A week of beer tourism (part 2)

I left off my tale of our week of beer tourism with a big sigh, sadly bidding farewell to Russian River Brewery. It seemed that the rest of our trip would be anticlimactic, but there were still more treats in store!

Our next day’s travel took us 62 miles from Santa Rosa to Ukiah. We got a late, lazy start, which allowed us to have lunch just a few miles up the road at Bear Republic in Healdsburg. We ate on the shady patio, from which we could see the river-side trail that we would walk after lunch. Bear Republic is a large craft brewery with wide distribution, so we mostly tasted beers that we couldn’t get easily elsewhere. The standout beers for me were the Hallertau Blanc Rebellion (an IPA) and Cafe Racer 15 (a double IPA). Are you noticing a pattern here? I did actually quite enjoy their Maibock as well — it was delicate and not overly malty with a crisp peppery finish.

After our walk we continued north to Ukiah. We checked into our motel we set off on foot to Mendocino Brewing. The brewery has a great history, having first opened in 1983 as the Hopland Brewery. It was the first brewpub opened in California (second in the US) after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. The original brewing equipment (and the brewers themselves) came from the then-recently closed New Albion Brewery. New Albion was a craft beer beacon in the darkness when the rest of the country was drinking nothing but light lagers.

Hopland Brewery’s name was soon changed to Mendocino Brewing. Their flagship Red Tail Ale brought them fame and attention from investors. In 1997 they were 75% bought out by United Breweries Group, a global brewery holding company. While they continue to brew Mendocino’s original recipes in Ukiah, they have essentially become a “crafty” brewery — one that is corporate-owned while masquerading as a genuine craft brewery.

Crafty or not, we wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt so we stopped by their taproom. Well, I wasn’t impressed. We and the lone bartender were the only people in the place. Their beers were all too malty, too bland, or in one case inappropriately sour. I have to say that the lack of passion and personal attention to their products definitely showed.

The bartender was kind enough to tell us about the other local brewery, so we tipped her well and moved on to Ukiah Brewing Company. What a difference! The place was busy and lively, and the beer and food were generally good. My favorite among the beers was the Coops Stout, which tasted appropriately of coffee and dark chocolate. The Pilsner Ukiah was another winner: unfiltered yet very pretty, crisp, and clean. Their IPA had a hint of sourness, but overall our experience at this brewpub was positive.

Our next day was another short driving day, which took us over some beautiful roads. We first went over the hills from Ukiah to Boonville for a stop at Anderson Valley Brewery. This is another well-known brewery with readily-available beers. They pride themselves on being located in a quaint small town (with its own alleged dialect!) in the middle of nowhere.

We were put off immediately by the brewery buildings, which were winery-cute. As an architect, CFL was offended by their unnecessary and too-fussy design details. We walked into the taproom, which wasn’t very busy, and it took us nearly five minutes to get the attention of the three sullen-looking employees behind the bar. Then while we were tasting we were bothered by a couple of ill-behaved dogs. When we complained, we were rather haughtily informed that this was a “dog-friendly” establishment. I guess we were supposed to enjoy our dog encounters there.

We took the brewery tour, but it was very brief and the tour guide was neither well-informed nor enthusiastic. However, we did appreciate the retro good looks of their copper equipment.

As for the Anderson Valley beers, we did enjoy all three of their IPAs (Hop Ottin IPA, Nettied Madge Black IPA, and Heelch o’ Hops), and their Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrel Stout is justly famous. But we couldn’t wait to get our of there, as our next stop was the seaside village of Mendocino.

CFL actually lived in Mendocino for a couple of years, almost 30 years ago. There are no breweries in Mendocino, but we spent the afternoon there walking along the headlands. My words can’t do it justice, so I’ll show you some photos.

Wasn’t that a nice break from drinking beer? We thought so.

Still, the road ahead promised more beer, so we carried on!

North Coast Brewery in Fort Bragg is famous for Old Rasputin, a Russian Imperial Stout. I knew from my vast internet research that their brewpub menu was almost exclusively steak and seafood, so we chose to eat dinner beforehand at a Mexican restaurant across the street. With our tummies well-primed we then settled down to our evening’s tasting.

