Sunday, April 19, 2015

Lucinda's first hike! Gravelle Brothers Trail, Tillamook State Forest, Oregon

Jayne, Stefan & Lucinda at University Falls, Tillamook State Forest, Oregon 
Oh how we have been wanting to hike with our pup, Lucy - I asked about it when we took her in for her first veterinarian visit back in January. But our vet that we shouldn't take her on any big, day-long hikes yet because, as she's a puppy, she's still developing her muscles, and a really long, hard hike could permanently damage her muscles and joints. He suggested we wait until she was at least a year old.

Since then, I've built her up to walking three miles a day, AT LEAST, broken up into two walks, in our very flat neighborhood. Now at 11 months old, and having walked more than four miles in a day a few times, we decided she could go on a half-day hike of up to eight really easy, flat miles, with lots of breaks, or a on more challenging hike with hills of about five miles.

The quest for a nearby long, scenic hike began. We had been trying some hikes out before we got Lucy, per various web searches, and were getting frustrated to find that they were not-at-all scenic. It's so great that the greater Portland Metro area is building all these hike and bike trails in urban areas - I wish everyone was - but as I don't live along these trails, I drive there and I'm disappointed to find that we're hiking under power lines behind neighborhoods - not much scenic at all. It's great if your house is right on the trail, but it's nothing worth driving to. I downloaded the guide to "Great Dog Walking Parks in Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District", but I couldn't tell how long any of the trails were. One, on Jenkins Estate, says the area is more than 60 acres, but every web search turned up just one trail, less than two miles long.

At, Stefan found the Gravelle Brothers Trail to University Falls in Tillamook State Forest, a less-than-30 minute drive from our house. It's 2.4 miles one way to the falls, making it 4.8 back and forth, and with the walk to and from the Roger's Camp parking lot, it's over 5 miles total. So that's what we decided to take - not the entire loop, but just to the falls and back out the same way. The Gravelle Brothers Trail is named for the Gravelle twins, Elroy and Edmund, who helped develop and maintain the Tillamook State Forest trail system.

We stopped at Bi-Mart first to pick up a Northwest Forest Pass. The woman staffing the guns and ammo counter couldn't handle the guys oh-so-slowly looking over every bullet option and me. Once she finally got to me, she said there were only two-year passes and day passes available - yet I could see the stack of annual passes in the drawer. Then she couldn't find the price for the day passes. It was 10 minutes of utter nonsense.

We were further delayed behind a large combine on Gales Creek Road that took up almost BOTH lanes of the road - I was terrified a motorcyclist would come around a curve and smash into one of the two giant wheels well over the center lane.

It turns out the Gravelle Brothers Trail head next to Highway 6 is very hard to find. We parked and then walked around the parking lot, amid way-too-many ATVs and dirt bikes for comfort, and were getting very frustrated at not being able to find it - and wondering if it would even be worth it, with all the noise from the riders everywhere. Even the Washington County Sheriff's Deputy that we stopped had no idea where it was - but he very nicely called someone and found out. Here's the scoop on how to find the start of the trail: after you park in the Roger's Camp parking lot, walk back down the road all the way to Hwy 6, and as you face the highway, turn and look to the left, even a little behind you - you should see a little brown sign down next to the highway barriers that ring the parking lot of the state of Oregon site right there next to the road - that is the start of Gravelle Brothers Trail to University Falls. Once you get close to the sign, you will be able to see that it is, indeed, the right trail. It starts off looking very ugly, but gets much better quickly.

Jayne hikes uphillThe hike turned out to be perfect: a well-maintained trail, mostly dry. The flora was gorgeous this time of year: everything lush and green, lots of clover and moss and flowers that I cannot name. I loved the views from high above down onto streams below. There are some mud pits and streams we had to hop over or ford, and the rocks in the stream crossings could be quite slippery - and it can feel a bit scary when you're very high up on the side of a steep hill, trying to cross a stream on slippery rocks. There are hills, and at a few points, the trail is quite steep. You will go up and down a lot, but if I can get my fat ass up and down it, anyone can. It was shade almost the entire way, which is what we prefer on hikes. The entire day, we met about 10 mountain bikes, all of them going uphill, and only about four groups of hikers - we were stunned at how few people we met and how alone we were most of the time on such a gorgeous Saturday.

