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


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!


Another Face of Adams

15 09 2013

I do not consider Mt Adams my enemy, despite what he did to my body and peace of mind. After all, I did climb all over him.  So when J suggested another day on his slopes, I agreed.

Another beautiful day for hiking, JRock and I loaded up the dog and our day packs and hit the road for the open trail. We weren’t summitting again (nonono, not yet, I’m still recovering from the first time) but instead decided to see what all the hub-bub was about the Other Side.

That’s right, Adams actually has many sides. We climbed the south side, and I see the south edge and the west side every day. But it’s a big da-gum mountain – what about the rest of it? The east side is on the Yakima Reservation so we headed to the remaining portion of the massive hunk of rock: the North Side.

I capitalize that as a proper noun because I feel it is a tangible thing with a name, and we made friends. The North Side and I are now pals, buddies, amigos – more than mere acquaintances though not yet at bestie level. But I am just positive we’re on the right track.

The trip to the trail head was a pretty long one, but the scenery unbeatable. I love how much new territory there is to explore up here! JRock spent a bit of time in that area last winter, but it was all new to him sans snow. Being a Sunday, we were in no hurry and made a few detours to peek at other places we plan to go back to: Takhlakh Lake, trails, waterfalls, portions of the PCT….there’s so much to see! But the mountain beckoned and we continued on.

Finally at the trail head, I was surprised to see cars already partially filling the parking lot. The trail is way out there, and the road not the best, but I guess we aren’t the only ones who like this country. We set out at a good clip, creating little dust clouds with each step in the fine soil of the trail. Simba and I surged ahead, excited to be out, excited to see a new trail, excited for the feeling we get when immersed in the forest at the base of this beast of a mountain.

Before long, J was far behind us. Not because I have suddenly developed super-human hiking abilities to out-pace J (let’s be honest, that will never happen) but because he was working and had to stop to talk to folks. Simba and I were motivated and inspired in the high air and decided not to linger awkwardly. Besides, J would catch up. He really does have super-human hiking powers.

The forest was open enough to allow light and the breeze, but still dense enough to offer heavenly shade. The dust cloud around us had grown and I wondered if J would let me back in his new truck once he saw the amount of filth covering every inch of me. It stuck to my sweaty skin, dusted all my clothing, and settled in my hair. I might have to hose off before going in the house…..

Suddenly and unexpectedly, the trees gave way to open meadows. Beautiful high alpine meadows bursting with late-season wild-flowers, tweety-birds flitting about, insects buzzing through the lazy breeze. It was peaceful and lovely and invited lingering.

alpine meadows of flowers, north side of Mt Adams WA

So inviting.

And BAM! there was Adams! I have to say, he looked a bit tired. It was probably the heat. The sun beat down hot and glaring, and although he waved a lovely cool breeze at us from the massive Adams Glacier, he looked a little….miserable. Adams Glacier was all crumpled and messy, and his peak seemed to droop slightly under the demanding heat of the cloudless sky. Rivulets of glacier sweat dribbled down the rock and cut inconspicuous trails across the meadows. But there he stood, never leaving his post, tall and proud.

north side of Mt Adams WA

Poor Adams can’t WAIT for winter!

J caught up with us as we dawdled about the meadows, chatting with Adams and admiring the flowers. He took Simba’s leash for a while so I could examine the blossoms up close and personal, dip a hand in the sparkling streams and collect a few interesting rocks. The view of my two favorite boys on the trail up ahead of me is one of my favorites. 🙂

trail towards north side of Adams, WA

My man and my fur-baby, bonding. Gets my heart to fluttering!

As you can imagine, we were at a nice high altitude in no time and we decided to stop for a little picnic. We were up in the rock scree by this point and near the tree line, so we found a cluster of stunted pines to rest near, thankful for the shade. Simba plopped in the dirt next to us, snapping like a rabid mutt at all the flies buzzing around him. They drove him absolutely insane while we munched our sandwiches and snacks. He’s quite hilarious to watch.

I had peeked a time or two behind us to glimpse the valleys as we climbed higher. But our picnic spot gave us a ridiculous view of the stunning Mt Rainier! All the smaller peaks in between look like mole-hills compared to the great king of the northwest.  The snow-capped peak shone from across the valleys, hills and forests separating the two mighty volcanoes. I always forget he’s so close!

view of Mt Rainer from north side of Mt Adams, WA

Wowzers, Rainier is enormous!

Time to go home, we began our descent, gaping at the new views spread before us. The Gifford Pinchot never fails to show us the best Mother Nature has to offer. I can’t get over the fact that this area, this side of the mountain, is only open for a couple months in the summer. Otherwise, the snowfall covers it and locks it in. I decided we needed a shot of us together with all this amazingness:

hiking on Adams with Rainier in the background, WA

Photobombed by Rainier!!

Hm, someone should have pushed my glasses up for me….

