Cima Dome: the folly of dreams

Since my earliest years, I have always harbored an obsession with imaginary boundaries, arbitrary points of interest, and other such foolish catalysts of human history.  One of my earliest memories recalls a plush globe given to me by my parents.  My mom pointed to a location on the globe and said, “This is where we live.  California.”  From that I assumed the neighbor’s driveway was Arizona, and the house across the street was Nevada, and thus began my age of exploration.  You have to be careful with children.

I remember once on a road trip to Oregon, while in my youth, I requested that my father drop me off about a hundred yards from the state line so I could enjoy the sensation of crossing the border on foot.  It was exhilarating, but part of me was expecting a change of air, perhaps a breeze to justify this imaginary division as insisted upon by men.  The speed limit dropped to 55 mph, but the air was the same.  There was no euphoric blast of Oregonian spirit beneath my feet.

And thus is the disillusionment that comes with maturity.  Foolish dreams become disappointing realities.  There is no end of a rainbow.  Clouds neither feel nor taste like marshmallows. The sky is as blue or gray on one side of a border as it is on the other.  And yet, even with the knowledge of how arbitrary it all is, we are still drawn to this imaginary intrigue of arbitrary points as if childlike fantasies were still appropriate in agedness.  It’s why the Navajo Nation can charge you three dollars to see Four Corners, and for some reason it doesn’t seem unreasonable.

Although my obsession with these metaphysical realities has never really waned, I began to see it as a sort of delusion that must be counteracted by an equally strong obsession with concrete, undeniable realities.

Geography.  Valleys and mountains.  Ecosystems.  Real, identifiable features that can be touched, climbed, and conquered.  Barriers and superlatives brought here by Mother Earth, and not by the whims of lesser men.

This led me to the Cima Dome.

This photograph brought to you by the good people at

Pictured here:  a mountain.  (This photograph brought to you by the good people at

The Cima Dome could be the least prominent mountain in the whole Western USA, but I was not drawn to it for its height.  I was drawn to it for the peculiarity of its form.  I saw it on a topographic map while planning an excursion out in the Mojave Desert, and I knew I had to see it live.  When I did, my mind was blown.

Picture brought to you by the good folks at

Picture brought to you by the good folks at

It is a perfectly smooth, broad cone protruding from a valley floor in the Mojave Desert.  It is so gradual that one might not even notice it while driving by, but it converges from the far reaches of the desert onto a point on top of which one can claim to be at the at the summit of a peak, and yet also on the ground at the same time.  I have mountaineered in my day, but never have I been so hungry to conquer such a paradoxical piece of earth.

I assembled my expedition of outdoor-enthusiast friends and we embarked on our expedition to the Cima Dome.

Truth be told, I lied to my compatriots.  I told them the hike was to Teutonia Peak (pictured above), a mountain to which there exists a well-marked trail whose summit is not far from the main road.  The Cima Dome is on the other side of Teutonia Peak, and I was not going to pass up my opportunity to conquer it.

Cima Dome from Teutonia PeakWhen we finally got to the top of Teutonia Peak, I pointed out yonder to the Cima Dome. “Who wants to join me in conquering this mighty beast?”  Conquer what?”  Yonder.”  And across from Teutonia Peak, as clear as the ground, lay the Cima Dome.  Close, but distant.  Vague.  Unchartered.

“Uh… no thanks.”
“But… but…”
“Is there a trail that goes there?”
“Yeah… no thanks.”

Driven to desperation, I abandoned my group of comrades and bushwhacked my way across the vast Mojave Desert up the gradual slope of the Cima Dome.  My party, plagued with indulgent concern and resigned to give into my foolish whims, followed behind, and we made our way across the treacherous terrain towards whatever summit there might have been.  I envisioned reaching a point at which I would no longer be hiking upward, and that the sensation of having achieved the maximum height would indicate success.  From that spot, as I imagined it, I would have a 360-degree view of the entire desert floor, and I would promptly throw my hands to the sky and hell, “Eureka!  I have conquered what might as well be the top of the world!”

The bushwhacking got thicker.  My compatriots stopped.  “Yeah, you go on ahead.  We’re done.  We’ll wait for you here.  Don’t die.”

So I went on, dreaming of that glorious summit, standing atop the great Mojave, laughing at the peons below.  But then something terrible happened: the trees thickened, the ground evened out, and I could no longer figure out if I was still going up.  I looked around.  No view.  No point of perceivable maximum height.  No euphoric sensation of victory.  I was standing on a flat piece of earth, cold and indifferent.

I returned to my party.

“Did you make it to the top?”
“I think so.”
“Cool.  Let’s go home.”

There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  Clouds feel like nothing.  A ponderosa pine in Oregon is no different than a ponderosa pine in California.  Music is nothing more than vibrations in the air.  Love is a biological reaction.  Sex is a cheap thrill.  Gelato is ice cream.  Serbian and Croatian are the same language.  Mars has no life.  Grass is never really that comfortable to lie on.  Bacon is only pretty good.  And the Cima Dome has no perceivable summit.

But I want to believe.  I still do, in fact.  And I will.  No amount of adulthood is going to stop me.  There is something greater in our world behind the banalities that disguise it, beyond the facades of disillusionment that make our lives teetering on the brink of hopeless boredom, and we must continue to pursue it, desire it, believe in it, even if that greater metaphysical spirit is our desire itself for it to be so.

And hey, at least I got this sweet picture of me standing on a sand dune without pants!

Oh baby.

Oh baby.

(Special thanks to for providing me with some of the pictures above.  If any of you are interested in exploring the Mojave Desert, I recommend you check out their blog at )

About Doctor Quack

Just another bonehead with an internet connection.
This entry was posted in Editorial, Travel and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Cima Dome: the folly of dreams

  1. deadpoet88 says:

    I’ve been following your blog for a while now (and I must say it is one of the most interesting blogs I’ve come across), and this one somehow struck a deep cord inside of me. (I should have probably commented on one of your posts earlier…don’t know why I didn’t.)

    I’ve been through that feeling of disillusionment so many times. When I was 5 years old, I used to think being 8 years old was the best thing in the world, and that I would finally be a big kid. I waited 3 years only to find it disappointing. And of course falling in love, and all that baggage relationships bring. It was just another disillusionment. So yes, I kind of understand what you must have felt climbing Cima Dome. But don’t give up hope, I’m sure that you’re right, there is something greater out there. I sure hope you find it.

    Keep writing! 🙂

    • Doctor Quack says:

      Thanks Mr. DeadPoet. Your words mean a lot to me.

      I think we have to realize that right now, today, this hour, it is the peak of our life, because if we believe it’s now and not three years from now, then it actually will be now. And tomorrow. And beyond that.

      At least that’s what I’d like to think. Maybe it’s foolish.

      • deadpoet88 says:

        Oh, I agree with you completely, we should definitely believe it is the now which is the best time of our lives. Then when we look back, we’ll probably find a long list of wonderful moments staring us in the face. You’re not foolish to think so at all.

        That’s Ms. DeadPoet by the way 🙂

  2. Exquisite. Glad you didn’t die. You have some very cool friends to have stuck it out with you so far! I am completely beside you on your journey for meaning. Hope we make it.

  3. rosemary says:

    Loved this! Thanks for sharing such a great story! 🙂

  4. Father says:

    Cima Dome looks, and probably feels like, like the highest point in Delaware, without the traffic.

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