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I don’t know how to start this one. All I know is that I want to write down everything about this weekend (and this season) because I’m in the post-event funk and don’t want to forget anything. And it’s faster for me to type than to handwrite in a journal.

And, should I do this again in the future, remember what to do and what not to do.

Training (i.e. How To Get Your Friends To Train With You):

For the time I had, I think I did the best I could. Beth brought up the idea in January, and I signed up in March. Between supporting a conference, making two trips to the East Coast, making two quilts, helping manage a film project, ending a relationship and completing some major work projects, then pumping out at least one or two short rides a week (sorta) and one long ride a weekend, (with some spin classes thrown in for good measure, so I thought) every little bit helped.

Doing a variety of rides on the Olympic Peninsula, in Kitsap, and in Seattle, and having a variety of training partners (even if I did have to bribe most of them with beer and food) kept rides interesting.

But by end of April, I was already burned out on training, especially the weekday rides. They just weren’t fun. I was by myself, exhausted after a day of work and stressed about getting in miles/time on the seat. Plus I was doing spin classes, again just to get more time on the seat. I lost a ton of weight quickly and was eating all the time, which was great, but I also was dealing with sore hips and knees, which wasn’t great. I dialed it all back a bit, dropped the spin classes and focused on developing fun long rides for folks to join and things got a little easier. Plus, with all of Kitsap’s hills, I learned the correct direction to ride the county, so I wasn’t climbing ALL the time.

Training took me to different parts of Washington I’d never normally get out and explore, such as the countryside north of Seattle, the Key Peninsula and the Olympic Discovery Trail between Sequim and Port Angeles. Some of these included the occasional fun supported rides where, frankly, you ride for the free food, with the benefits of beautiful views.

I learned how shop rides can be full of jerks, how riding with your friends is way more fun, how it is possible to find fun riders who aren’t jerks and who become your friends, and how friends you hang out with already can become bike partners.

Also, fun names for every training ride is required: Crazy Train; Flying Guinea Pigs; Four Dudes and A Lady; Suck It Up Buttercup and Ride; Taco Pizza Cat, Animal and Hot Pants; Sea2Issy; Sea2Issy: The Ladies Ride; The Bakery Tour of Kitsap (Bikes, Beers and Baked Goods)… I know I’m missing a few.

Sometimes, a solo ride WAS cathartic, such as on an early beautiful weekend morning, before traffic gets crazy in Silverdale and you’re done with 20 miles by 9:30 a.m., and the whole day is still ahead of you.

I learned how to retape my bars, adjust my brakes, ride without a seat bag and with only minimal gear, how my front derailleur works and how much mine sucks, and that I really need to build a bike stand in my garage so I can do maintenance.

I definitely felt myself get stronger (most the time). Hills get me excited (mostly) but so do long fast flats. Riding in the most powerful gear on my granny ring got easier and easier over the season. When my big chain ring worked, that was even more fun.

Don, who has been teaching me to ride road and mountain bikes on and off again for 13 years now, was most appreciated. I kept his advice in my head throughout the training season.


Kind bars. Gels. Cliff Shots. Vitalyte is the only electrolyte drink I should stick with. Everything else is horrible. Why and how Nuun works, I have no idea. It reminds me of diet soda, which is terrible in the first place. And Gatorade. Only in a pinch. That stuff is disgusting unless your body is shutting down and literally needs liquid sugar. Stepfanie’s Calorie Bomb cookies were dense but great on the road.

Beer mid-ride is fun. Homemade cookies 10 miles down the road after said beer is more fun. Beer and burger post-ride is the best.


SO, the weekend comes. July 16-17. Our original team, Beth, Joe, Matthew, Margo and myself, changed bodies a few times. Matthew and Margo weren’t able to ride, so we found Chris and Kristen. At the last second, Chris and Kristen aren’t able to ride, so it was down to the original three. However, at lunch on Day 1, we pick up Greg, so a nice little team of 4.

Logistics for the day before the ride and getting to the start line took on a life of their own for months before finally being narrowed down. I wound up going into Seattle Friday night at 7:45 p.m., being picked up by Beth at the ferry, going to UW to drop off our overnight bags, picking up pasta and salads from Olympic Pizza III, making a breakfast quiche for the next morning while Beth picked up Joe from the airport, then me going down the block to Reba’s to spend the night at 11 p.m.

Up at 5:15 a.m., at Beth’s by 5:35 a.m., inhaled aforementioned quiche, biked from Capitol Hill to the start line at the E-1 parking lot at University of Washington and dashing from the start line at 7 a.m.

The idea of 100 miles in a day was still a bit daunting, so I broke it down mentally by segments of 25 miles. That’s do-able. 25 miles is a piece of cake.

