For the last time, I apologize for the roughness in this narrative. And, as before, I have inserted a few things (mainly in parentheses) where more information is helpful. And I will explain more below the last 3 day’s worth of log (the final week is only Days 22-24).
Northwest Outward Bound School
June 14 – July 8, 1977
(Day 22 is really the only day I have recorded from the original “Log”, Day 23 entry was made years later, maybe 15-20 years later, I can’t remember exactly)
Today we got up at 5:00 (am) and it was COLD! We got going in spite of the conditions around 6:30 (am). We got up to Dishpan Gap around 8:00 (am) and from there it was an easy hike to Cady Pass. We got to Cady Pass around 10:00 and I took off my boots because my feet hurt. I sure wish I hadn’t of taken off them boots because Pass Creek Trail was all mud. My tennis shoes are shot, I just hope they will last through the marathon. I think we hit the North Fork Skykomish Trail around 12:00 (noon).
We had already eaten our lunch. From here it was smooth riding all the way. We cruised into Quartz Creek about 1:30 (pm) and found out that three groups had already come in (everyone else, we were last). Oh well, Hell! At this point I am so glad to be here you would not believe it! My feet ache pretty bad, we did about 14 miles today. Imagine, 30 miles in two days! I thought that was pretty great. Well all we got left is the marathon and I still haven’t decided whether to cruise or book it. We just had our last student prepared meal: We pigged out! It was really amazing because we had planned to save plenty for this last night and we did.
Whereas the rest of the groups ran out of food, we had butterscotch cookies and rice with beef, onion soup, fresh picked mushrooms and soybeans. It was really great. We sat down and debriefed for a little while with Al. We talked about the routes and the group, which was an excellent group I felt. I complimented everyone on their togetherness and ability which I feel are so important out here. Well, all we do now is turn in our gear and get back with our old groups. We got back into the groups and Joe and Archie and Ken and Tracy and Cliff and I slept outside. It was great.
(this entry was written, by myself, but years later. I don’t remember exactly how many years later, probably 15-20 years later, some time around 1992-1997 I think… maybe I will find a clue that can tell me more precisely)
The marathon is over. I really feel that the whole experience is over. I am sad. As I reflect back, for I am writing this later, and I see the faces, those who I would have died with, we all came as close to it and still I long for that Shangri-la (the Napeequa Valley). Will I someday go back and relive again these memories? Yet, the experience itself is nothing, without the student’s knowing about himself. And I do believe that I have achieved a one-ness within myself that I don’t remember feeling before.
I can measure the value of a whole lifetime’s experience against the experience of Outward Bound, and with my background in competition, where there is but one way to be on top; but in the Cascades where cooperation is the essential, one can judge that there is nothing more complex than the situation where eight humans must survive together, and help each other, to become so close; but now so far.
It teaches one to respect the individual and have compassion no matter who. I shall remember these lessons as if I returned to the wilderness everyday and dealt with the matter. I know I shall see the friends I once had in a very faraway place. I shall return again to the Shangri-la valley (the Napeequa Valley), and recapture the lush green meadows and the tall trees, the rustling Napeequa calls me back. Do I see the mountains waiting once again to be climbed? It is a land of white, and magic, and mystery. The knowledge of the ages is captured in this place. It exposes the challenge it takes to make someone out of an ordinary individual.
(no entry, homeward bound)
So – what does that mean? What is the real meaning of those 24 days spent in the wilderness?
As I wrote in the previous week, I messed up badly our last night camping out in the wilderness on patrol, and left my boots too close to the fire. They were warped, the soles at least were done, and they left a large blood blister bruise in the center of my foot. Bad end to a rotten pair of boots I suppose. Or maybe it was just sad because I had brought those boots believing they were the right tool, but in reality they were good boots just not the right ones for the job at hand.
Anyhow, our last day of hiking was not that memorable. We were actually the last patrol to make it in from our final, in spite of the fact we made those incredible 30 miles in the last two days! We were booking! By that point, we were strong, good hikers, competent, capable, and good at orienteering too. We could read and understand the maps, and could take a look around from any reasonable spot (where you can see mountains around you) and determine where we were on our map.
