To the Mountain!

“In Two Days You’ll Be in Paradise”
June 21, 2018

There’s a film-maker at Dad’s home to capture his 100th birthday celebration. Eric and his cameraman, Chip, are waiting for me when I arrive to visit Dad. They want to film me walking into Dad’s home – and I’m thinking, “Oh, this is good – my big old 61 year-old backside is someday going to be seen in indy theatres across the nation. Why couldn’t this have happened 20 years ago?” (.Ahem. I have some vanity issues.) I go through the door again for them, and go into the home to find Dad at the table finishing up his breakfast.

Karen: We’re heading up to Rainier tomorrow. You’ll get to see your mountain again.
Dad: It’s not my mountain. It belongs to anyone who loves mountains.
Karen: (smiling) Tomorrow we’ll drive up to the Beech House in Ashford. And then on Saturday we’ll go up to Paradise.
Dad: We’re going to the Beech House?
Karen: Yes. It’s Jimmy Beech’s old house. Remember your old friend Jimmy Beech? He took me on my first plane ride. He took us on a plane ride around Mount Rainier. We got really close to the glaciers…
Dad: (nodding, remembering) Is Jimmy still alive?
Karen: No. He’s gone now. But Rick and Jana Johnson have remodeled his old house and that’s where we’ll be staying this weekend. And on Saturday we’ll go up to Paradise.
Dad: (nods his head) What day is today?
Karen: Today is your 100th birthday. Today is Thursday. So in two days you’ll be back at Paradise.
Dad: I don’t want to climb the mountain again, though.
Karen: (laughing) No, you don’t have to climb it. If you want you can just stay right in the car and look at your mountain from there.
Dad: Maybe just to Alta Vista.
Karen: (smiling) Okay. Maybe Alta Vista.

The phone rings and it’s Dad’s old mountaineering friend, Tom Hornbein, calling to wish him a happy 100th birthday. We put Tom on speaker phone so we can all hear him. Tom asks if anyone has an I-phone so we can get a live picture of him as he and Dad talk. The cameraman, Chip, pulls out his I-phone and they rig things up so we can see Tom and he can see Dad as they converse. Dad and Tom talk for a while about old friends, and what it feels like for Dad to be turning 100 (Dad says it doesn’t feel any different than yesterday). I’ve moved to the back so the film-makers can catch the conversation on camera, but as the conversation comes to an end I hear Tom say, “Bye, Dee.” And there’s something about the way Tom says this – something very sweet and dear – that has me tearing up.

Scott and our son, Andrew, and Dad’s friend, Bob Ader, arrive to celebrate Dad’s birthday. Andrew arm wrestles his grandpa at the dining room table – it ends in a tie, with both of them grinning at each other.

Eric and Chip follow Dad back into his room so they can share some old 8 mm movies Dad shot years ago and that they’ve digitalized for him. I can see that Dad is enjoying watching the old films.

Eric knows we’re taking Dad up to Paradise on Saturday and he says he needs to capture every moment of the ride to Paradise. He plans to bring his camera into the car with Dad and my family as we make the drive from Ashford to Dad’s old stomping grounds. This is not what I’d envisioned when I’d imagined the drive with Dad to Paradise – I’d been expecting my family to have Dad all to ourselves in the car – imagined myself leaning forward from the back seat to see Dad’s reaction when he saw his mountain again. It was not going to be the same sharing the back seat with Eric and his camera.

“Let’s Go to Longmire!”
June 22, 2018

We help Dad into his care-giver’s car. I lean through the car window and explain to Dad that we’ll be in the car right in front of him. He nods his head in understanding. “We’re going up to Ashford today,” I remind him, “and then tomorrow we’ll drive up to Paradise and you’ll be on your mountain again.” I kiss his cheek.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you, Karen.

We ride in a caravan to Rainier: Scott and I in the first car; Gwen, Gwen’s grandson, and Dad in the second car; Bob Ader and Xander in the third car. We’re anticipating that we’ll need to negotiate huge traffic jams through Seattle, but somehow we manage to maneuver around the mess and soon we find ourselves past the metro congestion and driving on country highways through green farmland and headed towards Ashford.
About an hour outside of Ashford I get a text from my brother, Dave, letting me know that Kristianne Schoening (whose father Pete Schoening had saved my dad and four others with his famous belay on K2) and her nephew and his family were at the Beech House. They’d thought the potluck party was today and had come a day early. I texted my brother back to tell him we would be there in an hour and that we had Bob Ader with us. Dave said, “Oh! Kristianne was hoping to see Bob again! I’ll let her know.”

It has been an overcast day with no sign of Rainier. But now, as we near “Dad’s Mountain” the clouds start breaking up and we begin to see patches of Rainier’s glaciered slopes. I’m thinking, “Of course the mountain is revealing herself! She wouldn’t stay hidden from Dad!” And I begin to think about the possibility of maybe getting Dad into the park and up to Longmire today to see his mountain – if he’s up for it. I mean – why wait, right? The film-maker can still ride with us up to Paradise on Saturday – but maybe today we can sneak in a quick drive to Longmire with Dad – and Xander, Scott and I can have him to ourselves in the car for that precious moment when he sees Rainier again up-close.

