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I am definitely not outside right now. However, it’s questionable if I’m really inside either. Airports are a nether-world, a strange world. And so are airplanes. We’re half-way between indoors and outdoors when we’re flying in those planes, high in the sky, the birds far below us.
Someone–maybe my son (whom I will soon be hugging in San Diego at about 12:30 Eastern time, although a spry 9:30 p.m. California time)–first introduced me to the concept of airports being a world in themselves. Another reality, almost. I am sitting now in a Chili’s restaurant, having just joined Boingo. I suppose all you travelers already know about Boingo. It’s a wireless network for which you pay $7.99 (I think. I’ve already forgotten what I just charged to the credit card.) And supposedly you get 24 hours of free Internet wireless at tons of airports world-wide. But because this is a strange airport-world and not the woods, I really don’t know. Anything could happen.
The photos were pre-loaded yesterday because I didn’t want the stress of trying to figure out Boingo and navigate this strange world of carrying laptop computers in your backpack…PLUS attempting to upload photos. Maybe someday I’ll be brave enough to upload photos while traveling. We’ll see.
So. Here’s the scoop. I was the LAST passenger to board the plane in Marquette. You kids, do you hear that? Your mama, who is always two hours early for the flight, almost missed this one. Not because I wasn’t in the airport. No. But somehow I was so busy trying to figure out how to get connected to free wireless, plus talking to a local family picking up another family member for hunting season, plus chattering away to my daughter in Manhattan that I somehow missed the announcement for boarding. Can you imagine? This has never happened.
When I finally heard the low voice over the intercom, I noticed the waiting area was empty. “Am I late or early?” I asked the friendly security folk who scolded me for including the mouse in the laptop screening. Apparently the mouse and the cord must remain forever separate on the screening table.
“You are the last one on the plane,” the lady severely told me.
OK, I just deleted a soothing bark photo, sorry guys. And the battery keeps discharging and there is no electrical outlet in sight. There are a million people around. Sixteen of them are crowded around my computer at Chili’s, no kidding. I have ordered something to drink and will wait for dinner until this darn blog gets published.
So the flight was great. I can’t believe how many lakes we have in Michigan. Every time you look out the airplane window, attempting to peer around the wing, which is always in your way, you see yet another lake. To get out of the Upper Peninsula you usually have to take a prop plane. One of those propeller-planes with maybe twenty seats. In the old days I remember being on bumpy tiny planes with maybe ten seats. We’ve entered the modern ages, we have.
Very soon I will get on a plane bound for San Diego and travel five hours to the west. Plans: to sleep. (You want to know a secret I haven’t told many people? I take a Dramamine pill before flying. Always have since that day in 1980 when the plane bounced up and down and the lady next to me kept sharing her secret chili recipe and…well you don’t need to know the details, do you?)
OK, time to see if this will post in this strange airport-Boingo world. And then to eat dinner. What shall I have?
Oh P.S. I forgot to tell you about the Outdoor Adventure. Excuse me. Too much has happened today. I walked freezing cold, having forgotten hat and mittens and warm coat with my thoughts completely absorbed in plans of San Diego, through the city of Marquette. It was invigorating. I am ready to be not quite so invigorated.
Blog readers, please meet Ms. Sony Cyber-Shot 12.1 MegaPixels. Ms. Camera, meet the blog readers. Shake hands. You guys will be getting to know one another well.
Oh, it’s been such fun playing with the new camera yesterday and today. Makes you REALLY want to go outdoors and mess around with shutter settings and such. Especially when some of the autumn colors are still bursting in grandeur against the horizon. In maybe two weeks we’ll be peering up at the skeletons of trees. But for now they’re still twirling in their finery, their coats of many colors, preening on frosty mornings and snowy afternoons.
I’ve jumped out of more cars this year chasing the elusive photo. Here’s the inherent problem. You see The Shot. The best photo in the universe. And you pause. Just to get your thoughts and intentions together about whether you should stop or keeping going. And by the time you’ve decided to stop, it’s too late. The perfect angle is gone. Another angle has presented itself. And it’s not the Same. This time it’s filled with telephone wires or somehow looks Wrong. You should learn to stop immediately.
