A Pretty, Long Walk – West Seattle

We didn’t walk very far on Sunday, but we made up for it today. We took Charlie with us. He is a curly haired Wheaton terrier who generally likes to go out for exercise.

Meet Charlie. Also notice the beautiful flowers.

The first hour was a city walk, past houses that face out to Puget Sound. As you might expect, they were on the expensive and extravagant side, but so interesting to look at. Built on the bluff with creative driveways and staircases, and landscaping that had me taking pictures every few minutes. We walked south from Alki and ended up at Lincoln Park. For us it was around 10,000 steps, for Charlie it was considerably more and he was thirsty. We were looking for a water bowl, which can commonly be found around fountains, since so many people are walking their dogs. Charlie found one.

Small gardens with joyous profusion
Gardens that probably have professional caretakers
Sidewalk gardens, purple lavender abounds…
Gardens with random wildflowers

Next we headed east through the park in the direction of California Avenue. It is the main business street that runs down the middle of the West Seattle peninsula. Our only stop was to buy water at a gas station, again sharing with Charlie who was beginning to act a bit tired. Our walk north toward home ended up going through Schmitz Park. It was like entering a different world.

I’ve written something about Schmitz Park every time I’ve visited Esther in Seattle because it has an access right behind her house. I ALWAYS visit this park. I’ve not been anyplace like it and consider it a magical, singular experience. It’s an old growth forest with trails following a large ravine from the top of the bluff, down to lower elevations near Alki and the beach. The trails are not fancy, not paved. There are no signs directing where to go. No railings on the steep portions. Click this link for more visuals of Schmitz Park.

The Hidden Forest

The forest and the ravine insulated us from the noise and heat from the city street. It was shady and dark, with the sounds of water flowing into the central stream. Many parts of the path were wet with cool mud and took some navigating. It must have felt good on Charlie’s paws. And 20 minutes later we were home, having done nearly 20,000 steps total. A good walk, I’d say.

Home again to Esther’s daisy garden

Not Done Yet

It snowed again this morning. I am not sitting in the chair in the picture, but I am in one close by with the same view. Winter knows its days are numbered, but March gives it one more month to exhaust itself. I am SO ready for the next season. It is now very important to keep going on and not lose heart.

I’ve gotten that message in so many ways – not that it’s a new thought that I must persevere. Every inspiring story ever told has the theme of “hang in there”. It’s probably because we humans are always finding ourselves in the “go numb and give up” state of mind over some circumstance in our lives.

I was all set to go visit my daughter, the one who is planning a wedding. We were getting ready for some good mother/daughter stuff, a bright spot to take up the last days of winter. And then along came COVID-19 and all the warnings for people over 60 and the immunosuppressed. That pretty much describes all the people that I come in contact with on a daily basis, myself included. Add to that, the fact that my daughter lives two crowded airports and 6 hours in a plane from me, in a city where the majority of U.S. deaths have occurred. Yep, Seattle. So, I’m not going there now. Thank you to all who helped me make the decision. (It was sensible, but hard anyway.) I’m not giving up on a chance to do this trip in the future – that’s where the perseverance comes in.

I also thought about the merits of continuance, keeping pace, and not giving up on a recent walk with my brother. Winter walking through the woods is a bit of an art. The path is very hard and slippery in places and very uneven, which makes me tend to look down and watch my footing (while running into branches at eye level…). I’m always conscious of the biting, cold air I’m breathing in, even while I’m sweating under layers of winter clothing. It’s a strange mixture of exhilarating and exhausting. But I can see my brother’s feet ahead of mine and I know if we keep putting one foot ahead of the other, we will finish the 3 mile loop.

Right, left, right, left, slip, scramble, hop to get in step again, KEEP GOING

Persevere, my friends. Rest and recoup, if necessary, but keep going. Whatever your “winter” is, DON’T GIVE UP.

This encouraging smile was in the snow along the trail. I added the hair.

Lassitude

Yep, it’s still winter….

Lassitude: A state of physical or mental weariness; lack of energy.

