(I apologize in advance: this is a long one. It’s also a really great exercise for me, in articulating and refining where I see things going, and where I hope to see myself in 10 years. So, maybe this post is less for YOU and more for ME).

As you might already know, life is weird. Especially adulthood. It’s full of strange, confusing moments, where sometimes one feels like maybe they’ve figured it all out, and other moments where it all seems like pure chaos, a string of random occurrences and events, good and bad.

For me, my post-22-years-old-life as been full of passions, interests and frustrations in terms of my “career.” As a thinking, cognizant being, I have lots of interests. I love history, science, nature, research, writing (oh, and video games, and fantasy novels). At times, I’ve felt confused by the seemingly consistent career interests of my peers: how does anyone decide what they want to be at 22, at 18, and then just DO THAT? My life path has been slightly different, but I think no less thrilling and fulfilling. I’ve studied archaeology, I worked for people who did amazing work in climate science, I did two years of research in psychology/neuroscience at Columbia University when I was thinking about a Ph.D in the field, and most recently, I’ve spent the last 3 years in the archives/museum world, working in some of the most unique and priceless collections around.

While I spend a lot of time feeling frustrated, and generally bad about my inability to stick to “just one thing” (mostly because sticking to one thing generally seem to lead to better paychecks in the long run), I can also look back on the last 10 years and feel proud about all the stuff I’ve accomplished. I finished a masters degree in Library Information Science, I designed and programed a study looking at the neural basis of cognitive dissonance, and have contributed to the preservation of history in a real and meaningful way. My interests have evolved and changed as I’ve gotten older and as I’ve changed as an individual.

Here’s the thing though: despite the positive side of my intellectual wanderings, turning the ripe age of 32 next month has reminded me of my very-real need to settle on SOMETHING. I’m ready to put myself in the position where I can look back in 10 or 20 years, and feel like I’ve really dug into a subject and gained the wisdom of experience in my chosen profession that only comes through persistence.

To be honest, I thought archival and museum work would be this THING. However, as I’ve aged, I’ve also fortunately gained more insight into my own personality, interests, and needs. What I’ve discovered, UNfortunately, is that I struggle with full-time office work, where much of my day is spent entering data on computers, or sitting at the same table performing repetitive work. As I’ve said a few times on my blog, I’ve spent years assuming that if ONLY I could find the right field, I’d settle nicely into a full-time office routine. However, this hasn’t happened, and as a result, I’ve found myself doing some deep soul searching over the last few months. What do I want? What do I want my days to look like from here on out?

I want to be outside sometimes.

I want to be mentally stimulated. I want to write sometimes. I want varied work when possible. I’d like to work with history, and incorporate all those solid research skills I’ve acquired along the way.

While I think the job of a “writer” sounds wonderful, I’ve also determined that it might not be a good full time career option for me (don’t get me wrong, it seems to work perfect for some people, but I know myself). I’m 100% going to be writing, whether that be about my adventures, or about those deep, intellectual topics I love so well. But, maybe I want that writing to be for fun, and for me, and not be my job.

In light of all this, I’ve come to a shocking, and frankly exciting (yet frustrating) conclusion: I think I was right at the age of 13, when I absolutely decided that I WAS going to be an archaeologist. There was no hesitation about this, because archaeology included everything that freshmen high-schooler Lindsey loved in life: history, lots of outdoor time, science, walking around random places in the landscape and thinking about people who had once lived there. A little background information: Now a defunct tradition, my high-school offered a program every spring called “winterum,” where each student would sign up for a week of something, whether that be backpacking, a habit for humanity project, planting native plant species, fishing, or painting. While the program still exists, during the late 90’s, oversea trips were still one option: students went to Peru to spend time with indigenous groups, to visit ancient ruins in Greece, or in my case, visit a remote place in New Mexico called Chaco Canyon, requiring a very long drive over washboard dirt roads, through an amazing landscape of distant mesas, in a camper with a small group of other students. To make a long story short, I was profoundly affected by my trip to New Mexico, and from that moment started reading academic books about ancient southwestern archaeology, taught myself to read Egyptian hieroglyphics, and declared an anthropology major my freshmen year of college. In large part, I picked Colorado College for undergrad because of its proximity to southwestern archaeology. I spent four years going to Chaco Canyon for various classes, walking around random mesas in New Mexico and Colorado, mapping rock shelters, and generally being insanely excited about it.