The route took us along Lake Washington for several miles, which was lovely. Then it dumped us into the industrial complexes for the next 20 miles south of Seattle, before our first major rest stop, sponsored by REI. We’d heard the REI stop was legendary, so we were excited to check it out.

Nope. Sorely disappointed. Not sure what I was expecting (Maybe something along the lines of what Flying Wheels event did for food, which was every possible type of carb in the form of sandwiches, bars, muffins, cookies and candy) but it was only bananas, oranges and tortillas. Granted, it WAS the first stop of the day after only 25 miles. Oh and Clif Bars was handing out pouches of basically liquified oatmeal. I do not know anyone who actually enjoyed them. I refuse to eat liquified oatmeal. I have a hard time with the concept of oatmeal in general.

But we kept our spirits and hopes high for the next stop.

We rode for another 25 miles, which included the infamous Puyallup Hill (the first of two major hills on the entire ride), which wasn’t necessarily steep, just long. I thought it was fun. Otherwise, the ride was pretty mild and flat on Day 1.

Our next stop was in Spanaway for lunch (50 miles-ish). I figured after we got out of the industrial area, the route would be prettier, and it was. The group of bikes didn’t thin out as much as I thought it would though.

Spanaway/Lunch was in a high school football field. Turkey sandwiches, hummus, pretzels, cookies, bars, fruit and resting. Not a bad combo. Picked up Greg here.

The section after Spanaway was the best part of the ride. We got to bike on a closed road through the military base (Joint Base Lewis-McCord) for a good bit, a few more streets, then the route took us for 14 miles on the Tenino-Yelm bike trail. This was such a nice reprieve from street riding with cars and stoplights.

By the time of the Clif Bar Mini Stop, at 88 miles, it was greatly welcomed, but not for the Clif Bar freebies (wretched liquified oatmeal). No, the Tenino High School Basketball Team was madly handing out popsicles, watermelon and other fruit, while keeping the water jugs filled and a soundsystem pumping music. It was hard to leave, but only 20 miles to go for the rest of the day sounded pretty sweet.

Bums were starting to get sore during these last couple miles, and we were stoked to cross the city limits into Centralia, the event’s official Half Way Point, where camping, food trucks, live music and a beer garden awaited riders. Located on the Centralia College campus, tents were lined up back-to-back on every possible patch of grass available. Kristen drove from Port Orchard to join us and give us any support we needed. We met up in the beer garden for some congratulatory beverages for an hour or so before riding our final six miles of the day to Chehalis/Recreation Park. This is where we met our hosts, The Pattens.

Biking through Chehalis around 8 p.m. was interesting… a quiet little town, completely shut down, even though 10,000 riders were invading the region. It reminded me a lot of Athens, Ohio, where Beth and I went to college.

Instead of camping, and since every hotel in the region was sold out before March, we took our chances and paid the local chamber of commerce to find us a place to sleep. The organization has a program where local families open their houses to riders to crash for the night. Our hosts, Matt and Paige Patten, were known for hosting about 15-18 people each year and was rumored to be one of the best private hosts in town. We quickly found out why – huge house with room to spread out our stuff, a real shower, meet other riders over dinner, comfy couches to crash on, and a large spread of food, including homemade spaghetti sauce and pie and ice cream and then pancakes and eggs and sausage for breakfast… we could not thank them enough. They even hauled our overnight bags to and from the park for us.

Refreshed and full, we left Sunday morning, bombed down the hill from their house and got back on route.

Now, at this point, getting back on the bike is supposed to be the hardest part of the entire trip. I was told multiple times that training for STP isn’t so much putting miles on the legs as it is putting miles on the seat, to train the butt for the time on the saddle.

I have say, I was pleasantly surprised how much it didn’t hurt, but I can’t say that there wasn’t some noticeable soreness. I was surprised a little bit around mile 120 when my quads started to make noise. Nope, 80 miles to go, you can’t quit on me now.

The next 50 miles or so were some of the prettiest of the entire ride. We started around 8 a.m. under overcast skies, but the clouds soon burned off and we were cruising on roads that meandered around farms and old houses, with some rolling hills thrown in for good measure. Then we got to the hill that was the “other” rumored hill on the ride, but I didn’t realize it until we were at the top and large yellow signs told us that Free Banana Bread was ahead! We were told about this stop by the Pattens, where a family greeted everyone with free banana bread at the top of the big hill, of which we heartily engaged. I THINK this was Napavine.

The Winlock stop was interesting, as you had the scent of fried onions in the air at 10 a.m. from a burger stand. We did not stop to engage in the fried onions.

The ride between there and Lexington, our lunch stop, wasn’t much to remember, other than lots of rolling hills. The training in Kitsap finally paid off.

We spent an hour in Lexington, with similar food from the day before, and we all actually sprawled on the ground to take a quick nap, as it was common to see bodies spread out all over the place doing the same. It was another tip I’d heard about – definitely rest at the stops, don’t just eat and go.

