Ross Lake Dam Trail

On our way back from a fun weekend in Mazama, the Hubby and I decided to check out the Ross Lake Dam Trail. I’d heard about it originally in an article from Sunset Magazine, and since we were so close, we decided to add the hike onto our trip home. Given my druthers, I probably would never hike on an 86° day. Especially not an 86° day at the end of a three-day weekend full of rafting and adult beverages. The hike down the hill was pretty nice, but when you have to turn around and do that same mile UPhill… let’s just say that I’m proud that I made it back okay, and I was very grateful when the Hubby dipped my hat in Happy Creek on the way back. That ice-cold water really helped get me through the last little bit!

Pictures from the hike are below – mostly taken on the way down, when I could think about photos. The way back up took most of my brainpower to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Well… maybe not most of my brainpower… but far too much to think about pictures!



Board Body Workout

Once upon a time, the Hubby and I snowboarded ALL. THE. TIME. As in, we would purchase season passes when they went on sale in the Spring. And we would make sure we got our money’s worth. We would head to the mountains any weekday we had off work and at least one day each weekend. We would snowboard on Christmas Day. One year, when our local mountains were low on the white stuff, we even drove across the state and back for a few hours of snowboarding.

Then our lives changed. We no longer had weekends quite as available for snowboarding. Season passes stopped being the economical choice. Snowboarding became an every-once-in-a-while occurrence, although I think we’ve managed to make it to the slopes at least once each year. But that one time isn’t as fun as it used to be. Instead of experiencing the freedom of flowing down smooth runs, we’re re-learning how to control our boards (and our bodies). It’s a lot of work, and not necessarily very enjoyable. More frustrating, actually. For us and for those that ride with us.

When the Hubby took me on my first snowboarding adventure, he told me that you cannot tell if you like it or not on the first day. Or the second. The third day is when you can tell if you’re having fun or not. He said that this works exceptionally well if you are able to ride three days in a row. I trusted him, and I gave it three good tries, and I was hooked.

But now? Now we don’t often have three tries in a year. Now we have other priorities and other activities that compete for our time and resources. Now, snowboarding feels like work MOST of the time we’re doing it.

But we used to really love it. The Hubby might still really love it, even through all the work and frustration and leg pain. Me? I’m on the fence. But not quite ready to give up on it. So this year, we’re trying something new. We’re trying to get into snowboarding shape first, and then hit the slopes.

So I did some googling and found this snowboarding workout. And we gave it a shot for the first time last night. We cannot manage it. Literally – we can’t do all of the exercises in the set. If you’re interested, you can read through my bullets on what I did & didn’t do – I won’t be offended if you skip those, though.

Hubby and I committed to spend up to 15 minutes a day for the next seven days, attempting these exercises and to re-evaluate at that point. I’m curious to see how much we’ll improve and how sore we’ll be at the end. I don’t really think that doing some exercises in our living room will completely make up for being able to hit the slopes every weekend. But I do think that anything that makes us move more and work our muscles is probably pushing us in the right direction.

Read on if you’re interested to see where we started. Or check back in next week for an update!

  • Pulse Squats are okay. My quads are burning by the end, but 30 seconds doesn’t seem like the end of the world.
  • Mountain Climbers feel like I should be able to do a lot more of them, a lot more easily… but they’re also okay.
  • We skipped the Step Ups because I don’t think we have anything in our house that we could actually step onto for these. If it weren’t storming out, I would have braved the front porch steps. But it wasn’t worth it. So we nixed them.
  • Russian Twists were literally the only thing I felt like I could do well, for the full time. I think I owe that to Liz’s 6:30 a.m. Abs Class at the Downtown YMCA – my abs may be hidden, but they’re still pretty strong, and my obliques can probably withstand a lot more punishment than this workout can dish out.
  • Single Leg Stand Up… I managed two on each side. We completely abandoned the concept of 30 seconds per leg and focused on attempting to complete the exercise. At all.
  • Back Extensions were okay for me, also. This is an exercise I did for physical therapy following my car accident a little over a year ago, so it’s not completely foreign to me. One of the exercises where I didn’t feel like I was about to die while trying it.
  • Elevated Stationary Single Lunge was difficult, and I don’t think my form was great… but I got through it.
  • Quick Get Up – from the description the Hubby read, I thought you weren’t supposed to use your hands to stand up. That proved impossible. I was able to manage this one a few times on each side, but had to push off with my hand. Seems like that’s cool, from the photos. So I did it. But it was pretty difficult.

We did NOT repeat the exercises a second time. We made our way through the list (except the Step Ups) once and called it good for a start. And I was immediately sore and felt like it was a chore to sit down. That feeling hasn’t changed in the last 24 hours.

We completely neglected to do any stretches, but judging by how tight my legs feel today, that will be an important component to bring into our lives.

