Sunday, November 05, 2017

Society, where none intrudes

I've discovered a new mystery series that helps me escape the existentially terrifying year that is 2017: a whole series with a female detective park ranger, with each book taking place in a different National Park!

The heroine is a kind of tomboy loner, which is probably why I like the series. And after last year's centennial celebration of the National Park Service, it's piqued my interest in visiting more parks, especially since I've had an America the Beautiful pass for the past 2 years.

Speaking of National Parks, we made it to Glacier! Unfortunately we didn't have time to do more than a few short 2-hour hikes, but based on the small taste I got this summer before the wildfires decimated chunks of the park, I need to go back to do some actual hiking.

Two things I was not expecting about Glacier:
1) IT'S DROP-DEAD GORGEOUS EVERYWHERE You can seriously just take pictures at pullouts along the highways, and it looks like you've hiked in the backcountry to a secret, serene spot.  
2) THERE ARE BEARS! Googling "bears Glacier Montana" before leaving was both a mistake and very educational. PSA: you can rent bear spray in the park! It helped calm my paranoia about unexpectedly encountering a grizzly or black bear on the trail... especially on the one hike I did alone, at 5am, on one of the more isolated trails, while my friends were all 40 miles away lining up to run a half-marathon. (The half-marathon had armed guys in ATVs on bear patrol.) 
Before I saw the sign about bears 
being spotted on the trail.
I didn't see anybody (or bears) on that eeeeearly morning trail for at least 2 hours, but I did see a handwritten sign saying bears had been on the trail the day before.

I did, however, see a bull moose! By then there were a few other people on the trail. The moose, with his huge gore-tastic antlers, stopped all foot traffic for about 20 minutes on the trail while he moseyed around finding his breakfast. 

Mt Baker: So close, yet so far!

Speaking of glaciers, it's been almost two months since our Mt Baker summit attempt. Our group had three chances to summit: it was stormy and rainy on the first two, which meant the last day on the mountain would be loooong. No one made it to the summit, though some made it to the crater rim; our party had several injuries or health issues. I think we are all glad we attempted the summit, though.

The mountains are calling, and I must go... where, next?

New Zealand, actually, to visit La Otra Hermana, the nieces and nephew I haven't seen in 5 years except on Skype, and the nephew I've only ever met over the computer. They're all too young to go on the Great Walks or multi-day tramps I want to try, but I'm researching kid-friendly short hikes.

A friend recently reminded me of the Japanese term "forest bathing," and the more I think about it, the more I like the idea.

I could use some more forest bathing.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Frosty, but kindly

Seattle is currently 1) in the middle of a disgusting heat wave and 2) under a smoky haze stemming from a record number of wildfires in British Columbia.

Hiding from the heat gives me a lot of time to catch up the readings and the writings and the watchings that I committed to reviewing at the dawn of one of the most depressive eras known to modernity, this post-2016 election age.

Building our snow cave.
Lots of shoveling!
The atrocious temperatures also remind me of a pleasanter time, namely February of this year when I finally went snow camping and build a snow cave! Two years ago I signed up for this annual class with The Mountaineers, but uh, stayed out too late partying the night before and missed it. This year I wisely abstained from temptation and made it to Mt Baker armed with a snow shovel and winter camping accoutrements.

Let's just say, making a snow cave big enough for the 4 ladies on your team to sleep in takes HOURS, and involves a lot of shoveling and carting away of extra snow. But it was worth it, because at the end of our 6-hour-long snow-carving ordeal, we got to sleep inside the snow cave we made! It was super cool.

The forecast calls for continued 90+ degree weather in the Northwest. I would give anything to be in that snow cave right now.

Or on any snow-covered mountain, really. I finally got around to reading Into Thin Air and my God, it was horrifying. I didn't know anything about the 1997 accident on Everest or any of the controversy surrounding Jon Krakauer himself, but the book was pretty damn compelling. It also solidified that anything involving Everest is definitely NOT on my bucket list!

The main thing I took away was the awful choices facing people at that altitude, where lack of oxygen, water, food, and visibility: the story of one climber found near death and left to live his last few minutes in a storm because carrying someone that near death would expend unnecessary energy. He then miraculously survives, staggers into camp on his own, with severe frostbite. Everybody assumes he'll die in a few hours and won't be able to make it down to base camp, so they wrap him in blankets to make his last few hours comfortable. And he survives AGAIN, eventually making it to base camp and then home (where I think he had a bunch of amputations due to frostbite). Imagine being a fellow climber and having to look that guy in the eye. I get that those are the realities of survival, but that's just harsh.

Aaaand, in one week I'll be back on Mt Baker, this time to summit.


Sunday, February 05, 2017


Back in July, I visited the nieces and neffy in Michigan to help them move into their new house.  We took the kids out to see Finding Dory. (Who knew at the time that the new President would later screen it at the White House?)

Nothing beats Finding Nemo, but Finding Dory was cute. There's a new cast of characters, including a hilarious escaping octopus. I like the fact that Dory's parents and friends support her in living her reality with short-term memory loss.
In another ocean-related adventure, over Thanksgiving I took the same nieces and nephew* to see Moana. We were excited to see it because yes, a Disney "princess" movie finally highlighted a South Pacific culture, but also because their cousins in New Zealand (where the film didn't open until Boxing Day) are part Islander.

