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Pulling the Rip Cord

October 20, 2021

I recently just finished watching the second season of Ted Lasso.  It’s a great show and I highly recommend it.  Especially if you are like me and find yourself watching a lot of dark shows, it is an uplifting comedy and a nice change of pace from lots of other shows out there.  The second season deals with mental health issues.  I hate disclaimers, but I am going to give one here.  I don’t think my blog here can come close to trying to capture what the show was doing or the current post pandemic needs of everyone for mental health.  The show just made me think, so here are the results of my thinking. 

Sometimes as the stress and anxiety grow, it seems like it would be nice to be able to hit the eject button and bail out.  Pull the rip cord and stop the fall.  Or be like Crocodile Dundee and go on a walkabout in the Australian Outback.  Be Dick Proenneke and go live in a cabin in the Wilderness of Alaska. Granted those options come with their own stress and problems, but of a different nature. I will be honest I do sometimes think what life would be like, if I just headed out into the woods, change the stress of life from due dates, relationships, people, to just basic survival. I do realize that is more like running away from issues than anything else, but I tend to think that everyone at times has had that thought before. How can I remove myself from the weight of the world.

Clouds rolling in and making navigation difficult. Taken on Mt. Cashmere, WA. The route is there, just hard to see. Life can be like that sometimes, where the worries, fear and stress of the world, slow down our travel.

I will be completely honest, as I have always strived to do when I write, I am still struggling a little bit, post accident. I feel as if I have lost a little bit of swagger of confidence. My fitness level has dropped, still probably pretty good to most, but prior to falling, I was starting to have ambitious thoughts of jumping into another ultra marathon. A little bit ago, I did go out rock climbing with Colby. It was time for both of us to get back out there. We went to Exit 38 and a wall called “Sun Vista Slabs”. It is a bunch of easy low 5th class slab climbs. My first lead I was super timid, always wanting to have a bomber hand hold the entire time. I was fidgety and nervous. “Dad you’re climbing super timid” “I know – I am totally freaked out!” I was constantly searching for the super bomber hand hold. The problem with that approach is that in climbing, much like life, you don’t often get that bomber hand hold to support yourself. Climbing is all about trusting your feet and looking for those hidden slopers, side pulls, and crimper holds. It’s not always obvious. Once I was back down from lead number 1 post fall, Colby gave me a bit of a pep talk. He reminded me that we are on a slab route, meaning there are not many bomber holds, I need to look for good feet, side pulls, and all of the other stuff that is there. I jumped back on the same route, thinking about what he said. The second time, I felt like the rock wall came alive as I was looking for the holds that the climb did offer up. It was like I was looking at the rock in a totally different lens. I was much more comfortable for sure the second time up. I added another lead, before it was time to go. It was a great first step, but leading some 5.4-5.5 routes does not remove all of my nervousness and hesitation. But this is going to be a process.

By nature, I am a grinder, so when things get hard, I just keep on pushing, pressing, moving forward.  I think that is partially why I enjoy mountaineering and adventure racing so much, it’s the grind of Type 2 fun.  (Type 2 fun is the kind of fun that is miserable while it is happening, but when you look back, you think, Wow that was awesome! – fun in retrospect.)  Typically I like to finish what I start, so usually as great as it sounds to pull the rip cord, I don’t often do that. 

This thinking took me back to my freshman year of high school.  It was wrestling season.  I have blogged about wrestling quite a bit in my past posts and its impact on me.  It was my favorite sport, really because it transformed me.  However grades 8-10th I really struggled.  A sane person would have quit the sport.  First off it is super hard, the workouts are intense and if you are not very good, you basically just get physically abused throughout an entire practice.  I spent my freshman year getting beat up each and every practice, not just by the workout, but also my teammates.  I think I won like 1 JV match that entire year, my Sophomore year I did not win a varsity match. I was 0-16 to start my varsity wrestling career. I did finish my high school career, which is pretty impressive after such a horrible start.  Anyhow back to my Freshman year, I was having a bad day and just could not deal with getting my butt kicked at wrestling practice, so I just skipped practice and took the bus home. 

Not long after I got home, my Dad came home, he had a shorter than normal day, so he was home earlier than usual. I really was not expecting anyone to be home, so I was a little bit surprised and really just wanted to be left alone. Anyhow he asked why I was at home. I said that I wasn’t feeling very good.  Honestly I was a little panicked as I was not expecting him to be home and I didn’t want to tell him the truth of why I was home.  I always had this incredible fear about letting him down somehow, this carried over into college, when I was dreading calling him to let him know that I was done playing baseball.  In my mind I was ready for the perseverance talk, the you gotta give 110% talk, that push through talk, whatever you want to call it – the you just need to push through, grind on.  Don’t quit, keep going. The talk that pretty much defines who I am.

As I mentioned earlier, I am a natural grinder and maybe that is a direct result of having this complete fear of letting my Dad down.  When I “retired” from baseball, it was easy to talk to the coach.  “Hate to see you go, but we did bring in a really good freshman catcher.  The Pitching coach really liked working with you because you listened and worked your ass off.” Basically telling me, you are not really that naturally gifted, but you work really hard.  For some reason I was nervous to call my Dad.  When I did, he was totally cool with it.  “Is this the best decision for you?”  “Yes” “Then great, that is what you need to do.”  No big deal. Honestly, I really think the one thing that I could have done to let him down, was to want to take over his business. Not that there was anything wrong with his career, I worked with him the summer after my Freshman year and he was adamant that he did not want me to follow in his footsteps – he wanted me to do something else. He job was not only physically demanding, but also required him to be exposed to toxins, from dust to the stain, and the finishing varnish, it was all pretty toxic stuff.

Back to me as a freshman in High School, waiting for the talk, I did not want nor needed to hear.  “ I am sorry to hear that. What can I do to help?  Do you need anything?”  That was not at all what I expected to hear, but it was what I needed to hear. 

I didn’t quit wrestling after that, I took my day off, rested, mentally regrouped, and then went back at it the next day and really never looked back.  The story goes that eventually I got pretty good at it, not like best ever, but I won lots of matches my Junior and Senior years.  Did my Dad know that is what I needed to hear at that point in time?  Looking back, when you are a teenager, you don’t think your parents are that “in tune” to things, however looking back now, I think they actually were more aware of tings then I thought they were back then. 

After writing that, I am probably a clueless parent of my kids. But that is not really the point of this…

Thinking through all of this, I am a little bit horrified of myself and how many times, someone might have come to me with a problem or issue and instead of saying.  “How can I help, what can I do for you.”  I just gave a lecture on pushing through and grinding it out.  “Hey get tough and work through this.”  However that is totally ignoring and not acknowledging the personal heartache and struggle.  Meaning it actually can make things worse as you are totally ignoring the angst of the entire issue. 

“Just grind through” is not the answer that I need when I am going through a rough patch, as that is typically what I do. Sometimes what we need is just for someone to acknowledge our struggle and ask what they can do to help. Empathy. Easy to say, hard to act on. I am 100% guilty of not offering it when it as been needed for others. I can only hope that I have not completely scarred my kids with talks of “bucking up”, “pushing through”, “working harder”, etc. and etc. It’s that old-school mentality. But that is just it, it’s old.

The next time we find ourselves in a similar situation, let’s offer empathy and ask, what can I do? How can I help?” vs. “You just need to work harder”



Raising them to be hardcore

November 24, 2020

I am guessing that I don’t do this enough – write about how awesome my kids are, but they are – yes I am biased – so here is a post about that.

Photo from Bend Racing: Picture of Cade and Colby on the course.

The weekend of October 25th, my boys competed in their first adventure race.  Adventure racing is a multi-sport race (typically hiking, biking, kayaking and ropes) were the competitors must navigate a course using only map and compass.  So they have to figure out how to get to each point on the map, without being told where to go. 

Recently Amazon Video aired a series about an adventure race – Eco-Challenge Fiji.  It is dubbed “the world’s toughest race” and had Bear Grylls as the host.  The series is a fun, enjoyable watch for sure, and gives an idea of what the sport is all about.  Years ago I was competing in tons of these types of events and my “racing career” culminated with a weeklong race.  My team had managed to find sponsorship to support our racing habit and we spent a week on the course, racing with minimal sleep, through snow and crazy water conditions, over several mountain ranges in Montana.  At the time of the race Colby was 3 ½ and Cade was only 1 ½.  So neither of them really remember when I was doing all of these crazy races, and I did a lot of training overnight in the dark.  They did not really understand the sport until watching Eco-Challenge Fiji as a family.  They knew that I had done some adventure races, but didn’t really understand what they really were or the difficulties with doing an expedition length race. They had heard me tell stories about racing while hiking, but with the show they were able to sort of put the stories together with an idea of what a race is really like.

