Monday, December 29, 2014

Iceland it is!

My unscientific poll of the five people who read my blog indicates that Iceland is where I should go.  Ever since then, Iceland is everywhere: several TV shows that I was flipping past (one on a golf channel I didn't even know existed), articles in magazines I already had, and websites I discovered while looking for something else.  So it must be meant to be!

It appears that people either go to Iceland in the winter to see the northern lights, or in the summer to hike/climb/see waterfalls.  I'm sure the auroras are beautiful there, but I saw them often while living in Alaska, and I don't really want to travel to another cold place from the cold place where I currently live (it's supposed to be -15F tonight).  So I'll be going later when you can access a lot of the trails and peaks.

I'll most likely go by myself, but I'm used to that by now.  There are groups I could join when I got there, so I'm not too worried.  Here is what I want to do:

Go to the Blue Lagoon.  Yes it's touristy, but I have to.   Look at it.  I've heard it makes your hair feel like straw.  Anybody been there who can confirm this?  My hair often feels like straw while on vacation, so this wouldn't be anything new.
Picture from Wikipedia
Climb Iceland's highest peak, Hvannadalshnjukur.  Extra points if you can pronounce this.  It's only a little over 6000' but you start at sea level so it's about a 12-14 hour round trip, and it's glaciated, so you have to rope up.
Image from
See the Gulfoss waterfall.
Picture from Wikipedia.  Gullfoss means "Golden Falls."
Visit the glacial lagoon at Jukulsarlon and the geysers at Geysir.
Picture from Wikipedia
I have the feeling I might want to move there!

Anybody been there?  What am I missing?

Anybody else have trip plans?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve snowshoe

I woke up and peered outside.  After days of rain, it had finally snowed a few inches.  I had a run planned, but that didn't look too fun, so I decided to carpe the diem and snowshoe instead.  I didn't need to drive anywhere; I had several acres of woods just down the street.

I had to be quick about it though.  The dog walkers around here, a dedicated bunch, come out early, no matter the weather, and pack down the trails.  I put on my snowshoes at my house (a hidden benefit of having a street that is rarely plowed) and headed down the road.

The forest was quiet and snowy, with only a few deer hiding in the trees.  Not a lot of snow, but enough.

Blue Subaru Man was the only one there, but I know his route, and took another, a loop about 5 miles long. 

It was snowing, a soft wet snow that was almost rain.  A skier had the same idea this morning.
I figured out where this skier lives.  Good thing I'm not a stalker.  I'd be really good at it.
It was a good way to start the day.

Admin note: Bloggers, do you know how to add a feature where people can be notified if someone responds to their comment?  I do try to respond to every comment on here, but I'm sure most people don't come back and check.  Is there a way to do this in blogger?  Thanks!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

what I'm pondering lately

1.  Whether it's very common to be googling "wild turkey repellent."  My current method is to burst out the door yelling at the turkeys that seem to be liking my porch lately.  It's rather satisfying on a temporary basis, but probably alarming to the neighbors below.

2.  My next international trip: climbing volcanoes and sitting in hot springs in Iceland, or trekking to the east and north Everest base camps in Tibet?  So hard to decide.  #FirstWorldProblems.

The Blue Lagoon in Iceland (no, not the one with Brooke Shields).
3.  How did I not know there was such a thing as a blog post generator?  You just type a subject in and it gives you a title!  No, it's not very helpful, but it did give me such ideas as "Seven ways running makes your hair look better"  (I need to read that, because I don't know a single one) and "Twenty things your boss wishes you knew about Tibet."

4.  How wildland firefighting became a year round job.  Meetings! Conference calls! Hiring! Forty applicants wanting you to call them back and chat!  What did we do before?

5.  How I unjustly made fun of B. for eating chips while on a no-sugar "cleanse."  Why is it that when you have no sugar in the house, you crave salt?

6.  How I can come back in my next life as a house cat.  Unlimited food? People buying you treats and toys?  Being thought of as cute for really doing nothing?  Sign me up.

7.  Where to go winter camping.

8.  Why some hills never get easier, even though you run up them all the time.

9.  Should I get these wheels for my truck?

PIcture from the RBP website.  RBP 94R custom wheels
10.  Why assisted pullups don't seem to help you get better at the real ones.

There you have it, some random thoughts from a blogger with nothing to write about.  The blog post generator says I should have discussed "10 things your competitors can teach you about cats."  Stand by for that one.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Happiness is a trail in the woods

Before I bought my current house, I used to drive to a trail to run.  It's a nice trail.  Everyone in town knows about it.  A marathon takes place on part of it every year.  It's maintained by volunteers, with well-banked corners for mountain bikers and signs at trail junctions.  If you want to know how far you went, there's a map at the trailhead with mileages on it. 

I don't run there anymore.  My new house has a trail system less than a quarter mile away.  To be honest, this was worth at least $10,000 of the asking price.