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View of Chaco Canyon, from a class trip in 2003.

So, what happened? Why am I not an archaeologist now? A lot of things happened at the end of college for me. I started to really feel the affects of my impending depression while my younger brother simultaneously entered what would later become an intense struggle through bipolar disorder. I dealt with that in unhealthy ways, and generally went through a period of feeling lost while riding out the waves of my moods. Coming out on the other side of all this, things were different. However, to this day, I still adore archaeology, and I’ve consistently found myself regretting this derailment, while also feeling like it was too late to go back.

Well, flash forward to 32, and I think I’m ready to try again. I still love the outdoors, I still love history, inquiry, primary source records, science AND varied work. And, finally, I REALLY loved working with archaeologists in the Chaco Archives last summer.

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Doorway view, Pueblo Bonito, 2003

So, in light of this, I’m adding a few extra things to my summer (in addition to a random part-time job to get the bills paid AND hiking the JMT): field school (since I didn’t get around to doing one) and maybe a class or two focusing on the prehistory/history of the pacific northwest.

We’ll see where this goes, but right now, it feels pretty neat to (sort of) be that 13 year old girl again.

 

 

 

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve started to tentatively plan some details of my summer 2016 John Muir Trail solo hike. It’s still far too early to start dehydrating food and assembling meals, but (since I’m generally gear obsessed anyways), I’ve been looking at my past gear lists (and my gear closet) as a I start to put together a tentative gear list.

Exciting! Stuff! Things! It all feels a little more real.

After a lot of trips over the last few years (see my gear lists), I have a pretty solid grasp of what works and doesn’t work for ME. As is so often the case with backpacking, gear choices are intensely personal, and need to be balanced with comfort requirements, camp style etc.

In light of this, here are a few things I know about myself, after a lot of trial and error:

  1. I need to be comfy when I sleep, because otherwise I will eventually succumb to sleep deprived madness. This involves having a pillow, a pad that accommodates side sleeping, and something that allows me to easily turn without feeling tangled.
  2. Bugs love me. I am sweet ambrosia to ALL MOSQUITOS within a three mile radius.
  3. I get cold very easily.

Let’s start with the big three: backpacking, sleeping bag/pad, tent.

Backpack

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 12.56.00 PMI’ll be carrying my beloved Gossamer Gear Mariposa backpack. We’ve been on a lot of adventures together, from carrying 9 liters of water through Joshua Tree National Park, to luging snowshoes and a full set of snow camping gear around the sierras. I love the outside pockets, and at this point have a really great system for where everything goes. Also, it (apparently) accommodates a larger size bear canister (but we’ll see, since I’ve only ever carried a small Bear Vault 450 for shorter trips of a few days). Prior to owning this pack, I used an older version of the Mariposa, and have generally enjoyed the new strap design as well as the ability to stow trekking poles, which I often utilize on rock scrambles requiring use of my hands.

Tent

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I really WANT to be comfortable with a minimalist tarp. I do, really. But I can’t. I can see it now, arriving at camp, and pulling out my tiny sub-one-pound tarp, to the awed gasps of my fellow JMT backpackers. I’d expertly tie it out, unroll my tiny thin piece of foam, and enjoy a restful night sleep. Here’s the thing though: In the real world, I just can’t get a good night sleep in something that isn’t fully enclosed. As I said, mosquitos love me, and as an extremely light sleeper, I do better when tiny crawling creatures stay outside. But you know what? It’s okay, because gear choices are personal, and I’ve accepted that I’m willing to carry some extra weight for a more comfortable sleeping setup. After recently giving the silnylon Mountain Laurel Designs Patrol Tarp + Bug Bivy a try, I’ve decided that for now, I’d rather go with a more traditional 1-person tent. I really like the idea of a this modular tarp + bug bivy setup, but after using it in Joshua Tree for an off-trail backpack, I found it to maybe be more trouble than it’s worth (getting in and out of the bivy is interesting, especially if you have a tiny bladder and have to do it ALL NIGHT). Sure, I probably just need more practice, but I’m not sure I really want to, considering I also just got a nicely discounted Nemo Hornet 1P tent, that weighs less than 2 pounds, and is really easy to set up. I’m hopeful that this tent will be the weight/comfort/sturdiness balance I’ve been looking for (at least until I can afford a snazzy Zpacks Soloplex shelter. Sigh. I can dream). I’ll be testing the Hornet out over the next few months, and will likely write a more substantial review as time goes on.

