Golden Leaves of November

Walking back to catch the train home after a dentist appointment brought unexpected surprises as a late blaze of Autumn glory swiftly turned into a fierce storm in mid-November of 2017

*This is an unfinished work in progress. Please enjoy what’s here as I complete it. Thanks!*

Click on each picture to expand it. All fotos by the Author.

Continue reading “Golden Leaves of November” »

Midwinter atop Hurricane Ridge

One cold, sunny day in Olympic National Park in January 2016

*This is an unfinished work in progress. In the meantime please enjoy what’s here. Thank you!*

Click upon any foto to enlarge the image.

Gazing across mountain wilderness from Hurricane Ridge (5,242 ft / 1,598 m), Olympic National Park. Sunday 24 January 2016. All fotos by the Author.

The Mt. Olympus Massif, heart of the Olympic Mountains. This crown jewel of the maritime Pacific Northwest stands at the elevation of 7,969 feet or 2,429 meters.

After visiting a troubled and isolated friend afflicted with both a chronic autoimmune condition and agoraphobia outside of Sequim, Washington, I drove alone towards Port Angeles. In addition to catching up on life together and cheering her up, I interviewed her about what she believes to be extraterrestrial or intradimensional beings and creatures creeping around her house when she was lived with her parents and siblings many years ago. She declared those series of events felt as if they occurred just yesterday. When it came time for me to leave and return to Seattle, I invited her to join me on a Sunday drive up to Hurricane Ridge. My friend declined. She felt fragile and all those people and wide, open alpine spaces filled her with a dread she couldn’t explain other than as a highly sensitive person she felt unusually vulnerable. So I drove alone, feeling a little sad, and began to reminisce about my own trips into Olympic National Park with my ex-wives Gwen and Kristina and our children Morgan, Kate, and Talia. Oh, how I miss them! And yet I grew to appreciate my time alone with only myself and the world. Up the icy mountain road I drove deep into my own Dreamtime.

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Dreams of Sasquatch: Solo to Mason Lake & Mt. Defiance

Conversations with the Invisible on a day hike to Mason Lake then climbing up Mt. Defiance in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness of Cascadia

*Click on any picture to expand the foto. Enjoy!*

This is an unfinished work in progress. Feel free to explore what’s already here. Thanks!

Looking down from atop the summit of Mt. Defiance (5584 ft / 1702 m) into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Lake Kulla Kulla is in the lower left. Mason Lake beyond over in the right center. Bandera Mtn rises behind Mason Lake, followed by Pratt & Granite Mountains further back towards center ridge side. Foto by the author. Monday 22 June 2015.

Gazing deeper, steeper from Mt. Defiance into the belly of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

Continue reading “Dreams of Sasquatch: Solo to Mason Lake & Mt. Defiance” »

Spider in Autumn

A large female Cross Orbweaver Spider, Araneus diadematus, becomes the Queen of the Front Porch where we lived in Green Lake during Autumn’s last gasp before the onset of Winter, 21 November 2014.

This is an unfinished work in progress. Feel free to explore what’s already here. Thanks!

Queen of the Porch

She scurries quickly.

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Bandera Mountain: Solo in the Mountains for a Day

Bandera Mountain: 5245 ft / 1598 m
False Summit (West Peak) of Bandera: 5157 ft/1572 m

This little adventure turned out to be medicine for mind, body, & soul. Record of a stiff dayhike & a madcap scramble up a modest but steep peak in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness as I nurtured my spirit and trained my bodymind for more demanding adventures. 

***Unfinished work in Progress. Please enjoy what’s here to see & read, and thank you for your patience.***

*Click on any image to blow it up big for a larger view. Enjoy!*

Mason Lake from the summit of Bandera Mountain. Several good campsites lay in the woods below beyond talus & scree.

Summit selfie from later in the evening. Sunday 31 May 2015.

Seattle is surrounded by exceptional outdoor adventure riches. An hour’s drive east took me to a trailhead into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. I was off work and alone on this Sunday at the end of May 2015. I chose Bandera Mountain for a steep dayhike. Part of my training for challenging hikes and scrambles in the mountainous backcountry of Cascadia. But really I went to heal my body, mind, & soul. This short, little, madcap adventure allowed for all these things to occur.

Mt. Rainier amid turbulent late Spring skies from my grunt up Bandera Mountain.

The weather was warmer than normal as an extended drought persisted, most of the snow usually around was gone. With so much going on in my everyday life, I felt a deep-seated need to get out onto the trails into the backcountry. Even felt compelled to push off-trail thru rocks & vegetation to find sanctuary for deep inner peace amidst outer beauty & physical hardship. The woman I was dating at the time, Little Sky, had to work this Sunday. My friends were already busy, and all of my kids were away doing their own thing. My oldest daughter, Morgan, was back east thruhiking the Appalachian Trail. While I would have preferred some company on the climb, sometimes going solo is the most satisfying way to go. So solo it was!

Continue reading “Bandera Mountain: Solo in the Mountains for a Day” »

Solo among Crowds: A Dayhike to Bridal Veil Falls

Dayhike up Mt. Index to Bridal Veil Falls on Sunday the 10th of May 2015

Low water already & it’s only May…Bridal Veil Falls in the 3rd year of a drought.

 

 

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A Slime Mold comes to Visit

Two Weeks in the life of one Fuligo septica in Pictures

***Unfinished work in Progress. Please enjoy what’s here to see & read, and thank you for your patience.***

Meet Bobby Sue, a beautiful Dog Vomit Slime Mold, who chose to visit us in Green Lake for a month.

Continue reading “A Slime Mold comes to Visit” »

An afternoon ramble into the Alpine Lakes one day in May

The author tramps into the woods with an urban friend to show her a taste of the Wild with a view of mountain lakes

 

Olallie Lake from the ridge connecting Pratt & Granite Mountains, Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, Washington/Cascadia. Monday 25 May 2015. Foto by the Author.

Continue reading “An afternoon ramble into the Alpine Lakes one day in May” »

Great Blue Heron, Descendant of Dinosaurs

Great Blue Heron, Descendant of Dinosaurs, landed in the Wilds of Green Lake, a park in northern Seattle, Washington State, Cascadia, one day in May.

Ardea herodias dinosaurus avianus

The large, elegant bird stood as still as a Buddha, except this Buddha was a predator. All action froze as matter flowed thru time except for those ripples in the lake and around us in the air. In the still point left unturned, my mind awakened from the erotic distractions of being with a new lover those early months of 2015, already a bygone year bereft of present moments. This great blue heron, however, this Descendant of Dinosaurs and as regal as an Avian monarch, brought everything into a focus as sharp as the spike of its beak.

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In the Wake of the Storm: A Winter Journey into the Coulees of the Scablands

A Chronicle of a Father & Daughter’s Changing Relationship as they travel deep into Mose’s & Frenchman’s Coulees in the Channeled Scablands of Cascadia’s Washington Desert searching for connection as much as for adventure

 

*This is work in progress with apologies for the delay. Go ahead & enjoy anyway! The rest shall come.

