[Wander Washington] Welcoming Spring at Mount Tahoma

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”

John Muir
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Growing up in California, I was invariably spoiled by beach days and Summer weather seemingly all year round; but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself more and more enjoying the variation in seasons that Oregon and Washington have to offer. I tend to forget how much of California is a true desert, how the Summer season reaches into the Fall and touches Winter, scorching the Earth beneath it; proof that the grass is greener where it’s simply watered.

Now that I’ve had a foothold in the Pacific North West for a few years, I’ve found that it suits me – trees as tall as skyscrapers around every corner, wildflowers ushering in the Spring and then the Autumn leaves giving us a second dose of color in the Fall – and Winter, oh -how I do love me a good snow storm (something I’m sure I would have never said in Los Angeles!). It’s inspiration to get into the great outdoors every chance we can, especially when there are so few people on the trails and in the parks compared to how densely populated literally all the things were in Southern California.

Lately, days and nights are inching longer, while the sunlight dances through trees to wake us up politely and set us to slumber sweetly; oh, yes – Spring is here, and it’s a delicate beauty all unto itself. Spring in Washington isn’t without rain, but it’s the type of rain that comes quietly in the night and leaves dew drops as it goes with the morning sun. Each day, you can see the sun maneuvering a new pathway from East to West, dipping into the Pacific Ocean in a glorious reverie of technicolor light, bouncing off of clouds and trees to illuminate the landscape. Offering a perfect invitation to get outside, and explore until your wanderlust has been quenched – at least, for the moment. For the most part, that means frequenting a park at dusk or getting in a late morning walk around Twin Ponds, but last weekend we had a chance to get out to Mount Tahoma, and let me tell you – Spring hits something different there.


The last time I was at Mount Tahoma, it was a gloriously sunny September morning and the weather hadn’t yet kicked into Autumn. The wildflowers around Paradise were bright and vibrant, almost like a second Spring had sprung – while the fog crept in on little cat feet around the base of the mountain. As a side note, though we know it now as Mount Rainier, past indigenous tribes proudly remember and revere it as Tahoma, or Tacoma – and it’s only proper to me that we try and bring these names back into the fold. An active stratovolcano, Mount Tahoma is located about sixty miles southeast of Seattle and may as well be the unofficial mascot of the Pacific North West, right next to Sasquatch. Before we get into my latest adventures, here’s a little geology lesson on the area:

Made of alternating layers of lava, ash and pyroclastic ejecta flows, Mount Rainier effortlessly towers over the rest of the Cascade Mountain Range with 26 major glaciers and 36 square miles of permanent sparkling snowfields, earning its status as the most glaciated mountain peak in the contiguous United States. At the top of the summit, the geothermic heat spewing from a duo of volcanic craters prevents the rims from getting snowed in or iced over, forming the world’s largest glacial cave network of ice-filled craters. While the current top formation of Tahoma is estimated to be approximately 500,000 years old, the mountain and the entire Cascade Volcanic Arc is considered part of the ‘Lily Formation’ and spans from roughly 840,000 years old to a whopping 2.6 Million years old. Though small eruptions have happened since with a frequency of every few hundred years, the last major eruption of Rainier was about 1000 years ago. (for more, check out my post from a few years ago on the Magic and Majesty of the Mountain.)


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Travelling definitely looks a bit different a year into quarantine and COVID, and it wasn’t lost on us how much time and effort everyone has put in to being healthy and safe in Washington. Thankfully, we had our second vaccine shot just before the weekend and it was a breath of fresh air knowing that as of April 15th, the rest of the state of Washington was finally eligible for their shots as well.

Believe you me, We still had our masks on us, and used them in areas outdoors that were too densely populated and we couldn’t keep six feet apart, or whenever we were indoors – but that was few and far between. For the most part, we were the only ones on the trails, barely even seeing a soul until we managed to find some scenic vistas and viewpoints of Tahoma; and the same went for indoors – because the weather turned lush so quickly, many people didn’t make it out to the mountain last weekend. Maybe it’s my natural personality showing, or maybe I’ve just become slightly agoraphobic over the last year but I really loved the feeling of ‘having the park for ourselves’, and it felt so good to let my face be free.

