Tuesday, October 13, 2015

How Did I Get Here?

I am going to rewind a bit to a few months ago, when I was first making the decision to apply for AmeriCorps positions and then ultimately accepting the position here in Coffman Cove. I started looking at AmeriCorps postings in April, as graduation was looming nearer and I was finding myself unsure of what my next step would be. Unlike many people in my graduating class, I was not ready to settle down into long-term career mode just yet. I wanted some time to process, to get my feet back under me, and to get myself where I could feel that I had a bit more time to figure out my next steps with a bit more purpose. I also felt, I think, the need to slow myself down.
Coffman Bay- this shot was taken a two minute walk from my house.

The last semester of grad school had been the most hectic, most of which was self-induced. In addition to my coursework, internship, and graduate assistantship, I put a lot of things onto my own plate. I helped do the awards and a bit of side work for the two races put on by Pickled Feet. I went to New Orleans for a long weekend to run a 126 mile race. The following weekend I went to San Francisco for a week for the Annual Meeting of the American Group Psychotherapy Association. I went to Portland for a wedding. I ran 100 miles at Pickled Feet. I paced a friend for her first 100 at the Bonneville Salt Flats. I went to Riggins to visit friends. I took two weekend courses. I attended meetings for the Idaho Society of Clinical Social Workers. I ran a 50 at the Grand Canyon the weekend after graduation and flew to New Orleans a few days later. Do you think I had a free weekend anywhere in there?

I loved every single last thing that I did over the course of the semester, but I found myself trying to catch my breath the whole way through. I had lots of great opportunities come my way, and I couldn’t imagine turning down any of them. Looking back, I don’t know how I would have done it differently, but I know that I need to learn to tone it down a bit. To relax. To enjoy stillness. My final trip after graduation- my trip to New Orleans- was supposed to be this time for me. My aunt (who recently moved out of the country) invited me to come spend six weeks with her family after I finished school. This was a help to her with the two young ones, but was also meant to be a time for me to decompress. I slept in. I snuggled with babies a lot. I ate lots of delicious vegan food (my aunt, her husband, and her kids are vegan). And it was good. It felt good to reconnect with a less frenetic bit of myself. 

While I was in New Orleans, I got calls to interview for the AmeriCorps positions. I had nearly forgotten about them, but after I was reminded of my own interest a few months earlier, it sparked excitement again. I applied specifically for positions in Alaska. On my ever-changing list of ideas of Things That I Want to Do in My Life, living in Alaska has always had a place. I had never been to Alaska before, and I knew that my desire to see Alaska would not be satiated by a vacation. In particular, I was drawn to living in a rural area, partially fueled by my intrigue regarding social work practice in rural settings, which has many different complications. Partially, however, I think that I liked the idea of being in a place where I HAD to stop spreading myself so thin. As I said to my former supervisor before I left Idaho, it is funny and perhaps a bit troubling that I have to move to a tiny town on an island in rural Alaska in order to make myself slow down.

Kisses for Gracie after a long run.
I accepted the position in Coffman Cove shortly after interviewing, and I am blogging more specifically about the work aspect of my life here at www.vistaincoffmancove.blogspot.com. On a personal level, so far, I would say that this year is already doing exactly what I needed it to do. Leaving Boise was more difficult than I anticipated, and the first few days on Prince of Wales Island were tough. I live in a town of less than 200 people. I have no internet, and there is no cell service within an hour of where I live. It takes over an hour to get to a grocery store. The first few days, I sat on the couch with my dogs after walking the half mile loop around town a few times and wondered what I had gotten myself into. I felt very alone, and I even talked myself through how the year might go if the discomfort of the loneliness and silence stayed with me through the whole year. It will be painful, I thought, but it will be a good learning experience. Fortunately, the fear and loneliness subsided after a few days as I began to adjust to not having any social connection outside of my immediate surroundings. If I am at the library, I can use the internet to stay in touch with friends, family, and the rest of the world. Outside of the library, though, I only have what is in front of me- my dogs, new friends, and myself.

