Dan Has Some Explaining to Do about Being Jailed in Knoxville (Part 4 of 6)

Still surprised that I am being booked for hitchhiking on the Interstate here in eastern Tennessee this September of 1971, I have no smile for my mug shot; the clerk then asks for my belt and all my money ($7).  My first thought was Really? You think I am going to hang myself because I was brought in for hitchhiking?   Later I understand that a belt could be a weapon and the $ could be a source of tension between inmates if it were stolen.  My bail was set at $60.  Can you believe it!

Knox dial phone

I then asked to make my one phone call.  Reluctantly the clerk gave me the phone and I dialed my parents in New Jersey.  No one answered, for I later learned that they were in Gambier, Ohio visiting my younger brother Richard at Kenyon College, some 100 miles southwest of where I was going to meet Hannah.

When I got no answer, the clerk said unsmilingly, That’s your one call.  I said, I didn’t get through, can I make another call?  Peeved, he agreed, but then I had to ask him for a phone book to look up the number of my parents’ friends, the Yellins, who lived in Memphis at the opposite end of the state.  Connecting with the Yellins, I was thrilled that they would send me $100 by Western Union for bail and a bus ticket out of town.

Knox jail bunkbeds

Led to a corridor of 12 cells each with one inch bars spaced inches apart, I found that my cell had four bunkbeds made of one quarter inch metal with symmetrical one inch holes spaced throughout.  There were no mattresses, no pillows, no blankets.  We had a combination sink/toilet which was as disgusting as you might imagine.

With no windows in this cell block, individual light bulbs hung from the only ceiling were the source of illumination.  I was scared, here in the South and no one knew where I was save the Yellins.  I was a mess.  I had led a pretty sheltered life and felt so alone.

Knox western union

After two hours with nothing to do (there were no books, please), I still hadn’t received any word from Western Union.  “Lunch time” arrived about 2P.   A man with a metal can two feet deep and 15 inches across filled with the oiliest peanut butter known to man came down the cell block making peanut butter sandwiches for us all.  His eyes weren’t right, he had few teeth and they were askew and yellow.

Oozing with oil, the peanut butter sandwiches grossed me out such that all I could do was pull the two pieces of bread apart.  All the peanut butter stuck to one side and I ate the other slice.  Raunchy black coffee was our lunchtime beverage.  And still there was no word about my bail money.

Learn tomorrow about my stay in jail and a drunk tank!


Dan Has Some Explaining to Do about Being Jailed in Knoxville (Part 3 of 6)

It was two in the morning in Cartersville, GA some forty miles north of Atlanta this September of 1971.  I had come from Phoenix with a friend and was now hitchhiking north to Ohio to meet up with Hannah.  I had been dropped off at a diner as the rain continued to fall, which made the dark even darker for me so far from home.  With no chance of getting a ride til morning, I sat down on a stool and talked with the all-night counter guy.

Knox two eggs

After chatting awhile, I looked for something to do while he worked in the kitchen.  Seeing a broom, I began slow sweeping to kill some time.  Once I sat back down at the counter, he set a plate with two eggs over easy, hash browns, and white toast in front of me.  I looked up and said that I couldn’t afford it (I had $7 now, but needed to conserve my money for I was still 650 miles from Ohio).  He said, it’s on the house.

Most grateful and very hungry, I ate and we talked through the night.  By 7A the morning crowd was shuffling in, I thanked him for his generosity, and walked out into a light mist looking for my first ride north.

I-75 north from Atlanta to Knoxville and then on to Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, which is near Akron

I-75 north from Atlanta to Knoxville and then on to Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, which is near Akron

In minutes I was picked up by a rangy young man in blue jeans who was driving to Knoxville, Tennessee four hours away.  He said he could use the company to stay awake.  On this early Saturday morning, I learned he was one of 25 kids from the Tennessee mountains; a likeable guy, he at the age of 24 already had four girls himself.  He drove to Atlanta each Monday evening to work in a steel mill and returned home after his shift ended early Saturday morning.

