central ferry + towell falls

Sunrise doesn’t get enough credit, which is probably why people refer to it as an ass crack. Catch a glimpse and you cringe, shutting your eyes and pretending it’s not there in an attempt to fall back to sleep. I cherish my sleep, but I also get harebrained ideas when I ride my bike, and the longer I’m on it, the more wascally they get. So, last weekend as I was winding down the Centennial Trail toward Idaho, I set my heart on catching sunrise at Central Ferry on the Snake River. Local grain growers bring their crops to the Port of Central Ferry to be transported down the Snake, and in their free time, fish, camp, and imbibe on secluded sand beaches along the river. I have fond memories of this place, including one hot July night leading up to harvest a few years ago – triple digit temps and the river surface like glass, mirroring the cherry and tangerine swirled sunset. Clearly, the sun saves the most vibrant colors for summer on the Snake, painting a crack worth opening your eyes for.

Sunrise over the railroad tracks at the Port of Central Ferry on the Snake River
Sunrise at the Port of Central Ferry

Port of Central Ferry sunrise

Deer in the Sunrise on the Snake River

I say this all the time, and will keep saying it, but there’s something so invigorating about speeding with the windows down through Eastern Washington’s unfamiliar highways; my mind runs rampant. I am enamored with wind farms and wheat fields and am always so blown away when I stumble across places I didn’t know existed. Like, how is that possible? …to be so unaware of the treasures in my own backyard. It challenges my definition of adventure, because while I yearn for distant exploration, I’m reminded there are things worth discovering right where I am, no plane ticket required.

Starbuck, Washington is just one example. The speed limit drops from 60 to 25, and at 6:00am, there was no coffee, just a diligent greenthumb welcoming me to her tiny town with the wave of a hand shovel, a friendly cheers to the early birds. And a few miles further on 261 is another surprise: Lyons Ferry, where the Palouse and Snake Rivers converge. It’s an entire world in itself, with a KOA and a marina full of riverboats and a handful of painted wooden houseboats; I’m curious about the stories of those dreaming inside. I bet they’re twice as impressive as the bridges that span the river.

Lyons Ferry Bridge over the Snake River, Washington

Lyons Ferry Bridge on the Snake River

Lyons Ferry Washington

Lyons Ferry Marina, Starbuck, Washington

Sunrise at Lyons Ferry

Palouse Falls

I stopped briefly at Palouse Falls, but my timing was poor, and instead of getting a good view of the falls, I was merely staring into the sun. So I continued north in search of Towell Falls, another out-of-the-way hiking destination I read about recently. After more desolate highway driving and almost fifteen miles of gravel road, it dead ends at the abandoned Escure Ranch. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt that isolated – no humans, no cell service. Getting off the grid is something I fantasize about, and I am confident in my ability to travel alone almost anywhere, but I can’t deny the anxiety I felt for the entirety of the hike.

What I thought was three miles round trip, ended up being three miles to the falls and three miles back on an overgrown access road. That’s too much time to spend inside my own head hushing my imagination, that is often outrageous and enjoys entertaining nearly impossible situations. Animal droppings with berry seeds. Must be a bear because this is their usual habitat. The whispers of a pleasant breeze combined with a plague of grasshoppers that scatter with every step.  Something is stalking me. If not an African lion, a mountain lion, and if not that, one of those human-humping bucks. And what about rattlesnakes? If I get bit, it will surely be by one of the little guys who’s overeager with his venom delivery. I am a goner. I kept looking over my shoulder and scanning the rock formations for human predators. Nothing. Just deer, grasshoppers, cows (that my imagination nearly convinced me were on my side of the range fence), and me.

