03 August 2017

What are the "Dr. Seuss Flowers" in the mountains?

Did you know Steelhead Trout are simply Rainbow Trout that choose to head into saltwater for 3ish years, thus growing bigger and living longer than their non-anadromous counterparts and becoming Steelhead? Yup! Steelhead Trout and Rainbow Trout are, in fact, one in the same. I love things that aren't quite what they seem.

That's why I find myself in love with the Western Pasqueflower. Last week my colleague and friend Suzanne shared photos from a recent hike and told me all about this shape-shifter. I've seen it for years and never knew the history of this dynamic plant. With this year's wildflower 'Super Bloom', it's an awesome time to go see this Dr. Seuss Truffula Tree in real life.

Here's what you need to know:

Sometimes called the white pasqueflower, this Dr. Seuss looking plant is a member of the buttercup family and starts its life as a short-stemmed flower. The flowers are usually white or soft purple, with a yellow buttercup center.

A White Pasqueflower. Photo by Suzanne Gerber.

These plants flower briefly in the mid-spring to mid-summer, usually right after the snow has fully melted, exposing the ground to sun. You can find these beauties in western North America, from British Columbia to California, from Washington to Montana. They thrive on gravelly slopes and in moist meadows. 

As the flowers grow, the petals (5-7 of them on average, if you are a counting person) fall off. The buttercup grows hair and the plant shoots up into a seedhead, eventually standing 1-2 feet tall. The hair continues to grow, giving these plants the Dr. Seuss we all love.

Photo by Suzanne Gerber.

You can see the entire lifecycle of the pasqueflower on this youtube video. And you can see it in person RIGHT NOW! Head to the mountains, specifically at an elevation where the snow has recently melted. If you're in the Pacific Northwest, head to Mt. Rainier or Heliotrope Ridge on Mt. Baker to see these in person. Extra bonus points if you dress as a Lorax for your adventure.

Photo by Nikki Brown. She likes to call them "floofs".

27 July 2017

Turns All Year: Months 67-69

When it comes to chasing Turns All Year, some years are easier than others. Sometimes you go big, carving turns every weekend, and some years you begrudgingly trudge into the mountains to make your obligatory turns one day a month. This summer has been the latter.

Despite a pretty killer winter that's carried snow well into the summer, I've struggled to find my stoke this year. Maybe I got in too much rad skiing in April. Maybe it's because I spent May, June, and July moving and settling into a new place after one-too-many house projects. Or maybe it's been so. damn. hot in Seattle this summer that I've turned into a sloth.

I've still managed to keep up the streak alive, and here are some of my favorite photos from Months 67, 68, and 69.

Alpental Closing Day: May 7 (month 67)

Last May I skied 5 days at the Kokanee Hut nestled in the heart of the Kokanee Range in BC. This year I skied lifts for two and a half hours at Alpental. You win some, you get drunk some.

Wiggin out with Tony.

Skiing face!

Only the best beer for Alpental's closing day.

Glacier Peak: June 24-26 (Month 68)

After two failed attempts at Glacier Peak, Theresa and I finally stood on her beautiful summit. Someday I'll write a trip report, but for now here are my five favorite pictures.

Skiing to camp after our first, very long day. Tired legs. Photo by Theresa.

The morning takes us to zee summit.

Summit beer. Photo by Theresa.

Most of the skiing was shit. The top five turns though, they were delicious. Photo by Theresa.

We're almost home (aka to the car). Can you feel the excitement?

Baker Crater - Via the Squak: July 1 (Month 69)

Jordan has never been to the summit of my favorite mountain: Mt. Baker, via the Squak Glacier. Despite a less than ideal weather forecast (too hot) and us needing to be back at a reasonable hour for work the next day, we slept out in our car and started up the Squak at 5am on the first day of July. We made it as far as the crater rim before calling it a day because of the aforementioned reasons and my screaming legs, tired from Glacier Peak just 6-days prior. The views were stunning and the skiing was.... skiing.

Views for days. See Glacier Peak?
Up we go. Went for a different color tutu. Photo by Jordan.

We play in big places.

20 July 2017

Ladies: Get A Pee Funnel

With a pee funnel, you can go just about anywhere... like here. Photo by Freya Fennwood.

Peeing outside is an joy everyone should experience. From the first time you break the seal to becoming a master in doing number one in nature, emptying your tank in the outdoors is a experience all it's own. I strongly believe we should pee outside, and do it more often. You haven't really lived until you've sprinkled your tinkle in an outdoor 'bathroom' with a view.

As someone who has clicked on this blog and therefore, presumably, is not in possession of the natural ability to pee standing up, I'm here to attest that you need a pee funnel. It's a game changer.