Back to my boys and how truly hardcore they are becoming. I don’t think I need to really go into more details about Colby’s ability to be calm and cool under pressure, if you have read the blog about my accident. Wise and strong – well beyond 15 years old for sure.

Let’s now talk about Cade. Prior to my accident, we had planned on climbing Glacier Peak, with some friends of mine.  The trip was slated for the end of August.  However, I was still in a neck brace, so the trip was out for me.  Colby and I decided to take a trip to Montana to visit Universities – Montana and Montana State. It was a trip that I could totally do. Yes we did summit a 13,000 foot mountain on our trip – yes I had a neck brace on!  Cade really wanted to still go on the trip.  So I contacted the group and they were excited to have him along.  They knew about his climbing exploits on Mt. Baker when he was 9 – yes he climbedMt. Baker when he was 9 and was one of the strongest climbers in the group- and we were glad to have him along. Glacier Peak is a hard climb. It is a 12 mile hike just to get to the mountain. Due to the distance, it is a much harder climb then many of the other Cascade volcanos. He did a hard climb with a bunch of adults and kept up with them just fine. Also his summer COVID goal was to run a half-marathon. Which he trained for and ran, just family support on the SVT trail from Snoqualmie to Carnation. I’m not sure how many other 13 year-olds want to run a half-marathon just for “fun”.

Jared Hanley was one of his climbing partners during their successful summit of Glacier Peak.  He also was the person I have done the most adventure races with over the years.  Part of their conversations centered around adventure racing.  I think Cade wanted to get the straight story from Jared on some of our races. Were my Dad’s stories true?? Those conversations sparked the desire to actually compete in a race to see what it is all about. Jared knew of a race that was happening in October 2020 and thought it might be fun to get the boys involved. This included his 15 year old son, Boden. Boden is also a bad ass 15 year-old to agree to do something like this. I was out because at the time of this conversation I was still in a neck brace and not really sure what my future would hold. Jared said that he would race with the 3 boys as a 4 person team. My job was to be the sideline cheerleader!  Over the years, I have done many adventures with Jared and there are not many people I would rather go on an adventure with, and I also have no problem entrusting him with my boys on an adventure.

Photo from Bend Racing: Team Young Guns: crossing the Deschutes River

We headed down to Bend this October 25th for the race.  The big debate was what floatation vessels to use?  The race required racers to use some type of inflatable floatation device, as the racers would be required to kayak the river and then hike a few miles with all of their boating gear.  Option 1 was an inflatable 4-person boat from Walmart.  Super slow, but large enough for everyone to fit in.  Option 2 was using 2 1 -person pack rafts.  The theory here would be that one person would sit normal and the second person would lay stomach down – sort of on top of their legs, then use some neoprene hand paddles to paddle the boat from the front.  With the race temperatures to be in the teens, we did not see how this option wouldn’t end up with one of the boys getting hypothermia.  So the Walmart boat was the winner.  We figured it would be super slow and hard to manage, but hopefully no one would get hypothermia. 

We first dropped off the bikes at the bike staging area, then went to the area of the start/finish. The car temperature gauge read 16 degrees. Yes it was cold! The boys put their packs down for a few minutes outside the car. My first task of the day was to unfreeze the bit valves of their bladders as they instantly froze.

The race started on foot, then transitioned to the boat, then finished with a bike section. The boat section was the most challenging for them as their boat was a big beast and super hard to navigate, but it kept them dryer then two single packrafts would have.

Cade and Boden: Jared and Colby had to hop out to get in position for the rappelling section of the race.

During the race, I just traveled around from TA to TA to catch a glimpse of them, yell out some encouragement, and then take a few photos. My favorite viewpoint was on the river of the paddle section. There was a trail that went along the river so I was able to follow them as they made their way down the river. The water levels were low, so they constantly had to jump out of the boat to dislodge it from rocks and the bottom. The boat was large and not very maneuverable. I watched as smaller, more nimble pack rafts flew past them. The boat was quickly full of water, so they were sitting in freezing water, paddling a difficult to steer boat, down a shallow river.

In the middle of the paddle, was a required rappel – two members of the team: Jared and Colby, were required to rappel from a bridge down into the river. Where there teammates needs to have the boat waiting for them. I got a good view of this part of the race. They both made smooth descents into the boat below. I got a close-up view of the boat – it was full of water and their backpacks were covered with ice. Really just about everything was freezing. There was one checkpoint of note on the paddle, they placed one checkpoint in a bog, as the racers would come up to the punch, they would sink down in the mud up to their chests. I won’t lie, it was cold just watching. My next stop was over to the bike TA. I found that I actually had to keep moving around to keep warm. After the paddle, teams had to carry all of their paddle gear to the bike TA. When they arrived, they looked cold, but were in good spirits. Jared was coated in mud, that was actually frozen. Colby was wearing tights, with shorts over them, one of his pockets was inside out, but it was frozen, so it was stuck like that. The water bottles that were left on their bikes were now an icy mix – half frozen.

From here they headed out on the final section of the course – the bike leg. I headed back to the start and had to change out my gloves at the car. From here I was planning on waiting at the finish for their arrival. The biggest obstacle of the bike section was the frozen waterfall plunge. There was a checkpoint at a waterfall, that was now partly frozen, due to the cold. The requirements were that two members of each 4 person team needed to go into the water. It was already decided that Jared would be one of the 2 at the start of the race. Which of the kids was going to join him was going to be a race time decision. The following is my para-phrasing a conversation with Colby and Cade. “None of the three of us wanted to go in, so Jared ended up just having to choose someone. We figured it would not be one of us because he is not our Dad. We know that if you had to choose you would have picked one of us, because we are your kids – Jared was in that same dilemma. So Boden was the winner. Post race they all described that moment as Boden starting out as a functioning person prior to going into the water and then after it, him being in a fog and not really functioning quite right because he was so cold. They described trying to get warm clothes back on him as he was not able to do it himself and yet it was still hard for them as their hands were super cold.

As they made it to the finish, Jared looked at me and said “Dave, is the car running? We need it going as soon as possible, these guys are super cold.” I ran to the car, started it up and grabbed all of the blankets we had. After finishing, all of them hopped in the car to warm up. Colby pulled off his gloves and his hands were red and swollen. It took him a few days to have his fingers back to normal, with no tingles. Boden looked like a zombie, like he was moving in slow motion. Yes they were cold, but they finished.

Once the results were tabulated, they finished in sixth place overall. They collected every mandatory checkpoint and also some of the pro – checkpoints. Which is fantastic! It really shows how tough the three boys are to battle and endure conditions like that and still manage to thrive. The cold made for a tough first ever adventure race. I also think it is a testament to Jared’s ability to navigate and keep them going. I never did manage to get a good finish photo as I was too busy trying to get the boys warmed up. Jared and Cade did manage to join myself to watch the post race awards, etc. Colby and Boden where both too frozen and decided the warmth of the car was best.

My best finish phot as after I took this picture, I was off to the car. From the left: Coby, some random racer, Boden and Cade.

That night they all said they would do another race. I have been telling them the next step is for them to learn to navigate, as how cool would that be for the Young Guns to take things to the next level. I am sure they would soon make it a goal to pass up their “old dads”. It was a fun weekend, and I am a proud father to know that my boys can endure, suffer and still have fun and success!



When Thanks is not enough

August 10, 2020

First off my recovery is going well.  Not as fast as I would like, but everything is in order.  Hoping by mid September I should be close to being back to doing many of the things I love.  I was hoping for mid-August, but I don’t really have anything to complain about considering what could have happened.

Honestly,  I feel like I have written something like this before.  I told myself not to go through my blog to see, as its on my heart, so if it gets said again, then it must be important.

