Take Care of Your Body!

You know you’re getting older when your Christmas presents to each other are a pair of specialized compression ski socks and Chopats for the knees. The good news is that it also means you are attempting to stay active and in shape! There is a saying in the fitness world that we have all heard: no pain, no gain. There is some truth in that. If you are not feeling it at all the next day, your workout is probably not enough. However, as you get older, there are things you need to watch more carefully. Sometimes our bodies betray us. We don’t heal quite as quickly. If we have had multiple surgeries in the past, like my husband, the semi-bionic man, you may be noticing some arthritic pain. Pay attention to your body!! Some discomfort is normal when getting in shape; extreme and/or consistent pain is not.

There are things you can do. Get to know your body and what your weak spots are. I have a weak lower back, knees, and neck muscles. I also have some rotator cuff problems. Jim has had surgery on both shoulders, both knees, and both wrists. Exercise actually has helped my shoulders and back immensely (but again, watch your body. Exercise helps my shoulder but Jim definitely needed surgery). But my knees need some extra support. Hence, the Chopats. Jim has been using them for quite some time for hiking and skiing. I now use them for those activities as well as general workouts. It makes a big difference. (Another sign that you are getting old–going downhill on big hikes is often more difficult than going uphill!).

Warmups and cool-downs are more important than ever when you hit our age. Yoga and pilates are great additions to any workout program. If you are using a program and a move is too difficult, don’t give up. Modify or just march in place. Whatever you do, keep moving.

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Steam Donkey Trail

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Steam Donkey Trail in Dosewallips State Park is one that I’ve been looking at for much of the winter, simply because of its low elevation. We kept putting it off because reviews made it seem a little basic. I do suspect that it is not nearly as much fun in the summer. It starts right out of the campground and it’s pretty easy, so I bet it’s packed with people and dogs all summer long. On a sunny day in February, however, it was just delightful. We only ran into two other groups–one a group of friendly twenty-somethings; another, two older guys with a pack of rather vicious sounding tiny dogs.

The trail has quite a bit of debris from recent bad weather, but most of it is smaller branches and such. It’s also pretty wet still. My guess is that during rainy spells, the trail itself becomes one of the many creeks in the area. We wore hiking boots and stayed perfectly dry, but I wouldn’t wear tennis shoes at this time of year! The water features were the highlight for us. Lots of creeks, the sound of water everywhere, glimpses of the river toward the end (the Maple Valley Trail side), and some lovely little waterfalls. Phantom Creek, which you cross twice if you do both trails, is gorgeous right now. Not sure what it will look like by the end of the summer.

For a complete change of scenery, you can hop over Highway 101 to the Canal side and catch the beach life (though it’s not a sandy beach). You can hike out quite aways at low tide, but probably not so much when the tide comes in! It’s interesting, but I would save it for after the main hike. We did see several sea lions and tons of birds. This is also where our boots got wet–with lovely (not!) sea-smelling mud from the tide flats. The boots are now hanging out in the garage for awhile!

Since we had some time left, we decided to head up river to the Dosewallips Rec Area. We haven’t been there in years, long before the road washout. We had no intention of hiking up there so late in the day, but we did want to check out the parking situation for later in the year. Even at this early date, there were five other vehicles at the end, and not a whole lot of room. Again, it could get pretty crowded on the summer weekends. Also, please note that it is still definitely winter up there! Snow on the road for the last mile or so. There have been lots of people up that way so it wasn’t too bad, but we did put the Explorer in 4-wheel drive just in case. We saw a small herd of elk in a pasture on the way up.

All in all, a very good day, especially with a stop at the Hama Hama Seafood Company Oyster Bar on the way home!

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Why We Hike

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This blog is about the ways my husband and I are coping with a very different situation from the one we were in a few years ago. One of the realities we have learned to face is that our future travel plans have changed dramatically. That trip to Bora Bora is not likely to ever happen. Nor will we be able to even keep up with our yearly trips somewhat closer to home. It can be hard to let those dreams go, but we are finding new adventures in our own backyard. That is where our hiking comes in. It’s not something we did all that much of before, unless we were on a vacation somewhere. Jim likes speed, in the form of water and snow skiing and riding dirt bikes. But these things are expensive. We have had to cut back, and hiking locally is a great solution for a number of reasons.

