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Sounding Off

October 15, 2016

There’s a difference between “sound” and “noise.” Well, not a scientific one. Or maybe. I don’t know. Science isn’t my thing. Either way, your mind almost certainly goes to two distinctly different places when you hear those words. “Sounds” are things you want to listen to, while “noises” are things that are seemingly pointless and louder than they should be.

 

But things aren’t always this black and white. For one, what’s noise to me may be a sweet sound to you. Things get even murkier when we realize that the way we respond to the things we hear is completely circumstantial. Your baby’s first cry is like music to your ears. But the tenth wake-up scream in one night? Not so much.

 

When I’m stressed out, tired, hungry, or feeling stretched too thin, certain noises just make me want to rip my hair out, scream, and run full-speed into a wall. To avoid these responses (which, I’ll admit are entirely over-the-top and irrational), sometimes I’ll just put on some kind of white noise to drown it out.

 

Being a mom to two kiddos is an adventure every day, but sometimes I just want to zone out and have someone speak to me in full sentences about something interesting. When they’re finally buckled up in their car seats, I’ll often indulge in a little radio noise while we drive to and fro. During this time of year, I’ll admit I geek out listening to college football talk radio. The little duo in the backseat usually zones out too, but probably more from boredom than anything else.

 

Feeling a bit of guilt from basically muting my own children, I turned the radio off. At first, the silence felt deafening. I was trying to keep Hudson asleep, and white noise happens to help him sleep better. And you know what happened? Rowan started blabbering. And then his little brother woke up. Experiment failed, right. Not quite.

 

I didn’t engage at all  – I simply listened. By some divine interference in my mood, the same jibber-jabber that was making me crazy before hopping in the car suddenly made me smile. After muting the meaningless stuff, I was able to just sit and appreciate his little voice. And Hudson? Well, his cooing along with his brother’s unrhythmic rhapsody about trucks was just about the sweetest sound in the world.

 

img_6111I find it ironic when it takes me so long to figure out something in one area in my life that I’ve long known to be true in another. I so love running and hiking on quiet trails because I’m free from the constant din of background activity that we’ve all grown accustomed to. The result of turning down that pointless volume is the freedom to appreciate the things that are really important.

 

When I mute everything all that is truly just white noise, I can finally hear sounds that, while always present, I mostly ignored: the happy chirp of birds from tree to tree, the quick rush of water over the rocks, or the rhythmic stomp of each foot as it propels me forward.

 

Despite the Ducks’ dismal season, I still love listening to SEC vs PAC-12 football debates while I’m driving and crappy pop music while I’m doing interval training. But I’ve come to realize that it’s the times when I feel triggered to drown out all the noise in my life where I really need to take a step back and be still. The little things that bring you joy are always there if you’re willing to listen. I’m always amazed at the attitude change that takes place when you just take a deep breath and force yourself to be present. It gives you a healthier perspective that oftentimes the smallest things really are the most important. And the ones that make you want to rip your hair out, turn out to be nothing more than noise.

General

Running Free. Slow, but free.

September 15, 2016

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My least favorite thing about being pregnant was the lack of mobility. Obviously, my ever-growing belly was a hindrance, but the real bothers were the other medical issues that came up. Due to pain or actual doctor’s orders, I was forced to restrict movement – much more so this pregnancy than with my first. While certainly annoying for someone who has a hard time sitting still, I kept myself busy instead by planning literally every day up to my due date.

 

Exercise was reduced to short walks with the dog and 30 minute spinning sessions on a recumbent bike. I made a conscious effort to change my outlook on exercise for the remainder of the pregnancy. Rather than pushing my body to get faster, stronger, or leaner, I had to act like a 70-year old woman with heart problems and exercise for nothing more than getting my circulation flowing.

 

With both of my pregnancies, I’ve struggled with accepting weight gain. Even though I gained within the recommended amounts, and even though I knew that gaining weight in pregnancy is an absolutely essential thing, I still battled with the concept. Only months before, I’d been in the best shape of my life and running faster than I ever had before, which irked me to no end. The fact that I couldn’t exercise how I wanted to just messed with my mind even more.

 

I longed to run.

