Revisiting the habit of writing is like trying to resume any exhausting activity that’s good for you, like aerobic exercise, or stretching. So easy to abandon, and difficult to pick up once more. However, the exhaustion is a false impression (one hopes), and the benefits for health, mental and physical, assert themselves in time. It only feels like heavy lifting at first.
Were there good reasons to have neglected this blog? No. And yes.
No, in that I’ve had access to ample time. Since my last post I’ve retired. The nature of time has changed remarkably for me. My days are full of it.
But yes, too, in that the trickle of passing time has become a rushing torrent; a veritable fire hose blasting past me. I brew my morning coffee, blink, and watch the sun setting.
A friend resumed writing after a long hiatus just today, and inspired me to do so, too. He spent a few words reflecting on why he’d stopped, but concluded saying, “I will end the excuses here. I simply did not write, which is also ok.”
Retirement is as full of needful and wasteful actions as working life, except one gets to chose them. That, and choosing the proportion of neccessary to capricious effort falls to me. I’ve not been a good steward of those choices consistently. While it’s fine to review a news-page in the morning, do I really need to read WaPo, the New York Times, and The Guardian, all three? Do I absolutely need to hear what Stephen Colbert said last night? AND Seth Meyers, too?
Maybe I should clear the pine straw off the roof first.
And, certainly, I should resume the practice of writing, and maybe sharing that with the winds of the internet. More content to follow!
Elliott and I have long been searching for something we can do together once he retires. At one point–a long time ago–I thought that might be flying, but the older I’ve gotten, the more frightened of that I’ve become, much to Elliott’s disappointment. Quilting isn’t really Elliott’s style, nor is running. Well, he runs–but he much prefers to do so by himself or just the two of us; races aren’t his thing. For me, however, the energy of a race and all of its people give me added energy. So, running’s out. Although we both like to read, that’s more of a solitary pleasure. Kayaking’s okay, but limited by weather and tides. We both vetoed golf, hunting, and a whole host of other ideas, for one reason or another.
Then we got invited to visit our friends Beth and Eric on their sailboat. I’d never been sailing before, and it was a perfect weekend. Slowly, the idea of getting our own boat took root. In June 2016, Elliott and I both attended the Windward School in Fernandina Beach for a weeklong sailing school, where both of us earned our ASA 104 certificates. (School isn’t nearly as easy as it used to be, let me tell you! Engine mechanics requires a bigger brain and a heftier vocabulary than I have, I’m afraid.)
We started visiting marinas wherever we went, drooling over sailboats, learning what we could about what we wanted and didn’t want. A well-maintained and gorgeous boat, Integrity, was just 25 feet long and we theoretically could step the mast ourselves if we wanted to join friends Cherie and Chris on the Great Loop–but sleeping would have been cramped and there was no kitchen. The Sneaky Tiki was gorgeous and everything we wanted, but a bit out of our price range. A 45-foot Bruce Roberts gave us a lot of room–but was probably more than two novices could easily handle. While Elliott searched and queried, I waited for the boat that would shout, “Pick me! Pick me!”
Sailing friends Kate and Fabio tied up in Jacksonville, just across the pier from Kathryn. Elliott visited the two of them, and it turned out the owner was getting ready to put Kathryn on the market. She’s a Tartan 37, and has had only the one owner since her manufacture up in Ohio in about 1980. We indicated our interest, and set up a sea trial a couple weeks later. She sails like a dream. Smooth, gorgeous, and definitely worth waiting for. I heard her say “Pick me!” loud and clear.
Like any good prospective boat owner, we’re having a survey done, in mid April. Boat surveyors act like home inspectors, checking into and under all the nooks and crannies that newbies like us wouldn’t think twice about. “See these bubbles here? That might indicate a bit of rot under the paint.” “Compression check shows one of your cylinders isn’t…doing its cylinder thing.” (Have I mentioned how I don’t understand engine mechanics…yet?)
Hopefully, Kathryn will pass her survey with flying colors. We’ll be down there that day, shadowing the inspector. If all goes well, she’ll get a new coat (or two!) of bottom paint, as long as she’s out of the water. And the next step will be moving her closer to us…and that means sailing!
After Oregon and Ann’s sisters, we made our way south and east. Our route was very fluid, which is the way I like it best. I’m happiest when the plan is largely unplanned, and chance has a chance to work. In a word, serendipity is permitted to be the guide.
A circle of long-ago friends had converged on Palo Alto, California in the salad days of the tech and dot-com boom. They’ve been mostly out of touch, but through facebook we’d reconnected in that pleasant, vague way the social nets work. Doug Kalish had graciously invited us to “drop in” when he’d noticed we were hosting up in Oregon, and so, arriving in California, we did.
