Monday, November 24, 2014

A Race of Firsts

One of my favorite races, the Girlfriends Half Marathon, is a mid-October tradition.  An all-women's event benefiting the Susan G. Komen Foundation, it offers a beautiful flat course across the river in Vancouver, Washington.  When I ran this race last year I ended up with a new PR (personal record) for the half marathon distance.

At the starting line

Having run the Portland Marathon the week before, my body was still in full-on recovery mode.  (I wanted to run Girlfriends, but my quads said "no way!")  However, lots of people I knew signed up, including my daughter Denise.

Denise is ready to run!

Watching me finish the Corvallis Half Marathon last April had inspired Denise to tackle a half of her own.  After I recommended Girlfriends Half, she immediately signed up.  Unfortunately, short-handed at her job, Denise ended up working long days all summer, which didn't allow for much training time.  The race organizers also offered a quarter marathon option, (approx. 6.7 miles) and nervous about running a half marathon on sketchy training, Denise gladly switched to the shorter distance.

What's a race without fun signs?

Also toeing the start line that day was my neighbor and morning running partner Penny.  Plagued by health issues and injuries for the past couple of years, her long time goal was to complete a half marathon (Penny had signed up for last year's race, only to withdraw due to injuries). 

Penney takes on the half marathon!

But now healthy and fully recovered, she'd trained diligently all summer for this day.  I was happy to see Penny here, and excited as she was for her first half marathon.

Loved this lady's t-shirt!

As participants lined up to start the race, I roamed around the crowd with my camera looking for good photo ops - like the message on this woman's t-shirt.

Modeling their pink striped socks

Or this happy group of ladies, all sporting matching striped pink socks.  Because this race was a benefit for breast cancer research, pink was a popular color choice.  I ran into lots of friends and acquaintances from the local running community (prompting my daughter to exclaim " you know everyone?")

Seahawks fans

Before I knew it, the countdown began, a horn blew, and runners emptied out of the starting area.  Standing in a now-deserted street, I felt pangs of sadness.  The competitor in me wanted to be out on the course too!  Usually the runner, it was hard this time to be a spectator.

Loved the pink "hair"

But today, spectating was my job.  Planning to meet my friends on the course, and cheer my daughter as well, I hopped into the car.  Driving the course backwards to avoid runner traffic, I parked a half mile away from the action, and hustled across a busy road to the two-mile mark.  I arrived on the course just as Penny and her friends were passing by.

Darn!  Just missing my running buddy, I hoped to at least get a glimpse of my daughter.  Running on minimal training, Denise had predicted she'd be walking by mile two.

Men of the "pink brigade"

I watched the participants stream by.  Standing beside an enthusiastic volunteer, I joined him in cheering on the runners.  And I grabbed a photo or two of the more unusual costumes, such as the men in the photo above.  Although billed as a women's-only race, men who were able to raise a specific amount of money were allowed to run the race as a member of the "pink brigade."  Hands-down these guys had the best costumes!  (I admire a man who's not afraid to wear pink)

Cyndie and her posse

The runners now past, I scanned the crowd of walkers for my daughter.  But she was nowhere to be found.  When the last of the participants had gone by, I ran back, jumped into my car, and sped to the four-mile mark.  Arriving just as the last of the quarter-marathoners walked by, I realized I'd missed Denise once again.  Hmmm...there was only two miles to go at this point.  I'd better get my hiney to the finish line!

Denise ran a speedy race

So back to the heart of downtown Vancouver I raced.  Finding someplace to park proved to be a time-consuming endeavor, but I finally spied a spot several blocks away.  Pushing my sore post-marathon legs as fast as they would walk, I hustled to the finish line.  And it's a good thing I did.....not two minutes after I arrived, Denise came barreling down the street.

Denise celebrates with the firemen

My daughter finished way faster than I'd anticipated.  What happened?  After Denise picked up her medal and posed with some friendly fireman at the finish, I learned she'd run the entire distance.  I was amazed.....and proud.  Denise seemed to be in great spirits after her run, made even better after discovering she'd placed third in her age group.

