Vert Thursdays

Vert Thursdays

With summer only weeks away and the hope of some longer adventures in my heart, I can’t ignore the reality that is my fitness level. Long days on skis are fantastic for developing an aerobic base, but hiking muscles are a different beast. I’ve been running on the road every week, putting in around 20 miles of easy pavement miles so the engine is feeling pretty good. Which leaves the climbing legs, building strength on the quads, hammies and core to power me up the long mountain passes with weight on my back.

There is no better way to build that strength than to find vert – the steeper the better. The climbing will build leg strength and lung capacity, obviously, but the downhill is equally important, as it builds the ability to eccentrically load the quads and withstand the pounding of downhill miles. I’ve been focusing on hiking up as quickly as possible (not very quick some days, if I am being honest…) and then running back down to maximize the downhill effect.

I am lucky to have a wonderful adventure buddy (need coaching – she’ll get you to your goals!) who is training for an impossibly cool stage race in the Austrian Alps, where vert is just a fact of life. We’ve dedicated one day a week to go and find some serious vert, and after several weeks, I’m seeing a big improvement in my ability to climb and descend. We hope to cap off our climbing training with the Triple D Challenge – a one day summit of Mt Defiance, Dog Mountain and Devil’s Rest. We’ll see how that goes!

If you want to add some vert to your life and you’re training in the Portland area, here are the routes we’ve mapped out as possible destinations for climbing practice.  You can pare them down and do repeats or combine in other ways. If there is a big climb you know of that I’ve missed, let me know in the comments.

p.s. If you are interested in getting local maps from Komoot, let me know via email (runnerteri at gmail.com). I can email you a code for a free region of maps. I’m a big fan of their mapping and planning features. I’ve been a fan of Gaia GPS for a long time, but I might have a new favorite.

Calling Myself An Adventurer

Calling Myself An Adventurer

I remember when I first started running how reluctant I was to call myself a runner. “Runner” was just not my identity – I was a soccer player who used running to get in shape. My habits and activities and very sense of self were intimately connected with the game I had played since I was 8 years old. It was not until I began putting my running pursuits first that I began to consider myself a runner – a shift most noticeable when I changed my email address from soccer Teri to runner Teri. The long process of identifying as a runner followed my change in habits.

But what if I had wanted to become a runner and what all of that meant in a purposeful way? Or now that I would like to be an adventurer? How do you do that? Is it possible? Do you just stumble into it? Do you have to be born with those qualities?

The book I am reading right now, “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, is all about this question. He argues that to become the person we want to be, we have to START by identifying as that kind of person. Want to become an ultrarunner? Call yourself an ultrarunner, and then, as you make your daily choices and work on your habits, ask yourself, “What would an ultrarunner do here?” Maybe an ultrarunner would run a little farther or make a different food choice or work strength training into her day. Do those things. And as you strengthen that identity in yourself and choose those habits, you gradually become that person you wish to be.

“Every action you take is a vote for the person you wish to become.” – James Clear

I’ve been reluctant to call myself an adventurer. It feels a little conceited, and I feel like an imposter. But if Clear is right, and I have to admit, it makes a lot of sense, I need to call myself an adventurer if I want to become one. I need to ask myself, “What would an adventurer do today?” and make those choices that help me become that person. It’s a powerful idea, and it helps me understand more clearly why writing these posts and taking on these challenges are important for me to do. 

To assume a new identity, Clear says there are two things you need to do.

  1. Decide the type of person you want to be.
  2. Prove it to yourself with small wins.

It’s powerful stuff, really. So instead of being afraid to call myself the things I really want to be, I’m going to embrace those new identities. Skier. Adventurer. Backpacker. It’s the only way I will actually become those things!

The Anxiety of Going Solo

The Anxiety of Going Solo

I wrote most these words sitting in the sun of my campsite, the late afternoon light illuminating the moss hanging from the tree branches around me.

