caribbean dream

I was floating for hours, the length of my body rising and falling with each passing wave. Limbs not feeling like my own, suspended in salt at the surface. I was my own vessel alone in the wide open ocean, no anchor, no sail, when a dark shadow passed below me. I couldn’t quite be sure what I saw, so I tried to keep calm. It was likely harmless or created by my imagination, a vision spawned by the thought of a friend who recently dove with ever-docile whale sharks. But I saw something, and it was swift. Maybe with stripes? Like a tiger. I panicked. Sea water sputtered from my mouth as I thrashed my arms and legs, a sitting duck thousands of years from land. The fear jolted me from my aquatic dream.

I wake up in a bed on the shore, the rising tide seeping through the mattress like a sponge. But the white sheets are dry around me, fluttering in the island breeze. Beside me is a love from a past life, like no time had escaped us and our legs had never untangled. And before us, an unfamiliar cove of the Caribbean, turquoise water so clear we can see the entire ocean floor and all the creatures who call it their home. A manta ray flaps its massive wings, swirling the blues together like oil paints. Another wave splashes my face, and my eyes open to find myself twisted up in the blankets of my own bed in a dark basement in Washington.

Dreams inside of dreams about the sea and its dwellers, and of sailboats and of swimming. Last month, a family of octopi waved their tentacles at me from under a wooden pier as a girl in a white dress said “I do” on a floating dock in the distance—witnesses. Two weeks ago, I dreamt it was Halloween. I was dressed as a scuba diver, but my fins were bigger and more awkward than usual. They proved especially cumbersome as I tried to climb the fence into the party, and neoprene isn’t the best for swinging your leg overhead either. Last weekend, I was queen of an isthmus castle, and two dolphins frolicked in and out of the water, racing each other as the sun sank below the horizon. Monday night, my tiny car was carried away in a tsunami with me inside, water rising too quickly to break the window. I am consumed by the ocean on a nightly basis.

It’s been exactly three months since I got back from my trip to the Virgin Islands, but my mind refuses to leave. My subconscious is rehashing and recreating life at sea level, trying to keep the memories fresh. I’m thankful. I don’t want those moments to fade into the abyss of bygones just yet for it’s deeper and darker than the Mariana Trench.

After spending two exceptional weeks there, the Caribbean does seem like a dreamworld inside our own, a modern-day Neverland where you’re as young as you want to be and you walk the plank only by choice; where a few sprinkles of nutmeg (on your drink) can even make you fly; where a mermaid named Hollyce tends bar at night and explores the depths by day. It’s a place where you can step outside to find your soul by the sea. That’s really where heaven is, isn’t it?

It’s a place where your travel companion becomes a lifelong friend. A short word on travel companions: they have the power to make or break an entire trip. They can cast shadows on the sunniest beach day or liven up a long, mundane flight. Often times, this isn’t something that reveals itself until it’s too late—until you’re already traveling. It’s a roll of the dice. I took this vacation with my friend Amy, and totally lucked out, on a Yahtzee-of-sixes level. She was also a dream, making breakfast every day, sporting her adventurous side, and laying the foundation for an unforgettable vacation, and more importantly, a long-lasting bond between the two of us. She brought the sunshine every day.

Magens Bay St. Thomas

Beyond the people you surround yourself with, the greatest thing about an island vacation is its whimsy, where the place itself has some kind of languid allure. There’s a leisurely pace that’s unmatched in the real world, a planned pause between the tick and the tock. Minutes hardly matter, and guilt doesn’t tap you on your shoulder when you’re sitting still.

The most pressing decision of our days was which ferry to catch, or miss, as we hopped from island to island and beach to beach. With our backs in the sand, we stared skyward, watching the clouds blow by, identifying the shape-shifting creatures before they dissipated into the warm, Caribbean air. At home, we’re lucky if we have a few moments to check for clouds stagnating in the weather app. We took hours to enjoy our homemade breakfasts, savoring each sip of island coffee and every forkful of scrambled eggs. We argued with new friends about the pronunciation of “pina colada” by reciting the familiar chorus, “if you like piña coladas, and getting caught in the rain…” Why yes, we do. Please pour us another, with or without the eñe, and we’ll plan our escape… and try not to spill them in the pool.

pina coladas Sugar Bay Beach Resort

St. Thomas was our launching pad, Point Pleasant, our home for eight nights. If white sand from world-famous Magen’s Bay was the only souvenir to make it home in our bags, we would have been content, but we found plenty of stowaways elsewhere. They’re still pouring out of bags onto my bedroom carpet.

We spent most nights in Red Hook, the same place the ferry departs every hour, not on the hour, to St. John. It’s a hub for tourists and locals alike, all coming together for food- and drink-fueled revery. XO Bistro serves the best plate in the islands; ladies drink free at Duffy’s every Wednesday night, a party not to be missed; and the bartenders at Tap & Still are only mildly annoyed when you try to slam dunk soggy coasters in the trash can behind the counter all night long, and the next night, too.

Spending Christmas in the Caribbean doesn’t mean you’re forgotten either. Santa Claus found time in his busy schedule to stop at Tap & Still on Christmas Eve. We sat on his lap and kissed his bearded cheeks. We begged him for a Heineken mini-keg and matching glassware, and that’s what he gave us—because we were really nice last year. Buddy the Elf was there, too (he knows Santa).

Tap and Still Red Hook St. Thomas Christmas

For us, St. John was a story of rescue. A taxi driver abandoned us at the Annaberg ruins. Fitting. We flipped and flopped back down the same jungly road we took to the deserted sugar plantation until we ran into a slow-to-warm Boston couple. Amy convinced them to let us squeeze into the backseat of their rental jeep and take us back toward Cruz Bay. They dropped us off at a random trailhead outside of town where we wandered down a web of hillside trails and spilled out onto Salomon Beach, the sand like sugar between our toes, the sea and sky mirroring each other’s blues. Neither could decide who was fairer.

We never should have left that beach. But when the rain started to fall, our new beach friend Sweaty McGillicuddy called his sailboat captain. It might be an island vacation, but cell phones still work. Again, we were rescued, this time in a dinghy, driven by a character ripped from the pages of a Dr. Suess book. We rode the waves all the way into Cruz Bay with Captain Cindy Loo Who, celebrating our survival at Joe’s Rum Hut and entire row of beach bars, where we watched other tourists foolishly swim in Cruz Bay, as if somehow we weren’t the worst offenders.

 dinghy rescue St. John Virgin Islands

Christmas morning, we made the easy trip back to St. John after opening stockings on our patio. Santa did make time for St. Thomas, breakfast Heinekens included. Deprived of the typical holiday fare, we thought Cinnamon Bay sounded like a delicious way to spend our afternoon. Clouds rolled in and out like the waves, spilling rain on our already-wet hair. I want to wrap myself in a blanket of water every Christmas, wading in the tropical sea under a tropical shower.

