Colors of Winter

15 01 2017

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

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

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

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

buried fire hydrant, hood river winter 2017

Peek-a-boo hydrant


recycle hood river oregon winter 2017

Recycling is beautiful

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

rosebushes in winter PNW 2017

Pretty rose hips


snow wagon Hood River OR winter 2017

Primary colors

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

winter leaves PNW 2017

Even the browns are lovely


snow drifts Hood River 2017

50 Shades of Gray….


Rocky Road, Hood River 2017 winter

Side of Rocky Road

And my favorite little splash of color:

snow dog PNW winter 2017

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

Who knows what magic we’ll find next!!



Saturday Morning Explorations

1 03 2015

Saturday is arguably the best day of the week. A day of possibility and potential. And after a rough week and a dreary, rainy Friday, waking up to a Saturday morning full of sunshine brings balance back to my life.

This was one such Saturday, and I had no choice but to get outside and soak it all in. The rest of the country (Texas in particular) might be getting buried in snow and ice, but not up here in the PNW. The rain of yesterday now sparkled in the morning rays. Simba spun in circles while I pulled on my heavy snow rain boots and out the door we went.

J has done the preliminary work to hack a trail through the undergrowth and blackberry brambles between our house and the cliffs of the river. I inhale the crisp, cold, fresh morning air as Simba tore around the corner, running at full speed in the reckless manner of a happy dog with no leash on, and we set off down the trail.

The rain has made my whole world a muddy mess. I try not to slip as Simba zooms past me, sniffing every leaf and blade of grass. The trail is marked with deer tracks; a stray vine snags my boot laces. A cacophony of bird songs fill the air with their sweet tunes – a soundtrack to our morning. Sunlight breaks through the trees in bight streaks, piercing the dim haze under the canopy of branches.

We crunch along, Simba exploring every off-shooting game trail and marking every rock (he acts so proud of himself). Occasionally he manages to fall behind me on the trail, racing by me once again when he notices. He likes to lead the pack.

The sounds of the river rapids down below soon compete with the trilling birds. The rains have lifted the rushing waters, giving them more speed and momentum over the rocks in their way. I want to dip my fingers in the crystal-clear waters, test the frigid temperatures, lose myself in the tumbling drops. But the cliff prevents such adventures and we watch from above instead.

Bare branches and naked vines surround us, but the mist and dew and leftover rain give the forest the coolest shine. The sun becomes a strobe light as I make my way across the mush of a little stream fed by a spring bubbling out of the ground just uphill from me. The staccato of light makes me squint and I almost fall on the slippery rocks. Simba tries to continue down towards the river, following the wrong path, as is his way. A quick whistle brings him back and we climb the last little bit. I want to laugh as we break free of the forest, out into the glittering rows of the orchard.

Simba turns back to check on me, confused by the halt. I just need a minute, I need to fill my lungs with the intoxicating morning air, I need to absorb all the vitamin D and happiness the sun will give up. Impatient, Simba zig-zags back and forth, investigating the edges, circling back, sniffing the air.

I finally follow, winding through the dormant pear trees, glancing down the deer paths leading back into the tangle, laughing at Simba chasing a fly, still taking the biggest, deepest breaths. Life is flowing through my views in full force again, the strength of my muscles carrying me along, and I want to put my arms out and spin until I’m dizzy and drunk with laughter.

So I do.


Join me on my walk:

But the Best Ships, Are Friendships…

20 03 2014

A good friend from college had this toast that she liked to give every time our group of friends got together: There are wooden ships, and metal ships, and ships that sail the sea…but the best ships are friendships, and friends we’ll always be!

Our group is scattered all over the country now, and we see each other rarely. But that silly toast stays with me, reminding me that there are all these friends that are still my friends, no matter where we geographically land.

Unfortunately, none of those pals live here, where I live. MAsh is closest, down in Oregon. Most are far off in Texas. And lately, I’ve felt the loneliness as I struggle to find new acquaintances in our super small town, with just Simba, my dog, for company most days. J is around but even my time with him has become a bit rare.

Something always happens to keep me afloat, of course – a ship comes to save me before I can drown. This time is was S (we’ll call him Sir) and his lovely lady G visiting all the way from San Antonio, Texas. Sir and I go way back, and he’s been one of my closest friends throughout the years. We were fishing buddies and drinking buddies, buddies for the good and bad. He helped me move all over the place, including my big move to the PNW, and he’s been the only person to visit me almost every state I’ve lived in (not counting family – Momma has him beat!). He’s been an all-around great friend for as long as I’ve known him.

