Monthly Archives: December 2012

Amazing sights along the trail

Today I ran the last 7.5 miles I needed to comfortably meet my running goal of 600 miles for 2012. For the last run of the year, I chose to revisit my most-traveled section of the Olympic Discovery Trail — the part that runs along the waterfront toward downtown. This section has been fully or partially closed since mid-November for a cleanup and wastewater treatment project at a closed mill site. The part of the trail that directly skirts the mill has never been particularly attractive (they keep telling us it will be better once the cleanup project is finally done). But I was amazed at what it looked like today!

In case you’ve gotten the impression that I run in pristine wilderness all the time, let me assure you — not here, not now! The trail, which used to run in a broad horseshoe around the perimeter of the mill site, now cuts directly through the middle of the parking lot — it’s 4/10s of a mile shorter! Weaving through the heavy equipment inside a narrow chute, I couldn’t help but recall the times I’ve been paced by deer through this area. I don’t think the deer would find it to their liking right now! I can only hope that when the project is completed next spring sometime, it will again be a beautiful place where I’ll run again with deer.

Back out along the waterfront, however, it looked and felt more like the waterfront trail that I love. I heard eagles but couldn’t spot them today. Various species of grebes and other water birds were there in abundance — as were “flocks” of birders with their spotting scopes. I think the local Audubon Society may have been on a field trip to enjoy this section of the trail, which has been newly recognized as one of the prime birding areas in the state.

Yet even with all of this excitement, there was something even more amazing along the waterfront trail today: seaweed! The high tides of the past several days brought a colorful array of pink seaweed to both sides of the trail. Bear in mind that the trail is normally 6-10 feet above the water line. I saw scattered seaweed halfway up the bank on the inland side of the trail — a good 20 feet up and in from the normal waterfront. It must have been a crazy sight when those waves were crashing so high up over the trail.

In other areas the power of the tides to shape the land was even more evident. Here there must have been a tidal river heaving gravel across the trail (I suspect some of this debris has been swept to and piled at this spot by our intrepid trail maintenance crew).

In this photo you can see the grass all lying over on its side, flattened by the force of the waves.

Sights like these make it very clear that this piece of land is on loan to us from nature, and that the sea will take it back eventually. I greatly respect the power of water and I know I’m only a visitor here. Still, I’m very glad that I get to enjoy this place while I can!

I hope you had a chance to get outside and enjoy some of your favorite places on this last weekend of 2012. Happy New Year!

Running to the Elwha

In prior posts I’ve written about hiking up the Elwha (here and here) and riding to the Elwha. Well, yesterday I ran to the Elwha! With just a few days left in 2012, I’m only a few miles short of my goal of running 600 miles in 2012. From our prior experience of riding our bikes 6.6 miles on a nearly-level trail to the Elwha River bridge and back, I knew it would be an easy, beautiful out-and-back run.

The skies were gray but there was nothing more than drizzle in the forecast. CFL loaded up his bike and we drove out to the trailhead just west of town. He completed two out-and-backs during the time it took me to do the run, so we had several chances to say “hello” to each other along the way.

It was a perfect day to be outside and active. As usual for this time of year, my feet went numb in the first half mile but I was toasty by the time I’d completed my second full mile. The piles of big-leaf maple leaves that I’d enjoyed running over on my bike were long gone and the paved trail was wide open and non-slippery. With all the leaves off the maples, I could see middle-distance views toward the river.

I stopped to take a photo of the two-level bridge as I approached it. Runners/bikers/walkers use the lower level; the upper level is for cars.

Then I stopped in the middle of the bridge to take photos of the river. It’s still extremely muddy. I read the other day that only about 10% of the century’s worth of silt has reached the mouth of the river since the dam removal process started, so there is a lot more mud yet to come!

Elwha River

After a slow, refreshing several minutes of gazing down at the river, I turned around to head back. The ever-so-lightly uphill trail led me back through the trees, past the airport, and toward town.

Olympic Discovery Trail near the Elwha River Bridge

I picked up the pace for the last two and a half miles, as it was beginning to drizzle. CFL’s post-ride grin was as big as mine! We both enjoyed our exercise highs for the rest of the day.