Things were looking up as I had a free breakfast and a sweet four hour ride to Knoxville.  He dropped me off at his exit and as I walked on the grassy embankment on I-75, I proceeded to stick out my thumb.  Ahead, there was an intersection with traffic lights where it would be easier to get a ride.  Back in 1971, the Interstate system in Tennessee, as in much of the country, was spotty, a little here and a little there.

Knox cop

And then more good fortune: a cop pulled over to give me a ride to better a place to hitchhike.  That had happened before during my hitchhiking years with my brother Richard in Ohio and two years before when I hitchhiked from Idaho Falls to Tempe, AZ.

And then all of a sudden he made a U-turn and headed back into town.  He said, I’m taking you to the Knoxville City Jail.  Hitchhiking is illegal on the Interstate.

Stunned, I wondered what the Knoxville City Jail would be like for this Jersey boy?  Find out Wednesday in part 4.

Dan Has Some Explaining to Do about Being Jailed in Knoxville (Part 2 of 6)

When I said to Hannah that I was done with our long distance relationship and wanted her to move to Arizona with me, she was all in.  She had already quit her teaching job, for in her mind she knew she was not cut out to be a teacher.  I drove West for Tempe in August of 1971 and she planned to drive out in September.

Knox carwash

When I returned to Arizona that August, under the cloud of being drafted to fight in the Viet Nam War, I took a position at Dan’s Car Wash on Mill Avenue in downtown Tempe.  My parents must have been so proud that their son with a college degree was making $1.25 per hour vacuuming the floors at a car wash.

With Hannah’s mid-September departure from New York coming, I quit that job to return East to drive with her to Arizona in her Ford Mustang.  Hannah was even cool back then.  Coincidentally, Dave, a good buddy from high school, was driving from Phoenix to Atlanta at this time and offered to take me the 1800 miles to Georgia.  Though that was not a direct route to Hannah, I then could hitchhike the 700 miles north from Atlanta to Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio where Hannah would be staying with her college roommate Sian.

Knox Atlanta map

Arriving in Atlanta about 6P Friday after three days on the road, I found I just couldn’t fall asleep thinking about meeting up with Hannah the next day.  She always had my heart.  Unable to sleep, I thought, What the hell?  Why not just start hitchhiking tonight?

Even though Dave justifiably doubted my sanity, he dropped me off on I-75 north of Atlanta near midnight.  On six lanes of highway in the pitch black with the cars whizzing by at 65 mph, I started walking to an exit for a better chance at a ride.

Knox hitchhiking

Amazingly a car stopped and I jumped into the backseat.  Husband and wife turned and looked at me and he said, We picked you because we thought you were a girl.  My hair was longer, nearly to my shoulders, but not long enough to have a ponytail. Though I disappointed them on my gender, they still drove me some 35 miles north to Cartersville, Georgia.

They were good and decent Southern folk.  At one point, they asked me if I had any money.  Even though I had five dollars at the time, I said I had none.  I had hitchhiked before where drivers expected me to pay for being picked up.  Even though they didn’t seem to have the money, they still gave me $2.50 for breakfast.

Thanking them deeply when they dropped me off, I figured there was no way I was getting a ride in the pouring rain in the middle of the night in this little town.  Spotting an all-night diner, I walked in to wait til dawn.

Tomorrow, learn more about Southern hospitality that came my way.


Dan Has Some Explaining to Do about Being Jailed in Knoxville (Part 1 of 6)

This is a love story.  It’s been running for 48 years.  Recently Hannah and I had a weekend reunion with four women who graduated from the College of Wooster in Ohio in 1970.  Early on in the weekend, Maxine, one of the four, asked how we got together.  And so…

Woo Girls - Maxine, Hannah, Bambi, and Wendy

Woo Girls – Maxine, Hannah, Bambi, and Wendy

Hannah and I met in the classrooms of the College of Wooster in Ohio and on their tennis courts as first year students in 1966.  We had a torrid year together as sophomores and life was beautiful.  Junior year not so much.  Our ideas about our futures differed.  I transferred to Arizona State University our senior year to major in elementary education after finding little meaning as a political science major at Wooster.  While I graduated from ASU in 1970, Hannah graduated with honors from Wooster and headed back to her ancestral home in Fairport, NY to teach.

