Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Return of the Peep

Snowriders on the slopes of Mt. Bachelor beware....

The Peep is back!!!


The Peep is back!

My friend Kim has this most excellent Peep costume (just like the marshmallow Peeps you see during Easter).  Last year I borrowed it to wear for Mt. Hood Meadows' last day of operations.

Fast forward to this year.  Kim and I were planning an early April trip to Mt. Bachelor, and I had a brainstorm.

Me:  "Kim, can you bring your Peep costume?" 

Kim:  "Whaaa.....you want to wear it again?  Okay, I guess."

Me:  "And can you bring your son's GoPro camera?  Wouldn't it be fun to get the Peep on video?"

Kim:  "Ha, ha sure!  Linda you're such a dork!"


Kim and Dale - my partners in crime

We met up with my brother Dale, who lives in nearby Bend.  When I slipped the yellow fuzzy Peep costume over my jacket, he busted out in laughter.  Kim strapped her son's GoPro camera on a chest harness, and we spent the next several minutes figuring out how to use the thing (creating a bunch of footage of my face staring at the camera asking "Is it on?")

But finally - success!  We made a video of our first run, and just had to try a second.  The only problem - it was snowing so hard and the flakes were so wet, the camera lens became spotted with water drops.  We were busy wiping off our goggles, but no one thought to check the camera lens! 





I figured skiing in early April, we'd have sunny skies, warm temps and nice soft snow.  Well, the skiing gods have a sense of humor (especially this year).  The weather at Mt. Bachelor that day was nothing but gray, foggy skies, with huge, wet snowflakes falling.

The above video is one of our later creations (when it finally stopped snowing).  Dale is really good at spinning 360s on his skis.  I made a couple attempts at a 360, much to Kim's amusement.  Check it out.  (Kim's comments are hilarious!)


Havin' fun with my bro

It was really a hoot to watch people's reactions to a costumed skier.  I got lots of stares, a few laughs, and one guy serenaded me with "the Rubby Ducky" song in lift line (he thought I was a duck).  A couple folks asked if I was a banana (later I realized the Peep bill had flipped up, so it did make me look more like the fruit than a Peep).






During one of our first morning runs, we came upon a group of skiers lined up and posing for a picture.  Kim joked "You should photobomb them."  Soooo......I skied over and placed myself on the end of their line-up.  And Kim captured the whole thing on film!  Check it out in the above clip. 


My video crew

It snowed heavily all morning.  By lunchtime, all three of us were soaking wet from the slushy snow.  Taking a break in the lodge to eat, I removed the heavy, waterlogged Peep costume, and hung it over the back of my chair.  If it didn't dry out some, I wasn't sure I wanted to put it back on for the afternoon.


Peep points the way

But some warm food and drink in the belly always changes one's outlook.  And it helped that when we emerged after lunch, the snowfall had stopped.  Although the slopes were still super foggy, at least we wouldn't get wetter.  Time for more Peep foolishness!




The afternoon conditions proved better for shooting footage.  At least the camera lens stayed clear.  And although dense fog made for poor visibility ("skiing by Braille" as Kim called it) we still managed to get some fun videos.  This last video is my favorite.  Although Kim usually stays in the center of the groomed runs, I like to ski up the sides and into the trees, popping in and out of the main run.  After zipping through a short glade, I emerged onto the main trail, headed straight for Kim.  She caught our near-collision on video and I think it's one of our funnier moments.  Check it out for a laugh.


Rear view

Oh my - such a fun day!  Even though the weather was less than stellar, the good company, and the goofy antics made it memorable.  Of course, now I want a GoPro camera of my own.

And I've grown rather fond of the costume.  I have a feeling the Peep isn't done skiing yet.... 


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Hot Time in Corvallis

One of my favorite spring races has always been the Corvallis Half Marathon.  Located in lovely Corvallis, Oregon, (home of Oregon State University - go Beavs!) I'd stumbled across it three years ago, while looking for a race in my daughter's college town.  Although she graduated last June, Denise still lives and works nearby.  So naturally, I wanted to continue the tradition in 2014.


