Oregon Pacific Crest Trail – Preparation and Day 1 to Wrangle Camp

Today’s Miles: 7.7
Total Miles: 7.7

Like many outdoor enthusiasts, I’ve dreamed of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. I never really envisioned myself doing the whole thing at once, rather tackling sections bit by bit. One larger goal however, was hiking all of Oregon in one continual stretch, and that is exactly what I accomplished this summer! My partner, Carl bought me an Oregon PCT hiking book for Christmas last year (perhaps a little 2020 foreshadowing), and I found myself thumbing through the pages in early June.

In mid June, Carl and I sat down for our very first lunch at a restaurant since the global pandemic, and he brought up my trail dream in a serious manner. He told me, “If you really want to do this, I fully support you, and think you should go.” I couldn’t believe my ears; this dream might actually become a reality! At the end of a lengthy discussion, it came to these basic tenants: I should go while I’m physically able, and while I have the time and freedom. Basically, life is uncertain and you never know what the future might hold. This might be my only opportunity – so go for it!

I sat down and read the PCT book cover to cover, and discovered if I go the absolute slowest route outlined in the book, I could complete it in six weeks. That is a big commitment! It would be a long time away from my family, especially my four-year-old who seems so little still. Carl assured me he could hold down the fort. I knew he could, but it seemed like I was asking so much, and leaving for so long felt incredibly selfish. He also said he would try to meet me along the trail a few times so our son could see me during the six-week adventure, easing my worries that it was just too much time away.

I figured I could hike a little faster than the slowest route outlined in the book, so I planed for 5 weeks. I spent the next two weeks mapping out the entire trip, and organizing all the logistics. At times it felt so overwhelming, that I quit before I even started. Again, Carl encouraged me to keep at it, reminding me to have faith; everything would fall into place. I was set on most of my gear from the backpacking trip I took last year, but I made several trips to REI to round out what I needed. The shelves were bare this year; I was not the only one hitting the wilderness during the summer of pandemic living.

I didn’t really have time to send myself resupply packages, so I planned on family meeting me along the way to bring me food, company and comfort. The PCT website also discouraged resupply packages this year, and I wanted to follow all the guidelines. They also discouraged through hiking, so I figured sticking to one state was ok.

The week leading up to my departure was filled with Google Docs I shared with family and friends detailing my daily plan: where I would sleep each night, daily mileage counts, where my resupply bags would be delivered, and who I would be hiking with (if anyone).

Two days before my departure I spent an evening preparing all my resupply packages – that was a lot of food.

Talk about some organization skills!

The night before my launch date, I packed and unpacked, and packed again. Hiking the PCT this year would be more challenging than most, with shower and laundry facilities at the campgrounds along the way closed due to Covid policies. Trying to plan accordingly, I created a resupply suitcase that my helpers could bring me so I could swap out clothes, and have options if my pack was missing important items.

I packed and planned until 3 a.m. – not a great a start to a big adventure. I don’t recommend packing the night before you do anything, but let’s be honest, this is how I usually roll. We actually brainstormed how to leave a day later, feeling so overwhelmed by all the last minute items, but with the next six weeks mapped out, it was challenging to start a day late.

At the end of the day, I got 3.5 hours of sleep before driving my family to Valley of the Rogue State Park in Southern Oregon the following morning. We met my amazing parents at the State Park (who would become key to my success on this endeavor). My children stayed with them five days while Carl and I hiked the first section.

My parents drove us two hours to the trailhead. You can access the PCT right off I-5, but in doing so, you skip 27 miles, and this wouldn’t allow me to achieve my goal of walking across the ENTIRE state. Thankfully, my parents were happy to travel four hours roundtrip up to Donomore Pass – including 28 miles of dirt road (14 each way).

Cattle herd on our way to the trailhead – not something you see often.

I was exhausted and feeling a little out of it, but as soon as we arrived at the trailhead, the adrenaline went into overdrive and I was embarrassingly giddy. I couldn’t believe I was actually doing this! I saw my very first PCT sign and smiled so wide. We had to tag the California/Oregon border .3 miles south to officially do the ENTIRE state. Equipped with only my phone (that would mostly become my camera), Carl and I jogged to the border, wowed by the wildflowers right away.

After taking the obligatory border photo, we wound our way back to the trailhead and said goodbye to my mom and dad with many words of thanks. I realized I forgot my hat in the car, so my dad lent me his for this first leg. I was anxious to get going. We had 7.1 miles of hiking to get to Wrangle Campground, the destination I was hoping to call home on night one, and it was already nearly 3 p.m. We had early summer in our favor, with the sun setting around 9 p.m., but I had no idea how quickly we could hike; my pack felt heavy!

We got started and I’ll be honest, I didn’t feel great. My tummy was woozy, I had a headache, and a little bit of anxiousness crept in. What was I thinking? Can I really do this? I’m not even two miles in, and I already feel awful. But, I realized we only ate a bagel sandwich all day, I was running on less than 4 hours of sleep, and we were at a pretty high elevation (highest point today was 7110 ft.). I started snacking and felt better immediately, and Carl was quick to give me the trail name “Snacks.” I would definitely hike and snack a lot in the coming weeks.

So exciting – The first few minutes of day 1 hiking the PCT!

One good thing about the elevation gain was the cooler temps. It was hot when we dropped the kids off in the valley, 100 degrees; it was a pleasant 70 something up here. The 7 mile hike went by quickly with views, wildflowers, and Mt. Shasta popping up far in the distance. We also saw several humming birds. I’m a bird person, so this excited me. I would see MANY hummingbirds all through Oregon.