This is a winter word. We are half way through our fourth month of winter and I am getting weary in my mind. I’m also weary of hunting for boots, mittens, scarves and coats every time I have to go out. Actually, I don’t always put all that stuff on – that’s how weary I am of it all. I just run outside in my sweatshirt and hope to make it over to Mom’s house before I freeze.

You would find some things about our winter surprising. For instance, you can’t imagine how warm our house gets – too warm to wear anything long sleeved. On a sunny day our south windows heat the place up to 78 degrees and I have to open a few windows in order to breathe. I have one blanket on my bed and sometimes I throw that off. And inside those down jackets, it can get hot and sweaty on a walk. Yes it can.

I’m still taking walks in the wetlands every now and then. I take my phone along in case I encounter a photographic moment, but lassitude has taken over in that area too. All these winter pictures start looking the same. Kind of white.

I took a walk today. Most of it was on the track made initially by a snowmobile, followed by a couple of showshoers, followed by some boots. It’s frozen hard and is rough. I had to look down and pay attention not to twist an ankle, but at least my knees stayed dry (except for that one time coming through a deep place where I had to crawl out).

It was clear today and the snow was all sparkly and clean. Okay, I did take pictures. I have cool gloves with the finger patch that lets me do the touchscreen AND keep my hands warm. Here’s some winter whiteness, and to liven things up see if you can guess what kind of animal tracks you’re seeing. (You’re all “wilderness scout” types right?)

Something that drags a tail.

Something with long toenails.

Something with three feet and a tail? I don’t know.

Something (four footed) that meets friends on top of the hill.

Something that walks on two feet until it falls.

Day of the Jaeckel

It’s been years since I walked for a cause – the three day, 60 miles breast cancer walk. Today I joined my brother and his wife and a couple hundred other people from our small community to walk a 5k for ALS.

John Jaekel is a Haywardite, former coach and educator at the high school, and friend and neighbor to most everyone he meets. He is also one of the longest survivors of ALS and a spokesperson for the cause all around the state of Wisconsin. The walk was started by his family and other supporters around four years ago and has become a regular event in Hayward.

We met at the Lutheran Church in town where John is a member, and went inside to look at the silent auction items. There is no fee to join the walk, so the auction is the fund raising portion of the morning. There is an online auction as well as the one we saw, and many Hayward businesses and individuals were represented there. I bid on a small piece of furniture. Lumber from the lumber company, 2 months membership at the local gym, hair cuts and beauty supplies, art and specialty food items, and tickets to Packer games(!!!) as well as other creative and tempting offerings were up for bid.

The walk was leisurely, led by John Jaekel himself in his motorized chair. There were parents with small children in wagons and strollers, elderly people being pushed in wheelchairs, and all ages in between. The weather was cooperative, actually could not have been more perfect. I’m not kidding, there were cheerleaders and encouraging signs along the route.

One family walking close to me came from a city 80 miles away to join the walk. They had lost a brother to ALS the year before and knew John through the support network they had been in together. I didn’t get to talk to John but it was clear that he was a beloved member of the community and had been successful in stirring people to action. One of the signs along the route pointed out that the purpose of the walk was to make sure that someday there wouldn’t have to be any walks. Research toward a cure is the goal.

At the end of the walk, volunteers at the church had breakfast ready for all the walkers. Someone had upped the ante on my table bid, so I pushed it up a little higher. I didn’t get it but it went for a better price and that was good.

This was a day to walk and talk with others, over a common interest – that of helping people like John Jaekel and others who are battling als. I admire his enthusiasm and dedication, and wish him well. I thank him for bringing our community together around a good cause.

Smith Meadow

How I come to be here is another story for another time, Smith Meadow being enough of a story in itself. A clearing in the middle of a parcel of forested land has become dear to many in my family. Part of the farm my father came to the year he and my mom were married, it has had a part in my brother’s lives as they have cared for it in various ways. Lately the forest around it has been harvested leaving wide paths through the pines and hardwoods that are still plentiful. Dark, cool, and full of mosquitoes, the path winds through the forest all the way around the meadow.