Doug was a good friend of my brother (seniors when I was a sophomore in high school), and his wife, Donna, a classmate of mine, and the best friend of a girl I dated back then. That girl, Vicky Reich, lives in Palo Alto, too, and hearing that we were visiting, stopped by with her husband, David Rosenthal, to say hello after the zesty fish tacos Doug and Donna had whipped up for our dinner. Meeting Donna’s sister, Debbie, added to the party. It was great fun to re-connect! ; to see how much and how little life has changed us all; to see the achievements of truly good people leading fine lives.
The next morning after a breakfast frittata and a bracing walk with Doug, we packed back up and drove north and east to Yosemite National Park. Yosemite proved to be a difficult park to enjoy that day, in part because of its size, and because it was a “free day”( very crowded!), but also because we got a late start on our way, and had scant time to explore. The dryness of the season, and five years of California drought made for a parched view of Yosemite’s splendors. Feeling frustrated, we climbed out of the valley taking the eastern route at dusk into nightfall, and found a room at Bishop, CA. In the dark, we’d blown on past several points of interest Doug had recommended. The obvious remedy to those omissions and the poor job we made of seeing Yosemite is to return and hike them properly some day soon.
From Bishop, we took Hwy 266, a back road route up and over the mountains that define the western boundary of Death Valley. This was a twisty and challenging two lane road, and every other car we saw seemed to be a jeep. The landscape was dry, but not barren, and certainly not without bright colors. The road was lined with yellow blossoms of what looked like eastern ragweed to me, but is probably something else. The geology was volcanic, with magma cores, and lots of basalt and obsidian formations. In the distance were bands of rich reds interspersed with white and sand shades.
Driving along we read to each other from ‘Little Heathens’ by Mildred Armstrong Kalish, a gift from Doug written by “Millie”, his mom. It’s rather wonderful; a memoir of growing up on an Iowa farm during the depression. It’s full of details so very similar to my own mother’s stories of childhood in Oklahoma in the same years.
On our way, we took special note of a small cluster of stone block ruins that flashed by on our left as we descended into the heat of Death Valley, itself. Traffic and a sharp curve prevented us from stopping, but we were able to identify the place as Palmetto, Nevada, a twice-failed ghost town from the silver rush days of the territory. Started in the 1860’s, the town was stripped away and moved as the silver ran out. With new silver claims discovered in 1903, the town was rebuilt, but failed again in a few short years.
Our route carried us south, through Las Vegas, where I idly wished for a ‘Museum of Fear and Loathing: A strange and savage commemoration of Hunter S. Thompson’. Alas, there is no such place. We stopped briefly on the shore of Lake Mead, but never caught as much as a glimpse of the Boulder Dam. We finally pulled off of I-40 and on to Route 66 at the town of Seligman, Arizona. Seligman’s special charm derives entirely from the famous road it clings to.
We found an inexpensive room at the Romney Motel. It was clean, and provided everything we required, and offered a discount at Lilo’s Grill, a wonderful family dining experience just five minutes by foot from our digs. After supper, as we started our walk back, we found the “blood moon eclipse” rising on the horizon directly in front of our path. It was a fine dessert to top our day crossing the desert.
I’m posting from Jacksonville, Oregon under a waxing moon up a ridge overlooking pine and sage forest. This is the home of one of my sisters-in-law and her husband. It is her birthday and we are having a slow food meal, extended courses of Asian food lovingly prepared by Gary, my brother-in-law. Ann’s family is warm, talkative, and close. Opening Meg’s presents should be hilarious. It’s nice to hang out with them.
The camper which sheltered us in such style over the last two months has been turned over to its new owner, a nice woman from Burlington, Washington. We gave the keys to her in a parking there, and hit the road south on our way to visit with Ann’s three sisters in Bend, Ashland, and here.
Kate, Ann’s youngest sister, is a professional wrangler and horse trainer in Bend.We spent half a day visiting her ranch there. She works in wild horse rescue, and is perhaps the most passionate person about her work I’ve ever met. Every horse she introduced us to was saved from slaughter and the meat packers. (Yes, horse meat is processed hereabouts, for shipment to Europe, mostly.) She is an amazing person.
Sue is Ann’s sister in Ashland, and we lunched with her earlier today, and had the fun bonus of meeting her granddaughter, Ellie, and her mom Gretchen who we hadn’t seen since her wedding three years ago. Many family smiles and hugs were traded over soup and melted cheese sandwiches. Sue is a healthcare professional and educator, with hundreds of patients indebted to her for her skill.