And then I want to take a private sunset sail to a secluded cove where I can jump off the sailboat and touch my toes to the ocean floor. Because we did that, too. Maho Bay, our own Mermaid Lagoon. We were buoys in the twilight, the water warmer on our skin than the evening air.

Maho Bay Sunset Sail St. John Virgin Islands

Somehow, the days that followed Christmas were just as memorable. In the Virgin Islands, a trip from the U.S. to Britain is just a short boat ride across the pond, if you will. We hopped to the BVI twice. Coffee and croissants seemed appropriate for our breakfast in Tortola; laying out all day requires energy. The cab driver who brought us from our breakfast in Frenchman’s Cay to the beach at Cane Garden Bay was a heavy-set fellow, praising the island lifestyle and exclaiming gratitude for each breath he took, no matter how shallow: “People say they wish they didn’t have to go back to the real world. This is the real world. And every day above ground is a good one.” He pointed out the goats he and his brother own, roaming free in an unused baseball field. He shared stories of the world-famous Bomba Shack, where they throw riotous full moon parties and drink mushroom punch, the most hedonistic of all the beach fantasies. We didn’t get that wild, but I might have shown my butt cheeks and sipped on a rum punch a few miles from there.

Our second passport stamp came by way of Virgin Gorda. A trip to this part of the world is incomplete without seeing The Baths, a beach area where massive volcanic boulders form tunnels and tidal pools, or baths. The only other place of its kind are the Seychelles, which are out of reach for most of us. We ducked and crawled and waded through the rock formations. The main beach was packed with cruise ship passengers, so we wandered just one beach down and found ourselves alone. I climbed more, planting myself as close to the edge as possible. That’s one of those moments when it’s okay to stare at the sun, soaking it all the way in, corona versus cornea. The ferry ride back demands at least two bushwhackers and a handmade sandwich from Mad Dog, nevermind all the cruisers and the picked-over buffet at the crowded park restaurant.

The Baths Virgin Gorda
The Baths, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
Virgin Gorda BVI Mad Dog
The next day, Amy buckled up in a window seat and flew home, leaving me with an entire week to myself. I think I heard her plane soar overhead as I fell asleep on a cot at Sugar Beach, just below Point Pleasant. I had time to kill before I checked in to my Airbnb accommodations for the next two nights: a 51′ yacht docked at American Harbor in Red Hook.
Point Pleasant St. Thomas Sugar Beach

Alone on an island 3,500 miles away from home, and I couldn’t feel more at home. “Do you live here?” people would ask. I can’t help but take that as a compliment. When I travel alone, I’ve learned that I become the best version of myself—the person we envision when we’re double-tapping those aspirational quotes on a Tuesday night. I am calm and content, comfortable in my own skin. Outgoing at moments, introspective at others. Fearless. Patient. Happy. And completely present.

I am required to rely on others for help, which involves being wary, but also open-minded, which then opens the door for some incredible human-to-human interactions. I spent an entire morning hiking on St. John’s Lind Point Trail, from Cruz Bay to Caneel Bay, stopping at each beach along the way. Soaking rays in at Salomon once again, I took a quick dip and shared a conversation with an Italian chef in broken Spanish—our linguistic bridge to common ground. He called me sirena, mermaid. I dream I am.

I passed hours simply collecting sea glass at Caneel Bay. Like gazing at cloud shapes, I was perfecting the art of doing nothing. I couldn’t help but feel accomplished: my masterpiece included worn shards of red, green, and brown, the remnants of yesteryear’s debauchery. Chest-high in water, I dodged sea urchins on the rocks below to get to other sections of the beach so I could trespass onto others. I’m working on my rule-breaking skills.

Greeting midnight with a giant high-five on Jost Van Dyke was my only plan for New Year’s Eve. No way to get there, no place to stay, I was planless and at complete mercy of the circumstances. The circumstances turned out to be a picture book NYC couple and their equally handsome friend, the same three Amy and I overheard in a heated discussion during our Christmas rain dance at Cinnamon Bay. They remembered me from my Baywatch-inspired one piece and Green Bay Packer santa hat. Who the hell wears socks on the beach? They had an extra spot on the boat out to Jost. I put my name on it.

I guess in my mind this boat was big, with sails and cocktails; I would tan as waves crashed over the trampoline netting, or we would just tack to Jost. It was not. The boat waiting for us at the dock in St. John was a 20 foot powerboat, a few seats in the bow, and two in the back, captained by a large man named Clackston. His only job was to get us to and from Jost, preferably alive. With a north swell in full effect, the trip over was choppy. Handsome friend and I sat in the back, hanging on to whatever we could, riding the waves like a mechanical bull. Drenched upon arrival, we rubbed the salt water from our eyes and filled out customs paperwork—another passport stamp from Great Britain.

Let the festivities begin. The New Year’s party on Jost is said to be one of the world’s biggest, and Foxy’s like “the Times Square of the Caribbean.” Hundreds of sailboats, thousands of people. I expected to be overwhelmed, but I was surprisingly comfortable. Painkillers from the Soggy Dollar and sunshine from heaven—we were day drunk into the night and into the New Year.

Soggy Dollar Bar Jost Van Dyke New Years

Clackston did return for us. The ride back was much different, smooth and fast. At two in the morning, we glided over the water, under the stars and waxing moon, on the Caribbean. Tropical moonlight, tropical starlight—basking. O Clackston! My captain! I never want this trip to end. Let me soak it in forever. Maybe this is why I dream of sleeping in the ocean?