Towell Falls Hike Directions

cows at Towell Falls Hike

Towell Falls Hike

Towell Falls Hike

Towell Falls

Towell Falls Hike

Towell Falls Hike Washington

Towell Falls

Towell Falls, although not nearly as spectacular as Palouse Falls, are a small oasis in the Eastern Washington desert. Water spills over 12- and 15-foot ledges into the creek. Unfortunately, by the time I reached them, I was ready to be back in the drivers seat where my imagination is tamer and I am safe from any kind of animal attack. I made it out with just a few fly bites and one snake sighting, all of which were forgotten when I rolled down the windows to let my fingers dance in the wind all the way back to Spokane.

the spin cycle

Today I bought a bike. It’s an early birthday present to: me, from: me to replace the one I received on my birthday twenty years ago. All of that makes me sound old.

New Bike

I didn’t wrap it, so after a few hot laps around the driveway, I pedaled it out onto the Centennial Trail, shattering the Cardinal Rule of cycling right out of the gate: always wear a helmet. I let my pony flail in the wind. In my defense, my Nutcase helmet – appropriately named, might I add – makes my head look monstrous. How the hell are you supposed to go fast with that kind of drag? And! The moment the wheels started spinning, so did the webs of happy thoughts in my head. If I got hit by a car, a huge pile of endorphin-laced brain tissue would spill out onto the pavement. There are worse ways to go! Anyway, it won’t happen again. I promise.

Because let’s get real for a second, there’s an element of fear associated with biking for me. I had my share of traumatic experiences learning how to ride, none of which could have been avoided by wearing a helmet, however. When I was five, our whole family took a vacation to Sandpoint, Idaho. The dads golfed, the moms shopped, and I wheeled around uncontrollably trying to prove my worth did not rely on training wheels. Long story short, I bonked my head on a side mirror and put a ding in a parked car’s door with my chain. Didn’t leave a note. (Sucka!) In my perseverance, I continued to “ride” only to crash into an 18 inch curb and sprawl headlong over the handles into tall grass and, what in my bitter memory I like to claim, were blackberry bushes. Tears welled as my aunts, uncles, mom, and favorite cousin all laughed hysterically at me. And to put a rotten cherry on top, I forgot my favorite Barbie when vacay was over.

A few years later, I decided to give the neighborhood obstacle course a go. A sharp turn and a mud puddle won. And I got laughed at. Again.

Basically, I’m terrified of getting hit by a car and you laughing about it, but I’ve decided to become one of the crazy people who commutes to work on two wheels anyway. I have a backpack full of work clothes all ready to go for the morning, and I am giddy. I’m sure the novelty will wear off along with the tread, but until then if you see me on the streets, please don’t honk. I will probably shit myself, and a passerby will snicker at my misfortune.

paddy or patty?

St. Paddy's or St. Patty's

Every year around this time, there are typically a handful of recurring thoughts swirling around in my head… which team should I pick to win the NCAA tournament? is this finally the year a 16 seed beats a 1 seed? can I get away with wearing orange instead of green on St. Patrick’s Day? It is the new black, after all. And is it St. Paddy’s or St. Patty’s?

Now this last one drives me crazy. I spend minutes agonizing over which one to use because I don’t know which one is right… kinda like Presidents Day. Do I need to use a damn apostrophe or not?! (For the record, both Presidents Day and Presidents’ Day are acceptable, but for Abe’s sake, do not use President’s Day.) With a patty here and paddy there abbreviating St. Patrick’s is flat out confusing. The etymologist in me, had to put an end to this yearly internal debate.

Turns out, the answer is simple, really. A patty is flattened, ground meat, often in the shape of a circle or someone whose full name is Patricia. Paddy, on the other hand, is short for Padraig, an Irish male name derived from Patricius, or Patrick. Like St. Patrick. So there you have it: when asking yourself if it’s St. Paddy’s or St. Patty’s, it’s definitely paddy.

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

And just to prove that I’m not making things up, check out paddynotpatty.com – you know, because everything you read on the Internet is true.

the yards bruncheon

The Yards Bruncheon in Spokane, WAI have always cherished Saturday mornings, when the demands of the world are no match for goose down and the sweet sound of sizzling bacon is a welcomed wakeup call. In a perfect world, every day would be Saturday and the most difficult decisions would be “scrambled or poached?” and “waffles or pancakes?”. Here in Spokane, Sunday and the rest of his tagalongs rob us of that luxury, but the brand new Yards Bruncheon is dishing up diners’ indecision all week long.

