Saturday, July 24, 2010

Hiking & Biking In Washington With Jeremy & My Other Nephews

You are looking at my nephew Jeremy, aka JR, sometime in August, back in the previous century, on a suspension bridge across a glacier melt creek, on the Schrieber's Meadow trail up Mount Baker, in my old home state of Washington.

Jeremy and several others were taking me on a hike for my birthday. I don't quite remember how that came about, because this is a rather difficult hike and most of these people were not hikers.

When we reached the suspension bridge Jeremy balked. It took a lot of convincing to get him to cross it. In the picture you are looking at Jeremy's triumphant crossing on the way back down the trail. Obviously he had conquered his fear.

As you can see it was a very foggy hiking day. We only made it to the base of Mount Baker, did not make it as far as the Railroad Grade, that being the moraine carved out by a glacier. If Jeremy had a problem with that suspension bridge he really would have hated the Railroad Grade.

That would be me sitting on a log going through my backpack, with my little sister on the left.

I had a lot of mountain fun with Jeremy and my other nephews when I lived in Washington. I remember a cross country skiing adventure with Jeremy's older brother, Christopher, on the east side of Mount Baker, we got high up on some logging roads and had a very adventurous descent.

A time or two I took my nephews on adventures where I think I may have been not exhibiting good uncle judgment. Like one time nephew Joey and I hiked to the top of Sauk Mountain in the Skagit Valley in a snowstorm. It was very icy. Anyone reading this who knows Sauk Mountain is likely cringing at the idea.

I remember just recently Joey's mom emailed me pictures of herself at the top of Sauk Mountain. She told me Joey told her he and I had done that hike. I told her not to ask Joey about the details of that hike because it'd likely lead to me getting scolded, even though the statute of limitations had run out.

My nephew adventures became known as Nephews In Danger after I made a Christmas calendar using pictures of our adventures and called it Nephews In Danger.

In the picture where Christopher and Jeremy are holding chunks of ice, we'd hiked to the Ice Caves, which you can see behind the nephews. This is a yearly phenomenon that you access from the Mountain Loop Highway north of Granite Falls. The snow melts and forms these big caves. There are enter with caution signs. I think entry may now be banned due to there having been a death or two due to falling ice. But, if it's way below freezing, the danger is minimal. So, we explored the Ice Caves.

The best adventure I ever had with Jeremy and his brother took place in September. The snow had melted off the parking lot at the end of the road that leads past the Mount Baker Ski Area. From that parking lot you can easily walk out on Mount Baker. Or climb to the top of Tabletop Mountain. Or hike a number of other trails.

We hiked to the top of Tabletop Mountain, where I took my all-time favorite picture, the original of which I have been unable to find, which perplexes me very much.

That is Mount Shuksan behind Jeremy and Christopher. Christopher is looking south towards Mount Baker. Jeremy is contemplating throwing a snowball at me.

You get to the top of Tabletop Mountain via a series of switchbacks. As a kid I had a memory of seeing this and it looking so strange, seeing people walking up this mountain.

As the years passed I would think of this and think it was something I had imagined. And then, well after I was on my own, I was back at Mount Baker. And there I saw what was what I thought had been an imagined thing, but it was real.

Hiking to the top of Tabletop Mountain, with Jeremy and Christopher, was the first time I had done so. As you might guess from the name, the top is very flat. At the western side it slopes down and is covered with ice, also known as a glacier, or at least very heavy snow.

That is Jeremy watching his brother go over the edge of the ice/snow/glacier. Christopher had not anticipated, nor had I, how fast that slope would shoot him down the slope.

He asked me about 10 times if he should do it. I saw no real danger. When he shot out so fast and went so far, I was a bit worried.

But then it looked fun. So Jeremy and I followed his brother, with Jeremy first and me following down the glacier. That is Mount Baker that Jeremy is body skiing towards.

When I lived in Washington Jeremy also went bike riding with me frequently. I remember one fun time when Jeremy and his cousin, my nephew Joey, rode our bikes from Tracey Owen Park at the south end of Lake Washington, on the continuation of the Burke-Gilman Trail, all the way to the St. Michelle Winery. Where we locked up our bikes and took the tour.

Another memorable bike ride with Jeremy and his brother was from Larrabee State Park on Chuckanut Drive, pedaling the Interurban trail into Bellingham. This bike trail is an old train route. It is adventurous in a couple places. Jeremy balked. But then un-balked. This trail ends at the Alaskan Ferry Terminal in Fairhaven.

As we were leaving the ferry terminal, a cop pulled us over.

We were given free ice cream tickets to reward us for wearing our bike helmets. So, we went to the ice cream shop in Fairhaven and had ice cream cones.

I really do miss Washington sometimes. Like now. And. I miss my nephews sometimes. Like now.

I remember when I moved to Texas my sister telling me she thought it might be hard on Jeremy not to have me to call up, to come down, and do stuff with him or talk to about what's on his mind.

I remember my mom and dad being here in Texas, October of 2001. The Afghan Invasion was underway. We were driving along and for some reason we called Phoenix, where by then my nephew and his brother and parental units had moved. Jeremy answered, he was home alone. This was being the first time in his living memory his country had gone into war mode. It made him understandably nervous.

I did not see Jeremy again in person until February of 2004. And then again in April of 2006.

I need to go to Phoenix.


Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Durango,

I live in Fort Worth now - since 1979, actually. I grew up in eastern Skagit county. It's wonderful to see pictures and descriptions of home.



Durango said...

Wow Roxie! You've been exiled from Washington for 31 years! Where did you live in eastern Skagit County? Concrete? Rockport? Out in the country? Have you been back? If not, you will be shocked, shocked I tell you to see the valley. Burlington and Mount Vernon have blended into one big town. Burlington has a big mall and a lot of other stores. It is all one big retail mess on Old Highway 99 from Cook Road to south Mount Vernon. Concrete is now a tourist town, sorta. The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival has grown huge. I think over a million visitors during its month run. Burlington Hill has been chopped up with houses built on it. I'm shocked and a little appalled at all the "progress" each time I visit. The valley now has 2 big casinos. In 1979 could you imagine one day there would be big casinos in the Skagit Valley?