Me — Mt. Wilson Hike

I have a friend that is really into exercising and hiking. Outside of work, I would say it’s probably the thing he spends the most time on, with basic exercise equipment in his room and whatnot. He’s not obsessed with it—it’s not a thing he just talks about in casual conversation—but it does occupy a lot of his time.

Recently he made a post on social media about getting a group together for his second hike up Mt. Whitney (the highest mountain in California at 14,500 feet), and wanted to see who was interested in joining him on his training hikes.

I don’t really spend a whole lot of free time exercising or even being outdoors these days, so I told him to add me to the list of invites for the hikes. So he did, and I joined him for the first hike: Mt. Wilson.

When I said I’d be interested in hiking with him, I thought I was signing up for a 3-4 hour conversation along some longer trails, but that is not what I got. This was an 8 hour hike with an elevation gain of 4,300 feet.

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The view from the parking lot: not our jeep. Also, the parking lot was already packed at 6am!

I didn’t have a national park pass, so I couldn’t park there, so instead I spent the night at his place and we carpooled over. The thing is, I got there around midnight, slept on his couch, and we got up at around 4:30am. Our hike (with a group of 4 people) began at around 6am. (Yes I started an 8 hour hike on 4 hours of sleep. I took what I could get.)

I was also very leery of joining him because for one, the weather forecast for that day had predicted showers over the entire week, and only the day before did that forecast loosen into noon-time sprinkling. The sky was overcast, threatening to rain at any given moment.

We had a good chat. I learned lots of hiking etiquette from the more experienced hikers (which was everyone), and even though it was early in the morning, the exertion proved to be quite a workout.

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It took us about 4 hours to get to the peak, and we were excited about the prospect of a cafe at the top. We got to the observatory before it opened, and when we did arrive, the people there told us it was closed due to the weather forecast (though it didn’t rain a drop the entire day). It was a bummer, because we had planned on treating ourselves to soda at the top.

 

And so we made our descent, and let me tell you friends, if you thought going up was bad, you have either never gone down for long periods of time, or your knees are better than mine (and let’s be honest, it’s probably the latter if not both). The way down was the more scenic route, with more creeks and waterfalls  alongside (or cutting through) the path. We added a mile to our hike to go to one particular waterfall (which was the main attraction for most of the people that came here). I stopped us on the descent a lot because I saw a lot of good photo opportunities. Also, I was low-key dying a little bit, but had too much pride to call for a real break.

As much as I really didn’t want to add another mile to the hike 6 hours in, I’m glad we went. It lead to a few really cool pictures. There were lots of people there, including a few kids throwing rocks into the water to make big splashes. One of them hit me with a rock instead of the water. It didn’t hurt, but boy did I want to kick his dad in the face for not stepping in and apologizing.

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At the end of the trip was a steep 400ft incline (I’d guess maybe 20-25°), and that last quarter mile-ish killed me. Imagine walking for 8 hours and then the last legs of the journey is a steep slope up asphalt—not even nice, packed in dirt.

I was sore for two days after the trip, but I’m pretty sure that if it wasn’t for that last little bit, I would have been almost completely fine the next day or two.

So that’s it. I’m not a hiker, but this was a fun little thing to do. Some stats: Gained 4,300 feet of elevation over almost exactly 8 hours. Average pace was a 28 minute mile, but our best was 7:50 minutes. We covered 14.7 miles and burned 1,653 calories.

 

Going to Portland, Oregon (Part Two)

I talked about my general experience of my few days in Portland this past Saturday. I didn’t give any specifics, though, so here’s my travel log!

Friday:

Okay, well, the plane landed around midnight, so mostly the four of us hung out with each other before going to bed. Not much to say there.

Saturday:

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The entire city is just built around crazy architecture like this. It astounds me that this is just normal.

The first thing we did the next morning was go see the Saturday Market, which is right next to the Columbia River. There’s all manner of shops for handmade rings and pendants, dyed shirts, various mediums of art, and of course, food. I was pretty impressed by a couple of street performers, though. Their whole shtick was hyping up somebody jumping over random audience members, but they were funny and charming while they did it. It reminded me a lot of the shows you can see at some of the Renaissance Faires I’ve been to. What astonished me most was that they didn’t ask for volunteers, they just pointed at people and pulled them out of the audience and into the performing area. I found that very interesting.

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At the Market I found one shop of this guy that does amazing art. His name is J. Slattum, I recommend you go check it out. I had a hard time picking which painting to buy. I decided to go with the one that initially caught my eye.

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All three of us surreptitiously took a picture of the other two in this spot, which I think is really funny.

The Saturday Market also has an amazing view of the Columbia River as it looks out into the other side of the city. I’d say the picture below does a good job in describing how I feel about Portland. It’s just a wide, green, flat, and much less dense San Fransisco. As a result, absolutely gorgeous.