I had a chance to grab brunch with a good friend at Yards yesterday, overjoyed and overwhelmed by the menu selections before I even stepped foot in the diner. We seated ourselves, making our way over the checkerboard floor to a back corner table where we discussed the politics of sweet versus savory: sourdough waffles or Chick’n n’ Waffles, Wild Huckleberry Pancakes or housemade biscuits and gravy, pastries or pastrami. How’s a girl supposed to cast her vote? Compromise, I tell you.

Chick'n n' Waffles at The Yards Bruncheon

We split the Sweet Biscuits, the first bite halting all intelligent conversation as we entered the sixth level of huckleberry heaven (the seventh being The Ram’s Huckleberry Milkshake). The buttery crust of my Sausage Apple Cheddar Quiche flaked away from my fork like a good pie shell should, and from what I could tell, Whitney’s new love is a one Sir Eggs Benedict.

Personally, eating brunch just means enjoying breakfast around noon; I will never order a soup and sandwich combo when I can douse my meal in maple syrup instead. With that said, the “unch” portion of the Yard’s brunch menu boasted a few items I might consider if I were actually there to eat lunch, like the B.L.Toad in the Hole, your typical BLT on sourdough but filled with a fried egg, and the SpokEngland Clam Chowder. …I’m a sucker for portmanteaus, which is probably why I like this new bruncheon so much. Oh, and they also pour a life-saving Bloody Mary.

(images via @teamruster3 and @iviozartsghost)

new year, new habits

I never have been a fast mover: 15 days in and I’m just now settling into 2014. Come January 1, most people hit the ground running. I just hit the ground, with a courtesy shove from holiday stress and an obnoxious cold bug that takes out a short lease in my sinus cavities every December. And not that I’d ever complain about an open bar, but counting down to midnight on New Year’s Eve with a drink in each hand may have hastened my descent.

So now that I’ve slow crawled through the first half of January, let me stand up and say that 2014 is going to be a huge year. Like new boobs huge. Personally, I love resolutions, just not of the New Year’s variety. I find myself making them in July, October, and random Tuesdays in between, but January is usually the best time to reevaluate. If a fresh calendar was the only thing forcing self-reflection, I’d need more than resolutions to right this ship.

Even then, I try not to call them resolutions because, like ripples in a wishing well, resolutions tire quickly, and I’m not casting forgotten pennies. I’m making changes, forming new habits, and breaking free of the ones that hold me back, all to get exactly where I want to be this year. So while my 2014 “Wish List” may seem like a catalog of fanciful desires, each bullet point will be the culmination of a hundred tiny steps, and a brief slow crawl, that involve discipline and heart.

So here it is, my 2014 Wish List:

Riding an elephant in the rivers of Thailand

  • Explore a new continent (South America, Asia, Antarctica, and Australia are all fair game)
  • Write a book
  • Have a conversation in Spanish
  • Try a new mode of transportation (I’m thinking elephant, but I’ll be equally happy with a hot air balloon, helicopter, tuk tuk, or sidecar)
  • Spend New Year’s Eve in my pajamas (so as to hit the ground running, in style)
  • Stay positive (starting with this simple rule I stole from a friend: say 3 positive things before saying 1 negative thing)
  • Use my tent. Regrettably, it has been hanging in the rafters of my garage since September 2011 – safe to say it’s aired out.

Let the journey begin. Happy (belated) New Year!

The Mascherari

I’ve been trying to get back into the habit of writing. I miss it, and I need it. So, in November I jumped in head first and entered The Inlander’s Short Story Contest. This year’s theme was “Bridges”, and the rules were simple: be bold, be creative, and keep it under 2,000 words. Easy enough.

The winning stories were released today, and like a wishful 7 year-old whose Christmas list is full of ponies and a North Face Fleece in every color, the only thing I wanted for Christmas was to win. Santa brought me a Sonicare toothbrush instead. So, no. I didn’t win or even come close really, but that’s okay. It’s what I expected. Frankly, I’m out of practice and was up against some stiff competition – you know, like, published authors and the bookworms who teach people like me how to write short stories. And while I think participation ribbons are for losers, I’m going to give myself one anyway for submitting a story in the first place (yay me!).

