Stepladder Mountains


By: Mary McMannes


"Gaily bedlight .. two gallant knights in sunshine and in shadow had journeyed long singing a song, in search of Eldorado" ..a.k.a. the LAST PEAK the FINALE the pin with the mountain goat's buttocks that we all yearn for. Yes, Don and Mary had started this folly in the late 1970's and early 80's but attempts to join the Sacred Order of List Finishers were thwarted by domestic encounters and commitments that led these two into other and varied AGENDA. Finally, late in 1998 it was decided that glory was long overdue, and the final five or six peaks needed to be "knocked off."

January 23 was set for a List Finish Celebration and due to apprehension about weather, unpredictable roads and almost 20 years of trying to finish the List, Don and Mary bagged the "last ones" and proceeded to party on Stepladder and Chemhuevi. Doug Mantle agreed to be host emeritus and roaster outrageous (plus he was so HAPPY to do Step. and Chemie, because he NEEDED the peaks.) (Isn't Doug Mantle needing more peaks like Bill Gates needing more money?) Friends were contacted and that's where some fun began as "old ghosts and shadows" from the past emerged to join the party or at least acknowledge they were still alive and kicking. Don Sparks and Mary Mac in front of f estive banner.

Needles on the afternoon of Jan. 22. It all looked smooth until the red light lit up on Don's old van. Eeek.. no time for mechanical difficulties no time for obstacles no time for sergeants. As luck would have it, Marshall the mechanic, at Shell station (next to Barstow McDonald's) was honest and efficient. It was a loose wire so $50 later and a breath of relief, the two were rolling for Needles.

Jan. 23--people were rolling into the roadhead at Stepladder. Paul Freiman arrived with bad news that he had blown a transmission. He borrowed Don's cellular phone and climbed a peaklet to phone Triple A of Needles. Minus "Tall Paul" (a regretful loss), the group began the lonnnnnnnng drive to Stepladder and the lonnnnng hike to the summit (longer because of the Wilderness Bill extended boundaries). Twenty five or more started for the peak and some good, ole friends (and two canines, Ruskie and Mandy).... Gregie boy Vernon, Dougie-pooh Mantle, Duane Mac, Bob Hicks, Karen Leonard, John "Get Me Off This Ridge" McCully, Barbara and Dave Scholle, Jack Koshear and son-in-law, Robert, Julie Rush, Ron Hudson, Gene Mauk, Big 0 Malloy, Vic and Sue (Triple DPS List Finishers.-but hey, who's counting?), Tom Scott, and other friends and newcomers. Stepladder is a fun peak with ramps to the top ... and champagne flowed as people toasted the List Finishers and anybody else we could think of. There were toasts to List Finishers, DPS chairmen, people newly married, people who wanna get married, people who wanna get unmarried it just went on and on. A good time was had by all as people descended the ramps and began the long walk back to the cars. We lost only three and that caused a few anxious moments. There was an attempt to send Ruskie and Mandy to retrieve the lost hikers, but neither would have any part of this due to picking cholla out of their paws. Finally, Ron Hudson climbed his truck and saw the hikers returning to the fold.

Evening of January 23.. a long drive out and to the party place which had been changed due to complaints of too much cholla at Chemie. This was a bad decision, made worst, because Ron and Ellen Grau had arrived with tons of delicious BBQ and buns and were camping at the previously announced party place. ARGH- Not only did we sorely miss the buns and bbq, but we missed Ron and Ellen's jolly natures. But back to the party... the champagne flowed and Doug Mantle provided fireworks. After it oohs and ahs" there were more ooohs and ahs as Doug roasted Mary with a finely written "Love Connections" quizzie alluding to and inferring all kinds of outrageous info about Mary's love life of the last twenty years (most of it untrue and totally embellished 1. Speeches were given about the admirable attributes of Don Sparks continually referred to as "Who IS Don Sparks?" Cuno Ranschau (who wild laugh was sadly missed) later remarked that Don was aptly "revered" and Mary aptly "roasted" because Don had behaved himself for twenty years and Mary hadn't. (As Oscar Wilde said, "the worst thing than being talked about is NOT being talked about.") Later into the evening, Doug unfurled a fabulous banner made by Betty and Joe McCosker which said Congrats to Don and Mary and was artistically enhanced by the nicest woman who ever lived, Betty M.

Morning of January 24--a few hangovers and later RED faces when seeing Ellen and Ron at the Chemie roadhead. Apologies flowed endlessly and guilt that lingers on- A smaller group climbed Chemehuevi, and everybody agreed it was a stupendous List Finisher. It had been fun hearing from past climbers Jon and Betsy Lutz (Nevada Peaks fame), Mario Gonzales (Big Picacho), Leroy Russ, Mark and Joy Goebel, Jon Inskeep (who led Mary up her FIRST desert peaks, Pescadores and Pico Risco), Carolyn West and Dave Petzold, Campy Camphausen.

Thanks to everybody who led, assisted, accompanied Don and Mary up those 97 peaks. ..moments to never be forgotten or in some cases never to be repeated. And to Bill T. Russell, Dale, Gene Olsen, Art Blauvelt, Vi.. .. your smiling faces, your twinkling eyes, your bushy eyebrows, your funny comments are never to be forgotten . You are an important part of our history and of our Celebration. Your spirits continue to hike in and out of our minds as we silently and verbally recall stories and events that only a seasoned DPSer would believe.

Twenty years ... cholla, dehydration, elation, broken down cars, worn out boots, worn out bodies, campfires and sunsets. Yep, it was all worth it. Eldorado does

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