Sun and adventures to come

Three awesome lads

Thanks to the later sunset, I was able to fit in a quick, two mile hike after I picked the kid up from school. My second best hope has been realized and Flash is loading now with zero fuss (he’s not yet self loading but maybe someday). I’m hoping he actually likes going hiking (or, as I’m sure he calls it, “sampling the wilderness”.)

Must eat every five strides

If it’s not cancelled due to coronavirus concerns, I’ve signed up for a Mountain Trail Schooling Course at Bolender Horse Park this weekend. I’ll be doing Novice, Level 1 and Level 2 in hand if Flash agrees with that. For all it’ll be our first event like this together, I’m hoping we’ll do okay…at least not embarress each other! The hardest move for Flash is a side pass; I just don’t have my signals down for nice, smooth ones so we’ll try to eek through that.

Kade is a great videographer in training!

Wish us luck and hope we don’t freeze up in the hills Saturday night! At least Flash will have a nice cozy stall on site.

After school fun

Close to home adventures

I’ve finally reached 20 weeks pregnant, wooot!!! Halfway there! We had the mid way ultrasound yesterday to check all the measurements and growth and baby is moving along normally, always good to hear that from doctors!

I love my new spare tire cover!

This also means that I’ve reached the point in which I’m voluntarily grounding myself from riding; the risk of a fall from Flash is fairly low but not zero, and as this isn’t my baby my comfort level is lower. So, we’re back to hiking and today the sun shone so out we went!

Happy dog, starving horse

An awesome local group is gathering and bringing some old trails back to life that just so happen to be a 10 minute haul from my barn! I was able to load Flash, unload, shove his boots on, make him carry my stuff (some adjustments still needed there), go for a two mile hike and make it home as the kid got off the bus.

Trail building: downhill edition

Flash was super well behaved except for the occasional reminder to not trip over me (personal spaaaaace!) and even when we saw other horses he didn’t scream for them. He did get a bit fast heading back to the trailer, so we took an out and back detour on a single track trail and he settled back down.

Awesome viewpoint

A beautiful hike and some exploring in a new place on a sunny day with a good dog and a starving blonde pony…it helps a great deal! Now to pack the truck for our camping shakedown trip to Battle Ground Lake tomorrow!

Pony chooses food over views naturally
Nom nom

Mt. Ellinor

I always have the same thought when I go hiking: “This is why I ride horses.”

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Not to say riding horses is, per say, easier overall. Just ask my thighs, calves, & bouncing boobs at the end of a long ride. But it’s a different kind of work, & besides the few times I’ve landed on my ass glancing wonderingly at the sky, I’ve never had to pant like a dog while riding.

 MEPOINTMT

Last Saturday I summited a mountain. It wasn’t my first, that was Mt. Washington in New Hampshire during college. It’s the kind of climb where it always felt vaguely unfair to me that I had toiled up & up & up that rocky face, only to be confronted by a family who’d driven up the other side in a minivan, but I digress.

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Mt. Ellinor is the most rewarding climb, which is what everyone kept telling me on their way down as I sat, sucking down Gatorade or panting at the edge of some switchback. I lost count of the number of times I almost quit, decided it wasn’t worth it, & went down to the comfortable embrace of the Emerald Queen.

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I was alone, aside from the 200 odd other people on the trail that day, & the only thing I was accountable to was the picture in my heart of the view I’d seen, from one of the photographers I follow on Facebook, where they’d summited the mountain few days before. I wanted to see Seattle, Puget Sound, & the Olympics from a high I had to earn.

So after every switchback, rock scramble, & random bug slap, I seriously reevaluated my priorities, going through the stages of grieving, only “Jame’s stages of hiking.”

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The first ½ mile or so is a jaunty, “look at me! I’m hiking!” easy moving out. This drop rapidly to a settled “fuck this all”-itis I carry more or less until the first viewpoint.