We sat in the bar, which was very busy but well-attended by a couple of entertaining bartenders. It was a Friday night and the mostly-local crowd was lively and friendly. The beers started out so-so with a couple of mild and unassertive beers. Things got a whole lot better with Old Stock Ale, which tasted of port, vanilla beans, berries, and saddle leather. Really nice. The star of the show was absolutely the Old Rasputin. I got a bit rhapsodic over the idea of drinking it there at the source, on nitro, most expertly served by the bartender who explained to me exactly how the nitro serving process works. A world-class tasting experience at a small but world-class brewery. Well done you guys — cheers!

Our motel in Fort Bragg was directly across from the beach, with a view that was so fetching I got up early the next morning to go for a run.

Once in the car we continued northward through Humboldt Redwoods State Park. We took our time, driving along the Avenue of the Giants and stopping several times for short hikes through the trees. We have big trees where we live, but we still think the coast redwoods are very special.

Now back to the beer! We greatly enjoyed Eel River Brewing in Fortuna. Perhaps we enjoyed their beers so much because by this time we’d pretty much decided to limit our tasting to IPAs, double IPAs, and Imperial Stouts. “Amber? Meh. Blonde? Forget it.” Eel River’s Organic IPA, Citra IPA, and Emerald Triangle were all rather wonderful.

After a post-beer walk we moved on to our night’s destination in Eureka. We’d been to Lost Coast Brewery on a previous trip and eagerly anticipated a return visit. The brewpub is in a funky old downtown building. It was very busy on this Saturday night — we had to wait for a table. We tried their 20th Anniversary Ale, which utterly did not work for us. It tasted of bubblegum and watermelon — yuck! Fortunately their Double Trouble (a double IPA) was wonderful. Great big piny bitterness, resiny mouthfeel, assertive bitter orange finish. Mighty fine!

We did a lot of driving the next day, all the way back to Portland for our final night on the road. We were delayed nearly two hours by miles of road  construction. As a result, we had no time for pub crawling. We took the light rail into downtown and headed straight to the Deschutes Brewery Portland Public House for dinner and beer.

The date was June 29. I was tingly with anticipation because I knew that Black Butte XXVI had been released only two days prior. Deschutes does an annual release of a barrel-aged, augmented version of its famous Black Butte Porter, and it’s always well worth the hype.

We ordered a flight with our meal and I teased myself with Inversion IPA, Fresh Squeezed IPA and Hop in the Dark CDA (a black IPA), all of which were perfectly wonderful,  before moving on to the star of the evening.

I have to tell you that Black Butte XXVI brought tears — literally it brought tears! — to my eyes. It’s barrel-aged with added Theo Chocolate cocoa nibs, pomegranate molasses, and cranberries. I usually turn up my nose at added ingredients in beer, but Deschutes does it with perfect restraint. It’s lovely, both to drink and to look at.

I intended to leave the restaurant with several bottles of it, but alas, they had already sold out of bottles and were awaiting a delivery from the brewery in Bend two days later.

Three weeks later I still haven’t found it around home, but I’m hopeful that I’ll still be able to obtain some when we go to Bend later this summer.

We came home with a few remaining bottles of Pliny the Elder, a couple of  other  lesser beers, and some great memories. We visited 18 breweries and tasted (or in some cases drank a few pints of) something in the neighborhood of 130 to 140 distinct beers. We only had a few really bad ones.

There were three clear standouts, highlights of the whole trip: Pliny the Elder (because it’s Pliny!), Old Rasputin (perfect at the source) and Black Butte XXVI.

We’re already planning our next beer trip (did I say something about… BEND???). But for the time being, it’s good to be home.

Cheers!

 

A week of beer tourism (part 1)

When I last left off the tale, we were leaving Monterey after a week’s worth of car-club activities. We could have taken two days to drive home, but we opted instead for a slow, steady week’s worth of short drives, long walks, and serious beer tourism.

Central and northern California are home to some world-class craft breweries, and we made it our mission to visit as many of them as possible.

When we visit a brewery, we usually share a flight. This gives each of us about a 2-ounce taste of several beers. That way we get to sample lots of beers without actually drinking all that much. Then we always follow a tasting with a walk. In an hour or so we can tour a downtown and see it in a way that most tourists don’t, while adding up our daily mileage as well.

We’d actually incorporated beer tourism throughout our trip, beginning with a tour of the Firestone Walker brewery in Paso Robles. They did a nice tour, almost 40 minutes worth of walking around the brewery before returning to the taproom for tastes. The guide was both knowledgeable and passionate; he enjoyed our nerdy nit-picky home brewer questions about the details of their brewing process. I bought a bottle of Parabola, a barrel-aged imperial stout, to take home.

