Wildflower part two: the glass is half full edition

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So, when we last left our intrepid author, she’d just finished crying on the boat ramp and was getting ready to head back to camp. I went back to transition and gathered up the majority of my gear. I left Slim there because the shuttles for bikes wouldn’t be running until later in the afternoon and I did not have the wherewithal to lug him up the steep walking trail back to camp. Todd was kind enough to carry my pack and I started my mental shift toward the new agenda for the day by looking forward to a hot shower.

As we got into camp, I ran into numerous team mates who were surprised to see me and had to tell the sad tale of what happened. Everyone was so unbelievably supportive and kind, which really lifted my spirits. My shower was magnificent and after a little chilling at camp, we packed up a lunch cooler, my little portable chair, some cowbells and pom-poms and staked out a good place to cheer for Catherine when she came by on the bike.

It was really awesome to cheer for the other cyclists out on the course. (And, to be honest, seeing how miserable some of them looked really took the sting out of not being among them.) I had an idea of when Catherine should be coming by and before we knew it, there she was. She looked surprised to see me and when I cheered her on, she said something to the effect of pulling the plug after the bike. I told her she was absolutely (effing) not and then Todd and I powerwalked down to the transition area.

Because I still had my race numbers, I could go into the transition area and found her fully changed into her run gear, standing in front of her spot. Having been in this situation so many times myself, it was easy to see that she just needed a little nudge and she was going to be just fine. So, I coaxed her onto the run course with a “just go out for the first mile, if it really sucks you can come back. Besides, what else do you have to do today?” And just like that, she headed out.

I texted our OTC teammate Betsy the situation and told her I was grabbing my bike and then would meet her to cheer Catherine on the run course. Todd and I rode the blessed shuttle up the hill and I released him to go nap/chill in the campground, grabbed my hydration pack full of anything Catherine might want when she came by, my chair, can of wine and cheering supplies and joined Betsy to wait for Catherine at approximately the halfway point of the run. There was a long hill that Betsy was planning to run with Catherine and I said I would do the same. After a little while a few more team mates joined us and we made quite a commotion when Catherine finally came into view. This picture says it all:

She looked so strong and steady, we were all amped up with pride and excitement for her. Betsy and I headed to the next viewing spot, right before the one-mile descent back to transition. It was great to chat with Betsy and get to know her better. Some more of our teammates joined us to high five her as she came by, all smiles.

The only bummer about the set-up was that there was no real way for us to get to the finish line in time, so we left Catherine to her well-earned triumph and headed back to camp for a group photo:

Clif was hosting an 80’s party, so soon our camp was filled with all sorts of rad fashion:

One of our teammates brought his costume box, so those of us who weren’t as prepared as Ms. Erica here could still join in the fun:

So. Much. Awesome.

I hadn’t really brought a full costume for the party since I figured I’d just finish racing about the time it started. But I did find some crimped colorful hair extensions that I tucked into my bag. There was one black one that I pinned on Todd as a makeshift rat tail. So stylin’!

Sadly, the 80’s party was a little bit of a disappointment when we got there. They turned off the 80’s music for some country western band (?!?) so a lot of us abandoned the party to go spectate an impromptu beer mile happening in another part of the campground. It was fun to cheer on that insanity and then we headed back to camp. By that point, we could hear that the 80’s party had ramped up, but we were too tired to go back.

The next morning, Todd and I had a leisurely morning at camp and then headed down to cheer on the sprint and olympic athletes. It was such a blast to cheer for everyone and see OTC kick some major ass. We stationed ourselves in the same bike course spot as yesterday and got to see most of the olympic distance folks pass by on the bike. Then, we went back and packed up camp. Originally, we were told that the roads were closed until 3, so I was planning to pack up and then go down to the finish to cheer. But, after we’d packed up, we noticed cars leaving the campground and decided to press our luck. I had to catch a plane to North Carolina early the next morning, so any extra time to pack my suitcase and be at home was too tempting to pass up. I was super bummed to miss the finish line antics and hear everyone’s race stories, but I will plan better for next year and not have a stupid business trip right non the heels of this race.

