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The Wandering Widow

Observations, Tips and Reckless Truth Telling on the Road Through Grief

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Grief

The Unwelcome Committee

A Grief Recovery Project Post

If one lights a fire for others, one will brighten one’s own way. 

                                           ~Nichiren


A few months after losing Dan I had someone chastise me for spending so much time with other widows.  They berated me and argued that I should be spending time with “normal” non-grieving people.  I was still in a very vulnerable place, and couldn’t even find the words to tell her to f@#$ off. What the hell did she know? She’d never lost anyone. These fellow grief survivors were my new tribe of widow warriors, and there was no way I was going to let them go just because someone else thought it was morbid. She couldn’t understand that they were the lifeline I needed most.

Connecting with these other W’s became part of my GRP.  I communicated with them through chats, blogs, and other groups. One of these groups has coined the term “the unwelcome committee,” which is aptly named. What is it? It’s the group of “seasoned” W’s who reach out to new W’s. We unwelcome you to the W Club, because we wish you didn’t qualify to be here. Hell, we wish WE didn’t qualify to be here. But we extend a lifeline because we remember what it was like to feel so alone, in shock, in pain, and without anyone who truly understood. We call. We message. We blog. We show up. We enfold you into our tribe, where no explanations or apologies are ever needed, and where love and support are unconditional.


Honestly, just learning you exist is a gut punch to a lot of us. Our grief muscle memory kicks in, and we instantly flash back to the early days of our own grief storm.  I can remember being such a raw wound I couldn’t think straight.  Back then another widow reached out to me. She knew that I wouldn’t answer the phone or respond to a message, so she showed up at my front door. (For the record, we already knew each other, so this wasn’t a random stranger showing up at my house).  She’d lost both her dad and her husband in a very short time frame, just like me.  Out of all the people that tried to get through to me, Julie was the only person that was able to because my heart recognized that she KNEW and UNDERSTOOD what I was feeling. Not sure that I’d describe it as widow street cred, but she’d walked the same streets of this new hell, so I guess it could be.

So when I get the news that another woman has joined the W Club, I give myself time to deal with the tightening in my belly and my chest and allow the grief wave to crash over me.  I cry for both of us. I cry for the loves we lost. And then I brace myself to extend a hand and unwelcome her to this new reality.

XOXO,

The Wandering Widow

Death in a Digital Universe

A Grief Recovery Project Post

I’ve read a lot of articles and posts about death after Facebook. Thanks to the digital world we now live in, you can live on forever in the interweb. In the immediate weeks following his death (F@#$ you cancer), many used his profile as a way to collectively grieve. I was one of them. I spent days scrolling through years of photos and posts that documented every random thought he’d had. I received messages and stories from his friends, all of which were lovingly saved into a document for his future grandchildren. But as time passed, I became one of the few to ever post anything on his wall. Facebook Memories became a daily assault on my healing heart. It became something I dreaded looking at. And we can’t forget about the people who’d wish him a happy birthday, or ask him for something, that I’d have to inform that he’d died. Super fun for me.

Before he died, Dan added me as his Legacy Contact to make the decision on what to do with his Facebook profile. (Twitter and LinkedIn don’t have that option so required death certificates). For the last few months I’ve felt that it was time for his profile to come down. After consulting with family, my grief counselor and other W’s, I felt surer of my decision. I don’t need a Facebook Memory to remember him, or the amazing life we shared together. And if you were an active part of his life, you don’t either.

So, since I’d had his entire profile printed out with the help of My Social Book (for future grandchildren),  I took his profile down this week.  Dan Bain, you may finally rest in digital peace. ❤️ 

XOXO,

The Wandering Widow 

P.S. For those of you who are freaking out right now, the Dan Bain Memorial Scholarship page will remain active.

Going With the Flow

A Wondering Widow Post

On my recent adventure down the Snake River in a kayak, I spent a lot of hours fighting the wind and the current. I’d lost my momentum and kept getting spun around and around. I started to panic when I realized I was the last of our group and falling even further behind. So naturally, I fought even harder, which didn’t do anything but tire me out faster.

