Westerners Wonder, “What Goes Up …?”

January 10, 2020

By Charlie Schudson

Hiline-Templeton trail. Photo courtesy of Al Gore

David Clayton-Thomas is not a Westerner but might as well be for the guidance he gives our hikers.  In 1968, with Blood, Sweat & Tears, he won Grammy awards for Best Performance by a Male Vocalist, and Album of the Year.  And on that B,S&T album, he sang his composition, “Spinning Wheel,” which warned, “What goes up, must come down ….”

Clayton-Thomas could have been our guide on a sunny Sunday in November when the Drovers, led by Jon Petrescu, hiked five miles on the Hiline-Templeton trail. 

The morning sparkled, offering spectacular sights from Hiline to the northeast where, in the distance, Cathedral Rock seemed to gaze back at us from its own point of view.  But it was Clayton-Thomas’ perspective that brought us life-saving lyrics. 

When one of our hikers noted that a short, rock-scrambling ascent seemed so easy up but could be dicey back down, our co-leader suggested that, because “what goes up, must come down,” every hiker should carry a strap.

“What’s a strap?” several hikers asked.  At our snack break, our co-leader pulled out two. 

First, from the bottom of his pack came a twenty-five foot long, one inch wide “strap” of super-strong and flexible material, similar to that carried by every Verde Search & Rescue volunteer.  Next, from his fanny pack came a braided “bracelet,” 10-12 feet of parachute cord.  Both of these inexpensive items, available at many outing stores, can be lifesavers. 

Every year, countless hikers – including many who set out for what they expect will be short and simple strolls – suffer injurious or even fatal falls because, after easily scrambling up a few feet, they find themselves unable to climb back down.  By wrapping a strap around a tree trunk or boulder, they would have been able to support themselves down to the next level – no fancy repelling; just basic play-grounding.   

The shorter bracelet, of course, may be less helpful than the longer strap.  Still, such convenient cordage alone can make the difference, or it may add essential length when properly knotted to the longer strap.  And given its low price, small size, and light weight, there’s no excuse for not carrying a bracelet (it’s a fashion statement).

Edge of a ledge?  No strap or bracelet?  No cell phone to call for help?  

Pause, don’t panic.  Consider the “straps” you do have – shoelaces, shirt sleeves, pant legs … whatever can be securely tied (they’re not just for prison escapes).  OK, they’re not perfect; but they’re so much better than a fall.        

“What goes up, must come down … spinning wheel got to go ‘round.”  David Clayton-Thomas said he wrote these words “when psychedelic imagery was all over lyrics,” as his “way of saying, ‘Don’t get too caught up, because everything comes full circle.’”

“Full circle” is what Westerners experience on Sedona’s loop trails.  “Full circle” is what I savored with wonderful Westerner friends on Hiline-Templeton.  And fifty years after adding Blood, Sweat & Tears to my shelf of albums, “full circle” is what I came in order to share David Clayton-Thomas’ life-saving lyrics.  Hikers need balance.  So let’s not “get too caught up” by our troubles; after all, “What goes up, must come down.” 

If you are interested in joining the club, please visit the Sedona Westerners website at www.sedonawesterners.org/membership.  You are invited to our next regularly scheduled monthly meeting at 7 p.m., Thursday, February 13, 2020, at the Sedona Methodist Church, 110 Indian Cliffs Road. 

Written by Charlie Schudson

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