It’s of more than passing interest that there are three mountains overlooking this region, called The Three Sisters: They are called Faith, Hope, and Charity, and they grace western Oregon’s horizon in a line. Ann’s three sisters- Kate, Meg, and Sue, and their families, are beacons for Ann in this region, the heartland of her tribe in the west.
The wished for endgame to our summer-into-autumn on Orcas Island has happened: This morning we found a buyer for The Clipper motor home, and will turn over the keys in TWO DAYS. This was fairly sudden. We didn’t really expect to find a buyer, but Craig’s List and the posters we displayed here and there have been more effective than we expected. I’ve fielded some ten inquiries, and shown the camper three times in just a week.
Yesterday morning, I had a nice chat with a young woman who said to expect a call from her mom later on, and, indeed, her mother rang me up and we chatted for almost an hour about the features and finer points of The Clipper. She rode out this morning from the mainland on the earliest ferry, with daughter and grandson in tow, and graciously listened to my pitch. Fifteen minutes after that, she put down a deposit on a fair price, and said they’d come back for it on Monday. Pow, just like that! So now we are cheerfully eating everything in the fridge, and thankful that I thought to pick up packing cartons the last time we visited the grocery store.
The road home will take us into Oregon so Ann can visit her sisters, then on into California and Nevada. We expect to see a friend or two passing through Arizona, and will make our way to Plactidas, New Mexico to return our borrowed station wagon. With luck and good weather, we hope to spend a day seeing friends at a Balloon Rallye near Albuquerque. And then it will be time to pack the Comanche, and begin the flight across the south to make our way home to Georgia.
It’s been an amazing time, hiking and serving other hikers here at Moran State Park. I’m very grateful to the Friends of Moran for the chance to do all this, and to Ann for finding the opportunity, as well as encouraging me to jump on board.
As I write this, we are 11 days from leaving Orcas Island. The time has flown by, and we still have a lot to do before we leave. Primary among those items is the decision on how to dispose of the RV if we don’t sell it between now and then. (Day before yesterday, we listed it on Craigslist and posted notices on bulletin boards all over the island.)
We know we can store it here for a reasonable fee, but then what do we do? Try to sell it from afar? Come back and retrieve it? In many ways, selling it before we go makes a lot of sense because that would tie up loose ends, but even then, in my daydreams, I’m trying to find ways to come back to the island. (Family reunion? Retirement? This has been an awesome–in the best sense of the word, full of awe–experience.)
Orcas Island is a phenomenal place. The people–undoubtedly tired of the 800,000 tourists who come traipsing through here each year–have been uniformly gracious and friendly. The scenery–no matter where you look– is spectacular. The lifestyle is thoughtful and mindful, rather than the mindless rushing about of regular life. Crime is almost nonexistent. The arts flourish here. There are no chain stores (well, I did see a NAPA Auto Parts) and, compared to most of our lives, that is no drawback at all.
Stationed up here on top of the mountain, the weather is a little cooler and wetter than I’d like–but I hear it’s warmer and sunnier down at the bottom, so maybe that’s not as much of a drawback as it seems. (We’re looking at five days of cold and rain coming up–naturally, on our days off when we’d like to get things done.) I’d like to do more running–flat, road running, not this trail running nonsense that eats up my knees, both inside and outside–and I’ve seen several gravel paths running through and near town.
I feel a sense of community with this place. I don’t know how well it would stand up to day-in, day-out, year-round living, but I sense it would be abundantly pleasant. Even allowing for the “grass is always greener” effect, it’s far better than the mindless existence so many of us settle for.
But I am only one half of a couple, and it takes two to make things work. I think Elliott agrees with me on much of the above, but perhaps not enough to drop everything and move. And moving might destroy the dream. There are tough decisions to make. What I’d like to do is grab all the people I care about and move them here with me too–but that daydream is unrealistic.
Home is where the heart is, and part of my heart will always be here on the island, no matter where I’m living.
After a truly wet and chilly week bracketing Labor Day Weekend, the sun returned to Orcas Island, much as it has been throughout August. The rains were sufficient for Moran State Park to remove the campfire ban, but the season here is now largely over, and the number of campers but a fraction of last month’s count. Cabin fever had me itching for a hike.