As you might imagine, I am already planning ahead for next year. I definitely have unfinished business with this course and a head full of plans on how to improve. Stay tuned for Wildflower: the redemption edition post in 2019! Huge thanks to all of my OTC peeps. This would have been such a huge bummer of a weekend without you!

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Wildflower part one: the “what happened” edition

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For those unfamiliar with triathlon culture or who haven’t had to listen to me yammer on about my doings (you lucky bastards!), Wildflower is an iconic race that’s been around for ~35 years. It bills itself as the “Woodstock of triathlon” which is pretty accurate. It’s this weird combination of hippie festival and Type A sporting event. And I’ve wanted to do it for as long as I’ve known about it – approximately ten years or so. But logistics of flying to a race where you need to camp combined training for an early May half ironman in the Pacific Northwest were too daunting. Then, after we moved back to CA, the drought had taken it’s toll on the event – the lake levels continued to drop until last year when they had to cancel it.

So, when the announcement came that Wildflower was coming back, I decided this was a sign from the universe and pulled the trigger pretty early. I’d been wanting a big goal to train for and now I lived close enough to be able to drive my ridiculous amounts of stuff there. Plus, as an added bonus, OTC announced it as a club race, so there were a ton of people to train and camp with. Huzzah!

Spring rocketed by and, before I knew it, it was time to pack up the car and head to Lake San Antonio!

I wanted to get there early so that we could settle in and not do a big three hour drive the day before the race. I was very glad I did, because there was a little bit of drama with our camping sites. The club had been promised ten reserved sites, but between the event organizers not really marking them and mis-communication over which campgrounds were first-come/first-serve, we only had three. Thankfully, our president carries caution tape in his truck, (WTF Charlie?) so we hastily marked off some open space:

But, thankfully we got that resolved and we could settle into the serious business of glamping. Charlie’s hammock got the party started:

Then Todd raised the ante with his inflatable couch and travel bar:

And then it just went from there. Todd and I have met our match!

The next morning we went down to the festival/race start. I knew this was a big race, but looking at the transition area was the first solid indication:

The swim start/finish. The long concrete hill to climb after swimming was an especially nice touch…

There were these cool steps with the winners’ names on them. It was basically a greatest hits list of racers in this sport. It reminded me of the bricks at Ironman Canada in Penticton – such a sense of triathlon history.

They also had these big cut-outs of famous past racers (I assume?) set up around the park. It was pretty cool.

It was hard to stay off your feet and rest before the race. There was a huge expo to look at, packets to pick-up, food trucks, music, etc. But I finally tore myself away and went back to the camp site to put my feet up and watch Erica hang the disco ball:

You heard me, disco ball!

The majority of the group had shown up by this point, so we had a great afternoon/evening of hanging out and chatting:

Then it was time to go to bed because the next morning was race day! (I have butterflies just typing that.) Ear plugs and melatonin helped me get a few hours, but I did my usual tossing and turning, followed by the butterflies/pit of dread in my stomach when it’s time to get up. It’s weird that I choose to do a sport where I don’t actually enjoy competing. I love to train for a goal, but the actual racing – not so much.

So, as I gathered my backpack of race gear and headed down to the start, I was doing my usual pre-race warm-up of breathing/trying not to cry/going to the porta-potty a million times.  The transition area now looked like this, so I had LOTS of company:

Photo credit: Erica Hruby

I hadn’t really planned well for a bright and sunny start line (note for next year, bring cheap sunglasses… ) and was generally feeling rattled. They said that transition would be closed at 8, 45 minutes before my start time and I didn’t know if I would see Todd beforehand with the huge crowd, so I had to leave my watch and wedding ring in transition instead of giving them to him. By the time I saw him, I was a little bit of a mess. He’s seen this movie before, to he hugged me and helped me into my wetsuit and generally calmed me down.

