The BC Bike Race, revisited.

This week last year, I was pretty much shitting my pants getting ready to go to the BC Bike Race. The weekend before, I had taken a tumble on the Fargo on pavement and completely jacked up my elbow and shoulder. I was a basket case. I was, without question, completely undertrained, and injured on top of it. It’s safe to say, I did not have high hopes for the outcome of this adventure.

Day One, Cumberland.

Day One, Cumberland.

But Lauren, the best teammate ever, and I rocked it, with style and grace. We didn’t race the race, it was more of a tour, but we probably had more fun out on that course than anyone out there.

The ‘red hats’ or the BC Bike Race patrol staff, who was wearing red POC helmets, hence their nickname, told us all week how they could hear us from a half a mile away, laughing and squawking our way up the climbs. Once, they rode up on us mid-trailside picnic. We had Rice Krispy treats and I can’t remember what else, and I am certain everyone who passed was dying inside from jealousy, as they should have.

Trailside picnic. Rice krispy treats to the rescue!

Trailside picnic. Rice krispy treats to the rescue!

It was Day 5. We had just ridden the gnarly miles and ridiculous climbs of Day 4 and well, we had a hangover. A full-on picnic was just what the doctor ordered. It may have very well been the best 10 minutes of my life.

Just another view from the BC ferry.

Just another view from the BC ferry.

I don’t remember much else from that day, which was probably my hardest, except that I felt my body settle into a rhythm, surrender somehow, to the routine of wake up, pack up, coffee up, eat up, saddle up and ride your fucking heart out. Return to camp, wherever it may be that day, eat, sleep, and repeat.

Christine has a pre-ride solo dance party, Josh looks on.

Christine has a pre-ride solo dance party, Josh looks on.

What a week it was. Yes, it’s glamorous in hindsight, I’m the first to admit that. Some days, I wanted to just cry. And I did. Riding a bike on technical singletrack for seven days straight on trails you’ve never seen before, even when you’re not going race pace, is hard as hell, mentally and physically.

But Lauren and I, we somehow, despite only having ever ridden together maybe three times before, managed to complement each other in a way that I still can’t quite get my mind around. When I was low on blood sugar, motivation and moxie, she was flying high and just shredding the shit out of the course. It inspired me to do the same. I’d like to think I lifted her up too, even when she practically broke her mother-effing hand crashing on Day Two. I think we both knew that if we let the mind go down the rabbit hole of doom, we’d be pretty well fucked.

So we just didn’t go there. We’d teeter on the rim of the hole, but somehow we’d always manage to pass it by and just keep pedaling.

Tent city, Squamish, BC.

Tent city, Squamish, BC.

Day 6, we camped in Squamish, and I was so overwhelmed by a cocktail of emotions ranging from exhaustion to complete and utter elation that we were almost done. But sadness started to set in too, because I knew that after one of the best days on the bike on some of the most amazing trails on this planet (Half Nelson, hell yes!), it was all going to come to a screeching halt, right when I was settling into a blissful routine.

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The vision of the camp in Squamish at sunset, post-brewery and pizza haze, with a group of new and old friends the Sturdy Bitches, is branded into my mind. I remember wearing recovery compression socks with flip flops and knickers and not giving a flying fuck. I remember the soft glow of the late BC sunset casting shadows  on Chief Timothy, the granite wall that towers over Squamish like a diligent sentinel.

Most of all, I remember realizing, perhaps for the first time, that I was going to finish this. I am not and have never been a natural athlete. I work hard to achieve things physically, and if you’d have asked me one year prior, I would have laughed at the notion of ever completing a seven-day stage race across BC’s finest singletrack.

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Getting hammered in Squamish. Pants the Dog is not amused.

But that week was the first real proof for me that such endeavors are at least 95 % mental. And I’ve spent the past year putting that theory to the test, with various running accomplishments that really never could have dreamed I could pull off. But I did, and my tick list, both on the bike and on the feets keeps getting longer.

