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Stuff that’s gonna happen in Year 32

Year 32 of my life started at 2:23 p.m. today, and I took some time to perform a thorough self-evaluation. The attention span of the Internet is relatively short, so instead of posting all the results of that self-eval, I’m just going to share some things that you can KNOW will happen in 2015.

I will buy a house. I’m in amazing financial position to be able to do so and will shortly begin intensifying my search for a good home. Gotta pounce before home prices begin to skyrocket, so this is a priority. Probability of happening sooner rather than later is a 3 out of 5.

I will find true love. Boy, this is risky because of my overall bad luck in life at this very thing. But I think this is the year I break out of the slump and hit one out of the park. I don’t have anything to base this on, but the probability of this happening sooner than later is probably a 2.5 out of 5, which is still pretty solid and actually could increase, who knows.

I will do the STP in one day. I can never sleep the day before a big event because I get intensely keyed up, but I’m going to somehow make it happen and ride all 206 miles from Seattle to Portland in less than 20 hours of real time. Probability of this happening sooner than later is probably a 2 out of 5.

I will skydive. I hate heights, but how else do you overcome it? Jump out of a good airplane in Toledo, that’s how. I value my life, though, so the probability of this happening sooner rather than later is a 1.5 out of 5 and that is very generous.

Onward and upward.

Recapping the 2015 Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic

Cyclists gather at the start of the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic at the Husky Stadium parking lot.

Cyclists gather at the start of the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic at the Husky Stadium parking lot.

There’s so much to cover when talking about a 206-mile bicycle ride that one really doesn’t know where to begin. But I’ll try.

Last year, I took part in my first-ever Cascade Bicycle Club Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic, a large recreational ride that takes cyclists from the Northwest’s largest city to the second-largest in one or two days. I rode it on a hybrid bike last year but came back thirsty for more this time around with a proper road bike and a year of experience under my belt.

I only started cycling in 2012, so the STP has been the pinnacle of my cycling achievements. I’m not quite up to the task of doing the Tour de Blast or RAMROD yet, but that’s okay.

Anyway, if last year’s STP was awesome, this one was exceptional. Riding a 2002 Klein Quantum Race made right here in Chehalis, I finished an hour faster than in 2014. But this one was tougher…allow me to explain.

I get REALLY keyed up before a big event and always have since I was a kid. This year’s STP was no different, as I got absolutely ZERO sleep the night beforehand. My friend Rinat came up from Longview to drive me up to the starting point in Seattle, and I just threw in the towel on getting any rest and did the equivalent of shotgunning a coffee from McDonald’s before the ride. I was ready to go as I would ever be.

After some initial chaos at the starting point, I was on my way out of Husky Stadium at 6:15 a.m. and on the road. It was stop and go for a bit through some sections, but once we hit residential neighborhoods the ride was more free-flowing. I nearly crashed at mile 6 when I was forced to my right and nearly got my front wheel stuck in a pavement rut, but I was able to save it and continue. That would be the only such brush with coming anywhere close to a crash that I would encounter for the rest of the weekend.

The ride in neighborhoods next to Lake Washington was nice, if a little bit difficult only because I was already tired.

The ride in neighborhoods next to Lake Washington was nice, if a little bit difficult only because I was already tired.

The first 20 miles were tough, if for no other reason than getting no sleep the night prior and shocking my body into working hard. I got into a good flow and a good 16-17 mph pace for a bit until reaching the Puyallup hill around mile 40 or so, and after some initial difficulty on that I did well and finished without too difficult of a time after throwing it all the way into second gear and pedaling quickly.

My review of the movie “God’s Not Dead”

“God’s Not Dead” is on Netflix.

Please don’t watch it.

It started out really good. The Lionsgate logo and animation is top-notch, but from there it just got worse.

The message is poignant, but the plot is so far-fetched that the mall fight from Jackie Chan’s “Police Story” was more believable.

By the way, here’s that fight scene, which is much shorter than the movie and much more stirring.

Signs of spring around my hometown abound above ground

I took a trip down to Longview and Rainier today, and it seemed the Lake Sacajawea area was somewhat insulated from the heavy rains and high winds that went wild for a bit in other parts of the region.

The flora around the region is starting to awaken and show signs that spring is definitely either right around the corner or basically here already. We’ve had a very mild winter, and it seems the plant life around here can’t wait to start showing its colors again.