I wake up in the mornings, do some yoga, and take a walk with my dogs. I have a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast pretty much every day, and head to the library (a five minute walk) with lots of tea. I usually come home for lunch and another walk with the dogs again. After the work day is over, I come home and take them out again for either a walk or a run. I read books, I journal, I cook. I thought that being vegan would be tougher up here, but I think I am actually eating more healthfully than I ever have. If you want to be vegan in rural Alaska, you’ve gotta start from scratch. No vegan doughnuts, rice cream, or soy chick’n nuggets up here! I eat a lot of beans, rice, and veggies. I have upped my knitting game from scarves to little dolls. If I am tired at 7:30pm, I go to bed, though I only did that once! It feels good to slow down.

Sunrise over Luck Point.
I was thinking earlier this week about my big drive through British Columbia as I was en route to Alaska. For the three days of that drive, I was on very limited cell service so that it wouldn’t be ridiculously expensive. It felt quite uncomfortable to me on that drive to know that I was out of range of contact for three days. The compulsive checking of my phone did me no good, and it was frustrating that I couldn’t immediately stream my podcasts. When I got to Coffman and realized that my phone would be stuck on “No Service”- not even “Searching”- I felt almost panicked. I didn’t even consider myself to be that dependent on my phone, compared to many people I know! Last week, I went for a drive to the southern part of the island with someone from town to a place where I WOULD have cell service. I realized after we got there that it hadn’t even occurred to me to bring my phone. It’s amazing what a month can do.  

I have still had plenty of good adventures and made some friends, even in the newfound quiet of my life. I went to a few cross country meets on other parts of the island, which are a big deal here because the communities are so small and it is a sport for all ages of children. I also had a big day of exploring around on the north part of the island, finding some big glacially carved rocks, petroglyphs, and boardwalk trails through karst. In the process, I learned what karst is! I have begun to learn a bit about mushroom hunting and am keeping that in mind as I poke around in the woods. I also have been continuing to run, and I took myself out for a 31 mile run on the roads around Coffman last weekend. Even that was a new experience, as I realized while I was out for the run that I have never done such a distance by myself, even in all my years of long-distance running. 

So, that is my update from Month One. I have continued to be busy in that I am not sitting at home wishing I had more things to do. But I have also had plenty of wonderful time to myself. I am finding my center again, though I didn’t realize until I got here that it needed to be found. I am looking forward to a year of continued growth, self-awareness, stillness, and adventure. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Where Have I Been?

Where have I been for the last year!? Buried under my last year of grad school, mostly. It has been a crazy last few semesters that have kept me running from place to place getting in work, internship, and school hours. I also had a lot of great adventures over the past year (probably seriously overbooking myself, but they were good adventures nonetheless).

One thing that I HAVEN'T been doing is updating my blog... obviously. So, here are the cliff notes of the last school year.


My trusty Saturn.
I road tripped back across the country from my summer back on the East Coast, new kayak in tow! My trip back home took about six days instead of the two weeks that I spent driving on my way there. The pups were good travelers, and we were glad to be home for a few weeks before the start of the semester.
Lynette and I tried to find trail on the back of Snowslide.

When I did get back to Boise, I had a few weeks of playing on trails before the semester began. I took some time to get settled in, but took the chance to head up to McCall with Lynette and get some mountain miles in up on the IMTUF course.


Mel, Jane, Jim, and me. (And Rosie, Jake, and Gracie.)

Yikes, September was a BUSY month. I had all the weekends of the month booked up, trying to squeeze the last bit of summer out of the year. Over Labor Day weekend, my friend Mel and I headed up to Riggins to spend some time with my friends Jim and Jane. We spent some time visiting at the house, but also drove up to the Seven Devils to get in some high country miles.
Grace and me with Hell's Canyon in the background.

All four of us went up and did a shorter hike to see some sights, and then on the second day, Jim and I went out for a 20 miler around some of the most beautiful country that I have ever seen. Thinking back on that day, it is one of the favorites that I have ever had. Jim was a great trail guide, and we had an amazing day. (It was also one of the only days that I have ever seen Gracie get tired!)

Lynette looking fabulous at the top of the big climb. 

