Sunday, November 01, 2009

25 Hour Black Mesa Marathon

Leaving from Oklahoma City at 4:40 pm, W drove 400 miles out to the western tip of the Oklahoma panhandle in order to bag the highest point. He arrived at 11 pm in Boise City, resting briefly at a motel before resuming his quest at 4 a.m. Continuing westward, W watched the moon set as the region plunged into total darkness. Only jackrabbits remained on the deserted road. Approximately 20 minutes later W encountered the first lynx he had ever seen, which appeared to be rather angry that W had scared away the jackrabbits that it was hunting in the darkness. W continued on, trying to find the access road to Black Mesa, and relying on his GPS rather than common sense, W turned up a dirt road marked with a homemade sign saying "Easter Pageant" that led him after many twists and turns into Colorado rather than the trailhead. Turning around, W tried to take a shortcut that led to a dead-end at a rancher's house. Finally, W came to the conclusion that he was on the wrong road, and he drove back to the main road and continued westward. Eventually after an hour delay, W reached a well marked road indicating it was the one for Black Mesa. Another 7 miles brought him to the trailhead, where there was still total darkness at 6:15 am. His headlights illuminated a bright blue bird that had been flushed from its sleeping place. In the perfect quiet he could hear some coyotes signalling each other that some new prey was afoot. Turning off his headlamp, W could make out the outline of a large massif rising out of the plain. However the trail did not seem to lead in that direction, confounding him. Worse, in the darkness, W could not always make out the trail. At one point he was forced to walk in ever widening circles, trying to pick up where the trail had gone. Fortunately, there were a few directional arrows posted along the trail and W ran into them. But the trail didn't seem to be leading towards the hill he could make out to the left. W even doubled back at one point, and then studied one of the rusted directional arrows on which he could barely make out the words "summit", pointing away from the hill. At this point W plugged in coordinates of the summit into his GPSand saw that he was halfway headed in the correct direction, so he forged ahead. Eventually, signs of dawn began to appear and W could better distinguish the trail before him. It appeared a bit more obvious now that there was some light. The trail led steeply up a canyon to the top of the mesa, at which point W thought that he saw very white quartz rock, which turned out to be snow.

After about a half mile along the mesa, the sun rose, providing spiritual rather than physical warmth. Another mile and W reached the highpoint. Shortly thereafter the sun disappeared behind a cloud.

W hung around the monument for about 15 minutes and then headed quickly down, because he knew he would have to hurry in order to catch his plane in Oklahoma City and he still had another 400 miles to drive. The drive back covered some new parts of Texas that were covered with oilfields and funny looking hills, and then back into Oklahoma and its red earth, finally arriving in Oklahoma City exactly on schedule, 25 hours and 842 miles after he had departed.

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