One of us said, “What is that moving this way?” Someone reached for their spyglasses and described what they saw. At thirteen thousand feet and walking towards us a half a mile away was a man with no backpack, raingear, or anything you might normally consider important while climbing the alpine ridges of the Sangre De Cristo mountain range in Colorado. But there he came as quick as you please.
He was wearing a floppy straw hat with a red bandanna wrapped around the sweatband with some sort of cordage to tie it under his chin. He wore a plain white fruit-of-the-loom undershirt and sky-blue, unhemmed polyester dress slacks that had been cut off mid-thigh. The stray strands blew like spider webs in the breeze. On his feet were a pair of low-grade suede hiking shoes and white cotton athletic socks. Dangling from his leather belt was an almost empty gallon milk jug.
As this was described to us our mood moved from disbelief to confusion to incredulity. We had seventy pound packs, three hundred dollar backpacking boots, not a stitch of cotton on our bodies to guard against hypothermia. We had rain gear, rope, food for six days, water purification tablets, sleeping bags, emergency gear, and first aid kit. We were totally prepared for these rugged mountains.
Not this guy.
When he approached our resting and condescending group he smiled and said, “Howdy!” His glasses were thick and they fogged up as he looked at us. He was barely breathing hard at altitude. He scratched at his right forearm, then his neck and then at his thigh. Someone asked where he was camped and he shrugged and tossed his head to his left and down the line of ridges indicating south and said, “Back that away.”
“Where you headed?” we asked next. With the same vagueness he jutted out his chin northward and said, “That away.”
We sat on a 13,200 foot pass where there was no trail and any viable campsite was hours away in any direction. If the mountains were a sea, we were atop a single wave with no landfall in sight. Where had this guy come from and where was he going?
He untwisted the lid to the milk jug and took a swallow of the little water that was left in the jug, wiped his mouth and grinned. We were dumbstruck. He was dressed more like a beach bum from southern California than a man walking alpine ridges in Colorado. An awkward silence hung between us. Finally someone asked him if he needed anything.
“I’m alright” he said. “Bugs are really bad aren’t they? I could use some insect repellent, if you could spare any” he said. He was covered with pink bumps, some scabbed over, and some looked infected. Small pox or a hornets nest was the first thing that came to my mind when I saw him standing there scratching.
My friend Jim jumped up and said, “I have a second bottle of ‘Jungle Juice’ I’ll give you.”
“No. Just squirt me a little in this sandwich bag.” He reached in his pocket pulled out a crumpled up baggie, turned it inside out dumping some crumbs and held it open for Jim. About six or seven good squirts was enough he said. He twisted a knot in the top of it and put it into his pocket, rubbed the spillage on his arms, legs, neck and face.
“Don’t get any of that juice on your glasses, it’ll dissolve your lenses,” someone offered. Nervous laughter rippled around our group in agreement.
“Well,” he said. “I better get going. Thanks for the bug juice.” He grinned, looked northward and off he went. We watched him drop down over the edge of the ridge; as if rogue wave swamped him never to be seen again.
Looking around at each other, checking for some clue of understanding at what we had witnessed someone asked, “What just happened? Was that even real?”
If you look at Crestone quadrangle topographical map there is an unnamed ridge between Cleveland Peak and Tijeras peak.
That is where we saw him.
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:3