Extraordinary Ordinary Day

Lena Lake Trail, Olympic National Forest

Whelan on Walkabout in Washington State

An ordinary photo of an ordinary trail on an ordinary day.

An ordinary photo of an ordinary trail on an ordinary day.

“This is a moderate climb through old- and second growth forest to a large sub-alpine lake with a big picnic rock overlooking the water.” So says the guidebook.

Ordinary enough. 

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When we moved to Olympia, we bought several guidebooks for our new found back yard - Washington State.  One such guide “Day Hike! Olympic Peninsula”  by Seabury Blair, Jr., boasts “More than 70 trails you can hike in a day.” That sounds like a suggestion for a walkabout day hike. 

One year after moving to The Evergreen State, we wanted to get out and see the countryside and use our fitness time to take a hike. I regularly walk our neighborhood, and when the weather is cold and rainy, I walk the treadmill at the nearby gym. 

But only one-and-a-half hour drive from our front door, Hike #11 in the guidebook would take us on a hike in one of our new favorite areas, the Hood Canal. The Lena Lake trailhead in the Olympic National Forest is thirteen miles north of Hamma Hamma (an area well known for wonderful fresh oysters). 

 

Despite the reputation of the weather in the Pacific North West, the sky held only a few fluffy clouds and no chance of rain. I think bright, beautiful weather is more ordinary than my fellow Washingtonians let on. 

Following my Trusty Hiking Husband.

Following my Trusty Hiking Husband.

We parked at the trailhead and started our 6.5 miles with an elevation gain of 1,250 feet. The trail was listed as moderate difficulty. We worked our way up the switchbacks, a gradual steady climb. The trail is well maintained and easy to follow, allowing me to look up from my footsteps and enjoy the surrounding scenery.

Large big leaf maples are dripping with moss reach overhead. Stumps were covered in Huckleberry and ferns. Along the trail, bunchberry, grasses, and small herbaceous plants I have never seen before. All intertwined and living in a magical vertical green garden. 

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The trail was well maintained, and it was easy to keep pace on the moderate grade up. About the time I was starting to think “what is for lunch?” we made it to  “Lunch Rock.”  Overlooking the lake, we sat and enjoyed our accomplishment and view. There is always something special about overlooking water; a lake, the ocean, a stream, a pond, and sometimes even a puddle can be mesmerizing.  

Maidenhair ferns and puddles in the Olympic National Forest.

Maidenhair ferns and puddles in the Olympic National Forest.

Please stay on the trail. Duh… but somehow some people don’t get it.

Please stay on the trail. Duh… but somehow some people don’t get it.

Really? You couldn’t take these with you?

Really? You couldn’t take these with you?

I try not to be “The Snarky Traveler,” but the trail is loved too much for its own good. Despite the clear signs at the trailhead, we saw hikers cutting across the switchbacks. And despite the clear signs that dogs must be on a leash, we saw three of the four dogs running loose on the trail. “Really?” At our lunch spot, we picked up pistachio shells left behind. I don’t get it. There is nothing hard about Leave No Trace. You bring it in, you take it out. 

On the way down, My new boots felt good on my feet, and I wasn’t too hot or too cold. I love hiking with hiking sticks. On the last half mile of the day, my knees started aching just a bit, and even though I was getting tired, it really felt good to be out on the trail. 

Correction, it felt extraordinary.
What makes something ordinary feel extraordinary? 

Ok, oysters at the end of the trail is not ordinary. I couldn’t resist stopping at  Hama Hama Oyster Bar  for a post-hike beer and oysters right from Puget Sound. Every trail should end with oysters and beer.

Ok, oysters at the end of the trail is not ordinary. I couldn’t resist stopping at Hama Hama Oyster Bar for a post-hike beer and oysters right from Puget Sound. Every trail should end with oysters and beer.

It was an ordinary hike, on an ordinary day, in an ordinary place, with ordinary stuff, and my ordinary hiking partner.

But at the end of the day, it didn’t feel ordinary. 

It was special. 

Hiking sticks are great! Don’t leave home without them.

Hiking sticks are great! Don’t leave home without them.

Bunchberry- a six inch dogwood.

Bunchberry- a six inch dogwood.

It was extraordinary that I was able to visit such a magical place so close to home. I didn’t need to travel far and wide. I didn’t need a plane ticket or advance reservations. All I needed was to get out and hike in the Olympic National Forest in our Washington State. 

Two years ago, I started Whelan on Walkabout to save my memories and share my photos. I am pleased to still be at it, wandering in simple places and the exotic. I’m still having fun taking photographs and blogging about my travels both far and near.

Today was an extraordinarily ordinary day. 

I think I’ll do it again soon. 

