Washington

What a Hoh

When I moved from Texas, everyone said they’d come visit.  However, the only one I believed was the Ginger; he said he would come visit to go hiking.  The Ginger is from the Dirty Jerz, and has lived all over the country, so it’s not surprising he is less inclined to enjoy the rolling flatness of Texas, and he’d take the opportunity to escape the oppressive southern summer.

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We planned to meet at Olympic National Park, which would be my first trip there.  After picking him up around the University of Washington campus, we had a three-hour drive to figure out where to start.  After some deliberation between the Ginger, Louboutini, and the Ginger’s travel friend, Cheap Douchebag (CDB), we decided on the Hoh Rainforest (insert “hoe” jokes here).

CDB is not athletic, he is cheap (thus the C), he’s a haughty elitist (“Iiiii went to Harvard Laaaaaaw”) and he does not appreciate nature.  Nor does he appreciate people going out of their way to make it easier for him.  Needless to say, he was a very large damper on the whole thing – complaining, whining, going slow on purpose, not chipping in for anything, and repeatedly mentioning how he liked being in Seattle proper a lot better, with the restaurants, girls, and booze.  Despite his best efforts, however, he still couldn’t ruin the incredible experience we were about to have.

We chose what amounted to a seven-mile hike, that started in the Hall of Mosses.  It wasn’t difficult, but damn, was it beautiful.  Not everything that is gorgeous needs to be hard.

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The main hike would be through the rainforest, and be an out and back.  The trees are so much taller and wider than I’ve ever seen – this is what ants must feel like when they come across a twig.

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Yes, I realize how phallic this all seems…

Summer 2017 had been awfully dry in the PacNW, so the “rain” part of the rainforest was lacking a bit.  Only about 100 inches of rain so far, in an area that usually gets 200 inches a year.  I’m glad we didn’t get rained on, but I cannot imagine the area being even MORE green.  I felt like I was stuck in Kermit the Frog – not that it was a bad thing.

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Friday I’m in Love

My parents were out for about 10 days, and on one of the days, we went to Friday Harbor.  It’s a pretty place on San Juan island.  It reminds me of a west coast version of Port Jefferson, since it’s a big harbor where you can catch a ferry to the nearby islands, or to Victoria, BC.

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One VERY windy boat ride later….

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A full day of travel, windy seas, and walking thoroughly wears you out.

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My parents were thoroughly exhausted after a day of adventuring. 

We wandered the shops and took in the sights, stopping to eat (and encountered a random beach-like thing where I made a red friend as seen in the photos).  We didn’t get to venture out, as the ferries we were able to book didn’t leave much time in between, but I hear there’s a haunted mausoleum that is now on my bucket list.

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Sourdough, Part 1

My parents came to visit a bit ago, and of course, I wanted them to meet my friends, and my new friend Lt. Dan was going to join us. We planned a dinner, but my parents wanted to go on a whale watch, so at the onset, I thought I was going to be by myself for a while. Lt. Dan called, and wanted to go on a hike, so we picked one, and off we went.

We chose Sourdough Mountain, which was rated as hard, but LT. Dan is actually a lieutenant in the military and I had been training to run my second half-marathon, so we figured we’d be fine. I borrowed Louboutini’s truck, and we drove the 1.5 hours to the North Cascades. After a little bit of rerouting due to random accidents and construction (seriously, construction schedules make no sense out west), we made it to the trailhead – and we couldn’t find it. A nice gentleman on his lunch break pointed it out to us, and not only was it totally hidden, but it looked like switchbacks as far up as we could see.
“It’s fine!” I really did think it was fine. We wanted a workout, my legs were strong, Lt. Dan went hiking and rappelling with her boyfriend all the time…we would be fine.

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After switchback #8, we started to get a little sore. We stopped every 15 minutes for a sip of water, but needed to take a 10-minute breather almost every other water break. The first 3 miles of the trail are 1,000 feet of elevation gain each, and the last two miles are not as steep. I know that 1,000 feet per mile doesn’t sound like a lot, but trust me. It is.

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As the day wore on, it took us almost 90 minutes to climb 2 miles. Normally, that is an embarrassingly glacial pace (usually 3 miles an hour is average, when you have elevation changes) but it was a tough hike. They were not kidding when they rated it “hard.” Unfortunately, dinner was soon, so we had to turn around just barely over the 2-mile mark. We still had some incredible views – to be expected when you’re so high up.

