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Give Yourself Time

I set aside at least one day each week to be outside. I live in Oregon where it rains a lot, and this is part of the experience. I don't try too hard to be up for the sunrise or out long enough for sunset light. But I do think about food – what to carry with me and where to stop on the way home. I like to be in a place where there aren't too many people, but I don't need to be alone. Experiencing a new location with a friend or two can help you to see more than you were looking for, and the conversation helps pass the time.

It's important to give yourself time.

The longer I'm in a space, the more I see. The light moves. A breeze blows through. Water droplets pool and run from one spot to another. Creatures appear and disappear. What I'm trying to say is that there's a creative tension in preparation: the rough outline of a plan is better than no plan, but too much time spent on the details can build up your expectations and the pressure to produce, curtailing creative contemplation, making it hard to BE in a place.   

Find a Time: Put a day on the calendar, and if you can, give yourself the whole day. I usually set aside a Saturday or the day after the end of a planned vacation or family event. I might spend Thanksgiving with my sister and then give myself an extra day on the way home – time to explore!

Choose a Place: I like to walk through a place, so I almost always look for a hike of between four and ten miles. Sometimes, I stack together two or three shorter hikes in order to give myself lots of walking time. Here in the Pacific Northwest, I use the following online tools to choose and research my hikes and to make sure anyone coming with me is dressed comfortably and fully warned as to what to expect and prepare for.

Oregon Hikers is an online community that provides trail descriptions, maps, pictures, and reports for trails in Oregon and Washington. My favorite tools on their site are the Find a Hike database and the Maps tool that lets you scroll a map of the area you want to visit and see markers for each of the hikes referenced on the site.

Northwest Waterfall Survey offers a database of every known (and most suspected) waterfalls in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. The 100 top waterfalls can be a kind of bucket list, but I especially like being able to check out any particular county if I'm going to be in the area and finding out what's nearby.

Washington Trails Association covers everything – absolutely everything – in Washington, and Friends of the Columbia Gorge offers up-to-the-minute information on activity in Washington and Oregon's shared National Scenic Area.

The National Weather Service has a search box at the top of their page where you can input the name of almost any mapped natural feature, unincorporated community, or city and get hour-by-hour forecasts (find and click on Hourly Weather Forecast) of temperature, humidity, wind direction and speed, precipitation potential, precipitation totals down to the one-hundredth of an inch, and the percentage of cloud cover (very important for light).

Two additional resources are the NOHRSC (National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center) interactive snow information maps and the US Forest Service trail descriptions.   

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