Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Are you a Golden Retriever or a Poodle?

I usually like to look up some information about a hike on the web before I do it, but luckily I just said "sure" when Mel called and asked if I wanted to do the Oyster Dome Trail.  (because if I would have read the following quote beforehand, I would have said no) So here is the review I read afterward, and I must say I agree with it:

"It climbs and climbs AND climbs for 1.8 miles to the first tee in the road and then it climbs some more...This trail is rated as "moderately difficult"...not for the faint-hearted, for sure. However, having finally successfully traversed this route, we felt it was more difficult than moderate!"

Only about 15 minutes into this hike and I am DYING, and feeling like a real loser--especially when Mel informs me she had a 28 pound pack on last time she did it. I'm slugging along thinking, "I sure hope it's not this steep all the way up" when two hikers came down jogging along merrily. Now, anyone who knows Mel knows she's as competitive as a pit bull on crack, so when she sees people jogging this trail all she can think is "Me too! I can jog it too...maybe even backwards!" (which ironically my husband told me he did when he hiked down this trail years ago...not because he's a show off hiker of course, but because he's a far superior rock climber...who has no option but to hike up pitiful mountain trails so as to then be able to climb up sheer rock faces; and jogging backwards is simply the fastest way down. Yeah, Mel has nothin' on Ken when it comes to one-upping) 

So, Mel excitedly turns around and shouts (because as usual, I'm about 20 feet behind her) "Hey, we should run!"  Ummm...does she not hear me sucking air like Darth Vader down here? I'm about 2 seconds from starting to crawl up this thing, and she's thinking about running? But I know that's just Mel--there's always a way to do something better, harder, faster or more extreme. It's what I love and what I hate about her. (I love her enthusiasm and passion...I hate trying to keep up!) So I brought up the subject (when I had enough breath to speak) and confessed my insecurities over what I sometimes judge in myself as "laziness".  I shared how at one of those low times when I was wondering what was wrong with me, and why I wasn't more driven, when God brought something to my attention. I was watching two dogs on the beach with their owner--a poodle and a golden retriever. The retriever was a boundless wiggling mass of energy..."please throw the stick, I just want to get the stick...please, just throw it one more time..." and over and over that dog jumped and swam and delighted in chasing that stick. The poodle on the other hand gladly sat on the master's lap with utter contentment just to be loved for keeping her company. God gently whispered to me, "Do you think that master loves both her dogs just the way they are, even if they are so different...and maybe even especially because they are different?" 

So, I'm learning to except God's love for me and not be so hard on myself all the time, and I know that Mel and I can make a good "pack", even if we are not the same. But let me tell you, we could sure use a blood hound to join us, cause wouldn't you know we managed to get lost again? But no biggie...that's why you hike with a cell phone. And the meandering around the mountain was well worth this beautiful view from the top. (as well as my theme picture--it really was magical hiking through that foggy forest and then coming to the clearing at the top) Next I'll write about our first over night trip...where even our best attempts at getting ourselves lost where thwarted by...A MAP!  (ta da! I finally learn my lesson!)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Torture Trail

My husband scoffed a little when I told him of my inspired 50 themed hiking dream...but not without reason.  When we went to Disney world a few years back I would have to take my cell phone with me when I left the condo--even to just get something out the car--because chances where I would get turned around and be eventually knocking at a stranger's door.  (those condos are like mazes, and they all look the have to give me that)  Another time we took a trip to Vancouver and I got insomnia and snuck out of the hotel to find sleeping pills...hours later I came thundering into our room sobbing hysterically because again, I got completely turned around and ended up wandering the streets thinking I'd never find my way back.  So how can I blame my husband for thinking that trying to find my way through the wilderness for 50 days has got to be the craziest idea ever?  (I told you I was advanced at crazy) 

