It’s been a rough couple weeks. Starting to get my equilibrium back and feel like things are on track. In the meantime, I finally invested in the DSLR I have been promising myself for years. I got a Canon EOS Rebel T3 and I am more or less delighted with McGavin.* As much – possibly more – functionality as I can possibly utilize given my skill level, and a body style which allows the addition of more or less any other components Canon makes with little more than the twist of the wrist.

So, that’s been filling my time of late. Toying with the idea of taking a photography class. It’d probably be worthwhile, since I know there are features and nuances I am not taking advantage of that I’d enjoy.

Meanwhile, some featured efforts…

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Hood From Lolo Pass

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Salt Creek Falls in Willamette Pass

 

 

*Shooter. Eh? EH?! 

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These are the stories I will tell myself until they are true.

[hez-i-tey-shuh n]

noun

  1. The act of hesitating; a delay due to uncertainty of mind or fear: His hesitation cost him the championship.
  2. A state of doubt or uncertainty.
  3. A halting or faltering in speech.
Which Way When

Which Way When

I don’t generally suffer from indecision. Even if my choices aren’t always wise, I make them with gusto. It is remarkable then, when I feel unable to proceed apace with a clear notion of what my chosen course should be. It is remarkable, now.

I am feeling well. I have for days now. It has literally been more than half a year since that was true. When the character of my flares first changed from being a difficult few days each month to a near-constant circumstance of life, so did my attitude about my illness. Where once there had been an unwarranted assurance that I had rounded a corner and was surely free of a recurrence of such intense symptoms, there instead lingered a conviction that I would never again feel hale.

Post diagnosis I experienced a resurgence of optimism that having identified positively what was actually wrong it would be only a matter of taking appropriate action to make everything right.  Nearly two months later, no substantial change in my condition had begun to erode my confidence in that supposition.

About the middle of last week, I started to feel notably less unwell. By Saturday my guts had reached a degree of quiescence not experienced in months. It has persisted and is still the case. At this pass, I have no clear opinion about what might have provided me with this respite.

Notable is the addition of a new piece to my regimen at the beginning of last week based on some inductive reasoning and research about the mechanisms of my disease. It’s a minor change, easy to maintain along with other things I have been doing for a long time that while not curative, are certainly useful and help me feel better overall. Considering this, any effects should persist as long as I continue the routine.

It is also true that some of the medications I am taking for my condition take some time to reach critical mass in the system and achieve efficacy. It’s entirely possible they are finally asserting their influence and the results will also be ongoing as a result.

Yet I am also forced to acknowledge that occasionally, I just spontaneously feel better for no apparent reason. This is of course the most depressing possibility as I have no control over, ability to predict, or capacity to produce this result.

That realization has left me with a bit of an emotional hangover and an appreciable residue over any part of my life where might linger uncertainty. Instances in which I might not have all the information suddenly loom and cause disquiet. Circumstances that might otherwise barely capture my notice take on huge and ominous import.

It is as though the all the physical distress of the long lead up to now grew to occupy space suddenly come vacant. To fill the yawning void, in rush uncertainty, worry, and their fickle sister doubt. I think it is now my task to usher them out and introduce patience, faith, and assurance that whatever may pass I am capable of facing it bravely; even if I require a measured pause, before.

I am feeling lonely. I realize that this might be amplified by a variety of factors. Today, for example, I was moved to tears listening to reggae. Seems sufficient evidence I might be particularly emotional, just now.

There are lots of perfectly valid reasons this could be so:

  1. Oscar has been less-than-totally quiescent. The grumbling and churning has woken me several times in the last few days.
  2. I have another, newly discovered and utterly revolting health problem rearing its head.
  3. In part because of items 1 & 2 I am not getting even my customary level of not enough sleep.
  4. I am in the final stages of tapering off the steroids I have been taking for over three months and the hormonal shift is taking a toll in the form of constant headaches, joint pain, fatigue, and general malaise.
  5. Louise (my remaining ovary) is doing her monthly song and dance.
  6. I have been spending a greater than usual amount of time alone.

