Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The Last Photo


The Last Photo…

Friday Reflections: 

Photo: The last moment in a photo observed with Jeff. I prefer not to refer to this photo as one “taken” but rather one that will always live as a real moment in my life. Door County, Peninsula State Park. November 2019. From left...  Rick Parduhn (BH), Mike Gatenbein (Gyro), Jeff Kjos (Roaster), and Robb Kloss (Dobber). I am proud and honoured to have such Top Shelf men as my friends. 

In the summer of 2018, I had returned home to Wisconsin after not being back since the fall of 2015 when I came back with my youngest son Charlie for a month. So, this trip Charlie and Tara came as well. Tara and I drove to Milwaukee where we spent a night with friends there. Tara was going to stay in Milwaukee for a few days and so I drove out to Madison to spend that time with Jeff and Sara. 

Jeff, of course, had organized a litany of activities, highlighted by a long tramp we did in Devil’s State Park culminating in the final walk through Parfrey’s Glen. A long day, with much of it off trail bashing about and I expected no less. The next day Tara took the bus to Madison and joined us, and other friends, for an evening at the La Fete de Marquette Summer Festival not far from Jeff and Sara’s home. It was a long hot day leading into evening where the headline act was Los Lobos. We had commandeered fine positions in front of the stage, and took turns doing beer runs. It was a fine evening and a lovely few days, as always, being hosted by Jeff and Sara. 

Normally another 2-3 years would pass until I would feel the need and pull to return to Wisconsin again. Although blessed here with 5 plus weeks annual holidays the cost of flights, insurances and arranging such things can be prohibitive. 

Yet sometime very early in 2019 something began quietly yet incessantly nagging at me. Being that my mother was turning 91 that June, and noticing her growing fragility and forgetfulness, I put it down to the need to see her as it might be the last opportunity I might get. Thankfully Tara agreed, and so arrangements were made. I would return home in late October and Tara would join me for a final two weeks.

I’m not quite sure how it all came about but I was contacted by another friend, Rick, to inform me that Jeff had arranged a three day fall camping trip up in Door County and I was told the dates and that Jeff had arranged all the tentage, sleeping bag, food and other essentials I would require so I was not to worry. All that was required was my attendance. 

I was picked up by Jeff and Rick at my brother in law’s cabin outside of Sturgeon Bay and we proceeded into the wilds of Door County where we met another friend, Mike and then drove to and arranged a campsite in the Peninsula State Park. It was virtually empty. 

The weather was cold but in due course we had erected our tents and a shelter in which to cook, store our food and drink, and retreat to in case of inclement weather. We had plenty of firewood and were soon gathered around it with hot home-made pea soup and big chunks of bread. And of course, cold beers and warmer spirits. We spent the evening talking, laughing and even a bit of sombre pondering, a perfect balance of old memories and where our lives had taken us. I kept reflecting that each one of these men, Jeff, Rick, and Mike, had visited New Zealand and each had also spent a week, respectively, with me tramping in the Ruahine. It made this campfire and camaraderie in Door County feel even more unique and special.

The next morning Jeff cooked up a huge breakfast of bacon, eggs, pancakes, and his always ultra-strong camp coffee. We then proceeded on a massive hike pretty much all around the park, on trail and off, along the lake shore, climbing up the cliffs overlooking the lake, and through the forest still with the burnt orange and brown leaves of fall clinging precariously to the trees. At the time my other hip was now bothering me - it was replaced in March of 2020, and once again my friends exhibited the grace of not making a big deal of it but slowing the pace and allowing for much stopping to observe and converse so I could gather myself. I was filled with silent gratitude.

We returned to our camp late in the afternoon, just in time to light the fire and tune in the battery powered radio to the late start Packer game in San Diego. With cold Pabst Blue Ribbon and other beers, salami, cheese, crackers, and chips. It was and felt like real old school stuff. The Packers got thrashed. Not that it mattered. And once again Jeff produced a wonderful meal and cooked up brats and provided potato salad for dinner. Then it began to drizzle so we rushed to tie down our tarpage to accommodate us near the fire. The drizzle turned to sleet; the sleet turned to snow. It was magical. Soon Jeff and I had out our harmonica’s and Rick and Mike found drums. We made up Blues tunes in honour of our tarpage and fire. It may have sounded like a pack of wolves gnawing on live chickens but on the night I thought we were pretty good. Another fantastic day and evening.

