My front yard a federally protected wilderness area?

Being in my front yard is an experience of solitude and beauty that brings a profound appreciation of nature, though my neighbors’ lawn-moving lessens the experience.

Several years ago I eliminated the lawn and put in indigenous plants to mimic an Eastern Washington landscape. I made trails so that running in my yard would be like running in the country which I explained in the post Let’s go for a run in my yard.


Because I stick to trails when I run, I’m not able to fully explore my front yard wilderness. Recently I did an all-day, off-trail hike to do just that. I was very excited as I started out.

I discovered some wildflowers I hadn’t noticed before.

I thoroughly explored my wilderness and thanks to a good map, avoided getting lost.

It occurred to me that since my front yard is roadless and so wild, I should have it declared a federally protected wilderness area.

There’s a famous place in Montana called the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area. If my wilderness is able to get federal designation, I’d like it to be called the Jim Johnson Wilderness Area. And as the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area is often called simply, The Bob, I’d like my area to be known as The Jim.

So after my day-long hike and the prospect of a designated wilderness area at my doorstep, I went to bed a tired, but very happy man.



Personal running journal gets publicized

Last week, a running journal was left behind at our running club’s post-run get-together.

I started leafing through it and found a few interesting entries. I’m sure it’s okay to share as long as no one tells the owner about it.

Thanks to me, if you keep a running journal, you know not to leave it unattended.


Leg needs repair

I got myself injured while running more than two weeks ago. Using the two photos below, you can win a very large cash award bonus by correctly guessing what my injury is.


If you guessed calf muscle tear, you win! Simply download the app Cash for Me and then tap on the envelope in the below photo. A slot will form on your screen, and your very large cash award bonus will be dispensed.

I’ve become prone to calf muscle tears the past several years. It’s happened a few times and it always in the cold or cool season. I’ve learned from experience that I can’t return to running until I’ve taken at least three weeks off.

To promote healing, a few times every day I stand on the edge of a step and lower and raise my heel thirty times.

However, not being able to run has disrupted my daily routine and left a big void in my life. I spend a lot of time staring forlornly out the window.

I’m so bored, I nap two or three times a day.

When I’m able to muster enough energy, I get a piece of wood from my woodpile and make toothpicks. My next project is to use my maul to smash rocks over and over until I have sand to spread on my icy sidewalks.

But come evening, my cat Gloopy and I enjoy some solid bonding time watching Nature on PBS.



I meet Petra II

I recently ran a 10K race on a cool day, and it rained the entire time. I was chilled to the bone, so I stopped at Thomas Hammer Coffee in Fairwood for a hot drink.

I was soaked at the finish, then I caught more raindrops during the half hour awards ceremony.

I was soaked at the finish, then I caught more raindrops during the half-hour awards ceremony.

A woman seated alone near the counter raised her head when I walked in. She looked like Petra, and though I didn’t think Petra’s beauty could be improved, this woman looked like an enhanced version.

As I looked at her, and she at me for much longer than a pair of strangers should, she showed no expression as this mutual evaluation was going on, nor any discomfort about the prolonged eye contact.

I like these situations because an interaction is more likely. Rarely does anything come of it, but it’s almost always a pleasant encounter.

After ordering my drink, I positioned myself to talk to her, but to my surprise, she spoke first.

“Where’s the swimming pool?”

I doubled over, working hard at not bursting into laughter. I was still completely soaked, and I may have been dripping all over the floor.

“I was in a 10K race, and I run so hard I sweat the rest of the day.”

She gave me a fake ‘eeew’ look.

“My name is Jim Johnson.”

She shook my hand and smiled. “I’m Petra II.”

She had to have noticed my bewildered expression. I’ve written about my pursuit of Petra in many previous blog posts, but in the end, it didn’t work out, and we went our separate ways. To meet someone with that name who so resembled her is mind-boggling.

“Petra Two?” I asked. “That’s your real name?”

“Yes, using Roman numerals. My parents lost their first-born as a toddler, who was named Petra. My parents so loved the name, but they couldn’t legally re-use it. So I was named Petra II.”

My order was up, and though I was going to take out, I wandered back to Petra II. “Is this your favorite coffee shop?” I asked.

“Yes. I come so often, I’ve been appointed table monitor. You may sit here.” She pushed out a chair with her foot.

