Thursday, April 26, 2012

Why does this always happen.

Today, I had an interview for an awesome job on the Western Washington University campus. Although it didn't go badly, it could have gone better, mostly because when they asked me for a creative solution to a problem I had been faced with, I blanked.

A minute after the interview was over, Chris said "When the job market tanked you volunteered with AmeriCorps for job experience and then hiked the PCT. That's pretty creative."


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Heart Attack Grill

On a side note, I heard last night about the TWO people this month who have had heart attacks at the Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas. Really, people? Anyway, someone posted this on pinterest or facebook or something a while back and I really liked it. Also, it's pretty appropriate for this blog, I would say.

 On that note, I'm going to the park.

Aman Park flowers

As you can tell, I bought a cord to upload my photos from my camera. Here are some new pictures of Aman Park in the springtime!


Sand Creek

Mertensia and false rue

So many trilliums!

Tiny tropical forest, or mayapples

Jack in the pulpit

Stand out

A spider I bothered while trying to get pictures of a jack in the pulpit.

Redbud flowers

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Well, our trip to Ludington was a smashing success. We got there in time to set up camp in the walk-in campsite and hike out to the lighthouse at sunset...
I was so weirded out by the fact that that thing that looks like a sea is actually a giant lake. It's mind-blowing that the other side is Wisconsin and not Japan or Cuba. It's just like any other lake we walked past on the PCT, just a whole lot bigger.

Chris had the opposite reaction to the Pacific when we went to Mexico two years ago. He jumped in and immediately went, "Ack! My lips are salty!"

 I like making Chris model.

We did a lot of this.

We finally made it to the lighthouse... after about a mile of messing around.
On the way back we saw a porcupine in this tree! You can see it - it looks kind of like a bird's nest, which is what we thought it was at first until it picked up its head.
We only found one of these, so we let it be.

Then we ate dinner, drank whisky and hot chocolate and had a very cold night of sleep. The next morning, we hiked around the various trails (I think probably about 7 miles in all). The first half mile or mile was in sand, which is really my favorite kind of hiking. Anyway, here's a mix of pictures from the rest of the day:

There were a lot of shelters on the trail made from huge, roundish rocks, which meant they had lots of weird nooks and crannies.

 My favorite "don't feed the animals" sign ever.
On the ridge trail.
 Ludington has a huge variety in such a small area. There are a beach, mixed deciduous and coniferous forest, lakes, a river, and plenty of wetlands.
 I heart wetlands.
Pretty maple seeds.

Anyway, it was fun and it felt really good to finally carry my pack around again (it's been since December!). I'm super jealous that most of our thru-hiker friends are heading down to kick-off this week. We'll have to make do with the Manistee River Loop in May. Maybe next year.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Ludington State Park soon!

We're heading up to Ludington State Park today! It'll be a short trip since I only have tomorrow off. So excited to be going through the familiar routine of packing my backpack. More, with pictures, later. (I really need to find a mini-USB cord.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


I got another new book in the mail today! It's The Natural History of the Puget Sound, by Arthur Kruckeberg.

It's on my summer reading list for my program. I've been pretty much devouring anything I can get my hands on that pertains to environmental education, natural history, or the ecology of the North Cascades. I just feel like I'm going to be so far behind some of the other grads that I should at least try to catch up. Plus, I don't have a very good memory so I need to read about this stuff as much as possible.

I've already read The Leader Who is Hardly Known by Stephen Simpson, a book about how the Tao relates to experiential education. I found it very intriguing. I very much admire the author after reading his book, and he got me reading about the Tao itself as well. For some reason it suddenly appeals to me way more now than it did when I learned about it in a college philosophy class five years ago. I'm a way different person now than I was then, and I think much of my worldview now meshes with Taoism in a way that it didn't back then. I especially want to practice humility more.

Also, I finally have my very own copy of Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast. It is something I have wanted for a few years, but I never had the money or the space (it's like $25, and usually that much used). But I found it for like $14 used online and it's on the summer book list, so I bought it. I love it. For a field guide, it's hilarious.

Okay, time to go outside and enjoy the beautiful weather! Here are those three books listed on Amazon:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My New Year's Resolution

A little late, huh? Well I did make this resolution at new year's, but I just haven't written about it until now. My new year's resolution was to make one change each month that would make my life less of an impact on the planet. I'm not trying to make anyone feel bad about their choices or judge people, but since I know the health of the planet means a lot to me, I thought this would be a meaningful project for me this year. I decided that the changes don't have to be huge, just as long as there is a change.