 Hiking sucks. Bugs suck. I could be holed up in a bookstore somewhere, not sweating like a pig & using my own two damn feet to get up this overgrown rock. Hiking is overrated. How much farther? A 1000 feet up that? I’m a crazy person. Why hasn’t somebody locked me up yet, for my own good. Oh look, look at the hot college students scampering upwards & downwards like puppies. Nod & smile & say some sarcastic remark, but take a breath first or else you sound like a mosquito. Why is everyone on this trail so nice, hiking sucks. You people are weird. How far is the car if I turn around now?

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That’s when I looked up from my toil, realizing I was halfway there not because of any trail markers but because I was in a zone I’d always been fascinated with in college, the krummholz. It’s a subalpine zone where the trees still survive, but due to poor soils, erosion, & near constant wind, they don’t grow very high & they have a very dense, gnarled growth. It’s a sure sign you’ve almost reached tree line, & that was the first thing that kept me moving upwards at a glacial but slightly more determined pace.

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The second was reaching the first real viewpoint at tree line, soon after watching a bachelor party tramping & chattering downwards.  I was able to stop & enjoy the view of the lake below, & just make out Puget Sound, but Seattle was hidden by a cloud bank that was rapidly filling in the waterways & valleys below me & chasing me up the mountain. It wasn’t the view (or the selfie to prove I’d earned the view) that I was set on, & besides, the real rock scramble had just begun.

 Also, for every single downwards hiker that flat out lied & said “You’re almost there! It’s so worth it!” Bless your hearts, honestly, cause I almost lost it halfway up the talus steps.

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Now, I’ve been a happy tomboy a great majority of my life, & pink was the worst color to me for years (still kinda is, I mean, c’mon why does every girly thing have to be pink?) But the noises I made when I scrambled up the last sharp boulders, rounded a corner & saw this laid out before me after 3.5 miles & a 3000 foot climb, well, can only be described as not quite hysterical squealing.

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So, I summited a mountain. I earned my right to sit on the couch half of Sunday, reading a book & petting the purring cat. The house is still a bit in shambles but it pretty much always will be, & it’s fine place to be.

To climb a…saddle?

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My son continues to impress me each & every day, but last Monday was even more so as I saw him through other people’s eyes. I didn’t want to deal with the crowds camping over the holiday weekend, but I had an itch for a view. So I settled for a hike, but in my way of scattershot planning, picked one that was harder than I expected. The world’s longest suffering boyfriend headed back to the car after 2 miles of upward, slightly buggy heat, but the kiddo stuck with me even when we gave him every out possible.

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And boy, did that kid kick ass. We headed up to the saddle near the summit of Mount Hamilton (we didn’t head to the summit as Kade is only 5, & that’s a steep cliff to sidle along). This is on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge, which took us 9 miles, 2000 feet elevation gain & loss in less than five hours. Being in the brilliantly green, growing woods we can focus inwards and outwards at once, covering such topics as finding the best stick, what airplane is flying above (Tom would know), why Mommy goes to her boring job everyday, & the somewhat incomprehensible to anyone over the age of 8 games he plays at school with his friends. Kade earned his giant bowl of chocolate ice cream with whip cream & a cherry on top a million times over (we started naming what we wanted when we reached the car on the way down; ice cream, always ice cream).

So far this season we’ve done four major hikes together, but this one we didn’t start until later in the day & was by far the hardest I’ve ever asked him to do. Kade only faltered at the end, when the ice cream the boyfriend had grabbed for us in Stevenson had melted because it took us so long to get down (this was solved by a quick stop at the thank you a zillion times for being open on a Federal holiday Baskin Robbins!) I only carried him for about 50 feet, & he hiked the rest with me, hauling his little Deuter pack of snacks & a change of shoes. While we were on the saddle, taking pictures & stuffing said snacks down our gullets, a few very nice gentlemen offered to take one of my current favorite pictures of the both of us. They kept mentioning how big a deal it was that this little kid made it all the way up here, all by himself (well, with some hand holding & much encouragement from the mommy lady).

I’ve been hiking ever since my parents first kicked me out for a summer at a camp in California when I was ten (or was it eleven?), & hated it for a good long while. Oh, I loved the arriving somewhere, but the whole hauling things upwards I didn’t cherish (this is why we have draft animals people!) It’s only since Kade came along that I’ve learned to love it, even when I don’t stop to think how big a deal it is to other people to see a little kid hiking like he does.