The last time I adventured around the mountain, I came with Danny and my parents; we took a day trip, and tried to see as much as we could around the Northern and Western rims of the mountain. This time, Danny and I took a different approach – staying at the base of the Cascade Mountain Range. Sitting right between Tahoma and Mount Saint Helens, and within a quick jaunt to the White Pass Ski Resort – Packwood is a tiny, 300 person town called just off the Cowlitz River – full of wildflowers, Elk and sprawling scenery.

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When I booked lodging for the weekend, the weather had predicted clear skies but only at about 20-30°F; at the time, I said fuck it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in Washington, it’s that you cannot simply stay indoors because of the weather rpoert, if you did you would miss out on SO much! That wisdom came to fruition as we pulled into Packwood; feeling incredibly grateful and lucky, because the temperatures broke clear into 80° territory and there wasn’t a cloud in sight.

After sight seeing on the way up to the mountain on Friday, we decided to stop by the local market and make our own dinner in our kitchenette at the Mountain View Lodge. Two pro tips here: firstly, if you ever have the opportunity to get a place to stay that has it’s own kitchen – do it; especially when you’re in the heart of nature as we were. The produce is local, the meat is local – the community is small, and it feels good to be part of the local economy, and food chain. Secondly, marry someone that can cook. Danny whipped up a fantastic steak dinner with a side of greens tossed in the steak sauce, and oh my wow – it was the perfect end to a long day. We made some libations and took a stroll down to the river, where we were met with an 8PM sunset that danced along the shoreline. With colder weather recently, the river had a relaxing ebb and flow to it and we were joined by a pair of geese – fun fact here: geese mate for life, and seeing one while with your significant other is a wonderful sign of things to come as a couple. A perfect sighting for Danny’s birthday weekend.

Saturday morning the sun wafted through the blinds, rousing us from a wonderful slumber – and we immediately took our coffee back to the edge of the Cowlitz River to kick the day into gear. As we reached the edge of the water, it was clear that the weather from Friday had caused quite a snowmelt as we were greeted with murmurs, gargles and bubbles from the water against the shoreline. Once we were properly caffeinated it was off, off and away into the mountains to check out Skate Creek Park. I must have sounded like the biggest city kitty in the world when I asked my husband “Wait, so there’s a skate park in the woods?” because apparently Skate is apparently a type of fish; and once upon a time, Skate Creek was actually stocked with catchable trout. With the continual steelhead and salmon reintroduction into wild waters, there are now State regulations which prevent the restocking of ‘catchable’ trout species in ‘anadromous’ waters; under this designation, this is any river, creek and waterway that fish use to come from the sea to release their eggs inland. The trail itself for Skate Creek Park is about 2 miles, and fairly easy to maneuver. For those (like moi!) that enjoy getting off the beaten path, there are ample locations to park your car next to the river, grab your gear and enjoy a private beachside picnic, or afternoon libations.

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We tried to make it through the mountain pass, but sadly our little Civic wasn’t prepared to hit the bumpy roads and we turned around fairly fast so as to not get stuck there. We made a few more pit stops along the river, and just – wow. Because of the recent heat waves, the glacial ice was ripping and roaring around each turn, taking up technicolor hues of vibrant greens, teals, turquoises and blues; it looked good enough to drink! Paired with the lush vegetation on all sides, clear skies and warm sunlight on our shoulders – it truly felt like we were transported into Fern Gully or Avatar.

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After heading back to the lodge and reassessing the situation, we decided on a quick lunch at White Pass Taqueria and Taproom and our stomachs couldn’t have been happier. Real good TexMex has been hard to come by outside of California, and White Pass went above and beyond; you honestly can’t go wrong with the selection of eats and treats and the outdoor seating is fantastic. Then it was off, off and away to explore new sights on the East side of Tahoma.

One thing we noticed during the journey is the optical illusion of mountain size. Maybe it’s the sheer grandiosity of it all the way from the heart of Seattle, or the University of Washington campus – maybe it was the fact we were already at an altitude of 2000 feet; but cruising along the base of the mountain, it seemed small for the very first time.

As we drove from Parkwood into Randle and Naches, Tahoma felt like a mountain out of Alice and Wonderland – eating this and drinking that, growing larger around one curve and then retreating in size the next. Beyond the popping in our ears, we could tell the elevation was increasing because there was ample snow on all sides of the mountain – an actual dream of a situation. Sunny, clear skies from above reflecting and refracting off of the snow in a cascading technicolor scheme all around us.