My daughter and I at the starting line

I've run the Corvallis half for the past two years, and each time I'd gotten so close to breaking the 2 hour time barrier (2:03 and 2:04 respectively).  I hoped this year, the third time would be the charm.


Great race swag - we even got socks!

So early last Sunday morning, I made the drive down I-5 to Corvallis. I picked up Denise and together we traveled to Reser Stadium, site of the packet pick up and race start.  In addition to a nice looking t-shirt, all participants received - woohoo - socks!  (And if you know me, you know I love socks!)


Starting line crowd

After a typical cool wet spring, the forecast for race day was sunshine and unseasonably warm temps in the 70s.  Although I was glad for dry skies, the predicted heat worried me.  Seventy degrees is a little warm for running, especially for us Pacific Northwesterners, who've seen nothing but cold and rain since November.


The course took us through OSU's beautiful campus

Time passed quickly, and before I knew it I found myself amongst a colorful crowd of runners lining up behind the start banner.  The OSU band played a bunch of peppy tunes, which got me all fired up.  Showtime!  After a quick countdown, the mob began to move across the start line and into the university campus streets.


Exiting the covered bridge

The first two miles of the course gives one a great tour of the OSU campus.  We ran by stately brick buildings and streets lined with colorful blooming trees.  Spectators were plentiful - some clapping, cheering, waving signs and ringing cowbells. 


Past many farmer's fields

I started fast, and held the pedal down as I raced through the campus streets.  Training a keen eye on my watch, I willed my legs to keep pace.  The first two miles passed, and I was on track for a sub-two.


The most scenic part of the course

But my speedy early pace took its toll.  After leaving the campus proper, we runners came out onto a wide paved bike path lined on both sides by open farmer's fields.  Lacking shade of buildings and trees, the sun beat down mercilessly.  I quickly began to fatigue.


One man ran the entire race holding an American flag

Propelling my hot, sluggish body down the path, I realized today was not going to be the day for heroic efforts.  Internalizing the disappointment, I made peace with this, and decided instead of meeting a specific time goal, this race was now going to be for fun.


Great motivational quote on this sign

A slower pace meant I could take in the wonderful scenery, and stop for a photo if I wished.  I could cheer back at the spectators encouragement.  I could shout "thank yous" to the amazing volunteers who handed out water and directed traffic.


My daughter caught me at the 8 mile mark

Nearing the halfway point, I heard a woman behind me cheering loudly.  It was another runner, smiling, woo-hooing, encouraging other runners, and thanking the volunteers.  My running soul sister!  As she passed me by, I whooped loudly and told her she rocked.  Runners in races are usually such a somber bunch, this wonderful lady was a breath of fresh air.


Appreciated the local support

Leaving the bike path, the course followed a busy road for a short stretch, and then it was back on a paved path.  Passing the mile seven marker, I knew this next segment was going to be the toughest.  The path climbed slightly uphill for the next mile.  It was just enough of an incline to require extra effort.  Add to that the intense sunshine streaming down, and everyone seemed to be struggling.  Only a wonderful cool breeze blowing at our faces prevented mass runner meltdowns.


More great signs

The eight mile marker was stationed at a local park.  Here, my daughter was waiting with camera, snapping a couple action shots.  I stopped briefly, informed her I was going slower than anticipated, and she didn't need to hurry to the finish line.


This frat house was cheering us runners

From the park it was a lovely downhill - which I heartily enjoyed!  Then the course turned through a bunch of residential neighborhoods.  The people living here were so awesome!  They gathered in front yards, clapping, waving signs, and shouting encouragement.  At mile 9 on this hot day, it was most very much appreciated.


Reser Stadium is in sight!

I again ran into my alter ego - the woo-hoo woman.  We ran together for a bit, talking, laughing, and cheering in unison.  I really wish now I would've asked her name, but by mile 10 of this half marathon all I thinking about was surviving to the finish.  On one street, some really nice ladies had a cooler full of ice cubes and were handing them out to runners.  I grabbed a couple cubes and shoved them into my sports bra.  My companion did the same and cracked me up when she remarked "I'll bet all those guys are wishing they had sports bras!"


