Friday, September 29, 2017

South Sister Climb

I lived in Bend from age 9 to 18. When I was in middle school my mom, uncle, aunt, and older cousin climbed South Sister together. I begged and pleaded with my mom to let me come. She refused, citing the fact that Emily did cross country and was in much better shape for the climb than I was. I stayed home with my younger cousin, Esther, but the whole time I kept looking at the mountain imagining the group at the summit and wishing I could someday be there too.
I looked at that mountain almost every day for the 10 years I lived in Bend. The house we lived in had an incredible view of South Sister from a large window in the living room.
View from the living room
It haunted me. I wanted to climb it so bad. I felt that my mom didn't believe in me and that I wasn't good enough. I wanted to prove that I was something, that I was amazing and capable. But the years rolled by and the opportunity never leapt up in front of my face. I did make it to the summit of Mt. Mcloughlin at ages 17 and 18 with girls camp groups. My mom came with me the second time I climbed it and it was wonderful to accomplish something so amazing with her.
Mcloughlin summit 2009

Mcloughlin summit 2010

In fact, during that first climb there was snow covering the trail and we got lost. We ended up on the mountain for 12 hours and I could barely walk the next day. So that was pretty incredible. But Mcloughlin wasn't the mountain that was looming over me each day.

Fast forward to 2017. After battling with depression for 10 years and seeing little improvement from  the 6 different antidepressants I had tried, I decided I needed to take my health into my own hands. I was willing to do major lifestyle changes to ease the burden of the problems that were left unsolved by pills. What does this have to do with climbing a mountain? Well, I realized that I cant wait around for a pill to solve my problems. My life is in my control and I need to act rather than waiting for good things to happen to me. I have spend so much of my life held back by fear of failure. Even though sharing music with others is my passion, I was afraid to teach piano again because I didn't feel like I was very successful the first time and didn't believe that my teaching could be worth anything to anyone. I'm pretty mediocre at playing the piano as it is. I was afraid to lead the toddler music group at church because I didn't want it to interfere with Ammon's nap schedule and deep down I was afraid that I would be terrible at it. There are so many instances in my life where fear has guided my choices. I want to be guided by faith, passion, and persistence in the face of adversity.
I decided I was done with excuses. I decided to teach piano, lead music makers, and to finally climb South Sister.
The trouble was, I couldn't climb it alone. I'm terrified of hiking alone because I don't want to end up like Aron Ralston or Annie Schmidt. Here I was being motivated by fear again. My mom was adamant about never climbing South Sister again because of how hard it was. I asked Michael if he was interested and was surprised to hear that he was. So we started training on the weekends together. We ordered fancy hiking gear and were very excited to attempt the climb. My mom was happy to watch the kids and stay here at 351 feet elevation. When the day loomed near we panicked and decided we needed a few more challenging hikes under our belt before attempting South Sister. So we hiked Mary's Peak the first weekend of September. Then, I came down with a bad cold September 16th and there was no hiking that day. September 23rd was the day, but we changed our plans when my mom showed me to weather forecast of freezing temperatures and snow. It looked like September 30th would be the day, but that is the day of a special church broadcast and Michael really didn't want to miss it. As we watched the weather we were discouraged by more bad weather on the weekend. Thursday looked good, so Michael quickly got the day off work and we headed out to climb the mountain.

We left home an hour before sunrise and arrived around 9:15 AM. We spent 45 minutes trying to figure out how to pay the day use fee, and finally got a hold of the Forest Service who said we don't have to pay a day use fee. (?!?!?!!)  Whatever. I left a note on the dashboard just in case because I really didn't want a ticket. We started out pretty late but it was a gorgeous day and our hopes were high.

At this point in the journey I was getting kind of emotional. We were about a third of the way to the top and the mountain was still so far away! It was like we hadn't even started climbing it yet! How could we ever make it! It's impossible! I felt like I really needed to summit this mountain to prove to myself, my mom, and everyone else that I am amazing and I can do hard things. If I can't make it to the summit, what does that mean for the rest of my life?! I felt that this mountain was symbolic of my life. I had to make it to the summit. How else could I be sure that I have what it takes to face the other "mountains" that lie ahead of me? Here's fear of failure again. I was certain that if I didn't summit, I would have failed and this whole trip would be a failure. 

Mt Bachelor

Onward and upward!
We though it was strange and funny when we first saw snow on the hike. Pretty soon snow was our reality. It was a really warm day, in the 70's, and the snow was soft and slushy. Around mile 4 the snow was 3 feet deep in some places and it was an effort to keep from sinking in. I kept trying to be like Legolas in Lord of the Rings and gingerly walk on the top of the snow, but I sank in about every 6 steps. Michael, being heavier than me, sank in a lot and was really struggling to make it through the snow and kept needing to stop to pull his leg out of the deep snow. It was hard for me to stop all the time. When I stopped my body slowed down and heat rushed over me. We were running out of daylight and I wanted to keep up my pace and try to make it to the summit, even if it meant leaving him behind. But I owed it to him to stay with him because he came out here with me and we needed each other for safety and encouragement.
So steep!

