Pocket Meadows and Campfires

27 07 2016

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

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

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

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

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

dog camping, riley camp trail, mt adams wa

I’M JUST SO EXCITED TO BE HERE

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

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

riley camp trail, mt adams wilderness, wa

Man-to-mutt discussion over lunch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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…





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!

😀

 





To the Top of the World (and back again)

8 08 2013

It has finally happened, people! I CLIMBED MOUNT ADAMS!!

I don’t even know how to tell you about it, I’m still in shock, trying to process it.

Ok, I’ll give it my best shot…

MAsh arrived Friday evening and we did some ritualistic chanting and sacrificial ceremonies to get us pumped up. (Ok, fine, we actually played a rowdy game of Settlers of Catan. Same thing.) Saturday we were in no rush and finally headed out for the mountain around 11:30am….just in time to put us right at the tail end of the Trout Lake parade! Since the parade route is right through town on what is pretty much the only main road in town, we just joined in and pretended we were part of it. Nothing like a parade in our honor to get our adventure started right! The fire trucks had apparently thrown absurd amounts of candy and parents started giving it to us through the open windows.

Finally through the throngs of people lining the highway (where on earth did all these people come from?!) we zoomed up to the trail head, hoisted our packs on our backs, and hit the trail. Today was a short day – just about 1.5 miles up to our campsite. Cake.

South Climb trail head, Mt Adams WA, North Cascades

Wooo! Ready to take on Adams!

girls up South Climb trail, Mt Adams WA

Look out, Adams, we’re coming for YOU!

We set up camp, admiring our super-sweet, out-of-the-way spot J-Rock secured for us. Once everything was set for the evening, we grabbed our snow gear and headed to a nearby snowfield for a quick little lesson of Saving Yourself If You Fall Off The Mountain 101, compliments of Professor J-Rock. We grabbed our ice axes, climbed up the snowy slope, then threw ourselves back down it, practicing our self-arrest technique. (Self arrest basically just means using your ice axe to stop yourself. It’s actually super fun, when it’s not for real…) The funniest part was listening to each person pretending they were falling for real: “Oh no! (grunt, fall in the snow) I’m falling guys! (scooting down on butt, trying to pick up speed) Shoot! Better self arrest! (Flipping over, self arresting like a pro) It’s cool guys, I got it! I’m fine!”

practicing self arrest south climb trail, Mt Adams WA

J-Rock demonstrating, Ash following his lead. Looking good!

Back at camp, we settled into evening camp duties like we do this together all the time. MAsh headed down to the melt-water creek to pump water, filling all our bottles and water bladders for the next day. J-Rock and I set about cooking dinner. We all ate, cleaned up, and played some wild Gin Rummy while practicing our Mountain Climber names: Mad-Dawg Davis, AssKicking Ash, Master J-Rock, and K-Rage. (You can’t climb a big mountain without an intimidating pump-you-up name!!)

South Climb campsite under Lunch Counter, Mt Adams WA

Chillin’ like villains in our camp.

We turned in early (like, before it was dark early). I snuggled down in my sleeping bag, cocooned next to J, the stars slowly appearing in the sky above our open-mesh-top tent. Four-thirty came early, but my eyes snapped open and J and I both launched out of our warm beds. It’s GO TIME! Mad-Dawg made breakfast while the rest of us packed up and got ready. The lights of other people’s headlamps could already be seen snaking up the trail – we needed to get moving! Finally, we set off across the rock fields towards the trail, excitement buzzing in the air around us.

We paused to strap on our crampons to tackle the first snow field. The air was chilly and we were all bundled up, but I was still excited to play in the snow all day. We headed up the cold slope, single file like little duckies.

snowfield on South Climb Mt Adams, WA

The sun was just starting to tint the sky.

The very top got really steep, and I wasn’t quite used to the crampons yet. Then the snow ended, and we had to scramble up over some rock to make it to the trail. I freaked out a bit, unsure I would make it – and this was the very beginning!! I nearly melted down in frustration, baffled at my decision to do this.

