Strange start to a post about a race day, but… bear with me, this is a good one.
The night before, we needed to figure out when to leave the house, so that Clara would be at the race on time. We plugged the addresses into Google Maps, and punched in the arrival time – 8:15am. It spit out our departure time – 8:30am.
We had a nice rental car, to be sure, but we’re not talking a Delorian here. This thing could drive on gravel roads, but not through the tumult of time, right? We did a few double-checks, and Google kept spitting out the same thing – leave 15min after you need to arrive, and you’ll get there on time.
Finally, we noticed something – the race wasn’t actually in Montana, it was in Idaho! Across the state line… which also happens to be the time zone line! When we drove into Idaho, we went back an hour… leaving at 8:30 out time was, effectively, leaving at 7:30 race time.
Smart play, Google Maps.
Anyways, Clara also noticed some small print on the race flyer, reminding us that “all times are in mountain time”, meaning that we did actually have to leave at 7:30, instead of 8:30… but still. Interesting.
We got to the race on time. Clara started, and Brian and I read for a while. I napped a bit, and we generally relaxed and enjoyed the soft patter of rain on the car’s roof.
Soon enough the race was over, and Clara had finished her first high-altitude half-marathon! We celebrated, ate and drank, and appreciated the sunlight finally breaking through the drizzly clouds. It was nice – the energy around a race is always really positive, and I very much enjoyed soaking it in… especially while eating an exceptionally delicious bratwurst.
Our goal after the race was Jerry Johnson hot springs – one of the joys of this part of Montana is that it’s quite geothermically active, and many of the rivers and streams have natural hot springs pouring out into little pools. Most of them are, most likely, kept as family secrets or something… but we were able to track down a public pool that looked to be just far enough off the beaten path that we wouldn’t get mobbed by people.
We hiked in, found the pool, and slithered our way in!
There weren’t as many people as I’d expected, which was a nice bonus. The pools also weren’t quite as deep as I expected, which wasn’t so much of a nice bonus. The two bonuses kind of evened each other out though, leading to some gloriously relaxed times just luxuriating in the warm silty water.
After a while of soaking, we started feeling the need for food… and so headed back into town to rustle ourselves up some BBQ.
Along with the many hike details we’d looked up ahead of time, we’d done our research about places to eat. Brian, specifically, if I remember correctly… though forgive me if that memory isn’t quite as accurate as it should be. We had a place in mind though – the Notorious P.I.G., which both has an amazing name and an amazing location, being set up in an old oil-change garage.
We ate, we ate some more, and then we ate the rest of what remained. It was amazing.
After rather copious amounts of eating, we had some spare time… and slightly messy faces… so clearly the only course of action was to head back to the cabin and take a nice relaxed evening to enjoy some facemasks, pore strips, and a Disney movie or two.
It was a very good day.
As before, many thanks to my guest photographers! I now have some pictures of myself!
I don’t recall having a real Spring Break trip last year… If I’m remembering correctly, I did a short Spring Break trip down to Joshua Tree back in 2019, but 2020 didn’t quite lend itself to much traveling…
With that in mind, and looking at how much vacation time I’d accumulated over the last year or so, I realized that I really did need to take some time off to escape from work, from Wilsonville, and from getting stuck in my own head. Thankfully, most travel restrictions on the West Coast have been lifted, and my back’s been feeling a lot better… and I was able to finally make the long trek down to Sacramento to visit my friend Mike and finally meet his girlfriend Michelle!
It was a long drive, and a full week of stepping out of my usual little patch of world. I didn’t really go into it expecting anything specific, but I came out having even more appreciation for my friends, and feeling gloriously rested and recharged. I’m not quite back to my old self yet… but this trip was an amazing change to stretch back into myself, and just… explore.
Saturday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday again – 01, 04, 05, and 08-May-2021
This trip involved quite a bit of driving – not only the long drives from Oregon to California and back, but also the drive from Sacramento out to Tahoe and back. This was absolutely perfect for me, since I’ve recently realized that long drives are one of the major ways that I recharge myself… Having my hands and subconscious mind occupied by the road ahead really helps me center myself, and listening to the music and the road noises is one of my favorite forms of meditation.
Back in New England, I’d get this regenerating experience fairly regularly, as I’d drive up to New Hampshire, or out to New York, but in recent years in Oregon I’d lost that opportunity. Now, I’m making more of a point to seek it out, and give myself the time that I need to reflect, relax, and center myself.
Instead of driving directly down to Sacramento, I took a coworkers advice and took a slight detour through central Oregon. I5 is definitely the fastest route down, but I wasn’t in a huge rush… I wanted to see Mike and Michelle, of course, but I was very okay with taking 10 hours instead of 9, if it meant that I got some extra scenery and enjoyable driving.
I drove, and the miles flew by under the car’s wheels. I passed beautiful mountain passes, such as Diamond Peak, and found new places that I’m very much looking forward to going back to, to hike and backpack. I passed a controlled burn, then a dust storm, then an uncontrolled burn by the highway.
I saw sights, and listened to music.
I’d even downloaded my first audiobook, and listened to that for quite a bit of the drive. Nothing particularly fancy, I’ll admit, but a lovely and fun fiction book that kept me entertained and positive with its over-the-top ridiculousness.
