“Look at those assholes. Ordinary fucking people. I hate ’em.”
– Bud, Repo Man
I dodge between the two ant-lines of hikers, one ascending and one descending the gravel path. About one in five says hello. I don’t respond. I am not here to socialize. I am not part of their program. There are few solo travelers, like me. Most hikers walk in groups of two or three, chatting about their jobs or mortgages. The majority of the loners are not really alone, either. They are on their Bluetooth devices, conversing with insubstantial partners on the trail.
The only socially isolated walkers come by it naturally. They are the elderly. Bent over their trekking poles with grim determination, getting their exercise as prescribed.
I pass them all and turn off on a steep trail to the peak. Without breaking stride, I scramble up a little chimney and across an exposed traverse to a ledge. There, I set up the rope for my training climb.
Crouched like a gargoyle, I take a moment to glower upon the crawling lines of walkers, now far below. The feeling of the moment is familiar. I had it just a week before in Ouray.
There were no walkers in the ice park, with one exception: an elderly lady walking her Papillion. The lady smiled and waved to my son and myself as we trudged up the snow packed road. She was wearing shearling slippers and mismatched halves of a pair of tracksuits. She did not look out of place.
The narrow gorge teemed with climbers on top rope. Belayers chatted amongst themselves about technique and equipment. Downstream, a group waiting in line to climb, fired up a hibachi. Charbroil smoke wafted up the streambed.
I really don’t begrudge the outdoor recreationalist his or her fun. He or she belongs to other things: careers, classes, religions, cultures. I understand. Belonging puts climbing and everything associated with climbing in perspective. It justifies the ice park atmosphere and bidirectional queues in the desert.
I understand because, as I crouch on the little ledge, a strong sense of belonging comes over me. I look down over the ant lines, the obscene Scottsdale compounds, and the roads leading off toward the ice park. I lean back on the rough desert granite, one hand on the rope, and it all comes into perspective.