 

And, if I am completely honest, I cannot discount the fundamental, embarrassing, and irresistible truth that it’s been just long enough since I got laid that all of this is much more pressing thereby. So far, I’ve managed to avoid taking any hasty measures to remedy this*, but I know that feeling lonesome is amplified because of it and that my resolve to make careful choices with long-term potential in mind seems less important by the day. Usually, I try to distract myself with affection from other sources. While less potent, it certainly helps take the edge off.

Add to that the inherent summertime challenge. People are busy; there are so many options it can be difficult to get on the schedule. Since I am also contending with Oscar and Louise, it can be hard to plan time with people who might offer a different kind of company than my body can afford. It’s also the case that in an effort not to languish in my illness or recurrent bouts of self-pity and take advantage of what has been very favorable weather for a variety of adventures, I have tried to keep busy with things I enjoy. By and large, the hiking, running, camping and general larking about has been very good for me. However, the fact is I have been doing all of this by myself.

Cast in the best possible light, the idea is that I shouldn’t feel the need to wait around for someone else to come along and validate my plans. And while I can and do often have a perfectly lovely time on my own, I think I’ve fallen into the habit of assuming I must do everything alone. I can hardly recall the last time it occurred to me to ask someone else if they’d like to join me on an impromptu beach trip, hike, run or any other activity I employ to keep myself entertained.

In a less favorable light, I acknowledge my tendency to isolate myself when I am in pain; physical or emotional. I have tried to make a concerted effort to reach out and ask for help and support, and whenever I do, I receive it from multiple quarters and with gratifying speed and enthusiasm. The trap, of course, is that the more I need to reach out, the less inclined I am to do so. The more overwhelmed I feel the more I want to run away toward the horizon with the sappiest music I can find** and sing at the top of my voice while sobbing, or crawl into bed at 2:45 p.m. and not get back out until I next have to present myself at my job.

This doesn’t have a ready solution, in the sense that the protocol to remedy things is less than totally straightforward. I think too, that occasionally doing any of this is fine. It becomes troubling only after I notice myself tilting into a pattern where the only person I see outside the office for days on end is my equally hermit-like housemate as we pass each other in the kitchen executing a run for snacks to take back to our respective ends of the house.

So. What remedies? Other people, rest, hugs and kisses. Guess it’s time to get my prescription filled***.

 

* Really, shirtless selfies aren’t that bad, right?

**Customarily not reggae.

***That’s what she said.

In the last several months I’ve been trying to spend as much time as feasible out having adventures. Given the limitations on my resources – both practical and psychic – I’ve sought out what I think of as single serving vacations. Never longer than a weekend, and sometimes just an overnight, these little mini-break holidays go a long way toward helping me feel like I am not withering away in my convalescence and wasting my life in bed.

Both Pinterest and Instagram have been remarkably robust sources of inspiration for these trips, and several weeks ago, looking at the PNWonderland feed I saw a photo of Colchuck Lake and was completely smitten. Research implied the hike was roughly 4 miles and and a 4 hour drive away to encounter what appeared to be a breathtaking alpine lake ringed by dramatic rocky peaks. I knew I could toss the ol’ futon in the back of Quincy and make a pretty great job of the trek and set it as #1 on my list of must see spots.

After weeks of contemplation – and delays due mostly to illness – I finally had the wherewithal to undertake the journey. I re-read the trail guide and was gratified it seemed to strike all the criteria I prefer; stunning vistas (the review described arriving at the lake as a “religious experience”) a decent though not outrageous out and back distance, and enough elevation gain to scare off most casual hikers. I noted Google considered the trip a 5.5 hr drive, but given my experience was generally that I could reliably expect to shave an hour off any estimate, I felt sure I’d arrive much more quickly.

In an effort to do so and just outside of Hood River, I got pulled over and issued a citation for speeding. I deserved it. I wasn’t paying attention and made absolutely no effort to defend my actions. The officer was polite; the fine substantial. Boo.

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Stonehenge at Maryhill

Taking his admonition to slow down to heart, I made small detours in the interest of scenery a few times and tried to enjoy the drive through Eastern Washington as much as something like that can be enjoyed. There are – interspersed among long stretches of folded brown rolling landscape – occasionally sights of great loveliness, and I made an effort to savor them in the fading daylight.

