Mount Si, June 2019

~ A vulnerable post about depression ~

I couldn’t sleep. I spent half the night awake. A 37% sleep score. Ugh. Depressed, full of anxiety, overwhelmed, empty, alone, isolated. Feels like everything is out of control and amiss. Why can’t I just control my brain and be cool? Be happy? I wasn’t working the next day but had plans to volunteer at a local farm that morning. But just couldn’t do it. So I cancelled. I needed to clear my head. How to make my brain feel better? Get into the mountains. Go to my happy place.

I left Vashon Island pretty early without even looking at the forecast. It wasn’t until later that I realized that the sky was overcast and rain was on the horizon. I opted to go to the nearest decently high mountain – so went to Mount Si. Maybe avoid the afternoon rain. Si is typically overrun with crowds on the weekends and therefore not necessarily the best hike since it’s so close to Seattle. But this dreary Wednesday would be safe and unmobbed with relatively few others out there.

I felt amiss but hoped the mountain and the trail would bring me clarity. I parked and made my way up the 3150 ft and 4 miles of switchbacks toward the top. In such a shitty mood. I hated everything. Why is life so hard for seemingly no reason sometimes? Is it just me? You know when you’re really exhausted and really hungry and life just feels really, really hard? That’s what it’s like. Maybe you get it, maybe you don’t. I feel like I’ve described this feeling to more people who have no idea what I’m talking about than who do, so who knows. I was really banking on the smell of the trees, the peace and quiet, the solitude, the endorphins and fresh oxygen to make it all ok. I felt like crap but hiked on.

I wanted to turn around when I was cold but kept going instead. If I kept moving I’d stay warm. And more likely I would regret quitting in the middle than being slightly uncomfortable, so I plodded ahead. Tears in my eyes, I tried to suck it up and look normal whenever another person came into my proximity. Hello. Hi. Yes, how are you? Good. Fine. Hike. Hike. Stay warm. Hope for no rain. Hike. Hike. Overwhelm. Hike. Hike. “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” (the Cat Power version) and “Closer to Fine” by the Indigo Girls play in my head.

I reach the top, snap a few pictures. Change into a dry shirt. Head down. Still feeling shitty. Halfway down. Argh. Can’t it just get better? What’s wrong with me? What am I going to do? Fuuuuuck. I look up into the trees pleading for help. The treetops waft in the breeze. I am immediately overcome with a feeling of calm and peace and a sense that everything is going to be fine. Ok. Yes. Clarity. Thank you nature. You’re right, everything is going to be fine. Get out of my head. Love, I think. I need more. To give more and receive more and open myself up to it. Maybe that’s it. And with that I can breathe and relax. I focus on a loving kindness meditation of sorts for the remainder of the hike down and feel ok. Ok! Good. Tired, under-rested and worn down, but feeling ok. Thank you tree god universe nature. 

Breathe, love, keep going, spend more time in nature. 


Bandera and Mason Lake, June 2019

Friend Renee came to visit for a full week in late May, early June. While we spent most of our time on Vashon exploring trails and farmstands, at farms and in the garden, we were able to get out into the mountains on a beautiful – albeit crowded – Saturday. The ideal hike we saught: epic views, 2.5-3 hours or less from home, 10 miles, and full of solitude. We found everything but the solitude on our hike to Bandera and Mason Lake. High point 5240 ft, elevation gain 3400 ft+, distance 10 miles.

We arrived at the trailhead to around 10 am on a Saturday. Actually, not quite 10am because a few miles shy we were greeted by a backcountry ranger warning us about crowds, a full parking lot, to please only park on one side of the road in order to avoid an impass or car wreck, but be careful of the soft shoulder as last week two cars rolled over the edge of the steep forest road. Yikes! We parked 0.6 miles from the trailhead and walked to the start. Jared forgot his water and had to go the 1.2 miles roundtrip to the car and back. Whoops.

But then we were off – onto the mild yet steadily climbing Ira Spring Trail. We tried to count the hikers and dogs – a requisite pastime on hikes with N&C – yet we lost track after 150 people and 30ish dogs. And that was merely on the way up. The throngs of hikers were well spaced though, so no conga lines or bad trail etiquette to fret over. Early on Jared planted the hunger seed and mentioned how tasty Indian food would be after the hike. At the split, we went right up the steep trail that led to Bandera’s summit, which yielded amazing views of Rainier, the Cascades, and Mason Lake. Snack time. Rest time. From there we returned to the trail junction and bore right again to scope out Mason Lake. On the banks we relaxed, took in the sunshine, and watched a few bold dogs and hikers jump in the icy lake.

The walk out was easy. We conjured up images of Indian food. We returned to our car in time to admire the small town of Carnation, sip a quick beer at the Black Raven brewery in Redmond, and of course savor garlic naan, onion naan, Saag Paneer, Chana Masala, extra yogurt sauce, and Bhuna Gosht at Kanishka before returning home…

Dog Mountain, May 2019

Jared and I found ourselves in Hood River OR, on the way to Bend, in mid-May. So we hiked Dog Mountain. 6 miles roundtrip. 2800 feet of gain. A high point at 2948 feet. It was a niceish day. A bit clouded in, some rain, and very, very windy on the mountain. The clouds parted on our way down for some great views of the Columbia River Valley. Spring flowers were in full yellow bloom. We originally thought we might make a go for Augsburger Trail – which would have been 15.5 miles roundtrip, 4400 ft of gain and a high point of 3000 feet – but upon discovering the wind and getting rained on, compounded with the fact that Jared forgot to pack a jacket of any kind and only had a rain kilt-as-cape, we opted for the shorter hike. A swell hike though! Plenty of other people out there on a Saturday. We ran down the trail. And we discovered that with all our extra time we could consume a lot of food, beer, and cider. On a clear day, it would be sweet to hike all the way to Augsburger for the excellent Mt Adams views.

