Street Magic

Street Magic #1:

I walk out to my car in the pouring rain and find a note under my windshield wiper carefully wrapped up in a plastic bag so it won’t get wet.  It was from someone who believed they left a scratch on my rear left bumper.  They apologized and left me their phone number in case it was an issue.  I looked at my bumper and laughed cuz it has scratches all over it as a bumper should.  I tend to think of my car like a skateboard.  It’s a mode of transportation and I don’t care if it gets beat to shit so long it runs and can get me to the mountains and the ocean and get my tools to my jobs.  I’ve just never really been into cars in that way.  My dream car had always been more practical than shiny.  For me it’s simply a tool…and truly incredible to own one.  I am often awestruck that I get to own one of these machines…but I don’t really care that much what it looks like.

So I text the number and thank this brave and honest stranger.  I explain that I am not at all concerned about scratches on my bumper.  I thanked them for giving me a restored faith in humanity and asked if I could buy them a cup of coffee or something to express my gratitude.

They wrote back!  They expressed a shared restored faith in humanity and agreed to let me buy them coffee.  So we met up at a cafe a few days later and she turned out to be an herb farmer and brought me a jar of herbs which had all kinds of personal significance and relevance to various things going on in my life…particularly the oats that were in that jar…that were part of the tea…that when harvested early promote a calming a effect.

We sipped our coffee and talked about the trials and tribulations of being tiny business owners.  We talked about the earth, farming, evolution and politics.  We talked about other local farmers that we both know and we networked about ideas and dreams.

Street Magic #2:

My pal Stud’s birthday is coming up.  We are going to attempt a huge hike on her actual birthday.  In the meantime I had this thought hit me this weekend where I imagined how fun it would be to try to get her some Red Sox tickets as a birthday present.  Stud enjoys a baseball game at Fenway Park and has been known to spontaneously buy herself a ticket and take herself to a game.  I have been known to join Stud every couple of years for a game as well. I am not much of a Red Sox fan nor am I much of a sports fan in general but there is something really fun and magical and nostalgic about Fenway Park and I’ve had some fun moments in the bleachers.  The last time I sat in the bleachers with Stud we watched this drunk dude being obnocious and yelling and waving his arms annoying all his neighbors.  Finally some dude a few rows back yellws at him,  “Hey!  Sit down ya fuckin mahshmellow!” Drunk dude turns around in slow motion and comes back with, “You calling me a fuckin mahshmellow?!”  Security was on that shit and escorted the guy out pretty quick.

Approximately two hours after thinking the thought of how fun it would be to get baseball tickets for Studs birthday, a random stranger approached me and asked me if I wanted some Red Sox tickets.  Like literally the same morning I wondered if I could get tickets, they just appeared in my hand…This guy was traveling from out of town and bought really good seats for a game that got rained out and he had to leave town before the rescheduled game and he literally just walked by me sitting on my stoop and asked me if I wanted them.  What?! They are first row lodge box seats at first base and I have definitely never sat that close to the action before.  So Stud and I are going to go to this baseball game in the middle of the afternoon….and it’s suppose to be sunny.

Street Magic is real.

The Gorge

On my last full day in Oregon I had the great fortune of being swooped up by Jenny Bruso, a local hiker and creator of “unlikely hikers” which highlights diversity, inclusion, and visibility in the outdoors.  She and her partner Brie took me on a little tour of the Columbia River Gorge.

We were going to hike Beacon Rock but it was closed because a landslide took out part of the trail.  So instead she took me to Wahclella Falls.  On the way I stared out the window at the impossibily high rock walls along the river coated in green mossed and giant pines with waterfalls streaming off of them.

As we headed up the trail I was completely oblivious to the falls that lay ahead.  I was so content to just be walking on a trail on the Gorge among big douglas fur trees and lime green moss next to a raging river with new friends.  Then I heard that rumble and we turned a corner and there she was.  A massive raging goddess of a waterfall pouring into a bubbling pool of white water and aqua.  We watched it rage for a bit and then continued on a small loop until we reached a snow bridge that seemed way too dangerous to pass to we turned back getting another close up of the waterfall.Once back at the car Jenny took me over the Bridge of the Gods which is a bridge where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses the Columbia River from Oregon into Washington.  The views were massive and I imagined the emotional overload that might hit PCT thru hikers as they cross into this final northern state.  From there we headed east stopping at a pull off where we could walk out into a dock on the Columbia River and have a good view of Beacon Rock.

We headed back to Portland and then Jenny to took me to another one of her spots: Forest Park which is that massive woodlands in Portland.  Travis met us and we did a little out and back.  The greenery was so…green!  Like so bright and electric and lush and alive and like wicked hydrated.  Very cool.