Another camera dilemma. You can take pictures ready-made to email. In a handy compact size. Or you can take pictures in an 8 X 10 size. There are so many options. Which one to use? The old Cyber-Shot didn’t operate this way. But the new one wants to Know. Give us some more specifics, it says. I don’t know, I say. Tell us anyway, it says. So I say: how ’bout an 8 X10? And if it doesn’t come out clean and crisp and dynamic, we’ll change. OK, says the camera. It’s a deal. (And now we’re talking to cameras…)
But now we have a zoom lens. And a macro setting. We can lean oh-so-close to that summer-loving flower and capture the very rain drops glistening on its pink body. Yes! Who say’s it autumn?
OK, lean close. My work bosses aren’t reading this, are they? Except maybe one of you, and you understand, don’t you?
I was sitting there at work this morning and noticed the Most Beautiful Photo Opportunity in the Universe. The light reflected against a morning blue sky with incredible intensity. Such colors! I gasped. Looked around. Did I dare…? Sneak out for five short minutes and just snap a couple pictures? I could get the mail on the way, right?
And, just beyond, in a field of frost:
Scurrying back to my desk, almost tripping because five minutes had passed, I paused to let the camera admire a frost-touched Queen’s Anne Lace. Doesn’t it look like the flower is praying when it closes up like that?
Yes, I like this new camera really well. THIS time I will not abuse it. Will keep it nicely in its camera case and not lying helter-skelter all over the car. We will not drop it on its lens and murder the zoom lens. Will not take 8,000 photos in less than ten months. Except…well, maybe we will. Who knows? With so many interesting photo opportunities.
Yes, you guys, you faithful readers who have heard of my reluctant foray into the world of photography. Lean close again. I think I’m starting to like taking pictures. Not sure, but it’s a possibility…
P.S. oh you really want to hear about my outdoor adventure today? Splitting wood again. One more load to go. Only one more load to go!
My blog tonight is about Two Things.
#1: Preparations for my next trip. To visit the firstborn son out in San Diego.
Which one shall we discuss first?
When talking with my son a few hours ago he said, “I can’t believe how much my friends from the Midwest are complaining about the weather!”
The poor lad has been settled in the southern reaches of California for the past two or three years, so he’s already forgotten our Midwestern suffering when Summer departs and autumn settles in with her icy grip. He’s living in a place that basically lingers at 70 degrees, year round. Can we imagine that? No, we can not.
However, I am happy to announce, I will finally get to visit his un-frosted home next month! For the cost of an airplane ticket of $354, the blog will now travel to sunny San Diego in mid November to visit the first born son. (Yes, yes, I know some of you are shaking your heads muttering “Didn’t she just get back from a trip? Didn’t she just go to Georgia? How can she afford that? Is she rich or something?”) The answer is, sadly, No. But happily, her dream is to travel at least five to six times a year to visit beloved family members spread across the U.S. of A. And, happily, this dream has been realized this year. Thanks to two part-time jobs which allow flexibility. And she hasn’t been out to visit dear Christopher yet. It’s more than Time.
Christopher began to share his plans for our Outdoor Adventures in San Diego. We would start with Balboa Park and go here and there, and here and there, and here and there. My legs suddenly started aching and I hadn’t even left the living room. “Umm,” I ventured softly, “You know I’m not in as good of shape as you are…”
Meaning, Mama can’t run a mile. And if we walk five miles, she might immediately require a Nap.
“Well!” he replied cheerfully, “You have a month to get in shape!”
So today’s Outdoor Activity involved some snappy walking up the road in the rain. Quick, quick, quick! Run a little, will ya? Let’s get those muscles moving! San Diego here we come! Move a bit more quickly, can you? Don’t mind the drizzling rain and cold!
See, here’s the thing about going outdoors every day for 365 days. (Lean closer now; I’m confessing something.) You don’t necessarily get in shape. Burn calories or anything. Especially if you have a camera and like to dally slowly looking for close-up intimate photos. You can’t necessarily walk for ten miles without huffing and puffing.
The muscles may get a little workout from hauling squash vines out of the garden. Or pulling up frosted tomato vines. But not much.
I have tried to imagine living on a land that doesn’t frost, a place where snow refuses to fall. A climate which remains tepid year-round. A landscape of desert and Pacific surf. It’s so different from our place in the woods where seasons shift like clock-work turning from frigid to warm to frost to snow. There’s always something new here, something different. I love the changes; the dance of it all!
