Wednesday, May 20, 2015

My Ascent on Mt. Baker

When I was younger, but still older than most, I went on a mountain climbing expedition with the company where I was Executive Director for taking inner city kids to the wilderness.

I climbed to 11,203 feet in the Colorado Rockies, lost 17 pounds carrying a 55-lb. pack up and (it was lighter coming down, but not by much) dealt with a child having sickle-cell anemia, a young lady wanting to run away from home for good and a team leader who absolutely refused to take my EMT evaluation of the ill child seriously.

So, I left that company and did other things.

But climbing mountains must be in my blood... thinner at higher altitudes - LOL!

I have read lots of books about Everest and other major peaks, cringed to hear about the recent Nepal earthquake and all that it meant for all the folks involved, and still I risked my life once more to "get to the top, just because it was there..."

This is not me climbing... it was a group of folks learning
how to do this... I already have my own method.
The sky was a little hazy at the base, but the weather report said it would be clearer near the summit. I agreed with my pal, Carol Joy, and her partner, Earl, that it was going to have to be a pretty quick trip - no hanging around for too long once we got up there.

We packed a few essentials, especially plenty of water, and off we went.

As we approached the snow level, it was clear that lots of other folks were going to try for the top as well. You know it's crowded when you have to wait in line to get to the next level.

From a distance we could see there was still a lot of snow at
the top of Mt. Shuksan, east of Mt. Baker. 
Carol was the team leader; she'd gotten part way up once before and she wasn't sure if the route past the last huts (and where the ski lift for Black Diamond skiers starts) would be passable.

Although Earl has limited sight, he was a great motivator for us to keep going, and he seemed to know the route almost by heart.

You can see the mound of dirty snow that I was standing on
just to the lower right. This is the absolute peak of Mt. Baker
beyond that lovely evergreen tree. We just didn't have the
time, energy or resources to achieve that summit.
By the time we reached our destination, getting past the barriers that denied Carol's access in previous years, it was exactly noon.

Here I was, standing incredibly close to the very top of Mt. Baker, (it is 10,701 feet) and the sun broke through the clouds so I could actually see it clearly. It is possible for me to see this mountain from over in Sequim, so after today I would never look at it again in the same way.

I turned around and looked over my shoulder and this is what
I saw... all those other folks who were also vying for the top.
And now, we had to head back down, because sadly my weekend was over, and I had to catch the ferry back to Port Townsend.

The winding road down to the ski huts, with a view of the
Canadian mountains, also bereft of snow in May.
But what an awesome day! What fun we had! Our brief time at over 5,500 feet in elevation only left me breathless because of the views. I kinda wish I was still skiing because this must be an incredible place to enjoy whooshing down the mountain slopes. Hope you enjoyed the views, too...

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

My Solution

Royal Shell Oil's rig, parked in Port Angeles, WA harbor.
There is a huge, 300-ft. tall, bright yellow oil rig parked almost at my front door. It's not really 'my front door,' but it is the door to the Olympic National Forest. And you can't miss this thing as you drive into town.

So, I started thinking of it in a more positive light.

And I wrote a letter to the Peninsula Daily News about it.

"I recently learned that the huge oil drilling rig that is parked in full view of anyone driving near Port Angeles Harbor is here to stay for a while (“Giant Oil Rig Probably Will Stick Around,” PDN, May 5).

This depressed economic climate clamors for some creative solutions, and that ugly rig just demands a colorful makeover.

How about we see if Shell will moderate its rigid stance of using it just for oil drilling and allow us to have it as a water slide for the summer?

And when the next rig arrives, perhaps we could set them up close enough to run zip-lines between the two of them so folks could have some more fun?

Even having tours of the oil rig would offer a tourist attraction.

When is the last time you were on one? Or even curious about what they are like?

Water taxis would make money taking folks out to the slide and zip-line or tours, concession people could set up hotdog stands and liquid refreshments nearby, and tourists would flock here from British Columbia and points eastward for a never-to-be-experienced-again, once-in-a-lifetime, oil-rig summer fun trip.

Hotels would have no-vacancy signs out because lots of other fun things would come from the energy of having a purpose in our harbor at long last.

Anyone with other ideas is welcome to submit them [to Or register a comment in the Reader Comments, below.]

I'm not wedded to these but wanted to get people thinking instead of complaining.

Sandy Banks,

And, you know, there were some interesting replies and a few 'got' what I was suggesting... that you can take this huge yellow thing and make lemonade out of it.

I kinda wish Shell Oil would take my ideas to heart... and at least let us have some tours... my old Public Relations brain started working and I began thinking about all the positive ways they could turn around public opinion, including by starting with little kids getting on board with drilling.

Not that I really would want that, but my experience has shown me that when you want to shift public opinion for good, you start young.

