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Dry Creek Trail / Trapper Creek Wilderness:

Fungi with Fun Guys:

Our first hike after Mt. St. Helen’s was a rainy, but stunning mini-hike in early November.  We met at Phil and Annie’s beforehand, and had an amazing sunrise view of the shadow of Mt Hood across the clouds on our way there.  Annie was off to Squim, OR with the kids to visit her Mum, and we packed them up before everyone went on their ways.

hood

The Trapper Creek Wilderness is on the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge.

sign

 

The hike was fairly short and easy, especially compared to Mt St Helen’s.  I lagged a bit behind though, taking photos.  There was barely a sound but for a few birds, the creek, and the tomfoolery of these two:

fun-guys

The forest was lovely, and the creek was full and fast due to the rain I’m sure.

trail creek

Most of the trail runs along the creek but is quite safe for adults.  Kids might create additional challenges, just be aware.

 

There’s quite a bit of fungi along the trail as well.  We even met a mushroom forager along the way.  He had hiked in from the other side of the trail and crossed the creek. (we did not)  His basket was full of a multitude of specimens.  Here are just a few of the many I photographed along the way.

fungi1fungi2fungi3lobster-mush

Phil pointed out this amazing insect art as well:etched-wood

We were a bit damp when we arrived back at the truck, but being out again together – even in a smaller group- felt great!  The stop at a local pub helped as well!

The weather and our schedules since then have been prohibitive to us getting back out there, but plans are in the making!  We’ll be including more of our original group and a select few extras!!!!

 

 

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What We Carry – The Best Laid Plans:

Crater's edge
Crater’s edge

*I should note here that this hike was in September. Life has been challenging us a bit more than usual lately.  I’ll be sharing some of those challenges online with you – hopefully sooner than I was able to get to this post.

We had a grand plan to train for our Mt. St. Helens hike.  Sure; it was an escalated/abbreviated training schedule.  Yes; we should have started much sooner.  But we had a plan.  5 weeks, one big hike a week.  Nick Eaton was the first, then maybe Dog Mountain or Trapper Creek Loop, then Table Mountain to train for the boulder field, next Elk King Traverse for serious steepness and butt kicking, and lastly Tanner Butte for endurance.  It was a good (if accelerated) plan.  But the path to hell is paved with good intentions.  And so we found ourselves with only one hike under our belts for training hiking up Mt. St. Helens.  Yes; I know, that’s just crazy.  But it’s true.

We did, however, have nice gear.  I got a fabulous rain coat, new convertible pants, a base layer, and a hat with a little hole in it for my ponytail (Awesome Score!) at an amazing price at the Columbia Outlet.   We looked great!  And we had AMAZING snacks bought at our local Trader Joe’s!  I made an awesome trail mix the night before, (Roasted unsalted cashews, peanuts, and almonds, raw pumpkin seeds, honey sunflower coated cashews,dried cranberries, and a bag and a half of peanut butter m&m’s that my oldest step-daughter; Makala, thought to add in. She’s brilliant!) Cliff bars, an apple each, peanut butter pretzels, turkey jerky, roasted plantain chips, and 3 liters of water each.  I also got each of us an emergency blanket and whistle from REI just in case.  We had our phones for photo ops and rented;because I forgot mine, 2 sets of hiking poles.  (Makala and I shared a set for half the hike up.  I’m better without, so I gave her the one I was using and we both did better.)  Our bags were FULL.

The three of us met our friends Annie and Phil at the room we rented in Cougar, WA. We got there first to check in and bought a few things at the little store (candy and sunscreen).  As far as I’m concerned you can eat candy at zero calories if you’re hiking up a mountain.  And You Must Wear Sunscreen.  You are Closer to the Sun.  So, the room was like going to camp, No Frills, but ok. There was basically no cell service.  Craig and I shared the bunk-bed because Makala called the twin.  I got the top bunk. It was pretty fun.  I wore my headlamp to do a crossword before bed.  I was transported back to 6th grade for a moment. (pre-internet bliss) Annie and Phil have little ones, so they were a little stressed about not being connected though.

Wake up was at 5am. We were supposed to meet the rest of our team at 6. That didn’t happen.  One bathroom for 5 people created delay.  The drive to the hiker’s bivouac took much longer than anticipated and we almost missed our turn in the early morning dark.  We did make it – a little late – and didn’t even need our headlamps.

