… I had begun training to climb Oregon’s Mt. Hood.
I realize that I’m sort of offering here my own Rambles instead of escorting you through Mary Shelley’s final book, Rambles in Germany and Italy. Can’t help it. A digressive old man is not to be dissuaded from telling his stories.
So … Mt. Hood. We need to back up a little. My father was born in Milton-Freewater, Oregon (March 9, 1913), one of eleven siblings, and he loved the state, loved his family. So when I was a kid, every now and then Dad would pack up the five of us—Dad, Mom, older brother Richard, younger brother Dave, and me—and off we would drive to Oregon. We did this when we were living in Enid, Oklahoma, and, later, in Hiram, Ohio. It took days—each way!—those trips. I loved them then. I love them now as I think about them. And I remember with great fondness those times when I drove my own family out there to meet all the countless Dyers who had remained.
Mt. Hood, an inactive volcano (in the same range, the Cascades, as Mt. St. Helen’s; Hood erupted in 1907), looms over Portland, Oregon, and in 1937, when my dad was in his early twenties, he and some friends, on a lark, decided to climb that mountain—all 11,250 feet of it. And on August 9, 1937, they did so.
Dad had always told us about this—a story I never tired of hearing, especially when I saw that rugged, snow-capped peak each time we drove out there. It seemed so … impossible that my father had done that.
Anyway, years later, in 1997, my dad was failing fast. Now in his mid-eighties, he had suffered some mild strokes, was barely mobile—but still loved to talk about Mt. Hood. And I began to wonder—Is there a record of their ascent? He had always told us about a log book at the summit—about how he and his friends had signed it …
So I contacted the National Park Service, found that there was a log book, that his name was there. I acquired a photocopy of that page, framed it, and gave it to him for Father’s Day, 1997. (I also published an op-ed about it in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, on June 15, 1997.)
And about that time I had resolved that I was going to climb it, too. I was going to stand on the summit where he had stood. All in honor of Dad … And so I contacted a cousin, who had climbed it before, and made arrangements to climb it with him later in the summer. And I started training for the ascent.
But Life had other plans for me.