But don’t get me wrong. Just because you love a place doesn’t mean you don’t want to visit OTHER places. Especially places where family live, less than $400 away.
The Pow Wow has ended for another year.
All that remains are the memories.
Memories of little boys eating popcorn, beautiful girls in pink dresses, men with eagle feather staffs, women in jingle dresses and buckskin.
Every time I close my eyes, images rush in. Solemn-faced natives stare out from the Mind’s eye. All these hours later, the Pow Wow stays at the forefront of consciousness. The drum-beat continues in my heart. The Pow Wow goes on, even though I am now at home ready to do dishes, to finish cleaning the house for tomorrow’s company, trying to write this blog.
My friend Denise showed me how to ask folks to take their photos. If you read yesterday’s blog, you know how hard that was. But by the time these two little girls happened by, I was a pro. “Can I take their picture?” I asked their mom, and she smiled, nodded, seemingly pleased. The girls spread their smiles for the camera to capture.
Then there were little boys, with their shy grins. This one’s ribbon shirt showed that someone cared for him. Someone lovingly sewed the ribbons on his shirt, teaching him his culture through this tender gesture.
The vendors sold everything from traditional Native American jewelry to books to beads to turtle shells. I did not buy anything. Here is the part of the blog where I apologize to my daughter. Kiah, I am sorry. I could not find the beautiful native jewelry you wanted. If you were there, walking along the dirt road, peeking into the many vendor’s shops, you may have discovered something you loved. But I am not a jewelry-person, and to discover that extra-special necklace or earring or bracelet for you proved impossible. I am so sorry… the dream-catcher (was it a necklace?) from last year will have to do…
Today I came early and listened to a native guitar player singing in the arena before Grand Entry. Sipped coffee. Waited for my friend Susan to arrive. And arrive she did! We watched Grand Entry together before eating a bowl of corn soup. We talked and talked, catching up on at least a hundred subjects before it was time to go home.
The rain drizzled and poured and drizzled and stopped. All weekend. The rain continued to do its rain-thing and the people tried to stay dry beneath the tall pines which surrounded the campgrounds. Umbrellas came up, and umbrellas went down.
It’s beautiful in the campground in the early morning, before everyone is awake and around. There’s a few campfires burning, but the tents generally remain still. You can walk around the dirt road which encircles the campsite, around and around, feeling gratitude and love for this sacred gathering.
It’s a special event. Until next year, then…
It’s a big exciting day in the county. Time for the Lumberjack Days Parade in Baraga. Barry had to take pictures for the local newspaper, so I tagged along. I usually tag along.
There’s often old friends with whom to chat, sometimes people you haven’t seen for ten years. There’s fire engines screaming and children covering their ears, hot sun beating down on the sidewalks, free popcorn, and pink and blue cotton candy for sale.
In front of the American Legion, a crowd gathers to drink beer and enjoy a cook-out. The smells are so enticing. It’s the Upper Peninsula’s version of Norman Rockwell Americana. Baraga’s population, as of the 2000 census, is 1,285. The larger Baraga County encompasses about 8,500 folks.
Before the parade starts Barry needs to get pictures of the line-up. Close-ups of the people on floats. Queen candidate shots. Usually I stand around and feel somewhat awkward, but today there was a mission. The blog. What pictures to take?
“I want a picture of a horse’s nose,” I announced to Barry. He probably rolled his eyes but politely replied, “There’s sure to be horses around!” Immediately following that statement, a horse appeared. It’s owner was feeding it hay. The horse’s name is Misty.
The theme of this year’s parade was “Movies, Movies, Movies…the Baraga County Oscars”. At least a half dozen movie-themed floats laden with dressed-up characters passed by. Isn’t the Little Mermaid cute?
Our friend, John, insisted I take a picture of the red fancy fire trucks. He said, “The blog readers will want to see pictures of fire trucks!” He nudged me out in front as the first engines rolled by. Unfortunately, they all came out blurry. Sorry.
Are we down far enough in the blog that I can complain a little bit? The parade was lovely. But I got a tad bit grouchy. Shhh, you’re not suppose to say that on the 4th of July.
Here was the problem: It’s relatively easy to take photos out in nature. You peer quietly into the core of a wildflower or into the eyes of a dog or at a seaweed dangling precociously over a sand bank.
