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From the Top

It might as well have been the moon.  Surreal to a degree that supports the possibility it didn’t happen at all, I’m suspended in a slow motion movie without sound. Maybe I dreamt it.  A thick haze has spread its blanket and laid full claim to my reality today, the first day home since August 28th.

But it did happen. There are pictures and witnesses to collaborate the fact I summited my first mountain. I look at the pictures, study them, feeling the somewhat detached wonder and elation for another’s achievement. A second glance to enjoy the enviable satisfaction on her face, and I realize, oddly, the face is mine.

Grand Teton

Grand Teton Summit, Grand Teton National Park

 

Of Multiple Sclerosis & Why I Did It

Reasons

I decided to climb a mountain because it’s been on my list of things to do for years. And I love crossing things off a list. I’ve been known to ADD things (already done) to a list, only so I could take the immense pleasure in crossing them off.  Something about making those strike-throughs is SO gratifying. I realize that’s wacked, and wackier still is publicly admitting such.

That doesn’t really answer why I did it, does it?  I did it, because I could.  Flippant.  Okay, here’s another try: I did it because I could and another in my life, a beloved other, can’t.  Truth.

My sister has Multiple Sclerosis.  Before the disease, SHE was the adventurous one. Climbing trees and riding a bike around cow paddies and over dirt roads like a mad woman, she was one fearless child.  She’s my inspiration in life. Her spirit and passion and resolve are lava-like – hot enough to have frightened the disease into not having stripped away all her physical capabilities.

The disease is afraid of her. That’s not to say it hasn’t won in some regards.  SHE can’t climb a mountain. SHE can’t hike into the backcountry. She can’t take an Animal Tracking course or ride a bike. Some days she can’t climb 2 stairs.  And some days, she struggles to get from her bedroom to the living room.

It seems only right that because I can and she cannot, I should.  So I do.  And she’s right beside me every grueling step of these hare-brained, a bit out there escapades I relish.  When I feel myself getting lazy and making excuses for not having done anything physically challenging in a while, I sense her kicking me in the pants. She’s my mental barometer against too many bon bons and a soft city life; against taking my health for granted.

My hope is that at the end, my physical exploits will have been enough for TWO healthy, adventurous explorers whose good health wasn’t squandered on cushy hotel rooms and pointless shopping trips.

I climbed a mountain because it is my job to make up for the strike-throughs in her life not made by her own hand. Damn them all.

Me & Lisa

Two Explorers

Photos & Nothing But Photos From the Grand Summit

view from the top #3

Teewinot, the 6th highest summit in the Teton Range. Must be difficult being in Grand’s shadow.

view from the upper saddle

From the upper saddle of Grand

base camp

Base Camp

Grand outhouse

the latrine was on the side of a cliff. And nothing stayed on the mountain. 

a grand glacier

a grand waterfall

view from the top #1

From the Top

Grand the day after

Grand, two days after my summit. Without the photos, it was easy to convince myself it never happened.

Will Hike for Nutella-Filled Waffle Sandwich

“One waffle, please”, I croaked. Just two steps from the door to the counter, the guy running tiny Corbet’s Cabin barely looked up when I trudged in. Ruddy skin, chapped lips and wild eyes topped off by a black stocking hat, a bright orange bulky backpack and beat up hiking boots, he saw my type several times a day.

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Scott McGee, my Exum guide during the preparatory mountaineering course, recommended for the two days prior to the start of the Grand climb I take the tram to the top of Rendezvous Mountain, do some light hiking, take a book, and breathe the air that was noticeably absent at 10,500 feet,,, for 4 hours each day. “No one ever does what I tell them, but trust me, it’ll help when you get above 13,000 feet.”  “Oh, and, load up on carbs. It’ll be easy to do.  Corbet’s has this waffle thing.”

This climb was at the upper end of my physical abilities and I had, and would continue, to do whatever the experts suggested would help. Loading up on carbs would be the easy part.

