Day Two: The Seminar Starts

Breakfast is Ready

Ashford, Washington is a small dot on the map 50 miles south of Tacoma and six miles from the Nisqually entrance to Mount Rainier National Park. This sleepy little town at the Mountain’s foothills doesn’t have a traffic light or a gas station. A post office, two grocery stores, three mountain guiding companies, a half-dozen restaurants, and numerous accommodations litter the road leading to the park.

On our first day in Ashford, we awoke shortly after dawn. After leisurely showers, we double-checked the time when our orientation would start and slowly drove back into town for breakfast.

Waiting for Breakfast

Waiting for Breakfast

We arrived at 7:30 am at the Cooper Creek Restaurant. A dewy haze obscured the empty parking lot. A half hour-long, we patiently waited and chatted in the darkness and cold of the rental car as our warm breath fogged the windows. We watched an employee (our eventual waitress) scuttle to-and-fro like an ant in between buildings making last-minute preparations for the day. We were relived when she finally turned on the red neon, open sign in the restaurant’s entrance. We went inside, and she warmly welcomed us thanking us for our patience. Before we sat down, she confronted us with an irresistible offer. Without a second thought, we hastily ordered coffee and the breakfast special: strawberry pancakes with two eggs and a choice of sides.

The cooking and service were excellent. Both were overwhelmingly attentive to detail. We were relaxed, well fed, and ready to start our first day of instruction.

At RMI Headquarters in Ashford

At RMI Headquarters in Ashford

We drove the short distance to RMI in a few minutes. Exiting the vehicle, we were immediately greeted by a friendly employee.

“Are you here for the winter seminar?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Jefe quickly replied.

“Good, the guides are waiting for you. They decided to start when we couldn’t reach you by phone.”

Completely embarrassed and without a decent excuse, we snuck into the classroom. We hoped we could melt into an empty row of seats in the back. Instead, we overtly plopped ourselves down in the last remaining spaces on leather sofas.

Unlike Spicoli in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”, the guides spared us a lecture on truancy. They quickly briefed us and introduced the group.

The Classroom at RMI Headquarters

The Classroom at RMI Headquarters

Our first day was light on instruction. We checked equipment, packed our backpacks, and tied knots. The guides offered many useful tips or protips as they were called.

Still jet-lagged, my morning coffee kept me going until our lunch break. Not wanting to be late again, the Männer and I went to a family run grocery store for a snack and some last-minute provisions. I indulgently downed a Coke and bag of cheese popcorn.

Back in the classroom, the guides told the group about the restaurant where we ate the night before. They encouraged everyone to join them there for dinner. In my daze, I politely declined the invitation. My impromptu lunch was not enough to fuel our morning’s ascent. I was also worried that the event would last well into the night. It was 4:30 pm in Ashford, and I was already sleepy-eyed and ready for bed.

The Männer had adamantly accepted the guides’ invitation, but I somehow managed to convince them that we needed a backup plan. My systems were failing.

We returned to the Cooper Creek Restaurant and were rewarded with another excellent meal.

Fettuccine Alfredo with Blackened Salmon

Fettuccine Alfredo with Blackened Salmon

To my delight, the homemade blackberry butter and pie made a decadent, late night snack at 8:00 pm local time or 5:00 am on my Berliner body clock time.

Yes, I want Pie with that.

Yes, I want Pie with that.

As befitting the aftermath of a proper Thanksgiving feast, I could barely keep my eyes open on the short ride home. I was thankful the Männer let me have my pie and eat it too.

A good night’s sleep was my final preparation for the next day.


1 reply
  1. El Jefito says:

    I don’t know if our absence at the dinner was taken as a sign of rejection, which was never my intent. I often felt during the trip that the guides might have held this against us. Then again, the dinner was not an official part of the program. Believe me, I would not have wanted to miss an important briefing. And yes, I can still picture the shock and awe in the Männer’s eyes as we learned that one of their favorite guides was at the event. Ouch!

    I offer my public apologies to Jefe and Valentine. Like you, I didn’t know that JJ would be there. I greatly appreciate your willingness to compromise, especially so I could keep more than my eye on the pie.

    I also want to assure the guides that lack of sleep was the prevailing factor in my argument for graciously declining your offer. I meant no harm nor affront.


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