Pocket Meadows and Campfires

27 07 2016

JBoo has to work some weekends. I don’t. Therefore, in order to spend time with him, I sometimes tag along.

Last weekend was one such tag-along situation. J needed to hike up and check out some areas affected by last year’s wildfires, and I needed time with my man and nature, preferably simultaneously. So we set out for an over-nighter, hiking up the west side of Adams, pretty close to the lovely section of PCT Simba and I hiked a couple weeks ago.

By now, it’s pretty clear that I like to hike. If you’ve ever met me, in person or just on the interwebs, you probably caught on that I love the mountains and forests of the PNW. I’ve only lived here about 6 1/2 years, but I feel this is the place where I most belong. I assumed that eventually, the amazement and wonder would dull, maybe even wear off entirely. Mountains would all start looking the same, a pine tree would be just another pine tree, and every trail was just another walk through the woods.

Maybe this will happen someday, but it most definitely hasn’t yet.

This particular trip was up trail #64, the Riley Camp Trail. J spent lots of time up here with the fires last year, and I expected lots of burnt, scarred forest. The climb started in nice old growth, just like the PCT, but the climb was steeper. Simba ran around like a fool, the little saddlebags of his backpack flopping up and down. I admire his optimism – he doesn’t care where we’re going, he’s just so happy to be out! And I think he knows the big backpacks mean a campout and sleeping in a tent with his people….

dog camping, riley camp trail, mt adams wa

I’M JUST SO EXCITED TO BE HERE

Anyway, the trail did wander through some areas of the burn, but not as much as I thought. The reason was a surprise to me: meadows! We laced in and out of these amazing open meadows full of lush grass and wildflowers. The lack of fuel makes the fire burn around them, and they become little green oases in the middle of the blackened remains of forest. Most are pretty small and J called them “pocket meadows.” I couldn’t help but be delighted with this – how charming! Like I could sneak one in my pocket and take it home, put it on the window sill, and act like I’d had it forever when J asked where I got it! (I’ve never done this…)

The “pocket meadows” also appeared suddenly, adding to their delightfulness. The terrain is rolling and the trail wound up and over and around rock outcroppings and ridges and the general bumpiness found up in the mountains. We would come around a corner or up over another “bump” and BAM! pocket meadow! So exciting. A couple times I stopped in my tracks to gaze a moment at the splendor and would feel a furry collision as Simba ran into the back of my legs. He really shouldn’t hike quite so close.

riley camp trail, mt adams wilderness, wa

Man-to-mutt discussion over lunch.

After 5ish miles, we left the main trail and I assumed we were just going to detour by the creek so Simba could get a drink. Instead, we crossed the creek and headed for the middle of the latest meadow. Finally, I noticed the square of logs and realized there was a campsite here. Yay! Slumber party with the pocket meadow! We dropped our packs and got right to work setting up camp. Simba scouted the perimeter, marking our spot just in case anyone got any funny ideas, and helped out where he could.

We set up the tent, hoisted our bear hang, and secured our packs, then set out back up the trail. J had some work to do, I had new scenery to gawk at. Up and down the trail we trod, through beautiful open forest complete with streams and wildflowers. So lovely. We stopped at a little lake and put out a campfire we found still burning (some people are such idiots…), then started back down.

But this time, we ventured off the trail. J’s expertise allows him to do such a thing, and I followed along merrily as we made our way down through another series of pocket meadows. Soon we were following the same stream that babbled along next to our own meadow camp. I was astounded by the natural masterpiece, though lesbehonest, it should be no surprise by now! Nevertheless, I ate a few bugs with my mouth hanging open and tripped more than once for not watching my footing.

Back at our camp, we got to work settling in for the night. JBoo started dinner as I gathered firewood. Soon I had a nice little fire a-blazing and J had gnocchi spooned into two bowls. We opened our special treat: a little box of red wine that turned out to be totally worth the weight of packing it in. (I can say that because it was delicious AND it rode in J’s pack…)

The evening was magical…except for one thing. Apparently, news spread and every mosquito in southwest Washington came to join our party. And they all brought a friend. Swarms covered Simba’s face as he tried to curl up in the tall grass. They bit through my pants, despite my deet-filled repellent. Even in the warm evening, I wore my fleece to protect my torso, sweating as I tended the fire. The smoke helped a little, but there were just so many of the little buggers! We fled to the tent while there was still daylight, just to escape the awful insects.

