So, I don’t know how to start this trip report.

Do I explain what led to Lana and I trail running 50+ miles in the Olympic Mountains?

Do I exude endless amounts of gratitude for our amazing Sherpas, Chris and Jeremy, who supported this idea?

Do I take my father’s advice and undergo psychological analysis to check my mental state?

Let’s start from the beginning.

Many of the wonderful things that have happened to me in 2019 have all started with Lana – my running partner, a former park ranger, a fellow lady mountain rescue member, and an amazing mom, who has been a great inspiration to take our trail running to new distances and heights this year.

Literally.

On May 6, 2019, two days after her first marathon, between 2:31 p.m. and 2:56 p.m., the following conversation happens over text:

Lana: Would you like to trail run with me late August one night? In Elwha, out the North Fork Quinault.

Me: That’s across the Olympics! *pause* That would be crazy awesome!

*Chatter about gear and logistics*

Lana: I’m obviously excited about this idea since I’m blowing up your phone.

Me: Yeah and it’s not taking much for me to be convinced LOL

Over the next three months, gear is discussed, routes are explored and decided upon, and training ensues. Aside from our individual training, we crank out long runs together, such as an easy out-and-back 15-miler from Obstruction Point to Deer Park; gleefully run up the Upper Dungeness to Marmot Pass and out Tubal Cain with surprising ease (and more miles than we intended).

At Marmot Pass:

Me, looking at the map for the rest of the route: Um, we have more than we thought to Tubal Cain. It’s nine miles.

Lana: Really. Huh.

Me: Yeah. Huh.

We then continue eating our lunch, not fazed in the least about our extended mileage.

It was at that point I realized I truly fell in love with this sport. Nine miles of backpacking? My feet ache just thinking about that. Nine miles of cruising on flowy single track? I don’t bat an eye.

Logistics discussions continue and word gets out what we’re planning. Chris pipes up and says, hey, I’d like to backpack that area and could use some trail miles. I’d support you guys by bringing in overnight gear if you want.

Jeremy steps up and says, yeah, I could use a big backpacking weekend. I’ll sherpa too.

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Lana and I couldn’t believe our luck. Game. Changer.

The final agenda:

Saturday morning: In Graves Creek Trailhead at Quinault

Saturday night: Meet the guys and camp at Marmot Lake, via Ranger Pass/LaCrosse Basin

Sunday afternoon: Run out the Duckabush River Trail

= 42 miles.

Friday, August 16:

The Lorenz and Myers families bring Tiffany and Lana to the Graves Creek campground at Quinault to camp at the trailhead that evening.

The Sherpa Team goes to Staircase Rapids and hikes in 10 miles that night via North Fork Skokomish Trail and camps at Nine Stream.

Saturday, August 17:

8:45 a.m.: The Lorenzes and Myers send off Lana and Tiffany into the mountains with hugs and farewells (except for one 4-year-old who was NOT pleased her mom was going into the mountains without her) and they sprint into the woods with yelps and whoops of excitement.

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The Sherpa team makes its way from Nine Stream to Marmot Lakes, over 12 miles and 4,000 feet, where they set up camp in the late afternoon, ready with hugs, whiskey and chocolate.

Our plan was to run/power hike a relatively rolling total of 22 miles on Saturday, from Graves Creek Trailhead through Enchanted Valley, start climbing 3,000 feet at the O’Neil Pass Trail junction, jump off trail in White Creek Basin to go up to Ranger Pass, go down into Lacrosse Basin, and pick up the waytrail to Marmot Lakes to camp.

Previous experience had shown that Lana and I could rack up miles faster than we expected, which was no different on this day. Lana used to ranger in this area too, so I got stories about adventures she had with visitors, rangers, wildlife and good places to camp.

Despite taking it easy the past few weeks and watching a few weird tweaks and injuries I’d endured this summer, ALL OF THEM DECIDED TO SPEAK UP AT ONCE ON SATURDAY.

Which was my biggest fear. Because I really didn’t want to turn around.

Thankfully, Lana and I are pretty good at listening to our bodies and deciding when to pull back and when push forward. I knew I just needed to run through some of it to warm up. By mile 8 or so, and some ibuprofen, things had calmed down and we had settled into a power hike/run flow, making our way through rolling terrain of meadows, maple tree groves, and fern bowls under canopies of old cedars.

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Before I knew it, we were at the Enchanted Valley gate at 13.1 miles, which I thought would be some nifty and artfully created wood structure that greeted visitors to the famous and highly coveted Enchanted Valley area. (The above is not it.)

Nope. It is literally a gate to keep stock, such as work horses and mules, from going down trail. Apparently, if a horse isn’t tied up and wants to go back to its barn, it will just start marching home, no matter how long or how far it is.

It was apropos to learn this, as the phrase of the weekend was, “I’m just going to be a horse to the barn,” when one of us would talk about getting to the next destination point.

We got into the valley, which I’d never been to before and was half the reason I said yes to this trip, because of its beauty and remoteness and magic. For being 13.1 miles into the backcountry, it was full of people milling about – setting up camp, stretching, swimming, napping.

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Also, the chalet on the Quinault River bank. The valley is famous for this beautiful and bomber two-story building that was constructed in the early 1900s for rangers and visitors. Lana regaled me with stories of her stays there, working on the old water systems and the Irish wood stove, how she’d come into shut down the chalet for the season, and the elk herds and bears she would see in the meadow. However, the Quinault River is shifting, as rivers do, and it’s threatening to take out the chalet. The structure has been moved from the river bank already once before, and rumor has it that, sadly, the park is just going to let nature take her course.

After a few minutes in the valley, we made our way up trail, stopping for lunch, a water refill and a good foot soak in the river. I’m not much for foot soaks and hot tubs and ice baths, especially when it involves having to take off my shoes, waiting for things to dry and then putting them all back on.

