Colors of Winter

15 01 2017

Ok fine, I did it. I pulled out my DSLR and my fingerless gloves to give Winter another photoshoot. My first winter in Twisp with J, I did the same thing – I couldn’t NOT take photos of the splendor outside my windows (click to see the post). The icicles intrigued me most and I took hundreds of photos that day.

Time to try again. This time, it wasn’t so much the snow that piqued my curiosity, but rather the hidden color peeking out of it. On my long walks, I’ve been noticing how the world has taken on the look of an old black and white movie. But if you look closer, colors that would normally just blend in with the landscape become happy contrast against the blurred monotony of snow.

The ordinary becomes extraordinary. The bland becomes brilliant. The boring becomes the central focus.

The cobalt of the newspaper boxes pops in the snowbank. The hunter trashcans and royal recycle buckets decorate the curbs. The various greens and browns and grays suddenly all vie for attention. LOOK AT ME! I’M SO PRETTY AGAINST ALL THE BORING WHITE!!! Little things scream at out at me as I start searching – once my focus has been adjusted, color is everywhere!

buried fire hydrant, hood river winter 2017

Peek-a-boo hydrant


recycle hood river oregon winter 2017

Recycling is beautiful

The cold temperatures have kept everything frozen, so it’s still crisply white – no gray sludge to be seen!

rosebushes in winter PNW 2017

Pretty rose hips


snow wagon Hood River OR winter 2017

Primary colors

They obviously don’t have kids or that huge yard wouldn’t be so untouched. (Do you wanna build a snowman..?)

winter leaves PNW 2017

Even the browns are lovely


snow drifts Hood River 2017

50 Shades of Gray….


Rocky Road, Hood River 2017 winter

Side of Rocky Road

And my favorite little splash of color:

snow dog PNW winter 2017

Yesterday the sun peeked out but today is gloomy once more. Snow flakes are dancing and I’m thinking it’s time to venture out of our own neighborhood. I’m sure I can rouse Simba from his fireside rug to head out for one or two more adventures before it’s time for reality to return.

Who knows what magic we’ll find next!!



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!

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!!!

I Gave My Heart to the Sea

20 04 2014

We loaded the truck and made our getaway, making our temporary escape from reality. Life just hurdled us around a curve and the coming weeks are going to be crazy, hectic, trying. But Friday afternoon whispered the promise of freedom: the weekend.

In no real hurry, we rambled out of town, following the old mantra, “go west young man, haven’t you been told?” West along the Gorge, through farmland and big city and mountains until, finally, salt filled the air and a wide blank expanse filled my dark window. The coast at long last.

Darkness had already settled but the campgrounds were thankfully not full. Despite a few complications, the tent went up and us in it. Once Simba’s bed went in, he knew his place and followed. I cocooned myself into my sleeping bag, sandwiched between my favorites. Heaven.


I woke with the light Saturday morning, the norm for me when camping. But it was the soft diffused light of an overcast morning, so I lingered in the warmth of my down bag. Simba stirred, nudging his nose into the opening of my bag, seeing if I was awake. I was rewarded with his wet tongue covering my face in doggy kisses.20140424-205825.jpg

We finally got ourselves up and ready for the day. We had beach to explore! The rain started slowly and softly, barely noticeable in the already-damp air. We secured our tent and took off.

The rain stayed steady so we found a little cove right off the road. The trail took us through the lush, saturated forest full of monster old-growth spruce trees. It was somehow eerie and enchanting at the same time, dark and mystical in the rain. The sounds of water surrounded us: falling through the leaves around us, rushing over the rocks of the creek next to us, pounding the shore down in front of us. The trees parted and there she was: The ocean.

I don’t think Simba has ever been to the ocean, at least not judging by his hilarious reaction. The tide was low, the waves gigantic, the sand stretching out far and flat. We raced for the water, then Simba noticed it was headed straight for us….