Here are some shots from around Lake Sacajawea and Vandercook Park that I took in the span of about an hour.

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Caught in the middle of an intense cloudburst

It rained a bit yesterday and then IT RAINED, while I was on the road, no less.

I was driving down to Portland after church when I came upon an intense cloudburst that dumped mass amounts of water and hail upon Woodland, Washington at about 1:30 p.m. I don’t think I’ve seen a rainstorm that intense in the Northwest in years — I’ve seen many in the Midwest like this, and the storms were usually severe in nature, but we just don’t get this type of stuff often in the Northwest.

Conditions were awful for driving, so naturally, I took out my iPhone 6 Plus and shot video of the phenomenon.

It was LOUD in real life, especially when the hail began knocking all over the windshield. The hail wasn’t large, but the National Weather Service ended up receiving a storm report that showed .75″ of hail hitting Battle Ground, a town just to the south and east.

Note that the speed limit in the area is 70, and going 35 while this storm hit was the prudent and reasonable thing to do.

All told, I’m really glad no major traffic incidents came out of this, from what I heard.

Epiphany #83

Sometimes God brings people into our lives forever, sometimes it is for a few years, sometimes it’s a season and sometimes it’s a month.

I don’t know why God works the way He does. But I can say this: He knows what we need, and I can say with certainty that He knows how to cross our paths with others so all may mutually benefit.

Thank You, Lord.

A difficult, yet necessary, changing of seasons in Year 31

The number of leaves falling from the maple tree in my yard will increase exponentially in the coming days and weeks.

The number of leaves falling from the maple tree in my yard will increase exponentially in the coming days and weeks.

Autumn reflects the process of deciduous trees losing their greenery and hunkering down for an upcoming cold season, and my life is going through an autumn of sorts itself.

Autumn is a season of beauty for a short time, as we get to enjoy the colors of leaves turning and the radiance they bring about our neighborhoods. It is a truly gorgeous portion of nature that I enjoy, yet at the same time realize those leaves will be gone as they are dying. Not to mention, the unenviable task remains of cleaning them up so our street doesn’t flood.

The autumn seasons of life — and I believe we have many of them — are similar in function, bringing forth a desire to brace for a season of life that one can feel will be incredibly difficult.

I don’t know how I know that it will be difficult, but I just do. My soul feels it, my body feels it and my mind is making preparations for it.

As such, many changes are taking place.

I’ve been coming to terms with the continued contraction of my social circle. I know a lot of people, but I don’t truly know a lot of people, and that is by choice. That’s not a bad thing, but rather a reflection of what happens in life as some friends who were once close just gravitate further apart simply because of where life is taking them.

It happens to everyone. Friends get married, have children, get involved in things that require intense time commitments (work, anyone?) — and due to all that, end up with a slightly different perspective on life that you once shared before. That slight perspective change brings forth a giant dynamic shift.

As I get older, I seek friendships and relationships that have a meaningful and redeeming value for all parties involved. I am not content to simply have acquaintances that I spend small amounts of time with, but instead I want to be able to benefit them in some way, with a home I receive a blessing in return.

As such, the people I meet and connect with instantly and consistently are much more treasured to me than they would have been in years past. I hold my smaller group of friends in a higher regard than I would have held a large group of friends in my early 20’s, if that makes any remote amount of sense.

Part of this stems from a new facet of life, and that has happened since I learned to live with myself over the past year. I’ve been able to increasingly be okay with not being noticed. Gone are the days of seeking adulation from many, and in their place has swept in an era of being just fine with

This autumn season of my life has me finding myself more content in silence. I’m becoming increasingly okay with grabbing a book, sitting down to read in front of an open window while rain falls down. There’s something cathartic about it.

Speaking of catharsis, I’ve needed a sort of emotional release. I have lately been extending myself too much in activities, work and more — and I’m finding it is perfectly fine to say no to some people who ask me to partake in commitments that would ultimately cause me unneeded amounts of stress, although the tasks I would do could be beneficial to many people.

Being in my 30’s has placed me in an interesting spot. The 30’s are considered by many to be the “prime time” of one’s life, but at the same time you’re expected to make more adult decisions than you ever have. It’s a time that so far has forced me to take a quiet personal inventory and be okay with where life is taking me.