Being the dumbass that I am, I forgot my hiking sticks. I really do need them, especially for steep hikes, up or down. Luckily, some kind soul left a self-made walking stick at a point near the start of the trail where it could easily be seen. It was hugely helpful for the hike, especially for those tricky creek crossings. I left it at the trail head after we came back - hope someone else got to use it.

You think you are going to hear ATVs and dirt bikes the entire time hiking - you aren't. We didn't hear them most of the time, despite there being oh so many on their own OHV trails all around.

Carefully crossing the bridgeThe footbridge over the river is very narrow and not for anyone absolutely terrified of heights. I am quite scared of heights, but can usually swallow my fear to do something I really want to - I took the ski lift one summer in Lillehammer, Norway, and though I was terrified the entire time and shivered all the way up, I was willing to do it to see the view up top, and that was oh-so-worth it. The footbridge here is so much skinnier and higher above the water than it looks in our photos. Stefan had to walk Lucy over because I was too scared - if she panics, I'll panic, and we'll both end up falling off the bridge and breaking our legs. So oh-so-calm Stefan led her over both times.

We got to University Falls at the perfect time - the seven people there were finishing up their visit and leaving. We ate lunch there by ourselves for several minutes, and when a group of people showed up, it was time for us to leave. The falls can get quite crowded, since there is a parking lot above the falls and most visitors drive there, but our timing was perfect and we avoided the crowds.

On our way back out on the trail, unfortunately, someone started shooting at a nearby quarry. The sound of gunshots so close by was terrifying. Lucy did well - she was curious, but never panicked. We met one group of hikers that had turned around and was going back to the trail head, scared of where the guns were and where the bullets were going. After about 30 minutes, the shooters let off a large explosion, and I had an immediate, split-second PTSD moment, thinking, "I've got to call security" and then realizing I wasn't in Afghanistan. I was much more annoyed than traumatized, but because of the shooting, I'd have to advise anyone who has served in a combat zone, in the military or as an aid worker, who has issues with the sounds of gunshots and explosions, to think twice before doing the Gravelle Brothers Trail.

Lucy on the Gravelle Brothers TrailLucy stayed on the trail almost the entire time, and well out front of Stefan on her leash - it was only when we left University Falls that she suddenly wanted off the trail to smell things under bushes, but that only lasted for about 20 minutes, tops. Lucinda's favorite parts of the hike were meeting other dogs! She was scared of all people we met on the trail UNLESS they had a dog - then they were just dandy. At the end of the hike, as we were about to get in the car to leave, two horses came by. We think this was Lucy's first time seeing horses. She was spellbound - but didn't bark. She's the first of my four dogs not to have a meltdown over horses. As they passed, I said, "See, Lucy, see those HUGE dogs?!" And Stefan said, "Yeah, Lucy, some day, you will grow up and be that big, and then we'll ride YOU!" And Lucy chose that exact moment to give Stefan a scared look, and we laughed and laughed...

Some people did have their dogs off leash on the trail, but their dogs were right next to them, and I think that's okay - but you should not have a dog far out ahead of you, on leash or not, as they could get hit by a bicyclist, and that would be a tragedy for everyone.

The Tillamook State Forest is a 364,000 acres (1,470 km2) publicly owned forest in the U.S. state of Oregon. Managed by the Oregon Department of Forestry, it is located 40 miles (64 km) west of Portland in the Northern Oregon Coast Range, and spans Washington, Tillamook, Yamhill, and Clatsop counties. We intend to see a LOT more of it in the coming years!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

April Lucinda the dog update

We've had Lucinda for 16 weeks now. Almost four months. She's 11 months old.