My very favorite sign

Mile 11 directed runners down the streets of fraternity row.  Gaping at the amazing huge frat and sorority houses distracted me from my pain and fatigue.  In years past, a lot of the inhabitants would sit out on the lawns cheering for the runners.  But this year, I only one small dilapidated house was spectating.  I stopped to take a photo, and jokingly asked a guy if he had a beer for me.  He held out a can and urged me to take it.  (That's what I get for asking)


Down the ramp....

After mile 11, the heat began taking its toll on the runners.  My feet felt blistered and sore.  My face was grimy with salt.  I passed a lady laying down in the street, being attended to by paramedics.  After that, I made sure to take in more fluids.  Every water stop I drank half the water in the cup, and poured the rest down my back.


Through the end zone......

Mile 12 brought us back into the OSU campus.  Only one more mile to go!  But as in any race, the last mile is the longest.  Again in the open sun, I felt like I was running in slow motion.  No matter how much I tried, my legs decided they were not going any faster.  But slowly with every step, the distance shrank, and rounding a final corner, the top of Reser Stadium came into view.  Such a sweet sight!  Passing the 13 mile sign was so inspirational it made me tear up a little bit.  Maybe I wouldn't make my time goal, but I was damn proud to be finishing.


Finish at the 50-yard line

Down the ramp into the stadium I flew.  Out onto the football field, camera in hand, I shot a few photos as I headed towards the finish (yes, I'm such a dork - my daughter said that's how she knew it was me).  Crossing the timing mats, I was never so happy to finish a race.  Another Corvallis Half Marathon was in the bag. Bring on the cold beer!
 
I finished with a time of 2:12:06.  Yeahhhh.......not exactly what I'd hoped for.  But considering the unseasonably hot weather, I was happy to survive the race without any ill effects.


It always feels better when you're done

Once again, the Corvallis Half Marathon did not disappoint.  It's still a beautiful course, the volunteers are top-notch, and the post-race food and goodies are always great (they even had beer this year!  Yeah!)  Plus, their mile marker signs are the best!  My favorite.

And after watching me run this race for the past three years, I've finally inspired my daughter to sign up for and run a half marathon of her own.  I couldn't be more proud.


To see my previous Corvallis Half Marathon blog posts, click on Corvallis 2013 and Corvallis 2012.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

April Flowers

I'm sure everyone is getting tired of seeing my endless posts of white (especially those of you in the eastern US and Canada who are still getting snow).  So to brighten your day, here's a glimpse of what's blooming right now in Northwestern Oregon.


First rhodie bloom!

A couple of weeks ago I noticed a bright pink rhododendron flower bursting out of it's bud.  Time to get the camera!


Blossoms from neighbor's tree

One of the trees across the street was abloom in frilly pink blossoms.


More pinkness

Not sure exactly what these are (I told you I'm not a botanist) but I know what I like to photograph.


Our cherry trees are blooming

We have two tiny cherry trees in our backyard that give about a handful of cherries every summer.  But in the spring they sure produce a bumper crop of blossoms.


View over my backyard fence

This is by far my favorite springtime view.  It's over my backyard fence at our neighbor's flowering pink tree (sorry - again I have no clue the species).  The white blossoms are from our Asian pear tree.  The combination of white blossoms and pink flowers is simply gorgeous.  This sight never lasts long enough, so I try to enjoy it while I can.


Asian pear blossoms

And here's some of the white flowers from our Asian pear tree.


Tulip time!

Another great thing about spring is when the tulips bloom.  I love, love, love tulips!  South of Portland there's a huge tulip farm that is very popular to visit this time of year.  But I've been so busy with other outdoor activities I've yet to go.


More tulips

Luckily, we have a few pretty red tulips in our front flower bed that return every year.  So I get my tulip fix satisfied.


