Headed east - Amy Schmitz

Frosty sunset in eastern Oregon.


Headed east

Jan. 14, 2018

If you'd rather click through the photos in a gallery, go here.

Happy belated new year!

Mikey and I got back from our fist big road trip back to Kansas City New Year's weekend, and as usual it's taken me some time to get through our photos. Even though we were gone for two weeks, we didn't take that many photos. 

We spent about half that time in the car and the other half visiting with as many friends and family members as we could squeeze in. Meaning there were lots of people we would have loved to see and missed!

The trip began with Mikey's work holiday party near Bellevue (on the other side of Seattle). The party dress theme was white, and I'll have more on that later this month. First I have to iron the clothes I made for it, so I can take some pictures!


The next day we began our adventure with the soggy Cougar Mountain trails in Issaquah. This is the same trail system Winston and I ran when we came to Seattle on our house hunting trip. Apple Maps screwed up and took us to different trailhead than we visited last time. Which of course was cool with me because I got to explore some new dirt, including one to an old mine shaft.

After a short stop at a nearby grocery store to grab lunch and change into dry clothes, we headed east. Which was a rare one for us. The last time we started a trip by heading east was 2010, when we traveled to South Carolina the day after Christmas.

Deadman's Pass in eastern Oregon.


We slept in the Element in Idaho that night. The next morning, Mikey asked me if I wanted to stop in Moab, Utah, knowing what my answer would be.

Looking back into Idaho at the Utah border.


Every time we drive in Utah it reminds me how beautiful the desert is.




We got to Moab just in time for me to get in a short sunset run. Mikey took Winston for a walk while I ran.

Ever wondered what it's like to walk with Winston? Although he is nearly perfect running at my side, walking involves a bit more zigzagging.

We then headed to a BLM campground about 15 minutes outside town. It's on a highway that is quite popular with climbers, but we had the whole campground to ourselves. Even though it was a weeknight and the low got down to almost 20, I was a little surprised we were the only campers because it's Moab! After we made supper, we crawled inside the warm Element about 8:30, meaning it got plenty dark enough for night sky photos in the 8 o'clock hour. A half-hour later one other car made camp.

Mikey does not enjoy my Christmas lights nearly as much as I do.


I kept warm in my 15-degree sleeping bag, and Winston slept under my head most of the night. (I did my best every night to keep him wrapped up in a blanket, and I put him in a warm coat.) The sunrise melted the frozen condensation off the windows, and I took off up the rock formations for a long run. Mikey talked me into taking Winston, so he got in his longest run since recovering from last year's limp.

It was warm in the sun and chilly in the shadows, and I was absolutely blissful. I love living in a rainforest area, but I also love visiting the desert. It's amazing that I can start close to town and be so alone in just a few minutes. And the views from Moab's trails are amazing.


Winston and I took off from camp for Poison Spider trail, which is crawling with mountain bikers in the summer. We saw one hiker about a mile from the trailhead and then no one for 9 miles. We came back down to the highway via Portal Overlook, which as I told Mikey when I met him at our finish, was beautiful and terrifying. Before a steep descent, it runs along the cliff edge overlooking the Colorado River and town. To avoid vertigo, I looked straight ahead and even walked the more technical sections. (I should have taken photos of the signs warning cyclists to dismount, but I was concentrating so hard on the two of us not falling off the trail, photography was not at all on my priority list.)

Mikey's photos while he waited for us to come back down the beautiful red rock.


Mikey drove back on the highway a short bit to Portal Overlook's trailhead after taking down camp. I told him we'd be about an hour and a half. But he has come up with a translation for "Moab time," so when we were gone almost 2 hours, he knew we were likely still on our way. He turned on his cell phone and walked up the trail a little bit until he got signal. I had signal at the top overlooking town, so I texted him to let him know how far I was. Once he got my text, he headed back to the car to wait. (I still ended up about 5 or 10 minutes past my text update. Oops.)

We went into town and changed into dry clothes again. (For those keeping score, I was up to three runs without a shower at this point with no complaints from my travel companions!) We drove across Colorado, which was obviously low on snow. In Denver I finally got in a shower and had our favorite Indian food delivered.

The next morning I got in a short run on one of my usual routes. Then Mikey and I had lunch with my friend Lauren, whom I hadn't seen in eight years — Can you believe she moved to Boulder right after we moved to Washington?! — before stocking up on yummy gluten-free and vegan baked goods.

It was a beautiful day with highs in the 60s. We drove around with the windows down. But the forecast for the next morning called for a temperature drop and snow during the morning commute hours. So we set the alarm for for 4 a.m. (which is 3 a.m. our time!) and headed for Kansas early. Interstate 70 was slick in eastern Colorado and western Kansas, and Mikey exited as little as possible for gas because that's where most of the wrecks were.

For the first time, we passed this sign in the beginning of our trip instead of while headed home.



So we made it to Mikey's sister's house in Topeka at a decent hour, before sunset in fact. The next morning Winston and I met Jennifer and a couple of the guys from Ad Astra Running for some early gravel road miles in Lawrence. I suspect Jennifer knows how much I value her friendship because I got up at 5:30, which is 3:30 my time, to run with her.