 

After having a beautiful and completely perfect little boy at the end of July, I struggled to push the longing to the side. Yes, I was super excited, albeit exhausted, with the addition of a newborn to an already crazy toddler life. But man-oh-man, I so wanted to get back out there. However, I knew I wasn’t ready. I tried to really focus on embracing my mama role and pretend like I wasn’t even thinking of getting my post-baby body back out there. But as my body healed and I began to settle into the new normal, the yearning to run returned with a vengeance.

 

I began a new count-down. September 10th was the six-week postpartum mark on my calendar – the length of time most doctors wait to clear their patients for exercise. I walked and did some light hiking, but saved that circled date on my calendar for my first run.

 

Ok, that’s a lie. I did do plenty of walking and light hiking, but that wasn’t enough. I was sick of pansy modified workouts and just wanted to run. I needed to feel like an athlete again.

 

So, I didn’t wait. I started running about three weeks postpartum. Not far – just a little jogging here and there in the middle of my walks.

 

But come week five, I really felt ready. I charged up my iPod and wore workout clothes that wouldn’t have fit just weeks before. As I stepped out of the house and onto the pavement, I felt the nervous excitement of a kid on the first day of school. I almost felt like I was being watched. If anyone had been watching, they would have wondered what the heck was wrong with me. I almost couldn’t remember what to do. Do I warm up? Am I supposed to stretch?

 

Still donning my medical grade compression stocking and feeling anything but athletic, I took off. The first steps felt awkward, but I quickly found my stride. I cranked the music and, for the first time in almost five months, was able to run. 

 

I ran. I kept running. I started going faster. I felt like a dog that had been let loose in a big field after being trapped in a crate on a long car ride. More confident and more free than I’d felt in months, I ran six miles.

 

You know that overwhelming happiness and elation that hits so hard that it feels like your soul is going to just jump out of your body? Those moments where you’re sure you’ll explode in a big frenzy of euphoria? That’s what that run felt like. It’s the same feeling of insane contentment I get when I’m in the midst of a breathtakingly beautiful mountain view or when my kids do something adorable.

 

 

Those moments are life giving. They counter bad news and crappy days and rush hour traffic. They have the power to turn an entire day around and enough influence to stick with you a long time.

 

They say the more you live, the less you will die. Stuffing my life with as many of those moments as possible is a good place to start.

General

Dog Days of Summer

August 15, 2016

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Is there anything better than watching a dog run down a trail? They move with such enthusiasm and wild abandon, barely able to contain their excitement as they sniff each turn in the trail. Unlike humans, dogs don’t attempt to control the outward manifestation of their feelings to avoid looking awkward. Just watching their endearing expression of pure joy and wonder is enough to put a smile on your face. In honor of National Dog Day on August 26th, I thought I’d spend this post on our favorite four-legged friends.

Shortly after Derek and I got married, we started talking about getting a dog. We were set on rescuing a shelter dog, so we kept our eyes open. One day we went out to “just look at” a pair of dogs at a nearby pet foster facility. These two little pups were from a group of 30-something dogs that had been rescued from a puppy mill in Eastern Oregon.

Both were adorable, but one loved us immediately. She ran up to us, let us cuddle and pet her, and looked like she would just be the happiest girl in the world if we took her home. After falling in love, the staff person then informed us that shelter-named “Heather” had been claimed already. If we were still interested, her sister was actually the available dog.

Picture 639We turned our attention to the other dog, “Meisha”. This little scoundrel had sprinted out of the gate as soon as it opened and was frantically sniffing everything in sight, swiftly and playfully running away as soon as any of us got close. When we caught her, she just wiggled around uncomfortably like we were restraining her from all the wonders of the world.

Despite this first impression, we ended up going home with that sweet girl that day. She settled down immediately once we were in the car, then promptly puked on my lap. We stopped at the store on the way home to get all the puppy necessities, then proceeded to get this new pup – now named Tonka – used to life with us.

Before we had kids, Tonka was our kid. She definitely lived the high life. Having kids has changed things a bit. In short, she’s had to get used to being an actual dog. Luckily, she hasn’t spiraled into a dark emotional state or succumbed to puppy depression. I still take her on walks daily, and she hiked just about every hike in Day Hiking Bend & Central Oregon with me. She loves chasing Rowan around and, unfortunately, eating his diapers when she gets the chance.

I could write an entire book about Tonka’s silly and mischievous streaks, but that’s for another day. The bottom line is that this sweet rascal has been the perfect dog for us. She’s a little crazy, but such a lovey. She’s always up for adventure, and we’ve come to terms with the fact that she will probably never greet us calmly.

