A Hiking Adventure- Winter Edition: Lake Valhalla

Here in Seattle, winter can be well…wet and grey. I try my hardest to not let it affect me much, even though it’s completely opposite from Arizona winters. The wet and grey never really stop me from doing anything outside because it is just rain. Last year, I trained for running races and did a few non-snow hikes in the rain and cold. This year, however, I decided it was time to venture out into the mountains and to the snow.

Every since leaving college in Cedar Falls, IA and Flagstaff, AZ, snow hasn’t really been something I seek out for fun and enjoyment. It’s cold. It’s wet. Did I mention it’s cold. I didn’t really enjoy it much in Iowa, though I had more sleet and ice storms than snow storms, and I only did 1 day worth of snowboarding during my 2-years in Flagstaff. To be honest, I only remember a few (<5) times where my family ventured into the snow; skiing in Utah and sledding in Prescott to name a couple. I mean, after all my parents did move AWAY from the snow and cold when I was only 6 months old.

So why did things change this year and my new found love for the snow? Well, first off, Seattle is only 45 minutes from the western boarder of the Cascades Mountain Range, and the beginning of winter included MANY feet of fresh powder, which was something we didn’t get the past couple of years.  Several of my friends started posting pictures of their snowshoeing and snowboarding adventures with beautiful white snow capped mountains. The more they posted, the more I became intrigued and eager to explore.

After talking with my friend Chris, we set a date to head eastbound and have a little snowshoeing exploration of an area just east of Stevens Pass, a popular snowboarding/skiing destination (Chris did the destination planning). I was able to obtain an inexpensive but sturdy pair of snowshoes prior to this adventure, which was a great decision to purchase instead of renting. Renting snowshoes from REI can cost around $40 and I was able to snag mine for $70 at Costco. I didn’t feel like spending more as I wasn’t sure if I’d like snowshoeing or not, but I also didn’t feel that the $30 difference was worth not purchasing.

It was finally time to head off towards the mountains and the sun was shining though the weather was FREEZING. When we arrived at the trailhead (or roadside), Chris’s car temp gauge read 2 degrees. I cannot tell you the last time I was in 2 degree weather, let alone 2 degree weather starting a HIKE.

Chris choose a trail to a place called Lake Valhalla, a known nordic location for cross-country/downhill skiers. Before we got started, Chris spent sometime getting me up to speed on my snowshoes and it took a few steps before I was feeling comfortable (though my poor hands were freezing).

For the next couple hours, we shoe’d our way upwards, stopping occasionally for some pictures and eventually found ourselves at a flat surface, but no lake was located. We continued snowshoeing downwards before turning back towards the flat. It was at this point that we discovered the lake was off to the side of the flat surface but completely covered in snow.  I guess we should have known it’d be cover as the mountains got about 4 feet of snow. After we learned this, we stopped for a short snack break completed with tea and coffee!

These hours spent in the mountains, consistently took my breath away. With the amount of snowfall covering the mountain peaks and treetops, the overwhelming white was beyond perfection. My heart and soul were filled with happiness, peace, and love for the snow. It was this trip that I could truly say, I love the winter and I love the snow. The pictures don’t even do this trip justice.

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Redneck Extravaganza

Have you ever had a weekend that filled your heart with so much happiness, gratefulness, love, laughter, and faith? I experienced one of those weekends less than a month ago and have had so much love in my heart since. I’ve been battling personal struggles for the last 9 months and this weekend showed me that I’m on the uphill climb to a new and better me. It’s possible to feel as though you’ve got nothing left but still grow in relationships, make new relationships and reconnect with our Savior.

My Redneck Extravaganza weekend was spent with 5 other Christians, who are so kind-hearted, grateful, loving and all around wonderful humans, who I am lucky to call friends. The weekend didn’t start off as planned, as we were initially planning on climbing to a fire tower through forest and snow. However the day before, Washington’s weather took a turn from sunny and 75 to raining and thundering. Not quite the ideal weather to summit a mountain. Instead, one of the guys, Ben, put an idea out there for camping over in eastern Washington near a popular destination called Mosses Lake. As I didn’t have any knowledge of such place, I was all in, regardless of the decision. And the decision was to postpone the fire tower climb and head east to camp.

We met as a group bright and early Saturday morning, enjoyed a wonderful breakfast and loaded up Big Blue or Diesel. The men (Ben, Paul, and Jonny) had this vision of how the truck needed to be loaded because we had 3 kayaks, 6 bikes, fishing gear, and all of our stuff. Us girls (myself, Brittany, and Angela) really did try to help them, but let’s face it when men have a vision, it’s really better to just let them do their thing. When the truck was finally loaded, we piled into the truck (all 6 of us) and began our road trip.

