With Richard and Christina!

July, 2004

<font size=+3>Christina and her dad</font> Richard were able to come up for a week or so, and we went on an overnight hike. I had never been to Lake Ann, but I thought it’s fabled views of Mt. Shuksan would be exciting for us.

It was a long drive to the mountain. But just as we grew bored and sleepy, the road carried us above the trees to heather parkland at Artists Point. After looking around, and playing on the leftover snowfields for a bit, we drove back to the trailhead and began packing up. I ruthlessly cut items of comfort from my charges packs as I am a member of a severe Calvinist sect!

And we were off: “Wow so this is hiking” said Christina. How excited she and her father were! I savored these moments, with clothes freshly pressed and clean before the realities of “trail life” set in. Soon Christina and I wandered into danger, the incident duly documented by Richard:

The trail led down through a forest to a pretty meadow. A bear! We startled a small bear beside the trail and he scampered up a steep slope to watch us from a more comfortable location. I was tempted to say “happens all the time”, but this was only my third bear encounter, and it was the closest too. “Wow” we took turns saying…

Hiking across bubbling brooks, we teased Christina about stuff, I forgot what but it was fun. I think maybe her pants were filthy so her dad and I waxed sactimonious about the importance of keeping dust-free. Hee hee!

But soon we had to climb up into a broad grassy bowl strewn with rocks. The smiling was less frequent, replaced by panting. But if we stopped for a moment, they would come back stronger then ever for us, fueled by expanding vistas. Richard’s imagination suddenly got ahold of the powerful idea that he could go anywhere he wanted. “That would be a nice hike, going out along that ridge, right?” There was a new spring in his step, a jauntiness as he looked here and there, eyeing peaks apprasingly. By a stream in the basin the trail forked and he led us up a surprisingly steep slope that required the use of hands. Christina and I cursed him as he bobbed far ahead, all red-shirted, while we struggled to climb the steep path. “Whatever!” we said, consoling ourselves.

But his path eventually levelled out and we admired mossy rocks and cold water seeping from snowbanks. “How much longer?” Christina said. My answers ranged annoyingly from “almost there” all the way back to “oh about 11 hours.” I strove to be as inscrutable as Nature herself, but with an impish quality!

Finally we reached the top of the bowl and looked down on Lake Ann. “Yay!” As we approached, the leaden bulk of Mount Shuksan seemed to darken the sky. The lake is perched on the edge of a mighty cirque, menaced by ice of the Lower Curtis Glacier. The heights of Shuksan Arm rose thousands of feet above, and the summit was behind many intervening cliffs of rock and ice. Not a bad place to stop and catch up on the events of the day!

From camp we made forays for water, then set up the stove on cliffs overlooking the still lake. We faced west to see the sun set behind a ridge. The water was starting to boil and suddenly my stove fell over! Not only over, but DOWN THE CLIFF!

Risking life and limb for a hot supper, I scrabbled down, pouring a bottle of water that Christina thrust into my hand over the stove. But it made barely a sign due to the pressure of the gas. I would have to reach into the ball and turn it off. Already imagining the embarassing end to our camping trip, I screwed up my face and fumbled for the controls. Amazingly, the stove itself was ice cold, surrounded by hot flame.

We sat on the cliff, a little shell-shocked. Richard began to audibly worry about being out in the woods with such an inexperienced guide! We got more water and soon were eating comfortably. Apparently the stove was ice cold because of the way the compressed gas works.

A friend I knew from www.nwhikers.net stopped by, and we talked about his planned adventure on the Curtis Glacier the next morning. My charges now knew there was a responsible party nearby to bail us out in case of any more “ball of flame” incidents. It got dark and we talked desultorialy. I should have brought some Tequila, but we did have cookies. Christina and I got our sleeping bags and lay on the rocks watching the stars come out. She was starting college in the fall, and wondering what it would be like. My big deal was that our babies were coming soon, what would that be like? Man. Stars are cool.

I led Christina and Richard have the tent (of course it was a floorless tent so they weren’t ahead by much!). I slept nearby, somewhat irritated by the vast amounts of dew that crept in during the evening. A bush next to me quivered occasionally and spattered my precious sleeping bag with water. Finally I hobbled over to a depression in the rock slabs to get away from a moisture zone hovering over our camp. Christina made the usual nylon whispering noises, trying to get comfortable in a dew-covered tent despite a snoring dad!

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It was chilly in the morning, and we were eager to hike in order to warm up. That is everyones least favorite time: you can’t sit down anywhere because it’s all cold and wet, maybe muddy. And you desperately miss your sleeping bag. Why did you climb out so eagerly? I would have liked to wait for the sun to warm our camp, but the massive cliffs on the east would prevent that from happening for a long time.

So we hiked away, enjoying the still morning (once we got some sun that is!). I thought I may have converted my California relatives to hiking, they seem to have survived okay and Christina is pretty tough when she wants to be. Yes, they did alright, I thought. I should have taken them on something harder, bigger more extreme! Well…I can wait. Like a serpent I will lie still…for years if need be. And then…POW! TWENTY MILE APPROACHES TO AN ALDER-CHOKED VIEW! RAIN-BOG WANDERING WITH MERELY A SOGGY WHOPPER FROM THE DAY BEFORE YESTERDAY! No, no, mustn’t scare them away. Mustn’t show my hand. “Hiking is fun guys, I’m so glad you could make it!”

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It was great to see Christina as a young adult, and great to see Richard again after many years. I still felt bad for a time years ago when he packed us all up for a trip to Lake Arrowhead. We had a nice condo to stay in, and stay in I did, feverishly practicing my guitar, palpably afraid that if I left off for a day my fingers would freeze up and never work again. So there were many calls of “Michael we’re going to the lake, want to go?” or “Who’s up for a waterslide!” where I just mutely continued with my scales. What a dope! That trip had one important germ (or kernel, if you will) for me. I wandered moodily outside one afternoon and noticed there were no fire ants on the ground. I sat down. Although not visible from the outside, I was becoming elated. What an improvement over my usual Texas ground, which had to be watched continuously for trundling spiny things!

At that point my misty dream of living in California became grounded in something real: “You can Sit on the Ground and Look Around. Nothing will Sting you.”

Until next time, My Charges!