Just A-hiking in the Woods

27 07 2017

It’s no secret how much I love to hike. Outdoor adventures are the usual topic of this blog. And with school out, I have all sorts of time to head out into the woods!

The last month has seen more outdoor time than the previous 6 months combined. Oh, how lovely it’s been! The fresh air, the blood pumping through my legs, the quality time with my wiggly mutt…so good! Here’s a quick peek at some of our recent adventures.

Wyeth

Right before school let out, Simba and I needed some nature time, and J was busy working. We set out with a map and a few suggestions from our housemate to see what we could find. Our first attempt was to climb to Indian Point from the Herman Creek trailhead, but the overflowing parking lot sent us high-tailing to our second choice: Wyeth. Both are right down the Gorge, meaning everything would be gorgeous. We poked around the awesome creek that – of course – tumbled in several rapids and mini waterfalls. Ferns, moss, towering cliffs, swaying trees – a typical gorge hike. We really live in the coolest place.

Emerald Falls, Wyeth Trailhead Oregon Columbia Gorge hikes

Simba “swimming” at Emerald Falls – next time we’re climbing UP STREAM!

Green Point Ridge trail Columbia Gorge hikes Oregon

Lunch break about 3 miles up the trail. Shared a few nibbles with this handsome mutt.

The trail, which is actually called the Green Point Ridge trail, traverses the cliffs and flattens out pretty nicely after the initial climb. It was nice and peaceful once we tuned out the road noise below, and the lack of fellow hikers was a real plus. And since it parallels the Columbia River, the views are outstanding no matter where we looked. So awesome.

Trapper Creek Wilderness

J has been working his rear off this summer, so I’m really thankful I can tag along with him. Its perfect: he gets work done, I get to hike in the woods, and I squeeze in time with my Boo. All the things I want! A couple weeks ago, J invited me along for a trip to the Trapper Creek Wilderness, one of my favorite places. This particular area is unique in that it has old growth forest untouched by the logging industry. Most of the northwest has been logged at some point or another, but not here! The result is gorgeous, old growth forest, complete with monster-huge trees, lack of dense undergrowth, more diverse species of plants and trees, and the presence of old, gnarly snags that provide habitat for cool wildlife. If you’ve never hiked through an old growth forest, I suggest dropping everything and finding one immediately. Go!

Trapper Creek trail, Trapper Creek Wilderness WA GPNF

Simba, charged and ready to go!

Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Trapper Creek Wilderness WA

Don’t forget to pause and look up. The colors of the forest get me every time.

Trapper Creek Wilderness, Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Dropped off trail to take a break by this babbling brook. Cold, refreshing, lovely.

saprophytes Trapper Creek in GP Forest WA

Saprophytic plants – just a sample of the awesome flora to be found. These little guys don’t produce chlorophyll!

trail work, Trapper Creek Wilderness WA

My local ranger hard at work fixing some trail tread. ❤

Gifford Pinchot NF, Trapper Creek Wilderness hiking

And of course, #SelfiesWithSimba – the best hiking buddy around!

Cascade Creek

For the 4th of July, we knew we had to get out of town. Far, far out of town. Simba is terrified of fire works and its hard to watch him panic every time one goes off. We headed into the woods with the truck loaded with camping gear and found an awesome spot on the banks of Cascade Creek, right by its joining with the White Salmon River. Since the actual holiday was during the week, we lucked out and had the whole place to ourselves! We didn’t do much actual hiking, but we did a lot of unplugged, kicked-back relaxing and it was amazing. I didn’t take many photos, since I really did turn my phone off, leave it in the truck, and enjoyed time in the woods undisturbed. Glorious.

Cascade Creek, Gifford Pinchot NF WA

Glamping!! Who wouldn’t want a campsite where someone left a giant “Race Base” sign?! (Don’t leave your crap in the forest. K thanks.)

camping in the GP, WA

I can’t help it. Our selfie game is just so ON POINT.
#SelfiesWithSimba is now a thing.

Wyeth (full circle)

And then with JBoo in tow, we hiked Wyeth again. Not quite as far, but more playing in the creek. The hiking experience is totally different for me if I’m with someone, compared to being alone. After all this time, J is still my favorite hiking companion. ❤

Emerald Falls, Wyeth, hiking in the Columbia Gorge

Emerald Falls….again

Wyeth trailhead, Columbia Gorge

He wasn’t even working this time!!

And after a nice long hike, Simba likes to partake in post-hike snuggle time. He’s such a cuddlebug. I love it.

snuggle puddle

I apparently make a pretty good pillow.

This turned into a longer post than I intended…thanks for coming along for the ride! Our other big hike is getting a post all of its own, and of course Simba and I have daily expeditions exploring the neighborhood. More big adventures are in the works, stay tuned!!