The following weekend, I paced Lynette at the Wasatch 100. I picked her up at mile 75, and we went together for the last 25 miles. Lynette is a great runner to pace, and I really enjoyed being able to put in those miles with her. For some reason, Wasatch still scares me a bit, and I love seeing everybody out on this tough mountain run.

Mile 30ish? At IMTUF.

Then it was my 100! I ran the IMTUF 100 for the third year, finishing with basically exactly the same time that I have had the last two times. It's a tough race, but has a special, special place in my heart.

Tent city at Idaho Mountain Festival.

THEN the next weekend, I headed to the Idaho Mountain Festival, which is a trail running/rock climbing event that takes place at the City of Rocks over a weekend. The idea is fabulous, but the weather was not pleasant, which took a toll on me after having so many weekends running in circles. I had planned on it being a weekend of relaxing, camping, and reading books, but it wound up being a soggy weekend of wishing I was reading in my bed.  It was a good lesson in winding down, taking it easy, and giving myself a mental break as well as a physical one.


Finish line fun times. 

I ran the Foothills 50k Frenzy- which was my first ever ultra and one of my all time favorites. I love running this race just as much every year, and it always marks a nice wrap-up of the running season for me. (An especially nice factor is that it is in my own backyard and I can be from my apartment to the race start in 5-10 minutes.)


What did I do in November? Hmm. Well, like I mentioned, this is the beginning of my off-season. :)
Vegan Thanksgiving feast.


As the fall semester wrapped up, I was able to get back out more and have some relaxing fun-time miles.

Mel conquers her first race with a 10k at
the YMCA Christmas run. 
Evan on his first trail adventure- up Cervidae!
The family (sans one, who wanted to sleep in).

I did have the great gift of being able to go home for Christmas, where I was able to spend some time with my parents and extended family. It was the first time that I was home for Christmas since... 2010? It was so nice to be home.


Another good adventure with the Updegroves.

I flew back from Massachusetts at the end of December. For New Year's, I took the pups out for a nice snowy morning run and spent the rest of the day relaxing. As winter break came to an end, I spent another weekend up in Riggins with Jim and Jane and got the chance to see the Rapid River Trail for the first time.

Wilson Creek!

School started again, and I ran the Wilson Creek Frozen 50k the weekend after classes began. This is another race that is an absolute favorite- 30 miles in the Owyhee Mountains in January.

Trail marking for Wilson Creek.

Running in the finish with my peeps.

Ohhhh, February. Another CRAZY month (and also my birthday month, which I celebrate well). I had a weekend class the first weekend, followed by a trip down to New Orleans to visit with family and try my legs against the Rouge Orleans 126.2 miler. This race was... not my favorite. I However, with the essential support of my amazing friends Lindsay and Sean- who made the trip all the way from DC just to crew my race, I was able to make it to the finish.

I came back from New Orleans for a hot second, then I jetted out to San Francisco for the Annual Meeting of the American Group Psychotherapy Association, which was amaaaazing. I detoured to San Jose for a few days to visit with my friend John, and he took me adventuring in the redwoods for the first time. It was a place that stuck to my soul- a place that I felt like I had known all my life. It is something wonderful to be in the presence of something so huge. We got in a nice long hike, even only a week after Rouge-Orleans.
John dropped me off in San Francisco, where I spent a week at the conference and got in a lot of miles on the Embarcadero and around the city. I tried to get out early in the mornings to see the sun rise, and then I spent the days in the conference. It was my first time in San Francisco, and it was another wonderful place where I felt at home. Then, like that, I headed back to Boise, and February was over.



March, I kept with the craziness. Weekend class at the beginning of the month, and the following weekend, Evan and I headed to Portland for his brother's wedding. We took off on the trip a day early and slept in the car by Multnomah Falls so that we could head out for a run. We had a nice little adventure to the top of the falls, and then ran the first several miles of the Gorge Waterfalls 50k that I did in 2012.

Strolling across the finish.