Paradise Snowshoe, May 2019

Cousin Kristy and I just had to visit Rainier while she was in town from Boston! Early May, lots of snow, 100″+ of base snow at the Paradise Visitors Center. Snowshoes. Buttsleds. Warnings of avalanche danger. Sunshine, warmth, lots of tourists. Skiiers, mountaineers, folks in bluejeans. Amazing views of glaciers. Horizon views of St Helens and Adams and more. Parking lot snacks. Sunburns. Amazing.

Lena Lake, May 2019

My folks, Nancy and Charlie, along with cousin Kristy came out to visit Jared and me at our home on Vashon Island. Thanks for the visit, fam! Being early May (much snow at at most elevations) and on an island (thereby not super close to many hikes) we decided to take a leisurely 7.2 mile roundtrip hike to somewhat nearby Lena Lake in the Hood Canal region of the Olympic Peninsula (maybe a 2 1/2 hour drive for us each way).

The high point was 2000 feet and the gain 1300 feet. N&C and Kristy regularly crush the New Hampshire 4000-footers in spring, summer, fall, and winter, so this lil’ hike was a breeze. Charlie might even call it a “knoll”.

The hike was gentle and tree-filled. Some waterfalls and streams. And the lake sure was perty! We spied freshwater oyster shells on the shore of lower Lena Lake. Were we hallucinating? It was a nice walk with the family, a good time to chat and catch up and learn about Kristy’s latest goings-on. This is also the route to climb the prominent 6800+ foot Brothers which sounds intriguing – not something I could do right now but certainly something to dream about for another day…

Enabling Exploring…

Doesn’t #vanlife look p sweet bra? Chya.

I am sometimes tempted by the pretty instagram pics and glamorous YouTube videos on #vanlife. Exploration all the time, a life of freedom and fun, not a care in the world, it’s all sunshine and rainbows as far as I can tell. Especially alluring after a dark winter, doesn’t it look like a mirage of sunshine on the horizon?

Ok yeah, realistically it’s probably more like bickering with your partner in cramped quarters, pooping in a vehicle, and trying to hide and pretend that you’re not in there at night so nobody calls the cops. Maybe not wholly glamorous…

Besides, I get the impression that many people drop tens thousands of dollars on a tricked out Sprinter van, hop in, then realize – oh wait… is this really what it’s all about? While there are certainly pros and cons, I still admit, there are some days when I think it would be super convenient to have mobile living quarters to drive to a trailhead on a Friday night, or maybe even crash in spur-of-the-moment on a road trip or impromptu escape into the mountains. But wait – do I need the finest and most-decked out of Sprinter vans with tiled kitchen walls, a vitamix, queen sized bed, swivel seat, and solar shower to find what I seek? Do I? No. I don’t.

Remember – perfect is the enemy of the good. KISS – keep it simple, stupid. Sometimes scraping by and scrapping by with the bare minimum will suffice to achieve the goal. Let’s back up a sec. What exactly is it that I is it that I need to achieve what I’m looking for? What AM I looking for? Goal: mobile sleeping quarters to crash at a trailhead. Needs: privacy in a car. Semi-stealth ability. Moderate comfort. I own a Toyota Matrix. With the seats down, it’s kinda almost long enough for me to sleep when I position my 5’2″ self at a diagonal – which means it’s totally impossible for Jared at 5’10-11″ to get a wink of sleep. I sometimes hang fabric curtains with safety pins in the most rag-tag way if I want to car-sleep. And it’s really not comfortable or cutting it. Unless…

Let’s rethink this…

Problem: Cramped quarters. How can I extend the sleeping space? Solution: Scootch front seats forward as far as possible and use a sturdy piece of plywood across the end to lengthen the space to a grande 77″! Winner.

Problem: Crappy curtains. How do I improve the privacy and minimize the space occupied by curtains? Solution: Window coverings with blackout fabric and velcro. Yessss.

Ok then. A successful solution. I have the plywood. And it’s in the car. Check. Curtains are 70% complete. Just need to sew a few more and add the velcro. Almost check. All I need to do is sew some more, hit the road, and try to sleep!…


Not QUITE Hiking…

As this is a “hiking” blog I feel obligated to stick to the subject! However, I have not been hiking at all lately. Sadly to say. Being a home owner on Vashon Island in the southern Puget Sound is great and all, but it leads to some distance from mountains. Especially in March and April. And winter. I have several hiking trips on the horizon: a few weeks on the PCT in northern OR/southern & central WA, the ENCHANTMENTS! in mid-July (google it. Thank you Heidi for scoring the sweet permit!), and hoping for weekends and who-knows-where/what trips here and there.

What have I been doing, if not hiking? Well – making quilts and wall-hangings, and working a few gigs: gym job (front desk at the local athletic club a few 4 am mornings per week), substituting at the local schools (the preschoolers were particularly adorable the other day), covering shifts at the local consignment store (Luna Bellas), and TEACHING KIDS CLIMBING at the local climbing gym. Hence my post….

Teaching kids climbing:

It’s an interesting and fun job. New to me, teaching and working with kids. It’s 5-6 hours per week. Teaching is fun and hard. Kids 4-11 years old. 3 classes, 2 days/week. We have the beginners, the intermediates, and the advanced. Each class is 45 min-1 hour long.

The kids have a free climb for 5-15 minutes.

Then warm up movements and climbing.

Then games and/or climbing instruction depending on the age group and attention + focus of the individual kids.

Games like: Monkey and Tiger (climbing wall tag), Shark Attack, Pointer, Add-On, Simon-Says, Red-light-Green-light.

Then a few minutes of free time if they stay focused.

Ending with cooldown stretches.

And voila! That’s it.