Kayak Camping – Take 2: 2016 Edition

After the debacle that was our first kayak camping expedition, I wasn’t too keen on the concept of trying again.  Until I talked to a colleague who loves kayak camping and learned that we’d traveled more than FIVE TIMES further on our maiden voyage than my buddy recommends.  So I considered for a day, and then told the Hubby that I was open to trying again.  IF we shorten the distance by A LOT.  And IF he could get everything we need ready in less than 48 hours.

The plan: we get everything we need for successful kayak camping loaded into the car for a Saturday morning departure.  We take the Point Defiance-Vashon ferry, and then drive to the North end of Vashon Island.  There’s a boat launch right near the ferry dock there, and a place to leave the car not too far away.  We’ll paddle a couple of miles, to Blake Island, and camp for the night.  Since the weather reports are predicting thunderstorms late Sunday afternoon, we plan on getting back to Vashon by midday – thunderstorms seem easier to handle in a car or on a ferry than they do in a kayak.

At no point did either of us sit down & figure out how much food and water we should bring with us.  We just went for it.  It turns out that we brought more than 21 litres of water and more than 12 meals worth of food.  Which would be good, if we were going on an extended trip.  But we were literally on blake island for less than 20 hours.  This still wouldn’t be a big deal, except that I’m not accustomed to how the boats react when fully loaded.  They sit lower in the water and they have more inertia.  Which is great if you’re trying for long distances.  But it’s not awesome when you’re ready to turn.  Or accelerate.  And it takes a lot longer to pack tons of food & water than it does to pack 2 meals worth of nourishment.

That’s right – two meals worth.  Because we had lunch on Saturday at La Playa Mexican Restaurant.  And then, since we’d just paddled back & loaded the boats onto the car around lunch time on Sunday… we ate there again.  So our frito pie on Saturday night and our biscuits & gravy on Sunday morning were the only meals we needed.  Of course, I was glad to have apples & peanut butter when I didn’t like the biscuits & gravy.  So it was good that we brought snack foods, too.  That’s right – snack foods, in addition to the 12 meals worth of food.  In addition to the emergency rations that we always keep in the boats, you know, in case of emergency.

Although Blake Island has three Cascadia Marine Trail campsites, the Hubby was willing to compromise with me and camp at the standard campground.  Running water, bathrooms, and even an option to enjoy a salmon bake seemed more my speed than a pit toilet and no running water.  We were a bit of an anomaly on that side of the island, as we were the only folks camping out of kayaks on that end.  We had lots of folks ask us how many trips it took to get all of our gear to the island by kayak (answer: one).  Several folks were amazed that we’re able to fit the tent, sleeping pads, reclining camp chairs, and tons of food, water, books, and games into our boats.

We hiked over to check out the marine trails sites.  They’re not as primitive as I’d imagined, but I’d still rather take this journey slowly.  I haven’t fully embraced the concept of kayak camping.  Crossing open water, dealing with shipping lanes and other boaters, and being at the mercy of the weather are all things I need to get more comfortable with if this is going to be a regular thing for us.

The evening was pleasant, and we had a leisurely start to our morning.  Everything was going fairly well, until the weather started coming in as we were packing our campsite.  Although the thunderstorms were still predicted to be hours away, the winds bringing the storms our way made packing the tent an adventure.  We loaded the kayaks in the rain while I contemplated whether I was brave enough to make the crossing back to Vashon.  In the end, the weather died down a bit, and I put on my big-girl-pants and opted to paddle back, rather than trying to hitch a ride with one of the bayliners in the marina.  My fear of social awkwardness overcame my fear of a rough sea.

In the end, we made it back just fine.  I got somewhat more comfortable with open-water crossing, and I’m willing to try it again next year.  In the meantime, we’ll work on our packing list, and pare things down a bit more.

O, Christmas Tree

As is our tradition, Hubby and I used part of our Thanksgiving weekend to start decorating for Christmas.  Since he’s deep in rehearsals for The Nutcracker, it’s important to get the ball rolling right after Thanksgiving – otherwise, we tend to find ourselves at the end of December without a tree (and sometimes without gifts for anyone).  We started the afternoon with a trip to Bluebeard Coffee for a couple of La Pistola (spicy) hot cocoas before heading to Green Acres Christmas Tree Farm in Edgewood, WA.  The Hubby even consented to listen to one the radio stations in town that plays Christmas music on their regular (non-HD) airwaves.  Since he’s not big on holiday music, that was a big concession for him!
We meandered through the farm, each of us pointing out trees that we thought would be good to bring home.  He turned down my first choice:

BehemouthAND he wouldn’t agree to my second choice – something about our living room not being large enough and not having tall enough ceilings…

How about this one, honey?

