| Walking in the Shadows of a Man
Note to Users of 14ers.com &/or 14erWorld: This trip report (TR) is not to share mountain conditions or “beta” of the hike itself. Instead, this TR is of a very personal nature, so it contains memories of years gone by and a little bit on the life of a great Man. This TR is being written in honor of my brother, and I’m posting this here to share with my family and friends.
Thank you for your understanding and your respect.
Walking in the Shadows of a Man
My older brother Dale…
January 26, 1970-January 19, 2011
AWF1 (NAC/AW) Dale E. Baker
Ebbs and Flows,
is how my emotions go.
Why did Dale leave us?
So remember who he was,
and our hearts will grow!
The memories in our mind,
are the seeds we sow.
With these memories,
into Nature's Peace is where I will go!
So family and friends,
I love you all!
Now let's embrace life,
with its Ebbs and Flows.
In Honor of Dale and his Military Career
Hiking in winter and hoping for a bluebird day is something we hope for, but we don’t always get it. Saturday was evidence of dashed hopes. Planning this trip, I was hoping to walk away with beautiful and inspiring images of Mount of the Holy Cross, with the Cross couloir in all its Glory. It was not to be, at least on this day.
The closest I would get of taking a picture of the Magnificent Mount of the Holy Cross…
Sam, Bill, Joe and I started Saturday morning from the beginning of Tigiwon Road, carrying the burden of overnight gear. The weather forecast was predicting 70% chance of snow for Sunday, but Saturday’s forecast was predicting partly sunny skies, with highs in the 20’s.
Therefore, we were going to push for the summit of Notch Mountain on our first day so we could take advantage of the weather.
The Tigiwon Road is not plowed in the winter; so we would have to walk ~7.5 miles up the road, with 2400’ of elevation gain before reaching the summertime trailhead. Luckily, the road is frequented by snowmobilers so the slog up the road should be smooth sailing on packed snow.
Bill, Joe, and Sam making their way up the Tigiwon Rd.
I remember growing up in Vermont, each winter Mom & Dad would take the 4 of us kids sledding. Sometimes we went behind the sap house at Doug & Nancys’ in Danby, and other times we would stay in Middletown and go down to Uncle Charlie’s.
Aunt’s, uncle’s, and cousins would all be there too. We would have hot chocolate in thermos’ and occasionally I think we had fires going! We had a lot of fun on that hill!
Sometimes Uncle Charlie would have his snowmobiles over on the hill, and would tow us back up the hill!
I wish he was here today to tow us to the trailhead!
I remember one time Dale and I were sledding in the pines trees behind Janice & Rays’ house. The hill was fast that day! Dale and I went down together in the same sled, and I got scared and rolled out of the sled! Well, that was not a good idea. I wrapped around a tree, knocking the wind out of me!
I think Dale was kind of mad at me, because being the older brother, he was “responsible” for me! Besides, I would have been fine if I had stayed in the sled.
But Dale always had more nerve than me…
The Baker Kids getting ready for some fun!
Krissy, Michele, Darin, & Dale
On the Tigiwon Road, we plodded our way up the road, occasionally getting passed by snowmobile tours. We must be stupid. Carrying these packs, on foot, when there's motorized transportation available! Dale was probably looking down on Lil' Brother shaking his head! (He would have been screaming up the road on a sled!)
Views along the road...
We finally arrived at the summertime trailhead at noon, 4 hours after leaving the car. We set up our camp, and by 1pm Sam, Bill, and I were heading toward Half Moon Pass, with the plan of going up the north ridge of Notch Mountain.
Joe decided to stay at camp.
Stomping out tent platforms...
Before heading out, a snack was in order…
By the way, the New York Yankees suck!!
I remember growing up in Vermont, the Boston Red Sox were a big part of our summers when Aunt Dot would organize bus trips to Fenway Park. Dale and I would bring our baseball gloves, just in case a fly-ball would come our way! I don’t think we ever had a chance, but we were ready for it!
