Friday, April 30, 2010

We made it, now - ONWARD!

We did it. Made it from Salmon, ID (these mountains) to Ephrata, WA to regroup and go for another week in the Olympic National Park.

The red bandit is STILL kicking. After some attention on a roadside pull-off (I was on cougar watch) we spent another hour or so in the nearby Wal-Mart parking lot...after getting pulled over for a newly "out" headlight. (Thank you Sheriff in a nondescript Idaho town who sits outside the Sparkle Inn.) The saving grace was that nothing had been too extreme, save a coolant hose replacement and some flushes. Once again, I've learned more about cars from this one than in the last 25 years of my life.
After a few days in Ephrata and yet another trip to the grocery store for easy cook everything, we packed and psyched ourselves up to camp in a rainforest...I forgot the coffee press and sporks. Lesson learned immediately. There were some very wet and creative mornings.

We started at Heart O' the Hills campground, nearby the main Olympic National Park visitor's center. The lighting within the greenery was stunning and just became more enchanting as the trip progressed. After a visit to the incredibly helpful visitor's center, we decided to hotfoot it to the west coast near Rialto Beach and hopefully catch a nice pocket of weather.
I had never seen tide pools and a few miles down a a rain storm (so much for nice weather), had us tip-toe-ing around muscles, sea stars, and anemones. The rain was picking up and we were starving so we slogged back to the car and back to Mora Campground for some hot clam chowder and a little afternoon reading snuggled up in our warm, dry sleeping bags.
Fast-forward through the night. Good morning ravens and slugs! On the floor of my fabulous Sierra Designs tent, of which I have sang many praises, was a pool of water which required a snorkel. My coaster sized thermarest was on the verge of floating and Rocky was already hacking up a lung from some crazy, western rainforest cold. Coffee anyone? Treated ourselves to energy drinks in the Quilleyute (sp?) reservation and enjoyed the brief bout of sunshine...when we should have been drying out the tent. I took some pictures instead and it was off to the Hoh Rainforest, further towards the interior.

It was a soggy, soggy day and spirits were...not low...but altered. (see the "new American Gothic" on left) After an uplifting hike through the Hall of Mosses and a very informative chat with the ranger about how it had snowed the previous night AND checking the status of the tent (it still had standing water in it), we bit the bullet and drove the 20 miles back out to Forks to find a cheap, DRY room. I'd have fought a little harder were we not headed to Alaska this summer to live in tents.
Anyone familiar with Forks? Yes you Twilight fans, THE Forks, Washington. Hilarity ensued as we watched crazed women stake out the sheriff station with telephoto lenses and drive past the endless "Twilight Fans" signs and stores. Baffled as I was, it sounds like commerce has returned since the timber industry there went bunk. So, cheers to silver linings.
We continued on dry and chipper the next day to do the Sol Duc falls mini-hike. Gorgeous area and the forest fairies were out for certain! Met up with David, an Alaska friend and his partners-in-crime (Titus the mastiff and Aloe the lab mutt) for one last night of camping. Great friends make great times even better and we finished with a big breakfast and hugs.
Bags are packed, boxes are shipped, ducks are SO in a row; we are Alaska bound! Flying out tomorrow and I for one, am anxiously awaiting the reunion with friends and the mighty Kenai river.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

drying out at lower elevation

After a LATE departure from Leadville, high-fiving all the way for actually leaving, we made it to the Canyonlands turn off a half hour before dark. It wasn't that long of a drive but after an emergency Wal-Mart/Qdoba excursion for sporks and burritos, we rolled in a little late. I'd called a few days earlier for directions but the reservations were already full and our only hope was to snag a first come/first serve tent site. I was even getting too dark to drive the 22 miles into the park as they gates would close so we popped our tent in a roadsite RV "resort"... falling aleep to the hum of 18-wheelers and shutting out the glow of the Shell gas sign were easy enough, it was those rascally dirt bike children who were the real challenge. Up early for oatmeal and coffee (just bought a GSI 30 oz. press and LOVE it!) and hot-tailed it into Dead Horse Point National Park. Apparently livestock is welcome in National Parks and the ranchers have an agreement to let their stock graze. With eyes peeled, we greeted the ladies and their freshly dropped youngin's. Felt a little Calcutta-esque.

We DID snag a first come site and after a quick tour of the visitor's center, which had a lovely display of the natural flora and fauna, grabbed our water bottles and a few oranges and hit the 5-mile loop that follows the canyon ridge. Dead Horse Point is aptly named due to its morbid history of some overzealous cowboys who got a little too greedy and left a large number of corralled wild horses to die of thirst in view of the Colorado. Not a feel-good kind of story but in line with the bandit theme which haunts much of the southwest.

The hike was fantastic with views around every shrub and rock pile. Resting on the edge of the plateau, gazing down at the river reminded Rocky of his last winter, rafting the Grand Canyon and humbled me with the sheer magnitude of the drop. I always find it breathtaking to sit above where the birds fly.

