Saturday morning I woke up with a need to climb a mountain. It was like a geas was laid 'pon my head. It was like a compulsion. I needed to climb a mountain. Now to climb a mountain you need stuff. Stuff like bottles of oxygen, a Sherpa guide and a caravan of pack llamas. That’s just the stuff on the top of the list. What I had was Soupo, and Katcha. This pretty much limited my mountain choices for the day. Being in southwestern Ohio was another limiting factor. Actually having a mountain would probably be right at the top of the list of things you need to climb a mountain. Mountains are in pretty short supply here in Ohio. There’s a reason we’re the “Buckeye State”, not the “Mountains Strewn About So Thick You Can’t Go to the End of Your Driveway to Pick Up Your Morning Paper Without Tripping Over a Peak or Two State”. Luckily I knew just the place.
The approach to our mountain was simple enough. We drove there. Once in the parking lot we commenced to reconnoiter. We could commence with the reconnoitering straightaway because we put on our sunscreen at home. The reconnoitering was very important. You wouldn’t want to be halfway up the treacherous Eastern Face and have an insurmountable obstacle thrown up at you. That would just suck. So we walked pretty much around our mountain and checked the joint out. As it happens, there’s an insurmountable obstacle most of the way around the mountain. This made our choice of climbable faces pretty cut and dried. We’d go up from the parking lot side. Where we started. But we got a little walking in to limber up. Now it was time to hit the mountain.
Picking where to start our ascent took a little time. It was a trade-off. If we started closer to the summit, that would mean the fist part was steeper. If we started farther back, we had more mountain to climb. We compromised by not starting quite as close as we would have liked, but not so far away we (read: Soupo and Katcha) would get bored with the whole mountain thing and want to stop and throw rocks into the lake instead. This is just one of the things you have to think about when the rest of your climbing party averages out to five anna half years old.
So we hit the mountain. Things went pretty smoothly at first. I was breaking trail and the other two were back there somewhere picking grass stems to whip at each other. Luckily for me I couldn’t hear them in the thin mountain air. Then we hit the steeper part of the climb. We had to link hands and press onward. I was starting to fear we wouldn’t make it. But we did! We made it to the summit! We got all the way to the tippy-top and touched the benchmark that said “You are now at the tippy-top of this mountain.” It didn’t say it in so many words, but the surveyor’s stake in the ground with the nail in the middle meant we were at the tippy-top of this mountain. It’s one of those trail signs we experienced mountaineers learn to read. Wow, we were really up there! From our alpine peak we could see three strip malls and the highway. And boy was it windy.
Pretty soon, of course, the boys got bored with the Top of the World and wanted to go back down so they could throw rocks into the lake. If we only had a sled with us. See, that’s what our mountain was, a giant sled hill. And I mean giant. It’s the highest point in all of Butler County. I think it’s even higher than the highest point of Hamilton County too which is really something to say since the highest point in Hamilton County is the top of Rumpke Dump, and it keeps getting higher all the time. But our sled hill is pretty high. And amazingly poorly thought out.
As a sled hill, it has a lot going for it. It’s real high. You can really get zooming by the time you hit the bottom. And that’s just on the main approved slope. They had to put up the barrier fence on the other sides of the hill to keep people (well, not so much “people” as “kids”) off the even steeper other sides. You take a toboggan down the steeper unapproved sides and you’ll break the sound barrier by the time you hit the bottom. Which would be a plus since that way no one could hear your screams. But on the approved sledding side, you’d still go zippy. Until you hit the bottom. You know how on most sled hills it either goes flat there at the end or has a slight lip so you can stop? Not the new sled hill. Nope, the run ends in a sheer drop of nearly ten feet. I think they’re gonna fix that by this winter. Last winter was the first year the hill was even there and they told the kids not to sled on it because the hill “wasn’t finished”. Right after they let everyone know this was the highest point in the whole county, they turn around and say “don’t sled on our hill since it’s not finished.” (How do you “not finish” a pile of dirt?) On the upside, no one died. Not from lack of trying either. I think if we had more than four days of snow this last winter the dead kids would have been stacked up like cord wood. But they plan on improving the hill for next year. Like giving you a way to stop other than plowing into the gully at the bottom or ricocheting off the people trying to climb up for their turn.
But in the summer, it’s a mountain to climb. And climb it I did.