After being injured,  I have been completely overwhelmed by the support; from prayers, monetary donations, meal train, etc.  It has completely blown me away.   I know that myself and my family are so thankful for what everyone has done. I don’t really know what to say as “thank you” just doesn’t seem like enough.  However it is all I can say.  Thank you.  We ate like kings, all of the medical bills are covered, we are truly blessed in spite of the accident.  I still have people asking what they can do to help.  I am not worthy of all of this. That is where grace comes in.

Grace is a challenging thing.  My personal definition is when we receive something we don’t deserve or we are spared from punishment that our actions deserve.  Grace is freely given, and it expects nothing in return.  That is why it is so magical. We receive something we don’t deserve and didn’t earn, yet it is ours, no strings attached.  No price to pay.  This is something that is totally foreign in today’s world.  We reap what we sow, we keep what we earn, and karma will always even the slate.

I have to remind  myself that this is grace.  People are providing grace.  I tell myself that I just need to accept it as. I have not earned it, nor is there a way for me to “pay-off” this outpouring of support.  I feel like, I am living in a constant state of grace.  I have been asked if I ever have asked God why I ended up with brain cancer.  The truth is, I do, but my question is not why did I end up with brain cancer, it is why was I spared with an Oligodendroglioma?  Why was grace given to me?  If you google my cancer, yes you will find that there is no known cure, but you will also find that the average life expectancy is 12 years.  When you take brain cancers as a whole 40% of the people diagnosed with brain cancer don’t make it 5 years.  I am just about 9 years into this thing and doing good.   Grace.  Falling head first 30 feet into a granite rock wall and not needing any surgeries or having any permanent injuries.  Grace.  The outpouring of community love and support after my injury.  Grace.  Really this is the second time people have rallied around me.  Double grace. It is hard as I don’t feel worthy of all of this love and support.  I have to again learn to accept grace.

When I was first diagnosed, I was extremely active in the brain cancer world. I was on the board at  My Rotary Club organized a fund raiser. It was an accapella singing night, that featured groups from UW and the University of Oregon.  The event was awesome and raised funds for .  As part of the promotion for the event, the local paper ran a story about the event and interviewed me.  After the article ran I received a call from a potential client asking to meet about valuing his business.  When we met, I learned his entire story, he was battling a GBM.  He had recently started a business and it was doing well, but he was reaching a point where he needed to sell his interest because he couldn’t work anymore.  The business was just now starting to take off.  I valued his business and he sold his interest to his partners.  I saw him at the Seattle Brain Cancer walk that following year.  However, not the year after that.  I did some digging and found that he had passed away.  He had a young growing business, was married with a young child.  Yet he was taken too early.  For some reason, when I think about “fairness” with respect, I think of him.  Why did he end up with a GBM and not me.  I struggle to reconcile why I was proved grace and not him.  I realize, that life is not fair and there is not a good answer to my question.  I need to accept the grace that I have been provided and know it is not earned, there is no debt, there isn’t a ledger.  It is just so hard to accept sometimes.

I am going to learn to accept what has been given and do my best to try and pay that kindness forward, and not focus on my own thoughts of unworthiness.

Thank you for all of your kindness, it is appreciated from the bottom of my soul.



The Accident

July 6, 2020


So in order to get the full story of my fall on Castle Rock, the story goes back over ten years ago, prior to my brain cancer diagnosis.  I went to Castle Rock with Roger Violette, who in his own words is not a climber.  Back when I was adventuring racing, he was on my team and the person whom I trained with the most.  One weekend we went out to Castle Rock, and first we climbed Saber, I lead all routes.  The route was fun, especially the second pitch.  The route is two pitches, both are about 100 feet.  The second pitch is the easier of the two and ends with a walk-off.  The rating is disputed as older books have it rated pretty low and newer books have it rated higher.  Many feel that the original rating is completely sand-bagged (lower then it should be).  Granted it is still a moderate climb.  After successfully climbing Saber, we turned our focus to another route there called Midway.  This is a three pitch route to the top with the same walk-off.  On the first pitch you climb to the top of what is called the Jello Tower then  you step across from the tower back on to the main face to start the second pitch.  I felt good on Saber and was excited to do the double. About 75% up pitch 1 I realized that I needed to place some gear as I was a bit run-out and far enough above my last placement that with rope stretch, the possibility of a decking on a fall was real.  Knowing that I needed to place something now, I found myself in a panic, as the best piece to use was a #3 cam. The problem was I had left it in the car as I didn’t think I would need something that big.  The panic was real and intense, sweaty palms and fear encompassed me.  Roger asked if I was OK as he could tell I was struggling all of the sudden.  I yelled down that I need the cam I left in the car.  I tried to place something else, but to no avail.  I remember yelling at myself to get my “shit” together.  I knew I was totally capable of finishing the pitch, but wasn’t sure about placing something.  I decided, screw it, I am going to fall if I waste any more energy trying to place something.  So I just started to climb upwards. I thought that was my best option .  I quickly made it to the top of the tower.  That was the most panicked I had ever been on lead in my life.  I let out a big sigh of relief and an F-bomb or two.  I then belayed Roger up to me.  After he made it up to me I looked at the step across to pitch two and realized I was mentally fried.  I looked at Roger and said, I think it’s time for me to go home.  We rappelled off and called it a day.

Last year, after a day of climbing, Colby said to me, “You never seem that excited to go rock climbing. I am really having fun, but you don’t seem thrilled to take me.”  My response was simple, “Well it’s a lot of work for me. I have to always set up everything. Then I am the belay slave, so it’s fun to watch you climb, but the climbing is not that awesome for me.” Colby asked, “What can I do to make it more fun for you?”  I responded with, “Well first learn to belay and then learn to sport lead.”  Colby’s response, “I’m in! Let’s do it!”  Since then, when we have gone climbing, he has lead more routes than I have and now we both can climb as he can belay me as well.  For me the fun of climbing with him exploded exponentially as he is now an equal on the rock and no longer along for the ride.  “So when can I do some multi-pitch climbing?” Colby asked me one day “Once you can rappel and do everything with me not looking over your shoulder, as you have to be self-sufficient with safety items.”  Last summer, we started with the Tooth, which is a moderate climb of a peak near Snoqualmie Pass.  I climbed it and had a fantastic day.  I realized that was my first multi-pitch lead since Brain cancer diagnosis.  I did climb the Sharkfin Tower a few years ago, but I followed and cleaned.  I didn’t lead.  The day was fabulous.  After that, the question was what is next?   My first choice was Ingalls Peak, however to do that trip right you need to camp at the lake, thus our open time window did not allow for that.  I thought back to Saber and thought we can cruise over to Leavenworth then be home by early afternoon.  Thus the decision was made.

tooth 1

Colby on the Tooth.

tooth 2

Enjoying the summit of the Tooth.

We left at about 6am on June 13th and made the drive over to Castle Rock.  We got to the parking lot around 8am.  We loaded up and started the short hike in.  As we passed the Jello Tower, there was a group on Midway. We hiked around over to Saber. There was a group on that as well.  The second person up was just about to the top of pitch 1.  We started our climb once they started up pitch 2.  The event would foreshadow the day ahead.  The first move of the climb has a slightly overhanging section, so no feet to start.  I actually peeled off and ended up falling down on my butt.  The signs were there about this day.  I worked right to get on the route. Then began working up the crack, placing a cam as I moved my way up.  The crack has some natural breaks early on that create almost ledges.  As I moved up the crack it seemed to get a bit greasy and slightly awkward as it leads up to a bulge, that then leads to the anchors and the top of pitch 1.  Looking back, this is where I made a mistake. Instead of trying to work the crack I moved to the face thinking I could just cruise past the bulge on the face.  The issue is the face doesn’t offer any protection.  On the face I realized this and decided that I needed to get back on route. I fell trying to get back to the crack, but my detour had caused about 20 additional feet of rope to feed out above my last cam.  I remember the moment just before I fell thinking I need to get back to the crack.  After that I don’t recall anything until I was in the helicopter throwing up.