So now I will write about my first hiking experience with that proves my husband's fears are all well founded.  I don't remember the name of this trail, only what my daughter now refers to it as..."the torture trail".  First of all, I didn't have a map or even instructions about the hike, (hiking lesson #1...just because a web site says "easy loop", that does not mean there are not endless connecting trails that anyone can easily get off course on.  ALWAYS bring a map or directions of some kind.  When you read about me and Mel's next hike, you'll see I did not learn lesson #1...ugh)  so as you can imagine we got completely lost in a stinging nettle and mosquito infested hell.  (and when I say "we", I mean me and Mel and five young children...double ugh)  The three youngest kids were FREAKING OUT...I mean, every time they would get stung by a stinging nettle they would cry out as if being shot...and I'll confess, I was getting seriously concerned.  (not that we'd get out--I knew we could turn around and find our way back.  But I did think I might actually kill my drama queen daughter if I had to listen to another second of her amped up cries and pleas for deliverance) 

It was at this time of utter despair when Melissa called out a SOS to God, "Please help us get the heck out of here!" (seconded by a very pathetic yelp from my daughter, "PLEASE GOD!")  I'll say this right here, I absolutely believe in prayer.  Not in some magical "God will do what I want if I just ask right"  type of thing, but a real "God is always watching and God will do what is best in every situation but enjoys when we ask and involve Him so He can be real in our lives" kind of thing.  And you know, that's just what He did.  I knew we didn't deserve to be rescued out of there, and come to think of it, maybe I would have learned lesson #1 better had we suffered back the way we came...but being that my daughter's life was in danger by my own hand, I'm so glad God had mercy!  To me it was an absolute miracle we suddenly stumbled upon a neighborhood (it really felt like there was no civilization for miles!) and a kind man who had a big enough rig to haul us all back to our minivan and safety. 

I knew God was smiling, and I was smiling too.  We were all smiling!  No more mosquitoes and stinging nettles for us--just ice cream at a local store and some fun pictures at Deception Pass Bridge.  (I'll try to post those later)  God is good!  But that doesn't mean we are done getting lost...Oyster Dome Trial is next, and it doesn't help my husband's faith in my directional abilities one bit.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Explaining My 'Theme'

I suppose I should start out by saying something about why I'm even wanting to do this hike; especially since I'm not even really a hiker.  (doing a few 3 to 5 mile hikes a couple times a year does not a hiker make--I realize this)  Living in Washington state, I heard about 'The Pacific Crest Trail' and wanted to learn more about it.  In that process, I came to learn there are three 'through the country' trails, and as I read more about the east coast's Appalachian trail, I was utterly intrigued.  When I read the story of the "ked's lady", a light went on..."bing"... and all I wanted was to be a crazy old lady like that! (here's the link if you want to read about her: but basically she hiked the thing at age 67 wearing just keds's a quote, ""Make a rain cape, and an over the shoulder sling bag, and buy a sturdy pair of Keds tennis shoes. Stop at local groceries and pick up Vienna sausages, most everything else to eat you can find beside the trail.")  I figure I'm already pretty far along in the crazy department, and the old part is coming along nicely this seemed like a very doable feat.  All I needed to work out was the hiking; something I love, but really don't know much about.

Now, I'd love to call myself a dreamer, but my realism gets in the way. (some people call it 'pesimism' negative is that?)  I'd love to think I could do the entire 2,168 mile trail (what they call a 'thru-hiker'...oh, the glory of it!) but really?  My dreaming just does not stretch that far...I could stretch my realism brain to imagine maybe 3 months on the trail, (the thru-hike taking an average hiker 6) but then another "bing" moment alighted my mind--"50 days when I'm 50"--I mean, how cool is that?  And then I did the math, and lo and behold, 500 miles should fit easily into 50 days.   And as I looked at the map, I could see that 5 states were within the 500 miles, and it all seemed like destiny. 

Now all I needed to do was haul a 30 pound pack and spend the night out in the wilderness and see if I survive and if I ever want to do it again.  Oh yeah--and find someone who will let me use all the equipment I need since I don't even own a backpack.  I hope that doesn't sound like a sought Melissa out just to use her stuff, because that's not how it happened...I met Mel before I even came up with this cockamamie idea.  But God works in mysterious ways, and beautiful Melissa has turned out to be my ticket to the glorious outdoors--and a great friendship to boot.  I'll post about our first hike (not the over-nighter...yet) tomorrow.