Like my lame ass kayaking skills, I couldn’t control any of the events that occurred after we heard the words Stage Four Terminal. All my fighting to “control” his cancer, my grief, and this life without him did nothing to help me. Surrender and acceptance were what brought peace.

 

I stopped fighting to control where I was going and started laughing when I realized I was stuck in my favorite grief recovery metaphor.  For the better part of the last six months, I’ve reminded myself that I need to go with the flow. That if I untie myself from the pier and stop fighting the current, the river will carry me where I need to go.  It’s something I work on daily. (Recovering control freak, remember)?

Just as it is in our grief journeys, we can’t control how long it takes or how we get through it. So I quit paddling and reminded myself to breathe through the fear. I spun around some more as I let the river carry me where it wanted to, but managed to enjoy the view along the way as I eventually made it to where I needed to be.

XOXO,

The Wandering Widow

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Backyard Adventures

A Wandering Widow Post

As I get ready to head out in search of global adventure, I needed to get a few last-minute checks off my Idaho bucket list. If you’ve never been to my adopted home state, you’re missing out.  I’ve been blessed to see a lot of it and this weekend, thanks to some amazing friends, I focused on the Valley of Magic. (Okay, so it’s called the Magic Valley, but I like my version better).

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I started at the Minidoka Internment Camp Monument. This has been on my list for a long time. This memorial to a blight on American history has huge significance for the Japanese American community. When I first moved to Idaho, I was surprised to learn that the Japanese Americans I met either didn’t celebrate their heritage (like we did in Hawaii) or didn’t know about it. The more I learned about Minidoka, the more that made sense to me. Why would you celebrate the very thing that caused you to lose everything and get rounded up and imprisoned like cattle? For those of you that don’t make time to read but want to learn more, I recommend the Dennis Quaid movie, Come See The ParadiseNot only an amazing love story, but a pretty good depiction of the time.

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I also found it shocking that most Idahoans don’t know about the role their state played in one of the most regrettable acts in American history.  Groups like Friends of Minidoka are helping to change that (if you want to support their efforts you can donate at minidoka.org). Heavy stuff, and a story that more people need to hear.  My friend and fellow adventurer, an Idaho native, was there for the first time too and she was sad to learn about all of it.  But it felt surprisingly peaceful to me as if the simple act of being there and bearing witness was enough to calm the energy of the place.  The Japanese have a word called gaman, which is loosely translated as enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity.  In hindsight, I guess that attitude also helped get me through my dark days of grief, although the patience and dignity parts are questionable, so we’ll just go with enduring.

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After the dusty camp, it felt great to spend two days on the water.

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The first day we rented kayaks and had a leisurely float down the Snake River under the Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls.  Normally you’d see base jumpers off the bridge, but it was quiet there that day.  The water was relatively smooth, and the wind wasn’t horrible. Overall a perfect set up for a beginner.

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Gotta love kids. They are fearless. When I was growing up we’d jump off of Hercules Rock, very similar to this, on the Makaha Coast.
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The second day a group of us kayaked down the Snake River in Hagerman to get to Blue Heart Springs. This little crystal blue oasis off the river is fed by underground springs. On a clear day, you can see straight down to the white sand bottom and see the bubbles percolating up to the surface.  It was windy the day we went (not ideal conditions for a beginner), but the crystal blue water was still amazing.  I never cease to be amazed at the beauty we can find if we make time to look for it.  Blue Heart Springs is a Caribbean blue jewel in the middle of the high desert.

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Our group consisted of a few pros, newbies, kids and a chihuahua.
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First looks at Blue Heart Springs are breathtaking.
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So for those of you that have been wanting to find an adventure of your own, it may be closer than you think. What’s waiting for you to find in your backyard? Live Now. ❤️

XOXO,

The Wandering Widow

THE DETAILS

Minidoka Internment Camp:

Bring your walking shoes and park near the entrance under the guard tower. Follow the paths and read the placards. Many have audio options of interview excerpts from people who lived in the camps.  It’s free to enter and self-guided, but you’ll want to monitor the website to see if there are any activities going on while you’re there.

