Not your Sean Spicer Holocaust Center


(Correction: The Center has 5,000 artifacts. An earlier version had an incorrect number.)

Given that “Holocaust centers” were recently in the news, it seemed fortuitous that we already had plans to visit one.

Sean “I Slept through History Class” Spicer used the term last week to describe those places where Adolf Hitler gathered Jews for slave labor, starvation and death in gas chambers. This just after he said, “Hitler didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.”

He tried to explain that away by seeming to say Hitler’s use was limited to “Holocaust centers,” which brought up the bizarre image in my mind of the “Arbeit Macht Frei” iron letters at the entrance of Nazi death camps being reforged to spell out “Welcome to Dachau Center” instead.

The Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle makes it plain that not any part of the Holocaust should be forgotten, that remembering this horror might help prevent a repeat. The center has more than 5,000 artifacts (corrected from earlier version) from this slaughter of innocents by the Nazi regime in the 1930s and ‘40s. It only has enough room to display a fraction of them, but they are enough to bring home the extent of this evil.

We joined the tail end of a tour being taken by Seattle police officers, part of a diversity course being undertaken by the entire force. The tour leader of that group and then of our small party was Dee Simon, the Baral Family Executive Director.

The center has 30 Holocaust survivors who serve as speakers, telling what they suffered and witnessed, remembering the family members they lost and recounting how fortunate they were to be among the few who escaped.

Dee Simon said the center reaches 40,000 students a year in Washington, Alaska, Oregon, Montana and Idaho, states where the teaching of the Holocaust is not mandated. For 28 years, the center has been sending schools trunks filled with books, curricula and other teaching materials. Schools can keep the trunks for three weeks before returning them to be refilled and sent on. Teacher training is also provided.

While I did not know about the Seattle Holocaust Center before the invitation to visit, my interest in history has led me to enough information about the Holocaust that I hope I would never make the blunder Spicer did last week. But a couple of Simon’s comments made me aware of how little I know about the complicity of corporations and German society in the Holocaust. Simon pointed out artifacts from the death camps with the insignias of BMW and other corporations. Which makes me want to read more about this and makes me uneasy about what we Americans either don’t know or choose not to know about what is being done around the world in our names.

The Holocaust ended with the close of World War II in 1945 and many of the Holocaust survivors are passing away. Some of their speaking roles are being taken over by their children and grand children. Simon is an example of that. Her mother was the only member of her school class to survive the Holocaust.

Thanks to Dee for the excellent tour. And to Carol, who invited us and, I suspect, provided the salads for lunch. We’ll try to even things up at your Voices for Humanity Luncheons in October.

‘Vexed I am of late with passions’

Experience art – see a play, for instance – and you can see why someone who sits uneasy on the throne would like to see the National Endowment for the Arts go away. The audience might hear a line in the play and think how it applies to that someone.

“Th’ abuse of greatness is, when it disjoins remorse from power.”


“Alas, my lord, your wisdom is consumed in confidence.”

Jordan Barbour, a forceful Marc Anthony. (Photo from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival website)

And in case anyone misses the connection, the play’s director can write something in the program that might further discomfort that someone:

“A democracy in the midst of a controversial leadership transition that puts at risk society as we know it. Warring egos, where the difference between a desire to lead and a desire for power has become indistinguishable. A political divide that feels so cavernous and beyond healing that the conversation turns to violence. The world of Julius Caesar or America today? For so many of us, Brutus’ struggle about how best to protect and unite his own divided republic hits all too close to home”

Shana Cooper, the director of William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, then points out the inevitable outcome of the choice Brutus makes:

“Tragically, even Brutus, a man with integrity and a deep conscience, allows his civic love to be contorted by the conclusion that the only way to oppose a world of tyranny is with the world’s weapons. And his choice to continue the cycle of violence makes inevitable the destructive outcome of the story: a brutal civil war.“

It may be 500 years old, but this is revolutionary stuff being presented here in Ashland, Oregon, before a Tuesday afternoon theater filled mostly with high-school students on field trips. And it’s helped along by the National Endowment for the Arts, an independent federal agency that funds and promotes the arts across America.

Trump’s budget would eliminate the NEA.

For the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF), that would mean losing from $100,000 to $125,000 a year, according to an email from Bill Rauch and Cynthia Rider, artistic director and executive director respectively. They say the money is used to make “our Shakespeare productions accessible for hundreds of Oregon middle and high school students.” Students receive discounted or free tickets to the plays.

