RIP Barry Gerald

An obituary for my father, who passed away January 6, 2020.

With my mom, Marjorie, in Italy.

Each person, while passing through this world, leaves behind them a wake of experiences, little bits of their character sprinkled on those whose paths they crossed.

In the case of Barry Elmo Gerald, whose heart gave out after almost 86 years on January 6, a remarkable pattern emerges in these memories of co-workers, family members, and friends. Each story is a moment shared with a truly lovely human being, who treated them with kindness, respect, compassion, and just enough irreverence to keep things light. Even in the rare story where Barry got mad, it was always restrained, appropriate, and laced with humor and perspective.

He would admonish a wayward child with a tone of understanding and forgiveness. He would suggest a better way forward through some complication without letting on he thought your idea was silly. He would share information without commenting on the quality of yours. When he wasn’t telling one of his many charming stories, he would actually listen to yours. He would be deeply disappointed by an Ole Miss football loss but also remember, and remind others, that it’s just football, and we’ll get ‘em next week. He would even, especially in his final years, express a true intimate feeling or two!

With the family at mom’s birthday, 2019.

Barry Gerald was born February 10, 1934, in Greenville, Mississippi. He was a bookish child who always dreamed of being a doctor, like his grandfather. He once said that his father, Elmo, a Leland-area cotton farmer, “Never really understood how I lived my life, but he always supported me to the best of his ability.” It was a lesson he would apply and pass on to his three children, Lucy Cook, Lee Gerald, and Paul Gerald. They are in turn doing their best to pass it on the grandkids – Rebecca Davis, David Cook, Jeff Cook, Jack Gerald, and Max Simpson – and even a great-granddaughter Barry got to meet, Josephine Davis.

He graduated from Leland High School and met his future wife, then Marjorie Brown, at Ole Miss. She was a Rebelette and he on a path to a medical career – both fine catches. They wed August 6, 1955, and Marjorie and the kids followed Barry and his medical career from Mississippi to Houston, Cincinnati, Oakland, Little Rock, Boston, and eventually to Memphis.

The quiet book-lover from Leland thrived in the academic medical world and eventually served as the Chairman of the Radiology Department at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Memphis from 1980 to 1995 and again from 2004 to 2009. He was also Medical Director for Radiology at LeBonheur and St. Jude and Chief of Radiology at The Med. There were many other titles, positions, and honors, and he and Marge enjoyed a lifetime of international travel during their 64-year marriage.

Barry Gerald will be remembered as a good doctor, father and husband, as well as a positive influence on many careers and lives. But mainly folks will say he was just a really nice guy – the same nice guy at home, work or on the tennis court.

The world could use more Barry Geralds, but we must now give him a break, for even in death we assume he’s extremely uncomfortable with all this glowing talk about him. We will let him go, with thanks, love and best wishes, for one last trip down to the delta and a final swim in Deer Creek.

Barry respectfully requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to The Church Health Center of Memphis.

Hiking Silver Falls State Park in the Snow

Visiting Oregon’s Silver Falls State Park anytime is special; going there after a snowfall adds a whole different level of beauty and wonder.

For one thing, there just aren’t that many people around, especially during the week. We visited on a Wednesday and saw four other cars in the parking lot! It had just showed a couple of inches the day before, and the temps had remained cold. So the snow was still on the trees and much of the trail.

The combination of solitude and winter scenery made it a pretty special day on the Canyon Trail, aka “Trail of Ten Falls.” Enjoy the photo gallery below.

Here’s more on hiking Silver Falls State Park

Here’s a summer photo gallery from Silver Falls

An important note: The trails can get real slippery in winter, so bring poles, and consider bringing traction devices. Check the park’s website for the latest conditions.

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Opal Creek Without The Crowds: Hiking Oregon’s Little North Santiam River

We’re all looking for a hike that’s close to home, within our abilities, and scenic without being swamped with people. Does such a place exist in Oregon?

Along the Little North Santiam Trial.