(Let me add: I think Mountain Laurel Designs makes great stuff, and I’d like to keep trying with the Patrol Tarp + bivy setup, but for now, it doesn’t feel like the best option for ME. That may be completely different for another individual).

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I love using a quilt. As a side-sleeping night roller, I was constantly tangled in traditional mummy bags, and the hood was rarely, if ever, actually around my head. With my quilt, I can pull the top over my head on cold nights, and worse comes to worse, use my snazzy modular Enlightened Equipment Hoodlum to re-create that mummy hood feeling without actually being attached to a bag. For the JMT, I’ll probably be using my cozy Hammock Gear Burrow 20 quilt. As an extremely cold sleeper, I’d ideally be carrying a 10 degree quilt. However, I don’t feel compelled to spend more money on yet another quilt or bag (especially since I also have a wonderful Enlightened Equipment 0 degree quilt already for winter camping). So, 20 degrees it is.

I’m still debating my pad choice: the Exped SynMat UL 7 Air Pad in small, OR my lighter Gossamer Gear Air Beam sleeper in torso length. What’s the difference? While the Exped pad weighs approximately one pound, the Air Beam weighs in at 7.9 ounces. However, the tradeoff is that the Exped pad retains more heat due to some insulation, compared to zero insulation in the Air Beam. One way to deal with this on colder evenings is to layer the Air Beam with a Thinlight foam pad, which already rides in the back panel of my pack, and doubles as a nice sit pad for breaks. However, even with this combination I’ve gone through some super chilly nights with the Air Beam. I’ll also be bringing my beloved Sea to Summit Aeros pillow. As I’ve extensively talked about in past posts, having an actual pillow goes a long way in helping me sleep comfortably. After years of trying to use the classic clothes + stuff sack pillow combination, I’m happy to carry a few extra ounces for more neck comfort.

So, that’s where I am in terms of my big three. I’ve spent a lot of time doing short backpacking trips over the last year, and feel like I generally have a great grasp on what I personally need to feel comfortable while ALSO not overloading my back. Those short trips are not ONLY amazing ways to take a breather from our busy home lives, but also offer great opportunities to try different gear combinations and discover our personal styles. Clearly, my style has evolved to be somewhere in between “ultra light” and “traditional” backpacking.

And you know what? That’s okay with me.

I’ve been quiet for the last month. Very quiet. For a myriad of reasons, I haven’t been in the mood for writing: I haven’t had much to write ABOUT (well, maybe that’s not true), I’ve been figuring out my next career-related adventure, and I got a dog (a puppy, in fact).

First, let’s briefly talk about this puppy. Her name is Gilda, and she’s a mini Australian Shepard. We’ve wanted a dog for a long time, but due to circumstances, it was never the right time (moving a lot, and living in graduate student housing wasn’t ideal for a dog). Once we settled in Portland, it finally seemed like a good moment, and we went back and forth on ages, where to adopt etc. We ended up going with a puppy (because, LOOK AT THAT FACE), and an Aussie shepherd because I have grand dreams of her carrying a (small) dog pack and being my adventure companion on hikes, backpacking trips, etc.

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Gilda, her first day at home, January 3.

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3 weeks later (ready for a nap), already growing so much!

To be honest, puppies are tough. While she has so many wonderful, sweet, amazing moments, she’s quite frankly also an asshole sometimes. But, such is puppy-hood. Overall, it’s been fun to slowly introduce her to the outdoors and the wider world in general, while working really hard to get her biting/nipping under control.

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First “hike” in Forest Park (note: puppies have developing hips, aren’t yet fully vaccinated, and don’t really hike, but it’s been great fun to let her sniff around and generally spend lots of time outside. When she’s especially tired, she even allows me to carry her in her special Outward Hound front carrier).

