While I have traveled more around North America than in any other continent, most of the trips have been omitted from these chronicles. I simply didn’t want to bore the American reader with exploits in Houston or Los Angeles, which have been rather ordinary. Therefore, I have limited my coverage of sites visited on this continent to Mexico, and the more scenic aspects of Canada and the United States. Accordingly, the Canadian Rockies and the Maritimes have been covered, but not Toronto or Sarnia; similarly, the Grand Canyon, Colorado, Alaska, and special vistas in California are included, while ignoring the cities and more familiar surroundings.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
As of this writing, the only states I have not visited are North Dakota, Montana, and Arkansas. Most of my domestic trips have been rather mundane, however, hardly constituting adventure of the kind found elsewhere in this book. Therefore, only the most notable locales are herein reported.
Following my college graduation in June of 1952, I was ordered to report to the Treasure Island Naval Base at San Francisco, where I would be assigned transportation to Japan. I can remember my surprise at seeing the brown hills surrounding the airport when I landed. I had to wait in the city for about a week before shipping out, and was given a per diem allowance of $9.00 to live on. But it was enough. I found a hotel room for $4, leaving me $5 to spend, more than enough for three meals and a movie. I walked all over the city that week, and on the weekend, was invited by a classmate to his parent’s vacation home in the redwoods.
After returning from the Korean theater in September, I spent a dreary, wet and cold winter at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, on the North Bay. Our ship left for Korea again the following May, returning in December to the Long Beach Naval Base, south of Los Angeles. The latter gave me an opportunity to visit San Diego, Palm Springs, and the San Bernardino Mts.
In 1995, I brought Betty to Palm Springs for a weekend, stopping first at Lake Arrowhead. But my most treasured memories are a camping trip to the Sequoia National Park with Liz’s family, a short stay at Yosemite with Catherine, and a weekend with Betty at Santa Catalina Island.
In November of 1983, I was returning from Australia and flew into San Francisco. My sister Weezie was then living in Palo Alto, so I rented a car and drove there. After a day or so in those environs, I drove on to Fresno, where Catherine was living during her first year out of college. We gathered a few supplies and headed for Yosemite National Park. Tire chains were recommended at that time of year, so I rented some and hoped we would not need them. It was a couple hours drive to the park, and in the declining light of afternoon, thick clouds began to settle, so that we couldn’t see much when we arrived.
Catherine had booked a tent well in advance, as accommodations are in demand at the park. It was a square, walled tent, with a double bed and a single bed, both made up with sheets and a couple of army blankets. The washing facilities were outdoor latrines. As it was Saturday evening, we went to Mass in the park chapel, and on to the dining room for a very nice dinner. Back at the tent, Cath had brought a sleeping bag, and took the single bed. I expected to be warm enough under two army blankets, but I was not. After awhile, I put on socks, then a hooded sweatshirt, later a pair of pants, and I was still cold! Finally, after a miserable night, I woke to a grey, cold and wet dawn. The tent was covered with wet snow, and I had to go to the outdoor latrine to wash and shave—I couldn’t get warm. So as soon as we were dressed, we headed for the cafeteria for a hot breakfast, and lingered over it to absorb as much heat as possible.
Cath was excited about seeing snow, so we drove around the park to take in as much scenery as we could. The granite towers of El Capitan and Half Dome were invisible, unfortunately. About the only famous landmark we could spot was Yosemite Falls, but only the lower section of that was clearly visible, as snow continued to fall. At this point we returned to the visitor center to ask about the weather—would it clear or get worse? The ranger advised that snowfall could accumulate up to 3 ft, and unless we planned to use tire chains, we should not stay any longer. At that point we decided that any further delay might mean being stuck for two or three days. So rather than have to put on the tire chains, we left before they were necessary. I dropped Cath off at Fresno, returned to Palo Alto for the night, and then home the next day, disappointed, but that’s life!
In June of 1989, I gave a seminar at the Sheraton Hotel in Long Beach, after an absence of 35 years. The city had changed so much that I didn’t recognize it. One of my haunts had been The Breakers Hotel, downtown—we would go in the side entrance and down a few stairs, to a piano bar where a girl would play and sing the jazz selections of the day—Ebb Tide was popular then. During a walk down the street from the Sheraton, I recognized The Breakers, or what was left of it, now dwarfed by the high-rise buildings on all sides. It was being renovated, with piles of debris gathering under windows and doors, and the side entrance boarded up. Only memories were left. I returned a couple of years later to find The Breakers reincarnated as an exclusive residence hotel—it looked elegant and expensive, the side entrance no longer open to visitors: “For Residents and Guests Only—Please use the Front Entrance.” But the memories remained.
After my seminar in 1989, I drove to where Liz and Brad were living in Oxnard—it took me nearly four hours to get there in Thursday evening traffic. Early the next morning, we packed up camping gear and little Sarah, and headed for Sequoia National Forest, and the campground at Mineral King, where they had camped before. We arrived in mid-afternoon and set up our tents next to a babbling brook, where I placed a bottle of wine for cooling. The ride through the park had been exhilarating, though we felt small under the canopy of the huge trees. Behind our site was a rocky hill where I gathered deadwood for a campfire. The campground is above 7000 ft elevation, and I developed a headache before long. After dinner and a glass of wine, we all turned in early, exhausted with the trip and the altitude.
Next morning, Brad and I put together a lunch, donned our hiking boots, and set out for higher elevations. The trail took us in the general direction of Sawtooth Peak at over 12,000 ft, although we couldn’t see it as we left. We just decided to follow the trail upward as far as we could, planning to return to meet Liz at the trailhead at 5 PM. So up we went, following one switchback after another, up above the campground, crossing snowfields in the bright sunshine, past aging junipers, until we could look down on lower peaks with their remnants of snow. By midday, we reached Mammoth Lake, above treeline, where there were a few tent sites and tables for lunch. The lake was about a half mile long, perfectly clear and cold, and fed by a series of cascades at the far end—it was a gorgeous spot.
From there we continued upward past wildflowers and over loose gravel, feeling the effects of altitude more and more. We finally stopped at a ridge where we could look over the other side and see forever. In the distance to the east, we believed we could see Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the 48 states at 14,494 ft. Below us was Columbine Lake, still half-covered with ice. We had reached Sawtooth Pass at 11,400 ft, from where we had a clear view of Sawtooth Peak at the end of the rocky ridge about two miles ahead. While we rested, a climber approached from the other side. He had been out for nearly a week, and felt it necessary to bathe in the freezing waters of Columbine Lake in the morning. His two hiking companions had already proceeded ahead to the peak, but we could not see them. As we spoke, clouds descended and obscured the summit.
I wanted to go on to the summit, but realistically, we could not. It was already late in the day, the summit was obscured, the weather appeared to be worsening, and we didn’t want to give Liz any cause to worry. As it was, our round trip would be over 13 miles, with an elevation gain of over 4000 ft—enough for one day. We arrived at the trailhead just before 5 PM, and Liz and Sarah were waiting for us. It was a great day, topped off with wine and dinner, and again early to bed. That night it rained, but when the clouds lifted in the morning, Sawtooth Peak glistened in the whiteness of new-fallen snow against a brilliant blue sky. We spent a little more time there, looking for bears, but found only marmots. I fell asleep on the way back to Oxnard. On Sunday, I went to Mass there, and then flew to New Orleans for a company meeting.
Santa Catalina Island
In October of 1997, I was invited to give some lectures at a conference in Anaheim, followed by a seminar there the next week. It was our annual chance to visit Catherine and her family, who live only a few minutes from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). For a weekend getaway, we elected to stay on Santa Catalina. It is a dry, rocky island about 20 miles long and 4 miles wide, directly south of San Pedro and Long Beach on the step in the California coastline. While I was aboard ship in Long Beach, I used to keep my radio tuned to the station at Avalon, Catalina’s only city, as it had the best collection of jazz music—yet I had never been there. Even Jeanne had been there a couple times while visiting her sisters. When I called to book a room for the weekend at a hotel on the waterfront, I was told that none were available because of the jazz festival scheduled for those dates. We mentioned to Cath our disappointment, but her husband Dave worked for a travel agent, and was able to get a room for us at the same hotel that told us they were full. So with voucher in hand, we set out.
We took the boat from San Pedro on Friday morning, passing the 20 miles across the channel in an hour and a half, arriving just before noon. Rolling our luggage the short distance from the dock to the hotel was easy enough, but we were alarmed when the desk clerk had no record of our booking! So we went across the street to the fish pier for lunch while he sorted it out. While still unable to find our reservation, he nonetheless provided a satisfactory room for us.
Avalon is a cozy little town. It stretches along the beach for about a half mile, but up the hill away from the beach for only four short blocks. There are few cars on the island, and no rentals. Visitors can rent golf carts, which are restricted, however, to the few blocks of the city proper–at $30 for only four hours, I decided against it. Instead, we booked a half-day bus tour across the island for the next morning. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking along Front Street past restaurants, shops, galleries, and the famous casino, renowned in photo and art—Catherine even has done a painting of the harbor and casino. As we passed the casino, which is now used as a theater, we could hear jazz music being rehearsed.
That evening, we dined in the twilight on the deck of one of the waterfront restaurants. The deck was lined with Plexiglas panels to protect us from the breeze, and overhead propane burners placed about were enough to ward off the autumn chill. We had a delightful and romantic dinner, under the stars and with the sound of the sea.