Well, at certain times of year, absolutely. And if it isn’t the peak of summer on a weekend, the Little North Santiam Trail fits the bill perfectly. I think of it as “Opal Creek without the crowds.”

Little North Santiam Traihead is about a two-hour drive from Portland: down I-5 to OR 22, east towards Detroit Lake, then north (left) up the Little North Santiam Road for about 15 miles to Elkhorn Drive. Here’s the West Trailhead on Google Maps.

From there, it’s about 4.5 miles along the river to the East Trailhead farther up OR 22, near Shady Cove Campground. So you could do a shuttle, or some people stash bikes at the upper trailhead, do the hike, then bike back down the road. Or you can do an out-and-back for as much as you’d like, up to 9 miles.

Basically the hike has three sections: the lower 1.5 miles from the West Trailhead, the upper 2 from the East, and the hill in between. But even the hill isn’t too intense, a climb of about 500 feet in a little over half a mile. But the views up there are more than worth it: a deep, narrow forested canyon with mountains all around and a raging river below.

Overlooking the falls in the western section.

In early February 2019, we started at West Trailhead did the lower section, the hill, and a little bit of the upper, to an area called Three Pools, where there will definitely be a lot of people in the summer since you can also drive there on the other side from the trail. So you would see those people but not necessarily share the trail with many of them.

But on our Sunday? We saw three other hiking groups all day, and nobody on the river.

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Here is a video of a waterfall on the lower section, barely a mile out from the trailhead we used.

A little ways beyond that waterfall, you start up the hill. It gets steep in places, and the trail is rocky with lots of roots. So even with only 500 feet of climbing, we were pretty winded when it was over.

View from the top of the hill in the middle of the trail.

In fact, when the trail is wet it’s what I would call “sneaky tough,” because it’s hard to get into Cruise Mode when you have to keep an eye out for footing all the time.

Beyond the viewpoint (right) you drop back down to the river and after another roly-poly mile arrive at the Three Pools, another spectacular series of waterfalls. There is also a dramatic rock pillar here, as well as a parking area on the far bank. So if it’s a warm summer day, especially a weekend, there will be folks swimming and hanging out here, but the great majority will be on the other side of the river.

Here is a video I shot from the Three Pools area, with the rock pillar in the trees to the right:

At that point, we headed back, but another mile up the river would have gotten us to the East Trailhead. So you could also start there and hit Three Pools just a mile downstream.

For more on this hike, see its Field Guide entry at oregonhikers.org.

Here is my GaiaGPS track for the day:

And here is a photo gallery from the day:

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Mt. Hood Hike:
Timberline Lodge to Paradise Park

It’s not really possible to name the best hike at Mount Hood, but certainly the loop from Timberline Lodge to Paradise Park has to be on the short list.

This view is just over a couple of easy miles from the lodge — and the photo falls far short of the reality.

For one thing, it’s not just one hike. You can just go wandering around above the lodge and hardly put in any effort at all, but still enjoy great views and wildflowers and trees and little canyons. If you go 2.4 miles you can stand at the top of a massive gash in the side of Mt. Hood with a lovely stream hundreds feet below you. You can climb down there and see the creek and a waterfall.

And then you can go for the whole thing, which is what I did in the first week of September.

Paradise Park Loop from Timberline Lodge

Just a sampler today, thanks!

This is a 13.9-mile loop with 2,800 feet of ascent that took up nearly eight hours and most of my energy.

Starting from Timberline Lodge, which is worth a stop on its own, simply walk up the hill until you cross the Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches some 2,600 miles from Mexico to Canada. The mileages (left) are a bit humbling, and if it’s August or September you’ll probably meet some northbound “through-hikers” doing the whole thing. Turn left, and off you go.

After crossing under a few chairlifts and past a tower of cell phone antennas, you finally leave the ski area and enter Mount Hood Wilderness. It’s gradually downhill for 2,4 miles to the Zigzag overlook, where I shot this video:

A nice enough turn-around, but I kept going, down to the stream crossing and then back up the other side. This is the first hard part. The second, and real hard part is going back up from the creek to the viewpoint, then 2.4 miles back up to the lodge, at the end of the day when you already have about 9.5 miles under your belt. In the middle of the afternoon.

