This week I realized bitterly that it has been nearly a year since we lost our friend and hiking partner Jeremy. I did not talk about it last year much, it was a sad time for most of my hiking friends – Jer was one of us and he left too early. I met Jer in 2004. A bunch of the ladies were going on a trip in the Olympic Mountains and Jer had asked if he could tag along. Hey why not, more the merrier, no? Teresa was sure he was a serial killer (he didn’t realize until he met us that you could get the ladies nervous by writing emails “Hey wanna go hiking, just you and I?”). He had hiked into the lake before us and was waiting at the big rock over Lower Lena Lake. Covered in tattoos, Jer could scare his own shadow. Until you looked into his eyes and you saw the biggest puppy. It was instant friendship for all of us.We spent that day and evening yakking away – it was like he had always been part of our hiking group. Then he found out I liked to make fudge. I pulled out this massive brick of Windowpane Fudge (Rocky Road Fudge) and Jer’s jaw was cartoon-like dropping. Him and Teresa happily snacked away all night. That was one of the best memories of that trip.
Teresa and Jer sitting in camp:
That summer we were doing a trip on the Wonderland Trail. Jer emailed me a couple days before and asked if we had room on the permit and we did. There is no way the trip would have been as fun without Jer there. He had never hiked at Rainier before that. Him and I in the back whining all day. Jer waking up in camp that first night with squirrels on him, in his sleeping bag. Then on the second day we came to the high point above Indian Bar and Jer knew then why we were hiking that trail.
The trip got better – the night we insulted a bunch of holy rollers who prayed for us loudly, Jer falling down a hillside in the dark trying to find a privy, his putting his tarp on an ant hill. Jumping into an icy cold Mowich Lake and him screaming so loud campers that he was drowning. Damn, that was such an awesome trip 😀
Then there was the car camping trip where we all slept under a bridge on a remote mountain highway and trolled a couple bicycle riders who dared pedal over our bridge in the dark. I don’t think I have ever seen bikers pedal that fast from the “hill billies”.
One year we got a bright idea to backpack up to Colchuck Lake outside of Leavenworth, Wa the weekend before the annual permitting system started. Being June it was freezing cold and snowing. Jer showed up in board shorts and cotton socks as usual. We sat freezing our butts off under umbrellas, wearing our sleeping bags. Jer had picked up a sandwich at Safeway on the way there. It had an entire 8-ounce brick of cream cheese in it. He ate it, no way was he wasting it.
But Jer was always his happiest when he was at home, in the Olympics. It suited him, the green forests over the barren Cascades.
He was also a talented artist and often gifted drawings, paintings and sketches to friends. He did one for me of when we stood above Indian Bar:
The first we visited The Queets rain forest I understood why he liked it out there….it has a quiet unlike anywhere else.
The road ends at the river. If you want that forest you have to really want it – to cross that massive river. When I think of Jer now I think of him at home, his spirit walking in the woods. I see him as the moss on the ground, the open brown eyes of a doe. Time doesn’t mean a lot there.
You are missed, Jer (WrongBridge/OlyHiker).