The way down was as delightful as the way up. Simba walked in the little streams every chance he got and took a little doze in the wildflowers when we stopped to talk with a group of women on horseback. It was an all-around wonderful day. Hot, sweaty, and incredibly filthy, but just buckets of fun. I stopped and turned around to say something to J, and when I turned back, I got the best picture ever:

dog hiking in the flowers, north side of Mt Adams, WA

Takes my breath away

My handsome hound-dog, Mt Adams, wild Lupines – so many of my favorite things all in one picture!! I can’t even tell you how much I love this.

The trip home was pretty quiet, as the heat of the day left us pretty lethargic. We didn’t go as far as we could have and didn’t quite reach the high camp, but we covered enough miles to need a nap. We did make a stop at an impressive waterfall right on the side of the road and paused more than once to admire the gorges and gullies on the side of this fantastic mountain.

waterfall on north side of Mt Admas, WA

This guy was just tumbling down the mountain, happy as could be. I bet he RAGES in the spring!

Yep, North Side and I will be besties in no time!! I just need to visit again!



Through Hell to Get to Heaven, Part DOS!

18 07 2012

Sorry, I got a little excited there. This is my first ever two-part post! I don’t really know why that’s exciting, but surely it’s a milestone of some sort….

Ok, so Part 1 took us up Gold Creek to Crater Creek trailhead, where we climbed a pretty brutal 4 miles up to Crater Lake. But the gorgeous lake and blooming wildflowers and massive mountains that all happen to literally be in my backyard made the Hike of Hell totally worth it. Right? Right.

So what did we do the very next day? Another hike that was even more steep and more exposed to the harsh, hot sun and swarming with mesquitos! Yay!

I guess you could call us gluttons for punishment…..

This trail was in the north end of the valley, up the Chewuch River a bit, kind of at the base of Big Craggy and Isabella Ridge. This was another trail that would give me a whole new perspective on things, being that this mountain and ridgeline dominate the horizon north of Twisp. So I was about to clamber up into the backdrop of my everyday life. Pretty cool!

We got a real early start, when it was still nice and cool, and pulled up to the Copper Glance Trail. I would have missed it. There was a little sign next to a gate blocking a super old road that I would never have thought marked a trailhead. But there it was – the Gate to Hell. As soon as we opened the doors of the truck, the ‘squitos attacked. Nothing gets you moving like a bazillion biting little bastards! I was ready to sprint up the trail just to try to outrun the little blood-suckers!

The trial/road didn’t waste any time. We immediately started climbing. Then we very quickly stopped to take care of downed logs across the trail. The moment we stopped moving, the buzzing picked up and I was busy swatting. However, I soon learned that putting my earplugs in to block out the chainsaw also blocked out the incessant buzzzz of the ‘squeeters and they amazingly didn’t bother me as much. And I actually got my gloves dirty this time helping clear the trial of what J cut. Just being a helpful citizen…

The pace was slow with lots of logs down. I have never been more excited to work in my life. “Oh, no, another one? (huffpuff) What a shame we’re already stopping again…” The work of moving limbs and logs was a relief to the intense up-hill.

J stopped ahead of me, with no logs in sight, and I couldn’t help but triumphantly shout in my head “HE needs a break! HE must be too tired and needs to stop! Even before I did! Man am I an awesome hiker or what?!”  Oops, too soon. As soon as I set my pack next to his, ready to gloat, he turned toward the slope next to the trail and started up it. This was no steep-grade trail, this was straight up the rocky mountain-side! Was he crazy?!

So, of course, I scrambled up after him. Slipping several times and trying to come to terms with the fact that I might tumble to the valley floor and die at any moment, I finally heaved myself over the edge of the nasty rock I was sliding in and on to flat ground. J was searching the ground like he’d lost something and I leaned on my knees a second to catch my breath and thank the universe for keeping me alive.

Then I looked up and almost fell back over the wall I had just climbed. There was a gaping hole in the mountain!! Then the facts all clicked into place: a road up the mountain that was now closed off, up the steep, winding side of a mountain to nowhere, ending at a gaping hole in the rock – a mine! Then it also donned on me that I had just climbed mine tailings to see this. Hm….

Copper Glance Trail, WA mine shaft

So spooky! See anyone in there?? Maybe it’s haunted!

Rushing over to the hole, I was ready to explore. I was gonna be rich! Maybe all these years had eroded away a new vein, and I would see it with my eagle-eye vision, and I could move to the Caribbean. Woo! My lucky day!

Sadly, as soon as I reached the opening, I felt a slosh as my boot sank in mud. The mine was underwater. Lame! But I had to stand and stare a minute into all that blackness…can you imagine descending into this abyss every single day, fueled only by dreams of striking it big?? Then as I examined the rock of the entrance, I noticed the…sparkle. I wiggled a piece lose with my fingernail and held it up – I was going to be rich after all! Whirling around to tell J, I nearly knocked us both into the mine shaft, since he was standing right behind me, holding his own rocks…that were bigger than mine. “Cool pyrite isn’t it. Nice and shiny.” All my hopes and dreams shattered. Damn fool’s gold!

Copper Glance mine shaft, Methow Valley WA

Yay I’m RICH!!!

