Thursday, August 21, 2014

Birthday Reflections at 36

Back when babies were allowed to sleep with blankets, I was born. I'm at the age that when people ask me how old I am, it takes me a minute to remember. 

There are some years that ask questions and some years that give answers, and this has certainly been a year that is asking questions, lots and lots of questions.

We all know life is an experiment. I've been reflective lately because we are have been thinking a lot about what's next. (PS - Don't ask because right now you'll get about 6 different possibilities, although the most immediate "what's next" will be revealed shortly.)

The biggest question is, just how long can we live this life less ordinary? J & I are always, ALWAYS pondering our next adventure. However, sometimes I think we've gotten ourselves in trouble over the last few years with our wanderlust. Will we ever be satisfied? How long will we be nomads? Will we ever settle down again?

People used to laugh (or cry) at the fact the we only stayed in one place for 3-4 years. Since 2011, we've "lived" in more places than I can keep track of and have created a habit of changing our home base every 6 months or so. At RR, we get a lot of envy for our lifestyle. Sure, we occasionally get the perplexed cock of the head, followed by, "so what are you going to do when you grow up?" 

But more often we get: "I wish I had done that." "You guys are smart." "You're living the dream." "You guys are really living life." "You two are the most interesting people I've ever met." And while I love the praise, it also makes me sad about society. There's a lot of desperation out there. If so many people are tired, overworked and unhappy, why do they keep doing it? Why does the rat race win? I understand we all have bills and responsibilities, but isn't this life worth more than an ELUSIVE retirement?

If you know us well, you know we are not independently wealthy, although I think strangers make that assumption in their heads. We make it happen because the alternative doesn't make sense to us and meeting so many desperate people reaffirms that. Someday, it may make sense, but not right now.

I had NO idea where our life would lead when in 2011 we gave up the normalcy of "real" jobs and an address that lasted more than 6 months to go hike the AT. I figured--and our parents hoped--we'd finish the trail and settle down in the same way we had in the past. Obviously I surprised even myself. We tend to describe our life as "before AT" and "after AT." The thing is, we were happy before AT. But we are just happier and more fulfilled now.

I don't know if we'll ever return to that previous life status quo. And I don't know what my 36th year will bring. But I do know we'll never take life for granted.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

East Coast Meets West Coast

My sister and mom came to visit this past weekend and it was of course nice to have all the girls together! I took them to all the hot spots in the area, including up the Tramway to the top of Mount Howard on a very frigid and rainy day and on a boat ride around Wallowa Lake. My sister refused to stay in a tipi here, but she did step inside and agreed that they are quite nice, just not for her. 

Now, I know both of them enjoyed their visit thoroughly, but I felt bad for my mom for a few reasons: 

1) For those who know my mom, you know she doesn't do well with sitting quietly (except when in prayer). She is on the go, go, go. And for the past 8 months, she's been a shared caregiver to her mother. I thought this would be a nice break for her. It was, but she struggles when there isn't something for her to do. I tried to line up a few projects for her to keep her busy when we were working. But it was nothing in comparison to her visit to BD, our last place of hospitality employment. There, she washed 30+ blankets, folded 250 maps, and numbered and folded 200 parking envelopes to keep her busy when I was working. 

2) No TV or radio here. The TV is hardly ever off in my parents' house. If not the TV, the radio. We gave my mom our wind-up emergency radio to borrow and suffice for the lack of white noise.

3) We live in a small town and very few places take American Express. She must have asked at every single establishment we visited and every time, the answer was no. As a small business manager, I get it. The fees are outrageous. But my mom was disturbed and confused by this "inconvenience." The things you take for granted when you live in a big city. 

4) We live 45 minutes from the closest town, which means 45 minutes to the closest church. I couldn't take her to church and although she wanted to call a taxi, I reminded her that we live in a small town with no franchise businesses, let alone a taxi service. Not only did she miss Sunday mass, but it was a Holy Day as well! 

5) She was also saddened by the brutal history of the area and the Nez Pierce tribe and couldn't get over it. My mom has a big heart.

