Monday, February 17, 2014

Hiking with Bridgett and Shawn

1978; 8th grade; Age 13. The second year of Junior High. 

I was hiking up a canyon with my friend Shawn, (spelled the 70's way: S-H-A-W-N), who was taller than me and more confident, and my first girlfriend, Bridgett, who could run fast and kick a soccer ball straight (those being my top two criteria at the time in judging the Fairer Sex). 

Bridgett and I were officially boyfriend/girlfriend because our friends had timed us kissing for more than 20 seconds, at the roller rink, while radio KFI played 'Boogie Oogie Oogie'. (Yeah, I kind of remember that moment.)

Being 13 though, we were terrified of each other and so most of our conversations were secondhand, transmitted by faithful go-betweens, like in a Shakespeare play. Except our soliloquies were mostly things like "Do you still like me? Are you breaking up with me?"

Shawn was my faithful go-between, which is why he was along on this trek. And because there was a GIRL along, Shawn and I had left our brains at the mouth of the canyon. We were showing off, going way farther up Mount Baldy than we ever had before. The canyon got more and more narrow, until the three of us were basically rock climbing, with no ropes, belays, experience or coordination.

And we got stuck. About 100 feet up the right side of a crumbling granite wall, on a ledge that would fit two of us comfortably. Couldn't get up, couldn't get down. No cell phones of course, and no food or water.

I volunteered to save the day, cuz I'm kinda dumb that way. I climbed up to the part where the footholds had disappeared. And I was faced with a slot that was 7 feet high with a weak looking promontory on each wing, about 3 feet apart. This is what had halted us before. 

Me in Cucamonga Canyon, a year later,
when I had healed somewhat.
But I was 13 years old and getting hourly testosterone injections, so I leaped up as high as this white boy could ever jump, and caught the top of both of the projections. Now I was hanging, looking down past my dangling feet at my friends huddled together, looking up at me.

She. Bridgett. With the, you know, breasticles. She was looking up at me.

And so I slowly lifted myself by my arms, in the world's slowest chin-up, fearing that at any moment one of these rocky arms would give way and send me plunging to my death on the rocks 10 stories below.

But no, I made it up, got my arms down to my waist, and hoisted my left foot up to where my left hand was. That hurt, because I hadn't removed my hand first. But I eventually worked a compromise between the two, got my hand free, and moved a little higher. 

Luckily the slope from here was slightly more gentle and it looked like I should be able to crawl up through the scrub to the fire break trail. I got my right foot up onto the other knob and called down the news that I would go get help.

Sapphire Falls, in Cucamonga Canyon.
We were stupidly far beyond this.
And it was lucky that they both looked up to hear me, because that moment is when the right promontory finally gave way and a rock the size of a medicine ball was sent hurtling down at her.

I remember every hour of that moment. My brain traced dotted lines for the rocks trajectory, calculated impact times, and informed my pants that I would not be losing my virginity to this girl, because I was about to turn her head into spaghetti-os.

I can't remember my bank account number now, but I can still recall every plane from every angle of that rock and it slowly tumbled through the air towards the first girl that I ever kissed.

But she could run fast and kick a ball straight and so she leaned back with confidence and agility and the huge rock missed her pretty face by at least a foot.

Cucamonga Peak (8,856ft.)
Note the haze of smog 'tween foreground and background.
Then she gave me a dirty look. And Me? I was clinging to two scrub bushes above me and my right leg was trying to do that move from 'Riverdance' and so I all I could say was "Sorry!" like a pathetic idiot.

Ashamed, I crawled up the final 100 yards on a 60 degree slope on my hands and knees, eating dirt the whole way. From there I ran down the fire road until I found 3 fishermen heading up another path. I half-babbled half-pantomimed my situation and we all raced back to the scene of my fall from grace. 

Two of the guys gave their tackle to the third guy and they descended the trail I blazed. I remember one of the guys looked up at me when he reached the top of the slot and said "You made it up THIS?" Which made me feel a little better.

They left my view, but shouted that they were helping my friends down, instead of up.
Some of the fire roads in Cucamonga Canyon
The 3rd fisherman and I shrugged at each other and we started walking back down the fire road, which paralled the canyon until they met at the entrance.

A couple of miles on I looked over the side and saw Shawn and Bridgett standing together far below, having just crossed the small stream that carved out the canyon.

And you know the end to this story.

They were kissing. For FAR longer than 20 seconds.

My go-between, had gone-between.

So I threw rocks at them until they scattered and fled for their lives. And the third fisherman laughed at me until he had to sit down. I thought he was going to barf. I thought I was going to barf.

Where the fire road meets the canyon mouth.
Rivulet in foreground was supplied solely by my tears.

I ran all the way home in tears, and I never spoke to Shawn or Bridgett ever again. But there is a sentimental part of me that hopes that they stayed together, eventually married, settled down, bought a used Ford Pinto.....and died in a giant fireball.

Angus McMahan

(Photos from: AYSO, Authors collection [I failed 8th grade photography because all of my photos were of Bridgett {and blurry}], Authors collection,, Wikipedia Commons,, and authors collection [different canyon, but I liked the rivulet joke].)

And yes, I just used triple parentheses.

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