IMG_0181My dad, having observed his two dogs hop in the car countless times, mentioned once how he always wonders what they’re thinking when the door shuts and the drive begins. Besides little cues, like whether the trunk is filled or empty, dogs have absolutely no idea what’s in store for them. They don’t know if we’re taking them to a park, to the vet, or on a weeklong camping trip. They just hop in and trust us, knowing that home is wherever their owners are.

Dogs are just along for the ride and probably could teach us a lot about life if we really took the time to think about it. Happy National Dog Day, everyone.

General

Goodbye, pride.

July 15, 2016

It’s July, and it’s hot. And I’m pregnant. And uncomfortable.

My husband is a saint for sticking with me over the past nine months. I haven’t quite been myself, and I’ve had more low moments this pregnancy than I ever have in any other year of my life. One of the most embarrassing ones happened when I yelled some pathetic defensive comment at a snarky little middle school boy who was making rude comments to his friends and shooting disgusted looks my way at the gym. I’m definitely not proud of it.

I know I’ve been writing a lot about pregnancy and parenthood, but it’s inevitable that we all tell stories through the filters of our own lives. This is the stage of life that I’m in right now. Sometimes (especially right now), I’d like to fast-forward and move past the uncomfortable parts. But life is hard sometimes, and the tough stuff makes us stronger.

While this pregnancy has been harder than the first in many ways, the most annoying has been the severe varicose veins on my right leg. It’s been medically verified that they’re deficient and diseased at this point, but until I deliver, there’s little I can do except wear full-length compression stockings to aid circulation. Even with the fancy sock, my veins are painful, itchy, and swollen all the time.

I’ve been trying to figure out how these stupid varicose veins on my right leg are supposed to make me a better or stronger person, especially when they grump me to no end and prevent me from getting the exercise my neurotic self needs. Plus, wearing long skirts or pants to cover them up is getting pretty dang hot. The last month of pregnancy is sweaty enough without wearing a second pant leg in the dead of summer.

After throwing a pity party for a few months, I finally decided to change my attitude and choose joy. This is a conscious decision rather than some momentous change in my circumstances. I can’t wallow and sit still all summer, because you know what? I’m the one at home with our two-year old. I’m not going to let my temporary frustrations squash the excitement and joy that Rowan wakes up with every day.

img_4040Bringing joy to a two-year old’s world also includes abandoning all pride. So, instead of suffering in long pants, I’ve been unashamedly rocking my compression stockings with shorts, at the swimming pool, and while floating the river. I’ve realized that it just doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if I’m uncomfortable, in pain, or feeling kind of gross about myself. It doesn’t matter if it looks like I’m carrying a watermelon in my stomach or that I waddle when I walk. It doesn’t even matter if a puberty-ridden teenager is visibly repulsed by me. Because you know what? My two-year old doesn’t care, and he’s what matters.

He won’t remember that I had gnarly ropelike purple veins protruding from my right leg. He doesn’t notice that it’s hard for me to sit down on the floor next to his Legos, or that it’s even harder to get up when he sprints away towards the open back door. He won’t remember that I wore a sports bra, running shorts, and compression stockings at the pool instead of a swimsuit. He’s not comparing me to anyone else, and he won’t remember if I was feeling a little self-conscious, exhausted, or less than myself.

He’ll remember that when he tenderly called out “Mama?”, I came to his aid. He’ll remember floating the river with his parents and running the rapids a few days before they closed them for safety issues (oops). He’ll remember splashing me in the pool and laughing hysterically as he sprinted up and down every hill he could find. He’ll remember getting out of his stroller, grabbing the dog’s leash, and running wild on the local trails. He’ll remember me taking his extended hand and following him on whatever adventure he had in mind. That’s what he’ll remember.

Or not. I mean, he’s only two.

General

Father’s Day & Looking Ahead

June 15, 2016

Photo Jun 11, 10 02 25 AMI’m lucky to have an incredible husband who absolutely loves being a dad. I’m equally lucky to have a dad of my own that set such an amazing example of what a good husband and father looks like. I could write pages and pages on each of them, but I thought I’d take a different approach to Father’s Day. Instead of talking about how awesome these two men in my life are, let’s chat about kids. You know – those things that give a normal guy the life-long, pressure-packed, and incredibly fulfilling role of father.