On a day trip to Deer Harbor, I’d noticed the trail heads, north and south, for Turtleback Mountain Preserve. This block of wilderness, although somewhat smaller than Moran, is its equal for hiking beauty. The preserve boundaries encompass Ship Peak and Turtlehead mountains, with well groomed trails ascending from the south end trail head past vista after vista. I was hiking with our friend, Darlene, one of the summer volunteers, and also one of the ice cream “wenches” at the Moran Park’s ‘Sugar Shack’.
Turtleback is less well known than Moran, and even in peak season will give one a very quiet experience in the wild, with much less hiking “traffic” than the Moran trails carry. Climbing up the South and West Overlook trails, I was surprised to find madrona trees of much greater girth than you typically see on the shorelines of Orcas Island, and at an elevation much higher. The overlooks encompassed the full length of West Sound, dotted with sails and ferries.
We stopped at Ship Peak for a rest and a spot of lunch. At this point, one crosses a ridge ascending Turtleback, and the views overlook the populated interior of Orcas Island, with a patchwork of farms, hayfields, orchards, forests and vineyards extending all the way to East Sound and North Beach. It’s very different than most of the vistas seen hiking at Moran State Park, which reveal only forest lands extending to the eastern water passages, the mainland, and Vancouver Island.
Had we gotten underway earlier in the day, Darlene and I would have turned west above Ship Peak, and made the climb up to Turtlehead mountain, but the days were getting shorter, and our exit plan from the park entailed walking down to the NORTH trail head, and hitchhiking back to the car, parked at the south end. I didn’t want to be thumbing a ride too close to sunset, so we turned east at the branch leading up the highest mountain at the preserve.
Even so, there are two overlooks with wonderful vistas along the north trail, Waldron Overlook and North Valley Overlook, followed by a steep descent to the trail head.
I informed Darlene that my secret superpower is hitchhiking, stuck out my thumb, and the very first car stopped and gave us a ride all the way back to the south end trail head. Our chauffeur was a lovely lady, the proprietor of the Blue Heron B&B, with a sweet old Labrador retriever. She went out of her way to deliver us to our car, and we shared a fun conversation as we rode.
Turtleback Mountain Preserve, although less well known, is one of Orcas Island many splendid treasures, and must be seen.
Seven Lessons I’ve learned by living in a small space (95 square feet, more or less) for two months (so far) with my husband:
There’s only one cook in the kitchen. Literally. The kitchen blocks both the door to the RV (the big door) and the door to the bathroom, so timing is important, sometmes even imperative. If I need to continuously stir something, communication is important. “Little door, coming through” is a cry you don’t need to hear while your hands are busy in the kitchen, the phone is crocked under your ear, and your nose has started to drip.
A comfortable bed is essential. Ours is a little too hard for me, just right for Elliott, but I’m growing accustomed to it. What’s harder is that I’m used to a king size bed, and I sprawl. Right now, I’m too leery of getting comfortable because if I shove Elliott too far, well, there’s a five-foot drop on the other side of the bed. Despite his snoring in my ear (earplugs don’t seem to work as well at a six-inch range), I really don’t want him to fall out of bed. Till he starts snoring, anyway.
Warmth is also necessary. Maybe someday I’ll get used to cold, but in the meantime, I–the nonmechanical one–have had to learn how to turn on the propane gas, the gas heater, the water heater, and the oven. And they all operate differently. I’m still scared of the water heater, but the others I’ve mastered. I suppose it’s an important skill, should I ever be deserted in the cold isolation of a rural area in an RV I have no intention of driving all by myself. Also, we’ve used up our first tank of propane and will need to get more, which entails driving down hairpin curves on a narrow mountain road because the delivery trucks don’t come this far. I would suck at boondocking.
The world does not end if I don’t shower every day or if I wear the same clothes (more or less) three days running. Unless I go running, in which case (men sweat, women glow), I’m lighting up a five-square-mile area at high noon. But trail running isn’t happening here (not with scraped knees and bruised ribs from my last attempt), so the world is safe from my armpits for a few days more.
Headphones are essential. I like to read–okay, I love to read–but reading while listening to the latest sample of Audible’s Daily Deal at high volume is not conducive to comprehension. Hence, earbuds, headphones, or some other way of muting the noises coming from Elliott’s devices. I’m sure he doesn’t want to listen to my Barry Manilow anymore either.
Stir crazy is directly related to sunshine, and television doesn’t help. We’ll ignore the fact that there is not much on television worth watching (I made Elliott watch Shirley Temple’s Heidi yesterday) and not everything on the Internet is worth perusing, and jump right into the fact that staring at each other over our respective computers after many hours does not lead to endearing looks of everlasting love. More like, “It’s raining and cold out there. I’m bored,” sounding much like small children in need of entertainment. I used to tell my kids, “I’m not here to be your entertainment system. Boredom comes from within.” The words have come back to haunt me.
