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!!!


Song of the Mountain Goat

24 08 2015

Ahhhhh, summer. After 12 intense, demanding, crazy weeks, my first two sessions of grad school are over. DONE. Check and check. Time for three blissful weeks off before the insanity of fall begins.

Oh what to do?!

Since school started back today, I can tell you exactly what I did: relaxed. (That’s a really nice way of saying nothing… I’ve done so much NOTHING and it has been glorious.) Back in Trout Lake, I spent my days catching up on Netflix, taking extra long walks with my furbaby, reading terrible fiction, and knitting. All the things I neglected while school was in. Simba, especially, felt entitled to lots and lots of make-up attention, and most of my leisurely activities were done on the floor with him either in my lap or snuggled as close as he could get.

What about my J, you ask? Well, the man does have to work. And in August, he works a lot. Also, in case you hadn’t heard, the state of Washington is currently up in flames, literally, and he’s been working the Cougar Creek fire complex burning on the slopes of Mt Adams. However, my amazing beau managed to sneak in three full days for me. Three amazing, fun-filled, spectacular days in the mountains. I even managed to survive!

The location: the Mount Margaret Backcountry, which is on the north side of Mt St Helens, in the blast zone from the 1980 eruption. The plan: backpack up to Panhandle Lake, under Mt Whittier, and spend two nights, then hike back out. The participants: myself, JBoo, J’s pal Andy, and Andy’s pal Sara. The trail description on Northwest Hikers is awesome and totally worth reading and tells just what’s like:

map of mt margaret backcountry whittier trail

We started at the “TH” (trail head) then hiked the #1 to the #211 and camped at Panhandle Lake. (map belongs to

We met at the trail head on a Thursday afternoon, shouldered our packs, and set boots to trail. Quick side note: I am obsessed with volcanoes and have a total crush on St Helens. Her last eruption might have been 35 years ago, but that’s recent in geological terms and the evidence is still really obvious. The slopes are covered in trees all laying the same direction regardless of their orientation to the slopes – trees that were blasted over by the eruption. We hiked through soil that is an ashy mix that quickly coated everything and filled our eyes, noses, and lungs. Many of the lakes still hold trees blasted from their roots that fateful day. SO AWESOME!!!

Anyway, so a-hiking we went. The trail is intense, full of ups and downs and brush and cliffs and dust. Grad school has assisted in my out-of-shape-ness and my pack was a bit heavy. My boots are still pretty new and not super broke in. But around every corner, on top of every ridge, behind every patch of brush, the views were incredibly breath-taking and awesome. From some vantage points, we were rewarded with all the Big Boys: Mt Rainier to the north, Mt Adams to the east, Mt Hood to the south, and of course right there in our faces, the open throat of Mt St Helens. It was like a reunion with all my buddies. Wut up, yall!!

mt st helens and spirit lake from bear pass

Oh hey girl heeeeeyyy! (That’s Spirit Lake full of blasted logs and the crater of Helens)

I’m not going to lie, the hike was pretty brutal. I was huffing and puffing, as usual, and pouring sweat, trying to pretend like my pack wasn’t too heavy and my feet didn’t hurt and I wasn’t totally out of shape. I can write up three research papers in one day but the back country kicks my rear all OVER the place. Some places required us to traverse cliff sides that made my toes curl and my stomach knot. J offered to take my pack across the gnarliest of the gnarly, but I wanted to do it on my own. Thankfully, I didn’t die.

Mt Whittier trail Mt St Helens national monument

Hike with a view. So worth it.


hiking in Mt Margaret back country, Mt St Helens

Andy reporting on the conditions of the rock. I was not looking forward to my turn.

Every time we caught sight of a lake, I was sure my torture was coming to a close. (If you notice on the map, we actually saw 4 lakes before reaching ours…yep.) There was really only one thing that inspired me to keep going, fueled me to push on, comforted me and assured me it would all be ok….

wild huckleberries Mt St Helens national monument

HUCKLEBERRIES!!! nomnomnomnom

We actually came across lots of kinds of berries, but huckleberries are the best ever. And there were TONS of them!! J finally told me that I couldn’t have any more unless I could pick and eat without breaking stride. Our next breather he turned to me and just laughed. Mission accomplished – my lips, mouth, and hands were a lovely shade of blue. YUM.

