Health, Hiking, Inspiration, Lifestyle, Travel

Hiking Harry’s Ridge at Mount St. Helens Amongst the Summer Flowers

“I see you and you see me.”

Greeted by Magnificent Wildflowers

I feel fortunate that I am able to visit some pretty spectacular places living in the Pacific Northwest. My recent trip to Mount St. Helens (yes there is an ‘s’ at the end) proves to be a magnificent day. On the morning drive to Mount St. Helens, she (I like to attribute the feminine gender to mountains) is behind a shroud of clouds and I was unsure whether they would burn off before we hit the trail. The day turns out to be an all-day event hiking at Harry’s Ridge near Mount St.Helens amongst the summer flowers.

We entered the Johnston Ridge Observatory parking lot mid-morning. I laced up my hiking boots and we were off to check in that morning. The park rangers were welcoming and told us about the 15 minute movie detailing the eruption that took place in 1980, the year I graduated high school! I have seen the movie a couple of times over the years of visiting and I think they updated it a bit. In the short 15-minute film you get the gist of what took place but it is hard to comprehend the destruction of the blast. At the end of the movie, just below the screen, you are surprised by curtains sliding open to reveal the majestic volcanic backdrop.

A majestic display

Encountering the Blast Zone

I did not live here in 1980 but remember that we could see ash in the upper atmosphere in the Midwest. I survived the Mount St. Helens hike another time as well. I have climbed the mountain on another occasion right to the rim to look over it with a bit of trepidation to see the steam from the inner mound. The mound was continually increasing in size and still is! Thank gosh our party was safe. I wouldn’t want to be the Baltimore man that falls into Mt Vesuvious after attempting to rescue his falling camera phone. I understand that man was safely rescued, thankfully.

On this cloudy day you could clearly see how the blast carved out the mountain and surrounding land. When the sun broke through, remnants of blasted down trees littered the hillside like orderly matchsticks. Dead and decaying tree trunks congregate on the shoreline of Spirit Lake. Trunks from the snapped-off trees leave all manner of deformity jutting skyward,

Harry’s Ridge

The Harry’s Ridge trail hike took us about six hours roundtrip. It was a Friday and we were not alone on the trail. There were couples, families, and also quite a few solo travelers. It was comforting to know that there were other people to share in the experience. At the observatory there is a trail called xxxxx trail and this lead to a couple of other trails. In fact, you can hike all the way to Windy Ridge.

It was a cloudy day with many sun breaks (a common term in the PNW) and a perfect day for hiking and photo-taking hiking—not too hot, not too cold. The scape of the land has changed forever and it is interesting to look at. After 42 years, there is also new life abounding.

Get Your Elevation On

One of my all-time dreams is climbing Mt. Everest. I guess hiking and surviving each hike is one step closer to the dream. I am calling it a dream and not a goal. I am not sure, I want to risk my life climbing into the Death Zone on Mt. Everest, though. We had a 970 ft gain to reach Harry’s Ridge from Johnston Ridge. I wore my hiking boots and was glad that I did because there was a lot of loose gravel and sediment. When we climbed Dog Mountain, I wore old tennis shoes because they were lighter and the terrain is steep so I think it made it a bit easier. The only think is, I slipped a couple of times on the loose gravel there. I guess, I need to invest in some different gear.

Day is done!

Does Age Come into Play

I turned 60 this year. I have come to conclude that it is just a number. Sixty is the new 40, right? You get out of life what you put into it. I have had some sedentary jobs lately—the plight of the modern lifestyle, and need to get back into a routine of exercise. I do like working out at the gym but, in the summer, I like to be outdoors. Climbing in elevation gets the heart pumping and makes me feel like I have accomplished something.

When climbing to Harry’s Ridge, we followed a trail up and down hummocks, deposits of displaced land left by the blast, and through green groves (I am not sure of the variety of plant) and vast gravelly fields of wild flowers that were very sweet-smelling. I could not detect which flower was producing such a sweet, delicate fragrance.

I reviewed a flower guide and found some of the flowers that I photographed: penstemon, harsh Indian paintbrush, bramble, lupine, white avalanche lily, and what looked to be a wild lavender. I go gaga over wildflowers, and I feel like I can never take enough photos much to my husband’s dismay. He does have a point about not taking so many, but the reason I take photos is to share them.

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Health, Hiking, Inspiration, Travel

Dog Mountain Bliss Awaits As you Reach the Top

Finding your bliss

If you live in the Pacific Northwest or even if you have ever thought about travelling to the Northwest, take a look at Dog Mountain for your ultimate hiking adventure. If you are an avid hiker or even if you are not but would like a challenge, this could be for you.

