Archives for category: outdoors

Memorial Day 2020

A little over 10 months since I sat at this dining room table in similar silence.

It’s (still) so quiet here in Port Townsend. Deadly silent is what comes to mind but it is very much not a threatening environment.

Until the fridge’s hum started a few minutes ago, literally the only thing I could hear was the soft rush of rain on the trees outside the dining room window. But it doesn’t match the visual of the pouring rain on the neighbor’s roof.

The only other sounds are from the birds, which I can hear through the open skylight in the bathroom about 15 feet away from me. So. Many. Birds. They’re sheltering from the rain that is pouring harder now than 10 minutes ago, but they are still talking to each other. I haven’t figured out which birds they are by their sounds. But no mourning doves, as we’ve heard regularly the past few weeks, and are starting to be annoyed with at first light every morning.

Or the chirping of the now-teenage European starlings that live inside the telephone pole in front of the house. We’ve been hearing, then seeing, the little bird family grow the past month, and observing Mom and Dad constantly bringing back food to the needy youngsters. We now think the young ones, who we saw learning to fly two weeks ago, are equivalent to 30-year old adults with no jobs and living in their parent’s basement.

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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


Extra gear to bring



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?).



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.

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That picture above. Right there. It’s gorgeous, right? Only a few miles from the road, yet wonderfully rugged. The North Cascade Mountains in Washington State. Hours from home. Fresh air, steep terrains, squeaky pikas, bear prints in the snow, flowing mountain streams. Stuff I’ve been traipsing in and around for almost 10 years.

I had a panic attack in the valley. Deep in the forest. Just out of the photo frame. Bottom right.


This was part of the Annual Ladies Backpacking Trip. Organized by one of my favorite outdoor ladies, it was guaranteed to be a good time. Get in a heart-pounding hike up and over a few ridges, with the potential to camp by a lake and even bag a peak. Most of us on the trip are constantly hiking and climbing with boyfriends/husbands/male partners, so the women’s trip is a refreshing change of company.

Despite all the promise of a trip with lovely company and views, part of me wanted to stay at home and just … stop. I’d just ended five months of absolute insanity. It’d been two weeks since the last of it, ending with the massive bike ride from Seattle to Portland.

I even complained to Maria a week before the trip. “I’m so exhausted and tired, I have no desire to leave my house.” No, you have to go, she said, don’t bail. I’ll even drive.

* sigh * Ugh. OK. I guess.

As email traffic increased leading up to the trip, I started to get excited. I started packing Monday night, even though we didn’t leave until Friday morning. I also had no choice, as apparently my life of insanity had not stopped and I had no time Tues-Thurs evenings to pack. I also was determined to go as light as possible, so I gave myself time to go through my gear and ditch things (and, well, buy a smaller pack). I eventually got down to 17 lbs of gear and 13 lbs of food and water = 30 lbs in a 50 liter pack, with room to spare! That’s a RECORD for me. However, just before we hit the trail, I added meat, which brought my pack up to 41 lbs, the heaviest of the group. FAIL. Seriously, 11 more pounds of food? I was so mad at myself.

We met the other five women at the trailhead and heartily started up our first trail: 4 miles and 3,000 feet to Easy Pass. With all the chattering and excitement, that seemed like a piece of cake and before we knew it, we were having lunch three hours later at the pass in the shade, with Fisher Basin open before us.

From there we could see the rest of the day’s route: drop down to the valley, climb out the southern end of it, scramble up and over some rocky ledges (a.k.a. “The Cakewalk”) and then drop down to Silent Lakes for base camp. Great! (Even if “The Cakewalk” looking nothing like that).

We started down to the valley, dropping 1,500 feet in 2 miles, under the oppressive heat of the July sun, and swarmed by mosquitoes and black flies. We reached the bottom of the valley near Fisher Camp and turned southeast, following a rough boot path with some log hopping.

At this point, I was doing OK. I’d enjoyed the climb to the pass, but something started to bother me on the way into the valley.