I love my pee funnel for all of the obvious reasons: you can pee anywhere, anytime, without fear of your bum and other bits being exposed to the world. Not worrying about when and where I'm going to 'drain the dragon' means I drink more water and end up feeling better at the end of the day. I also avoid bug bites in those hard-to-reach places. I never have to subject any part of my body to gross trailhead toilets and I don't accidently pee all over my pants while squatting.

Because my pee funnel has brought me so much joy over the last three years, I feel compelled to help you embrace your female right to equality by peeing standing up!

How it works

Pee funnels are easy to use once you get the hang of it. Officially known as a "urinary director", the device is simply a funnel that slips over your bits to direct your waste away from your body.

You can use it without dropping trow; simply unzip, slip the funnel between your legs, release the dam, and enjoy. The liquid is propelled forward, away from you and your immediate surroundings. When you're done, slowly pull the funnel out while "scraping" it against to your body to "wipe", leaving you relatively clean and dry. In my experience, no toilet paper is necessary.

What to get

A quick Google search for "female pee funnel" will give you a lot of results, most of them disposable. I don't recommend disposable funnels for a number of reasons (mainly environmental), and from what I've heard you have two good options: the freshette and the go-girl (edited to add two other recommendations: the p-style and the shewee).

I have a freshette and have not been disappointed. It's made of hard plastic and comes with a separate funnel, unlike the go-girl which is one piece and seems to be made of a softer, rubbery material. According to the very outdated looking freshette website, it even comes with a reusable pouch, but to be honest I just toss this in a side-pocket of my pack and wash it after every trip. Urine is sterile after all.

Whichever brand you choose, the most important part is mastering the art of the stand-and-tinkle. 

Peeing is natural. Peeing standing up for the first time is not. Here area few helpful tips to get you started:

  • As a girl, the sensation of peeing standing up is a new one. I highly recommend testing the yellow waters with your new funnel in the shower 2-3 times to get used to it.
  • Your first time outside, be sure you have a good seal to avoid leakage.
  • You may get stage fright on occassion. That's okay. Give yourself a few minutes, but if it's not working put your funnel away and hold it until you're somewhere more private and can try again.
  • If you pee too fast you can overwhelm the funnel. This is rare, but be aware to control the stream to avoid overflow.
  • Remember to lean forward and drop the hips to put the funnel in the correct position. Don't try to be a hero and pee up a hill or into a wind. Even boys know better than that.
  • Because the "hose" portion of the funnel is wide (it doesn't pinch to a tight point like true male anatomy), it's hard to aim your stream in any particular direction. This means you won't be able to write your name in the snow like the boys without considerable effort. I know, I'm bummed too.
  • This last tip may feel like an overshare, but you are reading a blog about pee funnels so you should expect this: remember to hold out for the "last dribbles" to come out. Sometimes this takes a few seconds but it's well worth the wait. These little drops will come out whether you want them to or not, so better to wait and let them come out the funnel than rush and have it leak all over your undies.
When you're done, be sure to shake out your funnel (or I like to wipe it quickly with snow) and then place it back in it's "special sack" or wherever you choose to store it. And remember, always follow good principles of Leave No Trace when using the great outdoors as your restroom. The world is now your urinal, and with great power comes great responsibility.

Happy peeing!

13 July 2017

Registers & Canisters: A Grand Northwest Tradition

Photo by Brad Geyer

I heard the buzzing first. As we were placing our signatures back inside the summit canister, an unfamiliar noise tickled my eardrums. The hair on the back of my neck stood up, and I could see the hair on my partners’ heads rising to the sky as if to kiss an invisible balloon. I spun frantically searching for the source when it dawned on me: it was us. We were buzzing. Our ice axes and skis and the metal zipper pulls were vibrating in unison. I didn’t know what was happening, but I knew it was time to move, and fast.

We should have noticed the signs of the coming storm, but the trip to tag Little Devil Peak in the North Cascades in April 2012 had been, so far, a pleasant affair. We’d camped under clear skies and awoke to high clouds. As we neared the summit in mid-afternoon, we were suddenly engulfed in your classic Pacific Northwest weather - gusting wind, driving rain, and disorienting fog - all hiding the ominous clouds from view.

The buzzing, I would later learn, is caused by ambient static energy from an electrical storm. Crackling, hissing, humming, or buzzing noises are indicators of a possible lightning strike. In the best-case scenario, like ours, you get to lower ground as quickly as possible. In less friendly situations, you want to drop your metal gear and get as far away from it and as low to the ground as possible. Our situation was scary, and we were lucky.

I had never experienced this phenomenon before, but the trip was full of firsts for me. First time snow camping, first time planning a multi-day trip, and first time writing my name in a summit register.