The next day we packed up in the morning and with a melancholic sadness broke our camp. Rick, heading back to Milwaukee, Mike taking me back to Green Bay, and Jeff driving along the lake to investigate kayaking a few rivers he had marked on his map. We all stopped together at a diner outside Sturgeon Bay for breakfast. It was crowded and once seated Jeff started explaining how perfect scrambled eggs are done, which he also explained to the waiter. I had to smile at Jeff’s pedantic and stubborn requirements and though sadly the eggs were not to his standard he ate them anyway. 

In the parking lot we said goodbye and I stood with Jeff for a few minutes by his car chatting and making plans for Tara and me to visit Madison for a night or two in a few weeks’ time after she arrived. I gave him a big hug as always and we drove away. 

Living in New Zealand for the last 28 years and only returning home to Wisconsin 6 times in those years, I have come to value and appreciate the moments we spend with the people we most love. Yet even in that awareness I could never have imagined that the prior evening around that fire in the snow of Door County would be the last evening I would ever spend with Jeff. . Or that it would be the last time I would smile watching him order scrambled  eggs. And mostly that the large hug in the parking lot of a diner outside of Sturgeon Bay would be our last. These are very difficult truths to write.

I came back to Wisconsin in 2019 out of what I thought was an urgent calling to visit my mom. Turns out the whole time that it was really to see my friend.

I love you Jeff.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Forty Years

Jeff the fire builder. Door County 2019. 

Devil’s Lake 2018. 

Boundary Waters 1990…An week long trip where Jeff paddled solo. He and I did a few day trips together that were amazing. 

Jeff, Sara, and Luca. Madison 2012. 

Jeff and John Nash. Ruahine ranges. New Zealand. Maropea Forks hut, a week long trip. I was so happy to show these mountains to Jeff. In spite of a painful hip that was replaced later that year. Jeff’s patience, caring and understanding of my condition while on that trip still can bring me to tears. His words from this very blog below…
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yo Dobber! I have many things to say, nay, expound,nay, philosophize upon my trip into the Ruahines and indeed New Zealand as a whole. As I sit in the middle of the north american continent in the middle of winter, many thoughts of our trip burst into being. But first I have to say,nay,demand, it is fricking cold here! Sub zero cold! So cold that if I dipped one toe into a river with this cold I would not only lose my foot to gangrene within 3 hours, I would be at the mercy of fate from that point on. Please Dobber you must understand, when the temperature never gets above zero degrees F. it is way colder than anything you get on the north island. Please understand this, my sanity depends on it. We just had a week where the high was -2 degrees F. I went out x-country skiing and brrrrrrr. No comparison. None. Sorry. So I feel better now, wether you acknowedge or not, I have had my say. Now onto more important items. I loved hiking into the mountains with you. My only regret is that your hip kept us from the high country, because the glimpse that I did see looked and felt tremendous. I truly appreciate that you powered into the mountains anyway, I sensed a profound struggle, mentally and physically with the hip and I cannot imagine the pounding you endured. Thank you Brother. Though you write that my highlight of the trip must have been the beautiful Rainbow Trout, 26 inches and 8 pounds, that was only the icing on the cake, the exclamation point on a whole month of travels in New Zealand. Now do not get me wrong, I love icing, and I love Trout for breakfast, talk about powering up for the hike out! But there is much more to the wilderness than a trout, a riverwalk, a shot of whiskey or tequila with salt and lime. There is peace and tranquility, a purpose of being beyond the mundane of culture and other piffles and trifles. There are individual river riffles and songs of the mountains to consider. There are pools of hope and valleys unexplored, there are skies full of stars and wonders around every turn. These are the true prizes we seek when we go deep, and as long as we go unencumbered by preconceptions, and stay open to possibilities,we will achieve our own glory, huge in our own immediacy, knowingly minor in the scheme of the universe.
So Dobber the highlights of my Ruahines are:the night at top maopea hut under the stars with no dew dropping on me all night long, what a star show, a once in a decade no Moon, no cloouds, full on star show; arriving at maropea forks hut and realizing what a glorious spot to camp at despite the protestations of my bank manager(and cracking a can of Fosters in celebration); checking out the confluence of the forks after the all day rain; latching onto the the huge Trout and the epic battle that ensued, man versus beast in a thrilling match of wits and endurance and..............;and then a couple of brewkis in oopaloolangaloongalong or some town on the way back to Palmy. Yowser! More Thoughts will come later as they flood in somnambulatorally.Yowser!

January 30, 2009 at 3:51 PM


2018 Devils Lake…with Gyro on a long day trip led, of course, by Jeff. It involved many detours. Such a cool day! And evening. 

Boundary Waters. Food bag hung from bears. A persistent black bear came anyway. We won. 