We found a place to sit on the dock and watched the swim waves start. It was good to take a minute to chill and gather myself. I was still super nervous, but feeling okay. Way too soon, it was time to put on my hot pink swim cap and join my wave. I gave Todd a final hug good-bye and headed over.

The swim start is super narrow and I’ve heard many stories of getting punched and kicked, so I started way in the back of my wave. As usual, the adrenaline of the race start had my heart rate through the roof, so I did my customary stop/breast-stroke for a couple of strokes to look at where I was heading, get my breathing under control and find my rhythm. I’ve done this so many times and while I’m not a fast swimmer, I am a steady one. I usually settle into a nice stroke, find a line a little off the buoy line, so I’m not getting swum over by faster swimmers behind me and get it done.

But this time, I just couldn’t seem to catch my breath. I stopped and breast-stroked a few more times and it just wasn’t working, so I finally stopped at one of the safety kayaks and paused for a little while trying to figure out what to do. (The poor 20-something on the kayak had no idea what to do with me, so thankfully my only real option was to keep swimming – either back to shore or to finish the course.) I started to feel better and so I headed out again.

The swim course is a big triangle and my kayak stop was probably a third of the way up the first side of the the triangle and I was finally starting to feel better and get into my groove a little bit. Then when I made it to the turnaround point (the top of the triangle) it felt like someone stepped on my chest. I moved over to the side, so I wasn’t in the way of all the swimmers, but I was seriously freaking out (which didn’t really help things). I was wheezing and thinking about all of Todd’s pre-heart attack symptoms and various bad scenarios.

So, when the second 20-something kayaker asked if I was okay, I was like “I don’t think so?” Like the first one, he didn’t really know what to do once I said I thought I needed to stop, but thankfully he found a lady with a radio who did. I cried on his kayak for a bit while the medical team came over to give me a ride back to shore. They handed me off to some nice paramedics (one of whom made my day by asking my age and then doing a double take when I told him. It’s the little things, right?) The paramedics checked me out, ran an EKG and listened to my lungs. They asked me a million questions and didn’t really have any explanation for me, but at least I could rule out my horror scenarios.

I walked up the ramp to meet Todd and had a good cry saying good-bye to the race day I wanted and accepting the one that I got. I was full of doubts that I’d done the right thing. (Was it lack of fitness? Was it an anxiety attack? Would it happen again?) Thankfully, my many years of doing this sport kicked in and I had to accept that even if I’d “toughened up” and made it back to shore, I was in no shape to tackle a long, hot, hilly bike ride and would likely have not made the bike cut-off. That mental picture went a long way and helped me be thankful that I could listen to my body, even when I didn’t like what it was saying. Plus, having my race end on the swim meant that I could still cheer Catherine on the bike and run. Stay tuned for part two!

Finding my flock

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Author’s note: I was hoping to write this post before Wildflower so it could be it’s own thing, but life got in the way. So, there will be some unavoidable foreshadowing happening, but I will try to stay true to the original post I was planning to write. Good news, it’s going to be crazy long, but at least it will also be chockfull of pictures…

Wildflower training has been as full of ups and downs as it’s race profile. It’s been a long time since my last half-ironman and I’m not only going into this one without the fitness base of my previous ones, but it’s early May as opposed to the summer/early-fall races I typically train for. So, I’m super nervous about it. But something that is hugely different from my previous training is joining a tri club and having access to a community of like-minded crazy people.

A while back on a club ride, I got to talking with Catherine, a fellow Wildflower long-course trainee, and we were commiserating about the hilly bike course and how we were nervous about it. We both had plans to do a crazy epic ride that combined two shorter hilly club routes, so we made plans to tackle it together.

Here’s a little graphic comparing the elevations of the race and our training ride:
It was definitely a tough day, but I was really happy about how it went. I was definitely slow, but I felt steady. Plus, riding a harder course really bolstered my confidence.

