Dan and Hannah Hike the Cape Falcon Trail on the northern coast of Oregon

CF map of coastAfter this week of June hiking at Mount Rainier and Olympic National Parks in the state of Washington, Hannah and I have come to the northern coast of Oregon to hang out with Hannah’s amiga Patty and her hubby Kent.  Patty and Hannah go way back to the College of the Nursing at Arizona State University – Patty, a work study student, and Hannah, before kids, still looking to find her way in the world, as a secretary at the College of Nursing.

CFal 6 Surfside SignWe meet at the Surfside Oceanfront Resort in the tourist town of Rockaway Beach, some 90 driving miles west of Portland; I get a Jersey vibe right away.  For those of you who have had the good fortune to spend your formative years in the Garden State, there’s a Jersey shore feel to the town of Rockaway Beach.  But it’s Jersey shore of 100 years ago – unspoiled, few services, small time, expansive beach, and no Garden State Parkway backed up on Sunday afternoon.

CFal 3 beach at Oswald WestLast night we happy hour-ed together and later enjoyed the best of local pizza from Upper Coast Pizza (their motto is If you want it quick, you have come to the wrong place).  Today our mission is to hike along the coast of Oregon after breakfast in. (The Surfside Oceanfront Resort has extensive kitchens in the rooms with a full fridge, dishwasher, oven, toaster, and coffee machine.)  There is one mini-mart in town, but for the most part it seems touristos like us bring their supplies from home to hold down the cost of vacationing.  Patty and Kent bring their pantry to share with us.

Arizona State sisters

Arizona State sisters

Driving north 15 miles on The 101 through the towns of Nehalem and Manzanita, we come upon the roadside parking areas for the Cape Falcon Trail in the Oswald West State Park. (As governor of Oregon, Oswald West created public access to the entire Oregon coast for eternity.)

Circumventing the blowdowns on the trail to Cape Falcon

Circumventing the blowdowns on the trail to Cape Falcon

At noon on this first Saturday of June with a sunny forecast, surfers and families aplenty are heading to Short Sand Beach.  With a trail sign promising 2.5 miles to the promontory point of Cape Falcon along the Pacific Ocean, we four enter the forest and leave the vehicular noise of The 101 behind.

Hannah and Patty

Hannah and Patty

Immediately we are immersed in a rainforest less than a half mile to the ocean.  The brown wet packed dirt of the trail is easy on our feet. Muddy, and muddier than we have seen throughout the trails of the Northwest, we find it easy to step to the side and onto the conveniently placed branches and stones in the trail.  60 Hikes within 60 Miles – Portland calls this hike easy.  We concur.  As such, families will love this wide, flat trail with a modest elevation gain (maybe a few hundred feet).

CFal 1C ferns on trailAble hikers themselves, Patty and Kent set an enjoyable pace as we pair off for conversation. Patty works for Bon Appetit as a culinary magician for the food service at George Fox University. Kent, an accountant by trade, is starting his own business of matching older workers with new opportunities.  He lives the saying – Courage is having faith when doubting would be easier.

CFal 2 B K among greenKeeping up a steady two mph pace, we pass ferns, Sitka spruce, and hemlock which dominate this moist coastal climate.  As we hike through this old growth forest, the wind picks up as we get closer to the coast.

At times we are hiking through an eight foot tunnel of thick green leaves.  On this weekend Saturday, we have lots of company on the trail, which is a good thing. When we are on popular trails, we spend little time wondering if we are on the right trail and more time seeing if we have a connection with our fellow hikers. Today my opening line is have you seen any falcons? (No one has.)  With lots of Ducks in this area (i.e., fans of the University of Nike, oops Oregon), I try to quack them up when I mention my love for all things fluorescent green and yellow.

Short Sand Beach from Cape Falcon

Short Sand Beach from Cape Falcon

Approaching the coast, maybe three hundred feet above the families of beach goers and surfer dudes and dudettes at Short Sand Beach, we have ideal temperatures in the 70s.  It doesn’t get much better hiking through a sun dappled forest on a dirt trail with old friends. Though unmarked, the trail to the actual Cape Falcon is obviously to the left through a meadow of salal, a shoulder-high shrub.

Atop Cape Falcon

Atop Cape Falcon

Once at Cape Falcon we see the beaches to our north but just a bank of clouds to our south. At this point, the Oregon coast speaks Maine to me – sharply angled, steeply dropping cliffs with beaches here and there.