We arrived to our camp around 6 p.m. a half mile off the PCT. We were tired and ready to be done. We had the whole campground to ourselves except for one gentleman cowboy camping in the shelter. He was practicing for a 10-day trip in Yosemite next month. Practice…was I supposed to practice? He would also be getting up at 3 a.m. to see the comet (that would be all the talk of summer 2020). This was the first I had heard of it, and considered getting up, it seemed like a thing not to miss, but remembered the very little sleep I was already running on.

We had some amenities on night one: a picnic table, and a pit toilet! The “roughing it” would be a few days away.

Wrangle Camp Campground

After getting settled in, including the very fun part of swapping into camp shoes (my flipflops), we made dinner, getting rid of the heaviest stuff first: razor clam chowder, sweet potato rice, and miso soup – first meal on the trail – woohoo! We quickly realized I didn’t pack silverware. Oh no! That is what 2 a.m. packing will get ya. Miraculously this was the only thing we forgot, and it didn’t slow us down. I had a brand new bamboo toothbrush that worked just fine those first few days. Before prepping food, I opened my hand sanitizer leaning toward the ground and had the liquid squirt right into my eye (the elevation change). Yikes – epic fail on night one; it hurt so bad.

I settled into some journal writing. I was happy Carl was with me. It was nice to be eased into this big adventure, and there really is something to be said for sharing the moments with another person. We were in our sleeping bags by 9 p.m. – so beyond tired. Day one was in the books!

COVID Disclaimer: You won’t see pictures of me wearing a mask on this journey because I rarely saw other people. This was a big reason I undertook this adventure in 2020. Being outside is the safest thing we can do fighting this pandemic (apart from staying in our home). It’s where I have felt most at ease, and happy during these unprecedented times. I had a mask in my pocket at all times for easy access in case I encountered a crowded trail, or anytime I went inside a building of course. On Day one we saw two people at the trailhead, and not another soul the rest of the hike. This would be the norm over the next six weeks.

Camping Solo and Overcoming Fear

In 2019, I spent Labor Day weekend embarking on a solo camping trip adventure. I did not expect the wild ride that ensued. I wrote a short story in the memoir class I took this spring, and thought I’d share. This is the beginning of a wonderful transformation in myself…enjoy!
It is no secret that I love and long for alone time. I decided early in the summer I would squeeze in a solo camping trip at some point. It checked all the boxes – affordable, time in nature, and much needed solitude.

However, the entire summer flew by with every week accounted for, so when Labor Day weekend arrived, I knew it was now or never before the weather turned. With zero plan (which is unlike me as a Virgo), I haphazardly packed my things. I didn’t have a campground reservation, which is nearly a requirement these days, I just knew I wanted to explore the Mt. Adams wilderness area.

Equipped with my hiking book and Washington state campground book, I assumed I’d figure it out, and all would fall into place. I loaded the car with my belongings and my 12-year-old Australian Shepherd Jasmine, and drove to the town of Trout Lake in Washington state, about 90 minutes from my home.

I stopped at the Ranger Station on the outskirts of town to ask about permits, maps, directions, and advice on a campground; in which I got a flat toned, “Good luck, it’s Labor Day weekend, and it’s already Saturday.”

I lost cell service leaving Trout Lake town limits, and that’s when the first thought of worry for the weekend crept into my mind. My car didn’t come with a spare tire, and I didn’t have a tire repair kit, as it was used the previous summer when I got a flat, and never replaced. With each mile I drove deeper into the woods, this worry became a little more prominent. No spare, and no cell service seemed like a bad combination.

I decided to drive the loop at the first campground I passed to see if there were any available sites. Much to my surprise, there were four or five. I figured, if all else failed, I would just come back to this campground for the night, but it wasn’t really the vibe I was looking for, so I continued my journey to find that perfect spot.

I spent the next four hours exploring several campgrounds and found zero availability. My patience was disappearing as quickly as my light. A woman I chatted with at one of the campgrounds told me about a large spot near a bridge down the road that was still available earlier in the day. As I drove back down the main forest service road, I spied the spot and pulled over to investigate.

It was a huge area with a dry creek bed nearby, plenty of forest for Jasmine to run around, and a well-built fire ring. The spot was clearly used as a free campsite by many. I was excited about the prospect of not being bothered by anyone. This would be the ultimate alone time opportunity, and it wouldn’t cost me a penny!

However, there was a little part of me that was nervous I would get scared as soon as it got dark. I was in the middle of nowhere, with no cell service…a woman all alone in a site visible from the road.

For the next 15 minutes, I went back and forth, trying to decide what to do. Finally, I let a coin decide my fate. Heads I would stay, tails I would go down the road to the campground that had sites earlier in the day. The flip revealed heads; clearly the universe wanted me to stay. I looked at it as an opportunity to be brave. Plus, there were no guarantees the few spots I saw earlier in the day at the first campground were even available anymore.

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It took me about 30 minutes to set up camp, all while thinking, is this the right choice? I just couldn’t shake the scared feeling that was creeping in. Jasmine wanted in the tent as soon as it was set up. This made me even more nervous. Why did she want in the tent? What was she scared of? Did my dog sense danger that I couldn’t see or smell?

Darkness fell quickly, as it does in the middle of the woods, and with it, all the bravery I thought I had. Even after I had a fire going, the thought, maybe I should just pack up and go, crossed my mind at least a dozen times. I kept fighting it, telling myself to be brave, there was nothing to fear.

I made dinner, poured myself a glass of red wine, and did some journal writing next to the fire. With some Pinot in me, I began to relax a little until I heard a ruckus in my cooking area. I flashed a light in the direction of my makeshift kitchen and saw a mouse skitter across the camp stove. It was time to pack things into the car.

