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Imagine sitting on top of the mountain, nine thousand feet high above the world. Flies and bees and ladybugs are swarming, looking for ??. Rock piles everywhere. You just wiped the sweat off your brow, and are tuning into the funny sensations rapid elevation gain produces in your body. Is it really lighter up here, are my movements more swaying, the tickling in my nose the beginning of delightful smell? Then a man enters your vision. He is carrying a fishing pole, wears a camouflage hat and does not have a back pack. Altitude happy you call out to him, “Going fishing for flies up here?”
And you know, what he says?
“Someone told me there is a lake with fish in it up here.”
Altitude hallucination? Who is hallucinating?
He comes closer, smiles and then says,
“Would you mind terribly if I fire off my handgun?” Yes, I would mind, you say. Hallucination or not, you are not going to spoil your altitude high with a loud blast of a gun near your head. Surprised look on his face. Then you see the handle of the gun hanging out of his pocket. He is not joking. Patiently he explains, “There is a lady down below. I promised to fire my gun if I made it up here.” You feel the waver of niceness in your chest, but you don’t say anything to give in to his request. You reminisce about the gun and the fishing pole as equipment for mountain climbing as the man walks away and waves good bye.
This is what happened when I climbed to the top of Mt. Eddy, across I-5 from Mt Shasta. I thought, this is my mountain too, I climbed it, I will sit here in peace. I drink water I carried, I eat the lunch I brought. There are different ways of finding food, I suppose. We all share the outdoors. There is Them with the gun and fishing pole, there is Us with the botany book and Cliff bar.
A shot fired in the distance told me he respected my space.
Somewhat, at least.