Archive for March, 2019

PUBLIC SHAMING

March 30, 2019

As soon as I took a step towards the other side of the trail, right behind a crew member starting his chain saw, I knew it was a bad move. Oh well, I jumped quickly to the brush on the other side of the trail just I heard the chain saw roar behind me.  That was stupid, I thought, and I won’t do that again. I was carrying an axe and a hard plastic wedge, and my job was helping the sawyer by being ready to pound the wedge into the top cut to keep it open and keep the saw from binding.  But I should have waited before going to the other side.  

For the second straight week, we were clearing trail out by the Middle Fork Ranger Station near Oakridge.  The Wren Trail was normally a short, easy walk, but scores of large old growth and other trees had been brought down by the winter storm that shut down the county for a week, and the prior week the smaller chain saws used were limited in what could be cleared.

Today, we had cleared a couple of dozen big trees, 2+ feet in diameter, 200+ year-old Western hemlocks with a few Douglas firs and Western red cedars as well.  The trail was open for use again, and we were finishing a spur trail to a nearby road, making several cuts in a downed Douglas fir. It had been a good day, and the eight of us felt good about what we had done.  Nobody got hurt, although one man with whom I was working had a log brush his knee brace.

Before, during, and after. Each area that is cleaned needs to be planned, each log has to have its cut planned, and we need to be better at planning how we will get the logs off the trail. Near Middle Fork Ranger District office, Westfir, Oregon.

Shortly before we drove home, we gathered for a “tailgate session.”  I had been out more than thirty times with this group, and while we did morning tailgate safety sessions, this was the first afternoon one I had encountered. 

One of the two leaders, an experienced man in his 70s, who had spent decades cutting, looked around at all of us.  He looked at me, and then again at others, and I knew what was coming.  He finally looked at me again:

“You,” he said, pointing his finger at me, but not menacingly, “went around the saw as it was being started.  That is the worst possible time to do it.” The sawyer next to him with whom I had been working the whole day nodded agreement.

I don’t know who was looking at me, but I’m sure everyone else was.  I hadn’t been dressed down in public in a long, long time, and it stung.

“As soon as I went, I knew it was wrong,” I stammered.  And I heard again that saws starting up are most unstable.  That I didn’t know.  But I knew I was wrong.

The group discussed a few other things about safety, at least not involving me, but not involving any one individual.  I wasn’t going to say anything more, a decent approach, but I decided I would anyway.

“We need to stop and think before pushing logs off the trail that have just been cut,” I said.  This has been an issue on many of the outings I have been on, and it bothered me.  “I want to help, but if I’m not sure what the plan is, I am not going to hurt myself moving something until I get into position.”

Nobody said much. I’d seen far too many people in the woods push, lift, pull, or otherwise move logs without proper lifting care.  We were all old; sooner or later, bad technique causes problems.  Even good technique can.  I hurt my knee last summer by pushing in a way I thought was appropriate, but with which my knee disagreed.  I said probably the most important thing of all, although I didn’t appreciate it until later, and the others may not have even noticed: “we need to pay as much attention to moving the downed logs as we do to cutting therm.”

The worst thing that happened?  Being called “You.” He didn’t even know my name. I have worked with this man at least a dozen different days in the woods.  I’ve ridden in his vehicle three times 2 hours to a place and 2 hours back.  I talked to him at a benefit for the Crew at a bar because he was standing by himself and I didn’t see anybody else familiar.  OK, some people are bad at names, and I am one, so I wrote my name on the back of my hardhat.  He didn’t take the effort to know whom he was criticizing.

He should have taken me aside right then in the woods and told me why I did what I did was wrong.  That’s how you learn. Then, he could mention it at the tailgate briefing as something he has seen. I would have known it was about me, but I would not have been shamed. Instead, I felt “I’m once again at the bottom of the experience ladder and everybody else knows I’m a screwup and I shouldn’t come out here any more with the group and I just want to go home.”

If nothing else, he could have at least asked my name.

