Oct. 6, 1944
You’ve probably been wondering if I’ve left, and of course we are wondering when we are leaving, which just goes to show how little one knows of what goes on. It should be soon, but that’s not saying it will be. We could catch our ship here or go out by available transportation and catch it elsewhere later.
I guess both of you are now at Great Neck, minus the Reas, unless Ma has already moved to Washington. It must have been a little sad to see the Reas off, which sort of reminds me of a recent movie, “The White Cliffs of Dover” (American girl marries Britisher in last war, and he dies; their son grows up, after almost, but not quite visiting this country, persuading his mother to stay in England, and he fights in this war, managing, however, to survive his wounds, etc.). It was an interesting attempt, partially successful, I’d say, at cementing U.S.–British friendship, and if you see it, I’d be interested in comments, as I was on my remarks about “typical Englishmen” last time. These comments were largely for the sake of argument, though questions arise in my mind now and then when comparing relative numbers and sizes of armies, navies, prisoners taken, ships sunk, etc., etc. I’m sure that the British war effort is positively magnificent in many respects, but it certainly took long enough to clean up Africa and with our help when the bulk of the German army was occupying the whole of Europe and fighting Russia, and you’ve got to admit India and perhaps Burma have been messed up. Don’t you think their organization of things is, for instance, behind ours, and that they are more inclined to bungle, or at least be hap-hazard?
And now to get into subjects I really do know something about, mountains. It’s obviously a close thing between our number of ascents, Pa. Not knowing what to count I’ll put down about everything that has a name down to about the “speed” of Joe English, not, however, including same. I’ll try to give them in order of height except where they are peaks of the same climb, though I won’t include things like Pamola (sp.?). The list follows – by states.
Well, that’s the list as far as I can make my memory work. There are some that shouldn’t count, like Field, Little Haystack, Squam Mt., etc., etc., but one wonders where to draw the line. Clingman’s Dome is another, only the last few hundred feet of which were walked. My how those names carry me back!
Well, now I’ll try and describe my leave in more detail than before. I had quite a time deciding where to go. Yosemite or Tahoe would have appealed most if I hadn’t been to each before.
Shasta appealed to me because of several things. Next to Rainier it is the highest isolated or really individual mountain in the country, like the above and like the other peaks of the Cascade range a former volcano. I had once seen it from the rim of Crater Lake more than 100 miles away, and even then in the middle of the summer it had considerable snow on it. Actually my final decision came at the last moment when I was lucky enough to pick up an upper. A comfortable night and then I was right below the mountain in the town of the same name (pop. 1600+) at an altitude of 3550′. I was almost as impressed with a remarkably symmetrical cinder cone by the name of Black Butte, which rises steeply just northwest of town and a little southwest of its mighty neighbor, and so climbed it that first day. Its slopes are almost 45°, but the trail zig-zags very gradually, making an easy ascent — 2000 feet in three and a quarter miles, covered, incidentally, in just over an hour. There’s a fire lookout on top, and the fire warden was very hospitable, making me some coffee, telling about the country, etc. Interestingly enough he said he was one of the few marine aviators in the last war and shot down something like eight planes before getting shot down himself. We talked for over two hours, and it was dark before I reached the foot of the mountain, five miles or so from town.
I stayed in a very comfortable “motel”, which is sometimes known as an “auto-court”. The next morning I was pretty tired and stiff and slept late, eventually hitch-hiking (without actually “thumbing”) around to get views of pictures of Shasta from the west and northwest, the place I was staying being southwest of the mountain.
The following day I decided to start up the mountain, investigate a place known as Horse Camp and spend the night there if facilities were adequate. Roads and trails were poorly marked, and I got on a very roundabout route that seemed to get me nowhere until by a lucky chance a fellow came along and gave me a ride to within less than two miles of the camp. But for that I would never have climbed the mountain, having decided to “return to base” just before he came chugging along. As it was, I got to Horse Camp at sunset, but was happy to find it solid and cozy and unlocked. No one was there, but there was a fireplace and some wood. I had brought along a little food, but there was also some left by recent visitors for anyone’s use. There were benches and mattresses, and so I had a comfortable night, being warmly clad, right down to “winter woolies.”
The next morning I looked up at the mountain and seeing clouds forming around the top almost decided not to attempt the ascent. The clouds, however, thinned out, so I started up, with some 6270 feet of vertical climb to go. Up to perhaps 12,000′ the climb was relatively uninteresting, but pretty tough because of the preponderance of loose rocks and stones. There was little timber beyond Horse Camp. Snow, much less than most seasons so said the local people, appeared, at a guess somewhere between 10,000 and 11,000. I got off the trail at one point and had to scramble up over a steep, hard, snowbank to get up to the final ridge, but there were only a few places I couldn’t have avoided snow. The wind was very strong and would have made progress almost impossible, but for lee here and there.
The top of the mountain is relatively flat and the starting point of several glaciers that extend down the north side of the mountain, though the very highest point is somewhat of a pinnacle, involving a bit of a scramble especially in a high wind. Of course it was pretty cold too, though by no means freezing at that time. The view was somewhat obscured by clouds in most directions, though Lassen, over 70 miles to the south, stood out very clearly. Views of the glaciers on Shasta itself were perhaps most impressive. On the top I lingered only long enough to take pictures, and despite much faster time going down, every step increased rather than decreased in the loose material, it was sunset again by the time I returned to Horse Camp. True, I had got off to a late start, not hurried, the altitude having a fatiguing effect, and got off the trail, but I certainly didn’t feel proud of the time I took.
The second night there was company, an army sergeant, who had started up after me and got down before without, however, tackling the pinnacle, which apparently was the reason we didn’t meet up on the mountain. We were just preparing to go to bed when a young couple pulled in on their way to make the climb the next day. The man was very friendly, but almost too talkative.
The next day the couple started up the mountain, the sergeant and I down — by his route, he having figured out a good way after getting off the track before hand. Like myself he had planned to spend the first night at Horse Camp, but didn’t get a lucky ride and had to spend the night in the woods somewhere below. It took us a full two and a half hours to get back to town and by as direct a route as seemed practicable. We were really moving too. All this time I played civilian just for the fun of it, and we parted after a good lunch on friendly terms, but as soldier and civilian (no lies, just silence necessary).
That same day I hitchhiked, once more in uniform, to Redding, via Shasta Dam, which is almost as high and actually bigger, I believe, than Boulder Dam. A night bus ride took me to Sacramento and then a morning ride up over a pass in the Sierras to Truckee. From there I hitch-hiked to Tahoe and had a scant hour there before having to return to make sure of catching the train. Once on it I secured the last berth on the whole train from the conductor, and nine hours or so later I was in Oakland, A.O.L., but no one the wiser or caring so long as one showed up the morning after the midnight on’es leave expired at.
You may ask why I went to Tahoe for an hour. Well, it would have been at least a half a day if connections had been better. It was worth it for the ride over the pass, which, with views of roaring streams, lakes and fine forests, was much enjoyed. Tahoe reminds me of Winnipesaukee. It is almost incredibly blue and clear. There were no lakes or pretty streams on or near Shasta, volcanic rock and soil being too porous, and these I had messed. The forests here were impressive only as they approached timberline, most of the land on the lower slopes having been turned into a scrubby waste by forest fires.
For Christmas? All I can think of is a straight razor and books. Books of a substantial nature would probably be best. Enough said. Love Toots