Powell River, BC

Powell River, BC

Day 7 we climbed up a fire road on an easy green downhill trail at Whistler Mountain Bike Park, a place I’ve spent a few hours riding and flailing myself downhill, riding the lift back up. That I would ever pedal uphill in that park was an insane notion. But we did. It was the last day, and our shortest. I, in my clipless pedals, confidently rode skinnies on the Lost Lake XC trails and climbed like a mofo on short, punchy hills. We were so close I could taste it.

I think the lump started in my throat about one mile from the finish. Like horses going back to the barn, as we got closer to where had started that day, we ramped up the cadence. Tears had formed before we saw the finish arch in Whistler Village. Lauren and I held hands as we rode under it.

Finish in Whistler!

Finish in Whistler!

We had done it, and so much of my being wants to do it again, even though it was hard and it hurt. It was one of the best weeks of my life–one that changed my thinking when it comes to what my body, and more importantly, my mind can achieve.

Got that buckle.

Got that buckle.

I raise my glass to the racers this next week–may you have as amazing of a week that we had, and know that anything is possible.

May = So far, so great.

Work travel is about to ramp up, but I have to say, I am verrrry excited about a few of my trips this summer. For one, I’m going to Europe–for the first time EVER–not once, but TWICE! Scotland, Switzerland and Germany. I can hardly contain my excitement, so trying not to think about it yet because it’s a ways off. But…SQUEEAAALLLLLL!

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My boys in Idyllwild.

We kicked off the month of May with a trip up to Idyllwild, a quaint little mountain town that is one of my favorite places in SoCal. We rode bikes for about an hour but I was dying in the heat so we aborted that mission and hiked up to local climbing crag and Idyllwild landmark, Tahquitz. The views were nice and the temps were cooler. It’s been a wicked spring so far down here, with several 100-degree days way too early in the year. I dread summer and hope we get a respite from the drought in the form of wetting rain. 

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Real fun day on the trails with Jekeira.

We also ran trails with Jesse and Keira, two ultrarunning badasses. It was my first real run since Rim to Rim to Rim. It was the funk breaker I needed, because boy did I ever hit a low about a week after finishing the Grand Canyon. I was drained. Physically and mentally. I had no motivation and nothing sounded fun.

So I signed up for a 50k.

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50k necessities.

The Whoo’s in El Moro race was just what I needed to snap out of it. I really had no expectations, having not done jack for three weeks. I simply just wanted to finish and enjoy the views.

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Sweeping coastal views gave me good mojo.

But I felt amazing. After about 10 miles, I still felt great. I was running every downhill, flat and many of the hills. I knew I was on pace so far to PR.

However, I also knew myself well enough to be prepared for the mid-way blowout, something I’m intimately familiar with and typically experience every time. I braced myself for that.

I showed up at the halfway point aid station at the 3-hour mark. Brian was working there, and I think he was surprised to see me so soon. He filled my pack with water and food and I started the long climb up the fire road, knowing I would hit the dreaded 18-20-mile mark where I typically come undone.

I didn’t. I powered the four miles to the next aid, where about 4 girls I had either been tailing or leapfrogging all day were hanging out. I checked in, grabbed some salty snacks and bolted.

I never saw them again. I pushed so hard out of that aid station, feeling for the first time ever, competitive on my feet. At the 10-miles to go point, I kicked it into high gear and flew down the fire road and short bit of singletrack before a dreadful climb I knew would suck on the way down. El Moro is a small place, so the course is a series of loops and out-and-backs, which I both love and loathe.

Towards the top of the climb, I tailed a woman who had been in front of me all day. We got to the top, and she stopped for a GU. As I passed her, I said “You’ll catch me again on the next climb.”

She never did. I ran so hard trying to get some distance between us, knowing there was a technical downhill, one of my few strengths in this sport, and I could leave her for good there if I pushed on the flat leading up to it. Somehow, I caught my foot on a buffed out section of trail and ate shit so hard I thought I broke my hand. It’s still jacked up, 2 weeks later. But I stood up, bloody kneed and pumped up on so much adrenaline I kept going.

The last climb out was hot, dry and epic. I slowed my pace, with a careful eye on the road behind me, looking for ladies in hot pursuit. There were none. I power hiked up and fed myself Enduralytes and shot blocks, trying not to fall apart and kind of dying for the next aid station at the top.

