#64: Anniversary Letters

Content warning: this post contains super mushy gross romantic stuff.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2018 challenge. Make sure to click on the photos!

A few years ago we tried out the idea of writing each other letters for our anniversary, and we loved it. It’s a thing we can pull out every now and again, maybe when we haven’t really been spending a lot of time together, and get a quick hit of that stuff that makes our relationship work.

This time we did it a bit differently. Over the course of the first few months of the year, we each wrote down a list of 100 things we love about the other person. It sounds like a lot, but it came surprisingly easy to both of us.

Then we arranged for a dinner date at DOC, an Italian restaurant that’s been on our radar for a while. We spent the entire time there taking turns reading our list items to each other, and thoroughly ruining the appetites of all the other patrons. It was disgusting. In fact, we hadn’t even finished by the end of our long, delicious, multi-course dinner, and had to go for a walk around the neighborhood in the dark to finish up. It took about three hours of grinning and warm fuzzies to finish.

We can’t recommend this enough. You don’t even need to make a plan or warn your partner, just surprise them one day with a big list! We promise, you won’t regret it.

And no, you don’t get to read our lists.

#8: Attempt to Summit Mt. St. Helens

There’s a certain kind of Thing that, when we commit to it, there’s no going back, and we have to plan our entire year around it. This is one of those Things.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2018 challenge. Make sure to click on the photos!

Our neighbors are involved with the Syrian-American Medical Society, which is an organization that works directly on the Syrian refugee crisis. Every year they organize a climb of Mt. St. Helens, and sell tickets to climb with their group as a fundraiser. There was no way we were turning down that invitation. An adventure? And we’re helping people? Count us in.

So we set our alarms for 4am the morning of the climb, and carpooled up to Marble Mountain Sno-Park, which is the only trailhead open for our Mother’s-day climb. We huddled up for some advice from our guide, who was very experienced on this climb, and agreed that, no matter where you were at 2pm, you’d turn around and head back down. We all signed into the climbers’ register, and set off on a gentle uphill trail. Which got steeper. And rockier. And snowier. And steeper. And steeper.

Mt. St. Helens isn’t a super-difficult technical climb, but we did have to buy some gear. Gaiters were essential, since the snow was at least hip-deep in places, and we were constantly in over our ankles. Trekking poles were lovely as well, they saved us both from falling over many times. Our hydration packs were spiked with electrolytes, which probably saved us some aches and pains. But probably the best investment we made were these slip-on snow spikes. These aren’t crampons, they’re much more flexible, like the traction chains you use for your car, but on your feet.

Becky and I separated at the 4 mile mark. She had been struggling with some knee issues and decided to be kind to her body. She made it well above the tree-line and is super proud of her 8 hard miles. (Note: right after this she started to see a physical therapist and a few months later the issues are almost completely resolved.)

At one point, one of our troop decided he wasn’t going to make it to the top, so he passed the SAMS flag to me to carry to the peak. Thus armed with a mission, I went on ahead with the matriarch of our group, and resolved to make it to the top by the 2pm turn-around. It was grueling. I’d take 50 steps, then stop and breathe. Another 50, then breathe. Drink some water. More steps. Eat a snack. More steps. I finally crested the top and peeked into the crater at 2:01pm.

From there I had just enough time to wolf down a sandwich and unpack the flag for a drone selfie of the team before we all started glissading back down. Let me tell you, sliding down a mountain on your butt is way easier than getting to the top in the first place. It was a fantastic experience.

Once we got to the less-steep parts of the descent, it became grueling again. The pace is faster, but it’s pretty strenuous clomping down all that way, and it just seems interminable when you’re this close to the cars and a feast.

The aftermath wasn’t what we expected. I kind of planned on not climbing stairs for a few days, and maybe spending a few hours in a hot bath. Turns out the only part of me that had any lasting injury was my face – I had some pretty bad sunburn from the bright snow. We were super hungry for a couple of days, but other than that it wasn’t really that bad.

We really enjoyed doing this. We did something really hard, with really great people, and had a really great time. Highly recommended, especially the Mother’s-day climb if the weather is decent (just remember to wear a gown!).

#65: Drive for a Gardner Field Trip

This is Lucy’s second year at the Gardner School, and while she’s been on field trips before, we’ve never gone along. Until they planned one that sounded so perfect for us that we couldn’t turn away.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2018 challenge. Make sure to click on the photos!

This particular field trip was three days at the Hancock Field Station, near Fossil, Oregon. We had to drop the kids off there and pick them up, but apart from the teachers and chaperones, all the time in between was for the rest of us grownup drivers to spend together exploring the area. So we drove Lucy and two of her friends the 3½ hours to the camp.

Once we dropped the kids off, we headed out on our own grownup adventures. We had about two hours to drive to get to where we were staying, and on the way were several things we were interested in. The John Day Fossil Beds National Monument has several sites in the area, and we tried to visit as much as we could. We hit the visitor center, hiked the trail with replica fossils, and one of us almost stepped on a snake.

Our next task was to get to where we were staying, which was in Dayville, Oregon (population 150). The campground where most of the parents were staying was lovely, though Becky and I “roughed it” in the inn across the street, with an actual bed and bathroom. The cafe in town is friendly and serves delicious food, and we had a great time there. We even had time for a campfire and snacks before dark.

The next day we set out looking for a bigger hike, and ended up deciding not to ford a river, instead electing to walk the gravel road for a couple of miles. We still got in some good sights and a pleasant walk.

In the afternoon we lounged, then went for dinner in Mitchell, at Tiger Town Brewery, which we cannot recommend highly enough. The beer was great, and their hottest wings were hot enough to satisfy even the bravest among us.

Bellies full, we headed to the Painted Hills at dusk, which is the perfect time to see them. We hiked as many trails as we could before dark, and had a great time. It was super worth it to make it here at sunset.

The next morning was pick-up. We packed up and headed out early, because there was a hike at the Clarno unit we wanted to hit before 10, when the kids would be ready. It was steep, cool, and the boulders on the side of the trail were lousy with fossils.

After that, we met up with the kids and trucked our way home. There may have been a stop at Dairy Queen, I don’t recall exactly.

April Misc Roundup 2018

Lucy attended the neighborhood Easter-egg hunt (with Will!); saw some roller derby and tugged some war; showed me how to play my new ukulele; finished making her bow for her archery apprenticeship; helped a friend celebrate her 8th birthday; and wore rabbit ears to every conceivable occasion.

Becky did a bunch of training hikes; spent a lovely weekend with some lovely ladies at the lovely beach; and attended a Q&A with someone who’s running for office!

I (Ben) took the neighborhood Gardner kids on a bike ride to school; attended a 12-year-old’s nerf-war birthday party; and made breakfasts out of dinner foods.


We did not bring home one of those tiny pugs.


#17: Surprise Date – Planned by Ben

At least once a year, we like to turn our tables. Ordinarily Becky is the planner, and I’m the maker-happener, but for one date every year I perform both roles, and Becky gets to be surprised.

This is part of our 100 Things in 2018 challenge. Make sure to click on the photos!

This year we went to a tiny comedy show in Southeast Portland. We enjoyed drinks and tiny foods at Angel Face (where every cocktail is made on the spot just for you), sat and enjoyed the “Sincerity is Gross” comedy hour at the Slide Inn, and finished the evening off with some bowls of tasty ice cream at Fifty Licks.

I know, I know, nothing too spectacular. But there’s something to be said for some great drinks, quality time, and laughs, and I think Becky would say the same.