Going Home to Rainier

My husband and I came back to Mount Rainier this weekend. We rented the Jimmy Beech House – the same house where my dad, Dee Molenaar, celebrated his 100th birthday two years ago. It felt good to be back. I remembered Dad surrounded by his old mountaineering friends and his family as they celebrated him. He sat in that chair and slept in that bed. And he laughed and reminisced and stuck his finger in the icing of his cake right over there.

It rained on us this weekend – buckets of wet fell from the sky and dumped on us – it was GREAT! While we were inside we drank tea and watched movies and The Seahawks and sat in front of the fire in the fireplace – it was very cozy. But we also went hiking, of course, because… well, that’s what hikers do, right? We drove up to Paradise on Saturday and did a quick hike up to Alta Vista to say hi to Mom and Dad’s ashes. It stopped raining for a bit and we watched the clouds drift by in the valley below us. When we got back down to Paradise it started snowing – great windy gusts of snow blowing in our faces and whipping around us – the first snowfall of the season there. We’d started a second hike, but turned around at Myrtle Falls because of the weather.

Today we drove back up to the park, but only went as far as Longmire this time. (When we entered the park we were told by the ranger lady that there was a lot of snow at Paradise now and traction tires were recommended. I’m glad we got up there yesterday.) So we did a quick easy hike on the Trail of Shadows loop and then hiked a bit up the Wonderland Trail towards Cougar Rock Campground.

I told my husband about a hike I remembered doing years ago in my twenties – Eagle Peak – and thought maybe that was something we could do while we were at Longmire – I remembered it as fairly easy. But when we checked it out we saw it was labeled “strenuous” and was more than seven miles long with an elevation gain of 3,000 feet. Which. What the heck?! I started sort of chuckling then, remembering my strong young self – and the adventures I used to have – going off by myself for a “quick hike” of some peak. I’m so glad I had those adventures! And I’m also really glad I survived them.

I didn’t mention my dad to strangers all weekend. This is kind of a big deal for me. Normally I find every opportunity to let people know I’m the daughter of a famous mountaineer and I used to work at Rainier and… and… did I mention I’ve climbed to the summit? But this weekend I kept all that a secret. I asked other people for directions. I played the part of the tourist. And it felt really good.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Here are some photos from this weekend…

Bringing Dad’s Ashes Home to Rainier

We brought Dad’s ashes back to his home – the slopes of Rainier. Afterwards, down below, a breeze swirled around us – enveloped us in the fragrance of the forest – and I could feel Moz and Dad in the breeze – celebrating with us – surrounding us in love and joy.

Here’s a link to a video of the marmot.

(Photos by Karen Molenaar Terrell.)

“Go to your happy place.”

Breathe, Karen. Go to your happy place.

You’re in a meadow at the end of the Skyline Divide trail. Mount Baker is right in front of you. Shuksan is to the left. Scott and the sons are with you. Dad is painting a picture just a few yards away from you. Moz sits on a log. A bird has just landed on her finger and she’s smiling at it. There are alpine butterflies – lots of those little blue ones, and the orange ones, too – flitting around in the lupine and Indian paintbrush. It’s warm, but not too warm. There’s a nice little breeze up there. You are surrounded by Love. You’re at peace with yourself and the world. All is well.

Breathe.

Hey! That really works!

The Which Way Challenge

My friend, sonofabeach, is now hosting the Which Way Challenge. This one’s for him… 🙂

(Instead of adding new photos to my media library I just looked through what I already had and pulled up what I could find.)

“Are we almost there, yet”

I remember one time, as I was coming down
from a hike, when I got near the trailhead
I saw a couple hikers just starting out who
looked like they had a sense of humor.
“You’re almost there!” I told them. I had
judged correctly: They laughed.

Today as I was coming down from a hike –
just two quick switchbacks from the top –
a sweaty hiker asked if she was close
and I could tell her, “Yes! You’re almost
there! You’re going to make it!” It was
awesome to see the smile come to her face.

