Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Cloud Surfing

Happy Girl
Soooo I did a thing! I checked off one of my top Bucket List items and went Tandem Paragliding last night! Quite the Tuesday. We took off from Chirico Ridge at Tiger Mountain (1750 ft up) and were welcomed by absolutely pristine flying conditions. I was able to stay in the air for a full 45 minutes! Epic views of Rainier, Baker, and the Issaquah Highlands below. It felt totally natural and I had zero fear running off the edge of the take-off cliff.

Proud of myself for becoming a braver, bolder Me.

Take off from Chirico Ridge

Looking back at Chirico Takeoff

Issaquah Highlands

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Freedom to Be: The Many Faces of Me

My kind of freedom

My friend and I had a conversation the other day about people with a central path. I think you know the type: your friends and family members who know what they want and pursue the same steady track diligently, eyes on the prize, actualizing unwavering movement towards a goal they decided on ages ago. The kind of commitment and assurance it takes to follow through on law school, a doctorate, moving up within one company from entry level to management, etc. The level of commitment it takes to stay in a marriage for thirty years.....

I am baffled, amazed, impressed, and sometimes disturbed by these kind of "permanent" endeavors. There have been SO few things that I have felt this kind of drive and dedication towards. I do not have a central path. I have a life map of hundreds upon hundreds of tiny little offshoot trails, some dead ends, some loops that lead me back to the same place again and again... Some long winded roads that fill the page of my existence only to be erased and then etched again as my focus waxes and wanes.

I don't consider myself a person of impressive focus and drive. Often I hesitate on making decisions or commitments and when I finally do, I can be guilty of trying to go back and chose the other path. I want to have my cake and eat it too. My process is scattered; I struggle to commit wholeheartedly to things and also to stand strong in one place no matter what appears to dissuade me. I was relaying all this to my friend the other day, self-deprecating wit on overload, and she stopped me in my tracks.

"That's NOT true. You're that way about hiking. You're that way about Mac and always have been (my dog). You're that way about your Mom, and this person..."

Well shit....She's right...there are exceptions to the rule... hiking is probably the most obvious one. I've said this before, but it bears repeating, it is the longest standing hobby I have ever had. I've only been hiking for about three, three and a half years, mind you!- but that is the LONGEST AMOUNT OF TIME I have ever spent doing one thing consistently and genuinely enjoying it. As a kid I picked up and subsequently dropped hobbies sooo often that my mom actually stopped supporting me signing up for new classes or after-school activities. She knew how quickly I'd tire of it after she bought the supplies needed and was pretty much over it by the time I was 13. I've started and stopped many career paths and school/training programs over the years.

Yet I have no problem doing the most to make a hike happen. I will get up at 4 or 5am on my day off, sacrifice sleep, pay to have my dog taken care of while I'm gone, drive anyone and everyone who wants to join, read trip reports all week, print directions, pack snacks the night before, check weather conditions, keep up on car repairs, say no to friends I want to see on weekends who wont hike, drive long miles on gravel roads or through pot hole fields, flare injuries, etc. Just to hike. Never ever worried about what it takes to get there as long as I can get there.

Hiking to Goat Lake

I want to create the space and potential for this level of intense devotion and pure commitment in other areas of my life. I want to start by setting achievable goals that I can use as leverage against my old ideas about myself and who I am/what I am capable of following through on. NOT PLANS, just goals, no time limit or set dates needed.

We all need to remember that our ideas and image of ourselves CAN and SHOULD change. This does not mean we are inauthentic or confused or even bipolar! It means we accept and glorify the reality of things constantly changing and that we run with this to grow and transform ourselves. That we can be a lot of different people in a single lifetime, which is amazing to think about....

It's cool for others to be able to see and accept this in us as well, maybe even celebrate it rather than being scared and put off by our ongoing and often non-linear evolution. These are the ones we need in our corner: ready to support each new passion project we develop, or simply each version of us.

Being single has one huge perk that I love more and more every day: I have the time, energy, and freedom to explore new friendships. I have met sooo many people lately which is WONDERFUL. The photos in this blog are from a hike I did on Saturday with my buddy Juan and three people I had never met in person before, mostly whom I knew from Instagram. We had such a great day hiking to Goat Lake!

I'm building a dope, eclectic tribe around me: new friends who see me for who I am now, free of comparison or even resentment for my changes, mixed with golden friendships from the past that are still meaningful, relevant, and supportive all these years later. Looking around my life, it's like a living collage of all the Me's I have ever been and could ever be. I feel so free!

Cutie Pie Esra

The hike to Goat Lake

Fuji gettin' it in

Oh hey bud!

Bushwhacked our way around the lake

Goat Lake


Fuji and CJ

Far end of the lake

The God Particle 

Fall colors abound

Monday, September 18, 2017

Mythological Mountain

Got my annual Valhalla trek in this past weekend! I love hiking this trail every Fall. Lake Valhalla is my favorite accessible day hike for watching Autumn unfold. By mid September, the shrubs and trees are painted Rasta colors of red, orange, yellow, and green. There aren't many hikes that I like to do over and over again, just like there aren't many movies I own or want to repeat watch. I admit I love a new experience more than just about anything, so Valhalla is definitely special.

