Saturday, October 25, 2008

Kent and Christine's Excellent Yurt Adventure

The smartest thing I've ever done in my life was to marry Christine. My wife is funny, smart, brave, beautiful, kind, patient, inquisitive, interesting and absolutely my favorite person in this or any other universe. She puts up with me and my quirks and most importantly, she knows that life is an adventure. For the past 24 years, we've been living that adventure as husband and wife.

Each autumn, around the time of our anniversary, we try to take some time off from our respective jobs and go somewhere for a few days alone together. In past years we've gone to Port Townsend WA, Victoria BC, and Portland OR. While researching possibilities for this year's trip, Christine discovered that various Washington State Parks have cabins or yurts. Given the variable nature of October weather in this part of the world, we didn't want to commit to what could be a few days in a damp tent, but a yurt would give us a dry and spacious place to hunker down if the weather turns nasty.

Palmer-Kanaskat State Park is about 20 miles south of Issaquah and as Christine pointed out, "we can bike there." While we've both been car-free for years, I'm the bike-centric one, while Christine tends to be perfectly pedestrian. Years ago, when Christine first met my parents, my mom asked her "do you bike?" Christine, not missing a beat, blurted out "well yeah, but not like him!"

Christine worries about being slow, but I assure her she'll do fine. After years of living with me, she knows that any distance is biking distance and as she says, "I can walk twenty miles if I have to." "You won't have to walk," I say. "I might have to walk some hills," she counters. "You can gear down," I say, "but if you have to walk some, that's fine."

Christine wants "a basket like yours" for her bike, so I deck out her Bridgestone XO-4 with a rear basket, a front snack bag and two water bottles. We both are pretty experienced at packing light. Christine carries all her clothes, her sleeping bag, her books and a bit of food. I have a similar load plus some repair tools, the bulk of the food and the Kelly Kettle.

Thursday October 23rd dawns with a bit of rain, but by the time we are ready to roll south the day has cleared. The riding is wonderful. I let Christine set the pace and I settle in behind her, taking what she describes as "way too many pictures of me." We look at leaves, the mountains, the wonderful day. Despite her reservations, Christine is a fine rider although she swerves occasionally to dodge woolly bear caterpillars making their way across the road shoulder. We stop for snacks. Christine does walk the steepest sections of some big hills but she can push her bike faster (3.5 miles per hour according to my cyclecomputer) than anyone I know. In her job (she's a shopper for she regularly pushes a several hundred pound giagantic grocery cart, so pushing comes more naturally to her than slowly spinning pedals.

We get to the park in mid-afternoon. The sun streams through the yurt's skylight and we settle in. We explore the park, mostly empty of campers on this late season Thursday. We relax and enjoy our time together. Towards evening I fire up the Kelly Kettle, brew up coffee and tea and make stroganoff that Christine proclaims as "delicious."

In the morning we have our first breakfast and wander down by the river. We leave the bulk of our gear at the yurt and ride through the Green River Gorge to the Black Diamond Bakery, ten miles away. After a pair of huge second breakfasts followed up with a couple of slices of pie ordered up with to-go containers, we stop at Baker Street books. Both the bakery and the bookstore are world-class attractions, subtly pointing out that large cities don't have a monopoly on culture. Loaded with pie and books, we return to the yurt.

At supper time Christine again praises my skills at making macaroni and cheese, reminding me how endearing she found it back when we were dating and she found out I only had one fork and I made her mac and cheese in a hot-pot. Nowdays, of course, we live high on the hog and we each have our own titanium sporks...

Saturday is the return trip, another golden day. As we near Issaquah we see the paragliders riding the thermals off Tiger Mountain and returning home we find that both the cat and the "Maverick Boy" survived in our absence. The boy had even made some chocolate chip muffins.

Early in the trip, Christine had been thanking me for my patience with her speed, or more accurately, what she perceived as her lack of speed. I think I finally explained it to her our last night in the yurt. I wasn't being patient. Impatience is something that happens when you want something to be over, when there is someplace else you'd rather be, something else you'd rather be doing. Being with my beautiful wife in this wonderful world, who'd want to rush through that?
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