“For the majority of the students, this is their first encounter with Shakespeare on stage,” Rauch and Rider write, “and the time spent at OSF is often the spark for creating a lifelong passion for theatre or even the drive to become a theatre artist.”

For the students at the Tuesday afternoon “Julius Caesar,” they saw a bold staging of Shakespeare’s drama from ancient Rome. Rodney Gardiner in a sleeveless, black T-shirt was a muscled “lean and hungry” Cassius, conniving a sports-coated Danforth Comins as Brutus to join the plot against Caesar.

Cooper stages the “brutal civil war” as a haka of knife stabbings, slashes and parries with all combatants on the stage at once, facing the audience as they pound out a seemingly never-ending, inevitable cycle of violence.

For Cooper, this depiction is not a promotion of violent civic disruption but a reminder of a better way forward.

“In Brutus, I see a reflection of our own psychological war, waged daily between the ancestral call to violence for the protection of our country and ideals, and the voice of our souls, which quietly remind us that there could be a different, more peaceful solution.”

A more peaceful solution would be more comforting for both that certain someone and for all of us. Drama demonstrates the choices – good and bad — individuals and society face. Despite the discomfort they may raise, the arts can inform those choices. Art – and the NEA — are worth keeping alive.







Guilt is anger directed at ourselves*

Porn (not his real name), an eminent doctor of veterinary medicine (and a pretty good rugby winger), once said, “Animals do it and don’t think it wrong.”

When sleep escapes me in the night and fretting takes its place, I think about Porn’s words and wonder why every human activity holds the potential for thinking it was wrong, it wasn’t good enough — and finds a way to twist itself into feelings of guilt.

We all set ourselves up for guilt by setting standards. Some of them get codified: the Ten Commandments. Never tell a lie (not much leadership from the top on that one lately). Drive the speed limit and pay the tolls in Illinois (or they fine you $80). Do unto others . . .

We keep to ourselves other rules to live by, but they remain standards and expectations we think we should live up to as well as by. Write a blog post every day (not much leadership here on that one lately). Never a lender or a borrower be. Ride the Chilly Hilly.

There it is. The truth will out. All these words to admit I said I would ride the Chilly Hilly and got up this morning to a sky full of rain and snow and fell back into bed.

All day I have fretted over how I would live with this, how admit that I had not the mettle to pedal 33 miles through cold, wet air or brave the chili at the end of the ride.

Exercise is a wonderful thing. If you do it. Not so good if you said you would and then you don’t. That’s a perfect setup for guilt.

In the guilt department, you’d be better off being that 400-pound hacker who never had a notion to set himself in motion.

I applaud those who ventured out for the ride around Bainbridge Island today. And I promise to be faithful to all the other things I said I would do this year (STP, RAGBRAI, OATBRAN, cut back on carbs, RESIST and many other Madcap Schemes).

And I promise to perform penance suggested by a Catholic friend: A polar plunge next year on the day of the Chilly Hilly (all faiths welcome).

And now, before I get back to fretting over the really, really rotten things I have done and should be worried about, I come before you to confess – in words I never thought I would say:

I have become a fair-weather bike rider.

The utter shame.

*Peter McWilliams

Time for BBQ: Big Brother Quotient

1984The sales of George Orwell’s novel “1984” are skyrocketing since Trumpf came to power, and I’m loving it. It’s one of my favorite books. He’s one of my favorite authors, and I have sentenced every college  student I have taught to hours of reading his “Politics and the English Language.”

While under the lash of my wife to clear the crap out of our house before we end up on the “Hoarders” TV show, I came across this clip of something I put together back in the real 1984. That was when I claimed that “more editors had jumped on this story idea that rats on Winston Smith’s face,” which was actually an alternative fact. The threat of having a caged rat gnaw through his face was the torture that broke Smith. So no rat jumped on Smith’s face or used it as a means of escape from the cage strapped to Smith’s face.

Why torture Smith? As the article pictured here says: “There was only one motive, illustrated by a statement by Smith’s torturer: ‘Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.'”

Smith and his lover Julia both worked for the Ministry of Truth, which was in charge of lies. They got in trouble when they tried to join a group fighting against the principles of Big Brother:

War is Peace — “It would probably be accurate to say that by becoming continuous, war has ceased to exist.”

Freedom is Slavery — “. . .men in the mass were frail, cowardly creatures who could not endure liberty or face the truth, and must be ruled over and systematically deceived by others who were stronger than themselves.”

Ignorance is Strength — “The masses never revolt of their own accord, and they never revolt merely because they are oppressed. Indeed, so long as they are not permitted to have standards of comparison they never even become aware that they are oppressed.”

