Saturday, January 26, 2013

Taking my Whistle to Whistle Lake

Reflecting back on the last few years, from the time I decided hiking was going to be 'my thing' until now, it's exciting to see how far I've come. My 26 lessons, (though many are silly and meant to make you laugh) have been hard learned through trial and error; and they have really helped me gain a better understanding and appreciation for what it takes to be a successful hiker. Though, I never really pondered what it meant to be an unsuccessful hiker, until I clicked on this link that was posted on my favorite hiking forum.
(Sorry, for some reason I just can't make links work anymore on here.You'll have to copy and paste if you want to read it)
The possibility of dying is something we live with at all times, whether we think about it or not. I downplay the risks I take hiking because more people die just driving to work everyday--so why think about it? But this story made me think about it...really think  about it. There's a difference between letting the risks of life keep you from fully living, and living with those risks in a way that is smart and respectful of the consequences of being stupid.
I took my daughter and a friend swimming here once...good times
And so, after reading that horribly tragic story, I found myself at REI staring at a wall full of survival 'essentials'. Ugh. Do you know how many first aid kits they have? Or fire starting kits? Or Swiss army knives? I was starting to feel like my pocket book was the only thing in real danger, and just about bolted. And then I found a great looking day pack that was marked down to $29!! It made me so excited, that subsequently spending another $70 on waterproof matches, emergency whistle, survival blanket and such, didn't feel so bad. Survivorman had nothing on me now!
Although, I found I could have saved a couple bucks, because the awesome day pack I bought had all the bells and whistles...meaning literally, a built in whistle! My husband was so impressed that he tried it on, thinking he may want to borrow it sometime. When he modeled it to me, he looked like Baby Huey. (Only baby boomers will get the reference--but you young ones can google it) The sternum strap looked like a thorax strap--even with every other strap adjusted to the max. What the heck? (He really did look ridiculous; I should have taken a picture) I took a closer look at the tags and found out it was a "tween pack", designed for a 9-12 year old. I should have bargain hunting blundering always comes back to bite me. But, I'm not as large as my husband, and so I decided for $29, the pack was going to have to work. (Reminding me of the step sister on Cinderella..."I'll MAKE it fit!") I promise though--when it comes to my real backpack, I will not falter! I will buy what fits me best, regardless of price. (be strong, strong ;))
It looks kinda huge here, but it is holding at least 10 pounds of "essentials". (Ok, I might have added a few extra non-essentials ;)) 
I couldn't wait to give my tween pack a test run, and so I was off to Whistle Lake the first chance I had. I couldn't help feeling a little silly with my "survival bag"; I mean, Whistle Lake is like a thoroughfare. Tons of teens come here in the summer to booze it up and jump off the rocks into the much so that there are signs everywhere warning that alcohol is prohibited.
This will surely put an end to the debauchery!..., maybe not. (this garbage can was 20 feet from the sign)

It was my first time there in the winter, and without the crowds I found it to be just perfect. A peaceful, moderate (four miles or so, with nothing too steep, but not too flat either) hike around a gorgeous lake; what could be better?

I broke out my map (essential #1!) and thought I might exercise my navigational skills by taking a few of the MANY intertwining trails that permeate the 2200 acre area; but then decided the simple loop was going to be good enough for the day. I mean, look at this map. It reminds me of my mom's spider veins! (Can I say that? Shoot, she's dead, she doesn't care. Besides, she's the one who gave me my love of inappropriate humor)
I must say though, that as long as you have a map, it would be very hard to get lost here; even with that maze of trails. I have never seen more signage--everything is very obviously marked. I even came across this mall type directory, with a 'you are here' arrow and all. City of Anacortes--the directionally challenged of the world thank you!
Ok, but where is Starbucks?

I was thinking it would have been really cool to come across a bear, so I could blow my whistle and scare it off. That would have really made this story amazing, right? (In Cheryl Strayed's book, Wild, she wards of a charging bull with nothing but a whistle! That's a great book, btw) Oh well; at least I have a whistle, and I feel more secure knowing from now on I will be always be prepared. Lesson #27...embrace the ability to learn not only from your own trial and errors, but from other's as well. This can give some meaning and purpose to other's tragedies, and that's a good thing.
Jump! (as long as you KNOW this is the right place :))