This was around noon, at which I turned on my music on my phone, bluetoothed it to a little portable speaker I borrowed from a co-worker, turned it up and stuck it in my jersey pocket so everyone could hear it. I did this the day before as well and it played a big part in getting to the end of the day when everything is stiff and sore but the only thing to do is pedal. So I sang and danced on my bike.

Bikes started crowding up again as we got closer to the Lewis and Clark Bridge, which meant crossing the border from Washington to Oregon! I queued with my team while we waited for volunteers to stop the southbound traffic so Goldwing riders could escort us onto the bridge. As we started climbing (it wasn’t just a flat bridge across, it was a definite very tall up-and-over bridge with a fantastic view of the Columbia River), Beth just took off like a bat out of hell, so I chased her to keep up.

And that girl passed EVERYONE on that damn bridge. I was so impressed – this city slicker girlfriend of mine who I’ve known for almost 20 years and has embraced the mountains and biking just in the past few years totally kicked it up a notch and continually impressed me with her outdoor badassery. Later, she said, “I just wanted to get off that bridge! I did NOT like riding on it!”

After we got into Oregon, roads started to get a little dicey, as shoulders were non-existent in some places, and bikes were lined up front to back, with cars screaming by. The route eventually put us on Highway 30, which was a four-lane highway with fantastically wide shoulders but went on for MILES – for 41.2 miles to be exact.

At one point when I really was in a groove with a flat section, I shifted to my front big ring and within two seconds, the damn chain fell off. The guy behind told me my chain fell off while I’m muttering expletives and yelling back at him, yeah, I know. So I just yelled out I was slowing, so people would slow down and not crash into me.

I eventually came to a stop, tossed the bike and myself over the guardrail and started to put the chain back on. Joe and Beth stopped to help, which was great when we got it back on, so there were two extra pairs of hands to hold the bike and shift gears while I ran the pedals so we could make sure the chain shifted properly. So, once again, no Front Chain Ring for me. (I may have shifted it into too hard a gear. Still a newbie at this).

So, back on the road, along the highway, stopped at a few more stops to rest our bums (St. Helens for a good long stop until 3ish, I think, and then Scappoose by 5 p.m., where we were told we only had 16 miles to go, but the finish line closed at 7 p.m.!) and eat some food and coach each other through the next few sections. The last hour or so of the ride I was starting to get nauseous but I think it was from the pain from the saddle sores because I was definitely well hydrated and fed but not TOO much. So I thought anyway. I stayed away from the terrible electrolytes and stuck with water, spacing out the Vitalyte I did have with me.

Then suddenly I heard whoops and hollers … we’d just crossed the city limits into Portland – 13 miles to go! At that point, I passed a dad and his kid who was probably 9 years old. I’d been watching him and two other kids around his age pump out the miles the past two days like it was their job. It was the coolest thing to watch. I got the sense that the parents were confident their kid could do it but still pretty cautious, and giving lots of words of encouragement. As I passed the dad and his son, I told them both, “Your son is amazing. I am super impressed!”

So, Portland! Cardboard signs were posted along the side of the road, telling us how many more miles to go, starting with 10 miles. We crossed another up-and-over bridge that gave us a sprawling view of the city to the west and I was thinking, “Oh man, we’re almost DONE. We’re almost THERE.” And I was kind of sad. All the fun was almost over.

After the bridge, the route took us through very urban Northwesty-type neighborhoods, filled with older Craftsman-style homes lush with gardens, past University of Portland, along Willamette Blvd. and eventually into downtown Portland. Because Portland doesn’t provide police support, we had to stop at every. single. stoplight. on the way to the finish line, so there was a massive group of bikes at each stop.

Then all of a sudden, we’re in downtown, the cowbells get louder, the crowds get bigger, we turn the corner and there’s the big green inflatable Finish Line arch! We zoom through it and into the chute, where we’re handed our STP Finishers patch. When I biked past Greg’s cheering family, my eyes got a little misty because it hit me that it was all finally over. But I didn’t have time to cry because otherwise I would have crashed into the bikes in front of me. Heads up, Royal.

I regrouped with my team and we high-fived and took pictures. We indulged in our free Meal Of Choice (a very loaded burrito from a food truck), a beer and then talked the massage people into a quick 15 minute massage since they were closing soon. Grabbed our souvenirs (a choice of hat, shirt or a water bottle), our overnight bags that were shuttled from Chehalis to PDX for us, and then gingerly biked another mile to our AirBnB for the night, where we promptly showered and then did not move the rest of the night.


Frankly, I’d do it again. I wouldn’t say it was easy but it wasn’t the hardest thing either.

Key things to remember for next time:

Chamois butter – It’s supposed to prevent chafing but I swear it also helped stave off the saddle sores.

