The seasons, they are a’changing

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After a busy week of work, I escaped the urban hubbub for a quiet afternoon ski in the mountains.

Winter wonderland! Or so I thought. Yes, there was still plenty of snow and clouds clung to the surrounding peaks. But there were small, but vivid, signs that winter had given notice to vacate and spring was preparing to move in.

The first telltale sign was the temperature. The air was chilly, but not cold. It didn’t take me long to remove my jacket and ski with only my long-sleeved wool top. I stopped yet again to remove my hat.

Snow and ice is the norm in deep winter in the mountains. But on this day, I was aware of water. The snow was soft and slushy at the trailhead. The trees were drippy as snow slowly melted and fell from their limbs. I listened to the soft “thumps” in the woods as nearby trees released snow bombs.

The distant sound of water tumbling over rocks became louder. Soon I was a crossing a creek on a bridge. A few weeks prior, this creek would have been buried under snow. I spied a watery hole in the once frozen solid lake.

I noticed bugs! There was an occasional flying one and I spotted small bugs crawling on the snow’s surface every time I stopped for a break.

It was after five o’clock when I finished my ski and, despite the overhead layer of clouds, there was still ample light in the sky. Yet another sign that the seasons are changing. As I toss my skis into the Outback, I am looking forward to my next mountain outing and wonder what new changes I will observe.

Vivid

bike-sunrise

As a bicyclist, the desired road taken is often the road less traveled.

Not the case with Mount Rainier’s Sunrise Road.  This classic national park road is narrow and twisty as it winds upward 3000 feet to Sunrise Park (elevation 6400 feet) and an in-your-face view of the mountain. In the summer, this road is also clogged with vehicles and looky-loo tourists–not so pleasant for a bike ride.

However, there’s a brief window of opportunity in May/June when the park service plows the snow off the road but keeps the gate closed to vehicular traffic. This in-between period before the upper elevation is opened for the summer season is a cyclist’s dream. It’s an opportunity to bike Sunrise Road car-free!

The Road Taken

A Tube of Lip Balm Saves the Ski Day

We hightailed it to the Methow Valley last weekend for a few days of skiing. What fun it was!

ski-the-loupWe spent our first day alpine skiing at low key and family-friendly Loup Loup Ski Bowl. The only chair lift leisurely carried us to the top of Little Buck Mountain and, on this day, above the fog layer blanketing the valley floor. We had the pleasure of skiing many runs alone–a rarity at the ski resorts on the west slopes of the Cascades.

Steve and I love the atmosphere at The Loup. It’s a community ski hill that is operated by a nonprofit, volunteer driven organization. Locals glow with pride when we tell them we made the trip from Seattle to ski their hill. And the skiing is worthy!

The next day we slapped on our skinny skis for some cross-country touring. With over 200 kilometers of groomed trails, the Methow Valley is home to the largest Nordic ski trail system in the nation. The trail network is adeptly managed by the nonprofit Methow Trails. This is what draws many to the valley in winter.

img_0447We opted to ski the trails at Sun Mountain to avoid an organized Nordic event that was using other portions of the trail network. I guess other folks had the same idea as the trailhead was a party. But we didn’t have to ski too far before the skiers thinned out and we had some quiet time on the trails. Snow fell quietly and an occasional critter scampered by as we skied up and down the rolling terrain. It was a pleasant afternoon.

On our last day, we awoke to a mix of rain and snow in the valley so we decided to drive up to Loup Loup Pass and ski the groomed Nordic trails at the South Summit Sno-Park. Several inches of wet snow had fallen and it was still falling. We could tell that the trails had not been groomed in a week or more, but we were game for a ski.

The wet snow stuck to the climbing scales on the bottom of my skis and pretty soon I wasn’t gliding. I stopped to search my backpack for some ski wax. Bummer! I didn’t have any with me.

“Do you have a tube of lip balm?” asked Steve.

I did! I pulled the Blistex out of my pack and handed it to Steve. He knocked the sticky snow off my skis, then rubbed the waxy lip balm over the scales. I was gliding again!

The lip balm is no substitute for ski wax as the snow started to stick again at times, but it saved my ski day and I was able to finish my ski tour.

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Raising the Game

protest-signsI’m an optimist at heart and I see an upside in the Republican balance of power shift. It’s the outcry for social justice in America. The political activism that was ignited as we approached the campaign season is turning into a fire storm.

