Posted by: davidbowerkingwood | January 26, 2012

Lost on the Tooth of Time, Conclusion by David Bower

We Continue the Climb

Having left my wife, older son, and daughter in what we thought to be a safe and scenic place, my younger son and I continued our climb up the Tooth of Time.

As we got closer to the top we had to frequently stop and catch our breath; the Tooth of Time is around 9,000 feet above sea level and you probably know at that elevation the air is getting kind of thin and it becomes much more difficult to breath, especially if you’re used to lower altitudes.

We finally made it to the top and found the view to be all we had hoped it would be; breathless might be a good word to describe how we were feeling around that time. After a few minutes at the top we decided we had better head back down and join the rest of the family for our return to the parking lot and our car.

Keith and David Cropped 01

Our younger son and me on top.

The Deceptive Nature of Mountain Top Experiences

It was at this point that our ignorance of mountain ways betrayed us completely; we did not realize the significance of how this mountain was made. At the bottom the Tooth of Time is divided into vertical ridges and valleys that are easily seen.

Once on the rounded rocky top it can be rather tricky determining which of the valleys you had climbed; a few feet one way or the other can lead one down a different valley.  My younger son and I started walking back down, thinking we were following the path we had used to get to the top.

As we descended we kept a lookout for the other members of our family and when we got to the level where we thought we should find them we started calling out for them. Well, we got no answer to our calls and didn’t catch sight of them at all.

We discussed it and decided they must have gotten tired of waiting and decided to go on down to the car, so we kept going down until we got to the car and discovered to our  dismay that they were not there.

Where Did They Go?

At that point I didn’t have a clue where they were; both my son and I were exhausted from the climb but I knew someone would have to climb back up to where we had left them.

We went to the Park Ranger’s office and I explained what had happened and a young Ranger agreed to retrace our steps and see if he could find them. A good while later we saw him returning with my wife and our two other children.

I found out later they had indeed started back down toward our car when they heard a stranger’s voice calling out my wife’s name pronouncing it correctly. She knew he must have talked with me to pronounce it correctly and shortly after they met the Ranger who guided them down to the office.

They had been in the next valley over and all of our calling couldn’t reach over the ridge to where they had been waiting in the next vertical valley. Needless to say I was delighted that we were all together again.

All of this had taken the better part of the day and it was nearing supper time so we invited the Ranger to join us and treated him to a steak dinner. That, however, is not the end of the story.

Our older son realized that it would not be possible for him to live with his younger brother if he didn’t climb to the top of the mountain before we left. The die was cast; it was my job to climb to the top with our older son the next day. Although our younger son wanted to go up again, our older son insisted that he stay behind; realizing the sibling rivalry going on here we honored the older son’s request.

Fortunately that climb went very smoothly and we made our way up and down without incident. It is interesting how quickly one’s lungs can adjust to the altitude; we didn’t  need to stop to get our breath as we made our way to the top.

Our Older Son Makes it Too! 01

Our older son makes it too.

The following day we packed up and headed home having completed a memorable week in the mountains of New Mexico, most especially on the Tooth of Time.

The Three Children and the Tooth of Time 01

Our Three Children with the Tooth of Time in the Background


  1. I can so easily relate to this great anecdote. When my sons were in elementary school, we lived in Alberta, Canada for over a year. While visiting Banff, Alberta, during July, we stayed in a mountain resort. One afternoon about 3 they asked if they could hike down to the river…Of course, we agreed. The river looked pretty close, and it was a beautiful afternoon. About 5 p.m. it started to snow, however, and they weren’t back! They had gotten lost trying to find their way to the river. It wasn’t until about 9 pm, after contacting the RCMP for help, that we found them. They had finally found some helpful adults to steer them back!


    • One thing we had to learn was how deceptive distances can be in mountains; things can appear to be much closer than they really are and there can be hidden obstacles as well. Do you know how far it acutally was to the river?


  2. Have no idea..a quarter mile?…it just seemed close. Our chalet was on a hill sloping down toward the river and you could hear it quite easily…This became the most frightening day of my life! There were well marked trails headed that way, but apparently there were a LOT of trails and it was confusing… I’ll never forget that day. I have a painting of the other side of this mountain ~ Mt. Rundle.


  3. I have done some mountain hiking and it is not easy. To go up twice, I am impressed. David and I and our two sons hiked in Scotland (not nearly so high) one time. We did have rain the entire time and was the wettest I have ever been. However, as we cautiously returned to bottom watching where put every foot on the slipperty rocks, our sons ran down past us without a care to where their feet were planted and waited at the bottom for their two “old” parents. They had such smiles on their faces.
    To think God created all this for us.


    • Having lived almost all of my life on the Gulf Coastal Plains I’ve had little opportunity to climb mountains; this was the only notable experience but it was sufficient. The mountains of Scotland have a rather romantic sound; hiking in the rain in Scotland though sounds as if it might be a rather chilling experience in the most literal sense. I see the Scottish Highlands are about the same latitude as southern Alaska and that sounds cold to me.


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