I’ve been looking forward to kiddo number two for a long time, and not just since the first one. Derek and I always knew we wanted two kids. We each grew up with a brother, so the idea of stopping after one kid wasn’t something we even considered. Being the crazy planner that I am, my ideal world even outlined that these two kids would be two-ish years apart – just like each of us are from our brothers. Luckily, I’m not insane enough to plot out which gender combo I’d prefer. After having Rowan, we were equally excited about the possibility of him having a brother or a sister.

 

P1010104Our hearts were incredibly full from the moment Rowan entered the world. I knew we’d have that second child someday, but since it wasn’t eminent, we didn’t hold back on any of our original plans. At a year old, Rowan had already taken 18 plane rides, including a few cross-country trips and one cross-Atlantic one. He came along on just about every hike for Day Hiking Bend & Central Oregon and learned to crawl on our winter trip to Brussels, London, and Amsterdam. While we’ve definitely had to adjust with a child, he never slowed us down. I knew that we were doing things with him that the second kid probably wouldn’t experience, but Rowan probably wouldn’t remember it anyway.

 

I started thinking ahead to all the highlights from my childhood and how I could give him the same memories. I’m so looking forward to taking him rafting and skiing, or watching him summit South Sister on his own two feet instead of in a backpack. I can’t wait to go on family bike rides and watch his sporting events.

Photo Jun 11, 10 11 12 AMWhenever I’d let my mind fast-forward to those amazing future memories, I’d picture that faceless little brother or sister who would be part of our family. I’d picture all the crazy adventures that we’d attempt with our little family of four and all the memory-making mishaps that would occur – those kinds that are frustrating and scary in the moment, but make for excellent stories later on.

Our family has never felt empty or lacking, but at the same time I knew that when the second kid arrived, it would be whole. That second little child will arrive sometime in early to mid-August. I know it will be another adjustment, but I’m beyond excited for another new beginning with this addition. I’m excited for the mountaintop family photos, camping trips, and simply watching two perfectly crazy little kids witness and experience all the wonders of this world for the first time.

I can’t wait.

It’s here!

May 15, 2016

You know those days where you wake up, and from the very first second everything just seems like it’s going to go your way? You’re well-rested, the kids are happy, and the sun is shining. The coffee tastes especially delicious, and the birds flitting about outside seem to be even more musical than normal.

 

April 28th was not one of those mornings.

 

Being a full six months pregnant, I’m pretty used to my sleep being wacky. I seem to alternate between complete exhaustion and strange bursts of energy that make my husband look at me like I’m a complete weirdo.

 

On this particular morning, I was exhausted. I had restless sleep, and finally just decided to brew some coffee and get out of bed at 3:00 am. Derek was out of town, but our dog, Tonka, woke up with me. Well, by “woke up” I mean that she basically let gravity pull her down the stairs before she scampered onto the couch to fall back asleep.

 

I absolutely love being up early, but 3:00 AM is borderline crazy. I planned to just make the best of it, basically accepting the fact that I’d probably be a grumpy mess by about 2:00 in the afternoon. Except, that’s not what happened.

 

After getting an absurd amount of things checked off my to-do list before the little guy woke up, I was surprised by how much energy I had. Whether it was the less burdened me that shows up after accomplishing a bunch of things or just a weird symptom of pregnancy, I was just ready to go.

 

On our way to a play date, we dropped by the Post Office. This little errand is always a headache due to limited parking, grumpy people, and the tendency for Rowan to get super irritated that he has to get back in the car afterwards. Nevertheless, the PO Box had been neglected for awhile, so off we went. Like usual, Rowan ran up to the building and pressed the big blue handicap button that operates the door. With my keys in hand, he proceeded to test each key in any locked box he could find.

 

After redirecting to our box, we opened it up and found a big stack of mail – and a key. Another key! Rowan could hardly believe our luck. This exciting turn of events brought us to the opposite side of the Post Office, where the postal workers put packages that don’t fit in the boxes. We opened the assigned cubby and found a small but thick envelope that would have fit in our box had it not already been stuffed with so much junk.

 

This is where the day really turned around. With Rowan back to testing all the locks, I ripped open the package. Nestled underneath a handwritten note from Mountaineer Books’ head editor was a surprise advance copy of my book.