My rhodie bush in full bloom

But my most favorite spring flowers by far are the rhododendrons.  They grow in abundance here in the PNW, and by mid-April most of them in town are starting to bloom.


These are my faves

Two weeks after the first photo in this post was taken, our little rhodie bush erupted in lovely pink flowers.  Isn't it gorgeous?

So those of you who are still suffering under winter's icy grip, enjoy some colorful spring scenes on me.  And hang in there - spring is on it's way.  Really! 



Sharing with:  52 Photos Project. and Weekly Top Shot.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Summiting St. Helens

I leaned over my ski poles, gasping for air.  I'd just crested what I thought was the final summit ridge, only to discover yet another 200 feet of climbing.  Disappointment washed over me.  After skiing uphill for the past seven hours, my legs quivered with exhaustion.  I was sore, tired, hungry, and mourning the loss of my eyeglasses, now lying in a gully somewhere far below.  At this point I didn't care if I reached the top of Mt. St. Helens.  Was all this pain and effort really worth it?


Fresh and ready to go!

Last May, I attempted to summit Mt. St. Helens on skis (you can read about it here).  Unfortunately, due to very poor snow conditions, my group had to abort a couple thousand feet short of our goal.  Since then, I nursed a burning desire to finish what I'd started.  Thus, one of my winter 2014 bucket list items became reaching the summit of MSH.


Climbing through the first steep hill

One Sunday in late March, I got my wish.  The weatherman promised clear and sunny weather.  Seeing the forecast, my friends John and Young emailed a climbing invitation.  They didn't have to ask twice. 

Leaving Portland in the dark morning hours, my friends and I arrived at the Marble Mountain snow-park shortly after sunrise.  Our plan was to ascend the mountain's south side via the Swift Creek route.  Starting at an elevation of 2700 feet, this trail climbs a grand total of 5 miles and 5600 feet to the mountain's 8300 foot summit.  As I'd never before racked up so much elevation gain in one day, this would be a true challenge.


Hiking through a rocky ridge (photo by Young)

The climber's route began in a thick forest.  Discovering more dirt than snow on the trail, we ended up strapping skis on backpacks and spending the first two miles of our climb on foot.  The additional weight of skis on my backpack made for a heavy load.  My shoulders ached as I huffed and puffed uphill.


This part was no fun

As we climbed higher, the trail became less brown and more white.  Back and shoulders aching, I kept hoping we'd start skiing soon.  I was more than ready to shed my skis and put them on my feet.  Finally, John deemed the snowpack deep enough.  Gratefully, I strapped on my skis and climbing skins.  Young and I followed John up the snowy trail. 


Killer view of Mt. Adams

It was great to be on skis, even if I was slowly shuffling uphill.  Our path emerged from the forest into a huge gully.  In the summer, water from melting glaciers fueled a waterfall here named Chocolate Falls.  We had to take skis off and clamber up the steep gully wall.  But once on top, I was treated to my first grand view of our goal for today - MSH's summit.

The trees disappeared, and the landscape opened up to become a series of open ridges and deep gullies, punctuated by occasional bands of boulders.  The higher we ascended, the better the views became, both looking back down towards the forest, and up towards our goal.  A gorgeous, white-capped Mt. Adams emerged to the east.


Putting the skis back on

John and Young had climbed MSH previously, and knew it would take a large amount of time and effort to reach the top.  John set our turn-around time between 3 and 4 o'clock, and said we'd need to climb at a rate of 750 vertical feet per hour to reach our goal.  This meant limiting our breaks to one per hour, and keeping the photo stops to a minimum.  Although there were lots of interesting things to photograph, I didn't want to slow down the group.  So my camera stayed put in the backpack much of the first couple hours.


And yet more climbing....

The route took my party through an open plain.  Rocks littered an exposed ridge, with deep gullies on each side.  Approaching the ridge, John deemed the quickest path was walking up through it.  That meant another hike with heavy skis on our backs.  Ugh!  I wasn't super-thrilled about more hiking, but wanted to reach the summit.  So onto the backpack went my skis, and I followed Young and John through the rocky maze.


