Rainier Chautauqua

Reflections on the Mountain, people and places of the Pacific Northwest


I have known Rainier since I was 15 or so, or to put it more succinctly, 40 plus years. My first trip was with Bob G., a high school friend. My mom and dad took us up to Rainier so Bob and I could go camping with his parent’s camping gear. Mom was very worried on the way up until we got to White River Campground. Seeing the numerous campsites, drinking water stations, restrooms and what can only be described as a very-un-wilderness setting, she relaxed and actually laughed with relief. For me, seeing my folks pull away and leaving us there at the campground, was freedom.

Bob and I spent several days camping, hitchhiking up to Sunrise, and generally messing around, including an unfortunate knife throwing session that tore a hole in his mom’s tent. It was a wonderful experience.

Later, while working as a banquet waiter at the Hanford House in Richland, I met Ken, who became a lifelong friend made strong through our experiences at Rainier. We began hiking in earnest as a break from the tedium of banquets and Richland. In looking back I am amazed at how much ground we covered on the Mountain and environs.

Others joined in the pilgrimage to this most sacred of places, with many enjoyable hikes, evenings around the campfire, and a few adventures as well. Rainier, a uniquely special place of reflection. Many times upon entering the Park I have breathed in the sweet incense of old growth fir, listened to the incantations of cascading waters, gazed upon the glaciated alter, and expressed thanks.

Cascading water, essence of Rainier

As the years course on their inevitable trajectory, the campfire of friendships may be diminishing, coals glowing brightly in memory but no longer with the energy and intensity of earlier fires. The convocation seems to be wearing thin, as it were. It calls to mind the words of Raymond Carver, a poet and author also from local environs.

Excerpt from Prosser, by Raymond Carver

But everything is forgotten, nearly everything
and sooner rather than later, please God –
fathers, friends, they pass
into your life and out again, a few women stay
a while, then go, and the fields
turn their backs, disappear in the rain.
Everything goes, but Prosser.
Pink Mountain Heather

And yet in 2021, a year following a year of horror and tragedy for so many, we find ourselves planning a new trip to Ohanapecosh. The Mountain remains but she suffers from climate change, crying tears flowing down from her rapidly melting glaciers. I return to Rainier with my daughter to visit with old friends, capture the breath of her forest and see those diminishing glaciers under cloudless too warm skies. I look forward to companionships, wherever they may be found; they are most enjoyed at Rainier.

Here I dedicate some memories and more recent observations in honor of Rainier, and to those friends, family and acquaintances I have been so fortunate to have spent time with on the Mountain. The period spans 1982 to present. I touch on some special places and some heartfelt themes that the Mountain has taught me.

And what is this thing called Chautauqua? For me I first learned it from the wonderful philosopher Robert Persig and his construct of life, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. He introduced the term to me, in my simple construct, a convening of friends around a passion. In his life, a motorcycle trip and more. In mine, a mountain sojourn, and more. So I share this simple concept, a gathering of people around the Mountain, together.

Thank you my beloved wife Susan, precious daughter Claire, my mother and father, Ken, Dan, David, Andrew, Rick, Dave, Scott, Mick, Bob and others I’m sure I’ve missed.

Most of these recollections directly speak to my love of the Mountain and what it taught me and continues to teach me today. I do however veer off this trail in pursuit of other interests and musings. I hope you enjoy.

White River

Published by herestahuya

Passionate about the Pacific Northwest, the Mountain, irony, and good conversations, stories and laughter around a campfire.

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