He didn’t.  He dressed me down in public, which my father and the military both taught me you never, ever do.  On board my ship, I heard a lot of yelling behind closed doors, and I saw chastened people afterwards, looking like they had been through a verbal wringer, but they at least had the dignity—yes, the dignity—of knowing that nobody else saw the scene.

Medical training was full of public dressing downs.  Woe to the physician, who, after having been up all or most of the night, didn’t have all the lab tests or a complete differential diagnosis on a patient right at his (usually his) fingertips.  It stings.  It can bring tears.

I saw a public dressing down of one of my classmates at New Mexico State when I was in grad school, and as one not involved in the issue, I felt so uncomfortable that I wanted to be somewhere else—anywhere else—at that time.  It was really ugly, and until this issue in the woods, I had repressed that day some twenty years ago.

When there is a dressing down, here are the reactions:

1. Try to become perfect, even if it is impossible, because perfection avoids mistakes, and mistakes are bad, bad, bad.  Rational? Of course not. But this is not a rational matter; it’s a deeply emotional one.

2.  Defend by attacking.  This same person who didn’t know my name was cutting a log a few weeks ago and not wearing a hard hat.  I deleted the picture I took of him. We don’t want to show that stuff.  We had too many people working in too small of a space today. That was unsafe, and nobody spoke up. We don’t lift properly, as I mentioned earlier. I did at least try to speak up, but it went nowhere. But none of that absolves me from my error, and bringing up examples of other errors is distracting and wrong.

3.  Stick to yourself, stay quiet, stay out of the way.

4.  Hide the error if possible.  A lot of doctors hide errors, because the ultimate dressing down in public—malpractice trial, which I have gone through—is intellectual rape

I’ll still work trails.  I know with whom I will try to work, however, and with whom I will try not to.  I’m a volunteer, after all, and while I’m not experienced at trail work, I’m not a beginner any longer or even a novice.  I go out to be in the woods, try to make current trails accessible again, and do good. I can go alone if I wish.

I’m a natural teacher.  Today, when the young woman at the drug store couldn’t make change properly, and I had to patiently explain the transaction to her two different ways, I did not berate her.  She felt badly enough and apologized for her lack of math.  I told her quietly not to worry about it.  If she’s good, she will worry about it, and she will get better,  but at least it was between me and her.  Nobody else.

BLUE DIAMONDS, WHITE SNOW

March 26, 2019

I had a lot of other things I probably needed to do last Tuesday. There was a trail over in the Drift Creek Wilderness that needed scouting for downed logs, with GPS coordinates, so the trail group, the Scorpions, which I am part of, could tell those who were going to log it out what to expect.  That would still have to wait. I needed to be in the Math Lab at the community college, because it was finals week. 

But I had put off my winter trail checking trip way too long. I am one of the winter trail adopters for snowshoe and cross-country skiing.  I needed to go up into the mountains, hope the snow wasn’t too deep to bury the markers, but deep enough so I could both find and reposition upward trail markers, blue diamonds nailed to trees. I also needed to replace those diamonds that were broken or missing.  I didn’t do it last winter, because the snow wasn’t deep enough.  I had done a pre-season look in October, an 11 mile hike from Gold Lake to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), south to the Rosary Lakes, out at Willamette Pass.  But one person can put up a diamond marker on a tree only so far standing on ground, and I was not about to carry a ladder into the woods and stand on it to mark trails.  It is too dangerous, and my wife has regaled me of X-Rays she has seen of people with horrific injuries with the history, “Fell off ladder.” People my age die from minor ladder falls. If any may be considered minor.  Standing on several feet of snow is a good ladder and a lot safer.

I shared this trail duty with another, but it now appears it is my duty alone.  Such happens.  Anyway, I knew what I had to do, so I drove up to Willamette Pass Ski Area on Tuesday, when the place was closed, parked the car on the shoulder of Highway 58, walked past the wet pavement of the parking lot, past a cabin, put on my snowshoes, and headed towards the PCT.  The estimated 10 mile snowshoe would be half on the PCT coming in and out, the rest going up the Tie Trail, nearly a mile long, climbing several hundred feet, connecting the PCT to Tait’s Loop. From Tait’s, I would try to find the PCT again near Maiden Saddle and return via Upper Rosary Lake, back past Middle and Lower Rosary Lakes and out the PCT the way I had come in.  I hoped some trail would be broken with prior tracks, but I wasn’t so sure about the Tie Trail or Tait’s Loop.