Lone man resting and taking in the view

This part was tough.  My shoulders protested under the heavy load.  The sun beat down, and I sweated buckets.  Progress was slow.  Not only did we pick our way through the rocks, we sometimes had to use both hands to pull ourselves over some the larger boulders.  Our ski boots occasionally slid on the rock's slippery surfaces.  I was never so happy when John finally pointed to an open slope and said that was where we'd put our skis back on.



The summit is in sight

Then it was a lot of uphill shuffling.  Slopes alternated from moderate to very steep.  But climbing skins are amazing devices.  They allow skiers to traverse some fairly extreme pitches.  However, when the hills got too steep, we ended up traversing the slope in a zig-zag pattern to keep from sliding backwards.  This took much more time and effort.

A sunny spring day brings out the mountain climbers to MSH, and we were by no means alone.   My party was passed by a couple dozen uphill skiers, all much faster than poor Young and I.  As the summit grew nearer, we began to see climbers and snowriders on their descent.  Plodding along on tired legs, I became envious of their effortless downhill turns.


We made it!

John kept calling out elevations from his gps.  First, we had 4000 feet to go, then 3000, 2000......the numbers slowly became smaller.  About a thousand feet from the summit, the wind kicked up, and the snow began to change.  What was smooth soft snow suddenly became rough, hard, and icy.  Young was having a difficult time getting any traction, and my hands and body became chilled from the wind.


Fabulous view into the crater (click to enlarge)

John decided to take a quick break so Young could put on some ski crampons.  I took the opportunity to throw on another layer, and find some warmer gloves.  While rooting around in my backpack for gloves, a hard-sided case containing my primary pair of eyeglasses popped out.  Before I could grab it, the case slid out of reach.  The icy snow caused it to accelerate, gaining speed as it traveled downhill.  John quickly trained his eyes on the case, hoping to pinpoint the final resting place for retrieval on our way down.  But unfortunately the case rocketed into a narrow gully, and sped out of sight.

Losing those glasses took the wind out of my sails.  Knowing things would get tough, that morning I prepared myself mentally to keep a positive attitude.  I'd been doing well keeping spirits up, but when that case slid away, all positivity went down the drain.  After watching my glasses disappear, all I wanted to do was turn around and ski back down. 


MSH rim

But John talked me off the ledge.  After promising to try and look for my glasses on the way down, and reminding me that we were really close to reaching the summit, my funk began to lift.  Reaffirming myself of the day's ultimate goal, I pulled on my big girl panties and continued to climb.


Lava dome, Spirit Lake and Mt. Rainier

The last thousand feet was brutal.  The snow was slick and icy, necessitating more effort digging in my ski edges to keep from sliding.  We'd been moving nearly nonstop since early morning, and by mid-afternoon my body was feeling the effects.  Although I'd taken in food and water on every break, my stomach grumbled for a proper lunch.  And the altitude was slowing me down.  The stops to catch my breath became more and more frequent.


Then up ahead, I saw the top of a ridge.  A couple of people were sitting there.  That must be the summit!  Excitedly, I shuffled my skis as quickly as my tired body would allow.  Yahoo!  Almost to the top!  Finally!


Don't get too close to that edge

Except that it wasn't the summit.....  I arrived on top of this ridge, only see another steep pitch looming before me.  This was only the false summit.  I still had another 200 feet of climbing to go.

I was so tired I wanted to quit right then and there.  Crouching over my skis, breathing hard, I didn't think I had the strength to climb that final distance.  My bad mood began to return.  But John came sliding up, and excitedly told me I was almost there.  He pointed to the jagged ridgetop and said that was the summit.  If it wasn't for his encouragement, I would have stopped short of my goal - foiled again.  Taking a deep breath, I willed my legs to complete this final stage of the journey.



True summit is 8300 feet - close enough!

