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Traveling Boy: Jim Friend: Lost in the North Cascades

Lost in the North Cascades, Washington

nyone who lives in the Northwest and likes exploring the outdoors can attest to fact that a trip to the North Cascades in the summer is like traveling somewhere a thousand miles away. So typically inaccessible and fearsome is this conflagration of tempestuous mountains, that in the winter, whole roadways running through it are closed for an entire season. In 1974, the North Cascades Highway, a major thoroughfare, was closed from mid-November until the impossibly late date of June 14th of the following summer. With this sort of restrictive reality inhibiting travel throughout much of the year, when summer at last pierces the snowy veil of these dormant hinterlands, it’s “game on” for the adventurous hiker.

Probably the best part of moving to Seattle four years ago was being able to reconnect with friends I never thought I’d see again. One of these was my buddy Keith, whom I met in high school. We reconnected through tales told by my friends Marv and Bill, and sealed the deal through Facebook, making plans to bro down again for the first time in almost 20 years. One particular night earlier this year, on yet another disgustingly dark, cold, and rainy winter’s Seattle eve, Keith and I met in a bar in Ballard and threw down. Stories were told, lives were recounted, and spiritual sparks flew as we exterminated several lagers with extreme prejudice. In the midst of this conversational reverie, Keith and I discovered a common interest in challenging the wits of The Great Outdoors, so we made several potential plans for conquest when the clouds finally parted and the The Great Sun pounded through the ghastly solitude of this far northern hemisphere’s Dark Season.

After several months of infrequent but sincere internet communiques, we at last rounded up a plan that suited us both, surely just a mild prequel to the adventures that lay ahead: A simple overnight trip to the Hidden Lakes fire outlook in the North Cascades. About a month of mutual wrangling with our schedules went into inexorably solidifying plans that matched our individual realities, and then, off we headed into the Great Unknown.

Keith showed up at my place last month at about 9 am one summer’s morning. My alarm failed to wake me on time, but as it transpired, I was somehow able meet him ready almost the moment he showed up at my door. We headed off in my sturdy Land Rover very much on time for our conquest. Along the way, we talked about our lives and what had become of them since our bar blitz many months earlier. As we blasted along towards our destiny, a glance in my rear view mirror revealed the withering sight of a white cloud completely obscuring the traffic behind me. Engine trouble. I pulled over immediately, a microscopic poltergeist residing in a small part of my mind doing backflips, swearing to me me that what I was seeing was blue smoke, indicating scorched oil and a thoroughly cooked cylinder, equalling a completely ruined motor. A very decent amount of relief ensued as we soon found, after opening the hood, that it was simply a broken radiator hose belching white steam. Keith and I made many fruitless MacGyver-style attempts to patch this leak, and then limped, with the great help of Keith’s Garmin, to a service station about six miles down the road. Thankfully, their schedule was clear, so they took us in right away. Even so, the fix took about three hours out of our timetable.

afternoon hike in the North Cascades
A beautiful North Cascades afternoon luring us into our demise...

Maybe we should have known the cloud trailing my vehicle during this unfortunate event was a foreboding portent for things to come. Times ten.

At last on our way again, I remarked to Keith how this delay shouldn’t really be a surprise to me, because somehow, I’ve developed a strange habit of turning up at trailheads late in the afternoon. Neither of us was worried though, because our hike was supposed to be completely straightforward: about 4.5 miles of hiking and 3,000 feet of elevation gain, with a fire lookout staring us square in the face half of the way guiding our path.

Nearing our destination, we stopped at the local ranger station to ask some questions, and also popped off at burger joint to stoke up for the vertical strain that faced us. Keith’s Garmin led us straight to the turn-off from the main road, and with the blaring sounds of Kyuss proclaiming the way, we finally made it to the trailhead about 15 miles later. To our complete satisfaction, we found its small dirt parking lot empty. Given that it was so late in the day, we were sure to be the only ones on the trail. The fire outlook was all ours. Totally. Perfect.

