The Mountaineers Part Deux

Winter Solstice bonfire.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

I hadn’t done anything with the Mountaineers since the North Fork Sauk River hike in June. I wanted nothing more to do with the group, even to the point of deleting their emails, unread, as soon as they hit my inbox. However, in December, I received an invitation to attend the Olympia branch’s annual Winter Solstice bonfire.

I like fire, especially bonfires. Fire is mesmerizing; soothing. It’s a primitive force that connects the human race through time. Besides, I’m a Burner. We like to burn stuff. And, I had nothing planned for that day. So, I read the email.

It looked like it was mainly for families with little kids, rather than adults, but that was OK. I like little kids. And, there was free food. I like free food. Bonfires, little kids, and free food. Those are all good things. Besides, it had been six months; maybe I should give the Mountaineers another chance. One of the reasons I moved to this area was to take classes that would give me the knowledge and experience I need to become an outdoor adventure guide. Whether I like it or not, that means I need what the Mountaineers has to offer.

I went ahead and signed up.

It had been raining steadily in the weeks leading up to December 21, including a record rainfall on the day before. There was some doubt as to whether the event would even be held. However, by late Saturday afternoon, the rain finally ceased. The party was on!

I wandered around Grocery Outlet, trying to figure out what to bring, and finally decided on frosted cookies. Everyone seems to like frosted cookies, although Mountaineers might be more health oriented and prefer Kind bars. But, whatever. I got the cookies.

I had no trouble finding the event location. I dropped off my cookies on the desert table and joined everyone else around the scrap-lumber-filled fire pit. There were probably about two dozen adults and a dozen or so kids, mostly younger. Some of the adults helped the little kids start the bonfire with cattail torches as the rest of us watched. The little kids excitedly stuck their lit cattails under pieces of plywood and fiberboard, holding them until flames began licking out from under the wood. In no time, the bonfire was lit.

The event was a little slow at first. I didn’t know anybody, and I’m not the best conversationalist. I much prefer listening to talking. After a bit, though, I got in a conversation with the woman who was hosting the event. We talked about the various classes being offered by the Mountaineers–I am planning to sign up for five–and I explained my reservations regarding participation in any events. She introduced me to several other women, at least one of whom is a trip leader. Interestingly, one of them had heard about my previous experiences from someone else.

In any event, after talking with the women for a bit, I decided to give Mountaineers another chance. The Olympia group sounds very different than the group up north with whom I had hiked previously. I will sign up for five classes–Basic Snowshoeing, Wilderness Skills, Basic Sea Kayaking, Essentials of Backpacking, and Basic Navigation–all taught through the Olympia branch. The Basic Snowshoeing class starts in just a few weeks and includes a day-long field trip. That would be a good opportunity to see how this group deals with those of us who don’t climb Mount Everest every day and might need a little more time.

I’m hopeful things will be different. I really hope so. I like these folks.

And the cookies were a hit!