Appointment with the Mother

4 07 2016

This is my mother:

amazing mom mothers day vancouver wa

She is one fabulous woman.

She added purple to her hair and flew half way across the country to watch me walk the stage and get my master’s degree. She has supported me every step of the way my entire life, even though I rudely moved so far away from her. On my list of amazing women, she fills the top slot.

This is my other mother:

mother nature mount adams wilderness wa

She may be your mother, too.

Mother Nature may not have given birth to me, but she does help support me and my mental well-being. As my real mother is in Kansas this weekend with my broski, and celebrating my insanely fabulous niece’s birthday, I didn’t want to bother her. So I turned to my second mother.

The plan was spend several fun days hiking around and playing outside with JBoo. I took a summer job with WSUV, so I still live in Vancouver, but I was able to leave Wednesday night and come home to Hood River early. Five and a half days with JBoo!! We haven’t spent that much time together since winter break!

And I arrived to find him in the fetal position on the couch, buried in blankets, sick as a dog. Poor thing. So I took care of sick J and got other stuff done…but J woke up Sunday feeling like a human being, so we quickly started making plans for a fun-filled day of hiking and swimming and playing outside. Before I even finished getting dressed, our plans came crashing down around us with a single phone call: a climber on Adams fell and broke his leg. J is not only the Wilderness Ranger on Mt. Adams, he’s also on the search and rescue team. He immediately took the lead organizing the rescue, and I silently packed mine and Simba’s gear into my pack.

We hit the road for Trout Lake, making a quick stop for food in White Salmon. With all the rush, I hadn’t had a chance to sneak any food or coffee, and it was almost 10:30. I was hangry and caffeine deficient. And therefore silent. J coordinated all the various pieces of the rescue as we drove, me eating all the while, then gave me a map and a Spot device at his office. He showed me a trail where Simba and I could hike.

“Uh, I’ve been on that trail several times. And it’s like two miles out of town. Give us a real trail.” I was antsy to go hike and might have given a little more sass than was necessary. But J just turned back to the huge map on the wall and pointed again. “Ok, you could hit this section of the PCT at William’s Mine.” He gave some brief directions and several “stay right” and “stay left” instructions that I tried to pay attention to, then Simba and I bolted for the truck.

Even as I drove up the mountain road, my anxiety started to ease. I don’t need J to hike. Simba and I can do just fine on our own. You go save people, we’ll play without you! But as I parked J’s truck at the trailhead, I realized my grumpiness was from missing him, not because I was mad at him. Dang it.

The last of my moody funk melted away as Simba and I stepped into the shade of the old-growth trail. Simba fell in behind me after his initial spaz-tastic run-around, and off we went. I took a deeeeeeeeep breath and sighed. Hello Mother.

Not far in, we came to a little bridge over a creek where three men had stopped for a rest. As I walked by with a smile and hello, one asked me, “Are you out here all on your own?!” They were all a bit older and seemingly innocently surprised by my aloneness, so I gave a simple, “Nope, I’ve got my dog” and kept walking. I could hear their surprised conversation fading behind me. “A young woman out in the woods by herself? That seems dangerous. She didn’t even seem afraid…..” blah blah blah.

Really guys? Where are you from? Three men are about the greatest danger to me in these woods. Why should I not be able to go for a nice hike in the beautiful forest by myself? Sheesh. I put them out of my mind quickly and got straight to business: my appointment with Mother Nature.

This was long overdue. Have you ever had that feeling where you didn’t know how much you missed or needed something until you finally did it again? That was me. As I breathed the pure air and stretched out my legs I felt a familiar calmness setting in. An almost forgotten calmness.

You’ve been gone too long.

I know, I’m sorry. Things happened. Life got in the way. Grad school got in the way.

I could have helped you. You needed me. You should have come anyway. 

You’re right, of course. I should have come. But I’m here now. I missed you.

As my legs settled into a rhythm, my shoulders relaxed. The last lingering tingles of headache faded away. This therapy that I used to rely on had been canceled when I needed it the most. The anxiety that has been waking me in the middle of the night, robbing me of sleep and joy, was no match for the Mother. She took it from me, filling my heart with song and my soul with light. My mind cleared of all the noise clogging my thoughts and opened to the simple purity of the natural miracles all around me.

As I wound my way up the hillside, the old-growth gave way to burn. Mother Nature’s scars seemed harsh at first, in the charred snags and crusty, black, peeling bark. But the clouds gave way to sun as the air sweetened and I noticed that the whole slope was covered in blooming bear grass. I smiled and chatted with Simba about how cool it was to see the forest growing back after the devastation of the unnatural wildfire. The constant panting and occasional tickle of fur against my leg let me know my faithful companion trotted along with me.

bear grass in a burn, mt adams wilderness WA

Bear grass everywhere!!!

J had told me as we scurried out of his office that he expected 4-5 hours to wrap everything up, so I decided to hike 2 hours up and turn around for 2 hours down. My trusty fitbit kept the time for me and conveniently tracked my steps. It was hard to turn around. The trees were getting fewer and the rocks bigger as we approached treeline, and it was one of those perfect days that made me feel like I could hike on forever. Canada here we come! We had set a nice pace and the day was just so perfect. Knowing J would be waiting on me, though, Simba and I snapped a quick selfie with Adams and reluctantly turned around.

mt adams wilderness, PCT trail WA

Selfie time! Simba, Adams, and me 😀

The trip down did have me daydreaming about hiking the entire PCT one day. My imagination ran away on me and I dreamed up all sorts of good schemes. By the time I reached the truck, I had planned out classroom projects and management systems and blog posts. While my brain drifted in a meditative state on the way up, it went into full planning mode on the way down. The optimistic, excited, ready for world domination kind of planning mode.

