Dreaming of Summer Trails

Tubal Cain

Trailhead for Tubal Cain Mine trail #840

It’s March 7, and it’s snowing at our place in Belfair. I love the snow, but come on Mother Nature! I am so ready for spring. If you are out hiking in the Northwest today, you are far more hard-core (and hopefully more prepared) than we are. Today I am inside, trying to keep my cat off the keyboard and dreaming of my favorite hike from last summer–the Tubal Cain Mine trail in the Olympics.

We’ll be heading back there this year, as there is so much more to see. We didn’t see the plane wreckage from the 1952 B-17 (we missed the turnoff) and we didn’t get past the mine. We did, however, time things just right for the rhodie bloom by hiking in mid-June. If you like to see flowers on your hikes, this one is spectacular. About 2.5 miles of solid beautiful rhododendrons in full bloom. I think I drove Jim crazy by stopping every few feet to take pictures (there are some dangers involved if you are married to a photographer!). Luckily, there weren’t many others on the trail, which surprised me a bit (although we did go mid-week).

The trail itself is easy, though the scramble up to the mine took a bit more effort and I hear the trail to the wreckage is also steep, but not too long. Roundtrip to the mine and back is a little over seven very pleasant miles. You can get some good info on the Washington Trails Association site (http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/tull-canyon ). Be aware of a few things. Plan ahead, as not everything is well marked. There are no facilities at the trailhead so be prepared. Don’t pick any flowers, so they will be there for the rest of us to enjoy! The road to the trailhead is an adventure in itself. Personally, I think someone should open a little kiosk at the bottom and sell straight shots and tee-shirts that say “I Survived Forest Road 2870!” To say the road is full of potholes just doesn’t quite cover it. I swear some could swallow a Mini Cooper. It doesn’t help that Jim thinks “rally car” whenever our Subaru hits a dirt road. If you don’t like heights, you might want to close your eyes in a few places (but not too many, because the views are beautiful!). If you are the driver, ignore that last bit of advice.

We will hopefully have some new adventures to report in the near future, but for now, enjoy some photos from last summer (some are available for sale if you are interested!).

IMG_7264forFB

The tunnel of rhodies on the Tubal Cain trail

Garden Dreams, Garden Realities

This is the time of year when my thoughts turn to gardening. I always have grand visions, which usually don’t turn out quite the way I imagined. But it’s fun to dream big! This year, we have a lot of work to do. Shortly before Jim lost his job, we sold our big house in the suburbs and bought a small place on almost six acres out in the boonies. It turned out to be one of the few really good things that has happened in recent years, as we no longer have a mortgage, and that is truly a blessing with our money struggles.

It does mean that we need to be much more creative. We are trying to be more self-sufficient, which isn’t a bad thing, even if money isn’t tight. But for us, it’s a necessity. It can be a challenge, but it can also be a lot of fun! We have about an acre cleared out of a portion of 20 to 25-year poorly managed Douglas fir. I’m sure the timber company sold off the land some time ago, and therefore, it was never thinned properly. Our vision is to slowly restore the property to a more natural state. But first, we must deal with the cleared area and work on establishing our garden, so we can grow some of our own food (the deer think it’s for them, but we will work on that!).

One of our biggest problems is soil. Anyone in Western Washington probably knows what I’m talking about. Rocks, rocks, and more rocks. All of the lovely glacial stuff left behind. We do have a few pockets of good soil, but they are either in shade all day or under water seven months out of the year (or both). Cranberries maybe?? The one big sunny patch is also the area with the most rock (of course!). We’re not even trying to clear the stuff away; we’re just building up on top. And that’s where the fun and creativity come in. I’ve been reading lots of books and magazines about woodlot management and self sufficiency from the library and online. Last year we started a straw bale garden, which is becoming quite popular. We had mixed results. Some things did very well, others not so much, though I think weather had far more to do with it than the straw bale setup (growing tomatoes the the NW is always a crapshoot). The biggest problem for me was expense. We did it sort of last minute and it ended up being more expensive than I had hoped. Straw is not as cheap here as it is in some other places! It did, however, leave us with a nice pile of rotted straw that we can plant in again this year and then compost in what will become the main garden.

This year we are planning the main garden, which will eventually be fenced against the deer. We are using two strategies–lasagna gardening and hugelkulter. I must admit, I want to do the hugelkulter in part because of the name. Who doesn’t want to be able to say “I’ve got a hugelkulter in my yard!” OK, maybe I’m the only one. But both use what we’ve already got. Today I spent several hours (and about 2 miles of walking around the property, which is good because I’ve been slacking off on my exercise program!) building the hugelkulter mound. I won’t go into too much detail, but it’s a long-term garden solution using wood debris, tree limbs, and whatever organic matter you have around to build a big mound which breaks down slowly but adds tons of wonderful nutrients to the soil. Since we have lots of thinning to do, there will probably be quite a few of these mounds around the yard! The February/March 2017 issue of Mother Earth  News talks about both types of gardening, plus several others.

We’ll keep you posted on the progress of our garden experiments!

hugelkulterwr

Look at that lovely soil we’re starting with! Found a huge mound of fir cone remnants in our woods. Using several buckets of it to add to the pile. Still lots of work to do.

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.

img_1578

Why We Hike

img_1566

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.

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!