Walk the Katwalk

On Wednesday I walked the Katwalk, not to be confused with the catwalk, you won’t find me strutting my stuff on one of those anytime soon. The Kendall Katwalk is a man made narrow pathway that was blasted out of a steep sloped rock face. Sounds pretty wild right?

I strut my stuff on the katwalk, katwalk.

I strut my stuff on the katwalk, katwalk.

Fellow hikers on the katwalk to the right.

Fellow hikers on the katwalk to the right.

The blasted path was meant to allow the Pacific Crest Trail to continue north towards Canada (it starts down at the border of Mexico.) I long to thru-hike this trail someday, but in the meantime it was fun to bite off a chunk of it. I managed 15 miles round trip, which is like a penny into a dollar for the overall trail. Not much, but it’s a start!

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The trail leading to the Katwalk was lovely, as all Washington trails are.

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I took note of a cluster of berries, determined to discover what they were.

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These tiny plumcot looking berries are called “False Lily of the Valley Berries.” Interesting.

While the trail itself was nice, the Alpine Lakes I discovered stole my heart once again.

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Be still my heart.

It’s a good thing I had to open at work the next morning, because every fiber in my body told me to keep going. I hope to soon return to this section of the PCT and hike the 75 miles from Snoqualmie pass to Stevens pass. At 15 miles a day it could be done in 5 days.

Ohhh how I wanderlust for backpacking. If anyone wants to join me I’m accepting applications.

Q: Would you ever hike for multiple weeks (or days) at a time? 

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Early Morning Confessions

1. I have fallen in love with smoothie bowls. Can’t stop, won’t stop.

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2. One of my regular customers came in without his wallet last week. I told him breakfast was on me and not to worry about it (the perks of being a regular.) He insisted he would come back to pay, and sure enough he did.  Along with paying for his coffee and lemon loaf he proceeded to buy a $20 gift card, and then gifted it to me. Humanity can be wonderful.

3. I also channeled my inner Pocahontas last week and canoed myself just around the river bend.

Or Lake Washington, same thing.

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This is what I look like getting blown away.

4. I’m done with school for one month. I walked away from my summer biology class with a 4.0.

5. On Saturday I hiked Mailbox Peak again. I didn’t even wait a full 30 days before going back. It was even more brutal the second time. I won’t be hiking this one again for a while.

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6. The day after the hike (yesterday) I had a Sunday long run. Ouch.

7. Roasted cabbage….that is all.

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8. Looking for a good energy bite recipe? My coffee bites along with ten other recipes have been featured on Daily Burns “11 No-Bake Energy Bites” article!! So many good looking balls.

9. Speaking of balls…I’ve become obsessed with coffee tastings and parings. Like, it’s all I think about when I’m not thinking about running, eating, or breathing. Nothing says fall like Starbucks annual Anniversary Blend. I wanted to do a tasting to highlight the spice notes along with some maple and pumpkin oat flavors. So I made some Maple Pumpkin Pie Oat Bites.IMG_2190

Maple Pumpkin Pie Oat Bites

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup + 1 heaping tblsp uncooked oats
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seed
  • 1 tblsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup creamy almond butter
  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • heaping tblsp raw pumpkin seeds

Directions

  1. In a medium sized bowl combine oats, ground flax, and cinnamon. Mix well.
  2. Stir in your remaining ingredients until well combined.
  3. Place the mixture in the fridge for 15 minutes.
  4. Roll the mixture into approximately 1 inch sized balls. Makes 10-12 bites.
  5. Store in air tight container.

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10. I then proceeded to bring these to work to have a coffee tasting with some of my coworkers.

It was a fun time.

Q: What’s your confession?

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An Alpine Lake Stole My Heart

All of the hikes I’ve done lately have been similar. I start at the bottom, and I go to the peak – very straight forward. Or “up” forward?

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When I got a text from my friend about doing an Alpine Lake hike I knew it was time I checked one of these off my list, and man am I glad I did. Lake hikes are a bit different because instead of going from bottom to top, there’s lots of winding and up and down and up and down.

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An Alpine Lake is considered any lake or reservoir at a high altitude. Alpine lakes are usually clearer than lakes at lower elevations due to the colder water which decreases the amount of algae and moss growth in the water. Often these lakes are surrounded by varieties of pine trees, aspens, and other high altitude trees. <–Thanks Wikipedia.

