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Saying Uncle to Stuartpaloozafest

by Ken Dailey

I did not want to miss out on the Aug 8-9 Stuartpaloozafest. And so, together with a brother (Russ), an uncle (Jay), and a nephew (Brian) - I left a day early and meandered through dense forests, marched through marshy meadows, and strode through nature's lovely and emotionally embraceable sagebrush before leap-frogging up Stuart's beautifully serene stone landscape. 

Our route was the benign Southeast shoulder (and abdomen). "Sure," I reasoned, "anyone can adventure with just one or even two of the aforementioned relatives.  But truly epic family outings, especially those involving premeditated torture, require at least three generations."   

 In eager anticipation of the annual "feast of indiginous pigs" we packed only the essentials: including (among other things) a craftsman BBQ and 6 headlamps - with extra batteries (excess weight? nonsense! one can never be too careful).  As accomplished "First Class" and "Life" scouts, we learned to be prepared.  And, for decades now (well, at least one), I have been privy to this tidbit of local lore: Everything about the Cascade Range is a "picnic."  Preparing for a picinic has become second nature.
 
By mid-afternoon we approached our ultimate destination - the false summit of Stuart (emphasis, perhaps, on "false") just southeast of the summit.  It was there that we made camp.  Uniquely qualified as I was, I prepared the Lazy-boyz while Brian quickly spotted and retrieved just one of several portly porkers taking refuge in the crags below.  Indeed, the Stuart provideth not only scape goats, but sacrificial swine as well. 

 Under the wise and experienced eyes of Uncle Jay, Russ prepared and offered the obligatory burnt sacrifices of ears, tails, and hooves to St. Angus McPherson (1873) of the First Ascent.  The accompanying smoke swirled around the peaks in typical "mist"ical fashion.  Note to Janisch and Vognild: Promising the offerings are, of course, the key to finding the otherwise well concealed razorbacks.  Better luck next year. 

Needless to say, we dined sumptuously all night on fresh chops.
 
The next morning while reclining on my 8" inflatable queen-sized mattress, basking in the early light dancing with the remnants of the swirling swine mist, and enjoying crisp bacon with latte leche (yes, we also brought a cappuchino machine), Stuartpalooza officially began.  All through the morning we watched the rapid (more or less) rise and fall of various climbing parties - mostly in pairs.  Curiously, several seemed paradoxically committed to following Hemingway's famous Road Less Traveled (Frost's less traveled road has, by now, for them, certainly become too well traveled) but equally intent on a hurried return. Because they simply passed-over the mountain and neglected the feast, their unchartered trails quite nearly transformed into some of the perilous paths of Poe - including Pits without proper Pendulums. 
 
Nevertheless, while munching on ham sandwiches (feeding crumbs to a high-altitude Raven), we watched them race, undaunted, to meet the sun atop the "other" summit.  And when they could climb not a single step higher, we watched (while slurping pork and beans) them turn their backs to the sky and their noses to the valleys and descend long after the sun had set.  
 
As headlamps vanished (or gradually dimmed) into blackness, I wondered, to what end do these adventures prevail upon the rocky crags in such a hurried manner if not to revel in their mountain revenges, by cracking a cask of Amontillado and posting post-midnight reports (of Telltale Hearts) for the benefit of those who live (near and) far-away.

As always - I enjoy reading (and possibly fantasizing just a little) about the adventurous mountain men and women of the Great Northwest.