I felt like I had received a full-body tune-up. My legs had that sweet ache of working after long months of too much sitting. My lungs felt fresh and clear of the city gunk collected from a year away from my mountains. And my brain felt recharged, rebooted, and revived. The anxiety locking up my shoulders was gone and my thoughts clear and unfoggy. Why had I waited so long? Why didn’t I realize that I missed spending time with Mother Nature.

No need to contemplate on bad decisions, I’ve resolved the issue. J was excited to hear about our adventures and we compared my descriptions to the map. Based on time and what I saw when we turned around, he guessed our round-trip to have been 6-7 miles. My fitbit said we took around 24,000 steps!! I felt powerful and strong and super ready to take on whatever comes next!

Mother Nature, I’m sorry I neglected you for so long, but fear not, I’ll be back soon!!!


Saturday Morning Explorations

1 03 2015

Saturday is arguably the best day of the week. A day of possibility and potential. And after a rough week and a dreary, rainy Friday, waking up to a Saturday morning full of sunshine brings balance back to my life.

This was one such Saturday, and I had no choice but to get outside and soak it all in. The rest of the country (Texas in particular) might be getting buried in snow and ice, but not up here in the PNW. The rain of yesterday now sparkled in the morning rays. Simba spun in circles while I pulled on my heavy snow rain boots and out the door we went.

J has done the preliminary work to hack a trail through the undergrowth and blackberry brambles between our house and the cliffs of the river. I inhale the crisp, cold, fresh morning air as Simba tore around the corner, running at full speed in the reckless manner of a happy dog with no leash on, and we set off down the trail.

The rain has made my whole world a muddy mess. I try not to slip as Simba zooms past me, sniffing every leaf and blade of grass. The trail is marked with deer tracks; a stray vine snags my boot laces. A cacophony of bird songs fill the air with their sweet tunes – a soundtrack to our morning. Sunlight breaks through the trees in bight streaks, piercing the dim haze under the canopy of branches.

We crunch along, Simba exploring every off-shooting game trail and marking every rock (he acts so proud of himself). Occasionally he manages to fall behind me on the trail, racing by me once again when he notices. He likes to lead the pack.

The sounds of the river rapids down below soon compete with the trilling birds. The rains have lifted the rushing waters, giving them more speed and momentum over the rocks in their way. I want to dip my fingers in the crystal-clear waters, test the frigid temperatures, lose myself in the tumbling drops. But the cliff prevents such adventures and we watch from above instead.

Bare branches and naked vines surround us, but the mist and dew and leftover rain give the forest the coolest shine. The sun becomes a strobe light as I make my way across the mush of a little stream fed by a spring bubbling out of the ground just uphill from me. The staccato of light makes me squint and I almost fall on the slippery rocks. Simba tries to continue down towards the river, following the wrong path, as is his way. A quick whistle brings him back and we climb the last little bit. I want to laugh as we break free of the forest, out into the glittering rows of the orchard.

Simba turns back to check on me, confused by the halt. I just need a minute, I need to fill my lungs with the intoxicating morning air, I need to absorb all the vitamin D and happiness the sun will give up. Impatient, Simba zig-zags back and forth, investigating the edges, circling back, sniffing the air.

I finally follow, winding through the dormant pear trees, glancing down the deer paths leading back into the tangle, laughing at Simba chasing a fly, still taking the biggest, deepest breaths. Life is flowing through my views in full force again, the strength of my muscles carrying me along, and I want to put my arms out and spin until I’m dizzy and drunk with laughter.

So I do.


Join me on my walk:

Northwest Junkies

24 01 2014

Another weekend visit from the dynamic duo, MASH. You probably recognize these cool cats by now – they’re my besties from Bend, and we have the best adventures together! MLK weekend has become an annual event for us (two years in a row – that makes it tradition!) and we crammed this weekend with all the fun we possibly could.

Visits from this awesome couple are proven good times, and this last weekend was no different. They arrived Friday night and we plotted and planned over dinner so we could hit the ground running (thankfully not literally…) Saturday morning. Even the pups seemed caught up in our excitement. So after a good night’s sleep, mini quiche and coffee, we set out for the first adventure of the weekend.

J and I live on the edge of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, which puts us super close to awesome trails and a couple Wilderness areas. We had decided on an area we’d all been to, but this time we would hike a new trail: Trapper Creek. This would put us out in the Trapper Creek Wilderness. The day was chilly, the forest eerily shrouded in fog – perfect day for a hike! Off through the forest we went, Simba in the lead, four friends following, with a St Bernard somewhere in the middle keeping us all in line.

dog best friends hiking the trails, WA

Hiking buddies! (You humans are SO.SLOW.)

Layers were shed as the trail warmed us up. The moss and lichen hanging from the trees looked especially creepy with the fog. The ferns and damp air reminded us we were more west-side. Even our footsteps were muffled to almost silent as the sponge-like soil absorbed their sound. Not that it absorbed all our sound – we had lots of catching up to do! The morning progressed wonderfully, our boots eating up the trail while we chatted away.

We crossed the creek a couple times, then decided to stop for a snack break after a big crossing. Osa, my St Bernard niece, loves wading across the water – she gets hot and thirsty even on cool days. Simba doesn’t have the benefit of Osa’s long legs, however, and chose to cross on the log with us. Thankfully, no one died.

