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Mendocino County Today: November 24, 2012

TODAY'S FACTOID: Walmart employees receive $2.66 billion in government help every year, or about $420,000 per store.

TRA, a Lost Coast Outpost commenter, on the federal demand for Mendocino County's attempt to regulate and tax the pot industry: “Disgusting. Mendocino tries to protect the environment and reduce the negative social impacts of an underground industry, and here come the Feds to bust the responsible growers who volunteered to take part, and to threaten the county officials who had the audacity to actually try to do something constructive amidst the wreckage of Prohibition. Nope, can't have that. Instead, the Feds continue their scorched-earth policy, aggressively targeting a county that threatened to succeed in managing cannabis growing in a rational fashion, which would obviously be a huge embarrassment to the eradication/incarceration model that has failed so spectacularly, for so many years. In the meantime, it's going to continue to be an ugly, messy fight, with plenty of direct casualties and even more ‘collateral damage.’ Understandably, most growers, sellers, and consumers will just try to keep their heads down and continue the most basic form of resistance — simple noncompliance. And most elected officials and law enforcers will also keep their heads down, attempting to clean up at least some of the endless messes caused by the War on Pot, but not directly challenging the Pot Warriors. But more and more people, including millions of everyday people, some public officials, and now even some growers and some law enforcers, are directly and publicly challenging the wisdom and the legitimacy of the War on Pot. Whether I agree with all the particulars of a given model for legalization, I'm glad to see the overall movement gaining momentum, and I appreciate those who are willing to put their ideas out there into the crossfire of criticism that inevitably comes from both those who complain that their model for legalization goes too far, and from those who complain that their model doesn't go far enough — including some on both sides of that argument who stand to gain plenty from the continuation of the status quo. It's going to take a lot of waves of pressure, and there will be just as many waves of backlash, before the failed enterprise of Pot Prohibition is finally abandoned. But it's a struggle we can't afford to shy away from — after all, if we can't stop our government from waging an unjust war on it's own populace, how can we hope to stop it from waging war unjust wars abroad? This is where the differences between the Colorado and Washington state laws may quickly become apparent. While both states enacted regulations and permitting regimes that can be attacked by the Feds in the same way that the Feds have gone after the Mendocino zip-tie program, threatened Eureka and Arcata with prosecution of their public officials, etc., the Colorado law also includes a grow-your-own provision where anyone can grow 6 plants of their own, with no permit from the state. Growing those 6 plants would still be illegal according to federal law, but as a practical matter, the Feds simply do not have and will never have the resources to go after tens of thousands of individual Colorado residents each growing 6 plants. And current precedent resulting from court cases that arose out of Prop 215 in California have already established that the Feds can't force state law enforcement agencies to enforce federal laws for them. Whatever happens with the regulations and permitting regimes for commercial growing, distribution, sales and taxation, I think the grow-your-own provision and the end to state-level prohibition of simple possession (of small amounts) will have a significant positive effect in Colorado. If the Feds succeed in blocking Colorado from implementing it's ‘regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol’ model for commercial-scale growing and selling — while at the same time, anyone can grow 6 plants entirely free of state interference, and (as a practical matter) almost entirely free of federal interference — I wouldn't be surprised if the result is that a huge number Mom and Pop growers end up filling that void. Most Humboldt growers might laugh at the prospect of growing just 6 plants (though that wasn't so true just a few years ago), but I'll bet there are plenty of Colorado residents who won't.”

COMMENT OF THE DAY: “The Israeli lobby has succeeded in convincing much of Western public opinion that the Jews and their state, Israel, are uniquely threatened by ‘genocide’ and therefore require exceptional measures of self-defense. The Holocaust is really a dominant religion in the West. It is taught in schools, it is the subject of a constant stream of books, articles, movies. Western guilt over the treatment of Jews by Nazi Germany has served to silence criticism of Israel.” (Diana Johnston)

