Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My Early Years As A Geezer

Backpacking while young.

Standing in glacier breath, 1980

While cleaning things out I came across a few color slides I'd set aside when I threw out decades of photos a few weeks ago. Today I almost thossed them without remembering that I'd wanted to hang on a bit.

Some others saved today were the only existing photos of my mother, who died in 1998. They have to go to my sister. If I can remember not to discard them without thinking.

So, the first photo here is from one of my earliest trips. You parked on a gravel road, trudged up a trail for a while, then got to an overlook on the south end of a lake. If ambitious, as I was back then, you hiked down to the lake and then around one side of it and got to a flat.

If you were still ambitious you could hike up a slope and eventually stand right on the snout of Columbia Glacier, which I did.

It's surprising and always disheartening how dirty glaciers are, which I discovered that day.

But worse than that, it was freezing. There was a howling wind coming down off the glacier, so, while there was plenty of clean water coming from under it, and plenty of room to camp (and even grass) it was simply too cold to try.

Before descending back to the lake I stood on a rock and used the camera's timer to grab a shot of myself. Cotton flannel shirt, jeans, oiled leather boots. The hair is flapping and so are the pants legs.

Sunburn, July 1981

By the next summer I was fully experienced. A veteran. The long July 4th weekend was warm and sunny. I went out, and up. I hit snow at 5000 feet (1525 m). The sunlight bouncing off it was blinding, but I had sunglasses. And it was calm, and hot carrying a five-pound (2.5 kg) pack (empty weight) of 4000 cubic inches' (66 L) volume, stuffed to the gills with all sorts of essentials.

So of course I took my shirt off. But was OK. I had lots of sunscreen.

Funny though. It didn't seem to work.

I got a sunburn that was especially intense on the chest-side of my shoulder straps. So intense that it took a full year for the marks to fade.

When I got home I stood inside the back door of the little house I was living in and made a couple of shots. For the second one (shown), I pressed my fingers into my belly to leave an image.

This is what I normally do to gauge degree of doneness, since my color vision isn't good. The longer the prints stay, the redder I know the skin is. Judge for yourself. I scanned the slide today and can't vouch for color accuracy. Even so, I can tell how bad the sunburn was, even 30 years later.

And I kinda still remember how it felt, too.

The other thing is, I always thought I was seriously ugly. But it wan't nothin' compared to now, judging by these.

The older you get, the more you know, and somehow knowledge has a way of making you uglier.

Least that's how it worked at my house.