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We get so distracted in our daily lives trying to juggle the day job, the hobbies, the household, the cruddy adulting stuff that I push the hiking & camping as a way to focus just on this golden kid. He’s growing up & forming & becoming himself right before my eyes. He wrote his full name for the first time without help last week!

sleepykiddo

Choosing a trip to do, pouring over the maps, loading up & heading out gets us just that, out where we can both loosen up & just enjoy being together. At this point it seems likely I’m only going to do this kid thing once, & while I make plenty of questionable decisions & struggle to pay enough attention, getting outdoors with Kade is my way of being the best parent to the best kid, if only for a weekend & the price of a campsite & a tank of gas.

wemadeit

I keep wondering what he’ll remember, what the highlights of his childhood will be when he’s my age & older, & I know it won’t be the busy afternoons holed up inside with Legos or the iPad while we clean house. My great hope is that it’ll be those trips to the endless waterfalls, writing his name on the beach, seeing all the creepy crawlies & fliers the woods can hold, or conquering a freaking mountain with his own legs.

saddlewin

Time to enjoy

  
While I was standing at my desk this morning, back within the blue fabric walls of my home sweet cube, I was trying to decide what the best part of my weekend was, & mostly failing to choose between two awesome things. 

To describe it shortly isn’t easy for me but I can try: 

On Friday I lit out from work early, scooping up my child & hot footing it east wards again, like any good Portlander desperate for an uncomplicated dose of sun & clear skies. After a short stop at Fred Meyer’s to load up on s’more ingredients & an excellent burger at Big Jim’s in The Dalles, less than three hours later found us (read: Mom) setting up camp on the shores of the Deschutes River. The park there is a green, shady oasis in the scrub hills of the Eastern Columbia River Gorge, & it was perfect despite being packed to the gills.

I’d nabbed a primitive site farthest from the highway & only feet from the river, & Kade was off like a shot & barely seen until past dark, waving his light stick around & playing with all the other kids he could find. This left me to set up the air mattress in the back of the Queen & make a fire with the help of the friendly fishermen from Bend next door, as I’d neglected to find kindling. But I quickly had a roaring fire going to ward off the night’s chill, so I was able to settle down to the serious task of stuffing myself & my randomly appearing child with that gooey campfire staple, read a magazine & let every bit of stress leak out with the blood the few mosquitos managed to score. 
  
I kept adding logs & poking coals to keep the fire bright & toasty, glancing up every so often to assure myself that somewhere I still had a happy, safe, utterly free child, finding myself utterly unable to keep a stupid grin off my face. Even with all the stress of our lives & decisions to be made this year regarding relationships, money, jobs & housing (it’s never just one thing!) for this golden night full of fire & nature & wild child, it was all good. I can handle myself so much better with these regular doses of natured filled routine breaking. 

It only got better after we managed to drag ourselves out of the warm car & into rapidly warming daylight, cozying up to heaping bowls of oatmeal. Camp packed up quickly & we headed down the trail along the river, spying lizards, deer beds, & a hungry hawk swooping in for her morning fish. The views you have to see for yourself, & Kade commandeered the perfect lunch spot on a bluff above the river, the only man made thing in sight the railroad tracks on the other side. We devoured Goldfish & sandwiches while watching seagulls fight over a girl, only three miles from camp but just us beneath that huge blue sky, the likes of which you just can’t get in the forest. 

  
That was the start of the weekend. To finish it I headed north across the Columbia, alone as both boys were huddled in the dark at home with various ailments (Kade too much sun, Tom too many blooming trees). Courtesy of a new friend in the making, I was able to ride two amazing horses, & to break The Emerald Queen’s hauling cherry by hooking up a nice (tiny) two horse trailer & moseying our way over to Whipple Creek with a beautiful Palomino named Jake munching in the back. I managed to piss off countless drivers by maintaining at least 5mph under the speed limit the entire way, but I didn’t clip a single corner so it’s all good. 