New Year, new island. With time to spare before my flight to St. Croix, I struck up a lunch conversation with an older Italian-Brazilian gentleman who owned a rental car place across the street from where we were sitting. His accent was thick and his skin was tawny. After offering to share his nachos, he also offered to give me a lift to a beach near the airport where I could continue waiting for my departure. He secured my belongings to his scooter, and I hopped on. I watched planes take off and land from the comfort of a sandy beach lounger until it was time to go. I took down the last swig of my beer and walked the rest of the way to the airport.

free-moped-ride-st-thomas
The puddle-jump from St. Thomas to St. Croix is about twenty minutes and eighty dollars, something you spend with along with the seven other people on board with you. In retrospect, if I ever go back to Christiansted, I’ll insist on taking a sea plane. There’s an ocean runway located just west of the town’s boardwalk and the hotel where I stayed for the duration of the trip.
annaly-bay-tide-pools-st-croix
St. Croix is mellow, less lively now that the oil refinery is shut down, depressed even. With fewer people, I was more isolated. But the unflappable, more confident me only sees this as an opportunity to explore on my own schedule and take myself on dates. In Christiansted, this looks like breakfast outside the Avocado Pit, a local cafe, reading maps and guidebooks as the cook tries scare away the stubborn pigeon who keeps sneaking inside to peck away at crumbs on the tile floor. To no avail. Breakfast is followed by a beach day at Protestant Cay, the tiny island in Christiansted Harbor that’s home to a hotel and beach bar. Drinks are on me. Then I throw on a dress and some lipstick, all you really need for a date with yourself. I walk, shoulders back and chin high to the highest rated restaurant in town, Savant. My hair is perfect, even in the wind. It’s easy to slip into the bar, no reservations required for one. A dirty vodka martini; braised pork belly with blueberries atop arugula; cassava crusted mahi with a ginger and lemon grass curried coconut sauce; and frozen key lime pie. My taste buds rejoice. I am delighted. Satisfied. Full. I chat with the bartender and the snowbird couple to my right; Indiana is awful this time of year. They offer to take me to Buck Island on their sailboat the following day. I decline, but only because I have better things to do. I pick up this tab, too.
Hotel on the Cay Protestant Cay St. Croix
Savant Date
While there were fewer people, I still managed to connect with the right ones. New friends in St. Croix did not disappoint, making my last day in the VI one of the best. I sipped my morning coffee as the sun broke free of the darkness and showed its colors at Point Udall, the easternmost point in the United States and its territories. I was standing closer to the sun than the one American, and the 319 million others, to the left of me.
Point Udall sunrise
From sunrise to a giant breakfast buffet, to watching a morning kite session, to sun bathing at Chenay Bay, to what might be the kindest gesture in my travel history: keys—to a car, and essentially, the entire island. The generosity of my new island friend was overwhelming, who had no need for a car while working the day shift. I’m still trying to figure out where all this good travel karma came from. I squealed behind the wheel, excited and terrified at the same time, afraid I might make a mistake driving on the opposite side of the road. Windows down, radio blaring—one of my favorite states of being—I cruised to the west side of the island in search of a hike I’d added to my VI to-do list.
Chenay Bay kiteboarding St. Croix

The trailhead is tucked away the edge of the Carambola Resort grounds, beyond the tennis courts. I ran, walking only when the incline forced it. There was not a single soul on that jungle trail. Where is everyone, I wondered. I ran faster, fueled by the experience’s exclusivity. After a couple miles, the trail opened up to the rocky shore of Annaly Bay. The tide pools, my destination, sit at the far end of the beach.

I passed an empty jeep and its passengers, a group of timid college kids trying to climb the rocks out to the pools. I was on a mission. Off with my shoes, out of my hiking clothes and into the pools, I waited for big waves to breach the wall and shower me in salt. The group made it around the corner, and for twenty minutes there were nine of us at the Annaly Bay Tide Pools, including the Caribbean adventure guide along with his been-there-done-that attitude, his back to the sea. They all left.

Annaly Bay Tide Pool Tour Guide
St. Croix Annaly Bay Tide Pools

Like my dream, I was alone with the ocean. Mesmerized by its power, I watched as the sets rolled in, crashing into the pools, still unsure how I was the only witness to beauty of this magnitude. My exit was reluctant. I crawled back along the rock wall to the beach. My mother would die if she knew I was alone somewhere a giant wave could pluck me from the earth and carry me out with the tide. But it’s where I like to be. A few more minutes of solitude on the shore, and a slower pace back, I made my way to the driver’s seat of the borrowed car.

Windows still down, I stopped at a roadside stand for a glass of soursop lemonade. It’s a local favorite. The vendor was old and friendly. He had probably been sitting there for hours, not bored, just patient. He greeted me with a gentle smile. Out of soursop, he said. But as an alternative, he hacked open a coconut with his machete, of which I took three big gulps, to make room for the gin that he poured so generously. He added a straw and showed off the skirt of palm leaves he’d made to wear at the carnival on the other side of the island that night, just waiting for the paint to dry now. We wished each other a happy new year and said our farewells. Boozy coconut in one hand, steering hand in the other—this was real life.

I flew home the next morning, away from the Lost Boys and back to the world of regimen and deadlines, where grown-ups live. I can’t stop dreamwriting about the Virgin Islands, and, sadly, the nutmeg on my coffee isn’t quite like pixie dust. But like our cab driver in Tortola said, “This is the real world.” So with open-ended invitations to return and couches to sleep on, maybe someday I’ll wake up from my aquatic dreams in a sailboat named Reality. Until then, at night, I fly toward the second star on the right, and straight on till morning.

spirits

Right before Thanksgiving, I challenged myself to enter The Inlander’s Short Fiction Contest again. Why? I don’t really know. I need the practice, but I wasn’t feeling it. Switching to a serious voice has been a struggle for me lately. I’d rather joke about Nicki Minaj’s fake butt or how I touched one in the club last weekend in Arizona out of pure curiosity (dontchu worry, she didn’t feel a thing, and the NFL player she was mackin’ on (yes, I said “mackin’ on”) didn’t notice either). I guess it didn’t have to be serious, but that’s neither here nor there.

Because the winners were published on Christmas, the theme was a festive one: Spirits. Ohhhhh, double entendre. All stories were required to play off the theme and also include a Spokane landmark. Writing for the sake of writing is almost impossible, but I forced something out. It’s an ugly baby, but it’s my ugly baby, so I’m going to try to love it, even though it’s not a winner. (Unfortunately, you still have to tell me it’s cute.) Look how cute it is:

 Dry Fly Distillery Spokane, WA

Whiskey Lullaby

Another night in the Dry Fly Distillery, but this one is quiet. The eerie silence of Christmas Eve replaces the constant hum of the stills. The whiskey makers are home with their families as she sits alone at the bar in the barrel room. At the counter, she pours herself a shot, and then another, the liquor warms her. She’s lost track—pours one more. Swirling the whiskey in her glass, she reflects on the concert hall this cold room used to be.