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Beyond the canyon, you climb to the intersection with the Paradise Park Loop Trail (turn right) and then the Paradise Park Trail. Confusing, I know. At the second one, in a beautiful meadow where I took the photo at the top of this post, go up a little farther. I went 0.4 miles up to some rocks, where I had a nice break and shot this video:

The main trail — here a combination of the PCT and the Timberline Trail around Mount Hood — continues over to the site of the old Paradise Park Shelter, a great lunch spot, then wanders through Paradise Park on a nearly three-mile loop, passing meadows and views and forests and flowers and waterfalls. It’s really pretty magical.

Then you come back to the Zigzag Canyon, go down it, cross the creek again, and then you pay your dues. The last 3.5 miles gain 1,400 feet of elevation, half of it in the first mile or so. Good times.

But it is some kind of worth it, if you’re up for the effort. Paradise Park is a beautiful spot indeed, and Timberline Lodge is a terrific place to wind up a hike. I mean, pizza and beer anyone?

Here is my Gaia track from the day:

You can get more details in my guidebook, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Portland, which is for sale (signed as you like) right here.

And here is a photo gallery with some more details from the day:

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Recovery Share: What is This Feeling About?

Sometimes I catch myself having a feeling and can’t figure out why I’m having it.

A common example is shame or guilt; I will simply be going through my day and realize I feel exactly the way you feel after you screw something up — only I can’t remember exactly what I supposedly screwed up. Or sometimes I am angry, playing out fights or arguments in my head, and don’t remember why I started feeling anger in the first place.

My basic belief about feelings is that they come from thoughts and beliefs. Sometimes they come so quickly that it seems automatic. For example, my team scores a goal and I feel happy. Of course. But why? Because I prefer my team to win — and that’s because of some convoluted belief system that’s probably a whole separate post. (Something about “basking in the reflected glory.”)

Since thoughts and beliefs tend to lead to actions, which have consequences, I think it’s important to stay aware of this process. So when a “mysterious” feeling arises, that’s a good opportunity to turn the interior lights on and have a look around. Let’s take a couple of recent examples.

The other day I was on a work trip on which I rented a car on the company dime. The company made the reservation and gave them the card, but something got sideways and the rental wasn’t on their card. So I had to pay it myself, and of course I would get reimbursed, I found this annoying but it wasn’t much money, the company is good about paying quickly, and I am happy to say that I didn’t yell at anybody or get angry at all — or so I thought.

The fact is, for some time later I was angry. I found myself wishing somebody with the rental company would ask if everything was okay so I could unload on them. Then my mind wandered off to completely different subjects — a family dispute, an old resentment from a different job, almost everything about the airport I was passing through at the moment. I even caught myself sending multiple Tweets about the airport!

And that’s when the alarm went off, and I thought, wait, what am I so angry about? Of course it was the rental — but I didn’t even think I was angry about it. So I went back through it, and I realized it’s because I carry a lot of shame and fear about money, and having to spend some I didn’t expect to spend — even if it wasn’t much and I would get reimbursed — had triggered that. Basically everything about money triggers some feeling me, and today it was anger.

Once I realized this, it was a fairly simple thing to let go of. I imagined myself sitting in the driver’s seat of my internal bus, with a passenger telling me I should be mad. And I said to that passenger, “I get it — you’re uptight about money and that was a pain. But logically, it’s not that much, they’ll pay it back, and it won’t cost you a penny. So we’ll let that one go.”

All of a sudden the airport wasn’t annoying, the anger tapes stopped playing in my head, and the reimbursement really was just that: a reimbursement. All because I looked around inside myself to figure out what was going on.

Now, it’s not always so simple. You should see the party that goes on in my head when I get an actual, and large, unexpected bill. Or when a pair of pants ceases to fit because I gained weight. Or when a woman doesn’t want to go out with me. That last one gets pretty special.