I finally got there, and they put ice in my water bladder. Heaven! I didn’t linger long, knowing there were strong climbers behind me. Five miles to go, mostly downhill.

I railed the last singletrack, and tolerated the final fire road climb. I ran into my friend Heather who was out for a trail run.

It's truly one of the best things ever, to see a familiar face when you're about to come apart.

It’s truly one of the best things ever, to see a familiar face when you’re about to come apart.

Sometimes the Universe just knows what you need.

I was into the home stretch. Everything hurt, but seeing Heather out there gave me a much needed kick in the ass. The last descent seemed to go on forever, but the last flat/gradual downhill to the finish felt even longer. I wouldn’t let myself walk, even though I desperately wanted to.

I rolled into the finish and surprised myself with a 6:30 time and 9th place woman. Eff yes. I needed that.

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So stoked to PR my 50k time and break the top 10 women.

A week later, I flew to Salt Lake City for Dealer Tour.

Yes, I still ride bikes.

I met up with my darling friend Erin and her friend Morgan and we all wore purple, for the most part by accident. It was so freaking awesome to get on the MTB again.

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We were Team Purple.

I’m pretty sure I had permagrin the entire afternoon.

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Morgan crushing it.

I was happy to have four days straight on the bike. To say it was a nice change from sitting at a desk is a gross understatement.

We visited 13 shops in three days and rode about 90 miles. Solid.

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Brian and I were supposed to go to the Sierras and run the high-mountain, big-milage Rae Lakes loop, but we got snowed out. So we decided to stay close to home and ended up getting up to the 11,500-foot San Gorgonio peak, which is about a 1.5-hour drive from our house. We did a 21-mile loop/lollipop on some of the most amazing terrain around.

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CA or CO?

I felt like complete ass all day. I could never get warmed up and had two left feet. I don’t know if it was the altitude, the miles on the bike and work travel earlier in the week, or just having an off day, but I was a wreck. I had fun anyways, and finally stopped beating myself up about it and just enjoyed the day.

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This mountain is my new SoCal favorite! The boy is a perennial favorite.

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We’ll wrap this weekend up with some yoga, gardening, cooking and a BBQ later with friends. I am so grateful for this busy and full life, bursting at the seams with amazing people and beautiful places.

To you and yours, I wish you full hearts and happy spirits this lovely month of May!

xo

An accidental ultrarunner.

I never planned to become a runner. It just sort of happened.

A sunset run in Silverado

A sunset run in Silverado

Running was something I did when I couldn’t ride my bike. When it was too muddy to ride in Hood River, I ran the trails with Turbo instead. Sometimes I ran a few times a week in the rain, but as soon as things dried out again, I was back on two wheels. I ran only out of necessity.

Sometimes I really enjoyed it, but I still thought about how I would ride the trail I was running, which lines I would choose and how much faster I would be going if I were rolling on wheels instead.

Three Ts loop, Mt. Baldy, CA.

Three Ts loop, Mt. Baldy, CA.

Until just over a year ago, my longest run was about 6 miles, as part of my firefighter physical training (PT). We ran as a crew 3-4 times per week, and back then, I mostly hated it. I didn’t like how the pavement felt under my feet, and I didn’t like how it made me wheeze even when I was in my best shape.

But something changed, and I wish I could pinpoint the exact moment I first felt pure joy while running. The moment when it didn’t make me wheeze and I felt free and alive, propelled by my own engine, kept in motion by my body’s momentum. Maybe it was a gradual process, I’m not sure.

In November 2012, I signed up for the High Sierra 50k in Bishop. I’m the first to admit I never would have contemplated such a thing if I hadn’t met Brian Blair. Quite frankly, I had never once considered running a marathon, let alone an ultramarathon.

Bishop 50k finish. Damn that Shandy tasted good!

Bishop 50k finish. Damn that Shandy tasted good!

Last weekend–less than a year after I finished my first 50k–we ran the Grand Canyon from rim to rim and back again to celebrate my birthday.