Citizens of Travel

Bocas del Toro, Panama

Tired of the continuous crappy news? Escape to an out-of-the-way place, like Bocas del Toro.

Tired of the continuous crappy news? Escape to an out-of-the-way place, like Bocas del Toro.

Reflecting on the beauty of travel and my friends.

Reflecting on the beauty of travel and my friends.

Sometimes, the day's news is downright discouraging. Frequently, I don't feel like I can do anything to make the world any better. "I'm just one person.”

Sometimes, I feel powerless. I don't work anymore. I just travel, take photographs, and try to write a blog that isn’t boring. (B.T.Y. thank you for reading this far! I love you.)

Sometimes, I just don't care. "Maybe, I'll just sit back and watch life go by because there's nothing I can do." I can be a tourist and just hang out.

I can act like a tourist.

I can act like a tourist.

But, while having lunch with friends in Bocas del Toro, I am uplifted and reminded of Margret Mead's quote:

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

I was having sushi with my friends Mathilde, Larry Michael, and Carla. Matilda was telling us about her work with the Darklands Foundation.

Mathilde, me, and Carla in Bocas del Toro (Larry Michael took our photo).

Mathilde, me, and Carla in Bocas del Toro (Larry Michael took our photo).

The Darklands Foundation is an endowment dedicated to the practice of integrated agriculture in the jungle through the production of cacao, with additional cultivation of rainforest crops such as plantains, tubers, fruit trees, medicinal plants, coffee and more.

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Mathilde helped create a bird friendly Worshop/Training with Bocas del Toro indigenous women cacao producers.

“The Darklands Foundation's Bird Friendly Program is aimed to train Bocas cacao producers in basic ornithology related to agroforestry In order to develop their sustainable tourism activities and to obtain the bird friendly certification for their cacao production. 

The Foundation’s focus is on fundraising to hire community leaders and local workers within the community to keep the forest untouched, preserving the habitat of the local fauna and by de-facto restore the biodiversity of their surroundings. “

She is very busy with the Foundation, and she is getting things done.

Escape to a tropical island, away from bad news.

Escape to a tropical island, away from bad news.

Carla was another example of doing small acts to make the world a better place. She owns and operates the Hotel Bocas del Toro and she has a long-term relationship with the Friends of Casa de Asilo (also in Bocas del Toro.)

Casa de Asilo is a senior center/nursing home with 30 residents who depend on the government and the compassion of the community to provide around the clock care. Floating Doctors looks after the healthcare of the residents and assists the community.

Carla was telling us about the recent problems with flooding in Casa de Asilo's current location and how difficult it has been to keep the residents dry and healthy. She brought plastic crates to help move personal belonging off of the floor and out of the water. Her "To Do List" of things included things that nobody else was available to do for the residents.

Mathilde and Karla aren't my only friends working hard to change the world.

I don’t buy souvenirs, but I do donate to my friends who are donating their time and energy.

I don’t buy souvenirs, but I do donate to my friends who are donating their time and energy.

My social networking friend, former co-worker and fellow traveler, Mai ( also a radio host at KBIF 900AM Hmong Radio in Fresno), met a teacher while traveling in Laos. He didn't have tables for his students.

Imagine a classroom without tables! Mai asked for ten Facebook friends to donate for $40 each to buy desks for the class. She quickly got the commitment and personally oversaw the purchase and delivery to the school. She gave students a better chance to concentrate on their studies.

Retired Forest Service botanist, former co-worker, and my social networking friend Marla, used her relationships on Facebook to raise money to support the effort to prevent the spread of invasive plants. Ecosystem diversity is a tough big issue to take on, one weed at a time.

We travel to places where people work hard to make a living.

We travel to places where people work hard to make a living.

And there is Miranda, who I met at Burning Man. She is a gynecologist traveled to Malwai to perform surgery that reversed female genital mutilation (FGM). Consider what a life changing event that is for some young woman who forcibly lost a very personal part of herself to FGM!

My Aunt Pam, writes a non-commercial blog as Sacramento Vegan. She is "helping vegans in the Sacramento area find restaurants with great menu choices for themselves and their non-vegan friends and family." Less beef, less land, and less carbon footprint. Changing the world one veggie burger at a time.

All are shining examples of individuals trying to change the world, and it is my social networking travels that help me follow their work. I think Margret Mead would be proud of them. I am proud to have them as friends.

I have not found my calling. At least not yet. So for now, I am thankful for my ability to travel and I support my friends who are making a difference. Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and email help me keep abreast of their activities.

Political disasters aren't the only news on the internet. Social networking can be a tool used for good. My friends, family, and followers are authentic. Travel is real and inspiring.

Maybe you know someone who could use your support. Be a good citizen of travel and support them.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

It’s a big world. Right now, I’m going to support my traveling friends and family until I find my calling.