See! My daughter does love me, LOL!

Moses Coulee expanse from the old, two-lane highway, Monday 9 February 2015.

Continue reading “In the Wake of the Storm: A Winter Journey into the Coulees of the Scablands” »

Facing Fear (Your Deepest, Innermost Fears around Love)

Sometimes the Dragons we must eventually face hide within the wilderness of our own hearts

Often in the pursuit of adventure and facing one’s terror amidst avalanching mountains and flooded whitewater rivers, one may forget the Hardest Work and the Greatest Challenges lay not at Death’s Door in the Wilderness but in being with people including those we love and those who love us. Much of the time, however, it’s face to face with the mirrors of your own self.

This speaks especially with those we love or used to love. Our most difficult practices arise within the relationships we form among ourselves, with other people, and especially our selves.

The greatest Dragon we must someday face is not some monster in a cave abiding over those hearts we treasure the most. No, the greatest Dragon is us as we face our own shame, anger, & fear, yes, fear of turning back around to look those Others in the eye and atone for the consequences of damaging our relationships with them. Perhaps the hardest work is facing those whom we have hurt and wronged. Oh, the messes I have made! And cleaned up, too. It’s a neverending process at first, and, over time, the more one practices the easiest such practices become.

“Everyone says love hurts, but that is not true. Loneliness hurts. Rejection hurts. Losing someone hurts. Envy hurts. Everyone gets these things confused with love but in reality, love is the only thing in the world that covers up all the pain and makes someone feel wonderful again. Love is the only thing in the world that does not hurt.” – Liam Neeson

So, yeah, listen up. Love doesn’t stop. Who turned it off? Stop pretending. Do the fucking work. Stay with the pain. Transmute it with breath and blood. Face me. Let me face you. Choose to keep on loving no matter what. Awaken into the Oneness we once shared and, yes, still exists. Whether or not you believe in Twin Flames and the Twin Flame blues is up to you, and besides, doesn’t change what we had felt so true. Keep the fire burning before the last flame blazes out taking with it every precious memory of what was & what almost could have been.

 

William Dudley Bass
Thursday 10 August 2017
SeaTac/Seattle, Washington
Cascadia

NOTE: The quoted statement from Liam Neeson was borrowed from Wild Earth @ http://wild-earth.tumblr.com/post/136230670895/everyone-says-love-hurts-but-that-is-not-true.

The image of the red dragon & heart is a Free Download from Public Domain Pictures, License CCO Public Domain, @ http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=4445&picture=dragon-heart.

This essay/cry out was first published to my Facebook page on the evening of Thursday the 10th of August 2017.

Copyright © 2017 by William Dudley Bass. All Rights Reserved until we Humans establish Wise Stewardship of and for our Earth and Solarian Commons. Thank you.

 

Swarm of Ants on a Sunny Day in June

Ants swarm upon a sidewalk in Wallingford.

I wanted to walk home from work at least once as one way to say goodbye to where I’ve lived at the time. Finally did so one sunny Saturday in late June of 2017. At the time I lived in the Tangletown-Latona neighborhoods of the Green Lake area in North Seattle. Lived there for a little over four years in an informal cooperative household.

For various reasons of timing, I didn’t make the walk to where I worked in the old Cascade neighborhood of South Lake Union. Today, however, I declined the offer of a ride home and chose to proceed on foot instead. And I did. Walked all the way home. Passed thru the long, strung-out-along-the-water neighborhoods of East Lake, skirted the edges of the U-District, and crossed under I-5 into Wallingford. Eventually passed north thru Wallingford into Tangletown-Latona.

Took me about an hour and 45 minutes. Could’ve walked it in an hour and a half or less, but I dawdled at viewpoints and took my time before spurts of speed. I felt at peace in and with nature and enjoyed my little adventures along the edges of the urban wild. Continue reading “Swarm of Ants on a Sunny Day in June” »

Baby Spiders!

“Facebutt” is deluged with videos of silly, cute videos of kitty cats & puppy dogs. So much torment to sit thru, LOL! Well, shit, then, here’s a short video I recorded of sweet little animal babies doing what cute little animal babies do:

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Deep into Mountains Beyond the River

(***This is a work in progress. All is Copyrighted. Enjoy!***)

William & Morgan’s Father-Daughter 50-mile, 7-day Backpacking Trip in Olympic National Park with Way Too Much Weight,
Sunday 31 August – Saturday 6 September 2014,
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A father & daughter rediscover each other on the Trail before tripping out on the edge of the Ocean

*Click on each foto to blow it up big if you like. Enjoy!*

White Creek Meadows along the O’Neil’s Pass Trail, Olympic National Park, 3 September 2014, Day 4.

Picture of goofy Dad by Daughter. Enchanted Valley, Day 2.

Picture of Daughter by Dad. Upper Quinault, Day 3.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Morgan was born in the bed at home of an apartment in Seattle a little over 20 years ago before our first backpacking trip together. Both experiences were initiations. I didn’t realize the latter was one, too, however, until a couple of months later. Backpacking with my oldest of three daughters changed my life. It changed hers, too.

This journey was a spiritual and deeply physical reconnection with nature and wilderness. I was also compelled to drop down into deeper levels of awareness of what and who I am as both a self-aware man and as consciousness beyond self. This was my first backpacking trip in 7 years. Suffered from my most severe blisters ever, and I’m the kinda of guy who rarely gets blisters and when I do they’re little bitty thangs.

This trip was also Morgan’s longest backpacking trip up to this point. She was concerned about old injuries flaring up. This trek was a big test for her for she planned to attempt a thruhike of the Appalachian Trial in 6 more months. Most precious, however, was a Father and his Daughter re-creating their parent-child relationship as adults. Being halfway up a steep mountainside with a river below you miles and miles from civilization does things like that to people in a hurry to do-do-do.

Afterwards we both admitted we were afraid we wouldn’t get along, would argue constantly, and wouldn’t find anything to talk about or for. We laughed as those fears didn’t even come close to materializing. Plus this proved an incredible adventure in its own right. Wild weather, bizarre people, magnificent scenery marred by global climate disruption, and unexpected surprises including stumbling into a psychedelic festival on the edge of the ocean made this end of summer backpacking trip unforgettable.

An invisible dynamic was the complex relationships we had with her mom and step-mom, both whom were also my ex-wives. Gwen Hughes, Morgan’s mother, and I thruhiked the Appalachian Trail all the way from Georgia to Maine back in 1991. Gwen and I were known as The Pregnant Rhinos back in our halcyon thruhiker days.

We did an estimated 3,500 kilometers or almost 2,200 miles plus about 150 to 200 miles of crazy ass side hikes. The length of the AT keeps changing. It’s 2,190 miles per 2016 but was 2,168.1 miles in 2001, 2,179.1 miles in 2010, and was about 2,000 miles in 1937. It was 2,184 miles when Gwen and I thruhiked the AT in 1991, and 2,189.2 miles when Morgan attempted her thruhike the following year in 2015.

