Thursday, August 6, 2015

Mount Saint Helens - to the summit!

After seven months of training and over 100 miles on the trails, I was as ready as I was going to be for Mount Saint Helens. My friend Julie got ten permits (100 people per day get to go for the summit in the summer time) and there were six of us from Portland and four from Seattle.

Every hiking party has to sign in and out, so they know if they have to come looking for you.

I'd hiked with each person on Team Portland at least once, and it seemed like my pace was a good mesh with at least a couple other hikers. The other three were faster, but didn't seem to mind regrouping regularly, so we planned to just stick together for the most part.

View of Mount Adams

The MSH trail is an out and back, on a route called Monitor Ridge. It's under 5 miles one-way, and I knew that the trail was broken up like so:
 - 1/3 slight elevation climb along a forested trail
 - 1/3 "trail" in a boulder-strewn wall, with a ton of elevation gain
 - 1/3 trudge/scramble/two steps forward, one step back along an ashy slope.
The entire elevation gain is 4665 feet, with the peak at an elevation of 8280 feet. The vast majority of the climbing occurs in about 3 miles.

An idea of the terrain we had to climb - for hours.

The hike was super tough, both physically and psychologically. One person in our group has done the hike many times, but never in summer - only when there is lots of snow on the mountain. Then, he said, all the boulder field is covered by snow, so you just snowshoe on up! Of course, you also have to start a couple miles further away from the trailhead...

Fortunately I'd read a recommendation somewhere online to bring sturdy work gloves. I used my hands a LOT on the scramble up and down, and would have shredded my palms and fingers without my trusty leather gardening gloves.
View from lunch - we'd come a long way! 

We got lucky with the weather - it was warm but not hot, and we had cloud cover much of the time. We got one wind/rain squall, right after we cleared the boulder field on the way up, but it abated pretty quickly and I didn't even bring out my warm jacket, though I did put on a hat and long-sleeve layer for a while. We all had plenty of food and water - in all I drank nearly all the 5 liters of water I brought, but I didn't run out!
We still had a very long-looking way to go - that lighter brown is the rim, and there are people up there. 
It took us about 90 more minutes of uphill hiking to get there. 

I was most despairing when we stopped for lunch. We started hiking at 7am, and at 12:40 the top still looked impossibly far away. We (I, anyway!) had a tentative plan to turn around at 2pm - my logic was that we'd have been hiking 7 hours by then, and could spend nearly that long coming down, and I didn't want to get caught out in the dark if I could help it. Others on my group wanted to go for the summit no matter what, and I was nervous about the possible consequences.
It was a relief to get out of the boulder field, though the going was by no means easy!

At 2pm we weren't at the summit, and it still seemed a ways away, but at least we were out of the boulders and onto the steep rocky/ashy slope. We decided to go for it (summit fever is real!) and I made the summit at 2:10. Woooooo!
Dramatic summiting shot. 

One of my friends stopped about 20 minutes short of the summit, just feeling too maxed out. But she was close enough that she could hear our voices, and after some reflection and regrouping, she decided to go for it after all. Fortunately I spotted her attempt to join us, just before she was obscured by a rise in the ground. One of the fitter members of our group went down to confirm she was in fact making an attempt for the top, and kept her company on the way back up. I was grateful he was able to be so nice, because I did NOT want to cover any bonus ground myself!
Looking down into the crater. It was hard to get a decent shot!

We hung out at the rim for a while, taking pictures and enjoying the moment. Then, however, we had to face the fact that we were only halfway done with our hike! Going down was still super hard, and I was so so tired already... I didn't take a single picture of the descent!
Triumphant group shot (of most of us)

The last two miles of trail (the wooded, gradual grade) felt like they took forever...but I officially signed us off the trail at 7:21 - for a total of 12:21 hiking. What an accomplishment!!!! My body is still sore four days later, but I'm slowly getting back to normal.
This is how we all felt! 

I'm actually toying with doing South Sister next year... we'll see!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Mount Saint Helens - training hikes!

Earlier this year a friend came up with an audacious-feeling goal: summiting Mount Saint Helens on August 2nd. I guess it was a bucket list item for her, but it never was something I ever considered doing. However, I'm not one to back away from a challenge, and I do better with fitness activities if I'm terrified of some event I'm committed to doing, so I agreed to join!

Multnomah Falls - a classic for a reason

I'm so glad I had this event in front of me because it got me out on the trails way more than ever before. Ever since I moved to Oregon in 1996 I wanted to do more hiking (I told myself) but somehow I rarely did more than one or two hikes per year.

Springtime on Hamilton Mountain

This year I did a ton of hiking - at least 107 miles! I started in January hiking in Forest Park with friends, but then we started hitting the Gorge and got some real classics in:
Wahkeena Falls, Angel's Rest (twice), Cape Horn, Herman Creek Trailhead, Hamilton Mountain (twice), Dog Mountain, Herman Creek & Nick Eaton Trail, Multnomah Falls to Nesika Lodge, Forest Park (starting outside Linnton), Wahkeena to Multnomah Falls, Algonquin Park (in Canada), Mt. Defiance, and Eagle Creek.

Dog Mountain in wildflower season

My favorite was Dog Mountain - it's legendary for its beauty during wildflower season, and we went in May, on Mother's Day. I was stunned at the flowers - SO beautiful! I've been hearing about that hike since I moved here and I now know it's worth the effort.

Part of the trail on Mount Defiance

Mount Defiance is a legend amongst hikers - some joke that you summit Mount Hood to train for Defiance! It IS a beast - 12 miles round-trip, 4800 feet of climbing, relentlessly UP or DOWN, and the last couple of miles of trail were actually scary, they were so steep, slippery, and eroding. But, we persevered and felt like we were as ready as we were going to be to tackle Mount Saint Helens.

