Although it produced one of the best moderate bouldering areas in Washington, the creation of the Lucid Boulders was attended by great debauchery, vulgarity, and sloth. You see these young bros at the crag, all shiny and unbent as their ultralight mastercams and trucker hats, this was not us. Or rather, it was not them, as I took only casual and occasional part in what I am about to relate. Now, the first of these boulders lies directly along the trail to Spring Mountain, so I gather Ryan took notice of it years ago, and it had this left-angling seam with a distinctive cleaned-sometime-in-the-last-decade look about it. This means that it wasn’t covered by a curtain of moss three inches thick that would peal off like the world’s soggiest, most arthropod-ridden, shag carpet. When the moss doesn’t peal off like that, by the way, scraping only cuts it into a small forest of muddy stems and all the brushing in the world only spreads the muck into a thin coat over the normally pale stone. So this crack, I think they later determined that it had been cleaned and sent by Danny Coltrane, ended up being something like V2. Beyond the Coltrane Crack, though the woods, a small garden of boulders emerged. Highball w/ The Devil, Kuba Slab, Lumberjizz, 5.9 A2, Even Zachias Found His Glory; after they ran though the usual gamut of blues-rock songs, weed references, and truly awful puns, the route names began to get personal: Van’s Tiny Penis, Michal’s Wizard Sleeve, Chandler’s Girlfriend Loves Bukkake, Ryan’s Anal Beads. When I complained that some of these names were getting a little misogynistic and named a problem Chemical Castration, they dubbed the one next to it, Jacob Smith’s Feminist Buttplug.
These were the days, clogging wire brushes with mud, sliding off crash pads into damp duff, the roar of Michal’s leaf-blower and the misguided ratcheting of their winch (trying to dislodge a small boulder mucking up a landing, I believe that they bent a bolt hanger before giving up). The nights were another matter entirely. Half these guys have some manner of drinking problem and without the looming specter of an alpine start, they indulged themselves. They would start with beer around midmorning and then by noon whiskey or some similarly proofed liquor would have emerged. By the end of the evening, too inebriated to set up tents, they would lay out their half-dozen, variously muddied, crash pads and sleep at odd, unbro-ish angles to each other. One dude, whose name I don’t believe I ever caught, tried to drive away after one of these nights but soon returned to collapse a few feet short of this communal mattress, in, and unlike most of what is being written here, the unexaggerated truth, a puddle of his own vomit.
Most evening also featured some sort of impromptu boulder sesh, where those who had been favoring alcohol stood back and pointed headlamps haphazardly at whatever problem those who had been favoring weed opted to try. The beta spray was usually just short of incoherent and the rocks were slick with dew and slug slime and the LED beams caught great clouds of chalk and pollen and cocaine. We were overgrown children in an underground boxing club, beating our knuckles bloody because we were bored with perfection. We were all employed, in some form or another, and each of us had a safety net we couldn’t have slipped through if we tried. We were sick, some more virulently than others, with the neuroses of privilege. I wonder though, at the damage boys like us can do. No one was ever hurt badly but ankles were twisted and shoulders tweaked and we became lost wandering drunk through the woods to pass out on the forest floor and wake with little idea of which way the road ran.
Of the boulders themselves I am more reticent to speak. It was not a slip of the pen that I wrote of Lucid being created rather than found. Routes are not uncovered, preexistent or determined, they are manufactured. The Lucid Boulders were made, formed from the raw materials of the world, or some such enacted myth. Those rocks as they were, as they had fallen from the cliffs and been absorbed into the forest, were not fit for our use until we cleaned them. This “cleaning,” this floral cleansing, meant the killing of everything that would prevent our ascent without worry or concern. I love those routes and the process of creating them but I also love the boulders as they were left by the forest. I feel their ancient worth and my hand flinches as I uproot a sword fern or peal back a moss curtain thick as sod. I wonder if in my own way I am no different from the quarryman or the logger who look at a patch of wilderness and say, “what use can I put this to?” If I wonder at our motivations I have little doubt as to the final effect. The forest is already taking back the swaths we cut. Our footprints fill in behind us, slow as the river cutting its bed.
I have not been back to Lucid in years and I don’t know if it has seen more than two or three visits since those weekends in 2014. Whatever colonial urges brought us there now lead us to farther corners of our conquered land. At these other cliffs I see teenagers armed with crag packs and the MP app, students of engineering and nursing and biochemistry, the next generation in fact, although to say it still feels unbelievably odd. I wonder if they suffer from the same emotional destitution as we do or if that age has passed and to them the world seems to contain just the correct amount of struggle. They come to the same crags and mountains but it looks like recreation, like something to pass the time on their way to their full and vibrant lives. Doubtlessly they see us, muddy and drunk and restless, and wonder, not without reason, what exactly our problem is.