Fat Tuesday’s was a bright spot in the Spokane music scene, just east of the city center, along the river. Fans would pour in on Friday and Saturday nights to get their share of live music and libations. The spotlights hanging from the beams overhead cast shadows on the concrete floor where the stage once stood. It’s been two years since she watched the new owners rip up the floorboards she once ruled, rupturing the foundation beneath her feet. Strong and smooth like her voice, Triticale Whiskey is the star of the show now.

The city latched onto her because she was local talent. She escaped Felony Flats with a guitar and an intoxicating voice, and for years, people flocked to the venue to get drunk on her melodies. A move across town was good, but she wanted more. She had sights set on a bigger stage in a bigger city, Seattle maybe. But the fans’ attention waned along with attendance, and the doors were forced shut on her dreams.

With the seating torn out, racks of wooden barrels replace the rows of fans. The whiskey inside ages more gracefully than the lines on her tired face. She lifts her stare to where the crowds would shout her name from the mezzanine. They really did love her. But the mezzanine is gone, too. The distillers just use the space as their gym. There’s a small bench with free weights and a punching bag hanging in the doorframe where she swings out her pain on occasion.

But this is her place, and she couldn’t resist it. She’s stayed on with the Dry Fly owners because she had a taste for whiskey. Most days she sits in the upstairs office waiting for the grain delivery from a friendly farmer who makes his living on the Palouse. The distillery prides itself on locally-sourced ingredients, part of why she likes it here so much; everything is homegrown like her.

If it’s slow, she’ll take on the stacks of paperwork, flipping through the manila folders in the rusted file cabinet the same way she plucked her six string.  She’ll sing a sweet tune to make the clock tick a little faster. Sometimes the guys notice her singing, and she’ll stop; she’s not a performer anymore.

When the heat of the stills makes the temperature in the office unbearable, she likes to slip out the back door, rattling the tiny wind chime that guards the exit. She’ll stroll down the Centennial Trail or over the Iron Bridge to cool down.  Like the stage, the river brings her comfort. It’s in a hurry to get downtown while she’s in no hurry at all. They don’t really need her in the office anyway.

And at night, she drinks, not much different from this night. Her addiction is strong, but she hides it well. She’ll stare in awe through the small round window of the still as the wheat mash boils, debating whether she appreciates the process or the finished product more. History knows better; she’s a fan of what becomes of the wheat mash. Sometimes in her stupor, she knocks bottles over and the shatter echoes down the long corridor into the barrel room. She always tidies those kinds of spills before the guys arrive for another day of work.

Here, alone on Christmas Eve, she’s singing a familiar verse to herself: Oh Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining… She trails off as she thinks back, this time, on the night of her last performance—Fat Tuesday’s last hoorah. She left her heart on the stage and even smashed her guitar as a final crowd-pleaser.

The stars were bright that night too, like tiny spears of light piercing through an obsidian blanket. After the seats had cleared and the doors had closed, she took a walk on the riverbank, just her, her drink, and the man in the moon. He shone brilliantly on the inky water, enough light to see her reflection. She took another drink and another step closer to her river image. And she slipped. The water grasped at her ankles and pulled down on her arms. The voice that permeated the concert hall couldn’t be heard as the cold of the current silenced her cries for help. The man in the moon could only watch as she sputtered, lungs filling with water instead of oxygen.

They pulled her body up the next morning.

This place isn’t what it used to be, but she just can’t leave. She tips back another shot of whiskey—always drowning.

photo via

a new year and a new soul

I think I’m still drunk on vacation. I’m not still Finding my Beach at Joe’s Rum Hut in Cruz Bay or chewing on martini olives at XO Bistro in Red Hook, but the glass of red wine on my nightstand feels just as good on the tongue, and my mood can’t decipher between 80 degrees and 20, strangely enough. I want to hug strangers, tackle life-sized games of JENGA, climb through doggy doors, and dance like an idiot (beach or snow, I don’t givadamn) because 2015 is pouring it on strong.

But before I dive into a New Year, I like to take a little time to reflect on the last. So, last year, rather than shaming myself with a year’s worth of unrealistic resolutions and the inevitable sense of failure that ensues when you skip the gym and start eating pretzel sticks and pot pies after Green Bay loses in the NFC Championship, I created a wish list. The difference between resolutions and a wish list is that wishes are desires of the heart—actions you want to take, rather than all the things you’ve convinced yourself you should. I have a 2015 wish list too, but I’m keeping it close to the vest. Surprises are more fun anyway. Let’s just say if 2014 was new boobs huge, 2015 is going to be Nicki Minaj butt implant huge. My anaconda don’t…

I’m proud to say I crossed most things off the 2014 list, although, I didn’t spend New Year’s Eve in my jim jams eating Chinese pondering what 2015 will bring (in bed). I was rocking a bikini top and pineapple print pants on Jost Van Dyke with some friendly New Yorkers instead—pure travesty if you ask me. And. It’s amazing what else happens between the check boxes, wishes I wouldn’t dare to make and some I didn’t even know I could.  Like some of these:

The Lambrecht Wedding—Some of the first people I met in college were soccer players because all the fall athletes had to report early for training camp. I’m not sure exactly when or how it happened, but they adopted me into their lives, and we formed this unconditional friendship I wouldn’t trade for anything. Utah got married in the spring, and it was a giant family reunion with all the essentials: giggling, dancing, yelling, and knockout punches. I remember waking up the next morning and thinking it had the best day of the year so far.

 Lambrecht-Wedding-2

Lambrecht-Wedding-1

Belize—There are too many things to say about this trip, but swimming into the underworld of Xibalba, or Cave of Fear, to lay eyes on crystallized human skulls and tread barefoot on limestone washed smooth by underground rivers over thousands of years was terrifying, exhilarating, and humbling all at once.