Next morning, we walked a couple of blocks to the tour depot, and boarded our sightseeing bus. It was constructed like a semi-trailer truck, in that the cab was separated from the passengers, and pivoted. We found out why in a few moments, watching as we negotiated the many hairpin curves and switchbacks up the narrow mountain road. Palm trees at the waters edge give way to a scattering of oaks and ironwoods at higher elevations, interspersed with yucca and hillsides of prickly pear. Our first stop was at the island’s airport, where a gusty wind blew dust all around. We did not stay, but continued into the back country, where we came upon a half-dozen bison grazing by a small lake. The bison were left over from a movie set in the 1930s, found the place to their liking, and multiplied. The tour continued across the island to Little Harbor, with its campground visible from atop a bluff. On our return trip, we stopped at a horse ranch, where we had coffee and doughnuts and watched a demonstration of horse training. The surroundings were brown with dust. From the crest of the road back, we could see buildings in Long Beach, as the sky was very clear. But it was so windy that the normally crystalline water around the harbor was riled up, preventing the glass-bottom boats from plying their trade.
After lunch downtown, Betty rested while I took a walk along the rocky shore to the east of Avalon. After a mile or so, the road ended in the town dump, forcing me to switchback up and over a hill back into town. It was a good workout on a hot, dry day. That evening, we decided to eat in our room. I walked downtown to get a pizza, and we had a basket of fruit and snacks which Cath and Dave had sent us—it also contained a bottle of California Cabernet.
On Sunday morning, we walked to St. Catherine’s church, for whom the island was named. After Mass, we had brunch downtown, and gathered our belongings for the afternoon ferry back to San Pedro. We then drove back to Cath’s, and I continued alone to Anaheim, checking into the Sheraton for my seminar next morning. Then I found out that my seminar was starting Tuesday! I was upset, to say the least. So I called the airline to reschedule our return flight from Thursday morning to evening, and phoned Betty to give her the news.
Instead of going back to LA the next day, I grabbed some snacks and a map and headed southeast into the Orange Hills and Silverado Canyon. As the mountains rise on both sides, the road becomes narrower and narrower and the houses smaller and more scattered. Eventually, the pavement ends in a small parking area, and trails begin. Not knowing exactly where I was, I took a water bottle, locked the car, and headed up the most prominent trail, which ascended from the darkness of the tree-lined canyon into the dry scrub of the hills. The trail continued up and up to a ridge, where clumps of dwarf oak grow. The walking was easier here, and there were views on all sides, even as far as the John Wayne Airport and Long Beach behind it. I walked until I became concerned about exposure to the sun, and then headed back to the car.
While I intended to have lunch in the cool shade of the canyon trees, where a small stream flowed between the rocks, the flies wouldn’t let me. So I ate lunch in the car. On my return trip, I followed a couple side roads, which dead-ended at ranch gates. Headlines in the paper next morning told of a forest fire in the Silverado Canyon, and the black smoke to the east testified to it. After the seminar ended on Thursday, I drove to Cath’s where we had supper, said goodbye, and caught the red-eye home. Not a good flight—we won’t take the red-eye anymore.
In the 1970s, I had visited Colorado twice on business, but without much time to take in the countryside. The most memorable event was a terrible headache following a visit to a mill in Leadville, where a mountain is being collapsed from within for the extraction of molybdenum ore. Another trip to a conference included a barbecue on a ranch at Estes Park, but that was it. Then in 1991, just after we had made an offer on our house in New Hampshire, Betty and I left for a grand tour of the west. We spent a weekend in San Francisco prior to a one-day seminar in Concord, and then flew to Salt Lake City, where we combined some sightseeing with another seminar. My last seminar was in Denver. This was a well-planned trip—we would cover the state of Colorado in 9 days, stopping overnight every 200-300 miles, with reservations at B & Bs, all arranged through a single agency—and it went like clockwork.
Rocky Mountain National Park
After finishing my seminar in Denver, we attended afternoon Mass (it was August 15th, the Feast of the Assumption), and drove north toward the Rocky Mountain National Park. We stayed overnight at a lodge in Allenspark, sleeping in a rustic loft—where the headaches began. Next day we passed through Estes Park and entered the east gate of the park. Once inside, we headed south toward Bear Lake. The weather was dark and threatening, but we parked by the lake and walked the trail around it. There were only a few sprinkles, but we couldn’t see any of the surrounding mountains. At the parking lot, some Stellar’s jays came about, begging for food.
From there, we went back to the main road, and started our traverse of the park from east to west. The clouds lifted, and we could see some of the more prominent peaks, notably Long’s Peak, at 14,255 ft, the highest in the park. Shortly after noon, we reached the Alpine visitor center near the summit of the road, just under 12,000 ft high. I can remember the ranger lecturing the visitors about the relationship between tree-line (the altitude where trees do not grow beyond six feet high) and latitude. The tree-line in Colorado at 40̊N is at about 11,000 ft. I objected that the tree-line in New Hampshire at 44̊N is only 5000 ft, but he excused that as a special case. Looking down from the windows of the center, we could see a herd of elk grazing below. As we watched, the air turned white, and then the ground as well, as we found ourselves in the blast of a sudden hailstorm. In a few minutes it was over, but pea-size hailstones were heaped two inches deep around the center. In another twenty minutes, most of them had melted away.
From there, we drove south along the west perimeter of the park to Grand Lake, where we had booked a room at a campground lodge. The grounds were muddy from all the rain, and we were not particularly pleased with the accommodations, but put up with it for one night. The next day we drove south to Georgetown, with its gingerbread houses from the heyday of silver mining. From there we drove south over the Guanella Pass at 11,669 ft. Somewhere along the way, we took a short walk into the woods and sat on a log to have lunch. Soon, a pair of Canada jays showed up. I had fed them in the White Mountains, so I told Betty to hold some crumbs in her outstretched hand. Soon enough, one alighted to take them.
Walking back to the car, we resumed our way south to the next road junction, and then back north to I-70. From there we continued west toward Vail, which is just a modern ski-town, full of condos and chalets. We attended Saturday evening Mass at the community church there, but stayed in Minturn, the next town to the west. This was an older village with a little more character. Our B & B served a nice chardonnay with a sharp cheese, and there was a steakhouse down the street where you could pick out your own steak—beef or salmon.
Next, we drove south to Leadville, where we visited an old silver mine. We drove past Mt. Elbert, highest of the Colorado Rockies at 14,433 (which I would later climb), and Mount Massive at 14, 421 ft. South of Leadville, we turned west over Independence Pass at 12,095 ft, were there was still some snow not far from the road. We stopped for a walk around the summit, but didn’t go far, being short of breath. The road took us west to Aspen, a much older town than Vail, with more character, but nothing to keep us there. As we left the city, we could catch a glimpse of the Maroon Bells, a range of deep red 14,000-ft mountains celebrated in calendar photographs. The road to them, however, was closed to all traffic except tour buses. If you wanted to see the Maroon Bells, you had to pay. Unhappy with this situation, we continued northwest to our next destination, Glenwood Springs.
After checking into our lodgings, Betty wanted to rest, so I drove alone east through the canyon, to the trailhead for Hanging Lake. This is a very pretty area, where I-70 is reduced to a two-lane road, and a rail line runs parallel to it on the other side of the river. I read that many western movies had been filmed here. From the parking area, the trail went up about a mile and a half and 1500 ft or so in elevation over rocky terrain, but I was so pumped, I ran up the trail, passing everyone. The lake was only a hundred feet across, emerald green, and deep, with huge lake trout gliding across the bottom. The far side of the lake was rimmed by a rock wall, from which a spring spouted into the lake. It was possible to walk all around the lake, and under the waterfall from the spring. After taking a few photos, I hurried back to the car and returned to our lodgings. That evening, we went to a barbecue place for dinner.
Our rental car had been acting strangely, sometimes failing to start unless I first shifted back and forth between Park and Neutral a couple times. Finally, I found that if I left it in Neutral and used the parking brake, it would start, but not if I left it in Park. This added a little excitement to our trip, but didn’t keep us from any of our destinations.
Colorado National Monument
From Glenwood Springs, we drove west to Grand Junction, not far from the Utah border. We were now in hot and dry country. Our B & B was a large, comfortable old home. Our destination was the Colorado National Monument, a wonderland of sandstone mesas, red canyons, and sculptured towers. We drove to the top of a red mesa, where we had a picnic lunch at a table under a very hot sun—it was imperative to stay in the shade of a tree. The trees and bushes were scattered rather uniformly—only one to a spot, with several feet of bare, red earth between it and its neighbors—apparently to conserve moisture. Harsh country, but very beautiful—a mix of brick and sage colors. A lone piñon jay landed on our table to pick up some crumbs. He was a slate blue color, without the crest of a blue jay or Stellar’s jay—shaped more like a Canada jay. But he was not brave enough to eat from my hand. Meanwhile, a pair of ground squirrels cleaned up any crumbs that fell to the ground.
Rising from the plain below were towers of sculptured sandstone in various shapes—one formation resembles a row of coke ovens, and is so named. Then there is the pipe organ, the kissing couple, etc. Rim Rock Drive traverses 23 miles through most of the monument, its highest elevation at 6640 ft, about 2000 ft above the entrances and the valley below. It overlooks many different canyons, and some of the dropoffs are nearly vertical—the views are absolutely breathtaking. This was one of the most unusual and beautiful places I have ever been—one of the highlights of our trip. We spent most of the day there, at the end of which, we were tired, hot, and dusty. It would be a great place to camp, and there are many hiking trails, as well.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison
The next morning, we turned east from grand Junction, and then south past Grand Mesa, a very high plain above the floor, were there was enough moisture for a forest to grow. We continued in a southeasterly direction to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, above a green ribbon of a river that is hardly visible from most places along the rim of the canyon. The river flows southeast, paralleled by the main road along the south rim for about six miles, and a less-traveled, shorter road along the north rim—there is no connection between the two. The high point along the south rim is 8400 ft, where the river is only at about 5600 ft above sea level. At one point, the distance between the rims is only 1300 ft, less than the 1700 ft depth of the canyon at that point. There are many spectacular overlooks, each more fascinating than the last. The walls are dark gray schist and gneiss, but are mostly in intense shadow, so that they look black—it is a stark and haunting place.