The right electrolytes – riding with a bloated stomach and belching all the way to Portland is not fun (even as much as I like to burp).

Music via loud speaker – definitely helped get through the drag of the second half of the day.

Have a team – I could not imagine doing this alone.

Even if you’re spending the night past the beer garden, stop for a beer or two and a piece of pizza.













However, when one’s life is pretty much just working and working out daily for knee rehab, there’s not a lot of time for other things.

My gardens definitely were ignored. I was lucky to get plants in the ground and harvest tomatoes and cucumbers this summer. I realized too that I couldn’t do intensive yardwork so not to strain the knee, nor could I kneel or squat very well.

Once I got the go-ahead to start going to the gym in spring, sewing was tucked away in a corner (I consider sewing a winter activity anyway).

I’d say the most productive thing I did around the house this year was learning about “KonMari-ing” or as Brian puts it, buying a book on “How To Throw Sh*t Away.”

Regardless what it’s called and who believes in it or not, it worked. I have a much more organized house. The only categories left to clean are the garage and the momentos/personal items, which I keep putting off the latter for obvious reasons.

Just as I decided to start putting some money into the house in late summer (took out a few trees), I spontaneously decided I needed a real vacation and headed to Ireland for 2 weeks. Best decision ever.

Then my tenants moved out around the same time and I’ve been dragging my feet on cleaning/upgrading/modifying the apartment since mid-October. But it’s 99.999999% done now and I hope to have a renter in there within the next two weeks.

Also, there was that whole No Hot Water For Three Weeks that put a delay on things. Hooray for new hot water tank (Tankless/on demand)!

But now as I move away from physical-therapyish daily workouts and into more normal-person workouts, as well as test knee/quad strength in the field, I hope PLAN ON 2016 being full of more creativity, more outdoors and more yard time.

It’s a bit early, but I’ve been assessing the year and thinking about next year. A quick list:

  • Start trail running on a regular basis – Thinking back over what sports and movements I’ve participated in the past 20 years, and what really makes me feel alive, trailing running really does it, more so than backpacking, climbing, hiking and snow sports. It’s equivalent to that one amazing ski run of the day, where the snow is perfect and your form is perfect and the sky is blue and that run made you feel like you are THE BEST SKIER IN THE WORLD. Trail running gives me that same feeling, but on a more consistent basis. And you get filthy and muddy in the process. And get snacks on trail. And less chance of tearing knee ligaments. And less wear and tear on knees compared to pounding cement. And WAY less gear.
  • Also, more yoga. Turns out YOU CAN get a yoga body by doing it 3-5x a week. And it’s helped considerably with rehab.
  • Get to North Carolina in May to run a race with my Emers, drink beer with Tiger, and snuggle with their girls.
  • Get those sewing projects done (quilts, chair cover, mend some clothing).
  • Finish two woodworking projects – mirror frame for the bathroom and tree stump-turned-coffeetable for living room.
  • Climb Mt. Baker: Once I can successfully climb a volcano again, and sustain the endurance that it takes to do so, then I believe I will be strong enough to go back into the field for mountain rescue. Maybe even get up Mt. St. Helens in a dress on Mother’s Day.
  • Crank out another section of the backyard landscape project. Three down, about 3 or 4 to go. This year: plants in the middle garden and save money for new patio construction.
  • KonMari that damn garage and momentos pile (which will actually be the most amazing feeling in the world when finally done. Like trail running).




It’s Saturday with little on the docket for the weekend. Knee workout, weed the backyard and maybe finish that quilt and start that dress. (OH and I was just informed we’re having Easter dinner tomorrow. I can’t remember the last time I had Easter dinner. I’m just in charge of bringing the candied pecans for the salad.)

But first – the workout. Get it out of the way. As I laid in bed going over the day in my head, I took a small sigh.

I’m kinda getting tired of my “workout.” It’s nice that I can do it at the gym and feel like a real person again, but …. eh…. I’m getting bored. It takes an hour. I have to do it every single day. The full workout at least once, then a shorter version too, so I’m doing exercises twice a day. My PT and I change up the exercises when I get bored of them and we just put together a new program the other day.

None of it is cardio intensive right now, but I’m slowly getting there. I think that may be what’s making me a bit restless.

Also, I’m actually jealous of the people who take the Zumba classes. I despise those classes but oh how I wish I could move like them without any consequences.

Then I remembered my PT and PTA and I talked about yoga. They said I could pretty much try whatever exercise I wanted (within reason of course) and just listen to my knee and body and see what happens. And what’s great about yoga is that I can modify any of the poses.

So, when I showed up at the gym, I wandered over to the printed schedules of classes.

There was a yoga class at 10:15. It was 10:14.  Read the rest of this entry »

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 just got back from a three-day backpacking trip over Labor Day weekend with friends, two of which I went on a five-day all-women backpacking trip in July 2013. As I was cleaning out files and emails today, I found this trip report that I never posted and it reminded me of the good times we had. I thought I’d finally share. Forewarning, it’s long. 