Then the following weekend, I did an all-women’s metric century with some of my OTC ladies. We had a great day of snacks, tutus and 64 miles of saddle time:

Then, the following weekend, I hopped on a plane to head to the awesome trail running camp that I went to back in 2015. I was super excited to go back to an awesome area, hang out with my friend Jenn and meet some fantastic ladies. (I was also hoping to be in bad-ass trail-running shape, but hey, three out of four isn’t bad.) Plus, I was looking forward to a good confidence boost with my running like I’ve been feeling with my riding.

Sadly, my run fitness is not coming along as well as my bike fitness, so I can’t really say I felt great about it. Initially, I was really struggling with this and beating myself up about it. When you’re chasing a big goal, it’s easy to get swept up in negative self-talk and doubt. But then I decided to use this opportunity to train my mental strength as well as my physical. And from everything I’ve heard about the course at Wildflower, I’d need all the help I could get.

So, I decided to work on being gracious with myself and roll with where I am right now. I figured this would come in handy if things got tough at Wildflower. Plus, it allowed me to really enjoy the experience of being surrounded by amazing women in a spectacular setting. There was a much bigger group at camp than the last time I went. Initially I was dubious but, somehow, everyone I talked to was so rad.


It’s always so nice to spend time in this area. I mean, look at this scenery!

Plus, one of my awesome book group ladies also came up. She’s pregnant with her first baby, (which meant that I could actually keep up with her). Here she is, posing on this weird frozen white stuff that kept showing up on the trails:

And one with me photo-bombing in the background…

And then one with Jenn and I, enjoying artisanal post-run chocolate milk:

Let me repeat that, ARTISANAL CHOCOLATE MILK:

Plus, I got to meet Jenn’s new co-owned pony Strawberry:

And there was outdoor yoga in a beautiful place:

And as a special bonus: cans of wine by a roaring fire, laughing so hard it hurt and coming away with a bunch of new friends. In short, the training over the last few weeks has been tough, but it’s been made much easier by finding my way into this awesome new tribe of bad-asses.

Girl’s trip: the Palm Springs edition

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Sometime last fall, I was either listening to an interview with someone who mentioned that they’d just returned from a girl’s weekend in Palm Springs. My initial reaction was to grumpily think “I wish I could do a girl’s weekend in Palm Springs.” Followed by “Wait, why can’t I?” So, I queried my crew of PNW ladies (because, let’s be honest, they need sunshine the most) and everyone was receptive to the idea.

Because I have zero chill and a relaxed work ethic, I immediately sent around a Doodle poll for compatible dates and geeked out on rental house listings. Shockingly, there was a weekend that worked for everyone and direct flights were reasonable. It was meant to be! I booked us a ridiculous house and we were all set.

Before I knew it, February arrived and I found myself flying into Palm Springs. As always, I was horrified by the ridiculous number of golf courses and green lawns in the middle of the desert.

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I got in about fifteen minutes before the rest of the crew, so I wandered around the tiny airport. Like many small southern California airports, this one had a nice outdoor atrium section. Unfortunately, that leads to scenes like this:

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Everyone arrived and we headed to our rental house. It was every bit as ridiculous as advertised, with a beautiful view of the mountains from our own private pool:

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It was a super chill, enjoyable weekend with some of my favorite ladies. We did some touristy stuff: wandered through the neighborhood, took a wrong-way/death march to brunch (sorry again, ladies!), browsed in the cute downtown shops and enjoyed delicious cocktails and Mexican food while watching hipsters and the Olympics at a bar in the Saguaro hotel.

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But mostly, we lounged by the pool and just hung out drinking wine and enjoying the sunshine. It was so exactly what I needed. But Sunday rolled around and we had to return to real life:

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The PNW crew were all on the same flight back to Seattle, which left about 3 and a half hours before mine. We had to be out of the rental house by 10, so we grabbed a quick breakfast before I dropped them off at the airport. Thanks to my friend Google, I learned that there was a community pool not very far from the airport, so I got to enjoy a little more pool time:

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I’ve swum in a fair number of outdoor pools, but this is the first time I’ve seen a locker room that was pretty much open on the top. (God help the drone operator that thinks he’s going to see the ladies locker room of his dreams… ) But it was quite lovely to change in the sunshine.