The first part of the hike in the woods is awesome, if short-lived.  It is much longer on your return because you are exhausted.  Layers are required.  We removed layers before we even left the forest.  We were down to tank tops for most of the hike, but the top is freezing.  Everything went back on and then some.  Bring gloves and a hat that covers your ears. The boulder field killed me.  My legs are short, so what was a step for most folks meant I was clambering up with arms, legs and butt.  I spent a lot of time figuring out a better path for myself.  I had a lot of time to think because I wasn’t doing a lot of talking.  I thought about the last time I made this climb and how young I was, the great shape I was in because I was training for the marathon and would find out a few weeks after I was pregnant with my son. I thought about how easy it had seemed then. I thought about the amazing women I worked with back then, how proud I am of the work we did together, and the things we were able to achieve.  They helped me grow in ways I never expected, and helped me form a stronger sense of self. I remember carrying a disposable panoramic camera with me to take photos that I had developed (in 24hrs) and snail-mailed to my Dad so he could see how breath taking it was.  I called him when I got home after that first climb to tell him about it too.  He was happy that I was living my dreams.  Making them come true. I thought about Annie and her father who had passed away about a month before and how he must be watching her with pride. I thought about our kids dreams, and how amazing it is that my son gets to have two sisters that he’s so very proud of. I thought about if there was an emergency while I was hiking how lucky I am to have a truly amazing Back-Up Mom.  I thought about indoor plumbing, and how it cannot be over-rated.

Boulder Field
Boulder Field

Meanwhile; while my mind is wandering down all these paths, my feet and butt and knees and hands are winding me up, and up, and up, and my pack is way too heavy. It should be noted here that I like to collect rocks, and that wasn’t helping. So, I discreetly left an unopened bottle of water along the path on the way up to be retrieved on the way back.  Sun Glasses are your friend in the wind for the last of the ascent.   Almost to the top all our cellphones chirped!  Annie and Phil called to check on the kids, and we all posted photos. Probably not the best idea in case someone wanted to rob the house.  (Though our dog; Jack, is a pretty amazing deterrent.) The top was epic!  Annie made it first. Last time it was really foggy and I couldn’t see anything.  This time it was clear, and it’s kind of scary how easily you could fall into the crater if you aren’t careful.  In those moments at the top when I wasn’t piling on clothing, eating, choosing another rock, and taking photos of Makala doing handstands (while praying a good wind wouldn’t blow her into the crater); I whispered to my Dad, “I made it again, Dad. Isn’t it glorious?”  I wish for him in All the best moments of my life.  I am who I am because he believed in and encouraged me.  My Dad passed away in 2007, and I miss him every day.  I looked at Annie, beautifully strong and a bit winded after muscling her way to the top.  I wished for her Dad for her too.

Craig & I at the Top
Craig & I at the Top
St Helens Descent
St Helens Descent

Down seemed faster early on, I remembered to pick up my ditched water, and it was painful in the boulder field (that did not stop me from finding a beautiful pink rock for my collection), but that last hike through the woods seemed to take forever.  Annie and Mak made it to the car first, Phil waited for Craig and I to wander in and Kate and Cory came out last – tired, dusty and happy.

At the car I looked in my pack.  Two-thirds of what I packed was still in there including most of the second bottle of water. We; thankfully, didn’t use any of the emergency gear.  And my little rock collection was just lovely.  We were prepared going up.  We took what we needed with us.  We had food, water, emergency  and good companions. When what we were carrying got too heavy, we were able to set it down, and pick it back up when we were able. We shared snacks, tools, and encouragement. We had networks of people taking care of what needed to be taken care of at home.  All these things allowed each of us to get to the top and back down and it was Awesome!

The next few days I was not as bouncy as usual.  Mak and Craig were perfectly fine. (I cursed them a bit while I carefully and painfully made my way down the stairs.) It didn’t last long though, and I can’t wait for the next big hike!

 

 

On the Way to the Top:

I’ve been spending the time since my last post changing my life’s path.  Choosing new places to challenge myself.  Learning to connect in a more authentic way to the people who are most important in my life. Creating habits that will allow me to continue to adventure till I’m in my 100’s. I’ve enlisted my husband on the last one.  We decided to hike Mt. Saint Helens in late September with a number of his co-workers who are all 10 or so years younger than us.  We got our passes months before and had been not exactly putting off training, but not actually scheduling training, and mostly talking about training while driving someplace, eating dinner, or just before hitting play for the next episode of Luther on Netflix.

To be fair, we’re also remodeling our house.  The entire first floor is being redone as we speak. Our upstairs is full of what was downstairs, and it’s kept us pretty busy.  They say marriages often don’t survive home remodels.  I have high expectations for us!

In any case, I glimpsed at our calendar and realized that we had a little over a month till the Big Hike. With visions of us sweaty and defeated long before the boulder field – the “old folks” quitting early and heading back to the campsite in defeat, I decided we needed a plan.  I found a site that had 10 hikes to train for Mt. St. Helens.  We picked 5 (escalated training plan) and scheduled it out.  The first was Nick Eaton Trail in the Columbia Gorge.  Nearly 10 miles and about a 2800 feet elevation gain.  Let’s just say it kicked our butts.