In Santa Cruz we visited Seabright Brewery. We enjoyed the beachy vibe on their pink and turquoise patio. Their beers were all good but there were no standouts.

During our week in Monterey we made a few visits to Peter B’s brewpub in the Portola Hotel. Their Legend of Laguna IPA was quite nice. We also tasted several good beers from English Ales Brewery in nearby Marina, although we never made it to their taproom. We dashed into Alvarado Street Brewery just before closing time one night for a quick half pint of Duane’s World IPA.

Upon leaving Monterey we stayed a couple of nights with a niece of Chuck’s in the bay area. This allowed us to spend several hours in San Francisco walking to breweries. We couldn’t get into Anchor (their tours are booked six months in advance, and there is no other way to taste at the brewery), but we visited 21st Amendment (home of Brew Free! or Die IPA), Thirsty Bear, and Cellarmaker. The beers at Thirsty Bear were pretty good, but the food was awesome — it was an outstanding choice for our late lunch. Then at tiny Cellarmaker we encountered a beer called Coffee and Cigarettes. I don’t care for smoked beers, but this smoked porter was rather wonderful, and very aptly named.

The next day we began ever-so-slowly making our way northward. On a friend’s recommendation, we stopped in Fairfax to visit Iron Springs Brewery. Their Sless’ Stimulating Stout won a gold medal in the Oatmeal Stout category at the 2104 World Beer Cup. It was very nice, but my favorite was the Casey Jones Imperial IPA. We had to take an extra long walk after that one, but downtown Fairfax was absolutely charming.

From there  we drove just a few miles north to Petaluma, for Lagunitas Brewing. This is one of the big ones, with national distribution of their core beers. We sat in their shady patio enjoying laid-back live music and limited our tasting to small-batch beers that we can’t get at home. Night Time (a black IPA) and Fusion 22 (an IPA) were the standouts for me. It’s pretty clear that hops are an acquired taste, and we’ve turned into major hopheads. We love IPAs! Unfortunately Lagunitas is in the middle of an industrial park so we didn’t much enjoy our walk afterwards, but we soldiered on and got it done.

Then it was on to beer Mecca! We spent a night in Santa Rosa with a college friend of Chuck’s, which allowed us to visit a small local brewpub called Russian River Brewery. Their Pliny the Elder (a double IPA, natch!) has been voted the best beer in America by the members of the American Homebrewing Association for the last six years in a row. Their Pliny the Younger (a triple IPA), released each year in February, provokes 12-hour lines at the brewery and sells out in days. We’ve never tasted the Younger. We’d only had the Elder once before, in San Diego. Russian River’s distribution is extremely limited — it goes to select counties in California, a few places in Oregon and Colorado, and oddly to Philadelphia. For us, drinking Pliny at the source was a huge thrill that we believe every craft drinker must experience!

Russian River served up the largest flight I have ever seen. Despite their fame in the IPA realm, most of their beers are Belgian style (not our favorite) but it was Russian River so we had to sample everything. In this photo, however, you’ll notice that I’m hoisting a pint glass. I was taking microscopic sips of the Belgians but devoting most of my attention to that pint of Pliny.

Russian River was the one stop on our brewery tour where we actually bought beer apparel. We also bought a treasured six-pack of Pliny to go. A few of the bottles actually made it all the way home with us.

Gosh, I’ve only got partway through the week and I’m pushing 900 words already. I have more wonderful breweries to tell you about, but after Russian River I need to exhale!

Why am I still inside on this perfect summer day, anyway? I think I’ll stop writing for today and go for a bike ride.

Cheers!

 

A return to Monterey

Monterey, California was my late husband’s favorite place in the world. We would have moved there years ago if we could have found suitable employment to manage the high cost of housing. Alas, that never happened, so we chose Port Angeles, WA — a decision I never regretted — but his heart always longed for Monterey. Beginning in 1988 (I think?) we went there nearly every August for the Historic Races. We also attended several Porsche Club events in Monterey. The Monterey Porsche Parade in 1990 was always his favorite of the ten Parades we attended together. A few months after he died, I drove solo down to southern California and burst into tears when I saw highway signs pointing toward Monterey. I wrote about that moment here. Three years seems so long ago now, but at the time I didn’t know when I’d ever be able to return to Monterey without feeling that pain.

So I felt a mixture of delight and trepidation when it was announced that the 2014 Porsche Parade would be held in Monterey. I knew that I would go, but I didn’t know how I’d feel about being there.

