Little Mashel Falls

We tried this hike again and were better prepared. We headed out earlier this time and because of the heat, we left the dogs home in the air conditioning. We carried our water and had some snacks back at the truck. There was only one other car in the parking lot when we pulled in and parked. I hooked my water bottle to my camera backpack and swung the backpack on my shoulders. Mitch brought one of his hunting canteens filled with water and strung it on his belt, (old school guy, super functional). After getting our meager gear on, we headed out up, the gravel road, hopefully to find a waterfall.

The morning was warming up as we walked along. The route was poorly marked, with a coupled of letter size pieces of paper in clear sleeves and hand-written word, “Falls” and an arrow pointing up the road. Someone spent big bucks on the signage. We came upon on a large rock that someone or someone(s) spray painted letters on next to a small gravel path. We walked on passing the rock thinking there had to a better marked path ahead. After walking another mile and a half, we decided we had gone too far and turned back.

We walked back to the large graffiti rock and headed down the path, twisting and winding our way into the woods. We walked along a couple of switchbacks, then came to a rather steep dirt path down the hill. The path was steep enough my knees and shins hurt, and my toes were jammed against the end of my shoes. I tried walking back and forth across the trail to lessen the steep descent. I kept thinking that this was looking like a potential AFLAC claim.

At one point we came up on a fork in the trail. Do we go to the right and up or do we continue down and to the left? We chose down and to the left. At one of many forks and some narrow steep ways to continue, we turned to the right and headed on that path. We spotted the falls through the trees and looked a way to get closer without doing a header off the side of the trail.

We found another narrow path that had some trees close enough and small enough I could hold on to for support, that led to the base of the falls. As I walked up on a huge boulder to get a better shot of the falls, I looked down to the next lower boulder and discovered a couple having a moment. Lucky me, I finally find the waterfall and now I’m a voyeur in a porno flick. They looked up at me, so I waved and turned away. Of course, they had the best spot for getting full on frontal pictures of the waterfall.

I had to content myself with side shots, from a few different angles. After taking a few photos, we headed back up the trail, retracing our steps. I was so looking forward going up the near vertical trail, (not). After nearly eight miles we were back at the truck, tired but we found a waterfall. Not the truly majestic one I’m still searching for, that is still out there waiting.

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Woefully Unprepared

Summer in the Pacific Northwest is as close to perfect as you can get. Sun, sun and more sun, the days are sunny and clear, humidity is almost non-existent, daytime highs are in the eighties, to low nineties and lows are in the high fifties, to low sixties. This year we are trying to coordinate our schedules to get more time for outings, hiking, kayaking and searching out my dream vistas.

Thursday the plan was to rent kayaks at a lake that was close to us and do some paddling around. After a convoluted call to the rental shop, the guy at the shop said that the owner called in to say he wasn’t feeling well and wasn’t going to open the store that day so he was going to have to call all of the people that had already reserved kayaks and paddle boards to let them know the store was not going to open. I thought wow what a way to run a business and figured it was probably for the best that we didn’t try and use one of their kayaks.

We decided to go hiking instead. I searched around for a hike that wasn’t too far away, since we were going with plan B and getting a late start. I found a hike south about thirty miles away, a forty-five-minute drive that was reported to have three waterfalls. We thought the dogs would enjoy tagging along so we added extra water for them too and headed out. I should have packed some snacks but didn’t think about it. (Poor planning on my part)

Following the directions to Little Mashel Falls, we arrived at an access point on the side of the road that looked really sketchy, with a couple of cars parked that looked like someone lived in them and were not mobile. There was no marked trailhead, so I got out of the car (really smart idea) and walked along the edge of the woods to see if there was a path. I found a narrow path leading off into the woods and walked in a few feet to check out the trail. It looked feasible, but there was a lot of trash around, like a bunch of slobs had been through. I walked back to the car, leashed up the dogs and we headed off down the creepy trail.

