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……


Manly-Man ManFriend

3 06 2012

Boyfriend. What a stupid word. A male you are in a relationship with but to whom you are not married. Boyfriend. Ugh, so stupid.

I can’t exactly pinpoint why I hate this word. Maybe because it makes no sense to be. After high school, despite their immaturity, “boy” is not a correct label for most dudes. And “friend” – doesn’t the very definition of the term “boyfriend” imply more than simple friendship?

Well, despite time and again assuring you I don’t write about my significant-other-to-whom-I-am-not-married-but-am-in-a-serious-relationship-with, I am succumbing to my own selfish heart and writing about him all the same. Yes, this is a story of our most recent out-doorsy adventure, but this post is really about him. What warrants such a lapse in my usual avoidance of discussing my own relationship? Because he’s gone, that’s why, and I miss him and I’m lonely and he won’t be back for a week yet, meaning he likely will never see this post so he won’t read all the things I have to say about him. That’s why. And it’s my blog, I can write about whatever I want to!

Ok, now that I’ve justified my topic to both of us, I’ll get to the story. This particular hike actually happened last weekend, Memorial Day Weekend, and Justin had to work. (I’ve been calling him “J” in my posts because I thought he would appreciate the attempt at anonymity, but he’s not here, is he?)  Like last summer, I signed the necessary paperwork to be a volunteer with the Forest Service, so I got to go. The trail he needed to hike that day would most likely need some TLC that only a chainsaw can give, and as a safety precaution, no one can operate a chainsaw alone. I was his safety check.

Remember my adoration of the forest from our hike up Lost River? Well, this was basically the same forest, as we were just one valley over, heading up Reynold’s Creek. So I loved it just the same. And we really didn’t have all that far to go, a short day since our friends were coming in from Seattle later that evening. However, I was promised some crazy-cool waterfalls – my favorite!

When we arrived at the trailhead, I readied my gear while Justin talked to campers. I made sure no one was looking and checked my self out in the truck window. Let me just say, I looked like a bad-ass. No joke. Good hair day, black t-shirt, pack on my back like I meant business, and sealing the deal – an axe slug over one shoulder. Bad to the BONE.

Justin, as usual, was a step or five above me on the ladder of bad-assness, with his much-larger pack carrying way more stuff, his snazzy and intimidatingly official uniform, and of course the chainsaw. Whatever, I still strutted my stuff up that trail, just daring the trees to fall across the trail so I could whack ’em apart with my mighty axe.

Hiking along, I watched Justin’s back. He shouldered that chainsaw like it was nothing. And his uniform really does give him this air of authority. Then we came to the first log blocking the trail. A fairly small log, but one that needed to be dealt with all the same. I whipped off my pack and pulled out my gloves, thinking I would get to swing that axe I’d been hauling around. Before I even had both gloves out of my pack, Justin was in position, telling me to get my earplugs in.

Oh, right, we weren’t in the wilderness, and we brought the chainsaw to use, not just look cool. I stood back a bit, stuffed the plugs in my ears, and watched as Justin yanked the cord and the chainsaw revved to life. Bracing himself, he went to work. Within minutes, he had cut the log in pieces that were easily rolled away to clear the regulated width of trail. Repacking his tools, he was ready to go again before I had my unused gloves back in my pack.

Right, I’m just supervising, I knew that. Before long, we came upon two more logs, one fallen straight across the path, the other at a dangerous 45 degree angle, caught in the trees on the other side of the trail. This would take longer, as the diagonal tree would need careful handling. So I settled on a rock with my trailmix where I could help watch for falling limbs and such, but be out of the way of danger. And I observed.

People say women tend to fall for men similar to their fathers, or father-figures in their life whom they admire. I totally believe this. My dad and brother planted opinions in by brain as a young girl of what a “man” should be like, and so naturally, that’s what I look for in a dude. “Manly” in my opinion is the rugged, outdoorsey type, like the Marboro man or Clint Eastwood. You know the type. Strong and capable, they always get the job done and done well. They are (usually) well-mannered but rarely show emotion and certainly don’t waste words on nonsense like “feelings”. Okay, Justin isn’t exactly like a John Wayne character, but he does exemplify “manliness” as I was taught it should be.

