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88-09-02 - Hiking beyond the treeline

Skip the interesting notes below and cut to the chase.
Cut to the chase

A Child's Sense of Vocation, Vindicated in Retirement Years

When I was a lad my dad wangled me a visit to the cab of a steam locomotive standing in the CNR station of Richmond Quebec. We were on our way from Montreal to Danville on family business. I was impressed enough by all the pipes and gauges, the hissing steam. But when the fireman opened the firebox door and heaved in a shovelful of coal, producing a blast of heat and a cloud of sparks: Instant conversion and a strong desire to become an engine driver. Shortly after this, the steam engine was replaced by the boring diesel on most of Canada's railroads.

In elementary and high school the history of various Imperial heroes and explorers was introduced: Clive of India, Burton, Speke. Lacking opportunites as a locomotive driver, I decided to become an explorer. Or, perhaps, more practically, an Imperial civil servant such as the District Commissioner of some salubrious Pacific Island inhabited by hospitable ladies in grass skirts.

Not long after the war, came the announcement that the Hunt expedition, with Hillary and Tenzing in the lead, had climbed Everest, the planet's highest mountain. Despite the heralding of a New Elizabethan Age, the Empire was undergoing an inexorable contraction and the oportunities for Imperial Civil Servants, even those well-versed in Urdu or Fijian, began to dry up.

Furthermore, with the "conquering" of the last geographical challenges, the age of exploration began a gradual slide into celebrity stunts and endurance feats. Witness the film: "The man who skied down Mt. Everest". The only viable alternatives left to me seemed to be scientific bean-counting or working on National Geographic Specials.

Then came about 4 decades of university, parenthood, under-employment and many fascinating but unprofitable creative projects. And now, today, as a superannuated computer programmer, unpublished novelist, and decrepit senior citizen, the opportunities for the life of an explorer are few indeed. So what is a person to do who long ago conceived of the meaning of life in terms of fire-breathing engines and malaria-infested swamps?

The answer may lie in a step sideways. The real essence of exploration lies in the conceptual nature of the experience. Discovery is not just a matter of braving geographical hazards, or enumerating topographical information, but of putting together separate experiences, and not only geographical facts, into a comprehensive idea. Creating a "gestalt", if you will, a melding of details that will be seen to form part of a newly revealed and potentially significant unity.

This is what I would like to convey to the viewers of these pictures. How a high-level, bird's eye view of even familiar terrain can be, not only an interesting and joyful experience to the peripatetic observer, but also serve as a metaphor for awakening insights of a broader sort. Possibly even, a modest squint into the human condition, even a Wordsworthian Intimation of Immortality.

websrch:intimations of immortality

Hiking beyond the treeline
* A collection of travel pics from a lifetime of hiking.
* An attempt to convey some sense of what a macroscopic experience hiking high (and wide) can be.
* (For those crazy enough to try it.)

My first real climbing expedition, was probably in 1946 or 1947. My dad was visiting on a "48", a two day weekend leave from St. Hubert RCAF base on the south shore opposite Montreal. The Shipton Township Pinnacle is located in the Eastern Townships of Quebec near Danville. It is one of the outlying hills of the Appalachian chain.

Well prepared, I had a new pair of high, lace-up boots and a stout rope. The experience seemed ecstatic at the time, particularly the view from the top. But when we got down, our car had sunk into a muddy ditch. No amount of brushwood, rocks and fence rails served to give us traction. Using my climbing rope, doubled and re-doubled, we had to get a smirking farmer to pull the car out with his tractor for $15.
Revisited, in 1999.

tab=cuttothechase
There follow, links to favourite hiking trips in mountainous terrain.
1975 Killbear and Killarney camping
1977-08 Silver Peak again
1980-08 Mt. Madison 1
1980-08 Mt. Madison 2
1980-08 Mt. Washington
1980-08 Mt. Washington
1980-08 Mt. Jefferson

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1983 Five Glaciers, Columbia Icefield
1984 NFLD - Western part
1985-05 Mt. Ste. Hilaire
1985 Silver Anniversary Canoe Trip
1986-08 Mt. Marcy
1986-08 Mt. Mansfield
1986-08 Mt. Mansfield
1986-08 Mt Jacques Cartier, Gaspe

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1988 Motor trip to BC, Rogers, O'Hara
1989 Great Britain - The Lake District
1993-12 Grand Canyon
1994-01 Death Valley, California
1994-01 Antelope Island, Utah
1994-08 Mt. Rainier (no sound clips)
1995-08 Mt Scott nr Crater Lake
1996 Mt. Algonquin
1996 Mt. Algonquin, drawings
1997-06 Greece, Olympus
2001 Kilimanjaro, Summit

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2002 Skyline Hikers in Alberta
2004 Hawaii, Haleakala caldera
2004-08 Mt. Monroe

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2008 Yukon (TTS) Kluane
2009 South America, links.
2009 Departure on the Inca Trail
2012 China, Huashan - Flower Ridge

Hiking beyond the treeline
* End of Show
* Thanks for your attention.
* No hikers were permanently harmed to get these pictures.
* Yes, we would do it again, if only ... (fill in the blank.)
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