On the way down on Defiance. This part of the trail was super scary. 

Next post: Mount Saint Helens!!! (spoiler alert: we survived!)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Travel & revelations

So, I've been crazy busy this spring - in a span of six weeks I hosted my parents, went to Puerto Rico, went to Seattle for a weekend with my parents & sister, worked the last week of a nearly nine-year job, went to San Francisco & started a new job, went to Paris, and had friends in town. And I didn't get sick!

It's been great. Paris was nothing short of amazing; I have ten billion pictures but will have some restraint here...
Suffice to say, my friend and I spent at least 10-12 hours on the go every day. He had a very long and ambitious list of things for us to see & do, and we hit almost every single item!
Sometimes when I travel I have something of an epiphany. Three years ago I was in Amsterdam and the thought crossed my mind, "I don't want to figure out how to travel constantly; I want to figure out how to get back to Portland!" And lo, shortly after my return from that trip I started the process that got me where I wanted to be just a few months later.

I don't know that I had any major revelations this time (except that I am hopelessly NOT chic, though I faked it reasonably well for a few days). I was waiting for the train with my friend and he joked "If you were a runner, this trip would have had an entirely different to-do list!" and without thinking about it, I shot back "But I AM a runner!"

So, maybe that's the thing I've learned this time. I've become a runner, much to my shock. I didn't run in Paris - I was focused on traveling light - but I picked up where I left off on my return. I lost some of my conditioning, and I still don't have a clue about setting and maintaining a pace, but I've run nearly 100 miles this year, and it's time for me to get some new shoes. I've managed to squish the weekday runs into my new-work-training schedule, which hasn't been easy but has felt really necessary.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Last day!

I've been at my current company for 8 years and 9 months. I've had several different positions there, and even made the switch to being a remote employee 2 1/2 years ago. So now that I'm wrapping it up, it's ending with a whimper instead of a bang.

My colleagues have had a LOT of changes over the last few years, including lots of departures. Typically everyone in the department goes out to a local bar for a send-off; I've felt sad I couldn't participate in those for the last couple of years I've been working from home. And today, there will be no send-off for me! I feel a little bummed and mostly pretty glad, because I would likely be a little emotional, and also because I feel a little guilty at being so happy to escape.

My new job starts Monday and I think it's going to kick my butt for quite a while. I'm nervous about it, but excited to work for a company that is SO highly rated by its employees.

It's weird to leave libraryland - I spent 4 years and 9 months in a public library, and now 8 years 9 months at a company that works with libraries, and that's 13 1/2 years in one world! But, it's not a surprise, either - when I started library school my plan was to focus on information architecture and knowledge management, and no one was as surprised as I was when I actually became a professional librarian for a while! Moving back to a purely software company job was pretty obviously going to happen at some point, and now that day has arrived.

I'll be sure to buy myself a beer this afternoon.

Friday, March 20, 2015

All the good things

So, I'm ramping up for five weeks of total madness. Tonight I leave for a week in a warm place with friends, and 12 hours after I get back home I turn around and go to Seattle for 24 hours. Then I'll be home for almost a week before heading to San Francisco to start my new! job with five days at HQ. And I'll be home from that for four days before heading to Paris to visit a friend, and as soon as I'm back from THAT I'll have friends coming to stay for the weekend.

It's daunting, I admit it. I'm loading up on vitamins to try to stay healthy, and I'll do my best to get lots of sleep. Well - I'll go to bed in a timely fashion. Staying asleep has not been my strong point lately, and the 2am hour is all-too-familiar at this point.

It'll probably be good for me to have a little less vacation time at my new job - sad, but good. I tend to say YES to absolutely everything and then run myself ragged. Weirdly, I don't get much sympathy!

So Paris will be my last hurrah for a while, in terms of big trips. I negotiated taking the time off without pay since I won't have earned any time yet. I actually wanted to start working in May but they were eager to get me going, so this is the compromise situation.

It's going to be great - all of it - but I sure hope I can sleep on the plane tonight.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The game is afoot

So, I've accepted a new job. It's kinda crazy - my current gig has introduced me to SO many really great people, and I'm happy I've been able to maintain some level of friendship with them even when I moved away from the office to become a remote employee.

Now I'm going to start a gig as a remote worker, so it'll be interesting to see if and how I make good connections with my new coworkers. I hope so!

I wasn't super unhappy with my current job, but I was open to making a change, and it came together very quickly in the last 3 weeks - I actually applied to the job I've accepted exactly three weeks ago today. That's lightspeed in corporate America!

I already mourn the amazing vacation benefits I'm leaving behind. I AM getting a good raise, and I think this job will give me some new, very marketable skills. But mostly I feel half excited, half scared. It's going to be a whirlwind!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Spring fever

While the rest of the country is buried under snow and packed in icy air, the Pacific NW is blooming. The cherry and magnolia trees are budding, I've got 20+ daffodils cut and arranged inside my house, and I've now learned to identify the beauty that is the quince flower!

I've been doing some hiking with local friends, and I also want to try to find a club to go with - my friends' lives are much busier than mine, so I could go longer/do more but they're not up for it. In an ideal world I'd find some hiking buddies for long challenging Saturday hikes, and could do recovery hikes on Sunday. Even if I had a car I'd be reluctant to hike solo - not so much from concern for my personal safety, but I'd be worried about turning an ankle or something and needing help to get out of the woods. I'm sure I'll muddle through, and perhaps I'll even make some bonus hiking friends!
On top of all that, I started my garden. As usual I'll likely get tired of it and not give it the attention it merits.. but MAYBE this year is my year.
I'm definitely feeling the urge to do new things and get out and move around a lot. We'll see how I do if (when) the rain returns!