Does Not Mix with Cliff-Climbing...
Citation: Arthur B. Goodwill. "Does Not Mix with Cliff-Climbing...: An Experience with Mushrooms (exp16970)". Erowid.org. Dec 23, 2003. erowid.org/exp/16970
I have learned from experience that mushroom trips rarely, if ever, end up congruent to pre-trip expectations. Prime example: when two good friends and I reached the incredibly beautiful Jolama Beach campsite on a secluded piece of the Pacific Coast with plans to put our respective eights of mush madness to good use, I never expected that only a few short hours from then I would be hanging precariously from a cliff of crumbling rock and screaming desperately to my friends that I didn’t want to die. But such is the nature of psychedelics.
The trip started out fine: we were lucky to get a campsite at all, considering the high demand of any campsites in the Santa Barbara area during the annual Fiesta Week. We had put ourselves on the waiting list the previous day and were incredibly excited to get one of the few remaining camp spots. We set up our tent and had good music ready for our post-mush return. A single backpack full of essentials was all that was brought with us on our trip; it contained peanut butter, spoon, pipe case, metal joint-holding tin, a lighter, the mushrooms of course, and my friend Matt‘s 1969 steel Nikon camera.
We made our way down the beach and did not hesitate to break into the shrooms. Right before our intake, Matt expressed fear about what we were going to do, hinting to his uncertainty about this shroom trip, recalling past trips where he had gotten especially negative and had almost reached a snapping point. We reassured him and vowed that this was going to be nothing but positive energy. A secluded spot behind a jutting cliff of rock concealed our illegal activities, namely eating our eights with peanut butter and lighting up our last remaining, and therefore appropriately fatty, road trip joint. We vowed to not bring any time telling devices, wanting the experience to stand as it was, free of the worry and constraints of time. After the J was finished we began running up the waterline of the beach, reveling in pre-trip expectation and excitement. After awhile I realized that I couldn’t feel my legs as they pounded into the soft sand of the beautiful beach. We slowed down a little as the shrooms really started to take effect, antsy excitement replaced with dawning reverence and amazement.
A swim seemed prudent, so I stripped down to my boxers (my other friends, using appropriate foresight, had been wearing swim-compatible shorts) and we made our way into the shallow waves. Matt and I elected to go deeper than Seth was willing to and we ended up in near-shore breaking waves that completely engulfed us. Time in the water was floating in perpetual ecstasy, lulled by the gentle swell of the waves and sometimes, when we ventured further out, the violent crash of a breaking wave. Back to dry land, trying our towelless best to dry off. We made an adventure out of the experience then, seeing how far along the beach we could make it, adventurous marines on a parading journey of beach conquest.
The mushroom’s effect was only increasing: I realized that these shrooms were much stronger than the ones that I had been getting the few prior trips. I was amazed by the beauty of the scenery, sun shimmering on the water, beautiful beach and cliff running along the water for as far as I could see. I kept gesticulating in all encompassing sweeps of the arm at the beauty that was almost too much for me. “Look at that sky! Can you believe that goddamn sky! How can we possibly deserve that?” I asked several times. Eventually, I felt I needed to just lay in the sand and lose it like I have only lost it once before: it was time to shirk language and constructive conscious thought, to revel in my mad mindset and explore the maniacal realm of ego loss.
Unfortunately, this is exactly the time that Seth decided he needed to climb a cliff. He explained to Matt and me that he wanted to be above it, above all of this beauty. I have to explain to readers that I’m pretty damn scared of heights and a shitty climber to boot, so this didn’t seem like a very good idea to me. Matt laughed at Seth’s idea, then began outlining various scenarios in which someone attempting to climb the cliff would plummet to the jagged rocks below and bash out their brains on them, so I wasn’t exactly reassured when Seth urged us to come with him and Matt agreed. I, of course, had to follow, not wanting to be (1) left deserted on the beach with no one else and (2) some sort of group pariah too scared to commit to a group challenge and risk.
Seth’s sticklike figure scampered easily up the first part of the cliff face with no real difficulty, making it to the first plateau. Matt, too, was a good climber, and I followed his quick pace up the cliff, not really thinking about what I was doing. It wasn’t until I came to a nearly vertical part of the climb that I managed to realize what the hell I was doing and exactly how high up I was. I was shaken but continued to climb until a large chunk of rock came off in one of my hands. This scared me incredibly, and I realized that the rock I was climbing was not stable, was damn far from it in fact.
“Matt,” I called out, “I can’t climb anymore man. This fucking rock is coming off on me!” Matt tried to reassure me, to talk me through the climb, but the fact was I couldn’t do it. I could vividly see my death, and Matt’s words of brain bashing kept ringing through my head. I could imagine headlines and newspapers explaining how a bunch of crazy tweaked out kids thought how fun it would be to climb rocks and stupidly plummeted to their deaths. I felt like a weak, lame loser with no heart to overcome my fears. This plus Matt’s positive verbal walkthrough of the climb helped me to muster the courage to, step-by-step, pull-by-pull make my way to the plateau. By then Seth had already reached the top. We continued to climb again, this time Matt spotting me in case I had any trouble. The last 10 feet of the climb were the worst for me. I was covered in dirt and dust that had cascaded down the rock, temporarily blinding me. A large piece of rock came off in my hand and Matt had to steady me or I would have fallen. Dirt and mud had assailed me, worms crawling around in the stuff hitting my face and getting in my mouth.
