Half crazy?

It’s been three years since I ran my last half marathon. That year, I ran three. Next year, I am going to celebrate my double-nickel birthday by running again. My fourteenth half. My first since they reconfigured my foot.

I thought I had lost my mojo.

But a friend’s recent first race inspired me. She looked so bright and shiny … and happy when she told me about the event. It brought back so many memories of miles, blisters, camaraderie, and my favorite post-run beverage, chocolate milk. Recently, I heard about a race series that runs through the national parks … Zion, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons. And Yosemite! Memories of Yosemite run deep. My family camped there when I was a child, and I can still conjure up that musty smell of our army-green tent that I loved to poke when it rained. My first backpacking trip; standing atop Half Dome.

So I registered for Yosemite, got back on my treadmill, and started to run. I had forgotten the rhythmic Zen of running. I had forgotten how gratifying it was to sweat your hair wet. But this week, I remembered. The voices of former coaches and running partners echoed … lean forward … shorten your strides … quick feet. I’ve got some work to do, and I have 225 days to do it. This week, I started with 30 minutes. One third jogging, two thirds, a quick walk.


Fifty-five. I hope to get a PR. And I’m gonna wear a tiara.


Sky shapes

July 23, 2017: Recent medical circumstances dictated that I, as a person close to me said, “CHILL THE F$*# OUT”, and rest. I’ve spent the last several years full-tilt and pedal to the metal, trying like hell to outrun the dark. So rest, I did. On my hammock, on my porch swing, on my anti-gravity chair. At the spa and at the nail parlor. I ate tomatoes fresh from my garden. I smelled cedar from the giants that stand sentinel over my deck, and sweet lavender as I watered. I played photographer to a reluctant, on-guard spider.

I’m finally getting out of my doctor-imposed purgatory tonight to go to a concert at my local winery. I have to say it will be delightful to get out, but I haven’t hated this hiatus.

This afternoon, I had my anti-gravity chair on full-on recline mode, staring at the blue, blue sky, spotting cloud shapes. I saw a bunny, a turkey, an arrow, and I even identified a sky penis. I listened to nearby summer sounds … playful juncos flitting by, the wind softly rustling through the trees, a fairly bad band (at least at this distance) playing at the brewery down the hill, the staccato tch-tch-tch of an old-fashioned sprinkler, and the distinctive buzz of my beloved fighter pilot hummingbirds. What I realized is that I haven’t actually noticed any of this in a good long while.

I think I may embrace this slower pace. So, if you’re looking for me, you can find me on my deck, lying on my back, looking for naughty shapes in the sky.

The Enchanted Isles, Galápagos Islands

March 5, 2017: The Galápagos Islands, or “Enchanted Isles” as they are known, are, indeed, enchanted. Magical, mystical, magnificent. I’ve heard this from other travelers to this corner of the world, but until you step foot on the Islands, you simply cannot understand the depth of that truth.

Our days were full … often we hiked or snorkeled before breakfast, then headed back to the sailboat for a delicious meal. On those days, we’d leave early to enjoy the sunrise from one idyllic location or another. The morning light against the rocks, interesting cloud formations, and the crimson sun rising against the horizon absolutely took our breath away. After our morning feast, we’d change our clothes to suit the next adventure … hiking, kayaking, or snorkeling. We had two to three adventures in the morning, and two to three in the afternoon. Every single stop had unique characteristics … it could be mammals, reptiles, geological landscape, or fish that we had not yet seen. Every color of the rainbow shone brightly in the diverse wildlife.


Our group of thirteen, plus two top-notch guides, gelled quickly. We laughed, enjoyed happy hour together, and supported each other. We stargazed. Oh, how awe-inspiring the constellations were. The stars shine so brightly here! It’s been years since I’ve seen the Milky Way. One night, we convinced our guide to play his guitar. We certainly let him down in the singing department, but his delicate strumming was the perfect accompaniment. Watching the night sky was always a highlight, and the perfect way to celebrate each unforgettable day.

The camaraderie between the group started on day one, when one of our group overslept. Our guide, who bears a striking resemblance to our former president, went to check on him. He knocked on his door. No response. He knocked harder. No response. He went in to his room and called out. No response. He leaned in close and firmly said, “PAUL!” Startled, Paul had two fleeting thoughts. “Where in the world am I?!” And, “Why is President Obama waking me up?” When asked how deeply his ear plugs were inserted in to his ear canal, heresponded, “They were touching.” We collectively knew, at that moment, that the trip was bound to have a good bit of humor. This proved true as the week went on.


On this trip, we traveled by plane, canoes, a panga (a.k.a., a dinghy), buses, and a spectacular sailboat. We were transported to and fro, and never missed a beat. We had a four-hour delay in Quito that could have gone badly, but instead, we took advantage of the extra time to visit an interesting museum, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to accept the dare to eat a barbecued beetle larvae. When in Rome!


Now, we’re at the beautiful hosteria, Rincon de Puembo, waiting for our red-eye flight home. The time went much, much too fast. Fortunately, I’ve already booked my next adventure … sailing with six other intrepid travelers to Antarctica!, so the traveling fever will be kept at bay for now. Galapagos … el viaje de la vidas. Salud!


Otavalo, Ecuador

February 25, 2017: We started the day with a six-mile hike around the caldera at Cotacachi Cayapas. When we reached the 11,000 foot summit, the lake was shrouded in fog. As we continued our hike down, the fog lifted, and we were treated to a breathtaking view of the caldera and surrounding countryside. The lake was a deep blue, the wildflowers were prolific and damp with dew, and the air was cool and crisp.