That being the case, it took every bit as long to get to Leavenworth as Google had implied. After 5+ hours in the car, I was delighted to roll into the eastern end of town to encounter the comforting fluorescent glow of the Safeway. Arming myself with a few additional supplies and some deli General Tsao’s, I prepared to complete the last leg of the trip in the fading twilight. Ascending the 4 miles of rutted gravel road in low light was an adventure all its own.

I hadn’t bothered to secure a campsite, as I was intending to a) Sleep in the back of the car and b) Rise at the crack of dawn to start my hike. This worked perfectly well as I simply tucked Quincy into a parking spot in the corner of the lot at the trailhead popped in my headphones to block the noise of the other folks who had done just exactly the same thing and went to sleep.

Long about 5:15 a.m. my eyes popped open and I started to sort through my gear to prepare for ascent. Having done some further reading on other websites, I had amended my expectation that this trail would be quiet. It was variously described as “busy” and “extremely popular.” Knowing that to be true, and paired with my inability to sleep past the first faint light in the sky, I thought taking advantage of an early start was my best bet. I stuffed my swimsuit, a snack, a bottle of water, and a jacket into my daypack and set out within the hour.

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Stuart Lake Trail: Gateway to The Enchantments

I took off at a good clip and made decent time to the river crossing at 1.5 miles. The trail was well-maintained and had a pleasant, variable character. Mostly packed dirt with rocks and roots to avoid, the most notable feature in the early morning was the remarkable din of the creek running alongside. It was a chattering and lovely sound that filled in air in the otherwise silent morning.

Once across the first bridge, the personality of the trail changed notably. Almost immediately, I began to see and feel the climb ahead of me. I realized pretty quickly my knees were going to be in for a rough time on the way down. This hike is rather dramatically lopsided; it is very much all up one direction and all down the other. What had been a rolling walk turned into a stair-step tramp of some challenge.

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Even at that early hour, it wasn’t more than 45 minutes or so before a group came in around me. Though I am determined and unrelenting – much like when I run – distance is achieved at a much slower than average pace. With hiking in particular I have to be especially careful; given my lack of depth perception and questionable balance, I tend to trip, slip, and fall with shocking regularity. Moving slowly and choosing my route with great care helps mitigate this outcome, but never eliminates it entirely. I fell no less than 6-7 times over the course of this hike. I have learned how to do so in such a way that I wasn’t hurt at all, but it injures my dignity to have other people witness my clumsy and lumbering progress. As such, encountering a crowd of skilled and fast-moving hikers is kind of a bummer for me.

Another footbridge across the creek left me momentarily stumped. Heretofore, the trail had been clear and easy to follow. At the terminus of the railing, there was nothing but a huge tumbled rockfall and no discernible route away from the landing. It took me a full and thorough investigation of the shore to realize the trial snaked around behind a large rock and away to the right. Once again, my lack of depth perception left me at a disadvantage; I could not readily see the distance between the rocks when confronting them from directly in front. This continued to be a challenge for the rest of the hike, as it increasingly bent its way back and forth along a cliffside littered with boulders and stones.

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Find The Trail; Colchuck Lake Edition!

It was also at this point that the stripe of the ramble changed again. Most of the elevation gain was realized in the next 1.5 miles. At times, it felt like a climb rather than a hike. More than once, I was gripping rocks and hoisting myself over and up to regain the trail. I was increasingly dubious that anyone would reasonably consider this “moderate.”

Finally after 2.5 hours of hard haul I reached Colchuck and its deep teal waters.

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Colchuck Lake

While the lake was undeniably lovely, and the setting dramatic, it was actually rather difficult to get down anywhere near the shore to take in the spectacle in any encompassing way. Calling this view a religious experience seemed a bit hyperbolic; similar only in being won by dint of a grueling and demoralizing progress. The photos I was hoping to get were all constrained by the angle I could manage given my vantage. More, after weeks of all but unrelenting heat it was not only cool, but raining. The weight of my useless swimsuit hung heavy in my daypack, indeed.

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Descent!

The descent was its own brand of brutal. My knees were protesting the unrelenting downward progress after the first half mile and had four more to tolerate besides. By that time of the morning, the traffic on the trail was nothing less than hectic. Progress, already slowed by aforementioned caution, was further hampered by the need to frequently step aside for uphill traffic.