But damn that mountain river water saved my feet during this trip several times. Something about numbing the pain and then allowing new blood to rush to the feet again.

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After the valley, we started climbing toward the O’Neil Pass Trail/Anderson Pass junction. It was about 2 or 3 p.m. and we were about 16 miles in. We had 3,000 feet and 5-7 miles to go until camp. We were hoping to get there between 5-6 p.m.

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The O’Neil Pass Trail isn’t anything special – other than it was established by Lt. Joseph P. O’Neil who led a military expedition into the Olympics in July 1890. But today, it’s a climbers trail. Slightly overgrown with brush and invisible holes lining the downhill side of the trail that your feet find first before your head does.

The trail follows White Creek. Once we got to the junction where the trail crosses the hairpin turn in the creek, we jumped off trail and started making our way toward this huge wall of scree that had several notches at the top of the wall, one of which was Ranger Pass.

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We were going to climb up and over Ranger Pass to get to Lacrosse Basin. But as we got higher and higher onto the scree field, the cloud layer started to lower.

And lower.

And lower.

And soon we were socked in and couldn’t see more than 100 feet in front of us.

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The view of our objective had disappeared. And we suddenly found ourselves on HUGE snowfields that were NOT AT ALL in view from the creek down below.

WTF happened?

At this point, it was 6 p.m. or so. We were constantly checking our maps and our GPS devices, and discussing potential options for the rest of the day:

  • Tell the Sherpa Team (with whom we were communicating over the InReach, that blissful Personal Locator Beacon/GPS device that has saved MANY lives in the mountains the past few years) to climb up Lacrosse Basin and yell down from the ridge and we’d follow their voices (the ridge was only two miles from them).
  • Bivy down in White Creek basin.
  • Continue traversing left. Or right.
  • Go back down to O’Neil Pass trail and take the long way to Marmot Lakes.

The initial plan of going cross country over Ranger Pass was to avoid these additional 8 miles to Marmot Lakes, making our 20ish mile day into a 30ish mile day. Lana had done the cross country route before, so she knew it would go once we found the right notch.

However, we didn’t account for the whiteout. Thank you, Olympic Mountains. You lived up to your reputation, once again.

After hemming and hawing and traversing back and forth across the scree field some more, we called it at 7:30 p.m. and decided to slog on trail for more miles than scramble a scree field where we couldn’t see where we were going.

We sent a message to the guys about our new plan and they responded with “Good copy. We’re on our way with warm clothing, food and water.”

YAY!

Once we turned around and headed down, our defeated spirits changed suddenly, looking forward to the moral support of the Sherpa team, who worked insanely hard to get in here.

We got back down to O’Neil Pass Trail around 8:30 p.m. and started the trail slog.

Around 9:30, in the dark with headlamps, as we’re shuffling along half awake, mumbling nonsense to each other while trying not to fall off the trail, we see two headlamps come around the corner.

“I see them.” Lana says, who was so tired she couldn’t muster up excitement in her voice. I just made some loud yelp that was clearly supposed to communicate that I was happy to see them.

After they plied us with food and warm clothing and water, our spirits were restored and we start to make our way back toward camp … for five miles.

Lana warned us that the O’Neil Pass trail is one of those routes that feels like it never ends, and did it ever. Plus, overgrown brush and steep drop-offs to the right.

After 4 miles and at 11:30 p.m., we finally hit the clearing that was O’Neil Pass. The clouds had lifted, the stars were out, and the moon illuminated the ridge line of the mountain range that surrounded us. It was a pretty spectacular view.

We stopped for a quick break and the crew indulged me in a photo session with the pass sign – as best as one can do with only headlamps and camera phones.

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Side note:

This guy.

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We started dating, oh, back in July (we think, the official date is still up in the air; he spent weeks wooing me and I spent weeks thinking about it, but we’ve known each other since 2013).  There are not enough words to describe this guy. I respect him, I adore him, I’m impressed by him, I’m swooned by him, I’m entertained by him. We can pretty much predict what the other is thinking and it is all unbelievably easy and comforting and amazing.

I deserve him. He deserves me.

We are incredibly excited for our future adventures.

And I was STOKED to hear his voice at 9:30 Saturday night on the O’Neil Pass Trail.

—-

We slogged our way back down to camp, ate some chocolate and whiskey and called it dinner, then crawled into our bivys and passed out for the night.

The guys set up the tents and bivys facing east, so we all had a fantastic sunrise view. I was up at 5:30 a.m. and walked around camp taking pictures of the early morning twilight, then crawled back into bed to snooze until about 7.

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We had a leisurely morning, eating breakfast and packing up, despite the 20+ miles we had ahead of us. It was one of the best backcountry camp mornings I’d had in a very long time though. Mainly because while I was still exhausted (I reached the point of crying and laughing while trying to share crackers with Jeremy but instead I dumped them in my shoes and on the ground, then tried sharing with him again. “Worst Girlfriend Ever,” he quipped. That just made me laugh harder.), but beyond the moon happy to be there with these people, as well wake up to blue skies and sunshine in the mountains.

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Chris, the water buffalo.

Originally, the plan was for the guys to hike back to Staircase, but with the massive elevation gain/loss they had coming in, they realized if they went out with us, they’d only have 500 feet elevation gain/loss over the same distance. So, it was a no brainer, with 35 lbs. + packs, to go out the easier route. We’d just have to drive an hour to get Chris’ car at the Staircase trailhead.

It was nice to have them along for the adventure out, both as company and moral support, the latter for both parties really, as they were just as exhausted as us. The hike out was pretty uneventful, just long. We would establish a meeting point for a break, such as Upper Duckabush Camp and 10 Mile Camp, since we were all going different paces, but stayed mostly within about 10 minutes of each other.

Well, actually, I suppose being chased by ground wasps made the first third of the day eventful. Typically, whoever was in the lead would see the bee and yell, then do a wild cartoon dance to chase them off but likely get stung, while the rest of us would retreat and run the other way, then bushwhack around the general area and jump back on trail. Regardless of our attempts, three of the four of us got stung, but thankfully no allergic reactions. But LOTS of swelling and itching the following week.