Also, I freaking hate the words "green" and "eco-friendly," but I have to use them. I just feel like such a hippie and/or yuppie when I do. I don't care about how cool this is, I just really like life and going outside and I'm worried about all the chemicals I flush down the drain and put into my body every day. I also acknowledge that some of this stuff is just a marketing ploy, which is why I try to do research into the products before I buy them.

So far this year:

January - Replace my toothpaste with one made from natural and organic ingredients. I use Tom's. Now conventional toothpaste tastes weird to me - like a lot of chemicals all having a metallic-colored party on my taste buds. (I ran out this month, so I switched to Burt's Bees because it was on sale.)

February - Replace my empty bath and cleaning products with eco-friendly choices. Right now I'm using Avalon Organics shampoo and conditioner (which is great), Kiss My Face Peace Soap (which does not lather as well as I'd like - I think next time I replace it I'll use Dr. Bronner's again), and an eco-friendly detergent and cleaning spray. I think next time I have to replace it I'll look into homemade cleaners. Although I love the way the cleaning spray smells, I don't think I have to pay a lot to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

March - Bought all 'new' clothes and household items (like a cheesegrater) at Goodwill and other secondhand stores.

April - Switched out my old mascara for Physician's Formula Organic Wear Mascara (and at half off it cost less than anything else in the store). So far I really really like it. It is kind of a weird consistency in the bottle but it definitely makes my eyelashes look nice, and they don't get all hard when they dry like with normal mascara.

Okay, that brings us to now. I'm still trying to figure out what I'm going to do for the next few months. I really want to only buy organic and/or locally grown food one month, but I also don't have enough money to do that, so maybe I'll try to go with half. July I'm going to try to become a bike commuter and only fill up on gas once.  Feel free to suggest anything!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Aman Park

Yesterday I unexpectedly got half a day off of work, so Chris and I went over to Aman Park, a city park just a mile or two down the road for a long walk.

Aman Park is a place that has become very close to my heart over the past two and a half months. It's called a city park, yes, but it's not all manicured and lame like most city parks. Really it's just a chunk of land donated to the city that just has hiking trails and a couple of bridges. Surrounds a section of Sand Creek, which in Texas we would call a river. 

February snowball fight
This park is perfect. I've been going at least once a week (sometimes multiple days in a row) since we moved here, and I've seen the snow melt, the trees bud out and the first flowers start growing. I've pulled garlic mustard when I don't feel like running. It was there that I got the phone call from my mom that my beloved dog, Snickers, had finally passed away. I was so happy for the opportunity to be walking on the trails there while trying to accept the fact that she's not waiting for me to come home anymore.  
A picture I didn't take of dutchmen's breeches

Right now, the large-flowered trilliums and virginia bluebell blanket the flats near the creek, and the redbuds are dropping their tiny pink flowers into the water. The mayapples are in bud and dutchmen's breeches are poking out of the brush. 

And jack-in-the-pulpits appear to those who study the forest floor for a while, which is what I was doing when I spotted my first morel. 

I didn't take this picture either, because sometimes I forget to charge my camera. 
Morels! Little delicious morsels of earthy flavor. Okay, to be honest, they're not my favorite wild mushroom (that honor would go to the chanterelle, which is also the only other wild mushroom I've ever tasted). But they are still delicious and a rare find for those of us who don't have a lot of experience mushroom hunting. We ended up finding about a pound of them, so we took them home and made them into a delicious mushroom and pea risotto. Even our roommate Mark, who doesn't like mushrooms, said the risotto was good.

Anyway, more pictures that I did take coming soon of Aman Park. 

In other news, I got a tentative "class" schedule for this summer, and it's making me even more excited. "Day in Stehekin" is actually on the syllabus. So ready for June!

Thursday, April 12, 2012


This is a live webcam of a pair of bald eagles raising three chicks near Decorah, Iowa. At my Community Stewardship job with Mt. Hood National Forest, I tried to get something like this started, but it was a project that I just couldn't finish because I was too busy and there were too many hoops I had to jump through. Hooray for the federal government.

Anyway, one of my friends posted this to her facebook, and I was super impressed by the quality of the video. It's fun to watch the little eaglets grow up! Apparently it's the most watched live video of all time? You just have to get through one ad before you can see them.