THE MUCH DISCUSSED drug arrests of well-known Mendocino people seem to focus more on James and Sarah Soderling than any of their alleged Mendocino confederates. The Soderlings apparently split time between their county of origin, Mendo, and Kansas. The feds are describing the Soderlings as the link between the Kansas headquarters of the alleged conspiracy and the five prominent residents of Mendocino, all of them either presently functioning as volunteers with the Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department or past fire department volunteers. Two of the Coast bustees, John McMillan and his wife, Erin Keller, have returned to duty with the Volunteers. Jeff Wall functions as contractor on the Mendocino Coast and Hank McCusker as a property manager. Rick Smith has coached football at Mendocino High School. All seven have entered not guilty pleas and are represented by renowned drug defense attorneys who include Tony Serra. The federal indictment says that James Soderling “is a known high grade marijuana distributor” and pot “broker” whose wife, Sarah, was equally complicit in Soderling's alleged Mendo-Kansas import-export business. The feds claim that the Soderlings arranged for Mendo bud to be shipped to Kansas, Kansas shipped the cash back to Mendo from a Kansas “motor sports shop” to a Soderling business based in Hayward called “California Connection.” (“California Connection” wouldn't seem to be the wisest name for a pot op, but that's the allegation.) Mrs. Soderling, at home in Fort Bragg, has been ordered by the federal court not to have any contact with her Kansas-based husband. The feds, among their many claims, say they intercepted a Soderling-inspired FedEx package containing $84,700 sent from Kansas to their business in Hayward.

Golden Jubilee Ptarmigan Traverse. By David Yearsley (December 2002)

Fifty years ago this last summer my father — then about to be 16 years old — made his first trip over Cascade Pass, walking a long way up the lush western side of the Cascade Mountain, and then down into the arid country at the north end of Lake Chelan.

That was a different era, and not just because the creation of the North Cascades National Park was still more than a decade away.

The only person he and his father met in 1952 was a miner, one of the last of a breed whose lust for gold echoes in the names they gave some of the great peaks in the range: El Dorado, Johannesburg, Bonanza.

Long deprived of an audience, the miner was generous with his stories. In one he claimed to have tracked down a man who'd raped a fellow miner's Indian wife. When the miner found the rapist somewhere beyond Cascade Pass he disembowled him and filled his belly with rocks and sunk him to the bottom of a lake.

That's not the kind of story you're likely to hear in Cascade Pass these days.

There are no miners.

And though not exactly overrun with visitors when compared to the humanity that masses on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon at high season, Cascade Pass gets its share of hikers and climbers, and the talk is more likely to be about gear — state-of-the-art hydration systems; super-light packs; telescoping titanium trekking poles — than of lucky strikes and homicidal revenge.

Though our own stories didn't match the gothic pitch of the tale told by the long-dead miner, we weren't short on conversation on this, my father's 50th anniversary trip up to Cascade Pass and continuing further on to the south for the week-long high alpine route called the Ptarmigan Traverse.

The fourth member of our quartet — along with father, my brother, and myself — was my father's climbing buddy, Fred. Like my father, Fred's an incredibly fit and active guy in his 60s. His life's leisure time has been devoted to the outdoors: heli-skiing in the Canadian Rockies; cross-country ski routes on strenuous trips to the Alps and Canada and all over Washington; scuba-diving in several different oceans. He's climbed a dozen times, and up and down and over and through large chunks of the Cascade and Olympic Mountains.

This was his third time on the Ptarmigan. The last time he'd done the trip was with my father, when Fred had nearly killed him on Mt. Formidable by loosing a large boulder down onto my father's belay position. A desperate leap had spared my father, but the rock had smashed into his daypack and sent it bounding down the mountain. In spite of this incident, both old guys, but especially Fred, had Mt. Formidable on the brain, since they'd been stymied when only a hundred feet shy of the summit.

Fred is an orthodontist, and his approach to trail conversation reflects both his natural loquacity and the oratorical style of his profession: over the course of his 30-year career the trade in words between him and his recumbent clients must run at a staggering surplus on his side of the ledger.

All encountered along the trail and higher slopes — Japanese tourists, solo female hikers, young hot-shots headed to distant crags — are strapped into the metaphorical dental chair and orally encumbered with a suction tube, and then given the next chapter of Fred's ongoing monologue.