The Pregnant Rhinos on the AT! aka Morgan’s parents before she was born. 🙂 Here Crazy Gweeyin buzzes off Yeldud the Mad’s hair while he pretends to be scary. This is during a crazy stop at Rusty’s Hard Time Hollow on the edge of the Shenandoahs in Virginia sometime in early Summer of 1991. At the time of this picture, William is 32 years along & Gwen is 26. Foto by Weathercarrot.

Continue reading “Deep into Mountains Beyond the River” »

The Moaning Pad

A Nutty Vignette

A group of us men and women worked steadily in the cavernous chill. We stood and shuffled around large, crated boxes of outdoor adventure travel products. These items were all returns, i.e. customers had purchased them from the retail company we worked with and for whatever reason returned them. We prepped them for a one-time clearance sale and marked down the prices with metallic silver ink pens. It was early in the morning close to the Winter Solstice. While it wasn’t freezing, we were in a large concrete cargo bay where it sure felt icy as Hell. Cold, dank, clammy, and gloomy, too. We kept ourselves warm by wearing layers of funky colorful clothes in all combinations borrowed from where they were heaped up in those crated boxes. I didn’t even check to see if I had on a woman’s or a man’s fleece jacket. One person pulled on a kooky mix of pants under two padded, insulated skirts and giggled. We quickly discovered a certain rhythm and worked hard. At the same time we entertained ourselves by reading the return tags to see what reasons people used to justify returning an item.

Continue reading “The Moaning Pad” »

Farting Uphill to Poo Poo Point

A Tiger Mountain Adventure,

Or, rather, a Meditation on Relationships

Mount Rainier aka The Mountain from along the Chirico Trail on West Tiger Mountain on Monday the 26th of January 2015. Furthermore, it’s time to restore The Mountain to her Native name: Ti’Swaq’ … the Sky Wiper!

Mount Rainier aka The Mountain from along the Chirico Trail on West Tiger Mountain on Monday the 26th of January 2015. Furthermore, it’s time to restore The Mountain to her chosen Native name: Ti’Swaq’ … the Sky Wiper!

Monday 26 January 2015

Our day hike had two purposes: to spend time together reconnecting as father and daughter, and for my daughter to train for her upcoming attempt to thruhike the Appalachian Trail. Morgan and I are both rather eccentric. We both know it, too, and value such in the other. We both appreciate being outdoors and nature is a spiritual connection. Otherwise it feels like night and day to me. This day, however, we were late getting ourselves together as we made the gravest error of making busy work a priority. Especially me.

“Hurry up, Dad!” Morgan shouted. “Jeezus, Dad! You’re always yelling at me to hurry up and let’s go and all, and here you are texting old girlfriends and stuff!”

Except I didn’t have any girlfriends at that point, old or otherwise, as I was divorced and still single.

At this point our hike had to meet several criteria so as to qualify both as quality bonding time and provide at least SOME training. First, both drive time and trail mileage had to be short. The trail also needed to be steep as all get out to make up for being so short. We also wanted a trail we haven’t done over and over again.

Ah! Poo Poo Point! Yes!

“What?” Morgan asked with a scowl. “Poo Poo Point? Ew, gross, Dad. Like what, horses and cow poop and stuff?”

“No, it’s a short, steep hike up the side of Tiger Mountain from the back side of Issaquah. You’ve done it once before with Kate and Talia and me and Kristina back when Kristina and I were married. We watched paragliders sail off the cliff top.”

“Oh. Yeah, I remember now. OK, let’s go.”

What many call the Poo Poo Point Trail is really the Chirico Trail. This locally notorious footpath drives straight up the slopes of West Tiger Mountain. It’s steep and sweaty sweet before unraveling into rambling twists and turns. Two open, grassy meadows high up near the summit provided launch jump-offs for hang gliders and paragliders. Well, one doesn’t see hang gliders much anymore as paragliding has won out as technology advanced. Hiking thru wintry trees, however, one can look south upon the mighty leviathan bulk of Mt. Rainier, or as the Native Americans prefer, Ti’Swaq’ the Sky Swiper!

Continue reading “Farting Uphill to Poo Poo Point” »

At the Bottom of The Mountain

A Winter Day Trip to Mt. Rainier in the Throes of Climate Change,

Monday 29 December 2014

Morgan (L) & Anne outside the Nisqually Entrance to Mount Rainier National Park.

Morgan (L) & Anne outside the Nisqually Entrance to Mount Rainier National Park. Normally the snow is deep and there isn’t much frozen snowmelt on the road. Not the case here this time nor up around the bend.

On the last Monday in the Year 2014 Common Era, I drove three of us to Mount Rainier National Park. The other two were my oldest daughter Morgan, a few months shy of turning 21, and her maternal cousin, Anne, of about the same age but a little older. Morgan had recently moved back to Seattle from Bellingham to prepare for her journey along the Appalachian Trail. Her mother Gwen Hughes, Anne’s auntie, and now my ex-wife tho still dear friend, and I had thruhiked the AT once upon a somewhat long time ago back in 1991. Gwen and I, originally from Virginia, still lived in Seattle, Washington. Anne was from Florida, and had not ever been to Seattle or Mt. Rainier before, and wanted to go. Woo Hoo, Mt. Rainier! Off we went. We didn’t make it past the bottom of The Mountain.

We determined to have fun anyway.

Continue reading “At the Bottom of The Mountain” »

Lyman Glacier Melts Away: Global Climate Disruption in One Local Spot

Global Climate Disruption as exemplified in one solitary place in the Glacier Peak Wilderness of the Washington Cascades from a hiker’s perspective

Modified from Image of Mt. Chiwawa's Lyman Glacier melting away across 118 years between 1890 and 2008 per glaciology field research by Nichols College based in Dudley, Massachusetts.

Modified from Image of Mt. Chiwawa’s Lyman Glacier melting away across 118 years between 1890 and 2008 per glaciology field research in the North Cascade Glacier Climate Project by Nichols College based in Dudley, Massachusetts.

In August 2006 and nine years later in July 2015 I climbed up Spider Gap and looked down the flanks of Chiwawa Mountain upon the dirty ice of Lyman Glacier. I was shocked to behold how much snow and ice had vanished across such a relatively short span of time. This short article is my attempt to record this one example of Global Climate Disruption in one solitary spot thru my words and pictures. Far fewer pictures exist for 2006 as most of my then-extensive fotograf collections were destroyed when my house burned down back in March of 2010. For the record, the science is clear human pollution is destructive to our planetary biosphere and affects our global climate.

Lyman Glacier melting and dropping rockslide debris into Upper Lyman Lake, Glacier Peak Wilderness, Tuesday 28 July 2015.

Lyman Glacier melting and dropping rockslide debris into Upper Lyman Lake, Glacier Peak Wilderness, Tuesday 28 July 2015. This and all subsequent Fotos by William Dudley Bass & are copyrighted with all rights reserved, thank you.