These trails started out as skid trails in a logging unit, and are maintained by people's feet.  There are roots and holes in them.  When we have a rainy spring, the vegetation grows as high as my shoulders.  They are often muddy in the fall and icy in the winter.  There are dogs, lots of dogs, none leashed to their humans.  Most of them are friendly.  Deer hunting is allowed during the season; the dogs then sport festive orange ribbons and I have to find my bright sweatshirt if I want to run there.  There are homemade mountain bike jumps and paths leading off into neighborhoods.  These trails are unpretentious. 

I used to get lost on them, running extra miles to find my way back, but now I have a map in my head.  I know which trails are lightly used and how long each one will take me.  I measure my runs by time, not by distance; there's no way to know exactly, unless you carry a GPS-enabled device, which I don't. 

I'm starting to recognize some of the people.  There's Blue Subaru Man, who has the misfortune of not living nearby and has to drive,  which he does, twice a day.  There's Woman with Many Dogs, and a few other runners.  This winter I'm sharing the trail with a woman on a fat tire snowbike.  There's early morning skiers after a fresh snow and a snowshoer I have yet to see.  I follow these people's tracks, interested to see which trails they chose, where they turned off.

I know these trails now, their hills and turns.  I've run and walked there in every season.  It's my forest, waiting there at the end of the street for me to put on my shoes and get there.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


I get paid to exercise.  Don't hate me.

If you're a firefighter, you've encountered "PT", physical training, sometimes known as physical torture.  It usually happens around the first hour of the day, after you've read the weather and the situation report, put your gear on the helicopter and your overnight bags on the chase truck.  If you're the boss, like I am, you have to hustle to get out the door, because this is when the phone will probably start ringing, leaving you gazing longingly at the crew as they head off down the road. (If you're the boss, you also have to run awkwardly with your phone, or worse, a handheld radio, in case you get a fire call while you're gone).

On my crew, we mostly PT on our own, because for years I was forced to take part in the dreaded "group PT", and because honestly, it's the only break I get from them all day (Sorry).  It's true that group PT can be a bonding experience.  I used to run with JS when he was on the crew, because we had the same pace and he could distract the local dogs.  Sometimes B will inflict Crossfit on unsuspecting rookies.  But mainly we do our own thing.  I've been on enough crews where we had to run in lockstep to never want to do that again.

Running is the most common form of firefighter PT because it's easy, only a pair of shoes required.  We seek out trails instead of the roads, sometimes to our detriment.  After a rash of twisted ankles, trail running was banned at Mesa Verde. Volleyball and basketball soon followed, forcing us to run glumly on pavement, until we decided to sneak back on the trails again, making plans to limp out to the road if injured.  In Montana, B claimed to have encountered a badger, but since he was running alone he had no backup, so was not widely believed.  Another B almost ran into a bear with cubs, twice, causing him to reconsider running and return to Crossfit.

We don't always get to PT; sometimes fires or projects or classes take precedence.  One of the local fire management officers here doesn't really believe in it.  "Sawing is PT," he bellows, sending his crew out the door with their chainsaws to work on a thinning unit.  We can't go off  site to a nice gym.  We are allowed to use the district weight room but it is often full of hotshots; instead we do creatively named workouts such as "Billy Big Arms" and "Card Deck of Pain."  We make it work.

In the end, PT is a privilege, not a right, I tell my crew.  We do it so we can do those 50 mile hikes out of fires carrying stuff and work all day long.  An out-of-shape firefighter is a liability in the places where we work.  So there we'll be on most days of the summer, running down the road or doing burpees and mountain climbers in front of the station.  Don't be jealous.  Sometimes that fancy gym and available shower that you have looks pretty good to us.  Remember, the grass is always greener (unless it's on fire).

Thursday, December 4, 2014

You look great for...

This is Jada Pinkett Smith's mom.  Her name is Adrienne Banfield-Jones and she is 61 years old.

I can just hear some of you saying, "She looks great FOR HER AGE."

Stop! (First of all, look at her.  Most of us could only dream).

I can't really blame you.  When I was younger, I thought this was a compliment too.  But now that I'm getting (ahem) to the age where people might conceivably say this to me, I don't see it that way.  To me it sounds like, "Wow, if you were 25 you'd look like an old bag, but compared to the other hags your age, you look pretty good."

#Sensitive?  Maybe.  But what is a certain age supposed to look like/act like/exercise like?  I'm in better shape than a lot of the people in their 20s I see at the gym and even work alongside sometimes.  Now more than ever, I see people of all ages running marathons, climbing mountains, and fighting fire.  I also see people of all ages who have simply given up.  What does "for your age" really mean?

So next time, do a favor to me and to the other older gals still out there hiking and trail running and fighting fire and looking great doing it.  Say, "You look great!" and stop right there.  That's a real compliment.  Remember, you'll be here someday too, if you're lucky!