Basically, I managed to hit the rock headfirst, cracking my helmet and causing a skull fracture, 5 broken vertebrae, and a broken hand.    Colby did amazing under pressure. He was able to stop my fall.  The scary part for him was looking up at his Dad hanging from the rope completely unresponsive.  ” I could see your chest moving so I knew you were alive.”  A pretty chilling assessment for a 15 year old.  By this time the pair that climbed the route before us had finished and were walking back to grab their gear and immediately came to Colby’s aid.  These guys, Tyler and David, are true heroes and helped Colby get me to the ground safely.  Once down, 911 was called and in came the mountain rescue people.  They got me down the trail in a litter then off in a helicopter to the hospital.  I had a major head injury, and was bleeding everywhere from a large gash in my head.

helmet 2

Impact spot

helmet 1

As I mentioned, my next memory was in a helicopter where I was feeling awful for throwing up during the ride.  That is a symptom of a concussion.  From that point my memories are of being moved around for CAT scans, X-rays, and tests.  Thinking damn my back hurts each time they would shift me from machine to machine.  A few days later I was released from the hospital.  I have been completely overwhelmed by all of the support from everyone, the well wishes, donations, meal train, etc.  I am truly grateful for all the love and support. I feel very fortunate that everything should heal with no surgeries or any long term damage.

The hero of this story is Colby and his ability to handle an intense scary moment with calm and cool.  I really think he grew up a lot on June 13th.

mug shot

Selfie in the hospital


This is me in the litter: Note photo is from the local Wenatchee Newspaper that ran a story about the accident

From Colby Heyting:

Over my many years of climbing, once or twice a year, I never enjoyed rock climbing like I did other sports. It was always something we did every once in a while, mostly in Vantage, WA. However, in the past 2 years I began to enjoy rock climbing. As a result of getting older, it developed into a real love and I was so exited to start climbing again. After I began to get comfortable on the rock leading I kept asking my dad “when do we get to do a multi-pitch”, and after some convincing we decided to do the tooth. It was an amazing day and everything went smooth. Now fast forward to this summer when I kept asking to do another multi-pitch and once again I finally got the okay, after doing some climbing to remember my skills. You heard the story of what happened before the fall so lets skip to just before the fall. I saw my dad moving a bit off the crack, but at the time I did not know the correct route so I did not think anything of it. Once he got off route I saw him looking for holds and not finding anything and looking a little worried. The next thing I saw was his foot slip and him drop behind an outcrop in the rock. The second I saw him fall I dropped in a squat position and waited for the pull, which felt like forever.

When the pull hit it was almost nothing, which surprised me since I was ready to be pulled off the ground. After I caught him I looked up to see my dad about 60 feet off the ground upside down unconscious and I began yelling “dad” and “help” with no response. I felt my leg twitch like crazy. It was hard to stand, and my first thought was “I need to climb up to him”. I quickly realized this was impossible and went back to calling for help. I heard Tyler and David coming down the trail saying “we hear you”, and about this time I could see my dad’s chest moving and he made this weird coughing sound. Once Tyler and David got there, David called 911, while I lowered my dad, and Tyler went to catch him. As we lowered him he began to come back to life and helped a little bit, as he got stuck on a small ledge. We got him to the ground. His nose was bleeding, his eye was swollen shut, and his head had a massive gash in it. I also was in so much shock I thought he had busted through his helmet but it was just one of the air holes. Our next task was to see how bad he hit his head, and all he could remember was his first name, not me, not the month/date, or where he was. This got me very scared, but I was happy knowing he was down. As the EMT’s rushed up with a few people to scout what we would need, we wrapped his head up with a cloth T-Shirt, which he bled through right away. After the EMT’s got their they wrapped him up and started to bring him down. At this point I am letting the EMT’s do their jobs, but I still have many other tasks I needed to do. I had to get our stuff, call my mom, and be near the first responders to give them information on what happened. I manged to do all these tasks except get through to my mom since I had no service, but one of the sheriffs did, and let me use his phone. Now we were on our way down and the EMT’s did not know weather they would air lift my dad or drive him by ambulance. Also, since Covid-19 is present, they did not even know if I could ride in the vehicle, but thankfully Tyler and David offered to give me a ride no matter what happened. They ended up taking him in the helicopter, and thankfully I was able to go with him. My first time in a helicopter was never how I imagined it would be.

Once we got to the hospital it went like any other injury. They took lots of scans, inserted an IV, and had many nurses working on him at once. The main thing I remember was him having to leave the room all the time for scans. After being in the hospital for a little while I got a call from my mom saying she was on her way. Overall the hospital was like any other experience, but I knew he would be safe. I stayed the next 4 nights at my aunts while my mom stayed in Wenatchee with my dad and I waited for the news of his injuries.

I have grown a lot from this experience, and looking back I realize just how lucky this accident was. 1. When I lowered my dad the end of the rope was still in my belay device. Also on the lowering there was an overhang meaning he did not rub the wall for most of the decent. 2. He had a helmet on which saved his life. 3. No major injuries that will result in long term issues or surgeries. 4. Tyler and David were there to help me mostly call 911 since I had no service, give me rides to the hospital, and even clean the gear that got left on the wall. 5. Finally, I am overwhelmed by the support of my loved ones, friends, and even people I barely know who have reached out to me, donated and/or brought meals.

After the accident, Colby’s Grandfather conducted a mini podcast that is quite interesting to listen to.

Colby’s Podcast

It’s about 50 minutes.



Teaching Legend

June 26, 2020

Early on in my professional career, I prepared several tax returns for friends and family.  However, over the years as my career has developed, I have done less and less.  The time required is just too great, so now it’s become where you are an actual client or I can’t help.  That does not apply to immediate family and occasionally “select” people.  Basically, you must be special to get on the list.  One of those “special people” is Bob Scharer.

Mr. Scharer was my sixth-grade teacher and makes my list of top influential teachers that I had in my lifetime.  Probably the greatest thing that he did for us as a group was treat us more like adults than children.  A large part of the year was spent having real-life conversations.  It was one of the first times I recall having real, authentic conversations about real life in school.  I am sure that my memory might have changed this next comment, however I remember a conversation about choosing a career path and the start of it was the thought of just following our parents.  I am most likely paraphrasing here- he looked at me and asked something like “Do you really want to spend 40 years installing hardwood floors?  Think about the wear and tear on your body, your back.”  For some reason that has stuck with me all of these years.  Probably because of the mix of wisdom and because later on in my life, my Dad would never have allowed me to take over his business.  That was not the path he wanted for me.

One of the coolest things he would do was at the end of the year, he would draw caricatures of each student and provide a word or words that would describe them.  These were done as posters, so they were large.  The drawings were super awesome, and the words were typically spot on.  My word was “dependable”.  I can only imagine the time and effort he spent on those.  The distribution of those was a fun day.  I recall the hanging Twinkie in his room – to basically show that they will last forever, so you might want to think twice about eating them.  Or how about the impact that Coke has on a nail and other items.  Again, you might want to think about putting that in your body – no matter how good it is!  I remember the Phantom Tollboth, square dancing and the circuit of events.  He also ran the intramural sports– football and floor hockey.  They were a blast, open to 5th and 6th graders.  I recall when I was in 5th grade being on the team that could beat everyone, except that one 6th grade team, then becoming that team in the 6th grade.  For our class picture, he put it to a vote, but got us all to commit to making the picture special and for us all to dress up, ties even for the boys – not to just wear some old ratty t-shirt.  It turned out pretty good.

6th Grade

I was sort of sandwiched in age between his children, so he was around during my high school years as well, through school events and sports.  When I was a senior, I remember having the opportunity to go to Stillwater Elementary and speak to his classroom through the DARE program.  I believe it was myself, Wes Pierce, Billy Ojeda and think Blake Holtom with me.  We got to answer questions and sort of parade around like we were big shots.  It was fun for me to go full circle, to be back in his sixth grade classroom as a senior – granted it was at Stillwater and not Cherry Valley.  Stillwater opened after I left elementary school.  Mr. Scharer had spent most of his career at Cherry Valley but transferred to Stillwater and then also became a PE specialist.  He spent 40 years working in the Riverview School District, impacting lives.  I know from others that I am not in the minority by saying that he was one of the best teachers in the district.

When he retired from teaching, there was a celebration at Stillwater Elementary in his honor.  Since my mom was the Secretary at Stillwater, she filled me in on the details and I was able to attend.  Towards the end, they basically had an open mic for anyone to come up and talk.  At the time, I was going through chemotherapy.  I remember thinking that I should talk about his impact on me, however I felt like such an emotional wreck at that time, I didn’t want to stand up and turn into an emotional wreck.  So I didn’t talk, as I just didn’t have the desire to go there…  Since then, I think a part of me has always felt that I have owed him this blog.  It may be a little late, but here it is.  Typically when we have met to go over his tax return, he asks if I am still enjoying writing, the answer is yes and now you get to read one of my blogs about you!

