Sunday, May 23, 2010

Angel's Rest Floral Splendor

Last Saturday the weatherman was predicting a nice, dry, warm sunny day.   I'd been wanting to take a hike in the Gorge - and I owed Bear a hike, since I had to leave him behind when I went to Tom McCall Point (dogs are not allowed there).  My friend Debbie had hiked Angel's Rest and told me that the larkspur flowers were out in force.  Hmmm..... lots of pretty flowers???   Well, my decision was made - Angel's Rest trail, here I come!

A larkspur bloom

And I was not disappointed!  I'd only hiked a short distance when I came upon a TON of larkspur growing alongside the trail.  The lens cap came off my camera, and I spent a good twenty minutes snapping away at those beautiful flowers.

The trailside flower garden!

I've hiked this trail many times, but I don't remember ever seeing so many flowers blooming along the lower portion of the trail.  Maybe it's just a good flower year.

A "tower of flower."

Warning - you're going to see lots of flower pics in this post.  It was hard to narrow down the photos to just a few.  So look away if you don't like photographs of pretty flowers!

I loved this photo most of all.  These flowers looked like they had two different shades of purple.

The Columbia River comes into view.

I finally tore myself away from the flower fields and resumed my hike.  I started climbing up and up. The trail climbs 1500 feet in 2.3 miles.  After about a mile, I reached a clearing and got my first glimpse of the Columbia River below.  The trail passes through an area that was burned in a 1991 forest fire.  The burned trees stand out like ghosts in an otherwise lush green area.

A dogwood tree!

In the middle of the old burned-out trees was a wild flowering dogwood tree!  It had large white flowers that were gorgeous.

Angel's Rest

Finally, Bear and I reached Angel's Rest.  Angel's Rest is a rocky outcrop that extends out like a balcony over the Gorge.  You get Columbia River views from three sides.  The views are always wonderful - that is why this hike is very popular on sunny, weekend days.

Here is the view looking east down the Gorge from the top of Angel's Rest.

And here's the view looking west towards Portland (you can see the smog!) from Angel's Rest.

This is the view from looking back down the ridge from Angel's Rest while sitting at the tip of the outcrop.

Bleeding heart flowers

I ate a quick snack, but didn't linger long at the Angel's Rest viewpoint.  There were a lot of people sitting around on the rocks, and I wanted a little more solitude.  I shouldered my pack, called to Bear, and we headed up the Foxglove Way trail.  This trail loops around above Angel's Rest.  You can hike up to Devil's Rest - a higher viewpoint, or you can make a loop return to the Angel's Rest trail.  I chose to do the loop.

Unidentifed pink flowers

The flowers were also great on the Foxglove Way trail.  There were bleeding hearts, and some thin tubular pink flowers that I could not identify.  I need to send a photo of them to Cody - he'll know their name!  Anyway, they sure were pretty flowers.

Bear poses on a talus slope

After taking the Foxglove loop, I reconnected with the Angel's Rest trail, and Bear and I headed back down.  By now it was afternoon, and there were hordes of people coming up the trail.  This trail is one of the easier and, hence, more popular of the Gorge trails.  It is always interesting to see who's coming up the trail.  You see all kinds of people from all walks of life.  Some are so unprepared!  They hike up in their flip flops with no food, jacket, or water.  I guess all the hiking I've done with my Mazama friends taught me that anything can happen out in the woods, and you should always be prepared.

Here's a million dollar view of the Columbia River as I make my way down.

A tired pup!

As I passed through the larkspur fields again, I stopped for a couple more photos.  Bear waited patiently and used the opportunity to take a breather.  He covered much more distance than I, running up and down the trail, and was ready to be done.

Spring is such a wonderful time in the Gorge!  Everything is green and lush and the flowers are in full bloom.  This hike reminds me why the Gorge is one of my favorite places in Oregon.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Return of the Hippie Chick

This past Saturday, I ran the Hippie Chick Half Marathon for the second time.  The Hippie Chick is, and always will be, a very special race for me.  When I ran it last year, it was my very first half marathon.  It marked my return to running after a 20 year hiatus.  I had such a great time, I couldn't wait to do it again. 

Note the button on my cap!

When registration opened for this year'r race, I immediately signed up.  I then spent this winter and spring training for the Hippie Chick.  I tried not to have running interfere with my skiing, but the last couple weeks of April it kind of did.  When you're running those long runs on Saturday, the last thing you feel like doing is skiing the next day.  So my ski season got cut kinda short.

But I felt stronger and faster than last year, and was hoping I could better last year's time (I ran the half in 2 hours 4 minutes).  My goal was to run 13.1 miles in under two hours.

My "Rocky"pose!

Saturday May 8th dawned, sunny and beautiful.  Roger accompanied me to Champoeg Park, and again helped me out by holding my sweats and clicking photos as I ran by.

Feelin' good just before race time.

