For fitness or beauty?

I like to hike. I think I kinda forgot this and didn’t get out to the mountains much this summer. Shame because Washington is such an amazing playground.

I decided to get back out there and kick off the long weekend with a hike that’s been on my list for a while – Lake Serene and Bridal Veil Falls.

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It’s an eight mile out and back trek that ends at this wonderful little spot. We’ve had a few fall-like days recently, so the hike was overcast, cool, and slightly misty at times.

I realized while I was hiking that I’m not much for stopping and when the trail is rooty and rocky, you tend to focus down a lot. I wondered, am I here for the fitness or the outdoor experience? Then, as often happens when I think of the word fitness, I thought of this and laughed because it’s funny every time.

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But, back to the larger question. When you really get climbing, the sweat feels just as cleansing as a hot yoga class and I love it. So, I think I’d say I hike for fitness, which seems gauche to admit. I should be all, “I’m here to absorb the beauty and connect with nature.” To be fair, if it was ALL about that sweat, I’d run in town or get the the gym v. driving 90 minutes to hike.

Also, I absolutely loved the falls.

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I guess you have to love both to be a hiker! Since I took my first, nervous solo hike a little over a year ago, I’ve become much more comfortable with it. It also helps that I’m independent and stubborn and want to go where I want to go, when I want to go, and at my pace and throw in some running when the trail allows. (#thisiswhyimsingle)

Unfortunately, I’m not quite brave enough to hike snow-covered trails alone, so I’m hoping to get a few more fall hikes in before winter hits.

Aaaand today I’m sore and balancing the hike with some good, old-fashioned laziness. Yay for three day weekends!

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Funemployment, Month One

I remember making a list when I was younger of the things that went wrong on a specific day. I don’t remember what they were, but I do remember making the list, looking at it and realizing none of it was really all that bad. That Debbie Downer moment aside, I think I’m a very positive person. I think life is good. I think I’m lucky and that people who think they’re lucky are luckier, so it’s kinda a twofer. I acknowledge that life isn’t all sunshine and glitter, that blips happen, but they don’t really get to me. Kinda something like this:

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I had a big one recently, but the closed door pretty much immediately felt like an open window.

At the beginning of September, my job was eliminated. I was upset and frustrated and anxious, but I also felt strangely fine with it and completely confident that it was all going to work out – and it has.

Well, I’m still looking for a new job, but finding good opportunities. Oh my goodness, it is so much easier to look for a job when you’re actually living in the city. But, spending all of my time looking for jobs and worrying and stressing out will not get my anywhere, so I’ve been enjoying this “early retirement.”

I’m gettting my fitness on, using the remaining classes from my yoga Groupon and (sadly) using the last month of my Orangetheory Fitness membership. I recently found my two favorite trainers and have been soaking up as many of their classes as I can. I’ve been running routes I’ve been meaning to check out and upping my mileage because why not and OMG the hiking.

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First snow of the season – Green Mountain, September 2nd!

I’m tracking my hikes on the Washington Trails Association site since that’s where I scope out all the trails and put links on my PNW Hikes page, which has grown considerably in the last month! Summits and lakes and swims in those alpine lakes, which really just means talking myself into jumping in, dunking and getting out, but hey, I did it!

Yes, even this one on this chilly, foggy day!

Yes, even this one on this chilly, foggy day!

I also visited Bellingham and Hansville. I cheered on the Sounders at CenturyLink. I went kayaking in Lake Union. I went to the Seattle Art Museum and have spent some time wandering around downtown and Pike Market Place. I took Rigo to a dog beach on Whidbey Island and he loved it.

Double Bluff Beach

Double Bluff Beach

I would have gotten around to these things eventually, but filling a potentially unhappy time with things that just make me so happy has been the absolute best.

So, that’s been my first month of “funemployment.” No doubt, more adventure awaits!

My Latest Visitors

I spent this weekend on the Kitsap Peninsula. It requires a ferry ride, so just that in itself is pretty great. Life is a little slower there and it was a great place to seemingly say goodbye to summer and hello to fall. Saturday was gorgeous, sunny and warm and we spent the afternoon outside playing lawn games, then enjoying a bonfire long after the sun went down. On Sunday, I woke up to an overcast sky, dropped temps and football!

While the summer here has been amazing, I’m looking forward to a real fall. With sweaters and rain and apple picking and baking and tea and fall foliage, which is already starting to show up on some of my hikes.

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Hike to Melakwa Lake

Before the summer ends, though, I have to share one of my favorite weekends I had this summer, when my parents came to visit me! It’s already been a few weeks since they were here; they came out in mid-August. When in the F does the time go?

They have visited Seattle a few times before – with me when I was looking at schools here and when they traveled through on their Alaskan cruise – so I tried to come up with some outside the tourist box ideas of things to do.

On their first full day, I had to work, so they did some exploring on their own before we went to the Mariners game. I don’t remember who they played, just that there was a second it seemed like they had a chance, then they lost big time! But, everyone stuck around because it was the last fireworks game of the season. It was a ton of fun. If you go to a game, I’d recommend upper level on the first base line, it gives you great views of the field and the city.