My first Alpine Lake hike was to Snow Lake, and then I carried on to Gem Lake. Two birds with one stone, because why not? Ten miles total with an ending elevation of 4857 ft.

It was the perfect balance of a climb.

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My compadre was a better man than I, and actually jumped crawled into both lakes. Me? Not so much, I observed just in case a wild animal came. Someone had to take care of the serious stuff.

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One thing on this hike that really captured my interest was this.

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There are camp spots all throughout these mountains, so someone built totally legit wooden toilets around them. Lucky for me, because my bladder is the size of a peanut.

What can I say, I am easily amused.

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Forget a pool, I want an Alpine Lake in my backyard. With cookies, always with cookies.

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I’ll be back to uphill climbing this week, but these lakes will soon see my face again.

Q: Do you prefer long and gradual hikes, or shorter and steeper climbs? Definitely both, depending on my mood. It’s all about the balance! 

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Coffee Master Certification: My Coffee Tasting/Pairings

If you follow me on Instagram you probably saw this photo.

IMG_2139After months of reading, tasting, talking, exploring, and learning all I can about coffee (alone, and also coffee and Starbucks together) I am finally a certified Coffee Master. This journey focused on coffee history, geographic origins, coffee agriculture, sourcing and buying, green coffee quality, the art of roasting and blending, and my favorite part:

-coffee parings/tastings/flavors/notes.

One of my new aprons.

One of my new aprons.

Coffee, like wine grapes, gets much of its flavor from the specific growing conditions and processing methods of whatever region it was produced in. Three of the main coffee producing regions are: Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Each of these regions have specific flavor characteristics that give each coffee blend its distinct coffee “notes.”

What’s a coffee note you ask? Certain flavors are detected in coffee’s that allow them to harmonize well with certain foods. Have you ever had a cup of Joe that just didn’t mesh well with your blueberry muffin? This is due to the specific notes present with each blend. Alone this coffee may be just what you’re looking for, but when shared alongside a meal you’ll want to be a bit more particular.

Coffee blends alone may survive just fine, but when you combine them with the right foods the harmony is out of this world.

This is a fantastic chart.

This is a fantastic chart.

Lets break down the top three regions by their coffee notes.

Latin America – high balanced flavors of cocoa or nuts, as well as a crisp, bright acidity.

Africa – Floral and citrus characteristics.

Asia – Full body and spicy flavors with balanced acidity and herbal notes.

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Part of my final certification was putting together a coffee tasting. As a food AND coffee lover you can imagine my excitement when the two come together. If anyone is interested in learning more about a proper coffee tasting with coffee alone, let me know in the comments.

I chose one coffee from each coffee region, plus one coffee that is multi-regional and paired each with different foods.

Kenya – An African grown coffee with complimentary flavors of grapefruit, berries, currants, raisins, and oranges.

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For this pairing I made an orange and currant quinoa salad. Sounds bizarre right? Oranges, quinoa, and coffee? This went together SO well it was almost magical. I could have cried from the joy I felt.

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Komodo Dragon – An Asia/Pacific coffee with complimentary flavors of cinnamon, maple, buttery breads, and pastries.

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For this pairing I chose almond butter stuffed dates sprinkled with cinnamon. The flavors harmonized almost perfectly. This is a common breakfast pairing for me, except I also use a rice cake for my base.

Guatemala Antigua – A Latin American grown coffee with complimentary flavors of cocoa, apples, caramel, and nuts.

Organic Yukon – A multi-regional blend with beans from both Latin American and Asia. This blend is mellow and well balanced with complimentary flavors of cinnamon, raisins, oatmeal, and chocolate.

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Due to the cocoa and chocolate notes in both of these coffee’s, they both paired well with some chocolate chip coffee cookies. I used fresh ground Yukon beans in the mix for these cookies. I also paired these two coffees with some toasted coconut cashews.

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While these all balanced well together, I found that the Yukon paired a bit better with the cookie, and the Guatemala paired a bit better with the cashews. Guatemala has more nutty notes while Yukon has more chocolate notes so this made complete sense.

To conduct a proper tasting, each coffee should be brewed with high quality water, a proper grind for your brewing method, proper ratio of water to grinds, and your coffee should be fresh. Coffee should then be tasted in it’s pure form, without the addition of milks and sugars.

