52 Hikes (is a) Challenge

There is this thing called the 52 Hike Challenge that basically challenges you to hike once a week.  I don’t like to set recreation goals because I have enough of those at work, and recreation is supposed to be fun.  However, for the past three years, when I got near the end of the year I found myself scrambling to meet a goal I never set when I realized I was nearing a milestone.  In 2014 it was 40 unique hikes/52 total hikes, last year it was 52 unique hikes and this year it was 52 NEW hikes.  This year was I finally ticked #52 off the list on December 18.  This year I also did 84 unique hikes and 96 total hikes for 753 miles and 195,500 feet in elevation gain (which almost made me want to find another 4,500 feet in the last 5 days of the year…).  I did have to take nearly four months off work to accomplish these stats, however.

Here are the hikes, with new hikes marked with an *.  All hikes are in Washington unless otherwise noted.

Kendall Peak Lakes* – I never found the turnoff to the lakes, but I had a very peaceful New Year’s morning snowshoe until I got near the bottom and found half of Seattle there.


Big Four Ice Caves* – Another peaceful snowshoe until the snowmobiles showed up.


Little Si – An old standby I used to do a lot more than I do now.

Gold Creek Pond* – Not normally a peaceful snowshoe, but it was on this day because I got up super early to do it before a 10am Seahawks playoff game.


Mt. Erie & Sugarloaf* – There are so many different numbered trails in this trail system that it wasn’t wise to do it without a map like I did, but I ended up finding my destinations anyway.


Hex Mountain* – A really pretty snowshoe outside Salmon La Sac that pairs well with Village Pizza in Roslyn afterwards.


Heather Lake – I think most of this trail is pretty ugly, but I love the lake, and the upper part of the trail was really pretty covered in snow.


Mazama Ridge* – A friend and I headed to Mt. Rainier with an iffy forecast for Super Bowl Sunday, but we were treated to a bluebird day and minimal crowds.


Poo Poo Point – After work sunset hike – which means 4:45 in early February.


Lake 22 – Lots of downed trees and water on the trail for this one after some winter storms.


Oyster Dome via Chuckanut – I love winter sunset hikes.  Bonus – first time seeing a drone on a hike.


Baldy Mountain* – Bad weather on the Westside drove me to central Washington for steep climbs and sun.  I also saw a dead porcupine, a first for me.


Rattlesnake Dance Ridge* – Short and very steep!


Eagle Creek (Oregon)* – I think this is like the Mt. Si of Portland – relatively close to the city and really crowded.  Fortunately I did it on a weekday.  The day after I hiked it, I saw a 48 Hours about a woman who fell/was pushed to her death from one of the many sheer drop offs along the trail.


Umtanum Creek Ridge – Crazy steep in parts – bring hiking poles or plan to do some crawling.


Cowiche Canyon* – Includes a trail to a winery!


Rattlesnake Ledge – A much-maligned local hike, but I like it – there aren’t too many crowds on a weekday evening.

West Tiger 3 – Not as maligned as Rattlesnake, but I like Rattlesnake better.

Oyster Dome/Lily Lake via Samish* – Easier than the Chuckanut approach, but not ideal to watch the sunset from Oyster Dome since the road closes an hour after sunset.  But the sunset view from the Samish Overlook parking lot is pretty good.


Columbia Hills State Park – Crawford Oaks & Dalles Mountain* – Amazing spring wildflower hike that is so far from Seattle I recommend staying in the Dalles the night before.  I think you can hike up from Crawford Oaks to Dalles Mountain, although I didn’t do it this way.


Fall Creek Falls* – Short hike that ends with an awesome waterfall – and a good way to stretch your legs on the long drive back to civilization from the hike above.


Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area* – Yes, this is what it’s really called, and it’s a pretty expansive trail system.  It would have helped if I picked up a map somewhere along the way.


Wallace Falls – Perfect hike for a rainy day or, in this case, a morning when I didn’t feel like driving halfway across the state to hike.


Dog Mountain* – Another contender for the Mt. Si of Portland, known for its wildflowers and views of the gorge.


Goat Lake – A longish hike that isn’t too difficult, has interesting scenery along the way and has a nice payoff at the lake.


Colchuck Lake – I used to like this hike more before it become everyone’s go to Eastern WA hike, but the lake and the surrounding mountains are still breathtaking even when its crowded.


Navaho Peak – Hate the climb from the pass to the peak, love the views.


West Tiger Cable Line* – This is a rite of passage for Seattle hikers that is primarily used as a training hike and one I’m in no rush to repeat!


Annette Lake – Relatively close, short and easy hike to an alpine lake.


Skyline Divide* – Great views of Mt. Baker and Shuksan from the top.


Bean Creek Basin and Earl Peak* – The climb to the peak and views are similar to Navaho Peak, but I like this one better because the overall hike is shorter and has more to see along the way.


Harry’s Ridge* – My first time to Mt. St. Helens since 2001 did not disappoint.  So many signs of life in the blast zone.


South Colderwater Ridge* – This trail has cool rusted out remnants of logging equipment that was in use when St. Helens erupted in May 1980.


Windy Ridge to Loowit Falls* – I could have in theory hiked to the falls from the one of the St. Helens trails I took the week before, but driving to the mountain from a different direction provided much different scenery.