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Afterward, I had just enough time to do a little wandering around the cute downtown, grab a little lunch and then head to the airport myself. I returned home refreshed and happy to see my boys. Many thanks to my Seattle/Bend ladies for joining me on this adventure. I hope it’s the first of many!

One year later…

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A year ago, I wrote a lengthy blog post and detonated the remains of a really important relationship in my life. I’ve thought often about what might have been different if I’d known we’d be moving in six months. Could I have been patient? Would she have actually talked to me? Or was the feeling that she was ghosting out of our friendship correct? Who knows…

Healing is a funny thing. It has helped tremendously to be in a totally new environment. (Especially one in which I didn’t know her when I lived here before.) And for the most part, I’ve made my peace with the situation, but I find myself wishing I could text her about super random things. Like when the guy in front of me is buying a bag full of lemons. Or my mother-in-law goes to an impromptu Jazzercize class down the street. And those are the times that I miss her the most.

And while I am tremendously sorry that my blog post hurt her, and there are definitely things I would have phrased differently if I hadn’t been in such a messed up place myself, I can’t say that I’m sorry that I wrote it. I learned exactly how universal and strange losing a close female friend is and had some amazing conversations with people about it that I never would have otherwise. It definitely helped the healing process.

I still wish that she’d reach out, but I’m not counting on it. Whatever happens, I hope that life is treating her well and that she’s happy. I’m grateful for the parts of our friendship that were awesome and for the lessons learned from the less-awesome parts. I guess that’s all we can really hope for, isn’t it?

Island style

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The rest of our trip was a delightful mixture of beach time, pool time, delicious food, adult beverages and random adventures. And, of course, plenty of entertainment from this little nugget:

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We went to Lydgate Beach Park with Jenn, Bryan and The Bird while Erin & David were diving. It was a perfect chilling out beach, with a protected area for Amalie (and yours truly) to splash around in:

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I know it looks like Jenn is getting ready to backhand her child, but I swear she’s just putting on sunscreen:

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T chilling on the beach near the “cluck clucks” as Amalie calls them. (Naturally that was their name for the rest of the trip.)

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We left the beach just as dark clouds were rolling in and missed the sudden rainstorm. Instead, we hit up a ridiculously good fish market for poke and ate it on the collection of plastic lawn chairs that they call a bus stop, in between rain showers. It was glorious.

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There was a day spent checking out waterfalls and failing to find a place to hike nearby, so we opted to go for lunch in town, where we saw this super cute little gecko.

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Kind of hard to argue with this motto…

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We rented snorkeling equipment and I attempted snorkeling in this lovely spot:

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But I chickened out and came out earlier than everyone else. We ended up going over to the baby beach near our condo afterward, which was much more successful. A big sea turtle swam right under T, so that was pretty cool. We celebrated with happy hour at a place that had little tiny pineapples in their window boxes:

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Happy hour crew:

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Our last full day at the condo, we went for a morning beach walk and checked out tide pools.

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And said good-bye to our friend the monk seal…

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Then later went to look at Spouting Horn, a cool little blowhole that has a second hole that makes crazy cool sounds. (To go with the exclamations of excitement from the crowd of tourists. OOOOHHH! AAAAAHHHH! It was hilarious.)

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And of course, a last Hawaiian ice. Delicious…

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David took this fantastic shot of the sunset through his spyglass. It sums up our final night well. (And looks like an OP shirt from the 80’s… )

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There are no words for how much I’m going to miss these ladies. We need to put another trip on the books soon!

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We went to an amazing Japanese restaurant before dropping Erin & David off for their red eye flight. (Which was the same flight as Jenn & Bryan, but they opted to keep Amalie’s routine as normal as possible, in the hopes that she’d sleep better on the plane.) It was this crazy big place with all these different sections in it. But it was great people watching and we gorged ourselves on good, reasonably priced sushi and a green tea mudpie for dessert. Then it was back to the strangely empty condo and off to bed before our early morning flight home.