Actun Tunichil Miknal

Birthday Weekend in Seattle—People always say they have the best friends in the world. That’s what makes friendship so beautiful. There are billions of people connecting on a level that makes everyone feel like they are the luckiest. To the few in billions that made me feel like the luckiest for taking time out of your hectic lives to celebrate with me, I love you. You are the best.

birthday-babes sounders-birthdaybirthday-lathey birthday-beebs

Dawson-Pitamakin Pass Hike—My summer anthem was Just One DayTake to the sky. Open up your eyes and see how far you get in just one day. Take to the sea. And open up your heart and see how far you get atop this place. You can get pretty damn far. Me? I hiked all 23 miles of the Dawson-Pitamakin Pass Loop in just one day. When I get restless in my cubicle it’s because I know just how far I can get.

dawson-pitamakin-hike-glacier going-to-the-sun-road-glacier dawson-pitamakin-pass-hike-glacier dawson-pitamakin-hike-view

Moving—In October, I traded in my beautiful apartment with vaulted ceilings, a walk-in closet, gas appliances, heated floors, and free golf for a basement studio, as I like to call it. I am going to miss running through the golf course sprinklers and riding my bike to Idaho after work on hot summer nights, but there is no doubt in my mind that moving was the best life decision I made all year, along with buying that bike.

Solo Travel—This was a bit of an experiment. I started small, cruising through Eastern Washington, hiking to a few places in the middle of nowhere like Towell Falls. Then camping by myself at Diablo Lake, and finally, spending a week on my own in the Virgin Islands. All three experiences showed that traveling alone isn’t really that lonely, and I proved to myself that I can do it—and thrive. I’m just getting my feet wet.

free-moped-ride-st-thomas annaly-bay-tide-pools-st-croixcape-air-st-croix

Green Bay vs. Seattle—I’ve already talked about this. I lucked out and ended up with a ticket to the NFL season opener between my two favorite teams (I like two teams, give it a rest). I almost cried tears of sweet joy because I saw Aaron Rodgers and a ton of Seahawks HOFers in person.

Seahawks Packers 2014 NFL Season Opener

Labor Day Weekend—Three days in the Canadian Rockies and the only thing left to be desired was a bear sighting. Oh, and I’m kinda pissed I lost my headlamp because I’m not a loser of things. Anyway. I would trade in a lot more camping gear if it meant sipping on Masala Chai in an alpine tea house after standing on the edge of Big Beehive again—I’m filing this one away in “Life Highlights.”

lake-louise-big-beehive

Halloween—Because: life is perfect when your favorite holiday ends like this…

starbucks siren costume

Virgin Islands Christmas Vacation—More to come on this, but I can’t wait to go back to the VI. I’m sorry it took me so long to get there. Somehow, my impression of the Caribbean has never been a good one. I blame all the cruise ships. My opinion has certainly changed. Hands down, my absolute favorite memory from this trip was eating Christmas breakfast with Amy on our balcony with a “partial” ocean view and opening stockings, a tradition I miss deeply. That girl is beyond thoughtful, and I guess Santa was pretty good to us, too.

point-pleasant-st-thomas christmas-morning-stockings

Now excuse me a moment as I stroll down the Sentimental Trail. More important than where I went or what I saw in 2014, is who I was with. The contrast between today and this time last year is blinding, but, like, in an awesome staring-at-the-sunset kind of way. I can say in earnest, that I have not been this happy in years. I have people in my life who have the power to shine light in the darkest of rooms with patience and that same kind of unconditional friendship I talked about earlier. I also met a handful of people last year who restored my hope in human kindness and character, and also in myself.

I am anxious to face 2015 with a renewed soul and get busy checking off one helluva wish list. Happy New Year!

The Baths, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands

“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes.” – G.K. Chesterton

five years

I miss Dugee

October 20th. It’s marked in my calendar as D-day, a sad reminder. How has it been five years? They say time heals all wounds, but I don’t buy it. Anyone who has experienced loss will agree. Even now, as I reflect on this, I miss Dugee, and the hole in my heart is just as big. Sure, the more minutes I put between myself and that day, the more familiar I get with life without him, but still.

I have a lot of memories from that day. I remember caring too much about the clothes I would wear to the hospital – so trivial in retrospect. I remember how he lit up when I walked into the hospital room, “Hi, Coli.” So bittersweet. Those were the last words he would speak to me. I remember being excited to have him home that afternoon, but being so disappointed because the morphine rendered him unconscious. There was no pain. There was no nothing. He just slept (and snored) – all afternoon, all evening, and into the night. I remember getting ready for bed and noticing that his apnea was getting worse. At least he’s still breathing.

But then he wasn’t.

Most days, life goes on as usual. But occasionally, a random wave of emotion will bear down on me and flood my eyes with tears. Because I miss him. It’s funny though…I see him everyday. In me. Even as his step-daughter, there are things about me that are undeniably him. I’ll drive across town to use a $1.00 coupon; I stockpile toiletries (some of which I take from the hotels I visit) under the sink and under my bed just in case I might need a shower cap and shoe polish someday; I love retrievers more than I care for most humans; and I’d rather be golfing at 3:30 on a Wednesday afternoon than stuck behind a desk. I can still hear his voice when I leave the bathroom light on or take too long of a shower, and I can’t wait until Thanksgiving so I can drink too much wine and eat till I’m miserable. I just wish I were eating turkey and drinking wine with Dugee.

But I can’t.

October 20th. For me, a reminder of our fragility. And a reminder to love hard, every second of every day.

Click here to donate to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

summer nights with the devil and louise

I’m sitting here scrolling through photos, reliving my summer snapshot by snapshot, trying to decide how to best tell the story that has been my life for the last six weeks… A freeze frame misses the euphoric tears that welled in my eyes and the hurt in my smiling cheeks as both teams took the field for the Packers-Seahawks game. A scrapbook of jagged mountainscapes has the power to bore viewers to sleep like only a grandfather’s slide carousel can. A paragraph could never break hard enough to make way for the next chapter of my cousin’s life as a gorgeous newlywed. And words, these silly little things, they seem drab in comparison to Diablo Lake Green and Lake Louise Blue. Therein, lies the dilemma. Maybe I should just keep scrolling.

Or maybe I should do what most normal people would do… practice a little chronology. The beginning is an easy place to start, even though I also like the idea of jumping right on to Aaron Rodgers. I digress. Anyway. I hate the word “escape”—at least in regards to travel: summer’s hottest escapes, 10 best weekend escapes, and the like. It implies there is something from which to flee, like Egypt, or Alcatraz, or an arranged marriage. Is every day life so terrible that we require an escape for every season and every other Saturday? I really hope not, but sometimes a respite from routine is good for the soul. By now, I’ve made it known that when I want headspace, I drive. Backroads and blue highways always take me where I want to be. So a handful of Fridays ago, I escaped westward on Highway 20.

Through Kettle Falls and over Sherman Pass, with a short stop at the White Mountain Fire Lookout, I was in a hurry to set up camp before dark. The idea of camping alone for the first time was ominous enough, but I’m also an adult who is terrified of the dark, and all the monsters my childish imagination fears are lurking in wilderness shadows.