April (in pink) finishes strong

After getting Denise some food and drink, we claimed a spot at the finish line and waited for my friends to complete their races.  First came April, decked out in a fun pink outfit.

Adorable little helper

Between racers, it was fun to watch all the activity at the finish line.  A group of local firemen handed out medals to each person.  And a group of enthusiastic cute kids made sure each finisher received a water bottle.  One little boy was absolutely adorable!

Penny finishes her first half marathon!

I kept scanning the crowd for Penny, hoping her race was going well.  Finally, in the distance I spotted Penny and her friends heading towards the finish arch.  Camera in hand, I made sure to capture her moment of triumph.

Finish line celebration

There were cheers, high-fives, hugs, and a few tears of joy (yeah...I misted up a little bit too).  I was happy for my friend - now an official half-marathoner! 

Proud girlfriends

I was proud of both Denise and Penny - Denise for persevering and finishing her race, despite minimal training, and Penny for never giving up, and accomplishing a goal she's dreamed about for a long time.  Well done, ladies!

This year's Girlfriends Half was indeed an event of firsts.  First race for Denise, first half marathon for Penny, and first time I've spectated.  But next year I'll be there, running again (with a new and improved right foot!).  And hopefully Denise and Penny will be right beside me.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Icy Morning

The Pacific Northwest wasn't immune to last week's arctic blast.  A week ago Thursday, I awoke to an ice-covered front yard.

Although still home recovering from foot surgery, I couldn't resist grabbing my camera and hobbling outside.

Still-warm ground quickly melted it's icy crust.  But on vegetation, the frozen droplets clung quite nicely.

My rhodie bushes sported tiny, thin icicles. 

The few roses left were encased in a glittering, frosty shell.

After sitting idle for two weeks, it felt great to get out and capture some images.  Sniff....I miss hiking already.  Can't wait until my foot is healed and I can get back on the trail.

Sharing with:  Today's Flowers.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Indian Heaven - East Crater Trail

The marathon was done.  Fall colors were here.  I had just a few short weeks 'till I'd be waylaid by foot surgery.  Time to get in some hiking!

All decked out in hunter orange!

The month of October was dedicated to visiting my favorite fall trails.  First up on the list, the East Crater Trail into Indian Heaven Wilderness.  I'd hiked here Labor Day weekend last year when the huckleberries were ripe.  But in early October, it was fall color I was after.

Cute mushroom family

The Indian Heaven Wilderness is a lovely high altitude plateau located roughly between Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens.  Numerous trails crisscross it's forests, the most famous being the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  Dotted with dozens of small lakes, this place is known for mosquitoes in July and huckleberries in August.  And, if you catch it just right, spectacular fall colors in October.

Nice pond reflection

My friend Mary Ellen was a willing partner for this latest adventure.  From past experience, I knew hunting was allowed in the Indian Heaven Wilderness, so we both made sure to sport plenty of orange attire.  Although an online check showed deer season wouldn't start until the day after our hike, I wasn't taking any chances.

Vivid red huckleberry leaves

The Indian Heaven Wilderness is located in southwestern Washington.  The East Crater trailhead was a long drive from Portland, so Mary Ellen and I got an early start.  Despite the nice weather, mine was the only car in the gravel parking pullout.

Nice color mix in the meadow

Autumn colors had started in earnest.  We hadn't traveled very far down the trail when the first reddish-orange huckleberry leaves were spotted.  Although the berries were long gone, the bright colors were a fine substitute.  From there on, my friend and I were treated to a continuous display of fall finery.

Junction Lake shoreline

We passed a couple of tiny ponds, their still waters providing perfect reflections of the trees towering above.

Monet painting?

After 2.5 miles, Mary Ellen and I reached Junction Lake.  Located at the crossroads for many trails (including the PCT) it was appropriately named.  Colorful huckleberry bushes circled the shore, brightening up the already beautiful woods.  Some of the red and yellow colors reflected in the lake's ripply surface, the mirror images resembling a Monet painting.

Mary Ellen relaxing at Junction Lake

My friend and I took a short break here, admiring the beauty all around us.  Such a peaceful place!

