Tag Archives: Washington

Hiking

Last weekend I had the pleasure of going for a hike up Sauk Mountain with my sister and her husband.

Sauk Mountain is in Skagit County off Highway 20, about 10 miles past the town of Concrete. So far, the names don’t do it justice. “Sauk”, “Skagit”, and “Concrete” really bother me – they are kind of terse and ugly names. Instead, I should be writing that “Wildflower Mountain” is in “Song Bird County” off Highway 20, about 10 miles past the town of “Tiger Lily”. That is more like it.

Since the dirt road up to the trailhead is 8 miles long, we decided to take my sister’s 1988 Subaru station wagon, rather than her husband’s brand new Subaru or my BMW. This car has been in our family since 1988, so I’ve ridden in this thing for 22 years of my life! Subarus are essential to mountain country and seem to go just about anywhere in the deep snow. And they keep running FOREVVVVER. They simply WILL NOT DIE. No matter how battered they are, they always seem to resurrect, like some possessed car from the dead, ready to take you even higher and deeper into the mountains. This is not to say that they are perfect cars, however. This one has had an issue for some time now which causes the car, in the middle of driving at ANY SPEED, to come to a screeching halt. Yes, even on the highway. It is a f***ing death trap. (Knock on wood). So my sister doesn’t drive it anymore, because they’ll likely move to Denmark soon.

The car did great on the way to the Sauk Mountain turnoff, about an hour from Bellingham. But as it started up the steep dirt road, it died. No warning, it just stopped running. There’s no “pumping the gas” option to keep it going, because that makes it immediately stop ever harder. Great, we were stuck on a narrow mountain road with a bunch of yuppies flying up and down it in their new Subarus. Assholes. And I can tell you with complete certainty that they were all city dwellers too. How do I know? Because they don’t understand what the ditch and side of the mountain are for – driving on! They would stop, get out, and assess the situation. “I don’t think there is room to get by” Not only is there room to get by, there is room for 3 cars, THREE CARS, to pull up side by side on this road. The “ditch” was completely flat and wide in most places and the side of the mountain gradually eased up on the side of the ditch. Haven’t any of these people ever had to pass someone by driving on the side of the mountain? Needless to say, they also found comfort in sadly advising us that we “couldn’t turn around here”. YES YOU CAN, you idiots. You simply back the car up the side of the mountain (obviously in a place that is not steep), and then turn back down the trail. That is what the FOUR WHEEL DRIVE is for on your Subarus!!!

My sister, Anna, advised us that when the car stops like this, it just needs about 5 minutes to rest and collect itself. Like my dad, after walking ten feet. After a few minutes, the car was fine and we were on our way again! Until a half-mile up the road, when it came to a sudden halt again. It hurt to stop that quickly without warning, but it was also kind of funny. I knew we were really screwed, but I couldn’t stop laughing. We pressed on and it happened again. And again. And again. And again. I am not kidding. We broke down 9 TIMES. It took longer to get to the trailhead than it took to climb the mountain itself!

The Sauk Mountain trail is embedded along a very steep hillside. Last time my sister and her hubby did the hike, he had to stop about half way up because it was so scary. The path is also very thin, so it’s not an ideal place to hike with a baby or small kids. The trail overlooks the Cascade Mountains, the Skagit River, and Mount Baker. And in the far distance you can ever see the San Juan Islands if there isn’t too much haze from the summer heat.

As soon as we wrapped around the back side of the mountain, which faces the Cascades on the eastern horizon, the trail met up with plumes of snow that were still melting away. We had been hiking for nearly 2 hours and eagerly soaked our feet in the snow and rubbed ice on our necks to cool down. Some kids even brought a yoga matt with them to slide down the snow on (this part wasn’t as steep or dangerous as the front side).

Another 10 minutes and we wrapped back around the mountain to the front side and were at the top! Or so we thought. After a few minutes, we noticed people were pressing on through the snow, up into some craggily rocks. Good grief – are you kidding me? I was spent. I was wearing Teva sandals and wasn’t about to go hike through the slippery slush up to something that looked like it belonged in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Plus I wanted to eat lunch. So my brother-in-law Sasha (Oleksandr, but dubbed Sasha by Ukrainian tradition) and I stayed there, while my sister hiked all the way up. Once she got through the snow, the trail widened and became nicer than expected. It took her up to stand in a round section of rockery where she could see ever further than before – all the way to Mount Rainer.