We came back to Boise with one weekend to rest at the beginning of spring break, and then it was Pickled Feet all week! Pickled Feet is another race that I have run a few years straight now, and I was looking forward to tackling the 48 hour run again this year. My original goal was to attempt to get closer to 150 miles after finishing 123 last year. However, as the race got closer, I reevaluated based on how crazy the previous months were and the fact that I had come down with yet another cold. Evan decided that he was going to attempt 100 miles, and we wound up doing most of the race together. I finished with him and capped off an extra 4 miles to make my lifetime miles on the Pickled Feet course an even 400.


Aldape Summit at Robie Creek, happy to see Dennis.
Okay, April! At this point, I really wasn't sure if I was going to survive the last month of school, but I somehow did manage to make it through. I didn't run much in my day-to-day life, but I was able to get out for some good weekend miles. I ran Robie Creek for the third time, and I hated it much less than I usually do! I wound up feeling WAY more sore than I usually am- even after running a hundred. It was a good reminder for me to push myself in training sometimes so I can move a bit quicker on race day.

Running Bertha into her first 100 mile finish. 

The next weekend, I drove down to the Salt Flats 100 to pace my friend Bertha for her first 100 mile attempt (and finish!). This weekend was one of the highlights of the year, and I feel so lucky that I got to be a part of this big achievement. Bertha crewed for me for IMTUF in 2012 and 2014, so I was overdue to come help her out for a race. This woman has real guts, and while we rode some normal hundred mile highs and lows, I never had a doubt that she would grit it out to the end.


Up on the mountain!
And then, FINALLY, May was here. I made another cleansing trip to Riggins after the last week of classes was over. I got some fresh air, slept under the stars, and enjoyed time with some of my favorite people. It was a great way to decompress after the last year.

Hotel Updegrove.

And then.... GRADUATION! It came quick, and I'm happy that it's over. Two of my good gal pals from the program and I hiked up a hill to watch the sunrise, and then I biked down to graduation in the rain. Soggy wet, I put on my cap and gown, and put a close to the chapter of the last two years.

I don't know what is coming next in life, but there are certainly lots of adventures ahead.

FIN (for now)

Happy Trails!

I'm looking forward to getting back on my trails, and back into a routine. I've got the Grand Canyon 50 miler coming up in a week, then I'm scooting down to Louisiana for the month of June, where I will run my first stage race at the 777 Inferno. I'll be back at it on here with some greater frequency, so keep posted for some musings and adventures.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Respect the Race! Nine Things to Keep in Mind on Race Day

Races are fun. Even for those of us that are more "running tourists" than racers lookin' for a fast time, there is something about showing up at a planned race and participating with the community that just can't be beat. As I have become more involved with the local running scene and have gotten to know a lot of the race directors, I have come to develop a deep respect and appreciation for all of the hard work and time that goes into creating a successful event. (Heck, even an "unsuccessful" event likely has hours upon hours of work put into it.) I've been able to be a part of the Pickled Feet Ultra Running Team over the past couple years and do my part in lending a hand in a very small part of the work in a few events, and these intimate look into all the details has given me an even greater love for our RDs and all the work that they do. 

As someone who runs events, I also have that insider view of what happens around the race- both on and off the trail. The outstanding majority of it is good, but there is sometimes the bad and the ugly as well. Here are some thoughts to bear in mind as you are approaching your next event that can help ensure that we enjoy the trails and races appropriately so that our RDs will keep on lovin' us enough to put on these events. 

1. Do your research. Most races that you sign up for have ample information posted for you to read on their website. This will often tell you what course conditions have been like in the past, what the weather has been, and what items will be helpful for you to bring. You can usually find a map and an elevation chart somewhere- study them. Don't show up on race day with questions about the course that you could have found online. Race morning (and the night before the race, and the week before the race) is very busy for RDs. While it is not unfair for runners to be able to approach the RD and ask questions, do your part to know what is going on.

2. Follow the rules. Does the race ask that you don't wear headphones? Are trekking poles prohibited? Are you required to have a light at a certain point in the day? Are you required to check in and out of aid stations? Do you need to leave the dogs at home? Rules are not put in place for fun or to torment runners; they are for safety concerns. While it may be true that your dog is well behaved (and I am a dog lover, myself) and that you can aptly pay attention with headphones, try to avoid thinking that you are the exception to the rule.