As it turned out, CFL is now an important part of my life… and Monterey is a special place for him also. He actually lived there for a few years as a very young child while his father was stationed at the Naval Postgraduate School.

The Porsche Club of America is, I believe, the largest single-marque car club in the world, with over 100,000 members in 139 regions across the US and Canada. I’ve been a member since 1986, and yes I have owned a few Porsches over the years. The Parade is an annual national gathering held in a different city each year. During the week-long event, participants can choose from car-related competitive (concours, time/speed/distance rally, gimmick rally, autocross, technical quiz), other competitive (art show, golf tournament, 5K run, radio-controlled car races) and social (driving tours, banquets, receptions, beer tasting, wine tasting) events. It’s a busy week!

This year’s Parade was the largest ever, with more than 1,200 entrants (representing approximately 2,500 people and 1,000+ cars in attendance). As it was my 11th Parade and CFL’s first, I was delighted to “show him the ropes” and introduce him to many old friends from all over the country.

We started the week by working at the Concours. We were assigned to a team of judges who judged a whole bunch of 356s (the Porsche 356 was the original production Porsche, produced through 1965). CFL was a timer (each car is examined for a period of 5 minutes) and I was a runner (I took the score sheets for each car back to the scoring room). Of the dozen or more judging teams, my team had the only runner who actually RAN — I logged over 8 miles that day, one car at a time. :-)

Here is our team in action, as each judge was filling out his/her scoring sheet (as lowly workers, we didn’t get into this photo).

Our debut as competitors was the time/speed/distance (TSD) rally. The object of a TSD rally is to (1) stay on course and (2) arrive at each checkpoint at the right time. My late husband and I had gotten rather good at this over the years; our best finish was a 2nd in class (against 200+ others) in San Diego in 2007.

As rally driver, CFL rose to the challenge and did a great job of sustaining the prescribed average speeds through many speed changes. As navigator, I misinterpreted a few instructions and got us lost twice (argh!). We ended up finishing 19th in our class of 54 — but we passed the most important rally test with flying colors, as we were still speaking to each other at the end!

Here you see our car at a checkpoint where we were getting our timing slip.

A couple of days later we ran the gimmick rally. At this event we were given “you-won’t-get-lost” route instructions and a list of questions about places along the way. The rally route took us through 17 Mile Drive. We spent more time gaping at the scenery than we did looking for answers, so we finished well back in the pack.

A rally highlight for us was stopping to admire a Frank Lloyd Wright house. My late husband had fallen in love with this house years ago, which led to his interest in modern architecture, then led to my interest, then led to my doing to a lot of research on architectural theory that found its way into my dissertation — and finally brought me to meeting an architect (CFL) and answering his question about my architectural preferences with the statement “mid-century modern architecture.” Apparently that was the right answer! Hence this house (which CFL also knows well) was a big deal for us to see together. You just never know where the road of life will take you!

Of course we got the obligatory photo of ourselves at the Lone Cypress.

The rally banquet was held at the beautiful Carmel Mission. I enjoyed photographing the mission in the changing evening light. Check out the shadow that this contrail left on the clouds just before sunset!

At the banquet I won a large, bulky door prize (a car wash bucket with what looks like a lifetime supply of various cleaning supplies and equipment), which meant that we’d have to ship some things home to make room in the car for the beer that we planned to buy on the way home. But I’ll save the beer stories for another post.

On the last morning, we were up very early to run (me) and walk (CFL) the 5K. The route took us out and back along the waterfront. I ran a 29:12 and finished 2nd in my age group.

CFL was much more laid back and finished in something like 46 minutes. We both enjoyed the event.

The last thing before the final banquet was the actual Parade of Porsches. As Monterey is home to the Laguna Seca race track, this year’s parade consisted of two parade laps on the track. I consider my high-speed track days to be far behind me, but CFL had never driven on a racetrack, so I let him drive. With over 500 Porsches on the track (in 4-5 run groups) the speed was restrained, but we still managed to feel some G-forces and the unique thrill of the Corkscrew.

My photos are blurry, but they’ll give you an idea. Staging:

 

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On the track:

CFL was a happy guy afterwards.

The Parade concluded with the final banquet and many fond goodbyes. The next morning we scurried around and shoehorned everything into the car just well enough to make our way to a UPS store.

We’d take another week to make our way home, but I’ve done enough writing for now.

Until next time!