Mason Lake – Another relatively close, short and easy hike to an alpine lake.


Cub, Fern and Odessa Lakes (Rocky Mountain NP)* – This hike was plan C for the day after the first one seemed too ambitious at elevation and minimal sleep and the second one would have required a very long wait for a shuttle to the trailhead.


Lake Ingalls – I’ve never not seen goats on this hike, but I saw about 50 this time – a record for me.

Surprise and Glacier Lakes* – I did this on a dreary morning so didn’t get the full effect of the beauty of these lakes.


Sahale Arm – The forecast didn’t pan out as planned, but things cleared up on the way down so I got to see the jaw dropping views for half my hike.  Plus I got to see a bear dart up the slope after running across the trail.


Green Mountain – Second day in the row the forecast didn’t pan out as planned but cleared up on the way down.  The marmots didn’t seem to mind.


Gothic Basin* – Not an easy hike, but it was worth the effort.


Sourdough Mountain* – This is touted as one of the best hikes in Washington, but I didn’t think so on a cloudy-ish day.  It’s really steep right off the bat.


Lake Ann* – This is not the Teanaway version, but rather the Mt. Baker version that has in-your-face views of Mt. Shuksan.


Tom, Dick & Harry Mountain (Oregon)* – Five volcano view from the top.


Jefferson Park (Oregon)* – Pretty lakes and flowers in the shadow of Mt. Jefferson.


Crater Lake (Oregon)* – I did several short hikes during a whirlwind day trip – lots of great scenery and hikes of varying degrees of difficulty.


Smith Rock – Monkey Face/Misery Ridge (Oregon)* – Who wouldn’t want to do hikes with these names?  Poles are recommended because there are steep and slippery parts.


Tumalo Mountain (Oregon)* – Decent sunset hike.


Green Lakes (Oregon)* – A nice and not too difficult hike that gets really busy on the weekends – the Mt. Si of Bend?


The Enchantments* – Last year I went half way and turned around.  This year I hiked through the whole thing.  There is no easy way to get there, but it’s worth it if you can.


Heather-Maple Pass Loop/Lewis Lake* – I’m not sure we figured out the most efficient way to get across the boulder fields leading to the lake, but the lake sure was pretty once we got there.


Johnston Canyon (Banff NP)* – Too crowded!


Larch Valley (Banff NP)* – I would love to see this when the larches are turning…but I can’t imagine the crowds.


Emerald Lake (Yoho NP)* – Plan B when crowds/traffic made Plan A impossible.


Plain of Six Glaciers (Banff NP)* – My favorite part of this hike was learning that young girls who lived at the teahouse kept a pet marmot named Charlotte for eight years.  As they say, don’t try this at home.


Mt. Edith Cavell (Jasper NP)* – Speaking of marmots, this trail had some good ones.


Valley of Five Lakes (Jasper NP)* – This was a hidden gem just outside of Jasper – a short easy hike past five pretty lakes.


Park Butte and Scott Paul Loop* – Park Butte never disappoints with incredible views of Mt. Baker (except for on a cloudy day, I guess), but with the flowers pretty much done, I didn’t think Scott Paul was that great.  But this hike did yield a quart of huckleberries that made a fantastic cobbler.


West Fork Foss River Lakes to Angeline* – This was my first (and only!) overnight backpacking trip ever, so I had the time to extend my hike to Angeline and get six lakes in rather than five.


Thunder Knob* – The primary benefit of this short hike is to stretch your legs on drive across Highway 20, but the views are much better right off the road from the Diablo Lake lookout a little further east.


Blue Lake – This is another Highway 20 leg-stretcher, but it’s a fantastic hike that I would do more often if it wasn’t a six hour round trip drive for such a short hike.


Hidden Lake Lookout – It had been a couple years since I had done this, so I managed to forget how harrowing the road is.  Beautiful views from the lookout, though.


Tuck and Robin Lakes – The Robin Lakes area deserves a lot more exploring than I’ve been able to devote to it on a long day hike.


Salema Secret Beaches (Portugal)* – It’s always an adventure when you’re doing a hike based on a poorly translated description from a tourism website.


Yellow Aster Butte – A classic fall color hike I did on the first day of fall.  Added bonus – enough berries for another cobbler!


Skyline Loop* – A classic Mt. Rainier hike, but I like some others better.  Cool views of mountains peaking above the fog though, and also a marmot-palooza.


Bench & Snow Lakes – Nice short and scenic hike to two lakes in MRNP.


Cutthroat and Granite Pass – Wonderful and not too difficult hike for larches, fall colors, mountain views and seeing PCT thru hikers near the end of their long trek.


Grasshopper Pass* – Another wonderful and not too difficult hike for larches, fall colors, mountain views and seeing PCT thru hikers even closer to the end of their long trek.  VERY long drive from Seattle though.


Mt. Mc Causland & Lake Valhalla via Smithbrook* – First hike of the year with fresh frozen berries trailside.


Snow & Gem Lakes – Third Snow Lake of the year.


Twin Falls – Good short hike after a good long rain.


Granite Mountain – I didn’t get around to doing this during beargrass season like I wanted to, but I did get to see some snow.


Tronsen Ridge* – I was more impressed with the drive to the trailhead than the hike itself.


