Category Archives: Seasonal Musings

Father’s Day 2015

A Last Call to My Father

I almost shouted into the telephone, “Hi, Dad! I won! I won!”

My father replied, “Does that mean you were second again?”

What? Oh. No. I was first overall. I won.

Three weeks ago I had called to tell him of the course record I had set at Le Grizz. Then I had to explain how I could set a course record without winning (I was second overall but won the masters division). Rick Spady, the overall winner, was so far out in front that he probably had no idea a race was going on somewhere behind him. I, in turn, had no idea of the assault I was mounting on the masters record for Pat Caffrey’s 50-mile course alongside Hungry Horse Reservoir just south of Glacier National Park in Montana. Larry Carroll and I had played cat and mouse for many miles. When I finally passed him that last time, I started running against the most challenging competitors I knew—the watch on my wrist and the unsympathetic demons in my head. It would be fun to pretend it was something romantic like the age-old “You do your best and the rest of the day will take care of itself,” but it wasn’t. I had simply raced my watch with little thought about how that would do in the overall standings.

I thought of that conversation and told him no. This time there was no one in front of me. I was the overall winner.

I was calling from a motel room in East Wenatchee, Washington, late Saturday afternoon. I usually waited until the trip was over and we were back home to call and tell him of the latest running trip. His interest was never at the level of excitement from years ago when I ran one lap or less—distances and events he could understand. He had never approved of this endurance stuff, these hours-and-hours-at-a-time runs—not good for your joints, he would say. Still I would call, perhaps still seeking his approval as any other aging child seeks a parent’s affirming nod. These last few years we had slowly bridged the gulf created those many years ago. It might be we had both learned along the way—surely he learned more than I—how was I to know of the abilities he had seen in me, tried to coax out of me during those years when I already knew everything? Surely his inability to talk was more the problem than my inability to listen.

This time, for whatever reason, I called before we started home. The 100k had started at midnight on Halloween, October 31, 1986. There were no aid stations. Kathy was up all night, stopping every three miles to feed and water me and whoever else was near. She was mysteriously correct at judging when I would want a dry shirt, a nibble of this, a drink of that, and all the while punching all the right buttons to keep the frayed ends of my mind together through that night.

Her mastery of my mind reached the peak as I took the lead at just past sixty miles and then labored through the paranoia- and anxiety-laden last few blocks as the course returned us to town and then the final turn up the two blocks to the finish line. I had won an ultra. We sat around waiting for the other events to complete. There was a 50k, 25k, and 15k being run on the same course. The staggered starting times made for quite a mix of finishers at the end. Finally everyone was in or accounted for, then various rounds of applause for awards, “oohs” and “ahhs” and cheers and laughter, rose and fell with each announcement, then finally died as the last runner was hailed.. Those of us from the 100k said good-bye or see you in a few weeks. Kathy and I headed to the motel, too worn out to consider the 150 miles back to Olympia.

The motel had an outdoor Jacuzzi—a Jacuzzi being a major selling point if we are not camping. After a shower and the requisite 47 minutes in the warm, whirling waters I decided I should call my father now instead of waiting. He should know of this one.

Hi, Dad! I won! I won!

Does that mean you were second again?

No. This time I was the overall winner.

Was this another 50-miler?

No, it was a 100 kilometers.

A 100 kilometers, how far is that?

Uh, just over 62 miles.

And you won?


That’s a long ways to run.

Yes, my longest so far.

How long did that take?

About nine hours and fifteen minutes.

For the first time there was a conversation with all the old interest from the years of track and field—sprints, hurdles, and jumps. The years where my performances, though erratic on a grand scale and full of high potential, were more showcases of my bullheaded refusal to be coached than anything else seemed to be set aside. We talked for a few minutes, questions about the course, about the field, and so on; finally I said I needed to get some sleep before I fell asleep with the phone in my hand. His last words still echo so wonderfully clear:

Sixty-two miles; John, that’s a long ways to run.

Yes, it was a long night on the mountains.

And you won.

Yes. Yes, Dad, I did.

Good, that’s real good.

I didn’t have to pretend I could hear the soft chuckle of approval.

Bye, talk to you next time, Dad.


Ten days later when I answered the telephone it was my mother calling to tell me my father had died that evening and I needed to come home.