At the Chasm View, where the road comes closest to the rim, a gentleman near us had his binoculars focused on the far wall, rather than down into the depths. He pointed out three rock climbers approaching the rim from below, hardly visible without the binoculars—like ants on a wall. One was resting beneath an overhang, which looked insurmountable, but his companions had already passed it. This is not a sport I would enjoy. Before leaving, we took a side road down to the river as it leaves the park limits, but this turned out to be anticlimactic. The river had slowed as it approached the dam, and the canyon walls didn’t look so dark or daunting from below.
From there, we returned to the main highway and resumed our southward heading toward our next destination, Telluride, where we were booked into the Bear Creek Inn. Telluride is an old mining town nestled in the valley in the San Juan Mountains at an elevation of 8745 ft, with some of the surrounding peaks exceeding 14,000 ft. Its mines may have played out, but tourists and skiers more than make up for the loss, so that prosperity remains. This had to be the best city we had visited in the state. I had read about it in National Geographic, fascinated by the pictures of the surrounding mountains, and here we were!
The Bear Creek Inn is a three-story, narrow brick building that must have held mining offices at one time, standing at the head of Colorado Avenue, the main drag. Beyond, the road continues for a mile or so, before turning into a switchback trail that heads up past Bridal Veil Falls and over the pass to Silverton. We sat in the late afternoon sun atop the roof of the building, sipping wine and nibbling snacks, and marveling at the scenery that surrounded us. We could see an occasional eagle flying in the distance. That evening, we dined in the patio of a little Greek restaurant across the street, and noticed the chill in the air as darkness fell.
In the morning, I was out at 6, to hike up to the falls while Betty slept in. There is an old hydropower station next to the falls, abandoned in the National Geographic article, but now was someone’s home. The road ended at a garage below the building, from which a path led to the home across a couple of rude bridges clinging precariously to the face of the mountain. The waterfall was at about 10,000 ft elevation, dropping over 350 ft. I continued to hike upward to around 11,000 ft, and would have loved to continue on over the pass, but I turned around and retraced my steps back to the inn, arriving for breakfast at about 9. There was more to Telluride than the shops and restaurants along Colorado Ave., but resorts and ski lifts were of no interest.
From Telluride, we drove southwest almost to the border at “Four Corners,” where Colorado meets Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. There, we visited Mesa Verde National Park, home of the ancient cliff-dwellers. It was so hot that we did not leave our air-conditioned car for very long, except for a tour of the Cliff Palace, the main residential area. There was a gentle uplift to the air along the face of the cliff, particularly noticeable when we climbed ladders from one level to the next. The climate must have changed markedly since the dwellings were occupied, because the land is not suitable for farming now. Nor is Mesa Verde green anymore. After a day of driving and walking in the heat, we drove the short distance to Durango, to our next B & B.
The only remarkable feature about this place was that the house had a long veranda with hummingbird feeders at both ends, and a regular traffic jam of hummingbirds coming and going. The rest of the scenery was not particularly attractive, so I suggested we drive to Silverton for dinner. The road heads north through dense forests, and parallels a railroad now used for sightseeing. We didn’t book a rail trip as it didn’t fit into our schedule, but the views from the road were enchanting. We went over a mountain pass at about 11,000 ft, near tree-line, where we could see mountains in all directions, and a scattering of lakes dotting the rolling green hills.
Silverton is another old mining town, not blessed with skiing or as many tourists as Telluride, and not so accessible. But there is still some mining going on. We parked on the main street and entered a Mexican restaurant. It was as much like the old west as you are likely to find nowadays. Parked around a big table in the middle of the room were a group of prospectors wearing cowboy hats and boots and dust from the road, conversing in loud and raucous tones. One even had a girl on his knee. They didn’t bother us, and were more entertaining than anything. I don’t remember what the food was like. There was still some daylight when we left, although shadows had disappeared, and on the way back, only the undulating horizon was still visible. This was certainly a memorable diversion—a drive across the roof of the state, and back in time to the old west.
Leaving Durango the next morning, we proceeded east to Alamosa, where we stopped to see the Great Sand Dunes National Monument. That part of the state is mostly flat, and covered with sage brush, then in full yellow bloom. The flat plain ends with a range of mountains on the eastern edge, which includes several 14,000 footers, the southernmost being Blanca Peak at 14, 345 ft. It is in the lee of these mountains where the sand dunes lie, bound between two creeks flowing down from the mountains. We took off our shoes and walked over the first two or three ridges of dunes, to see that they continued on for a couple miles north and west. But after having seen one dune, you’ve seen them all, so we didn’t stay.
I believe it was in this area that we saw signs directing us to La Ventana (The Window), off to the west of the north-south highway. We drove off down a dirt road that kept getting narrower and more rutted as we went, with sage blooming on both sides. After several miles, just as we were about to give up, we came upon a wall of rock rising abruptly from the plain perhaps 30-feet high. And in the middle, it had a natural hole a few feet in diameter—the window. We didn’t get out of the car, for it would be a bad place to get stuck—we just turned around and headed back to the highway. That evening we spent in a B & B in Alamosa, and went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner.
The next morning, we drove north toward Cañon City, where the Arkansas river has dug a deep gorge, spanned by the Royal Gorge Bridge, reputed to be the highest suspension bridge in the country. It is a tourist trap. As we approached the bridge, traffic started to back up, and we realized that we were in a queue for the tool booth, which was going to cost us about $20. After waiting in line for nearly half an hour, we reached the booth where I was finally able to turn around. We then retraced our route for a few miles, turning north toward Cripple Creek. The road was marked on the map for 4-wheel drives, but we took it anyway, and it wasn’t bad. We passed through a canyon, through a one-way tunnel rough-hewed from the rock, and then over some high brush country.
Cripple Creek is a historic gold-mining center, one of the wealthiest cities in the country in its heyday, and one of the first to be electrified. The gold had pretty well played out, now replaced by casino gambling to attract crowds. Here, we took a ride on a coal-fired narrow-gage train a couple miles into the bush, past some abandon mines. I remember seeing weasels cavorting about the railroad tracks. We also took a trip down into a gold mine that had recently been operating. The elevator dropped us a couple thousand feet below the surface, and the we were escorted through some of the tunnels, where a guide—a former miner—explained the art of drilling and blasting, and where to look for seams of gold.
Leaving Cripple Creek, we drove south into Phantom Canyon, along a dirt road with steep walls on both sides. This was a fantastic place, with strange rock outcroppings, and a small stream running down the middle, with signs warning potential campers of violent flooding in case of thunderstorms. Just before we left the canyon, we had to cross a dog-leg bridge over a chasm. There were loose boards on the bridge, and its steel supports looked none too steady. This road left us east of Cañon City, so we continued east and then north, arriving by day’s end at our next B & B in Manitou Springs. We had dinner that evening at a steak house across the street.
Next morning, I noticed several young people in running togs, limbering up early. I inquired of a young lady about the event, and was told that the annual Pike’s Peak Marathon was about to begin. From Manitou Springs, it goes 13.5 miles up to the summit of Pike’s Peak at 14,110 ft, gaining 7,700 ft in the process. She said the winner would make it in about two hours. This absolutely astounded me! Having climbed many lesser mountains, I know how difficult it is just to walk that distance and elevation gain—I could not imagine running it, and in only two hours! This was the last day of our trip—we drove to Denver and caught our plane back home.
The very next summer, I was to give another seminar in Denver, and arranged for Jeanne and Tom to fly there and meet me for a camping trip. I arrived from another seminar in Portland, Oregon, the morning before my Denver seminar, and drove to Leadville to look for a campsite near Mt. Elbert, our climbing objective. I first drove into an area between Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert, where the forest was very dense and the road not good; the campsites were also very primitive. While there, it began to rain, and soon the rain turned to sleet. When I had returned to the highway, the sky had cleared enough for me to see the summit of Elbert, which was white with sleet—I took a photo of it with brooding gray clouds overhead. From there, I drove south and then west toward Twin Lakes, where there was another campground, and this was a beauty! There were plenty of open sites, with great views of the mountains and lakes, so this would be our destination.
The next day I gave my seminar in Denver, and after dinner, drove to Stapleton Airport to pick up the kids. They were arriving on separate airlines because that’s all the free tickets I had at the time. Tom arrived first on United, but the backpack with most of our camping gear was missing. He did have a big suitcase with the tent in it, though. We then had to wait an hour or so for Jeanne to arrive on Northwest, and then returned to my hotel for the night, the three of us sharing my room. Next morning we returned to the airport and picked up the backpack. We then drove to the campground and set up camp, after picking up some groceries and stove fuel in Leadville.
To acclimatize, we then drove to Independence Pass, parked the car at the top of the pass, and proceeded to hike up the side of a nearby peak. Tom went ahead, climbing probably beyond 13,000 ft. We found a snowfield, and had a brief snowball fight, then skiing down on our boots. After returning to the campsite, Tom set about gathering firewood, and came back with lots—mostly dead branches of Ponderosa pine and western cedar, which popped and crackled in the fire. It was just a beautiful place to camp.