 

Day Hiking Central OregonA little over two years from signing my contract, Day Hiking Central Oregon was finally here. After 100+ crazy hiking adventures (most with dog and baby) and learning the ins and outs of working with a publisher, it’s hard to describe how exciting it was to finally hold the real thing in my hands. The initial shock wore off, quickly replaced by a permanent smile and another big energy boost that lasted me the rest of the day.

 

You’ll be seeing this guidebook in REI and other local stores in the next few weeks, but until then you can order it online through Amazon. Snag one of the first copies, then use it to start planning some awesome Central Oregon adventures this summer. Perfect timing.

 

No matter how your morning begins today, stay positive. You never know what’s around the bend.

General

Getting Greener

April 15, 2016

Deschutes National Forest

 

Arbor Day is coming up. Outside of elementary school planting parties, I doubt I’d ever “celebrated” this “holiday”. I do not have a green thumb. I’m not sure if it’s the lack of patience, knowledge, or equipment, but issues often develop after I try to plant something. When we lived up in Olympia, we planted quite a few deciduous trees to complement the giant evergreens our yard backed up against. They grew nice and tall, with big leafy foliage. All was well in our little backyard oasis.

 

Unfortunately, a few years later, one of the trees had grown so tall that it was just entirely out of control. It was pretty apparent that we should have been regularly pruning those big upper branches. Fast-forward to a winter storm, and the entire thing blew right over. I guess we didn’t plant it deep enough either.

 

Another tree, a pretty maple, flat out died on us, seemingly without cause. We noticed one spring that the leaves just never came back. Lazily, we just left it there, as if it would somehow spring back to life the following year. It didn’t. It just sat there in the dirt like a sunken ship’s decaying mast in the sea.

 

We did have some success, though. Hydrangeas, blueberries, rhododendrons, ferns, and a few other varieties thrived in our wet Pacific Northwest yard. Were we more diligent to fertilize these fellas? Nope. Did we carefully and lovingly prune them? With the exception of one hacking to the hydrangeas during winter, never. The difference was that the habitat that these species needed for proper growth was especially agreeable to the conditions in our backyard.

 

Since then, we’ve been big proponents of planting trees and shrubs that are natural to the area. Luckily, our friendly Forest Service makes this incredibly easy. Did you know you can get a permit to transplant native plants and trees into your own backyard? For free? You can! Availability probably varies depending on the area, but this awesome program still exists within the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests.

 

A few weeks ago, we headed into our local forest service office and got our permit. The free permit is good for a three-month period and allows for the holder to collect up to 16 plants – four trees and 12 shrubs. Should you need more than your permit allows, you can pay extra for a supplementary permit that allows for additional quantities. Commercial use requires a separate fee.

 

Manzanita

This little manzanita is the perfect size for transplanting. And don’t judge us…it’s not a real phone.

The Forest Service will give you a handy brochure with all the rules and regulations regarding native plant collection, but here are the basics:

 

  • Obey posted signs. Almost the entire forest is fair game, except for recreation areas.
  • Collect at least 100 feet from roads and bodies of water.
  • Stay on main roads.
  • Only collect from species listed in the brochure.
  • Trees must be seedlings under four feet tall, while shrubs need to be under two feet tall.
  • Fill in holes and make the area look natural after digging.
  • Update your permit quantities and keep it with you while collecting and transporting.

 

When you’re ready to start plant hunting, grab all your supplies, including your Deschutes National Forest map. Bring burlap and twine to wrap each plant so the roots don’t dry up in transit. As you start digging, refrain from getting over-zealous. With almost every plant we moved, roots were much deeper than we thought. Stick to the height restrictions outlined in the brochure – you’ll be way more successful with both digging them up and getting them established in their new home.

 

In Central Oregon, the landscape’s lineup is severely desert-like. High elevations, harsh winters, and less rain means plenty of green and brown plants and fewer colorful flowers. We split our hunting up into a few different trips, exploring different locations within the Deschutes National Forest to try to snag different types of species. We found a cute little juniper tree seedling, a couple of pine trees, Manzanita, and grasses.

 

To supplement our new desert landscape, we went to a gardening store and picked up a big bag of wildflower seed. They’re super easy to plant, and it’s an extremely natural looking and economic way to add blooms to your yard. I have no idea if the varieties in this bag are supposed to grow here or not. I guess we’ll see. The bottom line is that if you stick to native plants, you’ll be giving your yard a head start on successful growth. You might even convince others that you have a green thumb.