In a crowd of screaming, laughing, jostling, happy parade-goers it’s another story. I’m way too shy about asking up-front, “Can I take your picture?” like Barry does. He’s doing it for the newspaper, and has done it for three decades. So I had to sneak photos. Or indirectly attempt to find the perfect in-focus shot. It was so challenging.
You know how sometimes you’re in a big crowd of people and everything flows beautifully and you feel like you fit in? And how other times you feel maybe a bit more shy or quiet or nervous or reclusive? Today was one of those days.
I don’t think anyone else in all of Baraga was feeling shy or quiet.
Fireworks start about 10:30. We’re debating whether to drive all the way back into town for the spectacular light show over the bay. Should we stay home or should we go? Stay tuned tomorrow to find out!
Did we ever think we would hear those words, let alone utter them aloud? Yet, I do believe yesterday we may have heard those famous three little words. Might have even come from our California guests. Even our son is no longer used to Michigan humidity. When it’s in the middle or upper 80’s and no wind, one wilts and sweats quite profusely.
We thought a stroll along the Nara Nature Trail (also known as the Pilgrim River marsh) might be a nice diversion before eating out in Houghton yesterday evening. Remember when Barry and I hiked along this short trail earlier this spring?
But, my goodness, was it hot. Very hot. And not very shaded. By the time we returned to the car the air conditioning felt extremely welcome. I thought about the challenges of going outdoors when it’s freezing cold versus boiling hot. Different scenarios, but both demanding at times.
At one point during the walk I settled on my hands and knees photographing whorls in the wood of the boardwalk. Barry seemed a bit impatient. Perhaps didn’t think a simple whorl would make a good photograph. I beg to differ.
The earlier rain had roiled up the river into a murky muddy silty flowage. Bits of weeds and flowers and debris floated by in the brown waters. I liked this view from the trestle bridge.
On to Houghton for dinner and shopping. I could tell you what everyone ate and who we saw and some of the interesting conversation. But none of that part was outdoors, so you’ll have to imagine!
After dinner we did walk around town and look at the construction and buildings before strolling down to the Portage Canal. A welcome breeze blew in across the canal. All the summer sounds ensued. Children laughing, jet-skis howling, machinery drilling, families talking. We felt so happy to be joined with our family members on such an evening. I even texted Kiah in New York City to tell her we wished she could be with us.
A pigeon lingered in a flower box outside the window of a store. It refused to move. We could have reached our hands over to pet it. Most likely it would have pecked us or flown upright in a flurry of indignation.
We liked the Wilcox Studio sign painted on that building probably half a century ago. Maybe a century ago, who knows? It looks kind of artistic, don’t you think?
Now we’re caught up to today. And I suppose someone might be wondering about the outdoor experience for this fine hot Wednesday. Barry and the kids headed out before 7 a.m. for a fishing trip on a friend’s boat, but I have a meeting tonight and needed to work. So…about 1:00 p.m…I hauled the lawn chair into the shade beneath the umbrella on the deck and snoozed. Just lay there half-awake and dozed and listened to the noisy woods with birds calling and squawking and the neighbor’s rooster making his strange half-hearted holler. Ahhh. Summer. Doesn’t get any better than this, especially in the cool shade with only a couple random no-see-ums biting.
Picture this scene. It’s still fairly dark outside. You’re sleeping in bed, covered only with a sheet, due to the steamy summer night. In the distance thunder begins to rumble. And rumble. And rumble.
Closer it comes! Lightening streaks through the bedroom window. Flashes of silvery light illuminate everything. The thunder now claps resoundingly, almost urging you to get up, even though it’s barely 5:30 a.m.
Then you hear the whooosh of rain falling. All around, outside. The rain pours so hard you can imagine the wildflowers and garden lettuces shivering with the intensity. Suddenly…the dreaded sound…icy pellets of hail spitting against the house. Clink, clink, clink. You try not to think of the garden vegetables, but your husband is already groaning about the possible hail damage.
As quickly as the hail starts, it stops. The rain continues to fall outside, but you drift (almost) back toward sleep. Except you really can’t return to the depths of sleep. So instead you enjoy the lulling patters of rain and thank the Universe for the moisture.