If you happen to be here in the months of April through June, depending on the weather patterns, you will be greeted with an amazing display of wildflowers against an equally amazing backdrop of the Columbia River gorge and mountain views when you reach the top on a clear day. This year, we are having a late spring—and a rainy one at that. We lucked out on the day we climbed it. There was a threat of clouds rolling in but they arrived later in the day.

The hike is not for the faint of heart. I don’t do a lot of hiking but would like to do more. I am one that has a dream of climbing Mount Everest. I will be turning 60 this year so my time for doing that may be running out. After climbing Dog Mountain, it made me reconsider whether I may be living a pipe dream.

Transportation Options to Dog Mountain

A hiking permit is required to climb Dog Mountain on the weekend. You must reserve these online and they are limited. That is why we took the shuttle. I suggest that you take the shuttle from Stevenson, WA. The shuttle takes you right to the trailhead plus you get a free wrist band that allows you to hike the mountain. You can also drive and park if you have the Discovery Pass but parking is not guaranteed.

It is nice to get an early start to climbing so you can have a bite to eat from the lunch that you should pack. We only brought one container of water. Luckily, it wasn’t a very warm day. Always bring enough water! There is no bathroom at the top, so be advised to possibly ration your water intake or find a private spot to go, I suppose.

Decisions, Decisions! Which road to take.

There are two directions that are available up the mountain. There is the difficult route and the more difficult route. As we came upon the fork in the road and hesitated about which route to take, a young couple came by and encouraged us (or at least I took it that way) to take the more difficult route because it was more direct. We took the more difficult trail and it was pretty much a vertical climb all the way. We took it slow and steady stopping frequently to catch our breath and grab a sip of water. Along the way, I experienced many cleansing breaths, which are the type of breaths you get when you are running. It made me feel good that the younger people climbing also stopped occasionally to do the same.

My legs felt it on the way up but descending the mountain was harder for me and my legs were shaking. I did not wear my hiking boots and wore my old tennis shoes because I thought it would help since it was such a steep climb. I did OK going up but there was loose gravel and fell about three time on the way down. The first time I fell was at the top and a drone (which are not allowed there) probably captured my gracefulness as I waited for my husband to come and assist me to my feet. It was kind of embarrassing falling. Oh, well!

Do Research Before You Go

I poured over websites and googled information on the best time to go as well as the weather conditions which have been very unseasonable for the PNW this time of year. The morning we were supposed to go, we woke up to clouds and my phone said it was going to be cloudy. The location of the mountain was an hour away and I viewed the weather for that location which said partly sunny. It came down to my gut. Of course, I wanted it to be perfect weather and somehow it worked out to be just that. It’s only because it was the all-famed Dog Mountain and I wanted it to be perfect on my first climb. There are so many variables when hiking. I guess that is why it makes it so much fun.

For use of any photo on this blog post, please contact me for permission. Thank you.

We took the road less traveled.

The flowers were just starting to come on and I feel like I would like to go a little later to see the lupine and Indian paintbrush in full bloom. The abundant, yellow balsam root was magnificent, though! I felt like the hill was alive with the sound of music!

The map below from oregonhikers.org shows the green dotted line as the hard trail and the trail pictured to the right as the less difficult trail. The trail to the left is a little overgrown I’ve heard. It looks more wooded for sure. I had this idea of climbing Dog Mountain in the back of my mind for some time now but never really made the effort to do it. We did not see very many children on the trail. There were a few early teens but expect to take your time if you don’t hike frequently or the possibility of turning back if your child doesn’t want to continue. Of course, it didn’t help when a park guide said they saw a rattlesnake earlier and people were asking us on our decent if we had seen any. We had not.

I didn’t realize how extensive the oregonhikers.org website is. That is where I got the trail map. Check it out!

I know one thing—Dog Mountain has made me want to experience other hiking trails. Come back to this blog for another adventure we took recently.

Of course, what would Dog Mountain be without a dog or two hiking.

There were a handful of dogs that accompanied their owners. I asked a couple if their dog also experienced the same expenditure of energy climbing up a steep hillside. They seemed to think so. I suppose the dogs probably whether it better than humans.

Summer is here! Check out the latest gear for exploring the Outdoors Below. Click on the word hiking boots. Happy shopping!