CFal 4 H listeningHiking inland away from the chilly winds of the coast, we find a clearing by the side of the trail for our lunch of turkey, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches and Fuji apples.  Though back at the trailhead I had no service on my iPhone, here, hundreds of feet above the beach, I have Internet access.  I post two Instagram photos from the trip (Btw, if you would like to get my Instagram photos, request me on Instagram and I’ll agree.)

CFal 4B trail againIt’s an easy conversation hike back to the trailhead, which at 3P has cars trolling for a vacant parking spot. We pull out of our roadside parking spot leaving room for another to have the adventure themselves.

While Hannah and Patty thrift shop, Kent catches some zees and I write a draft of our day’s hike for a future blog while it is fresh in my mind. It’ll be happy hour to toast our friendship for the next few years, Mexican food takeout, and watch the recently released DVD McFarland with Kevin Costner (Four stars. I’d give it five if I were allowed.  I love me some inspirational movies).  Just chilling with old friends.

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Dan and Hannah Hike in the Rain Forest at Olympic National Park

Forks at the Gateway to the western entrance of the Olympic National Park

Forks at the Gateway to the western entrance of the Olympic National Park

Arriving late afternoon on the northwestern coast of Washington this first week of June, we land at Forks, some 60 miles southwest of Port Angeles.  We are on a mission to find a comfortable motel room to watch the first game of the NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Your Cleveland Cavaliers; by the way, games start at 6P on the Left Coast and we actually stay awake throughout them.

HH dew drop innOur first choice is our last choice – The Dew Drop Inn.  AARP discount, two double beds, flat screen TV, even a cold breakfast with homemade waffles, cold cereal, and muffins.  All for $79.  We’ve been paying north of $105 in Port Angeles and Packwood the last few nights.

Bella and Eddie

Bella and Eddie

And for all you who perked up when I said Forks, the Dew Drop Inn has three Bella’s Suites based on the blockbuster Twilight series.  We opt for a regular room, but I got to say I loved the series.  Like J. K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame, Stephenie Meyer spins an engaging tale.  If it were so easy to write a blockbuster, everyone would be doing it.  September of 2015 is the tenth anniversary of the first book, Twilight.  This year Forks will hold a celebration the weekend after Labor Day for those of you who have your calendars out.

Hoh, Hoh, Hoh

Hoh, Hoh, Hoh

Heading south on The 101 (the same glorious road we have come to know and love in coastal California) through the forest, we know we are in lumbering, I mean “forest products” country.  Regularly passed by open-bed logging trucks with their massive loads of Douglas fir, we often see clear cutting of the mountain hillsides.  As a renewable resource, the forests are replanted and soon make for a beautiful hillside.  Still, in the meantime the patchwork clear cutting is not pretty.

Fern central

Fern central

Twelve miles south of Forks, we turn inland for the Hoh River Visitor Center as we enter the western section of the Olympic National Park. With 18 miles of winding road along the Hoh River to the trailhead, we are transported so far from York, Maine that we feel like explorers of the Amazon northwest.   We are Carole King So Far Away.

Along the Hoh River

Along the Hoh River

The Hoh River Trail snakes 18 miles through the rainforest to the Hoh Glacier on Mount Olympus. Glaciers grind rock into a fine glacial flour which turns the Hoh River a milky slate blue. Our destination today is more modest as we are heading to Tom’s Creek three miles away.

HOH 3 D on trailHiking along the Hoh River, we find the trail a flatlander’s delight. We weave through the ferns, moss, and green-ness to our right, left, and center thanks to plentiful precipitation, mild winters, and cool summers.  While it will go near 90F inland today, we have a delightful 65F warming us this morning. For the third day in a row we have a hike that families will love with its leisurely, almost non-existent elevation gain.

HOH 2D rooted trailThe terrain is foot-saving packed dirt with a few rocks and worn roots to make it interesting.  Amazingly, despite the rainforest climate and vegetation, we do not run into one mosquito or mosquita (feminine) throughout the entire two hours of hiking.

Glaciers are taking a beating in this part of the country as they recede at an alarming rate.   Global warming deniers need to come west and see the 1970 pictures of this area compared to what they see today.   Our grandsons, Owen and Max, and yours, too, need us all to reverse this trend together.

Amid God’s wilderness I feel a sense of righteous indignation about the issue of global warming. Too many of us can get caught up in our daily lives and do not see the forest for the trees. (You knew that was coming, right?)