…”omg! Run as fast as you can! Hurry, we have to escape! Good it’s gone – let’s chase it again!!”


Silly mutt. He also licked a wave, violently shaking his head and sneezing as a result. We played and played despite the rain that came and went. Finally soaked through, we hiked back to the truck. I tried to dry us off the best I could and tucked Simba into his bed behind J. Then into town we went for some SHOPPING!

The rain, of course, slowed and then stopped while we wandered through an olive oil tasting room, a candy shop, a beach-wear boutique and a fantastic creperie. By the time we got back to the super-smelly truck, my arms were full of bags and J’s belly was full of crepe. A quiet dinner at a local place and we headed back to our campsite for a calm evening. J decided we needed some warmth and lit up a lovely bonfire. I made a mad dash for the food stash, dug out the marshmallows and graham crackers, and combined all ingredients for the loveliest evening I’ve had in quite a while. After failing to put myself in a marshmallow-induced sugar coma, I joined my pooch in the tent.



After an insanely glorious night of sleep, we spent the majority of our Easter morning wandering the expanse of sand past the “Beach Access” sign of our campground. Crappy weather = very few people, besides us. We didn’t mind hanging out with the gulls, the Haystacks (those gigantic rocks out in the water), and the piles of driftwood. So awesome!


I have very regal men in my life ❤

I was sad to fold up the tent and load the cooler back into the truck. The sea gets under my skin as soon as I smell the salt, as soon as I hear the inhale and exhale of the waves, as soon as I see the constant ebb and flow movement of the water. And I get a little….lyrical. But I’ll let my poetic meanderings stay in my neat-o frito waterproof notebook. For now.

Now then, back to hectic reality!!  😀

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??


Adventures in Road-tripping

24 11 2013

DAY TWO!! Up and at’em, adventure awaits!

Simba and I go out for our morning walk and lo and behold! We’re surrounded by majestic mountains! I’ve only been to Salt Lake City under the cloak of darkness, I had no idea! After a quick (terrible) breakfast and some of the worst coffee I’ve ever had, we loaded up and got on with it. We had places to see and things to DO!!

sunrise over Salt Lake City, UT

Good morning SLC!

SLC is … interesting. Of course, we only see what the interstate shows us, which is mostly industry. Driving through big cities like this just remind me what a materialistic, consumerist society we live in as we pass shopping mall after strip mall after mega-mall. We also passed at least 3 trampoline parks. Trampoline parks? Salt Lake must just love to bounce!As we got a little more out of the city we started passing all the subdivisions and suburbs, each with a couple steeples. We marveled at the snowy peaks to the east towering over the city – such relief!

A quick stop at Starbucks (…NEED.REAL.COFFEE…) and we turned off the Interstate and headed into those marvelous mountains. I just adore going places like this with J because he loves rocks as much as I do. We oogled over the cake-layer rocks, the composition of the rock and soil so different from what we have at home. Look at the junipers! Those rocks are green!! Check out that old homestead!

train along the Price Canyon, UT

Choo choo! And the rocks – so cool!

We stopped at a rest stop to make our game plan and go potty. I realized I’d stopped here before…the terrain is so different when there’s SNOW on the ground!! With a destination in mind, we continue.  I see an arch over a dirt road – a ranch! Let’s buy it! Reds and tans mix with the green of the rocks as a train chugs along next to us. Bluegrass blares from my iPod, the banjos fitting with the scenery. Soon we’re cruising down a canyon with awesome sandstone walls. We see some black stripes and – then bam! a coal mining operation! Ah yes, I remember this. Down we go to the coal mining town of Helper, UT. Looks a bit … rough. The terrain becomes less exciting so I turn to other activities.

Before long, we’re in a bit of a snow storm! The roads are fine despite the falling fluff but I’m disappointed we’re losing views of the cliffs to the snow and fog and clouds. Finally we come to our turn-off and head up a beautiful canyon. The snow stops and we are in awe of these unbelievable surroundings, the wild red cliffs and funky rock formations – I sit, stunned. The dusting of snow somehow makes the landscape look softer, gentler than the alien world I remember seeing during the summer.

snow at Price, UT

Snow and red cliffs – what wild scenery!