Knox Anaheim map

That fall of 1970 she took a job as an elementary physical education teacher near her home while I moved to California to teach Science, Social Studies, and Spanish to fifth and sixth graders in Anaheim.  By the way, I had four years of high school French to prepare me to teach Spanish to my students, among them many Spanish-speaking Chicanos.

As we each began teaching in the fall of 1970, I was dueling with the Selective Service about my strong desire not to serve in the Viet Nam War.  I claimed I was a conscientious objector, the government said, No you are not.  Still communicating cross country with Hannah that fall by letter and the occasional phone call, I quit my teaching job at Christmas and returned to hang out with my college roommates in Tempe, AZ.  There I worked as a bus boy at Sahuaro Hall, a girls’ dorm, at Arizona State.

Know US Army

Once the spring semester of 1971 ended, I returned to New Jersey to convince my local draft board in person that drafting me was a bad idea.  They would have none of it.  After a summer at my childhood home in Fair Lawn, I was heading back to Arizona for the fall of 1971 to wait out the government’s pursuit of my body and soul.

Tempe map

In August before I left for Arizona, I told Hannah that I’d like her to come with me to Arizona.  Enough with our long distance relationship.  At this point we had known each other for four years.  I felt it was high noon in our relationship.

Tomorrow part 2 fills you in on her response.


Dan Grapples with Everything Happens for a Reason (#7)

Reason image 2

A few days ago I skim/read Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy by Jon Gordon (2007).  It’s your basic self-help stuff.  But there was one line that I’ve heard a hundred times and often doubted that got my attention.

Everything happens for a reason.

I used to think that it meant there’s a Supreme Being in the sky directing the action below.  There is a plan for everyone.  I never bought that.

I do get its corollary – There is a reason everything happens.

That corollary seems pretty Mr. Obvious.  Of course, there is a reason everything happens.  My foot will hurt if I kick a big rock.  We have free will, I believe and we make choices.

But the first statement has an air of metaphysical mystery (i.e., beyond the five senses), a spiritual component that intrigues and draws me in.

What if Everything happens for a reason means that Everything happens for a personal reason?  I may not know the reason why something happens, but in time I may find personal meaning, especially if I look inward.  Could that be?

Reason know what it is

Let me give you an example.

A young father is working two jobs to support his wife and their dream of buying a house on the Seacoast.  One job is where he commutes 100 miles round trip each day to sell real estate north of Boston while the other has him landscaping locally.  One late evening coming back from Boston, he falls asleep while approaching the Hampton Tolls.  He totals his Honda Civic when he crashes into the back of a panel truck.  He has a few bruises and no one else is hurt.

That he fell asleep at the wheel is the reason the accident happened.  That because of the accident he realized that he must quit his real estate job and focus on his landscaping is the personal reason.

By making personal meaning from what happens, does that make Everything happens for a reason?  I think not.  People have free will.  We all make choices.  I don’t believe there is a cosmic plan – predestination.  We can make personal meaning from events in our life.   We can come to the point where make lemonade from lemons from what happens in our lives.

I am back to my original belief There is a reason everything happens.  I am not on board with Everything happens for a reason.

I do know that I Trust life and  Look for the good.


Dan and Hannah Hike Eagle Creek on the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon

Eagle Creek Trail

Eagle Creek Trail

Nine days of vacation in the Northwest down, one to go. We get to hike in places most people only know about from eighth grade geography (Mount Rainier, the Olympic Peninsula, and the Oregon Coast). When hiking at Beacon Rock yesterday, a couple told us that the Eagle Creek Trail across the river in Oregon is the hike of the Columbia River Gorge. That’s all the encouragement we needed to give it a go.

EC 1A trailhead signAwaking in The Dalles, a town some 90 miles to the east of Portland, Oregon, we drive east on I-84 along the Columbia River Gorge heading for the Eagle Creek Trail where we are promised falls and more falls. On a Tuesday morning in early June, we believe we will not be inundated by the hiking public as we would be on weekends or all summer long.