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Ozette Triangle at Last

You know what they say...if first you don't succeed; try, try again. It's a great motto--but unfortunately for me it's more like, "when your plans have failed before, you will try again...but be prepared to be paranoid the entire time that something will go terribly wrong".
(the story of my first failed attempt
Nevertheless, we got onto the ferry just fine--the last one of the day. (No second chance if we were late, so that worried me, for sure) We found where we would be staying the night just fine. Our alarms went off to get us up in time. But despite all these details going just fine, there were a few circumstances that were out of our control that made us off schedule by over an hour. 
One of these 'circumstances' was that we missed the turn and ended up in Forks. (Yes, being dorks is something that is out of our control) I wouldn't say that any of us are Twilight fans, but that doesn't mean we were going to miss a photo opportunity.
We are making fangs like we're vampires. This would classify us as "super dorks"
By the time we got to the trailhead, it was 1:00 pm. This would give us a little over 4 hours to do a 9 mile hike before it started to get dark. Can you blame me for being paranoid?  I mean, if we were going to commit to doing this hike, we had no time for anything to go wrong.

We did try to be well prepared, though, and packed extra layers of clothes and our headlamps in case it did get dark on us. Although, Debbie decided it wasn't necessary to bring her emergency fire starting kit she got for Christmas and left it at home. (Which of course made me think this was going to be the one time we would need one) She also forgot her 'yak trax' that we specifically bought for this hike. (They're to put on your shoes to give you traction--thanks to the suggestion of the hikers on the NWhikers forum) Can you believe she said it was because I had rubbed off on her? She was razzing me, of course; but I'm afraid she's right, because it's something she would normally never do. She came to the rescue though by figuring out we could each wear one, and it worked well enough to keep us safe on the very slippery boards.
When we got to the ocean (the 'legit' ocean, as my daughter called it, because it was our first time on Washington shore that wasn't in the Puget Sound) I had a moment of panic. The trail started going to the right. I knew we had to go left...or did I? This was a simple equation--it's a triangle. We went right at the start, now we go left. But there was no sign, and the trail was going right. There was no time to make a mistake, and no time to be following a trail we shouldn't be on. But everyone wanted to see where the trail went; so we followed it, and thankfully it wasn't far and ended at some campsites. So we turned around and went to the left...but I'll confess that for the rest of the time, I was 1% worried we were going the wrong way and would end up staying the night with no fire or tent.

The other 99% of me was blown away by the beauty of this hike. I couldn't get over how amazing the giant rock formations in the ocean were; it was hard to walk because I couldn't take my eyes off them. So much so, that I'm afraid I would have missed the most astonishing part of this wonderful adventure if it weren't for my daughter. What the rest of us thought was just a big rock up from the shore turned out to be something else entirely. Suddenly Amber shouts, "Holy's a whale!!!" (Normally I'm not a mother that condones swearing, but if ever there was a time, this was it)
We were totally excited, and very saddened at the same time. What a majestic creature; (over 20 feet long!) it almost felt wrong to stand around it's dead body and take pictures. But how could we not capture this moment--it was a once in a lifetime occurrence.

Nature is beautiful and severe; and the dead whale would not be the only thing to prove it.
Harsh to come across yet another corpse...beautiful to watch the eagles that were feasting flying around us so close.

Another episode of panic came to me when we were going around a point of land on the beach because the only other option was to climb an extremely difficult (not to mention unsafe) looking rope to go up and over. (This is why you want to go during low tide) It really hit me, as I looked out at the water, how much I didn't know about how fast the tide could come in, or what situation that would put us in if we didn't get to the trail that heads back in a timely manner. Debbie and Mi Sun looked as if they were lollygagging, (I was ahead for a change) so I yelled back at them (with conviction) to "HURRY UP". When they caught up, Debbie let me know (with conviction) that instead of lollygagging, they were simply trying not to twist an ankle on the extremely slippery algae covered rocks. Oops...sorry Deb.
Debbie providing some much needed comic relief
So it was with great comfort that we finally came upon the marker to the last leg of the hike. (and just as the sun was starting to set) 
This is right when the rainbow came out--can you believe it? I don't want to be corny, but it really was a moment for me.
Rainbows are such a symbol of matter how bad things look at times, there is always beauty in the world. And this hike really captured all of that in my mind; from worry to relief, from anxiety to astonishment, from not knowing how things will turn out, to experiencing was all there.
It did get dark on the way out, but it was all good. Because of the boards, it's pretty impossible to lose your way. (Even for me ;)) When we reached the car, I declared it was one of the best days of my life. I understood that as much as everyone else enjoyed it, they couldn't quite put it in that high of a category. I also understood that it was because of all my fear, and the feeling that the weight of the success or failure of the day was on my shoulders, that gave me such emotion over it. Just like we are not able to fully appreciate what is beautiful without having the contrast of knowing what is ugly, sometimes it is our failures (or even the fear of them) that gives greater depth and richness to our victories.
P.S. Hiking lesson #26--packing extra clothes is unhelpful if you don't have a waterproof backpack; unless you're in need of extra wet clothes.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

