Spring is up to her usual tricks in these parts. Snow/sun, freeze/thaw. The winds are bitter cold except when the sun breaks through the clouds. Then I feel like that character from the Aesop’s fable. The one about the contest between the sun and the wind and who could compel the traveler to take off his coat.
Yesterday was day three of the same weather pattern. The weather kept me indoors the previous two days, so I decided to suck it up and get out for some fresh air and exercise. I sorely needed to “get the stink blowed off” as my my dad used to say. I’ve been sedentary for far too long except when I’ve been baking bread or ginger snaps.
In other words, I’ve been sitting and eating and gaining girth.
I was pleasantly surprised, then, that I managed to make the climb up the trail, half of which was free of snow. I clambered over the exposed rock outcrops and if and when I needed to cross patches of snow, only occasionally did I break through deeper than ankle height. The good thing about the freeze-thaw episodes is that the snow is dense and supports my cookie-filled self.
When we reached the summit, I felt rather pleased with my ability. Surefooted and able to bear my considerable weight against the pull of gravity. Look at me! I’m a mountain goat!
That’s when I recalled Caroline Maben Flower and the time she and other like-minded mountaineering enthusiasts climbed to the top of Mt. Hood in 1894.
From Caroline’s diary:
- July 18: I was in a party of 200 people to climb Mt. Hood in the Cascade Range
- July 20: reached the summit 11932 feet I being the first lady to reach the top
- July 21: became a charter member of the Mazamas club
The Mazamas mountaineering club was founded on July 19th, 1894. 155 men and 38 women were at the summit that day to formalize the organization.
Caroline’s name is indeed on the list of charter members. But was she really the “first lady”?
Knowing what we know about Caroline and her tendency to stretch the truth, I asked Mathew Brock, the Mazamas Historical Collections Manager to confirm. He wrote, “The first women to summit Mount hood were either Mary McGee of Salem or Jeanette Powell of Portland, both in 1871. It’s possible they climbed together.”
As for Caroline’s diary entry, “she was either the first woman to reach the summit on that particular day (July 20, 1894) or was the first woman in her climbing party to reach the summit that day.”
Since Caroline did not provide more detail, I will let Kate Ames continue the story. “The object of [the Mazamas society] is to bring its members into closer and more frequent contact with the beauties and grandeur of Oregon’s mountain scenery, to give information as to the best means of climbing and exploring mountains, and of reaching other points of interest.”
Ames made the climb successfully. She was not put off by the warnings from a young man she met as he made the return trip down the mountain. “This is no place for a woman; I would never allow a sister of mine or any woman I know to climb Mt. Hood. I tell you, when I looked down, I was rattled, and I am no coward either.”
The climb took Ames and her party 7.5 hours up and 3 hours down. We can assume that Caroline’s hike was similar. Oh, yes, I almost forgot: she and all of the other women wore ankle-length skirts.
And my hike? If I were to write in my diary it would go something like this:
- April 17: I was in a party of two, climbing to the top of Nipissing Hill
- April 17 10 minutes later: reached the summit at 119.32 feet I being the first lady to reach the top
- April 17 15 minutes later: up to my knees in snow. Dang and blast whose idea was it to go off road?
- April 17 30 minutes later: I paused to rest, breathless, shaking from exertion, wondering if I’d ever see my beloved couch again…
- April 17 45 minutes later: if I ever make it home, I’m going to blog about this. Caroline Maben Flower was badass. Moi? I’m a candyass in every sense of the word.
- April 17 60 minutes later: I need a nap!
The Napa Register Weekly, August 23, 1894
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