When life presents me with situations that seem beyond my control, I change my facial hair. Some of it is a defense of agency, but more often it's simply a declaration of laziness. As in, the last thing I want to deal with right now is maintaining my facial hair. Thus, though I lack the photos to prove it, I am currently bearded. For many of you on the east coast, you've never seen me without a beard. But it's been a year or so since I last let the folicles run wild, and they are back to their natural dominion over my chin. We'll see if I let them stay, as I have interviews (hopefully) in DC at the beginning of May. Whenever I let the beard go I start to look grizzled, and finally start to appear like I could live in the West (not the Pacific Northwest, but the West--montana style). I wonder if when I die folks will look at photos of me in the same way that you look at tree rings. Instead of lean years marked by smaller rings, tougher situations will be marked with facial hair.
Today I arose, beard blazing, and was full of energy. A small portion of sun broke through my blinds and I promised myself that if I could see Mt. Rainier (not that common, with all the clouds) I'd go and see Mount Rainier. I dressed, and sure enough it was crystal clear and warm. So fulfilling my promise to myself, I geared up (camera, jeans, and extra pair of dry socks) and set out for Mt. Rainier National Park. The directions I used were horrible. There is something tremendously frustrating about getting lost trying to go to a mountain. Because you can constantly see it. And yet you never seem to be getting closer, and you never know which road will be the one you need, since it seems large enough that you could head in any of the cardinal directions towards it. I imagine it like getting lost while trying to send a probe to Jupiter. Maddening.
After more than a few instinctual turns off the main roads, each of which was wrong. (Turns out, I have terrible driving instincts, just awful). I stopped at a little market bought fresh apples and strawberries and got better directions. The sun was shining, I'm sure outside the car birds were singing, life was good. I arrived at the park around 11:00am. I had no planned routes, which might be a bad idea for future visits, but fit the mood of the day perfectly. I also didn't have gloves...and well, Mount Rainier is a mountain. A snow covered mountain. It looks like this.
See, snow. But I decided that I would go to Paradise. Paradise is a location, a popular trailhead quite near the Nisqually Glacier (which sounds really fucking cool, but which I never quite got to see).
I took a mess of photos, some of which I'll try to post here later. Never having hiked in the snow, I didn't realize that there aren't really trails. You just figure out where you want to go, and walk there. Fortunately some folks who seemingly knew where they were going, arrived before me. So I followed their path. That others were there first was good, that the path was matted down into a mess of pure ice, that was less good. I slipped and stumbled and fell up the hill. Oh, another note of some relevance, Mount Rainier being a mountain is at a higer elevation than say, my apartment. There was plenty of air, sadly not so much oxygen. And while I love me some nitrogen, it just doesn't quench my thirst for really breathing. So I'm out of shape, out of breath, and in shoes wholly inappropriate for the task, wandering up the face of a snow covered mountain. It was tremendous. I've become somewhat jaded, or at least habituated to the glory of the West in the last year. But I was still blown away. It made me sad, as I am giving this up for the swamps of Washington DC.
I continued up the mountain, and finally found some snow that wasn't packed into a zamboni approved sheet of ice. The sad part about that was that unpacked snow tends to allow grown men to fall down several feet. I managed to take surreal drunken steps up to a bluff. Every few steps was an adventure, the snow would hold for a couple of steps, then give way dropping me up to my waist in snow. At some point the snow just continually gave way, every step sunk me up to my waist, and I was having trouble getting out of my little holes, and I decided that that was a good indication of a stopping point. Making my way down was my own tribute to the Legolas slide down the tusk from the second LOTR movie. Sliding and gliding, and generally having a silly time of it, I finally made it back to the car. I drove home through nearly blinding sunshine, and 65 degree weather. Paradise indeed.