Getting to this moment was a battle. It has been quite some time since I ventured out by myself overnight, and this is only the third solo trip I’ve attempted, with the first one ending with me passed out on the trail. (It has taken some time to work through that fear.) My nerves are fire – the two young men I passed early on potential predators, the young couple looking at my car at the bathroom stop miles away from here are potential meth heads on a car prowl. The evidence of elk suggests that a mountain lion could frequent the area; an aggressive bull elk could also take me out. My logical mind knows these ideas to be the anxiety that I wrestle with all of the time, but the intrusive thoughts don’t end just because I recognize them. It’s a dull buzz that occasionally shoots adrenaline into my system. I know this feeling. I just have to let it be.

This, on a perfect, sunny, warm April day with no bad weather in sight. On a well maintained trail I know well. I knew heading out it would be a mental battle to go because of the hesitation that kept rising; I chose my conditions carefully to at least edge me towards success. This was a mental training that I needed to take on for the season to come; I could feel the tendrils of fear that were starting to plant themselves in my psyche. It was time to start pulling at some of those roots so that my goals wouldn’t get lost in the shuffle of life this summer.

My nerves have been frayed by the year long quarantine, by too much Trump and Q-Anon, by the uncertainty of living through a pandemic and becoming too comfortable in hermit like routines. The long process of emerging needs to start sometime, so I have deliberately chosen to push myself out of comfort and onto the trail to overnight by myself. Moving through these anxious thoughts. Finally, warm sun on my back, gentle breeze in my hair, the sound of the Lewis River a gentle beat – in this moment, I feel fully alive. Capable. Brave. Despite, or perhaps because of, the mental games I have had to play to get on the road, get on the trail, commit to staying out.

It’s so easy to surrender, to give in to the fear in the name of safety or responsibility or a hundred other viable reasons your mind will throw at you. I nearly turned the car around several times today. I seriously considered turning around at several points, and then I nearly gave in to the thought of not setting up the tent once I found a suitable spot – safe, if not a bit ridiculous in its level of hiddenness. Even as I sit here, fully reflective of how good it will feel to achieve this goal, my mind is wondering if my car is safe. My car! As if it were some living thing needing protection.

We meet ourselves when we venture out alone. When I have an actual adventure buddy with me, there is always a small part of me that is acting – being a little bit braver, more enthusiastic and kinder than I might be by myself. You don’t suggest turning around because there might be a killer loose in the woods like the one on a podcast you recently listened to (Do not listen to true crime podcasts about mysterious trail disappearances and murders! Unless you want to freak yourself out.) You smile and laugh and use the companionship to quiet the anxious thoughts. But alone, you are the only one you answer to. And it is here where you meet your fear, your laziness, your tendency to whine or be mean when conditions don’t work out exactly as you wish them to. It’s an opportunity to show up for yourself and the things you say you want. Are you kind and encouraging to yourself? Do you let yourself down and give in to the fear easily? Do you give yourself pep talks or tongue lashings? What kind of adventure buddy are you to yourself?

My solo adventures have been opportunities for me to become kinder and more gentle with myself, and I learn something new every time. Today I was more patient; I recognized my fear and gently encouraged myself to keep going (progress!) but I also said that it would alright if I decided to go back tonight. I’m slowly learning.


Big smile for morning coffee. I had done it. 

That evening, I listened to the Further. Faster. Podcast with Jenny Tough, a solo adventurer who is working on a project that involves crossing mountain ranges on the seven continents. She talked about being your own best adventure buddy, the kind of person that you would want to bring with you. It’s a great listen on this topic.

24 Hour Adventures: Lewis River Overnight

24 Hour Adventures: Lewis River Overnight

It’s easy to forget that having an adventure doesn’t have to mean leaving for weeks on end or traveling for hours to get to your destination. I love going on 24 hour adventures – where the total time, from departure to arrival back home, is just 24 hours. It’s short enough that I can be fairly spontaneous if the weather is good or the schedule suddenly allows for a quick getaway. I find that it helps to have some ideas already percolating of what I might do given that short window of time.

We’re so lucky here in the Pacific Northwest to have so many options for these kinds of micro adventures (H/T to Alistair Humphreys for coining the term). I hope to chronicle more of these short getaways throughout the year, and I would love to hear what others come up with, so please leave a comment if you have a good 24 hour adventure to suggest.

