Skipping Rocks at Carkeek Park

Blended Family Fun on the Beach just after Sunset

Morgan & Talia at Play

~ Summer of 2004 ~

All photographs by William Dudley Bass.

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Morgan showing Talia how to skip rocks into the Sound, Carkeek Park, Seattle, June 2004.

Morgan showing Talia how to skip rocks into the Sound, Carkeek Park, Seattle, Wednesday 16 June 2004.

Kristina, my partner at the time, and I discovered one of the best ways to blend our quirky families was to play together. Shared activities made any chore much more fun and the play a hooty wild blast. Sometimes we played rough, too. My kids and I called wrestling with Daddy “rumble tumble.” Kate was the roughest, although Talia enjoyed a good tumble, too, until she decided she didn’t appreciate a particular move. Morgan didn’t care for such forceful fun. She was a more gentle, restrained, and patient player who valued eccentric, witty goofiness over “play fightin’.”

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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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Guns, Madness, and Mass Shootings as the Perfect Storm of Blowback hits Mount Rainier


U.S. veteran Benjamin Colton Barnes, proud of his guns, in
a photo from Pierce County Sheriff Department archives. Note
the high-capacity magazine clips on both firearms.

This undated photo provided by Mount Rainier National Park shows park Ranger Margaret Anderson. Anderson, 34, was fatally shot Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012, at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state, according to the National Park Service.
Ranger Margaret Anderson, Mount Rainier
National Park, Washington State. Photo
from MRNP archives.

New Year’s Day 2012 began as if Doomsday had arrived way too early from out of the prophesized Mayan Apocalypse. By the time the one-man war of Army veteran Benjamin Colton Barnes ended, two people are dead with four more injured, two of them critically wounded, three children left without parents, and communities across the United States, including Mount Rainier National Park were devastated. It’s almost a year, too, after Rep. Gabby Giffords and a number of others were shot with many killed in Tucson, Arizona. Excuse my lack of professionalism, but WTF?

In grotesque mockery of its own Constitution, the United States Government continues its overreaching neo-imperial agenda. We invade Iraq for the oil, for revenge against Saddam, and to outflank Iran and thumb our noses at Russia and China. We spend more money on our military than the next 17 countries combined. Yet we don’t help our veterans. And anytime you send people into combat, battles, and wars, guess what? Real, live human beings – men, women, and children are killed and maimed, often in horrific manner. Many in our Armed Forces return with damaged minds. Not everyone, but many more than most admit.

Since our government is so deep in debt and has been played by the banksters, it implements austerity measures and cuts services. National Park services get cut. Rangers get less support.

Bankster and corporatocratic manipulation of finances, markets, political elections, and government leads to illegal wars and economic disruption.

Illegal wars are still real wars. Our young men and women kill and injure other human beings. Many of our men and women are themselves killed and injured. All survivors witness great destruction. The Americans return home, and some of them break down, fall apart, and go crazy. And usually not in ways that engender sympathy.

A government short on money begins by cutting then chopping services. “Our” Federal Government begins by eviscerating federal institutions. Not nearly enough health care is provided for our veterans and their families, especially psychotherapy and counseling. It’s easier, faster, and cheaper to build flashy new weapons and weapons systems. Other federal services get cut, including the national park service.

Benjamin Colton Barnes was a former soldier in the United States Army. He served in the Iraq campaigns of 2007-2008 during the Global Long War on Terror. A private first class, he served in communications while deployed into Iraq. Barnes was also released from the military with a misconduct discharge for a string of offenses.

At a New Year’s Eve 2011 party in Skyway, a satellite town on the edge of the Greater Seattle Pugetopolis, Washington State, a number people brought guns including military weaponry to show off, brag, and posture. The rest of us would likely call them “gun nuts,” a term I reserve NOT for those who respect the firearms they collect and the responsibilities the right to possess a firearm demands, but for those who are immature, violent, and spoiling for a fight. The latter are consumed with egoitis. Barnes was at the party with several hot dates, all of them guns.

Posturing and bragging led to bruised egos. The ego is easily wounded when one’s skin is so thin. Arguments escalated into threats escalated into a gun battle. The details remain murky, but so far it appears Barnes took on the others, big bad soldier from Iraq he is, or was. In the ensuing firefight Barnes shot four people. Two of them were grievously injured and remain in critical care.

Barnes fled the party early in the morning of 1 January 2012. He drove off in a car with guns, knives, ammo, and survival gear. He raced into Mount Rainier National Park to hide out in the middle of the Cascade Mountains. Mt. Rainier remains one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes, is more massive of a mountain than any of those in the Himalayans, and soars skyward to 4,392 meters or 14,411 feet above sea level. The Mountain dominates the Pacific Northwest and is the black hole of severe winter storms. It receives astounding amounts of precipitation. Its vast slopes are blanked with heavy, deep snow, thick forests, and icy glaciers.

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Swimming in Avalanches

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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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UFO witnessed in action from atop Mt. Erie, Washington

A group of six people, including myself, witnessed an unidentified flying object from the summit of Mt. Erie on Sunday 3 July 2011. We observed what we eventually determined to be a large, garbage-can lid type flying saucer shrink down into a bizarre high-speed orb. The other five observers were my then-wife Kristina (then age 42), my daughter Kate (age 12), and three men who appeared to be in their mid-to-late 60s. As I write this article I am 52 years old. Mt. Erie itself is a relatively short but steep mountain amid those scattered across the San Juan Islands. At 388 meters high (or 1,273 ft.) it is the most prominent in the area and dominates the Skagit River Delta region of northwestern Washington State. It also dominates Fidalgo Island and looms above a string of lakes near Deception Pass. The peak lies in the City of Anacortes park system. From the mountaintop we six saw a UFO engaged in unusual actions. Those actions were as if a machine ship or biological organism behaved as a subatomic quantum particle/wave.

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