I didn’t drive non-stop, of course… I took a few breaks along the road, stopping to look at a few lakes, to appreciate Shasta, and do some calisthenics, as I felt restless and my legs had the need to move around a bit.
Mostly though, I drove. I drove and drove, listened and listened.
It was lovely, and soon enough I was back in civilization, pulling into the driveway…
The drive out to Lake Tahoe was gorgeous.
Similar to my drive to Sacramento itself, we didn’t take the most direct route… or, we sort of did, but our destination was on the far end of Lake Tahoe, so our route didn’t follow the major highways. Which sort of still hits the goal of staying off the main grinding roads, so I was quite happy with it.
We left in two cars – since we were bringing all of our bikes, a single car wasn’t really a viable option unfortunately… but that did mean that I was able to crank up the tunes and crank down the top, which I definitely wasn’t against. I was really enjoying the California vibe that I had going – long hair flapping in the breeze as I drove down the highways in my convertible…
You know, my life isn’t that bad, is it?
No, no it is not.
For the drive back to Sacramento, I took a different route than Mike and Michelle.
We’d spent the day hiking and skiing (I hiked, they skied) at Squaw Valley, which put us near the Northern end of Lake Tahoe itself… which meant that the closest highway was the main road leading directly back to Sacramento. Instead of following them down that route, though, I wanted to drive back the same way that we’d driven in – down the back roads, South of the lake itself.
Not that I didn’t want to get back to the house… but more I was looking forward to enjoying the lake a little bit more, and hopefully getting a short hike in as I drove through the mountains… Driving to Tahoe, I’d seen a ton of beautiful trailheads, and I wanted to explore every single one of them.
(Ed Note: Please see Ben’s post titled “A spring adventure – The Hikes” for Ben’s hike in toward Pyramid Creek)
The drive back was exactly as beautiful as I’d hoped that it would be. I enjoyed the lake views, stopped a few times to explore, and simply enjoyed myself immensely, being completely free and unfettered by any kind of timeline or need to be any specific place at any specific time.
The main drive back, after the sun had set and the temperatures had cooled off, was… interesting.
Something I’d noted in Sacramento was that it’s very aptly named “The City of Trees”… It’s beautiful, tons of shade, and I’m sure they help keep clean air and a lovely regular temperature. There is a downside though – Pollen. I don’t normally get allergies in the spring, but whoooo boy, were my eyes stinging and was my nose running. It was rough, and the drive back from the clear mountain air into the dusty pollen-filled city air was super noticeable.
I don’t want to think of what Mike and Michelle must have made of me, when I walked back into the house after parking outside their apartment… my eyes were stinging like I’d dropped hot sauce into them, and my nose wasn’t feeling much better. The first thing I did after getting inside was took out my contacts and rinsed my eyes for a solid 5min straight… just splashing and sloshing water at them, trying to dislodge as much of the demon-dust as I could…
Driving back to the land of Oregon was just as lovely as the drive down to the city of trees… thought it was definitely a little bit more melancholy than the drive down had been.
That didn’t stop me from enjoying my audiobook, of course, and I appreciated a change of pace brought on by driving straight up the main highway, taking the direct route for the first time on the whole trip. It was just as beautiful as the alternate option, I was surprised to find, as I-5 took a beautifully winding route through the Northern California mountains before joining into the rolling Southern Oregon hills.
I tried to get a few pictures… but I mostly just appreciated the scenery as appreciated the last chance I had to sit back and meditate on the rolling miles. It was beautiful, and I greatly enjoyed watching the landscape change as the sun arced across the sky as it set down in the West…
Then, I continued driving through the evening, ’till I finally made it back to my own apartment and my own bed… which, as anyone who takes long trips can remind you, is always a welcome comfort at the end of a trip.
First Weekend of April – 02-Apr-2021 through 04-Apr-2021
It’s been a while since I’ve had a full adventure weekend. I’ve been kind of floating around between adventures this spring, not really sure what I want to be doing and feeling a bit aimless. I don’t know if it’s the longer days, the solitude, or what… but for better or worse, it’s been a real challenge motivating myself to do much else aside from go to work, go to the gym, and try to regenerate my energy at home by laying on the couch like a lazy bear.
This weekend, I planned it out. I set goals, timetables, and decided to move. To charge forward and to try and drive myself out of the funk that comes with the changing of the seasons!
I drove and drove, through night and day And in and out of weeks And almost over a year
I watched the suburbs give way to forest The forest give way to snow The snow give way to forest The forest give way to desert And the desert, at last, give way to the rock
Then, I came to where the climber things are.
(Ed Note: Again, I really have nothing as to why Ben is being poetic. Spring time, maybe? This one’s… pretty solid though; Ben spent most of the long drive working on it, and I’m pretty proud of him)
It’s been a while since I’ve done a road trip. The last one was… Going out to the Wallowas, to hike out to Ice Lake, I think? So late last fall, right before the September snows started coming in. Yeah, quite a long time.
I’d been itching for it, and this weekend presented the perfect time to really embrace the adventure, and make a few solid memories… along with maybe taking a few good pictures for the photo album, if I’m lucky.