It’s a big world. Right now, I’m going to support my traveling friends and family until I find my calling.

And sit on the beach…

And sit on the beach…

Thank you Mathilde, Carla, Mai, Marla, Miranda, and Pam for being good people.

#thepowerofproximity, #knowledgeisthenewgold, #womendevelopment, #humandevelopment, #indigenouswomen, #thedarklandsfoundation,
#birdfriendlycacao
#cacaoproduction#indigenousdevelopment, #workshop,

Right On - Off-Season!

Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park

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Walking the road at Grand Teton National Park.

Walking the road at Grand Teton National Park.

Last fall at the Nature Photographers of the Pacific North West Conference (NPPNW), I won a door prize. It was tuition to the 3rd annual Yellowstone Photo Symposium in West Yellowstone sponsored by Perfect Light Camera. I usually would not consider visiting West Yellowstone during the last week of April while there is still snow lingering in depressions and many of the roads and trails are not open.

But a paid tuition was something I could not pass up. We booked our room at the Three Bear Lodge, reserved an Airbnb to add-on a short visit to Grand Teton National Park, and off we drove across the Palouse of western Washington, through the Idaho panhandle, into the Rockies.

Through the Palouse and on to Grand Teton National Park.

Through the Palouse and on to Grand Teton National Park.

Grand Teton National Park was accessible by road, but most of the trails were closed due to snow. We discovered a unique gem when we found that Teton Park Road from the Craig Thomas Visitor Center to Jenny Lake was closed to vehicle traffic, but open for walking and bicycling. We put on our snow boots, grabbed our picnic lunch and had a quiet walk; just us, the snow, the Tetons, and a few bicyclists who also were out for the beautiful day.

Grand Teton National Park landscape photography: “Always look for the foreground, middle-ground and background.”

Grand Teton National Park landscape photography: “Always look for the foreground, middle-ground and background.”

The Yellowstone Symposium was the first time I had an opportunity to spend one solid week focusing on photography. The photographs by the instructors were awe-inspiring. Throughout the week, I wavered back and forth between wanting to sell my camera and quit taking photos because "I could never be that good," and wanting to head out in search of wildlife with my camera in hand, shouting "If they can do it, so can I!"

Caryn Esplin, Professor of Visual Communications at Brigham Young University was my favorite presenter. As an educator, she had a great attitude, perfect delivery, and practical information. One of her main points was following the four P's: Plan, Photograph, Polish and Publish. I can do that! I also signed up for her critique session and a class in studio lighting.

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Wild bison. My photos seem so ho-hum.

Wild bison. My photos seem so ho-hum.

Practice with my iPhone and studio lighting. Model is photographer  Kaili Orchard

Practice with my iPhone and studio lighting. Model is photographer Kaili Orchard

Photographed at the  Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center,  West Yellowstone.

Photographed at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, West Yellowstone.

Pam Hoaglund (also from the Olympia Camera Club) and I went to the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center to practice what we learned at the symposium. There were less than a dozen other visitors at the center and only one other photographer. We had the place all to ourselves and the animals were beautiful.

Photographed at the  Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center,  West Yellowstone.

Photographed at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, West Yellowstone.

I like taking photographs when the animals are close and standing still. But alas, they are in a zoo.

“You looking at me?” Photographed at the  Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center,  West Yellowstone.

“You looking at me?” Photographed at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, West Yellowstone.

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It was cold at Old Faithful.

It was cold at Old Faithful.

In addition to the Symposium, I found an added bonus and the best value of the trip - off-season travel. Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park, and Grand Teton National Park are great places to visit when the weather is cold and the crowds have not moved into the area.

In the off-season, the main roads are open, Old Faithful is active, the geyser basin is steaming, the lodgepole pine are recovering from fires, the skies are sometimes clear, and there are no crowds or lines! Some of the businesses were closed, but we had a nice room and a selection of places to eat. There was no wait at the West Yellowstone entrance station and traffic was light even when bison were trudging in a line down the middle of the road.

I would not have considered traveling for a photography week so early in the spring. But everything was right on!

If I had not won such a prize I might have missed the gift of off-season travel in the beautiful Rocky Mountains.

Thank you Perfect Light Camera.

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Not Old Faithful, but still amazing.

Not Old Faithful, but still amazing.

One of the first signs of spring, the robin.

One of the first signs of spring, the robin.

Flip Flop Envy

Bocas del Toro, Panama

While visiting friends in Bocas del Toro, Panama, I was reminded that I am healthy, wealthy and wise. I am fortunate to travel with the body I have. 

I’m ready with my mosquito protection.

I’m ready with my mosquito protection.

Bocas is remote. I need to take three flights to meet with friends for a week in a tropical paradise; Seattle to Houston, Houston to Panama City, Panama City to Bocas del Toro. 

