Fall 1996

On the trail with Tom & Noriko
Tokyo couple fearlessly explore vast expanse of the Great Northwest.

Once we got into Canada, Noriko and I spent most of our time hiking and rock climbing. Victoria had a few decent trails, but nothing as challenging as Vancouver's Grouse Mountain.

The summit is some 4,420 feet above sea level--and Vancouver is on the ocean! The mountain is just a few miles north of the city, and is a popular ski resort in winter.

There are two ways up the mountain: by tram or on foot. Most people, as we did, hike up and take the tram back down. There were two trails to choose from (which I did not know before our ascent).

"Which trail will get us to the top the fastest?" I asked a passing climber, who--unlike us--looked like he knew what he was doing.

"Well, the trail that goes off to the left is much faster," he told me. "It's called the Grouse Grind, and it will get you up there in about two hours or so." He paused, scratched his head, and then said: "But it's a bit vertical. If you aren't sure, you should take the trail to your right. It will take quite a bit longer, though."

I thanked him and he sped off up the hill. Evidentially he was a "power climber" who came there on a regular basis."Well, Nori, let's head left here," I said. "How 'vertical' can it be?" An hour later, we both found out. The trail was hard to follow--most of it had been washed away or covered by fallen trees. And the higher we went, the thicker the fog grew and the more the temperature dropped. (It was 40 degrees Fahrenheit at the summit.)

Noriko was the first to express concern. She pointed out that most of the orange tags marking the trail were either missing or invisible due to the fog. It also made her nervous that one wrong step would send us hurling to our deaths. I guess it was in fact a bit too steep for amateur climbers like us.

But the real scare came on the way down, safe within the Swiss-made tram. Someone said: "Look! Bears! There is a whole family of them right down there!" I quickly made my way over and sure enough, there were bears--right where we had been climbing! I'm just glad we didn't end up as a statistic. I can see the headline now: "Crazed Bear Family Kills 2 More Tourists".

November 5

In Japan, many companies take their employees on annual, and in some cases semiannual, trips. The idea is to promote a "team spirit" among the management and staff. In other words, it's a bonding thing.

My wife's company went to Kyoto on Oct. 12. It was a one-day trip, as is usually the case. Like most of these deals, spouses were invited--but they usually don't go. It's sort of an unwritten rule.

Tom checks their altitude.

Little Nori and the big stump

To boldly go where no one has gone before.

This is one of four bears that shared the trail.