Umtanum Creek Canyon – Drove to eastern Washington to chase the sun, but turns out it was sunny on the westside instead.


Lime Kiln Trail* – Decent and easy rainy day hike.


Kendall Katwalk – I did my little turn on the Katwalk.


Mt. Dickerman* – Ended up doing this on a perfect day – it reached the high 60s in early November!


Melakwa Lake – I focused on the smaller details since the lake just isn’t as pretty on a grey day.


Crystal Lakes*– A snow hike to a couple pretty lakes the weekend before Chinook Pass closed for the season.


Lake Serene – Once I saw photos of other “opt outside” day hikes, I sort of kicked myself for doing this one, but it’s tough to argue it’s not pretty beautiful.


Mount Pilchuck – No views this day, but the hike up was pretty in the snow and the frozen lookout was a worthy destination.


Amabilis Mountain* – This was my 52nd new hike this year.  My friend and I must have missed a turnoff somewhere, because after 6 miles of this 9.5 roundtrip hike, the summit was nowhere in sight. On the way back down, it became clear most people also didn’t know where they were going.


Franklin Falls – So glad I visited this the day before the Seattle Times featured it on the front page.


And for you Washington hiking geeks who are still reading, here are the hikes I did twice (or more) this year:  Kendall Peak Lakes, Little Si, Gold Creek Pond, Lake Ingalls (3x – I like goats!), some Mazama Ridge, some Skyline Loop, Sahale Arm, Oyster Dome, Enchantments (out and back the 2nd time), Blue Lake, Rattlesnake Ledge and Annette Lake.




Food Trucks Strike Back

A transcendent food truck experience today prompted me to write a post about the food trucks I have come to love since last writing about food trucks in July 2015.  Here are my new favorites in alphabetical order.

Anchor End Pretzel Shoppe – Sandwiches on giant soft pretzels.  Need I say more?  My favorite from the short menu is the Dictator – pulled pork, pork belly and lots of melted cheese.  While looking up the name of my favorite on the website, I just saw they now have a chicken parm on a pretzel – next time!


The Dictator


Fire and Scrape – This stand at the Fremont Sunday Farmers’ Market serves traditional Swiss raclette, which is basically melted cheese over vegetables.  Maybe I could recreate this at home, but I love that a visit here smells and tastes just like Switzerland.



The process of scraping the cheese is more photogenic than the result

Kiss My Grits – This is the truck I visited today.  I was tempted by the shrimp and grits, but I went with the pork belly and grits, and it was amazing.  Will need to go back and try the other offerings.


Pork belly and grits

Mo Pockets – This truck features very tasty Asian sandwiches, but it’s elusive…at least for eastside workers.

Peach and the Pig – I really like the pulled pork sandwich from this place, and it’s HUGE and well-priced.  I was not a fan of the Brussels sprouts in the photo (they were barely cooked), plus the sandwich alone is enough for two meals.


Wood Shop BBQ – This place has grown on me as I’ve tried its pulled pork mac & cheese and its chili mac.


Pulled pork mac & cheese

For the next three months I’ll be working at an office that has at least two food trucks every day, so I may be broadening my horizons soon.

Lessons in Temporary Retirement

I just completed four months of voluntary unemployment/sabbatical/temporary retirement. As someone who had done something similar a couple times in his past predicted, I did about 60% of the things I wanted to do and then decided I wanted to go back to being a contributing member of society again. But even though 40% of my list didn’t get done, I feel my time off served its purpose, and I’m really glad I took it. Now that it’s over, I’m reflecting back on some of my lessons learned, some of which could probably be considered universal truths and some that are more specific to me. I’m sharing them here for those who don’t want to take such a drastic step to learn a few things or be reminded of what you already knew.

Even doing nothing requires structure. When I was working I made to-do lists – weekly work task lists, longer-term work project lists, weekend home task lists, longer-term home and personal project lists, shopping lists….really, if something could be put on a list, I probably had one for it. Once I stopped working, I still had almost all these same lists. Early on someone told me I shouldn’t be sticking to lists during this time, but I needed them to help create some structure for an otherwise very unstructured time. Sometimes the list for a day was “hike, get gas, go through photos” (which is sooo much better than “talk to employee X about performance issue, try to figure out the thing no one else has been able to figure out after working on it for two weeks, review accounting memo”) – but it was structure. I also found that I felt just as busy, if not more busy, when I was unemployed, so I needed to stay on top of everything somehow.

Go down a rabbit hole every now and then.  I don’t like to waste time, but since I had more of it on my hands during my sabbatical, I let myself go down a few rabbit holes.  For me, a rabbit hole usually involves the internet.  When I look up something online, often many of the hyperlinked words/phrases are tempting; when I watch a You Tube video, the other recommended videos on the right taunt me.  I can’t say I’m a better or more informed person because I allowed myself to click through, but I did enjoy wasting a little bit of time.

Once an accountant, always an accountant. This is also probably one of the reasons I wanted to keep making lists. During my time off I enjoyed the ritual of entering my expenses into Quicken (though it probably would have been more enjoyable if I had also been able to enter some income), and I REALLY enjoyed doing my monthly budget-to-actual analysis, which was something I didn’t do for my personal finances until my sabbatical. I took great pleasure in the fact that my year-to-date budget-to-actual variance through the end of September was $229. Like I said, once an accountant, always an accountant!

