October and half of November

Well, that was quick! I knew October was going to be a busy month, but I had no idea I’d be so swept up by events that I wouldn’t have another chance to post here until mid-November. While the living has not been so “slow” lately, it has certainly been happy.

October began with the Yakima Fresh Hop Festival, as documented in my last post. The following weekend was the Victoria marathon. As I’ve written here, I can now and forever call myself a marathoner!

The weekend of October 19-20 we went to Seattle to see the Moody Blues for what I believe to be my 40th time (CFL’s second). They never disappoint, and this was yet another great show by my all-time favorite band. The following evening we attended the 10th anniversary celebration for the local region of the sports car club that I belong to. As a charter member of the region, I was among those who stood up to share memories of our early days. Good times!

Our big travel event for late October was a trip down to Eugene, Oregon for a philosophy conference at which I presented a paper. My paper was a very preliminary attempt to make sense of what I have learned (and continue to learn) about running and personal transformation. I’m playing with the idea of the literal steps and place-to-place movement of my running “career” as a metaphoric movement through the course of caregiving, grieving, and re-creating one’s life anew. My paper was well-received at the conference, but I didn’t get enough feedback to determine which direction I want to go further with this.

Here’s the dilemma I’m mulling over in my mind. I think these life experiences that I’ve had make for a good story, but I want to frame them conceptually as something more than a simple memoir. As a scholar/philosopher, I want to put them in a philosophical context — which would seriously limit the potential audience. At the same time, as a person who has actually had these very real and human experiences, I do want to make them accessible to others — not as a slick “self-help” book, but as some sort of a guidebook for the journey. I’m sure there is a happy medium there between conceptual “navel gazing” and pop psychology, but I can’t quite grasp yet what that middle ground might look like.

So I think I will do some noodling around with alternate takes on writing projects and see whether the work finds the right direction, or at least the direction that it wants to go. Many times in the past, I have begun to write without having a clue where I might end up, and I have learned what I needed to learn in the process of writing. I sense that this will be another one of those times.

That was October. Now, what the heck has happened with November so far? I think I must have exhaled and collapsed!

We’ve brewed two batches of beer — a black IPA for Thanksgiving and an Old Ale for mid-December — and I’m tweaking my recipe for the imperial stout that we’ll brew next week to have ready for New Years.

We keep talking about a hike up the Elwha River valley before winter really sets in, but we seem to be so busy from day to day that we haven’t blocked out a full day for a good, long hike. We haven’t let up on the daily activity streak, however — yesterday was day 317, and I’ve logged just under 1,900 miles of running, biking, hiking, and walking since the beginning of this year.

This time of year, when everything changes suddenly and dramatically from green to gold and then to brown/gray, it can be difficult to escape a sense of the urgency and inevitability of passing time.

The “slow happy” mantra is a reminder to ourselves to appreciate and make the most of NOW. But it can be difficult to resist packing too much into each NOW.

Sometimes NOW needs to be a silent soaking-it-in time/place — even if we only get to be there in our memories or thoughts.

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I’ll try to remember to slow down and pay attention as I go about my busy day.

How about you?

Hopping off to Yakima

The dedicated, hard-working, fun-loving brewers at Slow Happy Brewing (that would be CFL and me) did a little field research over this past weekend. We hopped over the Cascades to Yakima for the Fresh Hop Ale Festival!

Yakima, Washington is situated in the middle of a warm, relatively dry plain that just happens to be one of the world’s great hop growing regions. If it weren’t for the Yakima Valley and a few families of hop growers who had the foresight to plant hops in the early 1930s – before the end of Prohibition — we might not be enjoying all those distinctly American takes on pale ales and India pale ales and imperial IPAs that we so know and love today.

We were too late to see the hop harvest, which happened over the period of a week or two in early September. But the festival allowed us to sample the earliest fruits of the harvest!

