Director’s Diary: The lawyer, the trader, the architect, my wife and me

Director’s Diary: The lawyer, the trader, the architect, my wife and me

18 JUNE 2018 | TAKELMA, ORE. — I digest a lot of media, and I’m constantly bombarded with the idea that public lands are tearing people apart. The issues are tenuous, personal, and very controversial. But when I get off the news feeds and hit the ground, time after time I find that public lands bring people together. This last week, that idea was confirmed.

Less than two months ago I met a couple, Dave Goulder and Marlene Salon. Dave is a retired attorney that took on high profile cases. He’s got pedigree. He’s got education. Marlene is a retired landscape architect with a prestigious tenure. They live in a nice Southeast Portland neighborhood.

I’m a high school dropout with two associates degrees. I grew up clerking grocery stores and working in wood manufacturing. Needless to say, Dave, Marlene, and I come from very different places. But this last week, we came together for a backpacking trip.

My wife and I dropped the kids off with my parents after their last day of kindergarten and preschool. Then we headed out to a remote trailhead with Dave and Marlene.

At the top

An old friend, Steve, met us at the trailhead. The first day, we hiked just a few miles to a postcard style meadow with a dreamy mountain backdrop.

“It will be my first time backpacking,” Marlene told me a few weeks before.

Dave has a ton of experience backpacking throughout the Northwest, but hasn’t brought Marlene along yet. They’ve been married about forty years.

Dave and Marlene stop in the snow to look at plants

Marlene earned her badges the next day, when we got caught in an unseasonably cool storm that brought rain, hail, and snow as we traversed a dividing ridge with fierce winds.

It didn’t stop Marlene and Dave from many stop to identify the plants they came here to see. They’re plant and flower nerds with a deep connection with the Leach Gardens in Portland. John and Lilla Leach were pioneering botanists and conservationists far ahead of their time. They discovered many plants throughout the Siskiyou, and also championed for the area’s first protections.

Dave and Marlene are our parents’ age, but they wander with a child like curiosity that is adorable and infectious as we traverse legacy old growth along this route.

We started a campfire that afternoon to compensate for the falling rain, sleet, and snow. “We usually don’t have fires,” remarked Dave as the evening winded down. “But this is perfect.”

The next day was partly cloudy, dry, and we took a detour to a mountain lake with dreamy waters and a commanding backdrop. The climb out of the valley that evening punishing, but as we rose to a spiny ridge the clouds broke, the sun shone, and I hunted for conifers while Dave and Marlene continued pointing out plants.

“I studied Latin,” Dave reminds me.

Most of the names pass through me, I admit, but I enjoy learning about them for a moment at a time.

“You passed the test,” I shared with them that evening on the banks of an unnamed lake. “You didn’t whine, so you get wine.” I cracked a bottle of La Ferme Julien, filled cups, reflecting on the trip.

The last day, we headed back a similar way we came. Jill, Dave, and I got to see a big, beautiful black bear wander along the trail just a couple hundred feet in front of us.

“I’m not sure how you planned that out,” said Dave. “It made my trip.”

It made mine, too.

Dave, Marlene, Steve, Jill, and I are all from very different places. Steve traffics in equities and a world of finance I don’t understand. Dave and Marlene are well to do Portlanders who retired from prestigious careers. Jill works at Starbucks and manages our family, and I run this little nonprofit.

We’re not people who find themselves in the same orbit back home. We grew up in different times, have different values. But we found ourselves at the same trailhead, bound by a love for Wilderness and the wonder of public lands.

Now I’m preparing to bring on a new class of interns who come from around the globe. From Eritrea, Africa, to California, Virginia, New York and Japan, a group of interns will come together this Thursday to participate in something greater than themselves. Like Marlene, Dave, Steve, Jill, and I, they circle in different orbits. But they will unite around a mission to bring our trails back to life.

Siskiyou Mountain Club brings people together from around the globe and from around the political spectrum to do meaningful and positive work. That’s a business I’m proud to represent, and I invite you to join us. Come for a picnic. Join us for a work hitch, and bring some fresh fruit. Listen to the voices of these young people, see their hard work, and I guarantee that you will be inspired and left with great hope in your heart.

Interested in joining us? Email gabe@siskiyoumountainclub.org or call 541-708-2056 and we’ll coordinate.

Thank you for all of your support.


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