Older controversies regarding global cooling have already been addressed, resolved, and discarded. Now, however, newer material emerges as we’ve become aware our solar system is undergoing numerous widespread changes as it speeds thru a section of the Milky Way Galaxy currently dense in cosmic radiation. It appears this galactic-solarial interaction may be having a much greater impact upon Earth’s climate than human pollution. This process is also not understood, and our pollution clearly makes our destabilized global climate worse. In addition, long-term planetary history demonstrates periods of global warming are followed by ice ages. Which means we really don’t know what the hell is gonna happen next. Right now, however, we in the American Pacific Northwest are entering into the third year of a drought. Although snow has recently fallen in our alpine elevations, an unusually powerful El Nino system in the wake of the Pacific Blob anomaly promises a wild, warm ride into the unknown. Continue reading “Lyman Glacier Melts Away: Global Climate Disruption in One Local Spot” »

Dragonfly People: Coming together in Nature for Adventure and Community, 2002 – 2003

A real Dragonfly Community in Nature.

A real Dragonfly Community in Nature.*

Dragonflies are small animals and ferocious predators. They live all across the planet except Antarctica. Prehistoric ancestors of today’s dragonflies were huge insects with wingspans of almost 30 inches or 7.6 centimeters across. The Dragonfly is also a symbol of transformation, power, adaptability, and poise. A number of us communitarians came together from different urban cooperative households across Greater Seattle to explore new communal possibilities. Some of the early meetings held anywhere from 20 to almost 50 people. Eventually some of us formed a new intentional community. Our new family came to be known as Dragonfly or the Yellow Dragonfly House. We chose this animal as our spirit totem with a focus on personal and group transformation.

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TRANSFORMATION: a 150 foot long dragonfly crop circle apparently created overnight in England, the U.K., in June of 2009.**

What came to be known as simply Dragonfly or the Yellow House was established in October 2003, but the process of community formation began much earlier. People from older groups such as Orca Landing and The Barn began coming together in 2001 to determine what was next for them as individuals, families, and communities. Some of them were monogamous families. Others were engaged as a polyamorous cluster. And a few were single. All were deeply spiritual and engaged in profound personal and professional growth, training, and development. Most were ethical stands for love, communication, and for community. Those who were not left Dragonfly of their own accord except for one person, initially intensely involved, who was asked to leave.

During the years of 2002 – 2003 the members of Dragonfly embarked on a series of trips to spend time together in nature and to strengthen the bonds of community. Not every member of Dragonfly Community went on every adventure. The following fotos are from six of our trips including our major outings. Some of the earlier members and candidates are not in any of these fotos. The core ones are celebrated within. These pictures survived the 2010 burning down of my and then-wife Kristina’s post-Dragonfly home. I took most of these fotos, and some were by Kristina, and others by friends who gave us copies after the fire. I edited most of those images. They captured moments in time and space representing the forging and celebration of relationships amid the great outdoors of America’s Pacific Northwest. Enjoy.

Dragonfly Backpacking & Camping Trip to Second Beach, Olympic National Park, Thursday 4 July – Sunday 7 July 2002:

L2R: Talia, William, Atreyu, Edan

L2R: Talia, William, Atreyu, & Edan.

Continue reading “Dragonfly People: Coming together in Nature for Adventure and Community, 2002 – 2003” »

Solo into the Glacier Peak Wilderness, July 2015

Fotos & Reflections from my 65-mile Solo Backpacking Trip into

the Glacier Peak Wilderness,

Washington State/Cascadia, Monday – Friday 27 – 31 July 2015.

*Click on each foto to blow it up big. Enjoy!*

Views of Image Lake and of Glacier Peak and surrounding mountains from deep in the Wilderness on the morning of the Third Day, Wednesday 29 July 2015.

Views of Image Lake and of Dakobed (Glacier Peak) and surrounding mountains from deep in the Wilderness on the morning of the Third Day, Wednesday 29 July 2015.

“Off the Grid & gone. Solo. Well or unwell. Glacier Peak Wilderness will swallow me up. Reemergence in about a week. Been planning for a year. Going into the Deep High Lonesome. Adios.”

Those words were my Facebook post for Monday morning on the 27th of July before I left Seattle for the Glacier Peak Wilderness. Before my adventure was over, it had turned into a middle-aged man’s Hero’s Journey, a strange Quest of sorts, and on the last day there was a time I realized I might not make it out alive. I did, of course, despite developing what turned out to be rhabdomyolysis, as I share these words and pictures with all of you. My travels into the Deep High Lonesome proved transformative in slowly unfolding ways, ways I am aware of as I write these words well over a year afterwards.

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Chiwawa River.  Looking upstream from a roadside campsite in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest towards the Glacier Peak Wilderness Area. Day 1 on Monday the 27th of July 2015.

Another roadside campsite beckons, but I stop only to stretch my legs, relieve myself, and smell the fresh forest air of mountains & rivers.

Looking across the Chiwawa River into the Glacier Peak Wilderness from the same campground. The river’s running low, and the temperature’s rising. I’m the only person here at the moment. 

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Dusty ass road walk. I parked my car at the Buck Creek Trailhead at Trinity (792.50 meters or 2,600 feet) and walked all the way back and then up the long Phelps Creek Road towards the Phelps Creek Trailhead (1,066.80 m/3,500 ft) to Spider Meadows. I started walking from Trinity about 15:00 or 3:00 pm PDT in the afternoon of Day 1, Monday 27 July 2015.

Was reminded of the words of Doug Scott, the British mountaineer from Nottingham, England, who once pointed out when one goes into the mountains one must be prepared to die. Not wanting to die, of course, but mentally understanding and accepting the risk. Didn’t plan any alpine mountaineering, tho, as my intention is to trek and scramble cross-country in a physically demanding and remote part of this journey.

The section I planned to traverse off-trail from Buck Creek Pass up into the alpine zone towards and then down into the Upper Napeequa Valley was expected to be the most daunting. Scrambling thru High Pass on the way was one of the highlights I looked forward to experiencing. The Napeequa was notorious for being remote, difficult, fly-infested, and spectacular.

As I contemplate the possibility of dying amidst such magnificent beauty, however, I know I’ll be fine. Just what’s going thru my mind. In case this proved relevant for any search and rescue, which I hoped there wouldn’t be any need for. So, here I am, very much alive and ready for more. 

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Selfie shot standing in the hot, dusty ass Phelps Creek Road. Gusts of wind swirls dust devils and flying sheets of grit. Even so, it is a beautiful day in the backcountry. I’m grateful to be here in the Great Outdoors.

Continue reading “Solo into the Glacier Peak Wilderness, July 2015” »

Hiking & Climbing up Mt. Rainier to Camp Muir

Foto Essay of a Day Hike & Climb

Up thru Global Climate Disruption & the Movement to Restore Native Names

to the Mountains

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Global Climate Disruption leaves Mount Rainier bare, baked, and dirty. Even so, it’s time to restore The Mountain to her Native name: Ti’Swaq’ … the Sky Wiper!

