Finally, Mt Hood, which carries a couple of stories worth noting. Again, it seems that tall peaks attrack lenticular clouds and unexplained disappearances.
The first story is brief, since we have no details. In 1883, the same year Krakatoa blew, “Bernard the soldier”
disappeared after expressing a ‘great curiosity’ about climbing the mountain. No one knows if Bernard was a deserter or the first recorded victim of the mountain.
I’d like to think that he was a clever deserter, though in truth, given what we know about tall mountains, the latter is far more likely. But I’d like to think that he was a 19th Esteban (see The Moor’s Account), with similar bifurcated endings – either freedom or death, perhaps a quantum (or symbolic) state encompassing both.
The second story, summed up by Nigel Jaquiss in Willamette Week, Without A Trace is much more flavorful, full of details that seem to come straight out of an episode of the X-Files, perhaps the one in which Clyde Bruckman and the Stupendous Yappi both give clues about the whereabouts of a body. (After all, the show was filmed in the northwest for years.)
Steven Reed (I’m thinking of other Reeds – James, Virginia, Patty, Margret), age 24, wearer of trenchcoats and berets, eater of Pixie Sticks, keeper of goth gargoyles, goes for a hike on Mt Hood and misses his flight home. A car is discovered. The search is on. Nigel turns out to be a master of description, outlining a cast of characters that rivals any assembled by an author of fiction:
If anyone could find Reed, it would be Nolte. A veteran of 12 years of finding lost hikers, the 39-year-old deputy is well-known in rescue circles. At 5 feet 10 inches and a couple of belt holes north of 200 pounds, he’s more bloodhound than greyhound, but friends say there’s no map of Clackamas County more precise than the one in Nolte’s mind.
A secretary for the U.S. Army, Reed is also an astrologer. She decided to call on searchers of a different sort. She contacted psychics who claimed expertise in locating missing persons.
The team included a German shepherd named Klause, the only certified “cadaver dog” in Oregon. Neiman spent 14 months training Klause, first sensitizing the dog to a chemical substance called “pseudo-corpse.”
The Reeds returned to Oregon, this time with a Michigan psychic named Judy Feathers, who believed Reed had been rescued by a “mountain man” after falling off a cliff.
Reed sent an email to Whapham, his best friend. At the end of the message was a quote from the liner notes of the Portland performance artist Miranda July’s 1997 album “Ten Million Hours a Mile”:
“The slow people always remember and the fast people try not to remember, only the missing people get to forget. They get to live clean lives under new names with no guilt and no memories. Everyone is jealous.”
Yes, the police interviewed Miranda July regarding Steven Reed.
Reed apparently stumbled across July’s work on the Internet but never saw her perform. He wrote July three letters. Each was several pages long. Reed reportedly spent months on one of the letters. He asked July to meet him when he came to Portland and included the names and phone numbers of references who would confirm that he wasn’t a stalker or a weirdo. He also sent July flowers, a prepaid telephone card and a copy of his student ID card so she could see what he looked like.
She wrote him a letter and later a postcard but says she broke off communication because she didn’t want to meet him. July said that Reed seemed not entirely pleased with the direction of his life and that he may have wanted to disappear to start a new one. She says she was surprised that the detective didn’t seem to share her perception of Reed’s disappearance.
“Maybe I watch too many movies,” July says, “but I thought it was more mysterious than she seemed to think.”
I’d like to think that Miranda July would also choose the quantum freedom-death ending interpretation.
Think twice before walking up to the mountain.
This concludes volcano month. I leave you with a track from “Ten Million Hours a Mile” (in which July mentions tornadoes but unfortunately not volcanoes):