And thus begins my article on summit registers and canisters, which I was super excited to write for The Mountaineers  summmer edition of Mountaineer magazine. Like all of the stories I've written, I really enjoyed researching and writing this story and learning more about history of adventuring in the PNW in the process. Read this original version of the story (fantastically designed by the talented Suzanne Gerber) in our digital version of the magazine here (on pages 34-37,and I'm also responsible for the Member Highlight and Mountain Love section), or check out the spread and text below:

Cairns and Canisters and Registers, Oh My!
Explorers have been leaving signs of their presence on our peaks since the dawn of adventuring. Methods for marking a summit conquest have evolved through the years. Early explorers built cairns or left flags marking their achievement. Today’s summiteers take photos to share on Instagram and check-in through geocaching websites.

The history of summit markers in our area is as storied as it is long. In researching this article, I learned a lot about summit registers and canisters and how they evolved over time. First, a point of clarification: the term “summit register” usually refers to the “document” containing records of who has reached the summit. This is the thing that you sign, ranging from loose pieces of scrap paper to formal printed and bound ledgers. The “summit container” is the item holding these documents.

When you reach a summit today, you’ll find a variety of summit markers. Many impromptu canisters still remain on our peaks. Less effective canisters include a whiskey bottle (the paper has expanded and won’t come out), spice jars (won’t fit a pencil), soup cans (don’t seal), metal cigar containers and band-aid boxes (prone to rust), and film vials (popular in the 90s; always wet).

The best canisters, as trial and error has proven, are tubes — specifically tubes which minimize moisture while offering drainage and ventilation while being big enough to access the register without destroying its contents. And these are what you will most commonly find on peaks - both in historical brass, and in modern plastic.

The History of Summit Canisters
It won’t surprise you to learn that some of the earliest efforts to create summit markers were by Mountaineers members. From our 1915 annual:

A committee of which Mr. Redick H. McKee was chairman was appointed to investigate and make recommendations with reference to some kind of weather-proof record box to be placed on the tops of mountains. The result of the committee’s efforts was the purchase of eighteen cast bronze cylinders, each 1.75 inches in diameter and 7 inches long (inside measurement), with a hinged flap top fastened down by a heavy brass wire ball, and having attached to it six feet of brass chain for anchoring to the rocks. Each cylinder has a number stamped on it, and in raised letters along one side is the word “Mountaineers”. Inside of each is a book on which those who climb the mountain may record their names and addresses and the date.

The committee commissioned 18 brass tubes in 1915, then a second run of 18 more in 1919. These tubes were numbered 1-36 and placed on the most popular peaks in Washington, including the ‘six majors’. One tube, #8, was placed on The Tooth and later appeared in a film called “Ascent of the Tooth”, featuring Jim Crooks and Fred Beckey. Both men, with Fred in the red hat, can be seen signing the register, and rappelling from the summit using the hair-raising dulfersitz method.

Walt Gunnason showing the dulfersitz rappel method in a photo taken on Pinnacle Peak, near Mt Rainier, circa 1950. Courtesy of The Mountaineers.
In the 1930s, Mountaineer and REI co-founder Lloyd Anderson fabricated more than 100 additional tubes. Unlike the originals cast in brass, Lloyd’s “second issue” were fabricated from off-the-shelf plumbing materials (like heavy gauge pipe and fittings), with “Mountaineers” and the canister number hand-stamped into the pipe. These tubes were then distributed by hearty Mountaineers. It’s interesting to note that Lloyd also fabricated “lightweight private issue” tubes - their eventual destination unknown.

The history of summit markers was left undocumented by the club until Mountaineer Don Goodman took up the cause in the 1980s. In December 1982, Doug pitched a “Proposal for the Establishment and Maintenance of Summit Registers in Washington State” to the Board, who approved $1950 to fabricate 200 tubes and print 300 register books. He’d been working on this project with a committee formed to work on the project for two years already. “There was a great debate on the material to use, the various properties of metals and plastics, preliminary designs, etc.,” said Don, recounting the ordeal.

“Casting in metal had one huge hurdle: we didn’t have a clue as to where the casting mold(s) were.”

Then, “one fateful meeting in a room at the 719 Pike Street clubhouse (now buried by the WA Convention Center), I was literally staring at the ceiling when I noticed a wood box on the top of a storage locker. Standing on a chair I got that box down and - low and behold! - it was the mold!”

The committee went to work. “The bronze castings were poured at a foundry on Harbor Island. My father, Jim Goodman, volunteered to do the machining of the tube and cap threads and the other finish work, which he accomplished with the generous support of Mountaineer John Glaser who owned a machine shop. By the summer of 1983, 200 tubes, each with a register, were ready for placement. Each tube was numbered by hand stamp and assigned to a specific climbing summit. The registers were printed on waterproof paper, an improvement over the vellum version from prior years.”

