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Whew! Last weekend seemed long. Mom needs me to pay her rent now, as she keeps forgetting how to write a check. This Saturday I made the plunge and told her I would take over paying the rent. I’m not a pushy, or assertive type person, so this type of thing seems fraught with stress to me. Well, actually it went off ok.

I was sick a lot this last January and February, so I got behind in things like getting tax papers together for the CPA. On Sunday I thought I could finish up and drop them off, but I realized at the last-minute, that I did not have the Social Security tax thingy – 1099 I think it is called. So I called mom, not knowing if she would make any sense of what I was asking her to look for. I noticed on last years form that it was mailed to mom’s address, so I figured she probably got it and didn’t know what to do with it. Either that or she gave it to me and I lost it . . .

So, she didn’t find it and so I had to go over there and look for it, stressing out all the time (I know, I don’t HAVE to stress about things, but have you ever tried to call the Social Security office for someone else – ie, not yourself?) As it turned out, I was really tired when I went, as my small car died a month or so ago, and I have made the decision to get another used little car, and have an appointment to pick it up Monday after work, so I had to clean up the garage so it would fit in there.

I have been working on wiring a light for the front porch, so I could plug-in a light out there so mom could see the steps in the dark, and so the garage was a mess. So I had to drill some holes and screw in some hooks for a 25 foot ladder I keep for accessing the roof (which, by the way, is growing a nice thick crop of moss, which I have to get rid of soon, or lose my nice less-than-10 year old roof). I had to hang up some other stuff that was scattered on the garage floor from some other work I’d been doing in there.

By the time I’d finished sweeping and re-hanging things, I was pretty tired, and then I realized I didn’t have the Social Security form and yes, I was stressing. The good news is, I went to mom’s, went through all of her papers (she seems to have a lot, for someone who only has 3 bills per month, but anyway, I went through everything and hallelujah! I found it! I am still surprised, and very pleased.

So, tonight I pick up the new, used little car and give it an overnight test drive, and hopefully everything will be OK. Then I get to do MY income tax crap. Oh, my god. I swear, I’m taking off and going hiking before the end of the month, or I will explode myself all over somewhere!

IMG_3312This is what I mean . . .

So, anyway, I never get a flu shot, and never plan to, but this winter I guess I got the flu. I would call it a bad cold and when I looked up on the internet how to tell the difference between a cold and the flu, I had some symptoms from both categories, so I still don’t know. However, I know I got what seemed like a bad cold, and for two weeks simply dragged myself everywhere I had to go, including work, sorry guys. If we could get some sick-leave, I would be happy to stay home, but if I don’t come to work, I don’t get paid, so . . . everyone at work got sick.

But, before you blame me, I was not the first person to get sick. My boss, who did get a flu shot, was the first to get sick. So much for the flu shot.

Well, then after two weeks, I felt like my regular self, so I started going back to the gym. After a week, I was sick again! So another two weeks dragging myself here and there, and now I’m fine again, and back at the gym.

You know what really pisses me off? My 88 year old mom, who still wanted me to pick her up for the day, never got my cold/flu. I guess I’m glad for that, but at the same time, I kind of resent it, if you know what I mean.

Hamster report out!

PS: I’m planning my summer and fall hikes and backpacks, can hardly wait to get out on the trails again.

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Fourth of July Pass

Being outside – running in the woods, hiking in the mountains.

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Snowshoeing out of Icycle Creek near Leavenworth

 

This is just a short drive out of Leavenworth. My two friends and I had a great weekend in a rental condo there. Snuggling up with hot drinks in the evenings, taking a leisurely morning, watching the mists rise in the morning. We were pleasantly surprised with mostly sunny weather, as the weather report had been kind of gloomy for the weekend.

On Sunday afternoon we did some fun wine-tasting at Icycle Ridge Winery. They have a beautifully made wonderful log-cabin lodge. There were a few too many stuffed deer, wild cats, bears, and turkeys for my taste, but still, the place was beautiful, the wines were great, and the people were very nice.

Dead bear decoration and deer heads - kinda weird, but fit the area.

Icycle creek at Leavenworth
Icycle creek at Leavenworth

There were about 6-12 inches of snow under the bare fruit trees and wine vines. The hills surrounding the winery were lightly coated with snow, and a river flowed nearby. Beautiful!