When we took her to the vet in January, he said he wanted us to wait before we take her on any big, day-long hikes until she's at least a year old, because she needs to build up more muscle mass. Walking her three miles a day was no problem, but we shouldn't push her too hard. Now, three months later, Stefan said he thinks she's put on more muscle in her legs, as they don't look quite as skinny as they used to, and I agree. Her feet also don't look too large for her legs. She's still oh-so-skinny, and all legs, but she looks heartier than when we got her. But she's no taller than she was when we got her - she just looks taller, because she has so much more confidence.

Lucy finished her five weeks of dog training at Pieces of the Universe, a school for dogs run by my former across-the-street neighbor. Lucy loved it - the attention, the other dogs, the excitement, the together time, the smell of goats in the distance... Stefan did the training with her more than me - I usually stood to the side and watched. I wanted it to be their time. She left class knowing sitdown and stay, though she can't do any of those things if she's too excited. She can crawl for a treat when she's down, and Stefan also got her rolling over for a treat, but she doesn't know either on command. I'd like to keep doing weekly workouts with her here at our house, same day and same time, with Stefan, but it hasn't happened yet.

But she still doesn't understand come when she's off leash in the house or in the backyard. Not at all. Even high-value treats don't work. When she's on leash - on a walk, in the yard, even in the house -she gets it, even without a treat, and she gets it most of the time when she's off leash and playing with another dog - we test her frequently in those circumstances. We'll keep working on it - we know it's a trust issue more than a defiance issue. Lucinda loves us, but she still doesn't entirely trust us. Even with me, I have to trick her out of her crate for her morning walk: I walk into the utility room and close the door to the kitchen, then go out the side door, and stand there, outside, and count to 20 (to myself). Then I come back in, slide the door to go into the kitchen, and Lucy's usually out of her crate, standing in the dining room, and if I talk extra sweet, she'll lay down and let me put on her leash so we can go out - but sometimes, she still dashes back into her crate, and I have to start over.

She's only scared of me when it's time to walk. Maybe scared is the wrong word. I think she's just so excited that we're going somewhere that she comforts herself by running in the crate. If I can get the leash on her when she's inside the crate, she trots out once I'm done, no problem - relaxed that the anticipation of getting the leash on is now over.

Otherwise, she loves to cuddle, she loves to trot into our bedroom at 3 a.m. and lick Stefan's knee, and when we're at the dog park, she loves to get comforted when she runs over to us, in between running like the wind all around the place. Wow but she can move. It's a sight to behold!

I have a daily commitment for Lucy: that she will get to do three fun activities every day - meals don't count. The first of the day is always the same: our morning walk. Both of the other activities are usually a walk as well, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. But I like when one of those activities can, instead, be playing with another dog - in our back yard, across the street in the Methodists' big yard, in the nearby sports field next to the central school office, or best of all, the dog park at Thatcher Park.

Yes, I've been daring to let Lucinda off-leash, but only when we're across the street or in the almost-enclosed field next to the central school office, and only if there is another dog there that she wants to play with. While they play, every few minutes, I call her, and she always comes. Also, thanks to the dog classes, I know what to do when Lucy freaks out over something - talk to her gently, and keep the kibble coming - I wear a small bag full of food for all such ocassions. She no longer fears trash cans on the street, or large trailers parked somewhere today that weren't there yesterday.

She's curious of strangers, but won't automatically come to them. But if she knows you - yowsa, look out, here she comes! She loves Virgil, our neighbor from the group home for adults with disabilities, and when I put her on a line in the front yard so she can be with me while I garden, he sometimes lays with her, which she loves. On our walks, there are at least five houses at which she stops - she knows a dog lives there that she loves, or it's a house where she's been invited in. She never forgets the places and people she really likes.

Lucy and Gray Max the cat continue to be hilarious together. Max will come on command, and if he's near Lucy, she will follow him. Yes, our cat is a herding cat. Max still cuddles Lucy when he comes in the mornings and evenings, but still refuses to play with her. But I still think it's coming... I just hope that I can get their interactions on video.