Finally, around 8 p.m. Sunday, after climbing up and over Big Hump and Little Hump, then dragging our feet for what felt like an ENDLESS couple miles, we stumbled off the trail and into the parking lot at the Duckabush Trailhead, where we each threw down our packs, sat on them and just stared at the ground, internalizing what we just did. We mumbled things to each other such as, “who wants a beer” or “here, salt and vinegar chips.” Some of us changed, some of us just collapsed into the car. Before long, we were back on the road.

And just like that, the three-day, 40 Mile-Turned-50 Mile adventure came to an end. Exhausted, thrilled and accomplished.

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I think a big part of the satisfaction from this trip was not just our mileage but also the company. Each of us are current or past members of Olympic Mountain Rescue, which holds a special place in each of our hearts. We regard the organization like family, and this trip seemed like an extension of that feeling.

Not sure how to end this trip report, other than acknowledging that I (and I know Lana too) cannot express enough gratitude to Chris and Jeremy for their physical, moral and emotional, support for the trip. We know we could have done it on our own, but it was so much more fun with you guys. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.

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Quick, someone call REI or Outdoor Research. We’re ready for the Spring 2020 catalog shoot.

 

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And finally, of course, thank you to Lana, for her adventurous spirit that led us to this amazing and memorable weekend! The force of mountain life is strong with this one.

 

There are a zillion blogs and books and posts on how to prepare for and climb Kilimanjaro. I’ll try not to repeat what a lot of them said but here’s a list of things I DIDN’T read and wish I’d had.

DSCF1184This is an extremely long post so here’s the list of some topics discussed:

Gear to bring and not bring

The Toilet Situation

How to deal with Hygiene

Group Climb vs Private Climb

The Hiking Experience (How to train for the climb)

Food to bring and not bring

How to eat on the mountain

The Underwear Dilemma

Music/Phones/Chargers/Technology

Extra gear to bring

 

GEAR:

The list provided by the tour operator:

Definitely take JUST those items. You really don’t need anything else, except a few extra creature comforts for being in a developed country. I’ll list those at the end.

The Water Bladder/Camelbak:

I’m a pretty experienced hiker here in the Pacific Northwest and NO ONE I know out here hikes with a bladder. (Mountain biking – that’s a different story). We all carry Nalgenes or water bottles and drink when we stop to rest, about every hour or 1,000 feet. Our general thoughts are that the bladders leak, they are hard to refill and they get bacteria easily. I thought I’d just be able to take out my water bottle and drink when we’d stop.

What I DIDN’T account for is the fact that you need to be drinking – nay, SIPPING – throughout the ENTIRE day and at a minimum of 4 liters (4 Naglenes) a day. I realized this literally within the first 10 minutes on our first day of hiking and thought, “Oh crap. I should have brought the bladder. NOW I get it.”

We hiked at such a slow pace, especially in the beginning, that stopping to rest wasn’t really necessary, and dealing with bottles was a pain. I wound up hooking mine to my backpack’s hipbelt with a carabiner for seven days and would walk and sip. It wasn’t ideal but it worked.

SO: BRING THE CAMELBAK. (But bring two water bottles for refills and to drink out of at camp, because who wants to lug around a bladder while at camp?).

 

Poncho:

Again, Pacific Northwest. Rains 9 months out of the year. We are experts in rain gear. Just bring Gortex rain pants and rain jacket, right?

Nope. I used them once in Africa and immediately realized I didn’t need them.

The poncho that the tour operators STRONGLY recommend?

I used it every afternoon. Because rain/fog/mist came through every afternoon.

It was lightweight, easy to throw on, covered me and my pack and kept me warm. Plus the guides and climbers helped us put them on and take them off and just stuffed them in an outside backpack pocket when we were done with them. It never rained hard enough to warrant hassling with pants and the jacket.

BRING THE PONCHO. Actually, RENT THEIR ponchos. They’ll be of better and tougher quality than the $10 plastic wrap you buy at Target.

 

The Ski Jacket and Ski Pants:

Again, something I don’t normally wear in the mountains (unless I’m at a ski resort). But I bought an old one from Goodwill (with the intention of leaving it behind for the porters) and glad I had it. Brought a pair of old snow pants my mom had gotten me years ago, and they were perfect with two pairs of long underwear underneath.

I had brought my mountain summit kit anyway (lots of long underwear, softshells, overstuffed puffy and rain shell) but could have gotten away with just a smaller puffy under the ski jacket and no rain shell.

 

The Private Toilet:

Pay the extra money to rent it.

Read the rest of this entry »

Saturday, 6:37 a.m., Aug 31.

Brain is on overdrive these days. It’s been like this since Monday morning, when I dove deep into the photography captions finally, letting my old school journalism procrastination take over. As per protocol, I spent Monday panicking while working through the first set of captions. By Tuesday I felt better and somewhat in a groove, although still intimidated by what I’m writing because I don’t know ANYTHING about sailing and the terminology. At the same time, that’s not completely true. I’m a year and a half into exploring this world and I learn something new with every conversation and outing. I’m currently working my way through the last set of interviews today, this time with sailmakers and there are tabs open to study the definitions and look at images: sailmakers thimbles, storm staysails and jib tack pennant.

Writing overdrive has been nice but a struggle, again, as is per writing protocol but I’m finally mature enough to recognize this. I’m used to having a boss and editor expecting a certain format and style. For this project though, which is a completely volunteer side gig, I can do whatever I damn well please and write however I want. Jeremy wanted my journalism angle, which is easy, but also likes my writing style, so I finally relaxed and let it fly. All that matters is what he thinks and what the tradespeople think. So far, I’ve received feedback just enough to tweak the captions but not enough to derail my style, so that’s good.