As an adult and serving in the Navy, he continued to make trips to Fenway. There’s countless photos of him wearing a Red Sox shirt, for which is really the only baseball shirt that matters!
In the season of 2007 when the Red Sox played the Colorado Rockies in the World Series, Dale was hoping to come to Denver to catch one of the games. Unfortunately, he couldn’t make it out. But at least our Red Sox still won the Series!
This is Dale’s shirt, and I'm proud to wear it!
Leaving the nicely packed and bootable Tigiwon Road, we now had to earn our elevation gain. Thankfully, the snowpack was in decent shape, so our snowshoes only sunk about boot deep. It was still a workout getting to the pass though!
On our way to the pass, it was becoming evident a summit push would be miserable, with possibly low visibility to the west, southwest, which is where Mount of the Holy Cross is located.
The last 1.5 hours trudging through the snow was also wearing on Sam, so he was ready to throw in the towel and head back to camp.
With the weather the way it was, I knew I would not capture the images I had hoped for. Plus, the wind was whipping it up at higher elevations.
Plumes of snow blowing off the NE ridge of Holy Cross…
A look to the Wild Side…
I remember growing up, Dale had introduced me to hard rock. We were camping at Winhall Brook in Jamaica, Vermont, probably in 1984 or ‘85.
Dale had just bought some cassette tapes, yes, you read that right, cassette tapes.
He came to camp with Motley Crue’s “Shout At The Devil” and Ozzy’s “Diary of a Madman.”
Mom and Dad were super impressed with this selection! (Not.)
At first, I wasn’t impressed either. “What the hell is that!?”
But there was something about the Crue’s intro on that album, “In The Beginning,” that I secretly liked, but not willing to admit right away.
Interestingly enough, some years later, in 1987, I would go to my first concert. It was Motley Crue and Whitesnake! By that time, I was a big Motley Crue fan!!
I went to the show with my sisters and brother, Shel, Krissy, & Dale.
There’s a picture, the 4 of us piling into Shel’s first car and going to the RPI Fieldhouse in Troy, NY to see a rock concert!
I think after that show, Mom didn’t want Krissy going to anymore shows until she was older! (She was 12! And I think Mom heard about the scantily clad women that we saw walking around. I’m not sure what’s wrong with that?)
I on the other hand, could not wait to go to another show! I loved the rock n’ roll image, and I loved the music!
My next show would be David Lee Roth and Faster Pussycat, and again I would go with my siblings, but this time only Dale and Shel.
Back on Halfmoon Pass…
With the decision made to go back to camp, we turned tail and headed down. I had some disappointment in not going to the summit, but at the same time, it’s motivation to come back another day for the experience I was hoping for.
However, for today, mission accomplished. With honor, with love, and with my Brother on my mind and in my heart the whole way, Dale's spirit lives on.
My Colorado "brothers" who cared enough to join me on this journey....
Sam Campell, Joe Carberry, Bill Tarvin, & me
Dale joined the National Guard Reserve in 1990, and 6 years later he joined the Navy.
In 1997, I moved to Colorado. In the time since I’ve been living here, trips home didn’t always coincide with Dale’s trips home. Therefore, we only saw one another 3 times since he joined the Navy.
The first time was in Florida, when I was his best man in his wedding. (That marriage did not last.)
The next time we saw each other, was in 2001 when we were home for the wedding of my younger sister Krissy.
Dale, Krissy, Darin, & Shel
On that trip, I was only home for about 4 days, so time was limited. Fortunately, Dale, and his then girlfriend Kim and I did a hike together along a section of the Long Trail, which took us to the top of White Rocks Mtn. in Wallingford. On top, there’s a lookout where Rutland and Wallingford can be seen. That is one memory I’ll be thankful for, because we got to share our love of the outdoors together.