After stashing everything in the vehicle, I sat by the fire for another glass of wine and more journal writing. I still wondered if I should stay or pack up and get out of there. I found it necessary to tell myself over and over just be brave.

Half-way through the glass of wine I took a sip, and felt something foreign in my mouth, and a sharp bite on my lip. I looked down with my headlamp to see ants on the lid of my wine tumbler, and realized one of them had just bitten me!

This leads me to worry about having an allergic reaction. What would happen if I got sick, a weird rash, or I stopped breathing! I have no idea what this ant bite will do to me!

I decide it’s time for bed. I was trying to stall as long as possible since I had a sneaking suspicion it would be a long night in the tent, but I was ready to be done with this day, and I was hoping sleep would take over quickly, despite my every nerve being tense with a cloud of fear.

I had a couple things to put away for the night, and when I opened the car door, I saw a mouse run across the back seat. I released an audible “ugh.” I wasn’t going to tackle the mouse problem in the dark, but managed to ensure all the food was sealed tight so it wouldn’t be feasting all night.

I got settled into the tent while the fear inside of me festered at an even greater capacity. By this time, I had several dozen scenarios floating around in my head, all reasons I should be really scared. I knew there were bear and cougar in the woods. What if one was hungry and happened to stroll through my camp? I was thankful for the small sledgehammer I decided to grab out of the car, and held it for comfort.

What’s more frightening than large animals, is other people. The hair-raising scenes in every horror movie I’ve seen crossed my mind. Even worse, were the super strange murders in the news. Those stories are real true crimes that actually happened.  

I thought about the serial killer driving by. He probably saw me set up camp and knows I’m alone. Then I started thinking about zombies, ghosts, rabid raccoons and…the big one, you know, the earthquake that could happen any day. There were so many things to fear, it was unbearable.

The logical side of me recognized all these scenarios were highly unlikely, so I told myself to calm down, breathe, try to relax, and enjoy the quiet time I was longing for. I knew the odds were greater that I would die in a car crash the next day, than be harmed by anything in the night, but I couldn’t shake the idea that…things do happen! Really messed up things. I know, because I follow the news, and I listen to murder mystery podcasts. I could be the next headline, all because I decided to camp in the middle of nowhere all by myself!
I was miserable, and I was definitely NOT having fun.

Even as midnight approached, I kept thinking, should I just pack up and go? But then I remember the mouse in my car. There was no way I could pack up and go, because the mouse would probably run up my leg when I drove away, and I’d get in that car accident that is actually statistically plausible. Additionally, there was no way I could go sleep in my car knowing there was a mouse in there. My options were limited, which created elevated fear.

Jasmine seemed scared too, which didn’t help matters. I didn’t know if she was nervous because I was so scared and she was feeding off my energy, or if she was nervous because she sensed danger (dogs know things), or if her nervousness was a figment of my wild imagination that was clearly in overdrive this particular night.

I knew there was no way in hell I was falling asleep anytime soon, so I read. With adrenaline pumping through my entire being, I read for a couple hours, every so often hearing noises outside, and the occasional car driving by, so the fear barometer never eased up.

The book I had was my saving grace as it offered a distraction for me to finally fall asleep at some point around 2:00 a.m. with my glasses still on and the book on my face.

I woke with a start at 3:00 a.m. to hear footsteps outside. My heart was racing, and my panic was now at a 10. The noise was unidentifiable. It could have been deer, elk, bear, a person…or it could have been my sleeping bag rubbing up against my tent in such a way that it sounded like footsteps, or Jasmine moving around to find a new comfortable spot. No one will ever know, but I got some more reading in, because I was wide awake until nearly 4:30 a.m., at which point I was merely counting down the minutes until the sun would save me. I knew everything would be okay, and my overwhelming fear would go away once it was light outside.

I did finally fall back to sleep and got a couple more hours of rest before waking up to sunlight at 6:30 a.m. I couldn’t have been happier. Jasmine was perky too; ready to get out of the tent and explore her surroundings. Thank god that night was over!

I made breakfast quickly, and got my gear into the car with no sign of the mouse. I was anxious to get out of there.

All loaded up in my Kia Niro, I pushed the engine button only to see the “battery dead” icon in the dashboard. First shock, and then anger swept over me as I yelled, “You have to be kidding me!” Trying to remain calm, I took a couple deep breaths while looking for the owner’s manual in the glove box, telling myself, everything will be okay. Of course, the manual wasn’t in the car.

The previous night I blew up my air mattress with the car plug-in, and I must have left the car partially on, draining the battery through the night. The car is a hybrid, so I knew jumper cables wouldn’t work.

Panicking, I hailed down the first vehicle that passed by, a truck full of teenagers heading back to town. A couple of them looked under the hood of my car with me, and we all just shook our heads. We had no idea what to do. The kids were all so nice, and willing to help me. They began clearing out their backseat to provide room for me and my dog to ride into town with them where I could at least use my cell phone.

Right before I hopped into their truck, a memory flashed of the day I bought the car. I learned about a button you simply push to jump the battery! I ran to the car to check it out, explaining to my new friends as I went. Sure enough, there was a button, and it worked. I was ecstatic!

I said thank you, and goodbye to the teenagers that were prepared to rescue me, so thankful they didn’t have to. I let the car run for a few minutes, catching my breath, trying to find a calm place – the whole point of this weekend after all.

I decided to do the hike I had in mind when I chose this area to explore, otherwise the torturous night was for nothing. I drove to Little Huckleberry Mountain trail; a 5-mile round-trip hike with a 1,780 ft. elevation gain, according to my hiking book. The trailhead was only 20 minutes away, and I was filled with glee as I headed in that direction with camp fear in the rearview mirror.