Map of part of Willamette Pass. Contours are 40 feet.

 

It was warm, with mostly clear skies and light wind, and I started in a shirt, rain jacket in my day pack and a smaller pack around my waist with a hammer, nails, and five dozen blue diamond markers. The trail initially was broken, snow deep on either side, message board at the trailhead almost buried.  The trail along the PCT parallels the highway for a while, climbing about 150 m or 500 feet in a little more than two miles or about 3 km.  It isn’t difficult, and the last part is almost level.  It’s work but not excessive.  It took me about an hour and change to get to the Tie Trail, where I noted, with a little sinking feeling, no tracks. Perhaps nobody could find the trail: the Tie Trail turns about 150 degrees left and isn’t obvious, so I added two more diamonds to show people where the trail was, and I raised another that was almost at snow level.  The snowpack was slightly above normal, which is reassuring for summer, especially since the valley is in significant drought.  

Blue Diamond in western Hemlock. I try to keep the nails only in the thick bark, not penetrate the cambium.

I started breaking trail in the deep snow, sinking in 1-2 feet and also climbing. The plan was to reposition diamonds higher and make sure from one diamond, one could reasonably be expected to see the next.  This slowed me down, as I had to come up to trees, pull out the hammer, remove nails, remove the diamond and reposition it. Fortunately, most of the diamonds were in good shape and I just had to deal with climbing in soft snow.  The trail went through the woods steeply upward, with a couple of switchbacks, followed by a long gradual uphill to the ridge to Tait’s Loop, adjoining the ski area. 

The diamonds are so necessary, because in the woods in winter, many open paths look like the trail. This diamond needs to be repositioned upwards.

I hadn’t been on Tait’s this winter, but I remembered most of the trail well, and I knew the top part was a lot longer and more difficult than I gave it credit for.  Eventually, I reached the junction at about 6300’ and turned south towards the viewpoint to Lower Rosary Lake, far below me. The Diamonds were in good position, and I didn’t have to fix each one, but if on one side of a tree a diamond was too low, the other side would be, too.

I worked my way around to the center of the loop and had to decide whether to complete the rest of the loop by the ski area and go back down the way I came or continue towards Maiden Saddle.  The head of Winter Trails wanted that area checked as a favor to a friend who was responsible for it. I decided to commit myself to a longer hike and continued along the ridge, found the sign that normally is 12 feet off the ground in summer but now has the top easily reached by my hand.  

I need to go north this year as well, to Maiden Peak Shelter and check those diamonds. Perhaps this weekend.
Lower Rosary Lake from Tait’s Loop

Tait’s Loop from frozen Lower Rosary Lake

The descent was gradual, soft, with my legs sinking in often.  Half way down, I stopped for lunch overlooking the lakes below.  I looked on track for getting done in mid-afternoon and getting home in the early evening.  The grade continued steadily downhill until I saw no more diamonds to follow.  There weren’t any, or maybe there were, but buried.  In any case, I lost the trail.  This has happened to me before here, and I made a note that it will need to be fixed in summer, when the trail is visible and enough markers can be placed high enough to be seen.  I went straight down the hill towards frozen and snow-covered Upper Rosary Lake.  I crossed ski tracks and saw diamonds, but they again disappeared after a short distance.  I continued down further towards the lake and crossed the well-marked main trail.  I was several miles and a few hours into the trip, and I did not have the energy to try climb back up to mark the trail accurately. That would have to wait.  I at least knew where the problem was. 

Continuing in softer snow, the afternoon sun warm, I passed along the east side of each of the three Rosary lakes, left the south end of Lower Rosary Lake, and reached the Tie Trail a half mile later, where I began the loop three hours earlier.  From there, it was back out on a good track, with a gentle descent back to the car.