With such a great weather this past week, I decided that I should break out my gear for a solo backpack on one of my favorite trails – the Lewis River Trail. The eastern end is popular for the stunning Upper, Middle and Lower Falls, but the western end has its charm as well. It’s a fabulous example of a temperate rain forest, with huge old growth trees covered in mosses, a crystal clear river, and some beautiful waterfalls. Added bonus: it is lightly traveled so you are sure to find some solitude. It is popular in hunting season, however (there are elk sign everywhere), so pay attention to the hunting season and be sure to dress in bright clothing if you are out during that time of year (September to November, typically.)

 

The Curly Creek Falls Trailhead is about two hours from Portland. The roads are good all the way there. You can park at the bridge or at the actual trailhead, which does have a vault toilet. There are several developed campsites along the trail.

My left foot has been wonky lately, so I wasn’t planning on putting in big miles, though you certainly could on this trail. End to end, the trail is just under 15 miles long. After a few hours of hiking, I found a good camping spot and set up for the night. Being my first solo trip in nearly two years, and my first overnighter in over a year, I did find being out there a bit challenging mentally. (I’ll be writing more about this soon.) It took some time to settle in, but by dinner time, I was relaxed into it and enjoyed a quiet evening.

After an oatmeal breakfast in the morning and a speedy camp breakdown, I hiked a bit further down the trail before returning to my car. A quick adventure but so satisfying. We can gain so much with a quick trip into the woods.


The water is crystal clear and gorgeously blue green in the deep pools.


The old growth trees on this trail will blow your mind. This cedar is especially gorgeous with it’s huge knot.


I ran this trail a few years ago, and this particular spot has stayed with me. It was just as magical seeing it a second time.


If you would rather trail run than hike, the Lewis River Trail is really runnable.


Even the eastern end has some good falls. I won’t share a photo of Curly Creek Falls; it will be way more fun to discover its cool secret for yourself.

Explore the maps:

You’ll need a Northwest Forest Pass or an America the Beautiful pass to park.


New Adventure At An Old Favorite

New Adventure At An Old Favorite

I don’t know about you, but I often find myself caught in the “it has to be new” loop. A new place to explore, a new route to run, a new hobby to try. Our culture is obsessed with newness, and this spills over to our recreation. If we have learned anything in this pandemic, though, it is to appreciate the familiar. (I documented my backyard with photos for a year, watching the seasons change and the birds come and go. It was a really rewarding project.)

It was in this spirit, then, that I returned to the Trail of 10 Falls Loop at Silver Falls State Park. This trail was the site of one of my first big trail runs, twenty five years ago. I have hiked it in the rain and the sun, in long routes and in short. Still, there is always something new to see; some new way of looking that can bring delight. You might introduce someone new to the trail, seeing it through their eyes for the first time. You might go in the spirit of learning to identify waterfall types. You can look and listen for birds or wildflowers. I went with the new goal of learning how to better photograph with long exposure. Newness is a quality that happens in our heads, in how we choose to see. I think it is a skill that we can cultivate to help stave off boredom and discontent.

What familiar place can you revisit with a spirit of newness?

Mapping Routes

Mapping Routes

I never go into any adventure without some kind of map. To do so is too reckless for my risk profile; I like to be able to leave a map with my emergency contact, and I like to have a map on my phone for using a gps ping to make sure I’m heading in the right direction. I have taken a course on using a map and compass from REI, and I have plans to start learning the art of orienteering. To say that I love maps would be an understatement.

It can be daunting to decide which maps to use though. Books can be a good resource for getting an overview of a route but they should never be your final map option. They can be outdated and vague in their route descriptions. I like to use books to get ideas about where to go, but then I will dig into the local maps when doing my actual planning. Douglas Lorain is a go-to on big route ideas for the Pacific Northwest.

When I first started hiking locally, I purchased a lot of the National Geographic maps. While they make for getting a great overview of an area, I rarely use them now as they lack distances between points. Knowing how far you have to travel between trail intersections is very useful in knowing where you are.

In the Pacific Northwest, my favorite paper maps are the Green Trails maps. Well marked with distances, points of interest, land ownership and permit information, the Green Trails maps are up to date and should be a go to resource for adventure planning in the area. They are available at REI and online. I will often take a paper Green Trails map as a backup to online maps.