We hiked in about fifty feet when we came up on a steep path down to a train trestle. There was even a rope tied to a tree as a hand hold to get down the path without face planting at the bottom. Mitch and Royal headed off down the steep embankment, and I looked at Orso and thought there was no way we would be able to get the dogs back up that path if it was the only way in and out. I wasn’t even too sure I would be able to get myself back up let alone going down without filing an Aflac claim. I called to Mitch and told him that this was not a good idea and let’s look for a better trail down. He and Royal made it back up with some effort and we headed out looking for a better descent trail. We came up one a man just standing on the trail looking off into the distance and said without turning around, “The next trail over has a better access.” Creepy, where did he come from?

We turned around and headed back to where the car was parked and looked for a better access point. Right by the van that was parked there and looked like it was not mobile, was a sign that said, NO TRESPASSING! Property of the Railroad. Too bad we didn’t see that sign first. We loaded the dogs back up in the car and put in a different description in my phone, hoping for a better spot.

We found a better access point, actually a park with a real parking lot and a gravel path and markers with real directions. Imagine that. What a difference a better description makes in my phone. We headed off down the trail noting the sign that said 4.8 miles. We hoped that meant round trip. The sun was shining, and the day was warming up. And we forgot the water, it was still in the cooler in the back of the car, (really stupid). We thought that once we got there, the dogs cold get in the water and cool off.

At the halfway point, we realized the 4.8-mile sign was one-way and the dogs were getting too hot. Orso was panting and struggling, I was even getting tired, lugging my camera backpack. So, we decided we had not planned well at all, and were stupid pet owners. We turned back and headed back to the car. No waterfalls today.

Next time I promise to do a better job planning and packing for a day hike. I will even read all of the trail description, not just the highlights.

Almost Silent

Orso will be twelve years old in August, a true senior citizen in dog years. Not only is he old by dog standards, (seven people years for each dog year), but he also weighs ninety-nine pounds, making him ancient, almost a living fossil. He has started to slow down; his hips are weaker, and he often has a sway to them. He also has a mystery limp in his right front leg. We’ll be walking along, then all of a sudden, he stumbles and limps for a few steps. I’ve checked his paw for any cuts or foreign object, I’ve felt his bones and soft tissue up and down, massaging his leg up to the shoulder and nothing. No cuts, no injury to his leg or paw. Then almost as if it’s a miracle, he takes off trotting along without a care and no limp.

We noticed that this winter, he started breathing heavier and louder on our walks. There was no sneaking up on anyone with him around. He sounded like a little old man with emphysema. As winter became spring, the wheezing got louder and longer. At times there was a bit of a whistle to the wheeze, making me wonder if he had something stuck in his throat. His annual check-up came and as soon as the vet walked in the room, she commented on the wheezing and said she suspected he had laryngeal paralysis. Of course, the only way to diagnose laryngeal paralysis is with throat surgery.

The surgeon goes in and checks the larynx for paralysis. If the dog had laryngeal paralysis, then there are two options, one is to cut one side off which is also called de-barking and hope that allows enough air flow for the dog to breathe and to keep cool. The other option, which is very expensive and done by a specialist, is to go in and tie back one or both sides of the larynx to open the airway. One of the biggest concerns with laryngeal paralysis is heat stroke, because the dog is basically breathing through a straw and cannot get enough air in and out to cool off.

With summer almost here and the days getting warmer, we made an appointment for Orso to undergo the surgery, after talking to the vet, decided the best option was option one, but we would combine the diagnosis and surgery in one. The vet would check and if he had laryngeal paralysis, the vet would cut one side off.

The day of the surgery Orso was definitely not happy with me, nothing to eat, he stood there and watched Royal chow down, looked at me, then back at Royal, and back at me. Definitely not happy. And he had to suffer through a walk, on an empty stomach, life was not fair.

The vet called me after the surgery and said Orso had laryngeal paralysis on both sides, he wasn’t getting much air at all, so he cut off one side as a start. He didn’t want to cut both sides, for fear of too much scar tissue forming causing as bad a problem as before the surgery. So we’re trying one side and seeing how well Orso can breathe and get through the summer.

Orso still pants heavily, but the little old man wheeze is gone at least for the time being and we’ll almost silent.