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My favorite quote:

I will always remember my father’s statement on the eve of our departure to Camp Harmony. “I don’t know what will happen to us. I don’t know where they’re going to take us. I don’t know whether we will ever be able to come back here. But always remember, this is your country, and you must act accordingly.”

Bob Saito

Kayaking under the Perrine Bridge:

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Ask this guy about his adventures and how many countries he has adventured in.

Put in at Centennial Waterfront Park. We rented kayaks and all our gear from AWOL. They made it super easy. Make your reservation online, check in and sign your waiver, and then walk to the dock where some very nice young people will help you get all set up. You don’t even have to drag your gear, just hop in your kayak (or raft or paddle board or whatever) and have fun.  We took a leisurely two-hour trip which got us past the bridge and allowed a leisurely return.

And if you need a quick snack while in Twin Falls, head downtown to Twin Bean, home of the best crepes I’ve ever had. The fact that they were named after Harry Potter has nothing to do with that, although my Gryffindor crepe was magical.

Kayaking to Blue Heart Springs:

I borrowed gear for this one, but you can rent in Hagerman and have them delivered to the “dock” at Banbury Springs. If you don’t plan on making a return trip, you’ll want to leave a second vehicle behind at Thousand Springs RV park so you can get back.

This was a four-hour trip for us. We fought wind and current in both directions (which is why I can’t lift my coffee cup today) so it took some of us a lot longer to get through.  When you get to Blue Heart Springs, you’ll find a spot on the rocks to have lunch (don’t forget to pack yours) and enjoy the sunshine. FYI the water is COLD. Shock your system cold.  While some of us did jump in, we didn’t linger.

Check another one off the bucket list.
Worth the freezing cold water to check another one off the bucket list. My friends were wise enough to wait to tell me about the snake that swam by until I was out of the water. Photo credit to Scott Ryan.

The Wandering Widow’s WTF Guide to Planning for the Inevitable

A Grief Recovery Project Post

 

This week I had the privilege of being a guest on a podcast about life insurance, something we don’t like to discuss. Something I didn’t want to discuss. But it got me to thinking about the other important icky things that W’s (and all adults, really) should consider taking care of as soon as possible.

 

As if going through their clothes and personal belongings weren’t already miserable enough, there are a few more things we need to do after losing a spouse, even in the midst of our worst grief.  

A few months after losing Dan, I found myself sitting at the conference table in my attorney’s office. I didn’t want to be there but knew that I had some responsibilities to address. Without a living spouse or offspring, I had to designate what my final wishes were in the event of my untimely demise. Morbid? Not really. Unpleasant? Yes, definitely. Necessary? HELL YES.  And now as I get ready to depart on my big adventure, it’s time to review and make sure all those documents are up to date.

I still have non-W friends and family that refuse to designate legal guardians for their children or prepare their wills or trusts. I think it’s mostly because they don’t want to think about the inevitable end we will all face.  To them, I ask, “could you be more selfish?” Yeah, that’s right. Selfish. Using your discomfort at thinking of your death (or hurting someone’s feelings) as an excuse not to take care of this leaves those you love with heart-wrenching decisions to make, or legal battles to fight, while they are at their most vulnerable.  File this post under reckless truth telling and get over yourself.

Even if I weren’t a childless widow (aka single person), I’d still want to minimize my family’s burden any way I could. Here’s my list of icky things (besides life insurance) to think about:

1. WILL OR TRUST.  You need to be able to speak for yourself, and this is how you do that. Make sure your designated executor or trustee has the original because they will need it. Digital copies are fine for your files. Putting it in a safety deposit box will only work if your executor has a key and is listed on the account, so think long and hard before stashing it there. And be specific about your real estate holdings as some states will require that. A good estate planning attorney can help you determine whether a will or trust is more appropriate for you.

2. LEGAL GUARDIANSHIP OF YOUR CHILDREN (or pets in my case). This is a $hitty conversation but imagine the person you want LEAST to raise your kids, and know that it will be THAT person who will fight the hardest to get custody of them. For the love of God, please make this decision in writing. You can always change it later. Most of you say you would die to protect your children. If you’re willing to do that, why wouldn’t you take care of this?