When things get old, they start to break down, and Murphy’s Law dictates many things will break at the same time when you don’t have an income stream. I put a lot of hard miles on my car. About a month before my last day of work, I took my car to the dealer for maintenance, and they gave me a list of costly recommended repairs. I took it to a local mechanic who did what was needed for much less, but I had to repeat this same exercise later in the summer after being presented with another list of dealer recommended repairs that totaled nearly $7,000 at dealer pricing. At some point in between these two major car repairs, some of my kitchen lighting stopped working. After I figured out that my condo is zoned commercial (and therefore only certain electricians are licensed to work on it) and then waited the three weeks until the one I found was able to come out, my lighting was partially fixed with the caveat that it was only a temporary fix, and I would eventually need to get new fixtures and switch to LED. Fortunately the temporary fix lasted closer to the top end of the “2 weeks to 2 months” range I was given. I had some other things break during my time off, but I think you get the general idea. I guess the silver lining is I actually had time to deal with it.


There’s no place like home. I know a lot of people travel for most if not all of their sabbatical time. As much as I love to travel, I knew this would never be in the cards for me. I took some fun trips, but by the end of each one, I was ready to get home. Sometimes it was because I missed my bed, sometimes it was wanting to hike in the mountains, sometimes it was the weather (believe it or not, some places have more miserable weather than Seattle, or at least it was more miserable when I was visiting), sometimes it was a strong desire to have people speak to me in English and sometimes it was a craving for a good cheeseburger.


This is the burger I dream of when I’m traveling

Washington is the smallest state west of the Mississippi, but it’s impossible to see it all. I had a very long list of hikes I wanted to do and places I wanted to visit around the state this summer. And while I got a lot of great hikes and exploring in, there were entire areas of the state that were high on my list to spend quality time in that I didn’t even get close to. There are definitely worse problems to have than to live in a place that has so much to see it will keep me busy for many, many years. Here are a few of the new places I was able to visit during my time off.


Always be on your best behavior because it’s a very small world. I already knew this, but it was definitely driven home during my job search. Everyone seems to know everyone, and while it’s somewhat comforting to be able to have a lot of common ties with someone you might want to work for some day, it’s also somewhat terrifying as you wonder what those common ties would say about you if asked.

People are kind and generous. I always suspected this, but watching the current election cycle and the news in general, I sometimes doubted it. During my time off, friends treated me to meals, gave me really detailed vacation advice, offered me a room during my travels (some of which I never got a chance to visit) and checked in with me periodically to make sure I wasn’t losing my mind. They were also very helpful in my job search, pinging me with opportunities that prompted me to really start thinking about going back to work, acting as a sounding board when I was thinking through my career direction, agreeing to be a reference, making introductions and, in one notable case, stalking me and tempting me by saying things like “come work with me, we have food trucks!”


Free lunch, Fred Flintstone style


Personal mini-bar in my favorite guest room in SW Washington

Old people need less sleep. I proved this during my time off with my inability to sleep in. As my time off came to an end, I forced myself to sleep until 7 a couple mornings just because I could.


Time to sign off because I have to get up early tomorrow…

Nine Lives

I am a crazy cat lady.

A couple years ago, a friend returned from Japan and told me about the cat cafes there.  These are wondrous places where you can go have a coffee and hang out with cats that live in the cafe.  I added this to my list of weird and cool things that warrant a visit to Japan some day.  Shortly after hearing about these cafes in Japan, I read about one opening in the US, and over the next several months I read about others.  I first visited one in June 2015 – the Meow Parlor in New York – and since then I’ve visited eight cat cafes in four countries.  They are now a new travel obsession of mine – before I visit a new city, I check to see whether it has a cat cafe. And for anyone interested enough to keep reading, I’m going to rank them.

But before I do that, let me give some more background on cat cafes in general so you know what to expect if you ever visit one.  First, you generally have to pay to visit one – either a minimum food purchase or a separate fee.  Some cafes let you stay as long as you want; some require you to pay by the hour.  Some require reservations.  Most have basic coffee shop drinks and treats, and some have fuller menus and/or alcohol.  Local health codes dictate how and where the food is served, but preparation is always separate from the cats obviously.  A lot of the cafes allow adoption of some or all of their cats.  And finally, a rule that’s highlighted on the website of pretty much every cat cafe – don’t bring your own cat!

Now for the rankings:

9 – Le Cafe des Chats, Paris, France – I had such high hopes for this one.  Unlike all the others I’ve been to that were places with cats that happened to serve drinks and sometimes food, this was a cafe that happened to have some cats.  This being Paris, I had to attempt to speak French, which generally doesn’t go too well for me.  There were only a few cats, and most of them were sleeping (which means do not disturb).  None of the other patrons were leaving their tables to play with the cats that were awake, so I followed those cues.  So basically my visit consisted of an overpriced piece of cheesecake with hints of litter box.

8 – Aqui Ha Gato, Lisbon, Portugal – This cafe is fine, but there weren’t very many cats out when I was there so it was sort of boring.  However, there was this long tube they could play in, and all of us got some entertainment watching them in that thing.  Added bonus – one of the historic Lisbon trolleys rattles right past the cafe.

