Posted by: Matt | August 9, 2009

That’s How We End ‘Em

This last week has been surreal. I’m not complaining or anything, but seriously I can’t imagine how people who are actually famous deal with their fame. I live in the middle of a big square state where there are relatively few people. I work from my home office most days and play where there are notoriously even fewer people. Maybe I lead a sheltered life, but it’s set up the way I like it.

This last week has taught me that there are a lot of you out there. In particular, yesterday lead me to believe that despite my best efforts there may actually be too many of you to deal with at any given moment in my life. It was a busy day that’s for certain.  Don’t take it the wrong way, you’re all really nice.  I just like elbow room. 

Stage One

Tess and I took off early headed for Harborview Medical Center on Saturday morning. We arrived, parked and went in an end wing. Wondered around until a nurse pointed us in the right direction and then knocked on Jim’s door. Here was the highlight of my day. Jim was laid out on a hospital bed with his girlfriend Kate and his son Jason at his side. It was a little bit emotional for all of us, but the good kind that we’ll remember when we are too old to go hiking up high mountain trails. They’re taking good care of him and he’s in good spirits. His loved ones are happy that he’s still with them and I think that they’re all enjoying each other a great deal.

Jim is scheduled for a surgery on his right leg on Monday. We’re going to try and meet up with him again soon thereafter medical situation permitting. I made sure to relay as much of your good wishes as I could retain and he really appreciates all the encouragement. If he could, he’d already be back out on the trail I suspect. Tazul’s friends are looking forward to that day.

Stage Two

Next up, the centennial celebration at North Bend, Wa. Tess and I drove from the hospital first stopping in Issaquah to complete a couple of errands and then to North Bend. That little town was boppin’. We ended up parking in the paid Boy Scout lot, loaded up our packs, and entered the fray. There was a band playing, people eating, dancing and talking, and a sheriff’s deputy here and there. Finally we found a deputy who pointed us in the correct direction and we approached a gaggle of suited or dress shirted men. Wow! Was I ever out of my element? I approached a couple of individuals having only the name of the City Manager Duncan and no clue what he looked like. I stopped Joel Moreno from KOMO 4 and asked him if he was Duncan. Oops! (It should be noted that I haven’t had a television for years and I’m sorry guys, I couldn’t name any of you in a line up even if I did have a TV. No offence, just not my thing).

 Link to video here

Finally, after wading back and forth in through the crowd, I encountered Duncan. We shook hands and soon thereafter Duncan, several other dignitaries and I were standing before the band stand talking into microphones. Duncan said some really nice things about the Search and Rescue folks, the Sheriff’s department, and medical teams. He especially said some really nice things about me. I’m glad I have a tan going this summer because I was flushed red after Guardian helicopter did a fly-over (you guys rock!). Then it was my turn.

I did my best to thank the real heroes who do this kind of thing every day, and indeed were just waiting for the next thing to go wrong. I said my part about Washington Trails Association’s fine work on our trails and encouraged everyone there to support these volunteers. And I tried to convey the thanks I’ve heard from Jim and his family to those who deserve it the most. Short and probably not the most articulate speech ever delivered, but that’s what I’ve got folks.

Stage Two and a Half

Now the media interviews, not something I could prepare for nor really anticipated. Kind of like walking into a bar brawl in an old western movie, but without the beer fizzing everywhere from broken casks and the clenched fists flying. Well, mine were clenched, but I tried to hold them out of the camera’s view. The interview must have taken a while because it was about three when all the microphones were pulled from beneath my shirt. I dug into my pack, found my phone, and sure enough Marlene had called.

Stage Three

We met Marlene at the North Bend Post Office, which I suspect she chose because it was close to the centennial, but had free and open parking. The three of us drove over to Safeway, grabbed some more water and a cup of Joe, and then headed up the pass. The intent today was to climb up Commonwealth Basin to Red Mountain Pass with the possibility of summiting either Red Mountain or Lundin Peak. We arrived at the PCT-North trail head nearing four o’clock, made a few adjustments to packs, and headed up the trail with Tess in the lead.

I’ve never been up this way, but every time I’ve passed the turn off it’s made me wonder. It proved to be a great choice on this very busy Saturday. There was almost a constant stream of people headed down from Kendall Catwalk so by the time we came to the left up Commonwealth basin I was ready to start making tracks where the crowds might thin out a tad.

Sure enough the crowds did thin, we encountered a couple of more small groups and then no one for the rest of the climb. There are plenty of really interesting flowers still blooming up this way. We came across a medium size marmot town on our climb and then its citizenry came out for a while to serenade us as we climbed on past them.

At one point we heard a very strange sound. “Errruuuppppp, errruuuppppp, errruuuppppp,” it came from the trees and almost sounded like an ape or a monkey calling in the dawn. Everyone paused to listen and speculate. “Is that a bear?” “Nope, I’m pretty sure it’s a bird or something.” “What if it’s an ape, what do you do if a silverback charges?” “Probably best to call the zoo in that case.” We climbed on not really sure what it might be, but content to speculate nonetheless.

Soon we arrived in Commonwealth Basin at the little unnamed pond right below the bench. The clouds were thick and low overhead and felt like a cold blanket as the roiled overhead. Part of me yearned for fall to come and bring this kind of state of meteorological grace as the norm. After poking around the lake for a bit we set off to complete the climb hearing the periodic squeaky toy calls of the Pika among the rocks.

When we reached the bench we paused in a dry spot behind the rim of the north wall. Thick, wet clouds obscured both Red Mountain peak and Lundin Peak completely and ran and cloud condensation were falling everywhere around us. Both Tess and Marlene were cold already so we ate a little sitting within that big white room and then decided to head back down.

Three amigos in the White Room

Three amigos in the White Room

On the way back down we heard the noise again, this time it was much closer. This time around we saw that it was a wild turkey asking if he could come over for dinner that night. He strutted back and forth under the tiny trees and was insistent to say the least.

KMZ to Commonwealth Basin

KMZ to Commonwealth Basin

Later on down the descent we heard the Pika again, Tess and Marlene had never seen one and everyone had more or less given up hope of seeing anything as the cloud cover had dropped beating us to the trail head. But sure enough merely a mile from the trail head there was one sitting under a rock right of the trail contentedly munching on ferns. That was super cool and I’m pretty certain that Tess and Marlene liked it a lot.



  1. Fame…not something the sane should ever have to endure. Good on you for using your 15 minutes for good.

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