You know, looking back over my career of mountains, hikes, river rafting and bikes, there are many things I remember. The roar of the river in the middle of big white water, the nose hairs freezing at 2 AM on a glacier, the wind on your face screaming full tilt down a mountain pass are all things that I relish each and every time I experienced them. (still do!)
However, there are just some moments that stand out more prominently than the others, I thought I would share some here.
What do I mean by more prominently? These are the stories, beyond all others, that get told time and time again any time I need a good example. Or that float in front of my face when I am thinking of giving up, or that just make me smile when I think of them. Trust me these are not all of them, just some…
The one that stands out more than any other was the little old lady on Mt. Rainier.
This was my first trip, with a 40 lb backpack going up to Camp Muir, the 10000 foot level of Mt. Rainier.
The trail notes said it was a hard trail, but only 5 miles one way. I had done many a 4 mile uphill training climbs, so how hard could this be. Folks I am here to tell you, to this day, Camp Muir is the hardest round trip I have ever done! I have done it at least 20 times now, and it’s still hard.
Hell the last time I swear I had an out-of-body experience, and was watching myself climb and listening to myself talk. No exaggeration, it was weird!
But in the middle of this climb was the most memorable part. I was barely making headway, but still moving up, when I looked to the right and saw this little old lady walking up the hill like it wasn’t there. She looked at me, smiled, and said “Slow and steady dearie, you’ll make it!” and left me in the dust! Later I found out she was 75 years old and did this walk up every nice day, and had done it since the 1950s! I will never forget that!
I really must have been hurting, cuz later on, a guy handed me an unopened Kit Kat and said “Here you need this more than I do…”
Then there was the time on the Roman Wall while climbing Mt. Baker. My climbing partner Gwynne froze, just stopped moving, and said “I think I am a little scared now!”
Yes I admit it, I took a second a take her picture. then I started talking. “I promise I will NOT let you fall. I have an ice-axe and a rope, you will not fall!” OK, so if she fell she’d take me with her, but I was NOT telling her that just then. It worked, she started moving, and we made it to the top.
This is the only true summit I feel I have climbed, all others, even St Helens and Lassen were walk ups. Mt Baker is a glacier covered mountain, and reaching the top, after seeing the shadow of the mountain behind me, is something I will remember till my dying day.
Some things are not as adventurous, but still will always be remembered.
The day I was sitting on top of Mt Si, having a snack and a camp robber jay landed on my boot looking for a hand out. He and sat there for the longest time just looking at each other. (I offered part of a Cliff bar, he declined!)
Then, even more memorable, was the day on the same mountain, when I saw a hawk soaring on the thermals. This isn’t that abnormal around here, but then it hit me. Where I was sitting, watching him, I was above him! Yep, I was higher than a hawk, and he had to work to get up to me. That sight, more than any other, made me know why I do what I do.
Some were scary. The mighty Skykomish river, paddling in the right front position, with my buddy Dave at the left front. Our guide, Captain Chaos, right before boulder drop, the biggest baddest water, told us, “No matter what, we can NOT come to a full stop in the middle of these rapids.We’ll be in big trouble if we do!”
Sure as hell, right in the middle of it we came to dead stop. I heard my guide say, “OH SHIT!” I looked over at Dave just as he looked at me, and I shouted “DIG!!” We both dug in with out paddles, and the rest of the crew joined us, and we popped out without a problem. Now I know, it may have had nothing to do with me, but in my mind, I saved the boat, and the moment is etched in my mind.
The bike has quite of few of these, but the two that come to mind involve two of my hardest rides.
The first was the High Pass Challenge at Mt St Helens. This was a timed ride, and I needed to be back in 10 hours to get a medal. I was damned sure I didn’t have a chance, I just wanted to complete the route, no matter how long it took. For some reason though, I kept going as hard as I could. Suddenly, my very tired mind did some quick math, and I realized I had a shot! It was hotter than hell, I was over 90 miles in (half of it UPHILL) and from somewhere I got a second (or was it a 4th) wind. I crossed with 15 minutes to spare!
The other was the Crater Lake Century.
Long time readers will remember that I was riding a new bike since mine had been stolen 3 weeks prior to the ride. 2 miles from the finish line, the back brakes seized and the wheel would not spin!
I called Michelle to come get me and I threw in the towel.
Then, I got pissed. Michelle told me on the phone I was 2 miles out, no way after all I went through I was going to be driven over the finish line. I picked up the bike and started walking, When Michelle got there, I handed her the yellow saddle bags, and said, “I am carrying this bastard over the finish line if I have to!”
I will never forget the love and pride in that girl’s eyes. Her husband does NOT give up!
Half a mile later, the bike gods took pity, and the brakes let loose. I rode over the finish line!
Editors note: To this day I have NO idea what happened. I have over 5000 miles since that happened, and never again have I had an issue!
Folks, pure and simple, the reason for this post is for me to sit back and reminisce about some of my favorite times, and to share them with all y’all who take the time to read 15,000 miles.
More importantly, I hope it helps you decide to go have adventures, pay attention, and celebrate the things (good and bad) that happen in the outdoors. I pity my future grand kids (LONG from now) cuz I know I will hear “Grandpa do we HAVE to hear about Boulder Drop AGAIN!?!?!”
Like the wind folks!