I selected the middle of the back seat (not sure if I actually selected it or if that’s just how it worked out) but I didn’t mind. It was fun to be between everyone during the drive through the city and beyond to the I90 corridor, as I began learning about many other adventures and stories the group has shared together, more specifically the men’s stories.

We made several pit stops, which all included very random and very hilarious extra activities. Those included random running/sprinting to a pole, group circle push-ups, running through a corn field (resulting in me getting smacked in the face from a corn stalk) and an apple orchard during a MASSIVE wind advisory, and stopping at Wal-mart for a very important purchase, wife-beater tank tops.

The actual location of camping was outside of a town called Othello, in an area called Columbia National Wildlife Refuge/Seep Lakes State Wildlife Recreation Area. A bridge separates the refuge from the recreation area and we decided to take a break there and it turned into the first photo-shoot opportunity. It involved me standing on a truck, the group striking posses on the bridge, and climbing on the sign. We continued on before making our first selection of spots to camp, which turned into our second photo-shoot opportunity, but not our actual camp site.

We piled back into the truck and continued on our way finding a line of rocks blocking a washed out road. This location was our 3rd photo-shoot opportunity and was the start to a good 2-3 hours of off-roading adventure with more random episodes of fun. Us girls started to get restless and we decided to turn back to where the rocks were, but not via truck. The 5 of us, minus Jonny, who drove, jumped onto our bikes and did a little mountain biking.

We finally selected a camp site located near the edge of the lake on a small cliff. It was absolutely breath-taking when setting up camp with the sunset on the horizon and a beautiful, clear sky. Once camp was set up (thank you men for putting up the tents), we enjoy a delicious dinner and some after dinner entertainment with a super moon shining light on us. Nighttime kayaking occurred for Ben and Paul, who went out to fish, and Brittany and Jonny, who took the singles out of the smooth and quite lake. Angela and I stayed behind; I was having too much fun with nighttime photograph trying to capture the stars.

When the group came back from kayaking, I introduced them to something called “Flashlight Nighttime Photography” and we spent a solid 2 hours tracing each other and playing Pictionary via the camera. This was followed by bedtime.

I was the first awake and I woke up to rain dropping down on the tent. Us girls were toasty warm in our tent, but that wasn’t the case when I exited. The rain wasn’t too hard, but it was a bit chilly. I don’t do well just sitting and waiting, so I took off on a hour + bike ride and when I was returning to the camp site the other women were on their way to the restrooms.  Before the men awoke, I got to spend some quality heart to heart with the girls, which whenever you can have girl-time is a special time.

We had some breakfast including coffee and spent some time in worship. I don’t think I’ve been that open and honest with people in sometime. I never felt judgement about my mistake/miss-comings  that I always think I would. I felt loved. I felt friendship. And I felt God again. These 5 people brought back the one thing that was missing during the last 9 months. They brought me back to Him, my Savior, my Heavenly Father.

During worship, it went from cold to super sunny, which we knew meant it was time to hit the water. The men spoiled us and offered to break down camp as we took off on the kayaks towards the canal. We gathered back together, 4 people in kayaks, myself and Ben on the inter tube tied to the double kayak.

This is when our day gets a little spontaneous. We hit the canal, which is a free flowing body of water so we didn’t have to do too much. That was until we hit the bridge. Yes, I’m talking about the same bridge from the day before. Want to know why we stopped? Well, because we (the guys mostly) wanted to jump off the bridge AND designed a rope swing. Why not? I have no fear in heights and honestly have loved “cliff jumping/bridge jumping” when I’ve done it. Every time something adventurous comes up and I’m with Ben, he tells me “Do it for Mapless Adventures”. It’s hard to say “no” to that (though I don’t usually say no) and so that’s exactly what we did. I jumped off the bridge twice and tried the rope swing, but wow of wow did that not feel good. Brittany and I some how really hurt our hands and fingers from the release off the rope (I actually ended up breaking my top knuckle on my middle finger) but it was still a blast. We ended our trip, after Angela and Ben continued down to the bikes and Jonny and Angela rode onto the truck, with one final photo shoot opportunities with the sunset in the back ground.