It started slowly with a sense of not wanting to be there. I felt guilty about that but then those feelings started to get raw: Damn my pack is heavy, why the hell did I pack so much food, I was totally cool with 30 lbs last night, I’m so exhausted, I guess I’m still trashed from the past few months, damnit it’s really hot all I want to do is go home I want to be in my gardens if I’m going to work this hard I want it to be at my house working with iced tea brewing on the backporch and feeling a sense of accomplishment why do I do this to myself–

Then came on the shallow breathing followed by a racing heartbeat, then a feeling of suffocation.

Maria was just a few yards in front of me.

“Maria?” my voice breaking to my surprise, and then suddenly feeling myself mentally, emotionally and physically crumble. “I’m… done. I’m just … done.”

She turned toward me.

“Oh, yes I know I am too. We bit off more than we can chew. And it’s really hot right now.”

“No, it’s not that,” I said as we met in the middle, my trekking poles dragging behind me like a toddler with a blanket. “I’m, like, DONE. I can’t go any more. I’m just …”

I then burst in tears and collapsed in her arms, and sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.

Like body-goes-limp-but-trying-to-catch-my-breath-while-trying-to-get-it-all-out-sobbing. I can’t remember the last time I cried so hard.

Maria held me for awhile before she gently guided me to a log to sit down and collect myself while she went to catch the girls.

I sat there dumbfounded, numb. I wanted to turn around and march right back up that hot hill and then back down to the car. It was only 5 miles. It was not hard. I knew I was still trashed from the past few months but I didn’t realize it would hit like this. I’m supposed to enjoy these types of outings. These types of outings are supposed to relax me. Take me away from everyday life.

When Maria returned, she didn’t have her backpack, which immediately crushed me.

“We’re going to stop just a little ways up here and make camp,” she said. “We won’t go all the way to the lakes and one of the other women is pretty done too. The heat is getting to all of us.”

“Oh… I was hoping we could go home.”

“No, now that’s silly. We’ve come all this way. We can’t leave now. We can just sit in camp, we don’t have to do anything.”

With a heavy sigh, I got up and trudged on. My body felt heavy but my head was completely void of emotion. I was just floating now. Not really engaged but still aware of my surroundings: that creek we had to wade, the boulder field we had to navigate, help make decisions on where we’d camp that night. Just barely.

But I continued on. Our group made the decision to camp below The Cakewalk and the next day, those who wanted to could do a trip up to Silent Lakes and Fisher Peak.

We camped on a rocky outcrop with established tent sites, with a stream to our left and a snow patch to the right. The southern end of the valley rose above us, with Fisher Basin behind us. We established campsites (Maria had to call my name a few times to get my attention as I stood there mindlessly just holding one end of the tent as she was trying to set it up), rinsed off in the creek, changed clothes, pumped fresh water, had dinner and drank snow-ritas (margarita mix and tequila poured over cups of snow – WAY better than anything served in a restaurant.). We shared stories of previous trips and read outloud from the trip’s Official Literature, “Woman’s World Weekly.”

I explained to the ladies that I didn’t think I had the mental capacity for the climb the next day. They completely understood, and said they’ve been in my place before, where all you can manage is just one foot in front of the other just to get to camp. I was so thankful for these ladies. I may not have been all “there”, but I knew I was safe. If there was an emergency, I could snap into rescue mode, that wasn’t problem. But, at this particular moment, I didn’t have to do anything. I could just … be.

The next day, I woke up only feeling a bit better. Still in a funk but at least rested. I was wondering if I’d step out of the tent and see the day’s objective and wonder if I’d be struck with the usual “OMG I should go, I’ll feel guilty if I don’t, I came all this way, I should take advantage of this, I’m weak if I don’t go!”

Nope. Nothing. I mean, I felt a slight twinge of desire to scramble something but not necessarily do the weekend’s objective. I could have climbed to the edge of valley to peek over the other side, but I also felt completely OK with just staying in camp. Maria would be staying too. In fact, I entertained the idea of a nap after breakfast.

After the ladies took off for their climb, I straightened up camp, organized my food and took stock of what I had (why the hell was my bag so heavy?) and made it an objective to eat as much food as possible during the day, even if it meant stuffing an entire block of cheese, several landjagers and a log of sausage down my throat over the next 12 hours.

After I finished my food organization and made a list of lighter gear to research, I moved to the tent to organize my other gear. Maria was reading inside, shaded and away from the bugs.

“So what are you doing there, Tiff?”

