Sunday, April 12, 2015

Birthday Weekend

I'm ostensibly another year wiser, and for sure another year older. This year, birthday weekend was also Easter weekend, and it was a fabulous couple days with my favorite things: family, friends, good food, and hiking.
Miri's amazing salad with foraged greens. Photo by Matt.

Max baked a loaf of bread the morning we went to
Mailbox Peak. It was still practically warm at the top.

Birthday champagne in the snow.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

An Early Spring in Western Washington

It's been an incredibly dry and warm winter, and I kept expecting winter to actually hit. I made a valiant effort at being wintery, and made sure to eat lots of waffles, cheese, and cookies.
My friend from Texas actually has a
Texas waffle iron
My roommate turned 30 and had a birthday
party with 30 different kinds of cheese
A roommate was on a low-carb diet, and
proceeded to bake lots of cookies and
muffins and ask us to eat them.
I also went on a Marsala kick. What's more wintery than cooking with wine? I made Chicken Marsala, Marsala-poached pears with vanilla ice cream, and a mushroom Marsala pasta bake.

Try as I may, winter never actually came. It's been consistently mild with barely any snow in the mountains. Local meteorologist Cliff Mass called it The Winter Without Seasonal Affective Disorder. Maybe I'm ungrateful, or a glutton for punishment, or just a true Pacific Northwesterner, but I don't feel like I've earned spring yet.

But nature didn't take my sentiments into account, and it's actually been acting like spring since about mid-January. Rhododendrons were already in bloom, and many other flowers followed.
A few weeks ago I rode my bike along the waterfront in downtown Seattle toward Magnolia, and over the Ballard Locks. It felt like summer with all the people out and about, and all the boats going through the Locks. Check out these pictures from our Golden Gardens picnic-- you would never know this was February.
 Now that it is really almost spring, I'm pretty excited to start getting outside more. What are you looking forward to this spring?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Notes on Editing

Last fall I started a certificate in editing at the UW. I've always been interested in editing, and have been a de facto editor for friends and family on everything from websites to resumes to grad school and medical residency application statements.

But working closely with editors as a writer over the past year has cemented my appreciation for editors, and knowing how much I like working with them solidified my wanting to be one.
In copy editing class, we got to learn old-school
editing marks. (This image from here.)
I told a friend that I was taking the certificate program and he said, "Oh cool, so you'll be pretty much catching typos?"

Well, that is of course one part of an editor's job, but just a tiny part. And even little typos can have devastating, expensive consequences. Check out this hilarious article on 10 Very Costly Typos.

There is a lot I want to say about the course and how much I've learned. For now though, there is one thing that stands out to me when it comes to the importance of editing: maintaining consistency in a document.

Often there is not one right or wrong way to do something, but rather a conscious choice decision based on designated resources, writer preference, editor decision, house style, or some combination thereof. It's about knowing what to ask up front, and then sticking to the answer. It is deliciously ordered and tidy. I am by no means a neat freak or perfectionist, but that part of me does feel very content in this kind of work. Editing is sort of like getting a really good haircut.

But why does consistency even matter? I'll let an excerpt from a class reading say it better than I could:

If misspellings occur in a book, many readers will be taken aback and are apt to lose faith in the author, even though what he has to say may be brilliant. Incorrect facts, wrongly attributed quotes, and garbled sentences have the same effect.

More obliquely, few readers will notice occasional stylistic inconsistencies: "ax" on page 12, "axe" on page 34; "traveled" on page 17, "travelled" on page 92; "thirty-three sheep" on page 21, "33 people" on page 99. But the sum total of such inconsistencies will give readers an uneasy feeling that something is wrong. They may not be able to pinpoint the irritants, but they are likely to become subconsciously upset- and may lose interest in the book.

(Passage from The Complete Guide to Editorial Freelancing, rev. ed., Carol L. O'Neill and Avima Ruder (Barnes and Noble Books, 1979)

Doesn't that just blow your mind?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Highlights of 2014

I've always thought the idea of designating a whole year as good or bad was silly. Surely too much happens in one year to make such a blanket statement.

But I can say without hesitation that 2014 was pretty phenomenal, and I am closing out December with a ton of gratitude.

In the spirit of "best of" lists, here's a look back at some of the highlights of the year.

First and foremost was starting a job in January that I absolutely love, at a company I have a lot of respect and appreciation for, with the best bosses I've ever worked with. When I was a teenager, I dreamed of becoming a professional writer but didn't think it was actually possible.
View from the observation deck of our office building. Once my manager and I had our one-on-one here. Best meeting ever.