First, it’s cheap and we need cheap activities to keep us from going crazy. We are not backpackers, just day hikers. For that, one needs good boots, a decent day pack, and mostly, common sense (like pay attention to the weather and to maps, dress in layers for our NW climate, carry the essentials like WATER, and my personal favorite, maybe if you are almost out of gas, you should be going down the mountain, not up! I always wonder if the two in that car are still up there). Our daughter bought us a book of hikes around the Olympic Peninsula, since we live in Belfair (entitled Day Hike! Olympic Peninsula by Seabury Blair Jr). It’s a great resource and we started last year with the easier hikes. There are many books like this for various areas around the country, so pick one up for your area!

Hiking is great exercise, which helps us stay healthy. That’s important for anyone, but we need to be really careful with our health, because without insurance through Jim’s work, our healthcare is up in the air. Exercise also gets those endorphins going, which makes you happier. Best of all, it provides peace and solitude, especially during the week or in the off-season. This is a vital part of my well-being. I, like many of us, suffer from monkey brain. Too much going on in there, and with all our recent troubles, those darn monkeys are starting to fling shit at each other. A trip to the woods always works to calm the little beasts down.

I hope you can find peace and joy in the wilderness around your home. Slow down, listen, watch, and be happy. Here’s some natural “music” to get you started.

Explore Your Creative Side

I am a photographer. I enjoy most types of photography but am especially drawn to abstracts. I love the idea of capturing moods and the fluidity of time rather than freezing moments. If you are a creative type, you know how much your work can nurture your soul. But creativity can ebb and flow, and nothing puts a screeching halt to it quite like an unexpected disaster and the depression that can come with it.

My husband lost his job over a year ago. It wasn’t the only major setback we had at the time and all things together took quite a toll. I didn’t pick up my camera for months. I finally went to a counselor and I can tell you, it made all the difference in the world. She encouraged me to start shooting again–slowly, just for myself. I think that’s the key. Do it just for you. We tend to be our own worst critics, so don’t try too hard. Just do it. You can delete, rip it up, throw it away, but don’t give up.

Keep a journal of your feelings. You don’t have to show it to anyone, but if you are going through problems with someone else, it might be a good way to show how you feel when spoken words don’t always come out the way you want. A friend of mine is also having a very difficult time. She gave me some great advice. She draws in her journal, as she is an artist, but she was getting caught up with the whole perfection thing. The solution–use crayons!! You can’t be perfect with crayons, plus they are fun and might just put a smile on your face (get the big box!). If you are a photographer like me, you can sketch out ideas for shoots. A writer can use them too. Filling a whole page with pen or pencil can be daunting, but write big with those crayons and that page will fill up quickly. Let your inner child out and begin to feel joy in your art again.

Get Fit, Get Healthy, Get Happy

Some of you may have been following my health page on Facebook. If so, you will know that I left Facebook a few months ago. I promised to carry on somewhere else, so here it is! For the rest of you, I hope you can find some good information in this page.

When life dumps on you, sometimes the only thing left that you can control is what you do with your body. Stress and depression go hand-in-hand with the sorts of awful events that can lead to unplanned retirement. They are real and have terrible physical effects on the body. Staying fit and eating right can help keep you healthy and sane. Finding the right program can bring much needed stress relief, happiness, and a sense of routine. (Routine can be boring in some circumstances, but when you are under a great deal of stress or living with depression, a good routine can be a lifesaver.)

I know people who have enough drive and self motivation to be able to put together a healthy fitness and eating plan on their own. I, however, am not one of those, and this page is here to help those of you who are like me. For the record, I am a Team Beachbody Coach. It doesn’t mean I am a fitness instructor or a nutritionist (nor does it mean that I will try to sell you something). What I am is somebody who has been down a difficult road of depression, stress, low self esteem and the health problems that can come with that. I finally found a solution that works for me through Team Beachbody. It is one of the best decisions I have made for myself in the last decade. I would love to share my experience with you in hopes that I can help someone else. You do not have to join Beachbody to be here on this page (although it’s a great place to get answers to any questions about the program). There are other programs that work well too. You just have to find the one that fits your style. I hate the gym so this works well for me. I love being able to work out in my own home. If you are more social, a gym membership might be better. The key is to stick with it, and realize that if it’s not making you feel better, it’s time to try something new.  I will be sharing tips that anyone can use. See you soon!