Slide, slide, stop.....breathe.   Slide, turn, slide, stop.....gasp.  I don't think I've ever moved so slowly on skis in my life.  The final pitch was a very steep slope, necessitating more zig-zag traversing.  That ridge seemed to never get any closer.  One foot in front of the other.....But slowly, I could see progress was being made.  John whisked by me.  And then, I could see the sky was very close.  Another couple of turns and more sliding, and I pulled up even with John, who was now removing his skis.  "Hey, Linda." he smiled "You made it!" 


Skiing down the first steep pitch

At first, I was too tired to even comprehend what I'd just accomplished.  All I wanted to do was sit down and have lunch.  After downing part of a PB & J and drinking some of Young's tea (a hot beverage was so welcome!) I began to feel more like myself again.  A couple other skiers were standing on the summit, peering over crater's edge.  Hearing them marveling at the view, I grabbed my camera and trudged over to investigate.


Photo op with Mt. Adams

Oh my - the view into the crater took my breath away!  I could see the volcano's steaming lava dome, cloaked in creamy white snow and encircled by the steep crater walls.  Looking to the north, past the collapsed crater, were killer views of Spirit Lake, the Mt. Margaret Wilderness, and Mt. Rainier.  Jaw dropping!  All my hard work, the sore muscles, the suffering, the lost glasses, was forgotten.  It was all was totally worth it to witness this magnificent scene.


John leads the way

Our time of arrival on top was 3:30 pm.  John was very pleased with Young and I.  Not only did we get ourselves to the summit, we did so within the limits of our designated turn-around time.  After spending a good 45 minutes resting, eating, and taking copious photos, John reminded us that we still had a long ski back down.  Not wanting to return in the dark, we needed to begin our descent very soon.


Scouting our route

Now came the part I'd been looking forward to all day.  Time to remove those climbing skins and let gravity carry us back.  The top 1000 feet of descent was tough.  The first pitch was steep, through chunky, icy snow.  It took lots of effort from tired legs to control my skis.

But after braving the mountain's upper reaches, we descended to lower, sun-warmed snow that was soft as velvet.  An absolute dream to ski through!  Oh yeah - this was what we'd worked so hard for.


A tired, but happy skier (photo by Young)

The great thing about backcountry skiing on MSH is that it's slopes are never super-steep.  There are no crevasses to worry about.  On a sunny spring day, it's the most wonderful consistent long slope you could ever hope for.  John would ski ahead, scouting out the terrain, and then motion Young and I to follow.  As we traveled lower, he discovered a couple steeper pitches with very soft unstable snow.  After setting off a small avalanche on one such slope, John quickly directed us ladies down a safer path.  But that was the only mishap.  Otherwise, the ski down was sublime.  Late evening sun bathed the mountain in a lovely light.  The snow was terrific.  I was so happy, even the loss of my glasses didn't bother me anymore.


We earned these beers!

My friends and I were able to ski to within a mile of the parking lot.  Then, we hefted skis on our backs for one final trek.  Tromping through the woods as daylight waned, my heart was happy.  Success!  I'd accomplished my goal of skiing up to Mt. St. Helens summit.

It took us a grand total of 7 1/2 hours to climb, and two hours to descend.  We reached John's truck at 6:15 pm, not long before sunset.

Our journey ended with microbrews and kettle chips in the parking lot.  Young and I were so famished we nearly chowed down the entire bag.  Having only my prescription sunglasses to see with, I had to keep them on for the entire ride back to Young and John's house, and then drive home in the darkness wearing my shades.  (But luckily, I had an old pair of glasses at home that will do until a replacement is ordered)


Summit victory shot (Photo by Young)

The day before my MSH climb, I came across a great quote on Facebook.  So very inspirational, I repeated it often as I was struggling up the mountain. 

"You are stronger than you think you are.  Dream big and never stop trying."

Although the difficulty of this experience ranked right up there with running my three marathons, I'm thankful I pushed hard and stuck it out.  I hope this post inspires you to follow your dreams, however big or small.


Sharing with:  Weekly Top Shot.