Yellow Brick Road of OpportunitiesNobody told me the mountains were going to be this addictive. Mid Life Crisis . . . here I come. As a teenager growing up in Eugene Oregon, the region offered endless activities. Of course I am referencing the backcountry possibilities. The McKenzie highway is a yellow brick road of opportunity.
My favorite thing to do on the “Old McKenzie River Pass” was to nordic-cross country ski. (McKenzie Pass elev. 5335 ft/1623 m is a mountain pass in the Cascade Range in Central Oregon, United States. It is located at the common border of Linn, Lane, and Deschutes counties, approximately 20 mi (32 km) northwest of Bend, between the Three Sisters to the south and Mt. Washington to the north. Oregon Route 242 passes over the pass).
A bunch of us teenagers (children from the 70’s) would trail up to the gate, park the rig, cross country ski to the top and build a snow cave. We would hang out in and around this snow cave for a day and ski back down. Then we would hit the Cougar Hot Springs (Terwilliger Hot Springs). We would hike up about a mile (very steep grade) to these pools and warm up.
How to build a snow cave
Oh how I wish I could return to that time and place. Still, I sit here today and feel that I didn’t take full advantage of living in the Willamette Valley and truly enjoy everything it had to offer. I forgot how rewarding and beautiful the mountains were.
SummitPostI told my wife 2 years ago after a near death health issue that I was going to spend more time with my family and children. I was going to start appreciating everything a lot more. I was going to do things, try different things . . . I wanted to LIVE!
So one of the things I decided to do was get back into the mountains. I wanted to explore my old climbing hiking addiction. I re-started in February of this year and received wonderful support from someone who is a member of Summitpost. He stated simply, “Slowly work your way up to the harder stuff. The great thing about mountain climbing is you are challenging yourself, yet you can share the experiences with others.”
We are all so fortunate to have this opportunity to share our experiences and data. Summitpost consists of professionals, reformed ex smokers, fatties and some mid life crisis folks as well. They are hikers, bikers, scramblers, climbers and trad climbers. They are photographers, college students, boy scouts and just a huge collection and combination of all types.
The most common denominator among this cadre of people is their insatiable appetite for being in the mountains. It’s an itch you can’t make go away until you are at the trailhead or the bottom of a sheer faced rock or for some, the summit (Ok for those of you that are snickering, just use Hydrocortisone for your itch).
For me, all I think about is my next quest, the next journey. Who is it going to be with? What will we encounter? Makes it very hard to sleep! When I wake from what little slumber I did get, I am hungry for more backcountry and mountain opportunities.
Recently, I watched from the cozy confines of my warm home as a foreign government stopped expeditions on a well known mountain. It became obvious to me that we are very lucky to be able to hit the backcountry with full force and desire to accomplish a goal. For me, it has been a long journey home.
I hope I get to meet some of you along the way or out on a trail. Until then, take care of yourselves, your families and our mountains. I wish you all the best and safe return to your places of abode.