Monthly Archives: August 2014

We hiked the PCT! Well, a tiny bit of it…

Recently CFL and I made yet another trip to southern Oregon. It was bittersweet in a sense. We’d made so many trips down that way to see my dad over the past two years, and now we were returning less than two weeks after he’d passed away. But we’d planned this trip nearly a year ago as a fun vacation, and we were determined to enjoy it.

Our first stop was at the other end of the state, in Portland, where we again rode the Providence Bridge Pedal. This year more than 18,000 cyclists participated in the various events. We did the 32-mile 10-bridge ride, which followed the exact same route as last year. Although the Bridge Pedal is a RIDE, not a RACE, I was pleased to complete the ride almost an hour sooner than last year! My new road bike is such a joy to ride compared to my heavy first bike. Of course, we still took time to stop and enjoy the view from atop the bridges.

 

In the background of the photo above you can see the new “Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People” now under construction. Given that CFL is a bridge-loving architect, we have studied and admired the progress of construction on each of our recent travels through Portland. Scheduled to open late next year, the bridge will carry light rail, streetcars, buses, bicycles, pedestrians, and emergency vehicles — but no private cars or trucks. Next year’s Bridge Pedal, the 20th annual ride, will feature a sneak preview crossing of this bridge. Eleven bridges! We’ll be there.

But what about the PCT, you ask?

After Portland we headed south for a quick visit with my stepmom. From there we went to Crater Lake where we camped for three nights.

As I’ve mentioned here before, the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) runs for nearly 2,700 miles from Mexico to Canada. Each year several hundred people “thru-hike” the entire trail. CFL has dreamed of doing this for many years, and he and his daughter are talking seriously about it for 2016. I haven’t yet caught the bug, but I was entirely game for day-hiking a small section of it this summer.

The 33-mile section of the PCT that passes through Crater Lake National Park is one of the highlights of the entire trail. Although the main PCT skirts around the caldera rim, most PCT hikers take an alternate trail that travels up to and along the rim.

On our first afternoon we walked out from the campground to the trailhead, which crosses the highway within Park boundaries but just before the west entrance gate. From there, we hiked to the junction with the alternate trail, and back. That was an 8-mile warmup that got us very excited about going further!

We got back to camp just in time to cook dinner — in the midst of a dramatic thunderstorm! I went to bed that night wet, cold, and unhappy, but still looking forward to hiking the next day.

Morning was beautiful!

We got an early start and again hiked north from camp. This time we hiked all the way up to the rim. It’s a climb of 1,100 feet in a bit over four miles.

As we continued to hike along the rim, the clouds increased and thunder began to rumble across the lake.

We kept a close eye on the sky. All the action seemed to be well south of us, so we hiked on. Our goal for the day was Watchman, a former fire lookout about six miles past and several hundred feet higher than the point where we’d reached the rim.

The climb up to Watchman was worth it. We could look down into Wizard Island’s mini-caldera.

It was cold up there! I was wearing several layers. I felt as lumpy as I looked!

As we were leaving Watchman I took note of the time and realized that we had a long ways still to hike! We walked part of the way back by road, which saved a bit of time.

We decided we’d try to catch the free shuttle from Rim Village back down to the campground. But when we got to the lodge at Rim Village, we were chagrined to learn that the last shuttle of the day had left more than two hours earlier. I was a a bit freaked out, but CFL proceeded to chat with other visitors at the lodge. It didn’t take long for him to meet a nice young man wearing a T shirt from a craft brewery in San Diego! CFL and “B” swapped growing-up-in-SD stories and we bought a couple rounds of beer. Soon we were all driving back to a restaurant near our campground for dinner. Mission accomplished! That was a 15-mile hiking day (not including the 7-mile return in “B’s” car).

On our third day we hiked the PCT south from the campground. While we’d seen a few thru-hikers traveling north with us on day two, this time we were hiking toward the thru-hikers. We met about 20 of them, and chatted with as many as we could. Everyone was excited to be approaching Crater Lake, with its campground, showers, laundry, store, post office, and BEER!

Although we didn’t have a view of the lake, this section of the trail was gorgeous. Lots of boulders and interesting trees!

 

We hiked all the way south to the Park boundary and back.

Including a few side trips, we hiked a total of 19.5 miles — our longest hike ever! We were the only day-hikers out there. We impressed some of the thru-hikers who hadn’t expected to see day-hikers so far from a trailhead.

So that was a total of nearly 43 miles of hiking over three days at Crater Lake. Looking at the map, we noticed that the entire Park is only about 25 miles from south to north. We’d hiked considerably further than that distance total, and our out-and-backs had encompassed the entire southern half of the Park. Not bad for a couple of middle-aged day-hikers.