So when he and G met me for lunch on Friday, here for the whole weekend, I could barely keep myself from running full speed up the sidewalk to tackle him. I jumped in for a bear hug, and tried not to knock G to the ground when it was her turn. FINALLY!! VISITORS!!

The weekend was a blur of good times, laughing until we couldn’t breathe, reminiscing, and catching up. MAsh met us up on Mt Hood for a day of skiing on Saturday, and we skiied until we all collapsed (literally). Then MAsh joined us at my house afterward and stayed the night – Ash is friends with Sir from way back, too. We spent the evening playing Settlers of Catan, dipping into the liquor cabinet, and just having a wildly awesome time. It was a big bummer to see MAsh go Sunday morning.

We decided to explore the Gorge on Sunday and went hiking east of Hood River on the historic Columbia River Highway. J came along and shared his vast knowledge with us, telling us about the wildflowers and lichens and fire ecology and local history. He’s a great tour guide. And we got to know G better, sharing stories and squeezing in that normal chit-chat conversation that reveals a person. (She’s such a gem.)

Then Monday, I finally got to show my pals what I had most hoped to show them – our WATERFALLS! Living in such awesome waterfall country makes a Tour de Falling Water a simple task, but this weekend was special. We had been getting tons of rain, then had a big snowfall (the last one I told you about), *then* we got tons more rain on top of the snow. All the rivers were swollen out of their banks….and the waterfalls were RAGING! So off we went, west through the gorge, on the path to see as many waterfalls in one day as possible.

We did an excellent job – saw so many I lost count – and barely left the highway! We hit another section of the historic highway and didn’t go far before we heard the thunder of Horsetail Falls – stop number 1! Before we even got out of the car, I heard the gasps of amazement, the muttered “holy shit!”s and the dropping of jaws. I’ve seen the falls before, but this was truly remarkable – and just the first one! By the time we reached Multnomah Falls (the famous falls near Portland), we were no longer able to fully shut our jaws. The famous bridge is now closed due to damage from a falling rock, so we couldn’t go very far, but wowzers. Just unbelievable.

raging Multnomah Falls. Portland OR

One tier of Multnomah

Multnomah Falls Oregon, Columbia Gorge

The all-of-it view of Multnomah. Whoa.

Even the historic lodge/giftshop at Multnomah was impressive. We continued on, stopping for every waterfall we came to, and decided to hike one. I don’t even remember which massive waterfall we were at, but we saw a trail heading up into the saturated forest and off we went. The trail was paved but steep, and before long we were shedding layers trying to cool off. Mother Nature must have heard us and wanted to help, sending rain/ice balls down on us. But on we went, finally reaching Fairy Falls after about a mile and a half. It might not have been the biggest waterfall of the day, but it was lovely. The hike through the magical forest was worth it.

flowing stream after rain, Columbia Gorge

Water, water, everywhere!

We made a pit stop for lunch at the famed McMenamins Edgefield. I’ve been told repeatedly by numerous friends what an amazing place this is, and I’m sure I’ll be back to see all it offers. But this day was just for lunch, and after the super-delicious food, we headed back to see more incredible-ness. We hit up the viewpoints and observatory along the old road and the rain broke for us long enough to give us out-of-this-world views of the Gorge.

View from the Woman’s Forum viewpoint. The rock jutting out on the right is where the observatory is. I could stare at this view all day!

Down the old highway, we also came upon this super awesome tunnel from the original highway. It was filled in at one point, after the new highway was built, but has since been restored. I never knew a simple tunnel could be so neat-o!

historic tunnel, Historic Columbia River Highway OR

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

It was a glorious day. We were worn out when we finally made it back to my house. We tried to stay up and play cards, but Sir and G had to leave crazy early Tuesday morning to catch their flight home. I had a hard time letting them walk out my door….

But that’s the great thing about friendships, they can come sailing back anytime, or drop anchor and stay awhile. There’s plenty of room in our harbors for the old ones and the new ones, and as long as we maintain them, they’ll never rot out. (I could go all day with this metaphor!) Sir has been a constant ship in my fleet, and sometimes the lighthouse guiding me along. I’m glad his ship has a shiny new coat of happy-paint that G has brought him, and that she has joined our little fleet, too. The more the merrier!

And friends we’ll always be.


