In my nearly 60 years of wilderness travel, I often experience beautiful and interesting sights: grand sunrises and sunsets, scudding clouds, blizzards, groaning glaciers, crashing rock fall, lightning strikes, forest fires, raging rivers, bubbling springs. When I can, I plan my trips so that at least some of my time is spent out in the open with grand views and vistas. Every so often, I am privileged to experience the truly unique and spectacular. Here are sketches of the most memorable.
· Helicopter Rescue!! Being airlifted by cable off a high mountain ridge in the North Cascades of Washington State by a huge machine with engines deafening and rotors whirling 15-20 feet overhead (a U. S. Navy search and rescue helicopter). [Credit for this spectacular picture goes to Ed Jones, a member of our party.]
· Observing the rare optical “Specter of the Glocken” phenomenon: standing on a high promontory in the Central Cascades of Washington State, the sun cast my shadow, clearly outlined, far out onto a sea of clouds.
· While tarp camping at Upper Lena Lake in Olympic National Park and listening to a moving piece of classical music on my iPod, a huge and extremely bright full moon gradually rose slowly between the trees.
· Breaking fresh trail while skiing in the Methow Valley of Washington State where near zero temperatures had turned the powdery, fresh snow into a sea of diamonds sparkling in the sunlight.
· Being at higher elevations in the Paysaten Wilderness of Washington State at night with crisp, clear air conditions and a full moon so bright one could easily walk around without a light. The conditions were such that the trees, rocks and peaks all took on a magical aura.
· Being up close and personal with a major forest fire in Mt. Rainier National Park where tall, slender alpine firs would explode into gigantic torches from the sparks of neighboring trees.
· In the Paysaten Wilderness, observing a forest fire spread rapidly, the erupting smoke and ash and heat pushing mushroom clouds thousands of feet into the air. The size of the fire caused closure of many access roads in the area.
· Seeing five large, healthy black bears in one day on different stretches of the same trail in the western section of the Paysaten Wilderness in Washington State.
· One evening while camping in the backcountry of Olympic National Park, we observed the following from a high vantage point (all at the same time): a family of mountain goats, three black bears, a herd of 50 or so elk. The next day we observed a large black bear frolicking in a small lake (a first) and a couple of coyotes.
· Camping in an 8000 foot pass, high on the side of Mt. Adams in the Southern Cascades, and watching a massive lightening and thunderstorm off in the distance. We then watched with some horror as it passed right over the top of us in the middle of the night with deafening booms of thunder, lightening strikes and heavy wind-driven rain.
· Rappelling nearly a thousand feet off the steep face of Mt. Waddington (highest peak in the British Columbia coast range) much of it in the dark.
As you can see, I am blessed. Nature doesn’t care, but am most impressed by her wondrous displays.