Road Trip

The rainy season is over and summer is nipping at the heels of spring. This year I’m hoping to get more traveling in and do some exploring. For our spring vacation, we took a trip to the San Juan Islands, staying at Friday Harbor, to go whale watching. For this vacation there was a lot of pre-planning involved months before our actual trip. We found out last year that during the summer months here everyone is traveling around experiencing all this state has to offer and almost every vacation spot is booked up months and even up to a year in advance.

I had to book the hotel, dog kennel stay and whale watching boat in January for a May trip. Then as it got closer to our trip, a month out, I had to make reservations for the hour-long ferry ride to the island. So much pre-planning and time scheduling was stressful. We had to be in the line for the ferry forty-five minutes to one hour prior to sailing in order to ensure a spot on the boat. Couple that with the traffic here going north through Seattle, we had to be on the road about six hours early just to drop off the dogs, fight commuter traffic and drive the hundred nineteen miles to the ferry terminal. Not our normal vacation style of heading out then stopping when and where we want.

Anyway, the trip was amazing. The weather was just perfect, sunny with highs in the high sixties and low seventies. We couldn’t believe our good fortune. Our hotel was a mile away from the harbor and decided that instead of driving down and looking for parking each time, we would walk down to the docks on each trip out.

The company we went with for the whale watching was Maya’s Legacy and we couldn’t have been given a better experience. The crew, captain and two mates, was wonderful, informative and very helpful. We were a small group, thirteen of us plus the crew, so we were given much more personal attention than other boats we saw that had over thirty people on the decks. Every time the captain or one of the crew saw something of interest we would stop for sufficient gawking and photos.

We saw bald eagles perched on the tops of trees scanning for lunch. We turned north and headed toward Canada looking for Orcas. We found a pod with four whales and as one of our crew pointed out, we were having a National Geographic moment, watching the whales feeding. What I was surprised to see was that all of the boats talked to each other and let others know where to find the whales, in order to provide a great experience for everyone out on the water. After watching them for a while, I figured we would head back, but no, our captain said we were on the search for another pod that consisted of a mother, her son and daughter. We found them farther north and again, we were all in awe of the beauty and magnificence of the animals. The male Orca had a dorsal fin that was over six feet high. I could hear the water being expelled from their blow holes each time they broke water.

After we had been on the water for over two hours, we turned around and headed back. On the trip back we came upon a group of harbor seals feeding on fish and a group of sea gulls flying around them trying to steal a bite or two.

Definitely a trip that was well worth the pre-planning, one that we won’t forget for some time.

Breathe

Inhale deeply, close your eyes. Think of a place you want to be. Slowly let the breath escape. Open your eyes. Where are you? If you’re like me, same place before your inhaled. If not, and you are in the place you want to be, I am so jealous. Because you have special powers and I am a mere mortal. A boring mere mortal.

Not that I don’t want to be here, because here is pretty good. It’s spring and there is so much color exploding from all the plants, bushes and trees. Oh, and the grass is growing. And growing and growing. I was out of town for ten days on business and came home to a yard with grass that was a foot tall. I even mowed before I left town, just to be on the safe side. It took me three mowings and raking to get the yard looking like we lived in a neighborhood and not in a hay field. Maybe next year I won’t put that fertilizer down.

The weather is turning around and getting warmer. Rain chances are fewer and fewer and spaced farther apart. After all June is a month away and then the rain will stop almost completely for a couple of months. I have my tomato plants to get in the ground in a week and this year after learning my lesson from last year’s garden, I bought three zucchini and two squash plants, instead of seed packets. I didn’t think I would ever stop eating zucchini.

Now there are more opportunities to get out and go hiking, taking my camera along capturing as many sights as I can, because this is truly a beautiful state, with the ocean on the left, the mountains on the right and just over the hill, wine country. What more could I ask for?

Jet Lag

I’m going with jet lag, otherwise the alternative is more depressing. Last week I had to travel for work and spend five days at the main office. I travel alone frequently for work, but this time Mitch traveled with me. While I toiled away at the office, attending meetings and helping coworkers, Mitch slept late, ate a really nice buffet breakfast and hung out at the local tobacco shop smoking his pipe in peace. While we were out of town, we had the dogs kenneled, not our favorite option, but out here we don’t know anybody well enough that we could impose on to dog sit.