Winding around the 12 Highway, we slowed to a snails pace to fully take in the scenery: towering ridgelines of trees with sorted gushing waterfalls bellowing down to the next level, and the next, and another too far down to see on one side, while snow rimmed lakes danced with still reflections on the other.

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Finally, we stumbled into a doubly delicious lake situation with Clear Lake to the South and Rimrock Lake to the North of us and made an afternoon out of it. Hiking up and down the winding trails around the lakes, sitting on the shores edge and skipping stones in the crystal clear water while admiring the grandiosity all around. On the way out, we took the long way home – driving to the most northern edge of Rimrock, and soaking in sunset as we gradually descended down the mountain, admiring the view from all angles – grateful for the treasures Earth has to offer.

No matter how you get there, or which side of the mountain you choose to roam – there is something magical around every nook and cranny of Mount Rainier. For more, including current closures due to COVID, as well as Winter road closures as we head into the warmer months, head to their website or social channels – or put on your adventure pants, say “Fuck It!” – pack a bag, and plan a visit!

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

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“Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness & growth occurs while you are climbing it.” 

Andy Rooney
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[Seattle Sights] A Pleasant Post-Apocalyptic Walk Through Gas Works Park

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“All of us humans have myriad other species to thank. Without them, we couldn’t exist. It’s that simple, and we can’t afford to ignore them, anymore than I can afford to neglect my precious wife–nor the sweet mother Earth that births and holds us all. Without us, Earth will abide and endure; without her, however, we could not even be.” 
― Alan Weisman, The World Without Us

Ever since moving to Seattle just a few weeks ago, it’s as if someone has toggled a switch in my personality; or maybe, it’s simply been unswitched. Much like a piece of electronics that you have to turn off to get working again, it feels as though my brain, soul and heart desperately needed the peace and quiet of Corvallis to get back into a roaring, working mode. After ten years of a go-go-go lifestyle in Los Angeles, it felt not just good – but necessary – to get back to basics; to remove the external noise and exorbitant amount of influences and return to my personal baseline. It’s a baseline that’s devoid of self-doubt and low-esteem, yet eager for adventure with an open mind and wide eyes, ready to swallow scenery and waft in wanderlust from each and every corner of this beautiful, new state – both figuratively and literally.

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After falling head over heels for the city during the week of new years eve, it took us less than two months to get a job in the city and find a new place to call home. And now after two weeks of living here, it truly feels like home. There’s a natural ebb and flow to the world around, and instead of fighting against the current we’re giving into the ride; so far, it’s been a beautiful one. The weather has been in our favor with the sun shining down and barely any clouds in the sky; it’s a brisk Spring, but it’s clear and lovely. Now that I’ve gotten to know the area a bit better, I’ve made a point of gallivanting around and exploring the greenery the city has to offer; one of my first stops – the post-apocalyptic looking Gas Works Park located in near the Fremont area, on the North Shore of Lake Union.

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A former coal gasification plant from Seattle’s Gas Light Company from 1906-56, Gas Works Park has seen a splendid second life as a refurbished public play area – and is possibly best known as the location of the glorious paintball fight with Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You (because, childhood). Both a Seattle and Washington State landmark, Gas Works Park spans well over 20 acres, the park boasts a stunning landscape featuring f rolling, green hills – culminating in Kite Hill, which – you guessed it – is great for flying kites, ample shoreline and a panoramic view of Downtown Seattle.

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Now that the coal aspect is defunct, the industrial pieces have been preserved, as well as “taken back”, by nature. Once you can look past the chain-link fence, pieces of metal that once roared into animate life all their own now feature vines, shrubs and trees weaving and winding their way through what’s left of the plant, and various amounts of graffiti art tagged around every corner. As the sunlight shifts and shines through the complex, the air breathes life into a scene that at one time was anything but truly living; making it easy to fathom that plenty of post-apocalyptic entertainment, ranging from TV shows like Incorporated and movies ranging from Divergent  to The Hunger Games, garnered their inspiration from scenes such as this. With ample room for roaming, running and recreation, Gas Works Park is a wonderful romp of urban decay sprawled in the midst of a booming tech economy.

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Though the water’s chemical makeup doesn’t bode well for swimmers, you can kayak or paddle board your way through Lake Union and take the area in, in all it’s splendor.