“Oh, just organizing, putzing, nesting … Wait! I’m NESTING! Which is what I want to be doing anyway but just right now it happens to be while I’m seven hours from home and in the middle of nowhere!”

We both laughed.

That’s when I realized it.

It took me being in the wilderness to force myself to stop. To put myself in an environment free of any stressors, to simply just survive. To not be distracted by anything. No projects to tackle (even if that’s what I thought I wanted to do). I love being in the outdoors for those reasons – to simply survive and not think about all things I should be thinking about.

How to mitigate the bugs, what layers should I work with right now, when should we fill up the group water jugs, how much food can I eat today, when can I steal Maria’s book after reading Woman’s World Weekly from cover to cover again…

After coming to that realization, I finally relaxed, finished my putzing, then took my pillow and sit pad out of the tent, laid out on the ground and thought, “Here’s the vacation I’ve finally wanted. It may not be on a beach, but it certainly was warm, outside and quiet. No family, no work, no Internet to distract me.”

And I was OK with it. I even took that nap.

Later that night, when the ladies came back from the climb, the first thing Eileen did was march right up to me, embrace me, and exclaim, “Smart decision!” Apparently that climb was not for the faint of heart. Or the mentally unstable.


Back to my regular self

By this point, I was back being OK with life. I also made a few decisions, such as to truly zero in on my desires in the moment (mountains, city or home?). I also realized the mountains weren’t where I wanted to be this summer. I’d been biking since March and really loved it this year. So I mentally cancelled my Mt. Baker trip that was in two weeks. Once I made that decision, and started making plans for fun things to do around town for the month of August (including more bike time and yard time and yoga), I started to feel immensely better.

Just because it’s summertime in the Northwest doesn’t mean it always needs to be spent in the mountains. In fact, I LOVE my house in the summertime. The front porch is great for sunsets. The backyard (when it’s weeded and cleaned up) is cozy and lush. The light in the morning in the living room is lovely.

Then there is the question – am I living the life I want? Every year, I’m faced the issue – I want to do EVERYTHING. With EVERYONE. I need to climb mountains to stay strong for mountain rescue, which I absolutely love, almost more than life itself. I want to kayak though. I want to enjoy Seattle in the summer, with picnics with city friends in the little city parks. I want to spend time at home enjoying my investment. I want to be closer to the water these days, and not be far away in the mountains.

How do you find balance so not to burn yourself out or be overwhelmed?

Talking with a friend the other night, he said, you just have to learn to say no. Truly listen to what you want to do and do it. It doesn’t make you weaker or less of a person if you don’t climb mountains all the time, or decide you want to have an in-town weekend, or if you want to do yoga all the time instead of sports, or embrace your new found love for biking, or pick up a water sport.

Fay offered a quote that stuck with me: “You have to let go of the life you expected in order to have the life that is waiting for you.”

Basically – go with the flow. Do what you want. Do what makes you happy.

Three days after that emotional backpacking trip, I was sitting at a campground on the Pacific coast. I was there for two days of work but I couldn’t bring myself to find a hotel or sleep in the Jetta. I wanted to sleep as close as possible to the ocean. So I tossed the tent,  sleeping bag and pillow in the car. A few snacks. Backpacking stove and a dehydrated meal for my dinner, which I delightedly and slowly ate on the beach as I people-watched. I could feel the sticky but refreshing layer of the saltwater on my skin. I’d been excited by the idea of sleeping by the ocean, by myself. Ironically, all completely forced by logistics of work.

And maybe my friend is right.

Maybe I should buy a surfboard.

I make a lot of excuses for everything. I know this. I’ve always known this. I’m actually a lot of talk and no action, contrary to what y’all think.

These ideas have been brought to my attention recently. On a deeper level. Don’t ask. Just go with it.

I woke up this morning with the uncomfortable feeling, like, yeah, get off your duff and actually do something. You ARE all talk and no action. I’ve been bitching for years about things I REALLY want to do and have I done them?

NO, because I am the QUEEN OF EXCUSES. Look at my past relations and jobs and extracurricular activities – why I can’t/don’t/shouldn’t get out of it, change it, do it.

F that.

I sat down with breakfast and a scrap piece of paper and a pen and scrawled across the top:

What makes me feel alive?


