Almost there

Planning for a trip is… well, not as much fun as actually being on the trip, but certainly a big, enjoyable aspect of taking a trip! B and I leave for the North Cascades on Wednesday morning. These past couple of weeks, but this last one in particular, my brain’s been swirling with thoughts of gear and scenarios. I’ve been to my favorite gear shops here in town, and my living room looks like a gear volcano exploded in it. I’ve been visiting the NCNP’s trail conditions page far more frequently than there has been any chance of them updating it, and debating how best to arrange things for the day we depart (when we have to be at the ranger station to convert our reservation into a permit by 11 am). I’ve questioned which of my gear is necessary and which is optional (there are spreadsheets), and thought a lot about trail food. And this, to me, is fun. (Non-backpacking trips have a different set of funs.)

What about for you? Do you enjoy the planning aspects of vacationing, or is it all about the trip itself and you’d rather skip the planning?

Flying visit to the Oregon Coast

Prompted by one too many Instagram photos of Thor’s Well and the unexpected availability of a campsite at Rock Creek Campground, B and I took a quick trip down to Yachats, on the Oregon coast, this past weekend. While Thor’s Well itself was under-well-ming (sorry not sorry), the trip as a whole was marvelous!

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We stopped in Corvallis for caffeine and a snack on the way down. I’d never been to Corvallis, and had basically nothing on my mental index card for it. Turns out, it’s got a cute little downtown with at least one marvelous musical instruments store, at least one good coffeeshop, and a nice linear waterfront park with sculptures and a fountain for kids to splash in and a mixed-use path. Oh, and some great murals:

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High tide peaked at around 8 pm on Saturday, so we had time to go to the campground in the Siuslaw National Forest and set up our tent for the night before going to see the Well. Continue reading

March 10, 2018

Spring is here! The time when a young woman’s fancy turns to thoughts of ADVENTURE! Time to start more than daydreaming – time to start figuring out daily mileages for possible backpacking trips, gear lists, schedules… My inaugural backpacking trip was three summers ago (far too long), so it’s time to do another. This year I’m looking at North Cascades National Park.

It’s funny to me the differences between Washington’s three national parks. (Washington also has a slew of national historic and recreation areas.) In 2017:

  • Olympic National Park had 3.4 million visitors;
  • Mt. Rainier National Park had 1.4 million visitors; and
  • North Cascades National Park had… 30,326 visitors.

(Thank you to the NPS stats peeps and page for their endlessly engrossing data! https://irma.nps.gov/Stats/ I’m interested to find out what happened from 1990-1991 at NCNP to change the visitor numbers so radically; I am guessing either they decided to start counting the visitors separately for the various parts of the park complex, or just started counting differently, full stop.)

Anyway, I know that there are many different ways to quantify park usage, and that visitor counts has its limitations as a measure. But however you slice it, the Olympics and Mt. Rainier are just a lot more popular than the North Cascades. I have various theories on why that might be – proximity? ease of access? self-fulfilling cycles? weather/seasons? possible activities? witchcraft? – but I’m going to take advantage of it and go explore one of the least-visited parks in the whole national park system, which is still only a few hours from Seattle. If I get the itinerary I hope for, it will also be the closest to Canada I’ve ever been – at one point I’ll be five trail miles from the border. It will also be the third national park I’ve ever visited, after Crater Lake and last summer’s extremely brief visit to the Olympics, but the one which I will have spent the most time in (again assuming I get the itinerary I want).

To prompt your adventure-daydreaming, I urge you to have a look online or on social media for photos of the North Cascades National Park. If you want to know what specifically is luring me in, search for “Copper Ridge trail” and “Whatcom Pass.” And then see if you don’t want to start planning your own backpacking trip immediately, too!

Beginning (-ish) a new year

{Editor’s note: I wrote this entry in the first few days of January, but am only just now posting it a few days before the end of the month. Fortunately, I was not so silly as to have made a “be more prompt with my blog entries” resolution or anything like that.}

So we made it through 2017. What a year of extremes!

On the one hand, I have spent much of the year dreading doing things like opening the news in the morning or going onto social media, because inevitably I end up actually nauseated by what I see. 2017 has had far too much of the feelings of rage, dread, helplessness, and horror for my preference. On many occasions, I have almost given up, almost lost the will to fight anymore. When my nation is ostensibly led by an egomaniac with a raging inferiority complex, no filter between brain and mouth (or Twitter fingers), and, seemingly, the urge to wreck anything good – and then stand proudly in the ruins proclaiming himself the king of the playground – well, it’s hard to keep up optimism and energy.

