My father, with his wild mixture of virtues and faults, did one thing right, for which I am most grateful: he took his family to the most beautiful places in the Cascade Range each summer. We hiked or drove in to and camped in a different wonderful place each year: Jefferson Park below Mt. Jefferson; Lost Lake and Eden Park below Mt. Hood; the huckleberry fields near Mt. Adams; Spirit Lake and good fishing, below Mt. St. Helens; Mt. Rainier National Park and its high wildflower’d meadows that John Muir so admired; Glacier Peak, Image Lake, and Mt Baker, close to Canada. The Glacier Peak wilderness was Forest Service land when we went there in 1959. Since then, it’s become the centerpiece of the North Cascades National Park.
He taught me and my two brothers how to properly pack a backpack, and then how to hike. He taught us first aid. He taught us how to use a compass, and figure our location on the topographical map, which he taught us to read, as a survival tool. He taught us how to build and tend an open fire, and how to contain it, and how to put that fire out, completely. ‘Drowned,’ ‘dead out,’ as the Forest Service teaches. He taught us not only not to litter, but to pick up other people’s, so that we left the trail cleaner and less disfigured by trash than we found it. This was before the word ecology gained currency, and we thought of ourselves as ‘conservationists.’ It remains one of the ways I am a conservative.
My dad gave me and my brothers other gifts, but I treasure this one most. He was a mountaineer from Portland, and when he took work at the Hanford Atomic Energy Reservation in the eastern Washington desert, he started the Inter-Mountain Alpine Club, the I-MACs, and continued to climb all the major peaks, until he was knocked down, hard, by polio, which changed our family’s fortunes.