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Remember, when you climb up that much, you also have to climb down, and believe me, going down is always harder. The paths are narrow, and the PacNW is (still) in desperate need of rain, so the trails are dusty and slippery. You know how I know that? Because I slipped going down, and took a tumble down the mountain. Yes, really. I fell down a mountain. (I was okay, just some cuts and bruises.)

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Our lunch spot after my tumble.

If you notice, the title of this post has a “part 1.” That’s because Lt. Dan and I resolved to make Sourdough Mountain our bitch by the end of 2017. We’ll make it to the top, and back. Even if it takes all day, and a few more tumbles down the mountain. There WILL be a “part 2.”

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Happy Birthday America! A Foiled Hike

I spent nearly every 4th of July I can remember at my aunt’s beach house in Narragansett, RI. We’d arrive mid-morning, and the cousins would go to the beach and we’d try to get there before all the CT tourists. After a few hours, we’d walk back and have some sort of frozen drink with Grandma, who “didn’t realize it had alcohol!” (miss you every day, Gram). Then, at some point in the mid-afternoon, lunch would be ready (but who are we kidding, we ate all day), and it was usually a huge clambake/cookout, with shellfish, crab salad, burgers and dogs, salads, you name it. Followed by dessert, of course. When my grandfather was alive, we celebrated with birthday cake, and then we’d hang out until it was time for fireworks.

2017 is second year that I was going to miss on account of being across the country (Dallas in 2016), and it was the first 4th of July without either grandparent. In an attempt to take in nature, which was my grandmother’s favorite thing, we went on a hike. Or we tried to, at least.

Louboutini thought going to Blue Lake, a more challenging hike than Diablo Lake, would be fun, and Sandwich actually met up with us on time, so we were getting an early start. We’d have plenty of time to tackle the rated-hard hike, and time for a beer at what we three believe to be the best brewery in upper WA state. After driving for the requisite 1.5 hours, we realized that we had about another hour to go…not exactly what we’d planned.

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Not exactly what we wanted to see in the parking lot.

The last hour was essentially a 6,000 foot climb over a rutted, potholed road barely wide enough for Louboutini’s truck. The map said we’d only a little more to go, but I started to get nervous. “Louboutini,” I said. “There’s snow on the ground. There’s been snow for the last 20 minutes. And it keeps getting snowier.”

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1.5′ of snow at the base of the trail…not looking good.

We managed to make it to what looked like a parking lot, and began the hike. After a good 500 yards, I found the trailhead sign: it was poking out of 18 inches of snow. “Oh, this is the parking lot,” said Sandwich. Not only was the sign snow, but so was the parking lot. where we had parked was actually just where the snow had melted enough to clear part of the road – but we could go no further. Shrug…we were there for a purpose, and off we went.

After about a half mile of following the trail, which was really just footprints in the snow, we came to a fork in the paths. We took the left path, and after another half mile, ended up at a very, very dead end. The maps were not working, and we turned back to the fork. We started to take the right trail, and after about 30 minutes of trying to figure out where the footprint-trails went, we ran into a couple that was attempting to go the way we’d just come. We told them, and then they told us that the way we were going was a 3-prong fork in the trails, and they lead to dead ends as well.

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Sunglasses, tank top, two feet of snow. 

“But what about that big group I saw at the parking lot?” I asked. “Oh, we ran into them, they went a different way and that’s a dead end too. They were on their way back too.”
“Freaking snow in July!” exclaimed Sandwich. He’s a good Texan boy, and snow is totally not his element. We all turned back and headed to the trail we thought would take us back to the truck. When we got there, we decided we definitely needed to stop at Birdsview. So much for Blue Lake, but at least we got beer.  (And a pretty nice view. )

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Diablo Lake

I now understand why we need to have crappy, rainy, grey winters. Because it makes spring and summer in Washington a magical place.

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I’m lucky enough to live close to the North Cascades, and one day, Sandwich, Louboutini, and I decided to head out on a hike. After an hour and a half of driving into what seemed like the bumpkin country, we hit the mountains, and the mountain runoff, which was a stunning shade of jade green.