For those of you who might be interested in doing this particular hike here are some key learnings and highlights:

First, use a map. Wait! First, go to the bathroom at home. There is a toilet at the parking lot that clearly states to leave the door open and close the toilet lid.  Apparently people can’t read. Enough said. Second, use a map. We could not find the entrance to Nick Eaton and just decided to head up the trail that was marked for every other trail listed.  There’s a number of them and they loop around.  About a half mile in my husband; Craig, noticed he didn’t have his sunglasses. After much cursing and lamenting his never-ending bad luck, he headed back down the trail to find them.  He returned winded, sweaty, and grumpy with his sun glasses a bit later and after he gave the bag a good kick we decided we continued up. It began so innocently with this lovely path.

The trail kicked my butt on the way up. For Real. If I was a quitter I certainly would have stopped half way up those crazy steep switchbacks. But we aren’t the quitting type so we egged each other on. It was beautiful and totally worth it. Ice cream stop on the way home because it was our off day and we don’t have to work out (ha-ha) and can eat whatever we want. (I had popcorn three times and once it was with caramel.) Hike two is either Dog Mountain (we’d done this one before -a little over 7 miles, and 2900 elevation gain) or Trapper Creek Loop (13 miles, 3200 elevation gain).

Breathe.
Breathe.

This adventuring life is hard work. Sometimes the trail you’re on twists and turns and you wind up someplace unexpected. Often there’s a fork and you get to choose which path to take. Sometimes the path is a grueling, gravel, uphill climb. And sometimes it’s a thrilling downhill run.  Sometimes you’re lost, you run out of water, or your hiking partner loses his glasses on the trail and has to go back a mile to find them… cursing loudly, and lamenting his lot in life.

Life isn’t just about the destination. It isn’t even just about the path. It’s also about who you chose to take on your adventure.  Bring good snacks, and a sense of humor.

Goodbye Ego!

I was listening to Radiolab on NPR a while back.  In the segment they spoke with Julie Moss about the triathlon she ran in 1984 where she gets through the first two segments and is on the marathon and is in the lead, but her body starts to shut down.  She falls down, her legs will not work.  She gets up again.  And falls. And somehow gets up again. Her body is obviously done.  She says that she hears something inside her head that says get up.  She does not care how she finishes, but she is going to finish, so she crawls.  And she poops her pants in front of the cameras.  And guess what? She doesn’t stop.  She doesn’t care.  She keeps going. She says; “Your ego will come in and sabotage you. Your real self?  There is no limit!”   She crosses that line on her hands and knees to get second.  She finishes because she will not accept not experiencing that goal.

When I was turning 30 I had moved to Oregon and was working insane hours at one of the world’s largest tech companies in a highly stressful job. I made a list of all the things I wanted to achieve but had been too afraid to fail at or try.  I was always bad at math, but wanted to build something. I was never graceful or athletic, but wanted to run a race and climb a mountain.  I wanted to be a published author, to travel to exotic places, to be an artist.  I started big and signed up for the Portland Marathon.  Training was grueling, but got me in good enough shape to do an impromptu climb up Mt. St. Helens with a group of women that I admired and worked with.  It rained buckets the night before so we somehow fit nearly 12 of us in sleeping bags into a single hotel room.  Not all of us made it to the top, and it was so overcast I nearly toppled into the crater, but it was an unbelievable feeling to make it to the top on my own two feet.  I wasn’t the first of our group to get there, but I just kept going.  It was that moment that I knew I would finish the marathon.  And I did finish. I ran like Jerry Lewis until mile 5 when I was too tired to kick myself in the shins anymore and I relaxed into a slow run, trip, walk pace.  When I hit the metaphorical wall on the hill up to the St. John’s Bridge a lovely older gentleman jogged next to me and coached me up.  It was his 25th marathon, but his first after the operation on his club foot.  Yes, 25 of them.  There was a grandma too, who had a shirt on that said that it was her 24th marathon. Two people walked the entire race holding hands.  It was their 3rd marathon they’d done that way.  I finished with the fast walkers just behind me, sprinting across the line jubilantly, blissfully ignorant that I was pregnant. That’s a big achievement, and it wasn’t even on my list.

Fast forward 2 years with Oregon more than 2000 miles away from my family, my son is 2.  I remember those days and thinking if it had been a job I would have gone to my boss and said, “Hey, I appreciate the offer, but I think I’m in WAY over my head.”  Like an answer to a prayer, I received an email, “HI Ruth, this is Laura! Do you still live in Pittsburgh?  I live in Oregon. “She was less than 20 miles from my house.  She had children that were nearly the same age as my son.  I was not alone. I’m not ashamed to admit there was sobbing. The list was put away for a while, though I did take it out to build a charming; if somewhat tilted, playhouse that was much used by my son, Laura’s children and their friends.

