Mt. Hood and McKenzie River Trail

This past weekend I got the chance to explore see some waterfalls and some mountains – the perfect weekend if you ask me!

Sunday

Sunday morning started bright and early as I made my way to Albany to meet up with Kristen. From her house, we grabbed her co-worker and then made our way to Mount Hood National Park where we planned to attack the Tom, Dick and Harry Trail by Mirror Lake!

The parking lot was full by the time we got there a little after 9am, so we had to park about a mile up the road before walking to the trail head. Get there early on the weekends to avoid this, but it wasn’t terrible and there was a path to follow along the road.

After about a mile of a lot of dirt switchbacks, we reached Mirror Lake! Our goal was to get to the top of Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain, so we didn’t stay too long at the lake and opted to do the loop on the way back. Up, up, up we went until…

Breathtaking.

Snow caps of Mt. St Helens, Mt Ranier and Mt Adams

The trail was easy to navigate since it’s pretty heavily traveled. The last bit to get to the summit was a lot of rocks, but nothing too strenuous. The views were all 100% worth it. We hung out at the time for awhile and all agreed that we could have stayed there forever. But eventually we started to make our way back down.

We went around Mirror Lake the opposite way to see the classic Mirror Lake view with Mt. Hood in the background.

Then we made our way back to the car for a total of 7.2 miles (per my GPS watch). After the hike we headed up to the Timberline Lodge which sits right on Mt. Hood and has ski lifts to take skiiers/snowboarders up towards the top. There were actually people skiing – in July! The lodge was really cool to walk through and check out, so I would definitely recommend a pit stop there if you’re in the area. We ended our day with some lunch at Mt. Hood Brewing Company, then made the trek home!

Monday

I stayed a bit more local and explored the Willamette National Forest area – Shahalie Falls, Koosah Falls, and the Blue Pool were on my list to see!

First up: Shahalie Falls!

The trailhead to the Waterfall Trail actually starts at Sahalie Falls. I got there around 8:45 and there were only 1-2 other cars in the lot.

After stopping to check out Sahalie Falls at the trailhead, I started down the path to Koosah Falls. It was down stream, so downhill and flat which made it perfect to get a little jog in. I ended up speed walking/jogging until I hit Koosah, stopping every now and then to look at my surroundings.

I kept going down to the Carmen Reservoir and debating continuing on to the Blue Pool which I knew was 3 miles down, but I didn’t have service and didn’t have a map.. So I decided to go back up to the car. Once I ran back, I realized that because I didn’t have service, I couldn’t look up how to drive to the Blue Pool either…

Then I remembered that I took a screenshot of the directions the night before when I was researching – WIN! I never would have found it otherwise; there were zero signs leading me to the trailhead, but once I found it I knew I had arrived by the line of cars along the side. To get there, you want to turn at to the Trailbridge Campground sign, take a right once you go over the bridge, continue up the gravel road about a third of a mile and you will see the trail sign on the left.

According to my watch, it took me about 2 miles to get to the pool. The trail is pretty rocky in some parts but follows the river and is fairly flat overall considering some of the other trails I’ve been doing. But before I knew it, I was there…

There is zero filter on this. Zero. The water is THAT blue. It was incredible.

I didn’t make the trip down to the water, but watched a lot of others climb down. One crazy lady even jumped in – I’ve heard the water temps aren’t higher than 40 degrees, no thank you. I could have sat there and stared at the water forever, it was just unreal.

I met a very nice older couple who actually are originally from PA, right outside of Maryland! It’s such a small world and is so fun to meet all of these people. We chatted for a few minutes and they offered to snap some pictures for me, which I was thankful for because my selfie game is only so strong…

After saying bye to my new friends, I hit the trail and headed back to the car. It was about 4 miles total once I got back to my car.

And that wrapped up another solid weekend exploring the PNW. It’s getting harder and harder to justify going back east…

Sometimes I Work

While I’m living for the weekends when I have the chance to get out and explore this amazing state, I do, actually, work.

