JJ got MARRIED

Although I’d been in Washington for a long time, I had to make a quick trip up because my oldest nephew’s dad was getting married!

Before the wedding though, my mom and I had Friday to spend together. I needed new running shoes so I convinced her to drive up to the flagship REI in Seattle so I could have a nice big selection (and still earn a dividend). We had a lovely time shopping together (and she insisted on buying me the dress I wore to the wedding) and then for lunch, I took her to a little spot that a dear friend had shown me a few years ago.

My mom and I both love oysters, especially raw. As we settled into our table, she pointed at a map on the wall and said, “Now I like that map.” I, the map obsessed daughter, laughed, because the map showed Pacific Northwest oyster growing locations.

Midway through our first dozen, Mom declared that we would be getting another. I basically spent the entire meal giggling at how excited she was.

The next morning, Mom had some errands to run so I asked her to drop me off at a trail and I got in some (humid) miles before the wedding.

Although, around the ceremony, it was really hot the wedding was really wonderful. I got lots of Andrew hugs:

They did such a good job of including the kids (all four of them!) including having my sister come up for their parent-kid dance to dance with Drew:

I hate garter tosses and bouquet tosses but watching Andrew and Junior giggle together as they waited was pretty adorable:

Since there was music, there was my family dancing. No one should ever expect differently:

Congratulations JJ and Destiny! I’m so happy to have you both (and your whole crew of munchkins) in my life.

The whole darn family: Mom, me, Emily & Kevin, JJ & Destiny, and the whole troupe of kiddos.

Life These Days: Summer 2018

After what seemed like forever in the Northwest, I finally wrapped up projects at Mom’s house enough to come home. It was time for trail running and COLORADO SUMMER.

I was inspired to buy a Roomba to make my life better. First, I named it John, because white dudes should clean more. And then I realized that I loved John, so I renamed it “The Boyfriend”

I found time to read books:

And then heard that same Jonathan P. Thompson speak right here in my little town.

The FSJ Invasion crew came to Ouray:

I got to hold some pretty famous stuff. (Yeah, that’s MJ’s Wooden trophy and a Grammy base…)

Life is sweet.

Tacoma Adventures

My trip to Tacoma largely for doing work on Mom’s house but I did manage to squeeze in some fun as well. Sprocket probably didn’t agree that it was too fun but I tried to make time to take him for walks and he went to work with my mom a few times.

I took him swimming down at the Sound a few times:

The day I went to the Hanford B Reactor with Kamel, I hustled back to Tacoma to have a ladies night at the Rainiers with Aunty, my mom, and Shar. We were rather late to the game but kept the party going at a post game dinner plus Mom and I had a slumber party at Aunty’s.

I got to be home to see JJ graduate from his automotive technician program. On top of that, I got come cuddles from this kid:

My aunt and uncle celebrated 50 years and Mom, Nons, and I sent anniversary wishes to them from Nons’ patio:

Uncle Skip invited me to come to the Rainiers with him. I knew I probably should work on the house but I skipped out for the game. There was a cool WWII baseball memorabilia display and we had a great time watching some baseball. I thought I might go home and get to work but instead, we picked up Aunty and went out for dinner. (My trip was a lot more time away from Ridgway than I wanted it to be but I feel like I spent a lot of time with my mom and with some other family so that was nice!)

 

Ted Williams during WWII

I tried some Tacoma beer:

And tried some more with cousins:

 

Alta Lake & Leavenworth

Mom and I both had hand-wringing moments of “should we go” before taking off to Alta Lake in eastern Washington for a couple of days. I was stressed out about the idea of not working on the house for four days and mom was basically … just stressed about the house. 

It was such a good choice to go!

First, I worked some packing magic so Sprocket has lots of room in the back seat. He basically cuddled with Shar’s foot the entire way to and from the lake. 

We stopped at the Twin Pines in Cle Elum. I used to stop here on the way to Ellensburg to visit my cousin Taylor at college! It was somehow more delicious than I remembered!