Mount Tom's Creek falls in the distance

Mount Tom’s Creek falls in the distance

Finding the rushing waters of Tom’s Creek, we spot a waterfall in the interior through the leafy fronds and ferns of this coastal trail. The ranger tells us that this area has 0% of the snow pack that it normally does. That’s a big goose egg.   They have received their normal amount of precipitation, but due to the 1-3 degree increase in temperature this winter, the precipitation has fallen as rain.

With the dry season of July and August nearly upon them, drought conditions are concerns since the water from the melting snows won’t be released throughout the summer.  And yet if one looks with short-term blinders at the lushness of the rainforest, one can mistakenly think that everything is fine.  It is not.

Amazon North

Amazon North

As we head back to the trailhead other hikers have come to enjoy this jewel supported by our government.  Why are government workers seen as the bogey men and bogey women?  When we get out in the country and see the work these women and men do for the good of us all in America’s National Parks, we just got to wonder what the cable news haters are thinking.

HOH 2B H on trailWe pass frequent large chunks of wood from fallen trees that have been cut up to clear a path for us day hikers and our hardier brethren, backpackers. There were places through this lush forest, where our hiking day would have been finito since there is no way we could have climbed over or around these massive trees.

With the level trail, we are able to hike at a 3 mph pace on a glorious day with temps in the upper 60s.  If “Almost Heaven, West Virginia” is true, heaven’s younger brother resides along the Hoh River here in the Northwest.

Dan, a Philosophy Major Thanks to Pete Carroll (Part 2 of 2)

I have taken the challenge of Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks coach, to write my teaching philosophy in 25 words or less for preservice teachers.  The emboldened words count towards my 25 words.

Relationships – Success in teaching comes from knowing my students, having them feel valued, and supporting them in a belief that they can succeed in the challenging world of teaching.  One way I build relationships at the university level is by having my students respond in writing to our in-class experiences, readings, and their field work.  I then respond individually to each student.  By building relationships, I can inspire them and give them hope that they can succeed.

PC teaching quote 1

Team Building – Classroom teaching of any age students can be lonely.  To recharge, rejuvenate, feel the life affirming energy from another simpatico adult, teachers need to develop colleagues.   I use group teaching projects so my students learn the give and take of team building.

Experiential Learning – The number one problem with classroom learning is that it is for the most part so boring it would make you want to cry.  To that end, I make the lessons I teach based in active experiences.  Rather than talk about the value of the Responsive Classroom’s Morning Meeting, I model one and then have each student lead a Morning Meeting with a partner to live and feel the experience.

PC field study pic

Field Study – There is so much to learn beyond campus.  My students go out into public school classrooms, participate, and teach with some of our public school’s best teachers.

 

Demonstrations of Learning – No written tests for Dan.  Written tests can be too much study, test, and forget.  I want my students to show me what they have learned.  They teach a lesson rather than take a test on the elements of a successful lesson.

There it is ten words.  It’s a first shot, but I could take my philosophy to an interview and articulate my vision for successful classroom teaching.

Give it a shot in 25 words or less.  It may be what you are missing.  I’d love to see what you come up with.

 

Dan, a Philosophy Major Thanks to Pete Carroll (Part 1 of 2) (#5)

PC Win ForeverI am really getting into Pete Carroll’s Win Forever: Live, Work, and Play like a Champion.  Pete is the Super Bowl winning (2014) and losing (2015) coach of the Seattle Seahawks.  Valuing all life’s experiences, not just when things go well, he learns from them and is better for them.  The central premise to Win Forever is that one needs to articulate a philosophy in order to succeed in the workplace.

Without a group of guiding principles as a philosophy, your job, team, group, or mission can be aimless.  Too much seat-of-the-pants decision-making can make success hit or miss.

Win Forever Pyramid

Win Forever Pyramid

Pete’s own philosophy applies to his work place: coaching football players.  Do things better than they have ever been done before.  Respect everyone with great effort and great enthusiasm.  No whining, no complaining, no excuses.  And one of my favorites – Be early.   His pyramid-shaped philosophy continues with the importance of competition, practice, and confidence.  He has lots of crossover points for us all.

He got me thinking of the value of a philosophy would have been for me as a teacher.  As a teacher I had a sense of what I wanted to do.   I trusted my instincts, but I didn’t have the template of a philosophy to refer to that would keep my teaching consistent with my beliefs on a daily basis.