August 2013

“Who needs to pump?”

This was a question often asked during my five-day backpacking trip in the North Cascades National Park recently. It was an all-ladies trip, and while none of us were anywhere near nursing babies, for some reason I couldn’t help but think, “Breast pump?”

(“Pumping” was for filtering water out of streams to prevent bacteria in our drinking water).

Ah, the all woman-trip. This was my very first one (unless you count the Mt. Rainier climb, which was just another beast in itself) and it was more than I expected but also less than I expected but in a very good way.

It’d been a pretty crazy few months prior to this trip, so busy that I felt like I couldn’t catch a breath. I needed some serious solo time so badly I was contemplating bagging out of the trip a week prior and just doing a road trip down the West Coast for five days. But, I’d made the commitment months ago and it was on a weekend that (shockingly) didn’t involve training or volunteering or family commitments.

Once I started packing, I felt much better. I had a goal. I had deadlines. I had to think about the various elements we’d be in (rain/snow/cold was minimal but always considered) and what food to bring (stuff that needed hot water only). Group gear to share with the others, did I really need to bring a baggie of electrolytes, shelf bra-shirt vs shirt & sports bra, shorts or capris, hiking boots or mountaineering boots, do I really need gloves, which hat, etc.

The dinners were an issue though. I usually carry in fresh food for overnight trips, which is heavy but I don’t mind. But this was my first multi-day trip in years, so weight was an issue. My digestive system doesn’t like the huge portions in the dehydrated backpacking meals from the camping food sections at the store but in the end, due to time, that’s what I had to go with. For some reason, my head was so determined that those meals had to be cooked in the foil pouches they come in, it wasn’t until 10 miles into the trip at our first camp site that I realized I could dump them out, divide them in half for separate meals. I did just that and, imagine that, my stomach wasn’t upset after eating half a package.

The itinerary – start at Hannegan Pass trailhead near Mt. Baker, hike 17 miles (over two days) to Whatcom Pass. Spend two nights there, attempt Whatcom Peak and/or visit Taptos Lakes, then hike out the 17 miles (over two days) to the car. Total mileage was about 35-40 miles with total elevation gained and lost, 10,000-12,000 feet.

The group consisted of five women, ages ranging from 30s to 70s. Some of us hiked faster than others, some of us enjoyed the destination more than the trek, some of us preferred climbing straight up instead of switchbacking, some of us liked to hike solo. At the end of the day, none of these things mattered as we sat around the camp stove sharing stories, advice (on both outdoor and non-outdoor experiences) and laughing at each other (like my 5 lbs. bag of oatmeal, which, ironically, I despise).

My favorite moment of the entire trip was the last night, after we’d set up the tents at Copper Creek Camp but weren’t ready for dinner. We were sitting by the creek, passing around the last of the pomegranate liquor. The trees were far-reaching into the cloudless sky, the creekbed was wide, but the rushing water wasn’t deafening. The water temperature was perfect for a quick bath and soaking our worn feet. I was thinking how a portion of civilization wishes they were doing this right now. It hit me how fortunate I was to have the strength, health and opportunity to be in this environment at this moment. I was in the company of some incredibly strong female mountaineers whose accomplishments I admired. Yet, at the same time, it was just five women hanging out as comfortably as we would in the backyard of someone’s house.

Highlights of the trip:

Hiking speed – yeah, I’m one of those who likes to zoom up the hill. After spending seven years of trying to keep up with 6′ tall guys, you kinda learn to step it up a bit, no matter the weight on the back. But this trip had no guys. And it had no speed. And we all got to the same place at the same time, no matter how fast any of us went. Some of us could have jumped ahead and said, see ya at camp, but what’s the fun in that? You miss out on conversations, laughter and learning from each other. I also used the opportunity to do what one should on a vacation (since this pretty much WAS my summer vacation) – slow down and purposefully wander toward camp.

Cable Car Crossing – Between U.S. Cabin and Graybeal Camp, the creek is too big to ford, so a cable car system has been set up to haul yourself and your pack a couple hundred feet above and across the creek.

Whatcom Peak – one of the “To Do” items on the itinerary was to climb Whatcom Peak, at the most northern end of the Picket Range, which has a reputation for being a beautiful area but difficult to access. As we hiked in and Whatcom Peak loomed above us, all I saw was the north side of the peak – a knife-edge ridge with thousands of feet of exposure. The idea was to climb it while roped up, using flukes for running belays on the snow and webbing and slings to hook around rocks as we climbed. I had an idea about the techniques but had never done this “hook around rocks” type of climbing before and was a little nervous. The whole time I had that north side of the peak in my view, I kept thinking, “Oh god, I hope we’re not climbing that and that we’re climbing the snow ramp on the south side of the peak.”