My son was in kindergarten when I began running again. One simmering summer day I caught a horrifying glimpse of myself in a jog bra and shorts reflected in a storefront window. Suffice it to say that blowing something up for 9 months to the size that will fit a small human and then deflating it leaves it a bit less elastic than before. It was not a pretty sight that was not just limited to my midsection, but also included the skin above my knee. (If that isn’t a seismic birth control statement nothing is.)  In 2012 a man that jumped out of the air balloon that was over 102,000 feet up in the air and when he fell he broke the sound barrier. My first thought was that my tummy would be pulled so far down I’d look like I’d be wearing a maxi-dress and the skin on my knees would pull down to look like those fashionable boot socks that were all the rage for a while. As we get older we often have lists of things that we will no longer do.  Sometimes it’s reasonable safety and self-preservation, sometimes it’s because we don’t want to experience an embarrassing moment. Jumping out of an air balloon and breaking the sound barrier goes on my list along with running in a jog-bra and shorts in public, drinking Irish car bombs after tequila shots in an English Pub, and waxing my own body parts. I’m not telling those stories in this forum today.  In the case of my list; it was more of life just happening, and time passing by.

Since Laura and I have been reunited, we’ve been through cancer twice, death of family members, graduations, one divorce, another marriage, home surgery, shared boat ownership, countless road trips, hikes, wine making, beer crafting, knitting, and well, almost anything you can imagine.  We are explorers in every sense.  Curating adventures inside and out in admittedly some of the most unexpected places.  Like the emergency room.

I decided just recently to start blogging and we were to meet at her house to have a grand adventure.  Just when I arrived her husband; Mike, texted me to say they were at the ER, and that Laura was having chest pain.  By the time I got there they’d determined that it was not a heart attack and that she was having acid reflux that had irritated her vegus nerve.  She had an IV hookup ready to go though, and was attached to a few different machines.  The three of us sat there in the half wall, half curtained room talking about diet, the fact that her husband and another friend of mine had the same thing happen to them, and how scary it is when it happens. Laura mentioned that she needed to use the bathroom so I leaned through the curtain and asked one of the nurses for assistance.  While the nurse walked her down the hall Mike said that he felt really bad because he thought it might have been acid reflux like he had and wanted to give her some TUMS, but couldn’t find any before they left so he gave her some Phillips Milk of Magnesia.  UMMMMMM…. All I could do was stare for a second and then I walked over to the bed and laid my head down and no sound came out.  I was just shaking and crying and….no sound.  For those of you who do not know, Milk of Magnesia is a laxative.  I can only imagine that if you are in excruciating pain and taking a laxative that liquid poop will come shooting out of your backside.  And that is why when Laura came back in with the nurse and asked what was wrong and I could only answer with a hand raised she looked to Mike and said, “You told her!”

That was it.  I started snorting.  That really uncontrollable, loud, obnoxious laughing.  The only word I could get out was, “Why?”  She then explained that the nurse asked if she had taken anything when she came into the ER and Laura told her and the nurse just looked at her and said, “You know that won’t help right?  That’s a laxative.”  Oh my God.  I just lost it.

It was then that the nurse came in and told me that there were very sick people there and if I couldn’t contain myself she was going to have to ask me to leave.  She offered to put me out with her dog, and give me penance. For real.  I got it together. Barely.  But it kept sneaking back all day just when I thought it had passed.  Like when Laura showed me the bottle and it clearly read Cramp Free Gentle Relief.

So here is where you ask me, is your blog going to be about pooping your pants?  And I answer… maybe.

I think it’s going to be about having and curating adventures, about stretching ourselves beyond what we ever imagined we could do, about celebrating our True Selves and outwitting our egos.  Because the people who mean the most to me will still be there if I fail.  And if I poop my pants my friend Laura will laugh, but she’ll get me a clean pair of underwear and we’ll have a glass of wine at the finish.  I’d like to show our children that adventure and courage are not only for the young.   Sometimes the adventure is amazingly beautiful, sometimes it isn’t pretty.  I have a wonderful tribe of friends and family. We’re having a hell of a good time, and when we’re not, we’re in good company.  We’ll be traveling, cooking, creating, drinking wine, exploring, and probably laughing at each other.  These are our real life adventures; one wine cellar, stellar hike, and accidental laxative ingestion at a time.

 

Quotes

“If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t run, then walk, if you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” Martin Luther King

“If you can’t run, you crawl. And when you can’t crawl you find someone to carry you.” Firefly

“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me. Danger is very real. Fear is a choice. “Will Smith After Earth