I mean just look at this:

forest ranger clearing trail Okanogan National Forest

What a beast!

Then came the tricky part:

forest ranger safely using chainsaw Okanogan National Forest

Working on the tricky tree – glad he knows what he’s doing!

I don’t worry about him, because I know how he is. He’s a stickler for doing things the right way, and if he’s going to do something he’s going to do it well. (This is super awesome since I don’t worry well…) Don’t these pictures just scream MANLY?!

There’s another part to being manly that a lot of people seem to forget about: how to treat a lady. I’m not much of a “lady” – I’ll be the first to admit it – but I feel more feminine in the presence of all that manliness. He’s sweet to me, bringing me wildflowers, helping me with the dishes, asking me to volunteer for the Forest Service so I can spend more time with on the weekends. Things like that make me miss him like crazy when he’s gone. But he’s gone because he’s on a 9-day back-packing trip through the Pasayten Wilderness – off being manly.

I never did get to use my axe that day. I should be grateful all the hard work was left to my man, but I felt my bad-assness slipping away from me. I finally got to help clear debris from the trail and got my shiny new gloves dirty. We stashed the chainsaw on the wilderness border, since there was no point carrying it where we couldn’t use it, and I really felt lame without my axe. But the roar of the swollen river below us soon directed my attention elsewhere AND I was rewarded with my promised waterfall. Justin and I ate a lovely lunch on the bridge at the bottom of the Beauty Creek waterfall – how romantic!

Beauty Falls in the Okanogan Forest

My sweetie-pie 😀

See why I can’t seem to call him “boyfriend”?? There is nothing “boy” about Justin. He’s my “manfriend”!  My manly-man-friend. My manly-man manfriend!!  😀

Guests from the West

29 05 2012

That kind of rhymes, doesn’t it? Guests, west…..

Anyway, not the point. The point is that my pals from the west side of the state made the trek up and over the North Cascades to pay us a visit. And on a motorcycle, no less! Talk about numb butt-cheeks….

Hans and Elizabeth are actually friends of mine from Bend. Not long after I moved up here, Elizabeth moved to Seattle and Hans soon followed. Now I have friends to see when we go to the big city! Makes me feel very worldly.

Saturday evening: enter Hans and Elizabeth. I was cooking dinner for their arrival when they pulled up on Hans’s sweet little BMW motorcycle. They made such a cool picture, tugging off their helmets, unzipping their jackets, stretching their legs. And here I come, bounding across the yard with my bare feet, smelling like Mexican casserole. It was so great to have their familiar faces in my front yard!

dressed up for a party Bend OR

Elizabeth and I at a company Christmas party a few years ago – it was tough to even stand next to this hot mama!

After a quiet evening, I was ready for a Sunday full of sight seeing. I really love my little valley and love even more when I get to show it off. (Which rarely happens since no one ever visits. Hint hint.)  Being a busy holiday weekend, J had to work, so it was all up to me. We cruised down the bustling main street of Twisp for a little brunch at the bakery while I filled them in on town gossip.

Next, we headed out for a hike. Nothing too strenuous, just a little tour of our neck of the woods. Sadly, this is a hard thing for me – deciding on a good trail for my visitors. J suggested Patterson Mountain. I wimped out on the mountain and decided to take them around Patterson Lake. Still a beautiful hike, but less vigorous. (Ok, let’s face it: by the time we got out there, I realized I did not think through my clothing choices and I was roasting. So hot. I opted for forest and breeze off the lake over baking sunshine and mountain. This was for the best, for all parties involved.) Thankfully, my pals are real sports and didn’t even get mad when I sort of got us turned around. Twice. We did a little back-tracking, but we did finally make it to the lake!

mountain bike ride in Bend Oregon

After an especially muddy bike ride – we had so much fun together in Bend!