Related to that last one is this: “Stupidity is as necessary as intelligence, and as difficult to attain.” Which may sound like double speak to you but that’s probably because you are not adept at “Doublethink . . .the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”

Or maybe you have not yet become fluent in Newspeak, the official language, the purpose of which was to make unorthodox thought impossible. The attention to language may have been the most important aspect of the book for Orwell given what he says in his politics and language essay: “Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

Thanks for reading my pure wind. I try to keep politics to a minimum here and you can be thankful that I have not yet read “It Can’t Happen Here” by Sinclair Lewis, or “The Plot against America” by Phillip Roth, two other books whose increased sales Trumpf will undoubtedly take credit for (“They’re YUGE!”).

Don’t be scared away. Spring is coming and I will be on the road soon. Back to writing about America’s Great Outdoors. About the Bear Ears area recently made a national monument by President Obama. About some of the 3.3 million acres of public lands the Republicans are maneuvering to sell off. About some National Parks and Scenic Rivers checking to make sure they are still a part of the legacy this generation of Americans will leave to the next.

P.S. What happens to Smith and Julia? At the end of the novel, the 40-year-old Smith has lost all his teeth (he was only missing five at the start), his hair and his love for Julia. They had made the ultimate betrayal, against each other (“Do it to Julia, not to me,” Smith yells about the rat eyeing Smith’s eyeball as an exit.) Now they love only Big Brother, which is all part of the plan: “. . . in the future there will be no wives and no friends,” says Smith’s torturer. “Children will be taken from their mothers at birth, as one takes eggs from a hen. The sex instinct will be eradicated . . . There will be no loyalty, except loyalty toward the Party.”

Have a good evening.




Wanna move into a cave for 4 years?

Inside Ape Cave.

In my last post, a thinly disguised recounting of 2016 adventures, I missed an important one: the Labor Day visit to Ape Cave on the southern slope of the Mount St. Helens volcano in Southwestern Washington state.

Four of us took the 1.5 mile hike through the lava tube while Kathy walked along the surface trail and met the cave explorers at the upper exit, a tight climb up a ladder to the outside.

bz-in-caveWe might have had the cave more to ourselves on a week day, but I still have friends who insist on having jobs. So we joined dozens of people who had driven up to the cave parking lot, maybe rented a lantern (we brought our own recommended three sources of light) and took either the short route that led to the “Meatball” or the longer route that we took.

It’s a popular spot, easily accessible to the public and an inexpensive way for a family to have an outdoor experience (parking is $5). Which is what I expect from the wonderful lands that have been set aside for the public to enjoy — and what I fear is most threatened by a Trump administration. Donald does not impress me as a man who relishes campfire smoke, sleeping on the ground and pooping in places where you should bury your scat (and your TP, too).

Given the names that are being floated for replacing Sally Jewell at the Department of Interior, it’s surprising that Ammon Bundy‘s name isn’t on the list. The best of the group might be Jan Brewer, former governor of Arizona, who called Hillary Clinton a “lyin’ killer,” one of the more subdued pieces of hyperbole from the GOP side in the recent presidential election.

Trump’s list of Interior Secretary candidates is filled with names of people itching to get their hands on public lands for the benefits of themselves and their ilk:

Robert E. Grady, Gryphon Investors partner;

Harold G. Hamm, Chief executive of Continental Resources, an oil and gas company;

Forrest Lucas, president of Lucas Oil Products, which manufactures automotive lubricants, additives and greases;

Sarah Palin, former Alaska governor.

There is already a movement afoot to give away federal lands, and I can’t see that these Interior Department choices will do anything but further that misguided effort.

Focusing on this one issue extremely important to me may seem selfish, but I look at it as voting my interests, which is what they say Trump supporters were doing: they also insist on having jobs, don’t want to be left behind in the slow economic recovery, don’t want to be regarded as the “fly-over” and forgotten part of our nation. Having driven 6,000 miles back and forth across the United States within the past six weeks, I can understand what it must feel like to live in a hollowed-out town where even the last-thing-to go town coffee shop sits empty among similar storefronts on Main Street (this, in the Starbucks-free Zone, made for some shaky mornings).

I’m lucky that my life in the blue bubble of Seattle is often penetrated by Facebook posts by Trump supporters from my hometown back in Ohio. I know characterizations of those friends as uneducated rural rubes in Dumbfuckistan miss the mark by, well, a country mile.

