Nobody Cares

I’m writing this post while kicking back in a vintage travel trailer on the Washington coast. It’s the same trailer Tara and I booked in 2014, when we came out to Long Beach on my birthday weekend for the Astoria Crab, Seafood & Wine Festival. Deja vu, ’cause we are here again for the same festival on the same weekend. This is also the place I holed up back in 2016 to kick off NaNoWriMo. What can I say? We love the Sou’wester! And the crab fest, apparently. I’ve been coming here, on and off, for the past 20 years –  five or six times total – so this is one of those bittersweet occasions because it’s our last hurrah. We haven’t even hit the fest yet, and we’re already having a blast!

My birthday began on a less than auspicious note with the following text from my mom.

nobody cares

Ha! I know she didn’t mean that. Tara and I (and about 50 other people on social media) got a good laugh over it.

I took the day off (Friday) and headed out to the Columbia Gorge for what has become a tradition – a birthday hike. I’d always wanted to check out Dog Mountain, one of the most popular hikes on the Washington side of the river; it’s known for brilliant wildflower displays in spring. I’m sure they were awesome, but there wasn’t much of a view because of the low clouds that obscured the peak.

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Let’s talk about that wind, though. Above the tree line, there was a steady wind blowing at what I estimated to be 60-70 mph. No exaggeration. It was so strong it literally knocked me off my feet at one point. Between the dense cloud cover, hurricane-force winds, and bitter cold, it wasn’t a particularly rewarding hike. I definitely consider it the toughest one I’ve ever done, thanks to a 2800′ elevation gain over eight grueling roundtrip miles. Two days later, my knees and quads are still aching. But at least I proved to myself that, despite being another year older, I can still complete a difficult-rated hike. I doubt I would do this one again, though. Good thing we’re moving – there aren’t any Black Hills hikes nearly so steep!

Saturday we set out for Long Beach, making the trip via Highway 4 on the Washington side of the river. We’d never gone that way before, but I’m glad we decided to try a new route – it was quite scenic. We made a stop in Gray’s River to check out the last covered bridge in Washington state, and decided to check out a cute little Irish pub in town for a cocktail and a bite to eat. Looks nice from the outside, right?

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Little did we know of the dark secrets contained within its walls. Turned out to be one of the most bizarre experiences of our lives, from the overly earnest proprietors who slid a handwritten, food-splattered list of specials under our noses to the cornflakes on Tara’s cheeseburger. Most disturbing of all, though? The extensive display of Nazi memorabilia scattered throughout the bar.

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You know that movie The Hills Have Eyes? Let’s just say we felt fortunate to walk out of that place alive.

We checked into the Sou’wester around 4:00 and, once we got settled in, headed across the street to Rod’s Lamplighter, another dive bar (this one free of any Third Reich associations, thankfully). We killed a good four hours there drinking, playing pool, and filling up the jukebox with good music. Tara looked at me askance when the Bee Gees and ABBA started playing, but by then it was late in the evening and I was beyond caring. Came back to our trailer, heated up some pizza from the night before, and watched Sixteen Candles while rain began falling on the roof. It was pretty much perfect! A little too perfect perhaps, because I basically passed out.

Time to get ready for the Crab Fest!

Countdown: 54 Days

 

 

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Hamilton: The Mountain

I’m sitting in my living room drinking a Bloody Mary and listening to an Acoustic Covers playlist on Spotify. Imagine “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” slowed down 90% and sung in a breathy whisper and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what the music sounds like. I am planning on a very chill day because yesterday nearly killed me.

Or at least my knees, which apparently are not used to being worked out to such an extreme. I am grunting and wincing in pain every time I get up. I sound like an old man, much to my own dismay. But it’s totally worth it, because yesterday turned out to be a near-perfect day.

I decided to go climb a mountain. All week I’d debated what to do with myself this weekend; Tara is in Nevada for her grandfather’s funeral (RIP Cecil) and I couldn’t take that much time off from work before our move – PTO is like gold at this point – so I stayed behind. I finally settled on the idea of a good ol’ fashioned hike. Ironically, I ruled out the one I really wanted to do up by Mount Hood because I thought the weather might be bad. Ha.

I got to Beacon Rock nice and early, 9:30 a.m., and set my sights on Hamilton Mountain, a 2,438’ peak that I’d climbed a few times in the past. I could not help but notice that the peak was covered in snow.

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My destination: the top of Hamilton Mountain.

This wasn’t entirely a surprise; it’s been cold here the past few days, and we’ve had some snow in the foothills, so I’d come prepared with my Stabilicers® shoe traction devices and gloves. The trail started out wet and muddy, but as I climbed in elevation snow started to appear on the trail and blanketing the evergreen limbs. By the time I reached the summit, I was trudging through foot-deep snow, and everything was covered in white. It sure was pretty.

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Trail to the summit.

The clouds were darkening to the west, and I could tell a storm was moving in. Sure enough, right as I began the 3.5-mile trek back from the summit, it started to snow. Just a few light flurries at first, but the storm picked up in intensity and suddenly I found myself traversing an exposed ridge in the midst of an honest-to-god snowstorm. Talk about a rush!

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Table Mountain, from the summit of Hamilton Mountain

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All signs point to snow.

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I was caught on this exposed ridgeline in a surprise snowstorm.

Luckily I was prepared. My Stabilicers® (love the name, btw) gripped the trail confidently, and I was able to enjoy the majesty of a winter wonderland in March. You east coasters might be sick of snow by now, but I was one happy camper. I figured I was getting myself acclimated so those brutal South Dakota winters don’t kill me.

The closer to sea level I descended, the less deep the snow was. Eventually it gave way to a wet and muddy trail. Seven miles after setting out I arrived back at the truck, my thighs and knees screaming in agony from the effort. I drove myself ten minutes to Stevenson, where I stopped by Big River Grill for a late lunch and cocktail, figuring I’d earned myself a nice reward.

I drove home afterwards and the first thing I did was took a long, hot shower. It felt amazing. Talked to Tara for a bit, and even got to join in on a toast to her grandfather via the magic of video. I mixed myself up a Moscow Mule and parked my ass on the recliner, where I watched a Netflix documentary on WWII. Made myself dinner – a fried pork chop, paprika potatoes, and spinach, an old favorite I hadn’t cooked in years.

Because my muscles were screaming at me, I decided to borrow an Advil PM from Tara’s stash, but wasn’t thinking clearly and for some reason took two. I didn’t even realize my mistake until I woke up this morning at 7:30 – late for me – and was feeling super groggy. It took a good couple of hours until I actually felt awake.

So today is going to be a rare relaxing day for me. I’ll watch some TV, work on editing my book a bit. I’m craving Mexican food so I think I’ll walk down to Muchas Gracias later to pick up a quesadilla or somethin’. Otherwise, I’m not budging from this very comfortable spot.

Here are some more pics from yesterday’s adventure.

Countdown: 90 Days