Many years ago, while my climbing partner was scrambling up the trail to set up an anchor above No Picnic, the former climber, who had just taking his parties anchor down was plodding past me with the hint of burned cannabis wafting off his cotton poly blend Patagonia t shirt. Less than a minute had gone buy when my friend comes crashing down and rifles through his pack and yanks out his water bottle. He then turns and runs toward the trail to scramble back up. He says that there is a small fire and needs the water to put it out. I ask if he needs help and he says he should be fine. He disappears over the little rise below 69 and I look up and see white puffs of what looks like wispy clouds but they are below the trees hanging above the cliff. I also notice how fast these wisps are moving and immediately grab my water bottles to lend a hand just in case this small fire grows due to wind.
As I reach the top of the trail I can hear the crackle of fire consuming dried leaves and small branches. I see my friend standing near a fast growing fire a few feet high and headed northeast with the wind. His empty nalagene bottle swinging from his finger tips. Embers and ash are blowing by my already sweaty face from the heat. As the fire races to a large dry bush I dump my water bottles at its base and it hisses in anger as it suddenly dies. Luckily, the fire was a narrow scar in the dry vegetation and my quick decision has saved the ridge from total destruction. I realize I'm sucking in air stained with burnt wood and leaves when my friend pats me on the back and states that he is glad I didn't listen to him, this time.
Feeling like a hero, I wipe some sweat from my eyes and smile back and before I can respond with some jape I hear the snap of water releasing from dead wood. I jerk my head around and a red flapping arm reaches up and grabs the bush I just saved. The crackling almost sounds like a cackling wood witch in my ears as she cast her spell of mass destruction. As the bush starts to scream in agony and the fire starts to pull its way into it. We look at each other and my friend says what are we going to do.
I jump towards the raging red witch and do the only thing I can do. I piss on her. Again, I hear hissing defiant screams. I'm a heavy drinker, mostly the dark brown frothy malty type, but not today! It was many mugs of coffee, juice and water. Need to stay hydrated when climbing in hot dry weather, you know. As I hysterically laugh and curse the red flames I try and extinguish her malice and hate for all things dry and dead with my straw colored stream. As I feel a glowing since of enlightenment for being such a great and strong protector of the wood ridge I have grown to love and as my mighty stream starts to fade to my dismay I hear her laughing and her jeers. They seem distant at first, but they leap back at my face as her red arms leap up again to destroy the shrubbery I had so gallantly tried to protect with my honor. To protect my honor I jump back and zip up, carefully not to snag any honor. The world seems to spin and it feels as if the woods are sucking in air as they brace for their impending doom.
Suddenly, I'm pushed to the side, not rudely just firmly, and my friend leaps in to the fray. He yells for me to get back as he unleashes his own water death upon our common foe. The red witch, in her lustful and wanton love of fiery carnage, has reached out and tried to pull in a small dead tree into her burning grasp. I turn, and find a relatively straight branch and use it to actually beat the witch's grasp off the dead tree. My friend has succeeded where I have failed. He has saved the bush and I had beaten the witch's last attempt to destroy all things dry and dead. I use the branch to scrape the ground and leaves to reveal any of her spawn and stomp them back into the hell they belong.
My friend and I, with stern looks on our faces, for we realize what we just did and how much we saved turn and face the wind and look into the distant sun high over the nears. Standing there we pause, feeling the cool effect of the strong breeze, we hear a distant calling as if someone is trying to reach us from some higher plain. To our dismay its not some higher force recognizing our selfless act it's the stoned climber calling us from the carriage road. He's lost himself in his self-induced high and asks if his roach had started a fire. I yell back with the bitter taste of ash and smoke in my mouth, "No, because we put it out." With a pie eyed grin on his face he waves and saunters up the carriage road and out of our lives for good.
After a few minutes to make sure the red witch will not return we gather our water bottles and our climbing gear and do what every other climber would do. We pack up and head to the Brau for some cold beer and good food.
The one thing I've always wondered about that day is if a fire is started by a roach, is it natural?
jugs or mugs