“Saw something beautiful Tuesday I’ve not ever seen before. During a dark, early morning drive to Mt. Rainier, the upper half of the massive volcano appeared to spout clear yellow flames without smoke. Weird. And pretty! The top half split into a dozen scimitar slices of bright golden pink. Ahhh, sunrise! The mountain’s glaciers, bereft of snow due to the drought, revealed giant crevasses open wide and staggered one above the other up the side of the volcano. These steep-sloped glacial crevasses of undirtied ice caught the dawn reflections. Traffic was too heavy to snap a pic, & I hate shitty pics. So I drove on. We ended up hiking up to Camp Muir at about 10,180 ft. Needed crampons. Hard blue ice. And dirt. No snow. True gold was the morning Light as it fell from the heavens into the open jaws of Earth.”

~ From my Facebook post of Thursday 8 October 2015 “at 5:20pm.”

Continue reading “Hiking & Climbing up Mt. Rainier to Camp Muir” »

The One Place on Earth to Go

One of many travertine falls in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia, European Union. Photo by Donar Reiskoffer in the Public Domain. 2013.

One of many travertine falls in Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia, European Union. Photo by Donar Reiskoffer in the Public Domain. 2013.

What is the one place down on the surface of Planet Earth’s crust should everyone go visit at least once in their life? As gorgeous as they are, it’s not those beautiful lakes that fall one into the other in the picture above.

So many people pass thru Seattle these days and night, coming and going and going and coming, from somewhere to nowhere to everywhere. It seems Seattle is now the one place to go, or it’s what I hear from so many tourists. Which surprises me. Seattle is booming, yes, one survey earlier this year counted 80 construction cranes dominating the Downtown and Belltown areas alone. Despite the magnificent scenery of the Salish Sea and the Olympic and Cascade Mountains, however, Seattle isn’t The One Place On Earth One Must Go. I love Seattle, tho.

During the Great Recession I worked in retail at the Downtown Seattle REI Store, its largest flagship, and met people from around the world. Still do. Love working here at REI. Many fellow human beings from all over Cascadia, too, came and went and come and go as they tell stories about past trips, excited or in some cases afraid of upcoming adventures. Many people come into REI to buy supplies on their way to help out others, whether it’s devastating earthquakes in Haiti and Nepal, supertyphoons in the Philippines, giant mudslides in Latin America, or the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

At work I am usually in sustained motion. When it’s slow, I either stock products or stand briefly and people watch. Engage and talk. Ask questions and listen. Help them find appropriate products, or if we don’t have them, suggest other places. Once there was a man from Yakutsk, the capital of the Sakha Republic in Russia’s Siberia. He was of Turkish-Mongol-Siberian ancestry, was unusually tall, and was in the United States for the first time. Dressed like a cross between a tweedy college professor, a backcountry woodsman, and a steampunk engineer, he was in quiet awe of the amount of merchandise in every store, including North American grocery stores. He was especially in awe of REI’s depth and breadth in outdoor adventure travel.

Claiming to be among the numerous proud descendants of Genghis Khan’s warriors, he said I should visit Siberia. I’d love to go, I replied. Siberia! One of the wildest, most extreme regions on Earth! The vast boreal forests of the Siberian Taiga, deep and mysterious Lake Baikal, hungry brown and black bears raiding villages, gigantic rivers pulsing towards the Arctic Ocean, bitter subfreezing temperatures, exploding scary ass methane craters in Yamal, the wild, remote, volcanic Kamchatka Peninsula, meteorite-hit cities, huge mountains and isolated deserts, southern steppes and northern tundra, Eurasian ethno-cultural blending amid ancient, little-known ruins, and the longest railroads in the world. O, Siberia!

But, no, not even majestic Siberia. There’s another place even more incredible everyone must try to get to. Yes, everyone.

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Sleeping with Ghosts on the Appalachian Trail

Ruminations, Romance, and the Lives of a Family Long Dead

Story and Photographs by William Dudley Bass

Ruins of the old Sarver Homestead along the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, May 1991.

Ruins of the old Sarver Homestead along the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, May 1991.

In late May 1991, almost three months into our odyssey along the Appalachian Trail, my wife and I planned to sleep among ghosts. Old-timey Virginia ghosts. It seemed like a fitting thing to do while walking across our home state, a journey as rich with rumination as it was with hardship and joy.

Gwen and I had embarked on the first day of spring from the top of Springer Mountain in northern Georgia to backpack the whole Appalachian Trail end to end. The AT, as we hikers called it, or simply “the Trail,” stretches more than 2,000 miles northwards across 14 states to the summit of mile-high Mt. Katahdin in north-central Maine. Almost a quarter of the Trail passes through the Old Dominion, making Virginia home to the longest section of the AT, more than any other state. Gwen and I took six-and-a-half months to backpack the whole Trail, climbing Katahdin in early October on the day after our third wedding anniversary.

Rich in both history and wildlife, the Appalachian Trail is an intersection of people and wilderness. Those who backpack end-to-end in one push are known as “thruhikers,” while those who attempt to complete the whole thing in stages are called “section hikers.” Most take on trail names. Gwen and I were thruhikers, as such a distinct minority among the day hikers, weekenders, and picnickers. We called ourselves the Pregnant Rhinos.

Our trail name arose from a backpacking trip out West the previous year, when we got teased about the huge new internal-frame expedition packs bulging from our backs. “Damn, y’all look like a coupla pregnant rhinoceroses,” exclaimed a teenage boy, his own rickety, external-frame pack jangling with pots and pans and sloppy blankets.

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Big Belly Cigarette Smoking Man Swimming in Winter

The Author staring across Puget Sound towards the Olympics from the beaches of Carkeek Park, Seattle. This foto is not from the same time as the essay, it was taken years later on 6 November 2011 by Kate Bass, but it captures the chill of the story as the slide fotos of the actual event were lost in the 2010 house fire.

The Author staring across Puget Sound towards the Olympics from the beaches of Carkeek Park, Seattle. This foto is not from the same time as the essay, it was taken years later on 6 November 2011 by Kate Bass, but it captures the chill of the story as the slide fotos of the actual event were lost in the 2010 house fire.

One bitter cold sunny day I came upon a tall, balding man standing on the beach wearing nothing but a skimpy Speedo swimsuit and smoking cigarettes. He had an enormous belly, a tremendous leviathan of a belly; the kind of tight power belly a big man could even feel proud of. Yet he moved like James Bond in the movies. He smoked like Humphrey Bogart used to in the movies, too. Him and Katherine Hepburn, remember? This man stood barefoot before me in sand, pebbles, and broken seashells as he gazed across the Salish Sea from the shores of Carkeek Park. I estimated he was a youngish sixty. An icy breeze sliced through my coat and stung my cheeks.

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A Wild Kayak Adventure Down Slickrock Creek

Wanna hammer down a creek few have ever paddled? Flush through crooked, boulder-strewn chutes and delicately pick your route down Class 5 Wildcat Falls as you drop off the edge of the world into forever? Then throw away your guidebooks and come south prepared to hike in with your boat. You won’t forget this big, open secret as you rassle with the River Gods to turn it loose. This little bugger roars.