I really missed having my sister and Denise there this year.  Last year Susan came out and ran most of the race with me.  We had such a great time.  Denise took lots of great photos and was fun to have at an event such as this.  But Susan is nursing a broken arm and Denise was busy with school.  I was grateful to have Roger there.  It is so much better running a race when you know you have someone cheering you on!

And they're off!

I lined up with the other ladies at the starting line and went through the silly warm up.  I was never so ready to get going.  The horn blared, and I was off!  The racers were not lined up according to pace times, so I spent the first quarter mile dodging all the people who were slower than me (LOTS of walkers!! ugh!  They should line up at the back).  But then the field started to spread out.  I reached the first mile marker, looked at my watch, and was surprised to see that I'd run my first mile in 8:23.  Whoa!  I told myself I needed to slow down, there was lots more distance to cover, and I didn't want to burn out too quickly.  I slowed down to nine minute miles - my target pace.

Thumbs up after mile 2!

I really like this race course.  It consists of two loops that are each run twice.  Participants start and finish in the middle of the two loops.  So you get to pass by the main spectator area three times.  The spectators were awesome!  Everyone seemed to be cheering the runners.  It was really great to run by and hear all the applause and encouraging words. There were a couple of people ringing cowbells, and some little kids lined up with their hands out for the runners to give high fives as they passed by.  This race is definitely a family event.  I saw lots of fathers playing with little kids while their mothers were running the race.  As one lady ran by, two little girls shouted "mommy" and ran up to her.  This lady stopped and gave her girls a big hug.  So touching!

The cheers of the spectators really made me smile.

I ran the first six miles on pace and was still feeling good.  Shortly after mile 7, my left achilles and ankle started hurting.  But I told myself to ignore it and that "I could ice it after I was done."  I continued on, logging very consistent nine minute miles.  About mile 10, I started to get a sideache and slowed down slightly.

Just past the halfway mark - looking more serious now.

I ran the next mile with a nice lady and we talked away about our lives and kids.  At mile 11, I checked my watch and discoved I'd slowed down to a 10 minute mile.  If I was going to keep on track to meet my under two hour goal, I needed to kick it in gear.  Surprisingly, I still had energy, so I picked up the pace.  I was so close to my goal, I didn't want to blow it now.

Checking my watch at the finish line.

The last mile seemed to take forever.  I ran as fast as I could but I was getting fatigued.  I tried not to look at my watch, but instead concentrated on keeping my pace.  Finally, the finish line came into view.  I gave it my all, and finally I was crossing over the timing mats.  I immediately looked at my watch.  It said 1:58:13.  Under two hours!  I did it!!!!   Wooo-hooo!!!

Modeling my finisher necklace.

Instead of medals, each finisher of the Hippie Chick Half gets a cute little necklace.  So much more practical than a clunky medal that sits in a drawer.  I was very proud of my Hippie Chick necklace.

I'm feeling like a champion!

Later that afternoon, I checked the official race results on line.  My official time was 1:57:47.  I placed 10th in my age group, out of 80 women.  Overall, I was 86th out of 655 runners.  My average pace was 8:59 per mile.  Not too shabby!

I improved my half marathon time by over 6 minutes.  I not only bettered my half marathon PR - I totally shattered it!  With the exception of a few minor aches, I felt good the entire race and had enough energy for my kick at mile 11 to the end.  It is a really wonderful feeling to train so hard for many weeks and then see your goal become reality.  So empowering!

Some of you know that my name was selected in the random drawing to run the Nike Women's Marathon in San Francisco this October.  Before the Hippie Chick, I was thinking "oh my gosh - the marathon - what have I done?  What was I thinking? I don't know if I can do this!"  But running such a strong race gave my confidence a huge boost.  I now know that if I put in the proper training, I can run this marathon.  Not only will I go the distance, but I will finish strong.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Spring Beauty at Tom McCall Point

This past Friday, I had a day off of work.  Not wanting to waste a good day off, I decided to go for a hike.  I 'd heard the flowers were in bloom at Tom McCall Point, so I decided to check it out.  Tom McCall Point is located in the Gorge, east of Hood River, near the town of Mosier.  I visited this place many years ago on a mother's day hike, but only hiked around the lower plateau.  I'd always wanted to check out the trail up to Tom McCall Point.

Wanting to get some good light, and also beat the crowds, I got up really early Friday morning, and headed out of town. The forecast was for warm and sunny weather, so I was hoping to be able to see the mountains.

My destination!

I arrived at the parking area around 7:30.  I got out my camera and immediatly started clicking photos of some of the flowers that were blooming nearby.

Flowers carpet the lower plateau overlooking the Columbia River.

The balsamroot flowers were like a yellow carpet, covering the lower trails.  I shouldered by backpack and began my climb up to Tom McCall Point.  I didn't go far, and was stopped by a beautiful bunch of flowers beside the trail. After many photo ops, I again started out.  But I didn't get much further, and --oh-- another great view to capture!  I must've spent a half hour in the lower meadow before I began my climb up.