The rules for the fresh hop festival are simple. Each of the 30+ participating brewers must bring and pour at least one fresh hop beer (also known as “wet hop” beers because the hops are used without first being dried). During hop harvest time, craft brewers bring trucks to collect their just-picked hops and rush them back to their breweries. The wet hops must be in the brew kettle within 24 hours of harvest.

Most of the breweries were from the greater Seattle area or the area around Spokane, but there were a few big out of state craft brewers (including Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, Lagunitas, and Deschutes) and two local Yakima breweries. 

Over the course of the five-hour festival, we managed to get one-ounce tastes of about 30 beers. I tried to take good notes, but the hops do tend to overwhelm the taste buds after a while. The wet-hop brewing process truly showcases the different flavors and aromas of each hop variety. All of the hops come through as more floral/fruity/piny/whatever and a tad less bitter than their dried brethren. It was educational (and fun) for us as home brewers to learn, for example, which hops produce the strongest melon, tropical fruit, citrus, etc. flavors. We learned that we’ll probably avoid using too much Amarillo or Simcoe, as I’m not personally a big fan of melon or papaya flavors in my beer. (Remember that these beers do not actually contain any melons or papayas, or whatever — they just taste and smell that way due to the essential oils present in the hops.)

The day after the festival we hoped to visit one of the local breweries, but the folks at Bale Breaker were taking a no doubt well deserved day off. The brewery is located smack in the middle of the family hop farm’s Field 41. If you look closely you can see the “41″ in their logo.

Although we wished we could have seen the hop bines (not a typo — hops are bines, not vines — you can google it) in their pre-harvest glory, we did enjoy the geometric patterns formed by the supporting poles and cables.

On our way home we stopped in the small town of Roslyn, on the eastern side of the Cascades. There we took a short hike on the Coal Mines Trail, on a former railroad line that had served several very productive coal mines in the late 19th and early 20th century. Like most railroad trails, it provided a gentle and scenic walk, just out of sight of the local roads.

The town of Roslyn is quaint and unbelievably cute. And, as it happened, they have a brewery!

The modern Roslyn Brewing Company opened in 1990, but there was a long history of brewing in Roslyn before Prohibition. The coal miners and the brewers who served them came primarily from Germany and eastern Europe, bringing their lager recipes with them. Today’s brewery specializes in lagers (rare in the craft beer industry), and one of their beers is a replica of the original Roslyn dark lager. It’s quite tasty!

By the way, if the name “Roslyn” rings a bell to you, it’s possible you know it as the location for the 1990s TV series “Northern Exposure.” Neither CFL or I ever watched it, so it was all lost on us. But the local museum’s web site has some information and photos about the show that may be of interest to you.

All in all it was a great weekend, an educational and relaxing one. For the third year in a row, I managed to be somewhere away from home in an interesting place around the time of my birthday. I got a welcome break from all the marathon training I have been doing for the past several months (which you can read about here). And after all the rain over the past three weeks, it was great to spend some time in dry, warm central Washington!

Don’t let another moment slip away

In keeping with this blog’s theme of slow HAPPY living, I usually try to keep things here light and upbeat. Sometimes, however, a bit of philosophy is in order.  After all, I AM a bit of a philosopher… but I’ll try to restrain myself and not do any really deep navel gazing in this post.

Today I went for a hike. Usually CFL and I hike together, but he’s busy working on a big project. If you wonder whether the economy is ever going to improve, you may take heart from the fact that architects are suddenly getting work again. That’s great for CFL, but it has put a crimp on our summer hiking plans.

So today was a perfect, clear and warm late summer day. We’ll only have a few more of these days before the rainy season returns. I sat around the house for a while, but when I found myself watching cat videos I knew I needed to get out of my chair, get outside, and move my feet.

We’re 255 days into 2013, which means we’re 255 days (and I’m 1,520 miles) into our activity streak. On a busy day like today CFL still manages at least a two mile walk around the neighborhood. But I like to do a little more than that.

