Mountains

I’ve been climbing mountains since I was a kid. I suppose my fascination with summits began in the early 1960’s on an outing with our good family friends, the Sterks.

Phyllis Sterk and the author or the summit of Saddleback Butte, c.1960

Frank and Marion Sterk were adventurous people that lived way out there in a little place called Hi Vista in the Antelope Valley. To my brother, sister and I that was just about the edge of the earth, beyond which there be dragons.

One day in the mid ’60’s Mr. Sterk led us all to the summit of Saddleback Butte. I was about seven years old or so. As we approached the summit blocks, I raced ahead of the pack, jumped up on the top boulder and proudly proclaimed, “I AM THE FIRST ONE TO THE TOP!” Not being used to the thin air of the high desert, I got dizzy and promptly keeled over, splitting my head open on a sharp rock. I learned my lesson about pride before the fall.

I suppose the real lesson I learned was to be found in the old Buddhist exhortation: “When you reach the top of the mountain, keep climbing.”

After this ordeal Frank Sterk hunted around on the top and found a rusty tin can with a summit register and told us that most peaks had a little book for the people who climbed the mountain to sign in. I was enthralled. The idea that people did that: climbed mountains and left notes for others to read made a bigger impression on my seven year old mind than the sharp rock at the end of my boastful mishap. The fresh air, the boundless 360º vista — It was a big moment in my life.

I was hooked.

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