Northwest Junkies

24 01 2014

Another weekend visit from the dynamic duo, MASH. You probably recognize these cool cats by now – they’re my besties from Bend, and we have the best adventures together! MLK weekend has become an annual event for us (two years in a row – that makes it tradition!) and we crammed this weekend with all the fun we possibly could.

Visits from this awesome couple are proven good times, and this last weekend was no different. They arrived Friday night and we plotted and planned over dinner so we could hit the ground running (thankfully not literally…) Saturday morning. Even the pups seemed caught up in our excitement. So after a good night’s sleep, mini quiche and coffee, we set out for the first adventure of the weekend.

J and I live on the edge of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, which puts us super close to awesome trails and a couple Wilderness areas. We had decided on an area we’d all been to, but this time we would hike a new trail: Trapper Creek. This would put us out in the Trapper Creek Wilderness. The day was chilly, the forest eerily shrouded in fog – perfect day for a hike! Off through the forest we went, Simba in the lead, four friends following, with a St Bernard somewhere in the middle keeping us all in line.

dog best friends hiking the trails, WA

Hiking buddies! (You humans are SO.SLOW.)

Layers were shed as the trail warmed us up. The moss and lichen hanging from the trees looked especially creepy with the fog. The ferns and damp air reminded us we were more west-side. Even our footsteps were muffled to almost silent as the sponge-like soil absorbed their sound. Not that it absorbed all our sound – we had lots of catching up to do! The morning progressed wonderfully, our boots eating up the trail while we chatted away.

We crossed the creek a couple times, then decided to stop for a snack break after a big crossing. Osa, my St Bernard niece, loves wading across the water – she gets hot and thirsty even on cool days. Simba doesn’t have the benefit of Osa’s long legs, however, and chose to cross on the log with us. Thankfully, no one died.

Snacks were dug out of back-packs and passed around. We all brought stuff to share and we had a little forest picnic right there on the banks of Trapper Creek. Then M-Dawg busted out his show-and-tell for the day: the JetBoil! MASH had received this handy gadget for Christmas, and M-Dawg had been dying to try it out. It’s made for back-packing, super light and compact, and boils water in 2 minutes. You know what that means, right? TRAIL COFFEE!!

hiking coffee made with JetBoil, WA

M-Dawg presents: the JETBOIL!! (Hoping to see this picture in my next REI catalog…)

The refueling was a great idea, as the next bit of trail had a much steeper grade to it. Don’t worry, we’re practically hiking professionals, so our group wasn’t even fazed. (Ok, that might be an exaggeration, but thankfully our group likes the challenge of hills. I’ve almost joined in.) We finally decided to turn back and retraced our footsteps. Simba had been off leash all day – we were in the middle of no where with almost no one around. We had almost reached the parking lot when I saw him take off and knew another dog was up ahead. He came racing back with a little beagle-looking pooch on his heels. The two were having a blast, but I knew Simba would be hard to get to come back, so I tried to slow him down as he ran by me. Why would I ever think that was a good idea?! We collided about like a locomotive hits a brick wall – Simba went airborne, I crashed to the ground. And Simba zoomed off as soon as he hit the ground. I didn’t bounce back quite as fast and nursed a sore ankle the rest of the day. Moral of the story: don’t use your own body to try and stop a maniacal, hyperactive dog running at top speed!

Finally home for the evening, us women took over the kitchen and whipped up a delicious dinner. The evening was full of food, card games, and TWO awesome rounds of Settlers of Catan – Ash destroyed us so fast the first time, we had to give it another go! Then off to bed – we had to get an early start Sunday!

Our planned departure time was 8am Sunday morning, and we almost made it. Dogs walked, breakfast digesting, cars packed, we were ready! The day’s plan included a nice Gorge hike followed up with some intense NFL action – Seahawks vs the 49ers!! So MASH packed their car and would just head home from Hood River after the game. Which meant Simba and J would ride with me and Osa and MASH would lead the way in their vehicle. Except Simba thought he might be getting left behind, or maybe he just hated being separated from his bestie. Whatever the reason, as soon as M-Dawg opened the top half of the back of his Element, Simba flew over the tailgate into the back. And he wouldn’t move. So Osa jumped in to take her spot, and Simba still wouldn’t budge. Needless to say, he got to ride to the trail head with Osa.

dog best friends sitting like puzzle pieces, WA

“I think we fit perfect. I could ride like this all day. I WILL NOT BE LEFT BEHIND!” And Osa didn’t even seem to mind.