For Barefoot Jake

As the year drew to a close, I was looking back over my hikes and fondly reminiscing, when I noticed a comment left by a 'barefoot Jake'. It's not like I didn't see it when he first left it (it's always fun when a stranger leaves a makes me feel like I actually have fans!) but this time I noticed it in a way that made me think, "hummm, I wonder who this barefoot Jake is?" So, I clicked on his name, and it brought me to a page that told me a whole lot about barefoot Jake.

Every time I meet or read about other hikers, I am humbled. It's not like I think of myself as any sort of great outdoorsman...but when I run across a real outdoorsman, it still makes me feel like a poser. Go to his web page, and you'll see what I mean.

So anyway, on the day of New Year's Eve, the computer I had just bought off of Craigslist went belly up. I understand that buying something off of Craigslist is always going to be a bit of a crap-shoot...and I understand that a normal reaction is to be upset and disappointed when making a poor decision and wasting your money (even when you knew you were taking a risk)...and I also understand that my reaction was not exactly normal, because I went totally sideways. I'd have to do a lot of explaining about my upbringing and issues to help you appreciate this, but I'll spare you that. (your welcome ;))

I called the guy I bought the computer from, and he was nice enough to let me take it back so he could possibly fix it. On my way there, I started thinking about barefoot Jake and what he wrote about coming back to 'real life' after 30+ days hiking in the Olympic National Park:

  "Experiencing a huge shock to the system.  I find myself starring out windows watching it pour down rain.  Reflecting back to the most fulfilling year of my life.  

  Looking through 100's of pictures that I snapped along the way.  Wishing I was walking through fields of wildflowers.  With every breath; smelling wilderness in my lungs."

And I thought to myself, "Real life sucks". ;) But it occurred to me, that even though my life has in it things like computers breaking down and afternoons spent driving around mall parking lots, (another story, but NEVER try to return anything the weekend after Christmas--I know, it should have been a no-brainer) those things are not my real life. Life is blessedly so much more than computers and shopping malls; I just need to remember that. And what better way to remind myself than to go on a hike!

You don't need to strap on a backpack and plan to spend weeks on the trail to let wilderness fill your lungs; sometimes you can just pull your car over. And so, since I was making yet another trip to Anacortes, why not go back and finish some of the hike I did last week? Part of the trail went right up to the road (I found it when I followed one of the rabbit paths I talked about) and so that is where I literally did just pull the car over and start.

I realized after I posted my "Deception Pass Headlands - Rosario Head - Lighthouse Point" hike (called "Plan B") that I never actually did the Lighthouse Point part. When I looked more carefully at the map picture I took, I saw that I only did Lottie Point. There's a sign on the trail that points to Lighthouse Point that confused me the first time, because it is directed down to the beach. (I thought it must have been askew) But this time I went down to the beach and found the trail picks back up after just a little bit of shore walking.

I need to explain here that barefoot Jake had on his website that he was giving away a pair of 'minimalist' shoes to the person who posted the best picture of their bare feet. (Hopefully he doesn't have a fetish ;)) Who doesn't like a good contest? I had a lot of fun composing various shots of my feet--I even scrambled down to the shore to take one with this cool looking cave.

This is when I realized I really had to pee. I'm one of those people who really hates to pee outdoors; I'm just super paranoid someone will walk by. Guys don't get this, because they don't have to squat. But getting caught squatting is humiliating--it seems that way to me anyway. But I figured this was the perfect spot--it's off the trail and completely protected. You'll never guess what happened as soon as I had my pants down...a speedy boat (too fast for me even to think about getting my jeans back up) came roaring by (close, too!) with about 6 grown men on it. What's a girl to do but just smile and wave? I got some loud hoops and hollers--what can I say, sometimes you just gotta go with it.
Turns out there is a lighthouse...just not a very romantic one
When I got back to my car, I was completely over that stupid computer. Though, I wonder if Jake would be offended if he chooses my picture, and I end up selling the shoes so I can put the money towards getting me a computer that actually works. Just kidding, Jake...if I win, I promise to wear the shoes proudly and remember the lessons about appreciating what life really is.