3. Don't bandit. I am not sure if this needs to be said; I don't know that I have ever seen a bandit runner in an ultra. However, I know it can be a bigger deal in road running, so to prevent the trend from migrating to ultras, I think it should be addressed. Someone has taken the time to find a nice course, mark it, stick some food and water out there, have rescue on standby, pay for permits to use the land.. I could go on and on. Of course, it is public land usually and anyone can be there, but running a trail race without registering adds additional concerns outside of the normal road race bandit stuff. In addition to putting more bodies on the trail and running the issue of not signing the waiver for participating for race liability, there is a really great difference in the amount of resources that could be used. Runners are usually methodically recorded running in and out of aid stations so that search and rescue can be called in if someone is suspected to have gone missing. The chance of this being done unnecessarily increases dramatically if participants are unaccounted for- either by not checking in or not having a number. I (vaguely) understand in large profit-driven road races the desire to skimp on the cost, but you're not fighting the industry by not paying for ultras. Somebody put in the work; if you're there, be a registered runner.

4. Consider where your money goes. This is something that I don't think I truly understood until I became more involved with race planning. Several hundred dollars for permits, several hundred dollars for portapotties, enough food for x amount of runners at each aid station and at the finish line, tent rental, fuel, your race swag- it all adds up. Some folks are making careers of putting on races, but the vast majority are just trying to do a bit more than break even so there is money to put towards next year's event. 

5. Show the love to your volunteers! Give high-fives, tell them thanks, try not to be a grump, even if you're feelin' grumpy. If a volunteer shows up and doesn't enjoy their time, they are not likely to come back, and these events would not run without volunteers. Volunteers are often on the course before you and off the course after you, so even though you've got a long day of miles, they've got a long day of standing in the cold/sun/rain/wind/snow/sleet to make sure that you have a good day. If you have some time, volunteer at a race yourself so that you can give back and see what it feels like on the other side.

6. Don't forget to mention the good stuff. You'd better believe that an RD hears it every time a runner goes off course- whether it is the fault of the marking or an inattentive runner. I always make a point to mention it to the RD if I found the course to be particularly well-marked, if the aid stations had just the right snack, if the volunteers were great, if I loved the finisher swag, etc. If you are an unhappy runner, mention your concerns with care if you can. If you are a happy runner, make it known! It's nice for folks to hear what went well, especially if they just got an earful from someone who went a quarter mile off course. 

7. Be nice to the trail. This is another one that should go without saying. We are trail runners because we love to play in the dirt, see the forests, and experience nature. Don't wreck it by throwing your gel wrapper on the ground. I have noticed in several races over the last year that garbage is a common occurrence during a race. It's easy when you know there is a sweep to assume that things will be picked up if dropped, but take care in putting your trash in a zipped pocket or someplace where it is not likely to find its way onto the ground. If you see somebody else's garbage, take the extra second to pick it up. In addition to being kinder to the environment, this will help ensure that permits are issued so that the race can be held again. 

8. Take care of other runners. I was at a race last year where I met a man who dropped from his 100 because he had stopped to walk with another runner who was terribly sick and wound up not having enough time to make the cutoff. I was rather astounded by this gesture, but he said to me that "people are more important." For this man, who had run his share of 100s, the finish was not that important. Now, I'm not saying that you should ditch your race for someone else, but be ready to help if the need should arise. This may mean taking a second to ask someone if they are okay, it might mean offering a band-aid or an extra snack, or it might mean running ahead to the aid station to send someone back to help. 