Over the years I have been thankful many times for that last phone call with my father. We were left with many things still needing to be said, but we had said many other things. I am more thankful for what was said than I am remorseful for not getting to what we still had left to say.

———-Run Gently Out There———

Wind, waves, and grasses

Viewed from the bluff the waves don’t look all that menacing. They are rolling with six to eight feet of height above their troughs. There are two triangles that come into play. I am about a hundred yards in from, and about thirty feet above, the edge of the bluff. The edge of the bluff is about two-hundred feet above the water—and my mind goes away trying to guess at how far out my line-of-sight intersection point with the water is. Those nonmenacing looking waves are around a thousand feet away. Their white caps, the endless frothing and roiling would not be any sort of safe haven for a small boat.
The grass when captured by the camera does not tell of the wind. A glanced at Web site told me today’s wind is steady at about 22 knots, with gusts to 30 knots. There is an option to have the wind speed shown in miles per hour, but I am comfortable with knots. The ship tracking Web sites all use knots to tell me how fast the large floating things will be gone. I sometimes turn down Water Tower trail, running hard to get to Brave Heart and Raider Creek–barely looking for cars as I cross to Kyles Kettle trail and hope to get to waters edge before the ship is visible from Partridge Point. That doesn’t happen very often–distractions come too easily with no goal but to be back in ninety minutes attached to today’s run.
Sometimes the directions were unclear to me.
I can still see the trees whose job it was to hide the old foundation. They did it well. Grasses and vines were called to assist; the greyness of aged concrete spoke of years gone by; beckoned history—until some well-meaning do-gooders came one weekend with clippers and shears and gas-engined trimmers and left a now bare and exposed naked to the world foundation that barely draws a glance.
Down and around, the ship long forgotten, greenness surrounds me most every step. I run with no apparent noise. The wind whistles. Trees push and rug against one another; moans and even shrieks are heard. There are no snapping, popping, cracking sounds of branches breaking. The wind is not pushing that hard; is not from the right direction to cause a run to be cut short as a forest danger turns from possible to present.
Frothiness Factor of 3.7 on a scale of 5.0, not something you will find in any science book, but it seems correct today. When the FF is above 3.0, there is a tendency to pause to watch… bobbing birds, a occasional seal or sea lion, a tug with a barge rounding the point and turning into the wind. No sounds come from all these things. The wind carries away all. The wind is today’s orchestra and choreographer… and I have stood too long, again.
Rhodies. Rhodendrons, “rhodies”, are blooming all over my forest. The deep hued red of buds a day or two away from opening are just one branch away from the pink and white of fully-opened flowers. Bees, bumble and regular, small fliers of several sizes and many humming variations are magically heard in this pocket of quiet, tucked away from the wind as I turn past the lake. We thought winter was late in leaving. We thought spring was fickle in her arrival. I think the forest is a very busy place as all things assigned to pollination seem to be out and about.
waves 019
The yellows, Scotch Broom and gorse, dominate the hillside as an old tree, fallen and slowly changing from wood to dragon tell anyone the shelter of the woods is gone and the wind is still there. Fifteen feet from trail’s end, safely back from wind’s edge and the chickadees play. Two flashes of yellow, or is it yellow-green? It matters. Yellow would mean the gold finches are back. There is a nest here–another pause point, but they don’t return. Vireo? I will return and eat lunch here on Thursday. That will give me time to find them, or for them to accept me for the coming summer.
There is a way to photograph the moving grasses so movement shows. I do not know how to do that, not with a still camera. The dull yellows and browns of winter grasses are turning to green. Tourists will complain of the trail being overgrown. I enjoy the grasses pulling at my hands as I pass. It is a small sacrifice. The park is mine five days a week and on weekends the visitors rarely venture more than a few hundred yards from the parking lots. For now I am concerned with these two triangles, once more in front of me, and the fact that my “I’ll be back in ninety minutes” seems to be just over two hours.

———-Run gently out there———-

Fragile and vanishing…

The caretakers, never in the majority, are losing ground to the users.Ant hill?If the users and caretakers are the same, as in an ant colony, Garrett Hardin’s musings will not come into play.

