The last few weekends, I’ve been up in the mountains. Snow, cold weather, beautifully crisp air… I love it.
Sometimes, we need a change of scenery though – Sticking with the theme of the weekend, I was hiking with a friend today, and she’d gotten into a crash while snowboarding back on Friday… so she wasn’t quite feeling like hanging out in the snow, which is rather understandable after cracking your helmet after flying through a whiteout.
We went in the other direction, trading cold snow and crisp air for warm breezes and salt spray!
Falcon’s Crest is a fairly short hike, with a surprising amount of mud in that short hike… but it’s a beautiful few miles, with light elevation gain and excellent views. The trees are covered in Moss, the forest is lush and green throughout the year… and while you can’t quite smell the sea air, you can still somehow sense that the ocean is nearby. Maybe it’s the subtle noise of the breakers, or the salt tint to the breeze… I couldn’t quite put a finger on it, but it’s still always an amazing feeling.
We hiked in, avoided as much mud as we could, and enjoyed a nice snack out on the point overlooking the waves.
We hiked back, rested for a while on a bench by the beach, and watched the surfers rock the breaking waves. Having Aliona along, I got to learn quite a bit about the surfers… or more accurately, the waves that they were chasing. That’s what I love about meeting new people, and spending time with friends – you can always learn more about something, if you have someone along for the ride to talk to.
Every activity has such surprising depth to it, and I truly love getting to learn the intricacies behind why people are doing what they’re doing.
After beach-gazing for a while, we headed back to the parking lot for a quick snack before driving back to town – Aliona pulled out a full camp cooking kitchen from the back of her car, and I got to enjoy a rather amazing late-lunch of indian-spiced ramen noodles. Not something I’ve ever thought to try, but it was gloriously delicious – smooth, spicy… an excellent end to a beautifully salt-sprayed day!
Sometimes, I just need to get out of the house… Usually, I’ll head toward the snow and the cold, but thanks to a whole issue with the Mustang being in the shop for repairs, I wasn’t quite feeling confident enough to brave the snow and ice. As strange as it may sound to some, I trust the rear-wheel drive Mustang in the snow implicitly… partially because I’m used to driving it in Bostonian winters, and partially because it has all my emergency gear in the trunk – chains, self-jumpers, extra food, that sort of thing.
Without that safety net, I didn’t feel up to an artic adventure.
Instead, the coast called out to me. Clean, cool air, salt spray, sunsets, clouds, rain and wind.
The drive out was long… and frankly, pretty boring. The little EcoBoost that the shop had given me did fine, but the drive out to the coast has few views aside from some interesting forest scenes. Thankfully the drive went by fairly quickly with a liberal application of loud singalong music, and soon enough I was scrambling down the muddle slope toward the sea.
I’d never been to Ecola point, and it was actually my second choice for a destination – I was originally targetting Indian Beach, but unfortunately the recent wind storms (I think?) had closed the parking lot off… Or COVID restrictions had closed that parking lot? Or… possibly it’s seasonal?
Meh, doesn’t matter in the end. These days, there’s a thousand and one reasons a place may be closed. After parking, my only concern became how to best descend the slope; soon enough I was scrambling down the muddy trail, hand-over-hand down a climbing rope toward the rocky shore. It was amazing – the views were second to none, and the descent itself was worth the entire drive out there.
There was a trail, of course, but I use the term “trail” very loosely in this regard – it was more of a series of braided pathways leading in the same general direction, with a few trail markers strewn liberally about… possibly by rangers, but also possibly by the sea breeze. I… honestly couldn’t quite tell if they were intentionally place, or just detritus blown in on a storm.
The rope helped things, giving me a singular descent point (and peace of mind that, yes, this was an actual trail) to trend toward, and one place to keep an eye on as the tide came in.
I didn’t go too far offshore on the rocks, but I did spend quite a while sitting on the beach. I read, I watched the sun fly toward the horizon, and I just enjoyed the misty rain and the sound of the surf. It’s amazing and beautifully calming, and I was taken a little aback when I realized just how late in the day it had gotten.
The entirety of 2020… Can it even be summarized? How can I look back on a year that seems to have lasted a lifetime? More than a lifetime, even?
But here I am.