We made our excited preparations and headed off up the trail. After signing in at the trail register, I said a brief prayer out loud, asking God for “extraordinary sights and extraordinary times.” Keith approved. As it turns out, God answered that prayer abundantly. Perhaps I should have kept on praying... for more mundane blessings like safety, good weather, and guidance.

Quite a stretch up the trail, I suddenly realized that I had forgotten my headlamp. I couldn’t believe the absurdity of this failure of judgment, but in my excitement to depart on our journey, I had only checked the trunk section of my ride for any remaining needed items, leaving the front and middle seats unsearched. I apologized to Keith, but he gracefully didn’t mind, remarking that there would probably be a candle at the lookout anyway. Still, I knew it was a horrible oversight. If things went wrong, I was screwed. A night plunged into complete darkness out in the wilderness would be nothing less than an David Lynch inspired nightmare. As I hiked, my mind echoed the image of my headlamp swinging from the peg I had hung it on next to the front passenger seat.

Glorious sights in abundance revealed themselves on the trail as upward we tread. A curious thing about the Earth is that, as it seems to me, every hundred miles or so, there exists a new ecosystem. Period. Sure, you can lump broad swaths of land together into generalized descriptions of ecological community, but from my point of view, there are tens of thousands of ecosystems; any given region is not exactly quite like the other, give or take a hundred miles or so. No words enough are available to describe it in detail, but this trail was again somehow totally unique from any other I’d seen. It was the North Cascades indeed, but this was the Hidden Lakes. Totally amazing.

snowfield on ridgeline, North Cascades
It's a lot farther away than it looks: The ridge line on the horizon would be our stumbling ground.

As we hiked up toward the tree line, we encountered a ton of snow, so much so, that we eventually lost the trail. In our estimation, the best route available to our destination was straight up to the 7,000 foot ridge line, and then southward to our obvious destination. The map was completely clear, it seemed: To the ridge line. South about a mile and a half or so. Fire outlook. Food. Jack Daniels and tobacco. Sleep.

Hiking up the snowfield to the ridge turned out to be steep trouble, but we were making good time. I was stoked to see dark clouds moving in, thinking it would be completely great to get a little bit of cloud action into the mix. Up until this trip, I had always loved hiking in the strange, enchanting atmosphere of fog. We finally made it to up the top, and gloried in the sights that revealed themselves as we crested. The clouds were very close to submerging the entire ridge, but we were still able to look down on the lakes and unbelievable corridors of available mountainous terrain many, many miles beyond. It was right about at this time that I started to get cold, and another awful vision started to echo through my mind: My jacket, still laying on the backseat. Just a few moments of thought confirmed it.... I had forgotten my jacket, too.

I knew better than to panic. We would surely be at the fire lookout before long, no need to worry about the jacket. I had a few extra clothes in my pack, so if need be, I could just bundle up along the way and not be in too bad of shape at all. Still, it was another thoroughly stupid oversight, and I knew it.

A bit of discussion ensued before we both thoroughly agreed: To the south we would go. As we moved higher on the precipice of the ridge line, the clouds condensed steadily. We were thoroughly and fearfully socked in. At times, visibility was around 50 feet, and to make matters worse, we still hadn’t spotted the fire outlook. Just the sight of it from a distance would have been enough to calm our worries and push us onward toward certain victory, but no visual apprehension of it was claimed. We moved up and over several precarious rock summits and cornices of snow, judging that the only way out was up. Even though we couldn’t really see anything, if we gained elevation, according to our interpretation of the map, there was no other option but to stumble headlong into the fire shelter. So onward we climbed, through the thickening mist.

Stopping occasionally to assess our situation, I noticed tiny drops of water accumulating on Keith’s eyelashes from the thick fog that surrounded us. In my aggregate memory of mountain climbing and hiking over the last 20 years, I had never seen this before. I studied it closer, and sure enough, there were small drops of water condensing on Keith’s eyelashes. He certainly hadn’t been crying or anything of the sort. What I was seeing was a saturation of the water vapor held in the air. Wow. I remembered Bear Grylls admonition for cold-environment wilderness travel: “You sweat, you die.” Sweat or loads of water vapor, if you get wet and have to spend the night in the freezing cold, there’s no difference. We were both certainly accumulating this moisture all over ourselves.

