One of my Heroes

Meet Blase Reardon, avalanche forecaster and glacier specialist. Mountaineer and athlete.

This picture is taken at Lois and Jim Welch’s house in Missoula. We are having a book party for THE CAR THAT BROUGHT YOU HERE STILL RUNS.

 

 


Blase is my first cousin. My mother and his father are brother and sister. As Bill Bevis said when he met us in Missoula, “you two were litter mates.” We did spend about ten years, our early ones, playing in the woods behind our grandparents’ house in Cincinnati.

Blase, like me, liked to read. He read “Boy’s Life” and when I went to visit him, I read all of the back issues. We both were into early American wars: the revolution and the Civil War. Our grandfather gave me a subscription to the Civil War Times, a heady, scholarly periodical that we gawked over while sitting in my treehouse.

Blase grew up and lived beyond those pages of “Boy’s Life.” He’s getting a MS in Glaciology at the University of Montana. Awhile back, he got an MFA in Creative Writing. I tell you this not because of the credentials, but because they show the breadth of Blase’s interests and skills. I interviewed him about his thesis. Here’s what he says:

“Basically there’s a glacier in Glacier National Park where I worked for a long time. We want to know how much mass is coming and going in the glacier. It tells us something about whether climate is changing over the last fifty years, and how much.”

“Do you mean how much ice is melting?” I ask.

“Mass is water or ice. Think of it as income or debt. How much is the glacier gaining or losing in the long term.”

And, there’s another project Blase is interested in:

“I worked on the Going To The Sun Road in Glacier for five years and I started the avalanche forecasting program there. I was well aware of that place when it was covered with snow.

“One thing I was curious about was how, without modern gear, the Salish would cross Logan Pass. They called it ‘Packs Pulled-Up Pass.’ The Salish would cross over and into Blackfeet territory to hunt in winter, the only time it was safe. There were hazards and struggles with the Blackfeet during other times of the year.

“The Salish had snowshoes that allowed them to travel. The Blackfeet didn’t have them or else weren’t efficient with what they had. They were horse people and plains people. I’m curious about what the snowshoes looked like. How did they work?”

And so, Blase is looking into it.

Say You Came Here on A Whim

I headed back to Philipsburg, the place where Hugo wrote “Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg.”

After the poem came out, folks set up an account at the bank and called it “The Richard Hugo Fund.” Funds supported new streetlamps to fend off the “degrees of gray.”

The town, a place where hard people mined silver and manganese, a town where people left town—this is the town where Richard Hugo came, in 1966, to be in a film by Annick and Dave Smith. Back then, Hugo wrote that “the principal supporting business now is rage.”

Now, the principal supporting business includes a wholesome tourism. Here’s Sue Jenner from the Broadway Hotel, a beautiful place to stay:


It’s pretty much a rage-free town.

I was there this last week and it snowed. May 5th.


This is the stoplight on the cover of my book, taken from the side street.

Doesn’t look “laid out by the insane,” does it?