Hanging out (intentionally) inside a crevasse

Catching crab from a canoe off Golden Gardens

Hanging out with sweet nieces and nephews
Climbing Mount Rainier and doing a headstand on the summit with crampons on
Catching a swarm of bees by myself
Spending time with my dad in Florida
Day hiking 18 miles in the Enchantments
Volunteering with the Beacon Food Forest and watching it produce food for the community

Seeing dear friends get married.
Backpacking by myself for a week in the Cascades

Volunteering at City Fruit's 4th annual Cider Taste, featuring multiple ciders from 10 of Washington state's artisan cideries
I am an ambassador for City Fruit, which is an awesome nonprofit that harvests excess fruit from trees around Seattle to donate to food banks. In November, I wrote Why I Donate my Time to City Fruit for their blog about the beginnings of my interest in agriculture and food justice.

Apart from all of those things, I'm hugely grateful for good friends. For the friends who are always there to talk; who make me laugh; who remember my nut allergy; who still send me mixed CDs; who will hike with me any time of year; who give me candles homemade with their own beeswax; who are up for impromptu pasta-making and bourbon-drinking; and who have given me rides in my carless year or let me borrow their car.

In 2015, I want to be as good of a friend to those people as they have been to me. I want to keep trying new things and saying yes, even when I don't know where it will lead me. I want to play outside even more, and read even more books, though I'm not sure how that balance will shake out.

I want to be the opposite of jaded, and full of hope for things to come. Happy New Year friends!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Filling the Cracks with Gold

For me, the most dramatic seasonal transition is summer to fall. Even though I love the fall, it's a huge physical and mental shift to go into the dark and cold after the warm carefree gloriousness of summer.

It was an especially hot and dry summer in Seattle- in fact, the warmest one on record according to Cliff Mass' A Summer for the Recordbooks. I'm thankful I was able to spend a lot time outside and in the mountains. I think that's partly why I'm so resistant to going back to a more indoor existence now. And I know the fall rains are to be expected, and that in fact, Seattleites often Crave the End of Summer.

But there is a certain heaviness that starts to settle in as the days get shorter, and it's a stark contrast to how light summer feels. And it can seem like intense events start happening all at once.
I heard a shooting for my first time, while at work in downtown Seattle. It was five shots, very close by. From our fourth floor vantage point, we could see straight down onto the scene across the street, where a man had been shot.

My coworkers and I watched, stunned, as the scene unfolded: the cops arriving and pushing away the crowd, taping off the area, taking witness reports, the firetruck and ambulance arriving, the paramedics attending to the man, then taking him away on a stretcher. Sadly, the young man died of his injuries later that day. We also found out that one of the bullets had hit our building, just 2 floors below me. 

Not long after that, I was running around Greenlake on the outside path at sunset. The colors had been an explosion of pink and orange over the water. It had just gotten dark when my friend and I saw a terrible bicycle accident. At an oddly-angled 3-way intersection, a small truck hit a cyclist from behind.

It was like slow motion as the bike got pulled under the front tire, and the cyclist was barely able to bail off her bike in time. My friend who had his cell phone called 911, while I ran over to the woman. There were already other witnesses there, and already some one cradling the victim's head to help prevent damage to the c spine. She was trembling and had a huge gash in her knee. I asked her her name but she was unable to respond. Her eyes were rolled back in her head, and there was a horrifying gurgling noise from her throat. I prayed that she was able to breathe.

A woman driving by slowed down and said she was a doctor, and asked if we needed help. "Yes!" I said. "Please!" I was so relieved a doctor was there, even though she told my friend in a low voice to tell the dispatcher we needed an ambulance ASAP. I felt so helpless, willing the paramedics to get there faster. No, even faster.

I checked news reports for days after, but didn't read anything about a cyclist getting hit. I figured that no news is good news. Yet, it took me a long time to get the image of the woman out of my head, lying in the street trembling in her fluorescent yellow jacket, unearthly choking noises punctuating the night air.

As the leaves dry up and sink toward the ground, illness and injury and pain seem more on the surface. I can't help but think about the fragility of life; the friends and family battling cancer; the broken heart that is still healing. And of course, the blessing of health, and all the resilience and beauty that is born through facing hardship.

It's like how fruit trees need a certain number of days of cold in order to produce fruit the next year. Vernalization is the "acquisition of a plant's ability to flower in the spring by exposure to the prolonged cold of winter." Maybe humans can experience vernalization too.