Snacks were dug out of back-packs and passed around. We all brought stuff to share and we had a little forest picnic right there on the banks of Trapper Creek. Then M-Dawg busted out his show-and-tell for the day: the JetBoil! MASH had received this handy gadget for Christmas, and M-Dawg had been dying to try it out. It’s made for back-packing, super light and compact, and boils water in 2 minutes. You know what that means, right? TRAIL COFFEE!!

hiking coffee made with JetBoil, WA

M-Dawg presents: the JETBOIL!! (Hoping to see this picture in my next REI catalog…)

The refueling was a great idea, as the next bit of trail had a much steeper grade to it. Don’t worry, we’re practically hiking professionals, so our group wasn’t even fazed. (Ok, that might be an exaggeration, but thankfully our group likes the challenge of hills. I’ve almost joined in.) We finally decided to turn back and retraced our footsteps. Simba had been off leash all day – we were in the middle of no where with almost no one around. We had almost reached the parking lot when I saw him take off and knew another dog was up ahead. He came racing back with a little beagle-looking pooch on his heels. The two were having a blast, but I knew Simba would be hard to get to come back, so I tried to slow him down as he ran by me. Why would I ever think that was a good idea?! We collided about like a locomotive hits a brick wall – Simba went airborne, I crashed to the ground. And Simba zoomed off as soon as he hit the ground. I didn’t bounce back quite as fast and nursed a sore ankle the rest of the day. Moral of the story: don’t use your own body to try and stop a maniacal, hyperactive dog running at top speed!

Finally home for the evening, us women took over the kitchen and whipped up a delicious dinner. The evening was full of food, card games, and TWO awesome rounds of Settlers of Catan – Ash destroyed us so fast the first time, we had to give it another go! Then off to bed – we had to get an early start Sunday!

Our planned departure time was 8am Sunday morning, and we almost made it. Dogs walked, breakfast digesting, cars packed, we were ready! The day’s plan included a nice Gorge hike followed up with some intense NFL action – Seahawks vs the 49ers!! So MASH packed their car and would just head home from Hood River after the game. Which meant Simba and J would ride with me and Osa and MASH would lead the way in their vehicle. Except Simba thought he might be getting left behind, or maybe he just hated being separated from his bestie. Whatever the reason, as soon as M-Dawg opened the top half of the back of his Element, Simba flew over the tailgate into the back. And he wouldn’t move. So Osa jumped in to take her spot, and Simba still wouldn’t budge. Needless to say, he got to ride to the trail head with Osa.

dog best friends sitting like puzzle pieces, WA

“I think we fit perfect. I could ride like this all day. I WILL NOT BE LEFT BEHIND!” And Osa didn’t even seem to mind.

Sunday’s trail was up Eagle Creek, on the Oregon side of the Columbia River. I can’t express to you how in awe of this place I am. I want to go back again and again! The trail winds up the narrow little gorge of the Eagle Creek drainage, right along the cliff. Sheer wall of rock to the left and up, sheer wall of rock to the right and down. The trail climbs quickly and the wet winter morning sparkled and cut, the air cold, the rock slippery with patches of ice. We arrived early for two reasons: 1) to have enough time to make it back for kick-off and 2) to beat the hoards of people. The trail was mostly ours the whole way up, and no crowds blocked the views at the waterfall overlooks. Mist swirled around us as the morning sun hit the moisture in the air, and water dribbled down the cliffside above us. It was…pure magic. Add in the awe-inspiring waterfalls on the creek below us and the incredible forest around us, and you’ll picture my paradise.

early morning on Eagle Creek trail, Oregon

Just squeeze behind that little spray coming down.

man and dog hiking Eagle Creek OR

Man and his dog in the wild outdoors. Fantastic. #nofilter

It’s funny how time has changed us. Ash and I have been friends for a long time, and it’s cool to see our friendship evolve. We covered 6.6 miles on Sunday, providing ample time for conversation. In times past, we would have discussed the latest hot guy hired in home theater (we worked at Best Buy together) and the outfits we wanted to wear for our next trip to 6th St in Austin and the horrible finals from our mean professors and which friends were hooking up with each other. My how the times have changed! Now it’s which friends had babies (almost all of them) and who’s next to the marriage alter and decorating tips and easy week-night dinner recipes. *gasp* We’re all grown up!

And M-Dawg and J-Rock slowly stretched the gap between us, creeping farther and farther ahead. They had been discussing football all morning. On and on and on. I asked Ash if we were to send them on ahead and tell them to come back for us when they finished talking football, if we’d ever see them again. We agreed it’s doubtful. But it’s wonderful knowing that they guys can carry on their discussions so us ladies can have ours. Girl talk with Mother Nature. Perfect. 🙂

We stopped for another picnic and JetBoil demonstration, then decided to turn around. And the hike out was crowded with people! What a great decision to get an early start. Lucky for us, most folks don’t go as far up the trail as we did, but the parking lot was overflowing. Simba rode in his own car this time and we headed to a sports bar in Hood River for a late lunch and lots of football. (For those non-fans, Seattle is going to the superbowl!! M-Dawg was a great sport despite his team losing, and J didn’t even rub it in…too much.)

And then our awesome weekend was over and MASH had to head back over the mountain to Bend. I came across a comment an old friend wrote about Ash after she posted her pictures on Facebook, and I wish I would have thought of it first. He called her a Pacific Northwest Nature Junkie. And it’s so true! I hope I can fall into the same category – I want to be a junkie!