But once on the trail, we hiked over rock for a bit then hit another snowfield. This time we started relatively flat and gradually climbed to a steeper incline. We took a couple breaks to shed layers and grab snacks, but the climb is really just that – one foot in front of the other, slogging on. We reached the Lunch Counter first, a nice huge ledge that juts off the south side of the mountain. A lot of climbers make it to the Lunch Counter their first day, set up camp in the rocks, and start their second day to the summit from here. Tents littered the black volcanic rock and AssKicking Ash scanned for campfire smoke, hoping to catch someone’s illegal actions and write them a ticket. (No, she was not actually authorized to do this. But she’s been practicing just in case anyway.)

Lunch Counter on South Climb, Mt Adams WA

Almost to Lunch Counter! The steep slope of the false summit looms above us, taunting us….

After shedding more layers, we attacked the huge slope that goes from the Lunch Counter all the way up to the false summit, Piker’s Peak. The false summit is exactly what it sounds like: a cruel joke, a big fat faker and out-right liar. Almost the entire hike, we’re headed up towards what appears to be the top, the end, the goal. But in truth, the real summit is actually behind the false one, looming just far enough behind it that you can’t see it until you’re just about to reach the top of the false one. Thankfully, we knew the peak we were stretching for all day was not, in fact, the real summit, or the mountain itself would not have been able to stand up to my rage.

Because it was hard. The slope up to Piker’s Peak got increasingly steeper until we were climbing snow-stairs that were created from the hundreds of boots kicking their crampons into the snow to get enough of a foothold to step up and do it again. I couldn’t see well – I can’t wear my contacts any more and was forced to wear my glasses, meaning no sunglasses against the brutal glare of the sun – and I was extremely focused on getting one foot in front of the other. Only when I reached a spot big enough to fit both my feet side by side so I could stand up and rest my quads – only then did I take a peek around me. I was startled to see the expanse of sky behind me, to the left of me, to the right of me, above me. And I was even more shocked to realize the insane incline we had been pushing to climb. We were going up a damn cliff side!

I turned my eyes back to my feet, plunged my ice ax into the ground ahead of me, and forced my burning legs to keep going. We had been climbing for hours, the blinding slope never changing in front of me, my shaking muscles screaming at every step. I knew I was close to the false summit, and the real summit was so close behind that, but there were a few times when I had serious doubts about whether I was going to make it. MAsh commented later how proud they were of the determination they saw in my face, but that was honestly the only thing keeping me going: the two friends I knew were up there somewhere in front of me. We had planned this trip months ago, and it was my own fault for not being more prepared. But dear GOD who let me do this?!

Pride is an amazing thing. My brain knew that I could just turn around, sit down, and slide on my back all the way back down. My muscles screeched at me like nails on a chalkboard, to just stop this hair-brained idea, turn around, and go home. Who’s idea was this anyway? Why did I need to get to the top? The views were great from right here. Why did I think I could do one nice hike the week before and be able to climb a 12,000-foot mountain? I’m not a mountain-climber, I’m not in shape for this, I have no business being up here!

But despite the protests of my body, my mind fought back. My pride slapped a nice piece of ducktape over my muscles’ mouth and cracked the whip to continue on. Pride declared me fit and able, pointing out that my lungs actually felt fine, even as we gained altitude. Pride scorned my muscles for being such pansy-ass whiny babies. Man-up, muscles! I deserve to be here just as much as anyone else! I deserve to claw my way to the top, to see the world in all it’s glory, to feel the wind in my braids as I conquer the second tallest mountain in the state of Washington! You shut your pie-hole, muscles, I will do this because I want to, because I can, and because so many have done it before me! And if they can, I can. Now MOVE!!

All the internal motivational speeches and smack-talk is what finally pushed me over the last little lip of the false summit, 2400 feet above the Lunch Counter. The real summit came into view briefly – swirling clouds had been building all morning and gave some relief to my tired eyeballs. We had a snack, reapplied sunscreen, and watched people leap into the glissading chutes. Strangely enough, I ran into a co-worker from Bend who was doing that just – small world! I rested my eyes, rested my legs, and tried to pump myself up to continue on. We still had 600 feet of elevation left to reach the top.

