Saturday, February 27, 2010

Mt. Walker Has It All

Rain was predicted, but we went anyway. And typical
of the fickle Pacific Northwest weather, it was mostly sunny on our hike up Mt. Walker on Wednesday. For those of you who have hiked up Mt. Walker in the past, no this was not a dare, and yes we did bring a three year old and a 1 year old up to the summit with us. Not so much we, but Elisa. The truth is, kids always want their mom. Plus, Sam is NOT a baby and does NOT need to ride in a backpack thingy for those types of people! Jeez! It's hard to argue with a three year old capable of hiking a 2 mile trail that climbs 2,000 feet in switchback after switchback. Whew! Okay, I confess I picked him up a few times and even tried to put him in the backpack, but he really wanted to hike and hike he did.

We made it to the top in two hours. I wildly underestimated the time it would take us to get to the top with two small children in tow. I was thinking 40, 45 minutes to the top. Which was accurate for the downward journey, but wildly optimistic on the upward trek. Grades of 10 to 12 percent are encountered on this hike, but we weren't on a tight time schedule and we both had a good mindset, so all was well. Eli got to get out and stretch his legs a bit at the top, we all enjoyed a good snack, and Sam got to have mom carry him (and his brother) for most of the way down. His little legs were finally pooped after running down the first quarter mile and falling hard on a large rock in the trail. Elisa achieved supermom status in my book, yet again. Though her e-mail the next day saying, "I can........hardly walk.", did cheer me a bit. Ha!

The summit of Mount Walker has two scenic viewpoints that are joined by a 1/2 mile loop trail. When the gate is open you can drive to the south viewpoint on the 4 mile dirt road. The Mount Walker Road is right on Highway 101 just south of Quilcene. The trail head is just a short walk up the road on the right hand side. The trail is well maintained, well traveled, and must be glorious in May and June when all the rhododendrons are in bloom as they are abundant from top to bottom. I'm planning to go back in May with my own (not so) little hikers.

Elisa had two different styles of back packs (one for me and one for her, though mine remained mostly empty) and she switched the packs out on the way down. Apparently, the softer style baby pack is much more comfortable for mom and baby than the rigid frame style. I would have to agree, even though I wasn't actually carrying any real weight in either pack, the soft pack was barely noticeable on my back. I'm not sure of the brand......Elisa?

Anyhow, what a great adventure with the little rascals. We are both looking forward to hiking/running up with just a water bottle in hand sometime in the near future.

Elisa, Sam and Eli are ready to hike. (above left)The Hood Canal glistens below as we near the summit (above). We watched a cargo ship cruising down to Seattle in the newly named Salish Sea, but alas, Mt. Baker was obscured in clouds to the north (summit, left). Mt. Constance is shrouded in clouds to the west and close by from the north viewpoint (below).

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I'll see that 15K feet...

...and raise you one snowboarding preschooler.

Having never actually calculated vertical feet, I had to get assistance from the resident skier of our house (who is six years old). Apparently, it's a skier thing. But that wasn't all. I had to actually look up Mission Ridge's mountain stats to do the math. A great way to learn a bit more about my favorite local sliding spot.After replaying the day's events with Max, I actually giggled to myself. How extremely lucky I am to have kids that are as excited to spend a day on the mountain as I am. Sam, my three year old (I only say that because I am quickly running out of time to do so) throws a huge tantrum at the end of each day when we announce that 'this is our last run.'

My husband and I have a slight advantage, if we take into account BOTH days we rode/skied this weekend our total vertical feet is somewhere around 18,000 feet. It just takes us a little longer to get there, but we get it done! Did I mention we practically had the mountain to ourselves on Monday?! (Oh, yeah - we played hookie...)

We've been going to Mission Ridge in Wenatchee, WA since 2006. Currently, Mission is the ONLY ski/snowboard resort in Washington with childcare. As my family is back in the Midwest and Rob's family is on the East Coast, without childcare, well, I don't want to think about it. The daycare is run by Ms. Paula who does a fantastic job managing the facility. All three boys have spent countless hours in the caring environment so conveniently located at the base of the mountain.

Max recently concluded his first Mission Trainer consecutive week lesson package which consisted of a two-hour lesson each Saturday for six weeks and he had so much fun is now signed up for the Spring Sequel, a four week lesson package. This past weekend he was also given the opportunity to give Jr. Devo a trial run. Jr. Devo is an all mountain ski program designed for the younger skiers and snowboarders. We are pretty sure we know where Max will choose to be next year. He had an awesome time being challenged by some older, more experienced seven-year olds.

Did I mention the snow at Mission Ridge? Cascade concrete it is not. The cold temperatures and dry air of eastern Washington keeps the snow that lands at the resort less icy than it can be at other ski areas nearby. On second thought, having the mountain all to ourselves on Monday was pretty cool. The snow isn't that great. Go to Stevens Pass!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Cowboy Up!

