trail but way above most of the springs and terraces in the middle of a pine forest. In the middle of the depression was an opening about 10 feet across, and if we had not been meandering off the trail again we would never have noticed it. Of course I had to look in even if we had no flashlights. It was about a five foot drop to the floor of the cave which opened up into a sizable room big enough that we couldn't see the end of it. It also sloped downward so that the ceiling was pretty high right away.
Jade looked at me and smiled: "OK White-boy. I'll lower you in but don't fall into any bottomless pit."
Jade knew me all too well. I dropped to a slick muddy floor and almost went splat right at the start.
I yelled back to Jade: "When you hit the floor of the cave be careful. It's pretty slick." Of course I knew Jade would be following. We could see that the cave went for a considerable distance but without flashlights we didn't roam very far. And as far as caves went it wasn't all that exciting. Mud and dirt walls and a lot of lumps and bumps. It was when we turned back toward the entrance now about 25 feet away that we both gasped in surprise. Our eyes had adjusted to the limited light and around the entire entrance and the ceiling above and the entire wall to the right we saw all these shining droplets. The sight was absolutely beautiful. Thousands and thousands of tiny shining dots. We both scrambled back to investigate. We soon realized that the droplets were simply water. But they at first seemed to be suspended in mid-air. Then we saw that there were thousands of these fine hair-like filaments extending outward from the walls and ceiling in the area and each one had collected its own tiny droplet of water. Later we were to learn that these extruded hairs were made of gypsum. We called the place Jeweled Cave.
That evening we met a naturalist giving a tour on the upper terraces and we followed him around for quite a while hearing all kinds of interesting stories and saw some beautiful springs. When the tour was over and the group disbanded I went up to him and asked about the cave we found.
He remarked: "Yes, there are a lot of caves in the area. And many of them are either remnants of the inside plumbing of dead springs, or areas where the ground had been leached away by the circulating spring water."
Jade then remarked: "But this one is huge and way near the top of the pass where that back trail goes."
The ranger seemed more interested and even excited: "Are you certain you remember correctly? I don't know of any big cave way up there."
And we explained about going inside the cave. And he mentioned that that could be dangerous around the terraces because of the collection of carbon dioxide gas in them. But then Jade mentioned all the "tiny dots of light we saw like tiny jewels."
That was when the guy became positively animated: "Where? How do you find this place? How big did you say the opening was? Where EXACTLY?" And so one.
Finally, since it was getting toward sunset and Jade and I hadn't eaten anything since lunch, we said we needed to get back to camp for dinner.
"Well boys. Tell you what. Dinner's on me. That's if you want. I've been looking for that cave -- if it's the one -- for almost 15 years!"
We needed no prodding. We agreed to meet him at the Hotel Dinning Room in 20 minutes.
The unpleasantness of the day before was well buried in new and exciting memories and ideas. We excitedly got back to our car and drove down the hill and found a parking place of all places right next to another obvious cave just across the road from the dining room. It had a log fence around the huge depression.
We finally met the ranger who we only knew by the name Ranger Jim. We introduced ourselves as we waited to be seated. He must have been known around there since several people said hello as they went passed.
"Look boys, this I have to show you." I was excited enough that the use of the word `boys' didn't seem to bother me. He showed us an old book. It was an old government report made by the army about its trip to the area way back in 1873. Part of it was written by a guy named Comstock. And in it was a description of our cave! But the location given was pretty vague. Jade and I read the couple paragraphs. I think we were now almost as excited as the ranger.
"Wow. This guy's talking about our cave. Rocco and I decided to call it the Jeweled Cave.*"
[ * Jeweled Cave exists, and indeed it was first discovered by the 1873 Army Survey crew and described by Comstock in his report. One other source from that period [G. L. Henderson, 1888] also described this cave and in fact did name it `Jeweled Cave.' However it remained out of the literature and `lost' until re-discovered in the 1980s! The ranger here and the events surrounding this cave in the 1960's are fictional. All other named persons, and features in the park are as historically accurate as I could make them.]
We had a fantastic dinner and Jim regaled us with all kinds of stories. We also promised to meet him at his office the next morning and to show him exactly where the cave was. And this time we were all bringing flashlights.
The cave actually went back a good hundred yards or more but it was pretty unexciting. It was all just dirt walls, floor and so on. But the entrance was what amazed us all over again. And of course the ranger was now convinced we had found his lost cave.
When we got back from the trip in the cave Ranger Jim had us follow him to a few places off the usual trails and he showed us two special places which were absolutely beautiful. One was a small wedding-cake shaped spring about 4 feet high whose top tier was about 3 feet across. But the pastel coloring of yellows, blues, and greens were impossible to adequately put into words. Jade and I agreed that it was the single most beautiful spring we had seen in the entire place. The second spring was actually spouting a full 3 feet into the air and quickly disappearing down a hole right next to it.
Ranger Jim remarked: "This was spouting almost 10 feet high last spring. Almost no one ever sees these places. But I wanted to do something special for you guys."
We asked him about how come there wasn't even a trail to these things.
"Well some of the springs and pools around here can change pretty fast. That fountain I showed you was a small dead mound just two years ago! And this spouting spring probably will be gone by next summer."
Later that evening Jade and I were resting after engaging in another kind of celebration. During our talk afterwards Jade remarked: "You know Rocco, this day was the way life was meant to be."
