May 26, 2021

By the Reverend George Yandell, Rector


In mid-August 1991, my cousin Nancy and I rendezvoused in Butte, Montana.  We planned to take three days to acclimate to the altitude before we began our 12-day Sierra Club backpacking trip in the Pintler-Anaconda Wilderness area.  That hike was to take us up to the continental divide, then hike north from high-country lake to lake with a mid-hike supply.  Dr. Wayne Chamberlain was the guide and leader of the trip. (An anesthesiologist from Helena but who hailed from Memphis, where I lived at the time.)

The day before the hike, the trip leaders descended on our motel with all the food supplies.  Nancy volunteered to have the loads of freeze-dried food brought to her hotel room (next to mine) and help sort it out.  I had no idea what that entailed.  They got started sorting the food into separate packets for each meal for 18 people for 12 days.  That meant 36 large parcels with more than 72 packets labeled by day and meal. We each ended up carrying @ 15-20 pounds of the ‘Commissary’- the food, the cooking pots, the water bags.

The sorting day was August 19. There was no room for me in the sorting space, so I watched TV- special coverage of the fall of the Soviet regime. Boris Yeltsin was standing on top of a tank in front of the Soviet Parliament building.  I rushed into Nancy’s room to tell the team what was happening. Nancy turned and said, “Don’t disturb us- this is very difficult work here.”  She shushed me with vigor. 

Only after we were 3 days on the Skyline Trail did I realize how intricate the sorting was.  A few times the bags labeled ‘Breakfast day 3” or “Dinner day 6” did not contain what they should’ve.  (I never suggested to Nancy that she could have been at fault.) Sometime after the mid-point in the hike I mused that Boris and Nancy had a common trait- neither was reluctant to take charge.  I understand from long-time parishioners who knew Nancy well (she was Sr. Warden for Holy Family when the initial property purchase from the Griffith family was arranged) that they respected her for how devoted she was. And willing to take charge.

By the end of the hike, Nancy had apologized for abruptly shutting me off.  And she appreciated that Wayne and I had brought our fly rods- many late afternoons we caught enough cutthroat trout to augment the groups’ high-carb freeze-dried food.

I imagine we each have commissary items that equip us for our paths through life.  That we’ve sorted out what’s important and what’s not. I credit Nancy for helping me yield to tackle what’s critical to the well-being of the team.  It’s a long hike we’re on together.  G. Yandell