As I pulled into the trailhead parking area, I saw no other cars. Normally this is a hiker’s dream; to have the trail all to herself, but today I’m feeling a little anxious about being the only one here, so far away, still no cell service…what if something happened? Of course, the previous night’s mind wanderings supplied plenty of scenarios for me to worry about.

Deciding to be brave once again, I gear up, grabbing my little backpack to discover the zipper was broken. Really, what else might go wrong?

I let Jazzy run the trail; she was finally a happy camper. Although I was worried about my car starting once I got back to it, and every other possible thing that could go askew, I enjoyed the beautiful hike. It was so nice to be in nature. With each passing mile, my stress and nervousness melted away little by little.

Until about half-way up the trail, I saw a giant paw print in the mud. I didn’t know what it belonged to, but I knew it was a big animal, cougar or bear. For the remainder of the hike up the mountain I sang, clapped and whistled, so not to startle any wildlife I might stumble upon. I felt the cougar stalking me, just waiting for a good time to pounce.

I made it all the way to the top with a sigh of relief; I was still alive! I got to enjoy the whole top of the mountain by myself, which is a rare treat for any hiking trail in the Pacific Northwest. For the first time all the fear of the past 12 hours truly rolled off my shoulders, and I was finally able to relax. Jasmine and I both had some water and snacks.

I wrote in my journal, reflected on the crazy night before, and wondered where all that fear came from, it was so unlike me. I had never been scared like that before in my life. I’m not typically a worrier, I don’t ever think of the “worse-case scenario.” I’m never scared of nature or being outdoors, typically it’s my happy place. Am I just getting older, and as humans age, we worry more?

I didn’t want to be scared to be alone, I’ve always loved being alone. I knew I would have been fine if I had chosen the campground. For some reason, having groups of people surrounding me would have provided the comfort I needed to feel safe. In my search to be “alone” I was finding that maybe I preferred having at least a few people around.

Part of my fear also came from wondering if I can’t be alone out in the wilderness. Maybe I don’t have the grit that it takes? Maybe I’ll be dependent on having people with me from now on, and that loss of independence frightened me. I’ve always wanted to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. How could I possibly tackle such an endeavor if I can’t even handle being alone at night?

After an hour of enjoying the top of the mountain, I began the descent and started seeing people. By the time I got close to the car, Jasmine was back on leash because the crowds were out in full force. I was annoyed with all the people, missing the time I had the trail to myself. The irony was not lost on me.

Feeling rejuvenated from the hike, I decided to explore the surrounding area a bit. My car started without incident, and I went to nearby South Prairie which provided Jasmine a little relief.

I also hiked the short loop at the “Natural Bridges” site.

Now that I felt better, I wanted to check out another area on my wish list. There’s a small primitive campground at the base of Mt. Adams, perfect for a home base to do hikes in the area. I decided if there were camp spots available, I’d think about staying, if there weren’t, I’d consider it a sign to call it a weekend and head home.

I began my drive to Morrison Creek Campground. It was a bit of a trek on another dirt road, causing me to think again about that potential flat tire. However, the view of Mt. Adams was great as I drove, and I felt at ease when I pulled into the campground and saw other people.

One of the best campsites was available, so I snagged it up, made myself lunch, drank a beer, and thought about what I should do. I had cell service (somewhat remarkably) which made me feel safe.

I didn’t want a repeat of the night before, so I spoke with my neighbor to see if she and her husband were planning on staying the night. They were, making me feel even more at ease. I decide I should be brave and go for it. I needed a good night to round out the weekend, and this campsite was beautiful. The creek ran right by with wildflowers all around, and Mt. Adams towered over the whole campground in such a majestic way, plus it was free!

Setting up camp was again quick and easy. I then found the last of the sunshine in the field that occupied the middle of the campground, and wrote in my journal for a while.

When I walked back to camp, I was puzzled by the sound of rushing water. I didn’t remember a creek going through that section of the campground. I arrived back at my site stunned to see the water flowing right through! Rushing water that was not there 30 minutes ago. It appeared out of nowhere as if someone on the mountain turned the faucet on. The group of people camped to the east of me, wandered over in amazement. We were all totally wowed.

I had to find a narrow spot to jump over the creek to get to my tent and picnic table. The natural phenomenon was cool, but… now I had a new thing to worry about. What if the water kept rising and reached my tent? Would I be able to sleep, or would I just be stressing all night about getting caught in a flood? I decide it’s too late to worry much about it now. Worst case scenario, I’d go sleep in the car with the mouse.

Jasmine was ready to get into the tent for the night around 6:30 p.m, but she didn’t seem worried this time. Feeling hunger, I got the camp stove out to heat up soup, but the stove would not work. Learning to take things in stride this weekend, I simply switched gears and made a fire to roast vegetables. I cut up beets, and zucchini and threw the pieces into some tin foil with butter, onion and garlic.

The sky was magical that night. It was clear with all the stars in full force, which also meant it was cold.

I made myself sleepy time tea, journaled for a little bit, and headed to bed. The water in the new creek had only risen a little, so I figured it was probably going to be okay.

I slept much better the second night, apart from being a little cold. When I woke up the next day, I was really happy I decided to camp a second night. This was the kind of alone relaxing time I was looking for. The magical stream that suddenly appeared the evening before was now totally gone.

The stove worked, so I made myself a giant spinach egg wrap for breakfast, and got ready to go on a hike I’ve had on my “to-do” list for many years.