1.3 miles and 1000 feet to go
We trudged on for 0.7 mile in thigh deep snow until we crested a ridge that seemed like a false summit to us. It might not have been the actual false summit, but it had been all we could see for that 0.7 mile. During the last three hundred feet I felt my body reaching its physical max. I was burnt out, exhausted, my feet were cold from swimming in melted snow. And we still had 1.3 miles and 1,000 feet of elevation to go to make the summit. It was 3:30, so that gave us 3 and a half hours of daylight. I knew it wasn't enough time, but I still wanted to summit so bad. We were so close! My goal was just up there, within reach.

We took a good, well-deserved break at that ridge and had a meal. We were debating continuing the climb and hoping we could find our way back down through the partially snow covered path. We'd had a hard time finding our way a few times during the ascent. We had head lamps and flashlights, but we could end up stuck on the mountain for the night if we got lost. We finally decided to pray about it. After praying I felt strongly that we should head back. Michael agreed and we made our descent. It was easier than climbing up but still precarious and challenging. During most of the hike we had at least one other hiker in view and we met up with a man and a woman who were climbing down the same time as us. It was a relief and a pleasure to hike with them. I confided in the lady that I had hoped to prove myself by making it to the summit, and was disappointed, but still proud of what I was able to accomplish and I accept my best as good enough.  She told me that she hikes South Sister once a year and this was the worst year yet. Apparently it took her two hours longer to summit than it normally does because of the wet snow. She assured me that if there hadn't been this much snow we would have made it to the summit. Repeatedly she expressed her relief that we decided to turn around when we did. She was really sad to hear that this doozy of a trek was Michael's first mountain climbing experience and encouraged us to try it again. I'm not sure if we will, but it's nice to know that we're not total wusses.  We made it back to the car just after the sun set and, after enjoying the luxury of an outhouse, started our drive home. After 8.75 hours hiking 7.7 miles we were so ready to go home! I drove the first half. I really wanted to do the whole drive because I felt bad for dragging Michael into this crazy adventure and he was exhausted and feeling sick. When we got to Oakridge I had a headlight-induced migraine combined with extreme neck pain and couldn't drive any more. We stopped at Ray's for ibuprophen, water, and the bathroom. We both looked so ragged as we limped around the store. I'm sure we smelled bad too. Michael started driving out of the parking lot but quickly pulled over when I started gagging, just in time for me to open the door and throw up. After covering my eyes with my jacket for an hour I felt a lot better. We were so happy to get home!
I learned a lot from this experience. I truly feel that I came down from that mountain a different person. If not making it to the summit constitutes failure, then I failed. I don't care. I am so proud of myself for how far I was able to go. Maybe this is a paradigm shift that needs to happen. There are so many summits that I am gazing at. I feel like when I don't reach them, that I am failing. Summits like the mountain of a perfectly clean house, mt. perfect mother, perfect wife peak, and fully magnifying my church calling climb. I can't physically, emotionally, or spiritually make it to the top of all these peaks by myself. Because of the atonement I don't have to. But I have to try, and more importantly, I have to be proud of myself for how far I was able to make it.
I respect my mom for not allowing me to come on that climb 14 years ago. It's not likely that I would have been able to summit then and I probably would have held her back. She made the right choice. And we made the right choice turning around when we did. I don't know if we will ever attempt the climb again but I don't feel the burning need to do it anymore. It was a wonderful, difficult, unifying experience that brought us closer as a couple. I'm so grateful Michael was willing to do it with me.

Life Lessons I Learned From This Climb
  • Choose your mountains wisely and climb as high as you realistically can
  • Don't measure your failures against other people's successes
  • Don't judge. You might be climbing the same mountain but that doesn't mean the same experience or even the same difficulty from day to day
  • YOUR BEST IS GOOD ENOUGH!!! Accept what you are able to do and be proud of yourself

Tips for climbing South Sister
  • Go in August 
  • Watch the weather. Don't go if it has snowed recently, even if it will be a warm day
  • Download the AllTrails app before you leave home
  • The night before, spend the night as close as you can to the mountain. Bend or Sisters are great, camping near the trail head is even better
  • Start climbing with head lamps at 6 am
  • Bring 2 trekking poles!
  • Wear long sleeve UV protective clothing made of nylon
  • Bring a lightweight jacket that will protect against wind
  • Bring at least two pairs of synthetic socks and two pairs of liner socks
  • Wear a UV protective hat that covers your neck
  • Bring sunscreen, hand sanitizer, toitet paper (!!!), a first aid kit, a compass, good knife, and an emergency blanket for each person
  • Bring more water and food than you think you will need

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Summer in Review

Here's us enjoying the 4th of July from two months ago:

Michael and I ran in the mini marathon (2.6 miles). It was so hot and we hated it. After that we watched the parade in Monmouth. We watched the parade with the Brewster side of the family and then went home after the annual Brewster hot dogs and hamburger lunch. We set off our own fireworks in the driveway with the Dodges. 

At church the Sunday School teacher asked for a volunteer for the opening prayer. Ammon's hand shot up, so I said the prayer. 

We have really enjoyed having my family in the area. One of my favorite things about them is theye love to go places and do things. We have gone on so many awesome outings with them lately!