Next morning we were up and out early, intending to be down off the peak by 1 PM, as that is when thunderstorms are likely to start. The temperature was probably about 45̊F when we left camp about 7:30, through a field of sage heavy with dew. Mt. Elbert presents about the same climbing effort as Mt. Washington: 5.5 miles from the campground to the summit, and an elevation gain of almost 5500 ft, from 8,950 to 14,433. But the high altitude would have an impact. We started off in good health and spirits, proceeding apace up to tree-line at about 11,000 ft. On the way we passed an aspen forest sheltering a scattering of blue and white columbines—the Colorado state flower. The last trees we passed were a row of junipers.
As we switched back and forth across the slope, always able to see the summit, our pace began to slow noticeably, and others passed us along the way. Jeanne was really dragging as we reached 12,000 ft, passing a huge rock with a lazy marmot perched on top. I was a couple of switchbacks above her, when I began to stall. I stopped on a rock for a drink, which was a mistake, because it hit bottom like lead. At this point Tom passed me and kept going, but Jeanne came to a stop. I felt ok as long as I was not ascending, but still had a thousand feet of elevation to go, so I simply put one foot in front of the other, moving along as well as I could. Now Jeanne began to descend, since stopping did not help her—she probably made it to about 13,500 ft before turning back. I plodded on, slowly.
At about 12:30, a snowball whistled past my ear—it came from Tom, already on the summit waiting for me. I dragged myself up the rest of the way, across a small snowfield and into a group of people huddled among some rocks, lunching. I noticed a bearded gentleman, and felt compelled to inquire of his age—65! I felt proud of myself till then, climbing the highest peak in the Rockies at age 60. This was another “end of the earth.” Not having to ascend anymore, I felt better, and ate lunch, after having Tom take my photo with Mt. Massive in the background. After about half an hour on the summit, we began our descent, which was easy. Jeanne was waiting for us at the big rock with the marmot at about 12,000 ft, but still didn’t feel well. After resting among the Alpine wildflowers for awhile, Tom took her pack as well as his own, and we proceeded down. By the time we returned to tree-line, she was fine, and took her own pack.
Reaching the campground at about 4 PM, we were sweltering—the temperature must have been 80. So we donned swimsuits and headed for the lake. But we didn’t actually go swimming—the water was too cold! Wading up to my knees was about all I could stand. Cooled off, we returned to the campground for a Coors and dinner—the end of a great day!
The next day was Sunday, so we went to 9 o’clock Mass in Leadville, in a very simple church in a very simple neighborhood. After Mass, we went to breakfast at a restaurant on the main drag, where I had eaten lunch the day before the seminar. I ordered huevos rancheros (eggs smothered in salsa); Tom ordered eggs. When the waitress asked what kind, he replied any kind, but she insisted he must decide, because she needed to tell the cook. Jeanne was off looking at postcards, and left instructions for a double order of white toast—to which the waitress joked, “Carbohydrate kid!”
There were big banners along the main drag announcing the “Leadville 100,” a 100-mile running race to be held during the week. It begins and ends in Leadville, the highest incorporated city in the U.S. at 10,000 ft, and rises to 12,000 ft over a couple of passes. The race begins at about 6 AM and continues into the night—not an event for the faint of heart. After our trial of the day before, I could not conceive of running such a race. As we returned to the campground, Mt. Elbert was enveloped in black clouds, which opened later to reveal a white summit. We were lucky to have the best day to climb, with sleet storms both the day before and after.
After reaching the campground, we broke camp and headed south a few miles to Buena Vista, passing a whole string of 14,000-ft peaks along the way. We took a side road west along Chalk Creek toward St. Elmo, arriving at a campground in the middle of the afternoon. As we set up, we saw some other campers arrive, and the first thing they put up were hummingbird feeders. Next, we drove to the end of the road to see St. Elmo, a genuine ghost town. There were a few weatherbeaten buildings scattered along the only street, and some were occupied. The general store was busy, with several hummingbird feeders out front causing an aerial traffic jam. Across the road was a pile of timbers occupied by chipmunks and ground squirrels eager to take sunflower seeds from your hand, so we stopped to feed them for awhile. We walked about town, examining the remains of mine openings and rail heads, etc. It was quite an unusual place. After dinner, we walked along the creek, marveling at the shiny white slopes of Mt. Princeton.
The next morning, we broke camp and drove to Cripple Creek, retracing the route that I had found so fascinating the year before, through Phantom Canyon and the dog-leg bridge. That evening, we returned to the Denver airport, bringing a pizza to our room at the Holiday Inn. Next morning, we all returned home, Jeanne on a separate plane, but arriving at about the same time.
In March of 1998, I was invited to join a group of business executives on a junket with the Air National Guard out of Pease AFB in New Hampshire. About 30 of us met at the base, and were escorted to a KC-35 tanker (a converted Boeing 707), equipped with enough passenger seats in the mid-section to accommodate us. There were no windows in the main cabin, but we took turns in the cockpit, behind the navigator. The plane flew over Moosehead Lake in Maine, where it met another tanker, a KC-10 ( a converted DC-10) which it refueled. The KC-10 practiced several passes, and we took turns watching from the boom operator’s compartment in the tail.
After this exercise, we headed west, landing at Peterson AFB in Colorado Springs in mid-afternoon. After a brief tour of the Olympic Training Center, we were taken to our hotel, the famous and luxurious Broadmoor. For the next three days we would be guests of the Air Force, given tours of Peterson AFB, Falcon AFB where the Global Positioning Satellites are controlled, NORAD, and the Air Force Academy. The AF fetes business executives periodically to encourage support for employees in the National Guard and Reserves. Most of our group were employers—I was invited to fill out the company, and it happened that Betty and Jeanne were away that week.
We didn’t see any aircraft, which was a disappointment to me. It was mostly a series of presentations by the Space Command on satellite positioning, space detection of events such as missel launches, etc. The most interesting time was spent touring NORAD. This facility is hollowed out of Cheyenne Mountain, which is actually visible from the Broadmoor. We left our bus in the parking lot, to board an AF bus which passed through a double gate to enter the mountain. The building inside is fabricated from welded steel plate much like a ship, entirely supported on coil springs—100,000 of them—for seismic protection. (They are jokingly referred to as the “Colorado springs.”) Here the AF catalogues all the objects which have been launched from earth—about 8000 satellites, along with many more fragments from launch vehicles, etc. We were given a presentation in the control center, with its huge lighted maps of the globe and North America spread around the walls, with satellite orbits and missel trajectories highlighted. We also witnessed an abbreviated simulation of a Russian launch—it looked just like in the movies.
Each evening, there was a dinner hosted by the AF, where we met generals who gave speeches. Our last day there, we boarded a bus for the Academy, in falling snow. By the time we reached the Academy, three or four inches had accumulated, and after a stirring lecture by the general in charge, the place was closed due to the weather. We therefore missed seeing the chapel, the cafeteria, and the airfield. The bus headed back to Colorado Springs in heavy traffic, and stopped at a mall, so that we could have lunch. After we reboarded, the bus was stuck in the snow, and the colonel who was our host had to commandeer a nearby snowplow to get us out. After returning to the hotel, I spent the afternoon in the gym working out. Later it was announced that only two of the five restaurants would be open because much of the staff couldn’t get there, and what was there couldn’t leave—by this time, there were over 20 inches of snow accumulated. It was everyone for himself at dinner—I found a place at a bar, where I enjoyed a steak and a glass of Cabernet.
Our departure the following day was delayed until afternoon, while the runways were being plowed. Once aboard our tanker, I slept most of the way to Pease AFB, arriving around 8 PM.
In March of 1996, I was scheduled to give another seminar in Long Beach. This time, Betty and I planned a stopover at the Grand Canyon, where neither of us had been before. Our flight took us to Las Vegas, where we were to connect with Nevada Air. We finally found their counter, at the far end of the terminal. We were then ushered into a van for a trip from one end of the city to the other, to a small airport where the Nevada Air planes depart. Our aircraft was a 6-seater, and I was assigned the seat next to the pilot. There were three or four planes leaving at the same time, of the same size and type, so that it seemed like we were the Nevada Air Force about to take off in formation. The other passengers were sightseers—we seemed to be the only ones with luggage.
After take-off, we circled Hoover Dam and Lake Mead, and then headed down the length of the Grand Canyon. The pilot played a tape describing the landmarks along the way. It was a very exciting flight, and we certainly had a great view of our surroundings. We flew just above or at the level of the canyon rims. As we approached the runway at Grand Canyon Village, the pilot remarked that the snow on the ground in the morning had all melted away. We collected our luggage and inquired as to transportation to the park.
From May to October, no private cars are allowed in the Grand Canyon National Park because of the crowds—you must leave your car outside and ride a shuttle bus. Our timing was perfect, as in March the park is neither crowded nor hot. We took the shuttle bus to the El Tovar Hotel, the oldest and grandest of the lodges in the park. We registered and found our room, in the back of the hotel, with no view. Then we walked out through the front of the building, across a veranda, and there it was in all its glory—the Grand Canyon, just a few steps away! We spent the afternoon strolling along the (south) rim, taking in the scenery—there is nothing like it anywhere, and each bend in the path provides a different view. And the colors are fascinating, from the green rim, to the yellow rock sprinkled with sage, to the red walls, to the black bedrock down by the river. And the colors keep changing as the sun crosses the sky and deepens the purple shadows. That evening, we dined at the Arizona Steak House, a short walk away. Though we had to wait awhile for a table, it was worth it, for we sat right at the edge of the rim and watched the colors change in the evening twilight.
