Primates, our mountains and state politics

Don’t be fooled by my title—I have not turned Bigfoot believer.

Although there was that late fall hike 20 years ago in the Olympics where, after rounding a bend, our dog ran back and crouched by our sides. A strong musky smell permeated the spot along with an overwhelming sense that something had just quickly and silently departed. A bear no doubt. (Admittedly bears do not regard silence a virtue, so I may be either reaching or wishing a bit here.)

But this post is about a verifiable primate sighting. So let’s return to where I intended to start.

I was crossing Mineral Creek last week on my way to a favorite rock pool above Glacier Lake, a periodic pilgrimage. Wrapped in my own thoughts, I glanced downstream startled by a sitting primate. I was alarmed, uncertain of its provenance. Balanced on the edge of a large rock, it was clearly tired and a bit gnarly, but in totally comfortable repose—at one with its surroundings and the creek flowing across and cooling its feet. It wore clothes and gave voice, so I relaxed, deducing it had to be one of us.

Not just one of us in the abstract, but in fact a buddy; a friendship stronger than an occasional difference. The “Hey Gene” tipped me off. After the obligatory riposte, “Mike, you’re late, I’ve been waiting for you.” We laughed and I sat down to pass a few minutes with former Seattle mayor Mike McGinn.

We caught up and I asked for his low-down on the Seattle council races. Then we took a selfie; I told him he needed a strong, soapy shower; had a few more laughs and both went our separate ways.

What a cool place the Northwest is. You meet an ex-Mayor by surprise on the trail, not along the rubber-chicken circuit. Imagine meeting an ex-mayor from any other big city in ragged hiking garb three days out—say, NYC’s retired mayor Michael (never Mike) Bloomberg. I can’t.

Someday I may write a monograph about the positive impact of our mountains on the state’s politics—a bi-partisan impact: Famed Republicans Dan Evans and Joel Pritchard both climbed many of our peaks; Democratic U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell makes time for an occasional high alpine hike; Seattle Mayor Ed Murray reports he met his husband on a Mt. Rainier camping trip.

The mountains broaden our perspective. Spending time up in them opens your thinking a bit when back at sea level doing your job. It makes you a better steward of this place.

I got back to the trailhead about 9:00 that night. A wonderful day working at staying grounded by playing in the high alpine. My only complaint being that the swimming hole I had scoped out at the start of the hike was already in deep evening shade. It made for a bracing end-of-hike bath.

On another day I may write about sharing a tarn that afternoon with an inquisitive mule deer. I swam, sun bathed and ate lunch. It reclined in the shade, ruminated and watched the nearby primate with obvious bemusement.

Glacier Lake as photographed by Gene on a previous hike
  • Gene Duvernoy

    Gene Duvernoy is President of Forterra. He’s spent more than 30 years working on land conservation and building community, founding Forterra in 1989 in his attic. Since then he’s led the organization to national prominence by creating bold, innovative and successful programs that improve the quality of life for all residents.
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