That’s what it feels like – an addiction. Ash and I have lived up here for over 4 years now, yet we still can’t get enough. I can’t speak for her, but I’m pretty sure she feels the same way – give me MORE!! Every trail is exciting, every mountain gorgeous, every forest my favorite. From Bend’s unique high desert to Eagle Creek’s saturated temperate forest – I want to explore ALL of it. I get grouchy and irritable if I go too long with it, and I’m constantly looking for my next fix. What’ll it be this time – hiking? biking? climbing mountains? skiing? snowshoeing? rock climbing? ALL OF THE THINGS??!

The best part is knowing I’m in good company with all these other junkies, MASH especially. I can count on them to join me for that next fix, or (more likely) invite me on theirs. So, what’s next? Stick around and find out!

Are you a nature junkie, too??


No Soda on Soda Peaks….

10 07 2013

I’m still trying to get past the fact that it’s already July, but even worse is the realization of how little hiking I’ve done so far this summer. Almost none! We did a couple spring hikes, then I started gally-vanting all over the country and haven’t stayed home long enough to squeeze in any hikes. Shame on me, with all this new territory to explore!!

Well, I guess you know where this is going….I went hiking last weekend! And let me tell you, it did NOT go as planned! (Shocking, I know…)

After much whining and lamenting and pouting around the house, J asked if I wanted to go with him on Saturday. Oh, why yes, that would be lovely, how did you know?

So bright and early Saturday morning, I packed my little day pack, laced up my boots, and said a sad farewell to Simba. He knew I was going somewhere fun without him, and I felt bad. Next time, little buddy! I was volunteering for J, and it was not Take-Your-Dog-To-Work-Day. 😦

Off we drove, surprising me yet again that we were going south to go northwest. Those silly mountains in the way! We drove and drove and DROVE! Thankfully this is gorgeous country, so I can’t really complain. We went down and around to the little town of Carson, Washington. The day was shaping up to be beautiful, made a little sweeter by the Junior Mints J picked up when we stopped for gas. I love chocolate for a hike!

The road was a winding, curvy beast, narrow but at least paved. Breaks in the trees revealed stunning views of Mount Rainier and St. Helens. I love the blasted-off section of Helens. It takes me surprise every time I see how close it is!

Cascade Mountains, Soda Peaks WA

Hi-ho, hi-ho, to the mountains we go!

Finally at the trail head, I did some intense and very professional lolly-gagging around while J took care of the official stuff before we could get going. Let’s see…I could tighten this strap, my pack would be a little lighter if I drink some water, this shoe lace should definitely be re-tied!

Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, I started feeling the pin-prick bites and immediate itching of a swarm of mosquitoes hosting a block party on my exposed arms, face and neck. With an amazing leap, spin, karate-jump, I began a spastic war dance with flailing arms of swatting fury and shaking get-the-hell-off me leg kicks in a desperate effort to escape the cruel little blood suckers. I successfully dug through my pack and found my last bug-repellent wipe, though how I pulled that off in the midst of my dance, we’ll never know.

J finally came back and we took off at a brisk pace, trying to out-walk the swarms of partying ‘squeeters. The trail had a great incline and the forest was fantastic – a pretty old forest that has the almost park-like appearance it should have. Love it! A new wave of flowers is blooming, too, so I had all sorts of good stuff to gawk at.

Soda Peaks Trail, Cascades, WA

Classic selfie….just me and the trees

Today was not a day for milage – the hike was a measly 3 miles or so. Up 1000 ft, down 1000 ft, and we would arrive at the lake. Cake.

Yeah right. Cruising up the steep trail, I felt a familiar tension in my right calf. That morning I woke up with a weird cramp of sorts, close to a charlie-horse, knotting the top of my right calf. I tried stretching it out when I walked Simba, and stretched it during the whole car ride. I thought I ran it off, shooed it right back to wherever leg cramps come from. But noooooo-ooooooo. With an un-lady-like curse word or two, I stopped on the trail to stretch the muscle against a tree.

This couldn’t be happening. There was NO REASON for my leg to be cramped and knotted like this. It felt not like a cramp but like an injury, yet I had done big fat nothing to sustain an injury. NOTHING. I hadn’t even ran in 5 days!!!

I tried to keep my “injury” to myself and did some pretty amazingly cute attempts to stretch the calf while walking. I mean super cute. It didn’t really help. I had to stop more frequently and J took notice. He asked if I was alright. I muttered more expletives under my breath and kept going. It got worse. My frustration built.  Why can’t I be normal and just go for a simple, pleasant hike in the woods?!

I would like to just include one small detail here: at this point I thought our hike was something like 7 or 8 miles, not 3. And we were barely half a mile in. I was dying, my right leg couldn’t straighten without sending me to the ground howling in pain, and I couldn’t even try to pretend otherwise.

Finally, trying my best not to sound like a 5-year-old drama queen and failing miserably, I flopped to the ground and told J to go on without me. “I’ll be fine, you go. Just come back this way and get me. I’ll just rest here a minute, with the squirrels and birds…and bears….and Big Foot…..” *sniff*

I fully expected J to shrug and say ok.

He did no such thing.

Offering me his hand, he pulled me back to my feet. “We’re almost to the saddle of this little climb. You can rest there while I run down to the lake.”  This is when he told me he changed our route and it was a short day.