Today the hike back down was no bed
of roses, either. It seemed to go on forever.
The further I got down the trail the more
I felt my gait turning into the gait of an old
mariner – lurching from left hip to right hip
as with the rolling waves on the ocean.

I wanted to ask the people coming up if I
was “almost there, yet” – was I almost back
down? But I didn’t.

I found another way. The tired, sweaty
folks panting for breath showed me I still
had a ways to go. As I got nearer
the trailhead the faces weren’t as red,
the breathing not as labored. And when
I saw happy, smiling  hikers still fine-
tuning adjustments on their packs I knew
I was almost back to the beginning.

The hike isn’t just the getting there –
it’s the getting back.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Annual Skyline Divide Hike

I was really surprised by how many people were up on the Skyline Divide today. And (although it kind of made it difficult to take photos) it gave me hope to see all these people – willing to push their bodies up to alpine meadows to enjoy what the mountains could give them.

As I was looking at Mount Baker today from the Skyline Divide – and realizing how HUGE it is – I thought to myself: “What in the heck were you thinking?! Whatever made you think you could climb that mountain?!” And then I reminded myself that I did, indeed, climb that mountain. And then it dawned on me that if I hadn’t been born with the parents I was born with – and I’m not just talking about Dad here – Moz was a pretty formidable adventurer in her day, too – I probably WOULDN’T have climbed Baker (or Rainier, Adams, or Hood). How lucky am I that I had a father who took me up all these peaks? I’m so very grateful for the opportunities my parents gave me in my life. They gave me the mountains. 

 

 

 

 

Going Home

Rainier Myrtle Creek this one (2)

Really, I wouldn’t exist at all if not for Mount Rainier. That’s where my parents met. My mom was working as a cashier in the gift shop (around 1947) and my dad was working as a climbing guide when they met.

As a youngster a lot of my life was spent on the slopes of Mount Rainier – camping, hiking, scrambling around in the rocks – like my parents, I, too, ended up working there in the summers between my university years.  And, like my parents, I, too climbed to the summit (led by my dad, of course.)

My dad, Dee Molenaar, is well-known for his connection to Mount Rainier – he made a map of it, wrote a book about it (The Challenge of Rainier), painted it, and worked as a guide and park ranger on its slopes.

During the first half of my life, Mount Rainier was always there. When I married and moved to the northern part of Washington, she moved to the background – still a part of my life – but not the focus anymore.

***

My mom passed on six months ago. Last weekend my brothers, sons, husband, and I met at Mount Rainier to spend time together remembering Moz.

It was amazing to see The Mountain again – up close and personal. I started taking photos from the car as we were driving to the mountain – box store outlets and traffic signs in the lower part of the pictures – The Mountain massive above them.

Our friends, Rick and Jana, had offered us the use of their weekend rental home, The Jimmy Beech House,  for our time there.  Jimmy Beech had been a mountain pilot who flew tourists around Mount Rainier – and he and my parents had been good friends. Jimmy flew me in my first-ever airplane flight when I was a little girl. It was very cool to know I was staying on the spot of land where he’d lived.

On Saturday my husband, Scott, and my son, Xander, were the only ones there. We drove through the Paradise parking lot (which was hugely full) and down to Reflection Lakes for a hike up Mount Plummer. I felt like I’d come home. It was so good to be tromping around on the slopes of Rainier again. It was cloudy when we started out – we weren’t sure we were going to be able to see Rainier at all – but when we got near the top of Plummer I heard my son and husband both let out an exclamation. I turned around. A bank of clouds had parted and there was Rainier – right there in our faces. Huge and majestic -playing peek-a-boo with us.

Pictures from the Plummer Hike –

The next day my brothers and older son, Andrew, and our friend, Rick, joined Scott and Xander and me, and we made a Moz Memorial hike up to Alta Vista, above Paradise. Even as she got into her eighties Moz would hike this nob of rock – it was one of her favorite places. When I’d worked at Rainier I’d often hiked around these very hills before and after work. And there was the Paradise Inn – where both Moz and, later, I had sung to the guests on Saturday nights when we’d worked at Paradise.

