Pandemic Mountain

2020-08-30T16:45:22-07:00Categories: featured posts, hiking, politics, Uncategorized|Tags: , , , , |

In the middle of this pandemic summer, in a tent on a ridge just a stone’s throw from Mt. Baker, my husband and I woke in the wee hours to the sound of two young voices, chatting away, getting closer and louder every second. We could see their headlamps bobbing like a pair of fireflies as they hiked towards us, up the steep trail known as the Railroad Grade route to the Mt. Baker climbers’ basecamp. Our tent was just a few feet off the trail. We’d left the rainfly off: on this silky July night, we needed nothing between us and the starry sky but the tent’s inner mosquito-net shell. We hadn’t seen anyone else for hours. But here they came at 1:40 a.m., these two young men, hiking with headlamps, ready to climb Mt. Baker. They must’ve left the trailhead around midnight. They were nearly on top of us when they finally saw our tent and lowered their voices a little. We pretended to be asleep. They walked on by. We watched their lights bob out of sight. It took us both a while to get back to sleep. But there had been something so happy and cozy about their camaraderie, in the wee hours, that I felt lucky to have heard it. I don’t remember a word they said, only that they were animated and buoyant, as if their packs full of climbing gear weighed nothing. As if they were waterskiing uphill. It was like hearing voices from the past: from that innocent [...]

National Parks

2012-08-16T10:15:26-07:00Categories: hiking, midlife, quiet, travel|Tags: , , , |

His name was Brady, “like the Bunch,” he said, which I’m sure he knew would make it stick in the minds of a couple of people already a chunk of years older than the Brady parents were during their TV heyday. Brady looked no older than our own 20 and 23 year-old children. He had that skinny build that made me want to offer him a sandwich right away, if we’d had one to offer. If we hadn’t been backpacking in the North Cascades and just eaten a meal of freeze-dried something reconstituted with hot water and served in a pouch. And if he hadn’t been an actual park ranger, gun in holster and all. We had just set up our tent at a place called High Camp when Brady loped into view. He apologized for bothering us, explaining he wanted to let us know he was there, right around the corner at a ranger campsite, since we might have thought we were alone and been startled by his footsteps or his two-way radio. “No need to apologize,” I assured him, not adding what I was thinking, which was: we’re just a couple of city-dwelling people your parents’ age who really have no business up here in the backcountry and we are frankly thrilled to know there is a ranger on the other side of the knoll! We asked about a noise we couldn’t identify, a sort of Tuvan throat-singer sound. Grouse, Brady said. We asked about bears. Oh sure, they’re around, he said—just make sure [...]

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