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

Oregon Trails Summit

Along with a few other lucky ladies, I was privileged to attend the Oregon Trails Summit in Bend last weekend. PNER sent me to talk trails, but I brought a lot of past experience as both a trail user and stakeholder (I worked on trails with Northwest Youth Corps for six summer seasons, as well as two seasons as a State Park Ranger). It was wonderful to network and discuss issues with nerds who speak my language, a complicated polyglot of passion, frustration and issues between Federal, State and private land managers, industry leaders, and coalition groups from every corner of the state. As a passionate dirt bag, equestrian, and overall outdoor geek, it was heady brew.
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I also go to visit Smith Rock State Park for the first time!!!
Even with the fun and empowering discussions, presentations and emotional keynote speech to fill the weekend, there was a shadow cast over the whole thing for me. I’ll get to the specifics of the sessions I attended shortly, but I’d like to address what to me has become the elephant in the room: PNER is no longer the place for me.
This PNER trip to the Summit was spearheaded by Julie Serres, on behalf of the Trails Committee. She eventually chose not to come, for her own reasons born of frustration, and after seeing several back and forth comments through this member’s page, I am also choosing to bow out of paying dues next year to an organization that does not walk it’s talk of late. Oregon Equestrian Trails and Back-country Horseman’s Association both had a large presence at the summit, from leading a horse and bike workshop, having a small booth with handout materials, to being on several panel discussions. I feel PNER could have either been a larger presence, or gone with a clearer directive to “learn how we can give back to our beloved trails, and be more active in the trail maintenance community.” Without Julie there, it felt like our group lacked cohesion.
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Also got to ride an awesome little war mare, Dalai Lama!
The first session I sat in on was regarding the new technology known as “e-bikes”, where I learned a great deal about what they actually are. The discussion was wide ranging, but boils down to what kind of experience e-bike users are looking for. Federal land managers have classed them with OHVs and other motorized vehicles, when most e-bikes are no louder or that much faster than non-motorized bikes. Oregon State has a more flexible, while still limited, interpretation for basic, pedal assisted e-bikes, the kind that have no throttle (you have to be pedaling to keep moving). For now, though, most e-bikes remain quite expensive, but as this market expands look to see more of them on the trails. From an equestrian’s perspective, the main worry is about speed on trails designed to allow bikes, whether motorized or non, to rapidly gain speed or pop out of nowhere, limiting reaction times for all parties. We covered built environment fixes (ie designing multi-use trails to slow all parties down through specific trail features), administration fixes (ie bikes only uphill, bikes and horses allowed on alternate days, etc), and simply building new, bike only trails while still maintaining equestrian and hiker access on existing trails (not a zero sum game; bikers get trails that cater to them, while equestrians don’t loose access to trails they’ve traditionally had access to.)
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Downtown Bend is fantastic!
The next session was Forwarding Signature Trails (think like the PCT, only Oregon specific). As a trail user, this was a fun and hugely informative session as to the hard leg work and cooperation goes into building trails and trail systems. Presenters included groups from Umatilla, Tualatin, and Southern Oregon. I was heartened to hear that with the exception of the Tualatin River Trail (which is heavily urban and not a fun place to ride anyway) all trails in this discussion included equestrians in their design and build processes (I can’t decide which I’m more excited to visit and ride someday, the Jack-Ash trail in Southern Oregon or the Joseph network near the Wallowa’s!)
This session, along with the Regional Trails breakout, covered a ton of ground on how to gather support, funding, and everything else needed to make trails a reality. Ideas, tips and tricks ranged from encouraging participation of volunteers, communicating effectively with different demographics, and making local media your friend. One very cool tidbit as a technology loving Millennial was QR codes on business cards and trail signs, where you can pair your GPS track from your favorite local trail to a larger regional database. This helps map where and how people are using local trails, in order to include them in the area’s overall trail plan.
The most interesting breakout was one which certainly requires more time, Resolving Trail Conflicts. I know Elayne’s write up is already up (she’s faster than I am!) and she came into this session with a much different perspective. For myself, I lean more democratic and have a wide range of views on trail usage, as I’ve built trails for all types of users (OHVs, horses, bikes, hikers only, multi-use, ADA) and have used trails in all sorts of different ways, though my primary use is from horseback (c’mon, who doesn’t agree that’s the best view?) The overall point I took out of this session was considering each user group’s desired trail experience. For the most part, user groups can “make it work” in relative harmony, minus outliers who ruin things for everybody, regardless of how they use the trails. The main beef comes both between OHV users and other groups, mainly due to the noise and speed being so much greater than any other group (bikers, hikers, kayakers, equestrians, etc. while they each have their own impact on trails, and minus run ins with mountain bikes and *gasp* piles of poop, don’t really impact each other in a huge, insurmountable way).
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So pretty…no desire to climb up like the two dozen climbers I passed!
Ultimately, it’s up to land managers to “build the table” and the responsibility of each user group to ensure they have a seat at that table, whether it be private, State or Federal lands in question. Ironing out issues of trail use, maintenance, new trails, emerging technologies and access take time, a buttload of patience, and empathy for other users, even if you hate what experience they might seek on trails. Each specialized organization, from PNER to Friends of the Columbia River Gorge, can help maintain access to trails for all through a combination of education, encouraging volunteers, and reaching out to bring user groups together; from poker rides that include hikers, bikers and equestrians at the same event to special sponsored trail signs, it is possible to share trails in a sustainable way.
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This mare was a hoot and I can’t wait to ride her again someday!
The biggest question, now that we’ve presented what we’ve learned, is where PNER will take this information. Each rider uses some combination of private, State and Federal trails (I myself ride mostly on private timber lands kept open to equestrians through the good faith of the landowner, as well as Federal and State forests and parks when someone takes a horse for me out and about). OET and BCHA both have large, well organized service arms; OET sponsors several fantastic horse camps through annual work parties, specialized signage, and organized fundraising rides; BCHA is out there hauling tools and equipment into back country trails, supporting other trail organizations by hauling equipment, providing equestrian based expertise, and both organizations spend a good amount of time on educating an increasingly horse naive public about horses, equestrian issues and best practices when meeting horses on trails.
Based on Julie’s experiences of the past year to get a Trails Committee off the ground, is PNER even willing to become more of a service or education based organization? It’s one thing to have a booth at an equine trade show asking people to join our organization; it’s a whole other kettle of fish to ask those who do join to organize an educational poker ride, put in hours maintaining their local trails, or designing educational materials for other trail users.
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Definitely dragging the husband, kid and dog to this awful place someday…