What are some of your favorite haunts in Seattle? Let me know in the comments below! For more on Gas Works Park, head to their website and socials:

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Yelp

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[The Audiofiles] Music Festival Packing Essentials

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Sleep hasn’t come easy these past few nights. Slowly but surely, we’ve been starting to pack for Lightning in a Bottle and every night I’ve been lying in bed, rehashing plans and crossing my fingers I’m not forgetting anything. Thank goodness I’ve developed into a semi pack-rat about things; after some quick thinking, I unearthed my packing list from the festival last year and with a few fell swoops I’ve developed a new, improved and rather idiot-proof list of festival essentials that you won’t want to leave home without!


Tent
If you’re camping, this is almost a ‘No-duh!’ moment. Of COURSE you want a tent, but what kind of tent? First, take into account how many people you’re camping with (if you’re small, add one – trust)) and before you make that impulse purchase that sounds too good to be true (read: it probably is), Google that shit and see how it ranks on Amazon.  We got our 3-Person Coleman tent at Big 5 on an uber discount, but Amazon as always is also amazing.

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Don’t forget your sleeping bags, some toss away pillows and second hand blankets that you’re okay getting a little trashed over the weekend.

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Different Types of Footwear
As awesome as it is to gallivant around in sandals all day, sometimes – they’re just not practical.  I always have a pair of toss-away boots on me in case the weather gets wacky – and if you’re feeling fiesty, there’s no better feeling than getting a new pair of electric or neon inspired kicks.

Bubble Guns

Fact: you can’t say the word ‘Bubble’ and be unhappy. Try it. Now again. That very feeling is the reason I looooove running around with a bubble gun at festivals! Not only are you constantly making your day with your own floating, translucent Technicolor army – but you’ll be making the weekend a prettier place for everyone.

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Try your local convenience store, CVS, Rite-Aid or Target for awesome options!

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See all that stuff you’re planning on bringing? At some festivals, you get to camp with your car which is absolutely perfect.  Others, like Lightning in a Bottle, you have to buy a separate pass for car camping and some – like myself – choose not to.  So we don’t have to break our backs lugging stuff (and people!) too and fro, we’ve invested in this handy dandy garden cart.  Check your local Home Depot or gardening stores (or, per usual – Amazon)

Water
Whether it’s a pallet of water bottles from Costco, or a refillable, personalized water jug – you should always know where your next drink of water is coming from.  Plus, if you’re the creative type – it’s always
fun customizing something you’ll be able to use at future festivals!

20140521-085934-32374804.jpgMini Supply and First Aid Kit
You never know what could go down at a music festival, and it doesn’t hurt to be prepared – snag a little first aid kit from your local convenience store and make sure you’re fully stocked with hydrogen peroxide, band aids, tums, wet wipes, ear plugs.

While you’re at it, throw in a hammer, pair of scissors and a roll of duct tape just in case; you never know what you could need!

Mini Grill
One thing I forget to think about at festivals is food, and even though there are always ample options in the food court – they can cost a pretty penny.  Which for one day, and one meal – it’s not so bad….but on day four of a festival, you might wish you’d brought some of your own snacks. Invest in one of these, pre-freeze some hamburger patties, get some ketchup, mustard and buns and have yourself a little festival tail-gate.  Plus, food is a phenomenal way to meet friends.

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Having a small bag at all times to house your little gear – like travel sized SPF, chapstick, your cell, wallet  and a camera – is 110% necessary.  Some ladies love the over the shoulder satchels, but I opt for something a little more retro and hands free.

Waterproof Camera Case
EDC week in Las Vegas last year was the first time I’d played around with a waterproof camera case, and ever since I’ve been on the prowl for one of my own. So, when we were at Big 5 the other day grabbing a tent – I couldn’t resist the impulse purchase!  Now, instead of worrying about getting sprayed with water, jumping in the pool or ruining my camera – I can get that epic shot I’ve always wanted.  I’m also bringing an extra, fully charged battery, sturdy case and a charger just in case it runs out of juice.

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Mini Flashlights
At night time, it can be hard to find your way – especially back to camp. I stocked up on little flashlights so everyone in my camp can have one – and it’ll definitely make going to the bathrooms at night a lot easier 😉

Festival Friendly Beauty Products
Model in a Bottle: You definitely don’t need much makeup during a festival, but that doesn’t mean you won’t want the option.  I absolutely SWEAR by this product – spritz it on after applying makeup for a set that’ll last through water, sweat, tears and lots of epic raving.  I’ve used this at every EDC since ’08 and my makeup’s been flawless post-ragefest.