If you can't have fresh powder sunshine will do. Cowboy Mountain beckoned us from the parking lot upon arrival at Stevens Pass on Saturday morning. I had caught the 6:25 a.m. Kingston ferry with my family as per usual for a ski day. We were all looking forward to warm weather and sunny skies on the slopes. I knew Elisa was going through similar motions on her way to Mission Ridge. Mission Ridge offers some first rate child care for mom's and dad's with little ones, making for a fun and relaxing day for the whole family. Me, I'm just trying to stay ahead of mine, as this year they are hot on my heels everytime I turn around. I'm loving it!

We managed around 15,000 vertical feet with a leisurely lunch outside the center lodge. The lines were short and the snow was fast. While we munched our sandwiches the good people of the NW Avalanche Center were busy selling "Cowboy Up!" t-shirts as a fundraiser for the Avalanche Rescue Dog program. The dogs were out and about and could be seen with their trainers all over the mountain. Some new pups are on the team this year too. The T-shirts sported a picture of all the dogs on a chair lift together.....hard to resist! Leah Weissman of The Whatcom Independent penned an interesting article regarding that subject entitled "Dogs of Winter" if you are interested in knowing more about that program.

The 360 degree view from the ferry on the way home really capped off our trip. Mt. Baker, Mt. Rainier, the Olympic Mountains, the Seattle skyline, and Whidbey Island beckoning toward the San Juans were all clearly visible. Cameras were clicking all over the place, including mine. We made several laps of the ferry, upstairs and down, just trying to take it all in before disembarking the vessel in Kingston. All in all, it was another great day in the Pacific Northwest.


Thursday, February 18, 2010


by Elisa

The sun! The sun! The sun is out! What can we do to spend as much time as we can out in the sun? I need to log a long run, but not that long. Ok, I know. Let’s run and then bike. That’ll give me the motivation to get through the 8 miles I need to put in for my long run this week.

Michelle and I met at the Pope Resources, Port Gamble Block trail-head at G-07 and ran a 12K course mapped for the Roots Rock Trail Running Series’ Spooky 12k adding in a little extension we were hoping would log to be about a mile. The course is gradually uphill for the first three miles, then flattens out and descends to the finish. It is nice to get all the work done at first and then coast to the finish.

I was wearing my HR monitor to try and use it as a tool in increasing my aerobic fitness level. Last week on our 49.5 mile bike ride, I wore a different one and my heart rate readings were all out of wack – ave. HR 209/max. HR 244. I was a bit concerned but was still walking and talking and did not feel faint, so I went back to my trusty Polar F5 and things began to make sense. As I suspected, my Nike triax c5 is not reading accurately but I still like it better as an all around watch to tell time. I am a beginner when it comes to understanding HR and fitness. After some brief reading from information on the internet, I am still no expert but hope to continue to build on the information I do know.

We came to the end of the run after only an hour and fifteen minutes, which means we under calculated the additional little cut-through. My trail running pace is right at a 10 min/mile. Total distance covered: 7.5 miles. I guess were going to have to ride a bit extra to make up.

Off on the bike. The map below is a graphic of the route. MapMyRide calculated the mileage at 20.5 miles, but the starting location is subjective. Upon ride completcion, the ole' cycling computer clocked the total distance at 21.5 miles.

Once we mounted our bikes at the trailhead, we discussed that we should have parked closer to town. That would have made up the lost mileage on the run and eliminated our need to travel (less than a 1/4 mile) down the dirt/gravel road. Next time. We headed out on Hwy 104 from Port Gamble to Gamblewood/NE 288th, turning left. The four mile stretch of Hwy 104 is the area on the ride with the most vehicle (and large logging truck) traffic. The shoulder is decent and is generally clear, with the occasional patch of debris (mud, rocks, sticks, car tire, etc.) to watch for.

Once on NE 288th we are out of the traffic and onto a neighborhood like thoroughfare. Rolling hills that tend to head uphill on the way out. As we approach Hansville Road there are a couple of doozy hills that take some effort. I am still getting used to the road bike maneuvering of the hills and can say for the uphill, I prefer the likes of my old mountain bike. Good thing the speed and control of the road bike on the downhill makes up for what it lacks in climb-ability. As I get better versed on the gearing of the new bike, I hope to move out of the granny gear for those killer hills.

The loop around Little Boston was great. There is this awesome descent and virtually no incline with the route we took. Maybe next time we should do the loop in reverse.... or maybe not. Kidding! WE LOVE HILLS! (and it would help make the granny gear shift easier.)

Here's a shot of Michelle heading out on Little Boston Road with the Olympics Mountains standing in the distance.

Once back on Hansville Road it is smooth sailing as we are able to descend the previously ascended mounds. Always fun to see if I can hit the 40 mph mark. Not today - max speed 39.8 mph. Average speed for the ride was 15.5 mph.