Luckily, Fred talks about good stuff: Butte Montana in the 50s; war loot in Guam, where he was stationed as an army doctor during Vietnam; the joys and perplexities of packing with donkeys; the sexual double entrendres scattered across the enlivening linguistic minefield of dentistry; the difficulties of Buxtehude's instrumental music; daunting mountain outings in the 70s with his young family of four kids in tow. This last point was a recurrent theme: every time my brother and I expressed our consternation when we found ourselves on some airy ledge or teetering over a menacing bergschrund, Fred would remind us that he had dragged a bunch of kids and a creaky-kneed wife along the same route.

Fred's banter does not detract from the scenery. The trail from the parking lot up to Cascade Pass runs up a valley below the North Face of Mt. Johannesburg. The face is a couple miles long, and a couple thousand feet high, the imposing rock formations made more menacing by dozens of hanging glaciers. Johannesburg embodies the North Cascade mystique: while its majesty implies ineluctable permanence it is paradoxically at its most majestic — and most deadly — when making a show of its impermanence. As the sun rises and the day warms up, these hanging glaciers send down a steadily increasing barrage of avalanches that echo like cannon shots across the valley.

In trying vainly to encompass the Johannesburg massif one sees — or perhaps only gets a sense of — a tableau so artfully formed and with such vertical grace that one might suspect a divine aesthetic plan. But then the postcard erupts: the mountain sends down deadly rocks and and ice; it draws in threatening weather and holds it to its flanks.

When we got to Cascade Pass after an easy four-mile hike, the trail ranger told us that in the spring a massive avalanche had come down from Johannesburg and crossed the valley below and gone several hundred feet up the facing hillside. Last winter was a big snow season in the North Cascades — the most heavily glaciated mountain range in the contiguous 48 states — and we could see large swaths of avalanche devastation there at the headwaters of the Cascade River. With the snow gone, believers in extra-terrestrial life might have suspected the work of aliens when confronted with the impossible sight of acres of massive fir trees having been blasted backwards up the slope by the gravity-defying progress of the avalanche.

But the biggest change at Cascade Pass since I was last there is the composting privy, sitting among a few blueberry bushes and scrub firs on a sunny hillside 50 feet up from the main gathering spot for hikers. The privy needs maximum sun to fulfill its mission of odorless and efficient decay, and this mission is incompatible with privacy. You are pretty well hidden from the folks down at the pass itself when you are perched on the warm seat amidst the shrubberies, but you are certainly not protected visually from anyone coming down the mountainside. For folks coming north along the Ptarmigan Traverse — the direction of the original 1937 party, a group of college students who called themselves the Ptarmigan Climbing Club — the glare of white buttocks may be the first sight that you see as you descend into the magnificent amphitheatre that is the pass itself.

Aside from this new organic amenity, most of our discussion at the pass centered on my brother Ross's feet. He had made the classic error of buying new boots on the way to the trailhead. After four miles both heels have big blisters, and one of them has popped. Fred has the technology — the latest in second skin and local anesthetics. And there are 30 more miles of scree, glaciers, and treacherous high heather ahead, and our packs are somewhere upwards of 50 pounds.

We head up the southern shoulder of Cascade Pass to Cache Col, the crest of which marks the border of North Cascade Park. Then we pick our way down through the talus to Kool Aid Lake and we pitch our tents next to its glacial green water fringed by snow fields flecked with bright orange bacteria patches, which I suppose were the inspiration for the silly name.

From our camp we have magnificent views north to the white volcano Mt. Baker and behind us the expansive northeast face of Mt. Formidable. The next few miles of the route continuation onto the Middle Cascade Glacier are plainly visible; it is a route that leads across a sheer rock formation by means of a steeply slanting feature called the Red Ledge. Ross and I suggest that this bit of terrain looks rather hairy. Fred is dismissive: “When we did this thing with all the kids, I remember the Christiansen girl Nelda was 13. She sat down on the Red Ledge and started reading ‘A Catcher in the Rye’ while she waited for everybody else to catch up.”