I’m through my second week and I’m getting adjusted pretty well. I was actually ready to get started with work after the week off to drive across the country – mostly because I do better when I have a schedule. The first few days were a lot of orientation, computer-based training things, learning protocols, and just getting a feel for how things are done; but now I’m up and running!

I’m in a small, community based hospital. There are a lot of differences between this place and the system that I was working for for the past 1.5 years. Not only the size of the hospitals, but the size of the caseload, the productivity requirements, the speed and the documentation.

To put things into perspective:

  • Back in Philly I was floating between 4 different hospitals with bed numbers from 220-350 beds per hospital. Here, there are 113 beds.
  • In Philly, I could be given a list of anywhere from 12-25 patients depending on the day/hospital/coverage. Here, I’m lucky if I get assigned more than 6-7 patients. We do pick up new consults as they come in and see post-op orthopedic patients day zero, so that adds to the list. But I’m still not seeing more than 7-8 patients a day.
  • The ICU here I would compare more to a step-down, or even a step-down from a step-down unit back in Philly. I’m grateful for the experience I got in Philly of being in a large ICU with trauma, but there isn’t quite any of that here.
  • They provide me with my scrubs! I come in to work wearing anything I want (aka yoga pants and, pick up a freshly cleaned pair of scrubs, and at the end of the day I drop them in a laundry bin. No bringing home nasty hospital scrubs?! Score.
  • The documentation is sort of from the stone ages. It’s all very open-ended which makes me type way too much and take too long to write my notes. Things are hard to find in the charts and some things that I was so used to being able to look up, aren’t even able to be found. So that’s been frustrating,  but I’m making it work.

All of my co-workers have been so great at helping me get oriented and that’s made the transition easier. I’ve been told horror stories of lack of orientation and being thrown to the wolves so this was a good surprise. Overall, I can’t complain. I’m doing something I love in a beautiful state that get to explore every weekend!

First Few Weekends

As mentioned before, I reached out on Facebook before getting in to Eugene in hopes to find fellow travelers in the are to make friends. Luckily, two girls reached out and I’ve had such a great time getting out and exploring with them these first few weekends! Friends?!

I don’t know if you all have ever been in a place where you know zero people, but it’s hard to find people to be your friend. And when you finally do make plans, oh my gosh, I felt like I was going on a first date. What if she doesn’t like me? What do I wear? What if I don’t like her and want to make an escape? Will she think I’m cool?! Will she even want to be my friend?! Am I trying too hard?! All of these thoughts and a million others run through my brain. But you just have to be confident, go in there, and make a friend. Yay friends!

First Weekend

I met up with a fellow traveler down in Roseburg for an Arts festival – which really meant we skipped the art and went straight to the beer tents. She’s also from the east coast so we had a great time chatting and I got to pick her brain with all of my traveler related questions.

The next day I met up with a friend who actually worked with one of my best friends from PT school – naturally I knew she would be the perfect friend to explore with! We ended up heading down to the coast to Florence where we grabbed lunch before heading for a few hikes!

We went to Thor’s Well, Heceta Head Lighthouse, and trail along the Oregon Coast.

Second Weekend

Weekend two was filled with more hikes and a relaxing day by some epic pools. Explained best by pictures, here’s a photo dump.

First up, Devon and I headed to Lincoln City to check out a few hikes; God’s Thumb:

Next: Cascade Head Trail, a 4.2 mile, 1,200 foot elevation gain hike.

And last, Drift Creek Falls – my first waterfall hike!

On Monday, I headed about 2 hours north to the Opal Creek Wilderness to Three Pools, and omg

 

I could not believe how clear the water was! It was such a great day and I even worked up the courage to jump off one of the smaller “cliffs”. Yolo?

I now understand why travelers always say that it’s like they’re on vacation every weekend – I can’t wait to keep exploring this beautiful land!

Does it get easier?

I had the chance to meet up with a few travelers who have a few contracts already under their belt when I first moved to Eugene. One of the first questions I asked them was “Does it get easier?”