All things considered, though it was beautiful, I didn’t consider the effort-to-reward ratio on this particular trip to have worked out that well. Given a companion, a longer timeline, and a clearer expectation of what was coming, I think it would warrant a return trip. The area boasts several other lakes in a looped trail system called The Enchantments. It seems like it’d be a worthy use of a weekend to see more of the landscape thereabouts. On the whole, I’ve had pretty good success with the Instagram-Pinterest Adventurelark Trip Planning Method. Call this one a qualified win.

I’ve had my job for six months now.

The Par-annual Question

Like any milestone, this fact has prompted a bout of reflection.

I love my job and I am happy in it; proud to work for an organization I respect with people I enjoy in a setting where I am supported and have room to grow. That being said, these months have been some of the most challenging of my life. Though I am unquestionably happy and pleased with the situation and trajectory I have created for myself, it is also true that I have been confronted by difficulties that would give even the most stalwart soul serious pause.

To wit; I have been sick for all of 2015 thusfar. What had been an intense but intermittent nuisance developed into an ever-present and all-consuming fact of life.  Something that once cropped up at intervals to smite me, with weeks long respite between, became a constant hardship which brooked no denial. Though I am theoretically on a course of treatment which should remediate my symptoms is a source of hope, but as yet my relief is still that; theoretical.

Couple that with taking on the most complex and multifaceted work I have ever done and I am forced to admit I am not feeling as confident, successful, or industrious as I would like. It is in part because I like what I am doing – and who I am doing it for – so much that I feel a powerful incentive to do better. I think I have a clear and credible sense of what I am capable of at my best, and I feel tremendous compunction that I have not yet been able to offer that unstinting effort to the task of this job.

I think my supervisor understands this; she says she does. She has been unfailingly patient and supportive – far beyond what I would have expected and I am deeply grateful for that fact. All that being said, I am impatient to start creating a tangible return on her good faith.

I can only hope 182 days from now, that I can reflect on this moment knowing I have done so and then some.

This is what confronted me as I was leaving for work this morning. I realized it is more or less what I feel like on the inside, today. In a good way.

A Nick Drake Kind of Sky

A Nick Drake Kind of Sky

Spine

Spine

 

Twilight: the good kind

Twilight: the good kind

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Drew and I decided to take a bike ride this weekend. I’ve been running a good deal, and feeling like it’s time to start rounding out my exertions with other ways to break a sweat. Swimming and lifting are great in their place, but I have a nice bike that hasn’t seen the light of day enough lately. So.

Given the drastic variation in our skill and fitness levels  we usually stick to either the Springwater Trail or the Banks-Vernonia Trail  when we ride. These are both paved trails with predictable conditions and a mild grade as a nod to my considerable inexperience with any other kind, but I was feeling adventurous and thought a change of scene might be nice.

A quick search for a Rails-To-Trails came up with a few good options, but most of them were either disappointingly short or inconveniently far away. Finally, when I expanded my search to include Washington as well as Oregon the Klickitat River Trail popped up in my results. The photos looked lovely and the mention of pavement and packed dirt surface seemed promising. A drive out to Hood River being a pretty regular occurrence for me, I didn’t see the distance as prohibitive.

If I had read the trail info on the website for the trail itself – rather than on the rails-to-trails results – I might have realized the “pavement” and “packed dirt surface” were in limited supply and that a road bike wasn’t sufficient to the journey. Alas, I did not settle on this idea via that route and didn’t give a second thought to what kind of conditions we might encounter.

The Lyle Trailhead boasts a recently paved parking lot with modern bathroom facilities. Even at 10 a.m. the lot was completely empty. What traffic we did see was all over in the nearby gravel lot that served the riverbank and the kiteboarders headed out on the Columbia. It seemed strange to me that such an accessible and seemingly well-maintained bike path would be deserted on a weekend morning, but I was more inclined simply to be grateful than to consider too deeply why that might be the case.

We mounted up and started riding. Within about 300 yards, the asphalt gave way to gravel, never to return. Over the course of the ride, it would devolve into an array of variably challenging alternatives, but it was never again as favorable as those first few hundred feet.  My Trek is a hybrid with tires of a fairly reasonable width, Drew however has a road cycle suited for long touring rides; he’s gone to Ragbrai several times with this rig and it is patently meant to be used on pavement. It was clear within a mile or so that we were in for more of a challenge than we had bargained for. We both felt like the drive and the effort made it worthwhile to simply forge ahead and make the best of things, nevertheless.