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Lucky for me I am a black coffee connoisseur so conducting tastings is naturally one of my favorite things to do. Tampering (or destroying in my humble opinion) with the coffee by adding milk or sugar hinders the natural flavors from being detected. Not a fan of black coffee? That’s OK, I don’t like beer..we all have our downfalls. ;)

Q(s):

  • What’s your favorite coffee pairing?
  • Have you ever payed attention to how certain coffees can CLASH with certain foods? For example the orange quinoa salad would have been TERRIBLE with any of the other coffees I mentioned in this post.
  • Would anyone like to see a short post in more depth about how to conduct a coffee tasting? 

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Wide Open Spaces

Change is something that I’ve always struggled with. I know I’m not alone in this, and I’d bet that most of you reading this right now would agree. These days I’ve grown accustomed to change, and even sometimes welcome it. A few months ago I changed my blog layout after over TWO years of the same set up. I’m a big believer of keeping things simple, and I live my life by a, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” motto, but I wanted something new and fresh.

After settling on a new layout, I quickly discovered that although I enjoyed the sleek and clean look, the way my photos were squished just didn’t sit well with me. I didn’t get myself a dSLR to highlight tiny details in certain pictures just to have them unappreciated by a squished blog.

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I have a 70/30 approach to blogging. 70% photos, and 30% written content. After settling with the smooshed setup for a while, I made an impromptu change as you can see. No hesitation, no struggling with the change, just a click of a button and boom-wide open spaces for my photos to stretch and breath. My photos are far from perfect, but they surely benefit from a better layout.

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OK, you get the idea. Long story short I have a new layout that is very simple and clean, giving my photos a bit more wiggle room. I still use my iPhone for nearly all other photos like hiking, but even those benefit from some space. On that note go bake something tasty. Happy Sunday.

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Q: What’s most important to you about reading/writing blogs? I am a big fan of LOTS of photos. Too much text and I get bored.

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Quality Over Quantity

Over the last couple years I’ve become very content spending a lot of my time alone. This is nothing new, as I have been blogging about my solo adventures for quite some time now. To put it bluntly, I’ve found there are very few people I actually want to spend my time with.

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With that said, the rare times I do spend with other people I am very picky about who those people are. My time is valuable to me, and I don’t have the energy to spend time with people that don’t add anything beneficial to my life. We all deserve quality connections.

I don’t say this to be harsh, I say it to be real.

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After visiting the Starbucks corporate office, my two gal pals and I headed North to hike Rattlesnake Ridge, a hike I’ve done multiple times now. Leave it to me to suggest a hike as part of our activities.

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I adore these girls to pieces, but they are both leaving me very soon. One is moving to another Starbucks about 15 miles away, and  the other is moving to another Starbucks (and school) in IDAHO! :(

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I don’t have a lot of friends, but I have quality friends and that’s what matters most to me. The kind of friends that you can go months without seeing, and pick up right where you left off.

It’s also necessary for me to spend my time with people that understand/accept my personality, and that share similar interests. Friendship is like dating – the ones that don’t mesh well, don’t evolve and end up in a split. It also helps when they’re equally as quirky.

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The point of this post was not to allow me to ramble, but simply to highlight the fact that like most things in life: quality over quantity.

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I am quite content with my balance between alone time and time spent with others. I wouldn’t change anything about where I’m at!

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You should totally click this to enlarge it.

Q: Do you prefer spending your time in large groups with a lot of people, or being more selective on time spent with others? I don’t mean like a party, because that’s a different situation. Just in general everyday friendships.

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A Few Pieces of Starbucks Knowledge

I really enjoy my job. It’s the kind of job that you’re excited to go to and are constantly wanting to learn more about. There is something about coffee that inspires me and I can’t seem to get enough.

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Most people don’t know this, but Starbucks does a LOT for its communities, and even more for the countries where they buy their beans from. People often jump to conclusions about Starbucks because it’s such a big corporation, but really they are very passionate about what they do, and giving back is huge.

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Did you know that Starbucks pays for employees to volunteer? I don’t mean the employees get paid, but the places where we volunteer get money for the hours we put in. #extrashotofgood

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Did you know that in an effort to ensure a transparent purchasing process, Starbucks developed something called C.A.F.E practice?  This ensures that quality of life for coffee farmers is ethical, pay is accountable, quality is high, and all environmental needs are met.