Really if it were not for the forest, the meadow would not have the magic that it does. It is a surprise of openness, with a feeling of privacy. It is a secret that cannot be seen from outside. There is a grass covered road through a field of hay by which to approach the meadow. Those who don’t know it’s there, would not notice it at all. From cars on the nearby paved road all that can be seen is a tall wall of trees on the far side of an expanse of timothy grass and clover.

In the aftermath of a disturbing discussion, I stepped out into the meadow looking for some peace, looking for the path into the woods. Trees have always helped me feel sheltered, covered, and aware of their bigness and the smallness of my problems. It was fall when I last walked on the path so the trees were mostly bare and leaves covered the ground. This evening, everything was green from the floor to the ceiling overhead, an endless variety of patterns and shapes in green, green and green…

The path itself is predominantly covered with white clover and grass, almost like it has been seeded. It creates a perfect dining area for deer and I expect to see one every time I go around a bend, but no. Only once did I hear a sound and see the momentary flash of white in the woods. But the grasses were disturbed and flattened in many places all along the mile or so of my walk. The deer had been there.

I returned, along with my mosquito friends, to my abode for the night. This lonely little trailer house, on the edge of Smith Meadow, no electricity, no water – just peace (and mosquitoes).

Grand Canyon Leftovers

Yes, leftovers. These things I’ve written about my adventure hiking in the Grand Canyon have probably not taken you more than 2 or 3 minutes to read, on any given day.  When you consider that the whole experience was six days in the happening, you know there were lots of things I did not mention, yet.

There are some significant things I want to record for my own sake, and maybe for yours, dear readers.

I want to remember:

  • The El Tovar Hotel. Specifically, the ice cream shop and the booth where my brother sat as a teen and was encouraged to apply for summer work at the Canyon. He did, and that started his GC experiences and led to mine. Beautiful hotel with such a history.
  • Our knowledgeable, personable female guide, Nina. Her German heritage came out in her motherly care of us, her enthusiasm for beer, and her down to earth “so who needs a swim suit to go swimming” philosophy.
  • That it’s very handy to have an empty plastic Mayonnaise jar in the tent with you at night, ladies. Thank you again Nina.
  • How big, beautiful and dangerous the Canyon is.
  • That people are built to walk up easier (and longer) than to walk down.
  • That trekking poles are lifesavers when you are tired. Four points of balance are so much better than two.
  • That I can live through pain, and that pain’s memory fades (as in childbirth and hiking the South Kaibab)
  • That with enough rain, the desert can look so green and full of flowers.
  • That even in a place stamped with billions of years of time, the fact that I can see it, marvel at it, and wonder about it, means I am uniquely created to enjoy it in my brief span of time. Time is not the only measure of significance.
  • That I am truly blessed to not be living like I’m camping all the time, but that I get to camp out when I want to.
  • That you can get to know complete strangers pretty easily when you camp and hike with them, and most serious hikers are nice people. I enjoyed getting to know you Michael, Marlene, Steven, Mike, Bob and Kim.
El Tovar main lobby, from second floor balcony
El Tovar, second floor lobby near guest rooms

Coming Out

Do you see how far away that rim looks? How do I keep from thinking about that?

I kept looking up at what is called the Redwall, a formidable layer of red stained limestone above me. I could see no path taking me up beyond it and it was towering. After five hours of upward travel, the Redwall seemed like a dead end. The only thing I could think was that if I didn’t stop, if I just kept going, I would eventually get to the top. The mental challenge was every bit as big as the physical. I found myself praying frequently that God would strengthen me to keep moving and I warned him that I would someday ask him to explain this canyon to me. This beautiful, challenging, and mystifying place…

When I looked back over the distance I had already traveled I was aware that I had already come far. But most of my attention was focused on the ground where my next footfall would land. The second half of the Bright Angel Trail, right before the South Rim was a real struggle.

We had started that morning around 6, with cool weather and a possibility of rain. The Silver Bridge took us from the campground to the south side of the river. The trail stayed along the river for a while before heading out of the inner gorge on what the guides called “Devil’s Corkscrew”. It wasn’t as steep or difficult as I had expected and all of our crew made really good time. Again the scenery was powerful with frequent views of the trail below and above us, so three dimensional. Voices carry in the canyon and we could hear other hikers even when they were far away, like in an echo chamber.