So today I went for a hike. I went up to Hurricane Ridge and hiked the same trail that I did back on August 4. It’s an up-and-down trail that meanders along the side and top of a minor ridge, ultimately connecting with trails that climb steeply up the north side of the mountain. The elevation of this section of trail ranges from about 5,100 to 5,600 feet. Nothing really strenuous, just a lot of ups and downs, and on a warm day like today it’s a good workout.

It’s a front country trail, so I felt comfortable hiking alone knowing there would be others in the area and that I would never be more than three miles from the car. As it turned out, I saw about ten other hikers — busier than some days but not so busy that I couldn’t do a whole lot of thinking and simply taking in the views and the moments of silence.

Views like this kept me happy.

I turned around at the first major fork in the trail.

The Klahhane Ridge Trail (the trail I was on — and yes it is misspelled on the sign — if you look closely you can see that someone has corrected it!) begins to climb steeply at this point. The Switchback Trail descends very steeply down to the road a few miles below where I’d left my car. This sign, therefore, marked the perfect place for me to turn around and return to the visitor center.

I returned a little more slowly, even though the shadows were beginning to lengthen. I found myself deep in a meditation about life, about how wonderful it all is, how awesome is the fact of simply being alive. Not merely being here but participating in it, making it happen, step by step by intentional step.

Sometimes I wonder if this whole “activity streak” has become an obsession. Perhaps it has, but if it has, I’m convinced that it’s an obsession of an entirely positive sort. It’s become a way of marking my days, of keeping a promise to myself that I will do something every day to ensure that I live it. I log my daily miles and how I attained them in a spreadsheet (are you surprised?). It’s become a diary of sorts. I can look back at the end of a day, a week, a month… or soon, a year… and know a little something about how I chose to spend my finite, precious time.

Today I did a 5.3 mile hike in Olympic National Park. I stopped along the way to notice things like the moon low in the summer sky over Hurricane Ridge.

As  I was driving down the hill toward home, I lost myself in another way, listening to music in the car. Michael Franti’s “Hey Hey Hey” came up. It’s a simple song, and the lyrics as a whole aren’t that relevant to the thoughts I was having today. But the catchy refrain “I won’t let another moment slip away” resonated deeply.

Despite the best efforts of the medical profession and the best care that I could give him, my late husband spent the last days of his life angry and in pain. Perhaps in some part of my heart, in my daily quest for significant movement, I am still running away from my memories of those moments. I prefer to think that I am running toward the opposite of those moments.

I want my moments  and my miles to add up to something. I want to experience each of them fully — slowly and happily. I don’t want to let another moment slip away.

Right now?

I’m relaxing and having a home brew. And writing.

And tomorrow?

I’m going for a run.

Oh yeah, and after that there is grocery shopping and bill paying and pre-cooking for a potluck. Those moments matter too. I shall be intentional about doing them, however. And then I’ll go out and meet some friends for dinner.

What did you do today?

What will you do tomorrow?

Don’t let another moment slip away!

Marmot monitoring in Olympic National Park

Over this past week we spent three days in our “back yard,” participating as volunteers in Olympic National Park’s marmot monitoring program.

NOTE: All of the marmot photos below were taken with a zoom lens. Although marmots are not particularly bothered by the presence of humans, I would never get so close to a wild animal in its natural environment.

Wouldn’t you want to spend as much time as possible with these cute little guys?

The Olympic Marmot is endemic to the Olympic Peninsula; 90% of the Olympic Marmot population lives within the boundaries of the Park.

Historically, a stable population of 2,000 or more Olympic Marmots existed, but about ten years ago anecdotal reports began to indicate that the population was in rapid decline. By the year 2006 the estimated population was only 1,000. The probable cause of this decline is predation by coyotes, which are not native to the area. Although the population is currently rebounding, the marmot’s lifecycle (slow reproductive rate, long hibernation time, limited mobility within its range) and other factors including climate change cause concern for the long-term viability of this unique species.