When a blogger doesn’t blog…

When a blogger doesn’t blog, it probably means one of two possible things:

  1. The blogger’s life is so utterly boring or depressing that there’s nothing worth blogging about
  2. The blogger has been too busy and happy to find time to write!

I’m happy to report that in my case, option 2 is the correct answer.

CFL and I hit the road for 20 days in June, driving a (mostly) leisurely 3,000 miles through Washington, Oregon, and California. Our adventures included  attending my granddaughter’s high school graduation, participating in a week of car-related events with nearly 2,500 other Porsche people and their cars in Monterey, California, spending time with several of CFL’s family members and friends (all new introductions for me), and visiting 18 (count ‘em!) craft breweries. Along the way we also fit in two visits with my dad (who is in a nursing home following a stroke in March) and stepmom in southern Oregon.

We were so busy that we didn’t take as many photos as we should have, but I’ll try to share some highlights from our trip over the next few days.

A big highlight for CFL was that we spent some time in two places where I-5 crosses the Pacific Crest Trail. We can now actually say that we’ve hiked the PCT, albeit only for a few yards!

My “Halfmile PCT” app on my phone captured the first moment that we stood on the trail, in southern Oregon.

Then we took the obligatory selfie at a trail marker.

And I shot the first photo of CFL actually setting foot on the trail. At this moment he had stopped to examine a note left by someone for a hiker who will come through this spot in August.

At the second trail crossing in northern California, we admired this directional sign.

For those who don’t know, the Pacific Crest Trail runs nearly 2,700 miles from Mexico to Canada. The California and Oregon sections were described by Cheryl Strayed in her best-selling book Wild (soon to be a major motion picture starring Reese Witherspoon). CFL has dreamed of through-hiking the PCT for at least 30 years now. I haven’t yet caught the fever for a through-hike, but I am considering hiking one or more sections of it. We plan to give ourselves a small taste of it later this summer when we’ll day-hike three short sections of it near and in Crater Lake National Park.

Our PCT adventure took place on day 2 of 20, so we were just getting underway. I’ll share more from our trip over the next several days… unless life in this moment gets too busy and happy for me to take the time to write.

Until next time…. Slowly and happily!

More than the numbers at the finish line

Sometimes a race report becomes a litany of facts and figures, pacing strategies and splits. When I write a race report, I’m usually still caught up in my race day mental state. I actually do math problems in my head as I run, especially in the later miles when I’m trying to figure out when I’ll finish and wondering whether I can push a little harder and achieve a goal… or if I can’t do that, then how little can I miss it by?

The numbers are important to me, I won’t deny that. But a few days after a race, when I’ve had some time to reflect on it and form lasting memories of it, other things come to the fore. Richer, less quantifiable, more embodied impressions of the event and its meaning.

About two weeks before the race, the mile markers went down on the pavement. On one of my daily walks I stopped to photograph several of them. Of course it was this one that I most looked forward to seeing on race day.

That’s mile marker 13 of the half marathon (and incidentally mile 3 of the 5K that would finish at the same location). Only one-tenth of a mile to go from here! Those markers will linger on the pavement for months ahead, and I’ll smile each time I see one.

At walking speed I’ve seen some wonderful things on the trail over the past two months. Sometimes I just have to stop at Morse Creek to look for eagles in the trees. I’ve seen as many as four at a time in this one location, one of several places along the trail where eagles are a frequent sight. Do you see him/her?

This has been a wonderful year for our local wild rose species, the Nootka rose. On race day some parts of the trail were lined on both sides with 10-foot tall rose bushes. Their fragrance was intoxicating. I was happy to back off the race pace just a bit here to enjoy them!

Of course, at the end there is a finish line. This year the finish line looked a little different to me, however. This time there was no special someone waiting for me there. I have no finish line photos of myself. Instead, I ran with a good friend, received my medal from her mom, and accepted cool drinks, food, and congratulations from other familiar faces.

Then it was time for me to hurry back to the finish line and wait for CFL to arrive! This time I got to be the one cheering and shooting photos of his arrival. He was a very happy guy.

 

I was thrilled to pose with him for the iconic medal shot!

Afterwards, of course, there was beer. There was putting our feet up and enjoying the sunshine. We spoke with runners from faraway places. One young couple had come from Munich! There were others from Indiana, Colorado, and Alaska, and other places. We relished their compliments about our beautiful corner of the world, and we shared a few tips about special places they should see before leaving.