(Speaking of, at this moment, a Florence and the Machines song just came on KEXP. It’s not the song that reminds me of my trip to Australia in 2011, but this band had a song that came out around that time that was totally the theme of that trip. And that trip made me feeling so fucking alive.)



hiking/skiing uphill


good home cooked food

my favorite people


busy work

helping people


creating things with my hands


traveling and exploring



NOW, this list is all fine and good but HOW or WHAT am I going to do about each one.

Next to each item, I started writing out ideas:

Running – sign up for a trail run once a month. it costs money but whatever. Sign up early enough, it’s not as expensive. Every time I got off a trail run in 2014, it was the best feeling ever. Better than climbing, hiking, biking, swimming, whatever other sport i’ve tried.

hiking/skiing uphill – it’s winter, so it’s snow season, so I need to get my knee brace fitted which I’m doing next friday. YAY! Then I can cross country ski this year!

dogs – Don called me out last night on every excuse for not having a dog, as I’ve been moaning for years that I’ve wanted one. I essentially live in the equivalent of a big apartment (big indoor space, no fenced yard). Start researching good types of dogs for me – one who enjoys exercise and being worked but also knows how to chill.

good home cooked food – CHECK. ALL THE TIME.

my favorite people – who in my life makes me feel happy and real and myself. mentors and people i respect and look up to.

sunshine – continue to take 3,000 IUs of Vitamin D, go to the tanning beds or just fucking move.

busy work – i’m trying hard at work to do this while we’re in a slow season, as most my people are at their computers doing reports and data crunching, so field season is slow. time to plan long-term projects?

helping people – mountain rescue allows for this, but not enough. my job allows for this, but not enough. my career counseling last year shed light on working in a non-traditional teaching environment. Both my job and mountain rescue allow plenty of opportunities to do this. I need to sit down with a calendar and resources and do some research on how to incorporate this.

cleaning/organizing – i’m really good at this, no matter what it is. it just comes as required.

creating things with my hands – woodworking is the first thing that comes to mind. I just signed up for a free online four-day creative class. I would like to sit down and go through it, but see, I’m not creating an action plan here to make sure I follow through with it. I guess a bigger priority is the pile of fabric in my living room for two sets of pajama pants, three quilts, a dress and lots of mending …

music – most of the time, KEXP. Also, I have a ukelele and a guitar in my living room. In their cases. Someone told me to buy music stands so they’ll sit out and I’ll pick them up more. I need to buy two music stands. Cheap.

traveling and exploring – this takes planning. I see on Facebook (yes, the Facebook syndrome) all the trips and ideas and think, man, I need to plan some trips. Yes, I know I just went to Ireland (which was amazing) but wanderlust is getting to me again. I WILL BLOCK OUT THAT LAST WEEK OF MARCH FOR MY WEEKLONG ROAD TRIP FROM CALIFORNIA TO WASHINGTON DAMNIT. I’VE BEEN WANTING TO DO THAT TRIP FOR SIX YEARS NOW.

Gardening – that pink binder on the table? the one you keep meaning to organize by month so you know what to do for each plant, as well as layout where each plant is in your gardens? that needs to be done. again though where’s the action plan to make sure it gets done?

(Irony? KEXP is now playing ALIVE by Empire of the Sun)

it feels good to get all this out, but it also means planning and budgeting. that’s where i get blocked. when do i have time to sit down and plan and budget? that’s my problem.

the other question – in a year, after i do all these things, will i finally be happy? i constantly feel like there is something else there, something else that i need to satisfy me, because apparently my charmed life right now (i’m not going to lie, i know i have it good, on paper, my life looks fantastic) isn’t enough.

there you go.

No one ever said i didn’t wear my heart on my sleeve.






I discovered Doe Bay Fest a few years ago after I saw videos of the sweet acoustic sets of what seemed to be spontaneous jams on the beach at Doe Bay. The one I remember was The Head and The Heart.

Through that video, you could feel that intimacy of a private acoustic session, something that most people don’t get to experience often. So the idea of experiencing it in an environment not unlike a friend’s backyard drew interest in possibly making the trek to three-day Doe Bay Fest.