It was another eventful road trip back to the city and am so thankful that Jonny was a wonderful driving with the amount of rain we hit through the I90 corridor. Our arrival home was past midnight, but with the amount of laughter and adventure that endured I didn’t mind getting home so late. We called our weekend Redneck Extravaganza, but it ended up being “Chasing Sunshine” because that’s exactly what we did. This one is diffidently one for the books!

A Runner’s Log: Ragnar NWP Worst Pace Scenarios

When I started running with Seattle Green Lake Running Group back in 2014, I honestly had no idea what my life would become. The amount of great friends and lifetime of memories that have came from this group are limitless, but this particular weekend topped my list- Ragnar Northwest Passage weekend.

Do you know what Ragnar Relay is? Well, let me explain. Ragnar is an overnight 2000ish running relay consisting of 12 team members broken into two separate vans. Each runner runs 3 legs ranging from 2-13 miles per leg totaling approximately 10-24 miles over the course of 24-36 hours (depending on how long it takes your team).

I was honored to be asked to join one of the SGLRG teams, Worst Pace Scenarios, which was voted the “Favorite Ragnar Team” by the group last year, for 2015 Ragnar Northwest Passage (NWP). This particular Ragnar adventure starts in Blaine, WA, which is as close to the Canadian border as you can get without crossing and ends in a town on Whidbey Island. The relay passes iconic sights highlighting the true nature of the Pacific Northwest, including the Cascade and Olympic Mountain ranges, Deception Pass, and the Puget Sounds, and has us running along rolling countrysides and through small towns.

I was a part of van 2, which basically means we started later in the day at the 1st major exchange and ran the last set of 6. Here’s the breakdown:

Van 1 (leg 1-6): Blaine to Bellingham- 33.2 miles

Van 2 (leg 7-12): Bellingham to Burlington- 29.7 miles

Van 1 (leg 13-18): Burlington to La Conner- 32.8 miles

Van 2 (leg 19-24): La Conner to Oak Harbor- 39.2 miles

Van 1 (leg 25-30): Oak Harbor to Coupeville- 24.2 miles

Van 2 (leg 31-36): Coupeville to Langley- 33.1 miles

Total: 192.2 miles

I ran leg 10, which was one of the easier legs only running a total of 10.9 miles total with legs at 3.10 miles, 2.0 miles and 5.8 miles. Now don’t get me wrong when I say “easier leg”. Ragnar is not for the weak hearted. Even though I may not have ran as much as the others in my van, I still had the same barriers. The HEAT for one thing. It was a scorcher during both our first legs and our last legs. Plus the second legs were ran between 11:30 PM and 4 AM. Not the easiest time of the night to run and the heat, oh the heat. I hadn’t ran in heat like that since I ran in high school track in Phoenix.

BUT, I survived as did the rest of my team and our results were quite amazing. Worst Pace Scenarios came in 12th in the Mixed Open division with a finisher time of 26:19:47.0 and finished 38th overall. Did I mention that their were 355 teams in the Mixed Open division and 543 total teams participating in Ragnar Northwest Passage. I’d say we did pretty good.

I knew several of the runners in Van 2 and I couldn’t imagine my first Ragnar experience without them. Although I may have been a little extrovert for them, I think they appreciated my outgoing nature and the 100s of pictures I was capturing during the runs. Plus, they were so supportive getting me through this race and I’m pretty sure 4 of the 5 of them have qualified for Boston. You can imagine how fast they ran but they never made me feel slow. That is true team work!!

I cannot wait until next year or maybe I won’t have to wait that long…Maybe Ragnar Del Sol in Arizona?!?!?!

Daddy-Daughter Adventure #3

If you would have asked me that when I agreed to go on the back of my dad’s Harley Davidson cycle, we’d continue that tradition, I probably would have laughed. I never thought that we’d be blessed with opportunity after opportunity to spend quality time together. This adventure however kept me at home as my dad decided that since mom was in Nashville, TN, he’d venture to the PNW to visit me! It was a quick weekend but it was packed full of fun and adventure.

It started with a jog around my favorite location, Green Lake, which is also where I spend majority of my time with my running group, Seattle Green Lake Running Group. We didn’t go very far because as a spontaneous purchase, my dad and I decided to run the Rock-n-Roll Seattle Half Marathon. We weren’t alone in our short jaunt. My roommate had one of his good friends from college in for the RnR Seattle, though he was running to win it, and he decided to come join us. There was a “HUGE” pace differences: my dad and I were closing in at 10:30 minute miles; he was at like 5:10 minute miles (or some crazy fast pace). You can imagine our faces when moments after we arrive he took off like a deer. My dad and I just started laughing because in less than 10 steps we couldn’t even see him. After our run, we grabbed some breakfast and coffee before heading home to get ready.