If you are small, but hardy, not given to large numbers and unable to run and hide, you might still be able to survive the innocents as they pass here, trample there, by making your home on the steep bluffs of an island–just out of reach, maybe.
The signs saying “Property of The Nature Conservancy”, while looming visibly on the fence a mile or so away, provide little protection when officialdom is rarely visible. The spines, protective against wildlife, are but a small hindrance to malicious fingers.HPIM4553And, besides, I just wanted one leaf; just one little spiny ear–not enough to be noticed, nor missed–except by the brittle prickly-pear cactus affected. That might be what was said. Mightn’t it?

If, on the other hand, the numbers are scarce, cactusas in the case of this brittle prickly-pear cactus (Opuntia fragilis), Hardin’s worst nightmare–in its purest form–rules this commons. This plant will vanish. This will, quite likely, be its last spring. The innocents, though seldom far from a parking lot, will need justification for wandering this far. A conquest, even if only of a small plant, is needed with no concern for damage and a rush to extinction....
I have watched it for seven, maybe eight, years. The “Dead Tree”, a name we gave with no one’s official sanction, served as protective cover. The small cactus hiding on the away from the trail side; in false safety. That first summer, the small cactus was just a beautiful surprise found while running on one of the bluff trails of Whidbey Island. Its ten, maybe even a dozen pads (cladoles?) in varying shades of green and red; the celebratory year of yellow flowers was worth a second trip just so I could share what was seen on a solo run. They seemed safe on the downhill side of that long fallen windward-edge giant. As the dead tree has suffered decay and the visitors to the commons yielded to some perverse need to break a branch here; pull a loose piece of long dead trunk and toss it down bluff’s side over there, the small plant’s presence discovered, and its death begun.

shades of grey

Shades of grey

How many words for grey: ashen, sooty, pearly, silvery, dove-gray, tattletale gray, darkening, foreboding, silver-haired, even fuliginous or grizzled. The waters of Puget Sound were having trouble deciding what shade to be today. I was on pavement trying to get from one park to the other and on to the trail to the house.

An old Douglas Fir, top broken who knows how long ago.
An old Douglas Fir, top broken who knows how long ago.
Blues were trying to break through the upper layer of clouds, or were the clouds trying to close to hide the blue sky. I zipped the front of my tattered windbreaker as I passed the pasture with the llamas. There were llamas on Hope Pass ‘neath a sky more blue than grey some time back. I needed to top the hill so I could pretend to pick up the pace and warm my legs again. Cold has colors too, mostly behind darkened doors. Greys and pale blues don’t warm legs. Gloves have been put back on my chilled fingers.

Anything would brighten the run. It had become one of those runs that is two miles too long. Lambs? I don’t want lambs playing next to the fence as I trudge past. I want… What? Sympathy?

Yes, a display of commiseration would work.

I get lambs. Silly leaping lambs. Now they are playing with the baby llama. Lambs standing on their mother’s back. Oh great, now the wind has died and it’s warm. A hundred yards to the trailhead. Wild roses spread pinkish polka-dots to tell me where to turn. Car noise dies behind me as I escape into the woods again.
There is no grey in my woods. I see only patches of blue as I look up through the cedars and madronas. We saw trilliums and dogwoods two weeks ago, gone now as the leaves thicken and the darkened forest floor of summer comes. Canada geese were in large number on Wednesday, singing their way somewhere; surely not north, not yet. I see more cormorants in the water. The harlequin ducks ride in the cold waters of their winter home. They wait patiently waiting for some sign that I will never see, hear, or sense, and they will take wing, gone to their mountain homes.
The unwanted two miles is lengthened as I turn toward the Old Men and my footsteps are quieted as the dirt of the trail becomes padded with the fallen needles of a hundred autumns. Through the darkness of the cedars come slashes of light. Turning at the fork I retrace the steps just made. Steps not mine anymore are set quicker now, legs of years gone away stretch out, briefly a smile as trudge becomes run, shoulders relax, and ground is covered. I feel I could run forever. If I had time, but I don’t know what color time is.