More colorful huckleberry leaves

After a short rest and snack, it was time to start our loop through the heart of Indian Heaven.  Leaving the East Crater Trail, we climbed short, steep path that led us over a ridge and down to Lemei Lake.  Puffing up the incline, my legs, not yet a week post-marathon, protested.  But happy to be out hiking on this glorious day, I ignored their complaints and soldiered on.

A patchwork quilt of color

We descended the ridge into a lovely alpine meadow, decked out in golden hues.  Lemei Lake, a shallow, but scenic water body became our lunch stop.

Lemei Lake outlet creek

After refueling with PB & J, apples, and some of Mary Ellen's sea salt butterscotch caramels (my new Trader Joe's fave!) my friend and I followed the trail's continuation, past Lemei Lake's scenic outlet creek.

This path leads to a junction

After two miles on the Lemei Lake trail, we reached a junction with the Indian Heaven Trail.  Our path to this trail sign was lined with more golden fall goodness.

Mossy old forest

We hiked through a gorgeous, mossy old growth forest.

Hiking past a talus slope

And past several talus slopes, complete with chirping pikas.  We stopped, looked, and listened, but were unable to spot any of the elusive rock rabbits.

Clear Lake's gorgeous shoreline

A short 0.3 mile romp brought us to the shores of lovely Clear Lake, and the PCT.  For 1.6 miles, we traveled an especially beautiful stretch of the PCT, past small, sparkling lakes and giant fir trees.

Vintage PCT trail sign

Mary Ellen spotted this vintage PCT trail sign nailed to a tree.  Cool!

This way to Lemei Lake

And then the PCT took us back to Junction Lake, where we'd started our loop.  The fall colors were so nice here, Mary Ellen and I thought it warranted another short break.

Colorful shore

With gorgeous scenery like this, who wants to head home?

New life from an old stump

But sadly, we couldn't stay forever.  My friend and I finally tore ourselves away from this special place, and headed back down the East Crater trail.

Yellow leaves light up the forest

Not only did we hit the fall colors at peak, Mary Ellen and I saw only one other hiking party the entire day (and no hunters).  The weather was warm and sunny and we had the place to ourselves - fall days didn't get any better than this!

Technicolor trail

With tired feet, but a happy face, I headed home.  My camera full of colorful images, they would provide good memories from this perfect autumn day.

Stats:  9.2 miles, 1000' elevation gain.

Sharing with:  Our World Tuesday and Wednesday Around the World.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Wildlife of Ozette Lake

A surprise was waiting for me at Ozette Lake campground.  Minutes after pulling in and securing a spot, I nearly collided with a young buck.

My new friend

It happened at the campground message board, while I was paying for our site.  I'd just finished, absent-mindedly turned around, and found myself face-to-face with the young deer.  The buck, not fazed in the least, nonchalantly sauntered over to a nearby bush.  I, on the other hand, dashed back to the truck to fetch my camera.

"Are you still following me?"

Hustling back to find the buck, I passed a Park service maintenance worker.  As I excitedly told him of my encounter, he shrugged and replied, "Oh yeah....there's deer all over here.  These guys are so used to humans, they're as tame as dogs."

Rubbing his antlers on a tree branch

The guy was right.  I soon caught up to my four-legged friend, rubbing his spiky head on a tree branch.  He didn't seem to mind me or my camera in the least.  I was able to get the best up-close wildlife photos ever.  After following him around for a good 20 minutes, the deer finally tired of this wacky paparazzi lady, and ducked into the forest.

Ozette River

Later that afternoon, after completing the Ozette Triangle hike, Roger and I relaxed at our campsite, drinking a well- earned beer.  Only a few of the campground's sites were occupied, and we were enjoying having the place nearly all to ourselves.  The peace and quiet was wonderful.

Lovely Ozette Lake in the evening

As the sun sank lower, I took a short walk along the shore, capturing images of this lovely lake.  Ozette Lake is huge, and I couldn't believe there were no boats in it's waters.  (The fact that is was late September might of had something to do with that).

I passed by a clearing on a small peninsula.  Designated a picnic area, it was a great place to spread out a feast.  The view couldn't be beat!