We began the next day, Friday, by watching the departure of the daily mule train, headed down into the canyon and across the river for an overnight stay at Phantom Ranch. I would have loved to be on the trip, but it was not for Betty, and is very expensive. We listened to the instructions of the mule-driver, and watched as the party slowly and cautiously descended into the canyon via the Bright Angel trail. Later, we would watch the returning party, tired and dusty, hot and bow-legged. It was interesting enough that we bought a videotape of the mule trip and its history, and have played it many times.
I picked up a rental car at the airport, and we drove some distance west along the rim, taking in all the views along the way. Then we drove east along the rim, stopping at many locations for the ever-changing views. We did not envy parents trying to keep control of youngsters near the edge, where there were no guardrails. At one point, we saw a couple dancing on a mushroom-shaped promontory separated from the rim by several feet of air. We could not see how they got there, especially as the girl was wearing a long dress!
Saturday morning, I rose early, and after pancakes, headed down the Bright Angel trail at about 8 AM. Signs warned against trying to walk to the river and back in a single day, as it was about 18 miles round trip, and the steepest uphill was the last three miles. Dehydration was also a common problem. My goal was Plateau Point, a promontory at an elevation of 3782 ft, high above the river at about 2400 ft; the trailhead is at 6924 ft. This jaunt would be only 12 miles round-trip.
The first three switchbacks were icy, in the shadow of the canyon wall. The temperature at the top was around 40̊F when I began, but would warm to 65 by midday, and the canyon would be 20̊ warmer. Snow had collected along ledges of the steep walls, where the sun never reaches. After carefully stepping close to the walls, I soon got past the ice, and moved more quickly into the canyon. I continued at a rapid pace, stopping for a rest and a snack at Indian Garden, where there is a spring and a grove of shady cottonwood trees. A nearby ranch accommodates camping groups. Beyond this point, the path flattened, moving through arid bush, past areas of low-growing purple prickly-pear. The mountains in the distance took on a completely different perspective than when viewed from the rim. I passed a dried creek-bed, marked by a warning sign about radioactive contamination.
I reached Plateau Point about 10:30, surprisingly fresh—but the trip was all downhill so far. The views were spectacular—especially of the river below—way below! I could see parts of the mule trail headed down to the river, approaching a sharp decline known as the Devil’s Corkscrew. Several rafts were proceeding down-river, almost directly beneath me. The drop-off at the point itself is several hundred vertical feet. A television ad for a credit card shows an actor accidentally losing his credit card over the rail at that very place while trying to take a photograph.
After a few minutes and photos, I retraced my steps to Indian Garden, where I stopped for lunch at about 12:30, cooling my feet in the stream. As I ate, the daily mule train came by, headed for the river. Refreshed, I continued on my way, but soon began to flag from the heat and the grade. People had to stop frequently to rest, so that we passed each other repeatedly. I had told Betty to expect me back around 4 PM, and had intentionally moved quickly on the way down to save time for the afternoon ascent. I was hot and tired when I reached the rim, but made it by 2:30, and found Betty browsing in one of the shops along the rim. I could point out where I had been and what I had seen. It was a most satisfying hike, and one I will never forget. We stopped for an ice-cream cone in the pleasant sunshine of the spring afternoon.
We went to Mass at the Catholic chapel on the park grounds, a short walk from the hotel. It was not a church, but just a large room on the first floor of a building. But the walls were painted as a mural of the canyon, with a thunderstorm appearing in the distance behind the altar—a magnificent backdrop for our celebration, and a vivid reminder of the beauty which surrounded us. It was a most memorable service. That evening, we drove to the village looking for a pizza. Along the way, a bobcat crossed the road in front of the car.
On Sunday, we drove farther east to the Little Colorado River and its canyon, but it didn’t have the depth nor the color of what we had seen. We were satisfied that we had seen the best part, and returned there, to spend more time looking and walking along the rim. We dined again at the Arizona Steak House, but had to wait longer this time for a table—it was dark when we were seated. Next day, we returned to the airport, flew back to Vegas, and continued on our odyssey to Los Angeles.
In the late 70s, I visited Portland on business, and afterward, was taken to dinner at the Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood, Oregon’s highest peak at 11,235 ft above sea level. The lodge is at 8500 ft, built in the 1920s of stone and huge timbers, and for most of the year lies half-buried in snow. There is a glacier near the summit, and it alone of all the mountains in the lower 48 states affords Olympic skiers year-round practice. The Timberline ski area is open throughout the summer. I believe my first visit was in April.
I returned to Portland several times since, and in early April of 1993, extended my visit over the weekend so as to stay at the lodge. My seminar was located at a hotel in the north side of the city, which was easier to reach from the airport by crossing the Columbia River into Washington, turning west, and recrossing back into Oregon. The seminar lasted from Tuesday to Thursday. By staying over the following Saturday night, I saved enough on air fare to more than offset the other expenses incurred over the weekend. So on Thursday afternoon, after the seminar was over, I drove east from Portland for about two hours in a gray drizzle to reach the lodge. Halfway up the mountain, the rain turned to snow, which continued throughout the night and into the following day. Not many people were staying at the lodge that Thursday night, so things were quiet and the restaurant relatively empty. I chose to stay only one night, as the room and the food were quite expensive. They also charged to park.
The place is absolutely beautiful—a true western lodge, with a massive stone chimney in the center of the atrium, and enormous beams radiating from it in all directions. The atrium spans three floors, with windows viewing the summit, which was visible on my first visit, but not on my second. Windows on the first level were half-buried in snow. My room was on the first level looking toward the mountain. After dinner, there wasn’t much to do but stroll about the lodge, or watch TV or read. I signed the guest register using my New Hampshire address.
Next morning, it was still snowing. I walked around the outside of the lodge, but not very far, as trails were covered, as well as trail signs, and the visibility was very low. The ski center is directly across the parking lot from the lodge and at the top of the lift. Only a handful of skiers were on the slopes, and there was no business at the center. I inquired about the possibility of cross-country skiing, but was told that it was not available there, and I would have to drive down the mountain to centers at lower elevations. By this time it was almost noon, and I didn’t want to pay for another day’s parking, so I checked out and left the lodge.
I probably should have rented downhill skis and used the lift, because it turned out that there was no cross-country skiing available at lower elevations—it was raining there. When I realized this, I headed north to the Columbia River, which separates Oregon from Washington. Reaching the river, I turned east as far as The Dalles, a narrows in the river, which I could see from the top of a bluff. But the rain continued, and the visibility was poor, so I turned around and headed west toward Portland. Along the way, I stopped at Multnomah Falls, at 620 ft, the highest in the U.S. outside of Yosemite.
Only the lower part of the falls was visible, so I left the car and hiked several switchbacks upward until I could see the top. The hiking was easy, and the scenery quite attractive, but the rain never really stopped. This seemed to be typical of the Columbia River valley. Lewis and Clark reported not seeing the sun from October till January of the winter they spent in the valley. Returning to the car, I drove to the Sheraton Hotel at the airport, where I had reservations for the next two nights. When I arrived, the rain had stopped, and an Oregon Junco perched on the fence in front of the car. I was wet and cold, the remedy for which was a hot bath.
Next morning, Saturday, fog was heavy upon the land when I decided to head north into Washington to investigate the devastation caused by the eruption of Mt. St. Helens a few years before, and the possibility for skiing there. Drizzle accompanied me all the way, and when I reached Cougar, the clouds were so low that I could see nothing of the mountain. Cougar was the home of Harry Truman, a stubborn old man who refused to evacuate when warned that the mountain would blow, and was never seen again. The gloom continued all the way back to the hotel. That evening, I went to Mass and found a place for pizza. Sunday morning, I returned home.
In the 1970s, I was involved in a project testing the Apollo space capsule in an environmental chamber at Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque. Our controls were applied to a vacuum chamber containing the capsule, where they were to control absolute pressure programmed to simulate reentry conditions; meanwhile, a jet of plasma was impinged on the heat shield to simulate atmospheric friction.
Albuquerque is an interesting city, and its center—Old Town—one of the oldest in the continent, and an excellent place to look for silver and turquoise jewelry and Indian artifacts. The city lies on the bottom of an ancient lake bed covered with round stones, just as a lake bottom would be. It is as high as Denver—over 5000 ft elevation. While it is desert country, it does receive some snow in the winter, which I witnessed. Directly east, an escarpment rises into the Sandia Mountains, reaching to 10,000 ft. There, the snow can be deep, and the skiing good. The slopes are covered by huge Ponderosa pines. I drove there briefly on a couple occasions.
One day, our test facility ran out of water temporarily, so testing had to be discontinued till the next day when the reservoir would be recharged. My technician and I then took our rental car west, driving toward the mountains. After a couple hours on the road, the mountains didn’t seem any closer—we never got as far as Grants. Instead, we turned south toward Enchanted Mesa and Acoma Pueblo. After a few miles, the pavement ran out, but the road was still good, so we continued. The Enchanted Mesa was a table-land about 500 ft above us to the east, very colorful, and probably a great place to camp. We continued south, and as we did, the road began to narrow. We passed a lone adobe hut with a horse corral made out of brush, but we saw no one. Continuing on, the road became muddy with the melting snow, and we began to look for a convenient place to turn around—but there was none. The car kept sinking deeper, so we realized we had to turn around. I managed to get our direction reversed, but the ruts we had made were so deep that the wheels could not escape them, and only made them deeper.
At this point, we realized that darkness was beginning to fall, and with it the cold. Not having seen a single person for hours, and not wanting to spend a cold night in the desert, we began to worry. My companion took the wheel, and I watched as the front wheels, turned sideways, continued to slide forward in the ruts. I then ran alongside the car, trying to lift the front end out of the ruts by pushing and lifting sideways on the fender. The car went faster and faster, eventually escaping the ruts, as the rear tires threw red mud all over me and the car. We were a mess when we returned to the hotel, and the rugs in the car were covered with mud when we turned it in. But it was a memorable occasion, and we saw some of the colorful country west of Albuquerque.