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I’d chosen to go to Diablo Lake, a place I’d only seen pictures of online. The hike was rated as easy-moderate, an out-and-back 7 miler, and off we went. At the base of the hike, there is an alpine lake where, to my surprise, people were swimming. It was “hot” for Washington, but it certainly wasn’t hot enough to illicit a swim. Especially not in 45F-degree water. And I know how cold it was because I stuck my feet in, and lasted about 3 seconds before I thought I was going to become a White Walker and/or lose my toes to frostbite. But you don’t have to get in the water to appreciate how truly magnificent it is.

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Hiking is difficult walking, as you know, and you work up a sweat. On the way, we ran into a couple of shirtless and sweaty (…I mean) muscular and modelesque hikers on their way back who offered some advice – a better lookout point than the end of the trail, and how to find it. We followed their advice, and made our way down to the secret side path.
Hot Hikers were right. It WAS an incredible view. It looked just like the internet!

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We did end up going to the end of the trail, and it wasn’t anything special. It was cool to see the hydroelectric dam, but the secret viewpoint was worth it. I’ve even considered going back to just sit for a while and think.

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Today’s Lesson:  When Hot Hikers offer a you a Pro Tip, you take it.  And then you get their numbers for later.  You know.  Just to let them know how it went, of course.

 

 

 

Mount Erie

The first few weeks in Washington were not as pleasant as I’d have liked. It rained all day, every day, for about four months. It was grey and raw, and chilled me to the bone. It was light for no more than 6-7 hours a day. I knew no one, had no friends, and didn’t know where anything was. Lonely, cold, sad. Yes, I cried a lot. I was, for lack of a better word, miserable.

However, at some point, we got a small break in the clouds (literally, a few hours), and I managed to make it to Anacortes to explore a bit. Yes, it took me that long to venture out of the house to go exploring – because with my job, and not knowing anyone, what else would get me outside?

Anacortes is a town on Fidalgo Island, and it’s gorgeous. It doesn’t have the same types of mountains as the Canadian Rockies to the north, or the Cascades to the East, but it’s got running trails, spectacular westward views (“I can see Alaska from my house!” – not really), and the quaint cobblestone main street with the breweries and tchotchke shops that elicit a feel that is reminiscent of the seafaring towns of New England.

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There’s also a little mountain – Mount Erie. And the convenient part is that there is a paved road that brings you all the way to the top. And so I drove. And I finally started to appreciate where I’d moved. It was a wet, misty 40F, but the sun was trying to break through, so it made for a stunning view.

Luckily, the rain and mist, coupled with the trying-so-hard sunshine meant I got something like a Lord of the Rings forest view while driving.

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When I got to the top, there was a lookout, and it showed the lake, and the Pacific Ocean beyond.  If you look close enough, you miiiiiiight be able to see Canada on a clear day.

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There was even a little bridge on the lookout point that had wishing locks.  I didn’t know about them previously, but I wrote myself a note to bring a lock and key for next time.

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One Way Ticket on a West-Bound Train

Sometimes, you just have to YOLO and figure you aren’t getting any younger, so you might as well just buy the shoes!  Take the trip!  Kiss the guy in the bar that bought you a drink!  Move across the country….again!

Back in June, I got a new job in a new location, and therefore bought new shoes.

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No….wait, that’s not the point (though they’re pretty, and I’ve actually worn them!).  The point is that I quit my job at Yale, packed up everything I owned into two small shipping boxes, and flew to my new home: Dallas, Texas.

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Dallas was….fine.  Not bad, excruciatingly hot in summer, and traffic was awful.  Not the best place, not the worst.  So when the opportunity to move to the PacNW came up, I thought, “Hey, I’ve always wanted to live there, it will be wet and raining, but it will be lush and green.  Let’s go!”  Of course, it wouldn’t be Seattle (damn), but it would be halfway between Seattle and Vancouver, BC, which is almost as good.

Of course, I got all excited and forgot about the actual moving part.  This means lots of packing and shipping (again), but it also meant a road trip for the things they wouldn’t ship, like firearms, booze, and liquids.  (Also, for things that I refuse to ship, like some of my pandas).  I took some time off of work, rented a car, and mapped out a route for the 2400 miles between my old home in Texas, and my new home in Washington.

After some whirlwind packing, tearful goodbyes, and one last burger from my favorite Dallas burger place, I set off on my one-way road trip, leaving Dallas in my rearview.

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