JUST SAYIN’

March 25, 2019

It’s time again for my annual urology appointment.  Well, more like every 15 months.  After each visit, I am told that they will call me for my annual appointment, but when they call and I set up the time, I hear how busy the doctor is and end up being scheduled about 6 weeks past the year.  It is adding up.  Hope I don’t have a high PSA this time around and hear “You should have been seen sooner.”  Just sayin’.

This time, I got an email telling me I would have a chance to check in online.  If I did that, I could arrive 15 minutes earlier; otherwise I would have to come 30 minutes earlier. I could arrive on time and be just fine, since I will probably have to wait. Last year it was about 45 minutes; again, my physician is very busy.

In any case, I checked in online, which started off quickly by my proving who I was and how I wanted my medical information received. I appreciated that the date of birth could be typed right in and it would appear after the slashes, rather than having to use drop down menus for months (I’m at the bottom), dates (closer to the top), and year (long, long ways down). I also appreciated that I could type my phone number in without parentheses or hyphens. Or country that began with US/Canada and not Afghanistan. I could have done without the comments “we are mandated to do xxx by the federal government.”  Yes, you are, and because my medical profession didn’t pay sufficient attention to privacy, had sloppy record keeping, and medical personnel blabbed about patients in public places. I remember those days.  Just sayin’.

Then I got to the review of systems (ROS), with a surprising limitation of choices.  I have a lot of conditions that I could mention, like my palpitations, but the past year has been good, and I couldn’t state that.  There was no place I saw for sleep issues, and that plus its treatment have direct bearing on one of my urological issues. As a result, my ROS seems nondescript when it isn’t.  “How has your health changed since the last time you were seen here?” Is a much better question, but there are no boxes to check for that.  Just sayin’.

I had to check “None” to each one by hitting a dropdown box, when in fact it would have been faster and saved me time to have to hit one button than to click the drop down menu and hit the None button.  Apparently, however, the default for recreational drug use was “Yes,” and I kept trying to write “None.”  Young people have no problem with these forms because (1) they are used to them or (2) perhaps many are using such drugs.  Not really sure.  Just sayin’.  Anyway, I finally found the “No” button, which could have been more prominent.

The problem with these sorts of ROS is that nobody learns much from them.  There’s no time. But I have long learned that coding is important in medical practices these days, and a big part of getting more money is having a ROS documented.  I know, because ROS was never much part of a dictated H&P (History and Physical) after physicians were in practice until it was reimbursed at a higher code back in the late ‘80s.  Then the (hospital/doctor’s offices) wanted it.  By having the ROS filled out beforehand, one can save 5-10 minutes of often boring questioning, maybe more, upcode and bill more, without having to do anything. Everybody is busy. 

Interestingly, I noted that there were no questions about sexual problems, and this is a urology office.  Sexual function and urology go together. They do in embryology and they do in adulthood. Now, maybe I didn’t look carefully enough, but hey, I’m the patient, so if I have trouble, someone else may, too. After all, many patients who see urologists are old.  Then again, sexual dysfunction may not be high on the radar. Be glad you are alive, old timer. Don’t push your luck. Just sayin’.

At the end, after requiring my agreement to release of privacy information (if I wanted to be seen), I was taken to a form for release of genetic code for research.  This stopped me for a minute.  I don’t have a problem with research, but I have a sense—not totally rational perhaps, but it’s still my sense—that there are privacy issues and someone’s getting free material from me without donor recompense.  I ended up signing it anyway and moved on to the last part, the use of material by PR (not their real name), the company that owned the checkin software.  I started to copy and paste the material into “Pages” to do a quick word count (just curious) when I saw the word “advertising.”  

Whoa.  What’s this?

The company would then be able to send me marketing materials (that’s advertising.)  Well, I checked the definite NO on the form, but I wonder how many my age just checked it YES, because they felt they had to. I looked up PR online and learned that it was a software company.  Going further,  I looked at Web pages that didn’t have the name of the company and might give me a more unbiased look at who they were.

Many of the responses in a survey were from happy medical office workers.  Lot of 5s out there and glowing testimonials.  But I looked at the “cons” and read that young people liked this approach, whereas older people (like me) had more trouble (like trying to check “No” on substance abuse).  When I hit the worst evaluations, there were comments about this program not working in their office and difficulty severing a relationship with the company. 