Just when I thought I would collapse and never make it, we reached our designated lake. (You have to get a permit to camp out here and only one permit is issued per lake per night.) After some confusion and back tracking, we clambered down a goat trail and haphazardly made it to the lake shores. We dumped our stuff at our designation campsites and bee-lined to the shoreline. Andy and Sara were brave enough to disregard the cooling evening air and jumped in for a swim. J and I ditched our boots and tried to rinse off as much grime as we could. Time to set up camp and get dinner going. Within the first few minutes at the lake, I was head over heels for this beautiful little spot.

Panhandle Lake, Mt Margaret back country, Mt St Helens

Panhandle Lake, our home sweet home for the next couple days. We could do worse.

I set up our tent and Chef JBoo fixed our dinner. We had packed in some ultra-classy boxes of wine and sat with our little crew well into the darkness. A few shooting stars shot over our heads and added to the ambiance. Spectacular.

boxed wine camping Mt Margaret

Undeniably classy. Lovely merlot.

After an amazing night of sleep, I woke up early and explored the area around the lake while the others slumbered. I saw a herd of elk in the brush near the trail we hiked in on, then looked up and spotted two goats nimbly making their way across the sheer cliff. Birds fluttered around in the bushes and a hawk soared above; fish splashed at the surface of the lake having breakfast. Yep, I could live here. I finally gave in to the roar in my belly and got J up. We retrieved our bags from the bear hang and ate breakfast. Near the bear hang, we noticed more huckleberry bushes, and I found my first activity of the day.

Lake Panhandle, Mt St Helens WA

Morning reflection on the still water. Lovely.

huckleberry picking Mt St Helens WA

Fruits of my morning labor. Well, the few I managed not to eat…

This in-between day was the best day ever. As the morning warmed up, we donned our swim wear and lounged like beach bums on the pumice shores of our little lake. J and I played gin rummy while laying in the sand; the boys worked on their fly casting; I poked around the tadpole convention we found; and we basically just relaxed, breathed deep, and enjoyed ourselves. J and I even gathered enough courage for a quick dip. The lake isn’t glacier fed, so it’s not that frigid, but I still barely managed 3 full strokes. I know for next time I just need to stay in long enough to numb my nerves and stay for a real swim.

fly fishing Lake Panhandle WA

The boys “fishing”.

Swimming Lake Panhandle WA

My JBoo, warming me up after our chilly dip in the lake

After lunch, we finally decided to get ambitious and hike the ridge above us. We climbed up and around and over and across and finally, after gawking at all the 360 views and the gazillion goats on the cliffs, made it to a trail sign. It looked to me like a sign you see on ski trails. It had the black diamond with a zigzag line and said “most difficult”.  Whatev, yo, I do what I want.

climbing to Mt Whittier WA

Pffffffth difficult schmifficult

Turns out they weren’t kidding. I never actually saw the top, but J tells me it was lovely. I made it almost to the top of the ridgeline, and was proud of myself for not dying. So I clung to a squat little pine tree and let the mountain goats boys go on ahead. J came back for me and we started down, while Andy pushed on to the peak of Mt Whittier. He later said it was terrifying. #noregrets

trail to Mt Whittier WA

I conquered enough to still feel like a bad ass. Like a little. And no I didn’t kick the sign down, it was already like that!

Back at camp, sweaty and hot with ash highlighting every little sweat trail down my face, I knew what had to be done. The lake was the only answer. Before I could change my mind or remember how cold the water was, I stepped off into the lake and furiously scrubbed the filth from my skin. I have never felt so refreshed in my LIFE!

Another mellow, relaxing evening with our pals and we turned in. Tucked into my sleeping bag, snuggled up against the warm lump of J in his sleeping bag, I passed out pretty fast. I dreamed that night of the goats, the white specks that you don’t even notice until one knocks loose a rock or calls to a baby. How amazing it would be to have that agility and freedom. I think I would be perfectly content as a mountain goat….

mountain goat on the cliffs Mt Whittier WA

Magnificent creatures

We took our time the next morning and finally left our awesome little camp sometime mid-morning. We saw the first people in two days and marveled at our good fortune in finding such solitude. I was sad to leave and hope to make it back someday.