I totally concurred. And we revisited and reenacted in our minds all the days wonderful sights and events. But then Jade added a different dimension to our discourse.
"You know Rocco, that ranger never once said or did anything that would indicate that I was colored, and after the first mention of my hooks he never brought it up again. And even better, never acted like I couldn't do anything."
"Well, you did drop our only working flashlight in the mud in that cave."
"Only because the one you brought you'd discovered you'd left on overnight."
"Only because you distracted me when I came back in the tent from the men's room."
"Only because you grabbed a certain part of me getting into the sleeping bag."
"Only because it pokes up so high it can't be missed."
By this time I was again grabbing this same part of Jade and our `blame war' was totally forgotten for quite some time.
Later, as I was resting my head on top of my favorite resting place -- Jade's chest -- my mind did one of its occasional `rememberings' and I got back to the earlier `blame war.'
"You did drop our only working flashlight in the mud in that cave."
Jade laughed. And replied: "Only after you poked me in the ribs to point out something I`d already seen."
"Only after you ignored the last thing I was talking about."
"Only because you have to mention everything seven times."
"Only because you never listen to the first six."
"Only because the first six aren`t worth listening to."
"Only because you don't recognize the inherent wisdom in all my remarks."
"Only because . . ."
Jade fumbled for a rejoinder. (By unspoken rule there has to be no delay). We both laughed. (What can I say? We were so in love everything was funny. And this trip was almost like a delayed honeymoon).
"I won," I said smugly.
Jade then got this really wide-eyed look which he claimed was supposed to be scary but was more comical. "Not if I torture you enough to make you recant!"
I certainly liked how Jade tortured me. And proved that teenagers (OK, a teenager and a 20 year old) can "recoup" awfully fast. And afterwards I readily allowed that he'd won everything for the next week.
The next day we drove a couple miles back toward the park entrance to a pull out where we could walk up along the Gardiner River. There was a big sign there explaining that it was at the 45th parallel, halfway from equator to the North Pole. We parked and headed upstream soon coming to a place where numerous hot springs flowed right into the river. Some were scalding hot. We quickly striped down to our bathing trunks (Jade laying his prosthetics onto one of our towels) and splashed into the shallow water. The bathing in the river next to the flowing hot water was great. Soon I decided to look around and started walking along the bank just upstream. I soon found this almost river of hot water coming right out of a cave and running 125 yards or so down into the river. I dropped down along the hot stream and followed it up to where it was coming out from under an immense slab of altered travertine. The flow of water was immense. As I was climbed out of the depression and over to a few minor hot springs in the immediate area I saw an older guy pacing all around, looking up and then at the ground, and then writing something in a notebook. Jade made his way to me by then and we walked over to him and I asked what he was doing. He had been so focused on what he was doing that he was startled for a moment. And was further startled seeing Jade with no hands.
A few introductions were made. His said his name was Aubrey Haines. He mentioned that the big spring I was looking at earlier was called Boiling River, even if it weren't close to boiling. He also said that he was looking for evidence of an old town that had been situated somewhere close to that very spot.
"It was more a tent community than a regular town," He said. "Little is actually known except for some newspaper articles but it sprung up here almost overnight after the springs here were discovered back in 1870! The town was a going concern by the summer of 1871 before the entire place was even made into a National Park."
His accounts of early park history were quite interesting. He said he was the park historian and was working on writing its complete history.
"The town about here was called Chestnutville after its founder A Colonel J. D. Chestnut. All kinds of people showed up for cures. It was believed in those days that hot springs were therapeutic."
Jade and I walked all over the area with the guy and we were riveted by some of his tales. He stated that the next year a Matthew McGuirk later claimed and "improved" the springs, and by March 1872 he had built a house, a fence, a ditch, and a barn at the site. McGuirk operated his springs, which he called McGuirk's Medicinal Springs," The Park Superintendent N. P. Langford made him leave two years later."
He then got into the history about when the U.S. Army took over running and protecting the park.
"Everyone says that the Army was brought in because the civilian rangers then were incompetent. But that is simply not true. It was the new Congress in 1886. The tight fisted Republican Congress simply refused to allocate the ten thousand dollars requested. They gave the fledgling group of rangers nothing at all! So the Secretary of the Interior had no choice. He brought in the Army, and that wound up costing twice as much!"
The guy got so engrossed talking about all this stuff that we finally had to excuse ourselves. We had planned to pull up camp and see if we could find a place at the Norris Campground about 25 miles south.
The trip to the Norris Campground took two hours. OK, that's not quite accurate. The trip itself took only 45 minutes. The `bear jam' at Bijah Spring caused a 50 minute delay. It took us that long to go 300 yards as everyone had to stop and watch a grizzly bear and her cub. If you're wondering about the missing 25 minutes, that was the time WE stayed watching the bears. But unlike most the other motorists, WE pulled up near Nymph Lake, a quarter mile away finding a place to park, and then walked back. The large spring was all by itself. Jade said something about running if the bear charged.
He commented: "I don't think I could out run a bear. And she's huge!"
I thought she and her cub were beautiful. But I retorted: "You only have to run faster than the slowest person here."
Some lady turned toward us and her expression said she didn't see any humor in my remark. Jade and I finally pulled ourselves away when the bears wandered too far away to see clearly.
We eventually set up camp at the Norris Campground, and for the next several days made fast acquaintance with the numerous springs and geysers next door in the Norris Geyser Basin.