No matter our profession, Pete challenges us to articulate our philosophy in 25 words or less.  Are you with me?  Tomorrow’s blog has my philosophy of classroom learning for preservice teachers; it’s down to 10 words and one is of.  Please post yours on my blog after I take the first step.

Dan and Hannah Hike in Washington’s Olympic National Park

HH map of ForksIt’s June as we drive as far northwest in the Lower Forty-Eight as we can.  We pass within shouting distance of Seattle, home to the Seattle Seahawks -the best team in football not named the New England Patriots!   Bah da boom!  Later this month, Jordan Spieth will win the US Open at Chambers Bay at nearby Tacoma.  For us, it’s then across Puget Sound to Bremerton, then Sequim and eventually to Port Angeles on the Strait of Juan de Fuca for the night.

Mountains of Olympic National Park

Mountains of Olympic National Park

Heading north on two lane route 3, we see a sign that says if there are five cars behind you, it’s the law that you have to pull over and let them pass.  How cool is that!  We have seen more fir trees and pines per square inch then we have ever seen anywhere in the United States. Healthy, towering year round firs are packed together as if giants were boxing plants for shipment. I’m guessing that the downside to such density is that flames can whip through such tightly bunched arbors like, well, wildfire.

One serious snow removal machine!

One serious snow removal machine!

Hannah and I immediately take to Port Angeles – its modest size; its modest homes on modest streets at modest prices.   A three bedroom, 1.5 baths, 1080 sq. ft. goes for $125K.   In town many houses are priced for under $200K.   With winter lows seldom below 25F, Port Angeles receives a mere 4 inches of snow each year; summer highs are rarely ever above 80F.  We are talking amore!

MMF 1 mountains in distanceOver wine, we look to Vancouver Island in the Great Nice North of Canada. Port Angeles feels like an outpost where the creative and middle class flourish. We pass a restaurant called Oven Spoonful and an optometry boutique called Specialeyes. It seems a place where one can be playful and check the serious business of growing up at the backdoor for just a little while.

HH 1A Sign to Hurricane Ridge

Our rental VW Beetle in the background

Come the next morning we are nourished by another fantastic Quality Inn breakfast (Any breakfast of toasted biscuits and rich decaf is my idea of a primo breakfast. I am a simple man with simple pleasures.)  Packed up, we drive on winding roads to our destination of the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center and the Hurricane Hill trailhead just 45 minutes south of town.

HH 1 deer in roadAlong the way, Bambi and her daughter dip their heads onto the center of the road licking what I am guessing is salt. They are nonplussed about the cars passing by and look up nonchalantly as I snap this picture. At the end of this 17 mile drive to the mile high Visitor Center, there is an expansive parking lot with but 20 cars today; we then take a narrow road for 1.5 miles to the trailhead of the Hurricane Hill Trail.

Hurricane Hannah on the Hurricane Hill Trail

Hurricane Hannah on the Hurricane Hill Trail

Paved all the way to the top, the Hurricane Hill Trail is similar to other paved signature trails in major national parks.  Both the Angel’s Landing and Observation Point Trails in Zion National Park are paved much of the way. It is apparent that hikers are not always thrilled with the pavement as the grass on either side of the trail is now worn dirt and easier on the feet.

HH 2F D on trailThough there is no threat of precipitation today, that doesn’t mean there aren’t clouds dominating the mountains of Olympic National Park.  With a 700 feet of elevation gain, the trail rises steadily over the next mile and a half.  Even on this first week of June Thursday during the preseason, there are many seniors on the trail through the subalpine meadows.  One woman we chat up, who is hiking with four friends in their 70s, tells us she hikes this trail regularly. Who needs a gym when you live in Port Angeles at the gateway to Olympic National Park?

HH 4A H on trailAlong the trail we see Bambi’s kid sister and Bambi’s niece (technically I believe Disney’s Bambi is a male, but really how many males do you know named Bambi?) who are not the least bit bothered by our presence. Check out the video below.

Over the last eight tenths of a mile the trail steepens as we are soon climbing into the floating clouds that cover the summit. The major mountains to our north and the sea to our south are totally obscured. We enjoy this cardio workout among the high mountain grasses and wildflowers.

What we might have seen

What we might have seen

At the top we are fog bound. Views of Mount Olympus will be saved for another visit.  This panoramic photo gives us an idea of what we might have seen. With barking quads, we slowly inch down the mountain passing many other hopeful hikers.  Spotting a standing marmot above her hole, I step as close as I dare so as not to spook her. Aggressive coyotes are the reason for the declining marmot population here in the Olympic high meadows.