We went to the zoo with my Mom and Trevor and Curtis on the cheap day. Heed my warning: NEVER GO TO THE ZOO ON THE CHEAP DAY IN JULY. We arrived at the parking lot half an hour after the zoo opened and the lot was full. It took an hour and a half to get gas, find the overflow parking, and board a school bus shuttle. Ammon and Quin did so good! They stayed so calm even though I was hyperventilating and possibly screaming.
Calm baby amid the stress

Puppy hat! It's the only hat he'll keep on

Elephant Ears

Quin wasn't very interested in the animals. He just wanted to play in a play area. Good thing we spent lots of money for you to play in the park! But towards the end he was really into the penguins and sea lions.

Quality Grandpa time

It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's Super Quin!

Fudge facial
 *Insert fudgesicle video*

We went to the Gilbert museum with my mom, her sister, and Trevor and Curtis.

We've enjoyed lots of fruit picking with Grandma. We went a little crazy on the peaches and picked about 120 pounds. We couldn't help it! They were so beautiful and scrumptious and easy to pick.

Had to read "Blueberries for Sal" after blueberry picking

The big boys kept the little boys busy while we canned the peaches we picked. 

We hiked McDowel Creek Falls with my family.

Scored a cheap swing set at a garage sale.

Quality Grandma time
Curtis, Trevor, and grandpa cut down several trees in our backyard. It looks so much bigger! Now there is room for badminton, baseball, and a chicken coop.

Quin informed me that he plans to wear his Captain America costume when he gets married.
My dad, Curtis, Trevor, and Michael helped replace the fence. Quin helped, too.

The Olsen Family Reunion!

We stopped at Safeway on the way. Quin offered Michael some of his doughnut. When he refused and explained that doughnuts make him sick, Quin thought for a minute and the then said “do you want a sprinkle?” Offering one from the doughnut.

We hiked Cape Lookout. Michael and I did this hike right before we found out we were expecting Quin. During the whole hike I kept commenting about how it will be a long time before we could do hikes once we had kids. Nope, you can totally hike with kids! Micheal carried Quin on his back most of the way. At one point Mike was beat boxing while Quin sang a free style rap type of song.

We visited the Tillamook air museum. Quin and I spent about half an hour in a mini Guppy, a really hot cargo plane that was parked outside the museum. He loved buckling and unbuckling the seat belt and pretending we were going to outer space.
Ready for takeoff in the Mini Guppy 

 Tillamook cheese factory.

Trevor won the chess tournament

Rock painting with Uncle Ken, the resident kid-entertainer

Jason and Isa stayed a week after the family reunion. They brought their grill and made some amazing Brazillian style steak. Definitely the kind of people you want to make friends with if you're not already related to them.

One week later, Brewster family reunion and the Great American Eclipse
I made eclipse T shirts

Attempted family photo during the light of the partial eclipse

Ammon LOVES dogs

And hats

 How we watched the eclipse:
Ammon slept through most of it. He woke up right before totality.

Quin says “the Moon is coming down” and seems to think there is a solar eclipse every evening. Or whenever he can't see the sun.

It was real, it was fun, but I'M SO HAPPY TO BE HOME.

Hanging out with a cool cat named Curtis
Hanging out with an actual cat named Tippy. Quin calls her "Tipper cat"
Enjoying some of the last blackberries of the summer
Saving the day every day is so exhausting

Here're some adorable tidbits:
I fed Ammon oatmeal the other day an he giggled each time the spoon went into his mouth.
Ammon was feeling jealous one morning when Quin got a lollipop and he didn't. I had Quin give him one. He almost reverently placed it on his tongue and then held it out and laughed.
Ammon likes to talk to most people. He says German-sounding words and nods his head while he speaks. Ammon loves to walk outside and says hi to everyone. Laugh when you put something yummy in his mouth. Gives wet open mouth kisses over and over. Loves to talk at the dinner table and sing.
Ammon took his first steps August 5th! My mom taught him how to walk and is teaching him how to talk next. She calls it the "babies to boys program.
“Da” = Michael. He sometimes says "Hi da." when Michael gets home from work. Ammon always makes a b-line for Michael as soon as he walks through the door. He expects to be promptly hugged by daddy as soon as he reaches him. If he doesn't get his daddy hug he gets pretty frustrated.
Can say “gah” for go

Said “ca” for car
He said "ah dah" when he was all done eating today.

Quin was blowing raspberries and I said "that's called blowing raspberries." He said "No, I'm not blowing raspberries. I'm blowing blackberries. And blueberries."
I asked him if he liked the new crackers we found at Costco and he replied with "no, it's too expensive." Well, I guess that's probably true, thanks for pointing it out.
We discovered the 1960 Captain America TV show and Quin is a huge fan. Unfortunately he seems to hit his brother more often when he watches superhero TV so I was trying to get him to watch something else. I suggested Phineas and Pherb and he exclaimed "No! That's too violent!"
Quin: "He's a small boy and you're a big, smart girl"

I can't believe you read that entire blog post. My life isn't even that interesting! But thanks :) Have a great day.