By Glenda Hammond
I recently rode across northern Washington with members of the Washington Outfitters and Guides Association (WOGA). For the first time, I joined their Ride to Rendezvous, an annual wagon trek. What a hoot! What a cultural contribution, allowing people an eye-opening glimpse into the grit and courage of our pioneering ancestors as they struggled to cross and settle the land.
Mile after beautiful mile, I was inspired by the hard-working outfitters and contributors. Folks from the Methow Valley and from far corners of the state demonstrated the same strong, enduring spirit that once beat in the hearts of our pioneering ancestors. Despite hearing about a close encounter with a curious rattler, I had a wonderful time.
Each morning, I saw crew and staff pack eight tents and the equipment for five trail-friendly cook tents. The food was fabulous, by the way. The guides and volunteers also packed medical supplies, cleaning staples, and enough coffee to caffeinate Winthrop and Twisp.
In the afternoon, upon reaching the day’s destination, the crew pulled all the equipment from the wagons to set camp again. Everybody had a job. I understand Claude Miller has been a driving force for this event since its inception. The outfitters were some hard-working folk. Steve and Jess Darwood, Aaron Burkhart and Brian Varrelman, just to name a few. I was amazed at Larry Basinger’s wizardry with the tents. Sass and her husband provided, packed and prepared tables for marvelous meals. In true pioneer spirit, Marva and the Mountjoy family did a lot of everything. Marva insists it’s a big team effort by many people behind the scene.
Laurie Ann and Larry Enright (a John Wayne look-alike) made the auction a lot of fun. I may not remember all the names of the cooks but I do remember their extraordinary skills. Thanks to Lin, Andy, Gail, Heather and Stephanie. Each cook tent deserves many accolades for the fine food they served. Veterans from Wounded Warriors were a great help. There are so many great people associated with this endeavor, it’s hard to mention them all.
Around the campfire, T. R. and another young fella kept the tunes coming. We had several storytellers. Eric Tobin kept us in stitches with his cowboy poetry and folksy good humor. Avoiding saddle sores (at least this year), I rode in a buggy with Al and once with Jess. Al said it went pretty well except for my back-seat driving. I truly fell in love with this friendly and inspiring group of people. I also want to thank my friend Cheryl De Groot, an 18-year volunteer crew who invited me to brave the trail.
The trail is part of me now. I plan to return next year, eager to rediscover the can-do attitude. Here in the city, I’d like to incorporate the pioneering spirit into my daily life, even while battling traffic. Yes, I’m from the city — a bad word on the east side. We flatlanders can learn a lot from northern Washington ranchers, outfitters and country folk.
Most of us greenhorns originally came from the country and got stuck in city jobs. Many are trying to return, occasionally buying ranches and moving back to the Methow Valley. Sadly, I understand that such repatriation might cause the outfitters’ event to end. Some newly arrived city folk won’t allow access to their properties for even one day a year. What does it say about community and sharing? This is a plea for understanding and sharing so this Washington living treasure can continue this lesson in history.
Glenda Hammond lives in Tacoma.