Mountain tarn beneath Hurricane Hill

Mountain tarn beneath Hurricane Hill

Truth be told the Hurricane Hill Trail is a family hike. We hike it up and back in under an hour and thirty minutes.  If you are planning a visit to the Olympic peninsula, come in June or September before or after the crunch of the summer tourist season.

MMF 1B H with sign for MMFAn Olympic National Park ranger recommends the Marymere Falls Trail. Heading 20 miles west on route 101 towards the Pacific Ocean, we hug Crescent Lake along the highway as I grab the wheel at 10 and 2 to avoid being blown off the road by the monster logging trucks.  Lunching at the Storm King Ranger Station at Crescent Lake, we have our first day in five that is warm enough to have a Dos Equis with our peanut butter sandwiches, potato salad, and orange slices.

Marymere Falls

Marymere Falls

The Marymere Falls Trail takes us a mile through the dense rainforest of northern Washington. With little elevation gain, we walk through a Disney forest of moss hanging off limbs that give the trees witch-like qualities.

Dan and Mary (mere)

Dan and Mary (mere)

Thanks to our grandson Owen who has mentioned that his Poppa is never in the videos of our travels, Hannah takes the iPhone video to document our trip to Marymere Falls. So here is the falls one more time thanks to Owen.

With two family hikes today at the Olympic National Park, we drive inland some ten to fifteen miles from the Pacific to Forks, Washington, as Twilight approaches.

Dan, a Diagnosis, and Some Love

Inoperable brain cancer.  The words knock me for a loop.  I had just seen Ron last Friday.  He looked good.  After two months of treatment, he wasn’t chemo/radiation skinny; which probably fooled me into thinking he was doing better than he was.  He smiled; he told his story.  There was no self-pity in his voice.  Nor in hers.

RA Time

I learned that down in Boston he’s been undergoing a couple of months of radiation for glioblastoma, a nasty brain cancer.  Hannah’s brother Doug died of glioblastoma thirteen years ago.   Ted Kennedy, too.   It’s a stage 4 aggressive brain tumor for which there is no cure.  Treatment buys time.

Though Ron and I have seen each other time and again over the years, it’s his wife Wanda who is my connection to the family.  For ten years she and I taught on the same 7th grade team in the Kittery, Maine public schools.  She was the rock and soul of our team of teachers; just a good, decent, and dedicated person and teacher that you would very much want your kids to be around.

Their four boys went to York High School around the time our three kids did.  York can be a small town in the best way.  Looking out for each other.  Feeling connected from one part of town to the other.  Rallying around each other in good times and challenging ones like these.

RA Gofundme

At the bottom of the online article (May 12, 2015 seacoastonline.com) that I read, there was a place to click on GoFundMe.com/averystrong to donate to the family for travel and medical expenses.   After four days of fundraising, 117 folks have already donated.  Hannah and I are lucky to be able to do our part.

The money is the money, and it is needed.  But mainly the 117 donors are saying “I love you, Ron.  I love you, Wanda.  I love you Averys, one and all.  You are not alone.”

Dan and Hannah Hike to Silver Falls at Mount Rainier National Park

SF map of packwood

We are here in small town America just south of Mount Rainier National Park in Packwood, Washington.  With a population of 1330, Packwood has lost its elementary school due to the closing of the local lumber mill eight years ago.   As you might expect, Packwood gets by as a tourist destination for seasonal national park visitors, seasonal snowbirds (retirees), and the affluent with their seasonal second homes.

Packwood from above

Packwood from above

Kids go to high school in Randle some 16 miles away.  Why do people stay in a little town like Packwood?  Like rural Maine, I doubt few twenty-somethings do since jobs are hard to come by.  If you got a good-paying government job (e.g., rangers in the national parks, teaching, postal work), you can afford to live her quite nicely.

Hannah at the beginning of the Silver Falls Loop Trail

Hannah at the beginning of the Silver Falls Loop Trail

Three bedrooms, 2 baths, nearly 2000 square feet goes for $185K on Zillow.com here in Packwood.   What do you do in central Washington all winter?  If you like hunting, fishing, and winter sports, you have hit pay dirt.  None of those interest me at all.  Ultimately, if they stay or if they return they do so because it’s home.  Mom and dad are here.  Childhood memories are here.  It’s safe.  It’s the known.