7 – Purrington’s Cat Lounge, Portland, OR – The layout of this cafe was the same as the one in Lisbon – a long narrow room with the cats next to a separate long narrow room with the food – so I’m thinking layout has something to do with the ranking.  These narrow rooms limit access points to the cats, which are usually surrounded by people trying to pet and/or Instagram them (behavior that has been true everywhere but Paris).  I ranked this higher than Lisbon because there were more cats and the decor was more interesting.  I think anyone who starts a cat cafe has to be at least a little crazy, and I appreciate it when that craziness manifests itself in the decor.  This one had cool wall murals and a funny Donald a Trump doll as one of the cat toys.


6 – Cafe Miao, Copenhagen, Denmark – This is the site of my only unplanned cat cafe visit.  I was looking for the train station and found this.  Needless to say, I caught a later train. This cafe didn’t have too many cats, but for most of my visit I was the only person in there so I had the cats all to myself.  Plus, my minimum required food purchase was a tasty smoothie.

5 – Seattle Meowtropolitan, Seattle, WA – It pains me I can’t rank my local cat cafe higher.  I actually think of all the cat cafes I’ve visited it’s the best one for the well-being of the cats because there are a lot of elevated walkways and surfaces near the ceiling and hiding places that allow them to find their own happy place.  However, these cat happy places are often out of reach of the humans, which isn’t so great for the humans who want to interact with them.  Also, there is no real comfortable seating for the humans – just hard benches.  Paid entry comes with a coffee drink with cat art in the foam, an obvious plus.


4 – Meow Parlour, New York, NY – Since this was my first one, I have a bit of a soft spot for it. This is a pretty small space – this is New York after all – but there are a lot of cats in it.  The people who run it clearly have a sense of humor, posting a sign on a door that reads “Cats, employees and Taylor Swift only.”  (Taylor Swift is a big cat lady in case you didn’t know.)

3 – Blue Cat Cafe, Austin, TX – This place is huge, has lots of seating, has lots of cats, has crazy cat murals and lets you stay as long as you want for $3.  What’s not to love?  I didn’t order food, but there are some funny Yelp complaints about the food, which is either vegetarian or vegan.  Someone was shocked to order the “brisket nachos” to discover the brisket was actually tofu.  Seems like that would be a pretty big faux pas in Texas.


2 – Denver Cat Company, Denver, CO – This place is like the most comfortable living room ever that happens to be filled with cats.  You can also stay as long as you want.  It’s also in a cool neighborhood that warrants some exploring.

1 – Crumbs & Whiskers, Washington DC – I debated some of the rankings above, but this one is the clear #1.  It’s two stories of cat heaven in Georgetown.  There are a ton of cats that you already feel you know if you follow these guys on social media.  Comfortable seating and lounging space abound for humans and cats.  Not sure exactly what the secret sauce is for this place, but everything felt just right.  Need to find an excuse to get to DC again and go back.

As for that trip to Japan, it’s still on the list, because I don’t think I can find a hedgehog or owl cafe anywhere else in the world.

Adventures in Airbnb

Earlier this year I told a friend who was having a destination wedding that he could suggest Airbnb as an alternative for guests who were having trouble finding a hotel room.  His response surprised me – that many of his guests weren’t “adventurous” enough to do that.  I had never really thought of staying in an Airbnb as an adventure, but as I reflect back on the eight Airbnbs in six countries I’ve stayed in over the past two years, I realize there is some truth to that…unless you’re renting the $10,000 per night spots like Beyoncé and Jay Z rented for the Super Bowl.

I like Airbnbs primarily because they are cheaper than hotels, and in some cases a lot cheaper.  They also allow you to live more like a local – something that appeals to some people but not to others.  This generally appeals to me, but there have been times during all my Airbnb stays that I longed for the comforts of a hotel.  Here are some of those times.

My first Airbnb was in Italy, and I’m pretty sure I had a “professional” host – someone who has a bunch of properties he rents and has the process down to a science – and the place was cool.  So what made this an adventure?  Two things.  First was the damn front door – I couldn’t figure out how to open it from the outside.  There wasn’t any sort of handle, so opening it required a special pull-push motion that wasn’t at all intuitive for me during the 10 minutes I spent trying to figure it out before I had to message my host.  Of course, in accordance with Murphy’s Law, I figured it out a few minutes after I messaged him.  The second thing is actually my biggest Airbnb lesson learned to date – when you are in a country where you don’t speak the language, hotels provide you with certain services you take for granted until you don’t have them.  In this case it was getting an early morning taxi to the airport.  My Airbnb host was kind enough to book me one, but when you’re standing in a thunder and lightning storm for 30 minutes wondering if the cab that was supposed to come at 4:15 am will actually come, while an old woman across the street is giving you the stink eye from her window, you really wish you had stayed in a hotel.  Fortunately the cab did come and I made it to the airport on time (only to miss my connecting flight home, but that’s another story).

My next Airbnb adventure was in Texas.  It was a nice big place (it was Texas after all) and was really cheap, but how did I not notice in the listing that there was no TV?  I spent a good ten minutes opening cupboards and looking for hidden panels trying to find that darn thing until I looked at the Airbnb listing again and saw “TV” was not listed as an amenity.