We scan the 200-300 feet of exposure below, and can think of better places to catch up on some reading. We're already questioning Fred's credibility, and ascribe such claims to camp bravura, impending senility, or the curious way the memory of giving certain unpleasant episodes a rosier construction with every passing year.

The old guys — legendary snorers both of them — are quarantined in their own tent, but the range of their nocturnal serenade is at least a hundred feet. Lucikly, I've brought the “eleventh essential” — earplugs. Even so, the night passes with little sleep and even less comfort.

Over breakfast I recommend a quick climb up Magic Mountain, since I've long admired this jagged peak, which dominates the view south from Cascade Pass. The mountain is only 1500 feet above us at Kool Aid Lake and without technical difficulty. My father, who, so far as I can remember, has never refused any offer to go up any peak whatever, is eager to join me. But Fred rejects Magic's merits, urging our party instead to concentrate on Mt. Formidable. I glance over at the mighty peak, which from this perspective certainly lives up to its name.

So we forgo Magic. It is only a few days later that my father informs me that a climber had been killed on Magic Mountain the year before — crushed by a bolder. Rockfall is the notorious hazard that has ended the lives of many an adventurer in the North Cascades. Several years back in another part of the Cascades, I saw my father fall past me onto a ledge below; with the fall the rope dislodged a huge boulder at least six-feet long. Paralyzed with fascination, neither horrified nor fearful, I watched the monolith emerge from the cliff face. Somehow the reluctance of its first movements made this rock seem benign, or perhaps simply so elemental that it wasn't a matter of fear or panic. There was simply nothing to be done. I stepped calmly to my right, as the giant stone pivoted slightly, remaining poised, almost reflective, as it considered what angle of descent it would take. Then it tipped out and hurtled down the cliff. I could feel the reverberations inside the mountain as the rock slammed into the ledge below, missing my father by a foot, as it sliced the rope into three pieces.

Ever since that incident I have been extremely wary of rockfall.

Then why was I in the North Cascades?

The four of us continue southward along the Ptarmigan. An hour later, with the snow icy and requiring crampons, we approach the Red Ledge. A threatening bergschrund guards its entrance, and on the ledge itself the footing is unreliable; the overhanging rock above tends to push one out over the edge. Gingerly, we negotiate these perils, and once safely on the Middle Cascade Glacier, Fred admits that Red Ledge was a little worse than he remembered. “There must have been some erosion,” he grins.

As we have an early lunch on a stone island in the middle of the glacier, we see a massive avalanche coming off a hanging glacier on the lower face of Mt. Formidable: a piece of ice as big as an 18-wheeler detaches itself and careens down the rocks breaking into what looks, at our distance of about a mile, like hundreds of bits of soft fluff. In fact, each piece is a lethal chunk of hard and heavy ice as big as a refrigerator.

We finish our lunch and rope up for the glacier, which is riven by several decent-sized crevasses. Conditions are ideal, and after a couple of hours we are at the top and peering over Spider Col which drops out of sight beyond a notch in the rock.

My father says he'll go take a look at this steep snow gully. “How's it look?” we call as he disappears out of sight. Repeated queries get no response.

My father is not a communicator in the mountains. More often than not all you can get out of him is a reflexive “What?” even though you know he's heard you perfectly well. Like an old goat, he just keeps on walking farther out to the edge, and then he blithely decides to go for it.

After a few minutes we see him glissade out of the shadow of the gully and onto the gentler slope a few hundred feet below. The rest of us rope down the steep part.

We traverse over to a saddle, and in the late afternoon make our second camp. After dinner, we climb up a snowfield to the ridge. The westerly peaks of the Cascades hover above the gray, green of the Puget Sound Basin, beyond Formidable, which dominates in the near twilight.

“How do you get up that thing?” I ask.

Fred grins, “It's tougher than it looks.”

* * *

The most formidable thing about Mt. Formidable is the rock: it's loose. From a technical point of view even the long direct routes up the peak's imposing northwest face are not that difficult, though they certainly look it. The most demanding moves are done with ease by the macho men of the climbing gym, and are not even beyond the physical capabilities of far less lithe, once-a-year mountaineers like myself. But this isn't the climbing gym, as would become clear when a large rock gives way as you pull yourself up on it. More than a few climbing deaths in the North Cascades have been choreographed in just this way.