I drove 2 miles to the very busy parking lot at the base of the mountain and headed out to Crofton Ridge on Mt. Adams via the Round-the-Mountain trail. Jasmine and I hiked 11 miles on an epic trail that circled the mountain. I never found the point where I was supposed to turn around (according to my hiking book), but it didn’t really matter as we had a great time.

Jasmine was like her old self chasing squirrels and going off trail like a mountain goat. She had been very timid for the previous few months after we lost our other dog earlier in the summer. It was a heart-wrenching thing for the whole family, and Jasmine was certainly affected. It was heart-warming to see her prance, and run, and appear so happy again; it made the whole crazy weekend worth it.

We crossed several creeks with views of the mountains the whole way. We were hot and tired by the time we got back to camp, and I soaked my feet in the cold creek.

I packed up camp and said farewell to my weekend adventure. Driving along the Columbia Gorge, the moon was bright over the hills; it was the perfect ending to a pretty epic day. I reflected on the weekend and all the fear I experienced. The possible flat tire that never happened, the scary animal encounters that never happened, the scary people encounters that never happened, the flood that never developed, the car battery that was resolved with a push of a button, and I never did see that mouse in my car again. Out of all those potential scary possibilities, the weekend turned out fantastic. I was safe every step of the way.

Maybe I can spend time in nature solo! Maybe I can hike the Pacific Crest Trail! I decided not to give up, I’d keep practicing my bravery.

The following week I told my father the story of the whole weekend, and he asked to see a picture of the animal track I saw on my Huckleberry Mountain hike. He confirmed it was a fresh bear track. He said it was probably a good thing I sang the rest of the way; you just never know…

Farewell to SecureWorld Amid The Global Pandemic

For nearly seven years, I have worked for SecureWorld, a cybersecurity event company. Last week, just like 40+ million of my fellow Americans, I filed for unemployment. Many industries have been hit hard by the pandemic, with the event industry certainly high on the list.

At the beginning of March, I found myself traveling to Charlotte for work, a little nervous about the Coronavirus, but it was the very beginning…

The day before the conference, it was my job to speak with representatives in every booth to ensure they were all set to utilize our conference app, and answer any questions. This particular conference had 35-40 booths – that is a lot of contact – and we didn’t know the 6 ft. rule yet.

It was an awkward introduction every time; do we shake hands, do we wave, do we say anything about the awkwardness…? It was the beginning of uncharted territory, and learning a new way to communicate. One of the booths had a “no handshake” sign – a little foreshadowing of the months ahead.

Never underestimate the effectiveness of good signage!

For the next two days, I heard side conversations about what it would be like to stop travelling for work. I didn’t hear anyone mention, “What would it be like if we lose our jobs?” None of us knew how quickly things would shift over the next few weeks.

I was back home in Portland for only one week when our office decided to work remotely. Two days later, the shelter in place order was issued.

I was proud of the way we pivoted as an organization quickly. We moved to an all digital presence, hired a PR firm to communicate effectively with our different stakeholders, and did our best to hang on for the next few months.

We rescheduled our in-person conferences for later in the year with hopes that the wave would pass, and conferences in late summer and early fall could still be held.

However, as the weeks and months unfolded, it became clear that the conference world just wouldn’t be possible in 2020, and quite likely 2021, and who knows for how long into the future. There was nothing I did wrong, quite simply, my role with SecureWorld no longer exists.

These past few weeks have been filled with every emotion concerning my employment. A part of me is excited to find a new opportunity in a field that aligns more with my interests. Truth be told, when I took the SecureWorld job I envisioned myself with the company for a year or two; but life happens.

It’s no secret I’m sentimental. Anytime my life changes, I feel sadness as I experience the chapter closing. SecureWorld was my very first “grown-up” job out of college. I was so excited to get paid vacations, PTO, and not wait tables on the weekends and holidays.

This company saw me through buying my very first home. My daughter’s middle school and high school graduations, and her acceptance into the University of Oregon.

This company saw me through a pregnancy, and the first years of my son’s life from infant, to toddler, and now preschooler.

This company saw me through loss; loss of loved pets, dear friends, and family. For some people on my team, we were a witness to each other’s lives for nearly seven years. That’s a lot of life stages and transitions.

I have so many happy memories of traveling for work conferences, holiday parties, and Friday bar cart trivia. Some of my colleagues watched me jump out of a tree into a lake, learn all important skills like curling, lawn bowling, glass blowing, archery, and fly fishing at company outings. Everyone endured my recycling and composting presentations, and single use plastics shaming.

I grew so much with this company; learning new technologies, skills, and ways to communicate. I learned to advocate for myself and ask for what I wanted and deserved. I learned to work with a wide array of personalities, how to find work/life balance in the past four years working mostly remotely, and how to juggle managing several different projects and tasks every day while marketing to 17 regional conferences across North America.

To my colleagues: I will miss all the silly banter and serious life conversations. Thank you for all the encouraging words, teaching me new skills and technologies, and sharing nearly seven years (some of you) with me.

For those of you staying with the company, I wish you success. I never had a true passion for “cybersecurity,” but I know we had a good thing going, and it felt great to be a part of something that our audience absolutely loved.

For my fellow colleagues moving on like me, I wish you the very best. Good luck finding something you LOVE! Whether it’s a new job, going back to school, or adventuring…follow your heart.

I believe 2020 is asking us to contemplate what truly matters, grow and stretch; which is often uncomfortable, but this is the space where magic happens. I’m wiping the sentimental tears away; ready and excited for the next chapter!

I appreciated the opportunity to try many new things while
working for SecureWorld – farewell.