And Hillary Clinton? There was much to criticize, and the Orange Man never missed a chance to do so. She also made her own mistakes (Call him deplorable? True that. His supporters? How rude). J. Edgar Comey didn’t help.

Even with all of that, I’m having a hard time getting my head around a man who made it up as he went along, spouted whatever he thought would play to the crowd in front of him and insulted so many Americans. I also believe he has no intention of fulfilling the promises he made to his supporters (build a wall, repeal Obamacare, deport 11 million people, ban Muslims from immigrating here), which I guess I should consider a good thing since I disagree with all of it.

But the whole mess tempts me to go live in a cave for the next four years, but there might not be room.

At the exit from Ape Cave.

Does dressing like Jungle Jim = Nerd?

jungle-jim-standing“You walked into the party
Like you were walking on a yacht
Your hat strategically dipped below one eye
Your scarf, it was apricot
You had one eye on the mirror
And watched yourself gavotte . . .”


So you walked into the party wearing your photographer vest and cargo pants because one can never have enough big pockets for phone, notebooks, pencils, pens, bandana, keys, wallet, coins, utility knife, nail clippers and — what’s this? — a camera. It’s practical. It’s comfortable. Lots of people dress like that in the Pacific Northwest even before Maria Semple wrote “Where’d You Go, Bernadette.” (Why no question mark in the title?)


It’s gotten so it seems normal to some of us until we walk into the party and someone asks, “Did you just come off a safari?”

Well, no, but . . . you look around and see that not everyone dresses like Jungle Jim. He would be the lead character in films on the 5 o’clock movie that gave you reason to go back outside and try keeping the Hula Hoop going for 100 loops. The only thing worse would be a rerun of Peter Lorre in another Mr. Moto movie. Jungle Jim movies were a waste of film and Johnny Weissmuller,  who happily showed up more often at 5 swinging from grape vines and calling wild animals to his aid.

Jungle Jim wear is a lot more practical though than Tarzan’s loin cloth. But if you aren’t in the jungle or on safari and you dress like it, are you exhibiting nerd behavior?

These are questions that give us a break from should our president wear a pants suit and delete emails or wear a red tie and force his way into women’s pants suits.

On Arkansas’ Buffalo River in 2016.

So let’s say you paddle down a river and you are dressed like Jungle Jim floating the Limpopo — life jacket, quick-dry shirt and pants (with BIG pockets and lots of them), neoprene booties and river sandals. Tent, freeze-dried food, sleeping bag, water bladders all secured behind your seat. Suddenly you are in the middle of floaters hardly dressed at all — bikini-clad women, men in bathing suits, all stretched across inner tubes, toting radios and towing floating coolers. The party seems to go on forever and you, Mr. Moto Nerd, are way overdressed.

The biker on the right has bad B.O.

Kinda like bike riding. Most American bicyclists dress the same whether they are riding 100 miles or going down the street to the post office. They show up in all kinds of places — the post office for instance — looking like they’re stopping by for a drug test or blood transfusion before the next leg of the tour. And, Mr. Skinny Pants Moto, you’ve got B.O.

Of course there are times when unusual dress is appropriate. The croquet court would be one where one should never neglect wearing whites (Captain of the Yacht, you are welcome here!).

Cherry Blossom Croquet Tournament, 2016, Oxford, Georgia.

Time behind the barbecue? A ridiculous apron is a must.

Hope we never find out.

But these are special occasions where we all agree to be a little weird. If we all dress the same, then we can’t be nerds, right? Not necessarily, as Amazon workers prove daily in the streets of Seattle.

So perhaps this is a question that should be left for quieter times so that we can rejoin the ranks of fellow citizens either packing their bags for their trip to Canada Nov. 9 or stirring up a pot of tar and feathers for dressing up the losers.

It’s been a great year, with lots of fun activities with good friends, and I’ve enjoyed bringing you this silly review of those activities. America seems pretty great to me, and I know I am fortunate to be in a position where I can say that. Whatever we do on Nov. 8, I’m hoping it’s for the best for all of us, no matter how we are dressed, how we look, vote or pray. I also hope it is good for Earth, this place we call home and yet don’t pick up after ourselves. We need to do better.


Til then, anyone know where I can get a hat like Jungle Jim’s — with a big pocket in the back?



Small PCT hike completes big goal

John and I complete our cross Washington hike on the PCT at Hart’s Pass.

It was just a short hike in August, but it accomplished a big goal for a couple of hikers: John and John walked the three-mile gap they needed to complete their 507.9-mile journey on the Pacific Crest Trail across Washington state.