Embarressing ride story!

I’m part of many endurance ride related groups on the old Facebook, and in one I mentioned my twin ride goals for the season of completing my first 50 mile ride and not embarrassing myself in ride camp.

I realized that while I wrote up and shared the story of last year’s sad attempt at Grizzly, I’d never shared it wider than the PNER newsletter. So here it is again in all its glory, or don’t follow the Bad Idea Fairy!

I’ve had better weekends. I’ve had worse weekends. Overall, I’m chalking this year’s attempt at the Grizzly Mountain ride up to the as the ever exciting ‘learning experience’.

I first tried to complete Grizzly for the first time a few years ago, on Nicole Miller’s incomparable Arab Cid (who had given me my first ever endurance completion at Home on the Range earlier that year). I ended up pulling out via rider option at the first vet check, as through nearly 18 miles and a 30 degree temperature change, I hadn’t really drunk any water & ended up with heat stroke.

This year, Nicole had the amazing patience and trust to offer me another of her Arabs, this time Reno, to again attempt the LD at the now first ever EDRA ride. I felt quite a bit better about things this time; I’d been riding almost every weekend for months, including solid rides on a beautiful Appy/Arab cross (many of you may know him; Vicki Nelson’s Jokker is a stand out kinda guy!). I had my Camelbak all packed, my riding clothes dialed in, neither too hot nor too cold, I’ve been biking to work for months so I felt stronger than I had in years, & I was familiar with the rhyme and rhythm of Nicole & Jala’s work, if not Reno himself. I’d even brought two friends along, Adriene & Sarah, lifelong horse people but endurance newbies to volunteer, crew & provide what turned out to be critical emotional support.

So it should come as no surprise that Murphy bit my ass hard, in the form of the valuable maxim “Never do anything new on ride day.” I hopped up on a horse I’d never ridden, in a saddle I’d never seen, to do a nice 30 mile ride in the sunshine with friends.

I should take a moment here to fill a gap: I’m a catch rider. I have no horse of my own currently, so I’ve tried my best to build a solid reputation as a good horse person, a decent rider and a trusted friend. I was two of those three things at Grizzly. It’s only due to the open generosity of the endurance community that I have horses to ride at all! I always try to go the extra mile, from cleaning tack, stalls & trailers to working on any training issues as asked. There’s a delicate balance between my desire to ride endurance, the need to put conditioning miles on an ‘extra’ horse, and not straining friendships.