Interestingly, only about 20% of the tubes assigned to various peaks made it to their intended destination. A handful of those successful tubes were delivered by esteemed Mountaineer Fay Pullen.

Little Devil register with Fay Pullen's signature. Photo by Kevin Koski.

Everything’s Coming Up Fay
I didn’t know it at the time, but when I added my name to the register on Little Devil Peak, I was weaving my history to that of PNW legend Fay Pullen. The first woman and fourth person to complete the 100 tallest peaks in Washington by the 400-foot prominence rule, Fay has stood atop the summit of Washington’s most obscure peaks. She was also the 25th person to complete the Bulger 100 List and can remember signing a handful of original registers from the early 1900s.

“When I first started climbing almost all of the peaks in the Top 100 had a register on them,” said Fay. “As I set about climbing more and more obscure peaks and I’d be dismayed when I wouldn’t find a register on them. At that time you could get a brass canister and a register from The Mountaineers if you wanted to place it. But those brass canisters are heavy, and I was doing multiple peaks at a time - it was too much weight to carry.”

Fay is passionate about the history contained in the registers, and, wanting to preserve this rich legacy, she started creating and placing her own. A plain piece of PVC pipe, a cap glued to one end, and a friction cap on the other end, they’re easy to make, lightweight to carry, and serve as homing beacons from the past. “It’s fun to see who’s been up there and get a sense for how often a peak has been climbed. Plus, you know you’re really on the summit when you find a register!”

She has no idea - exactly - how many registers she’s placed, but she’s guessing it’s well over 200. “I think registers are a valuable part of the mountains,” says Fay, who has been climbing since the 1960s and published trip reports in magazines long before the internet existed. “They’re an important part of our shared history and we should all take part in caring for and preserving this history.”

In the early 90s, a few rogue rangers chose to remove and destroy registers. Fay’s not sure why it happened and she’s glad it’s more or less stopped. The result of these actions, and of animals and the elements taking their toll, is that we don’t exactly know how many Mountaineers or Fay registers remain, but they’re out there. “I remember finding an old register on a no-prominence peak in the Cascades. It had been placed by one of the early land surveyors in the 1920s and was full of fascinating, detailed history of the area. Who knew this obscure bump had such an interesting story?”

Each time we venture into the outdoors, we share new and different experiences. If we’re lucky, we learn something new about ourselves, our landscapes, and those who came before us. I’m grateful to Fay and all the mountaineers for preserving this rich history of exploration. Thanks to them, you can add your own name into the fabric of our shared history. All you have to do is explore the freedom of the hills on an obscure peak in our PNW and revel in the stories and names of those who came before.

Kevin Koski (hand), Ben Cote, Ryan Thurston, and Kristina at the top of Little Devil. Photo by Kevin Koski.

 Special thanks to Don Goodman and Fay Pullen for contributing to this piece, and to Mountaineers history buffs Lowell Skoog, Milda Tautvydas, Mike Torok, and Monty VanderBilt with their help researching this article. For more information on Fay, check out our December 2012 Mountaineer magazine online in our archives at mountaineers.org. We’ve also shared the “Ascent of the Tooth” video, where you can see Fred Beckey’s spicy 1940s rappel, on our blog.

If you find a full register on your climbs, you can turn it in to The Mountaineers Seattle Program Center and our history committee will make sure it is archived at the UW Special Collections library.

06 July 2017

I Wrote A Thing For A Beer Can In A Store Near You

A few months ago my boss called me into his office and said, "I want The Mountaineers to do a beer. Would you like to be involved in the project?" The answer to a question like that is always yes.

He went on a few first dates with local breweries to meet the perfect match. Finding a partner who shares your intrinsic values AND who has the time, resources, and interest to do a partnership beer is hard.

Then he met the one: Ghostfish Brewing.

Located in south Seattle, Ghostfish is the first and only dedicated gluten-free craft brewery in Washington state. We loved their vibe, ethos, and genuine enthusiasm for The Mountaineers. Plus their beers taste damn good. It was a no-brainer.

The process to create a beer was more complicated and interesting than I anticipated, starting with the name. We had 60+ possible name choices when we started, from iconic outdoor landmarks to technical climbing and paddling terms. One by one we crossed them off the list for being too obscure or for sounding weird when you say them out loud or, most commonly, for already being taken, either as a brewery name (well played Crux Fermentation Project in Bend) or by an existing beer (who knew QBrew already made QuickDraw Pale Ale?).

In the end, we had 6 names we liked and it was time to discuss imagery. How could we convey the name in a dynamic, captivating way on a 4.5"x8" beer sleeve? It needed to be catchy and fun and represent both The Mountaineers and Ghostfish. Something that "transcended limits". We quickly zeroed in on one: Kick Step.