I swear by online mapping now. I use Gaia GPS for mapping my routes before I go. They have dozens of map layers that can help you get a feel for where you are going – USGS, Open Hiking, National Geographic – as well as snow depth, wildfire (current and historic), cell coverage, hunting zones and more. You can dig as deep as you want on a route. You can also save it to your phone and download your maps locally so that when you are on a trail and out of cell range, you can still pinpoint where you are and where the trail map is indicated. This has saved my bacon several times when I have not been sure of which way to go. You can map your routes and send them to your emergency contacts or hiking buddies. I highly recommend having Gaia on your phone any time you head out to help you navigate. There are other services like this that function similarly, like Avenza Maps or Caltopo. I just have not used them to be able to say how they work in the field with any authority. I do typically bring a charging cube with me for my phone to make sure that I don’t run out of battery in the field. This is also why I like to take a paper map on longer excursions. 

The newest service I have been playing around with is Komoot. This German based route planning tool looks really promising, as it will help you map the type of route you want (hiking vs mountain biking vs road cycling, etc) between two points. I am still working out how well the maps work here in the U.S., but if I do end up planning an Alps trip, this is the service I will likely use to plan my adventure.

The bottom line is that you should really carry some sort of map when you venture out into the wilderness. Even if you expect the route to be quite obvious, having a map on your phone gives you the peace of mind that if you get turned around, you will be able to figure out where you are and where you need to go to get back on track. Carrying a paper map for backup, especially on long outings, is another good idea for making sure you can figure out where you are. 

Do you have a map system you love that I haven’t mentioned? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

All Bodies on Bikes by Shimano

All Bodies on Bikes by Shimano

I love this film. It’s so real. Kailey Kornhauser and Marley Blonsky, the two cyclists featured in this film, are honest and open about what they have experienced as fat women in this world. From being left behind on group rides to struggling with disordered eating, their experiences are relatable. I found myself tearing up and laughing along and cheering for them through the whole film – to say nothing of how I really want to try bikepacking now.

My favorite quote from Kornhauser:

“I’m not out here to fix my body or make it look a certain way. My body might change but it might not. The primary reason we go is to have fun.”

 Amen to that.

Ride Their Route

You can find details on the Corvallis to Sea trail at the Corvallis 2 Sea website. There are both bike and hiking routes available as they work on building this multi-use trail.

I have mapped it on Komoot, with an overnight at the Big Elk Campground. Overnight parking is available at the Benton County Fairgrounds. (See instructions for avoiding a ticket here.)

On looking in the mirror and not liking what you see

On looking in the mirror and not liking what you see

I wanted to share this less than flattering story with you in case you are having struggles with body image and feeling capable of adventure, especially if you are in your menopause years. I feel like we don’t talk about these moments of doubt enough, and I would venture a guess that they are much more common than we might think. We live in a culture that is so tough on us and how we look, no matter what size or body fat percentage we might have.

One of the things no one tells you about perimenopause is how quickly your body composition can change. While I know that was subtly happening over the years, it felt like my menopause belly and cellulite appeared overnight. The stress of the pandemic and being at home all of the time have also contributed to my current body. The image I have been used to seeing reflected in the mirror looks new and unfamiliar – wrinkled and sporting gray hair and, dare I say it, soft in all of the places I used to notice muscles.

It’s not an easy pill to swallow when you’ve spent your life gauging your worth on how your body looks. “Your body (or your weight) is the least interesting thing about you” may be the newest mantra for a healthy mindset, but I grew up in the 80s, and my mantra was quite the opposite. “At least you have a good body” was my consolation for feeling ‘not pretty enough’. Whatever the heck ‘good body’ means.

How refreshing it is to learn now that those attitudes we were taught as kids were bullsh*t. I remember going to the pediatrician when I was 11 and being lectured for the fact that I had gained 12 pounds that year. Never mind that I was about to go into a huge growth spurt and would grow 5 inches in the next year, gaining only 7 pounds – because I was making sure to restrict my food after school. I could write pages and pages about all of the messed up ways diet culture and body ideals have affected me through the years. I make progress, and then I fall back. The reality is that those old attitudes and values still rattle around in me and can come in blazing when the time is right.

