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Blues Run the Game 

Views of the San Juan Islands from Mount Erie

 

Protest that endures, I think, is moved by a hope far more modest than that of public success: namely, the hope of preserving qualities in one’s own heart and spirit that would be destroyed by acquiescence. -Wendell Berry

The hours when the mind is absorbed by beauty are the only hours in which we truly live, so that the longer we can stay among these things so much the more is snatched from inevitable Time. -Richard Jefferies

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I spent this summer playing around the San Juan Islands working as a kayak guide, where I successfully managed not to lose anyone at sea, although I did have to rescue capsized clients (twice!). During my months in Washington I started lead climbing, hiked many hikes, and entered a new decade. I can hardly believe the summer is really over, although it’s even harder to believe in less than a week I’ll be leaving my beloved west coast, bound for a new job with Absolute Adventure in Oman.

Guide training at Deception Pass

Hard to focus on climbing with this view

 

There were a few days this summer where I wasn’t sure I would make it to the end. My first couple weeks I was so sore from wrestling kayaks that I could barely get out of bed in the morning. My body managed to adjust right as work really started picking up, which often meant 13 hour days in the sun, repeating information on a loop. On my occasional days off it seemed important to explore the many nearby adventures Anacortes had to offer, and in the end all work and all play may have made Alyssa a dull girl just the same.

The Maiden of the Sea

Tree climbing with my coworkers

That being said, the nearly daily “pinch me” moments ultimately made any gripes I had worthwhile. Even just living in an actual house after so much moving around last year was a treat- simply being able to place my items into drawers and sleep in the same bed regularly felt luxurious. The San Juan Islands remain one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever visited, I felt as if I was walking around inside a moving postcard, constantly framing images in my mind.

Big boy leather star

Lil baby blood star

The underside of an ochre sea star

 

While I still don’t think I’ll ever voluntarily be an early riser, I quickly fell in love with my morning commute. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I drove through fog spread over the earth like cobwebs, watching as it danced across the lakes, beams of new sunlight gliding between imposing pines. Kayaking I constantly played a natural game of ‘Where’s Waldo,’ scanning the rocky coastline to spot purple ochre sea stars the size of my head nestled into cracks and crevices, while curious harbor seals followed stealthily behind my boat. At the end of the day, when cotton candy skies mirrorred the sea, wind would paint the water as shadowed islands reposed in the distance, and any stress would slip away with the sinking sun.

Gary Goldfinger!

Our 2.5 hour bushwhack to get to the Green Giant Buttress

No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied- it speaks in silence to the very core of your being. -Ansel Adams

 

I was lucky to be able to work with my live-in boyfriend, who also doubles as my favorite adventure buddy. We really got after it this summer, but my favorite undertaking probably remains climbing ‘Dreamer’ on the Green Giant Buttress.  After a bleary 5am start we drove two hours into deep Darrington up bumpy dirt roads, branches clawing our car as the path gradually grew narrower and narrower. Eventually we were forced to abandon hope of driving any further and began hiking, initially through peaceful alders alongside a literal babbling brook, then past tall pines where we hopped rocks and balanced on logs to cross rivers before arriving at a waterfall, where we then began bushwhacking through thorny hedges of blackberry bushes, finally emerging two hours later to scramble up a precariously steep granite slab to the first pitch. Ten pitches of spectacular climbing later, we were rewarded with a perfect 360 degree view of the Cascades, feeling like the only two people in the world. The reverse journey took just as long, and after what wound up being an 18 hour day, Taco Bell never tasted so good, and my 6:30am alarm the next morning never felt earlier.

Gary working his way up pitch 5 of ‘Dreamer’

View from the top!

Can’t get enough of the Cascades

 

My birthday provided another opportunity to escape to the mountains. We set out after work, driving east singing along to the Beatles, eventually setting up our tent alongside a river just in time to enjoy watching the stars come out one by one. The next morning I crawled out of our tent to splash icy stream water on my face before setting out to hike to Colchuck Lake. At the lake we passed a bottle of Fireball back and forth, gathering our courage before plunging into the crystal clear waters. We emerged gasping for air, laying like lizards on a rock until our shivering stopped, trekking back down with the setting sun. Before heading home we payed a visit to Leavenworth, a kitschy faux German village nestled in the mountains, where we enjoyed a bratwurst and a beer before the long drive back.

Colchuck Lake

Forest friends

Living on the same coast as my friends and family was also dreamy.  I did my best to make up for lost time, frequently visiting with two of my besties living just across the border in Vancouver, heading down to Seattle for a music festival with one of my oldest galpals, reuniting with college buds in Olympic National Park, finally meeting my baby cousins, and hosting other friends in my guest bedroom. My parents came up for a visit, and to my surprise I was actually able to convince my mother to get in a kayak for probably the best tour of the entire season. A crew of my favorite people hung out in Seattle for a weekend, where we sampled coffees and grilled cheeses, touristed our way around Pike Place Market, played in the sound lab at the Museum of Pop Culture, visited a couple breweries and stayed up way too late roller skating. Now that I’m back in San Diego for the week, I’ve enjoyed lazy mornings playing gin with my grandmother (even though she always wins), dinners with my parents and visiting my childhood pals.

Ma/Pa!

Hiking to Park Butte Lookout

 

I suppose my point is that my summer dose of friends and family makes leaving again a challenge. In fact, the act of packing everything into a backpack and hugging people goodbye only seems to grow more difficult every time. No matter where I wind up in the world, a huge piece of myself remains fixed with the people I love. So, if you’re reading this, I love you, and thank you for being the rock to my kite.

Mount Baker from the Park Butte Lookout

Sunset from Cypress Island

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