But  – it’s in the San Juans Islands, which takes a good half day to get to, plus the cost and prep and who can you rally to go with you? And tickets to this very tiny but popular festival are impossible to get (until the last year or two where you now have to physically visit the resort throughout the year and stay the night, then put your name on a list for the festival when you check out, thus your ticket. Pretty clever, actually.).

And I’d given up on music festivals. Sasquatch, Bumbershoot, massive amphitheaters with thousands and thousands and thousands of people. Acoustics are good but you’re typically a 1/4 mile away from the stage, lest you want to stand in a crowd while trying to get as close as possible to the stage, with the chance of not seeing anything but the tall drunk dude in front of you (a big risk I take, being not even 5′ tall).

I’d gotten old the past few years, preferring to lay out a picnic blanket on the grassy banks and enjoy the afternoon sets, where I’d discovered some amazing music  and taken in some of the evening sets (such as a rare live performance of The Postal Service). But I’m not crazy about the massive parking lot camping and wondering if and what the dude next door is going to blare at 7 a.m. (no joke, this happened, Sasquatch 2005? I think he was playing Metallica or Linkin Park or something really loud. I’m surprised he made it out of the lot alive.).

When Beth suggested going to Doe Bay this year for my birthday in March so we could get tickets, I thought why not. One of those bucket list items to tick off and I didn’t have any plans for No. 35 anyway.

My initial impression of Doe Bay (mind you, in March and pouring rain) was not mind blowing. Quiet cabins, couples, small groups of friends, spa – all very quiet and relaxing things but I didn’t get the “magical feeling” that people talk about when they talk about Doe Bay and get all sparkly-eyed.

So when August approached with Doe Bay Fest around the corner, I wasn’t as excited as I wanted to be. However, making plans for an all-woman’s camping trip, with a mix of my close Seattle friends and Kitsap friends and a camping menu of homemade pizzas, veggie burritos, BBQ, a massive breakfast, sangria, bloody marys, salads and marshmallow/Nutella/peanut butter cookie s’mores, I was looking forward to the overall experience. And if I walked away with some new music to check out, cool.

Oh, but how the universe, once again, kicked my ass.

My first “Doe Bay Moment” was on the way to the bathroom to get ready for bed Thursday night around 10:30 p.m., after a long day of traveling. I kept hearing a banjo though, so I followed the sound to The Busking Station, where whomever could set up on a wooden platform tucked away in a little alcove of bushes, just off the main trail that connected the stages, the cafe, beach, spa and camp sites. I came upon a group of about 30 people standing around Jacob Miller and the Bridge City Crooners, a Portland band of young guys plucking out swing/ragtime/dixieland music on a banjo, an upright bass, a washboard and a guitar.

Seriously? Seriously. And who’s standing over there watching them? Friday night’s headliner Cody ChestnuTT tapping his toes. Oh and Don Slack (a favorite KEXP DJ of mine) was there hanging out. I found out later I had several friends from Seattle who were also standing around watching this. Oh and that big guy with the beard and backpack standing next to me with the radio who looks like a college sophomore? That’s one of the organizers of this entire weekend. I swear, every time I turned around during the festival, he was sitting near us.

But in Doe Bay – none of that matters. And that’s what so sweet about the festival. It’s not a place to hobnob with musicians. You’re just going to stand next to them like your friends and take in those Doe Bay Moments. And then the next day, you’re going watch those musicians and make more Moments with other folks, whether it be:

dancing at the front of the main stage with least one foot of space between you and everyone else (blissful)

or see small kids with oversized ear protection squeeze in at the edge of the stage, intently studying the musicians and tapping their toes

or watch a three-year-old drum out on his dad’s back, keeping to the beat of the music

or danced like you haven’t danced in years to that DJ who rocked the Yoga Studio that night with all your favorite songs from college

or pass those pre-teen kids who opened the festival with their unbelievable guitar work and folk songs and you’ll call out as you pass by them in the crowds the next day, “hey, great job guys” and the youngest one will turn around and say, “hey, thanks!”