I did more than 200 miles on the PCT in Washington with John during the past three years, including a long hike from White Pass to the Columbia River and Oregon. I walked onto the Bridge of the Gods at Cascade Locks, OR, on September 5, 2014.


On the Canadian border in 1973.

I hiked from Hart’s Pass to the Canadian border in September 1973. The incident that stands out from that solitary hike through the Pasayten Wilderness is being in my tent while deer licked the outside of it — perhaps for salt or food I had spilled on it.

My obsession with the PCT started in either 1971 or 1972, and you could build a book on tracing what was going on in my life as I filled in portions of the trail year after year. Maybe I could call it “Wilder.” Or maybe “Mild” would be a better since I don’t think I can compete with Cheryl Strayed’s behavior as she told it in her book that has brought hordes to the PCT.

Much of my early hiking on the trail was with my sister or my friend Jeff. Mary Jo and her husband, Don, accompanied me on a couple hikes in Central Washington. Mary Jo was also with me from Rainy Pass on the North Cascades Highway south to Cloudy Pass and around Glacier Peak. I remember a bear standing up out of a berry patch along the trail and having a very close face-to-face with him before he ran off. The most amazing moonrise I have ever seen came over a lake on the approach trail from Holden just off Lake Chelan.

Don and MJ
A note on this photo of Don and Mary Jo says it was taken in July 1972.
Jeff with a baguette sticking out of his pack.

Most of my hikes with Jeff on the PCT were in the Goat Rocks Wilderness, perhaps the most beautiful and remote section of the trail in Washington. Jeff and I were in our 20s, played rugby and carried more weight in our packs than I could probably lift now. I remember baguettes, bottles of wine, salamis and cheese. I also remember this Ohioan’s first dunk in a glacial stream and rushing out of the frigid water into a pile of fallen branches. I still have the scar from the weird infection that followed. And somewhere in the Goat Rocks came my introduction to huckleberries, another obsession.

Kathy and I hiked the trail mostly in the Central Washington area, including one memorable trip when we found someone’s abandoned log raft and poled across a lake. Kathy reminds me of watching a rock avalanche across a valley and being glad we weren’t over there. We hiked with Max, her then our Llasa Apso, who loved to roll in snow banks and would sit down on the trail and refuse to move when tired.

Kathy on the Pacific Crest Trail in the late 1970s.

Then we hiked with Jake, and Kathy remembers father and son skinny-dipping in a lake and a rainy hike where they stayed in the tent while I did all the cooking and served them.

The vistas, the memories, the completed miles. Almost makes me want to do it over.


On the southern end of my goal.

But so glad I did.


If you know where you are, are you lost?

Mount Saul
The summit of Mount Saul is the peak on the far right.

“Behold, I have played the fool, and have erred exceedingly.” — 1 Samuel 26:16

Given that GPS devices are becoming more and more common in cars, on bikes and in phones, many people can glance at a gizmo and know where they are. They may not be where they want to be, but are they lost?

That question popped into my mind while hiking and climbing in the Glacier Peak Wilderness area this past week. I knew long ago that someday I would have to do this climb – it just had my name on it.

So on Monday I started the drive over to Lake Wenatchee to find the trail to Mount Saul, a 7,300-foot mountain southeast of Glacier Peak. I had read several reports on the climb, had several maps and borrowed a GPS device from John, my often-hiking companion. He couldn’t go, others were busy and I went alone (not recommended).

The trail reports said to drive to White River Falls campground, but washouts had closed the road two miles short of it. So that added four more miles of hiking there and back. Not a 16-mile trek, but now a 20 mile trip.

Hiking on the road was easy, and the trail after the falls campground alternated between pleasant forest hiking and head-high brush. I camped under an immense cedar tree.

I loved the company of the huge tree but found the next morning that if I had hiked 10 minutes more there was a campsite along Indian Creek where the trail crosses it on a sturdy bridge. Good water there, and while I was filling my containers, a man and his son came by. Lots of good info from the dad, who said he had been up to Airplane Lake 30 or 35 times, starting when he was 13.

Airplane Lake
Airplane Lake

The lake is on the way up to Mount Saul and getting to it was the part of the trip that concerned me the most. One climbing report said the trail should be in the Outdoor Museum of Horrors.

Another report said to follow the outlet stream up to it. Dad Fisherman said that would be a bad idea as the stream comes over a cliff at the lake. Look for a nice campsite along the Indian Creek trail, he said. About 50 feet before that spot, look for a faint trail off to the right. If you see a sign that says “No Trail” about 100 feet into the woods, you’ve found the trail (not recommended). The sign actually says “Marking routes is prohibited.”