The views just kept getting better the higher I climbed.  The Columbia River and lower plateau spread out before me.  The trail led me through some nice oak groves and then cleared out into pretty meadows.  There was some poison oak in the treed sections of the trail, so I had to be really careful.  A poison oak rash is no fun!

Rowena Crest plateau.

Flowers were blooming in abundance!  There were balsamroot, lupine and orange paintbrush adding lots of color to the trail.  The flowers made a pretty foreground for my photos.

This balsamroot blossom was especially nice.

I came upon some of the local wildlife.  I think being on the trail so early was why I got to see these guys.  I only saw one other person the whole time I was climbing up the trail  (and he was coming down).

I was almost to the top, when I came upon this killer view of Mt. Hood.  Wow! 

Mt. Adams and the Gorge from the top of Tom McCall Point

After taking about an hour and a half to travel to the top (approx. 1.5 miles and 1100' up) I finally arrived at my destination.  Yes, I usually travel faster than that - but there were so many wonderful scenic things to photograph, that it took me much longer to travel the distance!

I had no more than began to set up my tripod, when another guy came up the trail behind me.  He was also a photographer and immediatly set up his tripod and began clicking away.

Mt. Hood view from the top of Tom McCall Point.

Up on  top of Tom McCall Point, all I could say was "wow!"  The flowers were incredible and the views outstanding!  My camera was buzzing away, trying to capture it all.

Luscius lupine.

A fine example of some of the wonderful flowers that were blooming on Tom McCall Point.  This little patch of lupine was especially vibrant.

Amazing yellow balsamroot!

Not only did I have clear skies for great mountain views, but I also had great light for photography.  The sun was at an angle that lit up the flowers so they were glowing with color.

Mt. Hood overlooks the flower fest.

I must have taken at least 200 photographs while I was on the summit.  You don't get such perfect conditions like this everyday.  I felt really lucky to have chosen this particular day to visit.

Looking west down the Gorge.

The other photographer told me he'd been up here yesterday and the conditions were not as good.  It was cloudy and he could not see much of Mt. Hood.  When he heard today's weather forecast, he decided to come back again.  It was paying off for him!  Apparently this guy comes up to Tom McCall Point quite often in the springtime, and was knew lots about the area.  He gave me some tips on where to set up my camera to get some good shots.

Mt. Hood framed by lupine.

Another couple came up the trail during the time I was on the summit.  But they didn't stay long.  The guy photographer took lots of photos (and he was shooting film!) but finally he packed up and left.  I now had the whole place to myself.

Looking north across the Columbia River.

After enjoying the solitude for awhile, I realized I needed to be heading back.  The sky was beginning to cloud over to the north, and I had taken enough photos to keep me busy sorting and editing for a long while!  It was such a nice day, and perfect light, that I really hated to leave.

One last lupine photo - because it is so lovely!

Once I started back down the trail, I met lots of people on their way up.  The farther down I traveled, the more people I ran into.  By the time I was nearing the parking lot, there were several large groups heading out.  Looks like I came down at the right time!

I don't know why I waited so long to hike this trail.  What a gem!  It will definitely be on my list of "must-do" spring hikes for next year.  What a great way to spend a sunny day off!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mom's Weekend at OSU

Mother's Day is just around the corner.  With that in mind, OSU held their annual "Mom's weekend" last Friday - Sunday.  I drove down to Corvallis on Saturday to spend the day with Denise.

One of the weekend's events was a mother-student 5K fun run.  Denise was the one who suggested we run the race together.  In between classes and work, she's been trying to start a regular running program.  Here are Denise and I on Saturday morning, fresh and ready to run!

Denise gives me one of her "looks."

Of course, Denise never likes it when I take her photo!

Denise is much better at these self-portraits than I! (She knows just how to hold the camera)

Mud-splattered, but victorius!

It had been raining the past couple of days, so the park where the race was held was kind of muddy.  Denise and I show off our muddy shoes after the race was over!

Denise did really good for just taking up running a couple of months ago.  I know it was hard for her, but she kept on going, and we finished strong.

I just loved these yellow rhodies!

After the race, it was time for a Jamba juice and then back to Denise's apartment to change clothes.  After that, we walked around the OSU campus, checking out the various activities for moms.  The campus flowers were all in bloom, and were they ever beautiful!

These pink rhodies were also really nice.

Denise poses by one of the many bright flowering bushes on the OSU campus.

We joined Denise's two roommates and their mothers for dinner at a local restaurant.  Denise has great roommates, and their moms were a lot of fun.

Denise and I model our numbers from the morning's race.  This was a low-budget race - no paper bibs with numbers - only a hand-written sharpie number on your hand!

I had a great day.  It was fun to hang out with Denise.  We always have a good time when we get together.  Happy Mother's Day to my mom and my sister, and to all you moms out there!