—–Run gently out there—–

An Unexpected Gift

Friday is almost always a no-run day, has been for years.  That is not to say I don’t get out for a walk, a pedal, or… trying to catch sunset in pictures again.sunset 008
The prairie is behind. Waters of Admiralty Inlet in front. The Olympic Mountains, complete with winter’s shoulders of snow, are just across. The sun is moving slowly across their skyline. A voice from somewhere in time barely remembers something about “two diameters a day”–a clearer memory says we are just over one third of the way through this winter. A solstice or two found me out here checking, taking note of just which peak kidnapped the sun that evening. A ransom was exchanged and warmth returned… two diameters at a time. Ravens and eagles played along the bluff. Vibrant black feathers shone a little brighter each evening. Two eagles, almost adults, only a few brown streaks in their shoulders and great broad tails, played, talons flashing like swords of old. Each day’s passing gave a few minutes more daylight; two diameters at a time.
sunset 023
At water’s edge…, “Is this the ocean?” I looked around, small people nearby–one looked at me quizzically. Where is her big person? “Is this the ocean?” I sat down on a driftwood log, picked up a pointing stick, “No. This is not the ocean.” I pointed off in the distance at the end of the mountains to the flat spot. “See the flat spot?” “Yes.” “The ocean is out there.” “Is that where the whales are?” “Yes. It is getting dark. They go out there to sleep.” “Why do they go out there to sleep?” “If they sleep in here the light from the lighthouse (pointing at the Port Townsend lighthouse—on cue) keeps them awake.” “Oh.” Small person runs off to a large person, “Mom, he said all the whales went out there to go to sleep.” I turned to look at Mt. Rainier.
sunset 026
I should have come out earlier; gone up on the bluff. Time has lapses up there. A not painful, but inconvenient lesson was learned when I plopped down to watch a ship or two, outbound, probably to Perth or Busan or maybe somewhere romantic like Long Beach. A gazillion tons of things unneeded, but easily sold–hidden by lights that look like Japanese lanterns slowly going out with the tide. I have no flashlight tonight and the little person is coming back.
sunset 033
“Do you know her?” “No. I just thought taking a picture of someone taking a picture was cool.” “Oh. Mom wants to know where the trees are.” Hmmm, there aren’t any trees here. We are on the prairie. “The trees all got knocked over by the glacier a long time ago.” “A glacier?” Uh oh, she knows what a glacier is. “Yes, there was a glacier here about ten thousand years ago.” “Where is it now?” “Canada. It was from Canada and it went home.” “Where’s Canada?” I pointed to Canada. “Is that where the trees are?” “What trees?” She pointed at the car, “The trees on the book.” I glanced at the car. Mom(?) was looking in the back window… hmmm. “Where are you from?” “Iowa. Do you know where that is? We don’t have any of those (pointing at the Olympic Mountains). We don’t have any big trees neither. Where are the trees?” I really wish I could guess at her age. What age does curiosity go away? What would she think of a jelly fish? Mom (?) is still at the car. I got up and walked over. “Are you really from Iowa?” She smiled, “Yes. I’m sorry about Clare bothering you.” “Not bothering, just asking questions about things not in Iowa.” She pointed at a copy of a book in the car. “We both want to know where those trees are.” Ahhh, those trees.  How did they know it was my car? There is always a copy of my book and a copy of Kathy’s book in the car. I unlocked the car and got my book out and handed it to her. I explained where Baker Lake is and how you probably can’t get there at this time of the year because of snow. Mom looked disappointed. Small person looked very disappointed. I got a trail map of nearby Fort Ebey State Park out of the car. In the fading light I explained about Cedar Grove and the old men, the old trees up there–and maybe, just maybe, the two eagles we think live there … “Eagles!?” Small person bounces too. “Yes, maybe, but even if they aren’t home it is a beautiful trail with some very old trees.” I turned to leave. “Bye!” “Bye, Clare.” Mom held out the book, “Your book.” I said, “No, your book–enjoy our island.”
cover_mixHow did they know it was my car