And, apparently, our food menu was a bit more varied than I had described earlier. I don’t remember those Butterscotch Cookies but they must have been good! We probably had butterscotch chips and mixed them with the Bisquick we had and baked them ourselves. That was part of that last day (Day 22) of hiking, the other part was the camp fire that night, and the night following the Marathon.
The miserable stuff I wrote (for Day 23) is obviously some thoughts I wrote down some years later, but prior to becoming a Christian (which was 1994). I actually moved to Seattle in 1991 with my first wife, and I believe that writing predates that move as well, otherwise I likely would have mentioned the fact that I was physically closer to the North Cascades again.
So, what about that Marathon? What was that like? I think it was like a 1/2 Marathon. I don’t remember exactly how many miles it was. But maybe it was more, maybe as much as 20 miles? They had us get up, and run down some of the logging roads, where we found a trail that took us up and over a ridge and down the other side where there was a Tyrolean Traverse setup for us. We had to “Gear up” (helmets, harnesses that we called “Swami seats”, and such) and then stand in line waiting our turn to go across this river. A Tyrolean Traverse consists of 3 lines (at least ours had 3) if I remember correct. A line that your harness is hooked to, a safety line, and another line that they (the instructors / staff) used to pull us across, and pull the apparatus back for the next person.
The river/gorge we crossed had relatively steep walls, had to, in order to set things up properly (won’t work in a flat area unless you can swing across from trees or something…), and we crossed about 40′ above the river or creek (don’t remember what it was, the name of it and so on) and about 120′ across (maybe a bit more???). We simply clipped in, they told us to “Hold on” and over we went, hauled over there by the various instructors who had built the apparatus and were there to get us across. First thing I did was put my hand on the main line and got it crushed by the carabiners as they gave the first tug to haul me across. I learned quickly don’t put your hand on that line, but rather just rest one hand on the apparatus and the other on the line they were using to haul me across.
After crossing, that’s now like 2 hours into the Marathon before very many of us were across, we ran up and out of this gorge and onto some logging roads. It was all logging roads up there we found out! We saw a couple trucks too if I remember right, and we just kept running up and down roads the rest of the day. We didn’t have any lunch, just water, so we had to keep moving as we were getting hungry. We did make one stop I remember, it was a small fishing tackle store, probably sold Fishing Licenses too I am sure. I had done lots of fishing as a kid, all in Salt Water pretty much (in the ocean), and so I was curious to see the flies they had.
I had heard of fly-fishing and so on, and I even bought a few. I have no idea why we had money in our pockets, we all did though (buy some flies). Kind of a souvenir I guess. I fell in with the guys from my original group (Archie, Joe, Tracy, Ken, Cliff, Pat), and after awhile, we got tired, and we simply decided to “Hike” the last 10 miles or so. It took us about 3 hours (that last part), we hiked quickly, but it was boring, and we were having much more fun joking and playing around with each other. We finally got back to camp around 2p, having finished the Marathon, we all walked in with big grins on our faces and such – we were DONE!
That night they (instructors, staff at Base Camp) made us a DELICIOUS dinner! It was burgers. I don’t remember what we had with it, but there were fresh apples and oranges for us too (first fresh food in over 3 weeks!). We ate, and stuffed ourselves until the food was gone. It was the first time I ever ate every part of an apple too (core and all)! They were huge Washington State Red Delicious apples too, and they were GOOD!
After dinner, we had a time of singing around the camp fire. Somebody had a guitar, and they played Beatle’s songs and we sang, Rocky Raccoon, Blackbird, and so on. We sang a bunch. I had my harmonica and I played some too. I really wish I still had that harmonica, it disappeared years ago, in my careless and drug-hazed days…
After that I remember nothing about the trip until we got to Seattle. I don’t remember that night after the camp fire, the bus ride down the mountain the next day, saying goodbye to the instructors and staff. Oh, there were a lot more staff people at Base Camp besides all the instructors. As you can imagine, running even a modest sized program like that requires a pretty good staff, besides the 8 instructors they had to go with our groups. There were probably 5 or 6 others who were staff and kept the Base Camp going all the time, purchased all the supplies, arranged all the logistics for supplying the patrols while they were in the wilderness and such, as well as the support they received from the Headquarters who arranged the “Students” and such into patrols.