The bounty of local apples getting turned into cider. We get help from a few small superheroes.

And when hardship leaves its cracks, maybe that's not such a bad thing. Kintsugi is "the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with lacquer resin mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. As a philosophy, it speaks to breakage and repair becoming part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise."
From Sang Bleu
I find that oddly comforting, the image of cracks filled with gold, creating a design that is unique to that object.

On my friend Will's cooking blog, he recently posted: "I've been writing lately--heavily--and cooking less and less. But there doesn't seem to be a difference in the end. What feeds you? What wakes you up? Writing is what gets me out of bed."

I've been asking myself what feeds me in this dark time of year; what is my gold that fills in the cracks? That is how to get through to the blossoming of spring. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Perfect Hike for Late Summer: Spider Gap to Lyman Lakes

It was the middle of September, and I was looking for a hike I could do where I could feasibly meet a friend who would be hiking in from the north near Lake Chelan. I studied a map of Glacier Peak Wilderness, and saw a halfway point: Spider Gap. I had heard of the hike, and a friend confirmed it was a beautiful area.

I set out early Saturday morning, heading east over Steven's Pass. Just getting to the trailhead was epic, as it's 10 miles down a small paved road, 10 miles on a rough dirt road, then 2 last miles on really really rough dirt road. Just the parking lot felt like I was way back there.

I hiked the relatively flat 5.5 miles toward Spider Meadows. After miles in a forest river valley, the trail opens up into a huge meadow, with campsites, stock camps, river access, and mountains all around. If you are ever looking for a backpacking trip with some one who is new to backpacking, go here!
After crossing through the meadows, the trail starts to climb again. You can hang a right toward Phelps Basin, or left toward the gap. I continued left up steep switchbacks, with a view back down to Spider Meadows below.
Then you hit Spider Glacier. It's a steady but moderate hike up this last bit to the gap, at 9 or 10 miles in.
From the gap you can look north over to the other side, into the Lyman Lakes basin.
We were planning to camp near Upper Lyman Lake, so I headed down that way another mile or so. There was my friend to meet me!
Glacial melt Upper Lyman
We found a stunning campsite near a tarn, looking back up toward the Gap in one direction...
...and down to Lyman Lake in the other.
We drank an Icicle Creek beer by the lakeside and treated water before it was time to make dinner.
It was the perfect time of year to go, on the cusp of the seasons. Hot sun and mild evenings, but with the colors starting to turn. This was hands-down one of my favorite backpacking trips this year.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Climbing Mount Rainier

I distinctly remember the moment in college, at my friend Alice's house in Bellingham, when she mentioned a friend of hers climbing Mount Rainier. Wait, people my age do that? I thought. It struck me that someday, somehow, I too might be able to summit Washington's highest peak.

Fast forward nearly a decade, and thanks to the Basic Climbing Class I took this spring, I finally had the skills I needed to join a rope team and make a summit bid via the Emmons glacier route. This was Part 2 of my summer vacation in August, after a week-long backpacking trip on the Pacific Crest Trail.

There were five of us on the rope team: two other students from my climbing class this spring, one volunteer instructor, and another more experienced instructor, Peter, who would be our team leader. Peter suggested doing the climb with an extra day so that we had a night to sleep at a higher elevation and let our bodies acclimatize before summiting. This schedule increases chances of success, and of his seven times attempting Mount Rainier, he and his team had safely summited every time.