Back to the ride report that turned out not to be: We blitzed out of camp after Reno nicely bucked me off as his test (failed that one but popped right back on), took a wrong turn, futzed with my stirrups while Nicole’s Dancer lived up to her namesake, then crossed the highway & headed up the road for my one sweet spot of the ride, Reno alternating between a Hackney pony trot & a beautiful canter that I loved. As soon as we left the road I knew I was in trouble. I couldn’t find the sweet spot of the stirrups; either too short & they popped me up with every stride, or so long I couldn’t sink my weight into them. Reno’s saddle had a tree, but I’d been riding almost exclusively treeless all winter. I felt perched above his movement, & coupled with my shiny but comfortable running tights, I had no grip on the saddle & lost my balance with every shift, unable to sink into the saddle & wrap my legs around him as I normally did.

At the first real downhill at the trot, I did the predictable thing & came off again, this time rolling over his shoulder in painful slow motion. After a stunned moment I collected my glasses & left my pride on the trail. Nicole & Cassie headed on & I took my sweet time hiking back to camp, explaining to every rider who passed that I was an idiot & not to worry about us. Of course the first rider to pass was the woman who got me in to this dang sport in the first place, Brenda Casebeer! I will admit, I didn’t feel so bad about leaving the proper place on Reno’s back when I learned Brenda’s up & coming gaited mare, Grace, had also dumped her a little farther up the trail.

I will be honest, even though only Reno saw, I did cry a bit on that hike back to ride camp. I’d never encountered a saddle I just couldn’t suck up & deal with, at least for a few miles. It was just a bad combination, & an expensive lesson to learn. By the time I handed in my ride card, I’d at least accepted I had made the right choice for the horse. We avoided a sore back by not hauling around an unbalanced rider, & not holding up my friend’s ride. My friends back at camp talked me through from sadness & self-guilt to the mentality of ‘lessons learned, you lived to ride again another day, here’s some things to try’ via a trip to Dairy Queen in Madras.

The main lesson I took from Grizzly is I have to control everything I can, so ride day is as smooth as possible. Things I can’t control are always getting a pre-ride in (due to distance between me & the offered horse), or the saddle (which endurance riders are rightly very specific about). I did go out & find a new pair of actual riding tights (slightly sticky seat Kerrits & half chaps on the way from the UK, the only company to make them in my size), find a seat fleece, & pick up dressage lessons again.

To follow up the ride that wasn’t, I had a fantastic ride the following weekend on Vicki’s Jokker. We managed a nice 13 mile ride at a decent clip, in a saddle I love on a horse I adore, only getting hailed on at the end of the ride. Heading up a long gravel road at a just right trot, just me & the big spotted horse in the woods following Vicki on her mare, was one of those sweet spots which remind me why I’m putting in the work to make myself a better rider.

I strive to keep people trusting me with their amazing horses & the open trail, all in pursuit of a completion & a nice t-shirt. I’ve been biking ten miles round trip to work several times a week since January; riding as often as I can; filling in walks around campus & Wii workouts (Dance games & Biggest Looser) during the worst of the winter weather, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, & wearing my Fitbit & tracking what I eat. These actions have helped me drop 30 pounds & turned my calves into rocks, & I’m hoping adding in dressage lessons will get me closer to this season’s goal of my first fifty mile ride.

From my end, the trickiest part of being a catch rider is the relationship building. I’m lucky enough to ride mostly with people I also consider friends, which makes it a little easier to keep the conversation flowing on long rides & the communication open during trickier moments. I always offer to pay full ride fees & half gas & food for any trips or events, & I fully embrace the “take what you need as it works for your current horse, store the rest for later” policy around any advice I give or receive. I take pains to question & learn as quickly as I can how each owner handles their horses, their setup & routines; the goal is to minimize aggravation on both ends & maximize riding time.

Mr. 2Spooky

(Setting the scene: sitting in my beloved Emerald Queen, still at work, waiting for the World’s Best future husband to come rescue me and my non independent woman self from a super flat tire, and a spare tire I can’t get out from under the vehicle cause I’ve never practiced on this truck yet).

After looting the local 4H tack sale with two far fetched friends on Saturday, I put the new to me tack to use on Sunday.

My proudest score of Saturday was a almost brand new Equipedic pad for $100, which is totally worth boasting about and bonus, Ray had no issues with it!