Great day and looking forward to the next adventure!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

More on How This Party Got Started

Recently, a friend sent me one of those e-mail quizzes where you have to change all of their answers to yours and then send it back. One of the questions was, "What was the best Christmas present you've ever received?" Without hesitation, I typed in "bicycle". My first two wheeler was actually my 6th birthday present. I nearly rode it into the creek behind our house that very afternoon, nearly, but not quite. I got my first ten speed for Christmas when I was ten. It was too big for me, but I loved it immediately and spent many happy days and years riding for fun, riding to get somewhere, and riding for a challenge. In college, I traded my finicky Ford Mustang in for a Specialized Rock Hopper without a twinge of regret. When I'm riding my bike, I am happy, and as the cliche goes, life is good. My husband bought me my current Trek road bike about 4 years ago and I immediately got busy training for my first triathlon, as well as many organized rides here in the Pacific Northwest.

Still, for the last seven years I thought of myself as a runner. I spent most of my free time thinking about and training for road and trail races of varying distances. But recently I have had to stretch that notion of myself more and more. I'd spent 2008 and 2009 selling a home, buying, moving and then remodeling our new home. Throughout all of that I managed to regularly throw my shoes on, crank up my mp3 player and head out my front door for a 4 to 8 mile run, often with sheet rock dust in my hair and paint on my hands. I always came home feeling better than when I left.

Soon, the kids were fully settled into their new schools, our remodel was winding down, ski season was upon us and I was looking forward to training for the 2009 North Olympic Discovery Marathon in June. I had bamboozled my older sister Susan into signing up for it as well. It would be her first marathon. I was going to train with a PR (personal record) in mind, as well as buoy my big sis along to a positive first marathon experience.

Not being new to marathon training I should have known better, but I ramped up my running to over 50 miles as week (I know my edge is 40 miles!), adding on a weekly spin class, some intense skiing on the weekends and a long session of yoga every Friday. Add to that the household chores, yard work, errands and hikes and adventures with my husband and kids, and well, you see where this is heading. One morning, after returning home from a spring break trip spent hiking at Cape Alava, the Hoh Rainforest and Lake Quinault with my husband and our three kids, I went out for a run and didn't make it past my mailbox. Sharp pains in my hip and pubic bone were forcing me to limp, and badly. I had 7 1/2 weeks to go to my marathon, it was time to make a new plan.

I don't give up too easily and found that while I couldn't run and riding the spin bike was painful, I could use the elliptical machine without pain and began to substitute my scheduled training runs with the elliptical workouts spliced together with deep water running at the pool. If I had a 15 or 16 mile long run on my schedule, I would work out hard on the elliptical for 60 to 75 minutes, then jump in the pool and run in the deep end for another 60 to 75 minutes. Yes, I was planning to keep that up until I could run again, and would try a test run on the treadmill at the club once a week. I also kept tabs on my sister's progress, offering regular encouragement, but felt like I was letting her down since I could not run with her at all.

Then, while signing up my kids up for spring swim lessons, I noticed an adult fitness swimming class that was starting up at the local pool. It occurred to me that since I couldn't run or bike, now was the perfect time to become a better swimmer. I had tried a couple of mini-sprint triathlons a few years back when I had first got my road bike and had wanted to do another, but the swim held me back. I just wasn't at ease swimming long distances in deep water. And so I added swimming to my marathon training.

The fitness swimming class turned out to be a wonderful thing for me for several reasons. Number one being that it helped keep me fit while allowing my body to heal enough that, despite not having run a whole mile outside of the deep end of the swimming pool for over seven weeks, I was able to run the whole marathon with my sister. We finished together and I have a great shot of us laughing across the finish line, she happy to have completed her first ever marathon, and me happy to be there with her. Number two, I immediately started meeting like-minded women who enjoyed not just fitness but training and competition on a recreational level. It was good to get out in my new community and start making some new friends, especially friends who had so much in common with myself. All of the ladies that showed up for the fitness class twice a week were training for one or more triathlons, including Elisa.

Elisa is one of those people who seems to know everyone, and if you hang around her much, pretty soon you feel like you are connected to the world in a whole new way. Elisa has an outgoing nature and an easy, bantering conversational style. She's fun. Also, she trains. Training is very different from working out. There is a purpose beyond just fitness or calorie expenditure. It involves pushing yourself and finding out how far and how fast you can push your body. I am passionate about fitness and the pursuit of excellence, and after getting my butt kicked by Elisa in the pool week after week (for Pete's sake, she had a child under the age of one at home), then hearing about her stellar swim and cycling legs (on her mountain bike!) at triathlons over the summer, I sensed a kindred spirit.