At 45 miles, it was the longest distance I had ever gone on foot in one day. I still kind of can’t believe I did it. I was undertrained and coming off of a trip to Alaska, work travel to Sea Otter and a 50-hour work week. Since Bishop, I have finished a trail marathon, another 50k (with 7k of climbing) and a number of longer trail runs with Brian and friends, but it didn’t seem like enough to feel even remotely prepared for the rim to rim to rim run.

But I was hell bent on doing it, even though I could’ve bailed weeks ago. See, somehow, in all my travels in the West, I had never seen the Grand Canyon before. I don’t exactly remember when I decided running/hiking from rim to rim to rim (R2R2R) was what I wanted to do to kick off my 39th trip around the sun, but I have been preparing for it for months.

First views of the canyon with the boys, birthday eve.

First views of the canyon with the boys, birthday eve.

We invited a handful of friends who run (a short list for me still), and our dear fast and super awesome friend Joshua and SoCal ultrarunning legend and all around rad dude Tommy Nielsen joined us.

The black bridge, just after sun up.

The black bridge, just after sun up.

Brian and I started at 4:00 am down South Kaibab. Joshua and Tommy, who would be considerably faster than me, started two hours later and took Bright Angel trail down to the river.

First crossing, 6 am.

First crossing, 6 am.

It took us two hours to reach the river, down 6 miles and about 5,000 feet, partly in the dark. We took it slow, knowing we still had a long journey ahead.

Brightangel Creek.

Brightangel Creek.

Concerned about my ankle, which had been bugging me for a few weeks, I considered turning around somewhere before this lovely pool. I admit, some of it was fear–knowing that I was approaching a point of no return was a scary thought. Once I reached a certain point in the route, bailing would be almost as hard as reaching the North Rim. I chose to push.

Up, up, up. Way up.

Up, up, up. Way up.

And I’m so glad I did. We climbed for what seemed like forever, about 6,000 feet up to the North Rim. The first 1,000 or so feet follows Bright Angel creek and is gradual–a false flat of sorts that feels like it should be easy to run but it kicks your ass. The final miles from the Pumphouse–a last water stop–were steep and hard. The trail is technical and exposed in places.

The NOTAR (no tail rotor) helicopter buzzed around all afternoon.

The NOTAR (no tail rotor) helicopter buzzed around all afternoon. You can see the trail just right of the helicopter!

The boys on a bridge.

The boys on a bridge, on the way down from North Rim. We pow-wowwed with Joshua and Tommy at the top and ran a few miles with them down to Pumphouse.

It rained and hailed on us. I had meltdown #1 about 2 miles from the top of North Rim. I discovered I had a blister and had to do foot surgery shortly after we watched the park service helicopter playing around in the canyon. Finding that blister got to me. I felt vulnerable and knew we were only getting deeper in, that I was more committed than ever.

Brian and Joshua. Down, down, down we go.

Brian and Joshua. Down, down, down we go.

Which isn’t anything new for me, but somehow this felt different from firefighting adventures, getting dropped in the middle of nowhere. Or living in a fire lookout all alone for months, no civilization for hours of hiking and driving. In this situation, I think I worried my body would fail me, that my getting back across the canyon in one piece depended on my ankle not giving out, my feet staying tough and a litany of other possible physical ailments that could compromise me.

From whence we came at 4 am.

From whence we came at 4 am. This stretch was hot as hell as we ran downstream to Phantom Ranch.

But the truth is, the success or failure of the journey on foot depended more on the mind than anything else. My ankle hurt like hell most of the day, but I was able to focus on something else (sometimes it was the other body parts that had begun to scream at me). The moment I let my thoughts go to pain and discomfort, I would start to come unraveled.

So I tried not to let that happen. This morning, Lauren and I talked about how once you go to a dark place you can’t let yourself stay very long. Time is of the essence when it comes to games of the mind. Yes, fear will try to drive the mind down its rabbit hole of doom, but if you stand a chance of not getting sucked in, you have to get the eff out immediately. If you linger in that place, you’re a goner.

The mighty river.

The mighty river.