What surprised me, besides my realization yes, I really am old, is why this urology practice would use software that the elderly didn’t like.  As I said, every year I see a lot of real old people in there from my vantage, and if I am having trouble, I can only imagine what difficulties they are having.  Except not sexual ones, judging by the lack of pertinent questions.  Glad we’re still here.  Just sayin’.

Last year, in addition to seeing the doctor, whom I do like and who is good, he had a scribe, so he could actually look at me and not the screen. It’s disquieting to have a doctor focused on the screen and not me.  The physician is missing something, no matter what he/she thinks.   Some look at a patient because they were told that eye contact mattered and they needed to do it so that the patient would check the right button in the inevitable survey afterwards. I always looked at a patient, because in neurology looking is how we made the diagnosis.  I still quietly diagnose people in public.  

Those of us old-fashioned docs used to ask nurses, “Does the patient look sick because a good nurse could answer it quickly, accurately and it mattered.  The scribe took away some of the privacy, and these days privacy is disappearing about as quickly as wilderness.  It’s a little strange to be having a prostate exam with a young woman on the other side of a thin curtain.  At least I find it strange.  Could she be in another room? I think it would help.  Just sayin.’

Anyway, the presenter of a scribe takes away privacy.  Yeah, yeah, I know.  It will be kept private.  

Like Facebook.

NO, IT CAN’T BE ANYTHING

March 18, 2019

A panda walks into a bar and eats shoots and leaves.  Lynne Truss’ book with that title showed how punctuation matters in a sentence.  In both instances, the panda had a meal.  What isn’t clear is whether the meal was plant based or whether a firearm was involved.

Punctuation matters.  Words do, too. They matter greatly in science, where miscommunications occur with the public with common words.  The word “theory” in general usage means a guess.  In science, a theory is a statement of what one believes based on a compilation of facts. Gravity is a theory.  So is relativity.  So is evolution.  Our understanding may be incomplete, but we are hardly guessing at what is occurring, and a great deal of our daily lives are made easier because of theories. Newtonian mechanics got us to the Moon, but we need Einstein’s relativity to calculate Mercury’s orbit accurately.

Two or more sides to a story don’t mean all sides have equal weight. They do on a die, but not the sum on a pair of dice. The numbers 1-6 come up with equal probability for a die.  There are 11 possibilities with the sum of two dice, but the probabilities are very different for each, from 1/36 for 2 (or 12) to 1/6 for 7.

There is uncertainty in scientific results.  Unfortunately, the lay public views “uncertainty” differently.  In general usage means one isn’t sure and in fact may be guessing.  Malpractice lawyers love to misuse these words, “Were you uncertain?”  If one answers “A little,” then the next comment may be, “So, you really didn’t know what was going on, did you?” putting words in one’s mouth and treating the uncertainty of a diagnosis as a character flaw and a substandard physician.  I’ve been there. When I practiced neurology, I had many instances where I was uncertain of the diagnosis, and frequently the patients, through having been told by someone else or not listening to me, felt that I had no idea what was going on.  Neurology is one of the most difficult specialties in all of medicine, but I was usually considering several diagnoses.  Also, the fact that I could not cure a person with a severe brain injury didn’t mean I was uncertain of what was going on.  

We demand temperature predictions to the nearest degree and rainfall’s beginning to the nearest minute despite inability to correctly predict these regularly.  A temperature range would be a far better forecast.

Uncertainty in science is vastly different from how the public perceives it, and it is one reason many phenomena with a high degree of confidence (another important word) are not believed, because of such uncertainty: “they really don’t know for sure.” The difference is that uncertainty is usually quantified in science.  If we say we are 95% confident of a result, that means if we ran one hundred simulations or saw this particular phenomena one hundred times, 95 of them would contain the value we were measuring.  We wouldn’t know which 95, but it is far from the “anything can happen,” approach, and it doesn’t mean that 5% of the time we don’t have a clue.  Consider “95% certain there is a fracture in your hand,” a probability, which when studied was far less.   It doesn’t mean that there is a 95% probability the interval is right; it either is or it isn’t, and that makes no probabilistic sence.

