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Glissading and Arrowheads

Jack Church yelled at me:”You are never going to eat that and I’ll bet a quarter that you can’t do  it.”  I picked up my fork and consumed a pancake that was five fork- lengths across and I have the  picture to prove it; somewhere.  It happened at Paradise on Mt. Rainier in 1950, and we had  camped out there for our assault on the Nisqually Glacier.  Uncle Bruce Brinton had helped us cook  pancakes for breakfast and had a lot of batter left over, thus the bet.

The greatest part of climbing to Panorama Point was glissading down the steeper slopes of the glacier.  For 25 cents apiece, we rented alpine stocks from the rental place at Paradise.  They were 6 foot long poles of hardwood, shiny and scarred from heavy use.  Our leader, Uncle Bruce was a tried and true mountaineer and showed us how to stick the alpine stock in the snow behind us, lean on the bottom of it about a foot above the snow and steer with our feet as we cascaded down the slope.

“Bail out, bail out,” Uncle Bruce yelled at Kit Bradley as he was going too fast and headed for the rocks in the middle of the slope.  “I can’t stop,” Kit yelled back and he let loose of his alpine stock and went head-over-heels, barely stopping before the rocks in front of him.  Steering with your feet was the toughest to learn and slowing down was done by digging in with your heels and leaning back hard on the alpine stock.  

For me, this experience led to a lifetime of skiing that began with friends climbing part way up the Nisqually Glacier and skiing back down to Paradise.  It took six hours of climbing with our skis tied with strings to our belts as we pulled them up the steep slope, marking carefully where the deadly crevasses were so as not to ski into them.  After we climbed as far as we could, we sat in the snow to refresh ourselves with “snow cones” made from frozen grape or strawberry juice.  It was very refreshing as we began our long sweeping turns down the Nisqually Glacier to Paradise.    

About a quarter of the way down we saw a group of mountaineers climbing the glacier, with clown white all over their faces to protect them from the sun and hooded parkas and dark glasses.  They were all roped together and very safe looking as we skied the glacier in shorts and shirtless, looking for snow bridges where we could cross a deep crevasse, the theory being that we were skiing so fast that we could cross the crevasse before the snow bridge caved in, an unproved and doubtful theory at best.  The mountaineers were a lot more conscious of safety than we were.

All John Davis had was a wool blanket liner with a thin poplin cover, the kind of sleeping bag the Navy would use in the tropics.  The scouting trip to Denny Creek would teach him a valuable lesson. Always ditch your tent on the uphill side lest the law of gravity soak you, your war surplus sleeping bag and everything else in your two-man pup tent, which consisted of shelter-halves which had been buttoned together, army surplus, and cheap at the 3-GI’S, a surplus store in the 1950’s.  

So much for getting rained on.  Everything in our tents was soaked and Troop 294 headed for  sunnier skies on the east side of the mountains.  The rain stopped as soon as we got over the pass.  We  were on our way to a fish pond on the Cle Elum River, just outside the old mining town of Roslyn.  The  local hunting club had dammed up ponds beside the river and stocked them with Rainbow trout.  There  were rickety boardwalks held up by stilts for kids to fish from. The problem being that the fish were so  well fed from stealing the bait from unknowing kids, that they wouldn’t bite.
Dale was fat and from Cove and only fished for food, not sport.  A one-foot- long trout was inches away from Dales wiggling worm.  He couldn’t figure out why the trout wouldn’t take his bait.  The water was clear and only three or four feet deep.  The other fish hid under the shade of the boards we were walking on and wouldn’t come out.

We did find sunshine on the east side of Snoqualmie pass and the town of Roslyn where the coal had run out long ago and the miners, mostly Croatian, would bide their time in the Brick Tavern, the only tavern in Washington state that served beer on Sundays.  The liquor control board couldn’t make their “blue laws” stick; the rough old miners wouldn’t let them close the tavern down.

We left Roslyn and drove through Ellensburg and down to the Columbia River before the dam was built and flooded the flats down river from Vantage.  The area was covered with flint chips, where the Indians had chipped away their arrowheads for centuries and we were looking for trophies.  The flats were 200 acres of nothing but flint chips and it got the young scouts to thinking of the Indians as they looked for possible arrowheads among the chips.  I never found an arrowhead but think of those acres and acres of chips every time I cross the river at Vantage.