The Coast

The Pacific Ocean is a beast and the Northwest coast holds an intensity that flares my nostrils.

I was surprised when Travis proposed that we go to the coast since he has expressed major concern of the imminent massive earthquake that is building tension along the Cascada Fault.  When this thing quakes it will create a tsunami wiping out much of the northwest coastline and beyond taking out many bridges and the flooding communities.  Travis is well educated on the matter and is basically bracing for it but decided to let his guard down and venture to the coast knowing how much I love it.  

So we drove west from Portland thru the Willamette Valley’s lush green farm land and up over the mountains of the coastal range delivering us to the sea town of Canon Beach where we strolled out onto the sand to look at Haystack Rock.  The sun peaked out and we talked about the Goonies and the sharks.  We paid mind to the tsunami evacuation route signs just in case.We drove south on 101 stopping in Manzanita to hike Neahkahnie which is a sharp pointy mountain that juts out right at the edge of the sea making way for an enormous view of the crescent coastline of Manzanita.  The trail was steep in some spots but well graded with lots of switch backs and as we would come about on the ocean side of the mountain (or come aBOOT as Jesse would say) we could hear the waves crashing louder and louder as we gained elevation.   We lingered on the summit for a while just taking it all in.  The rolling waves and the blue grey hues.We continued south to Rockaway Beach to a little beach house called “The Getaway” with a logo of a tsunami.  We strolled the beach watching out for sneaker waves which are these rogue waves that can catch people off guard washing them out to sea.  There are logs that scatter the beaches and these logs can get swooped up by a sneaker wave and if you are not careful you can get rolled over by one.  People die from this.  And the logs are saturated with water and almost impossible to lift off of someone who gets pinned under one.  A fourteen year old girl was killed this way at a beach in southern oregon on the very same afternoon that we were on the coast.

We tried to watch the sunset but the clouds rolled masking any sort of potential big showy sunset.  It was still quiet beautiful tho and peaceful on the beach.

We cooked a festive dinner back at our little beach condo and we watched the Goonies. Before we went to sleep we discussed our evacuation plan in case the earthquake and tsunami came.  We had our headlamps, backpacks and boots at the ready in case we had to sprint towards higher ground.  I imagined this happening and I imagined surviving and then I assumed it would not happen but then I would imagine it happening.  Despite these earthquake ridden thoughts I slept the best I had slept since landing in Oregon and woke up feeling refreshed.

Mount Hood

Drove up to Timberline Lodge and the sun was out and the sky was clear and the snow banks were 15-20 feet high on the side of the road.  Mount Hood loomed ahead.

We “split” our boards and put the skins on which are these long strips that stick on the bottom to give you traction so you can “skin” up the mountain.  We clipped in and headed up.  We started at 6000 feet and a mile and an hour later we were at 7000 feet.

We found a flattish spot and and sat and ate our pbjs and chugged water and chatted and tried to take in the endless views for about an hour unaware that our faces were burning.  The summit looked so close…but it was like an optical illusion cuz it’s over 11,000 feet and super steep and getting up it requires ropes, ice axes, crampons and technical mountaineering skills and I have zero of these things and zero interest in mountaineering.I did have an interest of continuing up the glacier but I felt weird from the altitude and Travis said even though it looked really gradual that it was actually very steep and this was my first time doing something like this so we decided to descend.  We peeled the skins off, clipped the board back together, moved the bindings and strapped in.  Oh the awkwardness of riding down on a rental.  I could hardly control the board and had trouble turning so I stayed close to the groomed Timberline area which is a ski resort  with lifts which we were basically next to.  Travis dropped into this gulley that looked really fun but I stayed up top since my board felt so weird.  I giggled all the way down stopping to do a face plant somersault which made me laugh so hard I wasn’t sure I’d be able get down.​We explored Timberline Lodge which is full of history describing how this massive place built in the 30’s on this giant active mountain volcano  where people ski all summer long.  We took advantage of the heated outdoor pool and jacuzzi.  We lounged by the gigantic fire places.  We smothered our sunburnt faces with fancy hotel lotion. We watched The Shining in our little bunk room where the windows were covered with snow.  We ate the infamous breakfast buffet.  We woke up to tons of snow and had to put chains on the tires – a new experience for me.  Of course the road was then clear so we pulled off to take them back off.  A fun adventure with chains. Once below the snow line we went for a little hike on the foothills of Mount Hood in the rainforest where there were old growth Douglas furs covered in electric green moss.  We hugged them.  Travis described them as Dr Seuss trees.  We walked long this raging river and it was intense how powerful that water felt.  Tomorrow we head to the coast!