3. BENEFICIARIES. Your spouse was likely your automatic beneficiary on life insurance, retirement accounts, etc. Time to get that updated.

4. ADVANCED MEDICAL DIRECTIVE and POST INSTRUCTIONS.  This is probably the worst. And in my case, the one I received the most pushback on, most notably by my doctor who had to sign it, which should be all the evidence you should need as to why this document is necessary. (FYI, never question a person’s decision here, especially not a W).  I learned that paramedics and emergency room staff would not honor your wishes UNLESS you have your POST instructions on you, as an Advanced Medical Directive isn’t good enough for them, at least not in my state. I posted mine on the fridge (where paramedics are trained to look), registered with the state, and I carry my POST instructions in my wallet.  When I travel, they are with my passport, on the off chance someone in another country might think to look there or care. Think about what you want, and make sure those closest to you know your wishes as well.  Friends and family don’t have to agree with you, and this document ensures your wishes are met.

5. The miscellaneous crap. You know, family heirlooms and all that. You can add a descriptions page to your will, or just have a typed document that your executor can access.  If there are stories that go with them, write them down or record them. Having gone through it TWICE in a year, I can assure you that being the one left behind to guess who you wanted to have your guns, jewelry or record collection is an awful burden. And you may want to ask if they even want it…one man’s treasure is often another man’s trash.

All of this stuff is in my hard copy (and electronic) “Lisa’s Dead File.” Yes, that’s really what it’s labeled.  I hope someday my family can appreciate this as my final gift to them.  I have every intention of living a long and adventure filled life, but we could have never imagined we’d lose Dan so young and so quickly.  After what I endured in the aftermath of his loss, there is no way in hell I will allow anyone I care about to have to go through it on my behalf, especially without the leeway community property laws would give them.

And as icky as this topic is, it’s not as bad as leaving your loved ones to deal with it after you’re gone.

XOXO,
The Wandering Widow

Good-Bye Half Life. Hello Adventure.

A Wondering Widow Post

Have you seen the movie Up? Dan and I used to say that it was the most incredible love story we’d ever seen, captured in the first five minutes of a children’s movie.  That first five minutes wrecks me EVERY time.  If you haven’t seen it, please have tissue handy as it’s a tear jerker.  And maybe some Oreos. And if you have Oreos please invite me.  The movie picks up after that, but damn those first five minutes! Never in a million years did we dream the movie was about us.

Photo credit to Disney-Pixar

After the brutal reminder that someday is promised to no one, I refused to end up like the Carl you meet where the movie actually starts, miserable and alone and full of regret. I’ve had a lot of amazing people come through my life in the last few months. Each of these people helped me get a step closer to making the decision that brought me to today. They helped me realize that the new me IS Carl, the Carl that lets the balloons fly and heads off into the adventure he and Ellie never got to take together. The Carl that rips his house off the foundation (Holy Moly what a metaphor) in search of happiness.  Does he find it? You’ll just have to watch the movie. (Don’t forget the Oreos).

Photo credit to Disney-Pixar

So honoring Dan’s Live Now motto, and adding a new one of my own, I’m letting my balloons fly. Today I retire from a career and a work family I love beyond measure. I’ve ripped my house off its foundation to go in search of beautiful places, interesting people, and adventure. As scary as this is for someone who has played it safe all her life, it’s far more terrifying to imagine a life of regret if I don’t take the chance. I refuse to live a half life. So this widow is going wandering. And I don’t need to search for happiness, I’ll make my own.

XOXO,

The Wandering Widow 

#LiveNow #NoHalfLife

✔️ San Diego Comic-Con

A Wandering Widow Post

It’s funny how you can live somewhere and never do the things other people travel there for. I lived in San Diego for years, but never went to Comic-Con. A few years ago, during an especially funny episode of The Big Bang Theory, Dan and I decided that going to SDCC should be on our bucket list. Since we’re both kinda geeky, it sounded fun. Plus, how can you go wrong in San Diego? So my friend, an SDCC veteran, helped me get badges to the biggest geek party in town.