In 2010, Park biologists began a citizen marmot monitoring volunteer program. The idea is to survey areas within the Park that are known or likely sites of marmot habitat. The program is now in its fourth year. CFL and I volunteered to participate this year and were thrilled to be selected!

We began with a morning of classroom training followed by an afternoon in the field. This video taken at a prior year’s training will give you an idea of what is involved.

The survey method is straightforward:

  1. Hike to an area (“unit”) delineated on the map
  2. Use a GPS device to confirm that you’ve arrived at the right location
  3. Look for marmots within the boundaries of that unit
  4. If you see a marmot
    1. Hike to its location and mark it as a waypoint on the GPS
    2. Count all the adult and juvenile marmots you can see at any one time
    3. On your data sheet, enter the marmot count and mark the unit as “occupied”
    4. You’re done — move on to the next unit.
  5. If you don’t see a marmot
    1. Hike around within the unit looking for marmot burrows
    2. Mark any burrows on the GPS
    3. Determine (based on fresh dirt, feces, etc.) whether the burrow is occupied or abandoned
    4. Mark the unit as “occupied” or “abandoned”
    5. Move on to the next unit.
  6. Keep looking for burrows until you’ve surveyed the entire area
    1. If no burrows, mark the unit as “no sign”
    2. Move on to the next unit.

As first-year volunteers with (in my case) no overnight backpacking experience, we requested and were assigned to a front-country area. The most remote of our units was only about three miles from the trailhead.

Hiking out to each unit was the easy part! Once there, we left the trail and scrambled across meadows. These sub-alpine meadows are extremely fragile, and we would normally never go off-trail — but this time we were doing it in our official volunteer T shirts. We felt like kids getting away with something!

In many places the meadows are steeply sloped, and getting around the unit can be difficult. The next photo shows a typical occupied burrow. Note the freshly-dug dirt as well as the dirt on top of the rock (left behind by sun-bathing marmots). To get here, we had to hike for some distance sideways across the slope. It’s a good workout for toes, ankles, knees, and hips!

Accesses to and/or within couple of our units were so steep that we didn’t attempt to hike into them — but we didn’t need to, because we could survey them from above with binoculars.

There are (at least) three marmots in this photo. Can you spot them all?

The pups are grayish in color.

Adults have two-layer coats, brown to yellow-brown with a darker undercoat. Many of them are in the process of molting right now.

This big guy is sporting an ear tag. We’re hoping that the Park biologist can identify him or her from our photos and tell us more about him.

He or she was very patient with us while I took numerous photos in this stunning setting.

However, he finally expressed his displeasure by showing us his incisors, so we moved on and let him enjoy the rest of his day in peace.

To our surprise, we didn’t see a single black bear or mountain goat during our three days of off-trail excursions. We did see a golden eagle (a first for me), lots of deer, and some other interesting birds.

I believe this is a female sooty grouse (formerly known as a blue grouse). She had at least three chicks with her, but they were impossible to find through the camera viewfinder in the tall grass.

These are horned larks.

Sadly, the wildflower season is pretty much over, but we did see some beautiful specimens. This is pearly everlasting.

This is red columbine.

I have no idea what this gorgeous flower is, but we saw it only in a few places where there was loose shale.

All told, we hiked about 15 miles over the three days, at least a third of which was off-trail. We saw marmots and/or marmot burrows in 12 of our 14 units. We were very happy citizen scientists! We will certainly volunteer to do it again next year — maybe even venture into one of the back country areas. All in the name of research!

The Providence Bridge Pedal: Portland, Oregon

A week ago CFL and I rode the Providence Bridge Pedal in Portland, Oregon. I first learned about this ride last year when we happened to drive through Portland a couple of hours after the finish, but CFL has had it on his wish list for years.

With an estimated 18,000 riders, it’s billed as the third largest community bike ride in the world, behind first-place Montreal and then New York City.

The Portland ride essentially shuts down traffic through downtown Portland on a Sunday morning and early afternoon. The route encompasses all of the major bridges that cross the Willamette River — including two freeways. Yes, they close parts of freeways for this ride!!