On Sunday morning (yes, I know, I’m not in chronological order here) I attempted cross-country skiing. I don’t know if I am more interested in the sport, or kind of discouraged. The trouble with snow is it is slippery. The trouble is me, is I am afraid of falling. Which I did every time I tried to go down a hill with any slope to it at all. I kept falling, and I don’t know if I was falling because I lost my balance, or because I was afraid of going too fast, and then falling.

It was all fun!

Hamster report

 

So, have I mentioned that I LOVE hiking in the mountains, AND I take care of my 87-year-old mom every Saturday?  What that means is, it is usually sunny and nice on Saturdays, and rainy and cloudy on Sundays, the day I get to go hiking.

This weekend was no exception. If I could have gone Saturday, I would have seen spectacular views of the North Cascades; Mount Baker, Shucksan, and north to the Canadian mountains. However, I was free on Sunday, so I went, “hell or high water” as the expression goes. I could say my hiking in poor weather conditions builds character, but I’m 61 and my character is already built, so the universe’ efforts are kind of wasted on me.

On my way down, I did meet 3 young people going up. Now, to get to where I met them, they had to hike for an hour in 6 inches of wet snow and blowing wind with icy rain pouring down.

Guess what they were wearing? Shorts. I kid you not. They did have good boots on, I noticed, so I decided they weren’t completely insane. They were nice and spoke to this solitary old lady who was actually dressed for the weather and asked me if they were almost there.

 

Snow Covered Meadows

 

Snow and mist

 

Running into snow

 

Trail beyond ridge

 

I couldn’t see any views and was a little bit concerned that if the rain should turn to snow it would cover up the footprints I’d followed up there, and I’d get totally lost if that happened. I bring all my emergency stuff on hikes, but I am convinced that if the worst happened and I had to spend the night on the mountain in icy rain or wet snow that I would die of hypothermia in an hour.

So I do my best to see that does not happen. Besides, I couldn’t see any views, other than the really awesome little alpine trees and the blowing mists coming up over the ridge. I do enjoy seeing the trees through the fog, but there is a limit to how long I want to spend peering at misty tree-shapes through the fog, wondering all the while if this icy rain is going to turn to snow before I get back down, or if the clouds will close in and cause a white-out where I might have trouble seeing the boot-prints in the snow I’m following.

All is well, as usual, and I’m looking forward to my next trek in the rain. I think I need a better jacket though, I did get pretty damp, plus my gloves leaked like a seive.

Hamster report

So there you go – just before the sun rose over the mountains, it shone on the underside of the clouds, creating these great colors. It is getting close to freezing at night now, and there was frost on the fields, as best I could see, whizzing by at 50 mph!

Reminds me of some winter mornings when I went snowshoeing with the Seattle Mountaineers, back in the late 1960’s. Hope to go snowshoeing again this winter. I’m not fond of driving on snow, so maybe I’ll wait till the highway is “bare and dry” or “bare and wet” before heading for the mountains.

Hamster report

Ok . . . . this weeks gruesome tally:

  • Skunk – 1 (this is my first)
  • Raccoon – 2
  • Oppossums – 4
  • Bird – 1
  • Something really small – 1
  • Squirrel – 1

So, watch for the critters, please, and don’t hit them if you can avoid it. My son once told me that he spotted a driver just ahead of him, swerving to hit a coyote!  He was very upset, and I don’t blame him. He has been to Iraq twice and has seen the human carnage. To see people deliberately try to kill an innocent life was beyond comprehension.

What is the matter with us? Have many of us lost any ability to feel for another living being? It reminds me of the political rally, I don’t recall who the Republican on stage was, but he was asked a hypothetical question by the moderator, “If a man did not have health insurance, and got deathly ill, should society pay for his hospital bill?”

The audience, amazingly, roared out “No!”. Is this what we have become? Are we all a bunch of Roman Gladiators in the arena, fighting and killing just to survive? Have we lost the ability to feel for the other person?

Ok, that’s my rant for the week, I guess. Here is something more soothing:

Marmot on Yellow Aster Butte trail

The Most Embarrassing Moments Ever!

Let’s face it – we’ve all had our share of embarrassing moments. Just be thankful that none of them were as humiliating (and hilarious!) as these:

“A mother was taking a shower when her2 year old son came into the bathroom and wrapped himself in toilet paper. Although he made a mess, he looked adorable, so she ran for my camera and took a few shots. They came out so well that she had copies made and included one with each of their Christmas cards. Days later, a relative called about the picture, laughing hysterically, and suggesting that she take a closer look. Puzzled, the mother stared at the photo and was shocked to discover that in addition to her son, she had captured her reflection in the mirror wearing nothing but a camera!”