“What topping?” the gentleman asked. He didn’t wait, “there’s Nutella, strawberry preserves, and brown sugar butter.”  Darn. Only two days but 3 toppings.  “I’ll have Nutella today. Tomorrow I’ll try the strawberry preserves.”  He turned to the blackened, blistering waffle iron behind him. I took another step, swung off the backpack and submitted onto a wooden bench.

I expected a waffle. Flat. And a plastic fork. What I got  was this brown edged, crunchy on the outside, dense but light and moist cake-like on the inside, slathered with Nutella and folded over,, waffle sandwich. The slight saltiness from the oiled crust, the mild sweetness of the soft interior, the hazelnut and chocolate sublimity of the Nutella all collided, then burst on my energy bar deadened tongue.

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Wrapped in parchment paper, its heft involuntarily lowered my arm from chest high to waist high when the hand off was made. It was hard to eat with a smile that big.

The best thing about this culinary experience? It can easily be duplicated at home. Trust me.

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Day #2. You didn’t think I was kidding, did you? One more day and I’d have gone back for the brown sugar butter. Next time.

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Photography Tip: strawberry preserves photograph better than Nutella.

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Scott, my Exum Guide. Grand Teton in the background. 

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Corbet’s Cabin

If you liked this post, some of my previous Travel & Taste Buds’ posts might be equally entertaining:

Oklahoma Fried Potatoes & Rocket Science

Scandinavian Almond Bread

Solo Road Trip’s Basic Food Groups (anything but basic)

For more delectable photographs and discussions of food around the world (and not necessarily at the top of it), check out Wanderfood Wednesday at Wanderlust and Lipstick.

 

The Tetons from a Dog-Trot Cabin

Standing in the breezeway of the settler’s dog-trot cabin, the sod roof sheds sandy sparks when the wind rises. Moisture from the dirt floor has been trawled by a broom so many times, it’s glossy in spots. And cold and hard as concrete.

The single window of the home lopsidedly frames the massive Tetons. To enjoy the view straight-on it’s necessary to kneel beneath the low ceiling. On my knees to photograph the scene, the cold seeps through my jeans. The sharp, snow covered crags cause my eyes to glance away for the softer bits of stray light coming through the gaps in the lodgepole pine logs. A powerful stroke of wind puffs the heavy snow into swirls covering the upper peaks of the mountains. It quickly chases down the cabin. Pulling my coat tighter around me, a few steps land me back in the warmth of the May sun.

Dog-Trot Cabin

Standing at the back of the cabin, the ancient panoptic beauty of these mountains rivets my attention and the discomfort of the chill is momentarily forgotten. The next blast of air turns my head back to the cabin. There, in between the pioneer’s only separation from the elements and the view of which I can never get enough, their struggle comes to life.

The truth is one of the most photographed, most photogenic scenes in America was of little consolation in the isolation of the brutal environment.

Hard Work

According to the Homestead Act of 1862, five years of residence on the property along with cultivation of the land was required to call it your own. The problem was, well, there were a lot of problems.

The ability to cultivate had to be arrived at. With only 60 days of a frost free growing season, limited access to water, and land choked with willows and aspen brush, many pioneers managed to clear less than 20 acres during the 5 year term.

From a final testimony of proof:

1911 2 acres veg. cattle got it.
1912 3 acres ½ acre veg. 1 ton.
1913 No crop
1914 No crop too dry.
1915 3 acres cattle got it.
1916 3 acres 1 a.veg. ¼ ton veg.

Six years of body battering labor shared in a cursive 30 word preemption document, entitled a settler to 160 acres in Jackson Hole, Wyoming in 1918.

His work had just begun.

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The Grand Climb

 

Tammie DooleyAbout SRT... I’m a traveler, writer and photographer for whom the open road frequently summons. Adventurous solo road trips are a staple for me, and a curiosity. So I created this website to share them and inspire you to step out and give them a try. Welcome!

A soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone – Wolfgang Von Goethe

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