—–Run gently out there—–

A good thing ends

26 January 2015 … Mr. Whitley on my mind

Forever in love with the ghost in the distance

“When good things end” rattled around in my head as I started up the last bit of climb to the trailhead. I thought about delaying the end, but the sun was just about to touch the water when I left the bluff thirty minutes ago and, try as I may, I have not been able to slow its descent. There is a single LED light in my fanny pack, but its uselessness as a primary light source has been proven. Sadly, I must admit, more than once. I did postpone the inevitable end of my run for a few minutes by turning up the trail with no name. It is a horseshoe trail off the main trail that has caused more face plants and strained shoulders from grabbing limbs for balance than any other three trails put together. I took it simply to add time, not really caring about the reduced speed in the darkening woods. Reduced speed? Had the day been about speed? Or focus? Or something else? What was I doing that I was so reluctant to end? It had not been a well-focused run, not thought out at all. chuckanut 031 When I began this run, the time it took to find out what today’s run should be or was to bring passed without notice. The grey, almost black, clouds got more attention than the junctions and decisions about effort. It wasn’t until fifteen or twenty minutes after I started that I noticed the face full of zeroes on my watch. Okay, scratch running the perimeter for time. What is the next option? Just keep going and enjoy the day. At the bottom of the kettle five trails come together. From here my mind’s eye sees me as being in the middle of a five-petalled flower. Each teardrop shaped petal is about a half mile long and climbs (or drops) about 200 feet. Aha! I’ll do each “petal”—obviously a hill-repeats day. The face full of zeroes glared silently. I started up the hundred yards of ball bearings that lined the first climb. chuckanut 008

I made it through two petals and was merrily kicking rocks out of the way going down the third when I did one of the few tricks that I have mastered with no regard to speed, terrain, or season. I kicked a rock. “Watch that rock,” came a voice inside. Hmm, it is rolling back into the trail… right where my mind’s eye says my foot will need to land… uh oh… this is where you do the magical change stride length while in midair. I cheated by grabbing a handful of salal to pull myself a few inches to one side while my eyes remained locked on the still-moving rock. Okay, now I know the rock can’t see me and doesn’t know which way I will go, but it has just adjusted course so I know it is going to be under my lead foot. If its intentions are to cause me to stumble and roll most of the way to the bottom, it is doing a pretty good job for an inanimate object with few sentient qualities. The guys in charge of deciding on shoulder roll versus butt slide have opted for butt slide. I accept their decision. I’m going down, but it is a controlled fall and I am back on my feet before the bottom. Two petals to go.

The pleasure of an unexpected hard workout raised my spirits. As I ran out from under the dense canopy of the forest, the cleared power line right of way let me see the clouds again. A touch of chill came in on the wind and the warmth from my recent hard effort went away. Pausing to see which way the clouds were going, I untied the jacket from around my waist and slipped it back on. I laughed at the lump in the pocket. Gloves? Yes, there are almost always a pair of gloves in my jacket or fanny pack or backpack or vest or whatever. I have never known the weather to guarantee feel good stuff. Above me, there was a distinct line separating the black clouds from the grey across the westerly sky. There was a front coming in. I thought of which trails would have the most tree cover and turned off the power line trail. chuckanut 032

As so many times before, the first drops of rain brought the late Keith Whitley’s “I’m No Stranger to the Rain” to mind. I was silently getting through “I’m no stranger to the rain, I’m a friend of thunder…” when the first flash of lightning came. We don’t get many thunderstorms up here. We get gentle rain, sometimes followed by hard rain, sometimes accompanied by wind, but we don’t get flashing lights and sound effects. “And I’m good at finding shelter in a downpour….” Maybe I should try for another song. I wasn’t worried about the lightning as I had turned down onto a trail that was winding its way around and down—down where no trees were on high to attract a random bolt of electricity. I was looking for some cedars—nature’s umbrellas. I got to them and sat down on one of the contorted roots I had long ago understood to be there as a bench for when I wanted to sit and pause in the quiet of the bottom of the kettle. I pulled a smashed up PB&J from the pouch, knowing I wouldn’t need much time to eat it. Rain that started that suddenly with that intensity seldom lasts very long around here.crooked_trees 066

The quiet returned as the rain passed. The rain laden leaves were heavy enough so as to not dance in the rising wind. My sandwich was finished and the rain was gone. I got up, listened to the creaks and pops of my now cold joints, and started the climb to the bluff overlooking the beach. Passing storms mix the grays, greens, blues, and whites of the water in the strait that, like snowflakes, are never recalled as having been seen before. The eastbound storms hide the mountains to the south and east, but the westerly end of the mountains are visible and sharply silhouetted by the lowering sun. A raft of surf scoters, probably never having acknowledged the storm, bob on the waves.  There are three kayakers just pushing their always frail looking watercraft back into the waves. I wondered if they had soggy PB&Js to eat while waiting out the storm. The sun is a lot lower than I had expected and I needed to head for the car, but the clarity of wave patterns and snow lines on the mountains kept holding me there. The contrasting stillness of the mountains and the ever moving waters of the strait are left to a poet to describe—all I can do is look from one to the other. The contradictory thought of each being older than the other does not bother me.

