As I stood there frozen, raindrops collected on the brim of my hood. I would look down at my hiking boots and then I would try to assess my next leap to the next slanted boulder that was wet and slippery. I retightened the straps to my backpack though I couldn’t get it any tighter; regretting I packed my full tripod, SLR camera along with many other accessories.
I was so excited to be hiking in the Enchantments because it was the evening of the Supermoon. I was to camp there alone for my first time without my adventure partner, Asia. She’s my six year old Weimaraner. I carried all my camera gear to take long exposure images of the night sky and practice time lapse. I was hoping to score a Milky Way image in what I think is one of the most magical places in the Pacific Northwest. The problem was, there wasn’t a star to be seen, just clouds and constant rain. The weight on my back was now just bricks instead of the tools for my creativity.
In my peripheral vision I could see a couple of people heading my way. One of those people was hopping from one boulder to the other with such ease and finesse like a gazelle in his native territory. By the time he reached me I’m was still standing on the same boulder, overthinking and contemplating my next move. I said hello under all my rain gear while looking down to keep dry. He said hello back and I immediately recognize his voice. It’s Chad. THE Chad Kellogg. When you’re by yourself stuck on a boulder due to a physical or mental block the voice you want to hear is Chad’s. The mountaineer of all mountaineers. We briefly made small talk and I asked him about his return from Everest. He said “I feel inspired”. He and his friend then hopped along and as he completed his last boulder he turned around and noticed I wasn’t following. I felt a bit uncomfortable, perhaps embarrassed that I questioned my safety and stability with an overweighted pack. I yelled out “I’m just a little cautious when I’m by myself”. He said “that’s okay, you should be”. I asked a favor of him… if he would help me with my pack so I can navigate off the boulders. Without hesitation and in no time at all he was back helping me remove my pack. With relief I hopped off the last boulder where he stood holding my pack. I thanked him for his help while he helped me reapply my pack . As he and his friend gained distance ahead of me I heard him yell back “you okay Gloria?” I replied “you bet, thanks Chad!”.
Though I didn’t get my Supermoon that evening I did see my Superman.
We’ll miss you Chad and the inspiration you brought to me and so many others. Your passion for the mountains was infectious and I will always admire your drive, stamina and humbleness. Climb on.
A couple of seasons have passed since I backpacked my way into the Olympics. It was my first solo trip, at least with another human. It didn’t feel very solo to me since my best hiking partner was with me; my dog Asia. I frequently go back and look at this picture. It takes me back to how connected I felt with the bird that was flying up and down the valley, entertaining me. Then he was gone, at least I thought. I turned around and he was 30 feet away, propped there on a rock, looking right at me. Curious. It was at this spot I watched and admired.