The night before we left to ski Crater Lake was one of those times. As I stared into the mirror with my new pack on, testing the fit and adjusting the straps to make sure they were fitting correctly, I had a moment. I looked at the woman reflected there, and I saw all of her flaws. It took my breath away, how loud and mean that voice was. “Look at those folds at your armpits! Ewww. And that belly – Jesus. Back off the ice cream. How are you going to be able to ski around Crater Lake with rolls like that? Your feet hurt because you have gained a lot of weight, you fatty.” The I who is that voice hates her/me, this ugly thing in the mirror, lazy and weak and disgusting.

In that moment, I wanted nothing more than to cancel the attempt, certain that my body could not be capable of such an audacious goal when it looked like this.

When I caught myself wondering if I should reconsider adding Skratch to my water because of the extra calories (just think of what you will burn!) I had to stop myself. I know this line of thinking. It is dark and it is unhelpful.

So I picked up my pen instead and wrote this:

What does it mean to let go of the self hate? What do we lose, and why does it feel so scary? If I learn to accept what I see, I fear I will get…I don’t know what. Not lazy. I love to take on challenges because of how they make me feel. I’m not going to stop doing that if I stop hating what I see in the mirror. What is it lurking at the heart of this dialogue? Is it just that these thoughts are so familiar that to lose them feels like losing part of myself?

 

 

What would I have to feel if I accept myself as I am? Anger. Anger at all of the time lost, anger at the way the world treats people, anger that we are put into these boxes and that the world asks these things of us. If our culture asks us to be sexy and beautiful and strong and young to matter, then we either spend all of our energy chasing those ideals or we don’t matter – either way, we stay small and ineffective, don’t we? Because we’re either too tired or too irrelevant to shake things up and claim our power. Which makes me angry because it is such a waste – of talent, of energy, of time. If I accept myself as I am, then I have to accept that I have spent much of my life chasing the wrong things.

 

 

 

There is an inferno inside of me. I am furious at the way my life has been – the ways I have been made small and have been asked to stand back. Everything in my experience has asked me to accept what is given, to strive for smallness, to chase an unattainable ideal. And I see now that I have a choice. I can keep on hating myself, hating what I see, judging my rolls and my wrinkles and my cellulite and my gray hair, focusing on all the things I can only affect by starving and cutting myself – keeping me small and quiet and busy – or I can erupt like a god damned volcano.

Later I wondered, what if that voice in your head is also the voice of your fear poking at those parts of you that it knows will keep you from trying big things in an attempt to keep you safe?

I was scared about skiing around the lake. My greatest fear was that I was too broken to do something that hard. I think part of what I felt looking in the mirror was also that fear coming to life in a familiar refrain.

The truth is, though – that body, that one with the rolls and the cellulite and the imperfections – it kicked ass out there in the snow. It worked hard for hours longer than it ever has – at any weight or in any shape – and it was strong. It was capable. I think we can learn so much when we have these dark moments and take the time to really look at why they happen so that we can be better prepared to answer them in the future.

I am not going to pretend that I won’t hear that voice again. I know I will. She’s been with me for a very long time. But I am not going to let her keep the Skratch out of my water or have her discourage me from the ice cream. I’m not going to let her convince me that I can’t do hard things because I don’t look like I used to. We can be strong, and we can eat all the snacks. And I think we will be better for it.

Circumnavigate Waldo Lake

Circumnavigate Waldo Lake

Land acknowledgement:

Ancestral land of the Molala and Kalapuya; now part of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde

At a Glance

22 miles, 1000 feet of elevation gain (approx)
FKT Information (none as of 4/2021)
Entry point: Shadow Bay Day Use area (there is a larger lot for overnight parking)
Entry also possible from North Waldo Trailhead (also known as the Jim Weaver trailhead)

Other Adventure options

Mellow: Hike from the North Waldo campground out to the headwaters of the Willamette River through the burn scar, enjoying lunch at the halfway point.

Balanced: Several camping spots available to stretch this trip out for backpacking. Don’t forget to pick up your self-issued wilderness pass before heading out.

Epic: Hike or ride the entire loop in a day and finish with a swim in the crystal clear waters of the lake.