Indian Gardens – trees, water, resting places

We reached Indian Gardens around 10 am a little ahead of schedule, and rested. What a beautiful place! Large cottonwood trees thrive around the creek, and green plants were plentiful. I can see why the Indian tribes chose to spend time there in the past. I could have spent more time there but we were urged on – the guides knew there were still 4.5 miles to go, some of it would be in the sun, and some of our group had expended most of their energy and strength.

Our group had spread out by this time and I lost track of my brother and his wife. I had seen them ahead of me and I didn’t want to fall too far behind them. I passed up the next stop at Three Mile because I would have had to come down a hill from the restroom and downhill was still too painful to choose unnecessarily. I skipped the stop at Mile and a Half because of the vicious acting squirrels trying to get people to share their snacks. I had heard squirrels were the most dangerous animals in the canyon and I found that believable. I wasn’t going fast at all – I felt like the only way to go slower would have been to stop. It’s possible I looked pretty wasted because lots of people asked me how far I’d come and tried to cheer me up.

I walked out of the canyon at 12:50 pm. I never did catch up with my family, and I found out it was because they were behind me, not ahead. Hmmm….

The member of our group who had trouble and the guide who stayed with him made it out two hours later. As we collected and went to find food we compared our experiences. My sister-in-law and I both were avoiding painful downward grades and well, we walked funny. We were sore. Both my knees hurt – I had actually taken the brace off the right one and put it on the left. I found out that if I kept walking even though I hurt, pretty soon that hurt would diminish and something else would hurt more. That was one of my more interesting observations about pain.

It was wonderful to know that I could stop walking, and that most of the places I would want to walk were relatively flat. I felt relieved of responsibility that had been impressed upon me numerous times, in books, in words, and on signs – the warning “to go into the canyon is an option, to come out is not”. I had gotten myself in, and with God’s help I was now out.

Thirteen Thousand Steps

One day this week I took a longer than usual walk, for training purposes. Since the first day walking at the Grand Canyon will be at least four hours of descent, I’ve been trying to think of places that would be interesting for the longer training walks. The trails around Hospital Lake fit the description.  Hospital Lake, named for the Hayward Area Memorial Hospital which can be seen from nearly every vantage point around the lake, not only has ski and hiking trails but actually has a very cool bike trail designed and maintained by the Chequamagon Area Mountain Bike Association (CAMBA).

ATV trail on old railroad bed

From home, I took the railroad bed ATV trail. Right away I had to take pictures of the fungi and moss. There aren’t a lot of green things growing yet so these plants get top billing. And they are so interesting they deserve it.

Love these colors and textures!
Different!
Mullein
And a bit of color.

A short distance on Hospital Road, and then I ducked into the pine woods where I knew I would intersect with a trail. It’s a small enough area that is fairly familiar to me so I wasn’t concerned about getting lost. My motto is “I’m never lost if I don’t care where I’m going.” So true. And if the goal is to get in as many steps as possible…

All the trails aren’t this wide and smooth. This is one of the ski trails.

In opting for whichever trail looked most interesting, I ended up on some I had not seen before. I discovered that some new trails were being made in the woods by workers with heavy equipment – they weren’t there at the time but there was lots of evidence. Part of this forest is old growth pine – trees which always have me in awe of their size and bearing. Guardians of the forest, who have seen a lot of action.

The guardian and his weapons.
Swans on Hospital Lake

Reaching the lake, I got a glimpse of swans on the far edge, too far for a good picture. I counted five and watched them for a while.  On the way out I did try a couple trails that took me in circles, and again I ended up in places I hadn’t seen before. The area is bigger than I thought. Thirteen thousand steps, for me, is 5.84 miles and I was beginning to feel the strain so I headed home. My sis-in-law met me on the way back and we walked home together.

Hospital Lake – beautiful area for walking, biking or in winter, skiing. Try it if you are ever in Hayward.

Why?

Why?