Otherwise, it’s been a lovely, wet and quiet winter in Oregon for us. We’ve gone to the snow for some amazing cross-country skiing, spent time on the equally gorgeous Oregon coast, and overall have settled into our new home. I’m finally feeling like I’ve found my forever-place, and I’m still overly excited for glimpses of Mount Hood, Mount Saint Helens, and the abundant waterfalls near my apartment.

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Mount Hood from Trillium Lake.

However, I’ve also found myself experiencing some winter blues in relation to my outdoor pursuits. I don’t get out nearly as much as I’d like, and sometimes it feels like a whole lot of work to make trips happen. Thus, I’ve been spending more time indoors dreaming of future trips, and have turned to planning future excursions as a way to reignite my drive to get out there. There’s so much to see and do, which at times feels daunting, with the planning that goes into all the trips I’d like to take (I know, it’s a silly complaint, but nonetheless truthful).

As I discussed in my last post, one of my major goals for 2016 is to start doing more solo trips close to home. With my aspirations for a 2016 solo thru-hike of the JMT (and knowing myself), I’d like to tackle some of my anxiety related to solo backpacking during the time leading up to August. While I’m not new to undertaking overnight trips alone, I’ve never really enjoyed it. The nights are too quiet, there’s no one with me to appreciate the epic views and to share the challenge of completing a big climb. However, while I think it’s entirely legitimate and OKAY to not enjoy solo backpacking on a regular basis (because there IS something unique and special about sharing the backcountry with friends), there are also times when I choose to not do a trip because I don’t have a companion to go with me. Instead, I stay in the city, feeling frustrated and annoyed that I yet again didn’t get out and do something I love.

I adore solo day-hikes. I can stop and observe flowers and birds while not having to worry about interfering with the pace of my hiking partner. Furthermore, I think there is something important, even vital, about doing something for myself, that I enjoy independent from the company I keep. In large part, this is why I’m planning to solo the JMT in 2016 (and you know, in addition to feeling empowered and badass).

So, a very late happy new year to you, and here’s to getting out and making things happen (even if out friends don’t always want to go).

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Happy December readers!

It’s amazing to me that I’ve now lived in the Pacific Northwest for 5 months. It’s been wonderful, exciting, delicious, wet, and sometimes frustrating. I feel surrounded by amazing natural places, from peaks to beaches to deserts, but oftentimes I find myself frustrated that I don’t get out enough as I attempt to balance establishing a life here (with all the things that come with that) with my inner stir-crazy nature. On the plus side: I live here now, and if all goes to plan, I’ll have lots of time in the future to climb all the mountains and see all the places I want to see.

As I alluded to in my last post, I’m finally ready to prioritize a thru-hike of the John Muir Trail starting in August of 2016. This is exciting! But, also unexpectedly frightening. Let’s be honest, it’s one thing to imagine a 200+ mile solo journey through the wilderness in the abstract, but something completely different to face the reality of making it happen. However, on the plus side, a large part of the reason I’ve decided to begin (what I hope to be) my mini-thru-hike career with the JMT is because a) it’s well traveled and b) offers NUMEROUS planning resources. There aren’t a lot of trails out there with fantastic planning guides in existence, but the JMT is one of those. Thus, not only will I FINALLY get to spend numerous weeks hiking through my beloved Sierra Nevada mountains, but I’ll also get some solid experience in planning a longer trip, something I hope to continue doing in the future.

So, now that I’ve decided that I’m REALLY ready to make this all happen, I’ve been facing some interesting internal reactions. I’m excited. But, I’m also scared (surprise surprise).

I adore hiking by myself. I love the time to think, the option to stop and look at the flowers and mosses that grow along a trail while not having to worry that I’m slowing anyone else down. However, the few times I’ve done solo backpacking, I’ve felt the experience to be underwhelming, and honestly, a bit disconcerting. As you hear so often with people experiencing their first solo backpacking adventure, I found the days to be wonderful but the evenings and nights to be lonely and overly quiet. Sleep was difficult, as I imagined the night to be full of nefarious sounds and unknown creatures lurking outside my tent. While I’ve since become a much better sleeper in the backcountry, the few solo trips I’ve done have been underwhelming. Beyond the sleeping alone factor, I found myself thinking, “what’s the point of all this, if there’s no one to share it with?” Part of what I adore about experiencing the outdoors is enjoying it with like-minded people. It’s a special thing, and something I miss when solo.