Photos from Paradise and the Alta Vista hike –

Our last day at Rainier happened to coincide with the eclipse. My husband had prepared for this event by buying a special filter for his camera lens. We hiked a little ways down a trail from Paradise and just past Myrtle Falls, where Scott stationed himself and set up his camera for the eclipse.

At some point I felt Panorama Point calling to me. I told the men-folk I was going to hike a little ways down the trail – just to the top of that ridge there. But when I got to that ridge, I thought I needed to hike to that spot right down there, and once I got to that spot I figured – well, I should do the switchbacks up to the top of Mazama Ridge. This was the first hike I’d done solo on this trip – and there was something kind of freeing and luxurious about being by myself on “my” mountain for a little while.

When I got to the top of Mazama I started heading towards Panorama Point, but I’d only gone maybe a tenth of a mile when I realized – by looking through my eclipse glasses – that the eclipse was going to reach its fullest point soon – and I wanted to get back to the family before they started packing up and wondering where I was.

I felt the eclipse reach its zenith as I was coming down the switchbacks. The light dimmed and there was a kind of eerie quiet for a few minutes. It was very cool. I took out my eclipse glasses and saw that there was just a sliver of sun left. I started skipping down the trail – I felt light-footed and free – like I was a youngster again – while I was coming down. Maybe it was the eclipse. 🙂 Or maybe it was that I’d put on my sandals instead of my hiking shoes that day and my toes weren’t jamming into the fronts of my shoes.

I passed a couple hiking the other direction, Yonsin and Kathy, and asked them if they’d seen the eclipse. They said they didn’t have eclipse glasses – so I loaned them mine. I loved watching the looks on their faces as they were able to see what was going on up there. They thanked me and we shook hands, and they let me take their picture before we parted ways.

As I went past a Rainier Mountaineering, Inc. climbing party I had to stop and turn and ask, “Does anyone here know Dee Molenaar?”

The guide in the front stopped and turned around and asked, “Who did you say?”

“Dee Molenaar.”

“Dee Molenaar is my hero. He’s a legend up here.”

That made me grin. I love this connection I have via Dad to the mountaineers on Rainier. “I’m his daughter,” I said. “He’s 99 now. We were hoping we could bring him down here this trip, but it just didn’t work out this time.”

The guide told me to tell my father hello, and said he hoped to see Dad up here again before too long.

The trip felt complete to me then.

Here are some photos of the trail to Panorama Point –

“Spiritually interpreted, rocks and mountains stand for solid and grand ideas.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
– Psalms 121

“Oh geeze. This is going to be one of those God-things.”

Yeah. This one is going to have God stuff in it. Sorry. I just gotta.

So yesterday I took myself on a most excellent little hike in the North Cascades  (the Table Mountain trail). We (me and I) were feeling a little selfish because we brought no one else with us. But me and I were feeling the need for some alone time yesterday.

A couple miles from the Heather Meadows parking lot (where the trail begins) I saw a couple of hitch-hikers, and pulled over to see if I could be of help. Alice and Sally asked if they could snag a lift up to Heather Meadows with me – they planned to hike back down to their car from there. I said sure and they got into Rosalita Ipswich O’Molenovich (my Ford Fiesta) for the short ride up to the parking lot. We exchanged particulars  – they were from Whidby Island and were planning to finish the Chain Lakes trail that day. I told them I don’t always feel comfortable about picking up hitch-hikers – but they looked pretty harmless. There was this little pause, and then I added, “Of course, it’s the harmless-looking ones they tell you to watch out for…” and Sally and Alice started laughing.

Once we got to the parking lot they let me take their picture before they headed out on their adventure:

 

Alice Sally

Alice and Sally

And then I started on my own hike up Table Mountain…

Table Mountain luminex (2)

Table Mountain

The trail is pretty steep – but it’s a short hike, and I soon found myself on top.

