The apparent height of an object, Ha, is the actual size of the object, a, divided by your distance to the object, d; that is to say perspective, or the lack thereof, can be an absolute killer. In front of us a series of peaks lined up like a group of people at a bus stop straining out from behind one another to see when the #42 was coming. These mountains were boulder-strewn and forested, and they turned purple as they filed into the distance like a wine-stained pile of broken teeth. One of these peaks was our destination, our last climb and our carrot, what we had been promised in emails and in car rides, had dreamed about along paved roads and through wrong turns, been reassured by in small towns with big sandwiches and in the recently converted deer mortuary cum truck bed. After this last peak we were going down; 5000′ of buffed out single track descending awaited our arrival. FIVE THOUSAND FEET of pristine trails with Velcro® traction, 5000′ of descending where the all the animals of the forest would come to cheer us on, to wish us farewell dressed in their Sunday best and their dance club worst. And our plan was to pass over the tops of each consecutive peak until we found it.
You see, not a single member of our party had traveled this route; this is not a problem with true and specific beta, but we did not have true and specific beta. Rather, we were working off of a half decade old blog post and a two-decade-old topo map. The result of this imprecise information would take its toll on our expedition. We spent a great deal of time walking with our bikes. And our guide, bless his soul, resorted to the One-Last-Hill school of motivation. We like to refer to these false promises as huckleberries. Why? I couldn’t tell you, but I can tell you that our trip was full, FULL, of huckleberries. “Oh here’s a huckleberry, and there, and over there, over there there is like this whole bush of huckleberries just a ton of them…” ad nauseum. Each peak was the end, and each huckleberry was more sour than the last. At one point the rest of the group caught on to what was now a de-motivational technique and, by inference, realized that we were not actually climbing or even anywhere near the last peak. At that moment, I imagine our group experienced a small taste of the dread that must have descended upon the Donner Party when they realized the extent to which they were completely screwed, that they were going to have to survive the winter in the bleak desolation of the high Sierra, and how they did not know yet that the sour taste of huckleberry would stay on their lips until death.