The next morning was a race against the tiny critters, and we broke camp faster than I’ve ever seen, including breakfast. The morning was warm and the ‘squeeters were ferocious. The trail offered movement that kept them at bay.

J had a search and rescue waiting before we even got back to the truck, so our mini vacay was over rather quickly. But that evening in the pocket meadow, playing in the campfire with my two favorites, recharged me for the coming week. Another “duh” moment of remembering that the mountains and forests are my therapy and should be visited as much as possible.

Here’s to the hope of another adventure just around the corner!





Appointment with the Mother

4 07 2016

This is my mother:

amazing mom mothers day vancouver wa

She is one fabulous woman.

She added purple to her hair and flew half way across the country to watch me walk the stage and get my master’s degree. She has supported me every step of the way my entire life, even though I rudely moved so far away from her. On my list of amazing women, she fills the top slot.

This is my other mother:

mother nature mount adams wilderness wa

She may be your mother, too.

Mother Nature may not have given birth to me, but she does help support me and my mental well-being. As my real mother is in Kansas this weekend with my broski, and celebrating my insanely fabulous niece’s birthday, I didn’t want to bother her. So I turned to my second mother.

The plan was spend several fun days hiking around and playing outside with JBoo. I took a summer job with WSUV, so I still live in Vancouver, but I was able to leave Wednesday night and come home to Hood River early. Five and a half days with JBoo!! We haven’t spent that much time together since winter break!

And I arrived to find him in the fetal position on the couch, buried in blankets, sick as a dog. Poor thing. So I took care of sick J and got other stuff done…but J woke up Sunday feeling like a human being, so we quickly started making plans for a fun-filled day of hiking and swimming and playing outside. Before I even finished getting dressed, our plans came crashing down around us with a single phone call: a climber on Adams fell and broke his leg. J is not only the Wilderness Ranger on Mt. Adams, he’s also on the search and rescue team. He immediately took the lead organizing the rescue, and I silently packed mine and Simba’s gear into my pack.

We hit the road for Trout Lake, making a quick stop for food in White Salmon. With all the rush, I hadn’t had a chance to sneak any food or coffee, and it was almost 10:30. I was hangry and caffeine deficient. And therefore silent. J coordinated all the various pieces of the rescue as we drove, me eating all the while, then gave me a map and a Spot device at his office. He showed me a trail where Simba and I could hike.

“Uh, I’ve been on that trail several times. And it’s like two miles out of town. Give us a real trail.” I was antsy to go hike and might have given a little more sass than was necessary. But J just turned back to the huge map on the wall and pointed again. “Ok, you could hit this section of the PCT at William’s Mine.” He gave some brief directions and several “stay right” and “stay left” instructions that I tried to pay attention to, then Simba and I bolted for the truck.

Even as I drove up the mountain road, my anxiety started to ease. I don’t need J to hike. Simba and I can do just fine on our own. You go save people, we’ll play without you! But as I parked J’s truck at the trailhead, I realized my grumpiness was from missing him, not because I was mad at him. Dang it.

The last of my moody funk melted away as Simba and I stepped into the shade of the old-growth trail. Simba fell in behind me after his initial spaz-tastic run-around, and off we went. I took a deeeeeeeeep breath and sighed. Hello Mother.

Not far in, we came to a little bridge over a creek where three men had stopped for a rest. As I walked by with a smile and hello, one asked me, “Are you out here all on your own?!” They were all a bit older and seemingly innocently surprised by my aloneness, so I gave a simple, “Nope, I’ve got my dog” and kept walking. I could hear their surprised conversation fading behind me. “A young woman out in the woods by herself? That seems dangerous. She didn’t even seem afraid…..” blah blah blah.

Really guys? Where are you from? Three men are about the greatest danger to me in these woods. Why should I not be able to go for a nice hike in the beautiful forest by myself? Sheesh. I put them out of my mind quickly and got straight to business: my appointment with Mother Nature.

This was long overdue. Have you ever had that feeling where you didn’t know how much you missed or needed something until you finally did it again? That was me. As I breathed the pure air and stretched out my legs I felt a familiar calmness setting in. An almost forgotten calmness.