Fenix SunscreenMost suncreens deposit a layer on your skin that the sun can still fight through, Fenix products reflect sunlight instead of absorbing – which is so much better for your skin!

Real Spray Aloe: If your sunscreen fails, it’s nice to have something as backup and spray aloe is the way to go.

Ouidad Climate Control: Frizzy, Curly, Straight – whatever you want your hair to do, it might not be so willing on Days 3 as it was on Day 1 to control itself – get a little glob of this on your hands and through your hair and you’ll be set for the entire day.

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Last but certainly not least, don’t forget to bring a towel so you can dry off quickly after galavanting through spritzing water, a quick shower or for something to catch some rays (and Zzzz’s) over the weekend.

Oh, and some good vibes and great company – but you knew that already, I’m sure 🙂 Friends might say that I’m in rare form this year – on the regular, my social schedule can get pretty packed, especially in the Summer months. Blame it on age, or being happy in love and filling my life with a world beyond festival life – but over the past year, I’ve more or less removed myself from the festival circuit. Electric Daisy Carnival, Together As One, Love Festival, How Sweet it Is, Nocturnal Wonderland – you name it, if it’s been in Southern Cali in the past 7 years I probably raved it. Gradually, my taste in music evolved and I migrated from being an open minded observer, to a full on member of this beautiful, international community of music aficionados and perpetual dream chasers.  I started the year with Sea of Dreams, and besides Lightning in a Bottle – and maybe Sun City in Texas, there’s nothing on my agenda – so I have to ask: what are your favorite music festivals and what are your must have packing essentials?

Workout Wednesday: Putting a Cramp in your Style

I think each of us has been here before:

It’s been a while since you’ve worked out, but your playlists are updated and your gym clothes are ready to rock.  You eagerly drink some water, jump into your running shoes, suit your earbuds up real nice and head out the door.  When you hit the sidewalk, your legs begin bouncing – urging you to move forward.  As your iPod shuffles to your latest favorite song, you break into a skip, then a jog…and finally a run.  You’re feeling your energy as your feet hit the pavement, you might even be singing along without realizing it – and then you notice it, a stitch in your (insert appendage here).  Then it cripples you – and you’re left wondering: what is wrong with my body?!

Well the answer, my pretties – is that your workout just got cramped. As an athlete, I can tell you from a lot of personal experience that there’s nothing worse than getting into the groove of a good workout and getting sidelined by a cramp.  In the back of my head, I’m thinking – hey, body! why are you acting like its your first rodeo?!  But the fact of the matter is that no matter if you’re a world class athlete or about to commit to your first workout – cramps happen, but you can help!

The most common cramps for me are side cramps while running, foot cramps as a swimmer and calf cramps after a workout or a long night of dancing.  So what exactly is going on and what can we do if we want to keep the workout going?

Make sure you’re warming up properly and breathing right during the exercise.  If you’re planning on going for an epic run, try walking or jogging to warm up your entire body and make sure your body is hydrated enough to sustain the ass kicking you’re giving it.  If you notice a cramp coming on, try to even out your breathing and avoid exhaling when your feet hit the floor, if it won’t go away give yourself a break and get into some stretches.  Your body is a temple, you don’t want to destroy the foundation.

On the typical, cramps have one of two causes –  dehydration or poor nutrition. 

Think about things this way – your body is approximately 80% water but your muscles are closer to 75%; so when you work out, your muscles get dehydrated faster than your body.  When this happens, the muscles lose elasticity, become taut and eventually – if not re-hydrated – they’ll spasm, or cramp. The other possibility is that  your body is lacking in essential vitamins like iron, calcium and potassium, which is key for preventing muscle cramps.

Lucky for us, these are things we can control.  At the very least, on the daily you should pop a multivitamin in the morning and get your 8 glasses of water. In this “go-go-go” world, it’s hard to avoid caffeine and soda. However, if you’re serious about treating your body well – either curb your use of diuretics like coffee, soda, alcohol and energy drinks which naturally deplete your body of water, or for every “naughty” drink have double the amount of aqua.  When it comes to nutrition, an apple a day might keep the doctor away but a dose of potassium a day will keep the cramps away.  Dried fruits like apricots, prunes, dates, coconuts, figs and raisins contain a whole lot of it. And for the fresh fruit lovers, try throwing more avocados, bananas, peaches and oranges in your diet.