After we moved on from our hike, we went to the Otavalo Market, and wandered around … fruits, vegetables, meats, textiles, and my weakness, jewelry. I didn’t come home empty handed. We visited a weaver, and she demonstrated the traditional way of weaving alpaca and sheep’s wool … the dyes they used (worms!), and how they spin yarn.

This is will be my last update until I get back to Seattle. We’ve got a couple of flights to get to the Galapagos, and I will be officially unplugged. Until then … salud!

Napo Wildlife Center, Ecuador

February 23, 2017: Hola! Today was a more relaxed day than yesterday, which was good. We needed a bit of a breather after yesterday’s action-packed day. We spent the first four hours of our day in the jungle. We hiked out to an observatory platform, high above the canopy. The platform is 120 feet high, so about 12 floors up. Step by step, up the stairs we go! One highlight (of many) was a pair of scarlet macaws. They did a double fly-by before landing in a nearby tree. Too far for a good photograph, but magnificent through the scope. The platform is the perfect place to view what happens at a bird’s eye level. On ground level, we saw a poison dart frog! Small, but deadly …

Our guides spent a good part of our hike educating us about traditional uses of plants, seeds, and other flora and fauna of the rainforest … from dyes to fiber to medicinal properties. FYI … you can make an excellent dental floss out of a palm leaf.

We got back to the lodge in time for lunch and a restful nap in the hammock. Later in the afternoon, we took one last paddle through the creek and saw more playful monkeys, birds, and a colorful snake. The capuchin monkeys are particularly mischievous … and funny as hell.

Tomorrow, we have a 4:45 wake-up call, then it’s back to Quito, then on to Otavalo. This has been an unforgettable couple of days. The work the Kichwa people are doing here is so important. They are working tirelessly to preserve this sacred space, and I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to spend time in their midst.

Time to power sleep for a few hours before we’re off again. Cheers!

Napo & Añangu Community, Ecuador

February 22, 2017: We went to bed last evening to a cloudy sky and a bit of a breeze. At some point overnight, the apathetic weather progressed to a fantastic storm. Bright flashes of lightning and booming thunder, rain coming down as if through a fire hose, and wind that filled our room through glass-less windows. Our beds are surrounded by mosquito netting, which joined our gauzy curtains in a whirling dervish dance. It was so exciting! The wild evening completely transformed our lazy creek … filing it, and bringing out the voices of frogs that were silent yesterday.

Unfortunately, the clay lick was birdless, but we did get a quick view of a few wild pigs. From there, we went to the Añangu village, where ecotourism has contributed to a new school, medical facility, and a full-time dentist for this community of around 200 Kichwa people. We had a delicious traditional lunch (I’m learning to love yucca), and watched a presentation about the community’s handcrafted art, local traditions, and cooking, Kichwa-style. By developing projects like this, these communities are helping to save the rainforest, and reduce their economy’s dependence on oil.

The trip up Añangu Creek was full of new things to see. We saw woolly monkeys, macaws, a few caimans, a two-toed sloth, and a family of playful giant otters. Boy, do they have some teeth!


After dinner tonight, we went on a night walk through the jungle. At one point, we all turned off our flashlights. The night was void of any light, and we stood silently listening to the crickets, frogs, and other nocturnal creatures. After a minute or so, I spotted a flicker of light. Soon, there were dozens of twinkling stars surrounding us. Fireflies! This is destined to be one of the most magical moments of my life. We also saw geckos, tarantulas, crickets, spiders that made yesterday’s arachnid seem small, and a few toads that were the size of a cantaloupe.

What a day. I feel so fortunate to be able to experience this place. Time to rest up for tomorrow’s adventures. Buenos noches!


Quito to Napo via Coca, Ecuador

February 21, 2017: What a day of contrast! We left busy Quito during Tuesday morning rush hour. Aggressive drivers, horns, people taking advantage of the slightest break in traffic to claim their space. It truly was remarkable that we didn’t witness a collision or a flattened pedestrian. I was thankful for our skilled driver, Ramiro, who guided us expertly through the fray.

We made it to the airport unscathed and boarded the plane to Coca. I love the security process in Ecuador! Shoes on, no X-rays, no lines. Fabulous! From the small airport in Coca, we boarded a motorized canoe for a two hour trip down the Napo River. We connected to a small tributary (Anangu Creek) for another two hours in a small, hand-paddled dugout canoe.


To go from the frenetic city of Quito, to an airplane, to a diesel-powered boat, to a small, manually-powered canoe, with only the sound of the paddle pushing through the blackwater stream, the cacophony of rainforest birds and cicadas, and the chatter and howls of monkeys was breathtaking. We saw colorfully-plumed birds, the biggest spider I have ever seen (fish spider), families of monkeys … squirrel monkeys, white-faced capuchins, red howler monkeys, and a black, red-headed snake that sat motionless, observing us as closely as we were observing him. And the butterflies! Oh, the dancing butterflies … too quick and flighty to capture on film.

Tomorrow we rise at four-thirty to head to the clay licks, where we hope to get lucky with parakeets, macaws, and some to-be determined mammals. So, buenas noches!

Quito, Ecuador

February 20, 2017: Hola from Quito! What a fascinating city, at a breathtaking time in the history of Ecuador. The Presidential election hangs in the balance, with another election likely. There is a businessman running against a socialist, and everyone is taking sides. Protesters gather, carrying signs, and the policia stand sentinel with watchful eyes. This, against the backdrop of centuries-old architecture and history. Our conversations with the local Ecuadorian people demonstrate how many parallels there are between our cultures. Turbulent times, indeed.


The architecture is an eclectic blend of Spanish and European influence, and I am enamored with the symphony of color, musical language, and beautiful, smiling faces. There is a special magic here.

Tomorrow we’re headed down the Napo River in the Amazon basin. I’m ready for the sound of birdsong and the fresh smell of the rainforest. Adios …