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!




I’m Your Huckleberry

20 08 2013

When I was in high school, Tombstone was one of my favorite movies. Still is. I love quoting Doc Holliday – he was the best character in that movie! I never really knew what he meant most of the time, but that didn’t matter. “I’m your huckleberry.”

Last weekend, I got to tag along with J on Take Your Girlfriend and Dog To Work As Volunteers Day. Oh, the things we do to spend time with our significant others. But J has a really nice office, and honestly, I had nothing better to do!

We headed up to a gorgeous spot (I have yet to find anywhere in this neck of the woods not insanely beautiful…) and met up with one of J’s rangers. We were going to work on some campsite restoration projects and had a lot of tools and signage to carry. Good thing we didn’t have far to go!

campsite restoration work at Thomas Lakes, Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Whatever it takes to only make one trip!

dog helper, Thomas Lakes, Gifford Pinchot National Forest WA

Everyone has to earn their pay!

Even Simba contributed by carrying a sign for us. A short hike up the trail and we started passing breath-taking lakes! To the left, to the right – rough day at the office, indeed.

Thomas Lakes, Gifford Pinchot Forest, WA

I like the decor of J’s “office” better than mine….

Simba went wading in one lake – they’re all so shallow! – then it was time to get down to business. Some of the campsites are too close to the water, so J and his crew are closing sites and moving the designations to new areas, so the old campsites can melt back to nature. We helped out a bit, breaking up the compacted soil and making the area generally discouraging to campers.

campsite restoration, Thomas Lakes, Indian Heaven Wilderness WA

Hard, physical labor and getting super dirty are good for the soul

We finally finished up this site and my day of manual labor was over. We left J’s ranger behind, as she was camping up there and had more work to do. I secretly wished I was staying up there with her, camping in this incredible spot, but it was getting crowded and J made promises of good things to come if I hiked the short distance back to the truck.

Thomas Lakes, Indian Heaven Wilderness, WA

One last cool-down for the hard-working mutt

Good things, indeed! J handed me a Tupperware container from the truck and pointed the way to some bushes.


(You knew I would come back to that, right?) I had heard tales of the amazing huckleberry picking to be had in the area, but honestly, I didn’t really even know what a huckleberry was. I do now!

huckleberry picking, Indian Heaven Wilderness WA

Huckleberries: they’re just wild blueberries! YUM

J wandered off to his own bushes, leaving me to forage on my own. The day was gorgeous, a slight breeze blowing through the trees. The quiet noise of the forest settled over me and I slowly fell into a rhythm. I was humming the tune to Toby Keith’s song, Huckleberry, swaying slightly, fingers working steadily. Soon, I was performing my own huckleberry dance, moving to the time of nature.

Pick a berry, push a leaf, drop drop drop. Pick a berry, eat a berry, drop drop drop.

I swatted mosquitoes and called to the birds, picking the luscious little berries all the while. Reality faded, nothing left but the berries, the bushes, and me. My imagination put me back in the time when only Native Americans occupied this slice of heaven. My red-purple stained fingers plucked and pulled and picked. I cried out in anguish anytime one escaped my grasp – why did the biggest, juiciest, best berries of the bush have to be the ones I dropped?!

Then J brought my dance to a halt, crashing back through some underbrush. A peek into his container brought me great disappointment – how did he pick so much more than me?! (Answer: he probably just picked berries, none of this nature-dance shenanigans.)

Oh, well, between the two of us, we did pretty well. Enough to make something delicious!


huckleberries Indian Heaven Wilderness WA

Success any way you look at it!

So now I know: huckleberries are delicious wild blueberries. And the saying “I’m your huckleberry” means “I’m the man for the job” or “I’m the right man.”

I feel my life is now complete.


C’mon, It’s Just Snow!

19 12 2012

This is what everyone keeps telling me. All that white fluffy stuff? Just snow. Shockingly, it floats down from the sky about this time every year. As in every single year. Not a phenomenon of nature or a miracle from the heavens. Just a product of the cold temperatures and weather patterns and because we live way up in the northwest at the bottom of a mountain where it snows like crazy all.winter.long. So get over it. In fact, soon you’ll be sick of it.

This is what everyone keeps telling me. Now it’s my turn, “everyone”, to tell you a thing or two.

Leave me the hell alone! I love all this snow, even though it hasn’t quit falling for two and a half days now! Even though it has turned the road out to the highway into a death trap! Even though my darling man-candy is going to throw his back out from excessive shoveling! I can’t – no, I WON’T – quit gazing out my window with sheer delight and wonderment at the drifting flakes, watching as they pile up against the fence and cover the entire landscape in a soft, hazy blanket. So THERE!

Alright, that was my angry outburst. Now that the haters have been dealt with, I’m going to tell you all about the amazingly wonderful blizzard we’ve been having.

falling snow with sunshine

Ok, this was from last winter, but you get the point. SO SPARKLY

The snow started on Sunday. It’s been snowing ever since. Just snowing. There were a few gusts on Monday, but otherwise there’s been no wind. Sometimes, big, fat, wet flakes tumble to earth, piling up fast, creating a gauzy curtain that’s difficult to see through. Other times, the flakes got a little lazy, fell a little slower, danced around a bit more on their way down. They fall without discrimination, covering anything and everything they land on.