The momentary rest had helped and I resolved to push on. And he was right (of course) – the saddle was not far. But I collapsed in tears, struggling to hold it together. I was angry, frustrated, embarrassed, in pain – mostly angry. J pulled out his jacket, checked to make sure I had my pocket knife (you know, in case of Big Foot), and gave me a hug. I could see the lake from my rock seat – he was going to run down, check the campsites and clean up a bit, then be right back. An hour tops. Ok.

Do you have any idea how long an hour is, when you have nothing to do but sit? I wrapped up in J’s jacket – yes, in the shade, at that elevation, a light jacket was welcome – and sat, stretching as best as I could. The view was awesome. So I took pictures. I took pictures of everything in sight, until my phone had enough and turned off.

Mt Rainier from Soda Peaks, WA

Hey Rainier! You’re looking mighty and tall today! Oh, you’re tallest of all? Well aren’t you special….

Rainier through the trees, Soda Peaks WA

Geez Rainier, there you are again…two bad those silly trees are kind of in the way. Your foothills are looking nice, though!

Trapper Creek Wilderness, Cascades WA

Oh boy, we’re in the WILDERNESS now! Weird that I get cell reception…. Oh well, the bearded trees make up for it.

Mt St Helens from Soda Peaks WA

St Helens, is that you?! Oh hey girl hey! (You might have to squint a bit to see her off in the distance….)

I studied every inch of the lake, until I finally saw some movement and watched a couple people messing around by the water. I could hear the voices of conversation, the laughter of fun times. I glowered at my calf, detesting its weakness. I wanted to be down there so bad!

Soda Peaks Lake, Cascade Mountains, WA

Look real hard, right there in the middle – see the lake? I never made it.

I munched on my lunch and drew in the dirt with a stick. I leaned against a tree and watched a pair of birds playing in another tree. I pondered the mysteries of life and sang my ABCs. I was just about to start counting the needles on the closest tree branch when I heard voices. And these were not from the lake.

A couple walked up, the dude shirtless, the girl in the most amazing galaxy-print tights I’ve ever seen. I sat and had a lovely conversation with them while the guy chain-smoked. He was from the area and had all sorts of great info to fill my ears. For instance, I had better get to exploring, as the Cascade Wilderness stretched all the way to Canada and included all the mountains in Washington!! (So not true. Any of it) And that I should work to get in shape so I could do some of the awesome trails from the other side that where crazy long – almost SEVEN miles! (I can run that before this tool even gets up in the morning.) And that you have to be careful of the dangerous wildlife but the fishing is great, and he could show me how to fish by hand if I wanted! (He also told J about the flint and snares he carries for survival. Just in case.)

Power to ya, dude, but you wouldn’t last 14 seconds in the Pasayten Wilderness. Now put out your cancer sticks, don’t litter, and move along. I have Silver Fir needles to count.

Another group wandered up not long after, 3 dudes, 1 older, 2 younger. They were newbies to the woods, I could tell, but they were nice. I have to give them credit for getting out and trekking out side of their comfort zones. They were worried about how much farther they had to go and I pointed to the lake below. “Whoa! That’s far! We better get going so we can make it before dark!” It was probably about 1pm, maybe 2 at the latest. And they only had about 3/4 of a mile to go.

But different people have different perspectives, and skill levels, and knowledge. I hang out with a dude who enjoys dragging me taking me on 3-day excursions through 30 miles of unmaintained trails up down ridiculous peaks. But these folks are probably all from Portland, and a visit to the woods typically means car camping. To each his own. I haven’t always been able to do this, either.

After chastising myself for scoffing at these strangers and mentally making fun of them, I humbled my arrogant self by looking down at my traitorous calf and reminding myself that they were all covering more ground than I was, they were all hiking just fine and I was the injured one. Meekly getting to feet, I put my pack back on. I stretched for the bazillionth time and turned back to the trail. Chanting “I’m not a pansy, I’m not a pansy, I’m not a pansy…” all the way, I began a slow hobble. Down the trail I went, slowly, carefully, deliberately.

I made it down about 50 feet when I saw a familiar green shirt: J, hustling up the trail in his usual fast, mountain-goat uphill charge. He looked a bit startled to see me and asked how I was. I turned around, defeated. No lake for me. Probably for the better, as going down hill means you have to go back uphill, and I wasn’t doing well with uphill today.

The short walk back to the truck was easier, less painful, a little faster. We chatted about the people we had met, and how this area attracts a different crowd, being more accessible and so close to Portland. I admire people who get out and do things they don’t normally do, but I get irritated and highly offended when people don’t pay attention and do stupid stuff, like leaving hot campfires and littering. (Why can’t people understand that toilet paper is litter? It is NOT biodegradable to the extent you think it is, and doesn’t dissolve with the first rain. It sits there on the ground, ugly and disgusting, until some poor Ranger picks it up. Pack it IN, pack it OUT! Ok, rant over.)

Back at the truck, I sadly settled in for the ride back. I got to see Soda Peaks, yes, but not the lake. And my Great Wonderful Summer Hiking turned out to be no more than a pansy rest on the saddle of one of the Soda Peaks, while my pathetic calf muscle seized and cramped. Amateur hour.

And as we pulled out of the parking lot and I scratched my many bites, I realized with a jolt: I didn’t even get any SODA on SODA Peaks!!!

And it was definitely a Dr Pepper kind of day….



Gray Skies and Gray Hairs

30 05 2013

Man, talk about a downer kind of week! The gloomy skies and dribble of rain haven’t let up since last Tuesday. It has put me in a funk, a funk I tell you!