However, as much as I crave that specific social experience in the backcountry, I’m also not willing to skip a thru-hike this coming summer. I don’t know anyone at the moment who has any desire to hike for 3 weeks or even the option to take that much time away from work, family, and responsibility (which is understandable). So, my current plan is to go it alone. Let’s be honest though, I highly doubt I’ll be alone THAT much. This is the JMT, a trail that has seen it’s traffic increase by over 300% in the last 5 years.

That being said, I’m still going to proceed as if I’ll be alone a majority of my evenings, in large part because I feel like this is an important obstacle for me to overcome. Even if I’m rarely alone on the evenings because I end up meeting amazing new friends, I want to be in a place where I CAN be alone.

In order to start working through some of my solo hiking fears, I’ll be spending the next 8 months doing short solo trips closer to home. As with my backcountry sleeping issues, I’ve found that the best way to troubleshoot problems is to face them head-on, and then see if there are any technics that can make that particular situation better.

For example, Wired, the writer of one of my favorite long-distance hiking blogs, listens to audiobooks and even watches movies in the evening. I LOVE this. As backpackers (well, as general humans I guess), it’s easy to read a lot of opinions online. Trail runners and not boots. This tent, as opposed to that other tent. In the outdoor world, one of the most beloved topics to endlessly discuss is the use of electronics in the backcountry. Many feel that the backcountry is the place to NOT have electronics, and they are vocal about these views. However, there are just as many individuals who feel that it’s a personal choice. I’m solidly in the second camp when it comes to electronics. As long as we aren’t changing the experience for anyone else, it’s imperative that we find what works for us individually, and if that means perhaps listening to an audiobook with headphones, then that’s perfectly okay. I love that Wired does what feels right for her, and doesn’t worry about whether or not she should be watching movies in the backcountry. Because you know what? There are no rules. So, I’ll also be experimenting with bringing some fun audio for my quiet evenings.

All this to say: Rationally, I don’t believe that going solo is ultimately going to be as horrible and scary as it sounds. I know parts of it will be, but as with everything, I believe that preparation will be key. My hope is that by August 2016 I’ll have several solo trips under my belt, and come my first day on the trail, to have a few technics to deal with the scary “oh my god, why am I alone in the sierras” feeling I’m sure to have.

Though, let’s be honest, you’re never REALLY alone on the JMT during any given summer. But, I think it’s important for now that I pretend I will.

Challenges

I’ve been quiet lately, partially because I haven’t had any super pressing topics to write about, and partially because I’ve just been enjoying my new home and the process of getting settled. I can’t begin to express how nice is to be in a place where I don’t have a “let’s live here for a year or two” mentality. I love the idea that I’ll probably be here in 10 or even 20 years if all goes well. That is, it just feels like it will be home, and that’s exciting and wonderful and scary all at the same time (because, well, I need to figure out how to make a living in my new forever home, since my old model was to generally move for things).

In other news, I went on a fantastic hike this week, a majority of which was in the rain. I’m happy to report that I did in fact NOT melt, and I found there to be a quiet and surreal beauty to hiking in the rain. It seems it’s important to stay warm a dry, an obvious concept I’m completely familiar with for backpacking, but one I haven’t had to employ in everyday life in recent years (thanks, Los Angeles and California drought). After years of extolling the virtues of breathable trail runners, I’ve found a new love for waterproof full-height hiking boots in this area during rainy and cold times. During my hike earlier in the week, I giggled with delight as I walked through streams, not worrying about getting cold and wet feet (I did REALLY giggle). It’s all new and exciting, and I’ve been enjoying the new challenges and adaptations. It’s worth it for all this green scenery and all the water that creates our beautiful local waterfalls, such as this one:

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While I’m excited to have a winter, and to get back into winter outdoor activities, as usual I’m also thinking far ahead to summer 2016.