The Ford LTD. San Francisco. Thanksgiving 1987,  

Door County 2019. Our last trip. I treasure each memory and moment. And my self enforced distance always made me appreciate such times. Jeff, in a very familiar position with a map. Rick in agreement. I just did what I was told. 

Jeff, Sara, Gyro, and Larry Hale. Madison 2018. I wrote earlier on what a cool day it was. The evening was as well. 

Milwaukee summer 1981. The earliest photo I have found with Jeff, and Mike Revan aka Iron Mike - so named because he so solid and dependable . I had left Ripon and moved to Madison here. I was in town for a wedding. 

John Nash, me, and Jeff inside Maropea Forks hut. John is my finest NZ friend and to spend a week with both these men was a treasure. Both with the dry, witty, and observant quips I just sat back and watched. Mostly. 

My 30th birthday. Milwaukee. East side. Phils, Bob Revane, Jeff, me, Tim Revane, Todd Pollesch, abd Iron Mike eyeing up his shot. Bob, Tim, and now Jeff, are passed from our presence.

Jeff and Gyro. The Arboretum walk along Lake Monona. 2012. A stormy cold day. The company made all that trivial. 

Rick Parduhn, me, Jeff. Door County November 2019. As it turns out the last walk I ever did with Jeff. It was another fantastic day in the Peninsula State Park, we had the place to ourselves. My other hip was now in bad shape. I walked 10 miles that day. Led by Jeff. As aware of my pain this day as he had been in New Zealand 10 years prior. I love him for that. 

Madison 2018. Jeff, me, Larry Hale, and Gyro. Jeff soon put on Trampled by Turtles and the evening turned. 

Jeff, Gyro, me. West Bend Wisconsin 2012, Gyro’s 125 year old farmhouse he was living in and restoring at the time. Our spirits joined with the many that seemed to be around the place. After another cool day in the hills around Devil’s Lake. 

Jeff - Boundary Waters 1989. I learned so much just observing him that trip. 

Rick, Jeff, Gyro, Peninsula State Park, 2019. Our final walk. I lingered behind often to see moments like this. Almost as if I knew something. Really though, living in a country so far away, just trying to be cognizant of how special these moments can be. 

Gyro and Jeff walking ahead on a fall walk. On our way to Parfreys Glen. 2018.  

San Francisco Thanksgiving 1987. The Ford LTD Jeff had driven from Portland to San Fran. We were all glad to see one another. 

Devils Lake, fall 2018. 

Phil’s, Jeff, and me. My 30th birthday. Milwaukee. 

Jeff. In New Zealand. Along the Maropea river deep in the Ruahine mountains making us bagels. So at home. 

Cooper. Best dog. Ever. 

Rick and Jeff. Ice Age Walk 2015. 

Sunset. Door County. 2019. Who knew! 

Fishing for trout in the pool outside Maropea Forks hut. One was tempted but didn’t bite. Jeff was in Avery happy place. 

Milwaukee 1980. 

A long slow day hike in Peninsula State Park. Fall 2019. Had the place to ourselves. 

Madison. The Terrace. A visit was always required. 

Maropea river. Ruahine New Zealand. 2009. 

Devil’s Lake 2018. 

Boundary Waters. 1989. Just as a series of storms rolled in and we were rushing about tying down the camp. Jeff’s green canoe just visible. 

Jeff, Gyro, Rick. Door County 2019. 

Maropea fishing. A few pools later and Jeff had his trout. And we had breakfast. 

Madison. Fall 2012

Bad fish river. Classic Jeff. So at home. Summer 2015

Breakfast. Door County camping 2019. All I brought along was me. Jeff had gotten everything arranged and sorted. As he did. 

Setting up my tent for Jeff in the Ruahine. And I do believe it was time for a wee dram. 

Lingering behind Near Madison 2012. 

Ruahine cocktail hour. 

Stringer of pike. Boundary Waters day trip. 


Madison 1983. My 23rd birthday. 

Near Maropea Forks. One of my favourites. Just a very cool and memorable day. 

Sunset and Jeff. 

Devil’s Lake 2018. So at home and comfortable outside. 

Boundary Waters. 

San Francisco 1987. Thanksgiving. Another very interesting evening. 

La Fete de Marquette Music Festival. A hot summer evening in Madison. 

Post party same evening. 

Sunset San Francisco 1987. Love this moment. 

John Muir Redwood forest. Jeff took us way off the beaten tracks. What a day! 


La Fete de Marquette

The Mapster! 

Madison 1987 summer.