Community Read author revisits Rainier year

PORT TOWNSEND — Author Bruce Barcott brought three main characters from his book with him when he spoke last week at the Port Townsend High School auditorium.

But those in the audience who had read The Measure of a Mountain needed no introduction.

“I went back into my garage the other night and found them,” Barcott said as he opened a duffle bag on Thursday.

More than photographs

In addition to photographs of his treks, he brought his trusty trail companions — the Renegade backpack he bought at REI in the hopes that the name would rub off on him, the German “Wanderschuhe” hiking boots he dubbed “Der Waterschuhe” for their propensity to soak up moisture, and the blue sleeping bag that failed to keep him warm or dry.

“I decided to throw myself down on the mountain,” Barcott said.

Barcott’s talk was the final chapter of the Port Townsend Library’s Community Read program for 2009, which focused on his book about Mount Rainier.

Untrained climber

Barcott talked about his attempt to complete the 93-mile Wonderland Trail, which goes along the lower skirt of the mountain and is “possibly the world’s worst named trail.”

He also talked about how he came to write the book despite a lack of climbing expertise, eventually making it to the summit.

For background information, he interviewed people who live and work on the mountain, including Mike Gauthier, head ranger at Mount Rainer National Park, and chief naturalist Bill Dengler, now a Port Townsend resident, who gave him a “Don’t Be a Meadow Stomper” button.

“What happens when you write a book is that some of the people you meet become lifelong friends,” Barcott said.

Other attempts to find approaches to his subject were dead ends.

In interviewing people who live in the mountain’s shadow, he had an audience with JZ Knight, a Yelm woman who channels a prehistoric warrior named Ramtha.

“Sadly, my interview with Ramtha didn’t make it into the book,” Barcott said. “If you interview Ramtha, you’re a little desperate to find a way in.”

Bill Maxwell, president of the library board, introduced Barcott, saying that the book heightened awareness of the richness of the mountain and the diversity of people who love it.

Library director Theresa Percy thanked everyone who participated by reading the book and attending a discussion group or program.

Librarian Jody Glaubman gave out Mountain bars at the door.

The Standbys, a six-piece string band, opened the program with bluegrass and Appalachian folk music.

Opening act

In his opening remarks, Barcott noted that he had only had one other opening act for a book talk, and that didn’t turn out well. Held at a college back east, the talk was preceded by music from a 25-piece student band.

Because of an out-of-town sporting event that same weekend, almost no one showed up for the talk, he said, a situation that worsened when the musicians finished playing, packed up their instruments and filed out.

“Every member of the band had a boyfriend or girlfriend in the audience who stood up and left with them,” Barcott said. “It was me, my host and a handful of others.”

Approximately 150 people attended Thursday’s talk, many lining up afterwards to meet the author and have him sign copies of the book.

They included Tammy Rumpel, an avid hiker, who said she enjoyed reading about the history of Rainier as well as other aspects that Barcott covered.

Dan McMannis bought a copy of the book to send to his brother Brad McMannis, a Montana resident.

“He’s been up to the summit twice, once on a nice day and once when it was clouded in,” Dan said.

“Brad will understand what this is all about.”

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Port Townsend/Jefferson County reporter-columnist Jennifer Jackson can be reached at [email protected]

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