I stuck it in my pocket anyway and we headed back down to our packs to keep going. We still had a good ways to go. And man, that trail never let up. No flat spots, no dips where we could go downhill for even a second – up and up and up! The mesquitos were here and there, not so bad, but man it was getting roasty hot. Hell’s furnaces were firing up!

Then we came to a huge tree blocking the path that was going to take a while. I went up the trail just a bit to see if there were any more logs coming up, and suddenly found myself in a big, open, picturesque meadow with an amazing view of Isabella Ridge. I was floored to realize how far UP we had really come!

Isabella Ridge, Copper Glance Trail, WA

Oh, hello, Isabella. Nice to finally meet you in person.

The lupines were blooming, the birds were chirping, the trees swayed in the breeze – just a quick little glimpse at Heaven, right in the middle of Hell. Not bad motivation to keep going…..

Once J finished and we continued, I soon realized it was indeed possible for the trail to get worse. This didn’t happen so much due to the grade, although it did increase a bit, but more due to the fact that the slope next to me was a very sheer drop. I can’t tell you what it dropped down to, since I refused to look down, but even the trail was at a slight tilt and made me walk funny, with the right foot on higher ground than the left. Thankfully this didn’t last the rest of the way, or I might have been forced to sit down and cry….

Relief came in the form of trees. Despite the beauty of the meadows, they allowed the sun to scorch down upon us and offered nothing to catch me if I tripped. Unfortunately, the trail through the trees didn’t change much, and I was about fed up with this uphill nonsense. But about the time I thought I was doomed to climb forever, we reached a lovely creek making lovely little waterfalls as it tumbled down the mountain. We both dropped our packs and dunked our faces, relishing the cold water as it rinsed off the sweat. Ahhhhhh, another taste of Heaven.

The trail after this did finally level out a bit, bringing us to a little pond. Or maybe it was just a swampy area…I’m not sure. But there was a little campsite with some logs that looked like a perfect place to rest my tired butt cheeks and eat some lunch. The shade and cold water made this a nice cool spot to stop, but I hoped as hard as I could that this wasn’t the lake. I’m no expert, but there just wasn’t enough water to classify it as a lake. But food distracted me and I attacked my sandwich like a bear coming out of hibernation.

After the goodies were all devoured, J decided to keep exploring, and we found where the trail continued. More brutal ups and downs brought us right up to the face of Isabella Ridge and into a rock field.

Isabella Ridge, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

I’m almost there!!

It reminded me of the lava fields in Oregon, but not made of lava rocks. A few scrawny trees managed to grow here and there, and I finally saw the Pearly Gates: a bright teal, crystal clear, shiny lake with a waterfall feeding it directly from the snowfields.

Sweet Jesus, this might have been the most beautiful lake I have ever seen.

Copper Glance Lake, Isabella Ridge WA

So clear, so blue, so pretty…so cold!

A couple campers had a tent on the other side and were lazily fishing in the afternoon sun. J went around to talk to them while I hopped down on a rock and yanked my boots off. Sadly, the water was at such a frigid temperature my toes couldn’t stand more than a few seconds.

Copper Glance Lake, Methow Valley WA

The mermaid rock I perched on to rest my feet

I relaxed with my toes in the sun, bathing in the beauty and serenity of the mountains. I’m telling you, this is Heaven. The trail was most certainly Hell, and this was the closest to Heaven on earth that I have experienced. I only wish my time in Heaven could have been longer, but J was working, and we had to keep moving.

At least the trail down was just that: down. I’m finally figuring out how to relax and not hurt my knees, making the return a bit easier. And it’s always fun to see the opposite views once you’re facing the other direction – it’s like a whole new trail. For instance, instead of looking up at the towering peaks of Isabella, Craggy and Sherman, I now had the splendor of the whole valley opening up below me. The smokey haze from a wildfire or two in the area gave the view a softer look, despite the glaring sun.

Methow Valley from Copper Glance Trail, WA

Wow, Methow, you’re really rockin’ the “smokey” look

Stumbling down and down, we quickly came back to the second crossing of Copper Glance Creek (or the first crossing on the way up). I had already forgotten all about it. There used to be a nice bridge to cross, but alas, raging waters or some other force of nature have since collapsed the bridge. Crossing it is now a feat that should normally be reserved for those accustomed to walking high-wires in the circus. The boards are slippery, the water fast and cold, the logs to hold on to wobbly at best, and the outcome of a fall would be nothing fun…if you survived to tell about it.

collapsed bridge on Copper Glance Trail, WA

Poor bridge has seen better days. Time to practice my mad skills!

Thankfully, I did survive, since here I am, still telling you about it. We made it back to the truck, sweaty and stinky and covered in mesquito bites, with one soggy boot from where I stepped off into the waterfall. But I had that vision of Heaven still dancing in my brain, reassuring me that given the chance, I would gladly hike right back up that trail.


Weekend stats:

Saturday – Crater Creek Trail, 8.3 miles round trip, 2195 ft elevation gain in 4 miles

Sunday – Copper Glance Trail, 6.5 miles round trip, 2800 ft elevation gain in 3 miles

I not only survived, I’m getting the hang of this……

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