Just Past The Pavement

Just Past The Pavement

As far as it went, you could hardly ask for a nicer setting. The river runs close alongside the trail for nearly the entire length of the section we rode. There were high rolling hills, trees, and all manner of wildlife. We saw several bald eagles, a heron, and a variety of other birds. The day was overcast and warm, but much less brutally hot than the previous several weeks and overall, conditions seemed quite good for a ride. 

Scenic!

Scenic!

Somewhat quickly however, things devolved. Only his considerable athleticism allowed Drew to make anything like reasonable progress. I was in much better shape on my set of wider tires than he was on his super skinny road wheels. Large flinty rocks littered the trail at intervals and no one surface dominated the others to allow one to adapt or predict what might be the most appropriate riding speed. At turns sand, packed dirt, small dense gravel, large rocks, wooden planks, and asphalt all made an appearance. We made good time over anything flat and firm, but all too often that would give way to a particularly rocky or bumpy section which would require either a considerable slowdown or to dismount entirely. Fairly early on, I lost my bike out from under me once trying to skirt one of the several gates we encountered. Though I landed on my feet and was entirely unhurt, I remarked that though I have to get hurt to know I am having a good time, I’d prefer it happen later in the ride.*

Backpack As Sweat Catcher

Butt As Yet Not Totally Numb

Predictably, given the unsuitability of riding road tires over a surface suited to mountain bikes, one of Drew’s tubes gave way. Repaired with relative ease, we carried on. Our original plan had been to at least attempt the entire length of the 31 mile trail. It became apparent within the first 4 miles or so there was simply no way we were equipped for such a task. His bike and my lack of saddle time were a considerable impediment to the conditions. 

Bridge To Nowhere

Bridge To Nowhere

I began to look with fondness over at the highway that paralleled the trail on the opposite river bank. Somewhere around mile 7, Drew suggested we ride back down over the road rather than navigating the whole beast in reverse. My initial concern over the lack of a shoulder to ride on gave way to exhaustion and thirst (having left both of the two bottles of water I’d brought back in the car like a moron) and I agreed taking the road back made the most sense.

 

No Cows Were Spotted In The Making Of This Blog Post

No Cows Were Spotted In The Making Of This Blog Post

Once on the road, things sped up considerably. My initial concern about riding on the highway was quickly put to rest when I noted that the shoulder was present and even generous for most of the 10 mile length of our ride back. Moreover, traffic was both light and considerate. My only difficulty was with the rolling hills we had managed to avoid on the very flat trail surface. Drew handled them with alacrity and was far enough ahead to be out of sight for a fair portion of the ride, but I was flailing in granny gear more than once. 

Once the trail returned to the side of the river I was riding down it occurred to me that proceeding back over the flat packed surface of the trail might be faster for me than trying to keep pace with Drew over the road. Delighted I wouldn’t have to mount the last long incline I saw climbing in front of me, I turned with more speed than was wise to re-enter the trail. As soon as my tires hit gravel I knew I was about to make good on my earlier suggestion that I get hurt a little closer to the end of the ride.

 

Owie, I Had Fun!

Owie, I Had Fun!

As is my custom it ended up being the Best Possible Version of the Worst Case Scenario; the bad thing happens, but it’s a lot less bad than it could be. My hands took the brunt of the damage – again, I was technically prepared with gloves, but hadn’t actually bothered to put them on – but I did end up with some road rash on my elbow and a nasty bruise on my right leg. Scrapes notwithstanding, and having known people who came away from bike crashes only by aid of LifeFlight, I was relieved not to have been much more badly hurt. 

So only having ridden roughly 20 of the 62 we’d planned, I was still duly exhausted and ready to reward the effort. Everybody’s Brewing up in White Salmon was beckoning, and the Mediterranean Plate and Little Sister ISL felt like due recompense for my pain and pleasure. 

Hey Hey Hey, Look At Little Sister

Hey Hey Hey, Look At Little Sister

 

 

 

*Naturally this came back to haunt me. Like asking the universe to smite me. As if it needed the encouragement.

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