Along Eagle Creek

Along Eagle Creek

The Eagle Creek Trail lies 20 to 200 feet above, as you might imagine, Eagle Creek.  With soft packed dirt covered with pine needles on this easy-to-follow trail, we set our sights on Metlako Falls.  Covered by the forest canopy, we find the mid-70s temps most comfortable in our tee shirts and lightweight shorts.  Sun sparkles on the falls some 200 feet away; as such, the dark of the forest contrasts with the sun to make it nearly impossible to get a picture of these first falls, or if truth be told, be impressed by them.

EC 2H trail continuesAt this point, the trail turns rocky, similar to the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. Two miles into our hike, we see the sign for the Punchbowl Falls side trail, which we use to descend to the river bottom.

Upper Punchbowl Falls

Upper Punchbowl Falls

There we find a party atmosphere of kids splashing in the mountain pool at the base of the falls. Twenty some people lounge about on what we learn is the typical end destination for day trippers seeking to beat the heat.


Upper Punchbowl Falls

Upper Punchbowl Falls

Even on this Tuesday in early June, we see many hikers in groups as we are now only 40 miles from Portland, with a million people in its metro area.   While many appear to be college kids on summer break, we do see a group of high schoolers here for some nature study. These falls are not drop dead gorgeous or National Geographic memorable as the ones we have seen over the past week at Mount Rainier and Olympic National Parks, but they’re fine.

Bomber on the Eagle Creek Trail

Bomber on the Eagle Creek Trail

To escape the heat, college women in threes and fours are here; some amazingly in flip flops on this very rocky trail. These 80s and 90s are unusual for Oregon in June which typically gets its Arizona heat in August. Drought has come to the Northwest, though you can’t tell if from Eagle Creek Canyon with its lush vegetation, ferns without end amen, and shaded forest.

EC 2E H on trailWe return to the main trail with our destination of the High Bridge a mile and a half away. As the rocky trail returns, we see far fewer hikers venturing past the Punchbowl Falls. There are overnight backpackers who have come from Tunnel Falls and beyond with their heavy packs on a warm day, which just makes me shudder.  I am soft.

Inch thick cables anchored into the mountainside

Inch thick cables anchored into the mountainside

Throughout the trail there are braided strands of one inch thick wire anchored into the mountainside; they indicate where the steep drop offs are. The vegetation is so lush that we are not always aware that we are hiking within feet of 70 to 100 foot drop-offs. It’s never scary, but we remain aware. I wouldn’t take our grandsons Owen and Max here until they are older, but then I’ll be all over getting them 0ut on this trail.

Falls just before the High Bridge with no discernible trail to their waters

Falls just before the High Bridge with no discernible trail to their waters

We pass another waterfall just before High Bridge. Clandestinely, young people have climbed down into the river canyon for some sunning and cooling off under the waterfalls. There is no obvious trail down; the one place that might be a trail is steep and treacherous and says “no way” to those of us north of 65.

Hannah at the High Bridge

Hannah at the High Bridge

At High Bridge, a volunteer work crew has carried twelve foot planks three plus miles to recondition the bridge across the canyon fifty feet below. We thank them for their service as if they are military. In a way, they are – another group serving the American people.

EC 7A D and H close upDue to the side trails we took to the earlier falls, it’s nearly two hours of hiking to the High Bridge. As we head back for the trailhead, we now are passing gaggles of early afternoon hikers at most every turn. It’s not overwhelming, and one even takes our picture.  One can only imagine what summer weekends are like.

Before we head east to Portland, we wash down our lunch with a Dos Equis at the picnic area by the trailhead. Warm days are why beer is brewed.   We then drive east towards Portland with a slight change of plans due to my “Rental Car Tip.”

EC payless carRental Car Tip – Know the hours of operation if you rent from off-site budget-priced car rental companies. We got a burning deal at Payless Rental Car: $231 for ten days!  The Volkswagen Beetle was a dream. What we didn’t realize is that Payless’s away from the airport rental center is only open from 7A to 11P.