Stay to the right of the stream, Dad said, and then you will have to bear left or you will end up “right there” he said and pointed to a place on the map that would be right where I figured I needed to be to get up on the northeast ridge that leads up to the summit of Mount Saul.

Found the trail and the campsite, 4,300 feet below the summit. Decided to stay there and take only my day pack on the up and back the next day.

I spent the night either being excited about summit day or thinking this was the stupidest thing I had ever done (right up there). But I figured this hike would not get easier with the passing years.

So I chose Mount Saul over more hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail (in Oregon). The PCT has become too crowded for the outdoor experience I enjoy — solitude, quiet, introspection, brooding like King Saul would have done (not recommended). The PCT has been a great obsession for me since 1971 when I arrived in the Pacific Northwest, but you can expect to meet 30 or more hikers a day on it now. Nice trail though. As Neil, another hiking companion, said recently, “It’s so well maintained you expect guard rails.

Rock wall
See a way around this?

Not so on the Airplane Lake trail. “Faint” is an exaggeration. Once in a while there is a slight depression in the soil or a narrow opening through the trees and brush. But it is hard to follow, goes straight up, has logs across it and loose stone underfoot. I did make it past the lake and headed up to where I thought I could get on the northeast ridge. Nope. A stone wall here, a stone wall there, here a cliff, there a cliff.

Back down and over to the lake. Lunch and deciding that I would tell people this was really a hike to beautiful Airplane Lake and I had never heard of some mountain named after a loser king in the Old Testament. As I was heading back down at noon, I noticed a faint, faint opening in some weeds. Could that lead to the ridge? It did. There were cliffs, but also ways around them.

Glacier Peak
Looking across the White River drainage to Glacier Peak.

I think one of the most exhilarating things in life is to feel the breeze in your face as you come over a mountain pass after a long climb. And the wind at the top of the ridge made me jump for joy – until I almost fell into the White River drainage. So long, Indian Creek valley and Airplane Lake, I’m off to see the king.

Almost to the top
Almost to the top of Mount Saul.

A far cry, however, from a yellow brick road. Easier to follow though. Lots of rocks to climb over, a couple of snowfields and another 2,000 feet of elevation.

At 3:15, I was at the summit, crawled around on the rocks up there, found and signed the register and marveled at the drop-off on the other side of the mountain. One guide says 1,300 feet of exposure. I didn’t take time to measure.

Drop off
The other side from the summit — straight down and as close to the edge as I wanted to be.

At 4 p.m. when I left the summit I knew I had to hurry to get back to camp before dark. I thought the third approach to the summit looked easier than going down the northeast ridge. I find going down harder than climbing up. Probably has something to do with three knee surgeries (not recommended). The third way takes you to the opposite side of the lake. More rock slides and snowfields, but then some meadows and what appeared to be less steep ground.

A wet register despite being kept in a heavy brass cylinder, tucked into summit boulders.

Up to a certain point, that is. Or down to it. The rock slides and snowfields went OK despite a collapsed snow bridge that spilled me into ice water. Then came more picking my way through trees, brush and boulders.

Above lake
See the lake way down there?

Down, down, down to the lake by 6, two or three hours more to the campsite. Will he make it, by Race to the Outhouse (dyslexia is a terrible thing).

No, he will not. Or at least not safely. I was on the Airplane Lake trail for one brief, shining moment and then off to the left of it. I knew where I was because of the GPS. I was not lost, and I figured if I just kept going down I would cross the Indian Creek trail, turn right and arrive in camp as the sun goes down.

Or the moon comes up, which it did. That helped some, but not going back and finding the Airplane Lake trail was erring exceedingly. Despite the deadfall on the trail, the brush and the steep pitch, it makes a steady drop into the Indian Creek drainage. I paralleled that path but stumbled through the thickest of thickets of vine maple and young alder, fell over rocks, skirted around cliffs, turned my body into a bruised and bloody mess, drank all my water, scooted on my butt and lost the seat of my pants, my water bottle, utility knife and hat. Even though I don’t remember the butt-scoot boogey being taught in the Portland Mazamas mountaineering course I took in 1971, I recommend it. How far can you fall when you are already on the ground?

Far enough to scare the pants (or what’s left of them) off you. I went over a 10-foot drop but grabbed hold of a tree branch and lowered myself down after the bark claimed some skin off my arm.