We left Seattle Friday morning to drive to White River Campground on the north side of the mountain, stopping at the ranger station to register our climb and talk to the ranger. A message board confirmed what we already knew: with the warm summer weather the bergschrund was ever-widening and that the route was moving more and more to the right as the crack opened up.
Map from
We hiked along the White River, through the woods, until the trail opened up to exposed scree at the bottom of Interglacier. We put on gaiters and crampons, and traded trekking poles for an ice ax, and made our way up Interglacier.
Looking up to Interglacier
We set up camp at about 8,300 feet on the glacier and made dinner, melted snow, and sipped tea while a beautiful sunset glowed over Western Washington.
Northwest sunset view from Interglacier camp
On Saturday we had a fairly lazy morning out of camp. We slept in a little, ate breakfast, and packed up. We continued up Interglacier, the boys with their skis, hoping to get a few runs in that day.
A break at Camp Curtis while the boys get a few turns in
Crossing from Interglacier onto the Emmons glacier takes you up over the rocky ridge of Camp Curtis. I will never forget the stunning sight of the Emmons glacier as I crested the hill and looked down. Between my limited glacier experience and how open the crevasses were that time of year, it was striking.
Numerous crevasses on lower part of Emmons
We made the short traverse on a little section of Emmons before arriving at Camp Schurman, the climbers base camp at 9,400 feet. I will never forget the surreal experience of arriving there- being roped up on a glacier, yet walking up to a cute hut in the warm sunshine with Reggae music blasting, pink flamingos, and shirtless rangers fixing something on the roof. It felt downright tropical and festive, like we had stumbled upon a secret party in the middle of nowhere.
Camp Schurman ranger station
View of Emmons glacier from the ranger station
We set up camp on the exposed dirt and set to work melting snow and organizing gear. Then we all sat together sipping tea and snacking, and looking up at the imposing glacier glinting in the bright sun. It was time for our team chat about the climbing plan.
Our view from Camp Schurman
Peter squinted into the sun. "The dangers are..." I thought he was going to say 'falling into a crevasse' or 'fatigue', but he finished his sentence with, "numerous." We laughed, but we knew it was an important talk to have. He talked about taking things slow and steady, and what we would do if a teammate couldn't summit. We were feeling hopeful though- it was clear, dry weather and we had talked to other climbers who descended that day who said the route looked good. We planned to wake up at 11pm and leave camp around midnight.

The Emmons glacier has the largest surface area of any glacier in the contiguous United States. It is the second most popular climbing route on Mount Rainier after the DC (Disappointment Cleaver) route. It's also longer, with a lower base camp, and far more crevassed.

It was a little before 7pm and all of Camp Schurman was quiet. I was just about to fall asleep when a party arrived, and set up camp right next to us. Literally about 10 feet away. They had to put up tents, melt water, make dinner, and prep for the climb... which means I laid there able to hear their every word for the next two hours. It was a big bummer as my already short night of sleep got cut down to less than two hours.

Nonetheless, our team was up and moving as planned. I'm very glad I had the experience of climbing Mount Baker earlier in the summer, because it was good preparation for what to expect. I knew what I would feel like waking up before midnight, and leaving in the dark. I knew what it was like to hike with a headlamp and how much to layer up.

It was a day before the August super moon, and the moonlight reflected brightly on the snow. As we began tromping upward, what stands out the most in my memory was the gaping, wild cracks of the crevasses, heart-wrenchingly beautiful and ominous in the moonlight. I have simply never seen anything like that and not sure I will again.
We kept a slow and steady pace as we ascended. Peter made us take regular breaks to sit, eat, and drink. We were about 1,500 feet below the summit when the sun peeked over the horizon.
That last section was a challenge for all of us. The air was noticeably thinner, and we were all breathing hard. I felt slightly nauseous and didn't feel like eating, but Peter urged me to eat something.
Ascending the last bit
Finally we arrived on the glorious summit at 14, 411 feet. We were the only ones there. We stood on the little summit bump, and looked all around Washington state to the surrounding mountains, foothills, waterways, and cities below.
Looking across the crater, and the tracks for the DC route
One of my rope-team mates brought a beer!
I loved hanging out on the summit. We had some time to ourselves before a wave of other parties arrived, both from the Emmons route and from across the crater from the DC route.

By the time we started heading down it was gloriously and worrisomely hot. We again took it slow and steady as we made our way down the steep and melty mountain. We were extra careful crossing snow bridges, especially the ones that had seemed dubious in the middle of the night.
The bergschrund. Photo by Peter H.
Rest break
Last steps before returning to Camp Schurman 
We made it back to Camp Schurman in good shape, if a bit tired. We ate, hydrated, and took short naps in the tent. That was the most glorious half hour I've slept in years. I woke up feeling energized, and ready for the last leg of the journey-- back to the car. We packed up and left camp by around 4pm.
The team leaving Camp Schurman
Last leg of the descent, hiking into the river valley
We made it back to the car just as it was getting dark. We stopped for fish n' chips and made the long drive back to Seattle. I had been up for over 24 hours straight, and in that time climbed the mountain and then descended about 10,000 vertical feet. It was quite the day. 

I felt full with the beauty of the mountain, and overwhelmed with being on sunny snow for so long. It was a full-time job just to stay adequately fed and hydrated. I'm so happy I had the chance to climb this wild mountain that looms over Seattle and punctuates the skyline on most days. We had a really fun and safe climb, with big thanks to Peter and my other three teammates.