Since we need to be at the Portland Airport at 530A Wednesday morning for our nonstop flight to Boston, we are unable to drop the car off early enough to get the Payless shuttle van to the airport for our flight.

We scramble for a plan B that has us dropping the Volkswagen Beetle off the afternoon before at Payless and finding a Quality Inn (we were going to need a motel room anyway) with shuttle service to the airport any time of day or night. It turns out not to be a big deal, but it could have been messy if we had assumed Payless Rental Car is open at all hours.

Quality Inn and Suites at Portland Airport

Quality Inn and Suites at Portland Airport

And then we have a things happen for the good moment. After dropping off our car at Payless on a warm Tuesday afternoon, we figure the Payless shuttle driver will take us back to the airport; then we’ll call the Quality Inn to pick us up there, spending up to an hour in this transfer process. But the sun is shining on Dan and Hannah as the shuttle driver takes us directly to the Quality Inn. We over tip him and toast his good health with a last-night-of-vacation glass of wine.


Dan Offers You a Happiness Advantage (#6)

In this scenario, are you lucky or unlucky?  You are in a bank lobby with fifty other people.  A bank robber comes in and fires a shot.  You are hit in the arm and it turns out you are the only one hit.  Lucky or unlucky?

If you say lucky, your reasoning might be that you could have been killed.  If you say unlucky, you might say that going to the hospital with a bullet in your arm is indeed unlucky.

Shawn Achor

Shawn Achor

In this study that Shawn Achor writes about in his book, The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, 70% of the people surveyed said that they would be unlucky.  If you make certain assumptions about Wall Street folks, you’ll love this.  More than one Wall Streeter said he was unlucky since out of 50 people, someone else had to be more deserving of the bullet.  Whoa!

The point of this exercise is that whether you say lucky or unlucky, neither is true.  It is just your perspective.  In fact, either answer is a “counterfact,” a hypothetical that we invent to make sense of what happened.  If you choose a positive counterfact, you set in motion a positive mindset that benefits your motivation and performance.  If you can train yourself to see circumstances with positive counterfacts, you are on the road to greater happiness.

Here’s another highlight of the Happiness Advantage.  Soldiers going off to war were told that there were two options when they returned – (1) they’d be normal or (2) they’d have Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome.  Over the last generation there has been research that points to a third possibility, a third path – Post-Traumatic Growth or Adversarial Growth.  Good can come out of a struggle with something difficult.  It’s along the lines of obstacles are opportunities that we hear about at our Unity services.

Principle #1 talks of the advantages of finding something to look forward to, committing conscious acts of kindness, and spending money (but Not on Stuff) as ways to enhance your happiness.

Later in the book, he talks about the happiness advantaqge depending on how you look at your work.  Is it a job, a career, or a calling?  If you can reframe your work into a calling, happiness can follow.

SA Ted image

Shawn offers practical, understandable explanations from research that you can use today to enhance your current level of happiness or turn your RAF (male) or RBF (female) into one of happiness.

Shawn has an entertaining 12 minute TED talk to highlight some of his points in the Happiness Advantage.  Click on this link to see it.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXy__kBVq1M



Dan and Hannah Hike with their Inner Cheryl Strayed (Wild) on the Pacific Crest Trail

PCT Cheryl StrayedDo you know Cheryl?  She hiked the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) back in 1995.  Years later in 2007, she wrote Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, a memoir of coming out the other side of addiction and a broken marriage by thanks to the insights she gained solo hiking.  Oprah loved her.  Reese Witherspoon bought the rights to make Cheryl’s story into a movie, and then star in it.  Four stars for Cheryl’s book and four stars for Reese’s movie.

10-07 Pacific Crest trailAs a thru-hiker of the PCT, Cheryl began in Mojave, CA, which is north of the traditional point for thru-hikers – that at the Mexican border with California.  From there she headed north for Oregon and Washington on her way to Canada. Summer temperatures in the 100s in southern California desert are not uncommon. Of late, because of the 15 year old cyclical drought in the West, streams have dried up on the PCT often making reliable water stops hard to come by.

