Monday, March 14, 2011

Call of the wild

Organ Needle is the round peak on the right.
Photo from
When Joe and I started dating he didn’t try to woo me with roses or hoity-toity restaurants, even better he showed me a view of the world from atop mountains. Climbing mountains together remains our number one form of entertainment, which is especially nice since we’re poor now and hiking is about all we can afford. Southern Nevada provided us with quite a few memorable cliff-side experiences, but we haven’t had the same luck here in Las Cruces. The surrounding mountains are small and round rather than tall and pointy; the exception being The Organs which caught our attention as soon as we arrived. The highest point on The Organs is Organ Needle, and it is there that we ventured last Thursday.
Working our way up the mountain.
 We had a few things working against us that should have given us pause but didn’t. One, Joe’s truck needed repairs so we had to take my car, which meant adding a couple miles to the hike because of tender tires that couldn’t make it on the rough terrain. Two, the weekend before I had re-sprained my ankle coming down from a peak in Texas and it was still swollen and sore. Three, Joe had been nauseous all morning. Four, because of all those things we ended up starting a few hours later than planned. Stubbornly, we shook our fists at those annoyances and carried on up the mountain.  It was a rather pleasant hike up, though it was taking longer than planned. We saw three golden eagles, one red-tail, and our first New Mexican peregrine. 

Resting after his injury.
After about five hours of fairly intense uphill hiking we came upon a wall that would lead us to the peak. Joe climbed up about half way only to realize that the peak we were looking for was not, in fact, the one he was currently on. As he was making his way down, he suddenly started losing his footing and began frantically taking off his pack, while grasping at the side of his chest. He was completely unable to speak but the look on his face was so intensely pained that I thought for a second he might try to throw himself off the mountain for a quick end. From where I stood, nothing had visibly fallen or hit him in the chest so I wondered if he was having a heart attack. He stayed completely still for a few long moments before tentatively finishing the route down. Once on solid ground we had him lie down and eat a little. In my pack I had Ibuprofen and Ace bandages so we fixed him up as well as we could. He didn’t know for sure what had happened but guessed that he may have sprained or pulled a rib muscle because of the way he had contorted his body while coming down.  

On the top of Organ Needle.
After eating and resting a little he announced that he was ready to get to the peak. Now, in fairness, the peak was only about 150 feet away, but I suggested that we just forget about it and make our way down. Guess who won? So up to the peak we went before returning down.  Normally going back would take half the time of going up, if not a little less. For us, it took an entire five hours, the last couple of which were done in complete darkness.
Rapidly losing much needed sunlight.
While making our way down we got off the trail several times and usually didn’t realize it until we met a cliff and couldn’t proceed forward any more. The mountain itself is quite steep and didn’t contribute ease to an injured hiker, so even without navigational difficulties it would have been a rather unpleasant hike back. With darkness approaching and Joe’s mysterious chest wound, the return hike was completely terrifying.  Right before the sun left us for the night we realized again that we were not where we needed to be. At this point we were still in the thick of the mountain and absolutely would not have been able to find our way out in the dark. After a quick assessment Joe found the trail we needed, and after a few miles of hiking we arrived at my little car waiting in the pitch black desert. 

Demonstrating balance even when being scolded to
The next day Joe went to the doctor and found out that he had fractured a rib. The event was something of a freak happening where all the ways he was moving his body, coupled with the weight of his pack, lead to enough pressure on his rib to fracture it. Poor Joe :( he is very brave; I have no shame in recognizing that if the roles had been reversed I would have been airlifted off that mountain or died up there, but would not have hiked back down.  That being said, three days after his injury, while making notable progress each day, Joe finally decided that enough was enough. It is no fun having an injury and he was ready to throw in the towel. After threatening to call both sets of parents to let them know how unsympathetic I was towards his injury, he gave it some thought then simply requested that when he dies I feed his dead body to the little critters. By which we can all assume he means the Argentine ant.


Carol said...

You guys are crazy. Really crazy. I recommend some GPS devices that you wear at all times so that we can find you when you get lost or injured. Please tell me that you tell someone where you're going before you go on these life-threatening adventures. You do, right? Poor Joe! Ron had a cracked rib once and was extremely uncomfortable just trying to breathe. Sprained ankle and fractured rib--stay home and heal thyself.

Emily said...

Carol-- to ease your concerns a little, we did have an accurate handheld GPS with us, and there was cell service up top. In the past Joe has suggested that we tell someone where we're going, but I reminded him that we don't actually know anyone out here... so we tell each other :)

Carol said...

At least you tell each other. LOL!

Ron said...

only one question. How many times on the way down in the dark did you remind Joe you wanted to start down sooner? Tell him, good advice from "woman's tuition" is better than using his own, even if he is right, occasionally... GPS is good but do you have a satellite phone in those areas of no bars?

Brenda said...

You're such a great writer!