Despite feeling like the entire hike to the lake was uphill, most of the hike out also seemed to be uphill. Funny how the strenuous uphill is all you remember, so hiking in the mountains seems to be all uphill, both ways. (…in the snow, barefoot, … wait, that’s how my dad got to school….) I love how the views change when you’re coming from the other direction, and I somehow managed to eat still more berries found along the trail.

Mt Margaret backcountry WA

Views for days

Bear Pass, Mt Whittier WA

My favorite view of them all ❤

And now I have to settle back into my school routine, tackling my new classes and getting to know new professors. This semester includes the observation portion of my student teaching, and I could not be more excited to jump right in with my mentor teacher and her 5th grade class.

But, more on that later…..

Happy trails!!


I Lost My Heart In Oregon

21 02 2015

Ah, Halmark Day… the most manufactured holiday of all. A celebration, supposedly, of love that has turned into yet another marketing campaign. BUY BUY BUY! Ugh.

Thankfully, J and I are in agreement about this, so we ignored the holiday as usual and took a little mini-vacay down to Bend for some much-needed quality time with friends. And by ignoring all the V-day mumbo-jumbo, we had a weekend full of love and friendship and happiness. Best.Ever.

Friday night was Girls’ Night for me – a movie and margaritas with some of my favorite ladies. My face hurt from so much laughing, and my soul felt recharged from the great energy of such amazing woman. Girl power!

Then Saturday was our double-date with MAsh and the great outdoors. I have to admit I’m pretty sad about the lack of snow and winter, but the Central Oregon sunshine is tough to beat. We drove up to the trail-head for Black Butte and started climbing. It didn’t take long for me to fall behind the group – the views were worth slowing down for!

3 Sisters from Black Butte, Sisters OR

Broken Top and the 3 Sisters, sun tanning in February

Cascade Mountains of Central Oregon

From this side, we see Mt Jefferson, then Mt Hood, and if you squint you might see Mt Adams teeny tiny to the right of Hood!! I CAN SEE ALL THE WAY TO WASHINGTON!

We took a rest and a snack break once we reached the top, and of course we took more pictures….

silly on Black Butte, Sisters OR

J, always improvising, testing out his new selfie stick….er, selfie log??

friends on Black Butte, Sisters OR


After our hike, we roamed around Bend on foot. The Old Mill District was all a-buzz with the craziness of WinterFest (despite the lack of winter…) and our stop at Crux Brewery found quite a party. We drifted back to MAsh’s house for dinner and board games, and fell asleep that night with dreams of mountains and sun beams dancing in our heads.

We started off our Sunday the best way possible: awesome yoga class followed by the sauna to really get those muscles relaxed. Then, because this is us we’re talking about, we undid all that wonderful work on our muscles, and went for another hike. This time, we headed down a river canyon, following the Deschutes River to Steelhead Falls.

hiking along the Descutes River, Steelhead Falls OR

See the tiny little hikers? That’s us!

Living in the Columbia Gorge, we’ve seen our fair share of falls. Doesn’t matter – Steelhead is an impressive beast! Not super tall, but so much water!

Steelhead Falls, Terrebone OR

Steelhead Falls

Steelhead Falls, central oregon

Waterfalls (and each other) make us happy

Gorgeous day with incredible friends, my happy mutt, and my dashing beau. This hike was one of the very first hikes J and I did together when we were first dating. We hiked by this tree and my memory flashed – I remembered how muddy the trail was, how warm the sun felt, and that tree…the tree whose branches provided shade while J kissed me like a girl ought to be kissed.

I’m not a fan of this over-commercialized farce of a holiday, but I am a fan of love. All love, all forms of love, all faces of love. And on this day after Valentines, enjoying the outdoors with my buddies, I basked in the love around me. I lost my heart up here in the Pacific Northwest – gave it away gladly. I gave it to the mountains, to the forests, to the sunsets, to the rivers, to the waterfalls, to the coastline, to the lifestyle. By some stroke of luck, I found a man to entrust with my heart, and then a mutt who stole the last few bits.