Yes, he was a fantastic teacher, who touched the lives of hundreds of kids in the lower Snoqualmie Valley, however that is not all that makes him who he is.  When my Dad died, I was in college in Oregon, then after graduation, I was then in the process of starting my career and sort of own life on my own.  My sister was in the same boat as well – working at her first job, we were both in the process of “leaving the nest”.  I would check in with my mom and see how she was doing.  His name would always come up as someone at work who would be checking in with her to make sure she was doing OK.  That was always a big deal to me.  After he retired, he has gone on to be a caregiver for his wife Debra.  I think his impacts as a teacher only tell part of the story of the quality of his heart. As a role model and example of a person to be like, it doesn’t get much better than Bob Scharer.  I know I feel lucky to have been influenced by such a wonderful person.

Hindsight 20/20 on Life Insurance

November 8, 2019


Today is actually the eight -year mark of my seizure at Starbucks were Goliath first made his presence known.  The good part is that I am physically as healthy as I have been since prior to this day eight years ago.  The blog below was actually written quite a while ago, but I just have never posted it.  Mainly because its not a super exciting topic.  It like me is very practical.  I also just listened to a seminar about how to take advantage of the tax benefits that life insurance provides, so this just seemed like a good time to finally post this.  I hope this might push at least one person to take a deeper look at life insurance.

Life insurance is one of those things that most people never want to talk about. The entire process is sort of silly, you are basically making a bet with a major company on when you will die. You are banking on the fact that you will die before making enough payments to cover the payout your family will receive. On the flip side the company is actually betting that you live longer. So to “win” you have to die. Which to most everyone, dying is not “winning”. That in a nutshell is why people do not like to talk about life insurance. It requires taking about your own demise. Granted we all know that someday we will die, but that still doesn’t make life insurance a more palatable conversation.  Life Insurance is also one of those things that you need to get, long before you need it, because if you wait until you need it – you can’t get it.  It is also something where your need for it will change over the years, so you need to be constantly looking at it to make sure that it still fits with your needs.

Before Colby was born, I decided that Jessica and I needed to get responsible and get life insurance since we were going to soon be parents. We wanted to make sure that if something happened to one of us, the other and our soon to be child would be taken care of financially. Both of us were healthy and fit, and the concept of something happening to one of us was totally foreign. Not possible! On a side note: life insurance actually has some really cool tax benefits – the biggest one being that the proceeds are tax free. Thus if you are the beneficiary of a life insurance policy and receive the proceeds –  it is 100% tax free! Not a bad deal at all. The other really cool tax piece is that if you have a whole life policy (or some others that build cash value) you may have a way to borrow against the policy and again – no taxes are attached.  I don’t want to get into tax code in a blog, but I am happy to provide details on how to make this work if anyone wants to reach out to me.  I am totally capable of turning into a tax code nerd if asked.

My purpose of this blog is not to get into a conversation about the different types of life insurance policies and the pros and cons of each one. And as a disclaimer: I do not sell life insurance. I do recognize that there are some cool things about life insurance. Although my overall take is life insurance should be set up and should be part of a financial plan as a necessary component. However I am not too keen on people who try to sell life insurance as an “investment tool”.  In my opinion, it’s great if you get some other investment benefits by having life insurance, but that is not why you should buy it!  It should be bought to cover your loved ones when you die, or used as a way to protect assets and provide cash liquidity later in life.

The picture is from the summit of Dragonback Mountain in the Mt. Waddington Range, BC.  It’s doing things like this that increases life insurance rates, for someone like me.


Back to my point. We decided to be “grown-ups” and get life insurance. First off I was shocked at the cost point for me, since I was classified as risky because I climb mountains. We did a mixture of whole and term for Jess and then just term for me.  Women are cheaper than men too as they live longer. The idea was that we would increase the amount or convert my term into whole in the future, once we became rich and famous! Ha! Easy to say, but really hard to do.

We both got life insurance though prior to Colby’s birth. I really didn’t think much about it until November 2011. The difficult news – you have brain cancer. Which by the way means that you will now no longer ever be able to get life insurance and you will also be at-risk with health care for “pre-existing conditions”. There was a point when I totally went into panic mode about the life insurance as I knew that I just had term, which means that it will expire at some point and thus, when I die, my family would get nothing. Funerals are super expensive. I can remember after my Dad died, we were at the funeral home going over the burial costs and options and I just about lost it. The costs were crazy high and I was super angry. I was ready for a throw down with the funeral director. It felt like highway robbery. What are you supposed to do? You really can’t do anything  but pay them, as they have you, you are stuck. His plot was already paid for as well. Thus the costs did not even include the burial plot – which should be the most expensive part of the deal. They have all of these weird rules and things about what you must purchase, liners, vaults, etc. Needless to say, it’s expensive. Dying is a huge financial burden to those left behind. Which is why life insurance is so important to have. Months later after the shock of brain cancer, I knew that I had to deal with the life insurance issue. Thankfully the policy I had included an automatic waiver that allowed me to convert the term policy to a universal policy, within ten years, regardless of health or any other issues. Thus I was able to get some form of “permanent” life insurance, just no cash value option. They had also changed some of their policies on climbing – thus I was also able to be placed in a lesser risk class – which was all great news. They decided that I am not as risky anymore!

My reality is that now I can’t get more life insurance, which means the policy I bought many years ago, is all I’ve got.  For some types of cancer, if you go into remission for a certain period of time, you can become eligible again.  However I will never go into remission, thus I will never meet those parameters.   I can’t leverage things for my family financially with more life insurance after I die. The amount I have is not “enough”, much better than nothing but obviously not what I would have done if I had a crystal ball and knew that I would get terminal cancer. Probably the biggest “downside” is that we will be in our house for the duration of my lifetime – no new bigger house! The amount of life insurance I have totally works with my current mortgage. However looking to get more house and thus more mortgage, doesn’t fit in with fiscal responsibility that is needed now should something happen to me, especially given the current home prices in the area. Granted I do like our house, but I will say that it seems to get smaller every year as the boys get bigger.

The morale of the story is this, you never know when a life changing event will occur or your health status might change, thus be smart and make sure that you have more than enough life insurance. If you wait until you actually need it, then it’s too late. You can end up like me, with cancer at 34 and can’t get any more. I know that hindsight is always 20/20, but be smart, be responsible, and get some life insurance! The price of it only goes up the longer you wait. The rates are based upon your current health, lifestyle risks, age, and family history. Each year you wait, the costs only go up.  Thus be smart, and think ahead.  Don’t wait, as if you do it might be too late.




August 31, 2019

PBS has this incredible documentary called Alone in the Wilderness, it was about a guy – Dick Proenneke, who lived alone in the Alaskan wilderness.  He built his own house, used local resources to live off the land.  Survival type shows have been around for a bit – think Bear Grylls and Les Stroud.  However, Dick was like the original survivor.  Anyhow there is a series, a movie and a book about Dick’s life.  The videos are completely fascinating to watch.

I have often marveled at how much of an incredible experience that would be.  Head to Alaska and survive off the land.  Maybe make my own version of “Into the Wild”.  Though it would require lots of time alone.  I have done many solo runs, hikes, climbs, camping, etc.  I think I do just fine on these types of adventures, however going alone into something like what Dick did, is completely another thing.  Just because I think I could survive on my own, doesn’t mean I should.

Buck Mountain

Buck Mountain and a lonely moon – Glacier Peak Wilderness

Recently I have been reminded, that despite my own tendencies to “go it alone”, I need people, I need community.  Really it is how we were created.  Yes there is some excitement to going solo, but in the end we are not built to always been alone. Maybe I am just tired of feeling alone and lonely at points in my life.  It’s just not how we should feel and be.

Recently I was a leader for a Young Life Camp at Canyons, which is in Antelope, Oregon – aka the middle of nowhere, aka the site of the Rajneesh movement.  At first, I think I resisted the call to be a leader, but things seemed to align and felt that I was supposed to go.  Once again I learned that part of the reason I was supposed to go had nothing to do with the kids, but everything to do with me.  Most of the time when we are called to serve, we tend to think it’s all about those we are serving, however it is often more about the condition of our own hearts.  I digress as that has enough importance to be it’s own blog post.  So back on topic.  Here is a link to an older post of mine the talks about my connection and the importance of Young Life in my own life.