My sister, on the other hand, embraced the quiet. She also got the biggest kick out of our road signs, like "Rocks," "Congestion," "Livestock," and "Loose Gravel" and by the end of the trip, she was able to correctly pronounce "Wallowa." 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Backpacking Oregon: Eagle Cap Wilderness - Aneroid Lake

We haven't been able to take a backpacking trip in awhile since we've been so busy, but I realized I never posted a recap from our last one in mid-July!

So a few things about Aneroid Lake.

1) It is glorious. My favorite so far.

2) The sign at the trailhead said 6 miles to Aneroid Lake. Unless my brand-new, very expensive Garmin watch was off, it was more like 7.2 miles. It's cool when trail signs are wrong when they overestimate the mileage, not underestimate it. Other than being the wrong mileage, we found the trail to be not as steep as the one to Ice Lake, but much dustier.

3) We went through a construction site on the hike up. Very strange to hear beeping machinery in the wilderness.

4) There are several areas to camp, and we camped on the quieter, southwest side of the lake. Camping among the deep azure blue lakes against a backdrop of high mountains never gets old, but I have to say this one is in my top 5 camping spots.

5) There are some private cabins up there (Camp Sherman included). So jealous.

6) We camped right near this big field with snow course markers. Really didn't understand them at the time, but now we know that it is a place where the Natural Resources Conservation Service studies snow--its depth, water content, air temperature. Apparently there are only 600 remote sites in 13 states, so it was really cool to stumble upon one.

7) While last time in the Eagle Cap Wildnerness, we saw lots of horse poop, this time we encountered lots of horse traffic. Some parts of the trail are narrow making it a little nerve-wracking to step aside for the horses.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Mid-Season Review

RR has been open for more than 2 months and it's time for reflective thoughts. Of lately, I bombard you with pictures, but I don't often say much. Sometimes I don't write because our life is fluid and things change by the minute. Plus, I like to let my thoughts to fester in my head before spilling them out. I admire bloggers who write in the moment, but I am more of a slow-cooker type of blogger. For example, this post has been festering in my head (and in draft mode) for more than 1 month! 

The other reason I don't write is because we are busy. So darned busy. We literally get up by 6:45am, take a 30-min lunch break and then a 30-min shower break and don't stop until 9/9:30. It is purely exhausting. This is not a complaint, but just to explain why my brain can't string together words that make sense all too often.

So, my thoughts. Overall, things at RR are going as expected. This experience has been different than any of our other jobs for a few reasons, including the fact that it is really remote and has a quasi restaurant to run. 

The hospitality industry of course has its downside. People might be quick to guess it is the germ-infested toilets we get to scrub or the hairy shower drains we get to declog. 

Did you just vomit a little? Apologies. Welcome to our life. 

However, cleaning toilets and hairy shower drains is not the only challenge. Here's our top 5 "moments" so far from this summer alone.
1) We are now on cook NUMBER 4. I swear, it's not us or the fact that these people don't want to work for us.  The food scene here at RR is pecular, compounded by the fact that the owners are particular. So in addition to toilet cleaner, J & I wear the "executive chef" hat in the interim periods. It is what it is and seriously if we get through the remainder of the season without losing another cook, I would be very surprised. 

2) We had a group of 10 women in their 50s who were here celebrating cancer survival. How sweet, you must be thinking. Well, apparently cancer survival is the thing to party about because they were up until 4am doing it and kept other guests awake and pissed.  One lady even fell in the fire!  All we could do was refund the other guests' money and suck it up. 

3) We had a lady show up here and say, "why didn't anyone tell me we were going to be staying in a tipi on the edge of the canyon??? I am deathly afraid of heights and what if the canyon falls?" 