But the trail to the top was much easier, tamer and kinder than the trail up Piker’s Peak. This trail had switchbacks and much less incline. We made our summit at about 12:30pm, 7.5 hours after we left our campsite that morning. We were tired but jubilant, and I’m pretty sure I let out a primeival roar of victory that sounded like a wild animal finally making a long-sought-after kill.

summit Mt Adams in clouds, Washington

OHMYGOD WE MADE IT ALIVE!!!!

As you can see, we were totally screwed by Mother Nature and didn’t get the awesome views we were promised. We got big fat no views. In fact, we could barely view each other if we walked about 10 feet away. And with the clouds came a chilly wind that sent us scurrying for layers. We donned our rain layers and took just a brief minute to savor our victory before beginning the inevitable: the descent.

Thankfully, going down is much easier than going up, especially in snow! We sat our butt cheeks in the snow, readied our ice axes to serve as brakes, and pushed off! Glissading down was fast, fun, slightly painful, and a bit exasperating for me. The first bit down to the false summit was pretty mellow and quite fun. I got a bit of snow packed into the back of my pants, but a small price to pay for that kind of SPEED!

Then we had to descend over the false summit. It was crazy steep coming up, which meant it would be crazy steep going down. I watched as AssKicking Ash disappeared over the edge. Then went Mad Dawg Davis, waiting a decent amount of time to avoid collission. Then it was my turn. J-Rock gave me a thumbs-up and down I went, shooting through the tunnel made by so many butts before me. Soon, however, I was going too fast and was having a hard time braking. I managed to stop myself a couple times, but just kept repeating the terrifying experience of flying through ice and snow, bumping over hard chunks of ice with numb legs, not being able to dig my ice ax in deep enough to slow myself. Mad Dawg rolled out of my way as I barely avoided hitting him.

I got out of the glissading chute a couple times to walk. J-Rock stopped with me and at one point, we unzipped one site of my rain pants to dig out all the snow that had lodged itself in the seat and legs of my pants. I hurt, I was frustrated, my partially numb body stung with the pain of a thousand needles and I finally yelled “I JUST WANT OFF THIS STUPID MOUNTAIN!” J-Rock patted my arm, not feeling so hot himself in the high altitude, and told me to walk a while. Finally, when I was comfortable enough with it, I sat back in the chute and continued down the less-steep slope. The rest of the way after that was pretty much cake.

midday descent at lunch counter, Mt Adams WA

Texas repreSENT! Cowboy hats on the mountain just make us that much cooler.

We made it back to our campsite, packed everything up, and finished the day back at the car. We had covered around 10.5 miles that day, to the top of the world, with an elevation gain of around 5500 feet, then an elevation drop of about 6700 feet back down to earth. Every fiber of my being ached, but I was happy. Happy to be down, happy to be done, happy that I did it. I’m still pretty upset about the weather at the top, but maybe that will be the motivation I need to do it again next summer!!

*A big shout-out and special thanks to the beasts that are MAsh, for going with me, for not leaving me behind, for not giving up on me. These two power-houses are an inspiration for their abilities as well as their amazing attitudes. You both rock my world.
And to my main squeeze J-Rock, who had more confidence in me than I did, who stayed right behind every literal step of the way, and who encouraged me, pushed me, calmed me, and overlooked my very childish behavior on more than one occasion, thank you. Now, on to our next adventure!!





Alone With Big Foot and Sleeping Beauty

30 07 2013

Alone is not such a bad thing, some of the time. I spend the majority of my time alone these days, but that’s why I got a dog. The day I braved the blizzard to make it out to the shelter 45 miles away was the day I put an end to much of my loneliness and gained a buddy to keep me company. Simba is hands-down the best dog that ever lived. 🙂

Yesterday was a day I was even more grateful than usual for my little fur-baby. I just wanted to get out of the house, get my boots dirty, play in the woods. But J works hard, and a lot, and isn’t always up to hiking after work. So when he declined my invitation to go play, I got ready anyway. I can hike by myself just as easily as with someone else! Besides, I have my stellar hiking buddy guard dog to go with me.