As I was sitting in my writing chair last night, I could hear the music blaring from my tenant downstairs, which didn’t bother me. I thought about asking her to turn it down but then I thought, wait, I’m enjoying this.

It was a delightful mix of modern female soul one minute and classic black and white film soundtrack the next. For some reason, I felt like I was in a scene of an old movie (film noir?), in some 2nd floor apartment in France, as the young are blasting away music but it’s slightly muffled, while the landlord/writer is upstairs tucked away in the corner of her tiny messy office that is lined with books, old racing medals, maps, artwork to be hung, stacks of important life papers, the “war corner” for a house remodel, piles of clothing for Goodwill and a drying rack of delicates, but only focused on what is coming out of the fingers and onto the computer screen late into the night.

I was kinda sad when she turned it off and left.

I woke up today at 515 to continue the photography writing. I walked by my backdoor and a swath of white caught my eye, looking like snow had fallen. Nope, just a big white Ithaca RV sneaking an overnight spot on my side street.

2 more minutes.

I realized last night that at 40, I’m much more content pounding out words in a quiet corner of my house on a Friday night, in an IKEA chair that needs upholstering, under an old lamp that was left behind by previous homeowner than being in a loud noisy bar. Last night at least. It feels like a big creative art weekend anyway, with work on next weekend’s photography show and this weekend’s Wayzgoose printmakers festival, which I’m very excited to visit later today.

I wouldn’t have minded a glass of wine to celebrate the end of the week but that would have put me out. Tonight, after I get this last set of captions done, I will be able to dig into that glass of wine. Maybe even that chardonnay from Switzerland with J …

6:52 a.m.

7:28 p.m.

It’s my last night “living” in Port Townsend. I’m out for the 3rd night in a row, by choice, sitting at Chetzemoka Park, which is a five minute walk from the house. It has peek-a-boo views of the water and Whidbey Island. I can see the stage (and hear the actors practicing) where Shakespeare In The Park will be performed in a few weeks and I’m happy to report, I’ll be attending.

I was here last night too, around the same time. My sailing outing was cancelled and I took advantage of the time for more transcribing interviews. Turns out sitting in a park has been the most productive work space in town for me, and so I am here again, transcribing. I am so happy here.

I’m pretty sure I’m used to the quiet at night now, and can sleep pretty soundly, waking up just before my 6 a.m. alarm. (Although a beer or glass of wine has helped. Tonight will be the last one until Saturday night, in prep for a big run that day.).

At Jeremy’s suggestion, I finally sat on the back porch this morning with my breakfast and mug of tea. Of course, I lingered out there way longer than I should have. Wondering where Beth and I will put our tent when we’re here in a month for The Thing Music Festival, during which Jeremy is graciously letting us crash in his backyard. It’ll be like Doe Bay, in a way, but on a smaller scale.

This town is like living in a bubble. Kinda like the suburbs, but definitely not like the suburbs. There’s a different aura here than anywhere else I’ve experienced. It’s like living on a Hollywood set, where everything is just where it should be – every unkept garden, every perfectly laid out stone pathway, each community space with open doors and music floating out, quirky shop, or happy chatter of people gathering. People walk everywhere here. They say hi when passing each other on the sidewalk. You may get a wave when passing in cars.

Even if they don’t say hi, they’ll smile. And not a shy passive aggressive PNW I-kinda-sorta-will-maybe-give-you-eye contact smile. Like a legit, bright smile. It happens while running too.

It’s delightful and refreshing.

There’s a group of middle school kids running around the park this evening. I was annoyed for a second because they’re loud but then they started yelling at each other:

“What’s the border? Is the water the border? Where’s the jail? It’s the picnic table! TO THE JAIL!!!”

This is cracking me up. It must be a camp. And I’d love to completely forget about everything I should be doing right now and join. It reminds me of playing Freeze Tag and Ghosts in the Graveyard on Heatherwood during humid Ohio summers.

To forget about having to go back to the house and gather all my triptrap I’ve strewn about the house. To toss my clothes into my duffle bag except for what I’ll wear tomorrow. To do a quick wipe down and sweep. To stuff four pairs of dress shoes, two pairs of running shoes, and two pairs of sandals into bags. To reorganize all the camping gear. To load it all up in Bertha The VW Battlewagen.

To not think about the weeds in my gardens at home. The mail stacking up on my front porch. The house next door that is in a significant state of demo. The empty dry erase board that will soon be filled up quotes equating to tens of thousand of dollars for a house remodel.

“Can we call a quick truce, I need you to take my shirt to the table.”

“Can we shake on it?”

7:43 p.m.

—–

Post-edit: I just got a glimpse of myself in my computer screen reflection. Total pretentious brat here with the real life running around me. Floppy hat, big hot pink sunglasses and scarf with a damn computer and headphones in the middle of a park.

8:13 p.m., July 23, 2019

Location: Port Townsend Vineyards Tasting Room, Water St., Cloudy. Mist blowing in from the west.

I decided to finally leave the house this evening, or rather, not putz around in a big lonely house after work, or sit and stare at the windows in my writing room. After being here for two weeks, and for once, not being exhausted (despite 3 hours of sleep today) I decided to actually go out and be in the presence of people (and see a friend). Mainly because I knew my extroverted sanity needed it.

So, I’m sitting on the back patio of the PT Vineyards tasting room, at a table for four but with the attendance of one. A healthy serving of Viognier, the pita bread and hummus plate and those New Yorker magazines again. Last night’s article was about a Bjork-like pop musician, which I enjoyed; tonight’s article is a heartbreaking story of a family with twin babies and how they’re using GoFundMe to help support their $2 million medical needs for their childrens’ disease that likely won’t let them live much longer. I couldn’t finish reading it.

