MINE SHAFTED

THE FOLKS IN MORRISTOWN MAY BE GETTING A NOT-SO-GRAND CANYON

Diefenderfer's stone masonry in the red canyon below the Camelback summit is a masterpiece of subtlety. He combs the washes for stones and hauls them up to piece them into a jigsaw-puzzle rock staircase. The cement is hidden beneath and rubbed with red dirt to resemble the surrounding rock. Only near the top of the canyon one notices the natural state--undercut rocks, loose dirt where Diefenderfer has not yet been. "It's too bad this section isn't as strong as down below," calls a middle-aged hiker when he notices Diefenderfer's scrutiny.

The quality of the work is lost on the day-to-day hikers. Sometimes when Dief straps on a tank and hikes up Camelback to water the cactus and creosote he planted there, passersby on the trail assume he's spraying for bugs. They thank him that somebody's finally taking care of the insect problem on Camelback. Next: air conditioning.

Even as he relates the story, a Walkman-topped yuppie crusader brushes by, elbowing him in the stomach without so much as an "Excuse me." The trail is at least ten feet wide, with plenty of room to go around, but the crusader clearly has a territorial route. And before anyone can react, his lady friend pushes through on the same course, her blond ponytail slapping her shoulders with each purposeful stride.

@rule:

@body:Arlynne Eisner is the queen of Saturday morning at Squaw Peak, and as she leads the way up the trail, she greets every third person coming down by name. She's cheery and personable and it's clear that this is her regular beat. Eisner is tiny, but she's got great legs and great fingernails--the former short and tan, the latter long and red--and you have to admire anyone who can hustle up and down Squaw Peak, build a rock wall while she's up there, and still have enough breath left to light a cigarette.

A half-mile up, the route traverses the backside of the mountain. The loose talus that runs downhill and piles against trees below is evidence that the trail has been sliding four or five feet a year, sloughing off like so much dead skin. Just downslope stands a tall saguaro, brown on its trail side and pockmarked from rock throwers.

This is the site that started Arlynne's television career as a Squaw Peak activist. And in fact, because of her efforts, within two weeks the offending "road" will be shaped into terraced checks built to Borkan's specifications. Arlynne and Roger Maki and friends will have chipped in by planting a couple hundred cholla balls to discourage off-trail rambles. Jim Burke of the Parks Department has promised as well to rip out the concrete on the trail below and to insist on more use of natural materials on the trail above. No matter; it will be trampled into dust in time.

Just below "the Tree," Arlynne stops to show off the rock walls she and her friends built to guide hikers away from switchbacks. An Arlynne acquaintance runs down the trail, eyes rolling back in his head because it's his second or third round trip this morning, and, without breaking stride, he stage whispers, "There's a whole lot of rangers up top."

Eisner hurries uphill. Just below the final rock chute to the summit, perhaps the only section of the trail that begs for hand-over-hand climbing, there's a dirt-and-rock wash, another of Arlynne's favorite sections of trail. Borkan and Kehoe are there, making their recommendations to deputy parks director Jim Burke, the rangers and trail crew as people scratch and claw their way up and slide down around them.

"This is a scar you can see from town," Burke says, and the problem is not so much how to keep it challenging for fitness buffs as how to keep it from washing away completely. Kehoe and Borkan admit they don't know what to do with it. Hikers parade past, providing comic relief. A college-boy stoner lopes up the trail sporting an earring and a pirate-style bandanna over his curls; he's carrying a guitar. The rangers beg him for a song, but he demurs with an embarrassed scowl, and sullenly struts uphill with a bounce in his walk that could have come from an R. Crumb comic book.

Three young, blond males climbing down practically step on Burke. They're shouting to each other, though they're within whispering earshot. A bystander suggests that if they turned down their Walkman cassette players they could talk in a normal tone of voice, but, of course, they can't hear the advice. Ken Kehoe buries his face in his hands to hide his laughter.

A swarthy middle-aged man with a thick gut and a thousand-yard stare climbs virtually over Burke's head. "Everybody's got his own steps," Burke says philosophically. Moments later the incredible bulk lunges back down the same route on the edge of control, jumping flatfooted from rock to rock. He's a human landslide; stones and dirt squirt from beneath the Richter-scale impact of his basketball sneakers. He'll pay for his sins with his knees--one hopes before summer is over. Maybe Ben Avery is right; maybe we should pave the trail to save the mountain from these people. Maybe we should just let it fall apart before it gets any weirder. Maybe we should just surrender, sit on a rock and enjoy the parade.

THE WHITE MAN'S JUSTICE... v7-22-92

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