SF 1B trail in firs

Though a heavy gray/black overcast greets us this Tuesday morning, we know rain and the Northwest go together like biscuits and gravy, red wine and good heart health, diapers and toddlers, and Mary Lynne and Wayne.  If you come to the Northwest, get comfortable with the idea of regular precipitation.  We can’t be the first ones to think the “Rainier” in Mount Rainier is pronounced “rain-ee-er” rather than “ray-near.”

SF 1C D on trail

Fueled by biscuits and gravy (Hannah) and biscuits and decaf (Dan) at the Crest Trail Inn, we head east on Route 12 through a forest of pines and firs that seem crammed together in beautiful symmetry.  With so little time to work on the roads, it’s not surprising that with just one lane open we are stopped by a flagman while traffic comes from the opposite direction.

SF 2C Silver creek

The Ohanapecosh campground is located just outside the Mount Rainier National Park.  On this first pre-season week of June, we see no one camping and one RV dumping its waste appropriately.  We do see crews digging up the road to lay sewer pipes before the season begins.

SF 3 h on trail on bridge

The Silver Falls Loop Trail is a family hike with four miles of well-marked trails and easy ups and downs.  As we hike along the Ohanapecosh River, the elevation gain is modest, never more than 40 feet at a time.  Just one hundred yards down the trail, we lean down to touch the warm water from the hot springs to our right.  The warm water is a reminder of the powder keg of destructive possibilities that lie beneath our feet near this active volcano.

Lahar

Lahar

One of the big deals about eruptions is the volcanic mudflows called lahars that form once a volcano blows.  With the consistency and density of wet concrete, lahars are caused by massive amounts of water after a volcanic eruption; be they rain or melting snows or turbulent rivers. Geologic history of Mount Rainier shows lahars occur once every 600 years.  The last lahar occurred 500 years ago.  The next one will affect 300K people on its way to Tacoma.

SF 1D  H happy on trail

Ever hopeful that today is not a day of explosion, we walk through a rain forest of green upon green; ferns and wide leaf plants.  The trail of pine needles covers the wet packed dirt that is easy on our feet.  It is a walk in the park that kids, seniors, and those in love would adore.

Within a mile, we hear the roar of the Ohanapecosh River.  Spring thaw and recent rains have made for a white water extravaganza by our side.  Since the Mount Rainier National Park is so near to major population centers like Seattle, Tacoma, and Portland and their airports, the park teems with visitors during the summer months.  It’s similar to summer in Yosemite.  Today we have the falls to ourselves.

SF 2B  falls through trees

What is it about waterfalls that draw me in?  The fury of the white water is kin to the crashing waves on the coast of Maine.  I associate falls with hiking and exploring.  There’s an “away-ness” that speaks to me.

One mighty Douglas fir

One mighty Douglas fir

We have another mile along the river through stands of towering Douglas firs, red cedars, and western hemlocks to the Grove of the Patriarchs.  This three-tenths of a mile trail to the Old Men leads us to a boardwalk tour of the boreal giants of the area – Douglas firs can grow 250 feet and live for 1000 years.  They are successful brothers to California’s redwoods.

Rebels from Maine

Rebels from Maine

Crossing a wiggly bridge suspended over the Ohanapecosh River, similar to what you would see in York, Maine crossing from route 103 to the Steedman Woods, we notice that it is posted with the rule that only one person is allowed on the bridge at a time.  Never did we see anyone abide by that restriction, including us.

The rebels within me is unleashed by this “rule.”   Perhaps you didn’t know that… sometimes I send personal notes in parcel post packages without paying extra for them; I don’t always wear a bicycle helmet; I take the unused soap when we stay in a motel; and I sometimes fall asleep when I meditate.  Quite the Sixties rebel!

SF 4F rooted trail

After two days of knee busting climbs of 2100 feet, today’s walk along the river with little elevation gain is just what the doctor ordered.   We return by way of the west side of the Silver Falls Loop Trail to the Ohanapecosh campground.  Tonight, we will end up in a motel bed four hours away in Port Angeles, WA on the Olympic peninsula rather than camping in a tent in the damp forest on one of these 40 degree nights.

Amazing how soft I have become.  I guess it just comes with age… and wisdom.

Dan, Ping Pong, and Pete Carroll

I gave it away.  I flat out blew it.  It was game point and I smashed the easiest shot I will ever have into the net.  Let me back up and explain what happened.