Brian and I reached Phantom Ranch just before 4 pm, our 12-hour mark. The water a few miles back at the Pumphouse, which we had filled from on the way up to the North Rim, wasn’t working on the way down. We later saw that a main water line (the place is plumbed for miles) had burst, flooding the trail.

We had been thinking about Phantom Ranch and the store for a few hot, exposed miles. I was dreaming of potato chips, or anything salty. I was GU’ed out by then and wanted nothing sweet. Except for a Coke, which they didn’t have. Instead, we had lemonade and iced tea and pretzels. Best damn $12 I’ve ever spent.

These water bars went on forever. FOREVER. It was like using a Stairmaster for 3 hrs straight.

These water bars went on forever. FOREVER. It was like using a Stairmaster for 3 hrs straight.

The final hike out was a mofo of a climb. Waterbar after waterbar, that I scarcely remembered from the trip down, formed a brutal staircase that shredded my calves and ass. My quads were already jelly from more than 11,000 feet of descent, honestly my whole body was.

Brian and I chatted idly through the toughest middle section. It saved me from freaking out about all the damn steps.

This was a killer up and down.

This was a killer up and down.

We knew of just one landmark–an outhouse and hitching post perhaps about a mile from the top. Once we reached that, we would be close. We could finally see it, tucked into a saddle and I was so happy. We would crush this with a sub-15 hour time and arrive well before sunset.

Sunset's a-comin'. It was hard to turn on the gas to get up that hill before dark!

Sunset’s a-comin’. It was hard to turn on the gas to get up that hill before dark!

Not so. The outhouse looked so close, but was so far still. More vert, more waterbars and waning energy. We stopped for food. Not moving felt good but also felt like potential death.

As a lover of sunsets, I tried my best to enjoy the view in the throes of delirium.

As a lover of sunsets, I tried my best to enjoy the view in the throes of delirium.

Brian charged ahead, and I drug myself up the remaining switchbacks to outhouse saddle, where I would meltdown for the second time. I rounded the curve to the saddle and the South Rim looked miles away. More stairs and more switchbacks were in my periphery and I let my mind go down the damn rabbit hole. I lost my shit.

I had two goals for this run: Not to die or have to be helicoptered out of the canyon, and to finish before dark.

When I saw what was still in front of me, I figured I would finish 1 for 2. Brian assured me we would make it. I pouted to the first switchback, then put on my big girl pants, blew the snot out of each nostril and put one foot in front the other. He gave me an atta girl from the switchback above. I needed that.

We finished at 7:25 pm, just at dark. I didn’t need a headlamp for the last few switchbacks, the same ones I had navigated down in the dark 15.5 hours earlier. I said to Brian as we started down the canyon “This is going to be really hard on the way back up.”

And it was. But my body and mind did not fail me, and I’m so proud of that. The R2R2R is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done to this point, even counting all the years of working myself to bone carrying chainsaws and hiking through the brush on steep terrain for 20 hours a day. This was different, somehow.

But I’d do it all over again in a hearbeat. It was one of the best days ever, spent in a beautiful place, on my birthday with friends and this great guy who put up with meltdowns and freakouts. Who has every right to tease me a little about them now.

We rallied at the car with Joshua and Tommy, who had finished about an hour earlier and were coming to fetch us from the trailhead to save us from having to run the final mile on pavement to where we had parked. We had pizza and recounted the day’s events.

It was a perfect birthday–more miles ran than years alive so far. Here’s to ringing in 39 years with 45 miles!

Time warp.

I honestly don’t know what happened to November. Started off with a bang, in the form of a trail marathon.

Mountain Goat Marathon. Went better than I expected!

Mountain Goat Marathon. No moderation here. Blew myself out in the first 15 miles. Limped through the last 11.2.

Finished!

Finished!

Good finisher's gift!

Good finisher’s gift!

Then, I went to Taiwan for work. It was an amazing tour of the west coast of the island visiting all kinds of bike factories. I can’t wait to go back in March!

Classic Giant in Taipei, Taiwan.

Classic Giant in Taipei, Taiwan.

Scenes from a run around Taipei.

Scenes from a run around Taipei.

Sniffed out some singletrack.

Sniffed out some singletrack.

Steep ass stairs.

Steep ass stairs.