When we get to Ashford I suggest to Scott that we stop at Rick and Jana’s pottery shop before going to the Beech House. There we run into Kristianne and her nephew, Gabriel, Gabriel’s wife, Terese, and their baby daughter. Gwen pulls her car in next to us and Bob parks his car a few spaces down.
Gwen: (smiling)Your dad was so excited when he saw the glimpse of the mountain. He was crying. He doesn’t want to stop here. He wants to go all the way up to Paradise right now.
Karen: Let’s do it! We don’t have time to go up to Paradise – but let’s go up to Longmire!

We confer with the Schoening family, Scott, Xander, Bob, and my brother, Dave, and we decide to go for it! The Schoenings had been up to Paradise earlier in the day, but couldn’t see the mountain for the clouds. They’re ready to give it another go.
We stop first at the Beech House to drop off our bags, and then pile into three cars and head for Longmire.

Dad is in the car with Scott and Xander and I. He’s sitting in the front seat and I’m sitting behind him. This is how I’d originally imagined it would be. I lean forward and put my hand on his shoulder and Dad reaches up and squeezes my hand. In that moment I am completely happy.

We travel to Longmire, park the car, and help Dad to a bench where he can see his mountain. There’s a small tree in his line of vision, but Dad really needs to sit and rest awhile, tree or no tree. His eyes are fastened on Rainier. He begins to describe the routes he’s taken up its slopes, pointing with his finger.
Karen: It’s been a while since you’ve been up here. How long has it been?
Dad: (thinking) Yeah. It’s been a few years.
Karen: It’s good to see it again, isn’t it?
Dad: Yeah. (He stretches the word out so it sounds like three syllables.)

After a while my husband moves a chair off the Longmire Inn’s porch and sets it out in the open, facing Rainier – there are no obstacles to a full line of sight of Rainier from that chair. We help Dad towards the chair, but when he’s about three yards out from it he says he can get to the chair on his own. I instinctively reach out to help him, but Gwen (wisely) shakes her head at me and says, “He can do this.” And we watch Dad climb another mountain as he makes it to the seat and settles into it.

Dad crosses his legs and makes himself comfortable in the chair. Aidan brings Dad an ice cream cone. He is surrounded by family and old friends, and Rainier is full in front of him. Life does not get any better than this. It is momentous.

After a morning spent in the clouds, the Schoenings are able to see Rainier now. I’m thinking they were meant to come today.
A tanned and spry woman – in her eighties maybe – approaches me and introduces herself. Her name is Annemarie and she’s a climber and she’d heard from our mutual friend, Rick Johnson, that Dad would be coming up to Paradise tomorrow and she was afraid she’d miss him. So to see him NOW – right in front of her in Longmire – is like a miracle to her. She’s clutching Dad’s book, The Challenge of Rainier, and she’s wondering if he would sign it for her. I give her a hug and take the book to Dad.

I explain to Dad who Annemarie is – write her name down on a piece of paper so he can see how it’s spelled – and he autographs the book for her. He’s an old hand at this kind of thing. He has just made Annemarie’s day.

We stay at Longmire for maybe twenty minutes – and then it is time to go back down to the Beech House. It has been a long day for Dad. And tomorrow we’re going up to Paradise!

 

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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

“I think I can make something up.”

The LaConner Retirement Inn in LaConner, Washington, asked its residents to make paintings for an auction to help those dealing with Alzheimers. (For anyone interested in attending, the auction will be this Saturday, July 23rd at the LaConner Retirement Inn.)

Yesterday I “kidnapped” Dad, 98, and Moz and brought them to my place to give Dad a quiet space and a big table to work on his painting for the auction. I told Dad that he was painting for his dinner. 🙂 He nodded his head and said “Okay.”

I’d brought to my house some of Dad’s brushes, a sponge, a packet of watercolor paper, and a couple of watercolor trays I found in his apartment. Dad’s favorite brush wasn’t in the brushes I’d brought over – but he found one that would be “alright.” There was also no yellow in the watercolor trays. But my youngest son had left some of his art supplies here when he moved out, so I rummaged through his art box and found a little travel watercolor box that had a small square of yellow in it, and Dad made do with that.

Dad worked really hard. Painting takes a lot of concentration. There are problems to be solved – balancing out this area with THAT area; making the foreground darker to bring depth and dimension to the background; finding the just right color to brighten everything up.

Dad and Mom were at my place from about 3:00 to 7:30 – and, except for a small break for dinner, and a short nap, Dad spent that entire time working on his picture. And look! He got ‘er done! I’m really proud of him.

Dad: “What should I paint?”
Me: “Mount Rainier. Do you need a picture to help you?”
Dad: (understatement of the century – this man has been painting Rainier for more than 70 years) “Oh, no. I think I can make something up.”
An hour later-
Dad: “I haven’t painted in a long time.”
Me: “How does it feel?”
Dad: “I like it!”
Three hours later –
Me: “Painting is hard work!”
Dad: “It’s mind work.”

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Mount Rainier by Dee Molenaar