Dusting Off: A Return to Writing Amid the Global Pandemic

One thing is certain, it is much easier to be a blog contributor when you are unemployed. For nearly seven years I have been working full time for SecureWorld, an event company, and my writing went to the wayside. During this time, I bought my first home, and had a second child. Basically… life happened.

I started to get the writers itch last year when a series of life events unfolded, giving me a book idea. At the same time, I was reading Amanda Palmer’s book, The Art of Asking and felt inspired (thanks, Amanda). I serendipitously found myself traveling to Boston (where much of her book takes place) while I was reading it, and was certain it was a sign.

I recently read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. Her belief that ideas float amongst us to be realized and embraced by a human resonated with me. Muses are real and will not wait forever. (Thank you for also inspiring me, Elizabeth.)

My oldest child left for college last fall, and I decided to take a “Writing Your Memoir” class at the community college. Yes, just like the new hit series, Mrs. Fletcher on HBO. The course was fantastic. It helped me carve out the time to write, and provided the necessary discipline I need under the pretense of “homework.”

Now life is very different, as it is for nearly all of us. My role at SecureWorld shifted drastically from marketing our in-person conferences, to marketing digital content.  I also began writing for our “news” segment of the company. I’ve had to dust off those old writing skills, but I’ve been enjoying the change in job duties.

So, I’m back to build my online presence again. Much like I declared in this post from 2013, The Long Hiatus is Finally Over!  I’m making myself accountable. Afterall, what better time than during the global pandemic?

Brattle Square – Harvard

During my Boston work / vacation trip (March 2019), my daughter and I spent half a day exploring Harvard. I stopped to pay my respects in Brattle square where Amanda Palmer was a living statue street performer in the 1990’s. This bronze memorial marionette was erected ‘in celebration of all street performers.’

International Women’s Day – Celebrating the March on Washington: Portland Oregon Style

I’m posting this event late, but the energy of the day needs to live on indefinitely, and it seemed fitting to share my moments on International Women’s Day.

Please Note: To my followers who may not know me well, I’m a new mom to a now 8 month old, a mom to a 16 year-old, still working 40 hours a week, and trying to maintain my volunteer commitments and sleeping once in a while – so…I haven’t had a lot of time to blog, but this was clearly an important day to capture.

I’m excited I shared this day with millions of people around the world on January 21, 2017 with 400+ marches happening across the U.S. and 80+ other countries.

March 2

Riding the max to downtown, the energy was felt right away as marchers poured onto the train at every stop with signs and pink hats. I knew I was right where I was meant to be, among the nearly 100,000 who attended.

The crowd waits to march…


One side of the bridge to the other side


Lining the Bridges


I loved the signs. Here are a few of my favorites – some for cleverness, some for message.

    Women Signs



March 11


And the march begins…thousands and thousands of people funneling through Portland’s narrow streets – it was amazing.

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And of course, the emphasis on Trump…I’ll let the signs do the speaking.




That pink marker is proof that it POURED!

Place & Time Images


The grand finale….

March 9

Thanks to everyone who showed up on this historic day. Be sure to take that energy with you. Pursue the issues you care most about, and keep fighting the good fight!

Save the DATE: Climate March April 29th

Celebrating One Year in the New Home – Kenton to Lents

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New Home

It’s hard to believe a whole year has passed since we moved into our new home! We owe the fabulous non-profit Proud Ground for the amazing opportunity. When I first moved to Portland 5+ years ago, I noticed houses with “Proud Ground” signs in front indicating the home was for sale. I looked into Proud Ground and found an amazing program for first-time home buyers who fit into a particular income bracket (make enough money to pay a mortgage, but low enough income to qulify for the grants).

I had my initial meeting with someone 4 years ago and placed my name on the LIST. We first looked at the home pictured above in January 2015 and 6 months later, we had the keys. Constantly hearing horror stories about the rental market in Portland (and the buyer’s market), I’m SO thankful for our home. Not only is our mortgage less than what we were paying in rent, we are home-owners, which is a pretty great feeling providing a lot of security.

From the Proud Ground website:

Proud Ground gives families with stable jobs and steady incomes the chance to buy their first home—affordably. We serve families who can qualify for a home loan, just not one at market rate. And because Proud Ground homes are forever-affordable, family after family has access to the stability and wealth-building that come with homeownership, and our region has a growing supply of homes that are affordable for generations to come.

At the time I got on the LIST I was still looking for employment, obviously not in a position to purchase a home, but the sooner you get on the list, the sooner you move toward the top. When a home becomes available, you fill out a form of interest. If you are at the top of the list, and you qualify for the loan, the home is yours (basically).

We bought this home for way under market value, so it was affordable to us. The catch, if and when we sell the house, it stays in the program so it’s affordable for the next buyer. Although we will make some money if we sell, we can’t turn around and sell it for a huge profit on the open market.

The gem of this program – keeping affordable homes in neighborhoods for generations!


First Entry – Got the Keys May 15th!

We said farewell to the Kenton neighborhood in North Portland, a place we watched become the new hot spot in Portland, and said hello to the Lents neighborhood (about as far away from Kenton as possible and still live in Portland). We had our trepidations about moving to what seemed like “so far away,” but we kept hearing about Lents being the next big thing, and we had faith it would be fabulous.


Thanks for all the great times Kenton!

Funny, my daughter and I volunteered for her 8th grade project at the Lents International Farmers Market the summer of 2014 – so a little foreshadowing I suppose.