There are several variations of the ride, ranging from a few miles and a couple of bridges, to 30+ miles and 10+ bridges.

I’m still rather new to cycling, having logged fewer than 200 miles in my adult life prior to this event. But CFL encourages me to dream big! In early June we registered for the 33-mile, 10-bridge ride.

I figured that two months to train would be enough. As the big day approached we did several easy rides of varying lengths on generally rolling trails and roads. I was terrified at first of riding on roads with cars whizzing by, but installing a rear view mirror on my handlebar helped. Our longest ride was 26.3 miles ten days before the event. I was confident that I could go the distance and that I could ride up the uphill approaches to each bridge. But I was very anxious about riding in close quarters with others. What if I did something stupid and caused a multi-bike accident?

On Sunday morning we were up very early to drive the ten miles from our motel to downtown Portland, find a place to park, unload the bikes, and ride slowly to join the masses at the starting line.

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From the starting line the route would take us immediately onto a ramp and up and over our first bridge. Although we were released in waves every few minutes, it was crowded and slow going over the bridge. I did my best to keep my balance while wobbling along at a mere 4 MPH while surrounded by other wobbly bikers. After a few minutes it dawned on me that I wasn’t the only nervous, inexperienced biker. We were all in this together and nobody wanted to crash! Gradually I began to build some confidence as I gained experience in not crashing.

Once we were over the top of the bridge, we all picked up speed and spread out. I was able to relax and enjoy the ride, the scenery, and the encouraging shouts from spectators and fellow riders.

This pattern of bottlenecks and spread-outs continued for the remaining nine bridges. In a few cases the crowd approaching a bridge was so dense that everyone got off and walked, but on most of the bridges there was room for both through riders and those who stopped to rest or take photographs. We mostly fell into the latter camp.

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The views were amazing!

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Some of the aid stations were set up in the middle of bridges, which encouraged people to take their time enjoying a snack while taking in the views. There were also bands on a couple of the bridges — it was all quite festive!

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On the freeway sections we were able to spread far apart and whiz down the long, gently curving roadway. I managed to dislodge my twitchy fingers from my brakes and actually got going more than 25 MPH a few times. My GPS watch recorded one sub-4-minute mile. I felt like I was flying! It’s hard to imagine that there are many humans alive who can run that fast.

The ninth bridge was the toughest. After nearly 20 miles of criss-crossing the Willamette in the center of downtown, we tackled a 10+ mile loop to the north, crossing the St. John Bridge before heading back toward downtown. This bridge ramp was very steep;  lots of people around me got off and walked but I managed to ride all the way to the top. And I was still smiling when I got off my bike for the photo opportunity!

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From there it became a freight train as we all seemed to pick up speed for the final push back to the 10th bridge and the finish line. I was finally fully relaxed and beginning to feel rather proud of myself. The ride finished only a block from where it began, but those 33 miles were transformational for me. I felt like a triumphant cyclist!

There was one last crush at the finish line. We all lined up with great anticipation for the ice cream bars and other snacks that awaited.

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The ride was not officially timed, but I timed us at a leisurely four and a half hours. That’s okay! I finished feeling strong and — most important — staying upright. No crashes by me or anyone around me!

CFL had a great time also. We vowed that we’d come back and do it again someday. Actually, we are already talking about coming back in 2014. It was that awesome.

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Of course, while we were in Portland we also visited a few brewpubs. We finished our ride day at the Deschutes Brewery Public House, where I enjoyed vegan mushroom shepherd’s pie paired with a delectable Black Butte XXV. Another Portland standout was the tiny Tugboat Brewing’s amazing Chernobyl Imperial Stout. Our Oregon trip also included beer tasting stops in Astoria and Eugene. I think we hit about a dozen brewpubs and taprooms overall. And we haven’t scratched the surface of all that Portland has to offer!

Yes, I think we’ll be back next year.

How about you?

Ride the Hurricane!