Namely, also as usual, I can’t get past the idea that I’d really love to FINALLY do a short mini thru-hike. Anyone who knows me in real life, knows that for the last 2 summers, I’ve had tentative plans to do a thru-hike, but then (partially because of work, and later because of moving), they never work out. Since I started grad school in 2012, life has been stressful and chaotic. I prioritized resume building to be able to compete in a competitive field after graduation, while also dealing with a profound sense of unease about where I’d end up after graduating in 2014 and how that would affect my relationship and general mental well-being. That is: I didn’t have the energy to prioritize a thru-hike, because I was more worried about where I’d be living the next year, and whether or not I’d get a job in a field with few jobs. I know, excuses. But, that’s the truth.

So, fast forward to today, November 2015. While I’m far from feeling settled career-wise, I feel more ready to prioritize and plan for a long-ish trip (because let’s be clear: as I’ve said before, I’m not a place in my life where I want to take off for 5 months, and that’s fine). In fact, I’m SICK of complaining about trips that never work out. While the timing is never perfect, it’s better now than in the past. For countless years, I’ve been returning to the idea of a thru-hike of the JMT. Sure, it’s incredibly popular right now, perhaps changing the experience one might have had 10 years ago, but regardless, it’s something I want to try. As such, I’ve been doing some preliminary research on making this happen. FINALLY. Sure, the idea of a trip like this is scary and daunting, but I suppose that’s what the research is for.

One thing I would add: As mentioned, I spend a little bit of time here and there skimming various social media pages related to specific trails (such as the JMT) or just generally related to backpacking. In particular, I find women-specific groups to be a great resource where one can generally openly ask questions related to anything from gear recommendations to sharing deeper issues related to trail life. One trend I notice is the vast range of advice given to those who encounter difficulties in the prioritizing, planning and actual hiking of a long trip. Often, women will post asking for advice on how to deal with managing other responsibilities in life while also wanting undertake a long trip. Maybe they just got a great new job that they love, or they have young children they feel nervous about leaving. Some respond with a “it’s okay, the trail will be there” mentality, noting that they can plan a trip later. Others push a “make it happen, live your dream” line of advice. There is no wrong answer to this dilemma, as each situation is unique to that individual. I’ve been thinking about this topic for awhile now, as I ponder my own perceived inadequacies to make a trip happen over the last several years. Conclusion? It’s completely okay that I didn’t feel ready to undertake a trip such as the JMT. Sure, I probably could have made it happen, and that would have maybe been okay too. I have no regrets, and I suspect that if you’re in a similar boat, you probably had your reasons for putting off an adventure too.

I’m back!

I’ve been traveling a lot lately. In fact, I was gone almost all of October to see family and to take advantage of not being employed full-time. But, thankfully, I’m finally home now in the cooler pacific northwest, wearing my beloved fleece and drinking lots of good (hot) herbal tea. I love fall, not only because I’ve always greatly disliked heat, but also because I love seeing the change of seasons in the natural world around me. Just when you get used to it being warm, or cold, things change. It’s magical.

Not surprisingly, it’s finally raining here again after a strangely warm and dry summer in Oregon and Washington. Most days of the week seem to be accompanied by at least brief showers, and the sun is covered by a thick sheet of gray more days than not. While it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling to be reminded of my childhood on the rainy/foggy/cool northern California coast, surprisingly it’s also been a challenge to reacquaint myself with rain. After living in Los Angeles and this epic California drought for three years for gradschool and then work, I got very used to assuming that rain would never happen. On the rare occasion that it DID rain, I found that I no longer had rain appropriate shoes or clothing. My umbrella was buried somewhere deep in my closet. Drivers on the roads were worse than normal. Chaos.

So, lately I’ve found myself wondering: what is this stuff that falls from the sky?

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Mt. Tabor Park on a semi-rainy day.

And I’ll be honest: I’m totally freaked out about how to deal with rain now. How do you HIKE in the rain? Can you BIKE in it? What if my glasses get wet or fogged up and I can’t see, or I get cold? I’ve become painfully used to having clear/dry weather for my outdoor adventures, that the idea of rain is a bit intimidating. Sure, I’m used to cold, and I even enjoy a good chilly backpacking trip, but rain is a whole different issue. I always carry rain gear, but I haven’t really used it in years. Do people still go on outdoor trips here during the rain? Do they still take down jackets with them? Do they stay inside all season? (I have to assume they don’t). These are the questions I need to answer, since I’ve already started to avoid the activities I love because of the rain.

