Wednesday, October 30, 2013

a slave to travelocity, or, I need to plan better

Are you a spontaneous traveler, or do you plan trips for months?

I recently realized that the way I approach travel is sort of, well, different.  Or is it?

I'm not talking about road trips or weekend destinations.  I mean international, passport required, travel insurance-worthy travel.

I mean, who decides all of a sudden that in a couple months they are going to climb this:

Kilimanjaro, 19,341'

Or this:

Cotopaxi, Ecuador, 19,347'

And this!

Mera Peak, Nepal, 21,247'
 That would be me.

 I do have some excuses, kind of.  My job as a firefighter makes planning any sort of travel between May and November pretty iffy.  In June through October most years, I don't even know if I'll be home that night, or in 3 weeks.  When fire season is over, there are meetings and paperwork and training classes; often these come up unexpectedly.  After being gone a lot in the summer, I usually don't even want to think about traveling for awhile.  Then when I do, I suddenly realize it's November and I've made NONE OF THE PLANS.

This often leads to last minute scouring of the internet for a destination, finding out it rains eight inches there in the month I want to go, wondering if I really want to go there that much, abandoning that plan and finding another place, then constant scanning of Orbitz and Expedia and Hotwire at the very worst time to find cheap fares.  It means minimal time to brush up on the local language and a lack of similarly spontaneous travel companions.  My trips always work out, but the planning can be stressful.

So I'm trying to reform.  Kind of.  It feels strange to be looking up places I can go to in six months, instead of two.  I realize a lot of people plan trips a year in advance, but that will probably never be me.  A lot can happen in a year!

Here's where I want to go next.  It's winter there now though.  So I might actually have to plan.  How strange!


Friday, October 25, 2013

the mountains are talking about summer

“I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news”
John Muir

Luckily, there are plenty of mountains around here with stories to tell.

This is one of the local hiking areas at the end of June this year:

And this is the same lake, looking from above, in early October:

Summer is short here, barely time for the snow to melt off the trails and it is falling again. I drove up the road to the trailhead, feeling apprehensive as I encountered snow and ice on the way.  At the last minute I decided to forego the basin for the 7000 foot peak, hoping that the open ridge above treeline might have melted off more.

This was the right choice as the snow was knee deep in the basin.

I passed all the other people on the trail and climbed up to the ridge.

The summit was cold but bathed in sunshine.

The people in this picture said I was "brave" to be up there by myself.  I'm not really sure what they meant by that.  I doubt they would have said the same thing to a man hiking alone.  Their dogs were nice though, so I took some pictures for them.

Here I am with my brave, bad self.

When you travel in the mountains alone you can really listen to their stories.  You can hear what it is they want you to know.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

one foot in winter

On Saturday I decided to hike the Highline trail in the park.  I pictured myself hiking happily through the meadows without a grizzly bear in sight, maybe even wearing shorts.

I obviously had a serious case of Winter Denial.  There is easily two feet of snow at the trailhead, which you can't even drive to (and won't be able to until at least the end of June).  It was clearly time for a new plan.

I parked at the pullout where a gate closed the road.  From here my idea was to hike up the road three miles to the pass, see some snow, and mosey back down.  It wasn't too ambitious, and it was a road; still, in two more days a lower gate would be closed and it would be a 15 mile hike or ski to the pass one way.  I wanted to see it before winter closed in.

The road was deserted, kind of like after the zombie apocalypse.

I could walk right down the middle of it.

Why didn't I bring my bike? Oh, right.

It was foggy at the pass, and definitely winter.
I considered my options.  I could turn around, but it was still early.  I decided to hike up behind the closed visitor center toward the Hidden Lake overlook.  In the summer this is an easy jaunt of about 3 miles roundtrip which hundreds of visitors take.  Now it was a different story.  There was one set of ski tracks across the knee deep snow.  I wouldn't go the whole way, I told myself.  Just a little farther...
But it started to clear up...

...and I couldn't help myself.  I slogged on.

At one point I found myself kicking steps in the snow on an airy traverse.  A cliff lurked below.  My feet skidded on icy rocks.  "Just keep going!" I told myself.  "If someone can ski here, you can walk here."  I decided not to look down, and skittered along toward flatter ground.  Finally I arrived at the overlook, which, to be honest, was my goal all along.
The lake wasn't yet frozen.