I think back on it today, I think I remember how much it cost to go on the trip, I am amazed now that they could do all that so cheaply. As we know, it wasn’t completely safe, but a supreme test for anybody who wants to test their limits is never going to be completely safe!
Getting back to Seattle was a rude awakening. We were still together, most of us staying a night in Downtown Seattle before heading back home (wherever that was). And, oddly enough, many of us were in the same hotel. I have one sheet of hotel notepaper that one of the guys used to write his address on, and I believe I was in that same hotel, as were many of us. So, we all cleaned up, and set off to explore Seattle – together. The first thing we found were the panhandlers on the streets below us. They were everywhere! It had been awhile since I’d been downtown Los Angeles and seen anything like it. We all simply decided to stick together and keep moving.
I had taken $100 with me that mom had given me for the trip. I only spent like $8 before the Outward Bound portion of the trip, so I had over $90 in my pocket to spend – all in one day! The first thing we did after getting out of the hotel and getting past the vagrants was to find food. We were all STARVING / RAVENOUS! So, we found a pizza place, and then a grocery store, and then something else, and then something else, we ate for like 8 hours straight! We stopped in the REI Store (the OLD REI store) in downtown Seattle. Many of us signed up for membership right then and there. My membership with REI thus dates to that day (July 8, 1977) when I got back from Outward Bound.
We didn’t really know or understand much about what REI was, but we all knew we’d be going out to the wilderness again and we knew they were the ones who could supply the gear we would need. The idea of a Co-op was appealing to us all I think, being we were all products of the Public School system and were already somewhat indoctrinated with liberal ideas. That’s why when I described earlier about having visited a Socialist bookstore in Downtown Seattle (that same afternoon), that place held a kind of attraction to us as well.
The bottom line is that we spent all our money that day on food! I went through over $90 in one afternoon and evening on food and was STILL HUNGRY! You may begin to think that’s ridiculous, there’s no way we could be THAT hungry, so let me tell you: When I got off the flight back home, and walked into my mother’s house, and she saw me, she almost cried I was so skinny! I had been 165 lbs of all solid muscle (I was a swimmer and a water-polo player) before going on that trip, and when I got back home the day after eating all that food – I weighed on the scale: 150 lbs. That means that on the trip I probably lost like 20-22 lbs! I had maybe put 5 back on since coming back to civilization, but I ate for like 3 weeks (after getting home) without stopping before I finally felt like I was satisfied!
I could go on and on about those first three weeks back in civilization too, but I won’t. Suffice it to say, I just kept eating, and no matter what it was, I no longer cared, I simply shoved it in my mouth and said (mumbled) something like: “Oh, this is good!” or “This is interesting, what is it?” I no longer cared what it was. And my worst, my absolute least favorite food in the whole world? Peas. And that’s right, they do not bother me to this day! I eat EVERYTHING now and it’s because I always tell people, if you’re picky then you’ve never been REALLY hungry.
There are a couple things that I would add today, looking back.
1. Outward Bound teaches that in critical situations in life, you have got to learn to depend on others! This entails two things, learning about each other’s strengths and weaknesses, but also allowing others the grace to make mistakes and not judge them. We all learn from mistakes, we just hope they won’t cost us our lives.
2. The “Shangri-la” that I spoke of so fondly lives on in my memory. I would like to go back, but I lived in Seattle for almost 8 years and didn’t return, in spite of the fact that I was single for a good amount of that time (pretty much from 1994-1999) and I never got back there. It’s easily reachable within a day’s car ride from Seattle, yep, I checked, 3 hours, from Redmond, Washington where I lived the last 5 years I was in Seattle. I want to go back, I guess I just didn’t want to go alone.
3. Other life lessons to be learned? We aren’t always going on a picnic, even when sometimes we believe we are. Some things in life are hard, and they are supposed to be! Some things are scary, but if you stick together, and support one another, you will get through it. We were faced with some daunting tasks on that trip. We stuck together, learned from each other, and in the end, made pretty good decisions.