The rest was straight-forward. Ghostfish started brewing the IPA using their signature low-impact grains and their incredibly talented designer went to work designing a can based on our brand colors and the photos we provided. Turns out, all my time spent outside WAS worthwhile, and I like to think you can see a little bit of Theresa in the climber on the beer!

With a few tweaks we had a final design we loved. It was time to write the "romance copy". For the uninitiated, "romance copy" refers to the flowery, love filled-language brands write to give you all the feels. The first draft was my job, then I sent it to Ghostfish's head brewer for review. He made it pop, adding phrases like "liquid representation of our shared values". I made a few more tweaks and it was ready to print.

That's how words I wrote ended up on a beer can coming now to a store near you

Ghostfish Brewing and The Mountaineers were both founded on the idea of transcending limits. We thrive on a spirit of wonder, a sense of adventure, and a commitment to the wild places of the Pacific Northwest. We’re powered by passion – strong, vibrant communities support our missions. Whether it’s delivering distinctive craft beer made from high-quality, low-impact grains, or offering unique, life-changing experiences in the outdoors, we believe life is meant to be lived and lived well – no matter who you are. We're excited to bring you Kick Step IPA: a liquid representation of our shared values, with proceeds benefiting The Mountaineers. Explore – Learn – Conserve.

We're having a big launch party on July 12 and I would be so happy to see all of your lovely faces there! You can register for free here. And you can learn more about the partnership on The Mountaineers blog.

29 June 2017

Why ski in a tutu?

In 1987, a woman named Kathy Phibbs took four girlfriends to the top of Mt. St. Helens wearing a red chiffon dress. The mountain had been closed to climbing for 7 years after the 1980 eruption, and she felt the occasion called for special attire. At the top, she happened to run into a Seattle Times reporter, who snapped a picture of Kathy in the red dress along with the four ladies, who were dressed as can-can dancers. A week later it ran on the front page.

A tradition was born.

Now, every year on Mother's Day, hundreds of climbers and skiers visit St. Helens's summit wearing all sorts of festive regalia, mainly dresses and tutus. It was on Mother's Day 2012 when I first experienced this grandeur. My friend Johnny gets credit for officially launching #TeamTutu, as does my birthday-buddy Ben who took me to St. Helens that very first year. But it wasn't until after a 2013 trip to St. Helens, and a successful climb of Rainier that my personal tradition of the pink tutu was born.

The real reason I wear a tutu in the backcountry is because it invites conversation. It's the ultimate outdoor icebreaker. You cannot hike around in a tutu without getting noticed, and I would estimate I have 78% more conversations on the trail with a tutu than without. Just last month I hiked Angel's Landing in Zion with my grandfather. We were celebrating his 80th birthday. He wore a purple tutu that he picked out himself to mark the occasion. Everyone, and I mean ev-ery-one talked to us to see what was going on. When we got to the top they sang him happy birthday. The experience gave me chills. Lots of memories were made that day.

Aside from being fun, silly, and a conversation starter, the tutu has practical uses too. It doesn't exactly fulfill all of the 10 Essentials, but it comes pretty darn close.

Here are 10 practical uses for your tutu:

  1. Pillow. Who needs a pillow when you have layers and layers of tulle for comfortable head resting?
  2. Seat. Sap on the log? Moss on the rock? Slap this puppy down to keep your bottom clean and dry.
  3. Butt warmer. More layers = more warmth. 
  4. Towel. Spill something? Tutu's got you covered. Mop it up then lay the tutu in the sun to dry in minutes.
  5. Gauze. The tutu might not be the cleanest (see #1), but in a pinch can absolutely be used to dress or pad your wounds. 
  6. Sun protection. It happens: it's hot out, you're wearing shorts, and you manage to sunburn your bum from the reflection off the snow. That malady is much less likely if your bottom is covered in a tutu!
  7. Wind sock. Don't know where the wind is coming from? No problem. Whip that thing off and hold it high in the sky and watch it blow to your heart's delight.
  8. Fire starter. Not recommended for children under 12.
  9. Trail marker. Lost in the woods? Rip off a few pieces, tie them to a tree, and safely find your way back home.
  10. Locater beacon. I am not the type of person who should be left unsupervised. With the tutu - I'm not! Any one of my people, at any time, can ask, "have you seen the girl in the pink tutu?" Chances are there's been a recent spotting, and I'll soon be located.
There you have it! 10 more reason to wear a tutu. Now you just have to pick your color and get outside!  

22 June 2017

What Happens When You Don't Drink Coffee

I'm a 33 year old woman, have lived in Seattle for the last 15 years, and I don't drink coffee.

Go ahead and let that sink in. I know you need a minute.