Growing up, hunting was part of our lives. I only hunted for a few years, but Dale became the avid hunter. Hunting was his passion. Since Dale’s death, I’ve realized he and I had more in common than I thought.
He was the hunter of everything wild, and I was the gatherer of experiences in the wild.
Dale & his Big 10 (taken in Oklahoma, 2010)
After 2001, it would be another 7 years before we saw each other. In 2008, we (the Baker family) were all together for the last time. Shel lives in Florida with her husband and son, I live here in Colorado, and by that time, Dale was living in Oklahoma. My youngest sister still lives in Vermont.
The Baker Family
I came back to Colorado, but unfortunately Dale and I talked very little since then. Over the years, we had grown apart. But I never stopped thinking of him, or the rest of my family.
I may live a couple of thousand miles away, but they’re very much on my mind, and in my heart, on a daily basis.
In the 2010, Dale met a very special woman. Her name is Jen. They fell in love immediately, and were soon married. Jen has 3 children, and Dale adored them. He always wanted children, but never had any of his own. To see him in pictures of Jen and her family, it was obvious he loved them and that he was happy in his life.
Dale & Jen
Dale & Rylee
Dale, Kaitlynne, Rylee, Garrett, & Jennifer
January 19, 2011
At 6pm on Wednesday night, I received a text message from Dale, as did a few others.
“I’m sorry. Just know that I love you all!”
That was the last bit of communication I received from my brother.
The message grabbed my attention. I replied, “Sorry for what? I love you too!”
But there was something wrong. I called him. It went to voicemail, so I left him a message, trying to stay upbeat and positive.
I then called my sister Shel, and she was already on the other line with my younger sister Krissy, and they were talking about the text message.
Krissy called Jen to find out what was going on.
I stayed on the phone with Michele, again trying to stay positive.
We hung up, vowing to contact one another if we heard anything.
I called Dale again, but again it went to voicemail. This time I’m sure my voice could not hide the concern that was growing in me.
Two hours later, I got the worst news possible. Dale committed suicide.
This was all very unexpected by everyone close to him in Oklahoma, and to us.
Dale did not show signs of depression, and was generally upbeat and happy. He made people laugh. He loved his family. He loved to go hunting with his friends, and he loved to share that passion with others.
His life was going great.
The question, “why?” comes up in times like these. It’s a question I’ve asked. It’s a question that I, along with everyone that knew him, will never have the answer to.
It’s not for us to know why.
Instead of asking why, I just remember him for who he was, and I remember how he lived. I think my brother lived a good life.
Dale, I accept your apology. I know you did not do this to hurt us, but to end whatever hurting you were feeling.
I also believe that the hurt you were feeling, and the darkness inside you, was the culprit for the final act. That final act was not carried out by the Dale I knew and loved, not the Dale that Mom & Dad raised, nor the Dale that Jen loves, or the Dale that your fellow sailors served with. That was the darkness.
The Dale we knew is the one that sent the message, telling us you loved us.
I’m sorry your darkness took you from us, I’m sorry the darkness dealt with it in this manner.
Dale, I love you! I will always remember you for being my big brother, and I will always be in your shadows.
I’m also Proud to call you my brother, as I am Proud to say that I am my Father’s son, and my Mother’s little boy.
But damn Dale! You left me to be the only brother to our 2 crazy sisters!! (I can say that because they’re not here to slap me.)
I wasn’t ready to be the only brother, nor the only son, but I know you’ll be by my side. I love you brother, peace.
These are what I call my "therapy hikes" that I went on while in Vermont for Dale's Memorial service in January.
A view from "Pan Top"
"Pan Top" is in the center, Middletown Springs in foreground
Snowshoeing on Spruce Knob
Me leading on Spruce Knob snowshoe
View from atop Spruce Knob, overlooking Middletown
Nephew Tyler skiing & wearing Uncle Dale's gear & clothes on Dale's birthday
My nephew Cameron, with his Mom (Krissy) and brother Tyler
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):