PCT Reese WitherspoonThough Cheryl skipped some of the mountainous sections of the trail in California due to heavy snows and ended her pilgrimage in northern Oregon, that doesn’t diminish the self-awareness she gained by challenging herself, let alone her tremendous physical accomplishment.

PCT Cheryl with book coverHannah and I are no Cheryl Strayed wannabes. Backpacking?   Please. We have no interest in overnight camping along the trail or in hiking more than three or four hours at a time. We no longer have the joints, muscles, or “want to” to hike long distances. While we have set a mission to hike in all 14 of the Appalachian Trail states (We plan to hike Georgia, the last of our AT states, this October), today we want to taste the first of the PCT’s Three.

PCT Bridge of GodsLeaving Vancouver, WA in early June, we drive along the Columbia River Gorge on Route 14 looking for the PCT, which we know crosses from Oregon into Washington at the Bridge of the Gods. (A bridge that has a $1 toll for cars and charges walkers 50 cents (mind you there are no sidewalks on this 80 year old grated bridge). PCT thru-hikers cross for free.

Just entering Washington on the Pacific Crest Trail

Just entering Washington on the Pacific Crest Trail

It turns out the PCT enters the forest within 200 yards of crossing the Bridge of the Gods in Washington.   With ample side-of-the-road parking in the shade on this day that is going into the mid-90s, I dress in lightweight shorts and an Under Armor Bomber shirt (Ithaca College).  We soon feel the sweat glistening on our arms and legs. Having not seen any mosquitos while hiking during the past week in the Northwest, and assuming if there were any mosquitos here, they are vacationing in Maine for the summer, we again dismiss the need for insect repellant.



Within 300 yards, we hear, and then see a man with a backpack. Eureka, a thru-hiker.   It turns out Donovan (his trail name) left the Mexican border just after Christmas five months ago!  Today he enters his third of three PCT states, Washington, having hiked more than 80% of the PCT’s 2775 miles over the Sierra Nevadas of California and Cascades of Oregon.

Pacific Crest Trail

Pacific Crest Trail

Donovan is from Northern Ireland and served 11 tours in the British Air Force in Iraq and Afghanistan. I wonder if he is using this thru-hike to deal with the horrors of war. There is a program for American veterans called Walk off the War, where discharged soldiers hike the 2180 miles of the Appalachian Trail to help their reentry into civilian life. Hannah asks about the black stone pendant he is wearing. Without sadness or self-pity in his voice, he tells us that it’s from the ring of one of his sons who died fighting in Iraq.

PCT 2F H on trailThe overgrown thorny brambles snag my Ithaca College Bomber shirt.  My loyalty is shifting from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) to Ithaca College (IC) now that our son Will has taken a position in the athletic department at IC in central New York.  The transition will have its bumps as my very best clothes come from VCU. But we all must deal with change and so will I.  As we all know, Change is inevitable — except from a vending machine. (Robert C. Gallagher)

PCT 3C more of trailHiking within earshot of the passing cars on Route 14, the trail goes from packed dirt to very rocky on a sun dappled afternoon where we feel the heat and humidity. Passing some clear cutting that I’m guessing occurred ten years ago, we see the rebirth in a mini-forest of six foot trees. The sun for all its Vitamin D glory creates shadows in the landscape and makes picture-taking with my iPhone5 a challenge. Nonetheless I will do my best to not let you down.

PCT 4 trail magicReturning to the trailhead after two hours of hiking, we see a plastic bag with a note for Bryce and Perry; we assume they are thru-hikers. That sparks us to put three packets of our Nature Valley granola bars in a plastic bag, identify them as trail magic (random gifts for hikers), and leave them for anyone hiking the trail. It’s our modest effort to pay it forward.