or you’ll share The Stranger newspaper with that guy sitting next to your blanket and get into a discussion about The Book of Mormon while waiting for the next band to start

or you’ll develop an intense crush on that experimental jazz band’s drummer and go up to him after and ask where he’s playing next, then watch him drum in the reggae band later in the day and then read about him in The Stranger and see how he’s deservedly up and coming in Seattle

or you’ll wander around the property after the headliner has finished and follow your ear, only to find that one band you heard this morning, which you weren’t impressed with on stage, is spectacular around the campfire and bring on happy tears

or you’ll wander down the the beach in hopes of finding something and are immediately handed a sparkler and the guy playing the guitar is leading the group of 30 or so in old gospel sing-alongs

or you’ll make your way up to The Apple Tree, where one night you’ll find a slightly inebriated guitarist whose music is too soft for your liking but his banter is hilarious, and his two buddies, one of which is piano player playing a uke, are belting out John Prine tunes.

or the next night under the Apple Tree, between the two oil lamp torches, you’ll find the lead singers from four bands who played this year and last year, taking turns to share songs from their own format (alt-rock, ragtime, spoken word and folk), but the upright bassist from the experimental jazz band is backing up each of them on the spot (I’m waiting for these sessions to be recorded and then posted online as “The Apple Tree Sessions” but that takes away the mystique of the late night sessions, so I hope no one does).

or you’ll develop girl crushes on every female musician who takes to the stage

or you’ll sit on the beach, waiting for your very, very late water taxi to take you back to The Real World and a guy with a guitar will walk down to the beach and entertain the very tired but relaxed crowd, then a clarinetist will join him, adding a rich undertone to the sound and after a few songs, you’ll hear the two musicians finally introduce themselves to each other.

or you’ll be dancing next to the head organizer of the festival Joe, who created this event for this reason alone: to share amazing music with 1,000 of his friends.

So, yeah… Doe Bay is like that.


I tend to do sudden Facebook vacations. Actually, I think about it all the time, wishing I could get off it but give myself some excuse why I have to stay on (see pictures of my nephew, read anecdotes about his little 3 year old life, keep on top of social events, get sucked into posts about cats dressed as sharks riding roombas, need to keep my account active since it’s connected to my work account). But this one was inspired by a friend who announced a Facebook vacation in August and I thought, “Man, that sounds pretty good right now.”

I tend to post post post (well, maybe not so much lately-been more of FB stalker really) and then announce I’m gone and then bam, I’m gone and it feels so good. And honestly who should really give a rat’s ass whether I’m on or not, but apparently a fair amount do. My email and/or Facebook comments/message inbox (Really? After I just said I’m not getting on FB? How bright are you really? Why are we friends anyway? Did you really read my post?) will usually fill with messages from folks, asking “OMG really? You’re on it all the time, you put up good stuff, are you OK, is someone stalking you?” (no joke, that last one really was asked the last time I did this).

For eff’s sake, no. Calm the hell down. Here’s your goddamn answer. (I know some of you are asking, “Why do you need to explain yourself?” Good question. Excuse to write on the blog?)

I find myself on it all the time and frankly, it’s really annoying me. I’ve tried to control it, put myself on a schedule to check it and even block it for hours at a time. But honestly, I’m so bored with life right now, it’s a way to fill up that boredom and avoid/procrastinate things that I should be doing. Anything from cleaning out that closet to working in the garden to planning out that trip to doing some bigger and deeper soul searching for what’s next in life.

Yes, I’m also confirming right now, publicly, that I do have someone special in my life right now and I’d like to focus on that (no, it’s not THAT serious but it’s fun) as well as some professional ideas that I’d like explore.

I’m aware of my regular social events. I don’t rely on social media for mountain rescue. The people I stay in touch with the most, I do mostly over email, instant message, text and phone calls.

Plus, despite how much we tell everyone how much it rains and is miserable here in the Pacific Northwest, it is unbelievably goddamn gorgeous here these days and why the hell do I want to waste it in front of a stupid screen?

So, there you have it. The app has been deleted from my phone and who knows, you may see more stuff here.

Now, get off your computer and go outside, you fool. What the hell are you doing reading this drivel?

(And yes, I’m fully aware of the irony of my previous post and this one).

It’s been a slow and sluggish winter. The gray of the long winter is hitting, as it should because it’s March and I’m not super inspired to do much during the week. The weekends are skiing or OMR training or annual events, such as Sunday’s St. Pat’s Dash with friends. That day involves an early morning ferry, a 4-mile run, a couple beers in the beer garden at Seattle Center while dancing to a live Celtic band, the Stout Pounders, then food. After that, the options open to whatever, and this year it was watching Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom at Patrick’s, then rushing to go catch Anderson’s latest release, The Grand Budapest Hotel, which was, indeed, grand.