Good thing hearts are such unique organs – we can keep giving of them and also filling them, yet we never run out, we’re never too full. Sharing our hearts just seem to make them bigger, and even though they can be broken, add more love and they will always mend.  The pieces I’ve left elsewhere are in good hands, and I have plenty more for the people and places I’ve yet to fall in love with.

man and dog at Steelhead Falls OR

What a lucky gal I am ❤

Valentines Day doesn’t hold much meaning for me, but, cheesy as it sounds, I’m head over heels for love. My goal is to acknowledge and appreciate the love in my life every single day.

Also, J’s new nickname is JBoo…


top of Black Butte, Sisters OR

Feel the love, yall!


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!!


A Hell-Roarin’ Good Time

19 10 2013

You don’t KNOW me!!

That’s what Mt Adams told me. It was embarrassing. I wrote about how much I knew about Adams, he showed me how much I don’t know. Ok, ok, I get the point! A mountain that gigantic can’t possibly be fully explored in just two trips! Just because I clawed my way up to stand on his peak, and just because I hold daily stare-downs with one side of him doesn’t mean I have any idea of all the wonders he holds within his mammoth slopes. Point taken.

Oh, by the way, this cat-fight between us actually happened about a month ago, the second weekend of September. (Yes, I know I’m a little behind…) J and I wanted to check out a new trail, and we discovered we had a very small window of opportunity to jump over onto the Other Side – the east side of the mountain that is part of the Yakima Reservation. The Res side is only open for a few months in the summer, closing to non-Yakimas October 1st. Hurry – run!!

We buckled Simba into the back of the truck and away we went. We drove through some range land and I chatted with a few lazy cows. We crossed a cattle guard and passed the big sign signifying we had Crossed Over – we were now on Yakima soil!

So we’re driving along, now on the Reservation, and you are never going to believe this but it looked exactly the same! The roads got a little less maintained, and there were more cows everywhere, but still the same forests, still the scars of a fire, still the looming mountain. No horses lining the yonder ridge, their feathered riders watching with spears in hand – maybe I watched Dances With Wolves one too many times? We finally bumped and jarred our way past a couple pretty lakes and up to the trail head where we bought our permit and finally got ready for our hike. Simba was stoked!

We originally planned to hike up to a place called Bird Creek Meadows, but not far up the trail, we came to a fork. Take the wide, well-trampled trail to the left, or the narrow, grassy trail to the right that probably doesn’t lead to the Meadows? I’m sure you can guess which way we chose….

We clambered up the pretty easy trail, the woods to ourselves. We soon saw breaks in the trees to the right, look-out points. And there was a … noise. A sound. No, a … roar! I double-checked that it wasn’t my stomach or Simba, then peeked through the break in the trees of an over-look.

HOLY CANYONS, BATMAN!! Mt Adams had been looming, peering over the trees like a total creeper; but this! – without the trees rudely standing in my way, I could finally see the roar – waterfalls! Spread before me was an incredible canyon, the glacier-carved walls stretching up on the other side to a ragged ridge line, ending in a peak dwarfed only by Adams himself.

HellRoarin Canyon, Little Adams, Yakima Reservation WA

This a little farther up the trail, looking back down the canyon, towards the east. Wowzers.

east side of Mt Adams, Yakima Reservation WA

And looking up the canyon at my old buddy Adams, whom I don’t know as well as I thought.

The U-shape of the rocky canyon makes for great acoustics. I asked J the name of this magical canyon and had to laugh at his response: “This is Hellroaring Canyon. Duh.”

Yep, “duh” is right. Soon we reached the alpine tree line and had a clearer view of this grand spectacle. We could pick out even more waterfalls bursting from under the huge glacier – J said it’s name is Mazama Glacier (not Kalista Glacier, oddly enough).