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You can never go wrong in San Diego.

And it was a party. It’s a good thing I’m retiring in a few days because I’ll need a week or two of naps to recover.

XOXO,

The Wandering Widow

P.S. In case you’re thinking I’m a huge jerk for taking a vacation right before I retire, this bucket list trip was on the books before I made that life altering decision. Live Now.

Here are my Top 5 Comic-con Takeaways:

1. You can definitely do it as an SDCC virgin, but having someone help you learn the ropes is easier. Fortunately, there are a lot of SDCC blogs that can guide you along. Read them. Learn from them. When you are advised to bring a refillable water bottle, snacks, sunscreen, and backup batteries for your phone, do it. And be prepared to walk a lot! We averaged around 20,000 steps a day, and that was with a LOT of breaks at San Diego’s finest eateries and drinkeries. (Breakfast on the patio at Mary Jane’s gives you a lot of people watching and celeb spotting opportunities. And Whiskey Girl has my stamp of approval for any time of the day).

I’d add a small umbrella (for shade) to the list for those long outdoor lines. It was unusually humid and I didn’t reapply sunscreen frequently enough, so brought home a lovely stripey sunburn.  I can’t imagine how hot it was for those in full costume and makeup. I bow down to their dedication and commitment to their characters. And the cosplay didn’t disappoint. 

2. Don’t wait until AFTER you have your badges to book your hotel. Rookie mistake! We ended up paying a premium for a divey motel. I was told that most San Diego businesses close to the convention center make over 30% of their annual revenue during Comic Con. I don’t doubt it. Price gouging is the name of the game. It was still worth it, just be prepared and budget accordingly.

The entire Gas Lamp District gets into the Con spirit.

3. Don’t stress if you don’t get badges for every day. Enough events are happening around the convention center that you will have plenty to do. I found that some of my favorites were offsite and didn’t require badges at all.  Bladerunner 2049 was my favorite, and not just because of the Johnnie Walker whiskey bar at the end.

 One of the things I loved best was that the whole town gets involved, taking it from mere convention to super festival.  Hotels, trains, and trams were all wrapped and decorated appropriately.  And there were lots of themed marches and displays supporting shows or movies.  We participated in Nerdist’s Wonder Woman March but also got to enjoy History Channel’s Viking funeral march and Outlander’s exciting outdoor entertainment.

4. Keep your patience and a sense of humor. Everyone else is just as excited to be there as you are, lines are inevitable. Make new friends. And don’t be put off by the 2-3 hour waits…the lines move faster than whatever the end-of-the-line-keeper tells you.

If it’s your first time, be prepared for sensory overload. It was worse than Vegas for me, and I couldn’t figure out what to look at with all that color, lights and noise everywhere.

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5. Enjoy yourself. SDCC was amazing, but the best part was being able to spend time with friends.

I loved that everyone connected with the Con was respectful and still able to have a good time. I lost track of how many languages I heard spoken–this is truly an international event. It is also family friendly, and it warmed my heart to see so many parents bringing their kids. But folks, please leave your dogs at home as this is an anxiety ridden event for Fido. 

I can’t wait for next year!

The Only Place Left to Go is Up!

A Wandering Widow Post

 

Sometimes when you can’t see the answer, you need to change your perspective. That thought thundered through my brain this morning as I woke up at the butt crack of dawn to meet a friend to go on a hot air balloon ride.  (For some reason I’m determined to get over my fear of heights and can’t seem to keep my feet on the ground).

 

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Morning fog and the sun just starting to peek over the mountains. Sometimes it’s worth it to get up early and go outside.

 

I’d originally purchased this trip for Mom since a balloon ride was something she’d talked about wanting to do pretty much my whole life. As Dan and I rushed to check as many things off our bucket list while we could, it became important to me to help her Live Now with one of hers. As it turned out, she wasn’t able to make it, but I’m grateful that I got to.  I’d have never known what I was missing.

 

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This couple got married just before lift off. OMG the feels!