Those days, we were allowed to fly first-class on flights across the Mississippi River. When we departed Albuquerque in the morning, the stewardess offered us champagne with our breakfast. Looking around the compartment, there were no other first-class passengers, so she left the bottle with us. The morning passed quite amiably.
New York was my home state—raised in Tonawanda, later lived in Buffalo, a few months in Schenectady, back to Buffalo, and then with my bride in Niagara Falls. But all that is ancient history, and lacks adventure. This adventure story took place at the Adirondak Lodge, near Lake Placid.
We had reserved a lean-to by Hart Lake for the first week of July in 1990, and upon arrival were advised to keep our food locked in the trunk of the car, out of reach of the bears. The first couple nights at the site were uneventful. Then the next morning, Jeanne and I set out to climb Mt. Marcy, at 5535 ft, the highest peak in New York. It was almost 15 miles round-trip, and we were tired returning to the park about 6 P.M., when we saw Betty leaving in the car. I flagged her down to ask where she was going, and she was shaking like a leaf, muttering about not staying there another night. It seems she was preparing supper at the picnic table, and enjoying a drink by the lake while waiting for us. At this point, a black bear emerged from the woods so quietly that he was only a few feet away before she saw him. Backed up against the lake, she tried to make enough noise to drive him away, but he was preoccupied by the contents of the picnic table. He bit into a roll of aluminum foil and a pack of plastic plates, without finding them to his liking. Finally, he picked up a bag of potato chips and a bag of hot dog rolls in his mouth and ambled off.
There was no way that Betty was going to sleep in the lean-to, because it had only one opening. So I found her a bunk at the lodge, while Jeanne and I slept in the lean-to, although I’m not sure Jeanne slept that night at all. After one more day of it, we gave up and called my sister’s motel on Lake George, where we spent our last night in relatively civilized surroundings. On our drive home, we saw a bear run across the Massachusetts Turnpike at full speed. This was only our first encounter with a bear. We have had many others around our home in New Hampshire, but within the safe confines of the house, with our faithful dog Sydney standing guard (she trees bears, even with cubs), and a .357 magnum nearby.
In September of 1999, Betty and I spent two very exciting weeks on a Princess Cruise-Tour of Alaska. The ship, the Sea Princess in its maiden year, was to depart from Vancouver, BC at 5:30 PM on Saturday, Sept. 4. We had planned this trip for months, and spent the last weeks preparing the house for our absence. Among my projects was to install an 8-kw standby generator, and a propane stove, dryer, and water-heater, all of which were accomplished in time. We also painted the house that summer (actually starting on some sunny days in March).
As our departure approached, Betty worried about our plane connections. We were to leave Manchester at 7:00, change in O’Hare, and continue to Seattle, arriving at 11:35 AM. The last bus to the ship was to leave the Sea-Tac Airport at 1:00 PM, so we didn’t have much leeway. Just the week before, a man had run through security at O’Hare, causing a search which resulted in the cancellation of 80 United flights, rippling into the next day, and United was our carrier. The only precaution we followed was to stay overnight in Manchester before our flight.
Fortunately, everything went like clockwork, and we were met by Princess officials in Seattle, and boarded on a bus for the hour-and-a-half trip to Vancouver. It reminded me of Edmonton, except for its hills. The city is hilly, surrounded by mountains (some of which showed some snow), but has a frontier character, and is not very clean. As we watched from the bus, a policeman on a bicycle cuffed a young black man and confiscated something he was drinking from a plastic bottle, throwing it over a fence into a parking lot.
The Sea Princess was moored at her dock, 869-ft long, 160-ft wide, and 15 decks high. After a security check, we were issued cruise passes which we were to enter into a pass-gate on entering and leaving the ship. We were then guided to our stateroom on deck 5, which happened to be the same deck as the gangway. At first, we were very confused, trying to figure out port from starboard and fore from aft. Our stateroom was forward, on the port side. Before departure, all hands had to participate in a muster, with life-jacket. Three muster stations were marked on Promenade Deck 7, where the lifeboats hung. So on the signal, we all had to follow our designated routes to our designated muster stations, without using the elevators—it was confusing, but successful. Then, we learned how to don our life-jackets, which we did, and to step off the ship, which we didn’t.
Our stateroom was on the lowest deck of all stateroom decks, which was ok in that we experienced less roll, and the central atrium and our dining room were on the same deck. We had chosen a room about a third from the bottom of perhaps eight price levels, but were not disappointed. We had a large, square window where we could both watch the world go by, a queen bed, more than enough closet space, dressing table, small bar with fridge and ice, lav and excellent shower. Better accommodations than most hotels, and certainly enough space. We were quite pleased with it. The principal feature we were missing from the higher-priced rooms was a balcony.
We ate in the first setting at dinner each evening, following the established dress code, which changed between casual, formal, and semi-formal, at the captain’s direction. Like most other men, I wore a dark suit on the two formal evenings—a few wore tuxes and dinner jackets. Our other meals we took in the Horizon Court on the 14th deck, with a 180-degree view forward, actually over the bridge, which is on the 12th deck (there is no 13th deck). The food was excellent at all meals, everywhere. One noon, we lunched at the grill on the 12th deck, and another, at the pizza parlor.
During our first night at sea, we passed through the Seymour Narrows, a most treacherous passage when the wind and tide are opposed. In the 1950's, a rocky promontory in the middle of this channel was removed using the largest non-nuclear charge ever applied—3000 tons of dynamite—to make it navigable by ships of our size. We slept through the passage, and then spent all the following day (Sunday) at sea, leaving the shelter of Vancouver Is. into the swells of Queen Charlotte Sound. The ship is equipped with stabilizers, which are extended in rough weather, reducing roll by 80 percent. The captain invited all passengers to a cocktail party, followed by dinner (formal); we watched a song-and-dance show afterwards in the theater.
We arrived in Ketchikan on Monday at break of day, with a grey sky and threat of rain, 54̊F. We took the Town and Totem tour in the rain. It was all about the clans of the Tlinglit (pronounced “Klinkit”) Indians, which passed on their heritage principally by totems. After the tour, we walked the length of Creek St., which is a boardwalk set on pilings over the creek, the red-light district of bygone days. We took a cable-car to a lodge overlooking the city and walked back down. There were salmon in the creek moving upstream to spawn, and increasing numbers arriving from the sea, leaping about. We returned to the ship for lunch, and after a beer and knackwurst, the sun came out, prompting a little nap on the sundeck, followed by a cigar. This was as warm as I would get on this trip.
We had seen several “raft houses” pulled up on the beach at low tide, which later floated with the tide. These were homes of itinerant workers who move from job to job, and don’t pay taxes. We also saw lots of seaplanes taking off and touching down. At 2:30, the ship pulled away from the dock and headed north through Tongass narrows (300-ft deep).
Tuesday found us docked at Juneau, the state capitol, with a population of 30,000. We took a morning tour to Mendenhall Glacier, where we could walk within about a quarter-mile of the tongue. Helicopter flights were available, which landed on it. On the following Friday, a helicopter with four tourists crashed on the glacier, and two more copters sent out to rescue the passengers also crashed. Everyone had to spend the night there until picked up the following noon under better conditions. All three pilots reported “flat light” and struck the glacier while expecting to be 500 ft above it.
Later, we visited a Russian Orthodox Church of St. Nicolas, a small blue-and-white octagonal building dating to 1894. Inside, a priest was giving a presentation to tourists about the church, the Orthodox faith, and the duties of Christians—it was excellent. Afterwards, we crossed the street to the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin—a small wooden church—where Mass was about to begin. Having missed Mass on Sunday at sea, we heard it now. Afterwards, we had lunch at a Mexican restaurant downtown.
A tram took us up Mt. Roberts, directly above our ship. I walked about a mile further up the trail in the rain and mud—not much fun, but it typically rains 200 days a year in Southeast Alaska. At 5:30, we caught a bus to a salmon bake, held out under tents. It was cold and wet, with a few propane heaters for warmth. The food was good, but the atmosphere damp and cold—you could see your breath. Afterward, we watched salmon literally crawl up a nearby stream till they were stopped at a waterfall. Dead salmon lined the banks.
On Wednesday, we arrived at Skagway, jumping-off point for the Klondike gold rush of ‘98. The temperature was 48̊F with light rain. The city lies at the end of the Lynn Canal, a long, narrow waterway as deep as 2500 ft, with mountains rising on both sides. Prospectors had to haul a grubstake of 2000 lb to be allowed into the Yukon. They went either from Skagway up the White Pass, or from Haines up the Chilkoot Pass—the latter remembered in movie scenes of a chain of men trudging uphill in the snow, burdened by 200-lb packs, 3000 of them dying on the way. We took the White Pass and Yukon Railroad (narrow-gauge) from the dock to its summit at 2865 ft at tree-line (and the Canadian border) 20 miles inland; the line continues to Whitehorse and Dawson, but we returned as we had come. The scenery was spectacular, surrounded by mountains, many showing snowy peaks, and lower slopes with brilliant fall colors. The railroad was completed in two years, but was too late—the rush went bust in 1900. From a peak of 20,000 people, Skagway now houses 800, in buildings dating from 1898.
We took a tour of the ship’s bridge while in port. It extends entirely across the beam, with floor-to-ceiling windows. The junior officer who gave the tour was British, as were many of the officers, although the captain was Italian. Most of the crew was Asian, principally Phillipino.