Mazama Glacier, Mt Adams WA, Yakima Reservation

The impressive Mazama Glacier and me and my hiking buddy

We had a blast climbing around in the super-cool rocks, continuously gazing around in admiration. You can see the folds of a hardened lava flow in the ridge off to the left, and the nice coloring of the rocks on that little peak to the right. I couldn’t get over the size and shape of the glacier – so cool! More breath-taking was to look back down the canyon, especially as we got higher, and try to wrap my brain around the fact that the glacier was once massive enough to carve that whole valley right out of there. All the way down the slope it slid, pushing, shoving, piling and grinding it’s way, leaving behind a couple moraines and this lovely canyon for me to gawk at.

HellRoaring Canyon, Mt Adams Yakima WA

CAN’T.STOP.STARING. Oh, and there’s a shot of the big waterfall, directly to my left.

HellRoaring Canyon, Yakima Reservation WA

And here’s a nice shot of the valley I keep oogling. That far-away lake right in the middle is Bench Lake, and Little Adams is off to the left. That grin just wouldn’t leave!

We kept scrambling higher, taking our time. Then I saw a pack sitting next to a rock and noticed a person perched on a rock. Then J pointed out the real spectacle: wildlife!! My first ever MOUNTAIN GOATS!! So exciting. Simba didn’t seem to notice, but the goats noticed him. Momma Goat took Baby Goat up to a higher perch while Billy Goat hung out down below. They were right there, so close! But I didn’t want my first goat encounter to turn into a grand goat chase, ending with me and Simba at the bottom of Hellroaring Meadows, so J took the pictures.

mountain goats on Mt Adams WA

Momma and Baby, posing for us. They tromped right up that rock like it was NOTHING!

mountain goats in Hellroaring Creek Trail, Mt Adams WA

The whole family, with Big Billy down below. Super cool critters.

Simba and I did a little more exploring down below, sliding down some rock scree to a little stream so Simba could get a drink and cool his butt-cheeks in the soggy moss. The cold water bubbled up from the rocks and I looked closer at the waterfalls. The glacier stretches down the slope, and the melt-water comes from underneath as well as the top. Then it gushes over in the beautiful waterfall, pools a bit, then most of it disappears down into the rock. Neat-o! It makes a bit of a reappearance further down, where the water comes back up and creates a stream. The meadows in the valley below are soggy, from reports I’ve read, and I could see where the water has created an awesome gash and probably another waterfall down by Little Adams. I want to explore so bad! I just checked and found a sort-of trail to climb Little Adams and walk a bit on the ridge over on the other side, which happens to be called the Ridge of Wonders (with a name like that I might not even rename it to Kalista Ridge!). Well, that will have to wait for next summer. 🙂

Little Mt Adams in Hellroaring Canyon WA

My deep thinker and Hellroaring Canyon, with the Ridge of Wonders and Little Adams for company off to the left. .

The hike down was quick and made me a little sad to leave this lovely place – the cool breeze coming off the glacier, the knowledge of lakes and cool stuff just a little higher than we went, the constant thunder of water echoing around the rock. Then I saw this sign, which I somehow missed on the way up:

wilderness sign, Yakima Mt Adams, WA“The richest values of wilderness lies not in the days of Daniel Boone, nor even in the present, but rather in the future.” Aldo Leopold. How amazing is this?! I just love it. I just love the wilderness and the woods and the mountains, and the days I get to spend in their midst.

By the way, if you need a refresher on the difference between mountain goats and mountain sheep, you should check out this video. It’s annoyingly catchy…

The Secret Lady of the Lake

9 10 2013

Holy autumn, Batman!! Is it really October?! *sigh* Life happens. On to today’s post….

Back at the beginning of September, a good friend from the Methow had her bachelorette party in the little town of Chelan. A weekend full of great times with amazing gal-pals? Count me in!

I can’t tell you much of what went down over the course of that weekend – not because I don’t remember (what kind of lush do you take me for?!) but because what happened at the bachelorette party stays at the bachelorette party. My mother reads this, for crying out loud! We’ll just skip the inappropriate games, the skinny dipping, the old gentleman I proposed to….. wait what?

*ahem* So I’m going to tell you a tale from the same weekend that had no male genitalia, dare checklists or absurd confessions involved. This is the tale of the Lady of the Lake.