Hi from Portland Oregon!

I love Portland.  There is a part of me that always feels right at home here.  Of course this is also now influenced by my oldest best pal living here.  I just love all the little mini houses with all the little yards.  

I had a layover in NY on my flight out.  As I got to the gate for PDX I could see my people.  Visible queers with rat tails and funny clothes and queer families and overall hip and sharp looking weirdos.  It always puts me at ease to see something familiar.

With all the bathroom drama going on in the world my bathroom anxiety is at an all time high-particularly at an airport.  I’ve always been uneasy about bathrooms ever since I was about 7 or 8 when the constant questioning about why I was in the girls bathroom began.  30 years later it hasn’t quite stopped but I’ve gone thu an array of coping strategies starting with avoiding public bathrooms all together to keeping my head down so I can’t see the look of alarm on other women’s faces thus not inviting any comment to holding my head high and being defiant and sometimes I’d rather just fly under the radar and use the men’s room.  But now with all the intense political focus on bathrooms I’m scared of running into the wrong person in the wrong bathroom.  I’m afraid of being confronted by some paranoid person who holds the irrational fear that if trans folks can legally use gendered bathrooms then this is going to open a flood gate of dangerous men walking into the women’s bathrooms.  What people don’t realize is that the bathroom issue isn’t just about transgendered folks.  It also affects folks like me who are not trying to pass but have simply been harassed my whole life in women’s bathrooms cuz some people mistake me for a guy.  I’ve had friends who look like me get escorted out of bathrooms by security. While I have always been grateful for all gendered family bathrooms, I’d still rather pee outside.

Back to Oregon.  We go back about 15 years.  What first brought me to Oregon was the plethora of free outdoor concrete skateparks built and designed by skaters.  These organic bowl shaped parks made for an effortless and extremely fun time.  I first visited them in 2001 with my friend Jen who was spending the summer surfing in San Diego where I flew out to meet her.  We drove up the coast skating all these parks and when we got to Oregon we just skated everyday making our way up the coast.  Some of the skateparks had lights, grills, electrical outlets and water fountains and we would skate all night and camp in the giant redwoods behind the park.  In Portland there was an indoor park with a wooden bowl that we loved as well.

My next trip to Oregon was with my band at the time, Secret Cock.  We made friends with some Portland queer rockers who toured Boston and invited us to do a northwest tour with them.  I met a lot of Portland folks on this trip and learned of all these punk houses.  Young people bought houses here in the late 90’s and early 2000’s cuz they were affordable at the time and everyone seemed to live in these mini houses with basements so everyone seemed to have a band.  I of course brought my skateboard and met queer bmx riders who took me to new skateparks.  I was convinced I’d be moving to Portland.

The holy grail of the northwest skateparks is on Orcas Island which is part of the San Juan Islands and you can only get there by ferry.  Travis and I made a pilgrimage to Orcas Island when we went on our epic skatepark tour on 2004 ripping up the west coast.  It was everything we dreamed of and more.  We also collectively knew a lot more people in Portland by then and had a fun social time going to queer rock shows and visiting friends and skateboarding around the neighborhoods.  

Homo-A-GoGo, this queer music and art festival brought me back out to the Northwest a couple more times and my band would usually play a show in Portland before or after we headed to Olympia, WA where the festival was held.  Again I always had my skateboard.

Now that Travis lives out here I’ve been so happy to have a great reason to visit this area.  This is my first visit without my skateboard.  Instead I’ve rented a splitboard which is basically a snowboard that splits into skies so one can ski up into the backcountry and then clip it back into a snowboard and ride down.  Tomorrow Travis is taking me to ride down a glacier on Mount Hood.  Surreal.

Reuniting and a fun event!

Next week I am flying out to Portland, Oregon to reunite with Bear Bait who I have not scene since we finished the Long Trail in September!  Bear Bait has created an amazing itinerary of fun adventures to take me on when I get out there including:

This event cosponsored by Unlikely Hikers and  The Venture Out Project!

We are going to share some pictures and stories about our thru-hike of The Long Trail, the oldest long distance trail in the country.  We will also talk about how we planned for our thru-hike and answer any questions that anyone might have.  If you are near Portland, Oregon I hope you will join us!

Mount Waumbek

Mount Waumbek

  • Elevation: 4,006 Feet
  • Location: Lancaster, NH
  • Date Hiked: 3/12/2017
  • Companions: 5e & Brenda
  • Trails: Starr King Trail

Nothing like going up a four thousand footer on a 0º winters day with a -30º windchill.  No seriously…there is nothing like it and I mean this in the most neutral way possible.