At Camp they had a singer named Clayton Jones who was there for the week.  A very talented musician.  Although his music is not typically the genre that I listen too, he really captivated me.  He talked about the meaning behind his original music.  Some deep, raw, beautifully intense stuff.

His Facebook page is here:

Listen to the song here:

Here are the lyrics from his song “Odd Man Out”:

“fifth week I’ve been home alone on a friday night
just watching the TV
in hopes that my phone will light up
but no body’s callin’
is it me thats the problem?
or did all my friends forget again that i exist?

I’m so tired of feelin’ like I’m standing outside the crowd
its like nobody thinks… nobody thinks I’m worth it
i ask God “how long is the lonely gonna last? or will i always be.. i always be the odd man out?”

i just don’t fit in
no, i’ve never been the kind
some people just walk in and the whole room begins to light up
guess I’m not wired that way
or but maybe thats okay
i accept myself even if no one else could give a damn

still I’m so tired of feeling like I’m standing outside the crowd
its like nobody thinks.. nobody thinks I’m worth it
i ask God “how long is the lonely gonna last? or will i always be.. i always be the odd man out?”

i ask God “how long is the lonely gonna last?”
He said “look at me, I’ve always been the odd man out””


It’s raw, it hits home, it’s good.  I think we all have had times when we felt, excluded, lonely, left out.  Alone in a room full of people – isolated from everyone, yet so close to community and to acceptance.  Yes, being the odd man out is difficult and really it’s a horrible place to be.  I am sure that we all can relate to feeling alone.

For me it is a reminder that sometimes, I choose the lonely road, I choose to be the Odd Man Out.  I think that because I can endure, because I can be alone. I fall into the trap of thinking this is how it’s supposed to be.  That my path, my journey is supposed to include loneliness – because I can endure, that being alone is simply part of my story.  We are not meant to be alone, we are not created to be lonely, we are not supposed to be the “odd man out”.  We were created to be in community, to be in a tribe, to have people around us to go through life together, to prop us up, to support us, to have our back, to protect us.  We are not supposed to do it alone.

Ecclesiastes 4:11-16 The Message (MSG)

11 Two in a bed warm each other.
Alone, you shiver all night.

12 By yourself you’re unprotected.
With a friend you can face the worst.
Can you round up a third?
A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.


Just because I can doesn’t mean that I should.   Just because I think, ok I know I could be alone in the wilderness and survive, doesn’t mean I should.  No one should feel lonely much less choose to be lonely.





July 11, 2019

Rejection:  noun  – the spurning of a person’s affections

I was digging around in some old files and came across the start of a blog from probably about 3 plus years ago.  I’m not quite sure of the date, but that would be about the right time. He was in elementary school then.

I was in the car with Cade, and he mentioned that he was bummed that tomorrow was Tuesday, which meant art.  I asked, why would you not be excited for art in school?  Shouldn’t art be lots of fun? You get to create, draw and have fun doing things.  “Yes, but want if I make something that I really like and I think is great, but the teacher doesn’t like it and tells me that is sucks.”  My first thought was, I don’t think that would be the case of an elementary school art teacher. My response: “I think with art, you will just be graded on how much effort you put into the project and finishing everything that you are supposed to do.  I don’t think they are going to be grading your project based upon the outcome.”  “That’s not how it is Dad, she is not very nice.”  I thought, here we go, not even middle school and we are dealing with issues of rejection.  And it’s not even about girls or not making a sports team, starting line-up, etc. its about an art project.

As a parent, one of the things I am not looking forward to is watching my kids having to deal with rejection, as yes, one thing I know for sure, is that rejection will happen, it’s guaranteed.  And it will for sure happen with girls.


Dogs are awesome anti-rejection tools!

Rejection is one of the most difficult things to deal with in life.  We all long to be accepted, loved and part of the “tribe”.  We want to be “in”.  But the reality of life is that we will all go through situations in which we are rejected.  It can be work, school, sports, friendship and most often relationships.  No matter the venue, it can be extremely difficult to endure.  And now in the world of social media, this issue seems to be more and more prevalent and can be part of a trigger event that leads to catastrophic results.  Rejection leads to a lot of things, including anger and aggression.  Several of the recent shootings and attacks, can at some levels be traced back to the perpetrator being impacted by the sense of rejection, which then leads to an act of violence.  Rejection also takes a huge tool on our own self-worth.  It leads to feelings that we aren’t good enough, that we don’t matter and don’t measure up.  We then beat ourselves up, with negative self-talk and negativity.  From an article by Guy Winch on Ideas.Ted.Com  “The greatest damage rejections causes is usually self-inflicted.  Just when our self-esteem is hurting the most, we go and damage it even further.”

We need to try and avoid self-criticism after dealing with rejection.  We have to try and avoid making a list of why we don’t measure up.  Yes, we should take an inventory of the situation and learn from it on how we can make changes makes things better in the future, but we should never spend time just putting ourselves down and punishing ourselves.  Instead of telling ourselves after a first date gone sideways, “I’m worthless and not lovable” we should think, maybe next time I won’t jump into a political tirade as the first thing out of my mouth on a first date.  We need to learn and improve but that shouldn’t include punishing ourselves.

Often rejection occurs based upon a fit or circumstance issue.  I remember my sophomore year of college, having a great conversation with my freshman roommate in which we both decided that we were now way better friends since we weren’t sharing a room together.  The issues/tension that occurred had nothing to do with our personalities, but more to do with our habits.  I am a morning person and he is a night owl; being complete opposites like that doesn’t work well when you share the same dorm room.  We always got along; however, he would get annoyed when I would wake him up at 6am in the morning and I would get annoyed when he was up until 2am.  The fit was just off, thus we were probably better friends when not living in the same room together.

Granted not every case is like that, but it’s important for us to learn how to recognize factors in rejection and try not to let the rejection destroy our self-esteem and self-worth, as often the situation really wasn’t all about us.

The feelings we get when we feel rejected stay with us much longer than any good feelings we get from feeling “included.”  We carry the bad memories with us as they leave scars on our heart.  I wish it was different, that the scars would be the happy times and the good moments in our lives. Those are there, but the negative times, the rejection, is what we carry even closer to our hearts and those are generally the emotions that are easy to conjure up.

I have already written a bunch about my own transformation from middle school to high school and my dealings with self-worth and acceptance.  The quick recap:  I went from a 5-foot 2-inch eighth grader (yes a little pudgy kid) to being a sophomore at 5’ 8” 140 pounds then to 6’ and 190 pounds as a senior.  Yes, I grew up, lost weight and looked completely different.  It’s still easy for me to recall events and incidents that occurred when I was a “big boned” kid, from taunts of “Big Boy” to having to get special baseball pants because the league issued sizes didn’t fit.  The feelings of rejection and not fitting in are easy for me to recall.  Here is a story of early rejection that I will share.  Honestly, I am pretty transparent with my good friends, as we have known each other forever and there is not really much I haven’t shared, but this story, I actually haven’t told anyone.  My sister is the only person whom I have ever discussed this story with.

It was fall my sophomore year of high school and it was getting close to Homecoming.  At this time in my life I was still going through a physical and really a self-confidence transformation, but it really wasn’t complete at this time.  I decided that I was going to ask out girl whom I thought was cute.  I really didn’t even know her very well at all.  Somehow, I got up the courage just to ask her.  I did and she said no.  I won’t list names, because it doesn’t really matter – she ended up moving away and didn’t graduate high school at Cedarcrest, anyhow and I don’t hold any grudges towards her as I really didn’t know her very well, so I totally understand her response.  I do remember the feeling of rejection, especially as in my mind it was supposed to work out: I was going to have the courage to ask and she would say yes, and the perfect ending would be provided.  But that is the movies and not life.  I do remember the feeling of rejection as that is not something that is easily forgotten.  I didn’t tell anyone, not my friends, nobody.  That feeling would only be known by me.  I didn’t want people to know that I had put myself out there and was totally shot down.  A few days later, my sister mentioned it to me, as the girl had told her about what happened.  I can’t remember her exact words, but what I remember was that it was reassuring and sort of a “don’t worry about it, you will be just fine” type of response.  In my circle of the world, she was the only person who knew.  I am sure that a few of my buds, who might read this will be interested in more details, as I really didn’t tell anyone about what I was going to do or the results.  But I think the fact that this event is something that I still can recall at 42, tells you the power of rejection.