You’ve been gone too long.

I know, I’m sorry. Things happened. Life got in the way. Grad school got in the way.

I could have helped you. You needed me. You should have come anyway. 

You’re right, of course. I should have come. But I’m here now. I missed you.

As my legs settled into a rhythm, my shoulders relaxed. The last lingering tingles of headache faded away. This therapy that I used to rely on had been canceled when I needed it the most. The anxiety that has been waking me in the middle of the night, robbing me of sleep and joy, was no match for the Mother. She took it from me, filling my heart with song and my soul with light. My mind cleared of all the noise clogging my thoughts and opened to the simple purity of the natural miracles all around me.

As I wound my way up the hillside, the old-growth gave way to burn. Mother Nature’s scars seemed harsh at first, in the charred snags and crusty, black, peeling bark. But the clouds gave way to sun as the air sweetened and I noticed that the whole slope was covered in blooming bear grass. I smiled and chatted with Simba about how cool it was to see the forest growing back after the devastation of the unnatural wildfire. The constant panting and occasional tickle of fur against my leg let me know my faithful companion trotted along with me.

bear grass in a burn, mt adams wilderness WA

Bear grass everywhere!!!

J had told me as we scurried out of his office that he expected 4-5 hours to wrap everything up, so I decided to hike 2 hours up and turn around for 2 hours down. My trusty fitbit kept the time for me and conveniently tracked my steps. It was hard to turn around. The trees were getting fewer and the rocks bigger as we approached treeline, and it was one of those perfect days that made me feel like I could hike on forever. Canada here we come! We had set a nice pace and the day was just so perfect. Knowing J would be waiting on me, though, Simba and I snapped a quick selfie with Adams and reluctantly turned around.

mt adams wilderness, PCT trail WA

Selfie time! Simba, Adams, and me 😀

The trip down did have me daydreaming about hiking the entire PCT one day. My imagination ran away on me and I dreamed up all sorts of good schemes. By the time I reached the truck, I had planned out classroom projects and management systems and blog posts. While my brain drifted in a meditative state on the way up, it went into full planning mode on the way down. The optimistic, excited, ready for world domination kind of planning mode.

I felt like I had received a full-body tune-up. My legs had that sweet ache of working after long months of too much sitting. My lungs felt fresh and clear of the city gunk collected from a year away from my mountains. And my brain felt recharged, rebooted, and revived. The anxiety locking up my shoulders was gone and my thoughts clear and unfoggy. Why had I waited so long? Why didn’t I realize that I missed spending time with Mother Nature.

No need to contemplate on bad decisions, I’ve resolved the issue. J was excited to hear about our adventures and we compared my descriptions to the map. Based on time and what I saw when we turned around, he guessed our round-trip to have been 6-7 miles. My fitbit said we took around 24,000 steps!! I felt powerful and strong and super ready to take on whatever comes next!

Mother Nature, I’m sorry I neglected you for so long, but fear not, I’ll be back soon!!!





Northwest Junkies

24 01 2014

Another weekend visit from the dynamic duo, MASH. You probably recognize these cool cats by now – they’re my besties from Bend, and we have the best adventures together! MLK weekend has become an annual event for us (two years in a row – that makes it tradition!) and we crammed this weekend with all the fun we possibly could.

Visits from this awesome couple are proven good times, and this last weekend was no different. They arrived Friday night and we plotted and planned over dinner so we could hit the ground running (thankfully not literally…) Saturday morning. Even the pups seemed caught up in our excitement. So after a good night’s sleep, mini quiche and coffee, we set out for the first adventure of the weekend.

J and I live on the edge of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, which puts us super close to awesome trails and a couple Wilderness areas. We had decided on an area we’d all been to, but this time we would hike a new trail: Trapper Creek. This would put us out in the Trapper Creek Wilderness. The day was chilly, the forest eerily shrouded in fog – perfect day for a hike! Off through the forest we went, Simba in the lead, four friends following, with a St Bernard somewhere in the middle keeping us all in line.

dog best friends hiking the trails, WA

Hiking buddies! (You humans are SO.SLOW.)