A slow mosey back to the ferry, catching every overpass and sheltered pathway possible, as a squall had hit Seattle at 8 p.m. Feeling defeated, dejected, no, DRAINED, we got on our ferry and sloshed back to our homes.

Today was a thankfully quiet and slow day at work, with no deadlines but plenty of busy little projects. I told myself it was a week of Spring Cleaning The Office. It stopped raining and sun filtered through the trees throughout the day outside my window. I knew I needed to get out into the gardens this evening, with light until 7:30 now, but I just couldn’t muster even thinking about the mental or physical energy required. Knowing that the rain would be coming back tomorrow helped some but not enough.

Then there was Shannon. My co-worker Shannon, an effervescent bubbly dark-haired woman who loves gardening and growing her own food like me. She has acreage and animals, including chickens. Her gardens are wild and uninhibited, from years and years of tucking away all sorts of plants she’s collected. She brought me a bouquet of forsythias last week that are still blooming their yellow clusters on the tan lean branches, with a few green buds starting to pop.

She showed me pictures of her greenhouse today after lunch and the starts of her spinach and other greens. Deep down inside, I felt a little flicker of spring and energy but at the same time, pangs of guilt. The leaves from last fall that I used to mulch the ground over the winter were still in my front and back yards, thick and slick from the season’s rains. My hoop house was still covering the garden and weeds were really starting to take over everywhere.

I mentioned just as much to her, and as I exhaled a sigh of defeat and dragged back to my office, she called after me, “You know, you just gotta get out there and start, because once you do, something switches on in you, and then, you know, you’re there.”

I knew what she meant. It helped some. I talked myself into not going to yoga this evening and that working in the yard would have the same meditative effects.

Still, I dragged my feet when I got home, slowly changed, slowly picked up the keys to the garage then grabbed the beer I promised myself I could drink while I worked in the front yard.

That first pull of Elysian Immortal IPA tasted like summer. That was a good start.

I pulled a few weeds, retrieved some tools from the garage and started raking the leaves in the front yard. Eh. Not as meditative or refreshing or invigorating as I’d hoped. But my mind started to wake up a little as I carefully worked around the hot pink stems of the Bleeding Hearts and tested the hardiness of my ferns with my rake. Are those primroses that have made their way to the front yard? I was happy to see my Rhodies made it through their first winter in my yard. I cut back the dead grass on my Japanese Forest Grasses and told myself I finally need to buy new Corra Belles for the East Gardens. I eventually dragged the yard waste bin to the front and began tossing in piles of wet brown leaves. I made a mental note to start thinking about buying fresh mulch for the front gardens, since barely anything survives there but it looks nice with fresh mulch.

I soon decided to call it an evening and started putting tools away in the garage. On the way there though, I paused by the hoop house, thought for half a second, then started unclipping the inch-and-a-half binder clips that secure the three-mil plastic to the hoop structure. I hung the slightly rusted clips in the garage and went back for the plastic, wrestling with a sheet that is twice as big as a queen-sized bedspread. I peeled it off from one end and walked it down to the other, letting it rest on the plastic adirondack chair. I walked around to inspect what had happened all winter under that opaque layer and found myself inhaling a huge breath.

It was almost like sucking in air for the garden, breathing for it. I’d taken a layer off, allowing it to breathe for the first time since November, and for myself for the first time in a while. At the same time, I just was really excited to suck in all that amazing garden air that had been trapped and working wonders.

My cover crops are thick, with only just a few weeds that were easily pulled. My chives are a foot tall. My swiss chard plants are short but are sprouting wide thick leaves, ready for their second season. The kale is going to seed but that’s OK. And whereas I thought the squirrels got my broccoli, lettuce and spinach seeds, there’s one sprout of spinach and a couple lettuce leaves. The green blades of the garlic and leeks are lined up like toy soldiers, just like I sowed them last fall.

It took a few moments to realize how good it felt taking off that layer. I felt like myself again and reenergized. Spring is really coming. Warmer weather is on the way. It may be a little chilly at night this week and the plastic may need to go back on just overnight, but my hands have been inaugurated with dirt for the season.