Sunday’s trail was up Eagle Creek, on the Oregon side of the Columbia River. I can’t express to you how in awe of this place I am. I want to go back again and again! The trail winds up the narrow little gorge of the Eagle Creek drainage, right along the cliff. Sheer wall of rock to the left and up, sheer wall of rock to the right and down. The trail climbs quickly and the wet winter morning sparkled and cut, the air cold, the rock slippery with patches of ice. We arrived early for two reasons: 1) to have enough time to make it back for kick-off and 2) to beat the hoards of people. The trail was mostly ours the whole way up, and no crowds blocked the views at the waterfall overlooks. Mist swirled around us as the morning sun hit the moisture in the air, and water dribbled down the cliffside above us. It was…pure magic. Add in the awe-inspiring waterfalls on the creek below us and the incredible forest around us, and you’ll picture my paradise.

early morning on Eagle Creek trail, Oregon

Just squeeze behind that little spray coming down.

man and dog hiking Eagle Creek OR

Man and his dog in the wild outdoors. Fantastic. #nofilter

It’s funny how time has changed us. Ash and I have been friends for a long time, and it’s cool to see our friendship evolve. We covered 6.6 miles on Sunday, providing ample time for conversation. In times past, we would have discussed the latest hot guy hired in home theater (we worked at Best Buy together) and the outfits we wanted to wear for our next trip to 6th St in Austin and the horrible finals from our mean professors and which friends were hooking up with each other. My how the times have changed! Now it’s which friends had babies (almost all of them) and who’s next to the marriage alter and decorating tips and easy week-night dinner recipes. *gasp* We’re all grown up!

And M-Dawg and J-Rock slowly stretched the gap between us, creeping farther and farther ahead. They had been discussing football all morning. On and on and on. I asked Ash if we were to send them on ahead and tell them to come back for us when they finished talking football, if we’d ever see them again. We agreed it’s doubtful. But it’s wonderful knowing that they guys can carry on their discussions so us ladies can have ours. Girl talk with Mother Nature. Perfect. 🙂

We stopped for another picnic and JetBoil demonstration, then decided to turn around. And the hike out was crowded with people! What a great decision to get an early start. Lucky for us, most folks don’t go as far up the trail as we did, but the parking lot was overflowing. Simba rode in his own car this time and we headed to a sports bar in Hood River for a late lunch and lots of football. (For those non-fans, Seattle is going to the superbowl!! M-Dawg was a great sport despite his team losing, and J didn’t even rub it in…too much.)

And then our awesome weekend was over and MASH had to head back over the mountain to Bend. I came across a comment an old friend wrote about Ash after she posted her pictures on Facebook, and I wish I would have thought of it first. He called her a Pacific Northwest Nature Junkie. And it’s so true! I hope I can fall into the same category – I want to be a junkie!

That’s what it feels like – an addiction. Ash and I have lived up here for over 4 years now, yet we still can’t get enough. I can’t speak for her, but I’m pretty sure she feels the same way – give me MORE!! Every trail is exciting, every mountain gorgeous, every forest my favorite. From Bend’s unique high desert to Eagle Creek’s saturated temperate forest – I want to explore ALL of it. I get grouchy and irritable if I go too long with it, and I’m constantly looking for my next fix. What’ll it be this time – hiking? biking? climbing mountains? skiing? snowshoeing? rock climbing? ALL OF THE THINGS??!

The best part is knowing I’m in good company with all these other junkies, MASH especially. I can count on them to join me for that next fix, or (more likely) invite me on theirs. So, what’s next? Stick around and find out!

Are you a nature junkie, too??


Holiday Time Travel

23 12 2013

Geeeeez the end of the year gets so CRAY-ZEE!! I’ve been dying to get a post up, but finding the time is a different matter all together.

Why? Because I’m pretty sure there was a big bend in the time-space continuum right after Thanksgiving. We were just minding our own business, driving home from our fabulous Denver trip, and *WHAM*! Suddenly it’s the night before Christmas Eve. What the what?

Let me just veer off track for a moment to tell you how much I adore the Christmas season. The twinkly lights, the decorations, the carols, the shiny wrapping paper, the stockings hung with care, the perfect union of peppermint and chocolate, the Santa hat I repeatedly fail to get the dog to wear – all of it.

So the build up to the next few days actually excites me – to the point of jittery agitation where J won’t even let me have my morning coffee. But I look back and still wonder: where has the time gone?! How did we get here ALREADY?!