Zen gate.

Zen gate.

The 101, Taipei, Taiwan.

The 101, Taipei, Taiwan.

Steps disappear into a rock.

Steps disappear into a rock.

Getting a haircut at the temple, as you do.

Getting a haircut at the temple, as you do.

Language and food lessons from the locals, Taipei, Taiwan.

Language and food lessons from the locals, Taipei, Taiwan.

Attractions, Taipei.

Attractions, Taipei.

A Taipei shandy, with pineapple juice. Oh yes.

A Taipei shandy, with pineapple juice. Oh yes.

I returned home and we entertained for a couple of days, then I got sick as a dog with some sort of flu for nearly a week.

Veggie roasting spree.

Veggie roasting spree.

I'm in a box!

I’m in a box! Turbo entertaining us, as usual.

Soup for the sick.

Soup for the sick.

Mobile office while sick with the Asian bird flu.

Mobile office while sick with the Asian bird flu. Yes, there are still places in Orange County where your phone doesn’t work. Our house is one of them.

Sickie selfie.

Sickie selfie. #heyhotstuff

More soup for the sickie.

More soup for the sickie.

I healed up just in time to make pies and such for Thanksgiving, which we spent in the mountains.

Not your average cranberry sauce.

Not your average cranberry sauce.

Browned butter apple pie.

Pie love. Browned butter apple pie.

Pre-turkey trot in Running Springs.

Pre-turkey trot in Running Springs.

Trail art + dog.

Trail art + dog.

Ava and the dogs, waiting for turkey.

Ava and the dogs, waiting for turkey.

Someone had too much turkey.

Someone ate too much turkey.

Then Turbs and I took a trip to the beach.

One of my favorite places in SoCal!

One of my favorite places in SoCal!

Val and Turbo's day at the beach.

Val and Turbo’s day at the beach.

And then it was December. We trimmed some trees and shrubs, put the bi-products in a bucket and called it a Christmas tree.

Gettin' all Fa La La around here.

Gettin’ all Fa La La around here. #unconventional

Lots happening this month too, and with all the cooking and baking that’s sure to ensue, I’ll likely be posting over at my cooking blog a bunch. Stop by!

Happy Holidays!

Back to my roots.

Fall is my favorite. And so far, fall in SoCal has exceeded my expectations. We’ve had daytime temps in the 70s, down into the 40s at night, with the occasional cloudy and rainy day. I’m wearing sweaters and boots and cooking squash and drinking red wine.

SoCal sunsets. Can never get enough.

SoCal sunsets. Can never get enough.

A quick work trip to the lovely Pacific Northwest allowed me a healthy dose of the kind of fall I am more used to. Perfectly tacky trails framed by feathery firs and ferns. Wet leaves and dark grey days.

Duthie HIll. As my friend Ady put it "the beginning of the fun part".

Duthie HIll. As my friend Ady put it “the beginning of the fun part”.

For “work”, we pedaled around Seattle for three days visiting a baker’s dozen of bike shops.

Foggy skies and fall foliage.

Foggy skies and fall foliage.

We took a trip over to Bainbridge Island, as I have done many times before. It was my first by bike.

Foggy ferry views.

Foggy ferry views.

My bike's on a boat.

My bike’s on a boat.

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Restaurant garden + harbor, Bainbridge Island, WA.

Pegasus Coffee, one of my all time favorites.

Pegasus Coffee, one of my all time favorites.

Bike porn for all at Classic Cyclery's bike museum.

Bike porn for all at Classic Cyclery’s bike museum.

Being back in Seattle stirred up a lot of memories, particularly of my stepmom Doris. She was the one who got me hooked on Pegasus french roast a decade and a half ago. Many of the ferry trips I took were either with her and my Dad or to visit them on the peninsula in the tiny town of Indianola.

Many Seattle memories are sad for me, because I spent a lot of time there when Doris was sick. And that’s ok. It was nice to revisit and feel all those old feelings again, a subtle reminder that life is happening, all around us, NOW. And that it’s precious and short.

Row House Cafe, downtown Seattle. On the hunt for good coffee.