Do you ever wonder why you are drawn to adventure? Even if you only like to read about adventure, discovery, exciting lives and times, have you stopped to think about why those stories are appealing? Why do we have bucket lists? Why do we purposely choose some challenges and count them worth the pain they may cause? Why do I want to sleep on the ground for five nights, hike 20 miles up and down a distance greater than four Empire State Buildings, in uncertain weather with only what I can stuff into one duffel bag, and do all this with 7 strangers who might snore even worse than I do? Why?

My thinking – it’s because we are made in the image of an adventurous God. Big plans, big ideas, a view of existence so broad and all encompassing that we can’t begin to understand it, all that starts with him. It’s mystery and we are made to be curious and to seek it out.

The Grand Canyon is a project on a scale bigger than we can imagine, yet the processes that formed it were designed and patiently overseen.  Colin Fletcher in “The Man Who Walked Through Time” was trying to wrap his mind around the length of time represented by the Grand Canyon – millions of years.  He had this to say, and I quite agree.

 “Most of us, when we first think deeply about such time spans, tend to draw back in fear from their brink, just as we tend at first to draw back in fear from the brink of anything so immense as Grand Canyon. But it is worth remembering, I think, that some element of fear probably lies at the root of every substantial challenge. And it makes no difference at all whether the challenge is to your mind or to your body, or whether – with richer promise than either, alone – it embraces both.”

The Man Who Walked Through Time, p. 4 by Colin Fletcher

That fear thing! I will admit to being drawn to things that are capable of frightening me.  Isn’t that the essence of challenge? I am habitually choosing challenges, small, large, and in between, because I want to know if I can prepare well enough, mentally and physically.  The prospect of seeing and experiencing wonderful things that I would otherwise miss pulls me into adventure.

My adventure is somewhat ridiculous when compared to Colin Fletcher’s goal of walking the Grand Canyon from one end of the park to the other, but another quote from him resonated strongly with me.

 “I looked east and west, as far as my eyes could strain, until cliff and terrace tapered way into hazy distances. It was mysterious and terrible – and beckoning. And some time during the afternoon, as I sat on the rink of this strange new world, it came to me that if a route existed, I would walk from one end of the Canyon to the other. Once the idea had crystallized, no hideously sensible doubts reared up to plague me.  And I did not need such fragile props as “reasons”. The only question I asked myself was whether the project would turn out to e physically possible. Perhaps it is in this kind of simple certainty that most of the world’s ridiculous and wonderful dreams are born.”

The Man Who Walked Through Time, p. 6 by Colin Fletcher

Hmm… I know what he means by “hideously sensible doubts” and from time to time they may plague me.  But sometimes, like with this Grand Canyon thing,  a challenge just comes to me, from out of nowhere, and if it’s physically possible to do it, I don’t need reasons. Just sayin’…

Trekking Poles

On most of my long hikes, somewhere along the way I’ve found a stick I could carry and lean on.  On one of the Appalachian jaunts I picked up a ridiculously heavy branch and kept it because it had a natural hand grip that I liked. It has been varnished and is where I keep all my hiking stick badges – the kind made of metal that you can nail on.  It’s pretty but not very practical.

But now I am happy to report that I have real trekking poles. I’ve only used them once but I was very happy I had them.  They are like having an extra arm, or maybe an extra leg to support, share the weight, and give balance. It’s definitely worth looking at what’s out there and getting some poles if you are going to do a lot of walking on uneven ground.

I searched in all the usual places – Amazon, REI, sporting goods stores – and finally found a company called Montem, that makes trekking poles and, well… pretty much just trekking poles! It’s their area of expertise.

Trekking poles should be strong and light, adjustable in length, and have comfortable hand grips. I’m very satisfied with mine. I chose hand grips made of cork because I thought they looked cool because they are soft, and somewhat absorbent when my hands get sweaty. The adjustable length feature has strong locking clamps that hold well, and they will telescope down to a length that fits in a suitcase. That’s very handy when you fly somewhere to hike.

Close up of adjusting mechanism and hand grips.

I’m sure that the poles will really help on this hike, especially on the knee jarring descent. My brother, who knows, told me so. I’m going to believe him.

Have you tried using trekking poles for a hike or even a long walk around the neighborhood? You never know when you’re going to have to fend off a stray dog, or need to poke something. Might as well have a good pole, just sayin’…