Need to Know

Parking pass required: Northwest Forest Pass or America the Beautiful

While the Forest Service information on this area references the new Central Oregon Wilderness permit system, this area is not included in these restrictions for now.

Overnight camping permit required: Self issued wilderness permit (fill out at wilderness entry point)

Day permits: Self issued wilderness permit (fill out at wilderness entry point)

Water: Limited sources but water is available in the campgrounds and at the headwaters of the Willamette. Plan on carrying sufficient water and a water filter.

Nearest Campgrounds: North Waldo, Islet, Shadow Bay

Adventure Overview

Please: Always remember to follow the Leave No Trace principles when recreating on public land. Our actions not only impact the land; they influence others to better care for these lands when we lead by example. Please see additional route cautions at the bottom of this page.

This is one of those classic routes that suffer from a bad reputation because of the vicious mosquitoes that haunt the lake for most of the summer. Have no doubt – those blood thirsty suckers will eat you alive if you go too early, but once summer sets in, this is a classic adventure with so much to offer. Crystal blue waters, a mellow trail, and gorgeous forests are a perfect backdrop to a mountain bike ride, a long trail run or an overnight adventure. Dispersed camping is allowed around the lake, and you are sure to see a lot of other folks taking advantage of the excellent recreation this loop offers.

Terms of Use: As with each adventure guide published on adventure-minded.com, should you choose to use this route, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check current local weather, conditions, and land/road closures. While using, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety and navigational equipment, and of course, follow the #leavenotrace guidelines. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed. Adventure-minded.com, its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individual users hiking or following this route.

Deadlifting self belief: Skiing around Crater Lake

Deadlifting self belief: Skiing around Crater Lake

 Interested in skiing or snowshoeing around or at Crater Lake? I’ve collected a lot of information here. While we skied the loop in one long day, I highly recommend spreading the trip out over multiple days to get full enjoyment from the experience. We were very lucky to have really good conditions; had they been different, we may not have been able to pull off a one day trip.

Belief.

Lack of it is often my biggest obstacle to achieving anything I dream of doing. We are taught to doubt ourselves in so many ways – from not seeing people who look like us doing the things we want to do to outright messages that we are too female, too old, and too weak to matter. Doubt keeps us small and safe. But doubt sucks, so I decided to try chucking it out the window and try something big.

The goal: Ski 33+ miles around Crater Lake backcountry in one go.

The challenges: Route finding, incoming weather, the wind chill, avalanche danger, altitude (I’m a sea level baby and this route is all at 6600+), carrying 20 pounds of safety gear and fuel in my @deuter pack, 16+ hours of skiing, but mostly believing I could do it. That nearly stopped the adventure before it even started. I knew @ultraucoach was strong enough, but believing in myself? Way harder. I have been working on my belief muscles over the past year but this was a massive deadlift of self confidence. I had to trust that I really was capable of pulling off this complicated goal; if I was wrong, the consequences could be severe. That weight was really heavy.

Snow covered Wizard Island and Crater Lake at sunrise

Witnessing first light breaking over the edge of the rim felt crazy good.

I just might be able to pull this off.

The pre-dawn hours were cold. So cold. Bladder hoses froze in minutes. But the beauty of the morning more than made up for it.

Anxiety.

The next major milestone we had to tick off was skiing past the Watchman. Read anything about circumnavigating the rim, and you read of the avalanche danger it poses. No bypass. Falling rock. Big risk. My anxious mind was like YES! How many nightmare scenarios can I dream up with this excellent content? I had so many moments when the thought of skiing Watchman was nearly enough to convince me not to try.

To counter my anxious mind, so strong now with all of the training it has had over the last year, I made sure we had careful plans. We would start early just so we could ski through while it was still cold. We would follow the weather and avy reports all week to know the danger. We agreed to turn back without question if it did not feel safe to one of us.


The slope angle at Watchman is perfect for avalanche. Because temps had been cold all week and it was still early, we felt good about crossing. We did not linger though.

When the time came, we skied through and barely noticed we were crossing the danger zone. So yes, you do need to be careful and safe and know your weather conditions and forecasts. But I am reminded that I also need to know my anxiety so that it doesn’t convince me to not try something rad that I am capable of doing.