Typing my thoughts into a blog, thinking back on one of the most eventful and impactful years of my life. Even as I type that sentence, I question it… was this last year really that much different from the previous years? I’ve had major life shifts, sure, but… I’ve had those before. Leaving Medway to go to college, graduating college, even moving to a new state for an internship. Breaking my arm, then my leg, or stepping onto that plane that took me so far from home, when I first traveled to South America?
Those were all such huge events… but I feel like the difference is that they were planned. Expected. Part of the roadmap, so to speak. 2020… well, it didn’t have a roadmap. Even if it did, the track I followed sure wasn’t the same map that I started the year with…
Right now, I’m alternating between standing on my porch, overlooking an empty road, and sitting by my little gas fireplace, enjoying the warmth and the simplicity of the fake wood.
Celebrating New Year’s Eve alone.
And that’s okay.
That’s what 2020 became – a chance to be alone, and to settle back into myself. To recall who I truly am, what I can be, and where I want to be going. The whole world is changing, faster than I think any of us ever expected, and sometimes we’ve got to step back and appreciate the quiet solitude while we still can…
Let’s sit down together, and walk through the year together, shall we?
January – I started the year in Scotland. We watched as Australia burned, while lashing rain both torpedoed the family plans and also gave me some of the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen – the sun shining out over the Isle of Skye. We flew back to the United States, blissfully unaware of just how much the world was going to change over the next 12 months…
February – My Mom came out to visit Portland! Honestly, this seems so long ago that I can barely even remember it… which I definitely feel bad about! I ran a 5k, and although I didn’t do quite as well as the previous year I still stuck it out, grinding my way through the steps.
March – I started working from home. Something I’d wanted the option to do for years, but I didn’t ever expect that it would be caused by a pandemic like this… In March, I still felt like COVID was something almost normal, or that it at least wouldn’t lead to as much of an impact to my life as it did… Snow came to Portland, and I started settling into a slow trudge of another year.
April – The lockdown really came in earnest – We limited exposure to people, and I started trying to do better about staying fit while being stuck indoors. That lead to a new injury – Trying to do deadlifts at home led to me pulling a nerve in my back, which in turn led to some of the strongest pain medications I’ve had to take.
May – We started taking Ollie to my office on the weekends – I was going into work every other day, but was also stepping in for an hour or so on weekends to help with 3D printing face shields for COVID relief… which gave us some unique chances to get out of the house, and even out of our neighborhood, at least for a few short hours.
Flowers started blooming in the garden, adding a really nice touch of color to the ongoing pandemic…
June – June marked the end of my longest relationship, and was the closing of a hugely impactful chapter of my life. A relationship ended, and I was set back on the path of remembering who I actually am… slowly restarting the parts of myself that I’d shut down over the years. I went camping, and backpacking, and finally met my friend Mike down in California…
I also moved to a new town, cutting my daily commute from 90min down to 10, which would slowly reverberate through the rest of the year as extra time, energy, and focus.
July – My Birthday came and went, though I could barely tell you what happened. I was still settling into my new apartment, my new routine, and my new life. COVID restrictions were still in effect, but comparatively lax against what was to come.
I started going outside even more; hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing.
July also marked my newfound love of hiking Elk Meadows, which would become my new retreat from the insanity of the city…
August – August brought hiking and biking, but the biggest standout of the month was my first big solo backpacking trip in… well, I can’t remember how long. I took the week off from work, packed up the Mustang, and ground away the miles to far Eastern Oregon, to the Eagle Cap Wilderness and the near-legendary Ice Lake.
Ice Lake is supposedly one of the most picturesque backpacking trips in Oregon, it absolutely didn’t disappoint… and was a beautiful chance for me to escape into my own mind for a few days.
September – The wildfires on the West Coast are no joke, and September brought them in with a vengeance. Every year the fires seem to get worse and worse, and this year was no exception to that rule – my site was shut down for over a week due to hazardous air quality, and I didn’t leave the house without a respirator on for most of the month.
Almost scarier though, was one of the hikes I went on… when we got back to the trailhead, the whole state forest had been closed to hikers due to the imminent fire danger. I ended up accidentally leaving my boots at the trailhead in my rush to get out of the danger area.
I did get out of town once, though, in an escape to the cool temperatures and clean air of the Oregon coast!