Sparkling wine flight to go with lunch at Karma Vineyard’s 18 Brix restaurant

There was wine tasting, dance parties, cornhole, evening cruises on the golf course, and relaxing by the pool and all the good food! I also read an entire book and a half.

Group photo at Tsillan Cellars

At the end of the weekend while we were driving home, we stopped for lunch in Leavenworth and decided to get in one last wine tasting at Goose Ridge Winery’s tasting room there. The wine was delicious but mostly I think we all just had a blast doing it!

#damselNOTindistress: Flooring … and a little bit more.

Last summer, when I went back to Washington for Edgar’s number retirement ceremony, I wound up replacing flooring in my mom’s kitchen, living, and dining room. Over the winter, Mom and I agreed that I would plan on doing the rest of the flooring this summer. I could drive up, bring Sprocket and my tools and knock it out.

Ha.

Her insurance also insisted that she replace the siding so she hired a contractor friend to tackle that. He figured, no big deal, it’s one story, no ladders needed.

Ha.

Her house is almost 40 years old which meant plenty of surprises as both the siding and the flooring projects proceeded.

Almost immediately, things went off the rails when I discovered a leak from the master bathroom shower into the living room when I pulled up the carpet. I replaced patches of subfloor from years of pets in the house. And the bathroom leak morphed into a full master bathroom renovation.

A full bathroom renovation included doing drywall. I hate doing drywall.

I sort of tortured my pup as a distraction:

Days and weeks crept by and by the time I was getting close to wrapping things up, life in Colorado started demanding that I come home. Sprocket and I were pretty happy to answer that call. I felt bad because there were finishing touches to be done but fortunately they were much smaller projects (baseboard, painting) that other family members volunteered to do for Mom.

Before I left, the flooring was all done, the master bath was brand new (isn’t her vanity gorgeous?),

She also got a new hot water heater! (Ughhhh, the lighting in this hall sucks…. I have Ideas.)

This vanity area turned out nicely though!

Her bedroom is also freshly painted and has a new floor:

Now, I just have to go back next summer and tackle this project that appeared during the process. It’s always something, but I’ve been promised I can learn to tile here.

Hanford B Reactor Tour

I can’t believe it’s taken me months to get around to blogging about this trip! When I decided to go to Washington to tackle the project at Mom’s house, I realized that I had a big stretch of time to try to get tickets to the Hanford B Reactor tour. Tours have been offered at the reactor since 2009 and in 2015 it was officially added to Manhattan Project National Historic Park. I tossed out the idea on Facebook and Kamel, the husband of my long-time internet friend Lauren, agreed to make the trek to the TriCities.

I picked up Kamel, who I had never actually met, and we headed out for a three hour roadtrip to the tour site. The drive was great! I totally morphed into my Tour Guide Barbie persona and pointed out lots of landmarks to Kamel who had never been further east on I-90 than Snoqualmie Pass! (Tour Guide Barbie is a moniker that I was given in high school both as a tongue-in-cheek Barbie reference and very honest commentary on my perhaps annoying propensity to spout historic, geological, and other random facts while driving.)

Once we arrived at the visitor center, Kamel and I both entered full nerd mode as we checked out the introductory exhibits. There was a short introductory talk about what the village of Hanford was like at the time it was chosen for the reactor site. By the time we got on the bus for the ride to the reactor, we were positively giddy. On the bus out to the reactor site, we got some more history and orientation to the area.

If you haven’t heard the story of the B-reactor, it’s actually pretty nuts. In just 11 months, the reactor went from a plan to producing the plutonium that was used in the Trinity Test and in Fat Man, the bomb dropped in Nagasaki. The tour is really informative about how DuPont and the Army built the plant and how ambitious the project actually was.

The first look at the reactor face is so incredible. Sitting in front of this massive piece of engineering, we had another short explanation of how the reactor actually worked and then, basically, we were allowed to wander around the reactor.

It was really surreal.

There were lots of really great vintage signs.

The access to the whole reactor complex is really impressive. While there were some areas clearly marked with radiation warnings that were off limits, we really got to wander around lots of nooks and crannys.

Kamel brought along his medium format camera to make some photos (although he told me he was too distracted by the building and its history to make good photos, I would beg to differ).