On several occasions on this part of the climb, we were forced to ascend via a few sharp backbones of snow at the top of the ridge line in order to continue, which was kind of like walking on the apex of the roof of a house, on a weird-shaped, rounded, slippery surface. It was steep on both sides, and it made me really uncomfortable. To slip and fall to the right would mean a broken arm or foot. A fall to the left would deliver a broken leg or worse. We climbed for about an hour, with an ever present knowledge that our daylight was running out. Finally cresting a hilltop where we expected surely run straight into the shelter, we found that it wasn’t there.

hiking up a steep slope
A few hours later we would be searching for the trail on these steep slopes in the pitch dark.

After a solid stretch of confusion, interspersed with plenty of speculation, we decided, at the apex of this unknown peak, and in the darkening cumulus, to consult the mystical Garmin. We came to the decision that we would take a reading and hike back towards our original point of insertion on the ridge, and see what happened. As we began to trudge back, and to our utter surprise, the Garmin told us, compared to the GPS coordinates in our guidebook, that we had been heading the wrong way in the first place. The map and our mutual interpretation of it was in exact opposition to what the Garmin was indicating. Unreal. As we continued to sojourn, the readings apparently confirmed this conclusion, so we began to hurry, knowing we had to get back to our original high spot to even begin to figure out what to do next. Where I could, I started to run.

Our only hope on this stretch of the path was to follow our tracks back out, if we lost our original trail, we could get badly lost. For most of our downward descent, we had a good bead on our footprints, but then we lost them. We poked around for a bit, our visibility seriously compromised by the failing light and many rocky outcroppings on which we might have chose to skirt any steep snow we previously wanted to avoid negotiating. At a certain point in this search for our old footprints, I knew that we were lost. We had simply gotten lost.

This was the moment I’d been preparing for for years. I knew that if you ever find yourself lost in the wilderness, the only thing you can reasonably do is stop and wait for rescue; or, at the very least, visual proof of your exit point or path. We could find our way out in the morning. Stopping now was the only prudent thing to do. So many people have been reduced to bleached bones by not following this simple and wise advice out in the sticks. It was time to cease our explorations and bed down for the night. Keith inherently understood our situation as well, even pointing out a sheltered group of rocks we could sleep under. Despite my religious preparations for this unfortunate occasion and the confirmation of this reality by my wizened climbing partner, I once again abandoned good sense and stumbled around like a drunken sailor looking for the trail. Just like most of my days in real life, come to think of it. Even so, and thankfully, we somehow eventually found our tracks, and proceeded to vamonos. Eventually we found our insertion point, and further scrutiny of our worsening situation began.

clouds moving in on ridge
Clouds moving in, just above our insertion point on the ridge.

It didn’t take long for us to ascertain that we couldn’t reasonably reach this Alleged and Sinister Fire Outlook due to the wicked terrain to the north, and because of the rapidly darkening conditions. Our boots were also completely soaked by this time, pretty much sealing the deal. We needed to evacuate altogether, and in a hurry. So then, down the bitterly steep snowfields we began, making great progress at first, again running wherever we could. At some point early on the way down, Keith turned on his headlamp out of sheer necessity, as I followed. About 15 minutes into the down-climb, we lost our tracks in the snow. Looking around in near darkness, what I feared most for our descent had indeed taken place. The late afternoon sun had, by this time, melted away our original footprints, blending them almost perfectly with the surrounding snow. Keith decided we should head downhill to the left, and since I wasn’t convinced about which way we should go, I followed him willingly. We hiked downward on even steeper snow, hacked through a patch of trees, and then ran into another thicket of trees just a bit later, on an even steeper incline. Keith began to descend through a separation in the compact shrubbery, and the next thing I knew, the only thing I could see of him was his head as he slipped almost straight down, one hand gripping a sturdy branch. The terrain was quickly heading toward vertical. We decided that we must have chosen on the wrong path, and started the arduous business climbing back up to our previous location. Upon arriving at this spot, it was effectively completely dark, and we still had hours of hiking ahead of us. Exploring for a good long stretch in the dim light of Keith’s headlamp, we finally found the trail on a swatch of dirt to the east. It was big relief to be on a solid ground again.