So much bold font to my thoughts! To clear things up and make me feel better, we’re going to go over a quick run-down of the latest adventures of KSnapped and Company, since Thanksgiving.

1. Cold Coastal Magic

I could have written multiple posts on the incredible weekend we spent with 22 other amazing folks in a gigantic vacation house on the Oregon coast. This is a truly magical place – and even more so in the blustery cold of winter, in my opinion. J and I took an incredible sunrise walk along the sand, crusty with ice and snow (!), picking up starfish. We spent the days exploring the coastal towns and the natural wonders of the beach, and the nights in rowdy games and family movie nights. Meals were shared, friendships strengthened, memories made in abundance. I wish we could do a trip like that much more often!

winter on the Oregon Coast, Manzanita OR

Winter at the coast – pretty perfect, if you ask me! (Don’t ask the starfish, he’s dead.)

2. Company Christmas Party

This may not seem exciting to you, but then you probably don’t work for the same company I do. It’s the event of the year for us – this year, it was an unforgettable gala to rival all past years! After being home two measly days, Simba and I hit the road once more, bound for Bend. J came up a few days later, just in time for the party. This year’s theme was “Mad Men” – and my coworkers proved once more why they’re the coolest cats I know. The ladies really out did themselves; the hair! the dresses! the hair again! And so many dapper gentleman appeared out of the woodwork! The ’60’s was alive again that evening, and I absolutely can’t wait to see the shots from the professional photographer roaming the Great Hall all night.

Mad Men themed Christmas party, Bend OR

Ignore the blur and blinding flash – doesn’t J clean up well?!

60's Mad Men themed Christmas Party

The fabulous Nikki and I, chatting about doing dishes in our pearls. And heels.

3. Christmas Prep Time

Finally home, we relished the time to unpack and unwind and settle in for a while. Also, time to get the house looking like Christmas!

First things first: a TREE! We took off into the forest and didn’t have to go far – the cutting done around here leaves some lovely open spots, perfect for a full, well-rounded fir to grow. And be chopped down.

Christmas tree hunting, Mt Adams Gifford Pinchot NF

I thought this one looked pretty good! (J said no.)

Christmas tree hunting, Mt Adams WA

And J thought this was enough. (I said no.)

Then we had craft night in the living room making ornaments. I’m still trying to get the glitter and glue and teensy bits of construction paper out of the rug. But our beautiful hand-made creations are now hanging from the most perfect tree that ever came from the Wild Forest. The strand of lights isn’t quite long enough, the Santa hat on top looks like it had too much spiked egg nog, and there’s a whole section with no ornaments at all, but it’s the best tree in the world.

Christmas tree with diy decorations and stockions hung on the windowsill

I could sit and stare at this all night!

4. All the Other Stuff

And then there’s all the other stuff that’s been happening. We’ve hit the mountain several times to shred the pow. Except there wasn’t any. Mt Hood hasn’t had any new snow in weeks. But they’ve had freezing rain! Don’t ski on that mess, trust me – it’s terrible.

The Christmas shopping was pretty much finished up before Christmas this year – a rarity around these parts. We’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s too difficult to travel this time of year to the far reaches of our parents’ houses, so we just ship the presents. And they’re never there to open on Christmas morning. But this year, they make an impressive pile at the base of my beautiful tree!

There was a Christmas party at the Trout Lake Inn that we just had to attend. My sister and I donned our fancy party frocks and J was so impressed, he danced with me. But all the fun of Saturday night couldn’t stand up to the massive disappointment of the Seahawk loss on Sunday. To the Cardinals!! Just ridiculous. Still, bonding with the other Hawk fans at the sports bar was entertaining, to say the least.

Last and littlest, but far from least, my just-about-to-be newest sister turned two. The adoption is not quite all the way official, but she’s been ours for a long time. I had to settle for a Skype date to sing to her, but she showed me how much better her new legwarmers look when worn on her arms instead of legs. She’s such a little ball of fire, and I can’t wait until the courts catch up and say, Yes, ok fine, she’s now your legal sister. Stayed tuned for a post or two all about that!!

And now the day before the day before Christmas is over, but I feel much better acknowledging that I didn’t actually miss all the time between holidays. So much happened! So much fun was had! So much good stuff to take pictures of!

The next two days are guaranteed to be just splendid. I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday, whichever one you may (or may not) be celebrating. Any new traditions made? Any old ones broken? Anyone have a ridiculously funny story to share?!

Best wishes, happy holidays, Merry Christmas!!


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…..


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