On the last leg of my flight to Isla Colon, I notice the cute clothes of my fellow female travelers; bright floral flowing dresses, worn soft cut-off shorts, Panama hats, tanks tops big enough to peep-show fleshy pits of cleavage, revealing spaghetti-strap t-shirts, and thin little flip flops. I think "That looks like a lot of fun to wear; contemporary tropical island costumes.”

Now boarding on the tarmac, Panama Airlines, at the Bocas del Toro airport.

Now boarding on the tarmac, Panama Airlines, at the Bocas del Toro airport.

“I could wear those cute little outfits.” I work out, take long walks, watch my caloric intake, and my weight is well within the recommended healthy range for my age. So even at 60 years old, I can comfortably wear the current fashions.

But looks can be deceiving. What I can do, is not necessarily what I want to do. 

My favorite beach bar on Bluff Beach, Bocas del Toro.

My favorite beach bar on Bluff Beach, Bocas del Toro.

Bocas del Toro is a small island on the Caribbean side of Panama and an excellent travel value, suitable for digital nomads and travel bloggers. Low rise with no franchise, there are plenty of inexpensive lodging and food options.  There is an excellent travel infrastructure, and the ex-pat community assures that there is plenty of English written and spoken. Bocas is shabby sheik for the traveler, not many tourist attractions, but it does attract surfers, musicians, retirees, and pirates. 

I’m here for a week to enjoy the island life, visit old friends, and make a few new ones. 

The road less traveled is full of creatures ready to eat me alive.

The road less traveled is full of creatures ready to eat me alive.

Before heading to the white sand beach for a swim at Island Plantation on Bluff Beach, I wonder "Which should I apply first, sunscreen or insect repellant?" I need to do both. Does sequence matter? I slather up and hope that combining the chemicals won't melt my clothes or mutate my skin. I reinforce with a long sleeve shirt and long pants. 

I find that mixing chemicals isn’t my only concern. 

Listening to live music at Pier 19, the musicians sing out “, and the living is easy.” I can hear the music, but I have a tough time understanding the conversation. Separating sounds is challenging. I love live music, so I wait for the break to catch up with friends. 

I can either listen to music, or concentrate on a conversation, but not both at the same time. 

Bocas Yoga was a great reminder to be mindful.

Bocas Yoga was a great reminder to be mindful.

After a year hiatus, I just started back with my yoga practice, and I was very thankful to go to Bocas Yoga. Not all poses are suitable for my current physical condition, and I need to continually remind myself to be "non-judgmental, and it is all good.” Modification of poses is part of the journey. 

I also had two insights during my practice. “Physical and mental modifications are valuable. I must leave one place before I can go to another place. Every day we go forward, and we leave something behind.”  

I have left a few things behind. 

After taking a water taxi to Carenero Island to visit friends, we hike through a jungle swamp to a favorite local hangout, Bibi's Beach Bar. As I step over mud and muck on the trail, am glad to be fully dressed in my Permethrin treated long pants and long sleeve shirt. Again, still, I'm bitten by bugs!

I was glad to have something between me and the mosquitos. 

The swamp was crawling with critters ready to eat me.

The swamp was crawling with critters ready to eat me.

One of the few tourist attractions on Bocas, “Castilo Inspirrcion, Museo del Plastico.” A castle made of plastic bottles.

One of the few tourist attractions on Bocas, “Castilo Inspirrcion, Museo del Plastico.” A castle made of plastic bottles.

Inexpensive, excellent authentic food.

Inexpensive, excellent authentic food.

On our way to lunch at Yaris Nori,  I sit in the back seat. The drive is beautiful, but motion sickness begins to cloud my head and spin my stomach. I don’t mention it to my friends, but I am glad to sit still at a beachside table with a margarita. 

I can’t ride on twisty roads without rising motion sickness. 

This blog may sound like a list of complaints, but it is not.

Getting sunburnt hurts and has lasting health risks. Being bit by mosquitoes is playing Russian roulette with the diseases transmitted by mosquitoes including: malaria, dengue, West Nile virus, chikungunya, yellow fever, filariasis, tularemia, dirofilariasis....  the list is too long!

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Physical fitness is a necessary journey. Motion sickness isn’t fun. Being uncomfortable brings out The Snarky Traveler and can ruin a beautiful day at the beach. 

With flip flops or hiking boots, a tank top or long sleeves, a cover-up or a bikini, I don't need to dress like "The Blond Abroad" to be an interesting international traveler blogger. 

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I am healthy, wealthy and wise enough to know how to travel with my body and its nuances. It will take me where I want to wander. I don’t need flip flops or form fitting fashions.

I can be myself, "Whelan on Walkabout” no matter what I am wearing. 

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