Shortly this good feeling would pass, because soon the switchbacks in the trail intersected with another indomitable snowfield, causing us to wander off into yet another white arctic wasteland as the submerged trail veered somewhere underneath us, 150 sharp degrees in the opposite direction. This was really bad news. If we couldn’t find the trail, we’d have to stay the night out there somewhere on any available ground. The alternative would be wandering around on glacial permafrost or the adjacent mud fields until dawn. We took turns searching for the trail with Keith’s headlamp, back and forth, here and there, with one of us standing on the original spot we’d lost the trail between the borderline of snow and dirt. Without a headlamp, I was feeling pretty helpless, as all I could do was watch the diminishing light of Keith’s light virtually disappear at times in the dreadful fog. A long time later, we finally found the trail again on some anonymous edge of the endless morass, and off we went again.

It didn’t take long, however, until we were confronted with the same empty situation. More standing around in the dark murkiness and waiting. Getting cold for lack of movement and being wet. Trading the headlamp and starting my own search. Hearing Keith’s voice behind me in the distance. The blur of featureless snow illuminated by bobbing halogen. Over and over, again and again. Searching. Nothing, all the same. Again and again. Cold. Nothing. Nowhere.

under cornice on ridge
Keith pondering our fate under a cornice on the ridge line. It's starting to get dark.

As we bumbled about, I apprehended in plentiful measure that I was totally stoked to have Keith there. He never got discouraged, never complained, never gave up. There is no substitute for that, nothing. When trouble is deep and your climbing partner never gives up, you have won half the battle right there. We had both been through a lot already and were both toward the end of our reasonable rope, but there within him was an invisible light flickering inside, encouraging his way.

Finally, we found the trail yet again, and the death march continued. Not long after... lost again on the snow. More searching. And finally, a lot less time spent than before, we found the trail yet again, this time at a point where we were virtually assured there was only dirt trail left. We were quite happy about this. Quite. We also knew we still had a very long slog ahead of us to get down to the trailhead.

So we stumbled onward in the darkness, my gaze fixed fully on the dim, strange light of Keith’s bobbing headlamp ahead of me on the trail. So thoroughly soaked were my boots by this time that the many streams we had carefully negotiated on the ascent were slogged through without concern of any additional dampening.

As if we hadn’t been through enough, by some thoroughly strange twist of fate, over and over and over again we both slipped and fell hard onto the merciless ground via the super slick root systems that glared up at us, exposed from the wearing of many occasional footsteps on the oft-enough trodden path. Keith tweaked his knee on one of his flops. On another, I warped my abdomenal muscles horribly upon unique impact. I got up feebly, emitting a sick and lingering groan, apprehending that here was another encounter with the Great Deep that would never end. The trail somehow stretched interminably onward before us. Every tree and switchback became familiar. The sound of every gurgling stream and every large tree birthed a mental mirage... we were on the last 100 yards of the trail. I was stuck again in this strange movie, moving silently onward in the misery that rejects hope and just keeps going. Strathcona, Mount Jefferson, the Queen Charlotte Islands, Mount San Jacinto, Glacier Peak. All blurred together as I found myself here again. Just keep going. Maybe something good will happen.

At midnight, and at the end of this long weary trail, with no food intake for the entire journey, and hiking for the last eight straight dazed hours, many of them spent in darkness, we sighted the trail register podium, and sealed this wild journey with a joyous hug, vocally thankful to God that he had seen us through. I realized that here before me, as our stoked embrace disengaged, was among the very few of rare men, with whom I could trust my life. We signed the register to substantiate our exit: “Aliens above, and yetis below. Everywhere!” We collapsed at the back of the Land Rover with a laugh. Smoked salmon and bread and cream cheese and Milky Ways and Gatorade were devoured in the dark night. Just as we were finishing our feast, a final exclamation point of harrowing trouble started steadily down upon us: Rain. Had we been forced to hunker down in the rocks and snow at 7,000 feet with no considerable shelter, the Dark and the Cold and the Wet would have been our constant, deadly companions till daybreak.

grateful expression
Responses vary to almost having died. This one: "Thank you, Jesus!" Amen!