April 4,1989. We were deep in the lush, virgin forests of the Joyce Kilmer – Slickrock Wilderness putting onto a stream we knew very little about. None of us had hiked it, and we only knew a handful of other NOC boaters who had paddled it. Rain had been falling steadily, and we were looking for something different. Steepcreekin’ in Appalachia is Southeastern tradition, and part of the fun is seeking out and paddling remote and seldom run descents. As thunderstorms rolled over the mountains and feeling as if we were in a jungle, we knew we were in for dangerous adventures in a mysterious whitewater gorge.

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Overflow! Reflections on Kayaking Class 5 Overflow Creek

Jeff going "singless" running Singley's Falls.

Jeff going “singless” running Singley’s Falls.

We expected extreme whitewater. We knew we were all skilled paddlers, climbers, and hikers and could handle ourselves in the wilderness. We were trained in river rescue. We just had no idea our party of four kayakers would get stuck in a confrontation with the Grim Reaper deep in a remote Appalachian gorge as the Sun slid down behind the tallest trees.

In the pages of North Carolina Canoeing, Bob Sehlinger and Don Otey write of the notoriously wild Chattooga River, “If Section IV bores you, try Overflow Creek.” They declared it was for  “boaters with…a little insanity.”

Such crazy madness was the predicament the four of us found ourselves in one sunny, warm afternoon: were we really all that bored with Section IV? Heck, after all, the Chattooga was at a romping 2.8 feet on the gauge. In the end we figured we were indeed bored with Section IV and probably not quite all there in the head, either. Though we were much more of a humble and calm team. We were just more on the spiritually cool side of gonzo.

Truth be told, we mainly wanted relief from rowdy crowds congregating along Section III that day for the recent International Peace Rally hosted by the Nantahala Outdoor Center. As much as we enjoyed partying with the Soviets and Costa Ricans, when it came down to the water, we were seekers of solitude. So off into the wilderness of North Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest we went.

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It’s Time to Rethink Swimming

With more and more people becoming involved in whitewater, it’s time to rethink swimming. Many steepcreekers have been swimming differently for years, and their experiences can improve the swimming techniques for both those who take a once-a-year commercial raft trip and the average weekend paddler of Class II, III, and IV rivers.

During recent years there has been an increase in drownings and injuries among even experienced boaters as well as casual rafters, which could have been avoided, had they swum differently. Of course we all go out there thinking and hoping we’re not going to fall out of our rafts or come out of our boats. But let’s face it: sooner or later we will all swim, and swim again. Swimming is an integral part of whitewater, and just like combat rolls and eddy turns, it should be done properly and safely. It should even be practiced.

Swimming aggressively instead of floating passively is the key. A number of paddlers have been killed or injured in a variety of river conditions from long, continuous rapids to fairly small rapids. There are numerous cases of flush-through drownings where boaters were swept for extended periods while maintaining the old float-with-toes up position.

Earlier this year in a different type of incident a tandem open boater drowned in Nantahala Falls, a Class III rapid in North Carolina. He and his partner had quickly gotten into the traditional swimming position: toes up, head upstream, floating on one’s back with the arms out to slow one down. His partner shot along the tongue of the falls to safety, but he dropped over a ledge in the steeper section and pinned. His feet and lower legs became entrapped in a crevice, and he drowned. In the same incident, a would-be rescuer also trapped his foot in the same spot and nearly drowned as well. It is likely the victim would be alive today if he had swum aggressively.

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The Other Nantahala

Big Kahuna - Nantahala Cascades - est flow 950 cfsLooking at the Great Kahuna, crux of the Nantahala Cascades, from a photo dated November 14, 2009 when the Upper Nantahala Gorge was running about 950 cfs.
NOTE: This foto has since been removed and the server is often unaccessible.

 

The Nantahala River is one the most famous whitewater runs in North America. Most people, however, know it merely as a scenic but beginner-level run. Only recently has word been getting out about “the Other Nantahala,” the river of the Class V-VI Cascades, frequent floodstage big water, of shooting the Horns of the Ram into the maw of Big Wesser Falls. Carving a deep gorge across an earthquake fault through some of the steepest mountains in the Southeast – mountains so rough they have earned the dread of many Appalachian Trail thruhikers – it is home to the paddleheads of the Nantahala Outdoor Center.

Located deep in the boonies of Southwestern North Carolina, down there where Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina all butt up against the Tarheel State, the “Nanty” runs year round. Most of the recent International Peace Rally-Nantahala ’90, featuring competitors from around the world including the Soviet Union – were held in the Nantahala’s narrow, heavily-forested gorge. Right before the rally, the Nantahala raged up to a near-record 9.5 ft.

After several years of unrelenting drought, the Southeast has been in the whitewater limelight since heavy rains and frequent flooding returned in January 1989. While disastrous in the eyes of many, the high water has been a boon to paddlers. It has been a special boon to water-starved boaters of the Nantahala area.

Rising high in the Nantahala Mountains, the small river and its headwaters drop into an artificial impoundment, Nantahala Lake. Here Nantahala Power and Light Company (NLP) pumps water through 5.6 miles of pipe and releases at the generating plant about 13 miles downstream.

Most boaters put in below the powerhouse for an exciting dash through continuous Class II-III rapids as the river drops a mellow 33 feet per mile. The icy waters clash with the warm air to create thick ribbons of fog through which one spies bobbing multicolored helmets. In fact, the word Nantahala is Cherokee for “Valley of the Noonday Sun.” The river crashes on until the run culminates in Class III Nantahala Falls, 400 feet above the takeout.

This is the normal run, great for beginners to learn and for intermediates to hone their moves without fear. In the summer the river is often crowded with rafters.

But for others there is the Other Nantahala, the Nantahala of frequent high water. For a time in 1989, NPL was releasing from the lake itself. Water continues to pour down the spillway even now. In both 1989 and 1990 there were numerous extended releases on White Oak Creek, a major tributary of the Nantahala. The character of the river changed as boaters came from all over to experience the Upper Nanty, the Cascades, and Big Wesser. Or even the regular run during high water.

For many miles below the dam, the Nantahala runs through dense willow thickets, gradually widening and descending. The rapids begin to build up to Class II, sometimes III, becoming more continuous and technical. The river plunges over three jumbled waterfalls known as the Upper Cascades and finally merges with White Oak Creek to form the famous Upper Nantahala run. The stretch above the confluence is only rarely run due to the congestion of brush and the fact that the Class IV-V+ Upper Cascades are runnable only when the rest of the Upper Nantahala below is just too high, thus prematurely ending the trip.

White Oak Creek deserves mention. It is one of the hardest hair runs in the Southeast. White Oak flows through continuous Class II rapids through a gentle valley into a small NPL lake. Below the dam the bottom drops out as it plunges for several miles through a tiny gorge with continuous Class II-V rapids. Halfway down is Triple Drop (or Becky’s Catapult), a nasty Class VI three-tier waterfall choked with jagged rocks, vertical pins, and shallow pools. It has been run only once to my knowledge. Becky Weiss, one of NOC’s best hair boaters, catapulted end over end, miraculously without injury.