Hard to get a smile when she had braces…

We spent the first year settling in and getting the inside organized with new Energy Star appliances, drapes on the windows etc. and we experienced all those fabulous firsts! First holidays, first storms, first seasons…

Snowy House

January – first snow – a special treat for Portlanders


Plenty of wildlife to keep our Australian Shepherd entertained


Plenty of room for the chickens and dogs

This spring we started working on the yard. We basically have a blank slate, so the opportunities are endless and fun (although a little overwhelming). I figure it’s one project at a time. We want to eventually get rid of the grass in the front and plant natives (that don’t require watering) and build a rain garden. I also want to begin my rain barrel collection soon on all the gutters.

Front Porch

Dressing up the front porch

Our big project this spring: building vegetable beds!


Since I was nearly 7 months pregnant at the time,the bulk of the project landed on this great fella!


Before the chicken fence went up…


Six weeks later – eating on our strawberries, salad greens, turnips and zucchini!

We participated in our first Sunday Parkways in the new hood! The route was only a block from the house, and even the pouring down rain didn’t stop us (or my big belly).


Hadders and a friend – May 15th, 2016

I want to extend a huge thank you to all the dedicated folks at Proud Ground for making the dream of home-buying a reality for us and dozens of other families. We look forward to many more years here and watching the Lents community blossom.

Please check out the Proud Ground website and schedule a free consultation to learn more! https://proudground.org/


2015 in Review


It only took me 2.5 months to complete this, but there may be a good reason mentioned at the end. Travel down my 2015 journey…Enjoy!



Triple “R” July & August Give-Back

GiveRacking up those give-back hours this summer, I’m working on the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle realm – wrapped up in the all-important education component.


I started a compost bucket a few weeks ago at work. It was something I thought about for months, but I wasn’t sure how well-received it would be. Some people think, “oh gross!” when compost is around, but I thought “what the heck, let’s try it!” All my worries about smell, bugs (fruit flies) and anything else that might turn my colleagues sour have so far been non-existent. Fingers crossed we continue to have zero problems. Granted, it’s mostly used for coffee grounds and only minimal food scraps.

Working in Lake Oswego, I thought there wasn’t a compost program, but good news, they recently adopted one! For now it’s easy to take the re-used coffee container (I love repurposing), every Friday and throw in my compost bin at home, but I have a future commercial composting project on the to-do list. Info on the program: here.

In just three weeks, we have diverted 8lbs of compostable items from the landfill (we are a small office).


My recycling efforts in the office are going along smoothly. We have nearly everyone doing their best to place items in the appropriate bin. 


I take materials to the Far West Recycling (formerly known as Far West Fibers) center about once a month. I throw it in with our household pile, so it’s not a lot of extra work, and it’s satisfying to see it diverted from the trash. All the clamshells (before my co-workers knew better), used to go in the recycling – yikes!

As a side note: Did you know Far West Recycling takes:


I had the pleasure of volunteering at the Oregon Brewers Festival (OBF) as a Master Recycler for the second year in a row. I love volunteering at festies! Doing something good for the community and the planet in a fun environment, and be rewarded with a beer mug and tokens to boot – can’t beat that! (FYI for my fellow festival volunteers – OBF offers double beer tokens when you volunteer on Sunday. You can use them earlier in the week on the honor system or they are valid to use in future years.)

Special Announcement:
I now have 51.25 hours logged for the Master Recycler program. I’m half a Centurion!


Master Recyclers assist with managing the waste prevention volunteers, ensuring they are educating the public on how and where to place trash, compost and recycled materials. This year the festival wasn’t able to compost the plate ware since the ban is now in place, so I didn’t think the rate of landfill diversion would be very high…but Mitzi, waste coordinator for the event, rocked it out in other ways. Way to go Mitzi and the Waste Prevention Crew!

Here is her follow-up message:

“Great news, OBF reduced its overall waste by 25% this year! (From 12.28 tons to 9.28 tons.) Our overall diversion rate this year was 52.4% (4.86 tons).  I’m bummed that the garbage was so darn heavy…but the good news is that we didn’t have a huge increase in actual garbage, despite the fact that all food service ware was going in there, so we must have done much better on our overall recycling efforts.”


I joined the Recycling Advocates board this spring and had the pleasure to table for the non-profit a couple of weeks ago in the Hazelwood community fair at the soon-to-be-developed Gateway Park. It was one of those 100 degree days resulting in a small turnout, but I did receive the surprise gift of seeing a friend whom I have not seen in years, so it was well worth my time! She works for Friends of Trees (Portland has SO many great non-profits) and our tables created the eco-corner.

RA Collage

Want to learn more about Recylcing Advocates, or simply passionate about recycling and living an eco-friendly life?
Join us for our annual meeting!

What: Recycling Advocates Annual Meeting 2015
When: September 1st, doors open 6:30pm, program begins at 7:00pm
Where: Sierra Club, 1821 SE Ankeny St, Portland, OR 97214
Who: YOU! RSVP to info@recyclingadvocates.org
or call 503-777-0909

This event is free and open to all Recycling Advocates members and friends. We’ll provide food and drinks from our friends at Laughing Planet and Lucky Lab.

Finally, to round out mid-summer, my daughter and I checked out the Recycled art show at Edgefield McMenamins for a couple of hours one night. Pretty impressive stuff!


-Cracked Pots – Recycled Art Show-

Celebrating Earth Day 2015


One of my favorite days to celebrate! Here’s a little history: “The very first Earth Day, April 22nd, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.

Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats. The first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.” Excerpt Taken From: HERE

I started Earth week out giving a somewhat informal recycling presentation to my colleagues at work. It was great fun to share my knowledge, answer questions and a really good reminder that recycling can be confusing. Living in the Portland Metro area, most people REALLY want to recycle, so they throw items into the recycle bin that shouldn’t go in there (I know, I was one of them).     But…When IN DOUBT…THROW IT OUT!