 

As I get ready to set sail on world adventures, having some in my own backyard seems like a good idea. And Boise pulled out all the stops this morning. After nine months of trying to get off the ground, this morning dawned still and beautiful for our early morning trip.  Our balloon was named the Phoenix, which couldn’t have been more perfect since the rising Phoenix has become the symbol of my survival and transformation. And it’s the heat of the fire that lifts the balloon to new heights, new views, and a new perspective.

 

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Phoenix Rising.

 

If you ever get the chance, do it.  Sometimes the only place left to go is up.

XOXO,

The Wandering Widow

The Info:

We booked with Boise Hot Air Balloon Company. They’ve been easy to work with despite the multiple rescheduling. Safety is a priority, so don’t give them a hard time if you get grounded at the last minute. I thought my nine months of rescheduling was long, but there was another passenger who’d waited two years. Boise weather this last year hasn’t been kind to balloon pilots.

We met early at the Albertson’s parking lot in Eagle and were shuttled to Eagle Island Park for launch.  TIP: if you are in a hurry to get back, you’ll want to schedule your own driver. We ended up having to wait for everything to be packed up before we got shuttled back, turning a 45 minute flight into a three hour excursion.

The weather in the air is about 10 degrees warmer than on the ground. Add to that the temperature inside the balloon itself can get close to 200 degrees, and you may not need a jacket. Long pants and closed toe shoes are required, and you will want to remember your sunglasses, since you’ll be staring into the sun for the better part of the ride. But what an amazing sunrise!

 

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You know which of your friends are fellow adventurers when they show up at 6 am after you give them less than 12 hours notice to get childcare arranged.
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Idaho has some of the most incredible sunrises I’ve ever seen. And I grew up in Hawaii so that is saying something
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One of the things I will miss about Idaho is being part of this close-knit ag community.
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Good morning, Beautiful.
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Evolution of wagon decomposition. You’d never see this from the road.
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Proof Scotland doesn’t have the monopoly on beautiful lake islands.

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In a few weeks you’ll able to smell the onion fields everywhere.
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Amber waves of grain.

 

Waterfalls, Ziplines, Bourbon and Good-byes

A Wandering Widow Post

Over the Memorial Day weekend, we headed out to Hood River, Oregon to scatter the last of Dan’s ashes. It had been almost a year, but it was a year of horrible weather and bad fires at home, so we had to delay and adjust the plan several times. There is something to be said for getting things over with early. Having this task hanging over my head was uncomfortable, but given the trials and tribulations of the last year I wasn’t ready to let him go just yet either. The only thing Dan loved more than golf was hiking with his family, so we knew all along that we’d hike somewhere beautiful to do it. The summers he spent in Hood River with his grandparents were his happiest memories as a child, so when our favorite trail in Idaho was destroyed by fire last summer, this seemed the logical choice. With Skamp The Dog leading the way, the kids and their spouses, the SIL and the nephew and I all headed out.

The sunny weather was Dan’s kind of perfect, although too hot for me with barely a breeze. The river was so glassy that you could see the reflection of the birds flying up above. The windsurfers you usually see were replaced by boaters and stand-up paddle boarders. Exactly the weather we had last year, so we gave Dan credit for it.

A random conversation at hotel check-in sent us out to Tamanawas Falls, and it was perfect. It was also overly ambitious for someone coming off both an injury and illness who hasn’t been on a trail hike in two years. If I’d been in my prime hiking shape, it would have been no biggie, except for maybe the scary boulder scramble. Instead, the elevation changes and the heat had me cursing myself for believing when someone said it was an easy four-mile hike. When I got passed by people on the return trip, including a chemo patient, small children, and old people, I decided there’d be no more whining about over-heating, just a few more breaks to catch my breath. Did I mention how hot it was?

When we came around the bend and finally reached the falls, I couldn’t help but smile at the reward that was waiting for us. Tamanawas Falls didn’t disappoint. It was rocky, and the water was freezing, but we found a log on which to perch. After overheating on the trail, the cool mist from the falls was welcome and refreshing. We scattered Dan’s ashes and toasted him with a flask of the same bottle of Maker’s Mark we opened to toast him on his last night with us (FYI hot Makers Mark on a hot day is gross, and we should have put the flask in the river first.) I can’t speak for the rest of the group but, to me, it felt like the circle was now complete. 