In the end, it’s about much more than the numbers at the finish line. It’s about loving the journey, every step of the way.

Cheers!

NODM half marathon 2014 race report

Slow Happy Living:

CFL and I had a great day yesterday!

Originally posted on Slow Happy Runner:

As I stood at the starting line for the North Olympic Discovery half marathon yesterday, I truly had no idea how the race would go for me. My doctor had only cleared me to run nine days earlier, after seven weeks of recovery from my broken arm. I’d run/walked four times in the week prior to the race, with a “long” run of 7 miles and total mileage of just under 19 miles. I was slow and my legs felt a little shaky, but I was running again — and I was determined to run as much as possible on race day!

Back when I was still thinking I’d have to walk the whole race, one of my running friends (who hasn’t run much over the past few months) decided that she’d walk it with me. A few days before the race I asked her if she was up to run/walking with me. I told her…

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I’m running again!

Yesterday, 50 days after I broke my arm, my doctor gave me the okay to start running again. As usual, I walked home from the appointment, taking the long way home via the waterfront trail. I hadn’t walked more than half a mile when I was seized with the desire to run right then and there. It didn’t matter that I was wearing jeans, an old tired pair of shoes, and a warm jacket!

I must have looked silly out there shuffling along dressed like that, like someone trying to run for the very first time. I didn’t care. The first few steps were great! Then my legs suddenly felt like they weighed 500 pounds apiece. Never mind that I have walked, on average, more than 8 miles every day since my injury. I learned yesterday that running and walking use different muscles, and that my running muscles are now seriously out of shape.

I managed to run 1.1 slow miles before having to take a walk break. I ran/walked a total of 2.25 miles back to City Pier, and then walked a bit more slowly home from there.

It is simply wonderful to run again!

I’ll get the endurance back, I know. Today I’m taking it easy, but tomorrow I’ll go out and try to run a little longer, a little stronger.

Meanwhile my slow progress with physical therapy has been frustrating and at times depressing, but I can see improvement day by day. I have almost all of my passive range of motion back, and I’m beginning to work on reaching, lifting, and regaining strength. I go through a series of exercises that takes me about 45 minutes, twice a day, and I look for other chances to work that arm throughout the day.

I had a DEXA scan for osteoporosis, and I was pleased to learn that my hips are in rather great shape for my age (thanks to the running). I do have osteopenia in my spine, but it’s toward the low end (-1.6) of the osteopenia range and a long ways short of osteoporosis. My doctor believes that — given my risk factors –if I hadn’t started running five years ago I would definitely be osteoporotic in my spine by now.

Everything that I have learned about bone health and healthy aging over the past 50 days has strengthened my commitment to engage in some sort of physical activity every single day. Where the body is concerned, it’s definitely “use it or lose it.” The great thing is that I have so much fun being active that “using it” is its own reward. Gaining a healthy body and the prospect of a long healthy life are bonuses!

I’m still a few weeks away from riding my bicycle, but I’m headed in the right direction. Given that I had only just started to feel comfortable on my new road bike, I will need to know that my arm is strong and dependable before I reach way out there to those handlebars. Those exercises I’m doing every day will get me there eventually!

For now, I’m excited about returning to regular running, but I know better than to try to do too much too soon. I’ll resume my pattern of running about three days a week and very gradually work on increasing the distance and speed. I will walk most of the North Olympic Discovery half marathon (a week from tomorrow) as I’d planned. My running goal right now is to be able to run, without walking, the entire 5K that I’m registered to run on June 21. One step at a time!

The joy of walking

I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits unless I spend four hours a day at least — and it is commonly more than that — sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields absoutely free from all worldly engagements.

– Henry David Thoreau, “Walking”

In recent days I have been doing quite a bit of sauntering, and as I saunter I often think of Thoreau. I had the privilege of visiting Walden Pond as a teenager. I was underwhelmed by its small size and its decidedly non-wild contemporary setting. It’s difficult to imagine the area back in Thoreau’s day, when he wrote:

I can easily walk ten, fifteen, twenty, any number of miles, commencing at my own door, without going by any house, without crossing a road except where the fox and the mink do. First along by the river, and then the brook, and then the meadow and the wood-side. There are square miles in my vicinity which have no inhabitant.

In my corner of the world, there are still places where it is possible to walk for some distance without seeing a house. I can even walk to some of those places from my own house, although I have to pass by many houses on the way to the trailhead. I wouldn’t want to live in total wilderness or total solitude, so that’s all right by me. Yet, like Thoreau, I do find peace and inspiration in those places that have not yet lost their wildness.