I’m learning that at this time of year we have to go out and grab whatever exercise we can get, whenever the weather offers a halfway decent chance. This time of year it’s all about seizing the best moment to run, or bike, through the raindrops!

Wherever you are, whatever your weather, I hope you find your ways to enjoy your mid-winter moments… slowly and happily!

How much slow happy living can we fit on the calendar?

Ten months after I left the corporate world, I still marvel at how busy my days are. One of the things I’d hoped to do was write more — a lot more.  But CFL and I have been so busy doing that the block of time I try to set aside each day for writing gets wedged in between other calendar entries, and then somehow squeezed out. I’ve got a whole lot of “happy” going on but not so much “slow.”

One of the big post-corporate life changes for me has been turning off the alarm clock. I’d jolted awake to an alarm most days of my life since high school. It takes a while to catch up on decades of lost sleep and develop a natural wake/sleep cycle. Most days I awaken around sunrise, which in the Pacific Northwest is earlier than 5:30 AM between mid-May and mid-July. When your summer day starts that early and stays light until 10:00 PM or so, it’s easy to pack in lots of activities and still find time to write! But now, with the sun rising around 8:00 and setting around 4:20 (and when entire days go by without much sign of the sun), it feels like the day is already half gone before I’ve had my first cup of coffee.

Currently my “morning” runs are turning into noon-ish runs or no run at all. I run outside as often as I can and use the treadmill when the weather outside is frightful, but sometimes there doesn’t seem to be time for either. CFL follows a similar regime: hiking or biking on nice days, climbing stairs indoors when it’s stormy, and sometimes foregoing his exercise completely.

In addition to the seasonal schedule adjustments, we’re finding that brewing beer can be time intensive! We spend a lot of time reading about, discussing, planning for, and producing our beers. Then there is beer tourism.

In my last post I mentioned the winter beer festival that we’d planned to attend. It was quite enjoyable and extremely educational. About 35 local microbreweries were there, pouring more than 60 beers — each beer meeting the general description of “winter beer.” There are basically two different types of winter beer: (1) spiced beers and (2) high-alcohol beers like “old ales” and barleywines meant for sipping in front of a crackling, cozy fire. CFL and I share a belief that the only truly proper ingredients for beer are barley, hops, yeast, and water. We’re not enticed by orange peels, coriander, cinnamon, peppermint, coconut, or any of the other weird things that some brewers put into their “spiced” winter beers. But a nice English-style barleywine? Bring it on! It suits us well up here in the seemingly endless PNW winter. So we sampled lots of barleywine, talked to a bunch of friendly brewers, and had a great day! (I do approve of the current trend of aging barleywine in bourbon barrels…)

This past weekend we managed to fit beer tourism into a weekend trip that we’d already packed with events. We made a quick jaunt down to Las Vegas to see the Moody Blues!

I’ve lost exact count, but I’ve seen my favorite musical group the Moody Blues about 40 times since 1974. They usually tour the west coast about every other year, so I guess I’ve managed to catch two shows on many of their tours. About a third of the times that I’ve seen them, it’s been in Las Vegas. I have made a bunch of trips to Las Vegas over the years.

This year’s show was their last one of 2012, winding up their “Highway 45″ tour commemorating the 45th anniversary of the release of “Days of Future Passed.” High energy and enthusiasm and great musicianship made for a wonderful show as always. These guys aren’t that young anymore, nor are we, but we all still know how to rock.

While in Las Vegas I had the pleasure of introducing CFL to my brother and his wife, who’d come over from southern California for the show. The four of us spent an afternoon with an old friend and her husband. He’s become a bit of a celebrity as a regular in a popular reality show filmed in Las Vegas (I’d tell you the name of the show, but I’ll keep some privacy for my friend’s sake). As it happened, he was scheduled to make an appearance at the show’s location for a fan meet-and-greet.  The four of us got the “celebrity” treatment as well — we bypassed the line outside, hustled through the door with my friend and her husband, and spent a couple of hours onsite checking out the ensuing madness. Given that I watch almost no TV, I haven’t seen more than a few episodes of this show. So I was honestly surprised at what a big deal this is!

