Sunday, December 29, 2019

Hiking through winter

On the surface, winter hiking can seem like a hassle.  There's a lot less daylight, so you have to get going early when it's cold and sometimes still dark, or pick shorter trails.  There's many layers of clothing to consider. You toss out the bear spray, only to reconsider when you find tracks from a rogue, non-hibernating bear.  Several trails are off limits, because roads to get to the trailheads are closed.  Then there's the question of footwear.  Lately, we have been bringing snowshoes, microspikes, and even skis, and then rolling the dice on what to carry when we start out.  It's been a low snow winter so far, so the snowshoes have stayed in the car, but there have been times when I've carried snowshoes 10 miles and not used them.  Yesterday we ran into people hiking in downhill ski boots, their skis on their backs; they didn't find much snow.

But despite the drawbacks, there's some amazing things about hiking in winter.  Around here, the main advantage is meeting less people on the trails.  When you live next to a national park known for hiking, it's not unusual to see hundreds of people on the popular trails in the summer.  In winter the park largely belongs to the locals, just the way we like it.

Winter changes the mountains and the trails.  Waterfalls freeze on the cliffs, and the lakes are covered in ice.  The familiar peaks are covered in white.  You can see where the animals have walked: wolves, bobcats, moose.  It's quiet.  Places you think are sort of ordinary become magical.

You feel more accomplished hiking in winter, when you've traversed ice, postholed in deep snow, and had lunch on the shore of a frozen lake at 10 degrees.  And there's always the element of uncertainty: was it a mistake the leave the snowshoes behind? will the lake be frozen? will we make it to the peak?

Summer is easy.  You can run outside in shorts and a tank top, throw a puffy jacket and a few snacks in your backpack, and you will probably be okay.  Your water won't freeze, and the air won't hurt your face.  It's a lot easier in the summer.  But the winter trails call to me too.  Come out, they say.  Come see the world in a different way.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

In which I don't go to Australia (again)

If you haven't heard, devastating fires are sweeping Australia, burning homes, destroying koala habitat, and enveloping cities in smoke.  Since their summer is opposite of ours, many of the firefighters over here are available to go help, but this rarely happens.  They have good firefighters already, it's expensive to get people over there and there is red tape involved.

A few years ago I optimistically put my name on a list, but the people who went were of a much higher pay grade than me.  This year I had a better chance, I thought.  I had more experience and more qualifications.  I looked at the regional list; surely I would have a better chance than many. Some people with only basic qualifications had added their names; I admired their enthusiasm.  In the end, only a few overhead folks went.

It's probably for the best.  Taking care of my house and cats for the month commitment required would put a strain on my friends, with the associated snow shoveling and the pampering my spoiled cats require.  Also, some of the fires are burning in places where I, as a 24 year old on my first overseas trip, hiked and explored.  That's always hard to see.

So I'll stay here and enjoy our current mild winter, and start on the seasonal hiring.  I'll watch from afar though, and hope it rains soon.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Age: The final frontier

My former employee asked me when I had worked at a particular park.  When I said, "1991," his response was "Oh wow, I was one year old."

I was immediately annoyed.   "Wow?"  Was this necessary? Pointing out how young you are (or how old someone else is) doesn't seem to have a purpose to me.  This made me think a little more about one of my pet peeves.

Maybe I'm a little sensitive about this because I'm not a young person anymore, but it seems to me that, in a society where it is not okay to remark on someone's weight, mental ability, ethnicity and a host of other things, it is still acceptable to put someone down or describe them using their age when it has no point in the story.

Recently someone in one of my Facebook groups asked about getting into personal training after a career change.  He stated that he had worked in the corporate world for 21 years, and then added, "I know, I'm old." We do this to ourselves! I've been guilty of this myself: why do we do this?  Why do we discount ourselves?  And why do we use "older" or "elderly" to describe someone if it doesn't further the narrative?

I took a deep breath before I responded to my former employee.  Then I typed, "Don't worry, the universe willing, you'll get here too."

Tuesday, December 3, 2019


Everyone's heard of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).  But what about its relative? I've decided to name this Dread of Going, or DOG for short.

As much as I have loved every trip I have taken, from Antarctica to Iceland and many in between, there was a moment of DOG involved in each of them, a time of not wanting to go.  Usually this happened while blearily driving to the airport at 4:30 am, or while second guessing my packing list the night before.

DOG sometimes crops up when local events happen too.  It has nothing to do with how much I love my friends or how fun the day or evening promises to be.  The couch looks so comfy! The cats are especially sweet.  My book is really good, and Survivor is on! That's when DOG appears.

Work trips, even fire assignments, are a good source of DOG.  "Why am I doing this," I think as I drag my heavy bag into the car.  This is also a phrase that would go through my mind as I lined up at the start of the many road races I used to run, also a prime time of DOG.

Why do I get DOG? Am I the only one? Maybe it's fear of change or of the unknown.  Whichever it is, I recognize it as an old friend.  I know it's seldom real.

If you power through your DOG moments, the event or trip almost always turns out to be fun, and you're glad you didn't miss it.  That is, unless it turns into SAHG, or Shouldn't  Actually Have Gone, but this is rare. 

Maybe DOG isn't that bad.  It allows you to recognize that you may be stepping outside of your comfort zone, which is often a good thing.  The thing you're about to do might be hard, or make you uneasy at first, but it will most likely turn out great in the end.
Skydiving = a lot of DOG, but I did it!