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Saturday morning we took the ferry to Bainbridge and walked around the town. They have a great farmers market on Saturday morning and just a ton of cute shops to wander.

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On their on-their-own day, my parents found the Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room. It’s really close to my place, but I’d never been there, so we went there on Sunday morning. It’s pretty incredible! The coffee is crazy fancy, which is a little overwhelming, but I love that it’s authentic coffee, not fluffy coffee. I could spend a long morning hanging out there!

Then we made our way to the Seattle Center to check out the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum. Again, overwhelming! The art is gorgeous and there’s so much of it!

Then we needed a little break. I was calling the days they were here “active rest” because we were hiking all over town and that was plenty of exercise to keep me sleeping soundly at night!

We went to check out the Ballard Locks, which allows large boats to go between the Sound and Lake Union. We were there for a while watching them load up the large locks, then filling it up and letting the boats go through.

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Definitely falls into the unique category for tourists, but I thought it was fascinating. There’s also a salmon ladder to help the little fishies go between, I still want to go check that out soon!

That night, we stayed in and my mom and I made chicken and waffles! Yum. I got to test out my new waffle maker and learn how to make our classic family meal from the pro.

On Monday, I took the day off work to share my love of Pacific Northwest hiking with them. I researched a few hikes to find something lovely and manageable and landed on a 3-mile hike in Mount Rainier Park, Tipsoo Lake and Naches Peak.  It had a little elevation, a lotta awesome views of Rainier and we ran into a handful of PCT hikers heading to Canada! It was also very dusty and a looong drive, but worth it!

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And then, because it’s beautiful and because in Washington, you can go from mountains to sea (Sound), we spent some time at Golden Gardens, a beachy beach in Ballard, where we saw some seals playing not too far out from shore.

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We ended their trip with a tradition started on my last two trips to Seattle before my move – a last meal at Ivar’s on Lake Union. With great views of the city, the lake and of course, seafood, it’s a great way to say goodbye to my city love (only this time, I didn’t have to say goodbye).

I told them we were knocking out everything in the city because next time, I want to take them to the San Juan Islands, or maybe the Olympic Peninsula. There are just so many wonderful options!

MJ + PNW = True Love Forever

I’m in a relationship. It’s getting pretty serious. It was what I wanted and I took the steps to make it happen, but it all happened very fast and it’s even better than I could have imagined.

Washington, I love you. Let’s just get married.

Here’s how I’ve been exploring my new home state this month, from the mountains to the sea:

Second hike…this time Mount Dickerman…this time with legit hiking boots, thank goodness because it was in the snow!

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Yes, that is how the professionals get down from the summit.

Kayaking to a (for now) private island. Jetty Island gets a little more crowded in the summer.

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First outdoor climb: The Feathers at Vantage…5.1-5.4 to learn the ropes. Get it? See what I did there?

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Rapel

Second climb…Endless Bliss at Exit 38, which is a two-pitch 10a, two things I knew nothing about a month ago!

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Climb

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Belay

Sailing at Lake Union with my Arizona visitor.

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Exploring the San Juans via kayak and a whale watching boat.

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Humpback whale and Mount Baker.

Return to Camelback

Camelback 011813Camelback Mountain is closing! For a little bit anyway!

After next weekend, the front trail, Echo Canyon, will be closing for improvement projects until the fall. I haven’t been since I took it on as one of the seven summits almost two years ago. I think of it as a little dangerous, but it’s different and a nice challenge, so on this fantastically long weekend, I took the opportunity to climb up before the closure!

I don’t hike often enough, but I always love the reward of getting to the top to see your hard work! Being above the city and the stress of daily life is so refreshing!

Happy Independence Day!

Independence #1: I love patriotic holidays. The red, the white, the blue. When I was little, we spent some time every summer in the itty bitty town my mom grew up in – Canal Fulton, Ohio, anyone? – and that was just the ultimate for me…family, small town, fireworks, summertime food, humidity, fireflies…it was so cliché, my little 10-year-old self just wanted to burst.

Independence #2: No office work today! My office closed at 1pm yesterday and until 7ish tomorrow morning, I’m off the clock! I’ve been kind of bummed the holiday fell right in the middle of the week, which sidelined any kind of real plans, like the awesome staycation I had last year, but I’m not one to complain about a day off!

Independence #3: I’ve been sidelined from working out for a while, but today I’m able to get back to some activity…I’ll take it! I’ve been going nuts! I celebrated with a morning hike because our mid-week holiday was blessed with decent weather for Arizona in July, a cool 90-some degrees and overcast.

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July!

Rigo’s First Hike

Work out five times a week WIN! With one day and probably a yoga class to spare, I got in five workouts this week!

On Monday, I got off on the right foot with a pre-work run, swam on Wednesday afternoon, ran AND did a hot yoga class on Friday (yes, a two-a-day) and this morning, took Rigo for his first hike!