It had started to drizzle when we arrived and there seemed to be a little break in the rain so we went outside to check out the reactor area from outside.

This tour is free (did you hear me, FREE?) and it is fantastic.

Goat Mountain and Mt. St. Helens … kinda

Although I’d really been looking forward to climbing Mt. St. Helens, with the renovation at my mom’s house ever growing in scope, I didn’t prepare for this trip anywhere near as well as I should have. I ended up working with the plumbers the day that I’d planned to leave and things just got a little nuts. About the time I reached Centralia, I realized that I’d left my ice axe and crampons in Tacoma. Washington got a lot more snow than Colorado and my heart sank because that had basically already sealed not getting to the highest point of the ridge.

Traffic south of Tacoma sucks and I was slightly ahead of it so I definitely didn’t want to backtrack and sit in it so I decided to continue and take my chances. Besides, I had kind of a bee in my bonnet about using the evening to climb Cowlitz County’s highpoint: Goat Mountain.

Forest Service Road 470 was pretty washed out (there were ruts that were almost a foot deep) so I just parked at the junction with FS 8117 and walked up to the start of the southwest ridge. The trail was occasionally indistinct but overall, it was pretty easy to follow. Just below the summit I started to run into patches of snow and I had to brush away some sads about knowing I was going to see a St. Helens covered with too much snow for me to summit. The view though didn’t make me sad: it was totally gorgeous.

Rainer peaked out to the north, Adams was visible from the ridge and St. Helens was right there. I took some photos and then hustled down the trail to make it back to Ruth before it got dark.

My non-preparation continued when I got to the road to Climbers Bivouac. The road was closed because it was still covered with snow and I was directed to Worm Flows. I scrambed a bit because I hadn’t bothered to read up on on Worm Flows (or really any route, to be honest). I was just feeling a little beat up by this hike and I hadn’t even started hiking yet.

In the morning, still feeling demoralized, I decided to sleep in a bit since I wasn’t going to summit anyway. I made really good time to the junction with the standard climbing route…that was covered in snow. I decided to climb up a ridge to the east of the standard route because I was going to be much more successful climbing the ash and scree covered route than the steep snow with my (unprepared) light and fast gear situation. I knew my only summit hope was being able to maybe traverse along the rim versus going straight up snow.

Oh, my god it was steep. It was fun? But also, it was one of those things were as I expended energy, I could see the rim better and better and was realizing that I wasn’t going to be able to safely make the traverse. With 1500′ to go to the rim, I almost quit.

In the end, I’m glad I didn’t. The view into the crater was really impressive. I just desperately wished that I could make my way west but it wasn’t the right choice. Instead, I turned around and took my tired butt down the mountain.

Back in Tacoma (after getting first dinner at Burgerville with a BIG fresh strawberry shake) I met my mom (and my Sprockey!) at my grandma’s for dinner. I was exhausted—it’s been a long time since I’ve done 5000’+ gain in a day and I was ready for bed. I have unfinished goals down there though, guess I’m going to have to scope another permit for this mountain!

Summer Roadtrip 2018: Oregon to Tacoma

When we woke up the morning after summiting Steens Mountain, Sprocket’s paws were clearly hurting him so I knew that hiking that day was out of the question for us. We retraced our drive back down to the highway and continued north to Frenchglen, the northern terminus of Steens Mountain Road. I explored a little mini-interpretive trail on the edge of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge while Sprocket chilled in the Jeep.

Frenchglen is a tiny little town that is home to the Frenchglen Hotel, an Oregon State Heritage Site and a cute little general store.

As we headed north from Frenchglen, I did a quick jog at the Buena Vista Ponds Overlood and then we headed north to the Refuge Visitor Center. The grounds were so pretty. There were tons of flowers, really helpful docents, a nice lawn, and a lake for bird watching. I did a quick tour and learned that leashed dogs were welcome on the grounds so I went and grabbed Sprocket and my book and we spent some time relaxing together on the lawn.