It was a beautiful view.
Reluctantly I turned to head back down, at one point encountering the friendly skier whose tracks I had followed (but not walked in, because that's just wrong).  Nobody else came up that far.  As I descended I slowly left winter behind, to return to autumn for just a little while longer.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

happy second chances day

Ten years ago today this happened.

I really thought I wouldn't make it out of it alive, but I did.


Every year, I send the pilot a thank you card.  He had about 2 seconds to react to a catastrophic mechanical failure.

Sometimes this world can be frustrating and heartbreaking, but most of the time it is pretty wonderful.  I'm glad I'm still in  it.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

My favorites....(so far)

I'm suffering from a lack of good blogging material lately, being as I'm still furloughed from my government job, and it is cold and rainy around here.  So here it is, another list of random things I really like! Feel free to add yours in the comments or in your blog and include the link...if anyone is out there.  Anyone? Bueller?

Favorite lake: Lago de los Tres, Patagonia (Argentina).  It was a cold, rainy, snowy day when I hiked here, but it was magical.

Favorite peak climbed: Although I loved the experience of Kilimanjaro and some of the others, Mera Peak (21,247') in Nepal was my favorite.  I really liked the other people I climbed with and Nepal is an amazing country.

Favorite beach:  Hot Water Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand.  If you arrive around low tide, you can dig a hole in the sand and it fills up with hot water, making your own hot spring.  It's been a really long time since I was there though, and it looks like it's much more popular now.  You wouldn't have a lot of privacy, unless you went at night or at an off time of year.

Image from here
Favorite wild animal:  Mountain goat. I love the high places where they live.

I took this picture on a trail near here.  Look how fluffy!
Favorite tropical destination:  Probably Belize, although I'd like to go back there with someone different this time.

Favorite Oreo: Birthday Cake, of course! I seriously can't control myself around them, though.

Oh and by the way, while searching for a picture of these, I came across the fact that they also make a fudge covered version of these. Thanks a lot, Internet. Thanks a lot.

Favorite place to stay: A fire lookout. National forests in many areas rent them out.

Favorite place to run:  Any trail.  I rarely run on roads anymore.

Favorite place I've worked:  North Cascades National Park.  So many trails to hike...beautiful mountains.

Photo from Wikipedia

But enough about me...what about you?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Some (kind of) good things about being furloughed

It's deeply weird not to go to work on a Monday.  It's even weirder (and sad) to read what some people are posting on Facebook, like "we don't need those people!" and "national parks and forests are unworthy of a government presence" (whatever that means).  But I'm determined to find some perks to the non-essential life.   Here's a few.

1.  I can go to the gym in the middle of the day and beat the crowds.  And I can wonder: who are all these able bodied, non-retirement-age folks there?  They don't work with me, so they aren't federal employees.  Trophy wives?  Shift workers?  Trust funders?  Who are all you people?

2.  I can do house projects.  I know, boring, but I planted seven trees all by myself, and they weren't small trees either.  One was an apple tree; another benefit of being temporarily unemployed is that I can see if it is actually getting the six hours of sun it requires.  I can be heard to exclaim, "There's sun on the apple tree!" throughout the day.

3.  I can go on trips!  I'm still sorting this one out, but there are a lot of possibilities.  Hot springs in Canada?  Colorado? Time to be spontaneous!

4.  I can hang out here:

Love my hot tub.  LOVE.  Note the yellow ducky.
5.  Actually, the possibilities are endless.  Although, I did get a call asking if I'd be available for a fire or a hurricane...I guess then I'd be "essential" again.

I have time to take lots of silly selfies, too.  You're welcome.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Shut. Down.

I try not to get too political on here, because there are so many more interesting things to talk about, and because you never know who might be reading.  All opinions on here are my own and not of my employer or employing agency.

However, as a government employee I'm feeling pretty discouraged.  I'm going to be furloughed, with no assurance of pay, through no fault of my own, along with some 800,000 other federal workers. I'm trying to stay positive but it's difficult at times.  It's hard to spend your summer away, protecting other people's home and property from wildfire, and then feel like nobody cares.  I've even seen people's comments on Facebook saying they are glad the government shut down, or telling us we should be happy we are getting a "vacation."

I'll be back soon with a happier post.  Time to spend some time in the mountains.