Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Climbing Mountains

by Deb Baker

See this woman standing at the very summit of Camelback Mountain in Phoenix, Arizona? That is definitely NOT me.

It all started last year when I was writing my first doll collecting mystery, DOLLED UP FOR MURDER. The story’s victim takes a deadly plunge from a ridge along Camelback Mountain. I wanted to experience the mountain’s heights to enrich the tale. My protagonist, Gretchen Birch, is a hiker. Shouldn’t I give it a whirl?

Mid-afternoon, sunny, not a cloud in the sky, must be 80 or 90 degrees, no trees. I stood at the trailhead and peered up. No mountain peak in sight. But I DID see climbers going up and coming down, so I started out. A while later I paused for a drink of the water like a sign below had advised me to carry. Okay. That helped. Sure would like to find a bench. And a tree. People at the trailhead looked like ants. Still can’t see the top.

A few kids passed me heading down.
“Am I almost there?” I asked.
They tittered. “You’re not even halfway. There’ll be a marker at the halfway point.”
That got me up and going again.
I saw little kids climbing up and parents with children in backpacks going both ways. I can do this, I told myself. Just take it slow.

Much later, I still hadn’t found the halfway marker, but I did reach a bench. And sat. By now I knew I wasn’t going to make it to my goal. I’d used all my water and the heat was melting my shoes. I wrestled with failure for awhile before starting back down.

A woman more than sixty-five-years-old using a cane was coming up. “Are you going to the top?” I really wanted to know.
“I’m not sure. Sometimes I do, but it’s pretty hot today.”
“Can you describe the summit for me?” I said, taking the whimpy way out.

Camelback Mountain is a hiker’s dream. That’s what I’ve heard. I’ve also read that the Phoenix Fire Department goes on more Camelback Mountain rescues than any department near any other mountain in the United States. Two or three inexperienced climbers fall to their deaths every year.

In the meantime Gretchen Birch, heroine of the Dolls To Die For series, has climbed to the top of the mountain several times every week through three mysteries. She gets to stand at the summit, while I wait on a bench below, scribbling down descriptions told by real hikers.
Sure would like to see what Gretchen sees.
Maybe someday.

1 comment:

Monica Ferris said...

I love this! One of the great things about being a writer is that your hero(ine) can do things and people think the writer has done them, too. I have a drawer full of "UFOs" -- unfinished stitching projects. My heroine finishes them, or other characters in my books finish them. I write about them. I used to write about a woman who raised horses. "Kori did chores," I'd write -- without having to lift a pitchfork myself.