Anyone else out enjoying the great outdoors? Suggestions for other places in PNW I should explore? Tell me all about it!!

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Snow Wonderings

13 01 2017

This has been one hell of a winter. It’s 9am on a Friday, and instead of greeting my students at my classroom door, I’m sipping cup-o-joe number two in my jammies. Again. Simba is snoring loudly in front of the stove and my car hasn’t moved in 3 days.

We’re buried in snow, yall. Like, a LOT of snow. Feet of snow. And the temperatures aren’t warming up, and the forecasted rain never came.

Hello extended break! School has been canceled almost every day this week. We made the attempt on Tuesday, but they had to delay three hours. That’s a lot.  Nine days off this winter so far. My poor kids are going to be in school through July at this rate…winter wonderland Hood River OR 2017

So I’ve been in a weird place. I haven’t had this much down time in so long I forgot what to do with it. Fear not, it didn’t take long – I dug back into my pre-grad school hobbies and have been pulling all sorts of things out of the closet. I’ve been knitting, writing, cooking, talking to my mom, and takingthe longest tromps through the snow with Simba. I dug out a new knitting pattern and hit YouTube to figure out double-pointed needles. I started making a photo book of trip photos and ordered a super cute fleece jacket for Simba. I sat on my bed staring at my DSLR camera, trying to decide if I should try again at non-Instagram shooting. It hasn’t happened just yet….but I did charge the battery….

***

It’s the tromps through the snow with Simba that have been the best. I run around in my base layers all day, so when it’s time to tromp, I can throw on my outer layers and off we go! (Ok, 20 minutes later when I finally get ready, off we go…)

Down the driveway, skidding out in the street, stumbling through the piles left from plows and shovels, slipping on hidden ice. Simba spins out on the ice like a cartoon and I clunk along in my huge boots and 15 layers of clothes like the little kid in A Christmas Story.  We head down the hill and turn west. The main street has been for-real plowed, but the sidewalk is buried. The first couple days, we broke trail, wading through knee-deep fluff, Simba following behind so he didn’t have to swim. By now, the path has been packed down by boots and skis and snowshoes and paws.

Sometimes we turn uphill a couple blocks over, up to the trail that winds past the pastures and orchards. Other times we turn downhill, plummeting down the trails through the blackberry thickets towards the big fancy neighborhoods at the bottom. Simba runs back and forth, sticking his whole head in the snow, floundering every time he falls off the path. It’s exhausting and exciting and tons of fun.snowday Hood River OR

The snow is so so quiet. Even in the daytime, we rarely run into anyone else. The frozen world is still and muffled, blurred around the edges and shiny. Night is my favorite. The snow is magical in the glow of streetlights; the sky doesn’t quite get dark and the houses all look warm and inviting.

I wonder as we wander. My mind weaves stories about the people in the glowing windows. My imagination plays with tales of the winter birds twittering around the bare trees. My heart wonders about the folks that don’t have glowing windows or 15 layers. Simba ponders if he can get his leg high enough to pee on that tree.

For some reason, the snow wonderings also make me nostalgic. And make me miss my momma. I talked to Hope for a long time on the phone a few days ago, and yesterday Ijumped online and bought a ticket to go visit. My Texas family balks at the negative temps and piles of frozen precipitation, but I can tolerate 95 degrees in April for 6 days with my folks. I daydream about me and my momma in the houses I pass, wishing she lived closer and could come hang out.

Then we end up back at our own house, with it’s own glowing windows and J waiting inside with steaming mugs of hot cocoa. I emailed the plane ticket to mom so she can block out the week on the calendar, and I curl up on the couch with my JBoo. I might ache for the family I left in Texas, but this snowy wonderland is my home now.

And I love it.

 

 

winter layers Hood River OR

 

 





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!





Appointment with the Mother

4 07 2016

This is my mother:

amazing mom mothers day vancouver wa

She is one fabulous woman.

She added purple to her hair and flew half way across the country to watch me walk the stage and get my master’s degree. She has supported me every step of the way my entire life, even though I rudely moved so far away from her. On my list of amazing women, she fills the top slot.

This is my other mother:

mother nature mount adams wilderness wa

She may be your mother, too.

Mother Nature may not have given birth to me, but she does help support me and my mental well-being. As my real mother is in Kansas this weekend with my broski, and celebrating my insanely fabulous niece’s birthday, I didn’t want to bother her. So I turned to my second mother.

The plan was spend several fun days hiking around and playing outside with JBoo. I took a summer job with WSUV, so I still live in Vancouver, but I was able to leave Wednesday night and come home to Hood River early. Five and a half days with JBoo!! We haven’t spent that much time together since winter break!