I sat across from her and as we talked, I was so enchanted by her beauty, her voice, and mannerisms. She is so nearly the original Petra’s twin that I thought maybe she was. But Petra does not have a sister, and though it occurred to me that maybe this was Petra, she would’ve behaved differently. I finally concluded this was a new Petra who was even more fascinating and alluring than the original.

“What was your last name again, Jim?”


My mocha was a little short of chocolate, so I excused myself and took my cup to the counter. While waiting, I saw Petra II pick up her phone. It occurred to me she might search for my Facebook page.

I’d guess she’s in her mid-30’s, and I didn’t want her to think I’m too old. I grabbed my phone, quickly went to my Facebook photo albums and tapped the first photo I came to of a younger me.

My new profile pic below was taken when I was a college student living in Pullman, WA.jim-at-wsu

I returned to the table and told Petra II that I often come to this place on late Sunday afternoons. She said she’s almost always a morning coffee drinker.

This is where I met Petra II. Thomas Hammer on Hastings.

This is where I met Petra II – Thomas Hammer Coffee on Hastings.

She was still tapping on her phone and then she looked at me, looked back at her phone, and did it again.

“Jim, I just went to your Facebook page, and you look much younger in your profile pic.”

“I just ran a hard race, and I’m drained and tired. With a shower and a little rest, I’ll look like my old self.”

“When was this picture taken?” she asked.

“Oh…a couple months ago.”

“It looks like a really old photo.”

“I used one of those filters on it. I like the rustic, dated look.”

She stared at her phone for several seconds. “This poster in the background – isn’t that Jaclyn Smith? Wasn’t she in that 70’s TV show Charlie’s Angels?”

“Boy, you are knowledgeable…ahhh…I’m not sure who that is.”

She turned her phone off, dropped it in her purse and pulled out her keys. She had a smile the whole time, but I couldn’t tell if it was favorable to me or not.

“I need to get going.” She got up, put her hand out, and we shook. “It was nice to meet you, Jim.” With that, she was out the door and gone.

I lingered at the table, replaying our conversation in my head. What a pleasant, pleasant woman she is. Yet I was troubled. I shouldn’t have changed my profile pic. I probably blew any chance I had.

I tossed my cup into the trash and walked to the car. When I got home, I took a long, hot shower, and it felt really good.

As I pulled stuff from the fridge to make myself a delicious meal, my phone dinged.

I’d left it in the bedroom, so I fetched it, and what a surprise. It was a Facebook friend request from Petra II. And with it a message which contained nothing except her phone number.




Rules and decrees bring success to Manito Running Club

Spokane’s top running club by far is the Manito Running Club. Many members regularly win races or their age-groups. They are also leaders recognized in the running community for their effectiveness and dedication.

This culture of excellence has been fostered by a strict regulatory environment in which layers and layers of rules and decrees have created an atmosphere in which members thrive.

Many policies and requirements that govern the smallest of details in behavior, dress, hygiene and more makes for a cohesive, tight-knit group that is focused on discipline and attention to detail. This creates a winning attitude.

The group appointed a talented individual, Mike Tonkyn, to the position of violations administrator. As head of the Violations Department, his team doles out punishment and enforces the hundreds of regulations. In the below photo, Mike is delivering a stern glare to a member who used a napkin in a non-complying manner.The violations administrator (1)

Members are required to attend frequent seminars to learn the latest MRC policies and dictates. In the below photo, which I explained about in a previous post, members are learning to run in the latest, club-approved formation.SONY DSC

Even parking your car is monitored by the watchful eyes of MRC enforcement personnel. Though Manito Park is public space, parking spots are assigned for our Saturday morning runs, and there is zero tolerance for parking in the wrong spot.

In the photo below, I’ve just pulled out of my assigned spot, and I’m heading home with the satisfaction and fulfillment of being part of a system that brings order, structure, and a big brother warmth to my life.Jim-driving (1)

Recently, myself and fellow club member Lensa Etana were singled out for a near 100% adherence to club rules and policies. It was a truly wonderful moment, and we were very, very happy.Jim and Lensa (1)

Unfortunately, shortly after this, Lensa committed a major violation, and her membership in MRC is in doubt.


Online registration sucks!

I rarely fly into a rage and shoot steam out my ears, but when filling out online forms, it happens sometimes.

