Wednesday, March 28, 2007


"There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered."
Nelson Mandela, 'A Long Walk to Freedom'

Last weekend I took the scouts up to a place that I've been going to for literally decades. My first trip to Mount Yonah was when I was myself a 12 year old Boy Scout. Now I was up here with my son, a 12 year old Boy Scout. The quote above is not quite appropriate but the spirit remains the same.
Actually a lot has changed since my first trip here as a young scout. The mountain then had a road to the top and was a common place for anyone with a 4x4 to drive up and "camp". It was not at all uncommon to see over a hundred cars and trucks in the parking lot. The rock climbing areas used to be choked with all sorts of people of all shapes and sizes and every level of expertise. In the early 90s, when I worked at REI and on the side would guide small rock climbing trips I avoided coming here all together. "Hey, It's the REI guy!" I'd hear and then a few second later I was showing them the correct way to use the gear that they had purchased from me just days ago. On weekends when the local yahoos weren't throwing beer bottles off of the top the Army
Rangers would subdue the cliff with helicopters, miles of ropes and thousands of Rangers. In those days the mountain had been completely tamed and you had to really search for any kind of solitude and reverence.
Today is much different. Development has encroached on the mountain and cabins have been built along much of the old road. The Army has dramatically scaled down how frequently they train here and the road has been restricted to local homeowners only. This last change means that in order to access the mountain you have to hike in about two miles on a moderately steep trail. It's not too bad if you're dedicated. Personally, I think it is just hard enough to keep the yahoos out. And I like it that way.
We hadn't planned on climbing this weekend. I brought a rope just in case, but our focus was just to get out of Dodge for a night. It worked. All who attended were inspired by the view and all had a deep desire to return. We had the place to ourselves. There were a few other cars at the trailhead but we never bumped into anybody else.
Pondering the changes that have happened to Yonah in the almost 3 decades since I first started coming up here forced me to think about the many ways that I had changed. In many way my life is much more cluttered and chaotic now, much like Yonah was years ago. However, for the most part I think that in the areas that really matter I've gotten rid of much of the trash and distraction that gets in the way of who I really am. Like Yonah I still have some scars, some literal, some figurative, of my past but they are fading away and the real spirit is starting to show itself again.
In 30 years I wonder how Aaron's perspective will differ from mine when he returns...

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