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Running from Mad Yellow Jackets

Two Days Later... (Click on all images to enlarge.)

Two Days Later… (Click on all images to ENLARGE.)

There it is ... Pandora's Garbage Can.

There it is … Pandora’s Garbage Can.

I pissed off a blizzard of yellow jackets the other day. They were the Mask of Death rising up without any forewarning or expectation. The Grim Reaper swung out his scythe in warning as I jumped high, and we both whirled away in opposite directions. Death by surprise with the horror of a thousand toxic stings. Except it wasn’t my time to pass on through to the other side…yet.

On a sunny Tuesday afternoon in early October 2012, on the 2nd of October to be exact. I stepped outside into the backyard to help clean up some trash and debris. I’ve been staying with my friends Gabriel and Joy in Shoreline, just north of Seattle, as they settle into their “new” home. The backyard was a glorious overgrown wood with tall, beautiful trees and thick bushes bunched around an urban meadow of shaggy grass and dandelions gone to see. In the corner set an old, abandoned metal garbage can. The lid sat somewhat ajar. Bits of trash hung out over the rim. One long, blue length of twine spooled down and out and lay snarled in weeds and sticks.

Behind me on the upstairs balcony Gabriel and his little boy, the one I call “Young Master,” were cleaning up, too. They watched from above. And they just as easily could’ve been out in the yard, too. Young Master could’ve been walking right there with me to peek inside the old garbage can with the same curiosity that possessed me. After all, he was out there messin’ around a couple days earlier over the weekend.

I carried two bags of trash and one of compost. Without much thought I strode up to the ugly old can squatting among the bushes on the edge of the woods. My hand reached out, grabbed the lid, and lifted.

My eyes caught a quick view of what looked like gray paper. Immediately, a monster swarm of bigass yellow jackets rolled out in a thick curling cloud. These were plump, end-of-summer demons all fattened up to die in another month or so. They came together in the air like a biological chainsaw, like a living robot from the Transformer movies, and they were enraged. When I lifted up the lid, apparently I’d ripped their nest apart.

For a moment so brief yet so long I stood there on hyperalert seeing the massed swarm of buzzing yellow jackets pouring out of the can into the air around me. Everything seemed to move in slow motion, way slooooww mooooshunnn. I felt as if I was inside The Matrix movie.

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Crazy Fun Family Bike Trip on the Iron Horse Trail

Our Blended Family Bike Excursion on the “Iron Horsie Trail,” Washington State, during the Summer of 2006

Biking down into the Center of the Earth, or so it seemed at the time... Katayama-Bass Family Self Portrait, Sunday 20 August 2006

Biking down into the Center of the Earth, or so it seemed at the time… Katayama-Bass Family Self Portrait, Sunday 20 August 2006.

Woo Hoo!!! A Wild Family Trip with William & Kristina and the Kids! Yeah!

We pulled it off! Our wild and crazy family mountain bike ride across the Washington Cascades! Well, sort of. At times we felt we descended beyond the Gates of Hades on our own nutty journey into the center of Planet Earth. But a fun journey. It was a logistical workout, and blessed with a treasure of memories. Originally Kristina and I planned a 3-day family bike ride with all 3 kids along 40+ miles of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail thru Iron Horse State Park in the Cascade Mountains. We’d planned to carry all of our gear and camp along the way. We were unable to work out the logistics to our satisfaction, however, as we didn’t want to take two cars.

So we turned it into a different sort of trip and just took off on Friday 18 August 2006. By then all the campgrounds were full. We whimsically drove up winding National Forest Service roads and stared over cliffs toward dramatic mountain scenery. In grim, puzzled silence, we rumbled past a weird, old man living out of a rusty, red car who tied plastic bags up in the bushes alongside the road. He turned and stared at us as if he could eat us all up for supper. Imagining great and terrible things then giggling like embarrassed maniacs, we drove on around the rocky corner.

Many a dusty mile later, we found a lovely, open spot among the woods, rocks, and overgrown logging slash. There we wild-camped near the top of Amabilis Mountain. Arid conditions and clear skies greeted us. Big, wide-open skies. The Milky Way seemed to cleave the heavens in half like some incandescent sword. A meteor shower was in progress, too. Beginning every late July and stretching into the middle of August, the Perseid Meteor Shower is a treat out here in the clear, arid skies typical of our Northwest summers. Several spectacular shooting stars and flurries of little ones blazed across dark skies every night. Friday night there we slept.

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Barreling Across America with my Daughter Morgan

Morgan gears up for The Long Ride, April 2007.

Morgan gears up for The Long Ride, April 2007.

Diary of a 7-Day Journey with my Daughter Morgan:

Morgan jounced along with me as I drove across the Continent from Virginia to Washington State in a moving truck crammed like an old-fashioned peddler’s wagon. My parents had died fairly recently, Daddy in late Autumn of 2004 and Momma about two years later in 2006. As a result of their passing, I inherited many of their possessions. The last time I’d driven a moving truck packed with so much heavy furniture and jangly stuff cross-country was back in 1993. This road trip also signaled a completion of a cycle of death-journeys back and forth from Seattle to rural Virginia around the deaths of both parents.

Catching Daddy droolin' one night sleeping in the Truck, April 2007. Photo by Morgan Bass.

Catching Daddy droolin’ one night sleeping in the Truck, April 2007. Foto by Morgan Bass.

Morgan and I arrived with all belongings in the wee hours of Saturday morning, about 2:30 AM, on 14 April 2007. It was quite a trip. And it was a special trip, a long overdue opportunity for some father – daughter bonding. Morgan is my oldest daughter of three and my only biological offspring. She had turned 13 a month earlier. I love her dearly, and it was painful to stand aside and watch her grow up and apart. I didn’t expect it to happen so soon, but at 12 she started taking off.

As my eldest daughter, she was but a sprout compared to her grandparents who recently died in their mid-70s. Dad passed first, dying on the 1st of December 2004, the third anniversary of my partnership with Kristina. After a few false starts, Mom finally followed on my brother’s birthday, 15 November 2006. My sister Beth had successfully navigated between doctors, lawyers, accountants, funeral home directors, tax preparers, insurance agents, courts, gravediggers, bankers, and stressed out relatives. Beth performed difficult job with perseverance and excellence, all while working full-time, raising a daughter, and settling in from Arizona back into Virginia.

The closure of this entire mess o’ dying proved to be an adventure yet.

Through the Windows over the Mountains

Through the Windows over the Mountains

Saturday 7 April – First, flying from Seattle, WA to Richmond, VA via Chicago was uneventful and smooth, albeit we landed at 11:30 PM that night. Ray Hinde, my sister’s second husband, was generous to pick us up at the airport as our rental car plan fell through. He had just driven to the airport the night before to pick up his son and daughter by his first wife. They had buzzed in from Arizona.