Have fun bringing a little more nature into your backyard! Happy Arbor Day.

 

General

Winter Blahs/Ahhs

March 15, 2016

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I’m itching for summer. Not even summer, actually. Moderately not-freezing temperatures and a few days without snow flurries would be enough to lift my spirits. But, alas, it’s still winter. I can’t really complain, nor can I argue with the calendar. While we’ve had a few sneak-peeks at the springtime thaw, it’s anything but temperate out. The weather is playing by the same rules it always does, but this year it’s bumming me out.

 

Things weren’t always this way. When I was a kid, winter meant snow days, Christmas break, and ski days with family. This fancy-free life lasted through college. When school ended and a “real job” began, things changed. Other than the occasional ski vacation, we mostly had to become weekend warriors. We prayed that powder days would coincide with our days off. When they didn’t, we’d cross-country ski the trail system near Mt. Rainier or take a cold and rainy hike in town.

 

Basically, we made the best of it. We took every chance we could to get outside and play, because time was limited. But something changed when we had kids.

 

We decided pretty early on that I was going to stay at home with the kids. Lucky for me, I’ve started a career that I can mostly do at home. Unlike a traditional office job, I actually have the flexibility to get outside during normal work hours. Despite all the “free time” I have during the day, it’s been hard this year to feel the joy of winter.

 

IMG_1391Kids just change things, and I’m pregnant with kiddo number two. I’m not allowed to ski past a certain point, so as to make sure I don’t fall and hurt the baby. Plus, getting out with a toddler is a circus. There are diapers and snacks to haul around, naptimes to coordinate with, and a dog to keep track of at the same time.

 

Don’t get me wrong; I’m completely happy with my role, and we do get outside a lot.

And please trust me when I say it’s not an issue of being a fair-weathered parent. I dragged my poor son through the elements almost daily while writing Day Hiking: Bend & Central Oregon. To this day, he loves putting on his boots and tromping around in the rain. He’s used to dirt under his nails and mud on his shoes.

 

He’s an adaptable little kid, but it’s still a kid. As much as I can bundle him up, there’s still a limit to how long a toddler can withstand winter winds and sideways sleet. When the ground is as slippery as a skating rink, sometimes it seems easier to figure out something to do inside.

 

Luckily, there are lots of ways to still get outdoors in Central Oregon, even in the middle of winter. Start by heading east. The eastern side of Central Oregon is lower elevation, drier, and more exposed. It typically retains less snow. Check out the Badlands Wilderness Area, Maston Area near Cline Butte, or the trails around Crooked River Ranch.

 

Note: Carrying your kid while snowshoeing or skiing is generally not a good idea. It’s not super safe due to slippery conditions, higher speeds, and the cold weather. Better to bundle your kids up and find a natural area for them to run around.

If you’re trying to wrangle a toddler and a dog at the same time (and if your kids likes dogs), take a walk from the Good Dog Trailhead. Everyone can run around off-leash, and the trails connect to the Deschutes River Trail. Plan on doing more playing than hiking.

 

As the months go by and the sun beats down on winter’s leftovers, new terrain is exposed. Early spring is a good time to scope out lower elevation waterfalls as they trickle into rivers below. Despite the damp conditions, early hiking season in Central Oregon is typically still a tad too cold for mosquitoes. Don boots that you don’t mind getting sloppy, but leave the deet at home.

 

Each week reveals new possibilities and areas to explore. Bolstered by snowmelt in late spring, lakes get deeper and rivers get wilder. Major recreation roads, such as Cascade Lakes Highway and McKenzie Pass, typically open in June – sometimes in May. This doesn’t guarantee that the trailheads are accessible, but once the snow gates are open, you’re welcome to explore. Start with the lower trailheads and move your way up in elevation as the days get warmer.

 

I’m happy to announce that getting outside in Central Oregon is going to be even easier this summer, as my new guidebook will be coming out just in time for the start of hiking season. Look for Day Hiking: Bend & Central Oregon online and in stores a little before Memorial Day. Get your preorder in now to get one of the first copies as soon as it’s released. With up to date maps, directions, specs, and descriptions, it has everything you need to explore this area’s most beautiful hikes.

 

Enjoy the last week of winter!