Now I’m waving that ugly, green ribbon high and posting my story on the blog for all to see. Enjoy!

Italian-Masks-Inlander-Short-Story-Contest

The Mascherari

Like an army of jesters, a million sunflowers danced under the bright Italian sky on either side of the railcar. Yet as the wheels surged over the track, the grins on their blurred, round faces only seemed to mock her consciousness. Unamused, she succumbed to exhaustion and shut her eyes. Her sleep was deep and impenetrable as she dreamt of the same familiar green eyes that had occupied her mind every night since she left the city.

A pleasant, computer-generated voice announced the train’s arrival, first in Italian, then in English. It was the final stop: Venezia. Venice. Disoriented upon return from her dream, she obeyed the woman in the speaker and clumsily collected her belongings—a bottle of overpriced water, a small, navy duffle, and a knockoff Fendi handbag, her feeble attempt to look like she belonged. She shuffled with strangers in their expensive leather loafers to the station exit, where they all scattered in Babel-like confusion.

Outside the station, the sun had already crept beneath the horizon, hiding the archipelago of sinking buildings that stood before her. Glowing orbs atop lampposts illuminated the platform and cast long shadows onto the black water of the Grand Canal. Too tired and too impatient to wait for the vaparetto, she would have to navigate the labyrinth of footbridges in the dark.

Foundations moaned in agony at their slow decay as she made her way through the lagoon. Intricate masks beautiful in the daylight, emerged as phantoms in the night, watching her with soulless eyes from window shops on every corner. Her heart raced as a pride of Venetian lion statues stalked her path. But even in her weary delirium, she did not miss a turn. She’d been here many times before; his door her beacon.

At the end of a damp, cobbled alleyway she finally arrived. She paused at the massive wood door, its panels warped and its paint etched from the thick, salt air. She filled her lungs. Here, another lion—the door knocker—defended the entrance like a gargoyle. No stranger to this place, she let herself in.

No one was home, just as she’d expected. She fumbled into the bedroom and flicked the light on. Every dim lit detail was as she remembered it. Photos of the two of them cluttered the nightstand, but she didn’t recognize the girl in the photos; that girl was happy. She dropped her things on the tile floor and shut off the light to expel the stranger in the picture frame. Now, came the onslaught of emotion and exhaustion, patient predators that had been preying on her all day. They attacked her in tandem, and she crumpled onto the empty mattress. Sleep was not far behind.

Her eyelids lifted reluctantly as light trickled in between the curtains. She could hear the tide lapping at the walls outside the window. She’d been anticipating—and dreading— this day.

Outside, the air was electric, and it hummed along with the motorboats weaving through the canals. Gondoliers bellowed deeper, and their passengers kissed harder. Even the beggars were mirthful. This day was the first day of Carnevale.

Carnevale symbolized a time of reckless abandon.  Music and dancing joined hands to fill palace courtyards, plazas, and small squares. Celebrations carried on late into the night and out into the water. Instead of the Adriatic, color flooded the streets.

Putting on their masks, people were invisible—no transgression impermissible and no fruit forbidden. Who existed behind the paper face was of no consequence, the anonymity empowering. The poor rubbed shoulders with the prosperous; the gamblers squandered their fortunes; and the fools took risks on business and love.

She scolded her own foolishness as she wandered toward the city’s core, Piazza San Marco. The square was a sea of glittery masks with waves of vibrant fabric crashing all around, taking her mind back to her first visit to Venice… the last map dot on a monthlong tour of Italy and an exclamation point to her most cherished chapter. Errant in her youth, she was on a journey of self-discovery. She found him instead.

He came from a family of mascherariCarnevale was their livelihood, and each year he handcrafted his own mask. His stood out in the parade of faces, and she only wanted to take his photo—another lion, this one gold with emerald eyes. A single snapshot multiplied into a thousand. She had an entire album documenting the fantasy that ensued. The revelry, the romance. They were the reason she fell in love with the city. And the reason she fell in love with him.

