Tag Archives: Olympic Discovery Trail

Picking up the pieces

How do I pick up the pieces after not blogging here for six months? Obviously, I’ve been doing a lot more slow happy LIVING than writing about it. Generally, I like it that way, although I do feel pangs of guilt when I visit my blog admin page and see that no one comes to visit because there’s never anything new to see.

After our big cycling tour last August, I parked the bike and returned my focus to running. I had only nine weeks to train for an October marathon. That didn’t end well, as I wrote about elsewhere. It was late October before I felt like doing much of anything again. The bike stayed mostly parked, and I rode it only a few times before the weather turned too wet for pleasant cycling. I ran a 10K in December, immediately before we made a road trip down to California.

We drove 3,300 miles in ten days and visited a handful of relatives and friends along the way. It was hectic. At least the weather cooperated… except for the day we drove through a sandstorm in 25 degree weather with 30 mph winds. Good times!

We brought our bikes with us on the off chance that we’d have time to ride with a friend in San Diego. Indeed, we had just enough time for a leisurely 13 mile ride around Mission Bay on Christmas Eve.

We’re always very careful about securing our bikes and usually don’t let them out of our sight. When we travel we lock them onto the bike rack on the back of the car. Wherever we stop to eat, we try to grab a window seat so we can watch them. At night we bring the bikes into our motel room with us.

When we finished our delightful San Diego bike ride, we left the bikes locked on the rack for an hour, while we showered at our friend’s apartment in a nice neighborhood. Then we walked outside to leave.

You guessed it. Our bikes were gone. The lock was cut through, cleanly and professionally.

My bike was insured; CFL’s was not. We both learned a very expensive lesson. No more external bike racks for us, no matter how expensive or sturdy-seeming the lock. We’ll carry the bikes inside the van — and we probably won’t let them out of our sight even though locked inside the van.

I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted in my next bike, so I’d ordered it within a couple of weeks. When I bought my last one, disc brakes weren’t yet widely available on road bikes. But disc brakes are so much better on the wet, slick surfaces that are so common in the Pacific Northwest! And on my long hilly rides last summer, my hands took a beating trying to stop my bike with its old-school caliper brakes. So disc brakes were a must for me. While I was doing that favor for my hands, I figured I might as well go the next step and get electronic shifting — push-buttons are so much easier on small hands than the long throw of the shift lever! And well, I wanted lighter wheels too. The insurance settlement (which took depreciation into account) covered less than half the cost of my new bike.

Bottom line, I ended up with a very nice bike — a bike that I’m still afraid of because it’s SO nice. I’ve only ridden it 42 miles in the month that I’ve owned it. One reason I’m not riding much is that CFL is still waiting for his new bike… which is back-ordered until May. The other reason, off course, is that I’m marathon training again. After April 2, I’ll be ready to focus on cycling again. Well, except for that half marathon on June 5.

But then, when our local trail looks like this, it’s hard to get enthusiastic about cycling! Yes, it’s mudslide season again.

We call this one the Big Puddle. It’s at least 10 yards long and several inches deep. Some people go around it on the berm at the right, but the berm itself has become so muddy that I don’t attempt it. I simply turn around at this spot.

Come this May when the puddles are a distant memory and CFL finally has his bike, we’ll get serious about cycling again. We have two big rides planned for this summer. We’re doing STP (Seattle to Portland)! We’ll be somewhere near the back of the pack of 10,000 cyclists for this 2-day, 200+ mile bike ride. And we’re also doing RAW (Ride Around Washington) again. On this year’s route, we’ll pick up where we left off last year in Walla Walla and ride 437 meandering miles through the Palouse region, all the way to Metaline Falls — the tiny town that is as far north and east as you can go in Washington state. We 250 cyclists will outnumber the good citizens of Metaline Falls.

Thus while we may be getting off to a relatively slow start in 2016, we have many long training rides ahead of us. To say nothing of hikes, long runs, and the utterly non-negotiable daily walk. I’m averaging nearly 20,000 steps a day so far this year. For me, that adds up to nearly 10 miles a day on foot.

Now, it’s almost time for my daily walk. See you on the trail? Watch out for that puddle!

 

So many photo ops!

It has been much too long since I last blogged here! As usual, I have a good excuse: I’ve been too busy living to write.

So what have I been up to? Instead of trying to write about it all at this point, it might be easier to show you.

We had a short, if occasionally dramatic, winter. A series of large rainstorms in February did major damage to our Olympic Discovery Trail. The mudslides have long ago been cleared from the waterfront section, but the big bridge across the Dungeness River is still closed. The river has permanently (well, for the foreseeable future) changed course, and the whole western side of the bridge will need to be rebuilt.

It’s possible to detour around this section of the trail by road, but it does make long bike rides a bit more complicated.

To the west, the Elwha River is finally running clear again after the historic removal of the two large dams. It’s great to see that pure blue-green water!

In April we drove down to Monterey, California to ride the Sea Otter Gran Fondo. The Sea Otter Classic is one of the largest competitive bike events in the country, and the Gran Fondo is one of the few non-competitive events included in it. We rode 51 miles of the beautiful coast of Monterey and Pacific Grove. We were having so much fun riding that I never took any photos along the route! But here we are enjoying the lunch afterward.

We came home with 24 bottles of Pliny the Elder, which we happily shared with several of our friends.

