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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend, and my friend Jack

It’s Memorial Day weekend, and I always think of camping, and my friend Jack Huston, that past away two years ago. Usually, people most remember a lost friend and loved one on the anniversary of their birthday or the day they died. And even though Jack died on Earth Day, which was so fitting for a guy so in tune with the earth, I will always think of Jack on Memorial Day weekend the most because, for about 20 of them, he and I, and whatever group we could gather-up, went camping together in the always-glorious weather of that time of year, in the breath-takingly-beautiful Arizona mountains. My memory has gone from bad to worse as I’ve aged, but I have a strong warm-fuzzy when I think of those trips, and I know that if I could remember more details, they were all good times, no matter the group assembled, due to the atmosphere provided by the fabulous destinations.

I have always taken photos. Not Photographs, but photos, “picts”, “snapshots”, you know, just quick pictures of where I am, what I’m experiencing, often with the self-timer, to help me remember that experience for “when I’m old” (which didn’t take long!). And yes, it’s true that I usually took pictures when times were good as apposed to bad, and just as with memories that get imprinted harder when endorphins and other good-time chemicals are present in the brain, we tend remember the fun times, and forget the bad. But I’m still pretty sure, these trips were all good. I really need to go thru the old “prints” of our life, before digital photos. Remember those?

As with most of the many times I camped with Jack, most all of the Memorial Day Weekend trips were backpacking trips, as that’s what Jack (and I) preferred over car camping trips, 100 to one. But sometimes, if the “group assembled” consisted of members of “varying degrees of hiking proficiencies”, and if we could think of a place to go where you could drive back into the wilderness far enough to not have “neighbors”, we would take the big iron things and could then take along some more creature comforts, - like chairs! I remember once when Regina was two months old, we did just that, and were kinda glad we did, because it turned very windy that night, and the tent shook so much it scared Regina, and we retreated to the Suburban. Mostly always though, we were at least a mile or two in. Including my most memorable Memorial Day outing, that I don’t remember much about. ~?

Let me explain, we had assembled a relatively large group one year, of about 20 people, for a backpack trip into a canyon that Jack had been to just once before (unusual for Jack, as most of the places he took us on MD were places he knew quite well). This was to be a “short, easy hike”, because several in the group were first time backpackers (which wasn’t unusual for these MD trips), and because, Wendy and I were taking Ethan, at 7 months, on my back, and Regina at 3yrs, 2 months, on her first hike where she’d have to walk all the way, since we were obviously loaded down fully. Well, the “short easy hike” Jack had remembered was a little steeper downhill, and longer than he’d remembered, but the camp spot was gorgeous, and would normally be considered by Wendy and I “worth the hike”. EXCEPT, I had been feeling a little foggy that morning, but since so much prep and anticipation had gone into the trip, decided to just barrel ahead, and also since I was sort of the “coordinator” of the group, I decided to just “hope it was nothing”.

This, in retrospect, was incredibly stupid and irresponsible, as it turned out to be a full blown flu that had me sleeping from the time we made camp, until the next morning when, after feeling like I could try to hike out, most of the group went along, to carry all our gear and kids! I went back to sleep in the car, Wendy drove us home, and I slept thru till the next day, when some of the group stopped by to see how we were all doing, on their way home from the 3 day trip. Wendy had even less fun than me, getting almost no sleep in the tent that night, because Ethan was having stomach problems, and periodically vomiting all over the place! –Not really the most “memorable” trip, - just the one we’ll always remember! But Jack and I sure loved those Memorial Day Weekend outings. It was our unspoken “standing commitment” to each other for so many years there, to try to get some folks together, and think of a fun new place to go. We introduced a lot of people to backpacking. And Jack introduced a lot of people to the splendor of the wilderness, including me, and that’s what I’ll always remember about my friend Jack.

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