Of course, the same is true for positive feelings. I’ll feel like the king of the world because, maybe, a check came in a little bigger than I expected, and it’s comical how completely cocky I get.

But there is a process I can go through, a tool that I picked up in recovery that can be really useful. And it’s super simple, when I remember to use it: I just notice the feeling, check how it’s working, ask why I have it, go back through the process and see if there’s a thought or feeling I might benefit from letting go of.

If I don’t do this, then the feeling takes on its own life, creates its own story and thoughts and beliefs, and then I can start doing all sorts of crazy shit. And a basic goal of my life in recovery is to do (and feel) less crazy shit.

Thanks for reading.

You can find more shares like this here.

Recovery Share: Today is not Tomorrow

You hear a lot in recovery, and western spiritual circles in general, about staying in the moment. And sometimes, because I can be a bit of a crank, I want to smack people when they talk about it. But recently I had a good opportunity to practice just that — maybe not exactly in the moment, but at least sticking to today rather than making up some tomorrow to worry about.

The scenario was this: I was going to be leading a hike for a group of people I hadn’t met, so the day before I went to do the hike to check it out. It was also at pretty high elevation, so I was preparing myself physically as well as mentally. And, it being my first day at high elevation, and my first hard hike in a while, I struggled a bit.

Now, if there’s such a thing as a normal and healthy person, that would kind of be it: I struggled the first day, but since that was just a practice day it didn’t matter. I would do better the next day, and whatever happened I would deal with.

But I suppose I’m not normal and healthy, at least in this regard. Instead, my struggles on day 1 set off a carnival of fantasies and delusions about day 2. I was actually walking along on day 1 with my head sounding as if I was in fact on a disastrous day 2, with my physical struggles at least as bad and the whole group annoyed at and disappointed with me. I mean this in the sense of my thoughts, not that I was in some altered state where I was confused about which day it was … much.

Even during the hike on day 1, I kept telling myself, “This is not day 2! Nobody is annoyed or disappointed. You’re just freaking out because you’re tired.” But it didn’t completely work. I went through — put myself through — a fair amount of stress about shit that wasn’t happening outside my head!

Exactly why I would do this is an interesting question that I honestly haven’t worked through yet. But what I was doing was really clear: I was making up an entire day that didn’t exist, during which a lot of bad shit was going to happen to me. And I was, of course, driving myself nuts and ruining any shot I had at enjoying day 1. And ironically, blowing up day 1 would actually increase the odds of trouble on day 2.

So here is where two tools of recovery came into use for me.

The first was simply telling myself, “You are making shit up. This is today, and today is not tomorrow.” Just in a very practical sense, that isn’t helpful, even if I’m making up all sorts of super groovy things that will happen to me tomorrow.

The second tool was separating the hype from reality. In other words, yeah I could be in better shape and that’s a worthwhile goal, but that doesn’t mean I’m a faint piece of crap who’s going to fail and bum everybody out tomorrow. Or yes, I could have prepared myself and the group a little better, but those are helpful lessons for next time around, not indications that I should never do this again because I suck. And so on.

As it happens, both days went fine, and I was really exhausted, and I got lots of positive feedback from the group, and I still found all sorts of things I think I screwed up. It’s just what I do.

And in the end, that’s the biggest lesson for me: not that I could stand to lose weight or exercise more or work on my guiding skills — although that’s all useful — but to remember that sometimes I go a little overboard on worrying about things and finding faults with myself. Or a lot overboard.

It helps to remember that, because then I can go to a really helpful thing my sponsor one said about resentments: they are like cats. If you don’t feed them, then eventually go away. So maybe the next time I’m on a hike I can just say, “Oh, right, here comes the crazy like it always does; I wonder if there’s anything useful in it.”

Thanks for reading.

You can find more shares like this here.

Oregon Coast Hikes: Cascade Head

In the lower meadows at Cascade Head.