Flying home, we found out at the airport after we had checked our bags that our flight was delayed about an hour and a half. Yay, now not only we will feel like it is two hours later than it is, but now it will be two hours later when we get home. Talk about major energy drain. We finally landed and by the time I recovered the bags and Mitch retrieved our car it was almost nine o’clock. The drive home takes almost an hour, so tack that on, add in unpacking and getting settled in for the night, so you could say we were well past tired.

The next day we went to the kennel to get our dogs out of hock, who were very happy to see us. After we got home and parked the car, Mitch went around to the back of the station wagon, to let the dogs out. Instead of just opening the tailgate and releasing the hounds, Mitch decided to take off Royal’s harness. All well and good if he had just voiced any command, but no Mitch didn’t say anything to the dogs who were super excited to be home. Without waiting for the tailgate to be opened and the normal invitation to get out, Royal leaped out of the open section, then Orso followed landing badly. Keep in mind that both dogs are large, over a hundred pounds each, and old. Orso is almost twelve years old and Royal will be ten in April. When Orso landed I was for sure he had blown out his shoulder, then his hips collapsed, and I thought, “Oh no now what?” But like a true Labrador, he got up limped a bit, then was off sniffing everything he missed for a week. I looked and Mitch and told him he dodged a bullet and what was he thinking. Standing there and not saying anything with an open access sort of, was like an invitation to the dogs.

We decided to go on a walk to burn off some pent-up energy. We put on their leashes and our jackets and walked outside. I had both leashes in my hands and was showing Mitch some things I wanted to move in the front garden, when we heard a voice calling, “Rocky, no. Rocky stay, Rocky no.” I looked up at see a large black dog heading our way to check us out and say hi. I was standing there, trying hold back two hundred plus pounds of excited muscle mass, keep a strange dog at bay and hoping that everyone would play nice. All the while, Mitch was standing there with his hands in his jacket pockets and a goofy smile on his face saying, “Hi Rocky, hi Rocky, how’s it going?” Just like a ten-year-old boy.

I looked over at him and said, “Take a dog, what are you doing?” Royal was not as giddy about meeting Rocky as Orso was and all I could think of, was that this was going to leave a mark. I could not believe that after almost twelve years of Charlie, Mitch would forget how careful we needed to be when meeting unknown dogs.

I’m chalking it up to jet lag, because otherwise I’m stuck with the ten-year-old boy.

Let’s Not Do It Again and Say We Did

I had the dubious honor of receiving a summons to report for jury duty. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the judicial system, and I would have loved to get to be on a jury back in my old state. In fact, I was never called for jury duty in Missouri for the fifty plus voting years I lived there. I move here and in less than three years, they find me. It’s just that here I don’t know where anything is and how to get there. I have gotten to be a real hermit, more than happy to stay home and order most everything online. Yeah, I know, not the healthiest attitude.

On Sunday before my first day of jury duty, we took a road trip checking out the best route for me to get to the Superior Courthouse. My summons also warned me to be early because parking was limited and only a few free parking spaces are available for the jury pool. We scoured the area and found the allotted free parking lot and the closer lot that charges fifteen dollars a day. Of course, Mitch said, that for ease of finding a parking space I should just park in the closer lot. I added up fifteen dollars times five days and decided that I was too cheap for that.

I was to report Monday morning at eight am, and based on our road trip, the trip should take about a half hour, nothing is fast around here. So to be on the safe side, get there by eight and still get a free parking spot, I left the house at six thirty in the morning. Shaking your head now right? So was I, but I was so nervous about driving in morning rush hour traffic, getting there on time and finding free parking, I left fifteen minutes earlier than I had planned. My stomach was in a knot and my head was hammering away.