And I am head over heels for the world these falling H2O crystals create. I’m from Texas – this world is magical and foreign and spectacular. It takes my breath away, which is saying something, considering this is my 4th winter in the northwest. But my soul can’t get enough of it! My entire world becomes enveloped in a glittery gown, the sparkly white glistening and beckoning me. I want to go play in all that fluff, roll around in it, leave my imprint of fun across the expanses. At the same time, I’m reluctant to even step onto the walkway before J clears it, hesitant to disturb the virgin snow and scar it’s beautiful face.

Today I discovered a whole new delight. The last several days have been filled with the muted sounds of roof avalanches, the houses built for their environment with steep-pitched roofs that resist collecting snow. I hear the micro avalanches, first the sliding, then the impact, and glance out the window in an attempt to catch a glance of the ensuing cloud of flakes. Yesterday, one entire side of the garage roof came down at once, causing a great puff of powder and building a wall several feet high. But today, oh today, the trees showed me their trick.

Our house is in the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest, on the Forest Service compound. Developers didn’t level acreage to build housing, rather the houses were built among the trees. The towering Ponderosa sentinels guarding the front – they showed me their secret first. After inches upon inches of heavy snow, they finally decide they’ve had enough. With the slightest of movement, aided by our good pal Gravity, one branch dips just low enough to release it’s frozen burden. The falling weight lands on other branches in a downward domino effect, causing a flurry of falling flakes, rushing ground-ward in a cloud and billowing out upon hitting bottom. Time and again throughout the day, these billowing clouds would rush against my window, barely making a sound as the snow melted on the glass on impact. What a sight! Over and over, the trees shivered and shook their snowy limbs. Definitely my favorite.

Winter also means cold, not just beautiful snow. Over the last few years, I have learned how to dress for the cold and even enjoy it. But coupled with the early departure of the sun, winter typically envokes hibernation instincts deep within my being. I want to curl up in my fluffy socks and cozy sweaters, wrapped in a giant blanket, and watch movies with a steamy cup of cocoa. Books could replace the movies and I would be just as happy. Thrilled, in fact.

But my friends in the great city of Bend, OR, taught be how exciting and fantastic the snow can be from the outside as well as from the warm house. Sure it’s cold, but that’s what coats and gloves and scarves are for. Layer up and dive in. Being that I now work from home, I have to be willing to face off with the snow or I would be a prisoner for 4-5 months. I don’t do well with that much time inside. Being that we just moved, my snow clothes had to be found, but found they were and J and I set out on our first great adventure of the winter: laundry!! We don’t yet have a washer and dryer in the house, but there’s a building on the compound that  has a work-out room and laundry facilities, and we’re allowed to use it. So last night, the layers were donned and off we went.

Tromping through the fresh powder from the day was so refreshing. Down the paths carved through the soft layers, across the hidden parking lots, past the half-buried bunkhouses, we finally reached the building we needed. Once our clothes were tucked safely in their whirling machines, we took a moon-lit walk through the plowed roads around the compound. The soft glow and muted hush over the forest is calming, romantic. And the thrill and effort of trudging out to the building and back, through 30 inches of snow, really makes laundry a less-dreaded chore.

Tonight we decided to go a step further and rescued our cross country skis from the corner of the basement. We only had to drag them as far as the end of the sidewalk, maybe 15 ft, before we were able to pop in and take off. Skiing out our backdoor!! It had been several hours since the last pass of the plows, so we were able to glide right down the road. Our poles hit pavement but our skis had enough cushion to do what they were made to do – carry us over the snow with agility and speed! Well, carry us over the snow, anyway. And it was such perfect snow! We headed out onto the highway and cruised north, the weather granting us the road to ourselves. Just me and J, propelling down the road, blurry forms in the still-falling flurries. We didn’t go far as we didn’t even have headlamps and BigFoot was sure to be waiting just ahead, but we went far enough to work up a sweat. Such a great time to see the forest.

Back home, the Texan in me couldn’t resist the urge any longer and I flopped down on my back to sweep out an angel in the middle of the road. J praised my handiwork and decided to do the same, but in the yard. Flopping down backward into 3 feet of snow, he was immediately stuck and only buried himself further when he attempted to flail his arms to make wings. Admitting defeat, he attempted to get up and floundered a bit before I took pity on him and reached out a helping hand. Both of us now in the snow, we laid back laughing, enjoying our playtime together. Before we could get up and out, the tree above us decided to show me it’s trick from a whole new perspective and dumped buckets of snow all over us both. We could only laugh, our mouths open wide in surprise, our entire faces caked in snow from the tree. Stumbling from our snowy gift from above, we shook with laughter and tried to brush what we could off each other. Still, the floor needs a rowdy mopping after the mess we tracked into the kitchen.

The only downside to all this winter wonder is that this weekend is Christmas, and I told my kid sister in Bend I would be there to spend it with her. So Old Man Winter, if you’re reading this (or listening to my fervent pleas), I would really be grateful if you could keep the roads drive-able at least until Saturday. Big thanks, dude.

Now off to bed, to be lulled to sleep with the thunderous sounds of sliding snow.


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