I think my next Airbnb in Colorado (for the aforementioned destination wedding) had a TV, but I couldn’t get past the fact that I was staying in the host’s home that she had clearly just vacated for the weekend so I could stay there.  This is probably pretty typical, but it was weird to sleep in her bed (had she changed the sheets?) and have her clothes in the closet and her food in the fridge (which she said I could help myself to).  She also had an eclectic decorating style which I can best describe as “early post-college”.


Then there was Oregon. During my visit it was hotter than blazes, so some hotel AC sure would have been nice.  My host also lived in the unit right above me, and as I was leaving she popped out and started grilling me about the pros and cons of my stay.  Not exactly what I was in the mood for at 7am.  With a hotel I could have dropped my key in the box and silently slipped away.

Shortly after Oregon I was in Calgary in another unit that was close quarters with the host – a basement mother-in-law apartment.  When I arrived I couldn’t see the address on the house because the driveway was taken up by two fifth wheel trailers.  Wonder if those were also rentals?  I also learned upon arrival that the family’s laundry facility was in the rental unit – so glad I was just staying one night.  Finally, earplugs were provided in lieu of soundproofing.

In Portugal I got a huge place for a low price.  What I didn’t get was any lighting in the stairwell, which made having enough battery for the flashlight on my phone at the end of each day extra important to make it safely up the four flights of stairs and find my door.  I also didn’t get any type of fan to help with the sweltering summer heat.  It was so hot in the apartment I ended up sleeping on the deck one of the nights – thank goodness for the hammock!  I also looked into staying at another Airbnb in small town Portugal, but between reviews stating how emotional and unreasonable one host was to the host of an “entire home” listing noting that he would be staying in one of the bedrooms and “always around,” I opted for a hotel.

In Spain I also got a great bargain on a sleek space.  Entry was a little bumpy since my host brought her two young boys with her when she gave me the keys and showed me the place.  The boys were pretty energetic and talkative, although I couldn’t understand a word of their Spanish, so I just nodded and smiled.  I got a little nervous when one of them grabbed my passport and then worried a little more when one of them made the keys disappear, resulting in a frantic few minutes of searching by my host and me until she found them under a pillow on the couch.

My Airbnb in Paris was another one where I was staying in the apartment where the host normally lives.  Unlike my stay in Colorado, this time it didn’t faze me.  Maybe it was because the place was nice and in good shape.  I was pretty much in awe of how this compact space seemed to have everything I needed.  No real “adventures” here, although I avoided a potential adventure/mishap by not doing laundry – the host told me his first renter managed to have his laundry get sucked into the washing machine.  I was thankful I had done laundry in Spain.

All in all, I’ve enjoyed my Airbnb adventures.  None of them have been perfect, but they’ve all provided me with safe and comfortable places to stay, and often the host has provided me with helpful personalized recommendations.  Plus, I always appreciate a good travel story.

The To Do List

When I told people I was going to leave my job and take several months off, two of the most common questions I was asked were “What are you going to do?” and “Are you going to blog about it?” Now that I’m about a week into my sabbatical, I still haven’t fully hammered out the answer to the first question, but based on my experience so far, I’m pretty sure whatever that answer ends up being won’t be interesting enough to write about (please ignore the fact that here I am writing about it….).

But for those who were wondering, here is a partial list of things I’ve done, plan to do or contemplated doing so far:

  • Make to do lists – I was surprised this work habit has carried over to the sabbatical, but it is very ingrained!
  • Curse this PNW “summer” we’re having so far – how can the weather suck even in Eastern Washington?!
  • Find new ways to procrastinate my first backpacking trip – the weather is definitely helping here
  • Obsess over hiking websites and Facebook pages
  • Picket outside the GOP and/or Democratic conventions
  • Write cranky letters to the editor of the Seattle Times
  • Send complaints to customer service departments of Fortune 500 companies
  • Write comment letters to the FASB and PCAOB on proposed accounting and auditing guidance
  • Think of ways to save money
  • Master my mojito recipe (cheaper than wine)
  • Embrace my inner Martha Stewart by making homemade food
  • Get a tattoo
  • Learn how to design apps so I can develop a food truck app that is actually useful
  • Gossip with retired people in my building
  • See matinees with retired people
  • Start stockpiling cats to work toward Crazy Cat Lady status
  • Resume my tour of Seattle cheap eats – Bok a Bok hit the spot last week, and I’m hoping to try a ramen burger this week
  • Resume my tour of lower mid-range hotels of Eastern Washington
  • Watch TV shows from April that are still on the TiVo – don’t tell me who won Survivor….
  • Order travel books
  • Try to convince my working friends to join me for happy hour at 3 pm

Am I missing anything important?



52 Hike Challenge

I didn’t start the year with a hiking goal, but I ended up doing a different hike for each week of the year with a few to spare. I will thank our incredibly mild winter of 2015 that allowed me to accomplish this. I hiked 32 of these for the first time this year, with a total distance of 535 miles.

Here are the hikes. First time hikes are marked with an *.

Lake Serene (Index) – New Year’s Day hike to an icy lake (that was probably melted out by February).

2015-12 01 Lake Serene 01-15 028

Annette Lake (Snoqualmie Pass) – One of my go to quick early season hikes became a quick REALLY early season hike on January 3.

2015-12 02 Annette Lake 01-15 025

Mt. Pilchuck (Mountain Loop Highway) – I watched lots of people slip and slide on this trail in the snow –traction devices advised.