I so regret not having any videos of Buster and Wiley... glad I have a few of Albi.

Lucy & Murree at playShe's had four dogs visit the back yard to spend time with her - so far. Yes, we have our own little dog park... One is Violet, a neighbor's dog, who isn't interested in playing with her at all - we had Violet over while her owners were away for the weekend, and she was more interested in being with Stefan and me than with Lucy. And, yet, Lucy is so happy whenever she sees her. Another is Bently, a Goldern Retriever who loves to run as much as she does - keep your knees bent when they are together, because if they run into you, you will go flying like a snooker ball. But her favorite guest is Murree, no question - at more than 200 pounds, he's no match for 40 pound, full-of-beans Lucy. Geesh but she loves him. And vice versa. I'm very glad to have videos of the two of them playing.

It will be interesting to read these blogs in a year or two, to see how our girl has changed...

Monday, April 13, 2015

Our own not-so-viral dog videos

There's nothing quite like watching our 11 month old dog, Lucinda, at 40 pounds (soaking wet!), playing with her best buddy in the world, Murree, a two year old Newfoundland, over 200 pounds. They loved each other the moment they found each other whilst walking through Forest Grove.

We love having Murree over for visits. It's our own little dog park in our backyard. I decided to use my snazzy new $80 smart phone (yes, eighty, not eight hundred) to record their antics. Oh how I wish I had videos of Buster and Wiley playing....

This is how they are when we first get Murree into our back yard:

Eventually, Lucy hits excitement overload. Lucy is a blur, while Murree is more of a loper:

Finally, when tired, they are each other's chew toys:

Also see these previous blogs about Lucinda:

We Love Lucy

The meaning of noises

What I’ve learned about Lucinda

February Lucinda the dog update

Friday, April 10, 2015

Maybe I should take it back...

I'm kind of regretting that blog about Will I ever not be a novice motorcycle rider?. I posted a link to it on a discussion group for women adventure riders. Some of the advice I got in replies was quite good. But a lot wasn't at all.

I got chastised for how I ride from people who have never seen me ride. I got advice that showed people hadn't actually read the blog (like regarding where I might find a dirt and gravel expert to mentor me for a day). I got a long essay about "covering your clutch" and"clutch feathering" and "dry clutch" - I don't know what ANY of that means...

I also got a couple of statements about how I needed to get another bike. That makes me crazy. I love my motorcycle. Stefan has done so much to it to make it fit for me to ride, and I'm just not willing to downgrade yet. It also was frustrating - I wondered if men got this same advice if they ever admitted to what I admitted to. Of course, male motorcycle riders NEVER admit to any weakness, so... ;-)

Motorcycle riding keeps me humble, that's for sure. I'm an expert in a lot of things, but I'll never be an expert at that.

One person said I was going to have to accept that I was going to drop my bike more than once. Goodness knows I dropped my Nighthawk more than once... always when I was trying to park. But I've done so well at keeping this KLR 650 looking so beautiful - I want it to always be beautiful...

What I've decided I need, instead of the advice I was offered:
  • To start doing arm and hand exercises three times a week
  • To make and follow a plan to lose 20 pounds (weight loss helped me SO much on my first bike - less between my thighs means better foot placement)
  • To take Stefan at his word that he's not going to get mad when I drop the bike. Especially if I dent his fabulous panniers
  • To do my best at the Team Oregon class I'm going to take next month - and maybe even schlep up to Vancouver, Washington and take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation bike bonding class as well
  • To keep riding
  • To not share so much online about my motorcycle riding abilities.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Will I ever not be a novice motorcycle rider?

I've been riding a motorcycle now for almost seven years. And I still say I'm a novice rider.

It must be wonderful to grow up riding dirt bikes. When I see motorcycle riders now that seem so utterly comfortable, so at-one with their motorcycles, and I get the chance to talk to them, it always turns out that they started riding dirt bikes as a teen - even a pre-teen.