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Does moving away from family get easier? Does it get easier to say goodbye to the comfort of having friends down the street? Is it hard to have to start over every three months? Over time, is it easier to find friends and groups to be involved with? Do you ever get to a point when you aren’t consistently feeling lonely?

No. But sometimes, yes.

It’s never easy to say goodbye to family. Thankfully, technology makes saying goodbye a little easier. FaceTime, Skype, and all of those apps that help us keep in touch, make things a little easier. Between contracts, take that time to get home and see family. But it doesn’t truly get easier when you make that next move.

It gets different, they said. Not necessarily easier.  You learn how to adapt quicker. You find different ways to make friends. You get more comfortable with being uncomfortable. You embrace the fact that you’re getting a chance to experience something that others don’t get to experience. You take in the moments and just take it all day by day.

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A hard thing for me is the time difference. When I wake up, most of my friends are a quarter through their work days. I have multiple texts from my group chats that started 3 hours prior when they all woke up (thank you, do not disturb, for allowing me to sleep through these texts). At night, when I’m typically feeling the most vulnerable and alone, all of my friends and family are asleep. I’m getting out of work as their eating dinner or settling down for the night. I’m eating dinner as they’re in bed. It makes the time that I do get to talk to people more special, but it also makes it harder to coordinate times to communicate.

Another thing that I’m struggling with is seeing my friends doing things and feeling serious FOMO. Because I’m alone. Across the country. And am still trying to find my place in this new city. I know in the end this experience will be worth it, but it’s hard. What helped me through my first week is a few great friends who have taken the time to FaceTime with me, cheer me up with texts or phone calls, and provide me with amazing words of support and encouragement, helping to remind me why I’m doing this. So thank you to those friends who have taken the time to reach out and check on how I’m adjusting, I appreciate you all more than you could ever know.

So. As I’m adjusting to this life, as I’m learning how to get by and push past those feelings, as I’m building my character and stepping out of my comfort zone, as I’m learning patience and learning more about myself than I’ve ever known – it may not get easier, but I know I’ll always have people back home supporting me and waiting for me when I (if I? haha) come back.

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You mean, you don’t know anyone out there?

This was another concerned question I got repeatedly when I told people I was moving across the country. And it’s not something I didn’t think about daily, if I’m being honest. I’m leaving my home, my friends, my family, and moving to a city where I know zero people, with the exception of a cousin that’s two hours north of me. It’s terrifying. And it’s hard as all hell to make friends when you’re older. So how do you go about making friends?

First, thank goodness for social media. Sometimes all of the nonsense on social media can drive me crazy and make me want to delete the apps from my phone – but I am so appreciative of the tools it has provided me with in this move. On Facebook, there’s so many groups that are filled with other travel therapists who are just as alone, scared, confused and looking for a friend. One of the nights on my drive when I was feeling particularly down, I commented on one of these pages literally saying “Hi! I’m moving to Eugene and know nobody – let’s be friends!” Within 24 hours there were over 40 comments on there and I had made plans to meet up with 2 different girls. Friends!

This one may seem obvious, but: work friends! Most facilities that we get contracted by will have multiple travelers – physical therapists, occupational therapists, and nurses. That gives you a whole group of people that are most likely around your age, are also alone and looking for people to explore the area with.

Some work friends can’t be replaced though 🙂

Next – scope out any activities that you used to do at home and try to find similar activities. Example: In Philly there was a popular running store that would put on group runs. I never went because I was more of a solo runner, but I feel that this may be an opportunity in a new city that I should take advantage of. I’m also on the hunt for a soccer league, as the co-ed league I played in was a huge part of my time of Philadelphia. A good way to do this is through MeetUp.com. I just recently learned about this site but so far it has a lot of promising opportunity.

Become a YES person. I’m an extroverted introvert. I appreciate my alone time; I need my alone time to recharge after a long work week or a lot of social activities. But you can’t make friends sitting at home every night! So say yes to happy hours, to hikes, to festivals, to coffee, to anything that anyone invites you to. You may not want to go out all of the time, and it’s fine to say no every now and then – but for every no, there better be 5 YES‘s to follow.

