November 9, 2019, marked the thirtieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall. I was in East Berlin in 1959. It was two years before the infamous wall was built and during a time when the Iron Curtain had imprisoned most people in Communist nations. At the time, I was a foreign exchange student with the Dutch Foreign Trade School. It was during my junior year at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana.
I first climbed 10,000-foot Kenosha Pass in the late ’60s, where I met a party from the Colorado Mountain Club. I joined the club, made new friends, learned about many wonderful places, and became a hike leader with the group. Among the things I learned was about nearby 13,829-foot Mt. Silverheels, named for the “Legend of Silverheels.”
In 1977 we began our Nepal trek, and for the first few days we were in the foothills, maybe the 5,000-foot range. Since we were the only trekkers, we created quite a stir. We would almost always camp near a village. Children would come rushing out screaming “Mithai” (candy). That might not be welcome these days, but our trek organizer recommended that we carry some candy. It was hard candy, not Milky Ways.
Before I went to Nepal I’d never bargained for anything in my life. See the price and either pay it or walk away. I mean, easy, isn’t it? Then, Nepal changed everything.
We’d only been out a day or two on our trek, still in the foothills. We made camp and were just sitting around when a boy, maybe eight years old, wandered in and displayed this wooden block with Hindu symbols and said 12 rupee. I didn’t know how to respond but was still thinking dollars. I said 8. He said 11, I said 8. He looked about to cry. One of our party said, “Jack, you’re supposed to go up.” We finally settled on 10. Even then my troubles weren’t over. I pulled out a 10 rupee note and he shook his head. Paper money had recently been introduced and people in the back country didn’t trust it. They wanted coins. Fortunately, I had ten metal rupees.
Around the year 2000 I read a wildflower hiking book for the Colorado mountains. It profiled a feature called Shrine Ridge and, furthermore, bestowed upon it the title of Century Hike. That would be at least a hundred different wildflowers in the course of a season. What the authors had shared would turn out to be life-enriching for me.
I sure hope you’re planning to attend the RMOWP conference in Rocky Mountain National Park in September. It’s stunning, inspiring, magical. That’s just a few adjectives. Supply your own when you come. I taught up there for about a dozen years at the RMOWP photo workshop and I figure I’ve been in the park two hundred or more times.
Drop—-drip—drop. We’re on top of the Continental Divide in Colorado. I love the Continental Divide. My mind capitalizes it. For one thing, it’s high. You can see for miles and miles. In winter in Colorado it collects oodles of snow. Oodles.
Listen. Carefully. What do you hear? As I write this I can hear the motor in my refrigerator freezer humming. It does that from time to time. I live in an apartment building and there are all sorts of noises from the many functions of the building. You might call it “building noise.” I can hear a little traffic on Broadway and someone putting trash in a dumpster in the alley. None of this is bothersome. A person gets used to some sounds, and they don’t interfere with life going on, or even thinking.