I found my free parking lot, along with other early birds who were also afraid of not getting a parking space. I parked the car, put my jury pass in the window and headed down the hill to the courthouse. I was one of the first to get there and walked up to the door. The door was locked and the lettering on the door said the doors would not open to the potential jury pool until seven thirty, twenty minutes to stand there in the cold with my nose running and coughing from the dregs of my cold. Woohoo. A line formed behind me with others. As soon as I coughed or blew my nose, everyone took a step back. Perfect, now everyone thinks I have leprosy, oh well, maybe I’ll get excused.

When the doors finally opened a man came out and addressed the group telling us what we needed to get in the door and what we couldn’t take in the building. After going through the metal detectors and getting scanned, we headed off to the jury assembly room. There were between two hundred and three hundred other potential jurors called in to maybe be assigned to a court. Lucky me, I was selected to go with the first group, a total of fifty in our group. Another group had fifty-five and a third group had sixty potential jurors in it. We were ushered into a courtroom to watch a video about what to expect and what was expected of us.

After the video, we were ushered back out into the hallway to wait. There wasn’t enough seating so we stood, for days. We couldn’t leave, had to stay on the first floor, couldn’t sit in any of the courtrooms, smokers had to go outside to smoke and come back through security. Makes me glad I don’t smoke. Afternoon came, and we were told to return our color coded badge and go home. We were to call or check the website after five pm for instructions on our group for Tuesday. Tuesday was a go to work day for our group, do not go to court, we were directed to check in again that evening for Wednesday. Wednesday was also another go to work day and not go to court day for our group. This was totally wreaking havoc on my psyche, not being able to plan my week.

Wednesday evening came and the words of doom on the website greeted me. Be at the courthouse by eight-thirty on Thursday morning. Eight-thirty meant I had to leave the house by six forty-five in order to get one of few coveted free parking places. Eight-thirty meant I had to stand in the cold for twenty minutes waiting for the doors to open so I could go through the metal detector. Eight-thirty meant that after I got through the screening process I would wait for another half hour in the hall outside of the jury assembly room until someone showed up and to unlock the door to the jury room. And lastly, eight-thirty meant my stomach would be in a knot until I was either attached to a trial or released, whichever came first.

Thursday morning once settled in the jury assembly room, waiting for everyone to get checked in I did what I love to do, people watch. One thing I can say about the jury selection process, is that all different demographics were called in. Some I wondered if they had mirrors in their homes and even bothered to look before walking out the door. Others came that were clearly put out about the whole ordeal, you could tell that they were much too important to be bothered by due process. One man sat in the room with his back turned to the room and talked on his cell phone the entire time, during our videos and even when our coordinator was explaining how the jury pool selections would be made. She finally had to ask him to leave the room until his conversation was done. Another man walked into the room, right passed our coordinator who kept addressing him, wandered around then turned and walked out of the room, ignoring her repeated attempts to talk to him.

Again, I was selected for the first group. We were told that we had enough time to go to the bathroom before we would be escorted up to the courtroom for a trial. Oh yay, that meant if I was selected then next week or longer I would be ensconced in a trial. We were told that we could take our belongings with us, but no food or gum was allowed in the courtroom. No coffee cups, cans or cold drink glasses, the only thing we were allowed to take with us was a clear bottle of water. After going to the bathroom, I stopped at the way overpriced coffee bar and bought a very expensive bottle of water.

This time though, there were seats available in the hallway, so I was able to sit and wait to be led to court. After sitting in the hall for another half hour, our group was called back in the jury assembly room and told that the attorneys for our trial had asked for a continuance, so we were to turn in our badges and go home. I raised my hand and asked if that meant we were done-done and did not have to come back. Jury duty here is for one week or one trial, whichever comes first and there is no jury on Fridays. Fridays are for motions. Our coordinator repeated my question to the room and asked the room what they wanted to do. Of course everyone said done and she concurred. We turned in our badges and almost all sprinted toward the door, just incase someone said, no wait.

Walking back to the car I noticed others walking so fast, it might have been a timed race, there even some that could barely walk in the courthouse damn near running toward the parking lot. I wanted to tell them all that they should thank me for their good fortune. If I hadn’t paid for the overpriced bottle of water, we would be stuck in a trial. Karma.