When wWho says you can't put a tree in your trunk?e agreed on a 7-foot tree with a side that would work against the wall, I was sure that we should have brought the Hubby’s car, with its kayak racks (the ones we’d secured our tree to last year).  The Hubby was certain that it would fit in the trunk.  And he was right, although I was doubtful when I saw the tree lying on the ground next to the car.  I should never doubt his tetris skills.

Loaded & Ready to RollOnce we’d unloaded the tree, it was time to decorate, right? I learned from holiday movies (okay, and from my parents) that it’s important to check your lights BEFORE putting them on the tree.  It’s good that I learned that lesson ahead of time, because my 19-year-old lights have given up the ghost.  One string of lights didn’t come on when I plugged it in – it only lit up at all after I messed with the fancy late-90s dimmer controls that determined how quickly they flashed.  Even then, less than a third of the bulbs lit up – not enough from my point of view.  The second string of lights did mostly light up, but both are showing some corrosion on the wires, and maybe nearly two decades is enough for the lights to last.

If we’d been super productive today and had headed to the tree farm in the morning, we may have still been able to decorate today.  But we were NOT super productive, and I think we only got to the tree farm an hour before closing.  Also keep in mind: this delay happened after we’d already spent an hour or more troubleshooting Amazon Video to try to figure out why our playback is so choppy when streaming my favorite Christmas movie of all time, Die Hard.  I finally lost patience with the technology and opted to watch on my iPhone.

So the Hubby made a run to the store, returned with all-new lights, and we were able to get that much done tonight.  It’s time to take the small victory of having a lit tree in our living room and call it good for now.  Maybe we’ll enjoy a nice, slow week of decorating for Christmas and stay in a festive spirit the whole way.

Stay tuned for photos once the decorations are done!

Black Friday #OptOutside

I was excited for my friend, Lala, when I heard REI’s announcement that they would be closed on Black Friday, but didn’t necessarily think it would affect my life too much.  After all, my normal Friday-after-Thanksgiving plans involve sleeping in and eating leftovers.  When Lala invited me to come “hiking or something” with her, I wasn’t sure trekking through cold, November, Pacific Northwest woods was my idea of a fabulous time.  However, when she updated the invitation to kayaking, that sounded a little better to me.

Conditions were absolutely my favorite.  It was cold out and sunny, with no wind.  I love to paddle when it’s chilly – some long underwear in addition to my normal kayaking gear is usually enough, and I layer a hoodie and scarf in case I need them.  The water was glassy-calm with a bit of steam rising as the sun came over the hill to hit gentle waves.  I soaked up the gorgeous scenery and kept reflecting on how much prettier it was than the inside of any store.

We launched from the Steilacoom boat launch and saw a harbor seal as we headed past the ferries.  I was on the lookout for additional seals when  I thought I saw waterfowl diving in the distance – in pairs.  ‘Hey, wait a minute,‘ I thought to myself, ‘I know what dives in pairs – harbor porpoises!‘  I quickly turned to the Hubby to point them out, only to realize he was pointing at another group, a little further north.  For a time, he and I sat and watched masses of porpoises surfacing between Steilacoom and Fox Island. I couldn’t help thinking how much better it was to be around a crowd of porpoises than a crowd of crazed shoppers.

We kept going (although I continued to crane my neck to see more of the porpoise show), and headed under the railroad trestle into Chambers Creek.  The Hubby saw a seal in the inlet with us, but the truly impressive view was the “Where’s Waldo” of herons as we paddled past the madronas and evergreens.  At one point, I spotted 8 and Lala counted 12 herons roosted in the trees.  Although their squawking is surprisingly raucous, it’s fun to see them lift in flight with their long, graceful wings and necks bent into a tight “s”. After a short time, peering into the branches to try to determine how many birds I could spot, it was time to turn around.

I snapped this shot of the Hubby heading back under the bridge (and had fun editing it at, as you can see above).  On our way back to the boat launch, I spent more time staring at porpoises – there were more there than I’d ever seen in a group before, and they stayed active almost the entire time we were paddling.  It was good that we headed in when we did, as this was my first time in a kayak since my accident, and these are definitely some of the same muscles the physical therapists are working.

The Hubby had a demo scheduled, and I headed to a local park to read in the sunshine while they explored what the NC17 Quest and NC19 Expedition can do.   I had a great view whenever I wanted to look up from my book, and I could even see some of the demonstration from my vantage point.  That’s the Hubby & his demonstrator in the second picture – those little black smudges in the water.

Reading in the park #OptOutsideNCKayaks Demo

I can’t imagine a more perfect way to spend Black Friday.  We haven’t gotten the house decorated for Christmas yet, but I have the deep satisfaction of spending time in nature, with friends, using my body.  That feeling is hard to beat.