The hike down only took an hour. And the car did fine all the way down the dirt road to the highway. Somewhere along the way we decided that a Jalepeno’s Big Mama margarita was in order, so we had dinner there and then ice cream at Mallard’s. As a result, I can’t stop thinking about their Super Chocolate (a dark Belgium chocolate) ice cream – it is perhaps the best chocolate ice cream I’ve ever had. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day.

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Camping

Truth be told, this summer has not been *entirely* filled with work. I did manage to escape for 3 days to go camping in the Cascade Mountains of central Washington with my sister.

We drove to Lake Wenatchee, which is about 20 miles from Leavenworth, and camped along Nason Creek. We spent time sunbathing, lounging on floaties in the lake (until the cold glacial water was too much to bear), cooking and eating, drinking beer, napping, and driving around what used to be our stomping ground.

It actually brought back memories of my time during the 4th grade, when I had the chance to attend a real Girl Scout camp. I was ecstatic and considered it, up until that point, the most important trip of my life. My parents even splurged and bought me a special bowl with a fold up set of silverware, along with a compass, from REI. I don’t remember them ever buying anything from REI at any point in their financially-strained lives, but they wanted me to have something nice that would last throughout childhood. I arrived to camp in my mom’s Subaru with my backpack in tow, ready for adventure. And it was there I had my first lesson on sexism. What a load of horse shit. The boys in the nearby camp got to learn how to make a fire with flint, while we learned how to make dolls with wooden spoons. Dolls with wooden spoons – Are you KIDDING ME!!!??? Until that point I proudly held my troop’s record for the most cookies sold. But after that, the Girl Scouts were never the same. I know, I know – their cookies are delicious. That is just because they are flavored with DECEPTION.

Anyway, our trip was incredible. Here are a few pictures; the rest are posted to Facebook.

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Ode to Washington

Bellingham, WA

Goodbye, Washington. Thank you for the many memories. I know it’s extremely unlikely that you will have a professor of communication tenure-track position available in 2014, so it is possible that I’ll never reunite with you. Except for a weekend fling, here and there.

Here are the best memories and facts I can dedicate to the Evergreen state.

Contrary to popular opinion, Washington DOES have 4 seasons. Just not in every region. The Cascade Mountains provide some damn serious weather. When I was little my parents used a bulldozer to plow our long and steep driveway in the middle of practically nowhere. On the good days we could ride the snowmobile up and down the driveway. But otherwise, it was virtually impossible to hike up and down in such deep snow. It also gets really cold there. The last time we went snowmobile camping (perhaps a topic for another blog) it dropped to 10 below zero that night.

And the summers are nothing to mess with either. Since the Cascades border the desert of central/eastern Washington, it gets HOT! It is periodically 100, sometimes 110, degrees in central Washington. The blessing and curse of the mountains is that there is no wind because you’re surrounded by tall masses of land.

Washington is also the only location in the continental U.S. that contains rainforests. They are located on the very far west side (southwest of Seattle). This is also where Bigfoot lives.

Washington is also home to the San Juan Islands. During certain parts of the year you can watch the J, K, and L pods of orcas, as they are known by researchers and locals alike, travel through the islands as they feast on salmon. They once surfaced while my dad and I were slowly trolling along on his Bayliner. I was on the back deck and suddenly saw a mother and a baby orca to the side. And just after that another orca shot straight out of the water directly behind the boat, showing it’s massive white tummy, and then fell to the side creating a huge splash. This is known as breaching. And it was incredible.

After writing this I’m now more emotional than I expected. I really love Washington. And I’m going to miss my family, friends, and job so much. I’m not even quite sure that I’m making a good choice by continuing on for a PhD. We’ve traveled and lived all over the country, but 4 years is a long time. And graduate school is incredibly difficult, exhausting, and emotional. Well, good decision or not, we are moving.

We’ll be driving for about 4-5 days. If all goes well, that is. (Prayers, chants, thoughts, etc. are welcome.) We’ll then arrive to our new house in Solon, Iowa, just outside of Iowa City. Not sure when we’ll have access to the internet, but we look forward to connecting with you all soon 🙂

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