Also, sorry, J, if your magazines may be a bit more wrinkled with a minor grease stain, as the wind fluffed Pages 19-21 into my dish that had a significant drizzle of oil. But I learned that I love cold cooked sliced beets topped with roasted cauliflower and garlic hummus. It’s an earthy purple cracker.

I’m under a fancy canopy that automatically rolls back when the wind kicks up. But the sprinkles that were promised at 8 p.m. are splattering my screen.

I also get to walk home in it. The sprinkles that is.

This Viognier is really good. This evening is also a recon mission for possible future visits with company.

The water looks like it’d be a great night for sailing, despite the low clouds, as the water’s surface is wrinkled and a tiny bit wavy.

(wipes off the screen)

Realized (again) on Facebook today that nothing of value is being posted these days. It’s mostly “Feel Good About Yourself” memes, political shit and videos of animals. Super tired of it. Except the cat videos. I’ll pause to watch the cat videos. Dog videos make me cry.

8:22 p.m. I have 6 more minutes.

I had planned on transcribing more of my maritime interviews this evening. My little Olympus recorder is surprisingly pretty awesome at catching the interviewee. I just need to shut the hell up during the interviews because it catches my unnecessary commentary. It’d make editing the transcript A LOT easier. Just think of it as recording audio for a video.

(wipes the screen again)

oh what else, what else… brain is fading because of the wine. It has the same effect as beer. Which is why I don’t drink during the week when I want to get stuff done.

Speaking of, the weeds, OH GOD THE WEEDS in the front of my house in Bremerton are horrendous. I’ve never let my yard go this far. Garden therapy next week.

I wish I’d been able to spend more time at the little places in town during the evening during my time here, but, well, it’s no fun to go out on your own regularly. It’s not a thing I do, anyway. I like it occasionally – but mainly for breakfast and lunch. At night, I prefer a dinner companion. My daily streak of time in PT ends on Friday but I hope to spend more time up here in the company of others in the future.

8:28 p.m.

Post edit:

No wonder I like Viognier. It comes from the Rhone region and my favorite red (Syrah) is from there.

 

The title is actually false. I put in a lot of miles this weekend. Mostly on Friday and today, Sunday, driving to and from Bogachiel State Park for a ladies camping weekend on the coast.

Put a couple hundred miles on Bertha, but about eight walking miles on my feet on the South Fork Hoh River trail. Woke up more sore today than I have during some of my last few long runs. Huh.

The trail was lush with ferns and spooky with moss draped over dead tree branches, but it petered out into a climber’s trail, with no destination for a day hike like ours (We learned you can access Mt. Olympus from here, though). We met a bio-acoustic ecology student from Schumacher College who told us trees communicate through the ground. He had tied red flagging to his listening spots and encouraged us to stop at each.

“Be well,” he said as his goodbye.

We heard various bird chatter at one. Not much at another. Distant rushing water at the third (or was it the breeze?). I figured maybe understanding this concept was like learning to drink wine – it takes time to train the ear on what to listen for.

We took pictures and moved on.

Speaking of sound, the evening winds are picking up right now in PT. I’ve decided to move to the front porch for the first time since “living” here to write and soak in the last of the weekend sun while sipping on a Zero Miles double IPA.

That will certainly guarantee that I will get nothing done this evening, except maybe unload the car and possibly consider entertaining the idea of making lunch for tomorrow. Also write drivelous nonsense on a blog that doesn’t get as much love as it should.

That breeze really does cover up the street noise and people noise unless the source of the noise is within eye sight. I’m still not sure if I like it or not. After 2.5 days of friend chatter, it’s a hard transition to a quiet house. It feels lonely. But that’s part of the retreat part, right? To get back into the head. The problem of an Extrovert. And the reentry process after a weekend (mostly) off the grid. It reminds me of climbing trips and how girlfriends and I would bemoan the transition back into civilization and day-to-day life.

I blissfully managed to stay off the phone this weekend, save for a few texts. Popping on Facebook right after I got home justified staying off it this weekend. People went to beer fests, music fest, Pride fests, had hearts broken and generally screamed about the state of the world.

The phone is tucked away in the corner of the house and silenced. My head is already in a weird space during this transition. Maybe I should pop on the OK Computer vinyl that my friend purposefully set out for me.

He also has New Yorkers that I am gleefully devouring. They’re so new even he hasn’t had a chance read them. I apologize in advance, J, for the smudging of some of the words from my thumbs. The July 1 looks OK – except for the column from Patricia Marx, who is always a delight to read; the July 8-15 looks more interesting. I loved discovering in 2013 that my sister also loves New Yorkers – I think I introduced her to them (or maybe she read them before?). Regardless, I like that we have that in common. We’d read articles to P as bedtime stories when he was 2. He probably thought we were crazy. If you put her and me together on a good day, he’d definitely think we’re crazy. Or laugh at us. Or with us. On a good day, our family is like that. I miss that.

I was so excited to find Chetzemoka Park down the street from the house the other day. Shakespeare in the Park is performed there every weekend in August. I went once and it was delightful. Despite this August being 99% filled already with travel and commitments, I hope to squeeze in a performance -– maybe on a Sunday?

This week looks to be painfully less chaotic compared to last week. The previous seven days involved shellfish, mountain goats, things that needed to be posted ASAP, supporting our team in preparation for a presentation, and photographing 3-year-olds who were supposed to be throwing oyster seeds on a beach but instead were chasing small crabs.

The most distinctive noise in Uptown is the church bell calling out the hours. I don’t have to look at my phone in the middle of the night when I hear the chimes. Even when half awake, I always hear the chimes.

The sun has finally gone down behind the house across the street. The breeze is picking up. It’s time to go inside.

I’m in Port Townsend house sitting for 16 days. I’ve never house sit for this length of time before. It’s for a dear friend from mountain rescue. We’re also collaborating on a project for an upcoming photography show; I’m supporting with written words. I wasn’t sure of my time commitment to do such a thing this summer but I knew once I settled into his house, my journalist deadline instinct would kick in and all would be fine. I’m treating my time up here like a writing retreat and it’s been refreshing to just sit in my own head for a while with a project.