What bothers me is not having a flashlight and the idea that a good run is in need of an end.

—–Run Gently Out There—–

Running and Weather

Last week’s fog is nowhere to be found. The tops of the trees that hid in the mist can be seen again. Fog comes in for a week at a time or for a few hours with little concern for it being morning or afternoon. It can be thick enough to make me wish I had a jacket, but can vanish with just fifty feet of elevation change. Splotches of fog appear on the waters of Admiralty Strait to map the temperature clashes between air and water.Fog in the tall treesRunning on the bluff trail we can see above water and fog. The Olympic Mountains are slowly becoming whitened with snow. The jagged mountaintops, seldom bare, are now rounded with the early snows of fall. Winter awaits, barely two weeks away. These early chills and moisture; do they foretell of snow on our trails instead of a post card view away across the strait? The tree tops behind us are starting to dance–gently, barely whispering of wind.
b_fog_wind_2“Wind, but no wind chill.” I once used those words to start one of my columns. Yesterday as we returned from the bluff trail above Ebey’s Landing the wind suddenly made its presence felt. The actual temperature was about 40ºF, a not uncomfortable temperature for us as we ran along the trail just off tree’s edge a little over two-hundred feet above the water. We had both glanced at the tree tops as we ran, acknowledging and commenting the soon to be felt wind. Out in front of us we could see the waves becoming more active. The wind was out of the southeast–a direction that allows a fetch (wonderful wind word: the distance an uninterrupted wind travels) of fifty or more miles. A wind that on other days would push the tide up, giving it the power to rearrange the driftwood. Today it was only enough to make us glad to turn our backs on it as we started across the prairie.
b_fog_wind_3Kathy mentioned an upcoming trip to the other side of the mountains; to the open hillsides of the Palouse, Washington’s grain belt. We will get to run in an area where no trails are needed and the wind moves clouds way overhead while pushing us up one side and along the ridge. Routes will be chosen according to the direction the clouds move. A vague notice of darkening clouds might take place. There is a chance of thunder storms in these almost treeless hills.b_fog_wind_4Ice? The nearness to winter solstice means the sun does not get high in the sky; does not stay long enough to melt the mornings frost. The high pressure system has kept cold and clear skies for us for the past five days. The giant high and low pressure systems out in the Pacific Ocean and the rain shadow we live in here on Whidbey Island keep our weather ever changing, but rarely at the extremes encountered in other parts of North America.
When was the wind storm at Rockport State Park? 2011? We went to see eagles, but got sidetracked and hiked around the wind damage done in the park. A short run turned into an hour and more of walking, pausing to take a picture, pausing to try to imagine the noise and the ground shaking as a giant shattered, then came crashing down. Pick up a stick and try to break it. Now think of the power provided by the wind to break a “stick” five or six feet in diameter.Wow?  That is a 7, maybe 8 foot diameter tree trunk that has broken.That is a seven-, maybe eight-foot diameter tree trunk that has broken by the wind.
Wind fetch Wind fetch
The wind and the tide. The weather and the water. The beach that is runnable almost everyday becomes unpassable as a wind with a long fetch matches direction with the incoming tide. The moon joins in to create a higher than usual tide. The view from Partridge Point is hypnotizing.  Waves are pushed higher and no two waves break the same way. No surfers are seen today. The waves they want are here, but too near the bottom of the bluff. There are too many pieces of driftwood with no particular place to be–the tide, wind, currents, and the whim of nature are for the enjoyment of gulls and an occasional eagle, but not for man.I will not run the beach today
We have sunsets over our mountains–colored by the day’s weather bringers.b_fog_wind_8Weather is just as much a part of our running as it is a part of our daily lives. The books for running grew from training, nutrition, and injury to include weather, how to read the sky, why the tides and fogs and … a few from my shelves:

Weather Wisdom — Albert Lee
Wind: How the Flow of Air Has Shaped LIfe, Myth, & the Land — Jan DeBlieu
Living on the Wind: Across the Hemispheres with Migratory Birds — Scott Weidensaul
The Weather Book — Jack Williams
Climatology: An Atmospheric Science — Hidore / Oliver
Beyond the Moon : A Conversational, Common Sense Guide to Understanding the Tides — James Greig McCully
Blame it on the Rain: How Weather Has Changed History — Laura Lee
The Weather of the Pacific Northwest — Cliff Mass
Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning — Richard Hinckley Allen

—–Run gently out there—–

Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

There are two reasons I keep a cast iron skillet; for cooking corn bread or pineapple upside-down cake.  Both can be cooked in pans, round, square, or rectangular, and a good product will result, but something will be missing from the taste (I have Arkansas roots).

Just out of the oven...
Just out of the oven…
The ingredients…
1 9-inch diameter cast iron skillet
¼ cup butter (margarine might work)
1 cup brown sugar — don’t skimp
1 can (15¼ ounce or whatever it is these days) sliced pineapple — undrained
½ cup plain sugar
1 cup whole wheat flour (all-purpose flour would work)
1 teaspoon baking powder
7 maraschino cherries (one per slice of pineapple)
3 eggs, separated — let them set on the counter to get to room temperature
One picture of sunrise [optional] …

Sunrise at Seiku, Washington -- Vancouver Island, BC, Canada on the left
Sunrise at Seiku, Washington — Vancouver Island, BC, Canada on the left
Preheat oven to 350ºF
Melt (do not fry) the butter in the 9-inch cast iron skillet. Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly into the skillet. Arrange enough pineapple slices (dry just a little) to cover the bottom of the pan. Put one maraschino cherry in each pineapple slice. Set to one side.
Beat egg yolks (medium speed) until thick and sort of lemon-yellow colored. Slowly add the sugar, continuing to beat well. Thoroughly mix the flour and baking powder (hint: do this before you start beating the egg yolks). Add the dry mix to the egg yolks–stir in the pineapple juice as you continue to mix (low speed). Beat the egg whites until stiff (has little waves and peaks). Fold the egg whites into the batter. Spoon batter evenly over pineapple slices.

cake 004 (Medium)
Serves seven (unless I am home alone)
Bake at 350ºF for 45ish minutes. I start doing the tooth-pick thing at 40 minutes. Remove cake from oven. Options:
(a) Cool cake in skillet for 30 minutes; turn over onto serving plate–remove skillet.
(b) Immediately turn cake onto serving plate; leave skillet in place to let any drippings drip, then remove skillet.
Ready to take out...
Ready to take to the easy chair…

—–Run gently out there—–

Pausing at a bench

Partridge Point, Fort Ebey State Park, Washington, USA — A pause at one of the memorial benches.

A memorial bench
A memorial bench

The view to the left
The view to the left

Visitors are often surprised at the number of surfers here–none today. This is about six miles into an eleven-mile loop.

Looking westerly -- can sort of see the Olympic Mountains
Looking westerly — can sort of see the Olympic Mountains

The Pacific Ocean is straight out in front of you–about a hundred miles westerly. The water you see is either the Salish Sea, Admiralty Inlet, or the Straight of Juan de Fuca—just depends on your chart, map, or conversation partner.

To the right -- pretend you can see the island behind the trees.
To the right — pretend you can see the island behind the trees.

If you could see the island, it would be Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, maybe. You can also see the southerly end of San Juan Island. Notice how all the whales stay submerged while pictures are taken.

And even farther to the right
And even farther to the right

Nootka roses, Douglas fir, Sitka Spruce, salal, gulls, hummingbirds, eagles, owls, hmmm… no owls today.

Hope you enjoyed todays pause.

—–Run gently out there—–

Old Women–Older Trees

I suppose there is a reason one thought, or story, or memory comes to the surface of our senses at some point in a day’s run. A loose correlation of time, weather, effort, wind direction, shifting tides, and the number of chestnut-backed chickadees in the area may shift our thoughts from one story to another. The algorithm for determining what is going to come calling takes up too much space on the scratchpad of my mind and so, today, as with other days, the result is all that matters.

