TNAB, sort of.

April 11th, 2014

Every year when spring hits, my hiking mojo comes back in full force after a winter of hibernation, and I start getting all manic and excited about summer hiking trips.

This year I’m not actually going to plan any trips since I have no idea of what I’ll be able to (or want to) do, but I’ll gladly take advantage of the energy and excitement and hike as much as possible while I still can.

On the Ledge

Enter TNAB. Sort of. I’ve never been able to keep up with those loons and their afterburners, so I obviously won’t be able to now, but it’s such a good incentive to get out on trail on a regular Thursday night…especially when the weather is sort of soggy and the couch sings its siren song.

(Oh, and a benefit to hiking on a soggy day? My first salamander sighting in Washington! So cute, little Newt Scamander.)

Newton Artemis Fido "Newt" Scamander

The solution? Modified TNAB! Last week, the main group hiked/ran/flew up to Rattlesnake East Peak while a group of us folks who either couldn’t or didn’t want to do the full hike moseyed up to Rattlesnake Ledge at a very pregnant-friendly pace. AND I got to eat fries and a beet salad at North Bend Bar & Grill afterwards. That makes up for the lack of post-TNAB beer.

Rattlesnake Ledge | 4 miles | 1160 feet elevation gain –

TNAB Gimp Group

Last night, we met up with the TNAB group at the Little Si trailhead, but they sped up the Old Si trail while JK and I wandered on up to Little Si instead. Can we still call it a TNAB? Not really, so I think we’re going to name these after-work hikes Fun Evening Trips Up Summits (FETUS).

(Fun evening trips would be even more fun if certain dogs would refrain from rolling in piles of poop of unknown origin – canine? human?? – forcing us to retreat before the sunset to avoid getting it smeared all over us, too. I’m looking at you, Wellie.)

Little Si can be pretty!?

Little Si | 5 miles | 1200 feet elevation gain –

Golden hour

St. John | Salomon Bay

April 8th, 2014

Aah, St. John. Where do I even begin? I think I’ll start by covering some of our favorite beaches and snorkeling spots, then writing a summary post with other tips and ideas for this little piece of paradise.

Beach squishy

St. John is part of the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Caribbean Sea. JK and I chose it as our vacation destination last year specifically because about 2/3 of the island is National Park land – we figured it would mean few resorts, good trails, and protected coral reefs for unbelievable snorkeling. We were not mistaken.

To make the most of your trip there, buy a copy of the must-have guidebook, St. John Off the Beaten Track by Gerald Singer. A lot of the info in this book is also available on See St. John.

Virgin Islands National Park Visitor Center

While most of the beaches along the north shore of the island could easily make it onto a list of the most beautiful beaches in the world, our favorite has to be Salomon Bay.

To get to Salomon Bay, hike the 1 mile trail from the National Park headquarters in Cruz Bay (if you can’t find parking, go inside and ask a ranger for a free permit to use one of the employee parking spots). You may run into a donkey or six.

Salomon Beach

This beach is so beautiful that I could easily spend an entire day just staring at the white sand, turquoise water, and perfect palm trees, but the snorkeling is also surprisingly good.

Octopus's Garden

Swim around the rocky point between Salomon and Honeymoon Beach to see colorful coral and lots of fish.

Sneaky Trumpetfish

Scrawled Filefish

Keep swimming towards the turtle grass in the middle of the bay outside of Honeymoon, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to see turtles grazing. This area is usually full of stingrays, too.

Yay!

Turtle nom noms

Hello friend

Salomon also seems to have a higher number of locals than tourists, so it’s a great place to hear some interesting stories and get insider info on the island.

Or…you could just lie back, close your eyes, feel the sun on your skin, listen to the sound of the water and the rustling palm trees, smell the coconutty scent of sunscreen, and file this moment away in your memory bank of happy places, available to mentally revisit whenever you need it. Like I said: aah, St. John.

Best vacation ever

Larch Rx

April 1st, 2014

Sorry to keep jumping wildly from season to season, but I never got around to writing about this trip, and it was just too purty and too important to skip.

I like snow (until March)

October was rough. Actually, the whole autumn season was rough. The hormones I was taking made me feel all sorts of not great, so I spent those darkening months gaining weight, fighting lethargy, and feeling very down in the dumps.

Too many photo breaks

Very few things were able to motivate me to get outside. One was mushroom hunting, which I’ll come back to later, and the other was the chance to finally see the golden larch trees in Headlight Basin in perfect weather. I had been waiting for this chance for years, so I gathered up what energy I had left and let JK steer our trusty Subaru towards the magical kingdom of the Teanaway.

I had a moment of hormone-induced (yes, I’ll blame it on that) bliss/sadness/bittersweetness in the car when Pink Rabbits by The National was playing just as Mount Stuart first popped in to view, the light hitting it just right. It was one of those sappy American Beauty plastic bag situations when you realize that there are so many beautiful everyday moments in this world, even though it sometimes feels like shit. I will admit that I shed a tear or two, and I had that wonderful song playing over and over in my head the whole day. I still get emotional whenever I hear it – thankfully, I can still blame it on hormones.

Bare trail for now

Hiking felt so good, even after being couch-bound for so long. My legs warmed up fast, and my lungs reveled in the clean, crisp October air. Soon enough, the endorphins hit and I was talking a mile a minute as we switchbacked up to Ingalls Pass. I felt like myself again.