“A woman and her sister were at the mall and passed by a store that sold a variety of nuts. As they were looking at the display case, the boy behind the counter asked if they needed any help. The woman replied, “No, I’m just looking at your nuts.” The sister started to laugh hysterically, the boy grinned, and she turned beet red and walked away.”

“A lady picked up several items at a discount store. When she finally got up to the checker, she learned that one of her items had no price tag. Imagine her embarrassment when the checker got on the intercom and boomed out for the entire store to hear, ‘PRICE CHECK ON LANE THIRTEEN, TAMPAX, SUPER SIZE.” That was bad enough, but somebody at the rear of the store apparently misunderstood the word ‘Tampax’ for ‘THUMBTACKS.’ In a businesslike tone, a voice boomed back over the intercom: ‘DO YOU WANT THE KIND YOU PUSH IN WITH YOUR THUMB OR THE KIND YOU POUND IN WITH A HAMMER?’

An introvert went to bar and spots a pretty looking woman sitting on the stool. He mustered all his courage for long time, then timidly approached and asked her, “Ma’ am, would be OK if sit here and talk with you?” She was alert, suspecting this man, and responds by yelling, “No, I won’t sleep with you tonight!” Customers in the bar started staring at them. The embarrassed guy quickly returns to his table dejected and ashamed. The young woman waits a little and then goes to the guy to apologize. With a smile on her face she says, “I am sorry if I embarrassed you. You see, I am a college student in psychiatry and I am putting together a thesis as to how people react to embarrassing moments.” The cunning guy now yells loudly, “What do you mean by $500?”

Hamster report

View from trail

The weather was iffy before I started this hike, but I had planned it as my last backpack of the year, and I had scheduled someone to care for my cats while I was gone, not to mention getting my 86-year-old mom to accept my not being there on Saturday.

friendly marmot

brave marmot

It is impossible to take off only when the sun is shining; so many things have to be planned ahead! I was lucky to get in 2 backpacks with sunny weather this year. This has not been a summer with much sun.

views and tarns

tarn below Yellow Aster Butte

So I drove up on Friday, holding my breath as my ancient Ford Escort bumped over the big rocks and potholes on the 4.5 mile Forest Service road off the Mount Baker Highway. I made it to the trailhead and there was only 1 car there – this is a heavily used trail, but this was a Friday, so little or no people were expected until Saturday.

Another tarn

icy snow melt pond below Yellow Aster Butte

I never saw the car owner Friday. The weather was decent that day, allowing me to hike up the steep trail in cooler weather than I had last weekend on my scouting trip. The clouds were there, but up high enough that I could see the base of Shuksan and Baker as well as most of the snow-covered ridge that connects them.

My tent and tarp

Tent and tarp anticipating rain

There was a brave Marmot who popped out of his (or her?) hole just a foot or two from the trail. He popped back in when he spotted me, but as I passed his hole he popped out again, and decided to stay! I was standing about 5 feet from him and he allowed me to pull out my camera and take 3 or 4 photos, only popping back inside his den when 3 young people and their dog came by. I suspect the dog was a bit too much for him.

I expected rain during the night and on Saturday; it did start to rain sometime in the night, but when I got up around 7 am, it was snowing!  In addition, the clouds had moved in, and if I had not studied the trail when I came in, I would not know where it was. The distance one could see was about 20 feet.

I was concerned that the snow might continue, and not knowing whether it would or not, I immediately packed up and started out. My main concern was the extremely steep switchback section of trail that goes up a bluff to the ridge above the tarns. If the snow began to stick, that would be a hazardous trail.

I found the trail and got to the base of the bluff, and started up. The wind was strong, blowing ice crystals in my face. I wanted to take photos to show how the weather had transformed the area, but my hands were numb; I have a problem with my fingers turning numb very quickly when the temperature is even in the low 60’s (fahrenheit). So, unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures until I was up on the ridge and halfway down the trail!

It was exciting and a challenge to my common sense. Before packing up and heading out, I briefly considered fixing my breakfast and waiting to see if the weather turned more favorable. I suspect that it did, but decided I wouldn’t take the chance, since I was hiking by myself!

