My mom and dad are mountain people, to the core. In fact, they met in the mountains, on a trail in Washington state’s Olympic National Park. My dad was an Illinois boy, out west for the summer exploring himself and the mountains. My mom was a Northwest native, on a backpacking trip with her two sisters. After meeting on the trail, the four hikers camped together that night, and my mom and dad hit it off right away. A year of cross-country letter writing led to a wedding the next summer, and me, seven years later.
Mom and Dad have continued their mountain love affair up until this very day. Those first few years though – blisters, external frame packs, forgetting the tent, jean knickers, and thin insolite pads for sleeping – they were rough. Throughout the decades, my parents have grown much more savvy about bringing comfort to the mountains: carrying lighter gear, eating better food, and sleeping better at night. It could be said that this evolution all started with a Therm-a-Rest mattress.
My parents acquired their first Therm-a-Rest pads in the summer of 1976. They were living on Vashon Island, just outside of Cascade Designs’ and Therm-a-Rest’s birthplace of Seattle. One hot summer day they caught a ferry and drove to the Therm-a-Rest factory in SoDo. They bought two pads straight from the source, opting for the 3/4 length to save weight, and orange because, well, orange was the only option. A year later my dad’s pad developed mold on the inside, and Cascade Designs replaced it for free. That new pad, marked irregular because of a small blemish, as well as my mom’s 1976 pad, are still the pads that my parents use to this very day.
The two orange Therm-a-Rest pads were some of the first pieces of modern gear that my parents owned, and served as the harbingers for lightweight and durable clothing, tents, stoves, and climbing protection. These evolutions in gear, with the requisite passion that my parents possessed, allowed them to be extremely productive weekend warriors. Their Therm-a-Rest pads have been up and down the Northwest’s volcanos dozens of times, journeyed over hundreds of North Cascades ridge lines, and slung over bike panniers countless summers in the San Juan Islands. Moreover, they have provided thousands of hours of deep sleep for tired and content bodies.
Over the years, things have changed. Trees have grown. Snowfields and glaciers have shrunk, much to our dismay.
Photos have become more colorful, though I’m not sure that the mountains have.
And my parents have grown older.
Despite all the change though, their sleep set-ups haven’t varied one bit. Almost 40 years later, it’s impossible to add up how many nights have been logged on those 1970s Therm-a-Rest pads, but I’m sure it’s in the thousands. My parents have raised two wilderness-loving children, spent their careers as teachers, and continued to adventure in the mountains as much as possible. And whenever they go, they still take along their most timeless and cherished piece of gear: the Therm-a-Rest mattress.
All photos credited to Marty & Sue Abegg, unless watermarked Steph Abegg.