Wednesday, October 9, 2013

North of Snoqualmie

           Kate and I have sort of gotten into backpacking since moving out here.  We had gone on 2 overnight trips that weren’t too strenuous.  The first trip was to Alder Springs and the second was to Jefferson Park, which is at the base of Mt Jefferson (rated 3rd best view in the U.S. by Backpacker magazine).  With all of our vast knowledge of backpacking and so much experience under our belts, we decided it was time to venture out for a longer trip.  After a few months of prepping to go to Glacier National Park we went to the North Cascades of Washington instead.  FYI: if you want to go backpacking in Glacier then you need to get a permit way sooner than a few months ahead of time.

            No big deal though.  We bought a map as well as the guidebook for the Pacific Crest Trail and off we went.  We parked the Jeep at the trailhead for the PCT at Snoqualmie Pass off I-90 in central Washington.  (about 70 miles east of Seattle)  Kate’s pack weighed about 40 lbs or so and mine weighted close to 50 lbs.  They could have weighed more or less.  I have no idea.  We didn’t actually weigh them.  The first day was tough.  We hiked over 7 miles with an elevation gain of 2200 feet to get to our first campsite.   The first few miles were a bit monotonous and filled with switchback after switchback.  Just when I was about to fall asleep the trees opened up to a huge rock field (where a rock slide had occurred).  We cautiously navigated the football-sized rocks careful not to twist an ankle.  After a couple hundred feet we stopped to check out the scenery and the first amazing vista of the trip awaited.  As we looked back to the south, Mt Rainier stood looming off in the distance.  It was over 40 miles away but still looked gigantic and dwarfed all the other mountains around it.  It looked totally unreal and almost like a huge cloud.  The north side of this giant volcano is covered in snow and glaciers year round even into the late summer.  We stopped here to take in the view and enjoy our first of many dehydrated backpacker’s meals.  I think our first one was lasagna but I don’t remember.
Mount Rainier
            The rest of the day was filled with beautiful scenery and breathtaking vistas as well as some very tough hiking.  It took us over 6 hours to reach our first campsite.  It was totally worth it though.  Our first day included hiking over a portion of the PCT called the Catwalk, which is about 3 feet wide or so.  There is nothing on either side of the Catwalk.  There are straight drop-offs on either side.  But there’s no reason to look down there, because the mountains all around are incredible.  Our first night we set up camp at a gorgeous high alpine turquoise lake with mountains surrounding us on all sides.

            Day 2 of the trip was even more incredible yet the most difficult day of the entire trip.  That morning we weren’t even sure that we would continue hiking.  Kate had developed some pretty bad blisters the day before but she was willing to keep going.  We continued on for 8.4 miles to get to the next destination.  We didn’t have to gain as much elevation but it was pretty warm.  Even up at 4000’ it can get toasty especially when on the side of a mountain and the sun beating down on you.  By the time we reached our second campsite we were both on the brink of delirium.  I was worse off than Kate.  I hadn’t been hydrating enough and I was only eating the same amount she ate which is definitely not enough for me.  It was worth it though.  The day included even more beauty than the day before.  So many incredible views.  So many incredible rugged and rocky mountains.  The highlight of the entire trip happened on day 2.  We had passed many other backpackers that day headed the opposite direction that told us to be on the lookout for mountain goats.  The first report we heard said that there were six of them on the side of a mountain ahead of us.  By the time we got close to where they were supposed to be the number was down to one.  We were worried it would be gone but it wasn’t.  We turned a corner and there it was a few hundred feet in front of us standing right on the trail.  It looked at us like it could have cared less that we were there.  It stared for a moment and then walked right up the side of the mountain like it was nothing.  It was really cool to see that in person.  The second day ended with us camping beside another beautiful lake with our bellies full of some other dehydrated meal and feet throbbing so bad we had to pop some Alleve before going to sleep. 

            On day 3 we did nothing.   By nothing I mean that we did no walking.  Except to the edge of the lake and around camp picking wild huckleberries to snack on.  And I had the brilliant idea of using my sleeping pad as a float so I swam in the lake some.  We had some fellow backpackers stop by and eat lunch at our campsite while we chitchatted with them.  They were hilarious.  Some older guys that had been friends for years and gave each other hell even in front of us.  Our camp was loud for about an hour while they went on and then it fell silent again when they left.  It stayed that way until some other backpackers moved into camp later in the day and set up there tents right about the same time the bottom dropped out of the sky and it rained cats and dogs for about half an hour.  The rest of the evening was pleasant but we awoke during the night to the wind howling like crazy and whipping the tent back and forth.  It was kinda scary yet cool at the same time.  We got the true experience of spending a night thousands of feet up. 
Our Campsite!

The View from Our Tent

Improvising a Way to Keep Mosquitoes Away!

Josh Lounging on his Sleeping Pad
            The last day of the trip wasn’t supposed to be the last day.  We set out that morning intending to hike back to our campsite from the first night where we would camp one more time.  But we made such good timing that we decided to hike on out to the Jeep.  We did 15.5 miles that day and then went to Carl’s Jr. (aka Hardee’s) for a hamburger and some fries.  We would say that our first extended backpacking trip was definitely a success!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Some pictures from lately...

Bret came to visit!

Detroit Lake

The biggest little rodeo in the world.


One year anniversary :)

Golfing in Redmond, OR

The Dublin clan at Timberline Lodge, Mt. Hood

The ladies at Timberline Lodge

Multnomah Falls

At the Columbia River gorge

Newport, OR - a coastal town

The Oregon Aquarium


A fishing boat in Newport

Yaquina Lighthouse


The view from the top of Mt. Saint Helens

Sunrise on top of Mt. Saint Helens

My husband, the man :)

Hiking with Corey Brown into Jeff Park

Mt. Jefferson

Bay Lake at Mt. Jefferson, a great place for an after-hike dip!

It's funny.

It's funny how a year ago I had never given a second thought to Oregon. And now here we are, having lived in this state for almost 6 months.

And I have grown to love it. While the jobs have not been what either of us would consider our "niche," we have made good friends and had great times, and we have made the most of being here.

We have climbed Mt. Washington (which was terrifying). Josh has done a midnight climb of Mt. Saint Helens (which he will write all about soon). We have hiked to the base of Mt. Jefferson and camped with a view of it filling up the door of our tent. We have become amateur "backpackers," learning the ropes from some people we have met here who have been kind enough to take us under their wings. We have gained an appreciation for the rugged wilderness that is all around us, and it has brought us closer together.

Making the change to this whole "travel" lifestyle was really hard for me. It took me months to adjust, and a lot of good cries, if I am honest. But now I finally feel like I am on the other side of it, and I can open my eyes and look around and see what an amazing opportunity this has been so far. To move clear across the country and settle in, make friends, get to know the people and the land, and explore. We have become invested in a place that we may never live in again.  But maybe one day, we will bring our kids out here and show them around, and be able to tell them of all the great things we were able to do and see, once upon a time.

It's funny how a year ago I had never given a second thought to Oregon. And now that we are nearing the end of our assignments here (mine next Friday, and Josh's the next week), I cannot imagine leaving it for some place else.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The first month away from the Carolinas

I am not going to far, travel PT is amazing.  But being away from the Carolinas so far has been difficult (mostly for me, Kate).  Call it culture shock.  A different environment.  Fish out of water.  Call it whatever, but things here are different.

For the first 2 weeks at work, 90% of my patients and coworkers thought I was from AUSTRALIA of all places.  Talk about feeling out of place.  I felt like I was somewhere that no Southerner had ever been before! My response? "NO. I'm American."

Not all things that are different are bad.  I have learned that though yes, home is quite different from here, we do share some common ground.  Here is an elementary school compare/contrast list for you.

- It is GREEN here in the north west.  I mean really really green.  It is beautiful.
- People are laid back, and they are genuinely really nice.  We were surprised how easy it has been to strike up conversations with so many strangers here.
-Praise God, it is not humid here one bit.
- The mountains are huge.
- The snow is significant. Like 4-5' deep at high altitudes.
- People love to ride bikes everywhere, and people in cars don't get angry at them! Everyone shares the road! (Imagine that).
- A pot luck at work during the 2nd week was full of healthy foods...nothing fried or "casseroled" (so not quite as good!)
- If you happen to slip up and say "bless (his/her) heart," people will crack up.
- A Southern drawl is exotic.

That being said, we have been having a GREAT time in this foreign land, especially on the weekends.  When you work hard, it is only right to play hard, and we have done more in this first month in Oregon than we did the entire past year combined!  Let me hit the highlights for you.

(1) We have been snowboarding!  Josh found us a Groupon for a place called Mount Hood Meadows.  So we hit the slopes....Josh for his second time, and me for the first time.  I (humbly) thought I was going to be awesome at it.  I was so wrong.  At the end of the day, I estimated that I fell on my face approximately 32 times....on the bunny slope.  I'm talking flipping, flopping, bruises in places I did not even know I hit, FALLING.  It was god-aweful.  Below is a picture for you.  I look like I am having fun, but you can only see my eyes. I was traumatized.  Josh, on the other hand, had a grand time, though he fell quite a few times as well.  The only time I made it off the bunny slope (to an intermediate slope....terrible idea), I fell in the first 20' and thought I broke my wrist.  I walked down the next 200', then had the (second) terrible idea to "ride" down the rest of the way on my butt. Long story short, the slope was super steep, I quickly went from 0 to 70 mph, put my feet down to attempt to stop, and the snowboard (rented snowboard, mind you) flew out from under me, down the next slope, out of site, and then off into a really deep gully.  Bless Josh's heart....he saw it, chased it, and hiked down into the ditch to get it for me.  Such a good man!

Snowboarding at Mt. Hood Meadows.
(2)  We have been SNOWSHOEING!  This - much unlike snowboarding - is absolutely amazing.  In true Southern form, I have been living under the impression for much of my life that snow is dangerous.  Unless you want to sink, fall, fishtail, or die, you stay inside with your bread and milk and wait it out. However, we went on a guided tour this past weekend trekking through the stuff outside of Bend, OR, and had THE BEST time.  We drove with our tour guide and another family about 30 min away from the city, strapped on our rental shoes, and went out across 4' deep snow into a forrest full of hemlocks and fir trees.  The sun just glistened off of the fresh, untouched powder and all was quiet.  Talk about peaceful!  I would snowshoe every day if I could.
About to head out on the hike!

The best view of the afternoon: Broken Top Mountain, by the Three Sisters.
 (3)  We have been hiking!  From lookout points above the Coast, to deep in the forrest in search of waterfalls, we have truly enjoyed getting off the beaten path.  My favorite place so far has been Smith Rock State Park.  Smith Rock is the number one place in the United States for rock climbing, and when we went on Easter, climbers were out in full force.
Cascade Head Trail
Smith Rock State Park
Silver Falls State Park

 For those of you following our adventures thus far, know that we are living it up as best we can.  We miss home though.  So if you are with your friends and family, be thankful.  In one way or another, we are all very much blessed.  

Sunday, March 24, 2013

2859 miles

We found out on Monday, March 4th that Kate got a job in Salem, Oregon.  We also found out they wanted her to start the very next Monday!  Oregon is 2859 miles from Greenwood, SC!  We had to get going if we were going to make it.

So we left the very next day.  I mean we were already packed and ready to go.  We had been planning for this moment for well over a month.  All the stuff we felt we couldn't do without for 2 years had been packed nicely into 4 plastic bins and a couple of suitcases since the end of January when we moved out of our rented house.

Of course the day we hit the road was an emotional one.  We were leaving the known for the unknown.  Leaving our loving families and friends for strangers.  Strangers that didn't talk like us or drink sweet tea or eat grits.  And to top it off I had a phone interview scheduled for the hour before we were to leave Greenwood.  Of course the interviewer was late calling only adding to the stress of the moment.  And of course somewhere around Denver I found out I wasn't going to get that job.  A job my recruiter assured us that I would get.

So...after an emotional goodbye with Mom and Dad (Kathy and Scott) we hit the road.  Driving both of our cars.  To Oregon.  2859 miles and over 45 hours of driving.  Thank the Lord for amazing little sisters.  We picked up Julie in Greenville 2 hours into the trip so we could have a third driver.  I'm not sure we would have made it without her.

Leaving home in Greenwood.
It took us 6 days to reach Salem.  I'm going to give a brief summary of each day.  Some days were better than others.  The first couple of days were as entertaining as watching paint dry on a wall.  The last few days were like staring at a beautiful painting by a famous artist.

Day 1
We left Greenwood and picked up Julie.  Then we crossed the beautiful Smoky Mountains and through the two tunnels on I-40 that connect NC to Tennessee.  Little did we know what we were driving into.  A few miles in to TN the wind picked up.  Wind speeds of at least 50 mph or more.  I had our bikes strapped to the back of my car on our newly purchased bike rack.  The wind was whipping the car hard and I had to grip the steering wheel tight to keep control.  Then the snow came.  We stopped to get gas at a shady gas station and got back on the interstate.  As soon as we got back on I-40 it began snowing intensely.  I'm not exaggerating when I say that visibility was down to about 2 feet in front of the car.  It was one of the scariest moments of my life.  18 wheelers flying all around me.  I have no idea how they could see anything but they continued trucking it.  That lasted for about 2 minutes and cleared up just as fast as it happened.   The wind continued to whip the car pretty hard all the way to Nashville where we spent the night.

Nasty weather driving through TN.
Day 2
We visited the hometown of Superman - Metropolis, IL.  Of course we got a few snapshots with the giant Superman statue.  Don't plan on making any special trips to Metropolis just for this though.  Not worth it.  Then we drove 4 more hours on to St. Louis.  We had to stop and see the Arch.  It's kind of right of passage for anyone heading west.  It's the Gateway to the West you know.  After leaving the home of Nelly we tracked on to Kansas City.  There is nothing else relevant to say about Missouri.  If you've driven through there then you know this.

At the top of the arch!
Day 3
Thursday we woke up and decided, what the heck, let's go to Denver.  Kate wanted to visit her peeps and when Kate wants to visit her peeps then that's what Kate does.  Julie had no arguments.  And I know not to argue.  Anyway, spontaneity makes for a good road trip.  So we left KC for Denver.  There is only one word to describe the state of Kansas.  Flat.  But now I can say I've driven across the home state of Dorothy and Oz.  Eastern Colorado is pretty much the same.  As the sun set on Thursday we began to see the very top of Pikes Peak.  After driving for nearly an hour with the sun setting right in our faces Pikes Peak began to get bigger and bigger.  We never actually came close to it, however.  It's so huge that you can see it from over 100 miles away.  By the time we reached Denver it was dark.  I love arriving in new city at night.  Not really.  Of course I got separated from Kate and Julie and of course my cell phone was dying and of course our walkie talkies weren't working.  But I found them and then we had an awesome evening visiting with Kate's peep, Melissa.  It was nice to see a familiar face in a distant land and nice to have a good burger and a beer.

The welcome sign, Colorado road, and Kate and Melissa at dinner.
Day 4
We left Denver early on Friday and headed up to see another one of Kate's peeps - Brett.   He recommended that we get off the beaten path and take a more scenic route to his place in Laramie.  We jumped off the interstate in Ft. Collins and headed up through the Colorado foothills with a panoramic view of the Rocky Mountains to our left for the entire drive.  Brett was extremely hospitable by taking  us to a local breakfast spot, on a tour of Laramie, buying us University of Wyoming t-shirts, and even finding us jumper cables when the battery on the Altima died.  Then we left the last familiar face we would see for quite a while and tracked on towards the west.
Kate and Bret! In Laramie, WY.
As we drove through southern Wyoming we were treated to gorgeous views of the mountains that gave away to the plains which in turn gave away to the mountains once more.  We crossed into Utah later that day as we drove right through the Rocky Mountains.  Tall snow covered mountains hovered over both sides of the winding road.  The sun set on Friday before we could cross into Idaho.  As we drove into the Idaho darkness the wind began to blow.  We saw signs warning of dust storms and sure enough we experienced a small one.  Sand and snow pelted the car off and on for thirty minutes.  We arrived safely in Twin Falls, Idaho where we went to sleep with the sounds of drunk cursing cowboys unsuccessfully trying to enter our room.  We found out at breakfast the next morning that there was a rodeo in town.
Driving through Utah.
Day 5
We left Twin Falls Saturday morning and tracked westward towards Oregon following in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark.  We crossed over the Snake River and drove through some pretty rugged Idaho terrain.  We eventually crossed over into Oregon where we could see mountains off in the distance that we would soon be driving through.  Eastern Oregon was pretty flat and uneventful for the most part.  But as we gained elevation the landscape began to grow more and more beautiful.  Soon enough we were driving through miles and miles of enormous Douglas Fir trees.  We crossed over and around a few mountains and after about 3 hours of driving through Oregon the Columbia River Gorge opened up before us.  The Columbia River is about a mile across and we could see Washington on the other side.  The road took us down into the Gorge where rock walls climbed hundreds of feet on each side of the river.  The terrain was beautiful.  Everything was green.  The rock walls even had green moss covering them.  We pulled into the awesome town of Hood River around 5 pm.  Our hotel was right at the end of a draw bridge that crossed from Oregon into Washington.  Hood River is beautiful and quiet.    It is also the best place to kite surf in the US according to Outside magazine.  The mountain air there is cool and crisp as well.  As the sun set on our last full day of traveling we had a view of the Columbia River to the north and Mt Hood to the south.
We made it!

The sunset at Hood River, OR. Our first night in the state.

Day 6
We left Hood River and took the scenic route around Mt Hood as we drove towards Portland.  We drove passed enormous mounds of snow and beautiful landscape but never got a clear view of Mt Hood.  Clouds had settled over the mountain since the night before and visibility was low.  We headed onto Portland where it was raining and cold.  We got a bite to eat and walked around a bit but didn't stay long before heading onto Salem.  The main highlight from Portland was seeing a gentleman that decided to tattoo his entire face blue and fix his goatee so that he looked like some Hindu god.  We were in a coffee shop when we saw him and while Julie had her back turned I tapped her on the butt with the long wooden spoon the owners had tied the bathroom key too.  She jumped big time thinking the blue faced man had just given her a little tap on the tush.  So funny!  We rolled into Salem later that evening and went straight to the hotel to settle in for the night.  Our journey was over and we were exhausted.  We all slept soundly that night dreaming of blue faced men.

Views of Portland, OR.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The way it all began...

Most people want to know where we got the idea to just head off into the sunset in pursuit of traveling PT jobs.

This past summer we (Josh and I...this is Kate writing) went to Huntington Beach in SC with my family.  We went for a long walk along the coast, out to a jetty that my family always makes a point to go out on when we're there camping.  Sitting there, soaking in the sun, it just hit me that it could be a possibility.

So I asked Josh "What if we traveled together in a few years? As PTs?!" He immediately shut me down.  It was crazy....we had a dog....we liked Charlotte....I had a great job....he was going to be a new grad. We talked about it, and there were a million reasons NOT to do it!  But over the next few months, it kept coming up.  

                   The jetty where we had the initial conversation about traveling.

Eventually it got to the point that we both knew it was something the Lord was calling us towards.  Both of us have such a heart for adventure and travel.  We both love a challenge.  But talk about going way outside of our comfort zones! It became the most exciting and nerve-wracking idea we've yet had.

When our rental agreement for our house in Charlotte unexpectedly fell through, we knew that now was the time.  So after MUCH prayer, we decided to go for it.  I gave my notice for my job - my "dream job" as I have called it since I was a student there 2 years ago - something that gave me several good cries in the following weeks.

In the time between deciding to go for it (mid-January) and actually getting a placement in Salem, Oregon (March 4th, the Monday after my last day at work in Charlotte), here are several things that I learned:

- I love to "have control" of situations.  .....Like I actually do in the first place.  Having the middleman of a travel agency searching for a source of income for you when you have a definite end-date to your current job is hard!

- Change is also hard.  We put all of our belongings, minus what we thought we'd need in the next 2 years as we do this, in a storage unit.  We sent our beloved dog Denver to "camp" with her grandparents in Greenwood. (Thanks again Mom and Dad!!!!!!!!) And we lived with dear friends in Belmont for a month as I finished up at work. Then we went to Greenwood and waited to leave.

- I can count on my husband, Josh.  He talked me through several freak-outs during the transition.  He prayed for me, for us, and for our future.  He's truly a man of God and I am SO lucky to have him.

- I'm too young to be stuck in my ways. (But aren't we all?! Life is too short!) This is one of the key reasons that I knew that the Lord was behind all of this. He has a lot of great things in store for us in this process, and none of them allow us to stay as we currently are.  Which, turns out, is fine by me.  I have a lot of growing to do yet.

- The Lord is trustworthy.  I guess my whole life is going to be a process of learning and re-learning this. A verse that stuck out to me during the transition was from Joshua 1: "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." And also, from Matthew 6: "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

On Tuesday March 5th, 2013 we pulled out of the driveway in Greenwood, SC to begin the adventure.