4. I was a spoiled brat before going on that trip. I was a rich city kid, with really no idea which way was up. After the trip, I think my ego was sufficiently bruised that I may have been a bit more humble. It was years before true humility became a part of my life, only when I learned of Jesus and His sacrifice for us, for me, on the Cross at Calvary, that I finally understood what being humble is all about. This life is not about me, it’s about what I can learn, about Him.
5. We learn about Him (God, Jesus) from His creation, but we don’t always MEET Him out there. Many times I went back to the wilderness after I got saved, and I still go out there today, and I see Him – EVERYWHERE. But I don’t worship what He has made for us to learn from, I worship Him, for who He made us to be – with Him!
Anyhow, I’m not going to try and spiritualize something that was, for me at least, not very spiritual, I will just say that the trip, the adventure, was part of my journey. The one thing I will not say is that it was a voyage of “Self-discovery” because I didn’t really learn who I was until I learned who God is, and that came, as I said, years later, in 1994.
My life nearly ended in tragedy. I continued using drugs after High School. In fact, the first day I arrived at College (less than 3 months after Outward Bound), I walked out of my dorm room into the lounge on our floor and asked if anybody wanted to smoke a joint with me? Not a very auspicious beginning… I “Drugged out” of that college over 5 years later (drugging out for me was a “B” average), having completed more than 3 years of courses, but having been an “Exploratory” major for most of those 3 years! What happened, I believe, was that the drugs enabled a total “Drift” mode to take over my life, and any lessons I may have learned from Outward Bound were lost (not permanently!) very quickly.
I believe though, that the writings I put down on Day 23 are evidence that I picked the journal up and reread about my journey, some time after Dec. 1982 when I got clean and sober, and that I began to really understand those lessons, probably for the first time. As I went through the first years of sobriety, I learned quickly that I was powerless against many things in this life, and in fact the “Serenity Prayer” that we used to say in AA (over and over and over) taught me that the only thing I could actually change was my attitude. I don’t control people, places or things, or even circumstances (not always at least).
I learned a bit about who God was in those early years in my sobriety. I began to trust someone I couldn’t see, touch, taste, hear or smell. I began to really understand that the Universe is more than our senses can perceive. I began to realize that we are more than the sum of those same senses, as well as the matter (the stuff) we are made from. This is all not just some cosmic “Accident”. I began to really think about what I had been taught in schools as a kid, and from the time of my first awakenings as a real person (in High School, where I struggled, wrestled with authority and so on), and through my early sobriety. I went back to college, in 1984, back to Jr. College. I started my life over.
Many of us have to start over. It’s not “Failure” as some define it, rather it would be a failure I think – NOT to start your life over when you find a set of values that have much more meaning for you. Those values gradually became a foundation for me, but they were tested to the ultimate a few years later. I was 12 years sober when faced with Divorce. That crisis came and challenged me once again, and I was fortunate. I met Jesus as a result of going through that Divorce. He brought me to Himself. A prayer I had prayed the last night as an inpatient in a Rehabilitation Program in Dec. of 1982 had come to full realization. He had taken my life, and brought me to Himself in order to keep me safe. He saved me!
And that’s not been the end of the journey by any means. Since that time, I’ve had more adventures, too many to relate, far more complex, far more involved, far more dangerous, than any of those I had with the group when I was on Outward Bound. But, those are for another story. I’ll just leave you with that thought, that Outward Bound was a stepping stone for me, to a much richer life, one filled with wonder, and a child’s curiosity about the world around him. One where I can be thankful, truly thankful, for all I have and have been given, and am generous to give much of it away each day to others, so it can be shared.
I still wear my Outward Bound pin proudly on one of my favorite hats. The compass will always remind me that we must have a clear direction in life, otherwise, we can easily fall into that “Drift” mode where our lives have no meaning, no purpose.
I pray your lives are enriched by this telling of my adventures on Outward Bound 39 years ago.
If you missed any of those earlier entries: