Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Apache Lake, AZ

APACHE LAKE (Mar 04 Elderhostel)
I looked down on the white-crested waters of the normally [placid lake and exclaimed “The weather service has extrapolated in the opposite direction again”. The six days of the stay at the Apache Resort were predicted to have increasingly warm days with high pressure in control. Instead, El Nino had crept into the western weather system, coming from the west, and the days had all experienced increasingly moist air- terminating in deluges of rain for the final days of the program.
The main road from Tortilla Flats was closed, due to the high water at the bridges, and it appeared that participants leaving on Friday would have to exit toward the east, on the only alternating highway. We had adjusted to this advisory, and now looked to extract some modicum of humor from the week, to offset the fact that the desert had not provided the sun and balmy conditions we had anticipated.
Joe from Tennessee had caustically remarked that we would experience the Mexican weather forecast for the next two days: “Chili today and hot Tamale”. And all had concurred, that although we had the photographic opportunities of Seaworld (underwater), the days following our adventure would be like the South Seas- serene and musical.
All had not been lost, however, since some of us had dutifully traipsed up the steep foothills to the south- between rain showers- to capture fleeting glimpses and camera opportunities for the little jewel of a mountain lake below.

Jas, our coordinator, was the spirit of our week- a jolly fellow in his 60’s who always had a humorous story to relate. I had always thought that a coordinator was a person with a desk between two expeditors, but not so with Jas- he was an independent person who had many adventures in the international mineral business, and who was not averse to exposing them all.
The heart of the program for all of these 70-80 year oldsters was a lively divorcee’ named Berta. She was only in her 60’s and possessed a lively repartee’ and physical ability. She easily out-hiked and out-distanced the other with her easy manner and charm. She became the photographer and story teller for the group. One day she witnessed the following episode:
We climbed the 1000 foot elevation change above the lake to determine the sequence of volcanic flows and outpourings of ash above the granite bedrock., The weathered granite was everywhere at the lowest levels of the arroyo we followed and made an excellent base for the roads leading into the Apache lake and Resort.
A road grader had merely to scrape and level the granites sand to make excellent road base with essentially no slick or muddy portions. We noticed a grader working the main road above us, as we plodded up the canyon stream way. Although climbing steadily, it was easy to ascend the 1000 foot slope to the east-west road above. There were young basalts which had flowed down the same slope of the arroyo indicating that the terrain had not changed much since the volcanic eruption. A basalt vent, of dark colored contrast to the pink granite bedrock, was noticed along the climb, the basalt of age less than 100,000 years being deposited on top of the 1+ billion year granite bedrock. Some billion years of history had been lost here- stripped away by erosion of the rising granite intrusive rock in the time since the age of the dinosaurs. The granite rock had been buried deep in the earth’s crust, but as erosion had stripped the overburden above it, the buoyancy of the light granites caused them to rise, not only due to expanding hot rock, but also due to the lightness of the column of earth as it was eroded. It had come up in the last 50 million years, as the edge of the Colorado had been washed down to the Pacific Ocean.
I was especially spry as we returned through the arroyo on the downhill leg, but might have been influenced by the smell of diesel from the grader, as it passed a few hundred feet to the west of us. The grader disappeared form view, but I began to cough violently and became feverish. I returned to my room, since I produced blood with my strenuous coughing, but it was about quitting time anyway. Within an hour, I could not talk and was uncontrollably coughing.
The next morning I was not much better, and felt greatly disturbed to hear that the road grader had stopped to adjust the hydraulically-actuated blade at about 4:30 pm the previous day. He crawled underneath the lifted blade to inspect the hydraulic actuation, when it failed- crushing him instantly. His body was found by a rancher driving down to the resort for dinner.

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