Dungeness Spit

Dungeness Spit February 2, 2017

Our first hike for February was the 5.5 mile trek out to the New Dungeness Lighthouse on Dungeness Spit in Sequim. We’re not hard core winter hikers or snowshoers, so we were looking for a nice winter hike that doesn’t require any specialized winter gear. This is a good one. One bonus for this hike at this time of year–far fewer people! It’s easy to get to and very popular in the summer, so if you like a bit of solitude, avoid it during summer vacation.

I will say this about the hike. If you have not kept in great shape over the winter, it’s not quite as easy as it looks! Hiking in sand and gravel always gives you a bit more of a workout than you may have been expecting. This is 10 miles of nothing but sand and gravel (or practicing your balance beam moves on driftwood), with a bit of a slant so you feel like one leg is shorter than the other by the time you reach the lighthouse. It also looks much closer than it actually is. If you are hiking with kids, there may be a lot of “are we there yet?” There may be some of that even if you are not hiking with kids!

It can also be very windy. Very, very windy. This might actually be helpful on your way back from the lighthouse. Spread your arms out and see if that wind might help propel you a little bit! Guess it will depend on how baggy your coat is. I am sure the wind is generally worse in the winter, but we went there several times in the summer when our daughter was young (and no, we never made it to the lighthouse then!). I always remember it as being windy. Anyway, be prepared for it. I wore just about the same clothes yesterday as I did to Crystal Mountain last week, minus the ski pants (though I still had on two bottom layers). I was colder at the beach than I was at Crystal.

It was, however, very clear. The views were amazing. The Olympics in all their glory behind us. Vancouver Island to the north, and Mt. Baker, looking like you could just reach out and touch it. The views were even more spectacular from the top of the lighthouse. That’s the reward for going the whole way. They have guest keepers out there who will show you around and take you to the top. There is a lovely lawn and several picnic tables, and a clean bathroom with running water (it’s even hot, which is really nice when you feel like you might be close to frostbite!). Lots of history too. Bring a few dollars if you think about it. Donations help keep it in good shape. If you are so inclined, you can also rent the place for a time (there is a house too; you won’t be sleeping in the lighthouse). You get a unique experience for a reasonable amount of money in exchange for showing people around and general upkeep.

The tip of the Spit past the lighthouse, and most of the south side, is a wildlife refuge, so it’s off limits. We saw a few sea lions in the water. Depending on the time of year, you might see whales as well. And always lots of birds. Since most of the beach is as much rock as it is sand, you won’t find much in the way of whole shells, but we found a few pieces of beach glass and quite of few agates (at least I think that’s what they are!). And there is a ton of driftwood. Do watch the weather and the tides though. You’ll want to head out to the lighthouse when the tide is going out, not coming in!

http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/dungeness-national-wildlife-refuge

http://newdungenesslighthouse.com/hiking-to-the-lighthouse/

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Hot Buttered Bourbon

Given our motto of sometimes needing to crack that bottle, a drink of the month page seems appropriate. We make no claims to originality with these drinks–they are simply some of our favorites, using beverages from several of our local distilleries, breweries, and cideries (all abundant in the NW!).

With February being smack in the middle of winter, we’ll go with a hot drink to start you off. Warning–this is full of calories, but it can easily substitute for dessert!

Hot Buttered Bourbon

Mix 1 teaspoon brown sugar, 1 teaspoon butter (REAL butter), and 1 to 2 tablespoons good vanilla ice cream in a mug with one shot of Heritage Distilling Company’s BSB (Brown Sugar Bourbon). Add hot water to fill mug and mix well. A dash of cinnamon or nutmeg on top doesn’t hurt. If you really like gilding the lily, you can add a dollop of whipped cream, but we haven’t gone that far yet! Perfect on a cold winter night, especially if you’ve been out in the elements all day. Enjoy!

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A bit about this month’s distillery:

Heritage Distilling Company

We were living in Gig Harbor when Heritage opened their first shop. They have grown quickly, and with good reason. We frequent the waterfront store (there is another main GH location and one in Eugene, OR), where they have tastings, a great selection of flavored (or Sea Hawk themed) vodka, gin, and whiskey, a cask club that allows you to customize your own whiskey, and, maybe best of all–growlers for liquor! While I don’t possess vast knowledge on the subject of growlers, so far, I have only seen them available for beer. Heritage generally has six liquors on tap for the growlers (four flavored vodkas and two whiskeys last time we were there). They also have a Spirit Advent calendar, which I think is a wonderful idea. It may be too late for the holidays this year, but there’s always next year!

http://heritagedistilling.com/