Do you live in the Metro area and interested in recycling and waste management? Check out the Master Recyclers Class.  Part of graduating class 54, I was shocked at how much I learned since I was already so eco-minded. It’s a fabulous experience-you will learn a great deal and be with a room full of like-minded awesome individuals.


My family started a tradition several years ago to volunteer for SOLVEIT  – one of SOLVE’s big volunteer days. Last Saturday we went to the Wilkes Creek Headwaters (154th and NE Fremont in Portland) to discover a new area, enjoy the beautiful weather and clear invasive English Ivy from the restoration site.


SOLVE partnered with the Columbia Slough Watershed Council (yes, one of my favorite non-profits I volunteered with a few years ago), Portland City Parks, an employee group from Boeing (yes, there is one in Portland too with 1,700 employees) and Portland Geocaching Group. So it was a fantastic eclectic crew and a wonderful turn-out.


A small group planted native species and mulched a designated area while the rest of us pulled English Ivy. It was a gentle procedure because we didn’t want to disturb the native plants, many of which are blooming and growing this time of year.





                      -Trillium and an awesome mushroom patch that quilted the forest floor-

Wilkes Creek Headwaters contains the springs that feed the only free flowing stream in the city that still enters the Columbia Slough. The City of Portland and Metro acquired the site in 2011.


Portland Parks uses some herbicide to clear unwanted plant life, but since this site was full of Native Indian Plum trees, they wanted to resort to manual volunteer labor. Indian Plum apparently is very sensitive to any kind of herbicides… Glad we could all help!


Indian Plum Tree

 11160503_10205121453610541_1187658544_n-The Family-


Over 8,500 volunteers came out on Saturday for SOLVEIT events all across Oregon! SOLVE estimates that this year over 25 tons of trash and debris was collected from 162 sites including neighborhoods, parks, school grounds and natural areas around the state. Invasive non-native plants were cleared from 11 acres and 3,000 native trees and shrubs were planted.


Sunday my sweetie and I went to Sauvie Island to hike the lighthouse trail I featured back in 2013 HERE. At that time, we saw 2 other cars in the parking lot. Last weekend was a complete madhouse (granted, it was in the high 70’s). I love that so many people are enjoying our natural areas, and hopefully are inspired to care for them, but it’s hard to share sometimes. Fortunately, most everyone was hitting the nearby beach so we had the hike mostly to ourselves.



-Happy pups exploring a cave in the river bank. Inca (on the right) went all the way through. :)-

Happy Earth Day Around the World! Get outside, enjoy some natural beauty, breathe fresh air, walk barefoot, soak in the sun or rain and feel gratitude for all the beautiful gifts we receive from this planet.


March 28th, 2015 is a Big Day!


This Saturday provides several ways to ramp up for April Earth Month! If you are near the coast, you have the opportunity to give back to Oregon in the morning hours by volunteering with SOLVE at one of their beach cleanup sites. (Obviously a nonprofit I love since I serve on their communications board.) Shop for Native Plants in the afternoon at a fantastic fundraiser, and then celebrate EARTH HOUR with the rest of the world in the evening-what a day full of opportunity!


The following link has all the information you need to get involved with SOLVE’s Spring Oregon Beach Cleanup. You can see my 2014 volunteer fun below (although it wasn’t on the beach).

There are 45 cleanup sites scattered along the coast, from Astoria to Brookings. Pick your favorite beach or site near you by checking the online Calendar of Events and registering!

Last year, 4,800 volunteers cleared more than 48,000 pounds of debris from the Oregon Coast! See the final report and photos from the 2014 event.


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One of my favorite events, and this year it almost slipped right by me! In 2008, we played a board game via candlelight and my daughter asked to do the same the following year! (It was very memorable.) Earth Hour started in 2007 in Australia as a lights-off event to raise awareness about climate change. It has grown to engage more than 162 countries and territories worldwide. For just one hour, don’t use electricity – no lights, no electronics, no power tools, or appliances (well, leave the fridge running) …get creative!

           Earth Hour is on Saturday 8:30pm – 9:30pm          local time all over the GLOBE!

Visit the website for more information: HERE

Friends of Baltimore Woods

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In 2014, we volunteered with Friends of Baltimore Woods for two of SOLVE’s big volunteer events. (Photos Below) Located in St. Johns (North Portland) between Cathedral and Pier Parks, the 30-acre Baltimore Woods Connectivity Corridor is a unique urban greenway with a ton of community support & love turning it into a wonderful natural site.

This Saturday, Friends of Baltimore Woods is having a Pacific Northwest Native Plant Sale in Portland’s St. Johns Plaza from 10:00am – 3:00pm!


Our Volunteer FUN – 2014

My daughter and her friend (volunteering is way more fun with a buddy) and I volunteered on SOLVE IT Earth Day, April 26th, at Baltimore Woods. I was so surprised I hadn’t noticed this special gem!



Look closely behind the people standing in the photo above, you can barely see the cement steps in the back covered in ivy, shrubs and debris. My helpers were super motivated to clear these steps-and they rocked it!



Volunteer Day #2

My kiddo and her two friends volunteered with me September 27th, 2014 at Baltimore woods for the second time last year, and we could already see some changes!







The next volunteer opportunity at Baltimore Woods is right around the corner-so mark your calendars!


Plus you get this awesome view!


So, this Saturday-March 28th – Volunteer with SOLVE in the morning, check out the Native Plant Sale in the afternoon, then Celebrate Earth Hour in the evening – what a great day and wonderful way to prepare for April…Earth Month!