If one tosses a fair coin four times, one would expect it to come up heads twice.  This is the expected value, 50% probability of heads each time*4=2.  But a priori, we are uncertain. It may come up heads all four times with probability 6.25%, one-half multiplied by itself four times.  Or, it may come up three heads 1/4 of the time, two heads 3/8 of the time, one head 1/4 of the time, and no heads 1/16 of the time.  

If somebody told me I would have to pay them a dollar for every time exactly two heads occurred, because that is the expected value, and I would have to pay them a dollar every time it came up some other number, I would take that bet in a heartbeat.  Am I certain of winning?  No, but the probability—future oriented—of my winning is 62.5%, and that is solid. I am uncertain what will exactly happen, but I am highly certain what the probabilities are and my expected gain. Casinos don’t take money from everybody; they occasionally lose big, but over time, they win, and furthermore, they have a very good idea of the range of their winnings.

With 10 coin tosses, there is a 1.1% probability that there will be 9 or 10 heads.  The expected number, 5, has slightly less than a quarter probability of occurring, no longer 3/8.  Notice that extreme events still occur but with much lower probability with a few more attempts.

Toss a coin 20 times and the likelihood of 90% heads or more is on the order of 1 in 5000, not 4.5%, and the probability of 50%, or 10 heads, is less, about 1 in 6.  The likelihood of exactly half, the expected value, diminishes, but the variability decreases much faster, and more and more of the outcomes cluster closely around 50%, even if they are not 50% exactly.  

It’s like weather and climate.  There are many who say if we can’t predict the weather accurately, how can we possibly predict climate?  It’s because climate is made up of many weather events over a long period of time, where exact averages are not likely to occur very often, but the variability around those averages is much less.  Indeed, extreme values will be far less likely unless the system itself changes.  The issue for science is to try to predict as accurately as possible, but science recognizes that there is always a certain degree of uncertainty—not that we have no idea what is going on, but exact predictions of many phenomena may be impossible. Instead, there is an interval, the “plus or minus,” stating the range where the true value of the parameter of concern is believed to lie.  We will never know that true, exact value, but we are very confident in its interval.

Uncertainty doesn’t mean “it can be anything.”  No, 100 consecutive heads cannot occur with any sensible probability. Indeed, even 75 or more heads has probability 0.0000002, the likelihood of guessing a second chosen at random in the past two months.  It’s only about a 1 in 6 chance there will be 55 or more heads.  

I have long argued in climate scenarios that those who believe there is no significant global warming occurring must offer a confidence interval of what they think the temperature will be in 10, 50, or 100 years.  The interval would be expected to contain zero, no change.  It is not enough to say the current data are wrong. What is the margin of error?  What is the confidence?  It can’t be 100%, for that would be saying one could look at thousands of variables and know exactly how they would behave.

Uncertainty is reality. We embrace it in science, do not consider it a sign of weakness but a strong statement of “we could be wrong, but this is how wrong we can reasonably expect to be.”  

SUMMER CAMP

March 1, 2019

I walked into the Club’s lodge shortly before the informational meeting about the annual summer camp.  There was a potluck in progress, where at least eighty were eating.  I stayed out in the foyer with a few others.  Summer camps are where the Club goes to some interesting place, camps out, hikes, and provides breakfast, lunch and catered dinners.  With luck, there are showers and pit toilets.  

Damn, there were a lot of people there, and being around crowds isn’t my thing.  I spoke to a few people while waiting, and then as everything was cleared away, I noted that I probably knew a third to half the people there through hiking.  It wasn’t like I was a stranger there.

I went to the meeting, because I wanted to see if going to Glacier National Park for summer camp was something I wanted to do.  It was planned for early September, and I canoe in late September.  I don’t like doing two trips close together. It was a two day drive, the northern Rockies can be cold at night or be on fire.  Lot of the latter these past few years.  About a third of the attendees would be staying in hotels, so actual campers would be fewer, but then again, some people I knew well might not be going to evening meals or events, opting to stay warm, dry or quieter in the hotel.  I don’t know if fewer at the evening session would enhance or detract from the camp experience, and I don’t know how I would feel either way.