One thing is for sure: I’m not going to enjoy winter, but then again, winter passes and then spring will come afterward. I just hope this winter will be shorter than most.

Two days, two centuries: My first-ever Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic

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No one greeted me at the finish line.

Despite the crowds cheering on the sidelines as I rode in a cadre of fellow cyclists into Holladay Park in Portland, the end of a 202-mile, 15-hour cycling journey in the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic was rather anticlimactic as I set my bike down, picked up my finisher badge and moved on.

Instead, it was every single second, every pump of the pedals, every inch forward that made the pilgrimage worthwhile.

Travelogue: Harry’s Ridge and Truman Trail at Mount St. Helens

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It is no secret that I am endlessly fascinated by Mount St. Helens.

That fascination has led me to the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, about an hour and fifteen minutes away from my home, three times so far this year. Saturday, I took the opportunity to drive there again, but this time wanted to hike to Harry’s Ridge to get what I thought would be an unrivaled view of the volcano.

I loaded up the car and headed south on Interstate 5, then south again on state Route 505 through Toledo and out past Toutle, eventually connecting with state Route 504 and leading me to Johnston Ridge Observatory. From there, my hike began and would take me the majority of Saturday to complete.

Only the penitent man shall pass!

Only the penitent man shall pass!

There were not too many people on the trail on Saturday, even though it was Memorial Day weekend. Most stayed behind at the Johnston Ridge Observatory, which was the starting point for my hike that I initially planned to only entail the 8.3-mile loop to Harry’s Ridge and back.

Of course, with narrow passageways and a bit of elevation gain throughout the area, a good portion of the trail was not for the young or the not-so-sure-footed to hike.

Don't lose your footing on the Boundary Trail. This can be a dangerous area.

Don’t lose your footing on the Boundary Trail. This can be a dangerous area.

The trail to Harry’s Ridge opens up, and although it temporarily takes you out of view of Mount St. Helens, you get to see some snow-capped peaks such as Coldwater Peak in the distance.

Hiking toward Harry's Ridge. There are many inclines on the way there.

Hiking toward Harry’s Ridge. There are many inclines on the way there.

Keep climbing upward and you’ll eventually come to the Harry’s Ridge trail that takes you to the viewpoint on top the giant ridge. You’ll know you’re getting close when Spirit Lake comes into full view — it looks vastly different than it did May 17, 1980.

A view of Spirit Lake, a brand-new body of water that remains fragile.

A view of Spirit Lake, a brand-new body of water that remains fragile.

Keep walking up the Harry’s Ridge trail and soon you’ll come to an overlook that gives you a grand view of Mount St. Helens directly facing the north side of the mountain, where the lateral blast came from. It’s a great view of the volcano, even when obscured by clouds. It still gives one a great perspective of just how much of the mountain was blown away in the eruption, and it’s mind-boggling to see it from this angle.

The view from Harry's Ridge. Unfortunately, it would be awhile before the clouds would disappear.

The view from Harry’s Ridge. Unfortunately, it would be awhile before the clouds would disappear.

I ended up making decent time, motoring up the ridge from the starting point at Johnston Ridge Observatory in just under 1 hour, 30 minutes.

Made it!

Made it!

The views to the east are spectacular. On a clear day you can see Mount Adams, but even on a cloudy day you can get a view of the picturesque Spirit Lake area and the regeneration still taking place.

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A phone panorama of Spirit Lake, untouched by human hands since 1980.

Once I came down from the ridge, I wasn’t satisfied with my hike for the day. The mountain had been enshrouded in clouds, and even though there is MUCH more than just the mountain to see at the monument, I needed more. So off I went to the Truman Trail, on a journey that would take me through the heart of the blast zone.

Truman Trail begins. You can begin a hike around the mountain from here.

Truman Trail begins. You can begin a hike around the mountain from here.

About a mile into the Truman Trail, the sun began to burn off the clouds. Could it be that I could see the whole crater from the north for the first time in my life?

As I got closer to the mountain, the clouds began to burn off.

As I got closer to the mountain, the clouds began to burn off.

Looking good so far…and just a few minutes after I took that last picture, lo and behold, there stood Mount St. Helens in all her devastated glory.

Fifteen minutes after that last shot, the clouds were gone.