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Did you know that on top of paying a premium price for ethical sourcing (giving them high quality arabica beans) Starbucks helps coffee farmers with financial support when funds are low?

IMG_1954I finally took the time to visit the Starbucks Center in Seattle, also known as Starbucks Headquarters. It’s kind of a big deal. I’m fortunate enough to live in the area where Starbucks first started, and visiting this location was just a hop, skip, and a jump across the water.

Unfortunately without being an employee of the actual corporate building, I had limited access to the inner offices. I did get to explore the Starbucks shop, and enjoyed a free cup of “visitor” coffee.

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I’m still very much of an equal opportunist, and I adore local and small coffee shops too. I think trying local coffee is one of three great ways to explore new areas, and while I love Starbucks I don’t always go to one when I am traveling somewhere new. Local coffee usually wins.

Seattle is a different story though, being the birthplace of Starbucks.

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It was a great experience to visit the place where all the magic happens so to speak.  Maybe one day I’ll have the opportunity to venture behind the “badge entrance only” doors.

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Until then I’ll continue making coffee I’m proud to sell, and educate people on the details that go down “behind the scenes.”

Q: Do you “believe in” the story behind place you work?

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Early Morning Confessions

1. Can’t stop won’t stop with the rice cake/nut butter/epic topping combo. These two were pre hike fuel, and by that I mean I ate these before eating another ten pounds of food on my drive to the mtn.

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2. One of the recent search terms that brought someone to my blog from The Google was the word “shanked.” Yup, sounds about right.

3. Those blackberries pictured above? They were free. I walked about a mile to find some bushes and filled a bowl up. Food tastes better when it’s free AND when you work for it.

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4. Every time I incorporate certain kinds of gluten back into my diet I swell up like a puffer fish. The puffiness lasts a couple days, and it’s annoying because WHO can avoid cupcakes – come on man!

5. My coworker and I finished part of our Coffee Master project. It’s a giant board of knowledge. I feel like a proud mama.

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6. The amount of sweat I’ve been producing on my runs lately is probably enough to fill a child size swimming pool. So.Hot.Outside.

7. This breakfast bowl. My face was rocked so hard.

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…and this dinner bowl…really just this bowl. It delivers good things.

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8. I found this style of Teva’s at Nordstrom Rack for $30 off original price. Basically I felt like a boss, and they are my new obsession.

9. My cat is a model.

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10. I’ve been getting inquiries about what I’m going back to school for, and since I’ve been lazy about writing a post on that topic I’ll give you the Cliffs Notes version: Holistic Nutrition through Bastyr University. Bastyr is a natural health college in Seattle and the program will be a bit different than your standard nutrition program.

I’m thinking about going for the B.S. in nutrition and culinary arts to open more doors for the future, and because it just sounds like a blast. This college has a huge focus on whole foods and how they affect the human body. Totally my speed, totally crunchy granola.

If you’ve read my blog for a while you’ll know I was going for dental hygiene in the past, which thankfully is paying off because most of my prerequisite classes for that program transfer over to the nutrition degree. I do have four prerequisites needed still which I am working on now. Long story short that’s what I’m up to!

More on that later…perhaps.

Q: What’s your confession? 

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Garden Harvest – Summer Veggie Salad Recipe

I’m in the final stages of finishing my coffee master training for Starbucks, and have been lucky enough to go through the entire process with another coworker. She and I were able to get together at her house recently to work on our final “project” for the store.

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After working on our project for a little over an hour I decided it was time for a break, meaning it was time to explore her property. She lives on a small farm fully equipped with cows, chickens, a goat, and best of all a small organic garden. Talk about bliss.

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I was absolutely ecstatic when I was offered to take some of the luscious bounty home with me. Local, fresh, organic, free produce!? You betchur britches I wanted some! With a bowl the size of a small horse completely filled with green goodness, I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to get crazy wild in my kitchen.

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For starters I baked 4 small loaves of zucchini banana bread. I used this recipe and made a few alterations. It was very mild, and definitely needs something on top such as a nut butter or fresh berries.

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The real winner of this harvest was my roasted zucchini & carrot black bean salad with a creamy kale and walnut pesto sauce. I wanted to make something that would use almost everything I was gifted.