“Then Saul fell at once full length upon the ground, filled with fear . . .and there was no strength in him, for he had eaten nothing all day and all night.” — 1 Samuel 27:20

It may have been the longest descent in mountaineering history – certainly in my mountaineering history, which now draws to a close. I did make it back to the Indian Creek trail, back to fresh water and back to my cozy little tent, but long, long after dark (not recommended). Fifteen miles that day. So much for a 20-mile, four-day. slowpoke trip. More like 33.

“And Saul lifted up his voice and wept.” — 1 Samuel 24:16

OK, I didn’t weep. But I did thank Brooke for flexibility gained in her Pilates classes and Matt for the strength gained in training with him. And John for the GPS and for letting me push wheelbarrows of firewood uphill last week at his home in the Methow Valley (recommended for rugby forwards). My body did things I didn’t think it was capable of any more. Surprised and thankful for that.

Mostly I was exceedingly glad this had not turned out to be Mount Gilboa. And glad my name isn’t Everest.

But thanks to the GPS, I was never lost, just misplaced.

“How are the mighty fallen.” — 2 Samuel 1:19

Thumbs up
Saul on Saul.

Famed STP ride now part of bigger event

Despite claims that “nothing went wrong,” some riders had to scramble over railroad tracks.

The owner-operator of the STP and Beyond bike ride announced today that the famous Seattle to Portland ride was now a subsidiary of the longer ride.

“We are happy to incorporate the STP in our longer, more textured ride,” the announcement from the STP and Beyond organization said.

It went on to give a detailed review of this year’s ride, noting that with the smaller number of riders, individual attention can be paid to each participant.

“You can get lost in the 10,000 riders in the STP,” the announcement said. “Not so in the STP and Beyond.”

Fact checkers, despite overwork from the GOP convention, were quick to pounce on that statement, noting that riders on the first day of the ride became lost and had to carry their bikes across railroad tracks.

“Typical media, ignoring all the good things that happened and concentrating on a minor incident,” said one unidentified ride official. “If we had not sought out the Interurban Trail — not used on the STP — you would have accused us of plagiarizing the STP route. So screw you, media, we’ll say whatever serves our purpose. That seems to work for others.”

Despite getting lost in the Renton area, riders did make it to Emerald Downs in time for the first race, dinner with other participants and a night at an Auburn motel.

A rider at the STP halfway point in Centralia/

Day Two featured a 117-mile ride to Castle Rock in cooperation with the STP subsidiary organization. Accommodations at the fabulous 7 West Motel and dinner and breakfast at Peper’s 49er Restaurant. Who could ask for anything more?

On Day Three, riders finished the STP portion of the ride and were joined by an experienced SAG team (thank you, Wendy, Nancy and Kathy). At dinner that night at Nostrana, riders were regaled by Will, telling tales of downsizing, home sales and “positional reciprocating carnality,” an interesting concept that took little explanation.

Four riders
Four more bikers joined the ride on Monday. Here are three of them with an STP veteran.
Two more
And these two made six.

Day Four saw more riders joining the group as it left Portland and headed up the road to Mount Hood. The first three days covered 231 miles and this was a shorter ride at 53. It took the riders to the Resort at the Mountain in Welches, OR.

The STP and Beyond, of course, is known for more than  bike riding. Riders are expected to engage in other activities as well. Fancy meals and drink, get-acquainted hot tub sessions and ruthless croquet games.

The men folk this year had their sore butts handed to them by the croquet team of Nancy and Kathy, who used teamwork and stra-tee-ger-ree to win every game.

Teamwork played a big part in Kathy and Nancy’s sweep of the games.
Reaction to another winning shot by Nancy and Kathy. (Photo by Wendy)

Media reports have pointed out what they choose to call another snafu on the bigger ride — something that never would have happened if riders had just stuck to the STP. Riders were promised cobbler as their dessert after dinner at Altitudes. That did not happen.

“This was totally out of our control,” the spokesperson said. “We are investigating why the cafe staff stashed the cobbler in the cooler and closed early. But again, this is nothing compared to what we bring to the bicycle riders of America. Besides, there’s no fruit cobbler on the STP.”

But one rider was especially upset about the cobbler cop-out.

“I remember the cobbler from 12 years ago on a ride through here,” she said. “I guess I’ll just have to come back in another 12 years.”

It was pointed out that she would be 81 years old then.

“So?” was her only response.

Last day of the ride had the bikers climbing up to Government Camp for a hearty breakfast before continuing on Highway 35 to Hood River.

It was there, on the deck of the Three Rivers Restaurant, that Jerry, a strong rider in tune with the flow of things, asked the group: “Is there any reason — outside of those that have to do with testosterone — why this ride should not end right here?”