I don’t need whatI thought I did. I need fewer t-shirts but maybe more sweatshirts, given the recent cold weather. I miss my sewing machine and I miss kitchen storage, but beyond that, pffffft. But what I haven’t spent on kitchen supplies, I’ve probably spent on kindle books. I certainly don’t miss cleaning a big house, my garden (that’s a surprise, really), or mowing the lawn. You win some, you lose some.
We won this one. We’re comfortable with each other–and each other’s foibles. You can’t hide much in 95 square feet.
Not long ago I posted about the shabby and inconsiderate behavior of a few of the visitors to Mt. Constitution. We call them voyeurs
because of their tendency to ignore the privacy boundaries we’ve erected around the summit host campsite.
Two very good friends from the world of full-time RVing got in touch after reading that post, and offered to send us some wonderful screening material that had served them well for years. While it won’t prevent dweebs from stolling all around our rig,
it will at the very least, prevent them from seeing through our windshield.
The stuff is called RV-QuickShades , and it arrived today. It is a UV protective fabric that reduces heat and sunlight damage inside the rig, while blocking visibility from outside. Yet, it permits clear viewing from inside our rolling home, looking out.
Of course, we will still have people milling beyond the signs and saw-horses we’ve deployed asking for a patch to call our own for our weeks here at Mt. Constitution, but our dear friend, Kendra, had a good suggestion for THAT problem. I can’t wait to try it:
Yesterday’s hike was a 1200 foot descent from Mt. Constitution (elevation 2409 feet MSL), and thence a slow 700 foot ascent through old growth forest, climbing back up to the peak of Mt. Pickett (Elevation ~1750 feet MSL).
The Twin Lakes trail has become very familiar, with its initial rocky switch backs, crumbly with gravel sliding under our feet like ball-bearings. The footing, thankfully, improves for most of the climb down, but is steep enough to make your knees complain unless one shortens one’s stride quite a bit.
At the lakes, we turned to Mt. Pickett, and made our way up through the old growth forest. The plan was then to do the loop around the south arch, a long wooded loop that would have us returning by Mountain Lake, but we changed the plan when I spotted surveyors’ tape marking a new trail that turned east and north. It was exciting to explore this untraveled part of the park, not knowing exactly why it was marked, or where it was taking us. It led down the back side of Mt. Pickett, toward the shoreline, but ended suddenly below the last ridge lying between us and a very steep descent to the water.
We were at the last of the orange tape markers, when I noticed a black, shiny feature perched atop a fallen log about 20 feet to the right of the trail’s end. I climbed under some limbs, and on reaching it, discovered it was a fragment of a black, earthen jug, with spout and handle still intact. It was next to a geodetic marker, much lower to the ground and harder to see.
It was obviously placed there to make it easier to find the geodetic marker. The pink ribbons marking the trail went no further, and we concluded that it had been blazed to take a surveyor’s party back to that marker when needful.
With no further marked path to guide us, the obvious choice was to turn back, but we decided to climb that last ridge to see if there were any views out to the water. The ridge was steep, but with sound footing in soft mosses, and we were amply rewarded
for our effort with a beautiful picnic site overlooking Barnes, Clark and Lummi Islands and the channels between them. It was time for lunch!
After sandwiches, trail mix and water, we retraced our steps, and returning to the geodetic marker, I placed an animal skull we’d found on top of it, to note our passing. The return trek was even more exciting, in that we decided to take a short cut off-trail over a ridge to intersect the road north and west of Mt. Pickett. This saved a repeat of the climb all the way to the top of that mountain, sparing energy for the climb back up Mt. Constitution.
We circled the eastern lake at Twin Lakes, to be able to say that we did, and Ann checked that off her list. Turning uphill, we made our slow way retracing the switch backs, back up to our camper. The 1200 foot Twin Lakes ascent (actually ANY ascent back up here) is a real cardiac workout. After a cup of soup, and with a book in hand, I conked out for about two hours.
I described our hike the next day to a young park ranger who became passionate about the terrain we had explored. It is an area of old growth and bluffs overlooking a part of the park that he would like to see opened. If a trail could be improved there, it could make accessible a small piece of shoreline which Moran State Park has retained on the Rosario strait facing Barnes Island.
He would like to see that become a rustic campground for backpackers, with marine access too, similar to the rustic campgrounds at Obstruction Pass State Park, a small marine-use sister park managed by the staff here at Moran State Park.