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Even the normal train offers amazing views. You can see Mt. Hood in the distance here!

We went swimming in Lake Oswego afterwards. None of us had been swimming in a long time, and it was freezing, but we all immediately decided to swim to a buoy and back as practice. Well, the agreed upon buoy was about 200 feet away, and against the

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We were at a public park (that, unbeknownst to us, was closed at the time) in the middle of a bunch of way too expensive houses.

current. I’m not a strong swimmer, and my costochondritis meant that the cold affected my ability to breathe more than it would most, so I’ll admit I did get scared on the way back. I was so tired I could barely swim, and I never learned how to float on one’s back. I considered asking for help, but they probably weren’t much better off. I didn’t go back in the water after that, my legs ached so bad.

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Pretty sure this is a bald eagle, which I have never seen before. It hung out with us all day. Super neat, and even from this distance it was clearly so much bigger than the average crow.

After the lake, I was really tired. Both of the friends I was with are very extroverted people. They cannot get enough of sightseeing and talking and being social. We planned on going to a bar where a friend’s band was playing, to which I requested to stay home at the apartment. Upon my insistence, they left me alone and I got some writing in, as well as some much needed rest. I have never experienced anything like this trip before. Being so far away from any family and not having any time to recharge hit me harder than I expected, and for the first two days of the trip I was emotionally drained.

Sunday:

Sunday morning I was excited because that was the anticipated hike day. As much as I love going on walks and hiking, I don’t do it in Southern California because if I go outside I’ll start melting (and yes, before you comment, I have been to Arizona, and yes, I do hate it). I was excited about this hike because it would be going through national forest, and it was up near Pittock Mansion, too. Incredible nature scenery and majestic architecture? Yes, please. (As a side note, it didn’t rain at all while we were there. I’m both slightly disappointed, because I love the rain, and also relieved, because it would have made sightseeing a lot harder.)

As you can imagine, I took a ton of pictures here. I won’t talk about them, I’ll just leave them here for your viewing pleasure.

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Apparently a famous sign, but I’d honestly never heard of it.

After the hike, we went into downtown to explore. We mostly walked around and did some sightseeing, from going to Killer Burger, to walking by some landmarks, to going into Powell’s (a 5-story bookstore of which I took zero pictures), to getting donuts at Voodoo Donuts.

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I’d imagine that Portland is a great place to film a great many types of things, from fantasy to noir to everyday sitcoms. At least, it would be a great place if there weren’t always so many people walking around all the time.

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Even the car ride home in the middle of the night was beautiful.

Monday:

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Monday morning I had a breakfast date with my grandpa, because he lives in the area and I don’t get to see him very often. (And, to be honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever had a genuine one-on-one conversation with him.) Getting up as early as I had to was about as difficult as I expected it to be, but the quiet atmosphere and a good chat was nice. Some familiarity in such a foreign world was a treasure to have.

On Monday and Tuesday our two “native” (they’ve only been here a little while) friends had work, so it was up to me and my travel buddy to find places to see and explore. It didn’t occur to me until Monday that everything in Portland can get away with being made of bricks, because there’s no fault line right under it. I know it’s probably stupid to you, but I thought it was interesting that everything is made of bricks here.

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Monday was mostly walking around the city, because we honestly didn’t have much of a plan of where to go. We walked through a park multiple blocks long, right in the middle of downtown, which was cool.

At some point we visited Pioneer Square (in the day this time), and we grabbed some brochures of interesting places to visit for tomorrow.

After that, we went through some suburbs. I think some of the best pictures of the trip came from there. I would kill to live in a place that looked like that.

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On this walk, attached to the gate in front of somebody’s house, was a little box with some books inside. It was one of those “leave one, take one” situations, and I found it fascinating. Inside it was a copy of the first book of the Mistborn series, which made me really sad because as much as I wanted it, I had no book to trade. My travel buddy convinced me it would be okay to take it, just for the story of how I got it.

I thank her immensely for the permission to do that. I would have left it and regretted it if she hadn’t been there.

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We came across an old thrift store of lamps & furniture called “Lounge Lizard”. Awesome place, and it reminded me of the singing improv game of the same name. She had never played it, so I showed it to her on the way back home. As much as I don’t like singing in the presence of others, I rather enjoyed it.

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We headed back into town to have a late lunch at the Old Town Pizza Company, which was a restaurant that was repurposed from an old hotel. Apparently, the booth where you order food is the same concession stand from the original establishment in 1880, which is insane. I didn’t take any pictures of this place, because it was super dark, so enjoy this picture stolen off the internet. We actually almost sat in this booth, but decided to eat upstairs because… well, upstairs.

At about that time our friends were getting off work, so we headed back home, then went back into town to get ramen before playing a drinking game to Disney’s Hercules. It was a great conclusion to an awesome day.

