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Random Reflections at 12,100 Feet

Michael Dean Clark


(The third in a series on my attempt to hike to the top of the tallest peak in the continental United States. You can find the first two here and here.)

The following is a collection of thoughts that ran through my head while camped at 12,100 feet above sea level and dealing with a case of altitude sickness.

Using the space-age technology of the WAG bag for packing out human waste is one of the more awkward experiences in life, but not as awkward as carrying said bag past the 40 other backpackers camped between your outdoor toilet and tent.

In a related vein: marmots are creepers.

The term glissade sounds way more pretentious when pronounced “gliss-ahd.”

Sunrise is more beautiful than sunset in the mountains. Sunset is more beautiful over the ocean.

Jon Bon Jovi is a more important ambassador of New Jersey than Bruce Springsteen. The two should collaborate on a project that erases the Jersey Shore cast from the public consciousness.

“Self-arresting” is more exciting than any episode of Cops except the one where the sheriff’s deputy with a prosthetic leg chases down a suspect on foot and then mocks the man for not being able to outrun him. 

A good sleeping bag allows one to avoid the awkward morning-after conversation that comes from spooning with your friend to stay alive.

Marmots are way less industrious than beavers.

The Lakers really can’t win a championship unless I am actively watching their finals games.

Things I should have invented because they are brilliant, yet so ridiculously simple I could have: bear canisters, tent stakes, snow cones, a less awkward term for ice spikes than “crampons.”

People fall into two distinct categories: ascenders and descenders. They’re like the Sharks and the Jets of the hiking community.

In retrospect, John Denver was really overrated.

In a pinch, Marmots would make a savory stew but not very good jerky.

An ice-axe is really more of an ice-pick with a serrated edge.

And finally, a 270-pound man you don’t know stripping down to his underwear, winking at you, and grunting “I’m a beast” before jumping into a frigid lake is both funny and disturbing.

Michael Dean Clark holds a PhD in English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and is an assistant professor of writing at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, California. He is a firm believer in oceans’ superiority to lakes (including lakes named Superior or designated as “Great”).