In fact, I don’t know whenever I’ve ever done something like this. It’s hard for me to sit down with my thoughts.

Of course, it’s taken some adjusting. It’s like being in an AirBnB but you know the person who lives here but yet you don’t, since for the majority of your six-year friendship, you’ve lived an hour from each other and visited only briefly via meetings, missions or the Internet, plus the occasional meal to catch up.

It’s also really quiet up here.

It’s an older home, historic, built in 1889. 10-foot ceilings, odd additions, with exterior siding on the inside of the first floor bathroom. It’s two floors, with a lovely wide staircase that creaks. Especially that last step at the top. Until yesterday, whenever I put weight on it, I jumped a little. It sounded like a little mouse squeaking. Or a groaning rocking chair. I couldn’t decide.

Now when I approach the step, I gleefully put my weight on it, entertained by its “eek.”

I told an acquaintance I was staying in PT in an older home. Her eyes got really big and she told me of her stay in an older home up here one time too. “There are ghosts, Tiffany. But they’re friendly ghosts.”

To entertain myself, I’ve named the “ghost” of this house, who is responsible for all the little old house noises, Ellie Mc Kay.

***

But I didn’t think about ghosts the first night. Or the second night.

The first night was filled with nightmares that I blamed on drinking old wine. And just not being used to the structure’s noises – gutters leaking, house settling, neighbors scuttling about. But it was one of those nightmares where someone walks into your room, even though you know it’s not real, and they appear in the doorway, and you’re trying really really really hard to say the name of who you think it is, and if you just open your eyes and speak, it will all be over, and then they just say in a deep low voice:

“I missed my ferry.”

Your eyes fly open, you start panic breathing, and then you don’t sleep for the next hour.

Night 2 had legitimate reasons for unusual noises.

I was mostly awake (again, blame the old wine) and suddenly, there was a huge BANG downstairs, followed by the entire house shaking.

“OMG SOMEONE IS COMING TO KILL ME THEY’RE COMING UP THE STAIRS WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WHAT DO I DO–”

Then the shaking didn’t stop – for about a solid 30 seconds (so it felt).

“Wait. I think we had an earthquake. That HAD to have been an earthquake.”

A few minutes later, at 3 a.m., I see half of the Pacific Northwest is awake on Facebook because of a 4.6 in Everett, followed by a 3.5 aftershock.

Reassuring to know but I still didn’t fall sleep for another hour.

On the third night, I didn’t have any wine. I slept like a baby.

***

The past few days, while I adjusted to establishing a routine in a space that isn’t mine, I’ve almost dreaded coming back each time. It’s quiet. Almost too quiet. There’s no one here.

Not that it bothers me at my house in Bremerton. I live by myself there too. But I live in a whirlwind of energy, with lots of traffic, a tenant going in and out downstairs at odd hours, my own coming and going all the time, sprinting out the door to run or go to work. Plus, projects, so many house projects. And social events.

But here? Nothing.

Tonight, as I was sitting next to five photographs from which I’m taking inspiration to write interview questions, I was struck by how much I’m enjoying the quiet. The only noise is the rustling of the trees from gentle winds that breeze through town every evening, which seems appropriate for a seaport town.

I set priorities during these 16 days to retreat, interview, write and run, and not really do much of anything else (aside from the full time job). Haven’t really even cooked, thanks to the delicious farm stores and the co-op with their fresh grab n’ go food.

I thought I’d stack my time here by jumping on all the weird things that PT has to offer. But nope.

And now I get why writers do these things. I thought I’d be bored or distracted, but that’s the point. I’m not.

Of course, I’m distracted right now, laying out my thoughts about the blissful quiet. But I’m treating it as a writing exercise. I don’t do that enough. I’d like to do more.

Hopefully this house will give me more adventures to write about.

 

 

March 9, 2018 9:28 p.m.

And so, of course, my bummed out mentality leading up to the morning of my birthday turned for the better.

It always happens. Every year. Always annoyed the last few days of my previous year, but then the day of, I’m flooded with good feelings and everything is OK with the world.

I worked a half day, and took rest off to go to Seattle. Wasn’t sure what I was going to do; maybe just wander around the city, maybe hit a museum.

Then, while getting cleaned up, the idea of owning a scooter overcame me.

It’d been in the back of my head the past few years, thinking a little bright cherry red scooter for work commuting would be great fun. It’d match the Jetta. I’d take the nice backroads of Central Kitsap, especially on blue sky summer mornings.

The idea came over me in a kind of panic at first but in a very determined fashion, like, yes, YES this is something I DEFINITELY NEED TO DO. No research, no overthinking, just go out and buy.

So, after a brief search on Craigslist, with a little help from KG, 2 hours later I found myself getting out of an Uber at Seattle Cycle Center near Greenwood, walking into the shop and suddenly wondering what the hell I was doing there.

But I approached the desk and started with, “So, it’s my birthday. I’m turning 39 and well, I’m interested in the Buddy 125 you have on Craigslist…”

The next hour or so, the nice sales guy patiently dealt with my questions, my request for pictures of me on the bike, any history on it, what I’d need to do to get it out of his shop, what kind of helmets were out there, how they should fit. He was quite informative, didn’t try to sell me something quick, encouraged me to take a class, learn what kind of bike and brand I’d want, make sure I really want something like this.

I left feeling better, more educated and excited. At dinner, KG quizzed me on why I wanted it (um, from a vanity point of view, it seems cool and it’s a good commute alternative. In his classic way, he drops his head a little, slowly closes his eyes and shakes his head, then looks at me with a sly grin and says, “No, those are perfectly good reasons to own a scooter.”). Plus I was getting encouragement from Sara, the one of few motorcycle ladies I know, and then there was the absolutely raging cheerleading crowd from Facebook that was all in agreement that Tiffany should buy a bright yellow scooter for her birthday.