Finally, finally I made it to the top, to blessed stable horizontal ground. Now it was Matt’s turn to make the final climb and I could imagine his death just as vividly as mine. However, he made it up rather easily with my help and we three stood triumphant on top of the cliff that we had conquered. How joyous it was! I was a dirty, disgusting looking disheveled mess but I felt so damn good about the climb and overcoming my fear that I just didn’t give a damn.
We walked along the cliff back towards the campsite, enjoying the view and freedom of our elevated height. Eventually, we found an easy climb down the cliffs near the campsite and started to make our trek back down the beach towards the spot where we had left our backpack. I saw an old hippy looking man sitting in the sand with his dog enjoying the sunset. I realized I must have looked like a mess, but he didn’t seem to mind and neither did I. Seth and Matt kept remarking on how dirty I looked, so I took a swim, this time not bothering to take off my khaki shorts. We began to make our way to the camp and this is when I slipped into my first really negative shroom experience. For some reason I was certain that a boat sailing in the distance was watching us somehow, a police boat waiting for us to do something that we could be arrested for. I insisted on leaving the pipe case underneath some rocks and sand, it being the only illegal thing that we had brought with us that we hadn’t consumed.
It took awhile, but my friends convinced me I was only being paranoid. I felt a little better about the situation, but extreme paranoia overcame me again when we talked with the hippy looking guy and for a second I almost believed that he was some sort of undercover police figure. Once again my paranoia had to be talked down and I felt like an asshole for being so dumb. I could tell my friends, especially Seth, were getting tired of reassuring me like I was a helpless child.
We made our way into the camp and I was forced to wash up in the bathroom since the showers only accepted quarters and I only had bills. In the bathroom I confronted my own stupidity, weakness, and paranoia and really came down on myself hard, way too hard. My feelings of weakness from the climb returned threefold, all traces of pride and happiness from the mild accomplishment destroyed. I washed up and changed clothes, at least finally feeling in control of my personal facilities, yet still feeling really down. When I got back to our site, Matt and Seth were making preparations for sleep, any idea of going back into SB to party drowned in exhaustion. I was almost completely down from the shrooms, but apparently Matt and Seth still had a ways to go. Matt layed in his sleeping bag moaning to himself while Blackalicious boomed out of our small cd player and the strange, soft, and compelling voice of the urban poet Cleopatra entranced us and probably weirded out our fellow campers, only a mere 5 feet away from us on either side.
Seth began laughing softly to himself, and then loudly. This continued for minutes and minutes, and had to definitely be either pissing off or scaring, or both, our fellow campers quiet little conversation circles around their tidy little fires. Matt was getting a little annoyed, and so was I for that matter. Matt felt uncomfortable and the psychological stuff was really hitting him hard, as I learned later. He talked about how he was never going to do shrooms again, and how we were all acting like a both of hopeless maniacs.
Out of the blue, Seth quit his laughing, leapt to his feet, and said, “I’m leaving.” He only made it as far as three feet outside, however, when he collapsed back into the tent, laughing even more. He told me later that he was planning on roaming the world from then on, that when he said “I’m leaving” he really meant that he was leaving forever. Matt left the tent then for a walk, and I was torn as to what to do. Leave Matt alone, or Seth? I decided that I would accompany Matt, as he was actually detaching himself from our property and wandering the campsite alone. I caught up with him and we made our way to lay on the beach, amazed by the incredible star filled sky above us, impossibly beautiful. I had never seen a sky like it before, and that wasn’t the shrooms either, it was simply breathtaking. I still had minor, minor visuals, such as certain stars swirling or dancing, but the psychological stuff was all gone.
Matt and I shared our thoughts and conclusions from the trip like we generally do after such an experience. I reflected on my momentary moment of weakness, a little ashamed by it but glad that it was such a slap in the face as to what actually could happen to me when dealing with shrooms, experience with psychedelics aside. It started getting a little cold so we made our way back to the tent. Seth was quiet when we go there but after about ten seconds of silence he said “hey guys, I’ve found enlightenment” and continued laughing like a madman. He was a little more under control, and I even managed to talk to him a little bit later about what he was thinking, and his continued mushroom trip, continuing hours after mine despite the fact that he didn’t consume his entire eighth. The man is incredibly sensitive to the stuff, I’ve learned.
Well, that’s about it. I drifted off to sleep content with my experience, knowing I learned a valuable lesson of my own fragile psyche, but disappointed that my untimely paranoia interfered with what otherwise would’ve been a great time. This lesson helped me six days later, when I took the plunge with five grams of the stuff. What utter great madness!
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