9. Have fun. Have so much fun. It's cheesy, but really, just have fun. You worked hard, you paid the money, you spent your time getting everything just right. Enjoy it. Don't get uptight. Be gracious, be patient, be responsible, and be a badass. Remember that this is not just a race, this is a community of really, really amazing people. Take the time to get to know some of them. Some of the best friends, the best stories, and the best wisdom I have encountered have come from ultrarunners. Don't be so busy that you miss out on that part of it. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Road Trip! Leg Eight: Pennsylvania

The last stop on my trip before arriving home was a good one. One of my best friends from Boise, Lindsay, moved back to the East Coast two years ago, and she and I planned to meet up for a few nights of camping in Pennsylvania before I finished up my trip a few states North. I tried to research some campgrounds that would be ideally located for both of us: not too far off-route for me, not too far of a post-work drive for her. I wound up landing on Poe Paddy State Park, a bit more rustic (less campers) than its sister campground, Poe Valley State Park. It was quite a ways into the forest on old dirt roads through Bald Eagle State Forest.
"Nature will renew this wealth if given a chance."

I arrived in the late afternoon and was able to get to the campsite with plenty of time to walk around, get the tent pitched, and make dinner. Poor Lindsay was leaving the city in rush hour traffic on a Friday, and didn't get in until after I had gone to sleep. Still, we had the entire day on Saturday, and we didn't let any of it go to waste. We ate our breakfast and drank our tea in the early morning hours, trying not to be chatty and disturb any sleeping neighbors. After not seeing each other since January, we had lots of catching up to do! Once we had given ourselves ample time to fully awake and think about hitting some trails, we got ourselves back into the car to go explore and find a good place to run. There were several trails nearby to the campground, but I had picked up a detailed map of Bald Eagle State Forest, and we were eager to go explore and possibly find something with a vista.

We wound up pulling over at Gobbler Trail and had a nice trail run/walk into the woods. Unfortunately the trail ended at a gate with a big "private property" sign (no vista), but it was a fun trail nonetheless. The dogs and I were still getting used to running in the humidity, so the nice 4ish mile run was enough to poop them out pretty good. 

Even though we finished our run, we were nowhere near our exploring for the day. We decided to go on a mission to get some vegetables for dinner, which would require us driving through one of the towns that I passed the day before. We DID manage to find some nice vistas on the way through the woods, and it was nice to see some of the East Coast hills. The hills and mountains to which I am accustomed have much more pine trees, where as the East Coast is covered in deciduous trees. The deciduous do a better job at masking the challenging terrain, I think. Those rolling hills look lush and welcoming, but as we found the next day, there can be plenty of scrambling on those trails too.

Lindsay and I were both thrilled to find an awesome farm stand on the side of the road where we were able to choose from a wide variety of veggies for our dinner. We decided on asparagus and tomatoes to mix into some pasta, but the woman who owned the farm stand was kind enough to throw in a bunch more vegetables that were not attractive enough for her to sell- some nice squash and zucchini. We snacked on strawberries and tomatoes on the drive back to the campground and schemed on what a delicious feast we were going to have for our camping dinner. Lindsay and I are both very enthusiastic about vegetables, cooking, and camping, so it was a perfect combination for our reunion. 
Another fun thing that we got to do for our reunion was drink a very special bottle of wine. Lindsay and I became friends shortly after we both moved to Boise, and we spent Thanksgiving together (along with her lovely partner, Sean) since we were away from our families. That Thanksgiving, with the three of us having our orphan Thanksgiving in my first apartment, was by far one of my favorites. Lindsay and I had bought a bottle of wine from Winco for that Thanksgiving celebration that we never wound up drinking. It sat it my apartment for ages, eventually moving with me when I moved into another apartment and Lindsay and Sean moved away. Lindsay has come back to Boise a few times since then, and while the bottle of wine was often mentioned, it was never at a time when we wanted to drink it. Knowing that I was going to see Lindsay on my trip, I packed the cheapo bottle of wine that was now aged three more years so that we could share it together on our camping trip. The wine was quite tasty. We drank some, poured some into a delicious sauce for our pasta, and spilled a bit on the ground. The best part was that we got to share it together after almost three years. 