Tuesday:

Tuesday was very similar to Monday, except this time we had a plan for places we wanted to visit. I’m sorry to say I didn’t take many pictures of Tuesday because I was a bit jaded,

We headed into town, ate fries in a park while listening to live violins, then went into the city proper.

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We stumbled across the Church of Scientology, which was… interesting. My friend convinced me to go in and check it out, and boy. They showed us a machine that could “read your thoughts”, which really just detected the presence of electrical signals when you think. The fact that the lady advertised it as borderline magic was insane to me.

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“Psychiatric drugs: Take one!”

After that, we went back to Powell’s, because it was on the way to a place called the Cookie Dough Cafe. Imagine an ice cream shop like Baskin Robbins, only they have vats of raw cookie dough instead of ice cream. (Okay, they also had ice cream, but mostly it was cookie dough.)

It was so thick, that a $3 single scoop of cookie dough was almost too much for me to finish, even though I had eaten very little that day.

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Our last stop for the trip was a brewery called Steven Smith Teamaker. I didn’t know what to expect, but it was lovely. They had a selection of nearly fifty different kinds of teas, and you could buy a flight to try any four. I did this with the resolution to buy the best one, and while I don’t really like green teas, I was surprised when it turned out to be my favorite.

Tuesday Tea

Portland was magical. I learned a lot about the world and myself, and made lots of memories I’ll cherish forever. The day I got back I was hit with a severe… homesickness? I’m sure lots of people are familiar with that feeling, but I had never felt that before. I’m glad that emotion didn’t persist, because it made the following Wednesday and Thursday pretty hard.

Going to Portland, Oregon (Part One)

I went on my first official vacation a few days ago. The plane landed late Friday night and I went back to California Tuesday night. So I thought it would be fun to talk about the trip. In the interest of going to bed at a reasonable hour tonight, I’ll split this post into two. Part One will cover my general experience, and Part Two will be the specifics of what I did.

Side note: Get ready for a long post with lots of pictures. I took an uncharacteristically abundant amount of them. Almost 300 in just 4(ish) days. From the time between the first and last picture I took, my rate of picture taking was around .25 per hour (or 1 every 4 hours depending on how you want to frame that ratio).

IMG_20180603_143148248_HDR.jpgIt’s worth noting right off the bat that I’m very introverted and basically don’t ever leave the house if I don’t have to. Having said that, I wanted to make 2018 memorable by making big changes to my behavior. I don’t like Southern California (it’s just way too hot), and down the road I want to move away from the desert, but I don’t want to move too far to require a plane to see family. Basically, this just means going north to Northern California or Oregon, so visiting the state seemed like a good place to start.

I’ll just tell you right now, I loved it. I only spent time in the Portland area, but the whole place is gorgeous. There are more trees in the densest portions of downtown than there are in some of the parks I live near. To sum up my experience of what Portland “is” in three words: “weird, green community”. And yes, that’s a double entendre.

IMG_20180602_141234693 (Saturday Market).jpgPortland is weird, because people just… talk to each other. In Southern California, conversations with strangers only happen when they’re obligatory, and it’s literally the same conversation every time. If an alien was teleported into LA with no understanding of the English language, I would give him a list of about 5 words/phrases and any surface level conversation would sound normal: “Hi”, “How are you?”, “Good”, “Have a nice day”, and “Thanks”. He could pretty much dictate those phrases at random to a stranger and they probably wouldn’t notice.

IMG_20180605_142405103.jpgIn Portland it’s different. I’m not used to just chatting with cashiers about my cool shirt or Steven Universe or, well… anything. It’s small talk, yes, and I thought I hated small talk, but there’s something about the easy and simple connection strangers are allowed to have that is amazing. We got into a literal argument with some guy over which of us was next in line, because everyone involved was trying to be polite and have the other go first. Spoiler: the guy ended up storming off to force us to go first, so he won. The next day, we walked by homeless people getting tattoos done on the sidewalk, and the people I was with at the time struck up a conversation about fashion. It just boggles my mind, and yes, before you ask, that circumstance made me very uncomfortable.

The city is also very transportation friendly. $5 will get you an all day train ticket, and you can use the trains to get anywhere in Portland within an hour. I got the sense that, depending on the traffic, it can actually be a lot faster than driving, especially since you don’t have to worry about parking or gas. Most of the time, the trains weren’t even that busy, my friends and I almost always had a row of seats available.

IMG_20180603_212008967 (Pioneer Square Night).jpgPortland is also amazing in that everywhere you stand, you can take a great picture. You’re also within an hour of both downtown and giant national forests, even if you’re right in the middle of the city. Plus, Mt. Hood is always in the distance, and having seen a genuine mountain, I now understand that feeling of “I wanna go there and do that”. Another thing to note: living in Earthquake Land also makes me unaccustomed to actual architecture of brick and stone. I’ve seen pictures, but man, the older buildings in the city look incredible.

So, in conclusion: Portland is incredible, and I’m going back someday.