Home to home - Amy Schmitz

Making our way: Winston and I ran West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz, Calif., as we made our way up the West Coast.


Home to home

Jan. 7, 2017

2016 was rough. We lost lots of talented artists and entertainers. Our country lost its damn mind on Election Day. It was a clusterfuck.

But it was one of my best.

I feel a little  bad for how happy I was at the end of 2016. It was a weird feeling. Happy sad. That's also how my friends said they felt when I told them we were moving to the Seattle area.

Mikey left for his job in Seattle the week before Thanksgiving. So when the movers arrived in mid-December, he'd already been gone a month.

Winston and I stayed with my sister in Shawnee, Kan., for a couple of days before taking off for Washington. On Dec. 19, Winston and I headed to Lawrence to pick up our pal Jennifer for the first leg of what I've been calling our "big adventure."

Our timing was perfect. The last week in KC was chilly, and we knew a storm was supposed to arrive after our departure. 

The temperature dropped, and the moisture fell a little during our drive. The paved surfaces got slick, and Jennifer and I saw several cars on the side of Interstate 70.

And then about 15 miles from the Colorado border, the sky cleared, and the temperature began to rise. 

At the Colby, Kan., stop, Winston gave me a little unexpected love while I prepped my lunch/Photo by Jennifer Kongs.


The temperature was in the mid-50s in Colorado Springs, Colo., when we arrived. We had limited sunlight left, so we snuck in a couple miles of a shake-out run before the big storm arrived.

That evening we watched the snow fall from Jennifer's aunt and uncle's cozy home. We woke up to a few inches of snow the next morning. (View from my guest room.)

Jennifer was determined to get in her snowy run. And we tend to do stupid things together, so I was easily talked into a short run the next morning. I persuaded her to wait until midmorning, when it finally warmed up to 0 degrees Fahrenheit. 

We bundled up, and our faces got RED. And we giggled a lot as the snow continued to fall.

I had my fill of the cold, so I was happy to spend that afternoon at lunch and visiting Garden of the Gods from the warm comforts of Jennifer's uncle's car.

I was so impressed with my knucklehead! He made a canine friend. Winston isn't exactly fond of the other dogs. He tolerated Stinkie Dog because he had to. But they were never close. And he's always preferred the company of humans over dogs. But he got along fantastically with Susie and Prentice's dog, Max! They were buds!

And Prentice really wanted to let their cat out with Winston out and about even after my warnings of Winston's infatuation with cats. So we let them be in the same room for a couple of hours.

It took a lot of supervision (and attempts to distract Winston from obsessing), but at least everyone survived.

After a couple of nights in Colorado Springs, Jennifer flew home, and Winston and I drove south to escape the snow. Although I planned to camp in the Element every night, winter forced me into a hotel in western New Mexico.

On the way we stopped in Albuquerque to shop at Stitchology, run along the Rio Grande, and grab food from one of my favorite restaurants. 

As we headed west, I saw Petrified Forest National Park was just off the interstate, and I remembered reading that it is rather dog-friendly.

A gutted 1932 Studebaker marks where Route 66 used to cut through the park.


I took this photo after driving through a section called The Tepees, where I really wanted to take a photo, but there was no turnrout. It was so cool, the blackest hills I'd ever seen.


I took Winston on two short hikes in Petrified Forest. The first was Blue Mesa Trail.


A concrete support added to this 217 million-year-old tree is supposed to postpone water's eventual destruction of the bridge. Seems a bit silly to me.


Winston and I checked out the Giant Logs Trail on our way out. 


I still wanted to get a run in, so I asked some locals in Flagstaff, Ariz., for a trail recommendation. They sent me to Buffalo Park, where we found some single track just before sunset.

Winston again refused to cooperate for a selfie. He'd rather keep running.


I had planned to camp at Mojave National Preserve that night, but my detour to Petrified Forest and late-day run put me a little behind. I ended up at my backup, a KOA in Needles, Calif. The next morning, I woke at sunrise and did some yoga before starting the drive back north. This was the only day of the trip I didn't run.

We drove up Interstate 5 for a bit and then turned for the coast. This might have been the day my ear felt like it was going to explode. I had a little fluid in my right ear before I left KC. I had tried to reduce it with a little antihistamine, per my doctor's suggestion, but I felt like I had a cold for a few days after running in 0 degrees in Colorado. Driving the mountains in southern California was beautiful but quite uncomfortable.

I stopped at a grocery store and was delighted to find some battery-operated lights for the Element! I had to try them out first on Winnel at our campground near the coast.


The next day was the winter solstice, and I went on my warmest run of the trip. Winston and I ran West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz. There were so many vans with nomadic types and surfers that I felt at home in our Element.

Parking was close, so I moved the car and took the Nikon back out. 

There were lots of surfers, but they seemed to be mostly bobbing around in the surf. The waves weren't really big, and I didn't see anyone get up on a board.


With one night left in California, we continued heading north along the coast.

Farmland north of San Francisco.


Highway 101 took us to our next campground on a branch of the Eel River's south fork.

We woke to a foggy morning along the river.


Just like the last time we drove north along the West Coast, the sun came out on our way into Oregon. I didn't think I could get to our next campground before dark, so I stopped at the Indian Sands section of Oregon's Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. This run along the ocean cliffs was possibly the most beautiful trail run I've ever done. It had A LOT of elevation gain. I gave up on a couple of offshoot trails that got so steep, I wasn't certain we'd be able to climb back up them. And then I had to turn around because I would have had to go across the highest bridge in Oregon. Many of you know I developed vertigo at heights several years ago, so I accepted the few miles I got in, ate lunch in the parking lot, and made my way. (Garmin data is here, but I screwed my watch up a little.)

We made it to Umpqua Lighthouse State Park that night. 

This was how we spent most evenings in the Element. 


I wanted to get in some off-leash time with Winston on the beach, so we got in a short run the next morning before taking off

Umpqua has a small campground, but I would recommend this park.


I planned an optional extra day of travel for a Christmas Eve arrival, but I was ready to be home. I wanted to go to Devil's Punchbowl and then was going to stay at a Washington park north of Portland, Ore. But I was much happier to head straight to Portland, visit a couple of our favorite restaurants there for lunch, and get to Bainbridge Island the evening before Christmas Eve. Mikey had a fire going for us when we arrived, and Winston happily smelled the whole place.

I've spent the past two weeks unpacking and running around the island. We have our little weekday routine of dropping Mikey at the ferry, going for a run, working on the house, picking Mikey up from the ferry, and eating supper together. I'm surprised by how much I've enjoyed it here already. Obviously, I knew I was going to like it, but I've been really happy so far! I've left the island only twice since we arrived and don't miss the city yet.

Our Christmas Eve run took us to a shore where I got to watch sea lions/On Christmas morning, we ran to downtown Winslow/Driftwood on the shore by the ferry/We ran at Grand Forest Park after our first morning dropping Mikey at the ferry/That same run we ran to another shore, where the skies were clear enough to view the Olympic mountains/The next day we ran along the southern shoreline, including by White Point Pier and a pair of former boats.


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So now that I have shared these photos, I'll get back to unpacking. It's going to take a while, but that's moving, right? Once I have this place straightened out, and we've painted some walls, I'll share pictures of our new home. 

In the meantime, if you haven't seen my #WinnelMovestoSeattle collection, please check it out. There are some good photos that I didn't include in this post.

And happy new year!


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