Sunday, September 29, 2019

Where's the beach?

Florida! I think, scheduling my trip for work.  I have visions of the beach as I pack my swimsuit.  Not during work hours, of course, but surely there would be some time to run in the sand, or watch a sunset, maybe.

My hopes and dreams were quickly dashed.  The beach was too far away to legitimately go on a work trip.  What's more, we arrived to a freezing conference room in which we sat for eight hours a day.  Wearing a sweater, I looked at the palm trees waving in the 90 degree breeze outside.  I guess the beach was nice, but I never made it there.

There are probably many occupations where employees could cheerfully tool around the state in the rental car and see the sights while on a work trip.  Mine isn't one of them.  As  government employees, people look at us mistrustfully all the time.  We have even had people yell, "My tax dollars at work," when they see us waiting in a field for the helicopter to return from dropping water on a fire that otherwise might threaten their homes.  

So there are many places I have been on work trips yet not really seen.  Several national parks.  Cities like LA and charming small towns.  When people ask, "did you go to..." I have to sadly say no.  Even parking an agency vehicle at a trailhead for a run or hike is not always considered okay.

Still, I at least get to go to some of these places.  So I make the best of it.  I nag whoever is driving to pull over briefly so I can take a picture.  In Florida, I made a beeline for the pool when the meeting was done.  It was supposed to snow when I arrived home, so I joined a snorkeling child in the water.  The water was warm and there were no sharks.  It was almost as good as the beach!

I'm told there's a beach.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

A good trade

"I wanted to offer you a stay in one of the rental lookouts in exchange for cleaning it," the recreation manager said.

"Yes!" I yelled, not even bothering to ask when.  Fires could wait.  A night in a lookout was available!

There are only two rental lookouts close by, and they are always booked solid for the entire summer, usually months in advance.  I can't plan like that, with the fire season being so uncertain.  I will haunt the website at times, hoping for a cancellation, but it rarely happens.  Cleaning? I could do that!

I hiked warily up the trail, looking for bears, but it was open, due to a fire having swept the area about 15 years earlier, and any foraging animals would be easy to spot.  The trail was only a mile long, but gained 800 feet.  The lookout came into view in about 20 minutes.

Darkness fell fast and I built a fire in the woodstove and listened to the quiet.  I could see into Canada, and there were no other lights.  I imagined what it would have been like to work up here, and to see the lantern from other lookouts on the mountaintops.

In the morning the lookout was wrapped in clouds.  I attacked the windows, floors and shelves, discovering evidence of a resident mouse.  I climbed up into the cupola, where the firefinder still stood, and looked around.

The lookout was sparkly clean as I closed it up and hiked down.  I looked back and wondered how many fire watchers had turned to watch the building disappear as they left for the season.  It has stood on the peak since 1922; surely it has seen its share of drama.  Later I learned that some believed it's haunted: I don't blame the ghosts; I'd hang out here too.

So, deep cleaning an almost hundred year old building in exchange for spending a night in the sky? I don't think that's an even trade.  I think I got the best deal possible.

Monday, September 9, 2019

The sunset of blogging

When I started this blog, there were so many interesting blogs to read that I didn't have time for them all.  There were so many people blogging, and commenting on each other's blogs, that it felt like a connected community.

Over the years, most of the blogs I used to read have disappeared.  Some of the authors declared their intent to stop.  Others just fizzled out, spacing posts far apart and then just disappearing.  Still others became mostly sponsored posts, losing their previous character.

Has blogging, particularly the kind I enjoy, about people's lives and adventures, without a lot of filters or ads, had its heyday? I notice, when I care about these kind of things, which is rarely, that I have less and less comments and page views.  Maybe I've come to the end of interesting things to say, or maybe people are more interested in social media pictures and not in reading anymore.  I know I always mean to comment on the blogs I enjoy; I often just forget to, putting it off until later.

I've had this blog for eight years; it may soon be time to let it go.  Until then, I've enjoyed being a part of this somewhat odd, but always interesting community.  Write on, friends.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Around the next corner friends

We stood at a trail junction, pondering our next move.  We could bail out here and take a side trail back to the car, making it a respectable 10 mile loop.  Or we could keep going and come out on another trail, for a total of 16 miles for the day.

I knew which way this would go.

While there are times I'm perfectly happy to hike four miles and call it good, especially if it's a beautiful four miles, I often suffer from a trail disease.  It's kind of like FOMO (fear of missing out), but I like to think of it as "around the corner-itis."  It's where you keep going because you really want to see what's on top of the peak, down at the lake, or around the next bend.  You know this will make your trip longer and you might suffer later, or get rained on, but you just have to see.

I followed my friends along the trail.  I knew I would be hiking many miles the next day too, some of it off trail, but I had to go along.  And it was worth it.  The trail hugged a contour line high above a valley and below some cliffs.  In the distance were mountain peaks everywhere.
 We eventually descended to a lake and back to the car, wet feet from falling in a stream resulting in squishy socks in the first mile mostly forgotten.  And I was grateful for friends who would always go the extra mile, just to see what was out there.