I knew Friday was going to be our one main day to spend in and around downtown but it was also our only chance to pick up our race packets. So that’s exactly what we did. I don’t drive into downtown because, well, driving a manual into the hilly center of Seattle is not a fun or easy combination. My dad didn’t mind taking the metro system and walking a little. We walked near the stadiums, took a few selfies with my new selfie stick (laughing while doing so), and wandered around the Expo enjoying the loves of runners.

After the expo, we headed through Pioneer Square, which was a first for him, and enjoyed a “Pre-Race” beverage at the Oldest Saloon, “The Central”. From there, it was to Pike’s Market Place for another selfie, then up towards Capitol Hill to the new Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room, a first for the both of us.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room opened in January 2015, located 9 blocks from the original Starbucks, and is a place for people to come and enjoy/taste/learn about unique blends of coffee.  Starbuck Reserve are rare and exotic micro live coffees that are unique to this location. I really had no idea what to expect, but I did learn that this roastery is responsible for roasting all of the Reserve label beans sold in all Starbucks. My dad and I did get to try two of the reserve labels, which in his words “the most expensive cup of coffee” and yes, he would be correct. This isn’t for the cheap at heart person, but it does offer a unique experience. We headed home for an early night after our tasting, but it wasn’t over yet.

A few days prior to my dad arriving, I received a WhatsApp message from my high school friend Blaine, who was going to be in town this same weekend and on a spur of a moment, decided he wanted to run the RnR Seattle Half Marathon too. So, after he landed at SeaTac, he taxied to my place to join myself, my dad, my roommate, and my roommate’s friend. Talk about a house full of runners.

We were able to catch some ZZZ’s before waking up and beginning our race day prep. This half marathon took me on a different training plan, which included adjusting my nutritional aspect to add a few supplements and this morning was nothing different. Luckily, my dad is the one helping me with my supplement/nutritional changes and so our mornings are fairly similar.

We made it to the meet up location for the SGLRG RnR crew for our typical race day photo before heading to the start line. I was pretty excited as this would be Blaine’s first official half marathon and my dad’s first big adventure through Seattle. My dad and I had a plan to run the first 5 miles at 9:30 pace then change to a 3 min. run/1 min. walk. However, at mile 5, I was feeling great and my dad told me to rock it. Which I did. I PR’d by 6 minutes finishing at 2hr 13minutes, a 10:13 minute mile pace. I was so extremely happy with this finish time and proud of my dad who didn’t finish to far behind me (2hr 27 minutes). Blaine finished at 1:54, my roommate came in at a 1:35, and his friend Roosevelt rocked it with a second place finish at 1:09. Do you know what it feels like to be standing at the start line knowing someone who is half way done before you even start? Let’s just say it provided some early morning laughter for my dad and I.

After the race and after-race party, we headed home to shower and re-get ready for another afternoon on the town before the Sounders game. I mean my dad couldn’t come to Seattle without experience a Sounders game. Blaine and Roosevelt joined us for a Ballard experience (one of my personal favorite). We enjoyed some good brews, good food and good company. Blaine parted ways with us as we head back to Pioneer Square for the ECS March to the Match experience.

One of my favorite parts of traveling with my dad is watching his face during new experiences. This was one of them. Between him and Roosevelt’s facial expressions, I was quite entertained. I think the biggest shock for my dad was the amount of people and the fact that we STOOD the ENTIRE game. We won 3-0 and the night still wasn’t over. It was time for dinner and we headed to another neighborhood close to home for some pizza and ice cream.

We crashed that night and woke the next morning a little stiff but ready for another adventure. We headed north to Mt. Vernon, joined by Roosevelt, where we were blessed with the chance to meet up with our Mexico/Canadian friends and spent the morning catching up. Instead of heading directly back to Seattle, we took a road trip detour to Lake Stevens. Reason is because this is the place of the Lake Stevens Half Ironman hosted in August of each year. I’m trying to convince my dad and his tri-group to race it. Another new place checked off for my dad and I together.

The night was less busy. We spent it relaxing, BBQ’ing, and enjoying each other’s company. It was a semi early night for both my dad and I, as he was jetting back home dark and early (like 3AM). I was absolutely blessed to be able to spend this weekend with not only my dad for our #3 adventure, but with my friend Blaine, and new friend Roosevelt. These are the moments in my life I cherish and love. AND my dad is already registered for next year’s RnR half marathon. Maybe I can convince my brother, sister, and mom to join in :-).