We munched on a lovely dinner of tuna mac and cheese (Annie's not Kraft!) and wondered where our age group was. We were surrounded by land yachts with names like Conqueror and Extreme Komfort. Might as well have been at the "resort" down the road; but there was no din of trucks and people were nice, so no complaints. Just wish we knew where the other cool 20-something's were. Deducing they were probably fat tire-ing it up on the sticky sand stone of Moab, we bucked up and went for a sunset hike. Lovely park and there is plenty more to see. What a radical difference from our visit to Arches National Park last December on the drive out. No snow and a beastly 80 degrees this time around. For two people who've spent the winter braving the frigid elements, the heat and sunburn were like rediscovering an old friend. My nose is peeling and skin is cracked from the arid climate but it feels great. Rocky keeps disregarding the chapstick, mumbling something like "the body must acclimate"... pass the lotion, I say! Lots more to do and can't wait to get back for more of the desert I know so little about. The multitude of song birds and mammal tracks in the deep red sand can keep one occupied for hours!

On to Salmon, Idaho for friends, hot springs, and hopefully some great detours along the way.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Leadville, Co - the TWO mile high city

The last time I was at elevation like this I was in Nepal, and Annie and I were dragging ourselves to the base of Annapurna, with a purpose. 7 days in Leadville though, was no joke. Rocky and I weren’t looking to scale any mountains, or even do much hiking. We needed to get our gear in order and say goodbye to friends before taking off on a 3-week road trip out west. That’s why it was most shocking that moving from the kitchen to the sofa took a serious toll on my breathing. After spending 3 months with minimal cardio at sea I knew it would be rough going to exert, but walking downstairs? The town’s official elevation is around 10,200 feet, flying by Denver as the “mile-high” city.

The roommates of the house were so welcoming and cooking dinner for everyone was so much fun! …Though I didn’t really do much as once Rocky puts that apron on, it’s his show. Home made French onion soup, toasted Reubens, roasted herb potatoes, meat and cheese trays, steak dinners, and road trip snacks such as salami bread and chocolate chip/walnut cookies (I finally took over the stove!) are all examples of why visiting friends for extended periods of time can be harmful to one’s health. In an effort to get out of the house, namely the kitchen, a few of us took off to “the big city” to see Alice in Wonderland. It was Tim Burton to the max I felt, and the tea party scene was my absolute favorite.

Colorado is the ski mecca and coming from Ohio, I wasn’t sure where to jump in. The lifts alone are intimidating, sometimes requiring a few transfers to make it to the top. Roomie Justin had the perfect solution. Sunsation! Copper Mountain holds a multi-weekend free music fest every year and we happened to hit the opening weekend. The music was great, beer was expensive, and people jovial. It was the pivotal moment in deciding to begin my Colorado residency. Since touring CSU, I’ve gotten such a great vibe from the state that it’s time to leave Ohio. Formally speaking. A visit to the DMV and a few calls to CSU admissions have led me to believe it’s going to be a smooth process.

Sunday saw us dog sledding with Sally, the seasonal dog sled guide. They were hauling tail and I loved riding the sled! Apparently they can’t run above 45 degrees so we were lucky to be able to get out that morning.

We took off for Dead Horse Point state park in Utah after one last night out on the town and many rounds of beers and hugs for Rocky as he had quite a winter up there. Looking forward to some sunshine and sandals!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Welcome to Denver!

Steaming into Seattle last Thursday night, I reflected on the last three months. Why does it seem like it flew as soon as we stopped working? The last couple weeks were certainly a huge drain as it seemed like one thing after another kept us from finishing. More fish quota, sick crew, rough weather, really just the usual things that crop up and it always could have been worse. No major break downs (for the boat) and sure the pay could have been better but no complaining from me. We shipped most of our product abroad this season, a subtle blow from the globalization fairy. This means the United States is eating fish from other less regulated fisheries and we're sending ours out for less money. I'll probably end up clearing between 11 and 12 thousand dollars for the 2 and a half months we actually worked. Don't even try to break that down hourly, it never works out in our favor.
The picture of the sawed-off cargo container is where I'd traipse out to make my phone calls home. Only slightly protected and really, two of the 5 phones actually worked. With everyone switching to cell phones, even in the nether regions of the planet, the pay phone is a dying breed. I find this unfortunate as the smell of urine and cacophony of languages that haunt the place adds volumes to the experience...

I spent a weekend in Seattle with cousins Todd, Heather, and little Nora. We baked vegan cupcakes (so delicious!), ate with friends, and played tea party. Had a blast and was uber-grateful when Todd was able to drop me at the airport for a 6am flight to Denver.

Rocky met me in baggage claim with a cup of hot coffee and a huge smile. It had been a long winter. We ate and popped some champagne then it was off to Peace Corps Lizzy's for a lasagna dinner and more PC friends! Lovely evening followed by and even better day as we bolted up to Fort Collins for a marathon 24-hours to check out Colorado State and spend some time with PC Tara.

The sustainable MBA program captured my interest:The degree
and after a 40-minute meeting with the program advisor, I was ready to sign over my rights as an Ohio citizen to transplant myself in the mountains. This summer in Alaska will be a blast but I'm hoping next winter brings me back here.

The next 3 weeks will be spent coaxing the little red Subaru bandit over to Utah, up through Idaho, across Washington to the Olympic peninsula for some camping, and flying up to Anchorage to begin our summer gigs. Finally feel like I'm moving forward again!