That we have to remind Americans that Black Lives Matter is sad. It’s even more tragic that the statement is challenged, belittled and attacked. On the other hand, it has empowered African Americans, raised public awareness, and encouraged many to examine racism and white privilege.

black-lives-matter

We witnessed an entire gender mobilize right after inauguration day when millions of women took to the streets to protest. Women (and men) rallied for reproductive rights, an end to violence, gender equity, immigrants rights, environmental justice, and more. A new generation of female activists has been launched and they’re raising the game.

we-the-people-signThe administration’s Muslim travel ban and restrictions on refugees stirred even more people to rise up and take action. Citizens, social justice and faith-based communities converged at major airports to protest the ban. Marches and vigils were held. My state of Washington filed a legal challenge against the travel ban and succeeded in getting it stopped nationally.

Awareness is increasing as to how the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, will impact Americans’ health care. Republican lawmakers are getting an earful from angry constituents at town hall meetings.

I still believe that each of us can make a difference. As We the People engage politically, we raise the game. So please pay attention, think critically and use your voice.

Aware

Mother Nature forces us to take a break from work and politics

snow-day

Today Mother Nature gave us a snow day in Seattle. It was a much needed respite from the political havoc that has descended upon this nation since the transition to a Republican administration.

snowmanFor at least a few hours, many Seattleites opted to shun news, social media and work to play in the snow. Instead of turning on the morning news programs, we walked through neighborhoods blanketed with snow. We tuned out the tweets in favor of building snowmen. We took a day off work to sled with our kids.

For those who eschew winter, the snow day was a perfect time to ignore current events and cozy up to a fire. We used the down time to catch up on some reading or finish a knitting project. It was a chance to watch a movie that we added to our Netflix list months ago.

Thanks, Mother Nature. We really needed this break today. Tomorrow will be a new day.

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We are a cultural melting pot. Embrace it.

My mother was an immigrant and I remember some of the challenges she had to overcome as she forged a new life for herself in America.

A native of Japan, my mother grew up during World War II. She lived through hardships, survived air raids and lost family members. During post-war reconstruction, she found work caring for the children of US military officers stationed in Japan. She eventually met and married my father, an enlisted man stationed at the air base she was working. He brought her to the US when he completed his tour of duty.

kokeshi-origamiAs a young child, I remember my mother taking English classes, studying to become a US citizen, learning how to drive a car, and navigating a culture that was different from the one she grew up in. She did all of these things plus care for two little girls and a home!

She was fortunate to have a small circle of Japanese friends that she could turn to for support, companionship and community. They gathered together regularly to talk, eat their favorite Japanese dishes, listen to music from their homeland, and practice traditional crafts.

They often included their children at these get-togethers and this is where I developed my Japanese side. I sampled sushi, tempura, natto, sukiyaki, and more. I listened to Japanese folk tales and learned Japanese songs. I collected and played with kokeshi dolls and learned origami.

somali-basketsThese memories resurfaced recently when I saw some lovely handwoven baskets created by Somali women. My employer, Lutheran Community Services Northwest, offers a Somali basket weaving group to connect refugee women with each other through this traditional craft. The craft group brings the women together to socialize and create baskets while reducing the isolation they can experience living in a new culture. It gives them a sense of community within a larger, less familiar community.

The anti-immigrant and anti-refugee platform embraced by our president-elect is disturbing to me. It dredges up hurtful childhood memories of classmates calling me Jap, Chink and Ho Chi Minh. It causes me to recall the time the father of one of my elementary school friends told me he didn’t like Japanese people. And more.

This open backlash is making many in our country–including children–extremely anxious. An acquaintance recently told my partner how worried her preteen daughter is that her Latino friends will be deported. LCS Northwest immigrant and refugee clients have reported being verbally assaulted by strangers. And more.

America is a melting pot of nationalities. My roots extend to Japan and Ireland and, unless you’re Sioux, Navaho or from another Native American tribe, so do yours. It is that incredible mix of human diversity that makes us a unique and great nation, and it is that mix of diversity that will propel us into the future if we embrace it.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”  – Statue of Liberty inscription

White River and Its Fatal Fish Trap

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Mount Rainier National Park is one of my favorite outdoor places and, on a recent hike there, I captured this stunning view of the headwaters of the White River as it flows out of the Emmons Glacier.

Water is essential for life on Earth. We cannot survive without it. Sixty to seventy percent of our body weight is from water. It delivers and dissolves nutrients, cleanses and flushes out toxins, and promotes growth.

Humans aren’t the only form of life reliant upon water. The White River is a spawning ground for several species of wild salmon and home for other fish populations. Yet this life source for fish is also a fatal fish trap. In 2014 American Rivers placed the White River on its list of Endangered Rivers.

The cause: the deteriorating Buckley Dam which lies miles downstream of its headwaters at Mount Rainier. The antiquated structure has an outdated and decrepit fish trap that, instead of facilitating fish passage, is killing thousands of them.

The Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for the upkeep of the dam. American Rivers and its partners have called upon the agency to agency to modernize the structure by 2017 in order to avoid another massive fish kill. Learn more here.