OK, let’s now move into awake day-time mode. I checked the rain gauge and we received over 1.5 inches of rain during that early-morning excitement! Very nice.
Lots of plants lay sprawled tipped over on their sides. The garden lettuce and spinach look a little flattened, but they are perking up as the day progresses. They seem to be shimmering in the hot sun. It’s 85 degrees just past mid-day.
The kids–although should one be calling those near the age of thirty “kids”?–picked some wild strawberries last night out by the road. Christopher’s girlfriend had never seen strawberries that tiny. They are the sweetest taste, though, the wild berries growing in between the daisies and the buttercups.
I was going to put another flower photo in next, a picture of an orange hawk-weed. However, Chris just examined the photo selection and requested a viewing of the summer sky. He, perhaps, is getting bored with flower shots. I told him straight, though. How in winter all there is…is snow. Then in early summer…blooms. Later, we’ll get in the fruit & vegetable mode. Finally, we’ll get bored by autumn leaves before returning to the vigilance of snow. Everything in their season, you know. I’m sure he was impressed by the explanation. He still wanted to see the sky rather than flowers.
We’re taking the kids out to dinner up in Houghton within a few hours. We may wander along the boardwalk near Chassell once again. We shall assuredly enjoy this sultry late June evening. We will not be thinking about our long winter. And if anyone complains, “It’s too hot!” we will reminisce about the brave hardy souls who jumped into the Portage Canal for a Polar Plunge on that 4 degree afternoon in January! Click here if you want to read that story!
There is something special about Lake Superior. It’s hard to put your finger on it. She’s a cold and forbearing lake. Almost stern. Icy-beautiful. She commands. We obey. Even in the warmth of summer, she’s in charge, perhaps allowing us to dip our toes in her waters. Perhaps. If the icicles have melted away…
Having just visited Lake Huron, about 500-600 miles to the south, I must again attest to Ms. Superior’s difference. Perhaps it’s because she is so big. She is the largest freshwater lake in the world, by surface area and the third largest by volume. When you stand beside the other Michigan lakes, a different energy ensues. For one thing, they look warmer. For another thing, they glisten with different colors. And finally, the surrounding rocks look different.
You never quite trust Lake Superior. As the crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald would attest, when the gales of November come early, she can take a seasoned crew and ship and destroy them within hours. We watch her with respectful eyes.
Yesterday Catherine and I walked along her shores, taking a break from our hours grasping the wheels of our vehicles. We smelled the sea breezes. We marveled at the 70 degree temperatures. She took off her shoes and felt sand and lake water between her toes. Alas, the writer of this blog cannot join her. I have a fallen arch on the left foot and have experienced excruciating pain after walking on beach sand. So I enjoyed watching her splash instead and kept the eyes and camera on the lookout for good photos. Catherine said, “I can’t believe how much you’re seeing now.” (another plus for the outdoor commitment and blog!)
Even lay belly-down in the sand and viewed the beach grasses from that angle. My they look tall!
A young woman wearing a”Nature Girl” shirt sat in the sand, drawing or writing in a sketch-book. A family with children splashed in the nearby river. The wind blew from the south, almost convincing us that summer had arrived.
Someone creatively expressed their deepest feelings (as seen in the photo below). Do you suppose they missed a girlfriend, a boyfriend, a husband, a wife, a child? Or perhaps they miss Lake Superior when apart…
The suitcase sits open over there on that chair, and there’s a backpack on the kitchen table and two bags on the floor and scattered groceries from the shopping spree at the Marquette Co-op. It’s probably time to unpack, don’t you think?
After 625 miles and two days, I’m back home in the woods. And it’s actually WARM here! In the mid-70’s. Barry and I sat out on the deck and caught up on our week apart. The lovely cup of black tea should have helped with the sleepiness.
I have two sets of photos. One, the Lower Peninsula. Two, Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula. Even though today’s outdoor adventure involved wandering along the lake near Au Train with my friend Catherine, those shall be posted tomorrow.
The above turtle clawed in the gravelly sand driveway at the Bellaire cottage this morning. At first I could figure out what animal was sitting behind the cars. I scurried out at 7 a.m. with a camera to look closer at this fellow. Catherine thought perhaps he (excuse me, she) might be digging in the sand to bury eggs. Wrong spot, turtle! Find somewhere else, please. And off she went to dig in the neighbor’s driveway…
After peering at the turtle, I admired the leafing trumpet vine plant. This trellised plant came to the cottage via my mom’s father many years ago. Probably in the 1970’s, soon after we bought the place. It’s special to think of this plant as a multi-generational beauty. That many generations of our family can enjoy the beautiful blooms, and thank Grandpa for sharing it with us.