I learned long ago that guide books or other advice on “Best Things to do Around such and such State” are full of crap. Or I’m just not their target audience. I don’t care about the best hotel or amazing shopping. I want beautiful vistas and hiking trails and places full of character. Washington, as well as all states I’m sure, is full of delightful gems no one seems to know about. Well, no, that’s not right – delightful gems no one tells you about. Lake Chelan is one such gem. Have you ever heard of it? Exactly.

Despite the shenanigans of Friday night, my Twisp Bestie and I dragged our tired buns out of bed at the crack of dawn Saturday (7am) to take a little boat ride. Tickets bought and breakfast in hand, we boarded our vessel: the Lady of the Lake EXPRESS. We took the fast trip so we could be back by early afternoon to continue bachelorette shenanigans. But we couldn’t miss this opportunity!

The boat wasn’t full, maybe because tourist season is pretty much over. The weather was absolute crap, but Twisp Bestie was thankfully much more prepared than me and had not one but TWO raincoats stashed in her back-pack. We rode on the upper deck, braving the wind and the rain to stand out on the open end, and spent several hours admiring the scenery and catching up on life.

Lake Chelan Lady of the Lake Express, WA

We’re having no fun at all. We just don’t do that.

Lake Chelan is an amazingly unique place that really took my breath away.  The lake is a deep gorge, gouged out of the North Cascade Mountains of northern Washington 17,000 years ago by massive glaciers, the last one being well over a mile thick. Steep rock walls guard the waters, which run 51 miles from the source to the dam. But the width of the lake never gets more than about a mile and a half or so, and cinches down to a quarter mile through a section creatively called the Narrows. The lake is the 3rd deepest in the US at 1,486 feet, and arguably the deepest gorge in North America. One section of the lake bottom drops to 386 feet below sea level, and the top of Pyramid Peak overlooking Lake Chelan stands at 8,245 feet. That makes the gorge a total of 8,631 feet deep. The Grand Canyon is only about a mile deep. Wowzers!

boat on Lake Chelan to Stehekin, WA

Bummer weather but still amazing scenery. I mean totally baller, un-frikin-believable, totes re-donk-ulous…and all those other “hip” expressions…

But despite these impressive statistics concerning the lake itself, there are a few more facts that just blast my brain to bits, and all of them are related to the most invasive animals on this planet: humans. At Lake Chelan, humans have yet to destroy the near-pristine environment. Yes, there is the town of Chelan down at the southeast end, but it only has a population of about 4,000 people. I’m sure the summer-time tourists swell that to a much higher number, but still, that’s not many. And once you head upstream, signs of human life diminish quickly. There is one road that travels along the southwest shore that reaches as far as 25 Mile Creek State Park, which is 19 miles from Chelan – not even half the length of the lake. From there – nothing. There are, amazingly, the occasional lake-front house, boat dock, and even an abandoned copper mine-turned-village up about 12 miles from the water. But that’s it. To reach anywhere past 25 Mile Creek, you have to take a boat or a float plane. Or hike in from far away, like my Twisp Bestie has done…

Nothing, that is, until you reach the other end. Here, nestled in the raw forest and mountains, is a speck of a town – more of a village, really – called Stehekin. Almost 100 people live here in this isolated town at the end of this immense gorge, cut off from society and, well, everything. There are a few roads around town and a few cars that were shipped up on barges, but no Internet, no TV, no PHONES – not even landlines! Don’t worry, this isn’t a prison or punishment camp of some kind to send misbehaving teenagers. These people live here on purpose and refuse these modern-day “conveniences” – not simply get by without them, they specifically refuse them. And wouldn’t you know, the 12 children who attend the one-room schoolhouse here, all taught by the same teacher until 8th grade, receive an outstanding education. WITHOUT THE INTERNET. (Dear God, what do they use, books?! Heathens!)

So, Twisp Bestie (referred to as TB from now on) and I have several hours of jaw-dropping nature to feast our eyes upon, all the while chatting, laughing, and fumbling over our own words trying to remember all the stories and tidbits we’ve been saving up to tell each other. We don’t get to hang out nearly enough. And all the while, sentences were continuously interrupted with exclamations of observations: “…and it was so hilarious that I just – WHOA DO YOU SEE THAT MASSIVE WATERFALL?!?!?!” This makes conversation much more…challenging. But we managed.