A carnation haze dulled into a grey drizzle and then into a downpour of black as I rolled into the Swan Lake campground, south of Republic. Dark, rainy, and in the middle of nowhere. It was too late to tent, so I resigned to the backseat, just me, my headlamp, a book, and a giant Coors Light. Although, in retrospect, I realize drinking a PBR would have been more authentic for a night of camping in a Lexus sedan.

Camping at Swan Lake

Read. Chug. Snooze. Wake up to knocking on the window above my feet—my worst nightmare now a reality. I’m not sure how I didn’t scream, or cry, or puke, or wet myself, all at once for that matter, as an old man from the forest shined his flashlight into the back of my eyes. With only calm in my bones, I crawled to the front seat to open the driver’s side door. The man, who was not from the forest, but the rusted “CAMP HOST” motorhome near the entrance, slipped me questions through his missing teeth about my stay, “How many nights are you staying?”, “Isn’t it uncomfortable sleeping back there?” as if his presence was nothing to be startled by. He apologized that he was gone when I arrived (he was busy rescuing a fawn that had been hit by a car) and told me it would be ten dollars to resume my night at the campground. Anything you want!! Ten dollars to leave me alone and postpone this episode of Real Stories of the Highway Patrol seemed like a real bargain. Feeling less safe in my backseat cocoon after my encounter, the good kind of sleep was impossible to find.

Up with the sun, fog blanketed the lake, depriving me of a clear view on my way out of camp. Mist swirled up from the evergreens,  like in all movies about the Pacific Northwest. It was eerie, but it felt like home, too. I drove further west with two things in mind: securing food and a campsite. Based on what might be the best recommendation in all of history, I stopped at the Cinnamon Twisp Bakery for a treat of the same name: the Cinnamon Twisp, at which point I took a selfie worth sharing.

Cinnamon Twisp Bakery

Cinnamon Twisp Selfie

A quick word about sharing… my love for donuts was established at a young age, probably at birth if you consider my heritage. Either way, trips to Winchell’s were a weekly tradition with my dad. He would order a coffee and a cinnamon roll and I’d order the cherry cake donut and devour it immediately so I could wait for him to eat his. Now, everyone knows you eat a cinnamon roll layer by layer, from the outside in because the middle is the best bite—even 4 year olds are aware of this. My dad, familiar with my antics, would try to offer me bites from the outer layers, bites I refused, feigning indifference. But when he got to the center, I would make my move, “Daaaaaad, can I have a bite?” Albeit, it was the very last, very best bite—a true test of fatherly love: my sweet daughter or my sweet donut? I know which way I would have gone, but my dad’s a good man. The cinnamon roll core goes to the girl with the roundest cheeks (a contest I still win every time)! My point is, the Cinnamon Twisp, is like a whole pastry of cinnamon roll centers, every bite as gooey and delicious as the next, no brain games or manipulation required, although I’m still not sure I’d recommend sharing. Hi, I’m an only child.

Now properly fueled, I could focus on finding a place to sleep for the night. Into the North Cascades I sped. Naturally, I was distracted by Liberty Bell. Wary of that coveted campsite, I only stopped to wander for a few minutes, in awe of the massive rock structure; Philadelphia ain’t got nothing on us.

Liberty Bell Crack

Liberty Bell over Highway 20

View of Liberty Bell from Washington Pass

Onward toward Diablo Lake. And let me tell you, I must have done something right somewhere along the way because my camping karma is through the roof. Colonial Creek Campground, located on the Thunder Arm of Diablo Lake, has about 160 campsites, and it looked to be at capacity. I circled around at least five times panicking, plotting a lame Plan B: getting rained on in New Halem or making it all the way to the coast and staying in my mom’s spare bedroom. But Zut alors! I had missed one. I sprinted to the pay station to stake my claim like a greedy pioneer. I definitely got thee. last. campsite.  I set up camp in the section north of the highway and 50 yards from the water. I got settled and then hiked, gloating all the way to the top of the Thunder Knob trail where the view of the lake forced an even wider grin.

View of Diablo Lake

Diablo Lake View

With 160 full campsites, there were people everywhere, and the anxiety of going solo was remedied completely. That afternoon, I read on the lakeshore, sharing a few beers with friendly strangers, throwing rocks, and swimming. Yes, swimming. The weather was utopian, and that magical, jade water would have Ponce de Leon rolling over in his grave. The day ended with an after dark  Ranger Talk about glaciers in the Cascade Range… so fascinating. I definitely missed my calling as an earth scientist. It was the perfect bedtime story. Site #2 was calling my name. I curled up in my sleeping bag, not alone, but surrounded by nature and an entire family of her admirers.

Diablo Lake Panorama

I may or may not have stopped for another Cinnamon Twisp on Sunday’s drive home. Anyway, with just one Monday between me and Labor Day Weekend, I didn’t bother to unpack my camping gear. I just rode my desk chair waiting for the next big wave of adventure: Canada. Banff National Park has been on my to-do list since torrential downpours ruined my only other visit to the area over a decade ago. By pure happenstance, I found out one of my childhood friends was going to be up there for the week, so it was my time for redemption.

I was the first one out of the building on Friday. (Sorry, boss, my passport is overeager and demanding.) The drive—we know I love the drive, but seven hours seemed unbearable. I made it without getting felt up at the border or plowing through any wild animals. Time to drop in to the weekend.

We hiked every day… Saturday to Rock Isle Lake, part of Sunshine Village which transforms into a world-class ski area in the winter. The Banff trail guide lists this hike as an easy one but fails to mention that it requires either a $30 dollar round trip bus ride to the trailhead or an hour long glute-burning hike up a summer service road. My friend and I are the epitome of frugal Dutch penny pinchers, so we marched up the mountainside. The weather in Banff is unpredictable, four seasons in one day if not one hour, and when the hail started pelting our hoods, we cursed our heritage and nearly turned around. Luckily, being Dutch also means being stubborn, which always pays off. Well, at least this time it did. Who knew there was an island on the Continental Divide?

Sunday we attempted to get a peek of Lake Louise: gridlock. They actually closed off the entrance because the parking lot was over capacity, and we were told to come back in an hour and try again. We took a nine hour detour to Jasper on the Icefields Parkway instead; lakes bluer and less crowded than Louise, massive glaciers shrinking back into the mountains, man-eating icefields, elusive waterfalls, and the Athabasca River whose waters run north to the Arctic Ocean. I’m still having a hard time wrapping my brain around that one—I dipped my fingers in a frigid current that eventually empties into the Arctic!