  

The first part I was able to ride King, wherein we got lost & talked a teenager off the ledge of whatever cliff she stared down. He’s an angel of a big sorrel gelding, with a “let me eat the world” attitude & the best gaits west of the Mississippi. The trails at Whipple are perhaps Endurance-lite, but they are full of loops with good footing & if you go around & around enough you’ll make yourself dizzy & put a nice wet saddle blanket on your mount.

For the second half of the ride I (mostly gracefully) hopped on the other blondie, Flash, & we became reacquainted to the idea of transitions & doing whatever the silly human asks. It was fun (his slow trot is show level smooth & easy to ride), which was fortunate as I was squeezed into the teenager’s saddle, which felt like being shoved in a jousting saddle for the amount of movement I had (sorry Flash, you are a wonderful & patient golden boy!)

  
So today I’m that lovely kind of sore that reminds me how excellent it feels to move out beneath the sun with friends, put on some road music & let the Emerald Queen take us away for awhile. I got home Sunday night in time to kiss my sweetly sleeping child, hear Tom’s tale of dealing with kid squabbles, enjoy a blissful shower & drop like a stone into sleep!

 

Move the feet

I wanted to write up the rambling, curse filled guide to hiking Mt. Pisgah in Eugene (gods, even the name is awesome!) but now I’m home with the kiddo in the bath, the boyfriend packing for his Las Vegas trip, work tomorrow & a brain that is equally parts sugar happy (iHop is a delicious evil place) & hike tired (4.5 mile hike straight up & straight down). To sum up, Pisgah is one of the most rewarding hikes in the Willamette Valley: close, cheap parking, both ‘easy’ footing & technical trails, relatively quiet on an intermittently rainy winter’s day, with hands down some of the best views of the southern Valley from the summit that are worth cursing your entire way up (if you’re out of shape like I am!) Enjoy some pretty pictures & head out that way if you’re ever in the neighborhood!

 

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View to the southeast, looking towards the Cascades

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Halfway up crazy stupid I wore the rain jacket for 20 feet before I overheated & yanked it off selfie!

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Summit selfie, cause damn, it’s awesome up there & my own two feet hauled me up!

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Obelisk on the summit, doesn’t count if you didn’t touch it!

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This tree was convinced it’s already spring, quite nice to stumble upon 🙂

 

 

Switch it up

  
I’ve been running a bit intermittently since Turkey Day, even going so far as to acquire two pairs of shoes just for running, plus a Camelbak waist belt, again, just for running. I tried running in high school & frankly sucked at it, but considering my life now it’s a good way to exercise, fairly cheaply, for the time I have available for exercising. I’m even bandying about the idea of another half marathon, only much better prepared this time around.  
Running for me is mostly a solitary endeavor, considering schedules & where I’m at with my training. I’ve started considering what I would like my summer to look like, & while I will keep running, I’d rather spend my money on something which I already love-camping & hiking with Kade. He’s at that utterly awesome age of “old enough” for certain things-he can hike 5-6 easy miles all by himself now- & “young enough” to still think doing everything with mommy is awesome, & fascinated by everything I point out, like this morning’s uplifting sunrise, he was so excited by this.

  
So instead of trying to psych myself up for a daily run, I’m switching my focus to prepping to carry two people’s worth of gear to a pretty campsite up a fairly easy trail. Kade is made insanely happy by maps, so we’ll spread out a few topo maps of Oregon & Washington & try to find a half dozen under 10 mile loop or our & back hikes. We already know he loves to camp, but our first non-car camp trip will be close to home just in case, so one of our lovely, long suffering family members can rescue us if necessary.  

  
I can tell I’m much more excited by the thought of these trips, & not a marathon, because I’ve already compiled an extensive gear & needed gear list, places I want to go, training tips, & trying to remember what’s in a good hiking first aid kit…and reminding myself that wherever we go, so does Laila & Kade’s green blankie!  

I will also be actively bugging people for trip ideas, light weight gear reviews, tips & tricks for making the hike & camp set up easier & as comfy as possible for a tired mommy & kiddo at the end of the day. Most of my hiking experience is with groups, so I’m used to carrying a lot of gear, but setting up camp basically by myself at the end of a day, plus encouraging/keep Kade from jumping off cliffs, will be more an adventure than any marathon could give me!