Sunrise on the lake (photo by Roger)

Back at camp, Roger and I were cooking dinner, when we noticed the park ranger drive by.  It was about 5:30 in the evening, and we figured he was doing an early check on the campers.  Little did we know that was the last time we'd see a ranger all evening.

Roger captured this cool pic of sunrise on a spider web

A half hour later, our serenity was broken by the sound of six vehicles roaring into the campground.  Each car was full of loud, obnoxious young adults.  They all parked next to the picnic area, and piled out.

To our disappointment, the group started carrying gear towards the beautiful picnic area (which was NOT a designated campsite).  We could hear them yelling and screaming as they commenced setting up tents.  Oh no....these jerks were here for the night.

Early morning mist on the lake

If there's one thing I absolutely hate, it's people who think campgrounds are for partying.  I go camping to enjoy the peace and quiet and commune with nature.  I think if folks want to party, they should just stay home.

Roger and I hoped the park rangers would return, but after a couple of hours, we realized that wasn't gonna happen.  These kids appeared to know what they were doing, and had probably timed their arrival to coincide with the ranger's departure.

It was a lovely morning

Near nightfall, Roger took a quick walk around the lake.  Upon his return, Roger reported that the group seemed to be breaking every rule in the campground.  He said the picnic area was trashed, and he counted at least 10 tents pitched in the small clearing, with others spilling out onto the path.  The group had constructed a huge bonfire right on the ground (no fire ring), had cases and cases of beer, and left lots of food just laying out.  One of the kids owned a large, red dog that ran loose through the campground.  Ugh!  Where was a ranger when you needed one?

Buck and doe wandering the campground

Ozette Campground didn't have cell reception, so there was no way to call the authorities.  The nearest town was a 25-minute drive on windy roads, which neither Roger nor I wanted to attempt in the dark.  And there was no way we were going to confront a group of drunk kids - we didn't know if they had weapons or if they would make trouble.  Roger and I realized we were stuck.  Luckily, both of us are sound sleepers, so after listening to the group's loud shouting for a short while, we both drifted off.

This guy had a nice rack

Despite the ruckus, Roger and I slept soundly, only interrupted once by something tripping over one of our tent guy lines in the middle of the night.  At first, Roger thought our intruder was an animal, but we later agreed that our "animal" was probably of the two-legged variety.  

More lovely lake scenes

We awoke the next morning to blissful silence, our rowdy neighbors all asleep (or passed out) in their tents.  Despite the past night's disturbance, the deer were back.  There were at least a half dozen of them moseying around the campground, chowing down on the bushes.  Delighted, Roger and I grabbed our cameras for more photo ops.  We had a great morning, capturing more images, even getting fairly close (but not too close) to a buck with a good sized rack.   The morning sun illuminated Ozette Lake's foggy surface for some great water shots.

Great reflections

After our photo session, Roger and I packed up camp in preparation for the long drive home.  Looking over at the tents of the still-slumbering partiers, I was sorely tempted to run by beating on a pan, and give those those hung-over a#*holes a rude awakening.  Upon our departure, as Roger pulled the truck by their site, I suggested he lay on the horn.  But Roger reminded me there were other folks in the campground, and we wouldn't be any better than those rude kids if we did that.  So in the end, we drove silently out of the campground, bidding Ozette Lake, and all it's wildlife (both two-legged and four), goodbye.

Pacific Ocean view near Clallam Bay

I got my final glimpse of the grand Pacific Ocean as we passed by the tiny town of Clallam Bay.  This fishing village hugs the Olympic Peninsula's northern fringe, and looks out over the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  The lovely blue sea was a grand finale to a wonderful vacation.  Despite the rain and rowdy campers, I'm already pumped for a return trip.

Missed any of my 2014 Olympic National Park posts?  You can access them at the following links:

Day One - Ocean Beaches
Rainstorm at Rialto
Day Two - Hikin' Lake Crescent
Lake Crescent Lodge
Day Three - The Ozette Triangle

Sharing with:  Camera Critters and Weekly Top Shot.