We parked and headed up the Corona Arch Trail, Simba zooming all over the place with the joy of being released from confinement. The trail was slush and muck in various shades of oranges and reds, making the trail slippery and gross. But we’re in the cliffs, they’re RIGHT THERE. Suddenly, we see the dark red rock open up to a railroad cut – right through the rock! Simba and I took a jog down the tracks, leaping across the ties. Weeeeeee!

Corona Arch Trail train tracks, Moab UT

Down the train tracks!!

Corona Arch Trail, UT

Nice little resting spot

Water is running everywhere from the melting snow – a weird sight out here in the desert. Sheets of water run over the slickrock, but it’s still better to walk on than the snow. We climb up higher, creeping up the canyons walls. Simba gets the hang of it quickly and tries to help keep us on the trail. We search for rock cairns and foot prints and make it to a nice overlook with great views of the cliffs, the canyon and the Colorado River. The arch is on the other side, but we have to scale a short but really steep rock to get there. A nice cable is bolted in the rock to help us out, but Simba probably won’t make it. I don’t want to risk it. So J goes first to check it out.

Corona Arch, Moab UT

Corona Arch!! Astounding when you’re standing right next to it.

Bowtie Bridge, Moab UT

They call this guy Bowtie Bridge. How cute! And huge.

While he’s busy, Simba and I explore our cliff. There’s a gorgeous waterfall echoing into the little gorge next to us. An impressive natural bridge is just across the way. Faces watch us from the vertical walls. This place is so foreign and incredible and beautiful – I can’t get enough! Then J returns from his scamperings and it’s my turn! I climb the chiseled-out steps, traverse the crazy slanted rock, and climb the slippery ladder. I do some scampering of my own, up close to the cliffs where showers are raining down from above. I had to circle around the gorge to get to the arch, so that’s what I did. The natural bridge was awesome to see up close, and to look up through the hole on the other side. Then the arch was there and I was standing directly under it. Woooo! Too bad I was alone and without a camera….

I shimmied back to my boys and we started down, daylight running out. J and I kept babbling on about the gorgeous place and Simba relentlessly zigzagged the trail. Back at the truck, I toweled the messy pup off and settled him in. We made it to Moab and settled in for the night. Our plan is to play a bit more in the morning and work our way to Denver by tomorrow night.

Bring on the shenanigans en la manana!!


Mother Earth’s Deep, Dark Secrets

24 10 2013

The weather was absolute crap for most of September. Or all of it. So J and I had to venture away from our normal hiking activities and get a bit more … creative.

So much rain, wind, fog, clouds, and cold nearly sent me over the edge – I was quite sick of Mother Nature’s shenanigans. Time to dig up a little dirt on the hussy and get even. That’s the mature way to handle the situation, right? I thought so, too.

J found a good secret for us to investigate, and we geared up. I donned my ninja gear: black pants, black sweat shirt, black gloves, and black beanie. (Ok, all the black was not actually intentional, but once it happened, I let it be. Ninja’s are just that sneaky, and who am I to argue with the ninjas?!) Flashlights and headlamps, water, snacks, and camera – here we go!

Off into the forest we went. It was opening weekend for deer, and massive canvas wall tents declared the presence of hunting parties all over the forest. I traded my black hat for neon orange as we parked the truck. Just in case. Not far into the trees, we found what all the gossip said we would find: a hole! And not just any hole, but an entrance. Indian Heaven Wilderness, between St Helens and Mt Adams, happens to have one of the largest collections of lava tubes in the US, if not the world!

And we were going to explore one.