After our feasting and celebrations, I started the car and we rolled out toward Seattle. We were plenty stoked. Keith slept for awhile as the soft and ambient sounds of Massive Attack accompanied me toward home. I came to the conclusion that there is no such thing as summer in the North Cascades. There is also no such thing as making stupid mistakes up there, like I did twice in forgetting equipment. We got back to my place at around 3 am, said our goodbyes, and crashed hard. The next day, I looked at the map several times, and still don’t know what went wrong. I’m certain we’ll have to go back and find out.

"Namibia" Article

Jim,

I spent several school holidays in Windhoek with family friends. Much later I took each of my kids (U.S. born & raised) on separate trips to my native, Cape Town and "Overlanded" through Namibia into the Kaokoveld. I enjoyed your travelogue immensely. Please advise me if you ever publish a collection of your travel experiences. The apple strudel at Helmeringhausen somewhere after Ai Ais was the best ever. Graciously,

Merv Hayman, Sarasota, FL

Hi Merv, thanks for the correspondence, glad you enjoyed the article. It sounds like that country got into your blood, as it has in mine. I'm looking forward to getting back there someday and seeing much more of the place, Namibia has a peculiar allure. Thanks for the complements and I will certainly put you on the list for a travel stories compendium.

Cheers and happy travels!
Jim

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"Bullriding in Texas" Article

Hey Jim,

I love your website. It has shown me that all this time my boyfriend was lying to me about who he was. On his Facebook page he was using the picture of "Thomas Bosma"... Btw great story and pictures.

MaKayla, Rapid City

Hi MaKayla, glad we could be of assistance in busting your prevaricating suitor! Thanks for the complements as well.

All the best, Jim

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"Canadian Arctic " Article

Hey Jim,

Just wanted to say 'Hello'…love your intro/bio Mr. Boitano, fits the call of excitement/steelo of Mr. Friend. Hope to keep correspondence, and hope all your travels keep you busy but safe, Check my Friend...

Mico Gonz, Seattle, WA

Miiii-coooooooooooooooo!!!

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"Jalalabad, Afghanistan" Article

Hello Jim,

Very interesting, I find it very important for me because my BF is there. Hope he is fine...His name is Sgt.Jason Adams...Thank you and God bless...

Leonila, Guiguinto, Bulacan, Philippines

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Cpt. Disi was at Kutschbach with the guys of 2nd platoon. I was in 4th, we were right up the road at FOB Morales Frazier. I don't think I read anywhere about you being at KB but if you were up there in Kapisa province with us you would have loved it. It was 10x better than Jbad. The air there was so full of smog, and you couldn't really see that far out early in the morning when the sun was rising. But its nice to see someone like you who was out on patrols and documenting all the things we did. Great stories. Keep up the good work...

Kevin Myrick, Calhoun, GA

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Love your writing. Have you read Spike Walker's books by now?

Kerry, Wenatchee, WA

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Nice.

Christian Louboutin, New York City

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I do not believe I've seen this described in such an informative way before. You actually have clarified this for me. Thank you!

Janice Randall, Post Falls, ID

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I like the style you took with this topic. It isn't every day that you just discover a subject so to the point and enlightening.

Charles David, St. Anne, Manitoba

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Hey Jim! LT Singh just checking your site.. looks great… very slow internet here.. will be home in 2 weeks.

Alvin Singh , New York

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Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones. You have a lot more creativity and originality now. Keep it up! And according to this article, I totally agree with your opinion, but only this time! :) .

Arthur Cox, Next to Paris

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Jim. Take it all in, smother your senses with the culture and people. Watch your top notch and have a once in a lifetime experience. Miss you.

Jeff and Andrea, Los Angeles, CA

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Fascinating photos Jim! Singly they are all fodder for short stories; together they really capture an out-of-body trip! Enjoyed mine, thank you! I'm curious what those compounds contain...mostly businesses? residences? Love that the T-Boy card is making it's way around the globe!