I stuffed some crap into my pack for weight, filled up my water and Simba’s, checked that my safety essentials were in there, too, and checked the map to make sure we knew where we were going. Then J gave me his keys and said I could borrow his truck.

Let me just say that again: J let me borrow his truck. His brand-spanking-new truck he just bought a week and a half ago. To drive. All by myself. Up ridiculous mountain roads. I don’t know about you, but that’s such a big deal!! See, he loves me. 🙂

J also rigged a rope contraption in the back that hooked into Simba’s harness so he couldn’t jump out. We don’t know if he’s ever ridden in the back of a truck, or what he might do, so better safe than sorry. All buckled in, we headed for the trail head.

dog in the truck, Sleeping Beauty Washington

“Quit taking pictures and let’s get this show on the road!”

Sleeping Beauty is sort of a ridgeline in the foothills of Mount Adams. The area is steeped in native folklore and is named for the shape: from a distance, the ridge looks like a woman lying down. Sleeping Beauty Peak is her face. The trail is only 3 miles round-trip, but pretty steep, according to my guidebook. I’ve been pouring over the pages of Curious Gorge, the go-to guide book for trails and hikes and cool stuff in the Gorge. Scott Cook, the author, wrote that Sleeping Beauty is a “too-steep trail” that is only popular because “people know very few other hiking options up here in Mt Adams country.” He claims that Steamboat Mountain is way better, with more views, better views, and a better trail. Mr. Cook, I thoroughly enjoy your book, but I have to disagree with you on this. Steamboat had great views at the top but was otherwise utterly boring. Having now hiked both, Sleeping Beauty was by far my favorite of the two and I plan to revisit her every chance I get!

The road to get there was pretty gnarly. Once I turned off the highway onto the gravel road, I never even got out of 2nd gear. Steep, narrow, winding, and bumpy with washboards, the road also had more potholes than the face of a 15-year-old boy. But we finally made it and zoomed off into the woods.

Or up into the woods, I should say. Steep was right! But Simba and I are a determined pair, and we decided that night was THE night to see what we were made of. Hitching my pack up to rest in a comfy spot on my hips, we strode off into the dim forest, setting a quick pace with legs reaching for a nice long stride. About 15 minutes into our grueling climb, Simba needed a nature break and I took the opportunity to stretch and get a better look at the forest. I had felt a dripping on my leg for a while and checked my water bladder’s hose for a leak. Astonished, I realized my water bladder hadn’t sprung a leak, I had. My face was pouring, my shirt drenched. Ewwww….

We continued our hike, doing our best to keep the wind in our sails. We were shimmying around yet another switch-back when I heard a crash and nearly fell off the mountain while having a heart attack. My mind had been completely preoccupied with creating stories around how I became famous by finding Big Foot. My imagination had the shy creature watching me from behind the shaggy, lichen-covered trees when the crash happened, causing me to leap in surprise even more than I normally would.

Simba was standing in full attention, ears perked high, tail straight out and still. My eyes darted around our dense surroundings, searching for the cause of the noise yet not really wanting to find it. Then I saw a movement from behind some trees. Another crash, then running – it was just deer. A huge sigh of relief, much good-boy petting for Simba, and we cautiously continued.

Just as I thought we might need to turn back for time’s sake, the trees parted and a huge rock wall towered over the trail. The going got a bit sketchier as loose, messy scree littered the trail. Simba wasn’t crazy about walking over the rock, and he slowly picked his way higher. Since we were watching the ground closely, the views that suddenly exploded before us were all the more breath-taking. Adams was right there, in our faces, tall and proud in the evening sun. As we scanned the incredible 360 panoramas, I recognized Rainier off to the north of Adams, then St Helens, basking in the setting sun. Beyond, to the south, the pointy peak of Mt Hood pierced the haze from fires in the region, and Trout Lake could be seen in the valley below.

dog and Mt Adams view from Sleeping Beauty Peak, Washington

Simba staring down Adams.