Early in the morning we left our camp the second morning out and climbed an icy snowfield to a saddle and then descended a nasty gully of loose rock, dirt, and snow. It was about at this point that my brother — a recently retired ballet star and talented rock climber — started complaining about the “non-classic” nature of the route. To him, it seems, a “classic” allows one to test strength, balance, and conditioning, without worrying about being killed by a falling rock.

Having long-ago become inured to the backseat belly-aching of their progeny, our two senior guides — my father, John, and his buddy, Fred — simply ignored these complaints and forged blithely ahead.

Emerging from the gully and then crossing a long snowfield, we came to a high buttress. Although the old guys had attempted the peak a few years back, they seemed to be somewhat flummoxed by the immediate problems this feature presented.

Fred ventured up a steep seam and came to the lip of the buttress. Like a toddler feeling for unseen cookies on top of a table, Fred's hands fumbled out of sight above his head until he grabbed hold of a piece of basalt as big as a ukulele but a hell of a lot heavier. Gingerly, he pulled it past himself and let it tumble down the slope below.

Immediately, yet more strident complaints were heard from my brother's quarter about the non-classic nature of the proceedings. After the old guys directed him towards the two-days distant parking lot, he mumbled something about Neanderthal conditions, then sat down and reached into his pack for some beef jerky.

After more overhead explorations, Fred disappeared over the lip of the buttress and a shout was heard for us to proceed.

We followed him up and over to high slanting heather. Here and there large boulders had dislodged themselves from the steep and tenuous soil, leaving behind large craters. These apparently spontaneous leaps into the void by unthinking matter unsettled my brother and me still further.

We picked our way up to a high snowfield which was littering with bowling-ball-sized bit of rock thrown off the mountain. After putting on our crampons, we made our way up to a high snow-finger and then onto the rock of Mt. Formidable's towering summit block, which represented another several hundred vertical feet of climbing. From here up the mountain is a maze of blind gullies with no obvious route to the top.

From their previous outing on Formidable, our leaders knew to avoid the central and most seductive couloir — that was the one where Fred had sent a boulder down onto my father, who had saved himself, though not his pack, with a desperate leap out of its path.

The senior citizens decided that the way to proceed was to work right and then up a hidden couloir. Ross and I looked around at the broken, loose rock, and did not like the prospects of four guys roped together dodging downcoming boulders in a narrow gully.

“This rock is crap!” said Ross.

But Fred had summit-fever. “I've had a good life,” he said. “I'm going up.”

Before heading back down the snowfield for an inviting patch of heather, we collectively advised our father not to let Fred kill him this time around.

They roped up, and Fred led us around a broad ledge and up a chimney, knocking rocks down onto John, whose patience for this sort of thing approaches the transcendental.

Once safely back on the heather Ross and I dipped into our lunch, and then spent the next five hours gazing out at the mountains. With our senior partners clattering up unseen above us and knocking the occasional bowling ball-sized rock off the headwall, we were sure not to take off our helmets. On one of my excursions down to spy on a family of Ptarmigan, one of their blasted rocks came whizzing off the tower, made a few ecstatic leaps across the steep snow and hit me in the foot, nearly taking my boot off.

Finally, in the late afternoon we caught a glimpse of Fred's red helmet among the grayish brown rock, and then heard his singing voice drifting down sweetly on the warm alpine breeze: “Oh Lord, give me just one more year.”

An hour later they emerged from the couloir and made their way down the now-slushy snow to our vista point.

They'd been stymied less than a hundred feet from the top, and, as Fred put it so aptly, “The pucker factor was pretty high.”

John gave us a resigned look, and Fred lamented that it seemed now as if he'd never experience the elation of standing on top of Mt. Formidable. But from the look in his eyes, one had the feeling this wouldn't be the Climbing Orthodontist’s last attempt on this peak.