In the past I have always headed indoors to ride a stationary bike during the late fall, winter and early spring here in Western Washington, not knowing any other ladies willing to ride in cold, wet weather. So in that sense meeting Elisa has been like striking gold for me. Since summer we've explores lots of ground on our bikes and also on foot in the trails. After inviting her out on a trail run one afternoon last September and subsequently getting us (temporarily) lost she still agreed to run in the trails with me again; so I knew right then I had a new trail running buddy. Also, Elisa is right about helping to keep me injury free. Since she is new to the sport of running her easy pace is just what I need. After completing a half marathon in November, I pronounced myself completely healed and she said, "Don't be too hasty." And she was right, I had to dial it back a bit. Two steps forward, one step back, and so it goes.

Elisa is also an excellent snowboarder. I knew she love the mountain just as much as I did, but didn't know just how proficient she was until our families met up at Steven's Pass one day in January. We had all paused to regroup after a foggy, steep patch on the backside. We had everyone in the group accounted for minus Elisa and Sam, Elisa's preschool age son. We waited and Max (1st grade) was wondering if he'd been separated from his mom; starting to worry a bit that she had taken a different route. Then, through the fog, we spotted a snowboarder making their way down the steep slope. But where was the little figure that should be nearby? We didn't see Sam. As the boarder got closer, my husband Shawn looked at me and said in disbelief, "Is she carrying him?" I looked, and sure enough she had Sam perched on one hip as she boarded smoothly down through the fog. Shawn and I just looked at each other wide eyed. A woman boarding through the fog down a steep, icy slope with a preschool age child on her hip-and making it look easy- is not something you see too often. Yeah.

So that's us. We're the Northwest Adventure Chics and we will be sharing our adventures with all you interested souls out there. Hiking, skiing, boarding, riding, swimming, running, climbing, boating.....So many places begging to be explored, so little time. The Pacific Northwest is a great place to be if you want to enjoy the great outdoors and it is always more fun with a friend who's game to go. So to all you ladies (and guys!) out there who hunger for adventure and want to live life large, this blog is for you! Maybe we will inspire you to try something new that you never thought you would or could do, and if so, I am already glad that we've taken the time to share some of our adventures with you.


Monday, February 15, 2010

NW Adventure Chics.... Begins

By Elisa

Michelle and I met in June 2009 at the local swimming pool. We took a swim fitness class together in preparation for the upcoming triathlon season. Those first brief conversations alongside the wall of the pool led to a couple open water swims at the local swimming hole. It was at the pool where I had discovered that she and her family spent weekend after weekend in some random destination location for camping, biking, hiking, boating, running, etc. and would briefly recap the weekend’s events between swim drills and repeats. I knew right away that Michelle was a true adventure junky. She has climbed Mt. Rainier, twice. Rode the Seattle to Portland (STP) bike ride and ran many marathons and ½ marathons. It took only a few more months to fully understand how truly dedicated she was.

We were both training for sprint triathlons (1/2 mile swim, 13 mile bike, 5K run), but not the same ones. My intent was to complete my very first sprint. She and her husband, Shawn, had one local race they were planning on competing in together. I assumed not her first. At one point during the summer pool session she mentioned that she had not been doing much by means of biking or running. A concept that I could not understand at the time but have now learned that she knew what she was doing. Michelle is a marathon runner. A sprint triathlon’s 5K is a walk in the park for someone who prefers a 13.1 or 26.2 mile run. She did not need to train for running in the same way I needed to. I needed to train to work up to finishing the 3.1 miles. As for biking, if you can bike over 100 miles in a day as the STP requires – 13 short miles is nothing. Naturally Michelle, breezed through her race, beating her husband I may add, and silently became another real-life hero to me.

In mid-September a group of tri-training ladies were heading to the local open water lake. The plan was to swim first followed by a three-mile run around the lake. I asked Michelle if she would be interested in joining in. Of course she would be! She showed up as we were getting out of the lake, jumped in the water and swam some lengths while we all donned our running gear. As we were heading out of the park, she pulled on some shorts over her suit to run with me. What?! I am never going to be able to keep up with her and she is going to fall asleep running with me!

I am grateful that Michelle did run with me that day. We currently run and/or bike and/or swim together at least once a week. I have gone more places and completed more miles than I ever would have by myself. I like to think that I force her to slow down, to stay injury free. I also tend to believe that she forces me to push farther than I would alone. We are accountable to each other which may be the biggest motivator. The places we go are places we would not go alone. Well, we may - but it would not be as enjoyable.

When she told me that her husband was starting a blog that reviewed the trail running in our area, I could not let go of the idea. Michelle and I are not exclusive and we travel many miles in an area that is lush with beauty and adventure. We can not keep our travels under wraps. Maybe we can get some others to join us as well! We know that we are just two gals out of many that share determination for the unknown. We believe that everyone needs to set a goal and work towards it and experience the high of accomplishing a feat, no matter how small.