The other day some people took a fun little bike ride in our part of the world.

There were 522 registered riders in the fourth annual Ride the Hurricane. This event — a fun ride rather than a race — is organized by our local Chamber of Commerce with the involvement of the staff at Olympic National Park. For six hours on a Sunday morning, the road from downtown Port Angeles into the Park and up to Hurricane Ridge is closed to automobiles, transformed into a superhighway for bicycles.

This was CFL’s third time in this event. He usually rides up to the Ridge solo at least one other time during the summer, but this was his first trip up this year. The ride is 36 miles roundtrip, with an elevation gain of nearly 5,000 feet on the way up and the equivalent (very rapid) elevation loss on the way down.

New for this year was a spectator shuttle, which turned the event from a personal cycling challenge into an adventure that loved ones could share. I watched CFL start out on his ride, then I got on the shuttle. We drove very carefully up the Hurricane Ridge road, mostly in the left lane, passing hundreds of panting cyclists. That is a steep road! I waved at CFL as we passed him at about mile 6.

At the top, most people positioned themselves at the finish line so they could cheer for each arriving cyclist. However, I knew that CFL would take about four hours to reach the top — which gave me nearly two hours for hiking!

CFL and I have been so busy with many other things that we haven’t had many opportunities for high country hiking. Some of the best wildflowers are already gone. However, I was hopeful as I set out along the Klahhane Ridge Trail.

It didn’t take me long to realize that I had given myself an extraordinary opportunity. Because the road up to the Ridge was closed that morning, there was almost no one on the mountain. The trail runs along the ridge high above the road, which gave me occasional birds-eye glimpses of cyclists far below. Now and then I’d hear a shout from the road, but most of the time all I heard was birds and bugs. 

I was on that trail all by myself. This struck me as slightly weird and a bit disconcerting at first. But as I continued to walk I lost myself in the wildflowers and mountain views, and I relaxed.

I hiked out for just over two miles, then somewhat reluctantly started back. The return trip provided the best angles for viewing the cyclists on the road. These photos were taken with a zoom lens.

During the last half mile of my hike I was looking down at the parking lot where the cyclists were arriving.

I hurried back from that point to make sure I wouldn’t miss CFL’s arrival! Sure enough, I’d only been at the finish line for about ten minutes when he pedaled around the final curve.

He was a little tired (understandably!) but recovered quickly and was his usual smiling self moments later for his official portrait.

It was simply a wonderful day for both of us! An awesome bike ride, a perfect hike, and many hours soaking up the midsummer sun.

Then we relaxed and had a couple of home brews!

Slow Happy Brewing: We’re going all-grain!

The other day CFL and I bottled our 20th batch of beer. Twenty 5-gallon batches in ten months… gosh, that’s something like 900-950 bottles of beer! Good thing we have friends who like to come over for beer tasting parties.

Batch #20 is something we call a “pseudo-lager” — it’s a very light, sessionable pale ale brewed with Saaz hops and ale yeast. Saaz is one of the “noble” hops, meaning it’s an old European variety and more or less the signature pilsner hop. If you remember the old brand “Lucky Lager,” you’ll appreciate the name we gave this batch – Chucky LaGer. We do hope it will have more character than the old Lucky.

Although we have brewed, bottled, and (I confess!) drank a whole lot of beer over the past ten months, some people would say that we aren’t yet real brewers. We’ve been using malt extract, a highly refined powder or syrup made from barley, for the bulk of the fermentables in our recipes. We’ve used actual, recognizable grains only in small quantities to produce desired colors and flavors. As an analogy, think of baking a cake from a mix (and adding a few ingredients here and there just for character) rather than baking completely from scratch.

Extract brewing is faster and requires less equipment than all-grain brewing. It’s an easy way to get started with brewing. But now, twenty batches in, we’ve mastered the basics and we’re ready to get creative with recipes and processes.

