Monday, December 21, 2009

Two outings, December 17 and 19, 2009

Outside (December 17) Inside (December 19, 2009)

Thursday was Silverback’s first trip up Mount Si. Silverback moved out here late April this year, overweight and plagued with asthma. He hadn’t hiked for years and wanted to get back into hiking. So we’ve been doing a lot of hiking between then and now. Long story short he has lost about 75 pounds and his asthma has improved. So has the hiking. When he first came out I thought Mount Si would be a reasonable goal for NEXT year. He has not only surprised himself (pleasantly) by the weight loss and increase in stamina but surprised me as well. Having battled weight on and off since I was in my late teens I know too well how hard the battle can be. Perhaps the best news about Silverback, though, is that he enjoyed the process and if he suffered, he kept it pretty much to himself. How did he do it? By hiking – a lot. By finding a “forever pace”, a pace a hiker can maintain. And by cutting back on food (not even keeping track of calories or fat grams, just eating less).

The rule for our Mount Si hike is that there were no rules, no goals. We’d go as far as we wanted to, we wouldn’t push too hard. I barely broke into a fine sweat at my forever pace and in fact his forever pace is pretty much close to mine though he did sweat a bit more. Maybe that’s a guy thing. The weather was perfect – overcast with a little bit of sun from time to time, no precip, no ice, no significant snow on the trail.

Once we got up there we simply enjoyed being there. Looking at Mount Si through his eyes (his first time) was fun – the rocks, the peak, the view are things some of us may take a little for granted but to him, it was all new. And fun! I showed him a route I’d used for the haystack (I climbed it once alone) and there were three climbers going up the same route. The rocks were dry and conditions ideal for a scramble to the top. We checked out all the little side trails and sat on several of the outcroppings for a slightly different view. We follow the road over to Teneriffe a little way but when Silverback began post-holing in the snow we stopped. Nobody likes to post-hole and we knew we didn’t have time to go that far anyway.

However, we both felt great and it felt good to know that we had still had stamina left over. We could have gone further if the day had been longer and without the snow. And that felt good.

On our way down I ran into a couple of old friends. That, too, was a good thing. Contact has been re-established and we will likely go on a hike or snowshoe trip with them in January.

On Saturday we read in The Seattle Times of a pullout near the Nooksack River where you might find eagles feeding on salmon (we knew it was a little early for them but thought we’d give it a try). The directions to the view spot (Deming Homestead Eagle Viewing Area) were spot on but the river has created so many braided channels that we weren’t able to get to the river itself. Fortunately we were wearing hiking boots so hiked out as far as we could in hopes of spotting an eagle; we believe we saw a couple soaring overhead but our myopia and lack of high-end photo gear dampened our desire to try for a photo. Who hasn’t taken photos of birds in hopes of getting at least a half-way decent picture rather than a photograph that you peer at, wondering “what” you were taking a picture of (the bird, the subject of the photograph a dark smudge not even recognizable as a bird)? Those who have the means to get better gear (and with scads of time to wait it out) will do much better, of course, when it comes to bird photography.

Still, we enjoyed just being there. We stopped at grocery stores along SR 9 where we felt welcome as soon as we walked in the door. At one we bought (and enjoyed) what I claim to be the best cookie in the world, an organic ginger molasses cookie.

Back at Sedro Woolley we did indulge in some photography at the Northern State Recreation Area. Signs tell visitors to keep out of the buildings because they are hazardous but it was late in the day and no one else was there. We peeked inside a couple of the buildings (most of the buildings were part of a farm that was operated by the hospital – inmates worked on the farm).

If you do venture in, don’t say you haven’t been warned. It does appear (according to signs at the lower “trailhead”) they don’t want you to venture inside and the buildings ARE dangerous with sagging roofs, overturned boards, nails sticking up (had a tetanus shot recently?), slippery wood, mold, blistered paint. But the primary feeling we got from wandering about the grounds was sadness, deep sadness for the residents of that time when the place was considered the “best” place for troubled people to go (often against their will). Having had a brush with mental illness myself, I felt extremely sensitive to the colors, textures and shapes of these sad, abandoned buildings. The graffiti people have found the place; there’s a lot of that on the walls and charred boards where they (or someone) built a fire.

As for the recreational aspects of this place, I don’t know what the status is now. When I was there last year there were other visitors wandering around but today it was deserted. There do seem to be a few paths to wander but our visit raises more questions than answers.

If you decide to visit, you should google it and ferret out more information on your own. We do not want to lead you astray or venture into a place where “venturing” is discouraged or even prohibited.

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