Lady of the Lake Express to Stekekin, WA

The weather finally took a turn for the better and some of the mountains appeared. We enjoyed the breeze!

We made a few stops along the way to pick up people or drop off cargo, but soon we reached our destination: Stehekin! Villagers greeted us as we unloaded, most of them there for the anxiously-awaited mail and supplies. We admired the lodge right there by the pier but decided to grab the one and only bus that would take us up to Rainbow Falls. A bus tour of the tiny village that doesn’t really have cars…. Indeed.

lodge at Stehekin, Lake Chelan WA

The main buildings of Stehekin! I believe this one is a lodge, but there’s another one that has a gift shop selling crafts the folks make during the long winter. Totally not kidding.

Remarkably, due to the massive storms that passed through the North Cascades the previous week, the roads were sloppy and the going slow. Then ceased; a mud-slide had ripped right through the middle of the village and took with it a good part of the hillside, washed out part of the road, and buried a bike rental shop. No bueno. A crew with a couple front-end loaders was clearing the road as fast as they could and we didn’t wait long. (We were under a time crunch due to the departure time of our boat.) Moving once again, we passed quaint houses, the older one-room schoolhouse, the huge community garden, and the famous bakery loved by PCT hikers. Then we stopped and unloaded to see the falls.

I won’t lie, my expectations were not high. Living in the Columbia Gorge with the highest concentration of tall waterfalls in North America, I’ve become quite spoiled. Don’t misunderstand – waterfalls are still one of my favorites, but when someone says “beautiful, towering waterfall” I know to expect some exaggeration on “towering”. Do I sound like a waterfall snob? I really don’t mean to, but maybe I am. But I at least glimpse Multnomah Falls every time we go to Portland, so my perspective is skewed. But back to Rainbow Falls – low expectations or not, I was blown away. The area right around the falls is a micro-climate, created from the mist and differing temperatures of the waters that plunge 312 feet over the cliffs, where you can find ferns and other plant-life that can’t exist anywhere else in the surrounding area’s much dryer conditions. So cool.

TB and I rushed past the lower viewpoint headed straight for the upper deck – we wanted to see the rainbow! And see it we did. The recent rains that had caused the earlier scene of destruction now put on a different performance, gushing over the massive drop. With the mist in our faces and giggles in our throats, we posed for pictures and gawked at the sight.

Rainbow Falls, Stehekin WA

TB and Rainbow Falls – tall falls, tall tree, tall TB!

We shimmied down to the lower viewpoint to make sure we didn’t miss anything and almost missed the bus. We made a stop at the famous bakery for a super-fresh, delicious lunch and then jumped back aboard to return to the Lady of the Lake.

…and we got stuck in traffic. I kid you not. The impossible has happened. The landslide was again the culprit, and the machinery working on the road blocked the only passage back to the landing. The driver was back and forth on the radio, all the while watching the construction. The Park Service tour guide told us the house we could see next to the road that was almost buried – though left standing – by the landslide belonged to our bus driver. And yet she was here, driving a busload of gawking tourists around her little village. That wonderful woman managed to hurry along the construction dudes and we made it to our boat before it left. Hallelujah!

The trip back down to Chelan was no less eventful than the trip up. Different angles, moving clouds, and less fog gave us plenty more views to soak in. We created our little bubble of sorts, laughing and getting rowdy. By the time we docked in Chelan, our hair was wind blown, our cheeks rosy, and our smiles unmovable.

Lady of the Kake on Lake Chelan, Washtington

TB getting her hairs did. 🙂

We rejoined the group at a winery and the party enveloped us back in like we were never gone. The entire weekend was unforgettable, and our little side trip seemed to exist in a parallel universe or something – was that even the same weekend?!?!  We had seen the secrets of the lake, marveled at the other world of Stehekin, felt the speed of the Lady of the Lake.

And I’ve decided that I think I could be the next Lady of the Lake! What if I dropped everything and moved to Stehekin, ditching all this technology and getting back to the simple life? Well, I’m not going to, but it sure fuels a lot of awesome daydreams…..


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!



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