2015-12 03 Pilchuck

Little Si (North Bend) – One of my go to winter hikes that gets much higher rotation during a normal winter.

2015-12 04 Little Si 02-15 02

Wallace Falls (Gold Bar) – My traditional New Year’s Day hike got bumped to Valentine’s Day this year.

2015-12 05 Wallace Falls 02-15 02

Blanca Lake (Skykomish) – The lake just isn’t the same when you can’t see its otherworldly blue/green color, but it was fun in the snow.

2015-12 06 Blanca Lake 02-15 007

Marmot Pass* (Olympics) – A rare opportunity to hike at 6,000 feet in February.

2015-12 07 Marmot Pass 02-15 083

Park Butte (Mt. Baker) – I missed gorging on berries like I’m able to in the fall, but the winter views of Mt. Baker are tough to beat.

2015-12 08 Park Butte 03-15 043

Goat Lake (Mountain Loop Highway) – One of my few negative hiking memories this year. A very cold and windy day got the best of me on this hike, knocking me out for the remainder of the weekend.

2015-12 09 Goat Lake 03-15 007

Fourth of July Creek to Icicle Ridge* (Leavenworth) – So. Many. Blowdowns. I ran into one of my other hiking junkie friends on the trail and I think this was one of her few negative hiking memories for the year.

2015-12 10 Icicle Ridge 03-15 019

Cedar Butte* (North Bend) – Less than a minute from Rattlesnake Ledge and less than 1% of the crowds.

2015-12 11 Cedar Butte 03-15 03

Cow Heaven* (Marblemount) – Right by the ranger station, no people, lots of waterfalls, great name.

2015-12 12 Cow Heaven 04-15 040

Camp 2 Lookout Mountain* (Bellingham) – Meh.

2015-12 13 Camp 2 Lookout Mtn

Mt. Ellinor* (Olympics) – The WTA trip description is very clear, but I was not prepared for how steep this is. And the false summit – ugh! Great views from the top and on the way up though. And goats.

2015-12 14 Mt. Ellinor 04-15 022

Umtanum Creek Canyon & Ridge* (Yakima) – Next time I do this I will do the ridge first and then the canyon second because I always like to get the hard part out of the way first.

2015-12 15 Umtanum Canyon 04-15 006 2015-12 16 Umtanum Ridge 04-15 050

Navaho Peak* (Teanaway) – I found the first part of the hike long and tedious, but the views from the top were incredible.

2015-12 17 Navaho Peak 05-15 16

Green Mountain* (Mountain Loop Highway) – So steep! The snow was pretty, but next time I’ll go when I can see the green mountain.

2015-12 18 Green Mountain 05-15 097

West Tiger 3 (Issaquah) – I never take pictures on this hike except when I see something like this.

2015-12 19 West Tiger 3 05-15 02

Colchuck Lake & Lake Stuart (Leavenworth) – First time I’ve done both of these on the same day, which wasn’t good for my unique hike count!

2015-12 20 Colchuck Lake 05-15 051 2015-12 21 Stuart Lake 05-15 028

Mt. Townsend* (Olympics) – Saw my first significant wildflowers of the season on this one at the end of May.

2015-12 22 Mount Townsend 05-15 021

West Fork Foss River and Lakes (Skykomish) – One of my favorite hikes, even though I hit only four of the five lakes this time.

2015-12 23 West Fork Foss 06-15 032 2015-12 24 West Fork Foss 06-15 040

Melakwa Lake (Snoqualmie Pass) – I don’t normally hike with big groups of people or at night, and I did both here. It was fun until someone tripped in the dark.

2015-12 25 Melakwa Lake 06-15 01

Thorp Mountain & Lake* (Salmon La Sac) – This was back when Cle Elum Lake still had water. The side trip to Thorp Lake is a quick and worthy detour.

2015-12 27 Thorp Mountain 06-15 120 2015-12 26 Thorp Lake 06-15 013

Forch-Kusnacht (Zurich) – Perfect Swiss waterfalls – no drop out of place.

2015-12 28 Zurich

Granite Mountain*(Snoqualmie Pass) – Why I decided to do this at 3pm on one of the hottest days of the year I will never know. People looked at me like I was crazy as I was heading up.

2015-12 29 Granite Mountain 06-15 12

Spray Park* (Mt. Rainier) – So many flowers!

2015-12 30 Spray Park 06-15 034

Spider Meadow & Phelps Basin* (Leavenworth) – This was a nice easy hike with a lot of marmots, but I will probably never do it again because the last road to the trailhead scared the crap out of me.

2015-12 31 Spider Meadow 07-15 085 2015-12 32 Phelps Basin 07-15 063

Summerland & Panhandle Gap* (Mt. Rainier) –I liked the Spray Park hike better, but this one would have bumped up a couple notches had I seen the resident goats.

2015-12 33 Panhandle Gap 07-15 108

Snow Lake (Snoqualmie Pass) – I did this after work on a cloudy day and it was STILL crowded.

2015-12 34 Snow Lake 07-15 08

Heather Lake (Mountain Loop Highway) – I’m not a fan of the wooded first half of this hike, but the lake makes up for it.