It was late when we at last struggled up the gully to the saddle above our camp. The sunset was bathing Formidable in a panoramic alpenglow, a fitting photographic backdrop for the fun-loving seniors, the joys of companionship driving any hint of ruefulness from their grins.

But the effort had clearly sapped their summit-lust. In years past, on this and other traverses, the old-timers would put down their packs every few hours and gambol up still another peak.

Not so on this trek, and that was just fine with the less hearty younger generation. The easy and inviting Mt. Leconte was bypassed after the long slog up the Lectone Glacier. Even the graciously formed Spider Mountain now did not seem to warrant the effort.

Much more rewarding than such travails amongst the teetering rocks is the steady progress across the relatively more stable terrain of trail, talus, heather, and snow. Less concerned with the rush to the next possible climbing set-piece than the pair of Himalayan hotshots our party encountered a few times along the course of the traverse, we could concentrate on the relationship between the geography, geology, and flora of our immediate passage, always measuring these observations against the encompassing views. Indeed, the chief marvel of the Ptarmigan Traverse is the way that, assuming good weather, each day takes you from one expansive and seemingly isolated network of mountains and glaciers, up through a high pass to the next stretch of mountains which spreads out before you not as a reprise of the country just left behind but as a mountainscape utterly different in its configuration and character. Indeed, each of the Ptarmigan's vast amphitheaters ringed by mountains seems completely self-contained, as if there is no easy way out of it, and perhaps even no way to get across to the other side of it.

Thus from our Formidable high camp we descended to the YangYang lakes, bright blue against their heather shores, encircled by the Formidable massif behind and the more heavily glaciated and sprawling Mt. Leconte, the verticality of its tremendous blue ice fall three miles directly across the valley sublimely implying the cirque that lay out of sight far below.

We skirted Mt. Leconte and made a long southerly traverse to the South Cascade Glacier, a relatively gentle river of ice that was formerly one of the longest glaciers in the range, but even in my father's time in these mountains is receding quickly up the valley. From here we bypassed the easily accessible Spider Mountain and dropped down the Spider Col to the White Rocks Lake, which seem to bring us to another planet than that of the Yang-Yangs we'd left behind earlier that day. Perched on a shelf over an enormous valley and across from the expanse of Dome Peak flanked by the riot of crevasses that is the Dana Glacier, the White Rocks Lake have little of the alpine graciousness of the Yang-Yangs; instead they offer a scene of matchless primordial beauty — brilliant green pools of water set in granite and glacial ice.

As we made our way up towards Dome Peak the next morning we looked behind us to see a herd of elk racing through the wetlands a couple thousand feet below. The rest of the morning was spent slogging up the Dana. By three in the afternoon we came up over the Gunsight Pass beyond which the world seemed to end. But a peek over the lip revealed the steep but easy descent down Spire Col.

Some pleasant glissading interrupted by rock outcroppings and the ubiquitous hazards of rockfall brought us to the Ipswoot Ridge and afforded a view across the broad southern side of Dome, the climb that traditionally closes out the Ptarmigan Traverse.

Ross and I were the first to arrive at Ipswoot Ridge, and quickly dropped our packs, which even after five days still seemed to weigh over 50 pounds.

After ten minutes Fred and John came lumbering in. This was certainly a pair of grizzled mountain men. I inquired about the route up Dome, and Fred said, “It's a hell of a long day up that thing. I've already done it twice, and I don't have any great desire to do it again. Don't get me wrong. I'm up for anything, but…”

These words came as a shock to me, since I had assumed that Dome was an integral part of the Ptarmigan ordeal. I looked to John, but he admitted that he wasn't thrilled at the prospect either. Ross, too, was hearing the clangor of civilization, the calls of familial obligation and kindred responsibilities.

Faced with this onslaught of indifference, I grabbed my pack. “Let's head out then.”

So we descended the ridge and spent the rest of the afternoon bathing in the bracing waters of Cub Lake and enjoying the view of Glacier Peak through the firs.