Falls Creek Cave, Indian Heaven Wilderness WA

Preparing for my descent into the DARKNESS

We walked a little ways down a faint trail, then stopped short as we came through the trees. A large sinkhole gaped in front of us, the rocky ground sunk down with a few trees sprouted in the bottom. Moss, grass and ferns clung to the sides and – well, you can see for yourself in the image above.

A little research on the cave had told us the secret to entering: find the second collapsed “hole” and climb down. There will be a cave – scramble in. The climb down is a short one, then climb right back up to emerge into the third collapsed portion, where there is still quite a bit of ceiling…and the real entrance into the tubes. We followed these instructions and sure enough – they were right!

Falls Creek Cave entrance, Indian Heaven Wilderness WA

Through the first mini-cave. In we go!

Falls Creek Cave system, Indian Heaven WA

Out of the first “cave” and into the crazy-cool third collapse. Found the black entrance – time to go underground!

The ferns were my favorite. Headlamps switched on, we climbed down into the mouth of the earth.

Falls Creek Cave entrance, Indian Heaven Wilderness WA

Looking back at the way we came down – the last sunlight we’ll see for several hours!

In no time at all we had ventured out of the range of the few sunbeams that lit the entrance. With only the dim light of my headlamp (whose batteries I realized might need to be changed), I gazed in awe at the foreign sights around me.

The cave was much more enormous than I had imagined. The ceiling could be seen up above, but barely. Chunks of rock, hardened lava, littered the floor, making for a slow pace. The air was cool and damp and dark. So very dark.

I loved the texture of the walls as we scrambled along. Some places bore the horizontal stripes like in the shot above – from the slow scraping of the flowing lava perhaps? Other places were jagged, exposing layers beneath layers where sections had broke off. My favorite walls were the squiggly walls. Hardened lava-sicles and crazy designs – squiggles is really the best word I can think of. J’s theory is that they might have been formed by remelt – hardened rock remelted on the surface by a fresh flow. (Anyone else have any good theories?!)

lava tubes, Indian Heaven Wilderness WA


We explored on and on and on, the old lava tube winding around corners, narrowing here then widening there, changing texture, shape and size. Our world was reduced to just what we could see in the beam of our lamps, with no knowledge of where we might be, no clue how deep we might be.  At one point, we stopped, took a deep breath, and turned our headlamps off. The blackest black, the darkest dark, the most complete nothingness I’ve ever known. Scary doesn’t begin to describe my immediate reaction – frightening, heart-stopping, unbelievably terrifying – I switched my light back on before a full minute passed. I found J waving his hand in front of his face, amazed that he saw big fat nothing.

At one point, the upper half of the wall gave way to nothingness – no more wall. We climbed up and found a secondary tube – this is like a Tube of Wonders!! We continued on some more, and our new tunnel looped around to the original tunnel. We climbed down the wall to that original tunnel, crossed it, then climbed up the other side to another tunnel. This one actually petered out until it became too small for us to go any further. J got down and crawled a little ways further, but the lack of knee pads on the jagged floor had him turning back. Another day, perhaps.

The time came that we decided to make our return to the land of the living. We saw another side tunnel, but the wall would need to be scaled, possibly with ropes, and neither of us were feeling that ambitious. So we worked our way back down (or up?) the tunnel, back towards the entrance, towards our rebirth into the sunlight.

Falls Creek lava tubes, Indian Heaven Wilderness WA

I see the light at the end of tunnel!!!

The rain was coming down as we emerged from the depths. A constant dripping had accompanied us throughout our underworld explorations, but we were oblivious to the weather up above. Once back at the truck, I caught a glimpse of myself in the glass reflection – wowzers! Several hours in the damp caves had done amazing things to my hair! Good thing J was more interested in recapping our adventure than noticing my ‘fro.

So we explored local lava tube caves and didn’t die. Nothing crept out of the darkness to eat us, and none of the caverns suddenly collapsed after thousands of years of … not collapsing. Therefore, I want to explore ALL OF THE CAVES!!

And TAKE THAT Mother Nature! I’ve told everybody about your secret!!

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