The hikes themselves were good, including one that was on the “20 best” of the world.  I am leery about these sorts of recommendations, because those rating these hikes have different values from mine, and the better a hike is rated, the more people decide to take it.  I can think of a lot of great,hikes I’ve taken where there was nobody. Maybe that is why they were so enjoyable.

The camp sounded well thought out and put together.  The organization was excellent.  It usually is.

And I won’t be going.

I’ve been to two summer camps before, one in the Ruby Mountains of Nevada, the other in the North Cascades.  Both had interesting hikes, although when we were there, it was in the 90s at 7000’ in Nevada and hit 100 in the North Cascades.  The West is hot in summer.  In the Northern Cascades, we had smoke after the second day, limiting hiking to only a few places.  It burns a lot in the West in summer, too.  

Of course, the weather might be perfect, with 70s in the day, 50s at night, rain only at night, and not a lot of crowds.  That does happen occasionally.  

I don’t enjoy summer camp all that much.  The first year, I agreed to take a “Leader” job which never should have been offered to a first time attendee.  I ended up working in the kitchen doing dishes both morning and evening, since the evening guy didn’t show up until the second day and left early.  Many attendees leave camp early so they don’t have to help with breaking down the camp, which takes maybe two hours if enough people are there.

As a leader, I was late getting started on hikes, which began right after breakfast, and I was doing dishes.  I missed a lot of information at the first evening campfire, because I was doing dishes.  I arrived at camp late enough that I didn’t have a good place to pitch my tent, and was immediately waylaid by two to see if I could give them a ride home at the end of camp, before I had even figured out where I was going to be sleeping.

There were a lot of inside jokes and some inane skits, and I don’t have a great sense of humor after hiking all day and doing dishes at night.  I also didn’t need the catty remark about how my camp chair was “one to get rid of,” from one who had used and didn’t like it.  There’s no shortage of advice in the Club about gear, diet, medical issues, and a host of other things.  

I went to the North Cascades mostly because (1) I wanted to see them and (2) I wasn’t going to be a “Leader” but just one who had two one hour jobs a week (one of the organizers said it would be one.  I chuckled to myself.)

I led a couple of hikes, and one individual complained for days after how I went to a lake that wasn’t very pretty.  Mind you, these are “Explora Hikes,” meaning the leader has not hiked the area before.  If there is a trail to a lake I haven’t seen, I think it might be worth seeing.  No, we didn’t see much, because brush clogged the shore, but it was only a 15 minute detour out of a 5 hour hike, not worth the half dozen or more times I caught grief about it. I suspect a lot of people heard how I led such a crappy hike.

After the second day, the smoke and hot weather moved in and stayed. I awoke more than once at night wondering how we would get out of our dead end road if a fire started nearby.  There was a fire burning 20 miles north that would eventually consume 100,000 acres. I was happy to leave there days later.

I would see new country at Glacier, only having been there in 1970.  But I can see plenty of new hiking country near home.  I would like to hike the entire Timberline Trail around Mt. Hood or the many hikes near Crater Lake.  I would not be gone as long, and frankly—this is my biggest reason—I don’t want to be away from home all that much.  I like where I am, and I have been fortunate enough to have seen a good deal of the world.  

If I were single and had no animals, that might be different.  But I am not and do, and ties to home are strong.  I will see the eclipse in the South Pacific this year, and I will canoe in the Boundary Waters in late September, which I absolutely want to do, because the country, so familiar and so special, draws me back every year.  That’s enough big trips.

For those who go to Glacier, I hope they have a great trip, the weather cooperates, the hikes go according to plan, the leaders better than I, and they return with wonderful memories of the northern Rockies.  

I’ll have my own memories made my own way.

Goat Lake, Ruby Mountains, Nevada, August 2016

Rainy Lake, below the 12 mile Maple Pass Loop, North Cascades, August 2017