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 lived near Portland and 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.
The rest of the year—1997—was a madhouse for us: moving from Aurora to Hudson; both of us were teaching at Hiram College (Joyce full-time; I, part-); the pile of our quotidian concerns seemed to grow ever higher and higher each day. My father’s health was failing (and we were back and forth to Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to see him); Joyce was not feeling well; I was researching the Mary Shelley story, writing op-eds for the Plain Dealer, trying to get an agent for my Shelley book. My YA biography of Jack London had come out in 1997, had earned some good reviews, and I was hoping I could build on that.
And I was in training (sort of) to climb Mt. Hood—exercising, losing weight, fantasizing …
But by the spring of 1998 I knew that climb was not going to happen. My left knee—which I’d injured during my 1993 hike over the Chilkoot Trail (over the mountains in southeastern Alaska into the Yukon Territory)—was acting up, and Joyce’s health had worsened. I didn’t see how I could do it.
So on June 2, I contacted my cousin and told him. I canceled flight reservations and motels. I felt … mortal. And grieved at the dark knowledge that my rambling days were coming to an end.
It didn’t help that just two days earlier—May 31, 1998—a group of climbers on Hood were hit by an avalanche; one died.