On the other hand, I have also been happier this year than I have for a while. I accomplished some big things – climbed my first mountain! walked Wildwood Trail end-to-end! learned to ski! learned to lead climb! – that I can be proud of. And I got to go back to France and to the UK for the first time in years, and thrill to having my French be as good as it ever was. But it’s the personal things, more than any accomplishments, that have made me happy. Continue reading

…no, there is too much. Let me sum up.

So, apparently it’s been six months since I last wrote in here. That’s both surprising and not. Surprising, because I’m still finding it hard to believe that we’re in June already, not surprising because I have tried to write multiple times and have found it too complicated to continue. (As evidenced by the fact that I rewrote those last five words about eight times, even just now.)

However, following my friend A’s conclusion that “Done is better than perfect,” I’m just going to try to brain-dump some.

It was a hard winter. Meteorologically, it seemed to go on forever – I only just put away my winter sweaters last weekend, and that was in despite of the forecast calling for highs in the low 60s later this week. Politically, it was…challenging. Psychologically/emotionally, it was hard – my grandfather died in early October. Physically, it was discouraging, and continues to be – seems like every time I think I’m finally moving forward, past the injuries of the past couple of years, I’ll retwist my ankle stepping on ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ON A FLAT TRAIL, or twist my knee on a green slope wipeout while learning to ski, or do something wonky to my wrist while climbing in Leavenworth. I’m struggling with the idea that this is the new normal for me – having to be careful about one joint or another, and constantly having to gauge whether the ache/pain I feel is enough to justify holding off on physical activity for x amount of time more, or if I should just work through it. Because the other problem is that since I have been a lot less generally physically active in the last eight months than I would otherwise have been, I am less fit than I’ve been in years, and it’s getting me down.

Three weeks ago, two men were killed and another was badly injured at the Hollywood Transit Center here in Portland. They had stepped in to try to stop a guy who was shouting racial/religious/ethnic hate speech at two teenage girls, one wearing a hijab, the other black. The guy turned and stabbed/slashed at the three men, fatally wounding two of them. The two men who died were Ricky Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namki Meche. Mr. Best was a father of four and a Veteran; Mr. Meche was a fellow Reedie, freshly graduated and out to save the world. (Among his last words, apparently, were “Tell everyone on this train that I love them.”) The man who survived, Micah Fletcher, is a PSU student and poet.

Memorials at the Hollywood Transit Center

I started crying when I happened to go through the transit center a couple of days ago for an unrelated errand and saw all the memorials. I don’t have a coherent narrative for what I (along with all of Portland) am trying to process. There’s the grief for the victims and their families, swallowed up in an instant by loss that should not have had this place in their lives. There’s sorrow and heartache for the girls, who did not deserve to be targets in the first place and now have the additional psychological burden of the consequences. There is vertigo, of sorts, a reeling incomprehension. (How could the attacker have done this, any of this? Reading the narratives, seeing the warning signs in his past actions and avowed beliefs, brings me no closer to comprehension.) There is second-guessing. (What if I had been there and been the one to step in? Would he have attacked a woman? What if the people who’d stepped in had found a different way to intervene – would he still have attacked? What else am I missing about the city that I love and call home?) And there’s fear: fear for what this will mean for the future. Fear that this will mean that people – that *I* – won’t act as Best, Meche, and Fletcher did when it is next needed, fear that fear will keep me and others from trying to save the world in the small ways that are all that 98% of us will ever have the opportunity to effect.

All that being said, the winter wasn’t all bad, and things are getting better. Continue reading

Progression

We’re coming up on the ten-month mark since I fell and broke/sprained my ankles. In the past few months, I’ve been telling those who ask that I feel like I’m back to about 93% of where I was, and that percentage hasn’t moved much. That reflects that although I have been mostly functional – I’ve been climbing and can usually walk out any ankle stiffness within a few minutes, etcetera – I have still felt limited. I am still hesitant to try running again, no matter how much I miss the trails, and after one dance back in the summer that left me with an aching ankle for a couple of days, I’ve felt like I had to avoid dancing, too.

I can dance now, however! I had a friend in town this last weekend, and he wanted to go hear a bluegrassy band play. Since they were playing at the Secret Society, I guessed it was probably actually a dance, so I figured I would wear my “dancing outfit” – Converse and dark clothes (to make my sweating less visible) – and, you know, at least try to dance once. To my delight, I was able to dance without any apparent problems, and I ended up dancing about two out of every three dances in the hour and a half the band played. For me, this was holding back; normally I dance basically every dance. I thought it would be best not to push it, so I sat a few out. Another friend showed up towards the end, and I bounced over to her, exclaiming “I can dance I can dance I can dance!”