Wendy, Los Angeles, CA

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These are outstanding photos. You capture scenes that I've never seen in the "mainstream media." Haunting images that make me think that there is danger around every corner.

Al Burt, Friday Harbor, WA

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Enjoyed your article immensely! Your title is fun and so is learning about bin Laden skipping out without paying the rent - what a loser! It's great you could meet with Mr. Jouvenal, hear the stories and see the guns. Give our highest regards to T.G. Taylor and the other military personnel serving in Afghanistan. Courage to you all!

Steve, Renton, WA

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Jim, I enjoyed this fascinating article. It reminded me of how sublimely surreal life is. Also, I would like to thank you for your courage, and to express gratitude towards your bringing this piece of the world, with its foreign realities, to my doorstep. I look forward to reading more from you.

Sandra, Seattle, WA

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This is outstanding reporting, Jimmy F! Fascinating stuff. You've taken on a dangerous, important assignment in Afghanistan, and we readers appreciate your work with the military and your unique observations. I look forward to your next post. In fact, I'm going to go through the archives to see your entire body of work on TravelingBoy.

Terry, Los Angeles, CA

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I really enjoyed my entry into Kabul with you and the visit with Peter Jouvenal... look forward to more of that adventure.

Brenda, Richland, WA

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Great story, Jim, a story really "as current as yesterday's news." Now there's a real TravelingBoy!

Eric, San Diego, CA

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Jim you have probably revealed more about Bin Laden than anyone...his rage on the world has to be linked to his limp handshake. Be careful over there!

Janet, Caldwell, ID

Thanks Janet! I get the distinct impression that his handshake isn't the end story to all that's limp with bin Laden's physiology!

Jim

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What a fantastic piece. You're a modern-day Hemingway. Your writing is compelling and fascinating. I look forward to much more of this great adventure.

Roger, Puyallup, WA

Wow, Roger, what an awesome set of complements. Thanks a lot. My first journal entry of 2010 was: "The stories will tell themselves. I just need to show up." So far, so good! Thanks again!

Jim

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Jim, first time reading your stuff. Very cool. I hope to read about our units and life in eastern Afghanistan very soon since you will be coming to our area as an embed. BTW, I'm the PAO here in Jalalabad and will be coordinating your visit with CPT Disi.

T.G. Taylor, US Army, Jalalabad, Afghanistan

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Hello T.G.!

I saw your email address included on a couple of correspondences, and I cannot wait to spend some time with you, and even yet more of our honorable fighting forces over there in that bleak neck of the woods in Afghanistan in January, including CPT Disi. This is truly a trip of a lifetime for me, and I'm completely looking forward to absorbing the experiences there and recording the sufferings and sacrifices of so many of those of you who continue to strain and press to make Our Country Great, those of you who daily labor to assist those in other countries whose lives had once withered under the burden of tyrants, and whose hopes can now flicker again with the help of those like yourself. Thanks so much for putting it all out there for us every day. My fervent hope is to honorably document the expenditures of each of your individual lives in the midst of this conflict, those of you who "anonymously" struggle daily to make what We Hold As Good prevail in what, at times, is a dark and wicked world.

Thanks so much, man. Great to hear from you... See you soon!

Jim

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Sad to say, this is the first time I've read one of your articles Jim. What have I been missing!? Thanks for the funny, informative, and just plain awesome read! Take care and have a great Turkey day!

Jeff, Pasco, WA

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Jim, I just loving reading your blogs. As I've dreamt about going to Costa Rica for at least 20 years, this was a very insightful and fun read for me. You always make me laugh.

Deborah - Burbank, CA

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Wow, what a HILARIOUS guy!!!!! I really really enjoyed the article. The Village Artist is my 'uncle Boyd" as I call him. He is closing his shop next year. That made my day and thank you for letting me know of this on the world's BEST travel information source.

Sandy - Sitka, Alaska

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Hi Sandy!