Layers were shed as the trail warmed us up. The moss and lichen hanging from the trees looked especially creepy with the fog. The ferns and damp air reminded us we were more west-side. Even our footsteps were muffled to almost silent as the sponge-like soil absorbed their sound. Not that it absorbed all our sound – we had lots of catching up to do! The morning progressed wonderfully, our boots eating up the trail while we chatted away.

We crossed the creek a couple times, then decided to stop for a snack break after a big crossing. Osa, my St Bernard niece, loves wading across the water – she gets hot and thirsty even on cool days. Simba doesn’t have the benefit of Osa’s long legs, however, and chose to cross on the log with us. Thankfully, no one died.

Snacks were dug out of back-packs and passed around. We all brought stuff to share and we had a little forest picnic right there on the banks of Trapper Creek. Then M-Dawg busted out his show-and-tell for the day: the JetBoil! MASH had received this handy gadget for Christmas, and M-Dawg had been dying to try it out. It’s made for back-packing, super light and compact, and boils water in 2 minutes. You know what that means, right? TRAIL COFFEE!!

hiking coffee made with JetBoil, WA

M-Dawg presents: the JETBOIL!! (Hoping to see this picture in my next REI catalog…)

The refueling was a great idea, as the next bit of trail had a much steeper grade to it. Don’t worry, we’re practically hiking professionals, so our group wasn’t even fazed. (Ok, that might be an exaggeration, but thankfully our group likes the challenge of hills. I’ve almost joined in.) We finally decided to turn back and retraced our footsteps. Simba had been off leash all day – we were in the middle of no where with almost no one around. We had almost reached the parking lot when I saw him take off and knew another dog was up ahead. He came racing back with a little beagle-looking pooch on his heels. The two were having a blast, but I knew Simba would be hard to get to come back, so I tried to slow him down as he ran by me. Why would I ever think that was a good idea?! We collided about like a locomotive hits a brick wall – Simba went airborne, I crashed to the ground. And Simba zoomed off as soon as he hit the ground. I didn’t bounce back quite as fast and nursed a sore ankle the rest of the day. Moral of the story: don’t use your own body to try and stop a maniacal, hyperactive dog running at top speed!

Finally home for the evening, us women took over the kitchen and whipped up a delicious dinner. The evening was full of food, card games, and TWO awesome rounds of Settlers of Catan – Ash destroyed us so fast the first time, we had to give it another go! Then off to bed – we had to get an early start Sunday!

Our planned departure time was 8am Sunday morning, and we almost made it. Dogs walked, breakfast digesting, cars packed, we were ready! The day’s plan included a nice Gorge hike followed up with some intense NFL action – Seahawks vs the 49ers!! So MASH packed their car and would just head home from Hood River after the game. Which meant Simba and J would ride with me and Osa and MASH would lead the way in their vehicle. Except Simba thought he might be getting left behind, or maybe he just hated being separated from his bestie. Whatever the reason, as soon as M-Dawg opened the top half of the back of his Element, Simba flew over the tailgate into the back. And he wouldn’t move. So Osa jumped in to take her spot, and Simba still wouldn’t budge. Needless to say, he got to ride to the trail head with Osa.

dog best friends sitting like puzzle pieces, WA

“I think we fit perfect. I could ride like this all day. I WILL NOT BE LEFT BEHIND!” And Osa didn’t even seem to mind.

Sunday’s trail was up Eagle Creek, on the Oregon side of the Columbia River. I can’t express to you how in awe of this place I am. I want to go back again and again! The trail winds up the narrow little gorge of the Eagle Creek drainage, right along the cliff. Sheer wall of rock to the left and up, sheer wall of rock to the right and down. The trail climbs quickly and the wet winter morning sparkled and cut, the air cold, the rock slippery with patches of ice. We arrived early for two reasons: 1) to have enough time to make it back for kick-off and 2) to beat the hoards of people. The trail was mostly ours the whole way up, and no crowds blocked the views at the waterfall overlooks. Mist swirled around us as the morning sun hit the moisture in the air, and water dribbled down the cliffside above us. It was…pure magic. Add in the awe-inspiring waterfalls on the creek below us and the incredible forest around us, and you’ll picture my paradise.

early morning on Eagle Creek trail, Oregon

Just squeeze behind that little spray coming down.

