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Boundaries

December 15, 2015

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I like things in their proper time. Dessert comes after dinner. “Back to school” clothes are for after school has started. Work hard, then play hard.

It’s not that I don’t like spontaneity, because I do. But respecting timing boundaries on things that are special is what makes them special.

The more you get what you want whenever you want it, all the time, every day, the harder it is to be impressed. If you took your kids to Disneyland every weekend, how long before the novelty wore off? If we ate dessert non-stop, would we savor each decadent bite, or just shovel it down without thought?

This kind of thinking is ingrained in me, and as such, I’ve always gotten irritated when I see Christmas décor popping up in the stores shortly after summer. It seems like it gets earlier every year. Sure, Christmas is amazing, but it can’t be Christmas all the time. And I’m a firm believer in leaving Christmas until after Thanksgiving.

But once the turkey is stripped down to a pile of bones and everyone starts changing into their stretchy pants, game on.

The day or two after Thanksgiving, my family heads out to pick out our Christmas tree. For the past ten years or so, we’ve skipped the farms and supermarket stands in favor of the wild growth in the nearby National Forests.

Trees are abundant over here. Like, really abundant. Nearly all common Christmas tree varieties can be found in the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests, including Noble, Silver, and White Firs; Douglas-Fir; Cedar; and Lodgepole and Ponderosa Pines. All you need to do is pick up a $5 permit from one of the designated retailers. You’ll receive an orange tag, a zip-tie to attach it to your tree, tree-cutting guidelines, and a map detailing the general whereabouts of each tree type.

Most lands in the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests are fair game, but be aware of private property. Obey any posted closures or restrictions that may apply to a particular area. Cut at least 150 feet from state highways, picnic areas, and campgrounds, and at least 300 feet away from streams and bodies of water. Also avoid any areas where new seedlings have been planted.

If you have a certain tree species in mind, you might choose your location based on where that type flourishes. The map that came with your permit will point you in the general direction, but you may still have to hunt a bit if you’re looking for something specific. Pines are pretty easy to find; firs are a bit trickier.

We were looking for a Noble or Silver Fir – something with a standard Christmas tree shape but enough spacing between the branches to let the ornaments hang easily. Those fellas are usually found at higher elevations, so we started up Cascade Lakes Highway to begin our search.

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About 50 miles from Bend, we turned right where Century Drive/Forest Road 42 crosses the highway. This is normally one of the bumpiest roads in the state, but with a soft cover of snow, most of the bumps had been filled in. After driving a ways and turning left on a side road, we parked and set out on foot.

As you look for your tree, make sure it meets the Forest Service requirements. The tree must be less than 12 feet tall and located within 15 feel of another tree. Make your cut as close to the ground as possible, ensuring that you do not leave a stump greater than 12 inches. After cutting down your tree, safely attach it to your vehicle and affix the orange permit tag to a branch. Punch in the numbers for the day you cut it down and make sure it is visible so that rangers and sheriffs know you cut your tree legally.

We found our tree pretty quickly, as it was literally bathed in a warm sunbeam and illuminated within the forest. This pretty fella was a nice Noble Fir, about 11 feet tall with full foliage and fairly symmetrical branch spacing. Perfect! After cutting it down, we carried it back to our car and strapped it on top, then attaching our permit.

When you get your tree home, place it in fresh water as soon as possible. Freshly cut trees are thirsty, and getting it hydrated quickly will ensure it keeps its needles longer. The bigger the tree, generally the thirstier it will be. You’ll probably fill up your tree stand’s reservoir multiple times a day over the first few days. Decorate with lights, ornaments, or whatever else you please.

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Putting up a tree always brings me so much joy. After a day out in nature, it’s a fun feeling bringing a piece of it back into our home. Waiting until after Thanksgiving allows me to be fully present during that holiday before moving onto the next. Respecting the boundaries protect this tradition and allow us to fully experience them in their proper time. Having my sparkly and fragrant tree for only one month a year is what makes it special.

Plus, clutter makes me a little crazy. Once Christmas is over, I’m ready to chuck my tree in the yard-debris bin and move on again. Because even with our favorite things, the novelty wears off if we don’t respect boundaries to keep them that way.

General

Clarity

November 11, 2015

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I’m not a “live in the past” kind of person. Not because my past is bad (it isn’t), and not because I’m always living in the present (I’m not), but mostly because I’m always jumping ahead to whatever’s next. But every now and then, I get the itch to backtrack into old memories.

 

We recently had to go to the valley for work, which we were able to tie into a nice long visit with family and friends. With so many people fighting for time to hold the little guy, it’s easier to find a few spare hours to get out on a good run or hike. Little-miss-multitasker that I am, a nice wet run in the valley was also a perfect opportunity for me to test out a big stack of rain gear for Washington Trails Magazine.

 

Unlike the times where I’m training for a race, I didn’t have any type of plan for this run. As I headed out from my in-laws’ house, I turned left to head toward the city’s limits, outside of which there are sprawling country roads and less traffic. But as I ran, something didn’t feel right. It might have been uncomfortably big raincoat (which I promptly dropped back off at the house), or maybe it was something else.

 

But suddenly I had an urge to run toward the traffic, through stoplights, and straight down memory lane. I felt like there was an inexplicable force begging me to revisit old streets and relive old moments. This urge hits me every now and then, not out of regret or disappointment, but purely out of a desire to celebrate and revel in the memories that I so love.

 

So, I ran. I ran farther than I planned. I ran down one of the main city streets, past downtown, and all the way to University of Oregon. I weaved around my old school, past old classrooms and restaurants, along the river I used to ride my bike on, and finally through the heart of campus.