After skiing through this big obstacle, I immediately fell on my ass when I hit the icy crust of the far side. I should have been a lot more worried about breaking myself, I think. But the anxious mind loves the big mishap, doesn’t it?

 

Joy.

It was hard all day. My left foot has been trying to get plantar fasciitis all up in it for months now, and it was squawking all day. That stupid knife like pain you get in your shoulders from a heavy pack joined in early. The painfully slow pace bred worry about making it.

But the lake! And the mountains! And the fresh tracks of the solo skier in front of us, leading the way. The glint of ice, winter diamonds in the snow. The warmth of the sun on our shoulders. Delicious iced pumpkin cookies and twizzlers. A moment to sit into the edge of this magnificent lake that we had all to ourselves.


Dana forgot to grab her sunglasses, so she fashioned eye protection from her buff. We found this quite funny for some reason.

So much joy as we crossed snowdrifts and passed viewpoints and witnessed wide open vistas.

And then the climbing began. I never realized how long roads climb for until I started cross country skiing.

Doubt.

If I try to tell you only the lovely things, I am not telling you the whole story.

There were so many endless climbs. There was the warm spring snow, wet and sticking to my skis over and over, frustrating in its persistence.

And then there was the Dutton Cliffs Avalanche Bypass.

No one tells you what this bypass entails. All day you ski roads with long, gentle climbs and slow descents. We have passed more avalanche debris now – rocks, small slides, large snowballs. We meet a snowshoer who recommends we bypass – other skiers have turned back. We imagine we will add mileage, but this was expected.

We ski down a gorgeous road, loving letting the skis run. And then we turn off on a trail. And start up. Like straight up. It’s about a 700 foot climb in 3/4 of a mile. With switchback after switchback. Which I, after 13 hours on skis, can no longer navigate. I fall on every turn climbing up. I make up new swear words. I curse the trail maker. I try taking off my skis but I only sink into the deep snow to my thighs. I try one ski on and one ski off. I cry a little. I feel the panic coming and start to hyperventilate. I practice my square breathing. I figure @ultracoach will never adventure with me again. I think about staying on this trail forever. I remember that I really like sleeping in a soft bed though.

I keep going. Because I have to. And eventually – god, it felt like hours – I get off the wicked climb. And now it is getting dark and the weather is coming in. We keep skiing and skiing. The wind is blowing the snow into our faces, and I decide skiing to Antarctica is not for me. And then the tracks we have been following are just…gone.

We check the map. It doesn’t make sense. Are we just tired? Are we lost? The fear of having to stay out overnight is suddenly very real. We have the gear but we want to finish. This is the crux. This is where it could all go wrong.

We spot some tracks. I check my map; i am tired but I am pretty sure this is where we need to go. (Thank you @gaiagps, again.) Down we ski, racing the fading the light. Yes, this is where we are supposed to go.

The rest of the ski is uneventful, a long grind on rocket fuel snow as the day’s melt turned to ice. No one is there to cheer us in. We have not set an FKT or completed a novel route. We are not even the fastest circumnavigation of the day. But it still feels pretty darn good.

 

Beauty.

In the end, it is the beauty of the day that I will think about. The brilliant blue of Crater Lake. Mt Scott rising above the snow covered plain. Lenticular clouds hanging in the sky. The silent darkness as we glided through the trees, a soft snow falling, hoping not to disturb the angled slopes above.

We made it in just under 17 hours. Our watches died but we think we probably skied 35 miles in total. When we finished and were sitting in the car with the seat heaters on, I turned to @ultraucoach and said “Well, that was a terrible idea!” and she laughed and agreed wholeheartedly.

If I do it again, I will camp out for a night or two. I will take so many photos. I will enjoy the stars and savor the sunset.

Ultimately though, I am glad we went for it in a day. I needed to take on my anxiety and my self doubt. This turning 49 sh*t and getting gray hair, going through menopause and living through a pandemic has been a lot. It’s nice to remember that the badass that lives in us can still be called forth. Sometimes the only way to figure out how much we are capable of is to attempt more than we believe possible.

And I only had to fall 38 times to figure that out.

About The Author

About The Author

Teri Smith is starting her third act as a photographer, writer and adventure seeker in the Pacific Northwest. Learn more here.