Hamster report

The weather was sunny and clear – and hot! Not used to that around here. The Mount Baker Hill climb was scheduled for today also, so that meant the Mount Baker Highway would be closed between 7:30 am and noon. That meant I had to leave home at about 6:00 am to get to my turn-off before 7:30. There was no way I was going to hike up 2500 feet in the sun in the hottest part of the day.

Tarns below Yellow Aster Butte

Tarns below Yellow Aster Butte

Besides, my theory was, and I turned out to be not totally correct, I might be on the trail by myself. I thought that would be fun. I like my wilderness experience to be without crowds; too many people and I don’t feel like I’m out in the wilderness!

Peaks from Yellow Aster Butte trail

Peaks from Yellow Aster Butte trail

So, I left home about 6:00am and got to my turn-off a little after 7:00. Then I drove my 16-year old car up a pretty crappy gravel road. I averaged around 10 miles an hour up this not very maintained road for 5 miles. Some of the “gravel” looked more like boulders to me, and the potholes were deep enough to lose a wheel. The nice thing about the time I arrived was that I didn’t meet any cars coming towards me, as in some places one would have to back up to get to a wide enough place for the cars to pass each other.

Not to worry, it worked out fine – going up. I had a great hike, I met several people coming down, as they had backpacked in overnight and were now heading down. It was hot, and it was only 8:00 when I started up the trail. I got to the top around 10:15. I was searching for a good place to set up my tent next weekend, and I could see there were LOTS of great spots and many little snow-melt “ponds”. The views were spectacular.

Mount Baker from Yellow Aster Butte trail

Mount Baker from Yellow Aster Butte trail

There were tons of wildflowers everywhere, and I could hear the humming of thousands of bees, doing their work. I wondered where their hives are at that elevation?  Still wondering.

Wildflowers at Yellow Aster Butte

Wildflowers at Yellow Aster Butte

 

So, when I got back to my car, about 12:30, I thought it would be too early after the highway re-opened for any cars to be coming up. I was wrong! There was a pretty steady stream of cars I had to negotiate around on my drive down. I was really glad I had done my hike early, both to avoid the hottest part of the day, and because the number of cars coming up meant there would be a crowd on the trail. Yuck! Not my thing.

The hike went great for me, and I’m looking forward to my overnight trip next weekend!

Hamster report

Glass half empty

Glass half empty

No one wants to read pessimist thoughts. We live in a society where optimism is king; if you are just positive enough and believe in yourself and your future, all that you need will come to you.

Yeah, right. Here are some thoughts for you:

Oscar Wilde: “Pessimist; One who, when he has the choice of two evils, chooses both.”

Anonymous: “A pessimist is one who feels bad when he feels good for fear he’ll feel worse when he feels better.” Huh?

Woody Allen: “More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroad. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”

I especially like this one: “An optimist will tell you the glass is half-full; the pessimist, half-empty; and the engineer will tell you the glass is twice the size it needs to be.” I really like this one; it got me, twice.

OK, one more: “The man who is a pessimist before forty-eight knows too much; if he is an optimist after it he knows too little.”

Pessimist, cynic, what's the diff?

Pessimist, cynic, what's the diff?

The truth is, I have been running out of ideas to blog about. Because, my thoughts are all dark these days, for the future. When I was young I tried really hard to learn what I needed to know; I tried to be like others and fit in. It was for the most part, a losing proposition. My parents did not do what parents are supposed to do, that is explain the world to their young; so I had to make sense of it myself, and being introverted and excessively shy, I had to do it alone.

I concluded by the age of about 35, that is not really possible. Humans are herd animals and we cannot run away from that, because the world is full and there are no more frontiers. Wherever you go, there are people, and you have to find a way to fit in, unless you are a sociopath and you REALLY don’t care.

This is my antidote

This is my antidote

As much as I tried to not care, I never got far enough away to REALLY not care. So there you are. Or rather, there I am. Uh, I mean here I am. Whatever.

I guess the best I can say to other pessimists out there, is to take a vacation from your dire expectations about the future. I go hiking, read fun novels, go to the gym a lot (you don’t really think too much when sweating up a storm and trying to get the last ounce of energy to make it to the end of my workout). I play with my cats – they aren’t worried about the future, as far as I can tell. I suspect they do worry when I don’t get home at the usual time to feed them. They are house cats and can’t even get outside.  They might worry some about that; hard to tell.

The nice thing about pessimism is that all your surprises are good ones. Take comfort in that!

Hamster thoughts