We didn't stay up too late after our long day of bustling around in the heat and drinking wine at four in the afternoon. We spent some time playing in the river with the dogs before dinner, which mostly comprised of Jake trying to sit on our laps and Gracie standing on a tiny rock so she didn't have to get wet. We prepared and ate our delectable feast- quite a feat with so many vegetables and only a little backpacking stove. We made a fire that lasted for about 10 minutes (neither of our strong suits), which worked out well since we were both pretty pooped. We were off to sleep before too long, but woke up the next morning happy to hit the trail again before we both made our ways home. 
I found a nice trail by the river on the first day of my arrival, and Lindsay and I decided that would be a good run for the morning. The trail did not last for too long before we crossed a bridge and realized that we were on the Pennsylvania Mid-State Trail, and a rather sketchy section, at that. Shortly after crossing the bridge, we came to a place where the trail had been rerouted from its original course through a tunnel, which was quite eerie to see in the early morning hours. We decided to follow the detour for a little ways, even though we were warned by the sign that the trail was deemed "most difficult."

We scrambled up and over the rocky trail, played around on top of the hill for a little while, and came back down the way we came. It was a fun excursion, and a fun reminder that you don't need to be up in the Idaho mountains to find some technical trail, even if it is hiding out under all those lush leafy trees. 

 We didn't stay for too long after our run- both of us eager to get to our destinations and get settled. We said our goodbyes, which although are a bummer, never feel too final, since it is always like no time has passed when we do see each other. The dogs and I packed ourselves into the car for one final day on the road, and the rest is history. Seven or eight hours later, I was pulling into the driveway at my parents' house, where I would hunker down for five nice weeks. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Road Trip! Leg Seven: Racine to East Harbor Bay State Park, OH

Leaving Wisconsin was difficult after such a cozy few days, but I was also nearing the end of my trip and getting closer to my own family. I had one more definite stop on my agenda- camping with my friend in Pennsylvania- and after some deliberation, I decided to break up the distance with another night on the road. I found a campground along Lake Erie in Ohio and decided to make that my next destination.

This was my least favorite part of the entire drive. From Racine to East Harbor Bay State Park, I had to drive through part of Wisconsin, Illinois (the worst part- right around Chicago), Indiana, and Ohio. This made for a very expensive day with something that I had completely forgotten about while living in the West- tolls! Yuck! I spent about $15 just for driving on the roads. By the time I arrived at East Harbor Bay, I was long ready to be done with the car and done with Ohio. I checked in, reserved my site, and chuckled at the warning of the woman at the desk. I was warned to watch for raccoons and deer. 
Campsites at East Harbor Bay State Park were much different from those to which I have become accustomed. Idaho campgrounds are pretty calm and quiet, especially if you are seeking calm and quiet. For the nights that I camped on my trip, I was fortunate to not have to battle big crowds. I think with the proximity to bigger cities, greater population density, and ease of camping in huge RVs, this campground attracts a larger, rowdier crowd. Combined with the fact that the 4th of July was around the corner, and I found myself in a cramped, busy campground. Luckily, most of the campers brought RVs or trailers, and the tent spots were in a more secluded area. Still, I was keenly aware of the eyes of the folks camping across the road as I set up my tent, clearly alone. I was so used to being by myself and being in more wild areas, and it was interesting to notice that concern for safety was heightened more with the presence of people. 

I ran with my dogs, ate some delicious dinner courtesy of Grandma and Aunt Maureen, and snuggled happily back into the tent with the dogs. Another pre-5am wake up, another run in the morning light, and a beautiful sunrise over the water. The park covered ground over a peninsula into the bay, and there was a nice network of trails for our morning run, and the mosquitoes certainly kept us moving quickly. We saw a skunk and some of the notorious deer, which caused Gracie to make enough noise to wake up the whole campground. 

I was happy to sit on the edge of the water for a while as the sun made its way into the sky. Things felt nice. Calm. I was happy to be on the road and have the opportunity to spend time with family and friends over the summer. I was happy to have time to enjoy the little moments like the sunrise. Other people started pulling into the lot near the water, and the dogs and I made our way back to the site to pack up. I was ready to go just as the folks around us were starting to awaken and pour out of their RVs.

This park is one where I would perhaps stay again, but mostly for convenience. It was a bit expensive and a bit crowded for my taste, but it fell in a good location to break up my drive. 

Next leg: Ohio to Poe Paddy State Park, PA