Hans and Elizabeth are fascinating to me. We’re from totally different worlds. They both exude sophistication and culture and class. I, on the other hand, am the po-dunk country counterpart to their chicness. But man is conversation just awesome with these two! Elizabeth is a professional dancer and is currently with a ballet company in Seattle called Sixth Day Dance. She blows me away with her talent. I took ballet as a youngster and I feel this gives me the credibility to say, not just anyone can be a ballet dancer. Like me. I’m not built for it, nor do I possess the discipline. But Elizabeth is and does and it is a real pleasure to watch her perform. And talk about going after what you love! Inspiring.

Then there’s Hanzy, one of the most laid-back people I’ve ever met, and probably one of the smartest, too. He used to work with me in Bend, but has since moved on to greener pastures as a web developer for I can’t ask him much about his job because it all starts going right over my head. The three of us put our heads together on our little hike, trying to come up with our billion-dollar idea so we could all quit our jobs and move to the Caribbean. Unfortunately, the details of said conversation are highly confidential. I can’t have any of you fine people hijacking our ideas and getting rich before us! So you’ll just have to take my word for it that we should be able to hit the beach in no time at all!!

crit party Bend OR

Hanzy and I at a summer crit party – too cool for school!

We headed back to town and hit up some wine tasting at the Lost River winery. Hanzy even bought us a bottle of wine that we all managed to agree was at least our number 2 favorite. Sadly, we didn’t get the chance to drink it, so it’s hanging out in the wine rack for our next reunion. Next we crashed a friend’s birthday kickball party, then wandered into Winthrop for lunch at the brewery. What pals these guys are! Classy wine tasting to sweaty kickball with a bunch of people they didn’t know, to beer and pub food at a little local joint. They’re both always up for anything, making them super fun to hang out with. We treated ourselves to ice cream before heading home to squeeze in a nap before the night’s festivities.

In Bend, Hans and Elizabeth lived just a few blocks from me. They often came by and just knocked on the door, dropping in to say hi. I wish this was still the norm – it was always such a great surprise! We spent a lot of time out and about together, with other coworkers, my roomies, mutual friends, whoever. McMenamins was within walking distance for all of us, and their outdoor bar with the firepits allowed my under-age sister to go with us. Elizabeth and my sister became good friends, and of course Ashlee and Nicole (my besties and roomies of the time) completed our little family. Family dinner nights were the best! Hans is quite the cook and would make awesome homemade pizza. The rest of us would contribute desserts and beverages and we would stay up late as we all slowly slipped into food comas.

No Pants Friday 2010 in Bend OR

After work drinks in Bend – a favorite past-time of ours

Saturday night, we hit up the Twisp River Pub for good eats, fresh root beer, and live music. We slipped out during the opening band to share the experience of the B.I. (Branding Iron during the day, Bad Idea after dark…) – classiest joint in the Methow! (Pardon the sarcasm.) We toasted each other and chatted while enjoying a drink, then headed back for the main band, Sunz of Sound. They’re a couple of local guys that crank out some amazing hip-hop. I don’t really even like hip-hop, but these guys are talented. And I dig their lyrics, which are much more happy and one-love and sunshiney than other hip-hop. If you know Mosley Wotta, they’re a lot like them. They make it work and it rocks. By the time we made it home, all four of us pretty much passed out. So much fun!

I whipped up some biscuits and an egg scramble for Monday brunch, then Hans and Elizabeth had to hit the road so Elizabeth could make her shift that night. I was sad to watch them cruise out the driveway and wished there was room on that bike for me. They took highway 20 going back, and I’m sure it was crazy-awesome from the back of a motorcycle.

So now its our turn to visit! The country kids need to head to the bright lights and city life. That’s just the way I like it – the city is fun to visit, but I prefer my quiet country life to the hustle and bustle and traffic and noise. But it’s even more fun when there are great people to hang out with!


I Climbed a Mountain

30 04 2012

Meet McClure:

Mount McClure Twisp WA


McClure is just your average mountain, a standing sentinel watching over the lower end of the Methow. He’s persevered through millenia, surviving ice and glaciers, wind and water. He definitely shows his age, but there he still stands. And there he watches me every single day, whether I’m working or playing. He fills the majority of the view out my window above my desk. I often feel as though he is mocking me: “Look at me up here, being all majestic and awesome, while you sit there all day, toiling away on the Interwebs.”