Well, that's all the news that fits tonight.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Childhood stories

When I was about 9 or 10, I lived in a small town in New Hampshire. It was one of those places where no one locked their doors, the car keys were left in the ignition, and pretty much everyone trusted everyone else.

I had a couple of pals, (who are still living, so I won't use their names) that I hung around with after school. And we used to go to a small store that served ice cream sodas, coffee, hamburgers and also had all the elements of a small town "drug store."

The owner, Mike, has made his transition and he was one of the kindest men. He was always doing nice things for others, and I never knew what his religion was.

My pals, in their misguided desire for getting something they wanted, asked me to join them in what turned out to be a lawless afternoon and caused me to be put in jail - for a few hours. They, however, escaped, and I never snitched on them, knowing early on that that alone could make my life miserable forever onward.

The plan was that I would distract Mike, by talking to him, while the other three went to the candy bar section and helped themselves. My reward would be that I could have some of the 'take.'

Ten year olds are so sure they know how the world works, and in discussing the plan I am sure we all thought Mike would be deceived by my blather. He wasn't, and he grabbed my arm, held me in place and yelled to the others to stop. They took off running. I am sure he knew who they were.

As he held on to my arm, he told his wife to call the police.

I about fainted.

And soon Chief Picard showed up in his uniform, gun on his hip, baton on the other side, all his buttons and badge glistening through the tears in my eyes.

Mike let go of me and after telling him what had happened, Chief put handcuffs on one hand and led me out of the store.

We had to cross the main intersection to get to City Hall and to the jail. I was so humiliated that anyone might see me, my head was very low. I wished to be invisible.

No words were spoken until we arrived at the jail. I was ushered in to a small cell and Chief said he was going to call my mother. I would be waiting inside the bars until she came.

It stank in there. And I cried and cried at what had happened.

I could hear the Chief calling my mother. I knew she would be coming downtown, but however long it was going to take, it felt like forever. Then he came back into the jail area and asked me some questions (this could never happen today, could it, questioning a minor without an adult guardian present?) about who else was there with me, what was I doing, etc.

He knew I had not done this dastardly act alone. He knew I was part of a 'gang.' And my just talking to Mike was not in itself a crime, but I was an 'accomplice' to the theft, because those other girls did get away with some candy - worth about 30 cents back then.

My mother did show up and I was released to her but the net effect of this overwhelming experience was that for years, literally, I could not go into Mike's store. I was so ashamed of my performance and treatment of this nice man that I could not even face him.

Perhaps it was an act that was precipitated by my parents' discord (a divorce was looming), but when I was about 16, I was with my father on a Sunday in October and he wanted to stop in and get something at Mike's and he asked me to come in and have something to eat with him. I sat in the car and told him the whole story, which he apparently never knew, and he then insisted I come in with him and talk to Mike.

We went in and sat in a back booth and I wept as I apologized to Mike for what had been my only criminal undertaking and as he took my hands in his big ones, he forgave me. He said to me, with tears in his eyes, "You have deprived me of your presence by staying away. You have punished yourself and me by not sharing this burden. Please accept my apology for allowing you to be treated as a criminal when you clearly were not."

Then he told me the story of Yom Kippur and how it is a day when all your sins are forgiven, when a person can be purified, and how in his religion he could 'start over' and essentially have a clean slate.

I really liked that concept and it felt good to have him absolve me, to verbally wash me clean.

The net effect of this event was probably a good thing in that I have never stolen anything from anyone. For years I could not even go into a store and walk out without buying something and not feel as if I was being watched. My anxiety about being 'good' was constantly present.

When my own daughter was caught stuffing candy into her pants as we were waiting in a checkout line in Ketchum, Idaho, I took appropriate action... she was forced to go and speak to the owner of the store right then and there and to hear from him how stealing affected his business.

In reflection all these decades later, I think putting a ten-year old in cuffs and hauling her off to a smelly jail was a little over the top. I think the humiliation effect was enormous and not necessarily beneficial.

But I have forgiven Mike and the Chief and my mother and even my best friend and the others for the culmination of events that brought me to that moment. And I have remembered the feelings of being absolved and have returned that to those who asked for it from me.

I know there were other things I did as an adult of which I am not proud, mistakes I made in parenting and in relationships, things I wished later I could change. I tried hard to be good enough and fell short enough to keep me humble.

In many religions there are ways to receive absolution, a cleansing of the soul. If thoughts are 'things' that never go away, then I choose to convert this earlier thought of humiliation into a glorious flower of growth, to give it as a gift to parents who have children needing guidance to not 'overdo' the correction, to offer it up as a way to review all of life's path events, and to cleanse it totally as Mike so graciously did for me decades ago.
Spring is a time for renewal...