Coffee, to me, is this mysterious elixir that has enchanted everyone else, yet I possess a strange immunity to its gravitational pull. My mom needs coffee to function in the morning and my dad carries the same cup of coffee around with him all day and nukes it for 30 seconds every hour or so. I certainly didn't come by this preference honestly.

The truth is I've never liked coffee. I don't think it smells good, I certainly don't think it tastes good, and I never enjoyed the hassle of having to deal with it as the very first thing you do every. single. day. I like that I wake up in the morning annoyingly perky without it.

I'm also cheap - my other more selfish reason for not joining the coffee cult. When I was in college I didn't like beer (did anyone?). Given to social pressures, I felt it was important to at least try to like beer. My tastebuds were persuaded over $3 pitchers of High-Life my junior year, and BOOM! I was a beer drinker. Now I love beer. I think it's tasty and delicious and the elixir of life, and I imagine the way I feel about drinking one at the end of a long day is similar to how you feel about your morning cup of jo.

The downside of liking beer, of course, is that I have to pay for it. Beer is expensive and so are my hobbies, so I continue to choose not to teach myself how to like coffee even though I can clearly see how much joy it brings so many people.

When you tell people you don't like coffee, one of three things happen: 

  1. You receive a look of horror that morphs into a look of repulsion before an insult is hurled at you related to the state of your mental health. 
  2. You are asked a series of questions: Why? How is that even possible? But how do you wake up in the morning? Does your life even have any joy?
  3. You are offered a cup of tea instead.
I don't like tea.

Beer and water. Wine. Occasionally a gin and tonic with lime. I'm a pretty simple girl. Unless I win the lottery, then I'll have an Oprah moment and it'll be COFFEE FOR EEEEV-RRRRYYY-OOOONE!

What's your shocking secret?

15 June 2017

Be Your Own Spirit Animal

Sarah McCroy embodies being your own spirit animal.

I was in Target when I first saw them. Unassuming. Hanging discreetly on a clearance rack. Discounted not once, but twice, and waiting for just-the-right-someone to take them home. 

I knew instinctively I was that someone

Without even trying them on, I walked to the front counter, paid $7.99 + tax, and was on my way.

I don't know what possessed me, but my life took an unexpected turn that day and I've never looked back. I transformed from a boring, legging-less nobody into the proud owner of lion-elephant-cheetah leggings. I had no worldly idea when I would ever wear them, but I knew they were awesome and my back-side was feeling neglected, so I bought solely because I felt strongly that, if I didn't buy them, I would regret not doing so at a future date. And the only thing worse than buyer's remorse, is NOT-buyer's remorse.

Conveniently, I had recently started wearing a tutu when adventuring and the colors complimented each other perfectly, so I packed my yellowish lion leggings next to my pink tutu as an alternative to your standard long underwear for an impending trip to Norway. With 7-ski days planned north of the Arctic Circle, I knew I'd put these Target Discounts to the test.

I was humbled by their performance. They kept my legs warm, dry, and chafe-free! And bonus feature: due to the seaming of the pants, every time I took a step it looked like the lion was winking at you (if 'you' are the person skinning behind me and 'you' have an unabashed desire to stare at my jiggling inner-thighs).

Jiggle away. Photo by Carley Ewert.

Thinking perhaps the performance was some Norwegian Voo-Doo, I brought the lion leggings back to the states for another test drive, this time on Mt. St. Helens for Mother's Day. Once again they performed like a dream. I had unlocked a magical backcountry combo: leggings + tutu. My inner wildchild was unleashed.

From then on I wore leggings with a tutu whenever weather allowed. I could claim it was for performance or some other reason, but in all reality, those leggings made me smile. Four years later they still do. I put them on and feel overcome with a sense of silliness and it helps me remember to not take life so damn seriously all the time. 

Recently someone called me their 'spirit animal' on Instagram, which I take as the highest of compliments. Their comment got me thinking: what if we all became our own spirit animals? Why do we care so much what people think or what people will say we we choose to do/wear/participate in something outlandish? Why does it matter? What is the point of doing whatever it is we are doing if not to amuse ourselves?

The Lion Leggings. In Norway.

In the last four years, I've amassed an impressive legging collection (Mario Car, Skeletor, and the Sphinx to name a few...) and have unabashedly worn the lion leggings close to 50 times. That brings my cost-per-use to less than $0.30 per wear. And isn't that what we all want? Stuff that makes us happy AND makes us feel like we've won the shopping lottery?

That's why I'm telling you, right now, to go out. Find something that brings you joy - something that makes you feel like your own spirit animal. Breathe in and blow your cares away knowing that you get to define your own happiness. Smile. 

Rest easy knowing that sometimes life is only about a lion winking at you from your inner thigh. 

08 June 2017

What’s the worst that could happen?