Rainier and Adams views from Sleeping Beauty peak, Trout Lake WA

Rainier is to the far left, playing peek-a-boo behind the ridge. You might have to squint to see it in the haze.

St Helens view from Sleeping Beauty, Trout Lake WA

St Helens, right under the setting sun…so lovely.

Mt Hood in the haze, view from Sleeping Beauty Peak, Trout Lake WA

Hood is on the far right, poking his head up to the clouds. Trout Lake is the cleared area to the left, in the valley.

I could have sat there all day. And night. Night! The sun was setting, and despite the  views, the serenity that was washing over me, and the triumph of conquering the peak – I wanted the comfort of the truck before darkness settled into the trees. Let’s go Simba!

Zoom zoom! Steep uphill is sweaty and hard, but steep downhill is brutal and horrible and hurts. Did someone sneak rocks into my pack at the top? I swear it felt heavier, even though I had sucked down at least a liter of water. Did we come up this way? Did we really climb up this slope? I tried not to let my chest puff with pride too much, since I just knew that would throw off my balance. My calves were really starting to tense with the exertion, my knees aching with the pounding. But worst of all, my butt cheeks felt like someone had built a nice campfire right there in my pants. Every step fanned the flames in my glutes.

But the sun was already behind the mountains, the dense forest growing dimmer by the minute. My traitor imagination was no longer painting a nice, pretty picture of Big Foot – oh no, now the scary, man-eating versions were lurking behind the trees, watching me with hungry red eyes instead of the big brown curious eyes of before.

Then suddenly, we popped out on the road, the trail at an end. Wait, really? I checked my phone: 8:03pm. No way!! We made it up and back down, including time for flights of fancy and photographs, in almost exactly an hour. Three miles, 1400ft elevation gain then drop, and all in one hour. I gave a surprised whoop of victory, scaring Simba. I brushed a sweaty strand of bangs out of my eyes and hugged my panting pup. We did it! We conquered Sleeping Beauty all by ourselves and managed to escape Big Foot’s dinner table all in one night! I did as much of a victory dance as my burning butt cheeks would allow, posed for a selfie in front of the sign, then loaded a grateful mutt back into the truck.

Sleeping Beauty trail head, Trout Lake WA

Sweat-drenched hair, beet-red cheeks, and ecstatic grin – we did it!!

Well done, Simba, well done. Time for dinner, a rub-down, and a fantastic night of sleep.

😀





Can’t Sit Still!!

6 06 2013

The weather has taken a turn for summer and it nearly kills me to sit inside all day. I try to limit my time spent gazing longingly out the window behind my computer, but that’s dang difficult. Good thing I can type and stare out the window at the same time! (I almost responded to a client, “That breeze looks so lovely, making the lilacs sway like that!” Maybe this isn’t a good plan after all…)

Yesterday, I didn’t wear my sweater when Simba and I took our 7am walk. That’s the first time since we’ve lived here! It was such a gorgeous walk I felt like a poet, such flowery thoughts were floating through my brain. (And I am no poet, normally.) I am reminded every single morning of what an incredible place I live in. The natural beauty astounds me day after day, even though we walk the exact same path, day after day.

There are so many flowers! and birds! and Mt Adams – holy cow!! I just can’t get enough. I get EXCITED to get up at 6:45 every morning to take Simba out. I’m as disappointed as he is if we don’t get to go (like the entire two weeks it dumped rain every day…).

So here’s a little preview of the glorious morning Simba and I enjoyed. You’re welcome to swing by and join us!

Mt Adams, Washington

Adams watching over us the whole way – such a nice old gent!

walking the dog in the country, Trout Lake WA

Simba loves the tall grass, and pouncing on mice in the fence row like he’s a fox!

dirt road meadow in the forest, Trout Lake WA

This open field appears to be part of a tree farm with tiny little baby trees popping up in rows. And DAISIES! (I love daisies.)

field of daisies, Trout Lake WA

A close-up of the above-mentioned field of daisies. HOW GREAT ARE THESE?!