Friday was great and a trip to Portland with my beau lifted my spirits from the drab week. But I wore my contacts and paid the price Saturday. Blind and in pain, I stayed home instead of going hiking with J. LAME!  Sunday, the rain slowed down, so J and I went for a run. I just didn’t have it in me that day and couldn’t make the 6 miles. We turned around earlier than planned and J tried to keep encouraging me (we did still go 5 miles) while I just tried not to pass out. I felt ready to either throw up or break down in tears by the time we made it home. Bigger LAME!

And on top of all that, I was just generally foul. The cranky bug bit me and I couldn’t shake it. I sulked, I pouted, and I moped.  Then came the icing on the cake, the topper to really kick a girl when she’s down: blow-drying my new super-model hair-do, I found 6 or 7 gray hairs right on top. I’m only 28, for crying out loud!

Things that normally cheer me up didn’t work. My long holiday weekend was going to waste because I couldn’t escape from my self-induced pity party.

That is, until I decided I must. I finally reached a point where I couldn’t stand myself anymore and wondered how long J hadn’t been able to stand me, either. So Monday morning, I got up. I took Simba for a walk in the drizzle and didn’t get mad when we tracked a mess through the house on our return. I ate my cereal as cheerfully as I could, though poor J was still cautiously eyeing me from across the room. Finally, he ventured closer for conversation.

“So, would you want to go hiking today?”

I glanced outside at the steady rain, turned back to him and said, “Yes. I would.”  Enough is enough.

We changed clothes. I dug out my rain pants and old waterproof boots and filled a pocket of my cheerful, blue raincoat with treats for Simba. And out the door we went.

hiking in the rain, Falls Creek WA

We’re going out hiking and we’re HAPPY ABOUT IT, DAMN IT!

We drove a ways out toward Carson, WA. J had a particular trail in mind, one he thought I would really like. He’s good at finding trails I like, and I felt stirrings of excitement. My grumpy-pants cure was coming, I could feel it!

The farther west we drove, the harder it rained. The forest was dark and saturated. We made it to the trailhead and stepped out to an eerie hush about the trees. Just the drip-drop of water on the leaves and puddles, making me think of the rain scene in Bambi. You know the one? Drip drip drop little April showers…but without the scary lightning at the end…

Today’s trail, Falls Creek Trail, was relatively flat (compared to the mountains we’re usually climbing) and we  fell into a nice rhythm. We sloshed along and I tried to release my negative energy to the trees, soaking up their life and wisdom. I think trees are just so wise, especially the gigantic old-growth ponderosa pines we passed beneath, quietly watching over the forest for hundreds of years.

Falls Creek Trail, WA

Falls Creek Trail, following (wait for it) FALLS CREEK!

The creek rumbled below and we passed over a couple awesome bridges that scared the bajeebas out of Simba. But my brave little mutt tucked his tail, hunkered low to the boards, and scurried across both bridges, despite his concerns. Good boy!

Unlike Simba, the crashing and tumbling of the swollen creek struggling over the rocks was like a cool salve on my cranky soul. My phone couldn’t capture the healing surroundings very well in the rain, but I tried anyway.

Falls Creek Trail, Carson WA

A little side stream, babbling it’s way down to the bigger brook

Blurry and water-spotted, but beautiful. I tried to focus on that beautiful forest, pushing my stress out. I ignored the blisters forming in my too-small boots, and the dripping strands of hair that refused to stay back, and the water that somehow made it inside my jacket and was trickling down my neck. I took deep, refreshing breaths and took it all in. I….relaxed.

Falls Creek Trail, rainy westside WA

The muted sunlight filtering in through the leaves…breathe in, breathe out….

After just about 2 miles, the chatter of the creek became more of a roar. I nearly bumped into J before noticing he had stopped and was pointing. Duh! Of course there would be a waterfall on Falls Creek. I should have been paying more attention. I still was not prepared for the waterfall we came upon.

Falls Creek Falls, Carson WA

So humbling, I could barely eat my snack!

The above image is just HALF of the waterfall – the top portion is cut off. There were sort of three parts to the falls, and once I quieted my belly with a little snack, I just stood and stared. And stared some more.

Falls Creek Falls hike, Carson WA

Amazing, awe-inspiring waterfall and my two favorite boys – BE HEALED!

And there it happened. At the base of this 200-foot waterfall, with my two best dudes, I felt better. Whatever weight I had been carrying around was lifted, and I felt my old happy self returning. I should have known – if a hike with these two knuckleheads can cure a hangover, it can cure anything!

After a happy hike back, I realized once we got to the car that we were a trio of drowned rats. I brought a towel for Simba and tried to at least get some of the mud off, which was difficult since he was sitting on the towel in the back of J’s car. Then I whipped off my rain gear as fast as I could, threw it in the truck, and dove into the front seat. It was still pouring and I was trying to stay dry! A quick inspection revealed J looking normal, just me and Simba as total train wrecks. But we pretended not to notice and ran some errands on the way home.

…one of which was to pick up a little box that would take out the last little bit of sadness I had left in me. I spent an hour and a half in the bathroom and solved every problem I had left. No more faded, mousy brown, no more dreadful gray.

dark hair shining in the sun

My super-model look is now complete. My hair looks dark until the light shines on it. Then it turns BURGANDY!

Why go gray when I can go Black Cherry?!

Good-bye dreary, dreadful cranky-pants, hello fabulous!!


Old dog, New tricks

14 01 2013

Nothing like another night-time cross country ski adventure to get us out of the house for date-night. Some girls get fancy for their man with a little black dress, I get layered up in little black long-johns. Let’s hit the trails!