Headlight Basin

The ridge above Headlight Basin was crowded, as it always is during larch season, but I can’t really complain about sharing a good time in the mountains with fellow grinning, elated hikers. We had all hit the jackpot – larch trees at their peak, a blanket of fresh snow, and blue, blue skies. The colors looked slightly dull from above, but when we dropped down into the basin (which we actually had to ourselves) and the light hit the trees, the larches looked like they were on fire. Amazing.

Walking in a golden wonderland

Unfortunately, I don’t have the vocabulary to convey just how therapeutic and spiritually uplifting a day like this can be for me. I know it must be difficult to understand if you’re not a fellow nature-lovin’, endorphin-hungry, overly-emotional sap.

I meet people who say they hate hiking, they hate the heat of it, the cold, the sweating, the hard work, the bugs, and the dirt. We humans all have different outlets for frustration and inlets for inspiration, and hiking is mine.

When the light hits just right

Especially when I can share it with this guy.

It's such a perfect day

Headlight Basin | 7.5 miles | 2400 feet elevation gain –

Our own little corner of the woods

Hiking in early pregnancy

March 28th, 2014

I really hope I’ll be able to hike throughout my pregnancy, not just because it’s excellent for my physical health and that of the wee babby, but because, as I have learned over and over again throughout the years, it’s like Prozac to me. That said, right from the start I was surprised how much more difficult it felt to hike for two. I had somewhat naively thought it would feel just like normal, but with an increasingly heavy backpack carried on my stomach. Hah!

Burgeoning bump

First lesson I learned: don’t make any grand plans; every pregnancy is different. Some people don’t even notice much difference at all, while others spend nine months fighting lethargy, throwing up, and on bed rest with pelvic issues. So just hope for the best and do what you can.

Second lesson: ehrmagerd, the tiniest of hills suddenly feel like Everest! On flats, downhills, and even while running (once my, uhm, tender mammaries allowed me to do so), I feel pretty much like normal, but once I hit the slightest of inclines, my heart rate skyrockets and I have to slow down significantly in order to keep breathing properly. The weirdest thing is that this started happening even before I knew I was pregnant – I just thought I had overdosed on Christmas cookies. Ok, so I did OD on cookies, but still.

Third lesson: it’s so worth it. Being outside and moving makes me feel so good. Beyond the usual endorphin boost, hiking helps my lower back pain, I sleep better, and sometimes it seems to help with morning sickness. Sometimes.

View from Oyster Dome

This is my first pregnancy, so I am obviously not an expert, but here are my tips so far:

  • Don’t compare yourself to anyone – not to your pre-pregnancy self, not to some other crazy fit pregnant woman, not even to the elderly and infirm who suddenly start passing you on trail.
  • Leave your expectations at home! One day you’ll feel like you have wings, and the next you might feel like several vital organs are about to fall out of you and you just have to take it easy. Listen to your body and just enjoy your surroundings and the fact you get to be outside.
  • The old “keep your heartrate below 140″ rule is outdated, but make sure you don’t push yourself so hard that you can’t talk comfortably – this will happen way sooner than it usually does (damn you, uphills!), so beware.
  • Bring more snacks and way more water than you usually do. I even have to bring water on my standard 2.5 mile dog walk down to the river and back, which seems ridiculous but is absolutely necessary.
  • Use hiking poles for extra balance, this obviously isn’t the time to slip and fall.
  • Carry a running pack without a hip belt (I like the ones from Ultimate Direction) when you can instead of a normal daypack, especially when your belly starts rounding out.
  • If your pregnancy is anything like mine, pick less crowded trails so there are fewer people around when you puke. At my worst, before I was introduced to the life-saver that is Diclegis, I was throwing up twice per mile. Not my proudest moments.
  • JK

    The loop we did at Oyster Dome last weekend was perfect for me right now. There are some really steep bits from Samish Overlook up to Oyster Dome, but I took it nice and easy – I’ll admit that I’m looking forward to looking obviously pregnant so that when people speed past me, they’ll know I have an excuse and am not merely corpulent and incredibly out of shape.

    Post-lunch relaxing

    Welcoming spring on Oyster Dome has become an annual tradition for us – hopefully we’ll be back next year with a baby carrier! This time we brought a stove so we could make soup and just hang out for as long as we wanted in the sun before moving on to the lakes.

    The rest of the loop is all flats, rolling hills, and downhill switchbacks, and it felt amazing to really stretch the ol’ legs again. Most of our recent hikes have been to Poo Poo Point – all steep, up and down – so this was a welcome change and gave me a good idea of what types of trails to look for in the months to come.

    Oyster Dome, Lily & Lizard Lakes Loop | 7 miles | 1650 feet elevation gain –

    Inquisitive nutria

    How you can help Oso

    March 28th, 2014

    Most of you have probably heard about the devastating mudslide that hit the small town of Oso, WA, last weekend. As of now, 26 people are confirmed dead and at least 90 people have been reported missing. Volunteers and rescue crews are still working to dig through thick mud, water, and debris to look for victims, and will be doing so for a long time.

    To help those affected by the slide, please visit this link for information on cash donations: Where to go to help mudslide victims

    If you’re local, here’s information about different supplies you can donate to the emergency workers: Oso mudslide: ways to help

    Sunset over the Sound

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