A subtle climb through the gap

I was lucky enough to swindle my neighbor Kalee into joining me last minute even though she's nursing a knee injury. When we parked at the Smithbrook Trailhead just beyond Stevens Pass, I looked over and saw a very special little boy! My best friend Hazel used to nanny this insanely gifted, smart and soulful kid named Jonas. He and his Dad were getting ready to hike the same trail, so we started our journey with them. I tend to be awkward with kids, I suppose because I'm acutely aware that I'm missing the inherent "mommy button", but he is literally the coolest kid ever! Such a fun and random rendezvous. He was doing a 7 mile, 1600 ft. e.g. hike at age six, by the way. Stuntin'!

Lake Valhalla is nestled in the gap between Mount Lichtenberg and Mt McCausland of the Cascades. After about 2 miles, it intersects with the Pacific Crest Trail at Union Gap, so there are always a handful of stinky and smiley through hikers along the way. I shuddered a little at the thought of sleeping out there this late in the season. The air was already pretty chilly since the elevation caps out at over 5000 ft.: 6000 or more if you climb McCausland for the aerial lake view. Snow will probably be on the ground within 3-4 weeks.

Falling into Autumn
I love that so many hikes in Washington are named after Viking-era mythology. I don't know if this common, since I haven't done toooo much hiking outside of my home state. If you read my post about the Enchantments, you know that the pinnacle point of that through trail is Asgard Pass: named after the Gods' celestial fortress. In Nordic mythology, Valhalla is a grand hall within Asgard where the God Odin houses slain warriors. It's essentially a warrior's purgatory, where Odin keeps these spirits for later use in his epic Ragnarok doomsday battle. The story goes that all day every day these slain men engage in battle against each other until evening falls and their wounds are healed and their health restored. Then they eat and drink and party to their hearts content under a golden roof.

The root word Valhöll translates to “the hall of the fallen,” and is related to Valhallr, “the rock of the fallen,” a namesake title granted to certain hills and rocks in Sweden where the dead were thought to retreat after life.

Watching the summer fizz out and come to an end along the hillsides and ridges of this hike was beautiful. Autumn is ebbing it's way in steadily and surely. Many trees were displaying orange and yellow underbellies, and the entire gap was shifting slowly towards a more warm, red tone rather than cool greys and greens of Summer. I adore living in a place that reflects true Seasons, where each quarter is markedly different than the one that came before. Despite it all, this is one of the greatest things about the PNW. The death and resurrection of each Season is as intriguing as the light and dark of sunrise and sunset. It's mystical and mythological at once. These changes in nature seem easier and lighter than so many others we face in life since they are dependable in their timing and reliable in their inevitability.

"Seasons change, mad things rearrange" -Lauryn Hill

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Significance of Sun

Even though I've been talking all this trash lately about throwing plans to the wayside and living life spontaneously, I have to pat my past-self on the back for thinking ahead and booking an amazing campsite at Takhlakh Lake for Labor Day weekend. When I returned from Arizona last March, I was bumming so hard about Seattle and the overarching feeling of being stuck. I hopped online the first day I was back at work and booked multiple camp sites-aka mini escapes-for the summer. Takhlakh Lake Campground is one I had never come across before, but it came highly recommended as a gorgeous and tucked away site at the base of Mt. Adams.

Well, it wasn't easy to access but it was sure as hell tucked away! Especially because I-23, the direct road there from the east side of Rainier, has apparently been washed out for years. We discovered this when we rolled up on the literal edge of a long road to nowhere, sans wi-fi or phone connection, and came face to face with a group of toothless old men swigging beers and bullshitting. "That road's been washed out for years!" One guy proclaimed. We told them where we intended to end up. "Hmmm, never heard of it. I don't know these parts very well. I mostly ride around, shooting deer."

We pulled a U-turn and drove back to the nearest town, Randle, which had a local ranger's office. It was literally 4:32 when we pulled into their parking lot, just past closing time, but the kind ladies let us in and provided some extremely sketchy, poorly written navigation on a paper map....

Off we went! had the wrong directions. Waze had the wrong directions. Apparently, Takhlakh is for the foolhardy and adventurous only. After 2 hours of driving on extremely bumpy back roads within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, we finally came upon the campsite. I have NEVER seen mountain views this clear and unobstructed at a campsite. Mt. Adams (elevation 12,281 ft: not too shabby at all in comparison to its neighbor Rainier at 14,410) sits squarely in front of the lake. Similar to Mt. Rainier, Adams is a potentially active strato volcano.

Sunset, Moonrise

Hazel testing the waters 

All in all, we left Seattle around 11am and showed up just in time to catch the beginning of Sunset at Takhlakh at 630pm. To be fair, about an hour of our travel time was actually spent in the town of Packwood, which was having a Labor Day festival. Soooo much food, such good tamales!

The next morning, I set my alarm for 5:50 to catch sunrise. I absolutely love watching the sun rise and set when I camp. It's an intrinsic part of the experience in my opinion. It's something I always look forward to, and I really want to start doing sunrise hikes more often.


More sunrise

Sunset, night 2

Watching the miracle of light that is sunrise/sunset charges me with a deep feeling of renewal. So comforting to watch days come to a close or awaken totally new, ready to completely start over. It's a lesson in trust, to see the sun and moon retreat then return again without fail, down to the minute they're expected. Witnessing it feels inherently spiritual and fills me with true awe. Awe slows down time, and without time I am eternal, forever..

Couple of Happy Campers