Athabasca River Falls

Athabasca River Cliffs

Athabasca River Cliffs

I accidentally said “wow” a thousand times. You couldn’t design a nature theme park better than this. The only thing missing was a pettable baby bear. At one point, we got out to admire Bridal Veil Falls and decided on an impromptu hike to get a closer look because 1.1 kilometers is cake. Panther Falls snuck up on us as we descended on the roadside trail. Completely invisible from the turnout, only those who venture outside their cars are lucky enough to see the water pour through a giant hole in the rock facade. We stood awestruck in the mist. I’m so glad Lake Louise played hard to get.

Bridal Veils Falls Sign Alberta Canada

Bridal Veils Falls

Panther Falls Alberta Canada

Monday morning we tried our luck with Louise again, and this time she let us in. Sometimes I feel like travel has evolved into a contest of constant one-upping—people jetting from spot to spot just to capture the best photo for their insta account, without pausing to actually create a memorable experience. There were hundreds of people crowded around the rocky shores, posing awkwardly and making stupid selfie faces. And for most, that’s as far as they ever get with Lake Louise, like a celebrity sighting. They get their picture, check a box on a travel list, and go home.

Labor Day Trip to Lake Louise

I saw one woman take her shoes off and put her feet in the water, and it made me smile. It was a simple act, but she’s going to remember how cold the water felt between her toes. That’s why we travel isn’t it? For the real stuff. I wiggled my fingers in this freezing water, too. Lake Louise is easy; we were going to earn the next photo. Above her, are several other lakes and two tea houses that serve as fueling stations for hikers.

We dodged raindrops and road apples as we climbed toward the first alpine attraction, Mirror Lake. Big Beehive towers over the shallow, emerald pool and overwhelms those staring skyward. A glacial stream pours into Mirror Lake from above, so we followed the sound of moving water. A gushing waterfall and a wooden staircase welcomed us to the Lake Agnes Tea House—my version of heaven. People bustled about on the cabin deck, hoping for a seat at any table at which to enjoy a hot drink and a homemade sandwich. But the overflow seating was tolerable, too; lakeside benches with a front row view of Lake Agnes as she showed off her version of blue and green, even in the rain.

Mirror Lake Alberta Canada

Lake Agnes Tea House Waterfall

Lake Agnes Hike Alberta Canada

Big Beehive Hike Lake Agnes Tea House

Like Lake Louise, many tourists make it this far, sneak their photos, and begin the descent to their cars. We basked in the beauty of Lake Agnes for a few minutes, but this wasn’t the end of the road for us. We had two options: Big Beehive or Little Beehive. Go big or go home, right? The trail to Big Beehive curls around the lake, and then zigzags up the southern bank. The steep switchbacks dissuade hikers from continuing. Fatigue typically leads to defeat, and retreat. Those inclined to press on reap an enviable reward, a birdseye view of Lake Louise and all her surroundings. I stood on the ledge of the beehive, looking for my reflection in Mirror Lake, heart completely full at the precipice. Have I mentioned that I like to stand on the edge of tall things? That’s the moment I was chasing.

Lake Louise Panorama

I was reluctant to leave my cliffside perch. I could let my feet dangle and peer into every corner of the panorama for an eternity, but the reins of the real world were tugging. Of course, there was no way we were skipping the tea house experience on the way down. This is Teacups and B Cups after all. We scored a table on the railing and watched as greedy birds swooped in to steal entire pieces of bread and fat chipmunks scurried around collecting crumbs. A server took our order, so we waited patiently still reveling in the moment. He soon returned with the warming agents—curried lentil soup, a basket of wheat bread, and a small teapot of the house special: Masala Chai. I swirled in the cream and sugar, hypnotized. And then I sipped my perfect cup of tea in the mountains of Alberta. Now, now I could check the Lake Louise box.

Lake Agnes Tea House Menu

Lake Agnes Tea House Teapot

Lake Agnes Tea House Tea Time

Teacups and B Cups at Lake Agnes Tea House

The very next day, I found myself in Seattle to kickoff a week of wedding festivities for my cousin. But really, she’s more like my sister. We’re on the same weird wavelength. We speak our own language. I feel bad for the outsiders trying to make sense of our gibberish, but the best part is, her now husband is right there with us. It was five straight days of endless laughter, capped off with a gorgeous zoo wedding and, of course, awkward dancing. I am in love with their love.

Lacey in the Rose Garden

Lacey's Wedding

Woodland Park Zoo Wedding Reception

And finally! The part where I get to talk about Aaron Rodgers. In the midst of wedding duties, I was able to sneak away for the NFL season opener between the Seahawks and the Packers, my two favorite teams (I’m a girl, so that’s allowed). The Packers lost, but that game was something special: the Emerald City gleaming, Pharrell Williams performing “Happy” as I entered the north gate of the stadium, the revealing of the Super Bowl banner, and Seahawk hall-of-famers raising the 12th Man Flag. As infuriating as the 12th Man is, the energy in CenturyLink is electric, and it just surges through you. Then, Aaron Rodgers took the field (beat it, Olivia Munn). I could have left then. Anyway, like I said, I almost cried, and when Ariana Grande belted the “Star-Spangled Banner” I couldn’t shake the goosebumps from my arms. A night to remember.

Seahawks Packers 2014 NFL Season Opener

I love Aaron Rodgers

But not just a night, an entire summer… of first times, last times, and only times, with a few snapshots I can’t stop scrolling through.

snorkeling in shark ray alley

I was waiting in the gym lobby yesterday, watching the TV as a shark shredded through a man’s left calf, part of a Shark Week special on shark attacks. The girl behind the counter grimaced at the dangling flesh left as a result of the shark’s razor sharp bite, while I bit my tongue, letting her fall prey to the sensationalism of these rare underwater attacks. I wanted to blurt, “I SWAM WITH SHARKS THIS YEAR AND IT WAS AWESOME!!” Because it was. And really, you’re more likely to be struck by lightning, fatally slip in your own shower, or even have your shoulder chomped by that cannibalistic soccer player from Uruguay than you are to succumb to Jaws. So let it be known, I swam with sharks this year, and it was awesome!

