I first met John Roper at a slideshow at The Mountaineers club; we were introduced by Steve Fry. It was about 1989 and I was in the final years of my tenure as editor of The Signpost (now Washington Trails) magazine. I subsequently went to three summits with John: Cedar Butte (1000th summit party), Green Mountain (Kitsap County Hi-Point), and Baldy (2000th summit party). Not big summits, but important ones.
John became a regular and valued contributor to the pages of Signpost beginning sometime in the mid-1980s. The earliest contribution of his I can find is a letter-to-the-editor in the issue of November 1985--actually, two letters, the first railing against the use of flagging on trailless hillsides, and the second (after my editorial comment that flagging can be useful) encouraging the use of map and altimeter so flagging need never be used.
John's contributions to Signpost continued in the form of impassioned anti-flagging, pro-wilderness letters-to-the-editor for five years.
"Tear this trash off the trees. Fill your pockets with these flags. Make the wilderness wild again. It does the soul good! It does the wilderness good," he wrote in one inspiring letter encouraging readers to rise up against the hated plastic ribbon (April 1990).
In 1990 his contributions turned toward the descriptive outdoor essays and tales of bushwhacks, routefinding, summits and adventure that earned him a devoted following among readers of Signpost and, beginning in 1991, with readers of my new Pack & Paddle. Besides being an indefatigable explorer of mountains, John is a first-class story-teller with a knack for tweaking words. His quest for the highest summits on a variety of lists always made interesting reading, and when those treks included Karen and Aaron, John was revealed as a mortal after all--a guy with a family who liked taking his kid car-camping and who forgot his snowshoes once in a while.
John's willingness to write up reports on little-known, unnamed peaks in a style that was not only error-free in spelling, grammar, and punctuation (and was very often funny, too) but also legible put him high on my list of favored contributors.
I hope he has many more years of mountain exploration.
Port Orchard, Washington
Some pictures from John's 2000th summit party:
Copyright 2004, John W. Roper.
All Rights Reserved.