So jazzed.

So jazzed.

Items from my bowl used for this meal were:

  • zucchini
  • carrots
  • snap peas
  • kale
  • basil
  • lettuce

I also got some cilantro that I used for some taco salads, but I digress.

Roasted Zucchini & Carrot Black Bean Salad

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Ingredients:

For the salad:

  • 3/4 cup roasted zucchini
  • 2/4 cup roasted carrots
  • 1.5 cups boiled sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup black beans

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For the pesto:

  • 1/2 cup raw walnuts
  • 1/4 cup + 3 tsp water
  • 1.5 tblsp olive oil
  • 1 tblsp + 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 medium sized kale leaves
  • 3 medium sized lettuce leaves (or more kale)
  • 5 medium/large basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup snap peas (just the peas, and this is optional)
  • 1 tsp salt

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 Directions:

  1. Slice your carrots and zucchini into desired size (you can see what I did in the photo above) and lay flat on a roasting tray. Roast for about 45-60 minutes. The zucchini didn’t roast well and was a bit mushy, but  still edible of course.
  2. Chop about two smaller sized sweet potatoes and fully submerge them in water to boil. Boil for about 20 minutes, be sure not to over boil them or they will fall apart.
  3. While everything is cooking you can make your pesto. Combine all your ingredients into a high speed blender or food processor and combine until smooth. You may want to add more water depending on how thick you like your pesto.
  4. Once all your veggies are done combine everything into a large bowl. This makes enough for 2 people with a bit leftover.

Note: The veggies are all very soft, so something like crunchy chips or lettuce leaves will round out the texture of this meal.

I used the rest of my lettuce leaves and I put just a dollop of the pesto sauce on top because I’m not a huge sauce fan. With chips on the side.

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I am amazed by the powerful taste of garden fresh produce. 10x better than anything in the store, but I suppose that’s a given! It took me all of three days to rip through this produce. I need a garden!

Q: Did you garden at all this year? I tried to plant some cilantro, but the slugs got it…no excuses for next year! OH or winter veggies!

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Mailbox Peak

Sometimes I wonder why I do things. Like why I choose to put myself through the torture of climbing 4000 ft in only 2.5 miles. If you do the math, that’s a whole lotta climb for not a lotta distance.

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I successfully hiked solo, and by that I mean I actually felt solo this time. It was the perfect balance of people to where I felt safe, yet went multiple spans of time where I was all by myself.

20140727-201154-72714630If there is one thing I learned on this hike, it’s that people talk to you much more when you’re solo. Aside from the “hiker must” of saying hello, I had a couple people help me with direction, and even a group of guys trying to “holler” at me. Yeah…no.

Without the side conversations I would not have know to look for these white triangles while climbing through the forest. Oops, I missed that part when I skipped past the trail entrance notes.

Can you see the marker?

Where’s Waldo…can you see the marker?

I have to say being alone in the woods was quite exhilarating. Despite my heart pounding out of my chest, and the sweat dripping from places I didn’t know possible this climb was amazing.

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Once I found my way out of the woods (seriously it was total brain work) a nice Scottish gentleman & I crossed paths. He informed me I could continue on the trail path, or Billy goat my way on the rocks.

OK so he didn’t put it that way, but close. Guess which way I chose?

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The rocks! I had some practice on this hike, so it was a no brainier.

The rocks gave a fantastic view of Mount Rainier, the neighboring hills, and some bodies of water. I was overwhelmed by all the beauty.

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I managed to make it to the top in just under two hours. I sat, I stared, I ate, I rejoiced, and relished my accomplishment. Toughest climb yet.

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What exactly is the highlight of this climb? There is a mailbox that someone brought to the top a while back (hence the name) and it’s caused this climb to be on many peoples bucket list. Myself included.

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Check. Add another highlight to the book.

Post hike I wanted to eat all the things. Specifically all the carbs. So that’s just what I did. The Veggie Grill has a new sandwich and OMG.

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Of course no hike would be complete without restoring my sugar levels. It’s all a matter of science.  So I found my way to Whole Foods.

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Shut up and take my money.

Shut up and take my money.

I’m extremely indecisive with baked goods, so mini treats are ideal.

Best date I’ve had in a while…with myself.

Q: What would be your first choice for a solo activity?

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