I was up way too early, but it was 70 degrees and I’m pretty sure I heard some angels singing – it’s really been heating up around here lately, so it was glorious – so I made the most of it and headed out to a trail I have been meaning to get to since I moved to North Scottsdale.

Lost Dog Wash is a multi-use trail system that’s part of the McDowell Mountains. The trailhead is pretty close to me, but five minutes into the hike and you can completely forget that you’re anywhere near civilization! It’s all mountains and saguaros.  There were a handful of other hikers and trail runners and some mountain bikers, but it was mostly quiet.

I took a trail that led to overlook Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West and some pretty views of the city. Rigo did not quite understand the concept of stopping to enjoy the view after the hard work and was ready to keep going! It was an out-and-back trail, so back we went for just over four miles total. I’m glad I finally made it out there and really glad it’s a dog-friendly trail that’s so close!

My Glorious Return to Hiking

I haven’t been hiking since…oh this day.  That’s nearly nine months!  The weather has been absolutely perfect for a hike at any time of the day recently, so on Saturday I finally took advantage of it and hiked Pinnacle Peak – a four-mile back-and-forth, up-and-down trail – in North Scottsdale (although it ended up as more of a challenging trail run, which was just what I needed to kick off the weekend).  

About halfway through, I thought, “oh boy, I’m in trouble.”  Not because I was pooping out, but because I was remembering how much I love hiking!  There are more activities I enjoy than time and space on my training schedule! #singlewhitegirlproblems

Beyond getting an amazing view of the Valley and getting out to enjoy Arizona’s beautiful weather, I love hiking because it works random muscles that I don’t necessarily hit in my regular routine, so I was definitely feeling it!  On Sunday, my yoga class had a sub who focused on quad stretches and hip openers.  For that 75 minutes, she was my new best friend!

I took this picture of the trail and mountain when I went back yesterday for a pre-turkey sweat sesh.  My family went hiking every Thanksgiving morning when I was growing up and I’m pretty sure I complained the whole time…little did I know I’d be continuing the tradition by choice eventually!

Seven Summits – Camelback

Camelback, 2.3 miles

Camelback is king.  It’s the highest peak in Phoenix, sits pretty central and is recognizable based on the fact that it looks like a, well, camel’s back.  We’re super original here.  To be honest with you though, sometimes I see it, sometimes I don’t.

 
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Yesterday, I told my boss I was planning on hiking Camelback this weekend and he delighted me with stories of the little creatures he happened across when he used to hike it pretty regularly.  Um, yeah, like rattlesnakes and one huge ass Gila monster.


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Oh, hey, Gila monster.  You go ahead and do you.  I’ll just be over here peeing my pants.

But, he (my boss, not the Gila monster) also recommended I go up the Cholla Trail, or the back of Camelback, for a great – slightly longer – trail, smaller crowds and, of course, an amazing view from the top, so I did.

I woke up early.  Like ridiculously early.  Like grotesquely early for a Saturday morning.  Not even on purpose.  But, it worked out well because I was able to get to the mountain right around sunrise.

That was the last bit of the “nice” trail.  Things got nasty after that.  I don’t have the best sense of direction and there really weren’t that many people on the trail to follow.  Yay for these little blue spots to point me in the right direction, although at times, I missed them and ended up staring over the edge.

 

Going up, up, up.

It was super windy at the top! The sky looked completely different in every direction!

And then it was back down the camel’s back.  Doesn’t it look like a totally different day?!

Camelback was beautiful AND challenging.  I was kinda intimidated heading into it and slightly anxious while climbing, but I’m thrilled I conquered the king!

[It’s been raining for about five hours now so I’m definitely glad my internal alarm clock woke me up in time to head out early.  I hope it clears by tomorrow!]

Seven Summits – Shaw and North

Looking out the window at work today, I could see the storm clouds rolling in.  I was itching to get out to tackle the two peaks I had planned as part of my seven in seven before the sky opened up.   I made it and the dreariness meant the trails were a little less crowded than yesterday.

Shaw Butte, 5 miles

View from halfway up.  And a cigarette I found around that spot.  How does THAT work?

Must. Pass. Man. Wearing. Pajama. Pants.


And I totally did, but I didn’t think it was appropriate to turn around and take a picture of him eating my dust.

Made it to the top!

North Mountain, 1.6 miles

My former pastor told me (via Facebook, isn’t that adorable?!) that he likes to do Shaw and when he’s up for it, head up North as well.  They’re both part of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve in North Phoenix.  Actually six of the seven peaks are considered to be part of this group of parks, so it’d be pretty easy to spend a day doing all of them (and there are challenges that encourage locals to do so), but as a newbie, two was good for me!

A quick little jaunt to the top, pretty steep, but almost all paved.  The storm clouds were rolling in and a few drops were starting to fall, so I jogged a bit each way and didn’t spend too much time.  It got windy up there!

Please accept these pictures as proof that I’m not THAT girl who cares about how she looks whilst exercising!

My booty and calves were a little sore today and then after the two peaks and a 30-minute drive home, it was more of an on-fire feeling!  I foam rolled and stretched and plan to do it again before bed.