Snorkeling in San Pedro, Belize

Ambergris Caye was the second destination of my 8-day trip to Belize. Accessible by small plane or boat from Belize City, we chopped across the Caribbean toward San Pedro on the upper deck of the Belize Express water taxi—Central America’s first class. Only eight of us privileged enough to bask in the sea spray and watch the sun disappear below the cayes: my travel companions, a local fisherman, the captain, and Joe, resident dive expert of Ambergris Caye. By the time we docked in San Pedro, Joe had arranged a private boat ride to the north end of the island to our treehouse accommodations as well as the next day’s excursion to the Belize Barrier Reef, just off the coast.

Rivaled only by the Great Barrier Reef, the Belize Barrier Reef is the largest reef system in the Northern Hemisphere, attracting divers and snorkelers from around the world. I am just a snorkeler, but on that particular day, with near perfect conditions and 70 feet of visibility, a mask and fins were all I needed. Our snorkel boat dropped its anchor in two spots along the reef. The first was Hol Chan Marine Reserve, the water calm, clear, and aquamarine like a postcard, the reef ecosystem abundant and lively. Two minutes into the snorkel, we were met by an unmistakable glare and distinguished underbite: barracuda. He was motionless, silver scales gleaming in the sunlight. Knowing his ability to accelerate and his affinity toward shiny objects, my elephant charm necklace and I kicked hard in the opposite direction, right into the invisible tentacle of a jellyfish that grazed my left tricep. My skin reddened and my nerves stung, but my throat didn’t swell and my breathing didn’t falter; only a Portuguese man o’ war would stop me from seeing the rest. I snorkeled on, and the ocean crackled in my ears.

Snorkeling in Hol Chan Marine Reserve Park Belize

Below us, two spotted eagle rays soared through a gap in the coral, black wings moving water without effort. Our snorkel guide knocked on the door of a green moray eel with an oversized conch, bared teeth and crossed eyes scared us off his porch and back to the boat, where a man-sized grouper was seeking shade under the aluminum hull. As we settled ourselves back in the boat, a neighboring snorkel guide lifted a three foot shark from below the surface, close enough for us to reach over the edge and touch its rough, taupe skin. It was a nurse shark, the species of shark found at the next snorkeling location: Shark Ray Alley.

Spotted Eagle Rays Snorkeling in Belize

I was relieved to know the sharks we were about to swim with were small and accustomed to human handling. But when the boat floated into Shark Ray Alley, a massive shadowy object crept along the ocean floor, a saltwater villain certainly more than three feet long. My heart dropped thirty stories. Another boat was chumming not far from us—another ten story drop, with only one place left to go: I leapt fin-first into the sea to fulfill a travel dream at the bottom of the ocean. Eyes wide open, we drifted with the current as nurse sharks and sting rays moseyed through the sea grass.

Nurse Sharks Belize Barrier Reef

Swimming with Sharks, San Pedro Belize

Shark Ray Alley Belize

I swam with sharks, and it was awesome. And a Shark Week special on shark attacks couldn’t stop me from doing it a hundred times over.

Photo Credit: Sarah Brogden-Thome

a birthday drive to metaline falls

I turned 29 a few weeks ago. It was a Tuesday, so you’d expect to find me gazing into a constellation of google map dots and agonizing over the cultural shackles binding me to a desk on my birthday—or daydreaming of a faceful of coconut cake. But I did neither. Birthdays are revered in my office, and we get them off, like a sick day, but better. Yes, my employers gave me one of the best birthday gifts: precious minutes wrapped in dollar bills.

A birthday with nothing to do except whatever I want. I’m not sure what other people would do with a free day like this, but I imagine it wouldn’t look much like mine. I slept in just late enough to decide on a destination and still make it through the McDonald’s drive-thru at 10:29am for a sausage biscuit with egg; that’s 2 minutes away from a biscuitless birthday girl and a full blown temper tantrum. I splurged and got an orange juice too because it’s my party and I’ll eat bad if I want to.

After that close call, I turned my steering wheel toward the north. The goal was to go somewhere new and off the beaten path. I’m not sure what inspired my decision besides the potential of waterfalls, but I ended up in Metaline Falls, just south of the Canadian Border on the International Selkirk Loop. I didn’t actually see any waterfalls, but I did stumble upon Boundary Dam, which supplies almost one-third of Seattle City Light’s power. The dam is only open for public tours Thursday through Monday, so I couldn’t get as close as I would have hoped, not that I’d expect it to be open on a Tuesday anyway.

I still visited both sides of the dam. On the west side, there was a small campground littered with tents, trucks, and hooded teenagers, along with a boat launch into the Pend Oreille River where a few aluminum fishing boats tooled around in the rain. Beyond the campground is the dam entrance. A friendly security guard left his post and approached the passenger window, thumbs hooked in his belt loops, and told me to turn around and drive to the other side, where the lookout tower I’d spied from the campground sits atop a treelined ridge. There, the gravel road above Crescent Lake gave way to an empty gravel parking lot and what seemed to be an abandoned lookout tower, although the website promises it’s open the same days as the dam. Can’t a girl get a public restroom in these parts? No? Fine. I peed on the trail, which was fenced, like everything else.

Boundary Dam, Metaline Falls, Washington

The barbed wire and chain links made it hard to get a clear view of the dam until the trail opened up onto a large wooden platform below the lookout tower. I’m not afraid of heights; I actually enjoy standing on the edge of most tall things, but I started to doubt the integrity of its foundation, and my own. Vertigo or dizziness, I’m not sure, but the spinning behind my eyes and wobbling in my knees were quieted by the panorama before me. The dam’s watergates were closed, exposing its concrete under layers and a single lane over which I was surprised to watch a Seattle City Light utility truck pass. Giants on the horizon, six transmission towers, reign over the sheer rock face across the gap, contemplating a long jump into the dark water below as it flows toward Canada through the Selkirk Mountains.

Panoramic Photo of Boundary Dam, Washington

Boundary Dam, Metaline Falls, Washington

Boundary Dam, Metaline Falls, Washington

Boundary Dam, Metaline Falls, Washington

Boundary Dam, Metaline Falls, Washington

I didn’t have my passport with me, luckily. Instead of a date with Lake Louise, I returned to Spokane to close out the day in more typical birthday fashion: dinner (soft pretzel and macaroni & cheese—birthday carbs trump birthday cards every time) and drinks with friends—all more reasons I love birthdays so much. A heartfelt thanks to everyone who took the time and effort to wish me well on the dawn of a new year.