Sunday, September 14, 2008

Roots of the Mountain

I have a close friend with whom I have done a lot of camping and other Scouting activities. He is a geologist by training and disposition, and is about to dive into the academic aspects of the same. For the past eight and a half years I could not be with Wes when he was not pointing out some aspect of the landscape which would certainly produce semi-precious gems, geodes, or other rock-hound wonders. I went with him once to a remote part of central Utah, to Topaz Mountain in fact, where we were to look for raw gems of the same name. I have to say that we found some; I was quite pleased with myself at some of the particularly nice rough stones that I collected. We also found some particularly beautiful large stones which, when cut and polished, are supposed to be quite valuable. In order to get to these quarries, however, one has to go to the middle of nowhere. Topaz Mountain is in the middle of nowhere. We drove through some of the most desolate landscape I have ever seen in order to pop out a few really fine pieces. Even in 2004 dollars, we burned a lot of gas to get there and back. He did not, however, point out the vast amounts of iron filings through which we were driving.

All of this came back to my mind because of what happened to me last Friday. I was invited to go out to Seven-mile Pass to sing for about a hundred Boy Scouts. In order to get to Seven-mile Pass, you have to get to Five-mile Pass, which understandably is about two miles from Seven-mile Pass. In order to get to Five-mile pass you have to go through Lehi, Eagle Mountain, Fairfield, and "almost-Vernon". I say "almost-Vernon" because it was supposed to be there somewhere, but I never saw it myself. At Five-mile Pass there is a north-south road that runs straight as an arrow across an open desert of sagebrush, tumbleweed, and ironwood. At some point, one of the Scout executives had placed a sign pointing me toward a long wide valley running east and west. The road to the camp was winding and in extreme disrepair. I was in the Mustang and therefore made it okay, but had I been in any other kind of car, I undoubtedly would have left parts of my engine pan and several quarts of oil along the way. I arrived, however, without incident.

I arrived fairly early. I think that I was preceded to the camp by only one or two other people. They had a shelter set up, a shade from the sun, and I sat there in anticipation of my performance. Quite a few big trucks passed through the camp in order to drop off their equipment. Young people were running around all over camp trying to get various venues set up, including their own camp sites. It was somewhat like an anthill. The sun began to sink into the west, dinner was served (a potato bar with all of the trimmings, together with home-made root beer, ginger ale, sarsaparilla, and black cherry soda. Not bad.) Everyone seemed to have some difficulty finding the place simply because the campsite was more in the middle of nowhere than Topaz Mountain, which thing I could not suppose to be so. So the schedule got set back more and more. My performance with the Scouts did not take place until well after dark, which thing I had not anticipated. The trick for me was finding my way back to Orem from Seven-mile Pass in the dark. I was surprised at the facility I had in making my way back down down the canyon westward until I found the north-south road back to Five-mile Pass. I arrived home forty-five minutes after I left the campsite.

I have decided that my quick retreat from S-mP was possible because of my inner compass. Some people have an internal clock; they can tell you at any given moment what the exact time is. I have an internal compass, one that will point me, without fail, to due north. This is a side-effect of hemochromatosis. All of the iron in my body aligns itself with the magnetic flux of the earth's core. If I were to put on a pair of roller skates with my arms extended and just let the "force" work upon me, in about 14 seconds my right arm would swing around until it pointed to the magnetic north pole. Needless to say my left arm would be pointing south. Some might quibble about the arm orientation (why not the left arm pointing north?), but I have resolved all issues of this nature by pointing out that I was born in California, raised on the beach, facing westward for most of my life. Hence, all of the iron molecules in my body are lined up as they are because of my childhood experiences.

I enjoyed my little visit to Seven-mile Pass because I was able to get back to my roots. The campsite was loaded with iron, free iron, iron in the rough, as it were. My magnetic disposition was working admirably well, and I attracted an enormous amount of iron filings as I sat in the shade next to the road. When a truck would pass by, I would find myself covered in more iron. The youths and adults, running from one place to another, were able to provide me with more quantities of perfectly aligned iron filings that then gravitated toward me, eventually adding to the growing layer of iron-sheeting which I was accumulating. At the campfire, I experienced more of this interesting wilderness phenomenon. It was clear that the boys had found a large store of ironwood in the canyon and were burning it in the fire pit. No matter where I stood around the campfire, the smoke enveloped me, creating a secondary layer of non-heme iron in addition to the raw materials that I had been collecting all afternoon. When I finally was leaving, all of the iron filings on my uniform and that which covered the Mustang immediately arranged themselves north-south. It was all that I could do to keep the car from climbing the ridge on my right as I was leaving. When I arrived at the north-south road, I simply let go of the steering wheel and stepped on the gas; the car just guided itself straight north until I arrived at Highway 73. By that time, much of the iron dust had blown off of the car and I was able to travel east and then south as I went home, without having to wrestle with the steering wheel any more.

I am not certain how much free-radical iron I ingested or breathed in on my little foray to the desert. I will know that fact when I finally have my next ferritin blood test. I suspect, however, that I will be accused of having eaten another two-pound piece of tri-tip, plus four or five six-dollar burgers. What a life! I did have a little fun out there; I taught all of the boys and men DJ Otzi's the "Burger -dance Song":

The Pizza Hut, the Pizza Hut
Kentucky fried chicken and the Pizza Hut
(sing twice)
McDonald's, McDonald's
Kentucky fried chicken and the Pizza Hut
(sing twice more)
(sing both verses until your brains fall out)

I knew that every one of them would wake up at four in the morning, align themselves with the magnetic poles, and uncontrollably sing that song at the top of their lungs. What a day!


Davola said...

Why do you have Britney Spears as one of your favorite songs?

Trillium said...

Dave: when he posted his first blog, I suggested that his "theme song" should be "I can't get no satisfaction." There were exactly four versions available on playlist, so he took all four of them. It was pretty funny at the time.

Jen said...

DANG IT! Now I'm going to be singing that dumb song ALL DAY!!!

"ubawywsx" - a seven letter swear word you say when you get the Pizza Hut song stuck in your head.

shydandelion said...

Brittney Spears SUCKS! I liked your blog, though. Ah, camping...

Rebecca said...

your blog is funny. I am glad I have no idea what the song sounds like.

neltind: a blogonian word meaning bliss