And here’s where the God stuff comes in. As I was tromping around up there – butterflies landing on my shoe, my eyes full of blue skies and magnificent vistas – I became aware of a playful, loving presence with me – what I would call “God.” I realized I wasn’t really alone – that I’m never really alone – that this presence of Love has always been with me, and always would be. And then I thought of my old hiking partner – my cousin, Skip, who passed on 15 or 20 years ago – and, in that moment, I felt close to him – like he was with me, too. In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy writes: “In Science, individual good derived  from God, the infinite All-in-all, may flow from the departed to mortals…” – and that’s what it felt like – it felt like Skip’s joy was reaching out to me, up there on that trail. But it wasn’t just Skip I was feeling this connection with – it was bigger than that. It was cosmic, universal. A connection with all Life.

Anyway. So that’s the God stuff.

And here are some more pictures from my day…

Dazzling Days of Daring-Do

Remembering days when we played hide and seek
in the parking lot at Mount Rainier on summer nights –
my fellow park employees and I slithering
under trucks and dodging behind cars
and laughing so hard our bellies hurt.

Or we might go looking for bears on the trails
in the evenings – hoping we wouldn’t actually
find any, but enjoying the idea of it –
my friend, Dan, pulling me in front of him
for protection, as we encountered imaginary beasts.

We were young. The world was full of adventure
and laughter, and daring-do.

Forty years have brought changes –
marriage, motherhood, responsibilities.
My body seems more matronly than springy
these days. I will be entering my sixth decade
in a few weeks. I felt some trepidation about this.

Would I never have another adventure?
Were the dazzling days of daring-do done?

I went for a walk around the lake yesterday.
I wanted more. Walked from old town to the park.
I wanted more. Walked from the park to downtown,
and back again. Then Scott came home with an idea:
Let’s walk the trail to the beach when the sun sets.

I was all stretched out from nine miles of walking,
and ready for more. A walk in the evening cool.

Darkening trail, lovely roots and rocks to climb
smell of fir and cedar and briny bay
and the sunset – brilliant reds and golds
and blue filling my eyes in the west as the full
moon rises in the east, shimmering silver on the sea.

Crashing waves, sparkling light from sun and moon,
peace and perspective from the stars dotting the above.

And then flashlights come out of our pockets
and we find our way back through the woods,
rocks and roots, joking about what we’d do
if big eyes glowed towards us at eye level  down the trail –
and we’re laughing and brave and young again.

The adventures haven’t ended.
There are still dazzling days of daring-do.

– Karen Molenaaar Terrell

 

 

Dad’s Backpack

Tomorrow will not only be Father’s Day, it will be my dad’s 97th birthday. My dad, Dee Molenaar, has lived a most amazing 97 years. He was born at the end of World War I, was alive when women got the right to vote, lived through the Great Depression, fought in World War II, saw men walk on the moon, and teared-up with pride for his country the night the first African-American was elected President. He has traveled on six of the seven continents (the only continent he somehow missed was Africa),  climbed on the highest mountains in the world (and, with his climbing team, almost made the first summit of the second tallest one), painted paintings, written books, created maps, had his photos published in National Geographic, and hobnobbed with presidential candidates.

He and Mom are currently in the process of moving out of their home of 48 years. This has involved some down-sizing. Last weekend when I was at their place to help them pack up, Dad gave me the little backpack he’d bought in 1973 for his journey to Europe to climb in the Alps. I cannot tell you how much it meant to me to be able to bring that familiar little pack home with me. I always knew I was safe when I was climbing with the man who wore this pack. This is the pack Dad wore to the summit of Rainier when we’d climbed it together in 1977, and the same pack I’d followed up to the top of Mount Baker ten years later. This is the pack Dad wore when he’d taken hikes with my young sons and myself. There are a lot of fond memories attached to that pack.

For now, it is hanging from a hook in our family room. I know it doesn’t have any special magical powers or anything, but somehow just looking at it makes me feel safe.

Dee Molenaar's pack

Dad’s pack