 

shady lane at Trout Lake WA

The shady lane along the lake. Simba to the left, Mt Adams and Trout Lake the lake to the right. How can you not just love this to pieces?

shadows and lupines, Trout Lake WA

Just a girl and her pooch, loving the life we live. And these lupines. We love lupines, too.

The birds twitter all around us, a nice gentle breeze is usually blowing, and the quiet morning surrounds us like a peaceful hug. It’s a great way to start the day!

*

Ok, so now I’m going to sneak this in at the end of the post, while you’re all distracted by the pretty pictures. I can barely type I’m so excited, partly because my knee banging the underside of my desk keeps messing me up, partly because I’m embarking on an adventure of a lifetime soon. As in tomorrow. For those of you who are growing tired of pictures of flowers and my sweet mutt, stick around just a little longer! KSnapped is about to get a whole lot more exciting! (Well, Simba will still probably be in all my pictures, but he’s so cute you don’t care, do you.)

Life is good, my friends, life is good! Now I have to go pack.

😀





Trout Lake has a LAKE!

13 03 2013

I’ve lived in Trout Lake, Washington, for about 3 and a half months now. Sadly, it never actually occurred to me that there is an actual lake, with water in it, that goes by the same name. I’ve been all busy discovering all sorts of things about our quaint new town, and here this great discovery was right under my nose the whole time.*

*Ok, technically this happened like, three weeks ago, but I haven’t had the chance to get this post up. Meh, the story’s the same.

Wait! It gets better! Said lake just happens to be within walking distance of my house. Now, how cool is that?

I discovered the quiett little Trout Lake of Trout Lake while wearing out walking my pooch. There’s a little side road off the highway, just a little ways down. We’ve turned down this road before, but never walked to the end. But the sun was out, the dog was excited, we had all day – it was finally time to see what else was down this road.

The mud of melting snow didn’t even slow Simba down as he zig-zagged the unpaved road, seemingly following the delicious scent of something, occasionally leaping into the snow piled along the ditches. We passed a few big farm houses and some empty fields, but there really wasn’t much else out here. Adams loomed above us, birds twittered, but there wasn’t another soul to be seen.

I decided it was time for more off-leash training. I called Simba to me, rewarding him with a treat when he actually obeyed, and unclipped his leash. You should see how fast he can run! He raced down the road, into the trees, back out onto the road, straight at me, across into the trees on the other side. He tripped over himself a couple times, rolling through the snow and leaping back up, making sure to turn around to see if I was watching. I just laughed and laughed.

I was so busy laughing at Simba that I almost didn’t notice the change in landscape. The road curved around to the left, climbing up into the forest a bit. But the views opened up to the right, Adams beautifully framed in tree branches….wait…two Adams – the mountain was being reflected! In water! I stopped to take it all in. And take a couple pictures, of course.

Mt Adams behind Trout Lake, Washington

Adams, you look so dapper in the crisp winter air!

While I was busy conducting a photo shoot with Mt Adams, Simba was busy exploring and making new friends. I heard the bark of another dog and took off after him. The trail led down to the water and I slid through the snow and ice to find Simba trying to play with a couple dogs twice his size. Thankfully, the dogs were there with their owner, a woman who works with J and whom I’ve met before. Oh, said woman is also mega nice. We chatted while the dogs played and promised to get together for a doggie play-date. Her and her pups headed back down the road while Simba and I hung out for a while longer.

walking the dog Trout Lake WA

I just leave those EARS!

I love watching Simba, as he’s just so interested in everything. Every tree, every dirt clod, every blade of grass has to be sniffed thoroughly and peed on. Oh man, then he noticed noise coming from the lake: geese! And ducks! Not one to jump in freezing cold water, we sat contentedly on the shore and watched the birds from afar.

Now that we know how close it is, Simba and I walk to the lake all the time. There’s not much snow left any more, but that’s fine by me. The view certainly never gets old!

Who knows what we’ll find next!

😀








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