Imagine that yesterday you loaded the car with bright eyes and high expectations for a 10-day road trip. You smiled while locking your front door and hopped behind the wheel to start on your journey of exploration in the American southwest.

This morning, you woke up in the back of your truck next to a roaring river in a national forest in Oregon. It's awesome. Looking at a map, you decide to drive to the top of Crater Lake to explore what’s open of the Crater Rim road on your bike.

You’ve just finished unloading your bike when it happens. Even though you can’t see it, you know instantly how your life has taken a terrible, terrible turn.

A bug has flown into your ear.

Calmly, you call your companion to have a look.

“Hey, Kristina. I think there’s a bug in my ear. Will you come take a look?”

She pulls your head down, tugs on your earlobe, looks intently inside, and declares, “No, I don’t see a bug in there. I think you’re good.”

“Okay, I guess it flew out.”

No sooner have the words left your lips when you realize you are wrong. Very, very wrong. The bug is still in there and is, in fact, burrowing further into your ear. Dark thoughts go shooting through your mind. What if the bug never comes out? What if he crawls to your eardrum and starts munching away? What if he is a pregnant SHE and decides your ear is the perfect space to lay, oh say, 2,000 eggs?

“Oh God. It’s definitely still in there. I can feel it crawling around!!!”

You turn your head to the side, betting that the bug is more likely to crawl up than down. It’s moving again, but you can’t tell in what direction.

“Hey! Do you see it? Look at my ear and see if you can see it coming out!”

Your companion casually glances your way and doesn’t see anything. At your urging she looks again (she might not have been taking you as seriously as she should), and exclaims that YES! She does see it on the side of your face now. It has escaped! YOU ARE FREE! Having controlled your urges to squish it inside your ear, you now paw manically at your head and run to get as far away from the perpetrator as quickly as possible.

Congratulations. Your calm under pressure means you get to go on your bike ride. You did not murder a bug in your ear and as a result you do not have to go to the hospital. Happy Trails!

01 June 2017

5 Things I Learned When I Moved Twice in 12-Months

The good news is Jordan bought a cute house in this crazy Seattle market. The bad news is we had to move, and moving is the worst. Moving twice in 12-month is even worst-er.

We booked movers and packed boxes and pre-painted with the best of intentions, but nothing ever goes as planned and our noon-4pm move turned into a 3pm-8pm affair fraught with thunderstorms and houseplant homicides. To protect you from the same fate, I’m sharing the things I learned about myself (and can assume are true about yourself) in this moving process:

  1. You will turn you into a crazy person. Have you ever seen that diagram proving how humans don’t like change, and how change of a big enough magnitude will push us into irrational behavior? A move will do that to you. Instead of planning for the best-case scenario, go ahead and anticipate the worst case scenario now and then multiply it by 3. That will better prepare you for what’s to come, and hopefully keep you sane by comparing your nightmare to the nearly-as-bad reality of what’s happening to you. 

  2. You will have too much stuff. No matter how much you purge, you’ll end up with boxes full of crap you will never use or look at again. The amount of stuff I’ve tossed since moving has been astounding, and I’m only about 1/3 unpacked. Try to not buy so much stuff and you won’t have to deal with this problem.

  3. You will fit into one of two categories of packers: optimizer or dumper. The optimizer seeks to fill the box to its highest possible capacity, filling each nook and cranny with an item even if said item doesn’t match the other things in the box. The dumper will literally dump drawers into a box with nary a care about how the space is filled; maybe just one bowl fits in the box, or maybe an entire junk drawer. It doesn’t matter, they just want the box to have something in it and have something in it now. You may be packing with someone who is a different category of packer than you. I wish you luck. 

  4. You think you can remember what’s in that box, but you won’t. Buy a sharpie and label it. You’ll have dozens to hundreds of boxes that will confuse the hell out of you the minute after you seal it. Pro tip: label it based off of where you want it to go in the new house, not where it came from in the old house. 

  5. When it comes time to move, hire movers, pack big boxes, and be sure to book the first appointment of the day. I’ve used movers three times now and this was by far my worst experience. We booked the second move of the crew of the day – big mistake. They were wiped by the time they got to us, then we had packed too many small boxes so it took a long, long time. Get BIG boxes and pack them well, even if all you do is put smaller boxes in them. Break down your furniture in advance and try to get as much stuff in one, easily accessible place as possible. Then, help carry to shorten the time and lower your bill at the end of the day. 

I wish you the best of luck on your next move. May your boxes be full and your stress level be low. At the end of the day it’s really important to remember you will live in a new place and enjoy all of the exciting opportuntieies that come with that: like yard work and maintaining your 70-year old furnace. Ahh, the joys of home ownership. Happy moving! Anyone need some boxes?