My goal was to hide the rejection, if no one knew, then it didn’t happen.  It’s a great theory, but not the case at all.  The rejection sticks with us; we can’t hide from it.  We need to learn and then move forward.  Remember that even if we are falling flat on our face we are still moving forward.  We need to learn how to limit the self-inflicted pain that rejection can bring so that we can hopefully move forward with confidence to be ready for the next time when rejection might be lurking.  One thing that is certain, is that rejection will happen again.





December 5, 2018

Recently I attended one night of a trail running festival that is sponsored by Rainshadow running and developed by James Varner.  Back in 2015, I ran my first ultra-post cancer diagnosis, the Orcas Island 50K was my race.  It so happens to be part of Rainshadow Runnings’ events.   It was my fourth overall.  What is super cool is that Jessica is about to embark on her first Ultra this coming weekend, running the Rainshadow Deception Pass 50K.  She has been working hard and training diligently and I know that she is going to rock this race.  I am proud of her and excited as I have been telling her to come over to the “dark side” and leave the pavement behind and stick to the trails, for quite some time.  50K’s are more fun than marathons, IMO.  I have run both and would rather go longer with lots of hills on dirt, than fast and flat on pavement.  Anyhow she has been on it, training like a beast to get ready for this weekend.  It’s some cool stuff for sure!  I know that she is going to do awesome.  I believe in her.

Back to the film festival.  One of the films we saw was called “Proof of Life” and featured a guy, Brad Thiessen, from Spokane who had been training for 50K, when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  It was a brilliant film that really hit home with me.  The film featured his recovery from surgery and treatment and his goal to train and run the 50K that he had planned to regardless of brain cancer.  He decided that he was going to do what he did before regardless of a tumor – sounds familiar for sure.  He talked about how the goal of running that 50K gave him purpose and hope to battle through by physically and mentally.  For obvious reasons it was my favorite film of the night.

Proof of Life Documentary

The cool part was that he was actually at the showing, so I was able to introduce myself and talk with him.  I learned that he has an Oligo, like me.  He mentioned that he had not met another person in the flesh with an Oligo (Oligo’s are only about 3% of brain cancer world – pretty rare).

One of the first parts of the film really struck me as he talked about how his diagnosis was terminal.  Which is true, there is no known cure for an Oligodendroglioma.  In the brain cancer circle, these types of tumors are typically slower growing and not quite as aggressive, however despite treatment, they always come back.  When they do, they become more and more aggressive each time.  Generally speaking there are two paths, one where a surgeon is able to perform a complete resection and remove 100% of the tumor, so the patient, waits to see if the tumor will return.  Or the other path is that not all of the tumor can be removed, so the waiting game is to see if the tumor is growing or changing.  I am in the second category.  I am waiting and watching to see if Goliath grows and changes.  This did occur at the end of 2015, which is why I did proton radiation back in 2016, 3 ½ years after doing 12 months of chemotherapy.  Goliath was growing again, thus additional treatment was done to try and keep Goliath at bay.  The likelihood that Goliath will grow or change again is extremely high.  Science says that I am not done with Goliath yet…

Brad had mentioned in the film that several people had made comments to him about having terminal cancer, along the lines of “We are all going to die, so does it really matter that you have terminal cancer?”  I am paraphrasing here by the way.  I have heard comments like that before as well.  Typically when you hear the term “terminal cancer”, the idea is that the person has days, maybe months to live.  People with Oligo’s, it’s more like years, versus months.  But what people fail to realize is the mental shift that occurs.  The diagnosis is like a black cloud that is always there, hanging over you.  It’s like the Peanuts character Pigpen, who leaves a trail of dirt and dust behind him wherever he goes.  He can’t escape it as it’s always there.  It follow him around, just like a brain cancer diagnosis does.  It changes your planning, your outlook on life, your thought processes.  You have to think about and plan for your family after your death.  I can tell you that I didn’t give those types of thoughts, much time prior to Goliath.  At age 34, I was unstoppable, I had the world at my fingertips, and anything was possible.  After cancer, I had to think about things, such as how would my family get by without me?  What would I do if I started to become incapacitated and couldn’t work or function properly?  Do I have enough life insurance?  How will this impact my ability to work?  When you leave surgery and the left side of your body does not work as it should, it’s scary.  That fear is hard to ignore.  Yes I am not going to die tomorrow, but I can assure you that I never thought much about dying or what I need to do to prepare my family for my death, prior to Goliath.


2018 Brain Cancer Walk – a fitting quote to think about after watching Proof of Life

So let’s not trivialize the feelings of fear and unknown that come along with a cancer diagnosis, especially when it’s something without a cure that can have a very nasty and brutal ending.  Yes it’s true that we are all going to die, however when death comes to live in your head, it for sure changes how you see the world.  It would be like attending a memorial service and walking up to the mic and saying, why are all of you crying and sad – we all are going to die so it really doesn’t matter.  Add the “We are all going to die anyway.” comments as things not to tell people with cancer.

I finish with a big high five and “go kick some butt” to Jess as she goes after her first 50K on Saturday!  I am excited for her.



Andy and the PCT

November 27, 2018

Andrew Martin, he is a fine young lad.  He is also absent from social media, thus will probably only see this as I am pretty sure it does follow my blog.  Anyhow this past summer, he did a pretty amazing trip and accomplished something that is truly remarkable.  He thru-hiked the PCT.  The PCT covers 2,653 miles from Mexico to Canada and features 420,880 of elevation change.  He went North, hiking through California, Oregon and Washington.  What is even more impressive is that he had a Go-Pro camera and documented the entire trip.  He has tons of great video clips of his journey, some beautiful scenery, some funny moments, some showing the struggles he faced.  It’s some really compelling and unique stuff.  I think that it should be shared with people.  It’s all been uploaded to You Tube, but since he won’t be broadcasting the links anytime soon, I am not sure how many people will actually find it.  I decided that I would do just that – share it, at least to my little footprint of people.  He might be annoyed at me for sharing some of this, but I really think that some of the footage he took is too cool not to be shared.  And he did post it to his You Tube channel, so it’s meant to be viewed, I am just bringing it out through other social media avenues.

Andy Finish

Andy “Knoxville” – Suns out Guns Out at the US/Canadian Border:  aka the finish.

We have known each other since before kindergarten, so basically our whole lives.  He was the High School ASB president our senior year as well as the president and founder of the Unexplained Phenomenon Club.  We watched the X-Files and talked about the power of the pyramid once a month.  We made a potato gun launcher for a school science project and had visions of a great class period, having the class watch us shoot potatoes all period.  We were advised that a potato gun launcher is really a weapon and should not be on campus, meaning they would call the Duvall Police if school knew it was on campus at all. Our teacher asked if it was on campus of course we said “no sir, we would never bring a weapon to school. (Truth be told it was sitting is his truck ready for action!)   We had figured out that we could shoot golf balls through plywood with the “Velocitator.  I could go on and on about things like the “Coyote”, the Bearcat sign, a nice porcelain toilet, a “real one”, a Courier, Moss Lake, missing keys, the senior wall,  a rock meant to pee off of, Getting the red ass, red devil eyes, the stories are endless.  Lots of great memories and fun adventures.

CA Picture

A very unique cloud formation taken by Andy on the trail in CA.

We have been through the highs and lows of life and I would say have both been resources for each other during both the good and the bad.  Our first outdoor adventures occurred just off I-90, near Snoqualmie Pass at a beautiful lake called Mirror Lake.  The PCT actually crosses directly by Mirror Lake.  We would pack in an outrageous amount of gear and live like kings.  We had music, huge 8 person tents, rafts, and lots of soda.  We would hike up towards Tinkham Peak to find leftover patches of snow, which we would “harvest” snow to make slushies with our soda. We would have backpacks and have both arms full of gear.  Looking back we would be shocked at the amount of gear we carried and the weight, considering how efficient and lightweight we travel now.   For quite some time we have always gotten out for at least one outdoor adventure per year.  From climbs of Mt. Rainier, Mt Hood, Mt. Adams and Mt. Baker, a cool camping trip to Spider Meadows, to lava tube caving in Bend.


