You might sit down. There’s a story behind every name, yours and mine; and here’s a part of it I think you ought to know.
On Nov. 13, 2017, Niels Tietze fell to his death in a rappelling accident from Fifi Buttress in Yosemite National Park. He was a phenomenal climber, a mad potterer, and an errant philosopher; he lived his life with infectious vitality. On my forays out in search of humanity, he made an excellent stopping point for books, food, and good conversation.(He would also hate this.) “I’m definitely planning on being forgotten,” he said. Ok, Niels.
To understand how this fits into our story, walk back a few years into the meadowlands of Yosemite Valley, with the grasses waving gold between tall glacier-eroded cliffs, near the banks of the Merced. Imagine me: a wee lassie, struggling with depression like a bagel, newly sprung from the university scene, with no idea who I am or what I am doing, wondering how a physics-oriented** rapscallion, drenched in mediocrity, sadness, and erstwhile failure, ended up getting an internship as a backcountry ranger in some random valley in the western mountains of our vast turtle continent.
**For the record, you don’t need a degree in the outdoors to work as a ranger. Or to be outdoors, in fact. Crazy stuff, I know.
There were four of us, all lasses that year (truly they are amazing people) and all certified EMTs, because the corridor we were assigned to had a consistently high level of incidents and preparation is great. We lived in two canvas-walled cabins on the SAR site in Camp 4. Mostly, I patrolled the trails as a mediocre intern, functioned as a mediocre SAR technician when necessary, and existed as a mediocre socially awkward bagel* in camp.
*Truly nothing changes, my people.
There is no real way to write about folks who have touched your life. Every human I met that summer did; and they are all important. Sometimes, we lose our words; but hold your horses, dear reader. Perhaps I can tell it in this way, going backwards from the present.
You call me Sail because when Don Hudson asked how I would hike across the Atlantic, I said something like, “mumble snarfle sail or something snarfle grumble.” Then he said, “This is great!! SAIL AWAY. How’s that for a name,” and it was good.
Sail Away

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