A still relatively new to me riding partner and I headed out for a long slow ride, as we’re aiming to turtle Grizzly together. I have always ridden with others much more experienced than I, both with endurance and the local trails. Yesterday I got to be the ‘senior’ riding partner, and we never once got lost! She mentioned several suggestions I had that I’ve picked up from others (hopping off every 10 miles or so to pee and stretch and adjust tack, letting horses graze for a few minutes every so often, and walking the last bit I to camp/the barn) were super helpful, so thanks to all those who’ve instilled good habits in me!

While it was a good 12 mile ride (no rain!) I was reminded once again that Ray is a different horse than super laid back, goofy Jokker.

Mr. I’m actually a teenager spent a good chunk of the ride just super casually glancing around, going full giraffe at random moments, and not quite fully jumping sideways at Every. Single. Culvert. I rode every moment of the ride, working to not let my emotions rule because Mr. I’m not actually trying to dump you tried to pretend he was a super spooky four year old.

I kept the image of mile 18, trotting easily down trail halfway back to camp and a well earned completion award and roaring bonfire in mind as I again reminded Mr. I go so fast than no, you can’t bolt all the way home, and please don’t tailgate the peeing mare.

Rather than being terrified, I enjoyed the challenge of pushing myself to match the horse, and not get sucked into his attempts to weasel out of work. He did eventually accept the notion and we settled down and enjoyed ourselves (minus the redhead eating culverts).

Lessons learned: definitely going to try a Kimberwick or at least a running martingale next time; he has a habit of sticking his nose straight up when he disagrees with the riders chosen speed. “Neener neener, can’t tell me what to do now!” Shortening my stirrups was both good and bad; my seat was much better, but it tired my right ankle our faster and forced me to constantly reset my bad balance (something I’m hoping Celena can help me with at her clinic in two more weeks!)

My proudest moment was also the scariest; we were cantering back home and I could feel myself tipping forward over his neck, reins not short enough to do any good, and if he’s stumbled or shied I would have been dumped, just like I fell off Reno at Grizzly last year. Fortunately this year I heard some old trainer’s loud ass voice shout ‘Sit on your ASS!’ so I did and we came back to a more controlled canter that I cowgirl whooped my way through cause yeah, super badass enough to correct that mistake this time!

The only thing I really need to work with Mr. Fastest Possible Speed is rating, which I know will be worse the first five miles out of ride camp. My twin goals are dialing in his bit/martingale combo and working on my core strength so I can keep with him for those long miles.

We can do this and we can enjoy doing so, even more when the sun decides to shine! Hows everyone else’s conditioning coming?

Escape the smoke

After the topsy turvey summer we’ve had, neither of us could face a crazy holiday weekend of travel, even for horse training. So I skipped a farm visit, and today my little family of three (minus His Royal Fuzzy Whiteness Wilson) mosied over them that hills to the beach.

This lazy day of wandering was exactly what we all needed, quiet time together and an escape from the awful heat and wildfire smoke filling the Willamette valley again today.

We hit Lincoln City, which was reliably packed, enjoyed a nice lunch at McMenamin’s, and found perfect high winds and few people (although still enough kids for Kade to play with) at Bob Straub State Park in Pacific City.

Tom had a blast flying his high tech kites in the wind, busting a steady 15-23mph, and being that special kind of puzzled only engineers get when he couldn’t figure out why I kept crashing the kite. (Hint: you work the kite lines the exact opposite way from reins, which I’ve spent the better part of my life learning and teaching!)

The large pack of kids digging energetically in the sand taught Kade how to find shrimp; we took turns burying each other in the sand; hit pause for a snuggle break to warm up my zero body fat kid; wrote a little of the stress into my journal; and relaxed, watching Kade play, Tom fly kites, on a beautiful sunny windy smoke free beach. I managed (barely) not to cry, out of gratefulness that we live where we can safely steal a day like this, peaceful and together and happy, far from the stresses and strains and sadness of the world for awhile.

Back in the saddles!

Are we going to talk about how long it’s been since I last posted? 

Nope, except to say that life is busy as it is for everyone, and I have a new job that demands so much more brain power than my old one…Which, unfortunately, I am loosing after this week due to budget cuts. I am, of course, going through the stages of grieving over it, since this is the best team I’ve worked with since college.

No, the reasons I’ve decided to devote some time to writing here are many, mostly focused on self improvement through accountability. If I can consistently post here, doing so will help keep my goals and steps towards those goals front and center, where even people outside my immediate circle can help keep me accountable ttowards them. 