MoonWith 58 miles ridden that day, a fine lunch in front of us, good friends around us  and a head wind blowing up the Columbia Gorge, no one could find a reason to keep riding. The bikes were packed into the truck and van, and off we went to the Skamania Lodge for hot tubs, moonlight and a good night’s sleep.

The next day, two riders went on to Multnomah Falls, but the rest of us packed up for the trip back to Seattle, happy in our accomplishment, five pounds heavier (speaking only for myself) and looking forward to next year’s STP and the Beyond.

With Mount Hood
From left: John B., Mount Hood and Mary Jo.



Save the Smith so we can float it


One of the Mad Schemes of 2016 that did not happen was the float trip on Montana’s Smith River. That’s because we did not get a permit in the lottery. I blame that on one recipient of the Mad Schemes memo who has been down the Smith twice already this year. Please share some of that good luck, Miss You Know Who You Are.

I have blurred the ID to protect Miss You Know Who from those who did not get a Smith permit.

We’ll try again next year, probably for some dates in late May or early June. All the dates this year were in June, which obviously is a very popular time to float this river. If we don’t get a permit, we’ll try to pick up one of the cancelled trips. So be flexible in 2017, river floaters.

One more thing about the Smith: It’s threatened. Check out for the details. But here’s the general story: Tintina Resources, a Canadian mining company, wants to build a copper mine on Sheep Creek, which is the Smith’s most important tributary. The mine would go through sulfide rock, which could mean sulfuric acid forming and draining into the Smith. Not good for the rainbow, brown, west-slope cutthroat and brook trout there.  And who wants to paddle or swim in acidic mining runoff?

Make a donation, get a bumper sticker. Save the Smith . . . so we can float it in 2017, 2018, 2019, etc. etc.

The reason I tried to get Smith dates in June was to coordinate it with the Kootenai Gran Fondo in Libby, MT. I rode in it last year and said I would come back to help in 2016 but not ride. But the event has been moved back to its July 4 weekend dates, which is a problem for me and I did not attend.

It’s a great ride and has a great story behind it. John Weyhrich, who heads up this effort, has been a competitive bike racer for about 30 years and thought it his duty to give back to his sport. John did much of his training in the mountains around Libby, Montana, and saw that it was an area that could use some outside help. So he decided to put on the Kootenai Gran Fondo, which has contributed money to the Coats for Kids program in Libby, to the Special Olympics in Eureka, MT., and to a food for kids program in Troy, MT.

I do recommend it as one of the most beautiful rides in America – and one of the toughest. If you can’t make the ride in 2017, consider giving a donation.

So there are the two Mad Schemes that did not get done this year. But a couple of “if time” Schemes have been done.

Kathy and I got to the Sol duc Hot Springs in Olympic National Park this spring. We made our reservations for only one night, planning to see if it was worth more time than that. It was. We spent another day and night soaking and hiking.

You’ll hear many languages besides English while soaking.

The cabin we stayed in fit our needs just fine although it was nothing fancy (except for the price). You are far enough away from other restaurants that the on-site food is the better alternative. Not gourmet, but you’ll get your fill. The National Park Service, as usual, does a great job keeping this place going despite the challenges the NPS faces in funding and lack of attention from those people back in the other Washington.

At the falls

Besides the soaking (hot, just right, frigid — like how can water be this cold without being ice), there’s some great hiking around the springs. We just did the walk to the Sol duc Falls, but there are others more challenging.

We also made it to Bagby Hot Springs near Mount Hood in Oregon a couple of weeks ago. It’s quite a contrast from Soleduc, much more rustic with hollowed out logs in the private “rooms” and large wooden barrels for the communal pools. The springs are about a mile and a half hike from the camp site, which is hard to find if you get there after dark (we did not — find it, that is.)

Kathy in log
Kathy soaking in our private log.
Ward, his name was fun

Love the way the most basic materials and methods are used to divert the hot water and provide cold water for cooling off the baths. A tennis ball for a stopper in our log, with a piece of gutter to fill the log. Take a rock out from under the gutter and the water comes into your log. Put it back and the gutter is raised so the water goes on by.

Ward Barbee, an old friend now gone, used to tell stories about his antics at Bagby in the early 1970s. Since then, I’ve always wanted to visit. It was fun to imagine Ward there, soaking, probably a Marsh Wheeling or a joint in his mouth and his wonderfully loud laugh ringing through the trees. I thought I could hear it still.