Row House Cafe, downtown Seattle. On the hunt for good coffee.

Most afternoons we were there, the fog would lift and we would get a glorious blast of sun. Somehow, the sun in the Pacific Northwest feels different than it does in SoCal. It feels oddly special, cherished. When it comes out of the clouds, you drop what  you’re doing to take a moment or more to notice it. To really notice it. Because it could disappear into the clouds again and not come out for weeks, replaced by the more reliable drizzle and fog.

This time of year, when the sun is low in the sky, the contrast between dark grey clouds and the full spectrum of fall colors, all illuminated by that magnificently golden fall light makes me positively giddy. I didn’t take nearly enough photos, but the imagery is burned into my mind, as vivid as it was in person.

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Me and our publisher Megan at Duthie.

The Colonnade under the I-5 in downtown Seattle=pretty good use of the under the overpass space.

The Colonnade mountain bike park under the I-5 in downtown Seattle=pretty good use of the under the overpass space.

This trip to the Pacific Northwest was jam-packed with activity, but I’m grateful for getting to go back to my roots, even if for just a short time.

The wild inside.

On the road again.

On the road again.

We packed up the Sportsmobile with bikes and dogs and headed to the desert last weekend. Our friends Jake and Katie were getting married in Page, Arizona, somewhere neither of us had ever seen.

Somewhere in the Utah desert, two bros hangin' out.

Somewhere in the Utah desert, two bros takin’ in the scenery.

I’ve been to most corners of every western state, thanks to several years of nomadic living. I’m always thrilled when I find new nooks and crannys to explore.

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The long shadows and lovely light of fall.

Finding beautiful, wild and quiet places to camp for the night is the best part of a road trip, in my mind. I love the process of hunting down dirt roads and driving until the perfect place to park presents itself.

Home on wheels.

Home on wheels.

Camping in an undeveloped campsite, I’ve learned recently, is called boondocking. I’ve used the word boondocks my entire life to describe where I grew up in Idaho.

1:  rough country filled with dense brush
2:  a rural area :sticks
Both definitions apply to the majority of Clearwater County in north central Idaho. With a land area of 2,461.40 square miles and a declining population of 8,761, it’s likely got more large animals per square mile than humans. Which is fine by me.
A good bit of Clearwater County is National Forest land; the rest is part of the Palouse Prairie. Steep canyons cut by wild rivers characterize much of Idaho, and Clearwater County has its fair share.

North Fork of the Clearwater, where I spent much of my childhood.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of the North Fork of the Clearwater River. It’s a sacred place, really, and I still search for wild places that match its beauty and magnificence.

The road to Paradise.

The road to Paradise. Photo credit Annie Lampman.

I haven’t found too many.

The mountains of the Clearwater National Forest, Idaho. Photo by Annie Lampman.

The mountains of the Clearwater National Forest, Idaho. Photo by Annie Lampman.

Maybe it’s all the memories tied to these places that make the Clearwater a magical place for me. Pristine beaches and cold, clear water framed by steep timbered hillsides. We camped on those beaches, Paradise, Lean Tree and others. We bodysurfed the river’s rapids, catching eddies back upstream to do it over and over again, never minding the icy water.

Since moving to SoCal, I regularly have dreams of big trees and water. I wake up thinking about the North Fork. I hear it’s thunderous roar as it rushes over rocks, so loud during runoff in the spring it will keep you awake.

My childhood friend Annie Lampman and I share many of these memories, and I think that we’ll always have a bond because of it. We lost touch for many years, but reconnected in 2009 via–you guessed–Facebook. In spite of having led very different lives (she: married for 20 years with three kids; me: I have a dog.), we discovered so many similarities, among them, a passion and knack for writing, and of course, a passionate and consuming love for wild places.

Annie and a very large cedar. I miss them both dearly.

Annie and a very large cedar. I miss them both dearly.

But we also have a common understanding of a place most people have never been and will likely never visit. It’s not a destination, and because it’s so far out in the middle of nowhere (literally, it seems), it probably will never be. And that’s fine by me.