The Dalles, Oregon

The Dalles, Oregon

Debooting, we slip into rental Volkswagen Beetle, crank up the air-conditioning, and look forward to our Comfort Inn which is east on I-84 in The Dalles, OR.  This points out again that we are no Cheryl Strayeds or Donovans here on the Pacific Crest Trail.


Dan and Hannah Hike Beacon Rock on the Columbia River Gorge

BR map of GorgeWith our ten days of hiking in Washington and Oregon drawing to a close, we land at Vancouver, WA, just across the Columbia River from Portland on a hot Sunday afternoon in early June.  Here at the prelude to the dry season in the Northwest, we get a dash of Arizona heat as the temps are in the upper 80s and going to 100F in the interior.

BR 1 marijuana signWalking less than a mile for Subway subs, we find the main drag quiet with just a few restaurants having outside patrons; but really very little is going on.  Our attention is caught by a jovial young man with a marijuana leaf on this tee-shirt outside of Main Street Marijuana, I ask if I can take a picture of the window sign; I am reminded purchasing Mary Jane is legal in Washington, but I wonder how discrete folks are when buying their weed. He says, You can take pictures inside if you want.

BR 1A marijuana choicesNever having been in such a store selling pot, we see a bustling crowd of folks in what looks like a jewelry store.  No one pays attention to my iPhone picture taking; perhaps the smell of weed has something to do with that.

We pass on the $10 special marijuana oatmeal cookie and the $10 for o.75 of a gram of Indonesian Haze. All deals, or excuse me, transactions are cash only.  Forgoing on all of the 50 cannabis strains under $25, we slip out pleased that the country mice from Maine are a little more ganja hip.

We head to the left

We head to the left

Inland near The Dalles, OR the temps are going to 100F. Phoenix in the Northwest is not what we expected.  After rain and hiking in the 40s and low 50s last week in Mount Rainier, today is an adjustment.  After living ten years in the Valley of the Sun (Phoenix metro area), Hannah and I moved to Maine 33 years ago to escape the neverending late spring/summer/early fall heat. The relentless 100s and 110s from May through September just got to us.  And the highs for the day weren’t the worst of it.  It was the morning lows in the 90s that made for one long hot day, day after day.  And don’t get me started with it’s a dry heat.  It’s like an oven; full body sweating begins as soon as you’ve taken twenty steps.

Tooling down route 14 on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge, 50 miles later we enter the roadside parking lot for the Beacon Rock State Park on the right. Across the highway is the trailhead for the Hamilton Mountain Trail, which we hiked just one week ago. (See my blog.  Go to the left side, click on the “Oregon” category to find that entry).

Beacon Rock along the mighty Columbia River

Beacon Rock along the mighty Columbia River

Beacon Rock, so named by Lewis and Clark, is a monolith that gives off a vibe of Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park. The guidebook promises 870 feet of elevation gain over just a mile.  Looking at the mountain core left from a volcano, it looks like there is no way, Jose up this mountain.  That’s where Henry Biddle comes in.  Back in 1915 Hank purchased the rock for a dollar; during the next three years he constructed a trail with 51 switchbacks, handrails and bridges.

Let the summiting begin

Let the summiting begin

Immediately as we enter the lush forest on the banks of the Columbia River itself, we see a 1937 stone dedicated to Henry Biddle, the architect and trail designer.  We have no idea how impressed we will soon be with his handiwork as we enter the forest on a gentle grade to the mountain.

BR 2B D at trailhead signsWe spot a confounding sign. The loose rock trail is open; the paved trail is closed?  Being the rebels that we are, and having at least a lick of common sense, we opt for the paved trail.  Soon we are on the Columbia River facing side of the monolith.

BR 3D H on trail with fencesAnd then there are Henry’s beloved switchbacks.  Up this sheer wall he has built switchbacks into and on the edge of the mountainside for, our and your, hiking pleasure. With wire fencing at the curves and two-bar metal handrails all the way up, they take all the steepness out of the climb.

Looking east to the Columbia River

Looking east to the Columbia River

Having arriven (Microsoft Word claims that’s not a word! – must be an abridged version of their dictionary) a little after 9A on this preseason Monday, we pass a few others who are also out early on the trail.  This signature hike on the state of Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge must be swarming with people throughout the summer, and especially on weekends.