man and dog hiking Eagle Creek OR

Man and his dog in the wild outdoors. Fantastic. #nofilter

It’s funny how time has changed us. Ash and I have been friends for a long time, and it’s cool to see our friendship evolve. We covered 6.6 miles on Sunday, providing ample time for conversation. In times past, we would have discussed the latest hot guy hired in home theater (we worked at Best Buy together) and the outfits we wanted to wear for our next trip to 6th St in Austin and the horrible finals from our mean professors and which friends were hooking up with each other. My how the times have changed! Now it’s which friends had babies (almost all of them) and who’s next to the marriage alter and decorating tips and easy week-night dinner recipes. *gasp* We’re all grown up!

And M-Dawg and J-Rock slowly stretched the gap between us, creeping farther and farther ahead. They had been discussing football all morning. On and on and on. I asked Ash if we were to send them on ahead and tell them to come back for us when they finished talking football, if we’d ever see them again. We agreed it’s doubtful. But it’s wonderful knowing that they guys can carry on their discussions so us ladies can have ours. Girl talk with Mother Nature. Perfect. 🙂

We stopped for another picnic and JetBoil demonstration, then decided to turn around. And the hike out was crowded with people! What a great decision to get an early start. Lucky for us, most folks don’t go as far up the trail as we did, but the parking lot was overflowing. Simba rode in his own car this time and we headed to a sports bar in Hood River for a late lunch and lots of football. (For those non-fans, Seattle is going to the superbowl!! M-Dawg was a great sport despite his team losing, and J didn’t even rub it in…too much.)

And then our awesome weekend was over and MASH had to head back over the mountain to Bend. I came across a comment an old friend wrote about Ash after she posted her pictures on Facebook, and I wish I would have thought of it first. He called her a Pacific Northwest Nature Junkie. And it’s so true! I hope I can fall into the same category – I want to be a junkie!

That’s what it feels like – an addiction. Ash and I have lived up here for over 4 years now, yet we still can’t get enough. I can’t speak for her, but I’m pretty sure she feels the same way – give me MORE!! Every trail is exciting, every mountain gorgeous, every forest my favorite. From Bend’s unique high desert to Eagle Creek’s saturated temperate forest – I want to explore ALL of it. I get grouchy and irritable if I go too long with it, and I’m constantly looking for my next fix. What’ll it be this time – hiking? biking? climbing mountains? skiing? snowshoeing? rock climbing? ALL OF THE THINGS??!

The best part is knowing I’m in good company with all these other junkies, MASH especially. I can count on them to join me for that next fix, or (more likely) invite me on theirs. So, what’s next? Stick around and find out!

Are you a nature junkie, too??

😀





So Many ACTIVITIES!

19 02 2013

You’ve seen Step Brothers, right? With Will Ferrell?

My last two weeks have been like this – my head is spinning from SO.MANY.ACTIVITIES! I started a couple drafts, trying to tell you all about it, but never had time to finish a full post, so I’m going to blast through and give you the short and sweet version.

Buckle your seat belts and hang on!!

1) Heat My House! – we finally threw ourselves a house-warming party. Several great pals from Bend journeyed over Mt Hood for the festivities and some great folks from around here joined us that evening. We talked, we laughed, we ate (a lot – or was that just me?!), we laughed some more, we drank (then we REALLY laughed), and we had a big sleep-over with bodies dispersed throughout the house. The house was indeed toasty, full of great people.

2) Trout Lake Cabin Fever – I’ve actually had cabin fever in some form or another for a couple months now, but the delightful town of Trout Lake gathers everyone to celebrate and/or whine about it together. Ski races and live music and dances at the town Grange – might sound a little old-fashioned to you, but then you must not live in the middle of nowhere under 4 feet of snow with little contact with the human race. We might have the Internet these days, but community gatherings in real life still warm the soul like nothing else.

And so we hung out with our community. Unlike most communities, this required a 10-mile round-trip cross country ski in order to do so. (Ok, this was just one event, but STILL.) What a blast! The Forest Service opens up this crazy-old historic cabin way off in the woods and everyone skis up to see it. They set out cookies and hot chocolate and a couple folks give interpretive talks to tell you all about it. I love history, skiing AND cookies, so I was totally in. The day was gorgeous and J and I hit the trail hard – I could just about keep up with him!

