Enchanted

Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is a vast expanse of wilderness in central and northern Washington. Headlining the region is, as you can guess, Mt Baker- a 10,000 foot glaciated volcanic peak.

We’d been up there last time we were in Seattle, and were itching to return. With a few days off, we loaded our gear and our Charley into Archie and rode I-5 northbound toward Bellingham, cutting northeast and into the Cascade range. We found a dispersed camp site near Artist Point, a jump off for several day hikes around Baker and the surrounding forest.

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Sharing the PNW

August 1-15

Before jumping into the post, I want to congratulate Abbey and Ethan on the arrival of their beautiful, healthy baby boy. We are thrilled for your growing family, and look forward to being the cool aunt and uncle he needs. Welcome to the world, Mr Elliott James Ouimet!

We worked a couple shifts after our friends Matt and Becca left. Nothing to speak of, except that the hospital is running overflow and short on beds, meaning as float pool nurses we’re tasked with opening, staffing, and closing border areas- inpatient “rooms”, but not a real department. Just beds situated in areas that can serve to hold patients, if needed. Trauma season is in full swing, and with the hospital serving as the only level 1 trauma center in 4 states (Washington, Alaska, Montana, Idaho), there are plenty of folks coming in.

We’ve decided to stay in town until at least the beginning of November, extending our contracts about 8 weeks.

On August 3rd, we decided to tackle a monster.

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Seattle: Activities abound!

July 17-31

As we continued our Seattle summer, we were still without a car to drive. We decided to make our circumstance work, though, and tried to take other forms of transportation. It was Jamie’s birthday week, so I had planned some things that didn’t require Archie’s assistance.

On Friday the 17th, we grabbed a ride-share down to the harbor with Andrew and Sarah, boarded a water taxi, and headed over about 25 minutes to Vashon Island. There was to be the annual Strawberry Festival that day, loaded with live music, arts, food and beer. A great way to spend a beautiful Saturday afternoon. And as strawberries being my berry of choice, it was nearly obligatory to attend.

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Mountains, oceans & trees

May 29. Waking up after an excellent night’s sleep, it was time to move on. We slept til 7, prepared oatmeal, loaded with peanut butter, mixed berries, granola and honey, 2 mugs of coffee.

“Where should we go?”

“Head toward the coast and up?”

“Sure”

Be skated westbound from Yosemite and the Stanislaus Forest. Route 1, riding the coast northward, would be our initial destination. I figured we could pop the roof tent on any of the number of pulloffs along the highway overlooking the Pacific. Two slowly realized issues to this thought: 1- it’s not legal, and 2- its very very windy in those spots, anyway.

We began to (slightly) regret our decision to take Route 1, instead of the inland US 101- very beautiful in its own rite. Every mile we continued along the coast got us farther from any possibility to get back to 101. Every campground sign along the coastal byway: FULL. Every inn along the coastal byway: NO VACANCY. Memorial Day weekend, probably the worst time to be improvising a road trip with no reservations for lodging or campsites.

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If I ain’t got you, I ain’t got nothing at all

We awoke early Friday morning and prepared to start our camping journey (for real, this time). With the wind at our backs, we loaded up Archie with our duffels and dog, set our heading toward the Alabama Hills, and were off. But not without a stop at Four Paws coffee shop in Palm Springs, the same spot we stopped at on our way out of town two years prior. 

The whole wind thing? Turns out we were not nearly finished with it. Pulling out of Palm Springs towards San Bernardino, the gusts blasted us, bucking the roof top tent and forcing me to keep the needle no higher than 60mph. The wind turbines were thrilled, spinning gleefully as their lifeblood whipped through the valley floor. Wind advisories flashed on the highway all along I-10 and up US-395 a we began the trip northward along the eastern edge of the Sierra Nevada.

As we approached Lone Pine we could make out the  Alabama Hills, a massive outcropping of bizarre granite and volcanic rock. From there we took in the distant storm looming over the Eastern Sierra. Seemingly only miles away in the craggy horizon, it was dumping snow in an aggressive fashion. Though to us, near the floor of Owens Valley, it was a slow motion procession.

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April, in a nutshell.

My apologies as we’ve gotten away from our usual ~2 week blog post drop. Things have been busy, lots of moving parts, as we enjoy our last month here in the American Southwest and plan for the next location.

But let’s get to it.

The Mogollon Rim makes up the southern escarpment of the Colorado Plateau, and spans much of northern and northeast Arizona and into New Mexico. Its a dramatic climb from 4-5,000 feet above sea level up to around 7-8,000 ft. Tall stands of pine blanket the area, a sight seemingly surprising to those not familiar with the varied geographies of the 48th state.

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Road trip: New Mexico Edition

March 14-March 29

Wrapping up our third and final shift of the week at work, we had been making plans to visit some national parks with our eight days off. Initially considering a trip to Big Bend National Park in Texas, we reconsidered, as it would add two full days of driving just to get there and back. So we settled on a stop in Santa Fe for 4 nights, and the next 4 were spent visiting Carlsbad Caverns, Guadalupe Mountains, and White Sands National Parks. Charley would be spending the week back in Phoenix with my cousin and her family, as the national parks don’t treat dogs like humans (like we do), and thus they are forbidden.

Our route to Santa Fe took us up through Payson and to the Mogollon Rim, which we drove up and on to, and continued northeast for 7 hours or so until we reached our destination.

We’d spend the next handful of days getting the lay of the land, checking out a couple regions in the Santa Fe area, as well as the city itself- vibrant and charming in its old town, southwest turquoise vibe.

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Settling in, getting out

January 22- February 7

After unloading the car at our new home, a process that now takes maybe an hour at most, we picked up dinner and drove over to Kaivan’s to visit. He’d done a cross country road trip back west after spending a couple months in Binghamton in the fall and we hadn’t seen him since early September when we left New York. It was nice to catch up, though Charley was a bit confused as to why Uncle Kaivan was here in Arizona and not in New York.

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Solitude

January 16 – 22

We awoke Saturday morning in St George rather sluggishly. The motel room’s heater was on the fritz, having only two modes: off and full heat blast.

We took our time getting out the door, recouping after the long traverse across Nevada the day before. That afternoon, we took a nice 10 mile off-road drive from the corner of town into the Dixie National Forest and set out on a short hike to Yant flats and the Candy Cliffs. Pale orange and red striations cut through the sandstone around us, as we leisurely climbed a few hundred feet over a couple miles through the sagebrush and juniper trees. Ground-hugging cacti spotted the trail along the way, and we were sure to be mindful of Charley wandering about so as to avoid any needle sticks. 

Arriving at the Flats, we stopped briefly to take in the enormity of the landscape in front of us. An ongoing difficulty in the West is conceptualizing the scale of the cliffs, peaks and formations strewn about in the vast wilderness. The Candy Cliffs, farther along the same trail, offered a stillness that was lacking at the Flats, as most folks don’t continue on after that.

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Tahoe

January 11 – 15

The day had come to leave our lovely little abode. It’s always sad to leave when our contracts are up, but I found Santa Barbara to be especially difficult to leave.

“Why the hell are we leaving?!” Jamie and I would ask each other. The hospital had offered to extend our contracts a while back, but we declined, as we were already set on heading to Arizona. It was a special time in SB, but eventually it had to end. 

We packed up our car in typical Tetris fashion, sure to leave ample space for Queen Charley’s throne in the back seat, complete with a bed and only the softest and comfiest blankets.

So Monday morning, when all the preparations were set, we punched Lake Tahoe (specifically, Stateline, NV) into the GPS and left Santa Barbara in our rearview.

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