Silver Linings

This year, at times it has been hard to find the good amidst all of the things going on. However, there have been some! I have heard many a parent or grandparent say that without this situation, they would have never been able to spend so much quality time with their kids/grandkids. My friend's mom is teaching her daughter to cook, which my friend never would have done. There are some silver linings here! 

Here are a few good things that have come out of the last six months.

A newfound love of riding the bike: At the beginning of the quarantine, due to the fact that it was hard to go running without encountering people who would (a) not give you space (b) not wear a mask, I decided that it was easier to keep my distance from people while cycling. In the first three months, I ended up going on 16 bike rides, totalling about 300 miles. I really enjoyed these rides, and got to know the island of Alameda pretty well over the three month period. I even named my bike, which is probably older than me and weighs about a ton, but she is a good old bird! Bertha is her name and she and I spent some quality time together! As people started following the rules more and I found running routes that were less crowded, I have to admit to ditching Bertha and sticking to my own two feet. However, the times we spent together were priceless! 

Hiking in CA: Since we cannot travel internationally, nor would I want to at this point, finding things to do during our vacation has been a bit more challenging. My company has a use it or lose it vacation policy (yes, even this year. No exceptions!) and so I took a week off here and there and had to be a little more creative. This means many hikes and backpacking trips in my "own backyard" which have been fun and of course I love the Sierras, so I am happy to spend time in my favorite mountains. 

Trying new recipes: This year since I am not spending money on travel, I bought a dehydrator and Ninja and have been trying out backpacking recipes. When backpacking, especially for longer periods, it is a fine balance between getting enough calories vs. carrying a lot of weight and the calorie/oz ratio should be as high as possible. To do this, I have been experimenting with fats like coconut oil (or powder), nuts, seeds, hemp, flax etc... I made a pretty good dehydrated chicken curry and am still perfecting the perfect protein bar. 

Reading: Although I am now back in study mode, which does not bode well for reading regular books (although I do find time to treat myself!) I have been reading a lot during these stay at home days. This is twofold; one is the fact that I am now driving to work, which I never did before. I used to study on the bus or the train but while driving I cannot, so I have been listening to a lot of audiobooks. I also used to generally run with other people but this quarantine has kept me running solo more often, which also translates to, you guessed it, more audiobooks! Lastly, when you are stuck inside due to fires or pandemics, I tend to turn to reading! So all of these factors have bumped up my reading stats for this year significantly! 

What good things have come out of the last six months in your world? 


Looking Back: September

Oh September, you devil you. Normally you are one of my favorite months, one full of vacations and adventures and great weather and friends. This year, you are not at the top of my list. September was a rough month for California. It was one of many wildfires; I read somewhere that there was a fire in almost every county (we have 59 of them). Also, on September 28th, this website posted the following information: "Since the beginning of 2020, over 3.7 million acres in California have burned from over 8,100 wildfires." According to Google, California is about 104 acres in size. Three and a half percent of the state has burned, and two places close to my heart (near my parents and near my brother) have gone up in smoke. 

As I type this, one of the biggest fires, the August complex, which is nearly one million acres in size (roughly the size of Switzerland), is still only 47% contained (according to CalFire). The one near my parents (the North Complex) is 78% contained and the one near my brother (the Glass fire) is only 5% contained. It is hard to find words sometimes. 

My Mom took this photo from her front yard.

But life goes on, doesn't it. While the state burns, we all still have to go to work each day, go out and find goodness in the world, go to Costco, etc. So, as always, here is what I did to "go about my day" in September. 

Running: As this is the way I keep sane, I had to try to do this as much as possible. I ended up running about 260 miles in September, including a couple of hiking trips. I have been running less days per week but more miles per day in an effort to still "quarantine" a little bit (less time out in the community) but to still stay healthy and have a little fun. 

Reading: This was an okay reading month for me. I only read one physical book; the rest were audiobooks. This was due to the fact that I did a hiking trip and instead of reading at night, I studied. Then when I was at home, I also studied and when not studying, tried to plan a couple of trips, which I will talk about in a few, so did not really read my book as much. My favorites this month were Wunderland and Shortest Way Home, although none of the books I read really wowed me. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood. 

Travel: The beginning of September was supposed to be spent in Belgium, Holland and surrounds, but as that did not pan out, a road trip to Oregon to stay with my friends up there was plan B. I usually do this every July, but this year things were a little different! I finally circumnavigated the Three Sisters, which I had been wanting to do for years but it was always too snowy in July. This year it was a record breaking heat year and was in the high 90s. Talk about a 180! 

After that was a visit to Mt. Rainier to hike parts of the Wonderland trail. Luckily the hiking days were smoke free, but on the drive from Oregon to Washington and then again from Washington back to California, the smoke was fierce and the AQI was over 600 at times (for those of you not familiar with AQI, a normal good air quality is under 50 and a so-so quality is under 100 and above 300 is, "Health warning of emergency conditions: everyone is more likely to be affected" according to AirNow.gov.) Definitely the view of the Oregon coast was not what it normally is (aka there wasn't one)! 

Mt. Rainier as seen from the west side. 

As I mentioned above, I also tried to plan a couple of trips. I had the week of September 21st off, and had a permit and plan to go and hike part of the John Muir Trail. However, at the beginning of the month, the National Parks were all closed due to the fires and on September 4th, a fire broke out near where I would be hiking, and is also now one of the largest ones in the state. My permit got canceled and so I also canceled my trip. This year has definitely been one of much flexibility and patience. 

Misc.: What else? The garden is now going over into winter mode; there are a few more straggler tomatoes and peppers and a few figs, but otherwise, its nearly bare. I am studying a lot, but am still not sure if my exam will get canceled (it is scheduled for December 5th). I am trying some new protein ball recipes for hiking trips, even though I am not sure when they will be. 

How was your September? What do you do when plans get changed?