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Morgan goofin’ up de plane.

On the plane I read David McCullough’s history book 1776 and was struck by the irony of me, a Virginian living in Washington, reading about George Washington, himself a native of Virginia and in whose honor my adopted state was named after. And Morgan is a native of Washington and is visiting Virginia. The events of that gripping narrative, however, describe a situation that changed history. If the American Revolution had failed there would be no “Virginians” living in “Washington.”

Even so, we paid my Aunt Helen a midnight visit down in the Fan, the Bohemian area of Richmond. Helen, my daddy’s Big Sister, had a box of gold-rimmed china from her mother to give Morgan, who is Mary Yeatts Bass’s great-granddaughter. Helen, a morning lark, was kind enough to stay up late for us to visit. It was stunning to walk into her home in the Fan. On every wall was beautiful and vibrant art. On the table was another project in process.

Helen excitedly led us into her basement art studio to show us a number of fun and expressive pieces she was crafting from a mélange of seashells, driftwood, stones, beads, and paints. And also where she tripped over a cord and smashed to the floor. Morgan was thrilled to see Helen again and it was her first visit to Helen’s organic and living in-home museum and studio. I wished we could all visit more often; tough to do when we lived 3000 miles away. Helen, thank you for being such a gracious host beyond the Witching Hour. And Morgan feels awe to receive her great-grandmother’s china.

Ray drove us on back to the old Bass farm outside Rice. He and Beth have a new home on a hill overlooking the lake formed by the Sandy River Reservoir. He took us to my deceased parents’ empty house. Morgan and I spent the remainder of the night there, wondering if we would see ghosts. I slept very poorly.

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Swimming in Avalanches

Click on any photo to ENLARGE it.

Lightning Storms are common in the Mountains. Photo from a free wallpaper/stock photo set.

Lightning Storms are common in the Mountains. Foto of multiple plasma strikes in the Rockies from a free wallpaper/stock photo set.

Lightning struck the mountain as the heavens cracked with thunder. Snow and ice burst loose like boiling water, and I was swept down the couloir, a steep gulley plunging down the flank of the mountain. Runaway snow felt like galloping wet sand and hissed like snakes. It was a hell of a way to spend a summer vacation.

It was mid-July 1986, and I was in the Wyoming Wind River Range toward the end of a 30-day Wind River Mountaineering Course with NOLS, the world-famous National Outdoor Leadership School. Headquartered on the edge of the range in the cowboy town of Lander, Wyoming, NOLS was the premier outdoor adventure school of my time. Once I was on purpose to become a NOLS Instructor. At least I was until love, romance, and a broken down car got in the way. Nevertheless this 30-day NOLS mountaineering course proved to be one of the most pivotal points in my life.

Back then I planned a career in outdoor adventure and sought concentrated training in hard skills such as alpine rock climbing and glacier travel and in soft skills such as teamwork and leadership under pressure. Along with those skills NOLS also taught natural history, science in the field, environmental responsibility, wilderness navigation, and backcountry first aid, all knowledge I desired. I had one semester left in grad school, too, back east in Richmond, Virginia. And, to be sure, what I most wanted as an ol’ farmboy from Virginia was an immersion adventure in the Wild American West. And I got it.

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Little Red Boots

I loved my little red boots. Little itty-bitty cheap plastic boots with plastic rubbery pull-up handles. They were so RED! And I loved red. I felt so PROUD! Cuz I wore them, or rather lost them, in receiving (remember, medals of honor are not awarded to winners but recipients!) my very first concussion, which was also the first time I fell out of a tree, and the very first time I broke through the ice over frozen water. Now, one can imagine little red boots venturing foolishly out onto the ice, but what in tarnation where they doing up in a TREE?

Oh, by the way, this was back when I was a little boy. I was a bad, bad elementary school lad trying to tag along with those badder than worse pre-teen boys my Momma hated me playing with. Of course, we didn’t use “pre-teen” back in those halcyon red rock-throwing1960s. Back then we li’l kids call ‘em “the Big Kids.” I grew up, see, in rural Virginia, on my parents’ dairy farm outside the town of Farmville, yes, the real Farmville, halfway between Richmond and Lynchburg.

One day a long, long time ago, decades now, I ventured out after a long and terrible storm. In my little red boots, of course. The sun was shining. The birds were singing. And all the plants and everything else outside was slick and glistening wet. It must’ve been Spring or Fall because I do remember wearing a coat and a hat.

I climbed up into a tree. I loved to climb. That’s why I was up in a tree. I began playing in it the previous summer. It was a scrubby, bushy, shrubby tree growing wild around the corner of the yard. My parents just mowed the grass around it. It was a tangle of shoots with myriad branches forking forth in all directions. At one point I slipped and grabbed, stopped myself, and ended up with a mouthful of leaves. Apparently I used my mouth as an extra hand. No wonder I have jaw problems these days! Continue reading “Little Red Boots” »

Yellow Jackets Swarming Ants

A cloud of yellow jackets gathered over the yard as a dark storm of malevolent invasion. The black and yellow wasps were at once beefy and lean from a summer of feasting and hunting. They circled together in the air; then dropped to attack. God, they were FAST! I stumbled backwards in panic. Dozens of yellow jackets swiftly assaulted, killed, and ate hundreds of ants. The massacre was over in minutes. Life and death right there in my front yard. The ebb and flow of nature I unwittingly contributed to in a reminder we humans live within nature. Continue reading “Yellow Jackets Swarming Ants” »

Boomerang Tree

Once upon a time when I was a brave and crazy fool I rode a tree like a dragon. Armed with a homemade boomerang, I was a pretty young lad somewhere in that transition between preteen to true teen. My exact age and even what grade I was in remain lost to memory. What I do remember is a gusty, late afternoon storm with cloudy skies churning the color of dark green moss. It happened in Virginia where I grew up on a farm, and I thought I was gonna die.

I felt proud of my boomerang. I’ve spent hours carving and sanding it from a piece of wood. When I whipped it through the air across the cow pastures on my parents’ dairy farm, my boomerang actually returned. It would spin away from me whirling like a helicopter propeller. As my boomerang spun it rose high and higher still, turned, and came zooming back to me. Sometimes it flopped and dug into grass and dirt and skittered off rocks. At other times, however, I had to duck as it zipped over my head. I dared not reach out to grab it. Those were the best!

My buddy Jerry Vernon and I were out in a huge cowpasture on the Gates Family Farm. Jerry’s dad worked for the Gateses milking cows and fixing fences, so we played a lot. My brother Joe, six years younger, also hung with us that day. Our dad ran the Bass farm for his uncle, who was cousins with the Gateses and further down the road the Bruces.

It was one afternoon after school, and I can’t remember if it was November or March. The weather felt heavy with a cloudy-late-afternoon-right-before-supper-time feel, and we had one eye out for bulls. Rumor had it the Gateses had turned loose a bull into the pasture to impregnate the cows, and he would snort, charge, stomp, and gore you all to bloody pieces if he discovered you simply existed. We were terrified of bulls.

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