During the next several months, I’m really looking forward to figuring this out (but, I’m also clearly still extremely intimidated). Hopefully, the answer to my question won’t be STAY INDOORS.

Of course, if you have any pointers, tips, tricks, or resources related to outdoor adventuring in the rain, I’d love to hear them!

 

I apologize! It’s been awhile since I posted. Recently, I wrote about backpacking + depression and then, for whatever reason, felt that I just wanted to sit with that for a period of time. It’s a really important topic for me, one which has become increasingly interesting as I’ve gotten older. How wonderful and lucky I’ve been, to encounter something that has helped me navigate the tricky aspects of my moods!

In other news, it seems to finally be fall here in the pacific northwest. The temperature has been milder, and fall colors are starting to peak out at the lower elevations. Higher up, the huckleberries have a lovely orange and red hue, turning the hillsides into gorgeous post-card worthy scenes (I have a post I need to write up for Modern Hiker for fall color, coming soon!).

Interestingly, as the seasons change here, I’ve been reflecting a lot on my time living in southern California. Anyone that knows me in everyday life will also know that I generally HATED living in Los Angeles. It was busy, angry, crowded, and always frustratingly warm and sunny (yes, that is something I dislike. What can I say, I’m a northern Californian at heart). In fact, leaving Los Angeles has been one of the best choices I’ve ever made. While driving out of the area at the end of May, I thought to myself, “I don’t have to drive back into this city again, this feels AMAZING,” as cars raced by me at 85 mph. That being said, as much as I hated Los Angeles as a city, I loved southern California as a place to explore. I miss Joshua Tree, the strange juxtaposition of high forested peaks with the desert below, and the feeling that I had when viewing vast open spaces spreading into the distance.

I’ve also been reminded of my last southern California trip before moving, when I learned a really valuable (and slightly scary) lesson in trusting my gut. Let’s set the scene:

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Clearly, I lived in Los Angeles for too long (2.5 years!), because at 58 degrees today in Portland, I feel cold. Luckily, I have a fleece hat, tea and writing to get me through (and yes, I realize that 58 degrees isn’t THAT cold). As someone who absolutely despises hot weather, I’ve really been looking forward to the cooling temperatures of fall, and it seems like we might be getting there!

In a recent post, I wrote about why the outdoors matter to me. As you can see from this site as whole, it’s something I spend a lot of time thinking and dreaming about. I’ve started lists of places I want to see, and I get frustrated when I don’t get out as much as I’d like. Recently, a few people have asked me an interesting question: Why backpacking? How did I get into that? It’s also a topic I’ve been pondering a lot in recent months, as I chart what’s next for me in the coming months of my life. At the risk of revealing some overly personal information, I think it’s an important discussion, not only because it’s been such a big part of my life, but also because I suspect there’s others out there who might be in a similar situation. While there’s certainly a lot of factors that contribute to me loving backpacking, such as mountains just generally being beautiful, I think one thing above all has resonated deeply.

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I Climbed Mt. Saint Helens

And it was awesome! And five days later, I’m finally not sore anymore. Despite the soreness, the sweat, and the alpine start (I’m not a morning person), it was totally worth it.

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Hiking Triple Falls Oregon

(If you happen to live in the Portland area, or are wandering through)

Check out my newest write-up on hiking to beautiful Triple Falls in the Columbia River Gorge. The title is a bit misleading, because you in fact see a total of FOUR waterfalls. You also see some of the most amazing moss you’ll ever encounter.

Hiking Triple Falls Oregon

As you can see, really really loving it here. Also of note: you probably didn’t notice, but I had planned to write 7 posts in 7 days starting last week. I think I only got to 5 or 6, but I have a good excuse! (Upcoming post about said excuse, coming soon, maybe even today).

Also, it’s Friday, you made it. Time to get outside.

Hiking Triple Falls Oregon