Like Shannon said, it definitely flipped the switch.

Green bell peppers do not belong in a beef stew that cooks for 8 hours in a crock pot.

I really need new running shoes, a haircut, my eyebrows waxed, my fingernails buffed, and a new muffler on my car.

Hell, I just need a new car. Stella’s getting up there in age, at 245K.

I would really like to pull a Lorena Bobbitt on the next legislator who decides to voice his opinion about how the government should rule my uterus.

You can be mad as hell at the universe for something not working out (even though on paper it should) but it still doesn’t change anything. So, you move on.

I’m not grossed out after gutting and cleaning a whole fish.

On that note, as much as I try, no matter how fresh it is, I still can’t get as excited about eating salmon as I do shrimp, oysters and geoduck.

I tried to de-gear my home office by moving it all to the garage; however, after a week of being gearless in the house, I found that I go through it all on a regular basis (both for work and recreation) more than I thought. So, back to the office it goes.

Next organizing option: Get rid of desktop set up and upgrade to laptop, thus removing huge table in office. Replace with shelving.

Once again I am reminded that I am a technical writer.

Grumpiness this time of year seems to be easily remedied by purchasing pumpkins and cornstalks and decorating my porches with them.

I am hibernating and nesting way more than usual this year. No, I’m not pregnant.

If I’m at home on Sundays, I really like having the NFL on the TV as background noise, as well as the ability to pop in, watch a few plays, yell at the TV, then go back to my house project.

I’ve been looking at my straightened and clean house lately and wondering, ‘Um, what do I do at home now?”

Salami is no longer an option as camp food.

2:25 p.m. July 30, 2012

I want to be at home. I want to be at home RIGHT NOW. I am SO done with this trip.

That was my first thought when I woke up at Camp Site 11 in the Seven Lakes Basin in the Olympic Mountains Sunday morning.

It’s rare for me to think that when backpacking. I typically relish in waking up snug in my little tent, with the sun starting to brighten the bright green walls that kept me warm and dry during the night. I woke to the rustling of my campmates starting to pack up and get ready for the day. It was probably 5:45 a.m. I knew we needed to get up and not dwaddle as the organizer of the trip had a long day planned, which included an attempt to climb Mt. Carrie. I was going to be hiking back to the trailhead instead but had a long day too – an 11 mile-long hike out.

I apparently wanted to leave this place quite badly.

Having that nagging thought really bugged me though and made me a cranky camper Sunday morning. Usually I’m pretty bright-eyed and content, looking forward to the day’s adventure and enjoying the chores of a camp morning. I even had a restful night of sleep, only waking up briefly but didn’t need to heed to nature’s call. I thought my unusual sourness was brought on by feeling rushed, knowing we had to get up and get going soon. And I was upset with myself having these negative thoughts. Were these the last days of my time in the mountains? Did I not enjoy camping anymore? Was I burned out?

Wait, I thought. I hadn’t been in the mountains like this in six weeks. I hadn’t been out nearly as much as I had wanted to be this summer. And this particular trip I’ve been dying to do for years. What happened? Read the rest of this entry »

11:55 a.m., March 20, 2012

It’s been way too long and I’ve been craving this post for a while now. So, once again, an unedited, unabashed, all guts out 15 minute writing exercise. I love it because my hands are sweating… what absolute nonsense can I muster up in 15 minutes?

I think this will be a very link-y blog. I’ve been on a link-y browsing kick lately. This morning’s finds can be categorized under a few things: Sad Music, Psychology and Random Crap.

Sad Music: Oddly enough, I’ve been pretty damn happy lately. A year ago, it was pretty dark. Life threw bullets the previous, oh 18 months, and Jan-March 2011 had me at rock bottom. But I didn’t know until someone gave me a slap to the face that made me recognize how bad things were. However, it was the trip to Australia in  March 2011 that gave me the chance to recharge and I actually came back from this undeserved but much needed vacation relaxed. It was a strange experience, coming back from vacation not exhausted from some sort of climbing/camping/backpacking trip.

But I digress – THE MUSIC!

These two songs have captured my attention recently: Read the rest of this entry »