For three years, she crossed oceans and footbridges to be close to him, but time had eroded the walls of the city and her heart. As if to remind her of the minutes she’d lost trying to reach him, the bells in St. Mark’s Campanile began to toll.

There, in the kaleidoscope of costumes, was her Venetian lion. The gold of his mask had lost its luster, and the green of his eyes only glistened in her dreams. She struggled through the crowd toward him. Finally close enough to touch, she repeated their very first encounter and asked if she could take a picture. The vision of her surprised him; she wasn’t supposed to be there for another few days.

Grasping the hook of his elbow, she pulled him through the swarm of tourists to a quiet corner of the maze where she tore off his mask. They were alone and face-to-face for the first time in months, but there was only silence.

She forced a small object into his palm and closed his fingers around it. Their lips pressed together—a long, soft kiss that communicated everything. She turned away and walked toward the train station. By the time he looked down to see his grandmother’s ring, she had already crossed the Grand Canal for the last time, leaving her love behind to drown with the city.

the weekly pour: no place like home

IMG_4004

Sometimes life demands introspection, and whenever I’m craving solitude and balance I find myself gravitating toward home. Facing my first five day weekend in years, I had no reason to resist the pull drawing me westward for the 4th. Ocean air and deep-rooted friendships never fail to restore equilibrium, and the caverns of my heart are full with all the right things.

Days were spent running near the tidal flats of Padilla Bay and visiting some of the local gems that make the Northwest the terrestrial treasure trove that it is…

…Whistle Lake, where relaxation and exhilaration collide. Nestled in forestland, a short hike serves as the gateway to an outdoor utopia that welcomes swimmers, fishers, and thrill seekers alike. Pristine water dazzles beneath the rocky cliffs and towering evergreens, while a rope swing dangles on the eastern edge of the lake. We only swam, but reminisced on the days when adrenaline and peer pressure forced us off the edge toward a splash landing.

…Deception Pass where the view spans from Mt. Baker to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Admittedly, after the recent collapse of the I-5 bridge, I was more consumed with thoughts of structural integrity than the scenery.

Deception Pass Bridge Deception Pass Bridge Washington State

…Snow Goose Produce Market where fresh waffle cones serve as the perfect vehicle for what I’m sure is an entire pint of locally churned ice cream.

And my nights were spent around a backyard campfire, toasting every passing train at The Trainwreck, or relearning my wedding processional song on lonely ivory keys.

I took Highway 2 home. Windows down, the soundtrack of summer escaping into the wide open space, my hair tangling while the mess of thoughts in my head did the opposite, somehow unraveling itself – a strange catharsis urging me to take every USFS road, stop at every scenic viewpoint, and jump in the Wenatchee River at every turn. Time didn’t allow me to act on every impulse.

Instead, I pulled over to watch the fish jump at Tumwater Dam and stopped in Leavenworth to move around. It’s funny how your perception of places evolves over time. I remember Leavenworth as the first big stop on summer road trips over the mountains to watch my dad play softball in Chelan, promising overwhelming heat and ice cream cones. Now, this Bavarian oasis evokes thoughts of Dick Van Dyke’s flying car and a child catcher. And the marketer in me shudders at the branding nightmare it creates; even the Siren isn’t allowed to show her face in town. Somehow I escaped without devouring schnitzel or strudel… the bakery that didn’t accept credit cards lost a good customer that day.

Tumwater DamStarbucks Coffee Leavenworth Washington

Extra time on the road was rewarded with the smell of gin pine trees and miles of marshmallow clouds I wanted to pluck out of the sky and roast over a late night mountain campfire. And the Wenatchee River was too treacherous to jump in, so I dove in the Columbia as the wind turbines on the horizon applauded my form.

Vantage Boat Launch

A quick dip was just what my shoulders needed to soothe the sunburn I earned cruising with the sunroof open, and a trip home was exactly I needed to regain some perspective.