I’ve played ping pong almost every Thursday with my friend George ever since I retired from teaching four years ago.  One week we bat the ball around at our one-time breakfast room, the next week at the table in his cool basement.    Playing ten or eleven games for an hour or so, we have been pretty evenly matched of late; though some days he wins 8 of 10 and other times I do.

PC ping pong paddles

This past week while playing at his place in Kittery Point, I had a short smash to win the game 21-17; which would have meant we would have split our first six games.  The ball sat up with no spin, two feet above the net waiting for me to blast it into the next room.  I blew the easiest smash I will ever have.  Flat out rocketed it into the bottom of the net.  I had the game and I “gave it away.”  With the score still 20-18 in my favor, I shook off the miss and focused on the fact that I still had two more chances to win.  Despite my focus, I lost those points to knot the match at deuce at 20-20.

Still in the moment, I split the first two points to remain at deuce; and we split the next two as we remain tied.  Then George pulled off two winning shots and took the game.  A sure win was now a loss.  But here’s the cool part.  Even though, I had blown the game, I just played on without any pissing and moaning about an opportunity lost.

Pete Carroll after the Patriot's Malcolm Butler intercepted the Russell Wilson pass on the goal line sealing the Patriot victory

Pete Carroll after the Patriot’s Malcolm Butler intercepted the Russell Wilson pass on the goal line sealing the Patriot victory

Playing evenly in the following games, I eventually won the last two, though George had the upper hand for the day.  And this brings me to Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks (my favorite coach).  Those are  the same Seahawks that “gave away” the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots (my favorite team) because some say of Pete’s play calling.  In the final minute of play, he had the Seahawks pass rather than  use their thought-to-be unstoppable Marshawn Lynch to run the ball in for a touchdown from the one yard line.  To this day, Pete believes he made the right call.

Sports Illustrated for August 3, 2015

Sports Illustrated for August 3, 2015

Pete was skewered for his call.  Mocked.  Lambasted.  Ridiculed.  It has been called the worst coaching decision in Super Bowl history.

But… I learned in Who’s Moved On?  This Guy in this week’s issue (August 3, 2015) of Sports Illustrated that after one morning of lamenting, Pete put the loss behind him.  He used the crushing defeat as a learning experience to lead his team to someplace even better.  When people say that was the “worst possible decision,” Pete says that was the “worst possible outcome.”

How did he move on?  In his own words, You pour everything into your life into something and -it goes right, it goes wrong – it’s you.  It becomes a part of you. I’m not going to ignore it.  I’m going to face it. And when it bubbles up, I’m going to think about it and get on with it. And use it.  Use it!

Last Thursday after putting the easy smash into the net, I called on my inner Pete Carroll to move on.  Thanks coach.

Dan and Hannah Hike to Comet Falls in Mount Rainier National Park

CF MR mapIn every effort to keep Washington green this first week of June, the rain gods are doing their thing for our visit to Mount Rainier National Park.  As a family we Rothermels drove 4500 miles to Denali National Park between Fairbanks and Anchorage, Alaska; and due to the cloud cover, we never saw Denali, the highest mountain in North America.  Two years ago, Hannah and I came to southwest Washington to hike Mt. St. Helens.  Hiking in our ponchos in a cloud, we barely saw 150 feet in front of us all day.

CF 1AA Mt. Rainier signToday there is no chance in hell that we will see Mount Rainier as the overcast and precipitation has descended on western Washington. Checking my Weather Channel app on my iPhone, I see that there is 34% chance of rain at 9A, 53% chance at 10A, and 94% chance at 1P.  Connecting the dots, we decide to hit the road early for today’s hike.

The road by the Comet Falls trailhead

The road by the Comet Falls trailhead

Our jumping off point is Packwood, WA, which is a rural outpost that gives off an Alaska vibe.  Two years ago we spent time in Cougar, WA, the gateway to Mt. St. Helens; and Packwood has the same out-of-the-way feel where it seems residents have happily left fast-paced America behind.  The front desk clerk at our motel wouldn’t live anywhere else.

CF 8 Crest Trail LodgeAt the Crest Trail Lodge, just outside of town, we have a breakfast worthy of hikers preparing to climb America’s premier volcano.  Hannah has her biscuits and gravy while I have scrambled eggs with buttered biscuits with my decaf.  Last evening, we each were served two complimentary glasses of Cabernet from Two Vines, a local vineyard.