As for Las Vegas beer tourism, we hit a couple of brewpubs, one a franchise restaurant and the other a truly local place called Ellis Island Brewery and Casino. It looked rather dubious (read “local dive”) from the outside, but inside it was authentic vintage Las Vegas, with polished concrete floors, low ceilings, and a cave-like bar. Their beer was decent (and a dollar a glass during the football game!), the service was prompt and courteous, and the locals were friendly. The world needs more places like this!

I intended to show you photos from our trip, but I never took the camera out of its case. I was having too much fun to stop and take photos.

Yesterday we bottled our 8th batch of beer and purchased the ingredients for batches 9 and 10. We’re now tweaking recipes and trying to improve on previous beers. I’d like to get us on a schedule of brewing every two weeks, but with everything going on it’s tricky to fit so much slow happy living on the calendar.

I guess that’s not such a bad problem to have, but in this busy holiday season, I’m trying to create some white spaces on my calendar and make a little more room for sloooowwww and happy.

I hope you can find a little slow and happy too. Cheers!

The weather outside is frightful!

Those who know me well are aware that I have a rather low tolerance for Christmas songs… but there is one song that I not only enjoy, I collect! I confess to owning, as of this moment, 65 versions of the song “Let It Snow.” One of my holiday pleasures is playing my “Let It Snow” playlist softly in the background when friends are over — I enjoy watching to see how long it takes them to figure out that they are hearing the same song over and over. I have versions from such a wide array of genres that it can take a while for people to catch on.

Looking out my window today, the weather is indeed frightful. It’s not snowing — yet — although friends who live a thousand feet higher than me had a flurry this morning. It’s 40 degrees, raining, and very windy here. The sun will set, somewhere to the south and hidden by clouds, at 4:20 PM today. Welcome to Pacific Northwest almost-winter!

CFL and I saw a new movie last night, the world premier of a 48 minute documentary called “Out of the Mist” (the link will take you to the official trailer) about the Olympic wilderness. The film played to an over-packed house at our local college. So many people showed up, in fact, that they opened up a second theatre and had two simultaneous screenings! CFL has met and hiked with one of the people featured in the film, while a couple of their names were familiar to me. In the audience we saw lots of people whom we both know. This is, after all, a film about the beauties of “our own back yard!”

Most of the places shown in the film are far in the back country, well beyond where I have ever ventured. CFL was able to identify many of the locations (he can boast of having climbed Mt. Olympus, a feat I can only imagine). But although I haven’t seen the specific places shown, I’ve seen front-country places that are enough like them that I left the theatre homesick for our mountains… and impatient for next summer when I’ll be able to get up there again.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Ridge looked like this earlier today:

Hurricane Ridge 12/07 1:51 PM

There are 69 inches of snow on the ground, with, obviously, much more to come!

I do find it a challenge at times to stay active and upbeat this time of year. But this morning I decided to make the best of it and did 6 miles on my treadmill. Even though it’s a boring old treadmill, at the end of my run I did feel a sense of accomplishment and just a touch of runner’s high. That’s not so bad!

This evening CFL and I are going to our local homebrewing club’s holiday party, where you can bet we’ll all pass around our various masterpieces. And then we’ll bundle up and walk home — no matter how frightful the weather (well, unless it gets really frightful in which case we’ll call the designated driver whom we have waiting in the wings). Tomorrow we’re off to Seattle for our first beer festival, at which local commercial brewers will showcase their special winter/holiday beers. For that outing, we’ll park the car an hour-plus away and take the ferry and bus to and from our final destination.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a pot of veggie chili simmering for tonight’s party. Downstairs our “Beyond the Pale” IPA is quietly winding down its fermentation in the secondary fermenter, while our second iteration of “Up the Elwha ESB” is bubbling away at a mad 65-beats per minute pace in the primary fermenter. All is good.

How good is it? Here’s what Hurricane Ridge looked like an hour later, at 2:51 PM:

Hurricane Ridge 12/07 2:51 PM

Things are getting better! Surely summer can’t be too far behind…

How about you? What keeps you going in the dark cold days of December? What places do you dream about revisiting next summer when the world is once again warm and green?