I had almost forgotten how much I love dancing. I haven’t been missing it as much as I have trail running or climbing, because I hadn’t been dancing all that often in the year or so before I broke my ankle. Partly that’s because I was recovering from another sprained ankle from the summer of 2015, and partly that’s because dancing tends to take place too late for me. But dancing on Saturday reminded me of how surprisingly important dancing is in my psyche. (I say surprisingly because before my freshman year of college I didn’t really dance. It was only when I took jitterbug for a PE credit, and my friend B took it with me and essentially taught me a year’s worth of swing dancing in the space of a quarter, that I discovered how much I love it. So somehow it still seems new to me… even though by now I’ve been dancing for almost half my life.)

So that is awesome, having dance back in my life. And I might try a little gentle trail-running on the mulched paths of Mt. Tabor sometime soon. But I think another lingering issue may be here to stay.

Before I fell, I wouldn’t say I was a fearless climber, but when it came to bouldering at least, there wasn’t a lot that phased me. I both love and fear one corner of the Circuit gym in southwest Portland, because there are so often great stemming problems set there and because I’ve fallen from near the top so many times. But that was the exception, really.

Now, however – and I know I’ve said this before – fear has become a refrain in my climbing. I’d like to think that I’m getting better, that I am less likely now to really panic like I did in a Leavenworth weekend back at the end of September, but I still get hit at unexpected and usually inconvenient times with thought-scrambling bouts of fear. And while that hasn’t stopped me climbing and pushing myself to try harder things and risk falls from greater heights… I wish it would go away. This is now the primary thing holding down my “percent recovered” estimation. When any given climbing session will almost certainly contain some degree of fear, I just don’t feel, well, myself, my old self.

Maybe the fear will continue to recede. Maybe it won’t, in which case I’ll just come to grips with that being the new normal, and keep on keeping on. I don’t know.

It is gratifying, however, that on Tuesday of this week – one week shy of ten months since falling – I got my first post-fall 5. Not only got it, but flashed it. Despite being hit by fear one move from the top, when my hands were getting tired and I wasn’t sure I had enough strength left in one of them to remove the other to reach for the top. I went for it anyway, despite the fear (the fear that’s making my palms sweat as I type this, thinking back on it), and didn’t fall and did finish. …It wasn’t even that hard. I had been struggling – like, a LOT – on a 3 only minutes before this. But hey, it’s a 5! I’ll take it.

More climbing

I went climbing in a new place last weekend! Not Leavenworth or Smith Rock, nor even Carver or Ozone, but Frenchman Coulee, a charmingly obscure name for a charmingly remote set of walls near Vantage, WA. Remote, but nonetheless very busy during the three-day weekend. The first three of us arrived around 2 pm on Friday, and were able to find a camping space large enough for our whole group (eventually totaling five people), but groups that arrived later were definitely struggling. In all, I would guess that there were about 100-150 people in the main camping area, where we were, and an additional 50 or so in the secondary area, over the Feathers to the northeast. It wasn’t much of an issue, although the vault toilet was very, very, very full and kinda gross. (But I’m so glad that it was there!)

I didn’t climb on Friday – I wasn’t sure how many climbs I would be able to do and wanted to save them for Saturday/Sunday – but J and D headed up to the Feathers after we all set up our tents, and got a couple climbs in each. (It got dark around 4:45 pm.) Having been joined by B, we huddled around the campfire for a couple of hours…without any firewood. Instead, we had a string of solar-powered LED fairy lights that D had brought, which we draped around the ring of stones. Continue reading

Last weekend in Leavenworth (this season)

A couple of friends and I went climbing in Leavenworth, WA this past weekend, eager to get in one more good session of bouldering before the outdoor season pretty much ends. And apart from my mood tanking on Saturday evening (PMS + recent death in the family + allowing myself to get cold, hungry, and dehydrated), we had a really good time. It only rained at night, when we were all nestled snug in our tents, and although the rain did mean a few climbs were untenable, we still managed a good selection. Highlights included B flashing “The Physical” (a V4), E flashing “Lovage” (V3-) and me getting my first-ever outdoors V2 (“Machine Gun Funk, AKA Susan’s Arete”). That was particularly nice because I tried it repeatedly, getting about the same distance each time, then took a big, long break, actually really looked at the problem and did some beta-thinking, and the next time I got onto it and tried my new beta, which I had worked out myself, I finished it.

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Icicle Creek

 

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