That night we spent some quality time with Jenni's family. And Saturday morning I got the rare treat of running with Brad from KC Running Co. I was proud of him for getting out in the cold and tackling a few hills with me!

Winston doesn't always put on the most patient behavior with other dogs, so we were glad he was going to have to practice being around other dogs during our visit. Jenni's family's boxer Rawlings is 3, so he has calmed down some but was persistent in trying to get Winston to play. Winston did not have the same goals and avoided Rawlings as much as possible. When we left him with Jenni Saturday night to visit our friends Sam and Greg, Jenni sent us a picture with the dogs on opposite ends of a sofa: "Progress!!!"

Although we tortured the knucklehead with canine companionship, he did get in some luxuries he doesn't get at home, such as cuddles in bed and his own chair. (That actually used to be our chair, and he had never been in it before.)


I knew it was going to get stupid cold while we were in town, but I guess I didn't pay a lot of attention to weather forecasts. I was not pleased to wake to snow Chirstmas Eve before my run with Jennifer at her parents house just five minutes from Jenni's. Another 20-degree run, but at least she let me sleep in!



That night, Mikey's mom gave Winston a frog toy for Christmas. Three weeks later, he still plays with it almost every day, and although it needs a little repair, he hasn't destroyed it yet.


We spent Christmas with Mikey's family, and I left a little early to run with Michelle, who even got on a bit of dirt!

The next morning, I headed to the Lawrence river trails for my coldest run of the trip with Jennifer. She was injured and dropped out early, but I got to finish with Grant, one of the owners of Ad Astra. I enjoyed getting to know him, and we both warmed up easily with the woods blocking most of the wind.

We all met back at Ad Astra, where our friend Susie was wrapping up the morning shift. Mikey joined Jennifer, Susie and me for lunch before heading to my sister's house in Shawnee for the rest of our visit. We celebrated with my sister and brother-in-law's family that evening with Mexican (our former Thanksgiving tradition) and Harry Potter Scene It, which Mikey and I won. If you know my nephew, Alex, that's quite the feat!

I had planned to run at my old home trails in Swope Park the next morning with several Trail Nerds, but we all decided to abandon that plan when we awoke to 0 degrees Fahrenheit. I'd run in that cold once before, and although it was fun, I had paid a little for it in the following days. We all met for coffee instead, and I meant to take a group photo but forgot!

We took my nephew shopping that afternoon before he had to fly back to D.C. and then met our good friend Marilyn for a short visit at her office.

Even though Marilyn was sick, she made time for us!


One week after arriving in Kansas, we started our adventure back west. We made it to the Denver suburbs just in time for a pretty mountain sunset. Then we turned north because the weather forecast was warmer in Wyoming than central Colorado. 

Winston really doesn't get the concept of blankets, but he does like soft things.



I hadn't run two days in a row, and Winston hadn't run in about five days, so I found some trails in Green River, Wyo. The area was beautiful, but the run itself was less than ideal. Some of the trails were nearly impossible to follow, and if you click that link you can see a couple of the times I had to give up and try different routes, including one where I wasn't sure where I was going or had come from and just bushwhacked my way to the dirt road.

And then it was downright scary.

There are only two trails back to the trailhead, and they go on each side of a wash. As Winston and I were running back, two men were shooting from a ridge over the trail. They were not at the shooting range, and they either didn't see me in my bright orange shirt or didn't care that I was on the trails. Or as Mikey suggested, they wanted to scare me. You know how in war movies you can hear bullets whistle overhead? I had never heard that sound in person before.

So to get back, I couldn't continue on my trail, and the other would have been even more dangerous because it faced the ridge they were shooting from. I also wasn't thrilled to run the road past them. I ran back out of the wash until I got to high enough elevation to call Mikey and let him know what had happened and that I was delayed getting back. We decided I'd take the road back, and I was relieved to see they were gone when I ran past where they had been.

Although the morning was about 40 degrees, Green River was frozen below the trails.


Sorry for not crossing the street to get the stoplight out of the photo. I was trying to hurry, so Mikey wouldn't have to wait too long. 


A few hours later we stopped for lunch in Ogden, Utah, which has an adorable downtown.  We then continued through Idaho and into Oregon for the evening. Mikey wanted to stop for the night as close to Portland as possible, and we ended up in a frozen rest area just before reaching the Columbia River. 

Mikey got Winston to cuddle with us in the morning and did his best to hide the mutt under the covers, but he doesn't hold still under covers too well. He really just doesn't get the concept any time we try to keep him warm.


We drove through off-and-on rain along the gorge and enjoyed lunch at one of our favorite bakeries in Portland. And stocked up on bagels for home — I ate the last one today. :-(

We were glad to head home, where the temperature was in the mid-40s. Kansas City was only 13 degrees. Friends and family, I love you guys, but I was glad to be back in the comfort of my gray Pacific Northwest.


One last thing: I changed the settings on the photos if you click on them for this entry. Instead of taking you to the gallery, the photo opens in Lightbox, which immediately makes the photo bigger. In older posts, you have to click on the photo again in the gallery to view it full screen. I also included a link to the gallery at the top in case anyone would rather click through the photos. Do you like one way better than the other? Is the gallery useless anyway? Feel free to leave a comment below or e-mail me.

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