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?
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!
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:
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 →
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!
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.
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 →
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.
My friends and I spent the final weekend of July camping in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, with day hikes in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. Our campground of choice (this is the second year we’ve been there) is the Iron Creek Campground. It’s well-maintained, laid out in such a way that it never seems crowded, even when every campsite is full, and has the added bonus of proximity to the lovely Cispus River, perfect for cooling off after those hikes! In short, highly recommended. Our evenings were spent around a campfire at the “main” site of the three our group had. An innovation this year was a group dinner on Saturday night of campfire nachos, which were great!
On Saturday, I joined the majority of the people in our group in a hike toward Heart Lake/Johnson Peak, up and along a ridge overlooking Packwood Lake and Mt. Rainier. Getting to the trailhead involved some self-doubt, as I was driving the lead car and the directions our thirty-year-old guidebook gave along the twisting snarl of Forest Service roads were sketchy. We had a modern map to help things along, but it was still very much a case of “just as you start to think you should turn around and go back to x turn and take the other choice, you arrive at the trailhead.” We may have cheered.
The guidebook said that the trail runs, “up and down, but mostly up” on the way out, and that was certainly the case. Truthfully, the first few miles of this route aren’t a lot of fun. They aren’t horrible, either – mostly just monotonous. The trail in all its late-summer bushiness would have pleased the Knights Who Say Ni, but miles of dust and leg-whacking shrubs wasn’t the most fun I’ve had on a trail.
On Sunday, I went on my second hike since breaking my ankle. Did Dog Mountain in the Gorge with a friend. Took about three hours round-trip – including very little time at the [blustery, foggy, quite cold] top. It’s only been about four and a half months, and the Dog Mountain hike is about 7ish miles long (there’s some disagreement about this), with 2800′ of elevation gain (thus sayeth the Washington Trails Association). So I am content.
Sunday saw record-high temperatures, beautiful blue skies, and my first hike since breaking my ankle! My friend Paul (author of The Guide) was in town, and seeing as he’s both an exceptionally experienced hiker/backpacker and understanding of what it means to be recovering from serious injury, I asked for his recommendation on a hike in the area that would be somewhat challenging but not too bad. After a bit of back and forth, we settled on Tom Dick and Harry Mountain, out in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness. I had heard much about this hike, but had never been. Time to redress that insult to my local Oregon wildlands!
We set out from Portland around 7:30, and got to the trailhead at 8:30. The limited parking was already almost full, and the day was already quite warm. We strapped on our various braces – both of us now have dodgy ankles – and set off. Continue reading →