July 3, 2008 · Updated 12:40 PM
"It was good to see Matt digging into his old backpacking paraphernalia again. As he sat in the middle of the floor sorting through moleskin and wool socks, the kids did their own kind of exploring. Megan sat close to her daddys side and inquired about his old hiking buddies and the adventures they shared as teen-agers. Daniel stepped on everyones legs and careened over carefully packaged food with his dads bulky hiking boots, slipped over tiny bare feet.Katie sat quietly on her knees, her little eyes looking pensive as she peered out from under a large blue climbing helmet. I knew she was concerned about Matts climb up Mount Rainier, scheduled to begin the next day. I did not know just how thoroughly she had thought about this adventure.Why do you need this ice pick? Will you get cold? What will you eat? How long will it take you? Why do you need to have these pokey things on the bottom of your boots? The stream of questions poured out and her demeanor improved as Matt carefully answered her inquiries.Then came the question that seemed toughest of all. How high up in the sky will you be? she asked. When it became apparent that quoting elevations would not provide her with a satisfactory explanation, Matt quickly moved to a reference he knew she could understand.When I get to the top, he explained, Ill be up in the clouds.Close to heaven, Katie concluded out loud. And as she worked over that thought in her 5-year-old mind, she made a request that put a smile on her daddy's face.Will you bring me a cloud? she asked.Ill do that, he answered.So he left before sunrise the next morning for his big adventure. I was happy that the opportunity to climb with friends and a professional guide had come Matts way. He had all the right gear and had been working out, often twice daily, to get into good physical shape for a climb considered one of the most challenging in the lower 48 states. And at 2:15 a.m. on day three, my bearded climber limped through the back door, exhausted but satisfied. The conditions had been windy, and 45 of the 60 climbers turned back. But the groups guide remained confident the weather would improve up top.So on the remaining 15 went, one deliberate step at a time, until they reached the summit nine long hours from the time they started.It all sounded torturous to me, climbing up steep icy slopes in the dark. I felt a renewed respect for Mat's ability to stick to a difficult task. And I wanted to know what it was that kept him going when the air was thin and the slope slippery, and when he felt he had little energy to take another step.Katies cloud, he replied. And out of the backpack came a plastic Sprite bottle, filled with hundreds of little water droplets and condensation. I kept saying to myself, I;ve got to get Katies cloud.Back at base camp, word had spread that one of the hikers had a little girl named Katie who wanted her daddy to bring back a cloud. Because so many had chosen to turn back and reattempt the climb the next day, it seems they had a lot of spare time to nap and talk among themselves. Katies cloud became a hot topic. Are you Klope? an Army Ranger inquired of Matt shortly after he returned from Rainier's summit. When Matt answered in the affirmative, the request then came to see Katies cloud. Several huddled to see the prized capture. The huddles have continued since Katie's cloud arrived in Oak Harbor. The lid has been sealed with tape so the cloud will forever stay within. And we have all caught ourselves gazing at the lime green plastic container in fascination.It seems we all want a piece of Gods handiwork. All we have to do is look around. "