The night before the climb, we pulled out maps and explored our options: climb that knife-edge ridge or do the traverse around the peak to the south side, which involved climbing the Challenger Glacier, the latter of which I was definitely more comfortable.

When we started out the next morning, we decided to try the traverse first, but as we got closer to the glacier, the only safe place to cross it was completely crevassed. So we turned around and headed toward the knife ridge. My stomach started to drop. The hike up to the base of the peak was lovely, fun rock scrambling and a little snow travel. But the last half-hour toward our decision point, my stomach kept dropping. We finally stopped at the base of the peak, dropped our packs and stared upward.

Fay, the 70-something mountaineer who is regionally famous for being a bad-ass climber, looked at me and said, “Tiffany, tell me what you think, honestly.”

“Fay, for the past 30 minutes, I’ve been scared shitless.”

“Oh, good, then I wasn’t the only one.”

After a good 20 minutes of solid contemplation, what-ifs, if-onlys, and I-wasn’t-expecting-that-much-exposure discussions, we decided to call it and turn around. Beth joined Maria at Taptos Lakes, Fay and I climbed to an unnamed high point, after which I decided to call it a day and headed back down to the lakes (lunch, nap and lake time sounded awesome) while Fay joined Eileen on Red Face Mountain for a quick summit.

Then the five of us spent the rest of the afternoon napping at the lake until about 6 p.m., when we decided the black flies/mosquitos/no-see-ums at camp would have tapered down a little.

At that point, I decided that this trip qualified for the perfect vacation:


Good food

Good beverages

Good company

Unique locale with amazing views

Away from home

Perfect weather


Very little money spent

I later blurted out this list to Maria in the car and she said, “What? Where? Sign me up!”

“You just had that vacation.”

10:05 a.m. February 10, 2014

For the first time in four weeks, I didn’t leave Bremerton to go skiing. With the unexpected snow fall that hit Kitsap Saturday night, and the uncertainty of how Lucille would do without chains on the mountain passes on the way to a trailhead, I decided to call it Saturday night and stick to Kitsap Sunday. But not without taking a page out of Kevin’s book and did an hour-long night ski around Bremerton with my XC skis. I’ve always wanted to do that. I went up 11th, over the Manette Bridge, did a couple laps up and down the main drag in Manette, much to the delight of the folks out and the bar-goers, as I slowly “skied” downhill in an Olympic fashion. Then chugged my way back to my house. It was exhilarating. And apologies to my tenant for clomping around in my boots at 11:30 p.m. when I got back. 

It was a delight to sleep in Sunday morning, but I also had this nagging feeling that Don and his pup Jerry The Springer (yes, that was intentional, he’s that kinda guy) would show up knocking on my door step at 9 a.m. Whenever it snows (which is rare) I can always count on those two coming by to ask if I can come outside and play. Thankfully, the kind sir waited until 10 a.m. to call, called me a lazy bum for still being in bed and then we made plans for 11:30 a.m. Off to Theler Wetlands to check out the trails and new estuary restoration and give him a chance to play with his new camera and do some duck sight seeing. It was such a nice way to get out without actually any effort. I needed it. Followed up with some good ol’ fashioned Mexican food and then off to drop in on some friends Joe and Marlene and their kids who have a beautiful home and property overlooking Hood Canal while taking the backroads of Kitsap that I’d surprisingly never been on. 

(this is the most boring 15 Minutes EVER but for a monday morning, it’s really just a writing warm up for me. you know, like in third grade, when we’d be given a prompt and you had 10 minutes to write anything stemming from that prompt. I remember struggling with that one some days and then kinda going crazy with the imagination on other days, then i’d be too embarrassed to share it. The teacher was always amused though). 

what else what else… made tortilla soup last night, which i’d been craving for a week. Made it paleo-style, which just means no cheese and sour cream and tortilla strips and it is still unbelievably delicious. It’s one of those days when lunch can’t come soon enough. 

six more minutes six more minutes

this week should be relatively low key, compared to last week’s Boldt decision celebration. I’m looking forward to cranking things off my to-do list and ending the week with a long weekend of Valentine’s Day cocktails with a few of my favorite Seattle Valentines, going hiking, skiing, maybe do an OMR patrol at Hurricane Ridge. Most definitely ski – the rain this week is going to bring on some amazing powder! I’ve been so good this year focusing on becoming a better skier with my mantra to ski EVERY WEEKEND POSSIBLE for as long as the snow is good or until I get burned out. I’m alternating between resort and backcountry (and that fun little XC outing), took a lesson, focusing on my body position and giving up a little fear on the whole control thing. or more like learning how to better ski with a little more speed but with control. that’s my biggest fear is getting out of control and then I go ass-over-tea-kettle and yard sale. I’m really learning that it comes down to body positioning. It’d also be cool to shoot for a straight year of Turns All Year – where you ski at least once a month for a year, which is completely do-able out here. Although with the low snow pack we’ve had this season, we’ll see, It’d be rough in August and September. But I know folks who have gone up those months, found a long finger of snow and bam, it totally counts. 