Comments like those that you wrote make all the hassles and travails of writing resoundingly worthwhile, thank you! I am so sorry to hear that Boyd is closing his shop! The Alaskan State legislature should immediately intervene to make his shop an Alaskan cultural heritage site of some variety (not kidding). Meanwhile, from the sound of the conversation Boyd and I had, it's the federal government that's confused and harassed the poor guy with inconsistent and random applications of federal law to the point where it's probably not worth it anymore. I hope that's not the case, but I wouldn't be surprised. Whatever the reason, I am really sorry to hear that he's closing shop. I'm privileged to have seen it... once in a lifetime. Thanks again for reading and thanks a lot for your comments!

Jim

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Hi Jim,

Now I know what you were doing on the Alaska cruise when I wasn't around. Besides playing cribbage. I'm glad that you, a younger, more slender and fit person, also saw the value in cruising. I didn't come back with a tan, but I did lose 3 pounds while sleeping every night and eating every meal but one. Jade and I are looking forward to three weeks exploring Mediterranean ports in May. We put down our deposit for it on our last night on board and have starting our training. Sleeping in the same wonderful bed every night makes such a break-neck pace completely possible for a grandma like me. I'm looking forward to reading your Afghanistan piece WHEN you have returned.

Janice - Seattle

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Hi Janice!

Yes that was a blast! I would do all of that again any day of the week. Have fun on your Mediterranean cruise, that sounds like great fun!

Jim

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Love your expeditions. Keep writing.

Karen Cummings - Yakima, WA

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Jim can't tell you how much I am enjoying your writing. One other commenter mentioned you are living the life we all dream of, ain't that the truth. As far as looking for a place to live that will challenge you to be able to make a real living and supplying a steady flow of women looking for the bbd (bigger better deal) then you should try the Yakima Valley here in Washington State (inside joke). Look forward to reading more from you.

Huston Turcott (hooter) - Yakima, WA

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Awesome!!! I love Japan!

Maja - Chur, Switzerland

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Jimmy my love,

I totally thought you were kidding when you told me you went bullriding. OH MY GOSH you actually did it. (SIGH) Am I going to have to smack you around a bit?? heheheheee Seriously, come see us!

Leah, Richland, WA

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Jim,

Rock on Friend! Living it up... inspiring us all to do the same!

Celeste, Seattle


Jim,

Are you for real? You're living the life many people only dream about. You're obviously not yet married. What wife would allow her husband to do all the crazy things you do? This Virginia skydiving adventure is probably the scariest yet. Your writing style helps bring the exhilaration out. Great photos too. Loved the caption about you striking that "gangsta rap" pose. Come to think of it, why do we do that in front of the camera?

Thanks also for the tips. $250 for a few minutes with nothing between you and mother earth is a bit costly but I guess if you have a death wish, this is definitely the way to go.

You mentioned that 25 people a year lose their lives doing this. With my luck I will be among that number if and when I decide to do this.

Enjoyed it very much. Can't wait for your next adventure.

Peter Paul of South Pasadena, CA

Jeem!

Found ur Glacier trek (I will Destroy You Glacier Peak) to be serious kick ass. To be honest, I’m such a lightweight, I’ve never been more than a day tripper. When u really get out there on one of those long solo treks, and the water runs short … can u drink from local streams? I’ve heard that pollution is so bad that even places untouched by man are now off-limits.

VitoZee

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Howdy VitoZee,

Great to hear from you and thanks for the complement and question. That is a seriously cool name, by the way: VitoZee. Just from the phonetics of it, I get the impression that you might be a very friendly and mild-mannered hitman working out of North Jersey. Really cool.

As for your drinking water from streams question, there are a lot of answers for it. The simple answer is that, no, you can almost never implicitly trust stream water sources, unless they are flowing straight out of the ground (via an aquafer or spring) bubbling up right there in front of you. That's your best bet, but you rarely see that in the wild unless you're looking for it, and even so, I have actually gotten sick from drinking spring water straight from the source at Panther Springs on Mount Shasta. You never know what you're going to get drinking untreated water from the wilds.