And I arrived to find him in the fetal position on the couch, buried in blankets, sick as a dog. Poor thing. So I took care of sick J and got other stuff done…but J woke up Sunday feeling like a human being, so we quickly started making plans for a fun-filled day of hiking and swimming and playing outside. Before I even finished getting dressed, our plans came crashing down around us with a single phone call: a climber on Adams fell and broke his leg. J is not only the Wilderness Ranger on Mt. Adams, he’s also on the search and rescue team. He immediately took the lead organizing the rescue, and I silently packed mine and Simba’s gear into my pack.

We hit the road for Trout Lake, making a quick stop for food in White Salmon. With all the rush, I hadn’t had a chance to sneak any food or coffee, and it was almost 10:30. I was hangry and caffeine deficient. And therefore silent. J coordinated all the various pieces of the rescue as we drove, me eating all the while, then gave me a map and a Spot device at his office. He showed me a trail where Simba and I could hike.

“Uh, I’ve been on that trail several times. And it’s like two miles out of town. Give us a real trail.” I was antsy to go hike and might have given a little more sass than was necessary. But J just turned back to the huge map on the wall and pointed again. “Ok, you could hit this section of the PCT at William’s Mine.” He gave some brief directions and several “stay right” and “stay left” instructions that I tried to pay attention to, then Simba and I bolted for the truck.

Even as I drove up the mountain road, my anxiety started to ease. I don’t need J to hike. Simba and I can do just fine on our own. You go save people, we’ll play without you! But as I parked J’s truck at the trailhead, I realized my grumpiness was from missing him, not because I was mad at him. Dang it.

The last of my moody funk melted away as Simba and I stepped into the shade of the old-growth trail. Simba fell in behind me after his initial spaz-tastic run-around, and off we went. I took a deeeeeeeeep breath and sighed. Hello Mother.

Not far in, we came to a little bridge over a creek where three men had stopped for a rest. As I walked by with a smile and hello, one asked me, “Are you out here all on your own?!” They were all a bit older and seemingly innocently surprised by my aloneness, so I gave a simple, “Nope, I’ve got my dog” and kept walking. I could hear their surprised conversation fading behind me. “A young woman out in the woods by herself? That seems dangerous. She didn’t even seem afraid…..” blah blah blah.

Really guys? Where are you from? Three men are about the greatest danger to me in these woods. Why should I not be able to go for a nice hike in the beautiful forest by myself? Sheesh. I put them out of my mind quickly and got straight to business: my appointment with Mother Nature.

This was long overdue. Have you ever had that feeling where you didn’t know how much you missed or needed something until you finally did it again? That was me. As I breathed the pure air and stretched out my legs I felt a familiar calmness setting in. An almost forgotten calmness.

You’ve been gone too long.

I know, I’m sorry. Things happened. Life got in the way. Grad school got in the way.

I could have helped you. You needed me. You should have come anyway. 

You’re right, of course. I should have come. But I’m here now. I missed you.

As my legs settled into a rhythm, my shoulders relaxed. The last lingering tingles of headache faded away. This therapy that I used to rely on had been canceled when I needed it the most. The anxiety that has been waking me in the middle of the night, robbing me of sleep and joy, was no match for the Mother. She took it from me, filling my heart with song and my soul with light. My mind cleared of all the noise clogging my thoughts and opened to the simple purity of the natural miracles all around me.

As I wound my way up the hillside, the old-growth gave way to burn. Mother Nature’s scars seemed harsh at first, in the charred snags and crusty, black, peeling bark. But the clouds gave way to sun as the air sweetened and I noticed that the whole slope was covered in blooming bear grass. I smiled and chatted with Simba about how cool it was to see the forest growing back after the devastation of the unnatural wildfire. The constant panting and occasional tickle of fur against my leg let me know my faithful companion trotted along with me.

bear grass in a burn, mt adams wilderness WA

Bear grass everywhere!!!

J had told me as we scurried out of his office that he expected 4-5 hours to wrap everything up, so I decided to hike 2 hours up and turn around for 2 hours down. My trusty fitbit kept the time for me and conveniently tracked my steps. It was hard to turn around. The trees were getting fewer and the rocks bigger as we approached treeline, and it was one of those perfect days that made me feel like I could hike on forever. Canada here we come! We had set a nice pace and the day was just so perfect. Knowing J would be waiting on me, though, Simba and I snapped a quick selfie with Adams and reluctantly turned around.

mt adams wilderness, PCT trail WA

Selfie time! Simba, Adams, and me 😀

The trip down did have me daydreaming about hiking the entire PCT one day. My imagination ran away on me and I dreamed up all sorts of good schemes. By the time I reached the truck, I had planned out classroom projects and management systems and blog posts. While my brain drifted in a meditative state on the way up, it went into full planning mode on the way down. The optimistic, excited, ready for world domination kind of planning mode.