The main goal of the day was to explore. No stress, no rush, just get out of the house fairly early and then… just kind of go, you know? I was hoping to find some interesting spot to stop and get my Stepdad a good birthday present, and was aiming to hit up Smith, but aside from that… or even in what order… I didn’t have any specific requirements.
Which is kind of the optimal way to do a road trip… at least, when possible.
I started out early – having a quick cup of coffee and the heading out straight away. I tossed some random gear into the car; not a ton, but just enough for a few contingencies, and hit the road. Originally I’d planned on grabbing myself a breakfast sandwich or something, but… I don’t know, it just felt better to get some miles under my tires first, before making any stops.
I started composing that poem you read earlier as the forests of Mt. Hood gave way to the desert of Central Oregon… It felt good to be moving, and I appreciated the reminder of just how diverse the Oregon ecosystems actually are.
A quick stop along the banks of the Deschutes river was the only rest I took before I passed by Smith Rock.
I didn’t quite feel like stopping just yet, so I kept the pace going – I mentioned that I’d been wracking my brain for a birthday present, and I finally had figured it out! A thunder Egg!
I’d seen shops along the highway South of Smith Rock that sold Thunder Eggs, but I’d never had a chance to stop into any of them… I’m always rushing between adventures, or speeding along the highway in order to get home in time, but they’d still gotten filed away as one of those neat places that I wanted to explore someday, if the situation arose.
Well, today the situation arose.
The first place that I wanted to check out was closed, but soon enough I saw another sign off the side of the highway. You know the type, the kind of old and weathered sign crying out that there’s some world-famous thing just minutes off the highway, and that you’d be crazy to keep driving on by. The sign that was probably put up half a century ago, when people regularly drove across the country instead of flying, and probably had a full parking lot sometime back in the 70s.
Well, I took the exit and started my search. It was barely even an exit, really… more like a small pullout that led to an old and lonely desert road. But I still pulled off, and started the meandering trek following signs that seemed to get older and smaller the further I went from the highway.
I did stop to take a few pictures of said lone and lonely road, of course, just since it was so gorgeously scenic and empty… but also because the drive out to the rock garden was starting to drag onward a bit long… I nearly gave up, actually, after a particularly long stretch of road without any signs or updates on how much more “just off the highway” this dang place was…
Finally though, I saw the final sign: “Petersen Rock Garden, next right!”
I walked around, visited with the garden cats and the peacocks, and chatted with the great-grand daughter of the original builder in the rock shop on site.
I found the presents I was looking for… and even found a bit of peace and quiet in the empty gardens. I wandered around and enjoyed the silence until my legs started getting restless, and I felt the need to get back onto the road back toward Smith.
Desert flew by as I pointed the nose of the car back onto the highway. I went fairly direct, though didn’t immediately go for the highway… I enjoyed the back roads for a little longer, before jumping back into traffic on the main road… it was nice, and I was hugely appreciative of the simple smells of the desert. It’s been so long since I’d been out that way that I’d forgotten how everything smells like sage…
Anyways, I got to Smith Rock.
The parking lot was fairly full, but not nearly as full as I’d normally expect for a weekend… though the fact that it was mid-day on a Sunday may have been the cause of parking spots being available – maybe most people had already headed back toward the city, after a solid weekend of climbing.
There were still quite a few people though, and I ran into my fair share of folks as I walked in, and then as I started down the Misery Ridge trail… but soon enough I left the crowds behind as I moved deeper into the park, and I finally got to really stretch out and enjoy the solitude.
I mostly hiked, but did a little bit of bouldering as the opportunities presented themselves. It was sort of slow, just enjoying the air and the sun, and remembering all the climbs and times that I’d had at Smith up ’till now. Good and bad, positive and negative… just a ton of memories and emotions associated with the soaring rock faces.
It was simply lovely – fun hiking, a little exploring of the bases of the rock faces, and a lot of just appreciating the scenery and the simplicity of not being in the city anymore. I did have to stop a few times to replace my sunscreen, but aside from that and a few snack breaks, I mostly just wandered and explored.
I felt good – I remember the first time that I hiked at Smith Rock, and how winded I got as I charged up the switchbacks, at a slightly higher elevation than I was used to. Now, I was able to simply cruise – not charging, but not getting winded… really at all. I felt good, really good, and was glad to feel that all the cardio and gym time had been paying off.
The rest of the day… really wasn’t much. I hiked, I appreciated the scenery, and I got back to the car. I didn’t have any real dinner plans, but I wasn’t quite feeling like a dinner out… so instead I had a quick snack and then started back on the highway toward the city, and then down to Wilsonville.
The Sun set in the distance as I drove down the highway, through the empty desert and toward the peak of Mt. Hood, looming in the distance. I wasn’t planning on making it home before nightfall, but I’d timed it almost perfectly that I got to see the glimmer of sunset on the mountain as I drove onward.
The rock quickly gave way to endless desert The desert gave way to sweeping forests The trees gave way to drifts of snow The snow gave way to the warm forest And finally, the forest spread out and was replaced by suburbs, calling me home.