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Food, Health, Valentine's Day

Green Valentine Smoothie

I can’t believe it’s been over a year since I have blogged. I have been working full-time and trying to maneuver my various blogs around by consolidating and reorganizing. We’ve been busy remodeling the house and I have been hanging out on Facebook–a lot!

I bought some ingredients to make a green veggie drink and the lettuce began wilting in the fridge, so today I got to it. I have never had pulverized lettuce before. I have used kale in smoothies and I have juiced other vegetables like carrots and cucumbers in a juicer.

I thought the flavor was good but the consistency was a little odd. I used apple and banana and it had the consistency of thick sludge. Supposedly, this green drink is supposed to be very good for your skin. I think I prefer to chew my lettuce.

Green Valentine Smoothie Ingredients

  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • 1 apple
  • 1 banana
  • 1 lemon
  • Celery
  • Coconut water

Health, Inspiration, Lifestyle

Let your Brain Relax with a Media Cleanse to Decrease Anxiety and Create Peace-of-Mind

Let it all spill out.

Now more than ever, we need to detach from the media, especially if you are feeling anxious. Most times the media just provides opinion and speculation and I always feel that I have to do my own fact-checking. I really don’t have time for or the desire for that.

We spend a LOT of time on our phones. Our smart phones keep track of so many things in our lives and we often carry it wherever we go. Many of us spend upwards of 3 to 4 hours a day or more of personal time on our phones. Just think of all the things we could accomplish if we didn’t cave to the little black screen.

Part of the obsession we have with our phones is that we often look for likes and retweets so that we can stroke our ego. Science shows that the dopamine boost we get from Facebook likes is the same as we get from scoring a jackpot at a casino.

Now would be a good time to take a break for a while since there is so much negative “news” compounded by a kind of vitriolic debate out there which could be the cause of increased anxiety. Here are some surefire ways to lessen anxiety that you might be feeling right now.

Eliminate the Temptation of Picking Up Your Phone

Turn off notifications on your phone unless it’s for work and you are required to have notifications on. We don’t need to respond to someone at the drop of a hat. You can set a time convenient for you to respond if you choose to. Move apps that open on your home screen so that they are harder to access. Leave your phone behind or if you use it to track mileage walked, take it with you but keep it in your pocket.

I never played into the social media game so much until recently. I figured I needed to jump on the bandwagon so that I could remain “social.” I do like getting a glimpse of other peoples’ lives on Facebook but it has turned political recently and posting your views is probably not worth losing a friendship over. Take a break for a week and see how you feel at the end of the week. Set a specific schedule and time limit that you will look at your social media each day and stick to it.

Some people have eliminated social media platforms. You can let your social media friends know that you have decided to change course. Focus on the relationships that surround you and for people who look out for your best interests. Life is short and social media can act as a thief of our free time and often as a thief of our peace-of-mind. You can go on an extended break or delete your account altogether.

If you have decided not to scrap social media during the pandemic it helps to maintain social contact. You can do that in-person while social distancing, having a conversation over the phone, or chat on Facetime or Zoom.

Set Accomplishable Goals

Write down some goals you have and then break them up into actionable steps to get there. Take time to dream about how you want your life to look or what you would like to accomplish. Even though we are collectively going through a pandemic, identify what you would like to accomplish in one week, one month, one year and five years. You may want to begin planning an overseas trip. You can open an account to save money for it, plan the cities and sites you will see or take an online or college course in a foreign language to help you prepare for it.

Think of Different Ways to Relax

Listen to music. I used to listen to music more and I often go through phases with it. The other day, I was doing a repetitive task and decided to listen to music on my phone using headphones. It really lifted my spirits and took me back to a different time based on what time period the music was from. It made the time go faster and I felt joyful listening to it. The only problem is that it was in a work environment so I couldn’t share it. This is a whole other topic but since we all seem to tune into our own individual music, it makes it more lonely since we don’t often share listening to music together.

Curb Screen Time Before Bed

Oh, and I am often guilty of this: viewing social media before bed, during the night and first thing when I wake up. Wow! How did my life lead to this? I use the argument that I am checking up on the news, especially since there are so many volatile situations going on right now. Keep your phone away from your bedside and allow for better sleep. The light emitted from electronic devices before bedtime makes it harder to fall asleep, suppresses levels of melatonin and can affect REM sleep and may reduce alertness the following morning.

We all seem to be in a bit of a slump lately but we need to wake ourselves out of it and create the life that we want even in the midst of a pandemic and a barrage of negative comments.

Now, I just need to follow my own advice.