As I obsessed over my layering system, waiting for 5e and Brenda to pick me up in Lincoln where I had been staying in a tiny cabin for the weekend,  I seriously questioned the decision-making spot on my frontal lobe.  5e had proposed this hike way back in January inspired by daylight savings.  I enthusiastically agreed to join her despite my lack of winter hiking experience and my snow-shoe resistance.  She brought her best pal Brenda who had never hiked a 4000 footer before (never mind in winter).  Fortunately we were all on the same page as far as not being overly attached to summiting and keeping the communication lines open in order to stay safe.

The hike was described as being one of the more moderate of the NH48 for winter hiking and thats why 5e picked it out.  The trail was a 7.2 miles round trip out and back with a steady grade and nothing too steep or exposed.  There was a smaller peak called Mount Starr King along the way followed by a mile of ridge but the ridge was in the trees so we were protected from the wind.  The trail was snow and ice covered and totally packed down so we were able to just wear micro spikes without needing snow shoes.

Twenty minutes into the hike and we were sweating bullets stopping to shed layers and trying to stay dry.  Our body temperatures dropped as we gained elevation.  We steadily climbed for hours and I became aware of the places where I was getting cold and I wondered if I would be okay, if we would be okay, if I would know if I wasn’t okay and where my edge was.   As we ascended,  we checked in a lot and helped each other with zippers and laces and buckles and clips.  Gloves and freezing temps make everything more challenging.  I take my gloves on and off dozens of times when exerting myself outside in winter.   My hands get sweaty and I don’t want my gloves to get too wet or I need to get into a zippered pocket and then unwrap a snack.  Then my hands are cold and I put my gloves back on and so on.  We checked each other out from time to time assessing each other’s okayness.  Now 5e and Brenda have been pals for 20 years and know each other pretty well.  But since they don’t know me nor do I know them as well, the gauge of “are you okay” was less precise and had a steeper learning curve but the trust was there.  The thing about hiking a 4000 footer with others is that it creates instant intimacy.   You go from, “hi my name is__” to detailed accounts of whats going on with your body as you burp and rip farts and help each other in and out of your clothes and boots.

The higher we got the more snow was on the trail and caked all over the trees. Any pain or discomfort or cold spots I had went to the back burner once we popped out onto the ridge.  The blue sky creeped through making way for a breathtaking wonderland up there.    Once on that first summit called Starr King we put on more clothes, ate some snacks and then quickly moved along.  Stopping for even two minutes was enough to start rapidly cooling down.  The ridge was gorgeous.  We were in the trees but there were some clearings with some intense views.  The first summit, Starr King actually had more views than Mount Waumbek.  We passed some remains from an old fire cabin…ironically all that was left was the fireplace and I wished it had a fire in it.

Before we knew it we had summitted Waumbek exactly 3.5 hours later.  We were elated.  5e made a snow angel, we snapped some pics, ate more snacks, and I discovered some ice chunks that had formed on my eye lashes that were just impressive!

We cruised down the mountain half trotting and I even butt slid a few of the steeper snowier sections saving my knees.  My feet started to throb once we got to a lower elevation I laid down on the trail and elevated my feet on a log reminding me of all those painful descents on the long trail last summer.  It was so beautiful looking up at the trees and the blue sky with the fast moving clouds and I tried to take in as much of it as I could.

Once back at the car we were stoked to have had a successful hike and it was a relief to take my boots off and change into dry cotton in the warm car.  It was a lovely drive home through Franconia Notch with Lafayette looming on the left and Cannon rising up on the right.  We texted and called our loved ones to let them know we were safe and off the mountain.  I got to know my new friends during the 3 hour drive home and we shared stories.  I was home in time for dinner and I was in bed by 8:30.

In conclusion, I’m still not sure how I feel about winter hiking.  I love the snow and I love the snow caked scraggly trees up there.  But zero degrees is kind of intense.  I’m hoping my next winter hike will be at least 20 degrees warmer.  I have yet to snowshoe up a mountain and to be perfectly honest, I am not that eager to.  I don’t mind the micro spikes…they feel like a super power.  I AM however VERY eager to hike up a mountain in sneakers and shorts and I can’t wait for that.  In the meantime I will continue to experiment with winter hiking.

Voluntary Hike Safe Card

I finally got myself a Hike Safe Card from New Hampshire Fish and Game.

For a measly $25, the money goes directly to NH Fish and Game who spend thousands of dollars and hours often risking lives in order to rescue hikers and outdoor enthusiasts who get into trouble out there on those rugged White Mountains and deep woods.

