Wednesday, November 24, 2021


 I wish I had exciting outdoor adventures to relay this week but that's not the case! The reason? I went to a book fair and sold some books! Well, technically the publisher sold the books but I sat there and pushed the heck out of them!

This was the first live event I've had since my latest book came out in April of 2020 (oh, the timing on that one). You would think people would have read more during the pandemic, but I haven't found that to be the case. Anyway, I drove fearfully through a large city, donned a mask, and saw more people than I've cumulatively seen in two years.

My exercise time was spent in a creaky hotel gym with equipment well beyond its expiration date. When I asked at the front desk if there was somewhere to walk, they said, "well, you can walk around the parking lot." So the gym, strangely named the Health Club, had to do.

On the way home, the interstate closed, as it does on a regular basis. This time it was a truck on fire. I chatted with another driver, who drives water tenders on wildfires. As I returned home, the snow began. It was quite beautiful but not everyone agreed. In the grocery store,  a woman complained into ger phone.

"Jesus! This weather. This is why I never travel. It was supposed to be sunny!"

At home, I geared up for a winter run. Layers, hat, mittens, where were the microspikes, where's the shovel? I encountered Scott, stubbornly trying to mountain bike in several inches of snow. "It's too slippery for my bike," he noted.

Tomorrow I walk across the street for a friendsgiving. Thanksgiving is a deeply problematic holiday if you consider the narrative kids in my age bracket were told in school. But while I hesitate to say Happy Thanksgiving, I hope everyone has one thing to be grateful for.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Dispatches from the frozen tundra

It's hard to believe that somewhere people are wearing shorts, because it's sure not here. I'm back where I grew up, and the snow has come. I've already donned microspikes for runs, fallen on ice, and worn hats and mittens. Oh, winter. I have not missed you.

I'm sure I will get excited about skiing eventually, but today is not that day. Fortunately a slight warming trend brought a sunny day for trail running. I shuffled through the leaves, thanking the stars that I don't care about Strava or my pace. I cared about that stuff (though not Strava) for a long time. Now, I'm just glad I can still run. I enjoy it a lot more, even (gasp) stopping to take photos. 

I looked through some of my old medals from decades ago and decided to toss them all. I'm not one to keep stuff; it just provides clutter. The first place ribbon? Don't need it anymore. 

Another day I ran on the county road, up and down some ferocious hills. Drivers negotiating the sheet of ice that passed for a road gave me a wide berth, no doubt wondering who the crazy lady was. I lost my nerve on one particularly steep hill and turned around. Better to live to run again another day.

It's been a quiet, contemplative week on the frozen tundra, full of writing and running and deep thoughts. The land heads toward winter. I head for home.

Ps. I want this sauna, don't you?

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

The No in November

 November. Is it good anywhere? Maybe in Australia. When I lived in Florida, we welcomed the cooler temperatures and the dipping of the jet stream (and the unofficial end of the hurricane season). But everywhere else I've lived, November isn't the greatest. Take southeast Alaska for instance. It was not uncommon to have rain every single day in November, and not just a happy mist either.

(side note: My friend Julie and I were obsessed with running, and would take off from our office in shorts and t-shirts, returning shivering. There was no shower, so we just wiped off with paper towels and went on with our day. Come to think of it, this probably wasn't the most appealing thing for our co-workers, but the rain did act like a natural shower)

Note that I am talking only about outdoor adventure, which in the scheme of things is not the most important thing in life. But it is important! Here, we get cold weather, some snow, but not enough to ski on, and ice. The other day I slogged along the trail in gym tights, short socks, no hat and running shoes. J looked askance. "It's winter," he reminded me. (He was wearing shorts, so he was a fine one to talk.) "It happened so fast," I whined.

In my defense, it was the finest fall I can remember. Every day was golden, with warm temperatures and picture-worthy leaves. It seemed as if it would last forever. Of course, it didn't. November has flipped the switch. Now it's time to hunt up the snow tires, find the micro spikes, dust off the neglected gloves and hats. I'm not ready! it's tempting to cry. But ready or not, the planet spins. 

"You're back!" the gym owner exclaimed as I darkened the door. It's true, I had neglected the gym for hikes, but now that snow is on the ground, I need to seek other options until there's enough for skiing or snowshoeing. I set up my bike trainer and queued up movies to watch. It's hard to have motivation in November.

The dogs, however, are giddy with the new snow. They roll happily and plop themselves on the ground. They get thick, furry coats. It's their season.

I keep myself motivated by planning adventures. Skiing into a cabin? Yes! Another attempt at winter camping? Well...maybe. Someday when I am rich and have time, I will fly away for extended warmer weather places. For now, I'll endure and try to enjoy it as much as I can (but really, does it have to be dark when I start work and when I end work? That just seems cruel).

Give me your winter adventures! I need motivation!

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Larch Madness!

 I have all three dogs by myself again, so this has meant less adventure and more sticking to areas without people. It's hunting season too, which adds another challenge, and dogs sporting flagging and harnesses. 

What makes it better is that we are having a spectacular larch season. The larches, the only deciduous conifer, are always amazing here, since they show up golden in a dark forest, but for some reason this fall they stand out more than ever.

The dogs and I have some normal routes, which include little-known ski trails and an old logging road. First we drive anxiously to the parking area, checking to make sure no hunters are there. If there are, we move to Plan B. Fortunately, people are fairly predictable and we have been able to hike through sunlit groves of larches quite often.

Route one is a walk into the closed ski area. I can then connect a series of ski trails if I want to run, or hike longer. In fall, it is a quiet place with nobody around. We meander through tall grass and walk up toward the canal, logging a few miles. Soon there will be snow and we will be skiing here.

Route two is up a road closed to most motor vehicles. I hike this a lot in the winter, slogging with snowshoes. In fall it's easier, but no less strenuous. However, the view looking into the fogged in valley is gratifying. I hardly ever make it to the top with the dogs--it's a lot of effort to train them. But even though I don't get to 8000 feet, it's still worth it.
Route 3 is up a trail where few people go, because it doesn't have much for views until you reach the five mile mark. But at the trailhead, the views are outstanding. After staring at the larches, I head up the trail, sometimes going as far as the wilderness boundary. If I hang in there long enough, the trail opens up into an alpine basin.

The thing I like best about larches is that even when it's a gloomy day, their bright color makes it look like little spots of sunshine. Unlike previous years, we haven't had our typical winds, so the larches are hanging on longer. I can't get enough of them.