Friday, August 31, 2012

The Olympic Peninsula

For the most part, when I think of the Olympic Peninsula, or the Pacific Northwest for that matter, I think of cool mountain air, the vast Pacific Ocean, mild temperatures, and family.  A large majority of my extended family lives in a small town nestled in the foothills of Olympic National Park, just a short walk from the breezy Straits of Juan De Fuca.  For several years now, my family and I would make an annual pilgrimage away from the scorching heat of North Texas and stay awhile with grandparents in Sequim, Washington. 
Sequim is a small town, just off Highway 101, about 20 miles east of Port Angeles.  The majority of people who go there are just passing through, with the exception of relatives and tourists making their way through the region.  This year though, was a very different one.  This year, I brought my wife, Caitlin, for the first time.  She had never been to the Pacific Northwest before and had no idea what to expect. 
When we would visit as I kid all the family would get together, go hiking in Olympic National Park, take the boat out on the straits, walk the beach on the Dungeness Spit or just walk around town and enjoy the weather.  I knew this trip would be full of fun stuff for us. I wanted to show Caitlin part of what I did as a kid and just why I love coming to the area. 
From the moment we got off the plane in Seattle, I knew Caitlin was in for a shock.  When we left Dallas it was already in the mid 90’s…at 7a.m.  Seattle was barely breaking the low 70’s, and it felt refreshing.  Cold to Caitlin….  On our first day we took a road trip, visiting the family’s old stomping grounds with my grand dad as our tour guide.  We stopped in several small towns, pointing out some family history for Caitlin, including a stop in Forks, where my grandmother had lived for a time.  As a teenager, Caitlin was a big Twilight fan and was excited to see Forks, where the books took place. 
A few days later we made our way in to Olympic National Park where we took a day hike up Hurricane Ridge.  Not exactly a hard hike, but fun, and extremely scenic.  In total, there was roughly 1,000 feet or so worth of elevation gain, while looking out over valleys filled with green pine trees, mountain meadows and snow capped peaks.  From the top of the ridge we looked down at the town of Port Angeles, the Straits, and Vancouver Island.  I had almost forgotten how breathtaking the view was from the ridge, and I could tell by the look on her face that Caitlin loved it as much as I did. 
Close to the park were a few other hot spots that we decided to check out such as Crescent lake, Merrymere and Madison Falls, and the Elwa River.  The Olympic Peninsula is without a doubt and outdoor enthusiasts’ treasure trove, and several days of our trip were willed with short day hikes around the park area.  Caitlin especially enjoyed hiking out to the falls. 
While we may not have climbed any snow capped peaks or traversed any glaciers, the trip served as a great inspiration for Caitlin and I to tackle several outdoor adventures as a couple.  She even expressed an interest in trying to climb Mt. Rainier! 
With our upcoming move to Cheyenne, Wyoming, the thing I took away most from this trip Washington was the fact that I have a lot of work to do….mainly buying gear for Caitlin! 

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Comma

The Comma:

The morning after Michael Phelps won his 19th medal and became "The most decorated Olympian of all-time" I was watching ESPN's Mike and Mike in the Morning on TV. Mike Greenberg commented that what you are in life, or what you are remembered for is often defined by what comes after the comma when you are introduced. For example, "Erik Weihenmayer, first blind man to climb the Mt Everest". "Michael Phelps, most decorated Olympian of all-time." "Neil Armstrong, first man to walk on the moon."

I think that we spend so much time focusing on giving our lives reason and purpose based on our achievements, accomplishments, etc. But let's examine ourselves for a moment. What is your most notable accomplishment that people think of you as? What do you think of yourself as? Do you still let that high school football state championship define you? Or, do you moan about how good of a rock climber or cyclist you were or could have been when you were 10-11 years old. We can't get caught up in our past accomplishments or lack there of. We need to learn to look on the past with fondness, or whatever emotion you want to, learn from it and move on.

At the same time we can't simply live for the future. My girlfriend's Father, Randy, Kailee and I were sitting on the couch after dinner one night just talking about finances, investments, savings and the like since Kailee and I had a few questions. We all agreed that it's good to save money. It's good to put it away and invest in your future. At one point Kailee’s Dad was heavily into stocks and investment portfolios (he still enjoys studying them every now and again). When he was in his late 20s he mentioned to one family member that if he kept up at this same rate he’d be very happy financially by retirement. His family member passed along some good advice, “remember don't forget to live along the way". And so Kailee’s Dad advised Kailee and me of the same thing. Just don’t let the future consume us.

Too often, I think, do we get caught up in the past or the future. But then on the other hand there are those who get caught up in the present and dedicate themselves solely to one task without caring about yesterday or tomorrow but only for today. None of these is an ideal way of living. Ideally, we need to find that balance in our lives. I hear my Dad talk about balance a lot. Balancing finances, obligations, emotions, everything. We're always seeking that sense of balance in our lives. And as I constantly remind my spinners in each one of my spin classes "we're all at different levels". Your balance is different than my balance. I may be off balance while that same situation might keep you in balance.

In short, learn from the past, look forward to the future and live in the present. Don't let what's after that "comma" define who you are, or how people think of you for life. What do you want to be known for? Do you want to be known as a great athlete, a billionaire, a great parent, sibling, friend, spouse? Find that balance. It'll take some time and some mess ups but eventually we all will reach it one way or another.

Climb High,

Kyle Coon