25 May 2017

Owning My White Privilege to Support a More Diverse Outdoors, Part 2

Earlier this week, someone commented on a link I posted to Facebook a few months ago, kicking off a flurry of new activity. The original post was a blog I wrote in January about White Privilege in the Outdoors, in which I talked about owning my white privilege to create a more welcoming outdoor community. Most of the comments were supportive. A few of them were not. One, particularly, got to the heart of it the debate:
"I'm a white male...and I'm going to say it's b.s. to assume I had any advantage over anyone to get to where I am....the only advantage I had was being born to good parents but that was luck."
I shook my head as I read this, and challenged this person to re-read my article, re-read his comment, and try to see how the very thing he was saying in defense of privilege was in fact a confirmation of said privilege.

Let me acknowledge here that I am in no way an expert on 'privilege' - I hardly know what I'm talking about. Anything I say is from my own experience and not a place of authority (writing a blog on the internet does not make you an expert). I am absolutely worried about saying the wrong thing. But I do know what it feels like to be marginalized, and I feel strongly that not saying something is worse than putting my foot in my mouth and learning something new in the process. We all have to start somewhere.

Which brings me to the comment, above. It got me thinking more about the word 'privilege' and the connotations associated with it. To me, it's really easy to understand that privilege = luck. Yet 'privilege' has the connotation of something that was asked for or something that was earned. 'Privilege' carries with it the weight of society's expectations about who you are, where you came from, and what you're going to do based solely on the way you look. It's a higher profile word - a fancy word you'll find deep in the pages of a thesaurus.

Whereas 'luck', well that's just plain dumb luck. Anyone can be lucky, and you couldn't know it from looking at them. You don't need to feel guilty about luck.

Whether you call it luck or privilege or fate or God's will, the point is we all need to recognize the existence of these invisible "booster seats" and work to counteract the imbalance.

I could argue that I have worked incredibly hard and that's why I'm sitting here right now writing this. I could point to the fact that I put myself through school working nearly full-time my entire 4-years of school. I could say that I landed my dream job because I'm smart and talented and hardworking and brilliant. But it would ignore the obvious: I am privileged to be here. 

The fact that I was even in a position to apply to the University of Washington was due, in part, to being born into a white, middle class family. I grew up with food and clothing and a place to call home. I went to decent schools. Both of my parents were involved in my life, even after their divorce. We weren't rich and famous, but the reality is I was set up by 'luck' - and by the greater socialization of our culture - to succeed. I didn't ask for this privilege, but I'd be naive to think it wasn't real and that I don't still benefit from it every day. 

This makes it my job to use my position for good. To give a voice to others who have been marginalized. It doesn't mean I need to feel guilty, only that I should have an awareness of the power differential and use that position to help those who, circumstantially, don't have the same inherent privileges. I hope you'll join me.

18 May 2017

Turns All Year: Month 66

April is an amazing month for skiing in the PNW - it's honestly one of the best months of the year. Despite the time of year, snow continues to fall and you can find everything from powder to spring corn. Most people think ski season is over, leaving the resorts largely untouched and wholly abandoned. Plus, can you say, "goggle tan"?

But wait, what am I saying? Spring skiing sucks. Don't do it.

I skied four days this April, and really enjoyed two of them. Here are my favorite photos:

Muir Snowfield, April 2

Taylor and Nick climbing up in the fog. Can't tell what's sky and what's not. This pretty much sums up the trip.

Muir Do-Over, April 9

We had a Kokanee Reunion, and I went climbing with Anthony and George. Photo by George Smilov.

We made it to Muir in 3 hours and 15 minutes, my fastest time yet! After some navigational errors, we skied the Nisqually Chutes to the bridge. This photo is not angled correctly, but here's Anthony charging the steeps (look at the mountains the background to orient).

I love zee skiing!

We ran into a group of girls and had a party in the parking lot! Happy Birthday Mena!

April 15, Secret Stash at Crystal

Told you there was pow in April! Photo by Theresa Sippel.

We are happy girls playing in the snow!

April 16, Mount St. Helens

What do you do when you forget your tent poles? Make a lean-to with the car, of course!

She's a beat!

The climbing was beutiful and terrible at the same time.
We summited in 5 hours and 15 minutes, then immediately skied 2k to get out of the wind. We had a beer, complained, about how terrible the skiing was, then skied all the way to the car for the long drive home.

Honorable Mentions
While not skiing related, occasionally I do other things that I enjoy like visiting New York City to eat all of the pizza and enjoying a night-out reunion with friends.

Team Shit Show reunion! We haven't been skiing together in a long time, but we can still go drinking together!

J and I went to visit his family in NY.

And I am not ashamed to say I ate 5 slices of pizza. It's only been three weeks and I already want to go back and eat 5 more.