The card also keeps you from being liable for costs associated with a rescue mission.  For example, if you go out on an aggressive hike totally unprepared (like wearing jeans and carrying no food or water or map) and then something happens and you need a helicopter evacuation, than yes, you will get a bill for that and have to pay for your negligence.  You can still be held accountable even with the card (like the example I gave) but I think the idea of the card is more about that act of buying the card.  It shows that you are thinking ahead and making the extra effort to be prepared out there.  This is something I think about and talk about with my hiking companions when I go on a hike.  I consider how I might be evaluated if I were to be evacuated by a helicopter…like if NH Fish and Game looked in my backpack upon rescuing me and discovered that I only had 8/10 of the Ten Essentials, what would be the ruling if I forgot my whistle or compass?  Having the card simply helps me remember my whistle and compass.

I feel proud to carry one now…like I’ve made a commitment to hike more and be more safe and more prepared.  You might say I’m engaged with the White Mountains now.  Remind me to show you my shiny new laminated Hike Safe Card.

You can get your own Hike Safe Card here:
Hike Safe

Return to the Long Trail

This past weekend I drove to Vermont to attend a Green Mountain Club event called Winter Trails Day.  It was an all-day event at the Long Trail Brewery in Bridgewater Corners Vermont that started with coffee and a very helpful winter skills workshop.  There were maybe 10 different guided group hikes all heading out from the brewery to different trails and mountains.  Squirrel and Early Bird were leading one of the group hikes up Pico and encouraged me to come up and join them so I did.  I met Squirrel a year ago last March while stopping in at the Green Mountain Club Welcome Center to get some information about The Long Trail.  Squirrel gave me a load of advice and encouragement and we have kept in touch ever since.  I recently wrote more about Squirrel here.

When I arrived I was told that the Pico hike had filled up and that a second group would be added.  I was kinda anxious cuz I’ve never gone on a guided group hike before and this whole event was a a social push out of my comfort zone.  In the end I was the only person to show up who had registered for the Pico hike.  I figured it was just too cold for folks as it was about 5°.    While the other hikes did go out, attendance was overall kind of thin.  So it ended up just being the three of us hiking Pico which was great.

The sky was so blue and clear and the air was crispy fresh.  We all seemed to stay warm enough and enjoy ourselves.  It was so nostalgic parking across from the Long Trail Inn and hiking up the Sherburn Pass trail.  We summited careful to not get run over by skiiers and then we hiked back down into the trees stopping at the Pico Camp shelter to warm up and have a snack.  I took a picture out the window from the same spot where I took a picture of Bear Bait sitting and looking out towards Killington last summer on the trail:

After the hike we went back to the brewery for the Apres Hike Party.  Hikers slowly filed back into the heated tent outside the brewery where we shared stories and socialized and there was beer and soup and snacks and a big raffle and I won a T-shirt and a hat!

After the Apres Hike Party dwindled,  I followed Squirrel and Early Bird to Early Birds parents house which was basically a human-size fairy house deep in the woods within walking distance to the Appalachian Trail.  She made a fire in the wood stove and we drank tea and relaxed by the fire chatting for hours until it was time to sleep.  I got to sleep in the coziest nook next to a big dormer window looking out at the trees and the stars as if I was in a treehouse.  I reveled in the quiet.  I woke up and watched hawks flying around the trees outside until the smell of coffee brought me downstairs.  We ate some breakfast and drank many cups of coffee talking at great length about everything and anything.  My new friends had some great trail stories from both working on various trail crews while living in Vermont and also from thru- hiking all the great long distance trails in the US.  Squirrel and Early Bird have hiked the Long Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and The Continental Divide Trail together.   Squirrel has also hiked the Appalachian Trail.  They are both so humble about it and I enjoyed hearing some great tales from their many adventures.  Squirrel kept saying that the Long Trail was the hardest of them all which was incredibly validating to hear coming from a Triple Crowner!

After breakfast we put all our layers back on and headed back out into the trees.  We road walked the dirt roads from the house to the Appalachian Trail.  Early Bird had to turn around as she had some stuff she had to do so we hugged goodbye and then Squirrel and I continued towards the AT where we hiked southbound towards a shelter where we sat in the sun taking in the melting icicles, the snow, the trees, and the blue sky and ate snacks and talked about life and gender and purpose and past and dreams and all that deep stuff.  It was a balmy 15° and a luxury to be able to sit outside for a while without getting too cold.

We headed back and had a last cup of tea before I had to hit the road.

Grateful for micro-spikes, merino wool, Vermont, cheese, and my new friends.