I apologize. I said this post would be about Wilderness Inquiry family excursions, but what I tried to write is written and illustrated better on the WI web site. Also–obviously–I’m still working on scheduling. I’m trying to help my daughter start a craft business, getting some new windows (not the computer type) installed, painting shelves which would be up by now if the handyman didn’t have scheduling problems like mine, and shufling furniture, books, and bric-a-brac from room to room to keep them out of the way of workers. I’ve never been good at more than one project at a time. Then I had to learn how to send photos from my camera to my computer because the real camera is waiting for me to change its batteries. Life isn’t neat; its pages become torn and stained with decades of reading.
“Eye of the Needle” is not the same as “Hole in the Wall.”
Hole in the Wall
September 9, 2003, at 3:10, I’m sitting on a folding stool under, but not too much under—a cottonwood tree. Cottonwoods are brittle and it’s windy. I have my water bottle, notebook, 2 pens, and one of Skus’s jackets; I forgot a jacket, or considered the warm sun but not the cool breeae, but he carried two and he’ll be plenty warm hiking with one while I sit still with the other. He and the others are going up to the Hole. They offer to help me up, but I take one look at ridges of ascending heights and know that, long before I get to the Hole, it would be too much up for me. Good that Skus can go on with the group. I watch canoes on the river. Another group of hikers passes me on their way up.
I find a bird’s scapula close to where I sit. It’s clean and white, tattered at the thin edges, the socket joint whole and clear. There’s a rusty piece of an unidentifiable machine, and an old campfire pit. No fires or charcoal allowed this dry season, only gas/propane stoves.
Cool when sun behind clouds, hot when out. Started with a gorgeous sunny day and cool breeze, but now chilly wind and big cumulus puffs, but not thunder heads, too shallow and scattered.
3:55 I see the climbing party on the top of the ridge that runs just below the Hole, but the photo below is from Skus’ point of view–the back side of the ridge.
4:03 I see ant-sized people in the hole, probably 2 or 3 at a time, but hard to tell. They told me later that Skus waved his shirt at me, but I couldn’t detect that. If I took a photo that showed anything, I have lost it.
4:50 I see hikers on the highest ridge below the hole again.
5:00 More coming down. I can’t tell which group is ours until the other group passes me on their way back. I ask if they have been up before. At least one is a tour guide who has been there “many times.” They all appear to be strong, experienced hikers.
Our group is back. Skus says, “It wasn’t pretty steep—It was ridiculous, pitches up to 80 degrees, like climbing a steep ladder.”
He tells me, “A couple of places had carved-out holes.” He says they would have needed a rope to haul me up. They sometimes gave him a hand up, sometimes told him where to put his feet, sometimes just encouraged him. They had gone over and down several ridges, around the back of the rock wall before they showed up at the hole.
The Eye of the Needle in Montana
Montana’s Eye is noted on the Wilderness Inquiry website, but we didn’t know exactly what we were looking for, didn’t get a photo, and our guides may or may not have pointed it out, or mentioned that its top had collapsed in early 1997. Vandalism was suspected, but the final conclusion was that its fall was most likely a natural event. It’s only accessible by a long hike through private property or a steep and slippery rock climb from the river, and there was no evidence of human presence. These sandstone formations do have a natural lifespan. Wikipedia shows a before-and-after poster.
The Needle’s Eye /Tunnel
That same post includes the Needle’s Eye tunnel of the Needles Highway (SD 87) which is definitely not for fast travel. You need to stop for photos at every pullout, anyway.
That doesn’t exhaust the world’s Needle’s Eyes, but I haven’t photos and won’t go into those. Maybe someday…
Meanwhile, I’ve learned not to say “Next time…” unless that next post is already written. If I don’t get lost in a box of old letters, or spend too much time condensing, selling, and otherwise disposing of excess stuff, I’ll be more consistent.