2015-12 35 Heather Lake 7-15 02

The Enchantments…half of it* (Leavenworth) – I didn’t have faith I would have the stamina to do the entire 18 miles or get a ride back to my car, so I went up Aasgard Pass (2,000 steep rocky feet in a mile for those not familiar), turned around at Perfection Lake and went back down Aasgard. My only 2016 hiking goal is to do the entire thru-hike.

2015-12 36 Enchantments 08-15 068 2015-12 37 Enchantments 08-15 061 2015-12 38 Enchantments 08-15 134 2015-12 39 Enchantments 08-15 171

The Incline* (Colorado Springs) – Because what else would I do after a margarita at happy hour three days after the Enchantments?

2015-12 40 Incline 08-15 01

Sahale Arm (Marblemount) – Big views and big marmots, both of which are featured in the photo.

2015-12 41 Sahale Arm 08-15 061

Talapus & Olallie Lakes* (Snoqualmie Pass) – Quiet and uncrowded after work hike.

2015-12 42 Talapus & Olallie 08-15 05

Hyas, Tuck & Robin Lakes* (Salmon La Sac) – Much of this hike uses the term “trail” very loosely, but the payoff comes at the Robin Lakes.

2015-12 43 Hyas Lake 08-15 005 2015-12 45 Robin Lakes 08-15 062

Poo Poo Point (Issaquah) – Fortunately I haven’t been carried away by a paraglider…yet.

2015-12 46 Poo Poo Point 08-15 02

Lake Valhalla* (Stevens Pass) – A mountain lake with a sandy beach? Where have you been all my life?!

2015-12 47 Valhalla

Spectacle Lake* (Salmon La Sac) – This is a looong day hike, but it’s not too steep and the lake lives up to its name. This was plan B after weather made the Enchantments an unappealing option.

2015-12 48 Spectacle Lake 09-03 055

Silver Peak* (Snoqualmie Pass) – A nice short hike on the PCT. Next time I will go on a clear day so I can see the views.

2015-12 49 Silver Peak 09-15 006

Paklencia National Park* (Croatia) – The best part about this hike was having a wonderful home cooked meal at the top.

2015-12 50 Croatia 150

Horseshoe Lake* (Leavenworth) – I found this elusive lake thanks to detailed WTA trip reports. Great during larch season.

2015-12 51 Horseshoe Lake 09-15 098

Heather/Maple Pass Loop (North Cascades Highway) – Beautiful fall colors and larches until the whiteout descended. First snow hike of the fall.

2015-12 52 Maple Pass 09-15 009

Easy Pass* (North Cascades Highway) – What an awesome fall hike – fall colors, larches, and crazy mountain views. It is NOT easy however.

2015-12 53 Easy Pass 2015-12 54 Easy Pass 09-15 194

Lake Ingalls (Teanaway) – Larches – check. Mirror-flat lake – check. Goats – check. Most crowded hike I went on all year.

2015-12 55 Lake Ingalls 206 2015-12 56 Lake Ingalls 209 2015-12 57 Lake Ingalls 092

Third Burroughs* (Mt. Rainier) – Got to break trail on fresh snow as I walked toward Rainier. Also saw a creature I had never seen before.

2015-12 58 Burroughs Mountain 10-15 114 2015-12 59 Burroughs Mountain 10-15 017

Mailbox Peak* (North Bend) – A rite of passage for Seattle area hikers, but I prefer less punishment and more scenery.

2015-12 60 Mailbox

Wallace Lake* (Gold Bar) – It was about this time I started focusing on getting 52 unique hikes, and this happy log was cheering me on.

2015-12 61 Wallace Lake 11-15 02

Gem Lake* (Snoqualmie Pass) – A pretty little lake tucked away past one of the busiest lakes in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

2015-12 62 Gem Lake 11-15 048

Colchuck Lake in the winter (Leavenworth) – I’m not counting this as a unique hike since it was my third time hiking to it this year, but it’s such a different hike in the snow and ice I couldn’t resist sharing a few photos. Extra bonus – ample parking at the trailhead, which never happens.

2015-12 63 Colchuck 11-15 026 2015-12 64 Colchuck 11-15 031 2015-12 65 Colchuck 11-15 061

Paradise snowshoe (Mt. Rainier) – Not my first time at Paradise, but my first time snowshoeing there, and it was beautiful.

2015-12 66 Rainier Shoeshoe 11-15 095

Artist Point snowshoe (Mt. Baker) – Like Paradise, not my first trip, but my first time snowshoeing there. Gorgeous!

2015-12 67 Artist Point 11-15 048

Barton Creek* (Austin, TX) – An extensive network of trails in Austin. I was pleasantly surprised by Texas hiking.

2015-12 68 Barton Creek 33

Teneriffe Falls* (North Bend) – This was a good hike in the snow that was accessible when the passes weren’t.

2015-12 69 Teneriffe Falls 12-15 08

Rattlesnake Ledge (North Bend) – One of my go to hikes that I was shocked to realize I hadn’t done all year until the day after Christmas.

2015-12 70 Rattlesnake 12-15 04

Oyster Dome (Bellingham) – Snow added a whole new element to this already solid hike.

2015-12 71 Oyster Dome 12-15 09

Franklin Falls snowshoe* (Snoqualmie Pass) – FROZEN

2015-12 72 Franklin Falls 12-15 15

On to 2016!