The key piece of equipment that we needed was a mash tun. This is a large vessel in which grain is steeped or “mashed” in hot water at a precise temperature for an extended period of time. I may not have all the right words for this, but basically the process works like this: Mashing causes the barley to release its fermentable sugars. After repeated rinses (sparging) you collect a sufficient amount of thick sweet liquid, which is then boiled to produce the wort that will become the beer. In essence, the mashing process creates the equivalent of the extracts that we’ve used since the beginning, but we’ll have control over exactly which varieties of barley we use. An English type of barley (for example Maris Otter) for an English-style beer, a German type for a German-style beer, and so on.

In search of the perfect mash tun, we pored through catalogues and drooled over stainless steel tiered systems with dairy fittings, pumps, digital temperature controllers, and price tags running well into four figures.

Ultimately we decided it would be prudent to start modestly.

This is not an Igloo cooler! This is a mash tun.

Here is a closeup of the spigot, which replaces the default Igloo spigot.

Inside the mash tun there is a false bottom. This screen allows the wort to exit the mash tun through the tubing at the bottom, leaving the spent grain behind in the mash tun.

There are formulas to calculate exactly how much water to add, when, and at what temperature to complete each step of the mashing process. We’re told that the cooler will maintain our desired temperature (usually 152 degrees) without budging for the hour or so that the process will take. 

I had intended that our first all-grain batch would be an IPA, but then our home brew club decided we’d all brew exactly the same recipe and compare everyone’s results at the September meeting. So I’ve juggled the schedule and we’ll begin our all-grain odyssey with an American Stout.

Are we excited? Yes!

It’s another new learning curve, and we’re all about that.

We’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, I’m going to relax and have a home brew.

Our activity streak: Mid-year update

Today is the 190th day of 2013 — just past the halfway point of the year. Although I haven’t yet moved far from my computer this morning, as of last night I’d run, walked, hiked, and biked a total of 972 miles. I’ll hit 1,000 miles in less than a week from now.

Neither CFL nor I have missed a single day of human-powered forward motion. I have dutifully logged my every mile in one of my famous spreadsheets. CFL is a bit more casual about his record keeping so I can’t report his actual mileage, but his daily activity streak is intact.

We’ve walked through airports and around shopping malls to keep the streak intact. On road trips, we’ve driven out of our way to find interesting small towns where we can sample the local craft brew and then walk around downtown for an hour or so before getting back in the car.

So far I have run 464 miles, walked 401 miles, hiked 91 miles and ridden my bike 16 miles.

I really need to ramp up the biking miles! Next month we are going to Portland to ride the Bridge Pedal — a 33-mile ride over ten of Portland’s Willamette River bridges. I’m still not comfortable riding my bike on a public road, much less in close company with a few thousand other riders. I’m more nervous about running into another cyclist and causing both of us to fall, than I am about riding on a public road. As I understand it, the bridges themselves will be closed to auto traffic during the ride, but I’m not sure about the roads between the bridges.

It’s time to seriously increase the hiking miles as well. The mountain snow is almost gone, and I want this to be the year when I finally do an overnight backpacking trip.

And oh yes, the running miles are going to ramp up considerably as well, as I move into the serious weeks of training for my first full marathon. Within a week or two I plan to ease myself through the first big psychological barrier — running more than 13.1 miles (the half marathon distance) on one of my Sunday morning long slow runs.

I’ve discovered that if you spend enough hours outdoors, it’s possible to get a tan even in western Washington.

I’ve discovered that the home brew tastes even better when you’ve been out there earning it step by step!

Our friends have grown accustomed to seeing us together walking around downtown. These days I never drive anywhere within a radius of about three miles from home, unless I’m planning on bringing back a large load of groceries. We’ll be ready for the next gasoline panic — we’ll simply keep walking.

When we started this thing at the beginning of the year, I honestly didn’t think we would continue it for long. Now — barring serious injury or illness — I can’t imagine not being active every day. About a month ago I was moving some large plant pots around in the back yard and somehow managed to drop a concrete block on my foot. It was seriously bruised but not broken, so I walked… slowly… the same afternoon.