On Thursday, we entered Glacier Bay, where two female rangers boarded to comment on the National Park. We went the full length of the bay to Tarr Inlet, where the Grand Pacific Glacier terminates—from a distance, it looks like I-93, with dividing lanes clearly evident. The lanes are caused by glaciers merging, with the rock ground along the sides of each marking the division between them after they join. Nearby Margery Glacier is a cleaner blue, about a mile across, and 200-ft high. As we watched, it calved with a thunderous roar, faster than I could catch with my video camera. There were no large bergs, the largest being about the size of a car. The sun eventually came out, warming us somewhat after a rainy start to the day. Next, we moved to the Johns Hopkins Inlet, passing by Lampugh Glacier, which calved twice while we watched. At its bottom flowed a huge gray fountain of meltwater.
Turning past The Jaws, the Johns Hopkins Glacier became visible, flowing down from the snowy peaks of Wilbur and Orville Wright—a magnificent scene. We could not approach within five miles; after lunch, we left the inlet, discharged the rangers to their boat, and headed for the open Gulf of Alaska. After a formal dinner, we attended a piano concert by Garin Bader, who played Gershwin, Beethoven, and Chopin, with gusto—an excellent concert. Then we danced in the mahogany-paneled Wheelhouse Bar to a combo, and had a drink before retiring.
The sun rose soft and pastel in the gulf at 7 AM, as we turned north toward College Fjord. We entered the fjord in mid-afternoon, cruising past several tidewater glaciers—Barnard, Smith, Wellesley, etc. all named after New England women’s colleges. At the head of the fjord lies Harvard Glacier glistening in the sun, and the much darker and wider Yale. We saw no calving during the three hours in the fjord. That night, we dined on Alaskan king crab, finished by baked Alaska, a mountain of ice-cream and meringue topped with a flaming torch. The ship retraced its route back to the gulf, and during the night entered Resurrection Bay, docking at its terminal at Seward.
Seward was named after the Secretary of State who negotiated the purchase of Alaska, and has been a shipping terminal for goods to be carried inland by the Alaskan Railroad. Coal brought from the interior by rail is here loaded onto ships bound for South Korea. The city was completely destroyed in the earthquake of Good Friday, 1964, by a 100-ft tidal wave, and has been rebuilt, but it still looks like a frontier town. We took a shuttle bus the three miles across town to a Sea Life Center, where we saw seals, diving birds, and various aquarium displays. Afterward, we walked back to the ship along the bay, past a campground where visitors came to fish. Along the way, we saw two or three Stellar’s sea lions surface with a fish, toss it in the air like a dog playing with its food, and recapture it for another toss. At each surfacing, birds gathered to feed on the scraps. After returning to the ship, we had lunch, and then boarded a bus for Anchorage.
We approached Anchorage through a valley with mountains on both sides, fall colors spreading through the tundra above tree-line. We spotted about a dozen Rocky Mountain goats high on a mountainside, but they were just white specs, even through binoculars. As we approached the city, Mt. McKinley was visible through clearing skies, a shining white peak 180 miles to the north. I photographed it from the window of our room on the 12th floor of the Hotel Captain Cook. As we left the bus at 4:30, the driver told us about a 5:00 Saturday afternoon Mass just a block away. So after we washed up, we went to Mass at the Holy Family Cathedral—it was larger then the cathedral in Juneau, but smaller than most churches.
Anchorage is a very modern and cosmopolitan city of 30,000, clean and bright, with plantings of annual flowers everywhere—it was a pleasure to walk about the city. After Mass, we had a drink, and walked to a Mexican restaurant a block away. The following morning, we breakfasted at a sandwich shop and took a bus tour of a native heritage center, when a light rain began. The bus then took us to Spinard and Hood lakes near the airport. These lakes are exclusively devoted to seaplanes—the largest base of its kind in the world. We watched several take off and land. Soon, their pontoons will be exchanged for skis.
We lunched at Humpy’s Ale House on blackened halibut salad, and then crossed the street to the Center for Performing Arts, where we watched a movie on the Aurora Borealis and a talk by its author—very interesting. He told us that other planets have been seen to have them as well, and that our north and south magnetic poles produce mirror images at the same time. For dinner, we ate a seafood pasta at the Snow Goose, overlooking the Cook Inlet.
On Monday, we boarded our Princess dome car at 7:30 AM for the trip to Talkeetna, the jumping-off point for McKinley summit attempts. The car had two levels, and we ate breakfast in the lower level. The scenery was interesting, but not spectacular. Most notable was the gradual yellowing of the landscape as we traveled north. The elevation at our destination was only 350 ft. The Latitude 62 restaurant is the most prominent landmark near the train station, which is conveniently located next to the airstrip. We were met by a bus, which actually had to double back several miles south in order to take us west to the Princess McKinley Lodge, an outpost perched on a hillside near an obscure village known as Trapper Creek. Clouds obscured the horizon when we arrived, so that we could only guess where the mountains were.
I took a couple nature trails around the lodge, one with a guide who talked about the flora and fauna, including several species of berries which bears feed on. We saw no bears. That evening, we dined in the main dining-room of the lodge—the food was good, but expensive (all the meals since we left the cruise ship were on our own). Our room was one of eight in one of several bungalows, a few minutes walk from the main lodge, which held the reception, grand hall, dining rooms and bar. The grounds were very attractive and well-landscaped.
I rose at first light on Tuesday, and could see snowy slopes of mountains from our window. So I took my cameras to the main lodge, to watch the clouds gradually lift from the mountains. The eastern slopes of 20,320-ft Mt. McKinley glowed pink as thin purple clouds drifted past. Before long, the mountain was completely clear, as were 17,400-ft Mt. Foraker and 14,740-ft Mt. Hunter. I took several photos and some video as the light changed. Alaskans claim that Mt. McKinley is bigger than Everest, because it rises from sea-level, whereas Everest rises from a 10,000-ft plain.
Betty left for a jet-boat excursion from Talkeetna in mid-morning. I was picked up by a guide for a back-country hike at noon. As it happened, I was the only hiker on this trip. We drove north about 18 miles to Denali State Park (which is half as large as Rhode Island) to hike in the Coal Creek area. We hiked from the trailhead at about 1400 ft above sea level to the “Bird House,” a trail marker 3 miles in at an elevation of about 3300 ft—tree-line is about 2300 ft, so half of our hike was above tree-line. The weather was fair, with a light breeze, and temperature around 50̊F—my guide hiked in shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. I was clothed more warmly, but managed to work up a sweat going uphill.
The first part of our hike was through a forest of white birch clothed with gold, and white spruces, past a beaver pond. Above tree-line, the ground was covered with low-bush blueberries, sweet and larger than the ones at home. There were also crowberries, which are smaller and black, and at higher elevations, bearberries, which are pink, and whose foliage is a bright red this time of year. Still higher, the slopes were crowned with reindeer moss (lichen), which looked like snow with clumps of bearberries in it. The colors of the tundra were just spectacular, especially looking down at the lower slopes, dotted with occasional spruce. Across the Chulitna River below, we could see McKinley, with the Eldredge Glacier flowing towards us—it was just a magnificent sight.
As we approached the Bird House, a couple small, gray groundhogs—pikas—sat on rocks and chattered at us, not afraid at all. Across the valley beyond lay a slope black with loose coal—the headwaters of Coal Creek. After turning back, we found a place out of the wind, where we sat on the reindeer moss to have lunch. It was cold enough to require jackets, and the guide put pants on, too. It was about 3 PM when we ate a box lunch the guide brought. On the way back down, we saw a pair of fresh bear tracks left by a cub—black bears are common in that area, but we saw none. We drove back to the lodge exchanging bear stories; the guide carried only pepper spray for defense. He told of twice being charged by Grizzlies, but they were only dummy charges. That night, Betty and I dined in the Grizzly Bar in view of the mountains, and retired early, very content with our day.
On Wednesday, our bus left after breakfast for Denali National Park, as large as Massachusetts. We were dropped off at the Denali Princess Lodge, which had no mountain view, and much less attractive accommodations. After lunch, we rode a bus through the park, but failed to see any wildlife other than a northern hawk-owl and a very friendly grey jay. We were beyond the high mountains, but the colors on the slopes were very attractive. This day was anticlimactic, after hiking in the state park. At 4 PM, we stood in a cold wind to wait for our train to Fairbanks, returning to the same table in the same car as before. We passed through a canyon during the first part of the trip, but then the scenery flattened out into rolling hills covered with yellowing birch and willow and dotted with spindly black spruce. We were called to dinner at about 7, and arrived in Fairbanks after 8.
After breakfast at our hotel, we toured a placer gold mine. It was interesting to learn of the operation, and we all had a chance to pan a bag of ore concentrate for gold. As we worked our way to the bottom of the pan, shiny gold flakes did appear. Betty and I combined ours, which weighed 6.2 grains, worth $12.40. Afterward, the bus stopped at the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, the 48-inch pipe which snakes its way 810 miles from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, the oil taking about 8 days to reach its destination. It was a very interesting engineering project, way over budget, but very successful nonetheless.
The day was clear and cold, about 40̊F. Although the sun would be above the horizon for 13 hours this 16th day of September, it would not rise higher than 25 degrees—in our eyes all day. From Fairbanks, you can take a bus north to Prudhoe Bay or east to Dawson, but not west. At 65̊ north, Fairbanks is at about the same latitude as Reykjavik, where we were a year earlier. Although Fairbanks is treed, it can get much colder than Iceland, temperatures falling to -30̊F by October and -70̊F common during the winter. The sun rises so little in December and January that the daytime temperature rises hardly at all. Yet in summer, it can reach 100̊F. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to live there, yet construction is booming. The groundwater is so poor that most residents don’t have wells—they melt snow, catch rain, or have water delivered. To me, Fairbanks seemed like the end of the world.