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This morning found me listening to the crunch, crunch, crunch of frost breaking as I brushed the frozen grasses along the trail. I was running towards the upper bluffs–air just cold enough to wake the senses–fog wisps of breath trailing briefly. I glanced at the cloudless, barely blue sky. Today’s sky is paler than yesterday’s. Each day brings us closer to winter.

My passage interrupts chirpy voices and small winged-shapes flitting here and there in the firs alongside the trail. A passing group of chestnut-backed chickadees looking like Christmas ornaments as they hang upside down looking for food on the underside of branches is the source of the distraction. The summer just past had brought the fun of watching the newest chickadees learning to land upside down on the branch undersides. That is their food niche. Now they are showing me how well they have learned.

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I look at the madrone trees, reddish-brown bark glistening, their newly formed berries bringing the bright red of ripeness that attract cedar waxwings as they pass through heading south. Each morning winter is about fifteen miles closer on its southerly journey. Each morning there is a different audience of birds as I run. It seems like the snow on the shoulders of the Olympic Mountains is a bit wider, the peaks of the Cascades a little more rounded with another day of snow.

Soon the only dry ground will be under the drooping branches of the cedars. Cedars? Olympics? What? The old women. Oh. Here comes today’s memory. It was 1986 in late summer …

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Kathy (my wife) and I were going to run a twenty-something-mile loop in the southwestern part of the Olympic National Park in Washington State. We drove along the shore of Lake Quinault, deep into old growth forest. We passed a tree proclaimed to be the “Largest Western Redcedar in the World”, just over 19 feet in diameter and 174 feet tall. The largest in the world? Who would know, we asked each other as we drove to the trailhead.

We parked, pulled on fanny packs, and headed up Three Lakes Trail, our first running leg of the day. We were running under clear skies and the morning coolness was already gone. I rounded a bend in the trail and stopped. Kathy was stopped in front of an Alaska-cedar, or, as they are sometimes known, Alaska Yellow-cedar. Such deep beauty these old trees possess, wind-polished bark, trunks tall and wise, several hundred years in the growing. The sign-maker had been here too. “Largest Yellow Cedar in the United States.” The two of us could not touch hands trying to reach around it. One-hundred twenty-nine feet tall. We ran on.

Around another corner, up a small hill, past a few slim new Douglas firs, into a mountain meadow, and then I stopped, my turn to pause. Coming toward us were three old women, maybe not as old as the trees around us, but octogenarian old, each with a walking stick and a backpack that dwarfed their bent bodies. We stepped off the trail. They stopped and looked at us in our running shoes, shorts, t-shirts, and fanny packs. We looked at them with their hiking boots, long pants, layers of shirts, hats, dark glasses, packs, and walking sticks. My earlier thought of the beauty of the old trees seemed reflected in their eyes, in the color of their hair, the grey bark of the old cedars, in the lines on their faces, the wind-aged and sun-bronzed sculpturing of the old firs.

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The nearest woman asked, “How far to the trailhead?” I glanced at my watch, converting our running time to backpacking pace, “An hour, maybe a few minutes more.” She nodded and said, with a touch of sadness, “Oh. Well, girls, I guess we’re about done.” About done? “How long have you been out here?” Their stories poured out. A grandson bringing food up on the Hoh, traipsing along the Bogachiel, five days camping by the glacier…. Grandson? Bogachiel? The Hoh? “Stop! Where did you start?” “At Hurricane Ridge, what’s the date?” “July twenty-third.” She paused, thought, and then replied, “We’ve been out six weeks.”

“Oh,” was all I could say. Six weeks? We visualized the days, weeks, and miles and miles and miles they had been wandering in the vastness of the Olympic Peninsula. We thought of our own run, four, maybe five hours. A touch of envy entered our conversation. We parted, returning to our run, but a few steps up the trail a voice came faintly across to us, one of those old voices, “I wish we were young like them, so we could run like they do.”

And I, turning my head, said, not too loudly, “I hope we are still coming out here when we are their age.”

I sat there on the bluff for a while this morning, reliving that day. From where I am sitting, I can look across the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Over to the west lies Hurricane Ridge on the north end of the Olympic Peninsula. Somewhere to the south lies the meadow where we saw the oldest Alaska-cedar and women who inspire. . “Old” lost its meaning somewhere along the way. We are still going out there.

There are trails in there, still calling.

—–Run gently out there—–