One of the few things I used to really like about living in Grand Rapids was that first truly spring-like day after the insanely long winter. You know, that day when sun came out and the temperature suddenly spiked twenty-five degrees. You shed the winter coat and run around in the melting snow outside in your shorts and a t-shirt. Colors seem extra vibrant. Smells return. You open up all the house windows, shake out the rugs. That day is so distinctly good that it almost makes the relentless gloom worth it.
Yakima seems not to have that dramatic spring moment. It’s more gradual here. Three or four days a week for much of the winter are sunny. Blue-skied days in the forties are pretty normal. Heck, we hit sixty for a couple days in January. We haven’t had snow stick on the ground for at least a month now. I noticed yesterday that soccer practices have started in the park. It’s still very foreign to me to live in a place we’re people can confidently schedule outdoor sports practices in February. I’m pretty sure consistent days in the fifties will be coming in the next couple of weeks. We’ve started to get hints of it this week. I walked the dogs in the park last night to the sounds of chirping birds and pinging baseball bats. The thermometer on the back of the house is creeping clockwise.
We had our first Ultimate Frisbee gathering of the year this afternoon. The weekend forecast looked a little more Spring-like than it actually turned out to be (we had fat wet snow flakes falling this morning, melted within a couple hours), but the old summer gang showed up at Franklin Park nonetheless. Cleats on, Frisbees a-flying. The air was cold enough to sting Frisbee-struck fingers during our warmup tosses (and my hand and knee scars were glowing a robust purple), but once we started playing the clothing layers were quickly shed. We played 4-on-4 for a couple hours, plenty long enough to remind the legs and lungs what it feels like to sprint around outdoors again. As I stood in the endzone after a sliding catch, grinning at my mud-caked leg and happily picking at the flecks of grass wedged in my socks, I was reminded again why I love playing sports and why riding a stationary bike at the gym all winter is a sad substitute.
A couple weekends back Mary and I went stomping around the Tieton foothills with the dogs. We had intended to run around the fields below Royal Columns, but were met by a “Closed for Raptor Nesting” sign when we crossed the bridge below the columns. So we headed a little farther down Highway 12 to “The Cave.” Mary and I followed the switchbacks up the hillside while the dogs followed the path of whatever scent they happened to be sniffing. Bounding over boulders and running eight steps for our one.
A little winter nip still in the air (not unpleasant), but also plenty of Spring smells percolating up from the sun-warmed terrain. We hiked along the base of the cliffs, then circled up and around, topping out on the flatter plateau above. A herd of deer watched us warily from a distance, but the dogs didn’t give chase.
And then the tick infestation began. “The great feast has begun!” they announced to their friends. “Tell everybody!” We found a couple on Trammell (plucked and flicked airborne into the February sky) and then a couple on Nora and then a couple more on Trammell until we decided, “Well, I guess that’s enough Lyme disease for one day,” and off we headed back to the car. We picked up a few more on the way down (see the picture above as Mary inspects Trammell) and Mary vowed never to hike anywhere with me ever again. Even though this was completely not my fault, those little fellas should’ve been frozen comatose.
A couple days later we discovered an engorged pea-sized tick hanging sluggishly off of Trammell’s neck. And Mary called me at work the day after that saying she’d woken up to find a tick crawling around the bed. I think we’re clear now though. No tick sightings in awhile.
I sure could use a vacation or at the very least a slow down in the extracurricular activities. I worked fifty hours this week, helped out at the high school wrestling practices for a couple hours each afternoon, and also started coaching “Little Guy Wrestling” on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Looking forward to hitting the reset button some time soon. So that’s my excuse for not posting these pictures from last weekend. More also on the 2009 photos page (including pictures from the hike that Mary and I went on with all the dogs today).
Taylor clawing her way up the SW side of Goose Egg Mtn. Trammell and Taylor a bit unhappily posing in front of a mondo Ponderosa.
Frozen Lake Rimrock. The dogs snorting about on the hardpack.
Taylor pondering the space below. Both dogs on the summit of Goose Egg. You can see how briskly the wind is blowing by the way Taylor’s ears are flapping out like wings.
The view across to Kloochman Rock. Trammell found a reward near the summit.