Fifteen minutes after that last shot, the clouds were gone.

The Truman Trail winds its way around several hummocks, small hills and trees — even traversing small streams a few times — before leading hikers into a pumice plain. Welcome to the core of the blast zone.

The mountain looms over the pumice plains.

The mountain looms over the pumice plains.

Stop and take a look to the west, and you can see signs of life. A stream feeds Spirit Lake, surrounded on both sides by vegetation that is beginning to take root and sprout up in the years following the eruption.

A look back reveals new life inside the blast zone. Incredible to see the recovery after just 34 years.

A look back reveals new life inside the blast zone. Incredible to see the recovery after just 34 years.

The further you hike down the Truman Trail, the closer you get to the mountain and the more impressive the view becomes. Before too long, Loowit Falls is visible — a waterfall on the edge of the crater created by snowmelt inside the mountain.

A man ahead of me...

A man ahead of me…

The hike along Truman Trail leads one along several areas teeming with plant life and fauna as well.

The hike along Truman Trail leads one along several areas teeming with plant life and fauna as well.

Getting closer.

Getting closer.

As mentioned before, plant life is coming back along the trail. Red paintbrush is abundant along several areas of the path, and the color reminds one to stay on the path and not veer off it — these plants are, once again, very fragile.

Red paintbrush is in bloom, and plentiful close to the volcano.

Red paintbrush is in bloom, and plentiful close to the volcano.

The Truman Trail alternates passing through landscapes of rock and vegetation, also leading people through small creeks. The closer you get, the more rockfields you navigate through. The trail becomes much more narrow and begins to be delineated only by large posts that show you the general direction in which to travel.

More navigating through rocks.

More navigating through rocks.

Small trees like this are few and far between, but it is encouraging to see them begin to pop up again.

Small trees like this are few and far between, but it is encouraging to see them begin to pop up again.

Another look back shows just how far one has come, along with giving a rather impressive view of Spirit Lake surrounded by smaller mountains.

Foreground: A hummock. Background: Spirit Lake.

Foreground: A hummock. Background: Spirit Lake.

The trail passes a neat geological feature in which a mud and water flow had carved a passageway from the mountain. Seeing Mount St. Helens in the background and this in the foreground made me wonder what kind of force the eruption blasted the valley floor with.

Amazing to see the path carved by a water and mud flow down from Mount St. Helens.

Amazing to see the path carved by a water and mud flow down from Mount St. Helens.

The walking path hugs the edge of the bank.

The walking path hugs the edge of the bank.

I checked my watch just after 6 p.m. and noticed I was still 2 miles from Loowit Falls. I wouldn’t quite make it out there, but I was satisfied with a hike that brought me the closest to the north side of the mountain that I had ever been. I turned around, but before I left I grabbed my Canon camera and got a shot of the mountain before clouds began to cover it again.

One final look back at the massive mountain, and again it is amazing to see the lava dome in the middle.

One final look back at the massive mountain, and again it is amazing to see the lava dome in the middle.

The way back is just as scenic as the way to the mountain.

Which way to go?

Which way to go?

Parting shot from the Truman Trail before daylight ends.

Parting shot from the Truman Trail before daylight ends.

Stopped for a quick shot with my Canon T2i.

Stopped for a quick shot with my Canon T2i.

It was fitting to see a sunset right before I returned to my car at the Johnston Ridge Observatory parking lot at 9 p.m. After 16.78 miles, I needed to rest my feet and I did so as I watched the sun go down. It was also fitting that I was one of the last people there that evening, just hours after the parking lot had been so full that I needed to park far from the observatory’s entrance.

The sun sets over my hike. I knocked out 16.78 miles in total!

The sun sets over my hike. I knocked out 16.78 miles in total!

If you want to hike to these points beyond the Johnston Ridge Observatory, note that you’ll need to bring a few supplies. There is no water source along the trails, so a hydration pack is the best option. Carry some food as well (I carry a massive supply of granola bars), and invest in some good hiking boots and trekking poles. The poles will prove invaluable throughout the hike.

Nights over Chehalis

The moon shines brightly over a field just off Airport Road in Chehalis, Washington on the evening of May 1, 2014.

The moon shines brightly over a field just off Airport Road in Chehalis, Washington on the evening of May 1, 2014.