 

By now the rain was really coming down, but somehow I just couldn’t stop. I was keeping a pretty quick pace, and I just couldn’t tear myself away from this surprise wave of nostalgia. Every drop on my face brought the memories alive a little more. I ran by all the places I lived during my four years at UO, including the “University Inn” dormitory, a huge house across from the old Civic Stadium, a loud townhouse, and finally to charming little place in the neighborhood beneath Hendricks Park.

 

Knee deep in nostalgia, I fell victim to the same cliché we all do as we get older – time goes by so fast. My heart-rate started to rise and my pace quickened as the urgency of it all hit me like a ton of bricks. What am I doing?? I need to do _____! I need to go _____! I need to teach my son how to ____!” But as I continued on, something hit me.

 

While much has changed in my own life since those four wonderful years earning my degree at the UO, running through campus really feels no different than it did six years ago. I’ve changed, buildings have changed, and the people have changed, but the general spirit is just as I remember. Somehow that realization turned things on it’s head; in that moment, time felt like it had significantly slowed down. While man-made things rarely inspire the same sense of awe and wonder as the God-made elements of the natural world, I felt a parallel connecting these two domains.

 

Just like the unchanged vibe of campus did for me on my run, the constants in the wilderness fulfill a longing that somehow forces us to slow down. That alpine lake that you visited with your family when you were a child will have the same mountains around it when you take your own children there. It will have the same adventure-seeking type of people, and the same fresh air. No matter what else changes, there’s comfort in that.

 

Whether it’s a run through your old town or a hike to the backcountry, find some time to just breathe. Time is going to move at the same pace no matter what. The only thing we can do control is how fast we’re rushing through each moment.

 

Living in the past may be a waste of time, but popping in for a quick visit can give you a clearer look of where you’re headed.

General

Prime Time

October 15, 2015

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The leaves are changing colors, the temps are dropping, and people everywhere are renewing their annual interest in all things pumpkin-spiced. It’s Fall, and it’s a gorgeous time of the year over here in Central Oregon. When I lived in the rainy parts of both Oregon and Washington, namely Eugene and Olympia, everyone joked that we only had two seasons: Rainy Season and August. But over here on the east side of the mountains, we have seasons. Real seasons.

Summer is hot and sunny with hardly any precipitation. Fall is crisp and clear, with just enough moisture to give the mountains a light dusting of snow. As fall progresses, the snow starts to dump, piling up throughout the cold (but often still sunny!) winter. Spring is probably the wettest, as milder temperatures begin to melt away at the snow, filling our lakes and rivers as we head back into summer.

This perfect template of what seasonal transitions should look like is one of the many reasons I absolutely love living here. There’s always a big change to look forward to. I’m usually a season ahead, always mentally fast-forwarding in anticipation of everything I love about the next one.

But Fall is the exception. Autumn lasts for three months, but somehow it never seems quite as long as the rest of the seasons. There’s a small window of time between late September and late October where everything magical about the outdoors converges into what I like to call hiking’s prime time.

My favorite aspects of hiking are the solitude, the scenery, and simply enjoying exercise in the fresh air. All three of these features are amplified during this amazing month-long stretch . When school starts, the trails’ summer influx drives home or heads indoors, leaving even the most popular hiking routes nearly empty. Stunning Autumn color adorns the trails, providing a last hurrah before winter snow blankets everything in white. The cooler temperatures make working up a sweat a little more inviting, too. Most of the hungry mosquitoes have even died off by this time of year.

Where to go? I’d suggest heading to higher elevations that are inaccessible in the winter. Good options in Central Oregon would be anywhere in the Mt. Jefferson or Three Sisters Wilderness areas. If you feel like staying near Bend, the aspens at Shevlin Park put on a stunning show during this time of year.

I know it’s tempting to swap your hiking boots for ski boots and start praying for snow, but don’t. We’re smack dab in the middle of hiking season’s prime time. Don’t miss it.

General

Up and Running

September 15, 2015

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I love September. Absolutely love it. Not just the vibrant colors, cooler weather, and tasty comfort foods, either. Even as the leaves die and animals start to hunker down for the winter, to me, Autumn represents a fresh start. I suppose that’s rooted into my being as a result of new school years, new sports teams, and new schedules each September. Well out of school now, I still feel like I should be starting something new each September.

I’m addicted to lists; a sucker for making goals; and constantly organizing, planning, and scheming to visit someplace or do something new. When those qualities converge with the end of summer, something’s bound to happen. So, I signed up for a half-marathon with only two weeks to train. I also started a new Bible Study at my church. But there was a nagging in my head that I’ve ignored for far too long that needed to be addressed.

My head needs an outlet as much as my legs do. While I can certainly be chatty, I’m more of a thinker than a talker. A lot of my ideas get stuck and lost in the crazy space between my two ears without ever seeing the light of day. So, it’s time for a fresh start this September. I’m starting something new. It’s been a long time coming, but I’m finally getting my blog up and running.

Writing has always come naturally to me. But all the reports, essays, and business plans that I wrote in school took their toll on me over the years. After graduating from college, writing felt like work. But when I started writing about the outdoors, I got excited again.

As I’m finishing up my first guidebook, Day Hiking Central Oregon, I’m ready to keep the momentum going. I won’t be blogging every week, but I will write more frequently and more intentionally. I don’t know what this blog will become. Maybe it will be nothing more than a space for a few hiking reports and travel trips, or maybe it will evolve into something more than that. That’s the best part of something new – the unknown.

My head is spinning, and my legs are restless. I’m excited. Time to get going.

 

 

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