The hike out the next day is about 15 miles — a long way with a heavy pack and blistered feet. But little did we know that an avalanche even more devastating than the one whose aftermath we'd seen back at Cascade Pass had come down over the ridge and raced through a couple of miles through the forest. The upper reaches of the Bachelor Creek drainage looked like the Mt. St. Helen's blast zone, with trees up to three feet in diameter brought down in the thousands. Needless to say, the trail had also been erased by the avalanche.

What lay before us was a nearly impenetrable chaos of fallen trees whose branches had been ripped off leaving behind countless lethal spikes. One had to choose between climbing over a ten feet high stack of timber corpses or trying to crawl through those clusters which had fallen in such a way as to block almost all room for maneuvering. Teetering under the weight of the packs, one had to proceed tentatively over and through and under the spiked trunks and the ghastly petards of those stumps still rooted in the hillside.

Near the bottom of the avalanche you could hear the creek rushing below a thick mat of snow which had endured at this low altitude because it was insulated by the wreckage of trunks and boughs brought down by the slide.

Finally after a couple of hours we emerged into the pristine forest below. It had been a bit of a bloodbath, resulting in an impressive array of torn shorts and shirts, and diverse flesh wounds. I began to be thankful that I had not used up my energy reserves on Dome Peak.

The rest of that long final day we marched more than a dozen miles along a steep forested hillside through one of the loveliest stretches of Cedar and Douglas Fir I've ever encountered. Such was its beauty that I rarely thought about my behemoth pack and the pain-soaked feet.

Passing through this venerable forest remarkable for the dozens of twin Cedars and Douglas Fir growing side by side for what looked like several centuries was as sublime an experience as traversing the mighty glaciers.

But not the least revivifying aspect of the whole Ptarmigan Traverse was doing it with my father, brother, and good old Fred. The favored phrase for this sort of thing now seems to be male bonding, but I just call it a lot of laughs, and yet more living proof of the heartiness, skill, and capacity for fun which are the hallmarks of my immediate forebears. Long may they thrive!

After the drive back to Cascade Pass to get the other car and a celebratory dinner of buffalo burgers in Marblemont, we got back to Seattle by 1:30am. After a day of recuperation, Ross and I enlisted Ross's ten-year-old son for a rock-climbing adventure on The Tooth near Snoqualmie Pass. It was a wonderful climb, with young Johnny showing every bit of the agility and daring of his father. I won't tell you how we got the kid down off this 500-foot pillar once we realized he didn't know how to rappel. My mom (and therefore his grandmother) reads the AVA and she'd never let me hear the end of it. And anyway, that's another story. ¥¥


One Comment

  1. Jim Hill November 24, 2012

    “Disgusting. Mendocino tries to protect the environment and reduce the negative social impacts of an underground industry, and here come the Feds to bust the responsible growers who volunteered to take part, and to threaten the county officials who had the audacity to actually try to do something constructive amidst the wreckage of Prohibition”

    This is not the way it happened!
    Mendocino County officials were not motivated by protecting the environment or reducing the social impacts of an underground industry. The county was trying desperately to find ways to fund 7 deputies jobs with “other” revenue. The Sheriff pleaded with the board to hold off funding cuts that would have reduced his staff.
    The Board was begged by advocates to place 9.31 on a county wide ballot to let the people decide. The Board decided they knew best and passed it anyway.
    Colorado and Washington let the people decide and now the Feds have a much more complex issue to deal with.
    If the Board had let the electorate decide, and it passed, the Feds then would be in a similar situation here as in the two other states facing a legal battle by trying to commandeer local voter decisions.
    The Board liability would be much different if they were implementing a voter passed ordinance.
    The big problem???
    The voters of Mendocino would have rejected 9.31 at the polls and the Board would have to find another way to fund the 7 deputy positions. Mendocino voters would be unlikely to pass a tax that only applies to you if you have a serious medical condition. Yes, 9.31 was only a tax on sick people!
    If you still believe 9.31 was only a fee, ask how many deputy jobs were terminated when the fee that supported their employment was no longer collected.
    What a tangled web we weave when we intend to deceive !

    As always just my opinion,
    Jim Hill
    Potter Valley
    The Supes knew that if they put 9.31 to a county vote it would likely not pass.

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