Tamanawas Falls

Despite being a crowded day at the falls, when people saw what we were doing they respectfully hung back. That was pretty cool, unexpected, and much appreciated.

The view from the cave behind the falls.
 

For those of you that asked for more details, scroll down for trip info. We hope you love Hood River as much as we do.

XOXO,

The Wandering Widow ❤️ 

The Hike:

If you want to head to Tamanawas Falls, take exit 64 towards Mount Hood, and follow Highway 35 about 31 miles until you get to milepost 74 and park at the Polallie Trailhead. You’ll need to pick up a trail pass in town since you can’t purchase them onsite. We took a chance that they wouldn’t enforce the permit rule over the holiday weekend, and as we were pulling out of our parking spot the park ranger showed up. Oops. 

Take your life in your hands and sprint across the highway to the trailhead to get to the falls. It’s a pretty steep ascent for those of us out of practice, at least for the first mile. There are a few slick spots along the way, so don’t be a dork and wear flip flops. A few years ago there was a massive rock slide, so now to reach the falls you have to rock scramble over a ginormous pile of Toyota sized (okay, maybe not quite that big) granite boulders. FYI, on a hot day, they are freaking HOT! This was the most nerve-wracking section for me, and coming back down was worse than going up since I could see all the ways I could die if I fell. I was grateful for the little girl crying that she couldn’t get down since she made me feel better about myself and my non-graceful crab walk back down the boulders.  TIP: Stay low to get around the boulders. There is more loose gravel but an easier/faster path.

Once you’re over the boulders, the trail bends, and you are rewarded with your first view of the waterall. The base of the falls is rocky and moss covered, although there are logs and some dry rocks to sit on. If you’re brave enough to cross the painfully cold water, there is a lovely spot of ground where you can take a break.  The dry cave behind the falls is relatively large, but you need to scramble up a narrow wet rock ledge to get there, and it is slippery. I opted out of this part, but everyone who did it said it was worth it to enjoy the view through the falls.  TIP: If you’re not from Oregon, or are hiking with kids, be advised recreational pot use is legal and your hike will have a certain stink to it.

Overall a beautiful hike and one I’d do again.  And despite my whining, a fairly easy hike.

The view from Skamania Lodge.

Ziplining:

With our big project crossed off the list, we were ready for a little fun. So the next day we set out on another easy adventure at Skamania Lodge, about 20 minutes across the river in Washington. I can’t recommend the Skamania Lodge Zipline Tour enough. This two+ hour tour includes seven zip lines (the longest being over 900 feet), three sky bridges, an auto rappel and a few short trail walks.  The views were amazing. The harsh winter ice storms took down a bunch of trees, so the view of the river from the tree tops was better than usual. And don’t forget to look down. We saw red tail deer that were completely unfazed by the noisy zipline.

The guides are friendly, knowledgeable, and patient, even with a big baby like me. I’m still not sure how zip lining ended up on my bucket list since I have some issues with heights, but with my SIL and nephew cheering me on, I womaned up and checked it off the list. The first few zips were sorta terrifying, but after that it was fun. I was surprised to find I was disappointed when it was over.

TIP: Read the website regarding appropriate attire before going. My poor nephew and all the kids in our group were scarred for life by the woman who wore a skirt for this excursion.  Geez Louise lady!

This is what conquering fear looks like.

Lodging:

After last year’s Air BNB disappointment, we decided to hotel it.  This year we stayed at the Westcliff Lodge for the first time. An older hotel just on the outskirts of town, the rooms are clean and spacious, and you can’t beat the view. If you decide to stay there, be sure to request a third-floor river view room with a balcony.  The view is worth it! There are no elevators, so if accessibility is an issue stick to the second floor, where the views are still pretty good and the walkway goes straight to the parking lot. We wrapped up our weekend at the Lodge fire pit with s’mores, stories about Dan, and new happy memories. We’d definitely stay here again.

Our gorgeous view from the third floor.

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