McClure is a bit condescending, and I’ve started to become a tad bitter. What I once saw as a gash in his side, an open wound scarring his slopes, I now see as a giant butt crack. He stands there and moons me all day while I’m stuck indoors working.

So Saturday, I decided enough was enough. Time to get up close and personal with old McClure and give him a real piece of my mind. J and I grabbed our day packs, walked out the back door, crossed the street, and climbed McClure.

Here’s the recap:

So there is no trail up McClure. Anywhere. We just headed straight at it from our house. Off-road!! The image above is from our driveway. So the first leg of the journey was through a couple fields and lots of open pasture and meadows. The sunflowers are in bloom and are just lovely.

arrowleaf balsomroot sunflower McClure Twisp WA

decorating the fence line

We finally got to the steeper slope and started going up. Thankfully we also finally reached some trees for a little shade. In these trees we saw our third group of deer for the day. They’re everywhere!

stand of trees McClure Twisp WA

I've been following this good looking dude for a while now...think he sees me?

We came to this cool little bench left by a passing glacier. We weren’t the first to find it – looks like an old homestead maybe? Ranch for cattle or sheep? Who knows.

old homestead cabin McClure Twisp WA

Found me a fixer-upper!

old homestead cabin on McClure Twisp WA

Sooo, come here often?

I poked around a bit then heard an odd noise after stepping over some boards….

rattlesnake McClure Twisp WA

Don't eat me! (I wonder if he was thinking the same thing...) At least Washington rattlers don't have the aggressive streak of their Texas cousins!

The climb was starting to get quite steep. J led the way, leisurely strolling up hill. I was somewhere down below him, clawing my way up, puffing, panting, and pouring sweat like a fat kid on the first day of summer camp. Nothing like a crazy steep slope to bring a kid out of hibernation. And I’m pretty sure J is at least half mountain goat.

steep slopes of McClure Methow Valley WA

J taking his time, slowing meandering along, enjoying the lovely day...

climbing uphill on McClure Twisp WA

...and here's me, huffing and puffing, trying to keep up, hoping I don't pass out from exhaustion and fall back down to the was SO much steeper than this picture looks

The ground finally leveled out a bit as we found another bench. Oddly enough, we also found a second cabin. We wonder if maybe they were prospectors, hoping for gold. Alder Creek is just on the other side of McClure, where they had a nice size strike and built the Alder Creek Mine. Maybe I should move up here and be a gold miner….

falling down cabin McClure WA

melting back into nature

One last push and we found the road. There are several communications towers on the peak and this is the access road. No more bush-whacking, which my feet and legs were very glad for. And we’re high enough now for the views to be pretty incredible. We’ve gained massive elevation super quick.

Methow Valley from above McClure WA


Then we get to this clear open meadow and I see it: our house!

down the valley Methow River from McClure WA

the red circle - I CAN SEE MY HOUSE FROM HERE!

The breeze is getting chilly, I find a few pathetic patches of snow, and I finally get what I’m after: I reach the peak. I have finally stood on top of Mount McClure and looked out over the Methow Valley. Despite staring at McClure daily, I forget the obvious – there’s a whole mountain range right on the other side. J can even identify most of them for me and point out where I’ve already been. This is my freaking backyard.

view of Methow Valley from McClure, WA

I made it! This is looking north, with the Methow Valley in the bottom, the Pasayten straight back, and the Chelan-Sawtooths to the left. Holy mountains, Batman!

Chelan-Sawtooths, Pasayten and Methow Valley from McClure WA

Show me something better than this.

birds eye view Twisp WA

Tucked down in the very bottom - that's Twisp!

The walk down was a new brand of brutal. Some issues with my feet caused quite a bit of swelling and pain. Thankfully, we took the road the whole way down instead of bombing straight downhill. I could just plod along and enjoy the gorgeous scenery.

road sun and hill side of McClure WA

cruising on down

There you have it – I climbed a mountain, bottom to top and back again!  J estimated that we covered approximately 6 miles round trip. No, that’s not that far, until you consider that we went straight up for an elevation gain of about 3000ft. It took us 3.5 hours to make it to the summit and another 2.5 hours to walk in our back door. Such an amazing mountain that so few get to see like this. What a great kick-in-the-pants hike to start the season out right!

And this is just the kind of heart-to-heart McClure and I needed. I have a new perspective and a new respect for the old hunk of rock, and hopefully he knows I mean business and won’t put up with his attitude.

Oh, and then I went from mountain to hot date in 40 minutes flat – including a shower! J took me to dinner where we also caught a little live music. We’ll just pretend I didn’t sleep the whole 20 minute ride home…


Fall Into Me

21 10 2011

Fall is just wonderful.  Fall in the Northwest is even better.  The days grow shorter, the air gets that nice snap! to it, and best of all, the foliage all changes outfits again.

Yes, of course, its very cliche of me to write about fall.  Bite me, I don’t care.  You see, all day, I sit at my desk in front of a window.  And out this window is a huge maple tree.  No, I mean HUGE.  And for the last week and a half or so, this tree has been transforming.  Those leaves might be dying, but that is the most beautiful depiction of death I have ever seen.  The deep green faded to a light green, which then lightened to a brilliant yellow.  So now, my window is filled with this glorious yellow tree, bringing so much sunshine into my happy little world.

Fall Maple Tree, Twisp WA

Peering into my gorgeous maple tree

Fall Maple Colors, Twisp WA

My HUGE colorful maple hiding my little house

All over the valley, splashes of color stand out against the hillsides, roadsides and mountain slopes.  I recently discovered the larch – new favorite!  J and I took his visiting momma on a little trek up Goat Mountain a few weekends ago.  Maybe half way up or so, we started crunching through snow, and soon it covered the trail.  For once, I wasn’t worried (which made for a slipping, stumbling me) – I was so distracted by the beautiful neon larches, against the bright fresh snow, with the spectacular views in the distance.  The top of the peak, however, exposed us to some brutally cold wind.  Momma J and I huddled for warmth, munching on our snack-lunch and trying to enjoy the 360-degrees of awesomeness.  It was a chilly, slippery hike back down, but SO worth it.

As I’m discovering this phenomenon of “changing seasons,” I’m finding more and more wonderful things.  The most delicious – the fruit trees.  I probably experience this more than the average person, being that I live in an orchard and all.  My favorite is going for a run and snagging a couple Golden Delicious off the tree by the corner of the driveway for an after-run snack while I stretch.  Yum!  And now we have fresh, organic honeycrisp cider in the fridge.  I swear they lace the juice with crack – its so addicting!  If you happen to be in Washington or Oregon this winter and stop at Whole Foods, look for Mazama Juice – that’s my cider!!

Despite my intense excitement over the ripening apples, J is the one who really went wild, drying tons of them in the dehydrator.  I went crazy with the plums.  Did you know I can bake, and really well?  Me neither!  I also never knew I could do so much with all my plums, since I don’t have all the equipment for canning.  Jam was out, as was Plum Wine, also for lack of equipment.  But I’ve made loaves and loaves of sweet plum bread!  And after testing a few recipes, I have now made several Perfect Purple Plum Pies!  I went on such a baking spree one day, even some of J’s apples got tossed in and out came apple crisp!  Spinning around barefoot in my nice warm kitchen, belting along with Randy Rogers, licking the batter bowl as I set the timer for the goodies that just went in – oh perfection.  And on top off all that, I dried and froze even more plums for later.  I can’t wait for the cold snowy days that just beg for something sweet in the oven, filling the house with delicious aromas that nearly give you a sugar-high just walking by.  I’ll keep you posted on what the winter baking season brings!