Lately I’ve been thinking about all of these things, the interplay between work, play, life and the wild topping the list. For the first time in my life, I have to plan to get my wild places fixes on the weekends. My friend Stevie wrote this post as a letter to her daughter on her first birthday on their blog Sprinter Life last week. It has been haunting me. This line plays over and over in my mind:

If we’ve done right by you, the wild is something you know intimately—something within and something without—that has been a guiding force in your life for as long as you can remember.  In a Venn diagram, it would be where your biological drivers and the untrammeled earth overlap, indicating where you thrive.

I do know the wild intimately and I do thrive there. This much I’ve always known–perhaps more than anything else in this life. When I feel disconnected, I can usually trace the cause back to not enough time in the wild.

glacier

Glacier

I feel grateful to live in a place like Silverado, in the Santa Ana mountains, which is about as wild as it gets in Orange County, with a population more than three times that of the entire state of Idaho.

Silverado, CA. Could be a small town in Idaho.

Silverado, CA. Could be a small town in Idaho.

Luckily, I can access trails right from my house. It’s my saving grace.

Backyard trails.

Backyard trails.

I can attend weekly fire parties right in Silverado, which feel like mid-week camping trips.

Good times at the pit.

Good times at the pit.

Even luckier, we get to leave anytime we want and drive to the wild. Do I love sitting in traffic to get there? Of course not, but I’m learning to live with it. I starting to understand that it’s a balancing act, at least for now.

sierra

Southern Sierra.

I struggle with this view every day at work, but rejoice in the fact that there are pine trees to soften it.

Somewhere just off the 5.

Somewhere just off the 5.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that what I’ve learned the past few months is that I have to tap the wild inside to stay connected. And that being opportunistic is really important–and by that I mean, jumping at chances to go to the mountains (or the desert) even when the thought of getting into a car for five hours feels tortuous.

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Because it’s always worth it in the end.
Light show over the San Gabriel mountains of SoCal.

Light show over the San Gabriel mountains of SoCal.

I’ll never neglect the wild inside of me. It’s care and feeding are a necessity, no matter how many directions life pulls me in.

The best company a girl could ask for.

The best company a girl could ask for.

And I’m beyond grateful to have someone to share it with, who appreciates the wild as much as I do.

Reviving My Nomadic Kitchen

With the recent acquisition of the Sportsmobile, and the fact that I’ve been blurring the lines between cooking and adventure on this blog for a few months, I have decided to resuscitate an old blog of mine, My Nomadic Kitchen.

I started MNK with the hopes of using it as a jump off point for a book, and that’s still very much a possibility. At the time, I was at a point in life where I was ungrounded and a little lot lost. I had just gotten shot down by Giant, my hopes of being a demo driver squashed, and wasn’t sure what my next move was going to be. I ended up doing a lot of cooking and baking and writing about it to fill a void and distract myself.

And then I went off to Mexico with friends for six weeks, where I continued to post to MNK. I was inspired there to really start getting serious about freelance writing, and committing to the idea of writing a book. But I got a Facebook message from the Liv/ giant marketing manager at Giant, and within days of returning to Oregon in February, I was gainfully employed in the bike industry.

One would’ve thought that living on the road for a year and a half would’ve been the perfect way to keep MNK going. And in the beginning, it was my hope to document my food experiences while traveling the West. But the truth is, it was enough to get from point A to point B in one piece, following a tight and demanding schedule; finding time to write was an impossibility.

Which brings me to now. Four months ago, I moved into a house full time and started cooking regularly again, posting results here on She Shreds. I didn’t even think about posting recipes on MNK again, not until a new nomadic kitchen came into my life in the form of a Sportsmobile.

Newly inspired, I’ll continue to post about cooking and food, but will do so on MNK instead of here, as to not bore the people who want to keep up with adventures but might not give a rat’s a$$ about cooking, and to keep the spirit of MNK alive because I still believe it’s a pretty good idea.

Subscribe to MNK so you don’t miss any posts. I’m slowly moving the recipes from this site over to MNK, but they will stay up on this blog too. I’ll also link to MNK from the ‘recipes’ tab of this blog.

I hope you enjoy, and feel free to share! I love writing about cooking, and I hope that you find some inspiration in my words.