Adventure Weekend – Lake Tahoe

February 15, 2016

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A few weeks ago, we left the little guy and dog with family and took off for a long weekend at Lake Tahoe. While we have plenty of skiing near Bend, it’s fun to get out and explore different terrain.

If you’ve never been down to the Tahoe basin, figure out a way to get there. Nestled in the Sierra Nevada on the California-Nevada border, this alpine lake is a hub for all types of outdoor adventures. Not only is it the sixth largest lake in the United States, but the entire area is surrounded by gorgeous mountains and their ski resorts.

 

GETTING THERE

As long as road conditions cooperate, it’s a little under an eight hour drive from Bend, Oregon. There are a few different routes, but we prefer skipping the I-5 route for lesser-travelled back-roads. It’s a scenic and happily lonely drive between Klamath Falls and Reno, giving you plenty of time to chat with your car companions and just settle into the road trip rhythm.

Once you reach Susanville, your next big thoroughfare is directly through Reno. If you hit any traffic, it will be between here and Tahoe. The highway climbs out of Reno, gradually gaining elevation and getting consistently snowier in the wintertime. Give yourself plenty of time to travel safely.

 

WHERE TO STAY

We used Tahoe City as our base for the trip. This scenic town is located on the California side of the lake’s northern shore, where most of the ski resorts are. The town itself is also super fun, with plenty of restaurants and activities to keep you busy.

Most of the big-name resorts have lodges and hotels, although they tend to be on the pricey side. Because we like the flexibility of having a kitchen and washer/dryer, we typically rent a condo or house through VRBO.com or airbnb.com. We’ve found awesome deals just outside Tahoe City, which isn’t a big deal if you’ve driven down anyway. It’s just a quick drive into town.

 

WHAT TO DO
In winter, snow sports are the way to go. When it comes to alpine skiing, there’s a lot to choose from, but use the weather and your own skill level to narrow things down. While we haven’t skied them all, so far our favorite resorts are Squaw Valley and Homewood.12545343_797255480380598_345289857_n

Squaw Valley is a complete resort experience. Host of the 1960 Olympics, Squaw has all the amenities you’d every need, plus access to top-level terrain. With 30 chairlifts, a tram, and the United States’ only funitel, it’s easy to explore every snowy nook and cranny. “The Village” at the base of the mountain features plenty of places to eat and shop. For a quick pick-me-up, grab a warm Belgian waffle at the Euro Shack. We were having too much fun at Squaw Valley to do so, but your ticket does offer you access to the nearby Alpine Meadows Resort as well.

Homewood Resort is one of our favorites for an entirely different reason. While the skiing is a bit milder than Squaw Valley, Homewood has the best Lake Tahoe view of any resort in the area. You’ll feel like you’re skiing directly into the lake. When you need a break, check out the Big Blue View Bar half-way down the hill. Grab a beer inside the big dome, then head out and take a seat on the blue lounge chairs propped in the snow. With music cranking, it’s a super fun spot to sit and admire the lake with your ski buddies. Head here on a sunny clear day, maybe after your legs are wiped out from a big day at Squaw the day before.

If you know where you want to ski ahead of time, check the resort’s website to book tickets in advance. You can usually save 20% or so! In addition to alpine skiing/snowboarding, you’ll find plenty of space for Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding.

 

WHERE TO EAT

Because we usually have access to a kitchen, we like to do a combination of cooking in and eating out. Here are a few of our favorites:

Breakfast – Fire Sign Café – firesigncafe.com

This is the best breakfast in Tahoe City! We always plan on visiting this little establishment, located just outside town. The fresh-squeezed orange juice, daily pastry specialty, and long-list of “from scratch” items are just some of the reasons this has been a local favorite since 1978. Servings are huge, creative, and incredibly delicious. Go here.

Lunch – Tahoe Mountain Brewing – tahoebrewing.com

Not super shocking that the couple from Bend, the country’s craft brew capitol, enjoyed the local brewery. The beer is brewed in nearby Truckee, but the brewpub in Tahoe City also features a full pub menu. The sandwiches and burgers are filling, and the beer is delicious. A great lunch option for an off-day or half-day on the mountain.

Dinner – Blue Agave – tahoeblueagave.com

If you’re looking for a fancy steakhouse dinner, this isn’t it. But, if you’re looking for flavorful and hearty food after a long ski day, check out Blue Agave. Built on top of the original Tahoe House in 1976, the Blue Agave occupies one of the oldest still-standing buildings in the basin – the Tahoe Inn. Enjoy taking in the history while you admire the views and sip on tasty margaritas.