Stay tuned for my next mapless adventures.

From Washington to Montana

The month of August was INSANE. I worked approximately 28 of 31 days and felt like I had absolutely no time to myself or for my friends. Now you might think “who on earth would work that many days” and to be honest with you I don’t know if I’d do it again. Thankfully, I was able to escape for a weekend getaway to the eastern side of the state to spend the weekend with one of my best friends. If anyone knows me, I love road tripping and this particularly weekend we decided that we’d really getaway from society and jet off to Montana. This would be my first visit to the beautiful state.

I left work on Friday and immediately started my road trip. It takes approximately 4-5 hours to travel from Seattle to Spokane and the day before leaving I found my stash of old school CDs. This made the car-ride way more entertaining…I mean how can you go wrong with busting out to Backstreet Boys for a whole hour! The car ride went quickly and before I knew it I was in Spokane. Due to very long days, Sydney and I determined it was more efficient to stay in and enjoy a nice bottle of wine! But to be honest, anytime Sydney and I are together we determine its more efficient to stay in and drink wine. It’s kind of our thing. Granted we did have an early morning planned as we would be road tripping to Montana to hike.

Before I knew it, it was time to wake up and I was reeling in intense stomach pain that gave me a bit of fright that I wasn’t going to be able to survive the day. Thankfully Wal-Mart wasn’t too far away and before I knew it I was feeling better.

Our road trip started with us jamming out to some old school 90s hits that took us back to our middle school years! I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in quite sometime and as we passed through Couer d’Alene, we both started focusing on the scenery. If you’ve never been in this area of the country than you might not understand. The Couer d’Alene National Forest was breath-taking and with another hour we were on the boarder of Idaho and Montana. In fact, where we decided to hike was literally right on the boarder. We parked in Idaho and hiked between Idaho and Montana with spectacular views of the Lolo National Forest.

Our hike of choice was one called Blossom Lake Trail is a 6.0 mile out-and-back through backcountry. It’s hard to really describe what the forest looked like because many of the terrain have similar looks, but I do remember the start of the trail. You are walking along this skinny path that drops a foot or so on each side. It was something I haven’t seen before when hiking. The weather however was something I have experienced before. It was quite chilly with chances of rain (shocking).

We continued along the trail and kept running into multiple forks and of course we couldn’t decide which way…Left or Right. Another crazy event that occurred was locating the LARGEST PINE CONE I’ve ever seen and the spikiest tree I’ve ever seen (funny tree too). It might not seem like a huge deal, but I love finding new things whenever I go hiking. By the time we made it to the top, it had dropped temperature by easily 10 degrees. We planned at the start to jump into the alpine lake, however it being cold, I completely vetoed that concept. Sydney, however, decided it would be fun. It was fun, for me watching, and freezing for her, but now she can say she swam in an alpine lake in Montana!

We made it down the trail at a fairly decent hour and Sydney planned on taking me back to Spokane along highway 200 passed Lake Pend Oreille to Sandpoint, ID. This drive included more jamming to our crazy idea of a good music including “LET IT GO”. Back in Spokane, it was dinner and passing out from exhaustion.

Waking up on Sunday was something amazing because the weather was simply beautiful, sunshine and warmth. Due to this factor and learning that it was peach season, we headed approximately 10 minutes north to a community called Green Bluff Growers Association. This community is an association of small family farms and stands that was formed in 1902 to protect the local strawberry growers from outside competition. This association hosts seasonal activities including pick-your-own fruit and annual festivals. Because of the peach season, the first place we visited had rows and rows of organic peach trees and I had the opportunity to pick a peach right off the tree. I don’t think I’ve ever done this before and it was just as much fun as I would have thought.

This association is more than just farms and following the map of growers, we found a brewery, some wine tastings, a cider mill (alcoholic) and a meadery. I’ve drank plenty of beer, wine and cider (all of which were fabulous) in my days but this meadery-concept was something new. Hierophant Meadery is Washington’s first meadery, which is home to a tasting room of bottle mead (honey wine), kombucha, and other honey/beeswax products. Sydney and I were in love with this place and it was the perfect way to end one amazing weekend.

Well not really…it was just a good way to end our farm adventure. In fact, we headed back to Sydney’s place and partook in the Ice Bucket Challenge. THIS was a great way to finish my amazing Washington to Montana weekend with Sydney.

…unfortunately our plans for me to return in October for Apple Pickin’ were slightly impacted by Sydney’s new work contract moving her to the east coast… maybe next year.