At walking speed I see things that I would have missed while running or cycling. Recently I spent a few moments watching two river otters in full courtship dance. No photos, sorry… while I’m watching something like that, reaching in my pocket for my phone to take a photo is the last thing on my mind.

In an effort to make peace with the place where I fell and broke my arm, I have hiked several miles of the Olympic Adventure Trail. It’s an easy, pleasant, relatively level trail. In several places the trail meanders through recent clear cuts — so it’s not exactly pristine — but those clear cuts open up views southward to the Olympics or northward to the strait and Vancouver Island.

At walking pace I was delighted to find calypso orchids on the OAT! There are at least 100 of them in the first mile from the trailhead. I have never noticed them on this trail before.

I’ve often put orchid photos in this blog, but to refresh your memory here is what they look like. They are tiny flowers, not much more than an inch across.

Calypso Orchids

The other day on the OAT, in the midst of all of these “normal” calypsos, I came across a pair of unicorns.

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Those, my friends, are “albino” calypso orchids! It’s not the greatest photo, but I hope you can see that the outer petals are pure white while the inner petals are muted compared to the “normal” flower. Over the past three years I have inspected hundreds of calypso orchids but I’ve never seen any like these before.

Yesterday we went out to the mouth of the Elwha River. I haven’t been to the mouth since before the dam removal project began. The mouth is now at least a quarter of a mile north of where it used to be! The silt that has flowed downriver from the dams has created a broad, easy-walking silty beach.

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At the water’s edge the river and the tide are joining forces to create small canyons, cutting vertical mini-cliffs through the silt. I took this photo looking straight down. The water here is about a foot below the edge of the silt.

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The configuration of this river delta changes from day to day, but the clear trend is growth of the land northward into the strait. A few hours after I took these photos, I was standing on a high ridge line looking down toward the strait, where I could clearly see the river’s current fanning out and outlined against the saltier water of the strait.

While I deeply miss running (and eagerly look forward to the day when I’m cleared to run again), I’m finding deep happiness in hours of leisurely walking. These are all steps in my journey, and each of them is to be savored. There is no going back, no other way but forward.

By walking one makes the road,
and upon glancing back
one sees the path
that will never be trod again.

– Antonio Machado

Slow and happy — here’s to the joy of walking!

Slowed but not stopped

A habit, once formed, can be a tough thing to break. I like to think that CFL’s and my activity streak is a good habit! I’ll confess that when I first broke my arm I had a tough time motivating myself to get outside and do something. But once I got used to my new temporary “normal,” I stopped feeling sorry for myself over my inability to run or cycle. I discovered that I enjoyed the challenge of finding interesting new ways to move for several miles each day.

During the first several days after my injury I was happy just to walk on a flat paved surface. Together we walked several sections of the Olympic Discovery Trail. I know that trail very well from many hundreds of running miles, but it’s been nice to slow down and share it while engaging in long, slow conversations.

Although I wasn’t able to capture them on camera (I struggle getting off quick one-handed shots), at the Morse Creek bridge we saw three adult bald eagles and a river otter. As a consolation prize I’ll offer you a long, slow look at the shadows on the bridge.

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After five days and 28 miles of this leisurely walking, I was ready to try a bit more.

First up was a short hike to the always-spectacular Sol Duc Falls. It’s only 1.8 miles round-trip on a mostly level trail. Thanks to all the recent rains, we passed several raging streams on our way to the falls. The scale is difficult to capture in a photograph because the trees are so huge, but this stream is about 20 feet across.

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Sol Duc Falls itself was as high as I’ve ever seen it, with four cascades instead of the usual three.

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I must thank CFL for the spiky hairdo he gave me when he put on my headband for me.

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Sol Duc Falls served as a warm-up. That same day we also hiked several miles on a new (to us) and mostly level trail not far from this one.

The next day we chose a trail that soon turned into an impassible marshy puddle. We were disappointed with our low-mileage day, so the next day we covered 12.5 miles on the ODT before rewarding ourselves with local craft beer downtown.

Over the weekend we hit the hiking trails again. On our 11.5 mile meander along the Spruce Railroad Trail, we enjoyed the impossible-to-photograph deep ultramarine blues of Lake Crescent. We also spotted our first calypso orchids of 2014!