 

NEXT TIME

While a ski-trip is your best bet for wintertime, a summer visit would be outstanding. Once the snow melts, the hiking and mountain biking trails open up. Explore miles of wilderness all around the lake, or even hike a segment of the Pacific Crest Trail. The lake will still be chilly, although significantly less so with summer sun hitting it daily. We still haven’t visited in the summer, but you can bet it’s on our list.

General

2016

January 15, 2016

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I don’t really like New Year’s resolutions. Yes, they can be useful, and people do make big life changes every year due to the declarations they made in January. But for me, resolutions have always had an air of inauthenticity to them. They’re lofty and unrealistic without a plan to complete them.

 

The other thing that bothers me about resolutions, is that mine don’t really change year to year. Abraham Lincoln said, “Whatever you do, be a good one.” Among many other things, I am a wife, mom, writer, and athlete. No matter what progress I made in any of those categories the year before, I will want to strive for more growth over the next year.

 

IMG_0071So, I’ll skip the resolutions. Lists, however, are different. Those that know me well know that I’m a list person. Lists are the smaller chunks of the bigger resolution. A few items from last years to do list, for example, were:

 

  • Half Marathon PR [Done. 1:30:57 in the Rogue Run 1/2 Marathon in September.]
  • Create a website [Done]
  • Write a book [In progress, but just about done]
  • Float the river with the baby [Done.]
  • Travel to Europe in winter [Done. Brussels, Amsterdam, and London last December]

 

Sure, some of these we were going to do anyway. But the point is that by writing them down, you are more likely to keep improving and growing. Plus, you get to cross them off! Yes, I’m a planner, and I like to get things done. However, having kids has a way of derailing even the best-laid plans. I thought my dog’s hourly need for physical activity was intense, but it was nothing compared to what my crazy energetic son had in store for me.

 

IMG_0167The sweet little toddler boss roams around the house in wild abandon, undoing things I’ve already checked off and creating new tasks faster than I can write them down. He’s a great sleeper and overall a really easy kid, but man that kid can wreak havoc! By the end of the day, I’d be a frazzled mess, he’d still be crazy, and I would have completed maybe one thing off my long to-do list.

 

I eventually realized that our best days were the ones where I put his needs completely first. That meant getting outside and letting him run to the mailbox, in circles, or straight down the trail as fast as he could. Letting him climb up the steps and go down the big slide. Being ok with him digging in the dirt, picking up rocks, and jumping in puddles. Letting him yell and squeal and laugh like his tiny hyper body needs to do.

 

Once he gets that energy out, he’s a different guy. He’s content, constructive, and cooperative (at least most of the time). And you know what? I’m able to get a few things done because of that. I’m just like him, so it’s actually pretty pathetic that it took me so long to figure this all out.

 

Since Derek and I love being active outside, we’re actually already pretty good at making sure Rowan has plenty of time to just be a kid. I mean, he went on nearly 100 hikes with me last year! But that was one of my to-dos. Making his exercise and play a priority over my to-dos is where the difference lies. That’s why I’m changing my strategy this year. While I do have a big list of things that I hope to accomplish in 2016, my day and my to-do list are no longer all about me.

 

I want my kids to wake up every morning filled with joy and excitement about what the day will bring. I want them to love the outdoors and to feel alive when they’re in nature. I want them to seek adventure and always strive to be better. Those things will come with time. But for now, my biggest responsibility is to support his strengths by fostering a fun environment to him to just be a kid. So this year, I’m adding a couple more things to the list:

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  • Go to more parks around town
  • Teach Rowan to ride a bike
  • Visit High Desert Museum
  • Splash around the alpine lakes
  • Float the river more
  • Build an activity table
  • Let him walk when he wants to during our hikes
  • Take Rowan camping
  • Create a space in the backyard for him to dig and play
  • Run through the sprinklers
  • Visit the public pool
  • Go to the coast

 

Etc, etc, etc. Hopefully I’ll keep adding and keep crossing off items here as we do more and more fun stuff throughout the year, until it just becomes habit. Having kids has a way of making even the most organized people feel like they’re constantly picking up the pieces. But it also has a way of putting everything in perspective. And for me, this year is taking on each day with the enthusiasm and adventurousness of a child.