My husband didn't ride dirt bikes. He didn't start riding a motorcycle regularly until he was 27, yet, by 30, he was riding his motorcycle with such incredible grace and confidence and, well, I would say perfection, like he had been doing it for oh-so-long. I'm not saying he could do the Dakar Rally, but nothing seems to intimidate him as a rider, not sharp turns on a hill, not turning around on a hill on a one-lane road, not gravel.

Me, on the other hand... I'm Ms. Barely-the-Speed-Limit off the interstate. All motorcyclists and drivers hate being behind me off the interstate. Let's face it: 99% of riders and drivers go at least 10 miles over the speed limit, even on winding, narrow roads. I go around curves as quickly as I feel comfortable, and that always turns out to be the speed limit. I'd be okay with that if it weren't for the long line of cars and motorcycles that often end up behind me, or that one car following too close, or seeing my husband in my mirror and knowing he'd so love to be going faster.

But I think if you see me riding, even if you are following me, you don't think I'm a novice rider - just an overly-cautious one. I think my form is pretty good, and I really do enjoy riding off of main road (the freeway, and anything with lots of traffic lights). I enjoy gravel that isn't too complicated - I was going up and down Dixie Mountain Road and Otto Miller Road with quite a lot of confidence in 2013 and 2014. I've had a bit of a set back in confidence since my wreck in Utah last year. But I'm getting more and more comfortable again. If I didn't still really enjoy riding a motorcycle, I'd quit - and I still really do so enjoy it, and I want to not only keep riding in the USA, but do more ambitious trips in Mexico and Chile in the coming years.

But if you see me when I park my motorcycle, or leave a parking place, you know I'm still a novice rider. And it's during those times when I think - maybe I'll never get this. And it's when a lot of people watch me and think, wow, she's a novice. She must have just gotten her license last month.

The areas that I just cannot master so far - or even just feel comfortable with:
  • Sharp turns immediately after an uphill stop
  • Stopping and starting on an incline
  • Turning around on an incline
  • Parking (if it involves any of the above, to park or to get out of my parking place)
I loathe driving in cities because they involve all of the aforementioned. The idea of driving in Portland, even Beaverton, and especially Oregon City, makes me start sweating profusely - even just sitting here on the couch, not about to ride anywhere.

How do I practice these things? How do you practice something that, if you get wrong, you drop your bike?

I really need a one-on-one class to work on these things with someone who really knows what they are doing and how to transfer those skills. I'd love a class on how to better ride on dirt and gravel as well - especially how to stop. Stefan has been really wonderful teaching me dirt and gravel riding techniques, but we both think another person, who is really comfortable teaching novices, would be so helpful. But I cannot find such a class.

I have emailed and called and left a message with a training center in Washington state that shall remain nameless that offers a range of dirt bike and ADV rider courses, but they never called or emailed me back. I finally got someone via IM chat, but he wasn't clear on what class he thought I should take - and even suggested one class that seemed more about learning to camp via motorcycle - which I am quite experienced at doing - than a class to teach me the skills I need.

I took the Advanced Rider Training class with Team Oregon, and it did help me with cornering, but I got the impression the class is really about learning to go AS FAST AS POSSIBLE, safely, around curves. I'm just not interested in going fast... though I'd like to go faster, and this course did help. I also got the impression that the instructors were frustrated with me - they didn't like that I just couldn't go as fast as the other riders. It wasn't a nurturing environment - just a "Here's how you do it. Now do it. Okay, you didn't do it right, so I'll tell you again." I'll be trying another Team Oregon course, Rider Skills Practice (RSP), in May, since it's all I can find. Unfortunately, Motorcycle Safety Foundation courses aren't offered in Oregon - I loved their basic rider's course back in Kentucky (so supportive, so clear, so fun!), and I would SO love to take its Ultimate Bike-Bonding RiderCourse (patterned after police training courses).

And I'd still love to find a one-on-one trainer to help me with those bulleted items, and with riding better on dirt and gravel. Anyone?

I am always aspiring to be a better motorcycle rider. Always. I sure would like some help in that quest.