4) One night, J had to scoop poop out of a clogged toilet in the middle of a dinner service for 20 people.  I am not even sure he could find gloves in time to do the task … 

5)  We are in the middle of nowhere. Literally, the first structure you see for 20 miles in both directions. We've had people stop because they have run out of gas, have had an epileptic seizure, hit a bear on a motorcycle, had their truck overheat with 35 sheep on board … 

Again, not complaining, just sharing how it is. And I still revert to our good friend's quote about working in the hospitality industry: 

"As a job, there is nothing worse. As a lifestyle, there is nothing better."

J & I work (hard) seasonally so we can quiet that constant desire for adventure and wanderlust, but also to build character through the different jobs and the different people we meet. This experience is certainly building our character. 

Stay tuned for a reflective post on what could be next … it's already in draft mode!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Currently: July

Current mood:  Tired. We had a long, busy weekend

Currently thankful for:  Google Translate. We have had several guests from foreign countries who don't speak good English. How do you say "tipi" in French? 

Currently worried about:  Our future

Currently excited about:  Our future and our new baby niece or nephew to be born any day now! 

Currently regretting:  Can't really think of anything! 

Currently not excited about:  Can't really think of anything! 

Currently proud of:  Getting stellar reviews from RR guests on Trip Advisor 

Currently reading: "Just Passing Through" by Winton Porter 

Current guilty pleasure: Frangelico in my ice cream sodas. A guest who frequents RR ("Local Tim") brought us a bottle of Frangelico (as well as a bottle of scotch and tequila). He knows what it's like to run a small business and thought we could use the liquor to get through the busy season. 

Currently watching on Netflix: still on the mail program, so we watch about 2 movies a week and alternate between a scary movie and some other genre. The other day we watched "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" from 2012. Anyone see it? I don't know what is wrong with me, but I cried from beginning to end. Something about adolescence coming-of-age that gets to me. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Backpacking Oregon: Eagle Cap Wilderness - Ice Lake

We ventured back into the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and Eagle Cap Wilderness again and this time, we weren't stopped by snow. We've had some really warm temps these past few weeks and got a good ranger report, so into the wild we went. 

This time, our destination was Ice Lake. The trailhead starts at 4,600 feet and ends at 7,849 feet 8.1 miles later. The first 3 miles of the trail is heavily used by horses, so there's a lot of poop. Horse poop is not my favorite thing. Come to think of it, I'm not a big fan of any poop, but I digress.

After the horse-pooped part of the trail, the real climbing begins. As J is pointing out in the picture below, we were going to the source of that waterfall.
With all the snowmelt, the wildflowers were so abundant. My wildflower book couldn't quite keep up with the variety. 

Ice Lake is the deepest lake in the Wallowas (190 feet) with plentiful fishing opportunities. We didn't swim (too frigid!) or fish. We just enjoyed the scenery, as the lake is surrounded by Matterhorn and Sacajawea peaks (the tallest in the Wallowas). 

Besides having a "room" with a view, 3 other exciting things happened on this trip.
#1 - A deer was playing hide and go seek with us at camp. Peeking around trees and going nuts. You could tell the deer was very used to people. So much for keeping wildlife wild.

#2 - I beat J twice in a row at the Bean Game.
#3 - We are pretty certain we spotted a wolf and some pups on the trail. No picture, because, well, A WOLF!

We should be able to head out for another overnighter this week as well. Checking the alpine lakes in the Eagle Caps off our list!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Our First Visitors!

Back in the day when gluten was not an allergy and J and I lived in one place for more than 6 months, we would get tons of visitors wherever we were living. People would plan their vacations around us. From July through August, there were few days we were without visitors.

But now, we live in the middle of nowhere. Flying to us cost as much as flying to Jamaica, London or Alaska.

Even still, we have a few brave souls coming to Eastern Oregon this summer. Our first set came last week. They were some cronies from New Hampshire, part of J's volunteer parks and rec committee when he worked there in 2007-2011.

We showed them around as time allowed. But mostly they soaked up the views here at RR, since we do have one of the most beautiful backyards we've ever had! It was really nice to have familiar faces around. Plus, they are natural volunteers. So they helped us out A LOT! I had the ladies chopping for pizza night and they watered our flowers (a task we all loathe) everyday!