Our last evening in Alaska, we dined at our hotel with my niece Alison, newly arrived and starting a career of research into native studies. The following morning, we rose at 4 AM to catch a bus to the airport. Our flight to Anchorage on Alaska Air was 45 minutes, followed by a three-hour flight to Seattle (longer than Boston to Miami). Our US Air flight to Pittsburgh was an hour and a half late, and our connection from there to Manchester three and a half hours late due to delays associated with Hurricane Floyd. We arrived in Manchester about 1:30 AM and home at 3:30. On the way, I could feel a fever developing, and spent the next four days in bed with a temperature of 102. A couple weeks later, a newspaper article reported that Alaskan cruise ships had carried the Asian flu to the lower-48 states much earlier than it had traveled here in the past. Fortunately, Betty didn’t catch it from me. While I had given the cruise and tour very high marks, catching the flu was not an enjoyable ending.
Some of our more memorable camping experiences came in Maine. In August of 1971, Tom Myron and I attempted to climb Mt. Katahdin in Baxter State Park, the highest peak in Maine at 5267 ft. Because we had each taken two boys camping the year before, it was the girls’ time to go. We started out on the Appalachian Trail from Katahdin Stream Campground after breakfast on a cool, partly cloudy day. The first couple miles were a gentle climb through the forest. Then we came to the “Gateway,” a jumble of boulders with some ironwork to assist climbing over. At this point, we were exposed to the wind, but kept on going. Before long, we could look down on the forest below, and see the shadows of the clouds passing over the trees below. This frightened Tom’s younger girl, so they decided to turn back.
I continued on with Liz, 11, and Catherine, 9, to a knife edge which rose abruptly from our plateau to a much higher elevation—we were already above tree-line. At this point, clouds closed in, obscuring the top of the knife edge. The girls did not want to go up there, so we stopped for lunch, and I promised that we would go back if the clouds did not lift. When we finished lunch, the clouds had lifted, so we continued up. The knife edge ended at the Tableland, a flat plain where blueberries grew, and which gradually rose to the summit in the distance. We skipped along this level trail, snacking on blueberries.
As we approached the ramp up to the summit, it began to rain. Immediately, Catherine wanted to turn back, but I convinced her to go on, because we were almost to the summit. About 20 minutes later, we arrived, along with windblown rain, and stopped only long enough to look over the edge at the steep drop down the other side. As we retraced our steps, we began to get wet and cold—the temperature must have fallen into the 40s. The girls began to cry, and wanted to take shelter behind the nearest rocks, but there was no adequate shelter—we had to keep going. Unfortunately, we had no rain gear, and our sneakers were filling with water. Our hands and feet were cold, but we had to keep on going. At one point, we drifted off the trail, unable to see the next cairn in the fog. We backtracked to the last cairn, and then spotted the next one in a different direction. After that experience, I made sure the next cairn was in view before I left the last one.
As we approached the knife edge, the girls panicked, refusing to go on because they couldn’t see where they were going, down into a sea of fog. They stopped walking, so I had to carry them. I lifted first one and then the other from one safe footing to the next. They were crying and I was praying as my hands went numb from exposure to the wind and rain. This continued on seemingly interminably, but we finally reached the bottom of the ridge, and hurried across the plateau to the Gateway. Then, more lifting of the girls over rocks until we reached the shelter of the forest. Finally, we were out of the wind, and even the rain began to let up. We quickened our pace as our spirits began to lift, and soon we were warm again. We arrived back at the campground at 6 PM, secure and happy.
That evening, we gazed up at the peak in clearing skies with a ranger, who wondered aloud if anyone would be lost up there overnight—it was not uncommon. A few days before, there had been a hailstorm on the mountain.
I returned to Baxter in August of 1986 with Tom, David, and Mark Anderson for another try at the summit. We again ascended via the AT, returning without incident via the steeper Abol trail. This time we had warm clothes to don at the Gateway—there was no rain, but the temperature on the summit was only 38̊F, and windy.
One July, we hiked through Mahoosic Notch, which is a deep boulder-strewn canyon, and found enough snow for a snowball fight. Early in December of 1992, David and I climbed Old Spec Mountain in the snow. And in June of 1994, along with Jeanne, we climbed Mts. Saddleback and the Horn—on that day we saw 21 moose.
We had done so much camping and hiking in the Granite State, that we decided to live here after 33 years in Foxboro, MA. David, Tom and I had climbed all 48 of the 4000-ft mountains, some of them several times. Only the most interesting adventures are recounted here.
On October 11th, 1987, David and I decided to go climbing, leaving Foxboro early and picking Tom up at St. Anselm College in Manchester on the way, at about 7 AM on a rainy Sunday. The weather did not improve on the drive north—in fact the sky grew darker, if anything, and the rain more intense. We continued into Franconia Notch, when lo and behold, the rain changed to snow! This changed the picture entirely—there is nothing which invigorates more than the first snowfall of the season.
We ascended Mt. Flume, 4328 ft, via the Flume Slide Trail, with some difficulty. This trail is difficult enough when dry, as it is very steep and over smooth rock. Today, the rock was covered by a layer of wet leaves under two inches of wet snow. We slipped and slid, grasping for anything that would keep us from falling backwards, and there were a few close calls. When we finally reached the Franconia Ridge Trail, we celebrated, for the worst was behind us. The summit was socked in, with snow falling vertically, with 3-4 inches accumulation. We continued along the ridge to Mt. Liberty at 4459 ft, also socked in, where David shouted his famous, “It doesn’t get any better than this!”
A couple hikers were sweeping off a tent platform before setting up their tent on the Liberty Spring Trail on our descent. As we returned to the car, the snow began to turn to rain, but we were very happy with the day’s adventure. My only wish at that time was a cabin in the mountains where we could build a fire to relax before, while our clothes dried—instead of a 4 hour drive back home with wet clothes.
We now have that home in the mountains, in North Sandwich, just south of the White Mountain National Forest, where the Sandwich Wilderness begins. From our living room we can see Mt. Whiteface at 4000 ft, Mt. Passaconaway at 4066 ft, and Sandwich Dome at 3993 ft. There are no roads between our backyard and the wilderness, so that black bears and moose are frequent visitors, along with the occasional deer, wild turkey, racoons, an ermine, porcupines, and coyotes which howl in the night.
Our golden retriever Sydney protected us from the bears, barking and chasing them up the nearest tree—even a mother with two cubs! She chased moose as well. He only problem was with porcupines: four times, she came home with a noseful of quills, requiring the vet to remove them under anesthesia. She died in 2003 at age 13, and was soon replaced by Kelley, a pure Golden pup, who also chases bears.
We made an offer on this house in July of 1991, just before leaving on our grand tour of Colorado. After seeing all the beauty of that state, we still wanted to live in NH, and haven’t been disappointed. The winters are long, requiring the house to be heated from October through April, but I don’t mind keeping the wood-stove going, and our 7 acres of forest has been providing more than enough firewood and exercise for me. Cross-country skiing is available from December through March, and is my favorite activity. The mud season follows as the dirt roads thaw, followed by the bug season of May and June. The summers are great, and fall spectacular—there is no more beautiful fall foliage display anywhere. The soil is thin, but trees grow tall here—we have pines a hundred feet high and 18-24 inches in diameter. In fact, we have had two of our acres logged of pines to open up the view and let more sun through, and the wood has mostly been high-grade saw-timber.
The town of Sandwich was founded in 1763 as a farming community. Its population peaked at 2,774 in 1830, when several mills were running to serve the local needs. Like many New England communities, it lost residents to the westward movement after the Civil War, dropping to a minimum population of 620 in 1950. Stone walls stretch their way through regrown forests where once was cleared farmland, and cellar holes are scattered about. The 1990 population rose only to 1,066, most of those appearing to be retired.
New Hampshire’s most famous landmark is Mt. Washington, at 6288 ft. above sea level, the highest in the northeast. Tree-line here is only 5000 ft, and although it has no glacier, snow lasts into July, and permafrost underlies the summit. Yellow warning signs are posted at all the trailheads: “You are entering an area with the worst weather in North America. People have died of exposure here, even in summer. Carry warm clothing, extra food and water, and emergency equipment. And if the weather turns bad, GO BACK!” Every year, several people die on the mountain, mostly due to weather. I have climbed it several times, but one trip especially stands out.
Tom, David, Mark Anderson, and I set out for the summit from the Cog Railway station one morning in late August. The summit was hidden by clouds as we climbed the Ammonusic Ravine Trail toward Lakes of the Clouds hut. Eventually, the clouds lifted, to reveal the summit gleaming white with frost! As we rose higher, the temperature fell to 29̊F, and the wind rose to 70 mph! Rocks and grass and stunted trees were white with rime ice. Only with great difficulty could we struggle against the wind, and it was impossible to stand on the summit. After lunch at the summit restaurant, we walked down to the hut at 5000 ft. After dinner, we climbed nearby Mt. Monroe to watch the sunset, and later that evening viewed a thunderstorm below us in the valley. The next day, we followed the ridge west across Mt. Eisenhower and back to our campground.
On another memorable occasion, Tom, David, Michael and I climbed Cannon Mountain in the snow on New Year’s Eve. On still another occasion, we climbed Mt. Jackson in a snowstorm on December 23rd—winter climbing is lots of fun, but it has to be done early in the season, before the snow is deep. Tom, David, and I have climbed all 48 of the mountains 4000 ft or more above sea level, at least once.