Lastly – don’t shy away from dating apps. Yes, some can be creepy and sometimes seem pointless. But it’s actually a great way to casually meet people and possibly find a new group of friends that you can hang with on weekends. Bumble also offers a “BFF” portion, where you can meet up with girl friends.

Any way that friends can be made, take advantage of it! Making friends is hard, being on the road is lonely, there’s others out there looking for friends too – go find ’em!

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You’re Moving Across the Country… Alone?

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

I can’t tell you how many terrified looks I got from people when I told them I was driving across the country solo. I honestly didn’t think much about it until others seemed so intrigued/frightened by the idea. I didn’t think about what would happen if I broke down and there wasn’t anything for hours in any direction. Or if I ran out of gas because there wasn’t a gas station for 99 miles. Or if roads were closed and I didn’t have service to get directions cause I’m in bumf*ck America. If you’ve ever driven through Buffalo Gap, you know what I’m referring to when there is literally nothing, and I mean NOTHING, for miles.

So, how do you prepare to drive across the country and how do you go about it?

First things first… Can my car even make this drive?! We’re talking over 2,800 miles, crossing through 11 states, driving in temperatures over 80-90 degrees – on a car that’s 7 years old with 120K miles on it. So I took her in, got her checked out, did some things I probably should have done 20K miles ago… And they said she was ready to go! Here she is in Badlands National Park – she may have had her check engine and tire lights on for half the drive, but she made it.

 

Second, pick a route! Do I want to do a more southern route or more northern route? What places should I stop? How many days can I take to do it? How long do I want to drive every day? Do I book hotels?

I started with Roadtrippers! I put in my starting location and ending location – then added a few places I knew I wanted to stop on the way, then picked the remaining random locations based on what cities I would be passing through.

My must sees: The Badlands!

And while in South Dakota – Mount Rushmore!

And of course, you can’t pass through southern Wyoming without hitting Grand Teton National Park:

Once those three were set, I started to look at what was along my route. First place that caught my attention: Twin Falls, Idaho to check out Shoshone Falls. And OMG was it worth it…

Breathtaking. I also tried to check out Twin Falls Falls (not a typo), but there was construction and it was confusing, so I drove away. On my way to my next overnight stop, I was looking up “Must-see” places in Idaho (put that down as something I never thought I would say in my life) and stumbled across Balanced Rock. It was only a 45 minute detour outside my route and I was doing great on time so, why not?!

Now, as far as hotels go, this is how it went down. I felt out my day, drove for most of the mornings/afternoons and would have my mom or sister look up hotels in cities I was approaching. Then I would just book the hotel on my phone (definitely not while driving on highways while on cruise control going 80+ mph, that would be frowned upon.)

This drive took me five days, driving anywhere from 14 hours the first day and 7 hours the last day. It was truly an exhilarating experience to be in the middle of the country, endless sky and endless fields engulfing you as you fly down the pavement that seemed as if it was out of place in such a rural environment. It was slightly terrifying when I would see signs that said “Next gas: 99 miles”, or “(Insert random town name here), Population: 10”. I would recommend that drive to anyone who is looking for a solo adventure – there were times that I would look up at my surroundings and just smile, knowing that I am so lucky to be able to travel like this, and knowing that there is so much more waiting for me out there.

Other tips: Road snacks, get a lot of them. Gas station coffee isn’t the best, but it keeps you awake. Audiobooks are surprisingly more intriguing than I imagined. Spotify is the greatest – endless music and podcasts. Even when you think you’re okay on gas, fill up cause you may not see civilization for a long time. Take advantage of free breakfasts at hotels – one less meal on the road you have to buy. Take advantage of fitness centers in hotels – 14 hour drives = stiff legs that are ready to run. If you can, bring a friend! But make sure you can stand being in tight quarters with them for hours at a time.

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