Van Trump Creek

Van Trump Creek

In light sprinkles after breakfast, we head northwest on Skate Creek Road for the town of Ashford, WA and the Nisqually (western) Entrance to Mount Rainier National Park; this road has been recently reopened after being closed all winter.  Taking this winding road with bumps and depressions that rock our personal under carriage, we try to beat the predicted heavy rain that is on its way.  I use the windshield wipers as little as possible under the theory that the less I use them, the less it will rain.

CF 2B D by streamArriving at the Nisqually entrance I ask the ranger for a hiking recommendation.  Her choice is the Comet Falls Trail, just 11 miles into the park.  Though it is strenuous-rated, it is a lower level hike, which means we will not be dealing with snow today.

Climbing into the forest at the trailhead

Climbing into the forest at the trailhead

Preferring to be eaten by a bear than be wet and cold, Hannah is leery of hiking in this morning rain with temperatures approaching 50F.  Not me; being a bear’s morning snack sounds as bad as it probably is. I’ll take a little cold rain.  As we leave our rented VW Beetle, it seems the rain gods have gone fishing.

On the Comet Falls Trail

On the Comet Falls Trail

Though we have had from drizzle to light rain for the past hour’s drive to the Comet Falls trailhead, it’s not much more than misting as we prepare to hike. Hannah pulls on her poncho while I adhere to a similar theory of the windshield wiper.  The less I wear my poncho, the less it will rain. (You have your theories of life, I have mine!)

CF 3E H on rocky trailOver the next nearly three miles of trail we will gain 2100 feet in elevation on a morning that is overcast to say the least. (At the main Paradise Visitor Center further into the park, the predicted high for this first week of June day is 44F. Atop Mount Rainier itself the high will be 11F.)   Starting at a trailhead at 3600’, we have a steady climb into the Douglas fir forest on a trail that is wet but not muddy.

Over the first two miles, we are constantly stepping over well-worn roots and up and over rock after rock. My theory of not wearing a poncho to avoid the likelihood of rain is paying off as any misting has stopped.  Overheated in her poncho, Hannah soon returns it to her backpack.

Crib ladder on the Comet Falls Trail

Crib ladder on the Comet Falls Trail

Following the lower reaches of the Van Trump Creek as it rushes by in all its white water glory, we find a rocky and steep trail, though not perilous as we hike above the ravine-ous terrain.  With the rushing water as a backdrop, we have our own personal hiking symphony.  A crib ladder, built due to landslide that closed the trail in 2012, allows us to climb the cliffside.

What we first thought was the Comet Falls

What we first thought was the Comet Falls

With no markers indicating how close we are to Comet Falls, I use my watch to gauge that after 45 minutes we must be close.  Soon a sign appears that indicates we are 200 feet from Comet Falls.  Pleased we have climbed the 1400 feet to the falls in under hour, I get my iPhone ready to video the white water falls. The video below reveals my exuberance as I call the falls the Casco Falls (the Portland, ME bay?) rather than the Comet Falls. Enjoy.

The Comet Falls

The real Comet Falls

Most pleased, we decide to hike the additional mile to the Van Trump Park some 700’ more up into the foothills of Mount Rainier.  Taking a bridge over the creek, we see a tributary and then boom!  A dramatic 124 foot falls – something out of Yosemite or Multnomah Falls on the Columbia River Gorge.  The video below is the real Comet Falls filmed three minutes later.

CF 7 trail with blowdownsThe park service rangers have done yeomen and yeowomen’s work to clear the trails. We see 20 to 40’ snapped-off trees littering either side of the trail due to wind storms that have blasted through the area.

Maine boy at Van Trump Park

Maine boy at Van Trump Park

The trail rises with switchbacks through the forest to a meadow worthy of Julie Andrews and the Sound of Music.  The Van Trump Park is a meadow with views to the mountain snows above.  Ninety minutes into our hike, we still have had no rain, though here in the higher reaches we are clearly immersed in a cloud.

Descending

Descending

On our descent we step gingerly as our knees, most willing in our climb up, are not quite as thrilled, as we use them to brake on the way down.  With the clouds/fog descending, we pick up the pace to avoid the inevitable rain.  Thirty minutes down, we find the Comet Falls not as brilliant as the clouds begin to obscure its majesty.

The crib ladder heading for home

The crib ladder heading for home

Every so often a little mist falls, but not wearing a poncho has worked and kept the rain at bay.  With three hours of hiking in the books and none of it in rain, we are again the fortunate ones. Though we don’t see Mount Rainier itself, we focus on the journey, grasshopper, to a falls worthy of Mother Nature herself.