My primary goal for this endurance riding season, the real goal that pushes everything else, is to complete a 50 mile ride. It’s July and the PNW season ends, more or less, in October. I have completed one 25 mile ride and felt great, fully embeddeding the endurance bug once again. 


A large part of my success at that ride came down to two main factors; a wonderful mentor and an utterly forgiving horse with a build that carried a heavyweight rider without issue. Jokker is amazing horse and I’m privileged to be able to ride him, but as a catch rider I would like for a few more doors to be open to me. Expanding my options entails loosing weight (my eventual goal is to ride as a midweight, preferably by next season), gaining strength and riding ability. 

As I am facing uncertain employment, I can’t shell out for lessons right now, but I have all the tools available to work on the first two. Through extensive trial and error, I’ve found what works for me to keep moving towards those goals; primarily hiking and biking. I loath running; I just can’t stick with it, as sweaty and slow and jiggly as all the various bits of me right now. Swimming costs money to belong to a local pool, being stuck in the gym around strangers is boring and unmotivating, and even plain walking is just ugh. 


Thanks to a birthday gift from my parents, I’ve discovered I actually love biking, as it allows me to go a lot father and faster than my own two feet, carrying more gear, with a lot less jiggly and rubbing parts. The one issue is it’s not super cheap, between maintenance and new gear to make things a bit more comfortable. I weigh every purchase with a thought to my ultimate goal; will a new bike seat help me get more miles in to be fitter for a 50? 

I am also lucky in that Canby is a surprisingly good town to bike ride in. There are certainly some roads leading out of town I’m not up for trying yet, but most roads have bike lanes or wide  shoulders, plus their is a beautiful multi-use path without cars that cuts right through town. I can just hop on the bike and go, without having to drive somewhere and park (which I still do if only for variety). 

I am also keeping a private journal in Evernote, which I use everyday for tracking mental headspace, measurements, food and workouts, as well as various apps such as Map My Ride and My Fitness Pal. I’ve started and lost motivation on several workout plans over the years, but most of them were running based. I think having a clear and attainable endurance goal in mind and a biking based workout plan will help get me there, as well as more public accountability. 


My next possible endurance ride is Santiam Cascade in a month, with the incomparable Jokker once again on deck. I also want to be prepared to jump on any chance offered, without doing a disservice to any offered horse. 

For now, Santiam is in my sights and I can’t wait!

Shifting skies


Scene set: I’m typing this up on my ‘new’ phone, which in reality is Tom’s old phone, but it’s an iPhone 6 so its one of the newest pieces I’ve had since…my parents were buying my technology probably. I’m at the MAX (Portland’s light rail) station accross from whete my mom now works, under looming grey skies waiting for the train to take me home. 


Plan: Finish this post on the train; finish the drive home in the Emerald Queen (who is in desperate need of a quality detailing), change into workout clothes and put in my second run in months, in my pursuit of my new goal: to ride (to hopefully complete!) a 50 mile endurance ride in 2017. I haven’t even picked a ride yet, but I know it’s the most motivation I have to trick me towards my ultimate goal: regaining the strength & weight of my college days. Or at least much closer than the rounded, easily winded, cubicle dwelling not fit for much beyond a nice Netflix binge version of Jame I currently am. 


Obstacles: The hot water heater is broken (or the breaker is broken) but I have no hot water at home. The piled up dirty dishes will have to be handled the old fashioned way: via boiling water on the stove. How pioneer! It also means hot showers are available at Tom’s sisters house, who thankfully lived three blocks away, but who has a shower which eats Jame’s and makes her fall down and jam her finger. As one does.

Also, all those other things like being a working mother (which carries with it the stress load of work and commute and budgets and mommy guilt), plus I am fatter and slower and the couch is comfy and the boyfriend makes hella good food and I haaaaaate running…but it’s the cheapest way to get fit quickly that I’ve seen, self paced wise.


All I need is a few sets of comfy workout clothes, some decent shoes, my Iphone and an armband and headphones (all of which I have, minus the armband which those nice folks at Amazon are sending me now).


The obstacles which have (mostly) been removed are my prior goals of new house and new job. The house we are mostly settled into (minus minor things like consistant access to hot water) and the job is fantastic, where both my coworkers and my boss are super psyched about me and what I’ve accomplished in my first month. 

Oh, and if I haven’t shouted it across social media enough: TOM IS HOME! 


Bring on the 50, I’ll be ready!….

Now to find a horse…

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 🙂