Just like I counted XC on Saturday night toward my weekly ski outing. 

Let’s see… need to vote, i have a terribly ripe banana next to me, my right shoulder is tweaked (boo, no TRX or boot camp, so that just means lots of cardio, which I need anyway b/c I gained 7 lbs over Xmas yay oreo cookies) and my smart phone is slowing down but that’s probably because I drop it and abuse and ask more of it that i should but it’s damn computer practically, much more than a a phone. 

10:20 a.m.


The desktop wallpaper on my computer is a picture of my 2.5 year old nephew, Nipote, that my sister sent to me recently. He’s on the floor of my mother’s kitchen, looking up and cocking his head to the left a little while making his “Cheese” smile at the camera, while pushing his new little wooden train, filled with little wooden people and his Brutus, the OSU mascot doll. It was taken the day after I’d left Ohio, where I had spent 10 days visiting for the holidays, mostly as a result of moving my sister and Nipote from Washington State to Ohio, right after Christmas.

My sister lived in Kitsap County for just more than a year. She and I hadn’t lived within driving distance of each other for years. The last time I remember sharing a living environment with her was 1998. That made it 15 years since we’d lived in an area where we saw each other on a regular basis, much less the same house.

Bottomline: After living in the PNW for 10.5 years with no family nearby, I spent 2013 with my sister and her family. Aside from work, mountain rescue training and missions, and the occasional social gathering, I saw the family 2-3x a week. A lot of people thought that was excessive. I thought it’s what you do when family lives close, especially when you know that they are only here temporarily. And it was no secret that I struggled with that balance. That said, I don’t regret a second I spent with them, and probably regret a few times I didn’t spend with them, but life isn’t about regrets.

I exposed them to my friends, my forests, my foods, my hobbies, my lifestyle, my choices. I tried to brainstorm things we could do that involved a toddler (it was hard at first but I think I got better over time). Not everything took (I didn’t expect it to)  but it did two things: 1) it further proved to my sister I was a definite treehugger in her eyes and 2) we found some social commonalities. It was lots of fun to reconnect and realize how much we are similar (sense of humor, cooking) and different (hobbies, problem solving). It was awesome to be a part of Nipote’s life and watch him develop from a scrambling 1.5 year old babe-in-arms to 2.5 year old sprinting toddler. He and I became best buds – we colored, cooked, built forts, danced, learned to read, learned to say Zia, walked the dog, played in the sandbox, went on hikes, learned how to make the sound of every animal imaginable, and found just about every tractor and train ride we could in Kitsap County. I saw the world through different eyes – and learned that I’m a lot like a toddler. I like to do stuff and always be doing stuff.

But now we’re in 2014 and life feels like it’s come to a shuttering halt. Kinda like when Nipote doesn’t want us to do something or we need him to stop, we yell “RED LIGHT!” at each other and throw out an open hand, much like we’re stopping traffic. 

RED LIGHT, indeed, 2014.

I suddenly find myself back to my selfish single hippie, homemade granola eating, jumping the ferry whenever, carseat-less life. My weeks are open to play in the mountains for six weeks in a row or work on the house for six weeks in a row. I already have a few things lined up for this first week I’m back, but my calendar, it seems, is blank for the first time in a long time. I’m not saying it’s a good or bad thing. It’s just a little sad to know that there’s no longer a highly energetic 2.5 year old in Silverdale waiting for his Zia to come over and play. So, I don’t know, I guess I feel kinda empty inside. 

I think I just feel the need to bring my life back up to where it was in 2012, before The Year of Family. But when I look back on that year and the year before it, and the year before it, it all goes back to my March 2013 post

I was pretty busy. And pretty tired. And pretty tired of being pretty busy.

I need to find some focus in 2014. I need to narrow down goals. I have areas I want to explore and things I want to do. At the same time, there are some areas of my life that need some desperate motivation and new energy.

I guess this is a New Year’s Resolution post. At least a place to write down The List, but also remember to give myself a RED LIGHT when needed. Some things are huge, some are small, some are vague, some are specific. But my friend at The Wandering Gourmand made a good point – make them achievable. 

Learn to play the ukulele

Make the big mirror frame and coffee table.

Make/Buy a vanity for the bathroom. 

Take a weeklong road trip down the 101. 

Climb Mt. Baker and Glacier Peak.

Dedicate a week in May to mountain rescue training. 

Finish another component of my yard.

Buy a calendar to plan all this.


It’s a slow week so it’s a good time to kill these long hours by (trying to) catch up on a few video projects for work.