Tonight was extra special – our first cross country ski trip with our new mutt, Simba. We had no idea how he would act or if it would work out at all, but he really loves the snow and going bye-bye so we figured it was worth a shot.

I learned a few things out there tonight.

As soon as we unloaded our gear at the trailhead, we discovered J’s headlamp was out of juice. The moon was just a sliver, so he was alone in the dark. Then he said, “Don’t worry, I’ve got the dog. Let’s go!” I indignantly huffed across the ice-sheet-of-death parking lot, pouting. Simba is MY dog, he loves ME the most, I can do everything by mySELF and don’t need ANYONE’s help, and Simba’s first real trip out should be with ME.

Simba and J slid past and over the lip of the trail as I gloated behind them that I had a working headlamp. I hit the lip of the trail behind J, slid gracefully up about 6 inches, then gracefully back 6 inches – enough to throw me off balance. J turned around just in time to see me “gracefully” face-plant. Good thing I have elbows or I probably would have lost a few teeth on that one.

Ok, Karma, I get it. I discovered I need to check myself before I wreck myself. Be nice, Kalista.

I finally heaved myself up onto the trail with mighty help from my poles, and off we went. The trail was pretty nasty; we haven’t had new snow in quite a while, and warm temps last week didn’t help any. Just to be clear, I’m a total train wreck in broad daylight – night skiing is a whole new adventure. Throw in a mega-excited dog and things just got REAL up in here! (Sorry, I’ll never say that again.) I timidly struck out, wobbling a bit and trying to find the tracks that didn’t appear to exist. I heard a peal of laughter and looked up to shine light on what was happening.

The weak illumination of my headlamp just caught them before they were beyond my Circle of Light, J with his poles held high, Simba pulling his load down the trail like his life depended on it. This is where I discovered my dog suffers from multi-personality disorder or is possibly in the midst of a severe identity crisis. This isn’t too surprising considering his background. First, he thinks he’s a hound dog – nose to the ground, trotting along a set of prints, stopping to investigate that extremely fascinating chunk of ice for 5 solid minutes. Now, at the end of a leash attached to J, he thinks he’s a sled dog – head held high, ears back for aerodynamics, tail (what little there is) straight out in sheer joy.


The laughter had come from J. I glided along behind the duo, barely able to control myself as I watched the scene before me. Simba acted as though this was the greatest thing to ever happen to him. J giggled like a 14-year-old school girl as Simba ran side to side, then darted out front again to yank J down trail. We decided to turn around when my light started waning, and I braced myself for the slippery downhill slopes we faced. J turned around and cruised along until Simba decided to go straight ahead again. The couple zoomed out of my light, Simba aided by the slope. I couldn’t tell if J was squealing or laughing. When I caught up, he had the silliest grin on his face.

“That’s a wild ride when I can’t see where we’re going or what’s ahead of me!” I suppose it was a good thing for him to have the dog and not me. I probably would have died, cartwheeling down the trail, breaking every bone and ski and pole. I discovered J can be a bigger mess than me, can giggle like a cast member of Glee, and is usually looking out for me.

The hot chocolate waiting in the Thermos in the car was delicious, even though we could only manage a victory sip without scorching our entire digestive system. Simba ate his dinner at home and immediately passed out. All in all, a great way to spend a Monday evening.

And I guess all 3 of us old dogs learned a thing or two.


The Labor Day Death March

16 09 2012

…also known as “The Weekend Justin Tried to Kill Me.”

…or maybe even “The Best Weekend I’ve Ever Had.” It’s hard to pick. They all apply.

So just what kind of torture did I endure, you ask? Only my favorite kind, of course: hiking!  This was no normal jaunt down the trail, however. This was a 3-day wilderness expedition, complete with unmaintained trails, burly mountains, and full packs. And before you start harping on ole JRock for dragging me out and trying to murder poor little me, know one thing: I begged for this trip!

Oh, you heard me. Begged. Three-day weekend, and I needed out. Out of the house, I mean. Away from my desk, away from my chair, away from this house, AWAY. A case of summer-time cabin fever, feeling swamped at work, and too much time at home by myself. So J agreed to take me out with him.

If you’ve been around awhile, you might remember this time last year – J and I celebrated our 1-year anniversary atop a mountain, on my longest ever hike. This trip would get to double as a get-me-the-hell-outta-the-house trip AND our 2-year anniversary back-packing trip!! (Awwwww…) The trip would also trump last year’s and become the new Longest Ever Hike (for me).

I went into this trip knowing a few keys points: I would be covering more mileage than I ever had before, and I would be doing it in some of the most brutal and unforgiving country out here. (insert gameface) BRING IT. I was so pysched to get out and push myself; let’s see what this chick is really made of!

Saturday morning started off well. We made it up to the trailhead at Hart’s Pass, which was a plus since I’ve failed at this before. Day One would be fairly mellow in terms of terrain we were covering, compared to what was in store. We headed down, down, down, dropping elevation as we cruised down the valley of the middle fork of the Pasayten River. This cruise lasted for about 8 miles, miles we filled by practicing Spanish vocabulary (Me: como se dice “bush”? J: “arbusto” Me: Me gusta el arbusto!), discussing the summer of fun (“did you see my killer dance moves at A and M’s reception?!”), and dreaming of our future (“and when I finish the teleporter and become a billionaire, where should we live first?”). There were also times we would both lapse into silence, drifting off into our own heads, entertaining our own wacky brain trains for awhile. This would occasionally result in hilarious random word vomit as one of us would suddenly spew forth random sentences which the other had absolutely no clue about. Even more crazy is that the recipient of this would often add a completely unrelated comment stemming from their own internal conversation and we would both once again retreat into our internal mine shafts. I seriously wonder how I make it out of there alive sometimes….