This all happened Tuesday.

I called the sales guy on Wednesday with a few more questions. I printed out the motorcycle knowledge and skills guide from the state department of licensing web site.

Thursday, I put a deposit on the scooter, cleared my schedule for Saturday, and scheduled with Sara and KG to get it back to Bremerton.

And that is how Tiffany had a mid-life crisis named Buttercup.

March 5, 2018

At the time of this writing, I will have been alive for 38 years, 11 months, 5 days and 3 hours.

I think.

Honestly, I’m not sure if that math is right.

But an easier way to look at it is that I’ve been alive for nearly 14,235 days.

“That’s it?” I said outloud to my empty house.

It does not feel like it’s been that long. It feels a lot longer.

At the time of this writing, at about 10:20 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, March 5, 2018, in about 21 hours (figuring in the time difference for living on the West Coast, but being born in Louisville, Kentucky at 10:09 p.m. on March 6, 1979), I will turn 39.

As the day worn on today, the thought of the ticker turning became a bit more… heavy. I don’t know why. Maybe because Sarah, my work sister, is leaving this week. Maybe because it’s been blah and gray here lately and definitely the time of year when cabin fever and the gray hits me (and the rest of the northwest) pretty hard. Also, Monday.

I also get kinda glum around my birthday, especially if I don’t have something planned. And I don’t really.

Well, that’s not necessarily true. I always try and plan something on the weekend closest to my birthday, whether it’s a long getaway or just a one-day event. KG indulged me on Sunday and went with me to Musselfest in Coupeville, where we sampled 8 types of mussel chowder, did a fair sampling of the wine beer and garden, ate our way through the Paella and BBQ food trucks, tried to get on a boat to see a mussel farm, and then drove alllll the way back around to the mainland, with a stop at the Skagit Valley Co-op for our weekly groceries, before popping on to the Kingston-Edmonds Ferry and zipping back down to Bremerton.

Or, maybe because I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be feeling at age 39.

It’s like going through puberty for the 4th time in your life. You’re not quite a kid but you’re not quite an adult.

I’m not married. I don’t have kids. But I own a house, have a pretty good job, am surrounded by a strong supportive community and certainly don’t sit around twiddling my thumbs with nothing to do.

So, is this it? Why does it feel like something is missing?

I’ve been feeling like this for a few years now, and expressed it to a friend recently, who is a slightly older version of me by a few years (not married, no kids, owns her house, has a solid career):

“Yeah, I went through that. And then, you suddenly realize,  you’re OK with it. And you’re happy. And you do what you want.”

That worked for a while. But it’s hanging over my head again. (I really think it’s the gray. And not enough outside time. I was never this cranky when I was hiking/skiing on a  regular basis.)

I’m not much of a long term planner, more of a short term, “get things done because I wanted them down yesterday” kinda of person when I feel passionate about a project – both in my professional and volunteer careers. I mean, when you find something good, why move on? I’ve never been super career driven, just something stable, I guess. I wasn’t even sure out of college what I wanted. Honestly, the magazine industry scared the daylights out of me and newspapers were the only other option for my skill set (aside from going back to college). I knew I always liked promotions/public relations when I dabbled in it in college. Promoting the tribes’ treaty rights wasn’t ever something I’d considered as a job but well, it’s surprising what people will pay you to do these days. It was also made clear to me that I’d likely work for the tribes after I sent home reports about how much I enjoyed covering them as a reporter.

It’s supposed to be sunny on March 6, 2018. I certainly hope so. I need that sun. I notice it helps considerably with being able to survive out here. I’ll work part of the day, then go for a run, clean up, and ferry into the city for a stroll to absorb the energy, then meet KG for dinner in Pioneer Square. And I know I’ll feel better by then.

The New Year Resolutions.

The List.

What I’m Going To Do in 2017.

How I’m Going To Make Myself Better.

How to Stop Making Excuses.

I’ve been making these lists the past few years and posting them here. Then later I publicly flog myself for not doing the 20 million things I want to do.

I stepped back the other day and thought, well, why HAVEN’T I done those things?

I’d realized I’d set myself up for failure. I wasn’t planning. That and I was wanting to do too much, which turned out to be overwhelming so I’d just go back to scrolling through Facebook and Instagram.

Stuff doesn’t just happen. While I prefer that it just does, I know in reality, depending on what it is, it just doesn’t.

Other than committing myself to things that involve other people relying on me (Group vacations or athletic events, OMR trainings/meetings), I hadn’t followed through with the first step that I tell myself every year – print out a paper calendar, tape it to the wall, each month side by side so I can see it daily, and write in all the stuff I want to do this year.

That’s all fine and great but it’s like a brainstorming session – you can come up with a million ideas but who is going to do the follow through?

Looking back at my  previous lists, as well as my ongoing internal list of things I want to do all the time, there’s a lot. And how much of it is reasonable?

I want to play all the time – yoga, ride, trail run, scramble, get back to indoor rock climbing, try out water sports.

I want to garden all the time – make my backyard a sanctuary, do manual labor and put some much-needed sweat equity into the house.

I want to work on personal development – read those self-help books that help me look a little deeper and help open my perspective on life at almost 38, with no kids, not married, GREAT job and yet still frustratingly wonder “WTF am I doing with my life?”

Frankly, I feel like I should be traveling the world as a vagabond, not trying to Martha Stewart the shit out of my cozy 2 bedroom, 1 bath little house, with a 9-5 job. (at the same time, as I wrote that out, I realized that sounds kinda fun too – SEE! TOO MANY WANTS).

(This also brings to mind a Gloria Steinem quote from an interview in 2015 on Fresh Air about her latest book, and is pinned to my wall – “I think in general, as a culture, we tend to think there are two choices: settling down or traveling. And actually you need both … birds need a nest and they still fly. It took me a while (to understand) that it wasn’t either/or – it was both.”)