Hope you enjoy! (I'm also posting it here so it's easier for me to find.)

Streaming Live by Ustream

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Back on the topside

After Australia, we headed back to Texas for a while to finish up digging a well for my Dad. That did not go as planned, but the details are not every exciting, except that I'm pretty sure there is a huge cavern under the ground that we created, but the well is not currently pumping water. Some sort of a collapse happened underground. It was messy and it made us nervous to stand too close to the well. 

Here's what the process looked like when it was relatively clean:

It's pretty janky.
My dad bought the thing off or something silly like that. 

Aaaanyway, then we moved to Michigan because Chris felt like he'd like to live close to his family for a while. So we made the trip with all our stuff, moved in with a friend, and I got some jobs. I now have three. 

In my first job, I'm a temp in the marketing department at a sign making company. I love that job. It's not something I'd want to do for much longer than I'm doing it, but the people are really nice and I'm treated well. My second job is at the front desk of a kid's indoor playplace. That's all I want to say about that job, except that I am learning patience and humility. My newest job involves grading students' short answer responses from standardized tests. And that is all I'm allowed to say about that one. 

Chris is working for a couple of friends doing construction and carpentry work. He works with a non-profit that gives underserved youth training and job experience. It's actually pretty cool. He also bought a car, so we're not dependent on each other for everything. Hooray for independence!

Okay, the most exciting thing to happen since we finished the trail is that I applied and got accepted to a graduate residency program at Western Washington University and the North Cascades Institute. I'll be spending the summer learning in Bellingham and then move out to North Cascades National Park for a year to learn and work at the Environmental Learning Center. Then I'll move back to Bellingham and take classes until I graduate the following spring with a Masters in Environmental Education and graduate certificates in leadership and nonprofit administration. 

I'm really honored to be working with and for The North Cascades Institute. I respect the people who make that place run very much. I'll let you read more about it here

But here are some pictures of where I'll be living:
That little blip is the Environmental Learning Center.
the lake in the summer
The Environmental Learning Center, picture courtesy of


So I'm really looking forward to June 19, my first day of class. 

I'm also struggling with the idea of going into debt. I don't have any school debt yet and I really hate owing people money. So you may have noticed the new ads on the page. I thought I'd try it out and see what it would pay. So far I have made like three dollars. Woo! I'll get a check as soon as I hit $100... so in about three years. That'll be nice. 

Now it's time to do some things that are more likely to pay: apply for scholarships and go to my night job. 

More soon!

Monday, April 9, 2012


Since I last posted about how we were getting on after the trail, we've visited Australia, rung in a new year, moved to Michigan, and I've been accepted to a graduate residency program in environmental education and nonprofit administration in Washington state.

So I guess I'll start with Australia. 

We flew down there at the end of October and spent a couple of days catching up with jet-lag and trying to understand the fact that we were on the bottom half of the world in Sydney. 

Too pretty of a day to be so sleepy.
Then we headed up to a town called Gosford (actually a suburb called Wyoming, humorously enough), where we worked for a wonderful family for three weeks. The Smalls own and operate a biodynamic farm that supplies them with most of their produce, meat and milk. There, we learned that Australians have the craziest birds, and that all of those birds are loud. We also learned that cows can poop a whole awful lot, and that cow poop is heavy.
Don Small made this giant slip 'n slip for his grandkids.

Then we took off across the east coast of Australia. We decided that we couldn't visit the continent without either seeing the Great Barrier Reef or Uluru (Ayer's Rock), and that Uluru would probably be around a lot longer than the Great Barrier Reef, so we took a day-cruise out to snorkel at the reef. 

You can't see it, but there's a seahorse on that coral.

But before we got there, we spent a week hiking across an island made entirely of sand:


And visited the Blue Mountains:

After all that, we hitchhiked down to the house of a friend we met on Fraser Island, where we were treated to incredible hospitality, delicious food, and rides out to amazing places:

Glasshouse Mountains
Then, we rented a car and did a little trip into the Gold Coast hinterland: 

View from Mt. Warning at daybreak.
Finally, we stayed at this crazy place in Byron Bay...

...before getting back to the farm to pick up some of our stuff. 

After that, it was back to the Blue Mountains for some canyoneering:

And then a night or two in Sydney again with some amazing new friends, Tamara and George, who took us out on their sailboat. 

Then we flew home to winter!