Cascade Head is part national forest, part county park, and part Nature Conservancy. It offers beach and river access as well as two rarities: coastal meadows, high above the sea, filled with flowers and grasses and butterflies. And it’s not too much work to reach these treasures.

To get there, you head for US 101 like you’re going to Lincoln City, but turn north from where Oregon Highway 18 comes in near Otis. A short distance up, you’ll see Three Rocks Road to the left; that leads to Knight Park and the trailhead #for hike #1 below. Keep going on 101 and, just before the crest of the hill, look for a road leading left into the woods; that leads to the trailheads for hikes #2 and #3, but it will be closed between January 1 and July 15 each year.

Let’s take a quick look at these three hikes at Cascade Head.

Hike #1: Knight Park to Cascade Head

Forest on the way to the meadows from Knight Park.

This one starts from the parking lot at Knight Park, by the mouth of the Salmon River. Follow a trail through the trees and along the road, then keep following signs until the trail goes into the woods and starts climbing a bit.

It gets brushy and crosses a few creeks, but it isn’t much work. After just over a mile, you’ll pop out into the open in the meadows, with a decent shot at spotting elk grazing or a bald eagle flying overhead. From here, the trail will keep climbing as much as another 1,000 feet or so. Just do as much as you want and head back.

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Hike #2: Easier Access to Cascade Head

Salmon River mouth from the top of Cascade Head

If you take the second road off 101 described above, you’ll first come to a trailhead at a right-hand turn in the road. This is for the upper access to the meadows, and it’s a very straightforward affair: You just walk out through the woods on an old road for 1.3 miles, and there you are — at the top of the meadows. You can then go down towards Knight Park if you’d like or just hang out.

You could also, if you were feeling up for a slightly bigger challenge physically and logistically, do a cool shuttle: Leave one car here, take another to start at Knight Park, then walk up here on hike #1 and take the car down to hike #3.

Hike #3: Hart’s Cove

Hart’s Cove

The hike with the best variety at Cascade Head starts at the end of the upper road. This one leads about three miles out to more meadows with views of Hart’s Cove, and it starts out in an unusual way: downhill.

The first mile or so loses about 500 feet of elevation, then it levels and goes in and out of a few creek drainages before popping out into the meadows. Especially early in the hiking season (which starts July 15), this meadow can be really grassy and brushy, as no hikers have been in to trample down trails.

If you head for a clump of trees off to the left, you’ll have a nice place to sit with a view of Hart’s Cove and a waterfall that drops into the ocean. Throughout the second half of the hike you’ll often hear sea lions barking, as well. And if you’d like, there’s a little adventure trail down to the ocean from beyond the trees. Just be careful!

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Mount Hood Hikes: Burnt Lake and Zigzag Mountain, 6-24-2018

Burnt Lake and Zigzag Mountain is a little Mount Hood hike that has it all: trees, waterfall, lake, exercise, and a great big view of Mount Hood.

Mount Hood over Burnt Lake.

I took a couple of out-of-town guests up there on June 24, and we had perfect conditions. It was sunny, warm, a little breeze, no bugs, and we somehow had the whole summit to ourselves. There were a lot of people around the lake, but it was a fun and relaxed scene. There’s great camping there, but we were just up for the day.

The first little bit is super easy, through the woods, crossing a couple of small creeks, and passing a nice waterfall. Then you climb steadily for a but to Burnt Lake (right), where you can stop or just rest, have a snack, and continue on to the viewpoint up on Zigzag (top of this post).

It’s a little over nine miles to do the whole thing, but the lake alone is six miles. And it’s all about an hour and 15 minutes from central Portland, from a trailhead very near Ramona Falls.

It’s all in my book, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Portland; you can buy your very own signed copy of it directly from me, along with several other titles of mine, right here.

Here are some more photos from the day:

Big trees on the way up, some of the, burned long ago.

Burnt Lake, scene of much nice camping.

Rhodies on the way up, taken in late June

Looking around from the top of Zigzag Mountain.

Hood from the viewpoint up top.

Hood and the lake, from Zigzag Mountain.

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