We met several groups of people out enjoying the weekend. One group was a wilderness leadership group out for 18 days – now that’s intense! Another group of a couple dudes was headed the same direction we were, and we leap-frogged down the trail, re-passing each other as we stopped for breaks at different times.

Pasayten Wilderness, North Cascades, Washington

Down the trail we go!

We reached the bottom of the valley and had the pleasure of hiking alongside the currently calm waters of the Pasayten River. In spring, the river rages, but this time of year it’s content to babble along the rocks, singing us a sweet song as we marched along with it’s beat. With the calmer waters, we had no problem crossing and stopped on the other side, in a nice meadowy area for lunch. The surrounding forests, open meadows, and towering peaks piercing the sky all around made for some beautiful scenery – as usual. No, I will never grow tired of the awesome beauty of Mother Nature’s work out here.

At one point, we came upon a campsite that J checked out, only to find a trail leading up the bank on the other side of the river. Of course, we dropped our packs and rock-hopped across the water to check it out.

Trail to stock camp, Pasayten River, WA

What’s this? A secret trail? Better check it out!

We found a pretty old stock camp from who knows when, which rang a bell in J’s noggin: there was a report of a cabin back here. Time to explore! We set off in opposite directions to see what we could find. I, naturally, caught a glimpse of it almost immediately. Until it turned out to be a tree. I headed across the bottom of an avalanche shoot and back into the trees and saw the real cabin. Until that turned out to be some shrubs. I got fired from discovering the cabin, which we never did find, and we finally headed back to continue our journey. (This was the second time I got fired – the first was for bad navigating. And all in the first half of the first day….)

Not long after this, we came to our juncture: one trail kept going straight, the other turned and headed up. I’m sure you can guess which way we were headed. We rested with a quick snack before the last 2-ish miles of the day. (Snack breaks are my favorite.) Then began the climb. The day so far had been cool and breezy, enough so that I wore my jacket most of the day. Not anymore. I was stripping all the clothes I could as I poured sweat with every step. The climb was steep, filled with switchbacks, but at least in the trees. Despite my intense heavy breathing and disgusting amount of sweating, I felt pretty good and kept on chugging along. As with most climbs, I was delightfully rewarded.

Fred Lake, Pasayten Wilderness North Cascades, WA

Wowzas, I like this place!

At the top, we came to a little stream running down – the outlet of the lake. Fred Lake, to be exact. Our day’s destination. A couple of gentleman were crouched at the stream, filtering their water. We stopped for a chat and discovered there were quite a few people up here. All but these guys had continued on, headed to Doris Lake. We had thought about doing the same, but we decided to stay away from the crowds in case there were no campsites left. Almost immediately within arriving at Fred, I started adding my layers back on. A brutal wind was whipping down from the peak, chilling the air quickly. I had grand plans to soak my feet in the lake and rinse off my filthy legs, but only one leg got dipped before I decided I’d rather be dirty. Brrr!! I raced back to camp and shimmied into my long johns. We set up camp and ate dinner, huddled against the wind. I had serious doubts about making it through the night.

Fred Lake, Pasayten Wilderness, WA

I was freezing. I have on every piece of clothing I brought, plus J’s rain jacket. J put on a light jacket and hat. Show off.

Finally, out came our food – dinner time! J and I each brought a dinner for the trip. I had made a cold pasta salad for us, which immediately became Day 1 Dinner since the cooked pasta was heavy. Oops. But it was delicious and lightened our packs! Then J fired up our little stove and made some hot apple cider. The sun was still up so we headed over to the lake to enjoy the view and drink our cider, warming our souls and bellies before getting ready for bed. He even let me hold the pot (which we were drinking the cider straight out of – we don’t need no stinkin’ cups!) so the heat could seep into my cold thighs.

Despite the beautiful setting, we hustled back to get everything prepped for the night. J tried teaching me how to make the bear hang (a bag with all our food, etc, so bears couldn’t get it and so it’s not in the tent with us in case they try), but I was shivering and just wanted in my sleeping bag. Yes, knot, ok, four feet from tree, right, a bunch of feet from the ground, sure ok, whatever you say, let’s go! Finally there was nothing left to do…so off to bed. Burrowed in my cozy bag as tight up against J as I could get without slipping off my thermarest, he poked just enough face out to kiss me good night. Happy Anniversary, darling. And that’s the end of Day 1!

Fred Lake Stock Camp, Passayten WA

Resort de la Fred, home sweet home for the night.

Day 1 Stats:
Start: Harts Pass; End: Fred Lake;
about 10.5 miles total; elevation drop: 2000 ft; elevation gain: 2000 ft.

***Editor’s note: I’ve been working on this post a heck of a long time. My blog has not been neglected, but I’ve been unable to publish. Writer’s block maybe? I finally decided to break out each day of this trip into separate posts so I could actually publish something. I don’t flatter myself in thinking anyone has been on the edge of their seat for weeks, waiting to see what I’ve been up to, but I wanted to just assure any who cared that I had not, in fact, been eaten by the monstrous spider who is STILL outside my bedroom window. Days 2 and 3 of the Labor Day Death March will be up shortly. Then probably another post right after that because I just have SO MUCH TO TELL YOU!!


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