Representation matters. And I loved Moana.  I loved it despite the very legitimate controversies about Disney telling peoples' stories, an annoying crab character, a Maui demi-god that was basically a reworked Hercules (see: colonialism and previously mentioned issues with Disney storytelling), and a vague blending of all South Pacific cultures into one (Tokelauan, Tongan, Samoan, Maori) that a Western audience wouldn't truly understand. And though I love Lin-Manuel Miranda, I'm not entirely sure his lyrics and singing style were the perfect fit for Moana.

But I loved it for my half-Samoan Kiwi nieces with part-Maori cousins. Brave was great: they are part Scottish too and come from many traditions of strong women. But Merida didn't look like them; Moana does. Frozen was great: they dressed up and did their hair like Anna and Elsa and dreamed of snow and ice. But Arendelle's Scandinavian balls bear little resemblance to the Island dances and hakas they are learning and performing in their mixed suburban community.

I am, however, preparing myself for endless Skype sessions filled with "How Far I'll Go" renditions.

* the Latino/Filipino/German/Scottish ones

Friday, January 27, 2017

Home to roost

It is currently closer to the advent of the Year of the Rooster than it is to the dawn of 2016, but either way, now is a good time to reflect on my annual "firsts" from the past year.

2016 didn't see any exciting international trips (except a triathlon in Canada), but there were certainly a lot of new places I experienced.
  • Zion National Park and Bryce National Park in Utah, a state I have visited only once before and only for work. This time, I got to explore it with friends. The parks are beautiful! And the Pacific Northwesterners learned a lot about how flash floods happen and how eons of them shaped the canyons of the southwest. We're used to glaciers doing that in our neck of the woods, not water! We also took advantage of our flights out of Sin City to see the gorgeous Red Rock Canyon, which I will admit made me think a little more highly of Las Vegas.
  • Spoke at my alma mater (on behalf of the ACLU). I've spoken at high school around the Seattle area, but never at my own. It's changed a lot! But it was kind of comforting to see a lot also hasn't changed.
  • Volunteered for a major international sporting event -- the Copa America! It was really cool to see how all the pieces come together for a huge event. And once my pre-game volunteer shifts were done, I got to be inside the stadium for the games themselves!
  • Drove a big-ass U-Haul truck because Mi Hermana y Mi Cunado had never done it, and yet as first-time homebuyers in the Michigan 'burbs they had a ton of stuff.
  • Hiked to base camp on Mt Baker accidentally with a friend who wanted to rebuild her climbing skills after a surgery. We just kept going and going until we found ourselves at the bast of the mesmerizing and beautiful Easton Glacier, with a bunch of climbers in tents scattered around us!
  • Participated in a triathlon! Well, a sprint triathlon, in which everything is smaller or shorter than a full tri. I only ran the 5K part; teammates did the swimming and biking. Still! It sounds bad-ass, and I wore the medal as I drove all the way home. The border guard even commented on it. :-D
  • My triathlon team's mascot
     was this little squirrel. 
    He was my only companion
     on the long drive from 
    Vancouver, WA to Vancouver, BC
  • Drove to (and around in) Canada. I've only ever been a passenger in someone else's car as we drove 3 hours up to the border, waited in line, and crossed. This time I did it all on my own -- and from Vancouver, WA to Vancouver, BC!
  • Got rear-ended by a young lady who'd recently moved to the PNW from Arkansas and wasn't accustomed to heavy rains. She was visibly shaken, and neither of us was seriously injured (though my back and neck hurt later and I felt nauseous for a few days, all signs of whiplash). I guess I'm incredibly lucky that I've never been in a car crash before. And this particular instance was pretty clear-cut (I stopped at a red light, she didn't and hit me); I thought dealing with insurance would be a nightmare but it hasn't been at all.
  • Worked on a political campaign outside of Washington State! I doorbelled for Catherine Cortez-Masto (who won and made history as the 1st Latina in the U.S. Senate) and Hillary Clinton in...
  • Reno, NV -- a city surrounded by beautiful hills and mountains that I tried to explore on my short breaks, mainly because the town itself is a little sad. But I also got to see...
  • Lake Tahoe -- I wish I could have spent more time exploring, but the lake was pretty and gave me some needed downtime during the campaign cycle.
  • Cried at the result of an election. And in public! I've gotten a wee bit teary before, but never actually shed tears on E-day. And not just in the bar where I was watching the final returns with friends, but on the street afterwards and on the walk home. I guess "sobbing" more accurately describes what occurred. Which brings me to...
  • Understanding the phrase "My blood ran cold" because it happened the minute I got an AP alert calling the presidential election results. My entire body literally went cold. I'd never truly understood that phrase before until that moment.

Despite the election results which have spilled into a horrible start to 2017, 2016/ the Year of the Monkey itself was actually a pretty good year. I started a new job that I love, where I have more creative direction and agency. I got to see parts of the country that I hadn't explored much before -- specifically, the American Southwest. I got to spend more time with my nieces and nephew as they moved to a new city and started new schools.

So bring it, 2017.  Let's see what you and the Rooster have in store!