Jared and Andy Chilling at camp.

We always do something fun.  Over a year ago now, Andy told me that he was going to thru-hike the PCT.  I was equally parts pumped for him and honestly jealous of that amazing journey that would await him.  As mentioned above, for those that do not know much about the PCT, it is a trail that stretches from Mexico to Canada, it’s 2652.6 miles long and takes most people about 5 months to complete.  Yes that is hiking for 5 months straight, living in a tent, finding your own water sources, carrying your own food.  Averaging 15-20 miles of hiking per day.

His permit had him starting his journey towards the end of March.  Jared Hanley and I had planned to meet him in the High Sierras.  Typically this is one of the most demanding stretches of the trail as the Sierra’s will still have a fair amount of snow, meaning lots of snow travel, it’s cold and everything gets wet.  The path can also be hard to follow as the snow covers the way.  Our original plan was to hike from Reds Meadow (mile 907) to Sonora pass (Mile 1018) with him.  We both had a window during May to join him.  Andy was equipped with a GPS tracker, so we were following him each day during his progress on the trail.  We soon started to realize that we had overestimated his speed and he was not going to be near the area we were hoping during our proposed window.  Thus our plan to help him in the cold and snows of the High Sierra was not going to happen.  So we pushed back the timing.  The next plan was the Trinity Alps near Mt. Shasta.  However as some of you many have seen in the news, the area around Redding went up in flames this summer.  Thus we pushed our meeting point further north to Central Oregon – just north of all the bad fires.


Setting up to rappel down from Mt. Washington

Andy had already met up with Jared, when I got there, they spent a “zero” day for Andy, (a zero day is just a rest day – no miles on the PCT, but it sounds cooler to say zero day, versus rest day) at Smith Rock doing some climbing.   Although I am not sure a rest day means going rock climbing at Smith for most thru-hikers.  We met up super late near the Hoodoo Ski Area, where the PCT passes by.  We dropped a car there and then headed to Bend for some sleep.  We set off the next day.  Our path took us to the summit of the South Sister, where we camped for night one.  The South Sister’s summit is at around 10,300 ft.  We found an awesome pre-built shelter area to pitch our tent.  Andy just decided to cowboy camp it.  From there we descended a different side of the mountain, down to Green Lakes, then headed towards Camp Lake.  Andy had to add some miles as he left his Nalgene Bottle at a rest spot and decided he need to hike back to retrieve it.  Can’t be losing that with more than half or Oregon and all of Washington still to go!  This brought up some interesting conversations about the quirks of thru-hiking.  First off everyone gets a trail name.  That is how you are known the rest of the trip.  Andy’s trail name is “Knoxville”.  Most through-hikers will hike solo, then meet up at camp with others to have some company.  One of the cardinal rules is that you are not supposed to take even once step off the PCT once you start.  The valid theory being that over the course of 5 months those steps here and there add up to miles and miles over the course of the trip.  If you walk an extra quarter of a mile each day, that can add up to 50 miles and really 2 extra days on the trail over the course of the PCT.

Mt. Wa Summit

Summit Selfie on Mt. Washington

Andy really never followed this rule.  Which I thought was fantastic.  He decided the adventure was more important than the trail.    Meaning he took side trips to enjoy, soak in the beautiful scenery and landscape.  He figured that he would never again go to some of the areas, so might as well enjoy the journey.  He climbed Mt. Whitney, The South Sister, Mt. Washington, McGregor Mountain, Mt. Daniel and the Golden Horn, none of which is on the PCT and all include lots of extra hard elevation gains.    When he would take a video, he would  start out saying with the day of his trip and “on the PCT”.  However when he was with Jared and I, it turned into “just off the PCT”, then it was “nowhere near the PCT”.  It was a running joke during our time together.  We took a lot of steps off the PCT.

So far on our trip, we had not set a foot on the PCT and we were now at night 2 camping at Camp Lake, which is a beautiful lake nestle in between the South and Middle Sisters.  From Camp Lake we set off on some climber’s trails and then descending back towards the PCT.  In the meantime, we had just about circumnavigated the South sister from our starting point to the junction in which we met up with the PCT.  From there we had a fairly long mileage day as we cruised by the Sisters, through the Obsidian trail area.  We made some stops to take a dip in a small Lake, enjoy the obsidian rock, watched Jared try to help Andy with some IT Band issues.  It was comical watching him “roll” out the kinks (there is video of that!”)   So far most of the time on the trail Jared and I were moving faster than Andy.  We looked at each other, both surprised, as we thought he would smoke us desk jockeys after all the time on the trail, we figured that he would be a machine.  So we asked him point blank about it.  His response:  “Honestly, I have been hiking for some many days now, I really love all the parts of this trip, except for the hiking part.”  We cracked up about it.  It made sense, the people, the sights, the smells, the sounds all were amazing, but after so many days on the trail moving North, it made sense, that the hiking was getting a bit stale.


Lone tree in a sea of lava rocks – near Belknap Crater, OR

We camped at a small lake that had limited camping areas.  It was crowded, but we found some fellow through hikers that Andy knew and then let us pitch tents on their marked camping site.  A crazy lady was there and told them that it was one tent per campsite.  The through hikers (Pony Express and Leg Day) were chill and said they read the sign as one group per campsite and if the was a ranger present who disagreed, then they would pay the fine.  She got the “red-ass” and was hollering and making a ruckus.  The next day we cruised through some amazing landscape that was marked with lava rocks and trees. We learned these are called “Kipukas”.   We summited Little Bellknap Crater (not on the PCT) and had a great time, hiking catching up and just relaxing.   We watched Mt. Washington as the PCT wrapped around the mountain.  We all knew that it was for sure going to the our next objective.  It was eye candy all day as we saw it from various vantage points on the PCT.  We finished our trip at my car where the PCT hits Highway 20.  We then headed back to Bend for the night.  We cleaned up and decided to take a zero day.  So we went bouldering in Bend and then inter-tubed the Deschutes river through the man-made rapids near downtown Bend.  It was lots of fun.  The next morning we headed back to just about the same point we ended on the PCT and hiked the PCT south (Yes for Andy that is going the wrong direction and hiking a section twice – things thru-hikers just don’t do) to the Mt. Washington climbers trail.  We followed that up to the base of the rock climb.  Mt. Washington features a 4 pitches of low 5th, mostly fourth class climbing.  Almost all of which is on loose crappy rock.  The first pitch, which is the most fun and hardest has really no good places to place any protection in the rock.  Basically it’s just a “hook em’ horns” section, where you place webbing over a rock “horn” and then hope it doesn’t break-off if someone falls.    We had a great climb, a picturesque summit and an uneventful rappel back to the rock base, which is how you like a rappel.  Then we scree skied down the west side of the peak, back to the PCT.  The scree skiing was some of the best you will ever find.  Some great stuff.

After the climb, we spent a few more days doing some local hikes, we hit Tumalo Falls, we took the Paulina Plunge (a natural water slide) and hit the Big Obsidian Flow trail (which is really the place to go to see obsidian rock – way better than the Obsidian Trail -IMO).  After hanging out with the fellas.  Andy reminded me of one of the reasons I do the outdoor stuff.  “You go to the mountains to learn how to live in the valleys.”  I had written about it many years ago, but sometimes I lose track of that myself.  It was a great reminder, to me that I need to make sure to keep myself centered.

Jared had to head back to work, I dropped Andy back off at the PCT, were we had finished and he was back on the trail.  He hammered through the next sections of Oregon to the Bridge of the Gods and Washington.  Then about a month later he ended up in Canada.  It was quite the trip.  Granted he does have a section of trail in Far Northern California and Southern Oregon to hike to finish the trail as fires forced him off the trail in that section.  But a really epic journey.  He is a stud!

Here are some more great clips of some cool points on his journey:

Knife-edge Ridge, WA

The Golden Horn, WA

Scree Skiing down from Mt. Washington, OR

Summit of Mt. Washington

The Paulina Plunge, OR

Snow at Kearsage Pass, CA

Mt. Whitney, CA


Here is his You Tube Channel:  Andrew Travels


It was a trip for the ages and I am glad I got to be a part of his journey