Friday, September 2, 2016

An Outdoor, Offline August

I had the privilege and pleasure of taking the month of August off from my day job to finish a bunch of hiking research for a side project that I'm working on. It was productive, exhausting, and a total blast. I did some day hikes and a handful of two- and three-day backpacking trips. In northern Washington I went west to Orcas Island and east as far as Tonasket, as far south as the Columbia River, and many spots in between.
Three-day trip up the Suiattle River to Miner's Ridge,
with views of Glacier Peak
Spotted many grouse, especially in eastern Washington

Went over the Entiat River Valley for my first time.
So pretty over there!

Sometimes I hiked solo, and sometimes with friends.
Did an overnight and two day hikes with Alice!
View from Monument 83 in the Pasayten Wilderness
On the days in between hiking, I came back to Seattle to do laundry, grocery shop, eat a big salad, repack, and catch up on city life.
I got to hang with a couple of
my sweet little nieces.
Elliot Bay sail boat race with friends.
Work team building event--sailing cruise!
Swam in Lake Washington on a
warm night as the sun set, then
watched the moon rise over the water.
I'm sad that the month of playing outside is over, but I'm slowly getting used to the idea of fall being here. Happy September!

Friday, August 5, 2016

This Digital Content Writer Goes Analog

I love my job as a digital content marketing writer. It's been more than two and a half years, and I'm grateful every day to go to the office, dive into the work, be around brilliant coworkers, and challenge myself.

But all my work happens online: case studies, infographics, e-books. It's rare that anything gets printed. My whole day involves being inside a building and looking at a computer screen. I gaze briefly out the window at the wind rustling the trees, the waves on Puget Sound, the burning sunsetsand then return to my screen. My brain thrives on the research and writing, but my body wants to interact with something more concrete and organic.
Image from here
Friends, I'm taking a break from my regular digital world to work on a side project that involves a lot of hiking. I'm signing off for a few weeks to spent time in the Cascade mountains, be outside, quiet my mind, and thoroughly tire out my body.
Love this little dish. Thanks, Tena!
I'm looking forward to thinking about trails, plants, and wildlife instead of the typical jargon of technology marking. The only gated content I'll consider is when there is a physical gate, blocking a forest service road. My integrated solution will be mixing my packets of Via and hot chocolate. The only bandwidth I'll ponder is the thickness of my backpack straps.

I will continually optimize my strategy for navigating scree fields. My real-time data analysis will including looking around at, you know, everything I can see right there in real time. My powerful tool for improving decision-making will be checking the weather forecast. My legacy solution will be my old tent that I've been meaning to upgrade for years. My centralizing of data will be putting maps and a compass in the same Ziploc bag.
Goodbye message from coworker. Thanks, Mia!
I will be filled with glee over the intuitive and user-friendly interface of my backpack. The only dashboard view will be the one in my car. My workflow steps will involve a boot hitting a dirt trail. My simplified information storage and retrieval procedures will involve keeping things in the lid of my backpack. I will marvel at the seamless intereroperation of my pocket rocket stove and its gas canister. The only cloud storage that matters will be the amount of moisture in the ones overhead. And the only omnichannel solution I'll leverage is to capture a vista with my eyeballs, binoculars, and camera.
I'll take notes on paper, sing instead of listening to digital music player, and wake up with the sunrise instead of an alarm. I hope you have a fabulous and fun August, and do whatever feels summery and relaxing to you. Catch you on the flipside!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Methow Valley: Hiking and Visiting an Earthship

I was 18 the first time I went to the Methow Valley, and it was also my first time hiking in the North Cascades and staying in an Earthship home. I went back a couple times in college, and earlier in July had the chance to go again. I packed a three-day weekend to the brim, starting with hiking by myself near Mazama, Winthrop, and Okanogan.
First Butte fire lookout near Winthrop

Hiking views

Woke up to a double rainbow while camping, around 5:30 a.m.

Morning light driving east on Highway 20
Hiking in the Okanogan National Forest is different from being on the west side of the mountains because there is a lot of grazing cattle. I would see a black mass in the trees and think it was a black bear, only to realize it was a cow. I also saw a ton of deer on the forest service roads.
Part two of the trip was meeting up with my dear friend Lindsey to visit her family friends at their Earthship home near Carlton, in the southeastern part of the Methow, where she took me when I was 18. What's an Earthship, you ask? It's a type of sustainable, green building that is partially built from recycled materials, uses passive solar, uses its own greywater, among many other things. Check out The website talks about Earthship homes addressing these five areas:

Water: From the sky (rain & snow melt). Uses it four times.
Electricity: From the sun and the wind stored in batteries and supplied to your electrical outlets via a prepackaged power system.
Sewage Treatment: Indoor and outdoor treatment cells contain, use and reuse all household sewage (greywater and blackwater). Use any kind of flush toilet.
Comfort in Any Climate: From only the sun and the earth. Maintain comfortable temperatures all year with no fossil fuels.
Food: Healthy and free, grown from interior and exterior botanical cells. All plants are highly functional and play a direct role in taking care of you.
In front of the Earthship entrance
with Lindsey in 2003
Staying at the beautiful, off-grid home with awesome hosts as a high school student was very influential for me. It was a springboard that got me interested in sustainability, permaculture, green buildings, and farming when I got to college.
Lindsey now lives in Austin, so it was doubly great to see her in the Methow. We hung out on the shady patio, drank wine, read, ate veggies from the garden, and slept in the yard near the chickens.
Big thanks to our hosts for having us!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Glacier Peak Climbing Attempt

I've wanted to climb Glacier Peak ever since spending six days hiking through Glacier Peak Wilderness on section K of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) two summers ago. I got up close to the western flank of the 10,541-foot volcano and got to marvel at its imposing presence and shimmering glaciers. Fast forward a couple years, and the opportunity opened up to join a rope team with four awesome folks who I met through the Washington Alpine Club basic climbing class.