But wait — there’s more to our PCT story! A couple of days later, on our way home, we stopped off at Mt. Hood to admire Timberline Lodge and hike a bit of that section of the trail.

We only had time to do a couple of miles, but it was great to see “our” trail again — and to share it with another thru-hiker or two.

Of course we did other things on this trip (beer tourism, anyone?) but that will have to wait for another post. Now, however, it’s time for me to go for a walk! Our activity streak is at 602 days and counting.

So many wonderful moments, such a grand life!

I usually focus on the upbeat in this blog. With a title like Slow Happy Living, that’s to be expected. But life is lived in moments, and not all moments are happy ones.

My father passed away last week, one week after his 87th birthday. Per his wishes, there will be no service. I would like to write something by way of a eulogy but the task may be too big for me, at least for now. So I’ll just reflect a bit on his life.

His passing was not unexpected. He’d had a stroke several years ago from which he’d largely recovered. A second stroke this February was more debilitating, but he had come home and was adjusting to the use of a walker or wheelchair. He insisted that he surely would drive again soon and that he and my step-mom would take one more vacation together. Yet he worried constantly about the next stroke that he was sure would come.

The third stroke in late March was massive. He could still speak, but he was confused. He could do almost nothing without assistance. There would be no coming home from the nursing home this time. Although doctors said he might live for several more years, he never talked again about his plans for the future.

Last week he suddenly developed complications from that stroke. CFL, my daughter, and I made a quick trip south to see him. He recognized and acknowledged us. The next day he slipped into a sleep that took him away peacefully early the following morning.

My father was a proud yet humble man, a Depression-era stoic with a sometimes-difficult childhood home life. Although he attended school sporadically through the first year of high school, he told me late in his life that he’d really only had a 4th grade education.

Despite his lack of formal education, he became a scientific glassblower, a man so highly skilled in his craft that engineers struggled to design a bulb-blowing machine that could approximate the intricacy and precision of the work he did by hand. Among other accomplishments, he made a glass sensor that went into the lunar astronauts’ backpacks. Those packs were left behind when the astronauts returned to Earth. My dad’s glass sensors are still up there on the Moon.

The Moon is an appropriate home for my dad’s glasswork. He was fascinated by astronomy and used to talk to my brothers and me about the vastness of the universe. He, who had no use for institutional spirituality, made the scientific idea of infinity meaningful for me. When I contemplate the stars I hear his voice.

He had an abundant curiosity and an amazing memory for facts and data, places and times. He did long division in his head. He pored over maps. He kept records of every gallon of gasoline he put into every one of our cars.

My dad loved to travel; we took regular Sunday drives to the mountains and deserts of southern California. We hiked. We camped. We collected interesting rocks. We climbed Mt. San Antonio (Mt. Baldy), the highest peak of the San Gabriel Mountains at 10,068 feet, when I was about 9 years old. While my friends’ vacations consisted of holiday visits to grandparents, we took epic summer vacations to National Parks. He took movies, which always seemed to start with a shot of his nose as he peered into the camera lens — if they had been sound movies, you would have heard, “Is this thing on?” Why he never figured that out, I have no idea.

He was active well into middle age. He used to get us up early for Sunday morning bike rides before breakfast. There were no bike paths in those days; we’d whizz around on empty boulevards while others were still sleeping. He rode 40 miles on his 40th birthday and vowed he’d continue that tradition through the years. He rode regularly until his early 60s when my mom was diagnosed with lung cancer; then he put the bike away and stayed close by her side. My mom and he took one or two more short vacations before she became too sick to travel. After she died he tried to start riding again, but found it difficult. He was in his mid-60s, and he was no longer comfortable out on his road bike.

When he met my step-mom, he became young and energized again. It was so good to see him smiling! They traveled all over the world together, up until just a few years ago. I am so grateful that she came into his life and made his last 21 years such happy ones.

Every family has its dynamics, and my dad was not perfect. But he taught me to love learning, to see beauty in nature, and to enjoy experiences more than things.

With my dad’s passing, I suddenly find myself on the cusp. My generation is next in line to go. I have reached that moment when I suddenly look around, see myself in a mirror, and finally, fully understand that I am no longer young.

CFL and I vow to stay active for as many years as we can, while knowing that someday we too will decline and fade. What we have now are moments, and we can only strive to make the most of each of them.

Yesterday I went out for a long run along the waterfront trail. As it happened, I was out there just as 250 cyclists from the Cascade Bike Club’s annual Ride Around Washington (RAW) were coming through on their tour. I was proud to share “my” trail with these riders. I thought about how thrilled my dad would have been to ride with them.

Just as long runs did for me after Kurt died, yesterday’s long run invited and created a safe place for cleansing, healing tears.

Dad, I’ll miss you. You were the best!

Now I’m going for a bike ride.