Most of the time the pollution you'll be dealing with out in the wilderness is not man-made, it usually comes from bacteria and parasites that inhabit the bodies of wilderness animals. For example, on this Glacier Peak trip, I drank from a stream I was confident was trustworthy. In the immediate vicinity were living quite a few marmots. A number of days after I got home I fell ill, and had to wonder if I hadn't picked up something from the water I drank, as there was not much of any other explanation for my symptoms. I knew a trip to the doctor would probably result in them sending me back home with a plastic cup that was required to be filled with my own poo, which would need to be delivered back to the lab steaming hot so they could figure out exactly what kind of bacteria or parasite they were dealing with. (Not a joke, remember Panther Springs?) After this diagnosis, I would then have to go back to the doctor and get a prescription, but by then, my body would have probably fought off the tiny invaders completely on its own. Not worth the trouble, and all of this would certainly = Jim minus $280. So I suffered it out, and whatever happened to be bothering me left my system in about 7 days or so. Yuck. No fun.

Anyway, I don't recommend drinking straight from the streams of the wild, but in a pinch, I do it everytime, unless I see a bear or a moose straight upstream from me pooping in the river, which has only happened about ten times. (Or zero times.) Anyway, sometimes I get sick, sometimes I don't. If I'm exhausted and thirsty, to heck with it, I'm drinking it.

All this notwithstanding, or withstanding, or notwithoutstanding, whatever, they just recently invented the coolest thing in the world though, so you might want to check it out. Previously, for treating your water in the wild, you'd always have to put a pellet of iodine or a congregate of other evil ingredients into your jug of stream water and let it sit there for an hour before you drink it while the chemical cocktail thoroughly treats your water. That is ridonkulous because when you're hiking and thirsty, you aren't going to wait a full hour for that pill to dissolve and work properly, you are going to guzzle. Anyway, they just invented this magic wand of sorts that you can find at any decent backpacking or outdoors store. You turn it on and dip it in your stream filled water jug, and the ultraviolet light it produces irradiates everything to death on the spot, after about 30 seconds or so. Kind of like my pinky finger, which I keep forgetting to treat my stream water with, because I'm always so dang thirsty.

Jim

Keep it comin' Jim. Sounds awesome.

Matt Langley, Duvall, WA

Hey Jim,

Enjoyed your Victoria article. It was an intersting slant on a city that is generally just promoted as a destination for tea rooms, gardens and double-decker buses. Now let's get serious ... are the Canadian women there really that attractive, good-natured and open-minded? Maybe I won't get married either and just move up there. It sure sounds refreshing after having to deal with the smugness of all those LA starlets, trying to make it in Hollywood.

Gary, Santa Monica

* * *

Gary,

Thanks so much for the communique. I can honestly tell you that there was little exagerration involved in my description of the girls there in Victoria. God, in his infinite wisdom, has thankfully granted American mankind a few other places than the great old U.S. of A. to relieve our hearts of the burden of the eternally-self-absorbed, career-tracked, Bill-Gates-as-a-husband seeking beastly variety of female. I know, after living here in the States forever (especially in Seattle), how it is. I was recently researching a trip to Columbia, and heard the same news implicitly spoken about the women there, they are apparently of the same caliber of those that live in British Columbia. I invite you, before relocating, to take a trip up to Victoria, to see for yourself. I'll never forget it.

And my brotha', if you think you have it bad in the Los Angeles area (I lived there for six years), try Seattle (where I have lived for the last laborious three). Seattle seems to be crammed with nothing other than Ice Princesses, who live their lives completely within the confines of darkened cerebral domains, mental attentions locked firmly onto the goal of marrying the next Bill Gates, hoping to live in one of those big houses smooshed up against Lake Washington, hearts available only to the ultimate goal, the dream of all dreams ... being on Oprah someday...absorbing the jealous attentions of the millions of suburbanite women watching, all hoping to sit right there across from Ms. Winfrey someday, too, while regaling her with the tales of the good life, closets full of the savvy and smarmy garb purloined at Nordstrom's, their husband a virtual "Prince Charming," their family-owned barnacle encrusted yacht anchored firmly in some northern fjord. Oprah smiles back approvingly amidst a cacophony of applause, screen fades to commercials, all conduits nourishing The Beast.

You're my kind of guy, Gary. Hang in there, amigo. I look forward to meeting your smokin' hot wife someday.

Jim


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