So much has changed since that first trip two years ago, but the fun of these group trips has definitely remained the same. I hope they continue for many, many years. Aloha!

Adventures in Waimea Canyon

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After some nice lazy days, we were up for a little group adventure. So, we decided to check out Waimea Canyon – aka “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” There was a fair bit of driving on some very winding roads, but our first viewpoint was pretty spectacular:

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A nice lady offered to take our picture, so we have proof that we were there:

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There was a guy dressed in traditional native garb, talking about various local traditions and lore. But he was dramatically upstaged by the baby pig that he brought with him for some reason. I mean, I took this picture:

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But this is what made it onto Instagram:

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We stopped in at the visitor center to look up a good hike. The lady who worked there recommended a good route, but also that we should continue up the mountain to the other viewpoints, since it was still clear. She was right, it was glorious:

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Clouds were just starting to obscure the view at the next viewpoint up, so we headed back down to start our hike. We’d chosen a nice trail to a waterfall, described as a moderate 1.5–2 mile hike. It started innocently enough…

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We walked through primordial forests and eventually came out next to the canyon. The textures and colors were mesmerizing:

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The trail turned to volcanic rock that was kind of steep and a little bit scary, given that you basically can just go sliding down into the canyon if you aren’t careful:

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But we all made it down safely and were rewarded with a very pretty waterfall view at the turnaround point:

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Not pictured, the legions of crazy people who thought it would be fun to swim in the freezing cold water. It turns out, that’s not super fun. But watching them learn that definitely is. We had some snacks and headed back.

As we approached the volcanic rock part of the trail, we encountered a fairly large man, with one side covered in red dirt and scrapes with his knee wrapped in a bandana, very clearly in pain. His name was Ron (which would quickly become Big Ron) and he was with two younger men who turned out to be his sons. It was clear that they needed help, and trail karma is a thing, so we stepped up. The menfolk worked with his sons to help get him up the steep trail, while Jenn, Erin and I tried to warn people to get out of their way. It was slow going and stressful, plus Jenn had The Bird on her back in a pack. So, we opted to move further up the trail and figure out a plan.

For context, here’s where we met up with Big Ron, approximately a mile away from the road, over some fairly challenging terrain:

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Erin had cell reception, so she called 911. We decided that the best plan was to get Amalie back to the car before she went into full-scale meltdown mode and then direct whatever paramedics/forest rangers were coming our way. Erin was still on the phone and not confident her signal would hold, so Jenn and I made our way back. Amalie was incredible, largely due to Jenn’s ability to keep a calm-voiced monologue going while hiking at a brisk pace up a hill with a fairly heavy weight on her back.

We made it back to the road. Amalie had fallen asleep on the way back, so we sat in some shade and waited for Erin. She showed up much faster than we were expecting and we discussed what to do next and whether we should drive one of the rental cars down the dirt road and get them closer to the trailhead. I was dubious that either car would make it down there, but thankfully, we heard sirens in the distance before we had to find out.

The sirens belonged to a giant red paramedics pick-up trip, loaded with rescue gear and four ridiculously hunky firefighters and their captain. (Seriously, it was like something out of central casting… ) The captain rolled the window down and asked “Which one of you is Erin?” At which point, Erin went over and gave them the lowdown on the situation. (Which might have included the quote “You guys look MUCH stronger than our middle-aged husbands… ” Amazing.) They headed down the dirt road to the trailhead and we loaded Amalie into her carseat and headed to the nearest town to get some lunch and wait for the boys to text us.

We found a surprisingly tasty taco spot (with glacially slow service) and had some lunch while we waited. Thankfully, it wasn’t too long before they texted and we were treated to a play-by-play of the rescue of Big Ron. It turned out that they were there for his other son’s wedding and (as we’d later learn when Jenn & Bryan ran into him at the airport while waiting for their flight home) he’d snapped his MCL and would need surgery.

He may not have been able to buy us drinks, as we’d often lament over the next few days, but he did give us a pretty fantastic story to tell, so god bless you Big Ron, wherever you are…