Meanwhile, Port Angeles has been in the news. You may have heard about the Polar Pioneer, a large off-shore oil rig that Shell wants to deploy in the Arctic. It was moored in our harbor for nearly a month before making its way to Seattle, where it was greeted by hundreds of protestors. We didn’t like it being here either, so it was a relief to see it go, even though each move puts it that much closer to its intended destination.

It is huge! At over 400 feet tall, it was the largest thing in view from everywhere in town, but especially imposing viewed from right on the waterfront.

We’ve been so busy we’ve hardly had time to brew beer, but we’ve gotten a few batches done. Meanwhile I’ve judged several times and have now been promoted to Certified rank. I was also asked to judge at a commercial competition, the Washington Beer Awards, where I judged mostly robust porters and barleywines. It was a real honor to participate, and I can’t wait for the results to be announced so I can find out who brewed those tasty beers that my team judged!

This past weekend I ran another half marathon, and earned another PR on a very warm day. You can read more about that here.

Yesterday I celebrated my half marathon with an easy hike. We had a destination in mind, but we turned around early when we met up with this mother and baby.

We could have just shooed them off and hiked on. The Park management wants hikers to shout and throw rocks to discourage them from approaching people. But we could see and hear other hikers shouting just a bit further up the trail, so we knew there were several goats and that some of them were refusing to budge. Soooo, it was time for us to go.

And it’s time for me to go now too. I haven’t ridden my bike since a couple of days before the half marathon. It’s time to get out there and enjoy this beautiful day!

Spring has arrived!

Spring always seems to take forever to arrive here in the Pacific Northwest, but when it does, it comes with breathtaking speed. You go along for seemingly endless days and weeks of frosty rooftops and mere glimpses of the sun, and then suddenly the cherry trees are blooming!

Given the weather extremes that many people in various parts of the country have experienced this winter, I can hardly complain. The winter of 2014-15 was exceptionally mild in my part of the world: much warmer than any of the dozen-plus winters that I’ve experienced here. While I’ve enjoyed the opportunities to get outside and be active, the snowpack in the Olympics is now at something like 10% of normal. This doesn’t bode well for our summer water supply, as we have no reservoirs but rely on snow-melt as our water source.

Yet no matter how mild the winter, every year by the time early March rolls around I am more than ready for spring to arrive. As the days start getting noticeably longer, I begin to search eagerly for the subtle signs of approaching spring.

As the sun begins to swing northward, the light changes. It seems more luminous, shimmery — even on a cloudy day.

March brings unsettled weather — showers and sunbreaks instead of ceaseless drizzle. On the afternoon of St. Patrick’s Day, as we were walking downtown in search of appropriate libations, we were rewarded with a stunning full double rainbow. I decided I wouldn’t try to capture its scale with my phone camera, but when it produced THIS visual effect I had to photograph it. A double rainbow with a checkmark — surely there is a pot of gold at the end of this one!

The best I can figure is, this must have been a reflection of the rainbow, straight up out of the water.

Last Friday, shortly before the arrival of the Vernal Equinox at 3:45 Pacific time, I went out for a long walk along our waterfront trail.

The salmonberries actually began blooming a couple of weeks ago, but just before 3:45 I came across this nice patch and had to stop and capture them at the moment the northern hemisphere crossed into spring.

Just moments later I came upon this small flock of buffleheads. Mating season has begun! The six males (black and white) were jockeying for position and intently following the three females (dark).

A bit later I encountered this little guy who’d ventured out for a spring walk. I believe this is a rough-skinned newt.

Lest you think all is rosy out there, this is the time of year when I can never take the Olympic Discovery Trail for granted. This winter’s rains (being of the downpour variety rather than the usual steady mist) have really taken their toll. In the next town to the east, a river jumped its banks and partially destroyed a pedestrian bridge, rendering that section of the trail impassible. When we ride our bikes over that way, we have to take a long detour on a busy road.

Closer to home, the section of the trail that I use most often runs for nearly three miles at the base of an extremely unstable bluff. We’ve had mudslide after mudslide. Our city does a good job of cleaning the debris off the trail, but on any given day there might be one to several new slides. This makes planning a run of a specific distance difficult because I never know how far out along the trail I’ll be able to run before being forced to turn back. I usually end up doing a lot of short out-and-backs between slides to get the distance I want.

Last Friday, because I was walking, I didn’t mind the slides. Rather than turn back, I carefully ventured across a couple of them, all the while with a careful eye turned to the bluff above me for signs of new movement.

This is a typical sight: a couple of shallow-rooted alders will just sort of walk down the bluff and come to rest astride the trail. This type of slide I can easily detour around.

The mud flows are more annoying. This one was about 20 yards long and a couple of feet deep in places. It’s tough to cross this type of slide without getting my feet muddy and/or wet.

Hence while I’m delighted that spring is here, I’m eager for warmer, sunnier weather to dry out that bluff and improve conditions on the trail. I’m running a half marathon here only eleven weeks from now!

Meanwhile, I’m content to watch and catalogue the ongoing signs of spring. Yesterday dozens of turkey vultures flew overhead. They and hundreds more are gathering just west of here. One day soon, the winds will be just right and they’ll all make the big flight across the strait to Vancouver Island and beyond. And soon enough, it will be summer again.

What about you? Are you noticing signs of spring in your part of the world? I hope you have many chances to get out there and enjoy it. Slow and happy!