Gotchen Cabin, Gifford Pinchot National Forest

The 2-room Gotchen Cabin, built in 1908, occupied until the late ’90’s. The resident’s commute to work involved a 5-mile ski just to get to the car! Wooo!

Gotchen Cabin community spirit, Mt Adams Ranger District

Making new friends, sharing some hot chocolate. My kind of party!

3) Bend in the road – I had so much fun skiing up to the cabin with fellow Trout Lakers that I almost forgot I was driving down to Bend the same night. It’s only about a 3.5 hour drive now (as opposed to the 8 hour haul from Twisp), but I had to pack, too! The dog and I finally made it around 10pm and settled into our guest digs with great friends. This whole last week was a nice polar-opposite to what Simba and I are used to. We work from home, venturing out for our walks, but that’s about it. Sometimes we run into the neighbors, but mostly it’s just us.

So a week in civilization is stressful, but in an exciting way. Simba absolutely adored our temporary routine. The first half of the week, we were able to walk to work. My company is a dog-friendly workplace, so Simba was welcome to join me in the office all day…which is his new favorite. By Wednesday, he trotted up the non-working escalator, made his rounds of greeting coworkers, then sprawled out on the big rug to settle in for a nice nap. He managed to rouse himself at the sound of anyone walking through, to make sure he could score another belly rub or game of tug-of-war with his favorite rope toy. Our lunch hour was spent walking through the nearby park or walking down to a restaurant with outdoor seating so he could come, too. Some days we had coffee dates and some days we would walk over to the other side of the office where he scored even more ear scratches and compliments. I’m telling you – this dog has got it figured out.

dog at work in Bend OR

Seriously, I need to get promoted to his job. He’s just working SO HARD!

Then we switched houses and stayed with our friends who own a beautiful Saint Bernard, and Simba’s bestie. They wrestled, they romped in the backyard, the shared a water bowl. Hilarious and adorable. Friday, J joined me and Saturday we headed up Bachelor – J took me skiing for the day! I demoed some boots since I don’t have any yet and finally got to test out my new skis. What a fantastic day. We squeezed out 5 or 6 runs before my legs wouldn’t take any more and we headed down. Pretty sure I’ll be pro soon.

Mt Bachelor skiing, Bend OR

Yep, scouts should be calling soon.

4) Why I love FaceBook – this is not really a fun adventure but a crazy story. Saturday after skiing, we met our friends at a restaurant/bar/brewery for drinks. I had stuck my ID and debit card in the pocket of my ski  pants, then grabbed them out as we ran out the door to meet our friends and stuck them in my jacket pocket. As we left, I pulled my phone out of the same pocket, dropping my ID in the process. But I didn’t notice! We swung by the grocery store to get stuff for dinner and I found my debit card all lonely in my pocket. Trying not to panic (and glad I wasn’t buying beer), I called the restaurant where we had met – no one had turned in any IDs. I went back and looked all over the place, but didn’t find it. DANG.IT. I finally gave up and surrendered to the fact that I was going to have to order a new one. The biggest bummer of all: we went to WinterFest that night but left early because I couldn’t get into the beer gardens. Standing outside the beer gardens with all the lame high school kids is NO FUN AT ALL. And of course that’s where all our pals were.

Sunday, we packed up to go home. I did a little shopping first and met my sister for lunch. I got a facebook notification on my phone and actually checked it (a rare thing for me to do). It was from some stranger, so I read on, curious. “Hi, I found your license outside McMenamins Saturday night, call me and I’ll get it back to you.” Wait, what?! I drove over and got the story: she found it, posted on her facebook wall that she had it and asked if anyone knew me to let me know. A guy I work with is friends with her, saw it, helped her get to my facebook so she could message me, and then sent me a separate message telling me to contact her. How insane is that?! And I just happened to still be in town when she messaged me, and I received the message before heading back home. I was so grateful, I awkwardly told her husband about 4 times how much I wished loads and loads of good karma on them for returning my ID. They put in the extra effort to find me instead of just tossing it in the nearest mail box, sending it to Twisp since my address isn’t updated on the actual license. Good people still exist!!

5) The End. There you have it. The latest in the Wild and Crazy Adventures of KSnapped. Until next time, adios!








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