In Burns, I had lunch while watching some WCWS and then had a beer at Steens Mountain Brewing. Sprockets sore paws didn’t bode well for a summit of Strawberry Mountain the next day so I called my mom and let her know that we’d probably be getting to Tacoma a touch early.

The next day, we headed north and made a stop in Toppinish for a walk around the cute little downtown (I should have had tacos!) and then another walk and internet moment in Yakima before deciding to just push on to Tacoma. Sprocket’s paws were clearly still hurting him and I just felt bad for him.

I have had one too many trips back to Tacoma sitting in traffic through Fife and I decided since we weren’t on a schedule we were doing something different. Highway 410 was closed but instead we passed over Chinook and Cayuse Passes and headed down into Mount Rainier National Park and over into the Nisqually River Valley. As I headed up Highway 410, I wished I hadn’t told my mom I would be there that day; we could totally have gotten up to some hiking in that corridor but she was expecting us that night. When we entered the Park, there was still tons of snow on the ground and after the dry winter Colorado had, it was kind of shocking!

It had been a long time since I’d had a view of the giant rock that is Mount Rainier and ohhhh man did I start to feel the itch to climb The Mountain (yeah, that’s what PNW people call Rainier).

At my mom’s, I ate food and settled in: the fun was over and it was time to get to work.

Harney County Highpoint: Steens Mountain

Waking up early in the desert, Sprocket and I headed for Fields, Oregon. Word on the internet had it that The Fields Station had some of the most killer milkshakes around. I love milkshakes and so it went on The List for this trip.

Fields Station was packed when I arrived; there was an experimental aircraft fly-in and a motorcycle group coming through. I went to go order a milkshake and they warned me it would be at least a half hour. I was resigned to waiting when one of the servers asked what kind I was going to order. My answer, as always, was vanilla. Turns out, they’d made an extra vanilla shake so I got mine really quickly!

The milkshake really was good! I didn’t hang around too long after I’d finished it although seeing the planes coming in was pretty cool. My goal was to drive up Steens Mountain and move on through Burns before evening.

The road was in really really good shape and just when I started to think that this was going to be an easy highpoint on a lovely backcountry byway, I came around a corner just on top of the huge summit plateau and found a gate.

According to my previously mapped route, I was still over eight miles from the summit but it really didn’t seem like it was possible for it to be that far away. I have no idea why I decided to doubt every other resource I had at my disposal and trust just my eyes guessing how far away it was but I did. Sprocket and I headed down the road in the heat of the day at about 2pm. As we went up, we found patches of snow where Sprocket cooled himself down with a good roll.

The road had to wrap way around Big Indian Canyon which totally explains the length of the hike. And on top of it being a long way, we still had to gain almost 3000′ to the summit of Steens! It definitely didn’t appear that way when we left the car.

Finally, we reached the junction where the road to the summit of Steens Mountain went to the south and the northern end of the Mountain Loop Road joined with the southern portion we’d been walking and the summit was still almost 2.4 miles away.

By the time we reached the summit, Sprocket and I were both tired and we still had about nine and a half miles back to the car. The expansive views of so much of the southeastern part of Oregon were really fantastic though!

After the quick summit photos, it was time to start carrying ourselves down to #RuthXJ as fast as our tired legs would carry us.

Whenever we found snow, I noticed Sprocket would get off of the road and walk in it. It started to occur to me that his paws might be starting to hurt a bit but we were still quite far away from the car and I needed him to tough it out as long as he could.

We made it over the last little rise on the way back to the car and I started to jog a bit. We were both done and it didn’t seem to matter how we did it, only that we got back to the car pretty quickly. Sprocket gamely jogged behind me and when we arrived at the Jeep gave me the, “Human, be an elevator please” face that I couldn’t resist.

When we got to the campground at the bottom of the hill, it was abundantly clear I’d asked the old boy to overdo it. His paws were raw and walking on the crushed gravel in the site appeared to be really painful. I fed him and tried to walk him in some pine duff before tucking the tired boy into the tent. Dogs in pain, especially when they’re getting old, is so sad. I felt awful but also a little delighted that he had made the 19 mile jaunt without complaint. (I’m so sorry  Sprockey-boy.)