I am in relatively good shape, but I haven't done any mountaineering or big backpacking trips recently, so I spent the month of June in pretty focused training for the climb. First, I cut out all wheat, sugar, and alcohol from my diet to maximize whole foods, veggies, and protein. I continued going to my gym workout classes at 2.0 and also started doing some pack training with a heavy backpack on day hikes and on stairs.

Glacier Peak is Washington's hidden volcano. Even though it's just 240 feet lower than Mount Baker, most Seattleites couldn't tell you where the mountain is. That's because it's the most remote volcano in the state and the only one that is not visible from a highway. That also means that it's considered more difficult (though less technical) to summit than Mount Rainer, simply because it's such a long and exhausting approach to get there.
Image from here
We did a good bit of group prep for the climb: two in-person meetings, a massive gear/logistics/emergency contacts shared spreadsheet, talking to other friends who have climbed, and checking weather and trip reports online. We planned to go over the fourth of July so that we'd have a three-day weekend without taking time off work. We checked multiple weather websites on Friday morning, and they varied a lot, from pretty much clear to cloudy, windy, and 40% chance of rain on Sunday. The forecast was iffy, but not terrible. We decided we'd rather go and know for sure what the conditions were than to not go based on speculation.
Sweet note from coworker who came to bid me
farewell when I was away from my desk
We left Saturday morning from Sloan Creek trailhead, hiking the flat trail along the North Fork Sauk River. After several miles, the trail started to climb, and we emerged from the trees into the hot summer sun as the trail switchbacked up and up.
Resting at White Pass
The trail joined the PCT briefly on a beautiful traverse before depositing us the White Pass junction, now 8.6 miles from the trailhead and 4,000 feet higher. From here we split from the PCT, continued traversing, and hit many snow patches on the way. We made it to right before the White Chuck Glacier and decided to stop for the day. We found a beautiful campsite and running water, so it was the perfect place to stop.
View looking up from camp: Can you see the mountain goat?

It was a gorgeous evening. Later, as we ate dinner and drank tea, some clouds began to roll in. We made a game plan for the next day: what time we would wake up, how long we would need to summit and return, what our bad weather limits were, what our turnaround time would be, etc.

I woke up many times during the night to huge gusts of wind. When the alarm went off at 4 a.m. we looked out the tent door to find complete white-out and howling wind. Then it started to rain. We decided to try again at 6 a.m. to see if anything changed. It continued to rain and wrack the tents with 40 mph gusts until after 10 a.m.  Hannah braved the weather and finally left the tent to heat water for breakfast. By that point it was far too late to start the summit attempt.
We were all disappointed, but had known this was a possibility. We laughed at how we thought we were going to have a grueling day on little sleep, but instead we got more sleep than we had in years and felt super rested as we hung out drinking coffee in our sleeping bags. Unfortunately we could not stay an extra day because of having to be back to work on Tuesday, so there was nothing left to do but hike out. As morning turned to afternoon and we packed up camp, it was still pretty windy but cleared up a little.
Marmot says hello. One of countless many that we saw.
Hiking out
The weather was a let down, especially because it had been so nice right before and right after we were supposed to summit. But we stayed realistic about the possibility of bad weather, and we put safety first. We kept positive attitudes, had a blast being in the backcountry together, got a great workout, and still practiced some mountaineering skills. And Glacier Peak will still be there in 2017.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Longest Spring

Seattle has the longest meteorological spring in the country! So says atmospheric science professor Cliff Mass in a recent blog:

Astronomical spring is, of course, the three month period from March 20/21 to June 20/21. But meteorological/biological spring can greatly differ from astronomical spring. I like to tell folks that typically spring begins in western Washington the third week in February (let's say Feb. 25th) and ends in mid-July (local meteorologists like to use July 13th).

I love celebrating the summer solstice, but as a Seattle native, it always felt like summer reliably started right after the fourth of July. Here are some highlights to say farewell to the longest spring and hello to summer—whenever it may start for you.
Razor clamming on the Washington coast

Sailing in Puget Sound

Sunset at Carkeek Park

Nephew at Easter

Hanging out in the ghost town of Terlingua, Texas

Road trip to Big Bend National Park, Texas

Hiking with Mom and nieces

Camping and climbing in the Tieton River Valley

Climbing columnar basalt for my first time

View above Lake Crescent, Olympic Peninsula

Hiking up the middle fork of the Snoqualmie River
for a bachelorette party at a hot spring

Holding my newest niece a few hours after watching her be born

Attending a dear friend's wedding in Texas in the midst of
spring thunderstorms and flooding

River swimming outside Austin
It was a fabulous spring. Bring on summer!