Today’s plans call for an easy walk downtown for the twice-monthly meeting of the Tuesday Night Beer Research Group. The group’s motto is “We drink to learn!”

Tomorrow I’ll hit the trail again for a 7 mile run. Then I think a high-altitude hike would go well, a bit later in the week. And another bike ride of course! The possibilities are endless.

Slow and happy — one step at a time!

A postcard from the Olympics

Remember post cards? What a quaint custom that now seems to be. It’s been a long time since I have gone on vacation and sent home (via snail mail!) a purchased image of the place I’d visited, with a few scribbled words. You know — something like:

“Having a great time — wish you were here!”

The other day CFL and I went up to Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park. While ONP is a destination for people coming from all around the world, we like to think of it as our back yard. Yes, we are spoiled that way.

The Ridge was particularly crowded on this day, as it was the park’s 75th birthday! We decided that rather than hike one of the popular trails, we’d go out and back on Obstruction Point Road. This all-wheel-drive dirt road is normally open to vehicles by this time of year, but due to budget cuts the road still has uncleared patches of snow and is blocked by fallen trees in several places. However, the wide roadway gave us easy hiking and offered many dramatic vistas across to the mountain peaks. The air was even more crystal clear than usual, and I took dozens of photos.

So here, if you will, is a blogospheric postcard from the Olympics… a photographic sampling of a perfect day in a beautiful place.

By the way, we did have a great time — and don’t you wish you were here?

Chasing rarities

Some things are rare, special and worth pursuing…

I made a beer run the other day.

San Diego-area brewery Stone Brewing’s Enjoy By series of imperial IPA is always rare, special, and worth pursuing! These insanely hopped big beers are brewed and bottled in small batches every month or so, with a drink-by date emblazoned in huge numbers right on the label — each beer is actually named for its unique “enjoy by” date. To further enhance the “buzz” around this beer, Stone ships each batch only to a few selected markets around the US. Which markets? Well, each batch’s destination is decided by fan voting (via Twitter and Facebook). This brilliant marketing idea creates a scarcity mentality that keeps beer nerds clamoring for the next batch. This scarcity mentality, in turn, leads retailers to guard their supplies and limit sales to just a bottle or two per customer.

Of the half dozen or so batches brewed so far, three have come to my corner of the country. I managed to find a single bottle of Enjoy By 2/15/13 at a convenience store right in my small town, just a couple of days before the expiration date. That one bottle was enough to hook me, and now I regularly check Stone’s web site for news of their latest release.

Enjoy By 4/1/13 was here also, but I actually drank plenty of it in San Diego when I was there in March. I never needed to look for it here.

The latest release, Enjoy By 7/4/13, was my target when I set out on my beer run. I knew from Stone’s helpful map that two stores on my side of Puget Sound had probably received some. As it happened, both stores were in the same town about 65 miles away. What a perfect excuse for a road trip on a sunny spring day!

At the first store they were sold out! But I struck gold at the second store, where they surprised me by willingly selling me… umm… a bottle or two more than I expected. I now have a nice supply of Enjoy By 7/4/13, and I expect to enjoy them a few times between now and the 4th of July.

Having a bottle or two of a rare beer like this one in the fridge is a tasty temptation to anticipate while out on a hike. Recently we hiked up the Elwha for the first time since last autumn. The river was running just a tad higher than it was back on that day. The mossy rocks I photographed were nowhere to be seen!

Along our way we encountered a few rarities. Wildflowers, mushrooms, and odd specimens are popping out everywhere! This is a candystick. It’s one of the strangest but aptly-named plants I’ve ever seen.

It’s not always necessary to hike upriver to find rare and special things. The other day we went to a picnic with some friends at a local county park. Here is the view from very near our table.

That’s a Nootka rose, our local wild rose, in the foreground. Nootka roses aren’t particularly rare here, but special? Indeed! Worth chasing? Completely.

Until next time, keeping it slow and happy….