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Yesterday we drove way out to the Pacific coast to hike the Ozette Triangle. This trail starts at Lake Ozette and runs west 3 miles through the forest to the beach, then 3 miles south along the beach, and finally 3 miles back through the forest.

I did fine on the first leg. When we got to the beach, I felt like I had just stepped into a calendar photo.

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We stopped to snack and enjoy the view. There were many kinds of waterfowl, including dozens of black oystercatchers with their distinctive whistles. We heard sea lions barking at a near-shore island. We saw several gray whale spouts just beyond the surf line.

We then set out to walk along the beach. At first it was mostly sand and cobbles, but we didn’t get far before we found ourselves stepping from boulder to boulder and scrambling over driftwood logs. I quickly realized that this was going to be too tough to navigate with my arm in a sling. We reluctantly turned back. By the time we got back to the car, we’d covered 7.5 miles, but I was very tired. Still, it occurred to us that we were the oldest people out on that trail that day — by far. I was also the only person out there with a broken arm! So we congratulated ourselves on our attempt.

All told, I’ve walked (on pavement) and hiked (off-pavement) nearly 72 miles in the first ten days since breaking my arm. I may have been slowed by this injury, but I shall not be stopped.

One slow happy step at a time!

 

Good news and bad news

I had good news and bad news from the orthopedist yesterday.

The good news is that I had a very clean break! Just a sliver of separated bone. There is little to no swelling at the break site. There will probably be no ligament damage. I have full feeling everywhere on my arm, and full movement everywhere below the shoulder. Therefore I am already cleared to take my arm out of the sling for moments to hours (whatever feels comfortable) with only a few restrictions:

  • no movement of my arm laterally away from my shoulder
  • no weight bearing activity whatsoever with my left arm
  • if I feel any pain, stop doing whatever triggered the pain.

She encouraged me to walk as much as I like and was agreeable to the idea of a bike trainer (a device that turns your bike into a stationary cycle machine) as long as I don’t use my left arm. I don’t yet own a bike trainer but now I’m looking into getting one! She did warn me that I’ll quickly lose muscle strength and endurance over the coming weeks, and that I should not be looking for another PR when I run (or walk… we’ll see…) the NODM half marathon on June 1.

Now for the bad news.

My arm broke in a way that should not have happened from a “standing fall.” That is, the force of the left forearm hitting the ground is not normally enough to crack the humerus where it meets the shoulder. However, I was running (which added X amount of force) slightly downhill (which added another Y amount of force). You’ll remember from your high school algebra that X and Y are unknown and variable. Maybe it was enough force to justify the break, or maybe not. We don’t have any data on the forces at play in this case.

But I have a history of a previous fracture that “should not” have happened. I broke a bone in my left foot when I missed the last step of a flight way back in 2001. The chronic, lingering foot pain after that accident was the very thing that inspired me to start running in the first place! Now after 5+ years of fracture-free running I may have increased my bone density from the hips down. Everywhere else may be a different story.

Bottom line, the doctor is almost certain that I have osteoporosis. This doesn’t surprise me. I’ve known for years that I have almost all the risk factors:

  • I’m female
  • I’m white
  • I’m slim and always have been
  • I had an early (surgical) menopause
  • I now live at a high latitude where I get little sun exposure for much of the year (I do take supplemental vitamin D)
  • I’ve had a previous fracture
  • A DEXA scan at the time of my previous fracture showed that I already had osteopenia (borderline low bone density)

As for the few risk factors I don’t have:

  • I don’t have a family history of osteoporosis
  • I’ve never smoked.

As I say, this doesn’t come as a surprise. I run, cycle, hike, and walk with a conscious awareness that these activities are good for my bones (and for lots of other reasons). But somehow I’ve never gotten sufficiently motivated to do any weight training or other exercise above the hips.

All of that is about to change. Time to break out the hand weights! Time to start hiking with a heavier pack!

I’m scheduled for a bone density test in a few weeks. I’ll be tested in at least two places (my wrist and somewhere lower) so I’ll get an idea of how helpful the running has been for my bones.

After that, I suppose there will be a treatment plan, which I hope will include an exercise program to limit the damage and keep me as active and healthy as possible. I recently met a runner who took up running after her osteoporosis diagnosis and is doing just fine. So I have every reason to be optimistic.

Meanwhile I’ll start physical therapy on my arm on April 17, which will be two weeks after my injury. I’m looking forward to that!

And later on this misty, mild April afternoon I’ll go for a nice long walk. The activity streak shall endure.

One step at a time!