Plum Pie, Twisp WA

Perfect Purple Plum Pie - YUM

I plan on loads of cooking adventures this winter, in between my cross country ski excursions and attempting to stay in one piece on my snowboard.  Ideas/recipes always welcome, although I prefer company around to consume the results so my hips don’t expand like a hot air balloon.  So toss on your snow tires, throw the skis in the back, and pull on your puff jacket for a visit to the Methow Valley!  I mean come on – I’m bribing you with baked goods!!  😀

Striking out ALONE!

6 08 2011

So Justin had to go on an over-night Saturday and Sunday, leaving me with a wide-open weekend to do anything I wanted.  My brain flipped through the endless possibilites – I needed to be outside, I needed to be able to get there without getting hopelessly lost, and I needed to be able to survive on my lonesome.  Oh! How about hiking!  That’s easy to find around here, I’ll get some sun, fresh air and exercise, and really, what kind of trouble could I possibly get into while hiking?!

The valley hosts one small resort – that’s all the residents will allow – nestled on top of a hill over looking Patterson Lake.  They have a really nice trail system running all along the adjacent mountainside which they maintain wonderfully for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and XC skiing in the winter.  Yet somehow, in all my four months of living here, I’ve never actually been on these trails!  And unlike some of my more recent hikes, there would be no snow, and should something happen, it wouldn’t take weeks to find my body…. Who’s excited?! I’M EXCITED!

I parked at Chickadee Trail head (honest, that’s its name) and shouldered my day pack.  I tucked my trail map in a pocket because, well let’s face it, I really might need it.  And off we go!

Man, what a gorgeous day.  Summer has finally found its way to the Methow, and it is filling the skies today.  I jump on the Cabin Trail, turn off onto the Patterson Trail, hook a right on the Radar Creek Trail, and follow Magpie back to the parking lot.  The loop is about 5 – 6 miles total…ish.  And boy does this trail have it all!  I go up, I go down, I’m in the trees, I’m soaking up sun, I’m next to the lake, I’m following a babbling brook, and all along the way, I have berry bushes and wildflowers and cute little bridges and abundant wildlife – YAY!

I’m not normally considered a “loner” but I have to say, there is something wonderful to being all alone out in the woods.  The crunch of the gravel under my boots, the wind through the trees, the butterflies dancing along in front of me – sure its wonderful when shared with someone else, but there’s something so liberating about going it alone.  Just me, hanging out with Mother Nature, soaking up the fresh mountain goodness. My mind wanders all over the place, my overactive imagination tingling in delight as it jumps from daydream to daydream.

I wish I could record my inner dialogue at times like this.  Its pretty ridiculous, and you would think it was a nutcase if you could hear it, but the random things that pop into my strange brain are sometimes pretty hilarious.  But man I get my best thinking done when I’m alone in the woods.  Or in the car, but that’s neither here nor there.

Despite the fact that I followed the well-beaten resort paths on a summer Saturday, I only saw two other people total.  One was an older lady walking her adorable dogs and the other was a biker, with whom I chatted with for a bit.  Friendly chap.  We were doing the same loop but in different directions, so I actually saw him again.  He was quite surprised.  “Oh wow, I didn’t figure you’d get this far so quick.  You’re a fast hiker.”  Oh (giggle) why, thank you.  (I wonder how hard Justin would laugh at that…)

However, I could see from afar plenty of others enjoying the lovely day.  Kayaks, boats and paddleboards on the lake, fishermen on the shore, hikers climbing Patterson Mountain, kids on their bikes playing on the small dips and hills and jumps.  Summer was so late in finally arriving, everyone wants to be out in it, doing as much as they can in the short little window we have.

By the end of my little excursion, I was pretty sweaty, slightly stinky, and happy as a clam.  I am extremely happy to report that I had no major incidents other than once tripping over a stupid rock that jumped right in front of me on the path, and needing my map only once.  That has to be a record.  Good choice of trail, for sure.  After running a few errands, I spent the rest of my lazy afternoon reading my book and gorging on some Rainier cherries I picked up at the Farmer’s Market.  A most wonderful Saturday, if I do say so myself (despite the stomach ache from too many cherries – they were just too good!).  🙂

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