So, I start to transfer some video from my camera to my computer.

Warning! You’ve run out of space on your computer!

OK, so I need to transfer files from my computer to my external/backup drive. 

Warning! Your external drive that is PC-formatted won’t accept these Mac-formatted files! 

OK, so I need to reformat my PC-based external drive to accept the Mac files.

Warning! You’ll need to erase your external drive to reformat!

OK, so I need to back and re-back up six years worth of audio, video, photo and word files onto disks and online and also ask the boss for another external drive.

Good thing it’s a slow week. 

(And yes, I’m fully aware at how incredibly inept I am at backing up files and formatting stuff. And how unimpressive it is be able to fill up 750 GB hard drive in 9 months. I take a lot of video and photos.)

15 minutes: Spaghetti Sunset


I eat pretty late at night. These days, it’s around 9 p.m. I know it’s not good and I can’t help it but on Thursdays, it’s farmers market night and I’m busy trying to figure out what to do with last week’s produce while working in this week’s produce. What to cook, what to save, what will go in breakfast tomorrow, what I need to freeze.

But nights like these, I’m glad I waited until late. Just as I was rinsing the last of my strawberries, I looked behind me over at my cooling dinner. But the sunset in my picture window above the counter where my dinner sat caught my eye. There was a magnificent orange horizon with tinges of blues and purples in the clouds above it.

“That’s it,” I thought. “It’s time for dinner … on the porch.”

So no phone, no anything, just my bowl of farmers market veggies and tomato sauce spooned over a heaping pile of spaghetti squash, a glass of white wine and my latest favorite fleece (It IS summer in the Pacific Northwest. It wouldn’t be a summer evening without a fleece.)

And so I dragged my chair to the western most corner of my front porch so I could see the partial mountaintop view that comes out when the clouds are high or, for once, have disappeared.

The hues turned fast as they always do, but still slow enough to enjoy. At one point, the layer of clouds perfectly hovered above the mountains, leaving just enough sky to be filled in with purple and pinks. If I stretched my neck enough, I could see a layer of clouds in the foothills, just below the mountain peaks.

But the sunset has calmed down now, with the clouds simply turning a blueish grey. A thin line of pink sits just above the jagged peaks of the Olympics. Yet the pink makes a bigger impact with its reflection hitting the high level of clouds that are starting to overtake the skies above Bremerton.

My street is a main thoroughfare but not too busy. It’s four lanes wide but the city recently reduced it to two lanes with parallel parking replacing the outside lanes. People are slowly adjusting to parking on the busy street. We’re so used to the comforts of our side streets and parking permits.

It’s a decent summer evening in the PNW. Actually, it’s pretty typical for June. It’s been raining for a week straight, the type of rain we get typically in the winter, except it’s 35 degrees warmer, thankfully. It gives the allergies a break as well as our water bills. Affectionally referred to as “Juneuary.”

I sit on my front porch – it’s a long front porch probably nearly 30 feet long. It needs a party at some point this summer. A few walkers go by. Typically teens or 20-somethings. A few cars with loud music go by. Big engines roar. I recognize a few cars. There goes the lady who owns the shop down the street. There goes the little black car that lives three houses down from me. I can see the hospital in the distance; quiet, no emergency airlifts tonight.

I wonder where these people are going, driving by my house. Headed home. Headed to work. Headed to a friend’s house. Not very creative tonight with those thoughts.

My 15 minutes are almost up. The high clouds are still reflecting the thin pink line, which has disappeared now behind the mountains. The general color is still the bluish grey, with silhouettes of trees, power lines, houses, clouds and those jagged ridges of the Olympics on the horizon.

And look – Venus has risen above Mt. Jupiter.


I used to think my friend Kevin’s life was The Rule –  he works a regular 7-4 job during the week, focuses on chores, house projects and volunteer work in the evenings, then takes off to the mountains for the weekend to ski or backpack.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

I thought it was “the” life a single 30-something should have living in the Pacific  Northwest. I wanted to be a mountain girl every weekend, getting views of mountaintops rarely seen in person and fantastic wildnerness adventures.

I tried it. I was exhausted. And I realized I’m not Kevin. In fact, assessing the lifestyles of my other friends, none of us are “Kevin.” He’s The Exception.

While we both have common interests, mutual friends, are homeowners with plenty of projects and are volunteers in the community, even for the same organization, I’ve realized I just lead a different life.

I definitely not just sitting at home waiting for someone to ask me to go hiking. I find myself booking girls weekends, planning hours-long bike rides on Saturday mornings, using 16 hours of sunlight in July to work in my gardens, or popping over to the city in the evening to visit friends. I’ve realized that I’ve chosen to do these things because I enjoy them as much as I enjoy the mountains.

So why do I feel so guilty for being so busy? Why do I feel like I should be there instead of here? Read the rest of this entry »