Health, Lifestyle

Socialization with Friends in the Era of Coronavirus

Life by Screen

Even though time seems like it is moving slowly it also feels like the world is changing rapidly. With many people staying home or working from home, the focus has been on our screens. We are using our screens for work, entertainment, social communication, news, shopping, health related apps, school lessons, etc. In some cases usage has gone up by as much as 200 percent.

Sometimes I feel like I live through my screen more than I do real life.

There has been a question circulating on Facebook about who really is your friend on social media. If you take an honest look, how many people do you socialize with on a daily, weekly or monthly basis in person with face-to-face encounters or with a phone call? Probably not very many. If you are working outside of the home (that expression sounds kind of funny), most likely you socialize with or are friends with your co-workers.

Does social media replace a cup of coffee shared with a friend at a café? I think not, but we are probably going to have to adjust.

I think society is desperate for meaningful friendships. Facebook makes it easier to connect with many people in different social circles and distant localities and our world is smaller because of it. Video chatting on mobile devices is also popular and on the new Rooms feature on Facebook Messenger you can arrange a Zoom-like call with your peeps. Zoom is used for business and classrooms and also for happy hour virtual gatherings or calls with family and friends. We have many options at our fingertips. Frankly, I am getting rather tired of screens, but they have become the norm in today’s society.

With the state of quarantining at home and socially distancing, I feel like we are being led to believe, through social and media channels, that video sharing applications will be the elixir that we need to combat loneliness. Even before the pandemic, there have been studies maintaining that more than two hours a day on social media by teens makes teens more lonely—not less lonely.

Friends vs. Acquaintances

Maybe we think the nearest screen is the answer to our yearning for human contact, but in fact, the human contact that we crave is being replaced by electronic stimuli and “pseudo” friendships. Our social connections are, more often than not, acquaintances that might not necessarily be the nurturing relationships we need. It takes time and effort to find a friend that provides the depth of friendship needed to deal with the intricacies of the human heart and with whom we can share our deepest authentic selves.

Perhaps I am being a little hard on the Facebook crowd, of which I am a part of, but I think it might be in one’s best interest to not look to the 500 or 1000 friends ( I have just over 100) on Facebook as a badge of honor—at least in terms of authentic friendship in the traditional sense. Consider yourself fortunate if you have two very close friends who you interact with in your day-to-day encounters.

More likely than not, the number of “friends” on social media are a social network, a way of staying connected in our different social circles or relying on a connection for a lead to employment or in the case of Zoom meetings, connecting with your class or classroom teacher or your work staff. I think that answers the Facebook question that is circulating. I’m betting most people are aware of the nature of social media. Still, it can sort of be like a competition to gain more and more connections.

Many people receive their news content from social media channels. My adult children have all but given up social media because it siphons precious time. I miss that they are not on Facebook so that we can share in photos of each other or ideas about certain things but I understand their need to manage time.

You’ve Got a Friend

I would say I am a lot like my mom in the department of making friends, where I can strike up a conversation with someone at the farmer’s market and feel a sense of kinship. By the way, my mother has made many “friends” because, most times, anyone that she talks to at church or the grocery store “becomes her friend.” I believe every moment (even on social media) is an opportunity to make a friend—at least for the moment, because—face it—it’s work to maintain a friendship. Thankfully, there are many ways to be a friend to someone.

Maybe it’s just me. I have used my Facetime feature on my phone to video chat with my family before and have been thankful for that feature. However, I do not use it all that much. Am I old-fashioned? Do I really need to see the person I am talking to? If I have not seen the person for a long time, I do like to see them but I don’t make it a rule to visually see them as we converse.

What I have noticed is even though I am on my screen more, I don’t really want to be. In writing content for my blog and social media posts, I also do create video postings. I feel OK with that but I think the new video chat room feature for communicating, at least for personal use, is something we will need to get used to, as the economy’s landscape, even if it opens soon, will be a stark cry from what it used to be.

20-20-20 Rule

Since we are spending more time looking at our computer, phone, or tablet screens our eyes can become really strained. Using the 20-20-20 rule can help to prevent this problem.

Every 20 minutes spent looking at a screen, you should look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Now, this doesn’t mean to look up from your computer screen to look at your TV screen when your home on your couch with your computer screen in your lap.

I will take it one step further and add that you should actually get up from where you are sitting for a small break while looking at something that is not screen-related. If that is not possible than the 20-20-20 rule should help with reducing eye strain and muscle tension. And even better than that, if you can, take a break from screens for a day or two.

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