I recently entered a race in which I missed the deadline to register by mail. I know it’s archaic, old-school, and uncool, but I use it as often as I can because it’s S-I-M-P-L-E.

So I go online and right away I’m blocked from registering because I don’t know my password. Apparently I registered for a previous race through the same race registration company and was forced to get a password.

The steam inside my head is starting to pressurize.


I have to have a new, temporary password emailed. Sometimes this takes longer than you’re told.

I finally get in, and here’s a list of several free newsletters that will be emailed to me. I don’t want these newsletters, but all the boxes are checked. I have to uncheck each box.

Next…what’s with this list? I can pick three magazines to try free. However, I have to supply my credit card number, and I’ll be charged for the free issues plus a year’s subscription if I don’t cancel promptly before the trial period ends. I see a hassle if I take advantage of this offer, and…..why is this even here?

Can I finish up? No. Now I’m being offered registration fee insurance. For $7.99, one-fifth the $40 entry fee, I’ll get a refund if I’m unable to make the race. Maybe this would make sense if it was a very high entry fee and such a tough race that preparing for it could lead to injury, but buying insurance to cover forty dollars?

All I want to do is register. Can’t I use a paper form? Pretty please. I promise I’ll make it hard on myself by carefully reading the liability waiver.

Finally, I come to the payment section. Fetch my credit card. Enter sixteen digits. Enter expiration date. Enter my top secret security code. Double check to make sure there’s no mistakes.

Oh goody! For using this time-consuming, on-line debacle filled with amazingly valuable offers, I get to have $3.95 added to my race fee.

To top it off, I missed out on another benefit of paper registration – getting in a run to my mailbox for pick up.

Jim running to mailbox

Encounters with wild animals while running

Satirical and absurd describe most of my posts. Sometimes I write of true events. This time is a sometime.

As a high schooler, my parents had a remote lake lot with a travel trailer, and I frequently accompanied my dad to spend a leisure working day there. One time I arranged to leave early to get in a run, and he’d pick my up on his drive home.

Running through a heavily wooded area, I saw a small animal on the gravel road ahead, running away from me. I caught up and slowed to its pace, keeping a buffer of several meters. Never before had I run in tandem with a skunk.

He ran a lot further than I thought skunks could run before stopping and facing me. He stomped his front feet which I knew was a warning that he’d spray. I didn’t react because I was a good twenty feet away, but when he turned and backed up toward me, I backed up, too.

Eventually he ran into the woods – a smarter escape route than sticking to the road.

During my college days I worked summers at a YMCA camp north of Spokane. Running alone on an old logging road one morning, I rounded a corner, and in front of me was a coyote and a badger, facing off, about to fight. It’s the only time I’ve seen a badger in the wild.Badger

(From Wikimedia Commons. Photo by Yathin S. Krishnappa)

Seeing me, they immediately fled. I ran a short distance past the spot, stopped and looked for them. I was hoping they’d come back together and resume their scuffle. I would’ve enjoyed watching a coyote-badger fight. But I apparently ruined that possibility.

Though I wasn’t on a run, my most perilous encounter occurred in a remote area of the Colville National forest in northeastern Washington a few years ago. I was doing a solitary ten-mile hike because overtraining caused a partially torn meniscus a couple weeks earlier.

I awoke an animal sleeping near the trail, and as it got to its feet, I thought it was a moose. As it galloped toward me, I saw it wasn’t a moose, but a bear.

I’ve done a lot of hiking, and several times I’ve crossed paths with bears. In every instance they fled as if I was very dangerous. I waved my arms and yelled loudly which didn’t deter him one bit.

Evasive action wasn’t an option because my torn meniscus wouldn’t allow it. I gave one last deep-throated yell and waved my arms in the most aggressive way I could. It was as if the bear was completely deaf. He closed in at a full run.

The bear skidded to a stop, his snout nearly touching my legs. I could have patted his head. Then he turned and trotted away.

Though I was concerned and hyper-alert, I didn’t experience great fear. The bear wasn’t especially hostile – no growling or baring of teeth. I believe he was groggy, and his first reaction was to run at me. I figured he finally identified I was human and did what bears normally do when they encounter people.

Thankful the situation ended well, I continued my hike, but made noise just in case the bear was still nearby.

If you find yourself wanting to read more instances of “amazing” wildlife encounters, I described a very unusual one in the previous, farcical post, “Camels vs. Humans“.