The fog lay thick across Intermediate Lake. You could hardly see the islands out in front of the cottage. In actuality, it’s getting harder to see the islands every year. Either the lake is rising or the islands are shrinking. Back in the early 1900’s a dance hall sat on the islands in the middle of this lake (which perhaps once were connected) , or at least that’s the rumor we’ve heard for years. Now it would be challenging to spread a blanket and eat a picnic lunch. That’s how tiny the island nearest the cottage is.
My, my, it looks like the geese have enjoyed a picnic on the front lawn! Feathers and scat everywhere. No sign of the swans this morning, although they could have been ten feet away and almost invisible in the fog.
We headed uptown in Bellaire for breakfast by 8 a.m. and drove out of the fog and into sunlight within three minutes. And after breakfast drove, and drove, and drove some more. One and a half hours north and four and a half hours west. Of course we enjoyed several stops along the way, especially our hike along the shore of Lake Superior. Stay tuned tomorrow for those photos & who knows what else!
Today’s outdoor adventure: Climb a mountain. Yes, I know we live in Michigan. No, we don’t have the Rocky or Smoky Mountains nearby. But we do have…the Huron Mountains! And today was the perfect day to gather with seventeen friends and scale the rocks for a panoramic view of our beautiful landscape of Lake Superior and the forests of Baraga and Marquette counties.
The mountain of choice for this last weekend in May: Bald Mountain. The real Bald Mountain. Locals have been climbing a smaller nearby hill for years and calling it Bald Mountain. Who knows how the two peaks got confused. But they did. Whenever someone says, “We’re climbing Baldy” it usually means the closer shorter hill nearest to one of the logging roads after Big Erick’s Bridge.
You simply can’t give directions to anyone about how to get there. You can direct someone to Big Erick’s Bridge, but beyond that you need a local guide. You follow two-tracks and then turn off onto grassy side roads and wander up among rocks until you reach the top. Then you stare breathless and amazed and congratulate yourself on living in one of the most beautiful places in the world. That’s what happens.
About five vehicles caravaned out to the base of the mountain after meeting at our friends’ house. After several of us tucked pants in socks and sprayed with lethal tick spray, we ventured upwards. First, we passed a tranquil mountain beaver pond. Beautiful, don’t you think?
Then we admired the columbines growing trail-side. The stones jutting up along our path, over which we walked carefully, attempting not to trip. (OK, we tripped!) The hardy blueberry plants with their bell-like white flowers. The bright blue sky overhead. What a wonderful afternoon to be out in nature, perhaps panting a bit as we aimed our steps higher toward the summit.
The highest point in Michigan, Mount Arvon, measures between 1,979 and 1,981 feet(depending on which on-line source you believe) and the mountains in the nearby Huron range have a few feet less altitude, but grander views. Nonetheless, these hills are mountains in Michigan! They are the oldest rock (granite) outcroppings in North America. Small ones, perhaps, but still towering crags over our rather flat state.
Years ago, four of us camped up in a nearby mountain with our six month baby boy and three dogs. (One of the dogs was ours.) My husband carried our baby in a front pack and we kept him safe zippered in our little tent. What I remember most about the hike was that he lost his pacifier during this little adventure and discovered his thumb. And didn’t lose the taste for that thumb for a couple years after that. The adventures young folks have in their twenties…
Little rock cairns dot the mountain. You can utilize them in your climb, keeping you moving in the right direction. One of our friends even placed another rock atop this cairn before we left. Just to prove we were there, I guess.
For the triumphant hikers there were treats: cherries, green grapes, walnuts and almonds, trail mix, sausage and cheese. Assorted beverages. We munched, sipped and admired the view. The wind blew a little chillier on top of the mountain than in the valley, but no one seemed to mind.
All too soon it was time to descend. A potluck awaited us at our friends’ house. It was one of those afternoons when you lament, “Why don’t we do this more often?” I am feeling grateful for the opportunity to climb a mountain today…