BR 4D switchbacksIn no time the back and forth-ness of the switchbacks takes us high above the Columbia River Gorge. Though I wouldn’t take our preschool grandsons Owen and Max on this trail, school age children with their parents would enjoy this family hike.


BR 4 H with first switchbacksNear the top, the trail wraps inland, though still paved with metal handrails as protective fencing.  In a mere 25 minutes we are at the top with views east and west to the Gem of the Ocean, the Columbia River.  It is amazing how easy this “steep” assent is.

Atop Beacon Rock

Atop Beacon Rock

We bid our good-byes to a Texas couple with whom we exchanged picture-taking.  In 20 minutes we are back at the trailhead.  With only 45 minutes of hiking in the books, we opt for the Rock to River trail which is three quarters of a mile to the Columbia River waterfront from the same trailhead parking lot.

Leafy trail to the Columbia

Leafy trail to the Columbia

Descending gradually, our trail has ferns and wide green leaf plants brushing against our legs as we head riverside. There, we climb down on a river dock with a front door view of the Beacon Rock monolith itself.

BR 7A bigger BR from riverAfter a couple hours of hiking, we want more on this our penultimate hiking day in the Northwest. For us that means driving five miles east on route 14 where we will channel our inner Cheryl Strayed, the author of Wild.   We’ll figuratively hike with Reese Witherspoon, the star of the movie version of Wild, as we make our first steps on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada

Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada

The PCT is a 2663 mile trail from Mexico to Canada through the Left Coast of California, Oregon, and Washington.  While the PCT is some 400+ miles longer than the Appalachian Trail, today we will sample only a few miles of its challenging path north to Canada.


Dan Might Not Be as Inoffensive as You Think (Part 1 of 2)

Do you think your self-image matches what others think of you?  What adjectives do you think others use to describe you?  Take a minute and come up with a few.  I won’t ask you to share them.

I am not sure I love being inoffensive. I am what I am.

I am not sure I love being inoffensive. I am what I am.

Was inoffensive one of them?  Probably not.  It’s a Three Bears descriptor.  Not overly complimentary but not terribly demeaning either.  Just kind of blah.  That said, it is a step up from annoying and obnoxious.

As a kid I thought of myself as shy.  Social situations always put me on guard.  Like our three year old grandson Owen, I’d sit back, survey the situation before I made a move.  I was your classic look-before-you-leap kind of guy.

Going to the 9th grade dance at Thomas Jefferson Junior High School in Jersey,  I was so nervous.  There was so much self-induced and peer pressure to fit in and be populaire.  I adored girls from afar and saw them as lights beyond my reach.  (Note to teenagers of today – Take a chance.  Getting a no is not the end of the world.  Life has lots of nos.  Once you start speaking up, it’s amazingly how the yeses start acoming.)

Inoffensive Susan Cain

Once at the College of Wooster, Ohio I had the chance to reinvent myself.   My recent reading of Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking made me realize I was more an introvert than shy.  I like participating in small groups and really have a lot stay.  I love engaging others.  In fact, Hannah and I were engaged in 1972 after being students at the College of Wooster.

I remember a professor at UNH when writing a recommendation for me when I was seeking a university position described me “as one who gets along with everyone.”  He meant it as a compliment, and I took it as such.  Still the foundation of those words may be he’s inoffensive.  He won’t rock the boat.

Inoffensive Obama

Hannah and I know a local whose kids went through high school and played sports when ours did.  He can’t go two minutes without trashing Obama and promoting his favorite Republican du jour (we last “talked” when it was Romney).  I speak up for Obama for I remain proud of my vote for him in 2008 and 2012.  Any child of Jean and Dan Rothermel would do nothing less.

But maybe I wasn’t as forceful as I could be.  He railed on and I took the “slapping” until I could somehow end the conversation and just leave.  I’m just not an in your face kind of guy.  Inoffensive?  Maybe?  Tomorrow I’ll update you with my latest.