I’ve recently gotten into professional development – I want to take classes – certified or not – on digital marketing and social media, help develop my skill set to help my current job and see where that takes me. Put those skills into practice. As the world knows, I’m terribly bored with my current skills.

I want to bring more creativity into my life – sewing a little bit last year helped that, and dating someone these days who thinks outside the box, thus leading to some very imaginative conversations, has me excited too. Take drawing classes, finish up a few of those woodworking projects, hell, even paint the house different colors. I want to write and read more.

But all these things take time. And I could pick one of them and focus on it the entire year, neglecting the others. But how is that balanced?

After last year’s insanity, in which I became the absolutely most busiest I’ve ever been in my entire life (which is hard to believe since I seem to be busy all the time, but when you’re eating out three times a day for 2-3 months straight because you have no time to cook for yourself because of work and volunteer activities and bike training, that’s the extreme end of busy for me), I finally was forced to step back and take stock of my mental, emotional and physical capacity in early August.

Relinquishing a lot of that “I must do this and that” because that’s who I am or who I USED to be was a huge relief. I just wanted to “be.”

But that’s a key question – who I USED to be. Life changes. There are no constants. I need to be accepting of that. Except tea. There’s always tea.

I’m in mountain rescue but I haven’t climbed a damn mountain in three years – am I still interested in this work? I am, because I love the concept of SAR and participating in it when I can. And I want to use OMR as a way to practice communication strategy and public outreach. But again, that requires sitting down, time and focus.

I like to plan and pay for events (i.e. organized trail runs and bike rides) so I have something to look forward to, and it forces me to commit to it, but then it hurts when I have to say no to something else when it comes up and conflicts with my original plans. I hate saying no. As cliche and millennial as it is, I DO live that life of Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO). I also question why I don’t just go out and do it every weekend like everyone else (run, ski, etc) and realize I always have something else going on. So it’s not like I’m at home sitting around watching TV all the time. I take pride in knowing I DON’T do that but I also wonder, then what AM I doing?

KG and I have had several conversations about the FOMO effect recently. We’re both pretty independent people who need “me” time to take care of stuff. We get in a funk if we don’t have that “me” time. We struggle to give each other that space yet want to spend time with each other so not to miss out on experiencing things together. Thankfully, we talk about it, rather than me wringing my hands at home going, “oh god, am I giving him enough space? And yet I can’t be afraid to tell him no for my space. We both have major projects we’d like to complete on our own, how do we do it and see each other and yet support each other but also have fun like we’ve been doing the past few months …”

(Which, I’ll admit, I still feel this at times. This is old anti-communication Tiffany speaking. She’s continually working hard to break through those barriers. She’s still realizing that relationships go through evolutions and development and not everything is sparkly and hearts and unicorns and rainbows all the time, despite how much she wants it to be).

KG made another good point too. He has developed a list of governing values – a set of overall rules, values, moral codes that he lives by. And he makes most of his decisions measured against these values. He said that should be my first step, which will help guide me toward the things I REALLY want to do (and not what I feel I should do or what I THINK I want to do just because it’s been like that in the past) and add value to my life. Not take away value (i.e. time management, enjoyment, etc).

I’m also realizing that while I’m a people person in most capacities, in the past year I’ve discovered I REALLY like being alone too. When it comes to learning/education – I enjoy in-person environments the best, networking, sharing ideas, brainstorming, being creative together. Call me old school that way, I guess.

At home, in the evenings, especially lately since I’ve been sick, I’ve been enjoying being at home with an online course, a book, even editing for work (and snuggled under that amazing blanket I got from KG for Christmas).

So, all this rambling – what’s the result?

I FINALLY printed out all 12 months of 2017 and they are taped to the utility closet door, so I see them every. single. time. I pass by it on my way to the bedroom and kitchen and bathroom. I keep a pencil nearby to update each day with whatever fun activity I’ve done that day. Kind of like a daily journal. DONE.

My 2017 “resolutions”: (initially laid out early Jan 2017, with updates early Feb 2017)

“Me”

Simple. 

Regular yoga (Start with just Wednesday nights, my favorite yoga class at the YMCA – that’s ME time). No one gets in the way of these, not friends, KG, dinner, work, anything. Someone must be dying, bleeding or throwing up for me to give up this. (UPDATE: So I’ve yet to go to that specific class – even though KG pushes me to go it when I mention I have other options on the table-  but I discovered YouTube has a ton of yoga videos, and I found a pretty good 30 day series that I’ve been sticking with, so, progress!). 

Regular cycling – weekends, as they get nicer. I have a nice regular group of cycling friends now to rely on. Sign up for STP again? (Update: talks with friends point more toward RSVP and/or the week long bike tour of Oregon in the summer)

Creativity (classes) (still working on this – thinking more of the yard and interior of the house right now – hitting up the sewing machine may be a good start though)

Professional development (UPDATE: UW social media course was cancelled so, do a social media marketing online course via coursera; then sign up for the digital marketing course at UW in March!)

Personal development (take those books on your shelf, make those dark week nights your reading nights)

Get back into mountaineering shape – this will happen in time as the season gets warmer. If I set a goal to climb Baker (FINALLY) that will help get my butt in gear. Use the Melissa Arnot plan. Or shoot – train for another triathlon! oooohhhhh I wonder who i could get to do that with me!!! 

This post feels a lot like the previous ones, but this has more awareness and energy behind it. More external moral support instead of just my brain. more intention with ideas of how to move forward. And the list is not nearly as long and overwhelming. And it will be printed out and posted next to that calendar. OOOOOHHHH – corkboard with command hooks for the wall. That’s enticing.

Another concept I came across the other day too – living a life that is meaningful versus finding ways to be happy.

SO many buzzwords and phrases – finding your passion in life. finding happiness. What does happiness look like? Working to live, not living to work. make your job not feel like work. Another post for another day.