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Kofa Mountains: A true summer adventure

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POSTED May 16, 2013 1:55 a.m.

Ripon – the community – possesses a wealth of heart-inspiring stories in the minds of its many highly respected senior citizens.

We have a potential treasure trove of spirit throughout the community waiting to be tapped by a reporter’s interviews – every single person has a story of their own.  The common problem is the resistance of people not wanting to see themselves in print – often very private persons.  They continually say they don’t like to read the paper because of all the “negative” news, keeping their inspirational tales from years past to themselves.

It should go without saying that those happy chapters in their lives are usually worth remembering and create a heart and soul interest among our empathetic readership.  Bethany Home alone has over 100 senior citizens who continue to retain a wealth of heartfelt experiences,  even those having some degree of dementia affecting their current memory recall.

The legendary American humorist Erma Bombeck is a good example of the telling of those great stories of life from current and past generations that literally touched the heart and souls and lightened the load of someone’s day.  She filled her newspaper columns with endless humor.  Bombeck passed away in 1996.

Searching my own memories brings up a Kofa Mountains’ adventure from my first year in college looking for excitement that summer.  That was more than 50 years ago and it has emerged as a moment in time that was filed away in the back of my mind -- still a great story for the grandkids.

Three of us had trekked into the Arizona desert for a 3-day adventure – and an adventure it turned out to be for all of us.  First we came upon the burned out wreckage of a single engine plane as we trudged farther on foot across the sand, approaching the red mountain range.

The convergence of two of the lower hills formed a narrowing divide with a single palm tree and a plateau area above us that appeared to be the home of some wild animal – maybe a mountain lion – but it was not easily accessible.

It sparked our curiosity, however, and I was determined to make my way up the side of the one hill and take a look, not sure of what I was going to find.  There was a 12-inch-wide goat trail along the hillside with a base of gravel – very unstable – but it looked “kinda” accessible.

Hey, I was really prepared with a sheathed hunting knife on my belt.  It gave me a sense of security to crawl on my hands and knees daring gravity to make it my last.  Several times I began to slide off the trail and I plunged the knife blade down into the dirt and gravel and held onto to the handle for dear life.

Once I reached the plateau,  just below the top of the palm tree, I discovered no paw prints of a mountain lion or anything else.  But, I wasn’t about to crawl inside the small cave for a further inspection.  The real problem was that my friends were down below and I found myself 12 to 15 feet above a descending ground base.  Getting down was going to take some imagination and planning.  My number one concern was what might be coming out of the lair to my back.

With my buddies waiting down below – laughing a little too much – it took about 30 minutes to reach a workable resolution to my situation.  No way could I go back along that gravel trail,  and,  if I fell, we were miles away from emergency medical help – no cell phones back then.

The only option was simple.  I had to take off my jeans, using the two legs as one that stretched out to some seven feet in length.  My belt added another three feet that I attached to the jeans and lodged behind a rock.  I worked my way down the jeans, as if it were a rope, until there was three feet remaining to reach the ground – dropping to the ground that was on a 45 degree angle.

Must have looked pretty bad coming down in my jockey shorts.

Golly, one memory of old like this one in the Kofa Mountains seems to open the flood gates of other indelible marks in the mind such as taking my 85-year-old grandmother on a Sunday morning ride into the San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles.  It was an area that she totally enjoyed to visit.

Should have known better – once again – than to have taken that fire road, getting the tires stuck in the sand behind an 8-foot, larger-than-life, boulder.  They just wanted to spin with the car going nowhere. And, of course, there were no cell phones in the ‘50s.  One choice was to walk out for help, which really wasn’t an option with my grandmother sitting in the front seat having faith I would find a way.  It would have been good to have water with us, too, as that could have been another road to tragedy.

It was that bumper jack in the trunk that saved the day, even if it did take three hours of jacking the rear of the car up and pushing the vehicle over off the jack,  time after more than a dozen times.  The car was on more solid dirt, at long last, that allowed me to get the tire traction I needed to move the vehicle around the rock.

It wasn’t a tale that thrilled my parents that night, but Grandma Drees was OK with it, she was a trooper.  She was my buddy who lived to the age of 94, despite her grandson who meant well.

So, you see, the stories are there for the sharing with the community by those willing to think back and tell their tales.

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