I felt like I had received a full-body tune-up. My legs had that sweet ache of working after long months of too much sitting. My lungs felt fresh and clear of the city gunk collected from a year away from my mountains. And my brain felt recharged, rebooted, and revived. The anxiety locking up my shoulders was gone and my thoughts clear and unfoggy. Why had I waited so long? Why didn’t I realize that I missed spending time with Mother Nature.

No need to contemplate on bad decisions, I’ve resolved the issue. J was excited to hear about our adventures and we compared my descriptions to the map. Based on time and what I saw when we turned around, he guessed our round-trip to have been 6-7 miles. My fitbit said we took around 24,000 steps!! I felt powerful and strong and super ready to take on whatever comes next!

Mother Nature, I’m sorry I neglected you for so long, but fear not, I’ll be back soon!!!





I Lost My Heart In Oregon

21 02 2015

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

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

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

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

3 Sisters from Black Butte, Sisters OR

Broken Top and the 3 Sisters, sun tanning in February

Cascade Mountains of Central Oregon

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

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

silly on Black Butte, Sisters OR

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

friends on Black Butte, Sisters OR

WE’RE JUST SO EXCITED TO BE HERE!!!!

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

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

hiking along the Descutes River, Steelhead Falls OR

See the tiny little hikers? That’s us!

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

Steelhead Falls, Terrebone OR

Steelhead Falls

Steelhead Falls, central oregon

Waterfalls (and each other) make us happy

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

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

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

man and dog at Steelhead Falls OR

What a lucky gal I am ❤

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

Also, J’s new nickname is JBoo…

😀

top of Black Butte, Sisters OR

Feel the love, yall!

 





Facing Starvation

29 01 2015

Saturday began gloomy, as usual. The fog swirled playfully in the trees, the bare branches cold in the morning mist. I sipped my coffee and appreciated the beauty of the scene before me, while cursing it simultaneously. I’m so sick of the blah weather and it’s monotonous depression. It doesn’t have to be sunny and nice every day, but a little change would sure be welcome!

But that day was different – someone in the sky was listening and granted my wish. The sun broke through and made the swirling fog shine and glow. The moisture on the trees sparkled and made the forest look magical and mischievous. The birds came out to play.

So we geared up to go play, too. My poor hiking boots that have been such good companions the last 3 years have been sent to boot heaven, and I finally bought a replacement pair. Today, I would introduce them to the woods and mountains and see how the dirt would compliment the purple leather. As I laced them up nice and tight, Simba realized we were going somewhere and began his ritual dance of circles and sprints down the hall. Buckled into his harness, he knew he was going, too, and soon we were off in search of the day’s adventure.

Headed west up the Gorge, the sun came and went. We pulled into the parking lot at our trailhead: Starvation Creek. I’ve seen Starvation Creek Falls a couple times – tall, thundering, misting and full of rainbows. But this visit, we turned our backs on the falls and hiked the Starvation Creek Ridge Loop westward. An intersection quickly sent us left and up.

And up and up and up – steep switchbacks riddled with boulders and tree roots, shaded and damp. Ferns brushed my legs as I climbed and I shivered in the cold breeze. Then the air suddenly shifted, like the wind decided to blow backward, and I felt the temperature noticeably rise as we broke above the low cloud layer. Soon I was sweating like crazy, shedding layers and trying to shove them in my back-pack while still walking, without tripping over the side of the cliff. I felt the strength of my legs as my hammies ignited and my quads fired their engines. Climb, legs, climb!

Finally finally, we reached an overlook – the top?! – and I gratefully paused to drink in the amazing views, the peaks of Wind Mountain and Dog Mountain gazing back across the Columbia. The sun was out in fine form, throwing sparkles across the water.

Columbia Gorge, Starvation Creek Cabin Falls trail

Wind Mountain to the west, Dog Mountain right in front of us. The Columbia stretching it’s mighty currents.

Starvation Creek Falls trail, Columbia Gorge OR

Looking east, the parking lot teeny beneath us.

Then, as typically happens after reaching the top, the trail turned downward. The first bit was cleared for the massive power lines marching eastward from Bonneville Dam. The sun, the scene, the warmth I’d been missing – my little heart almost shone itself right out of my chest.

starvation creek falls trail to cabin falls, columbia gorge OR

So many of my favorite things in one picture!

The trail led back into the forest and we crossed several creeks. We hopped across stones and logs, Simba splashing along with us. Then came a creek with a deeper section in the middle. J jumped across to reach the next rock, the leash uncoiling as Simba hesitated, worried as the water splashed his legs. He finally went for it, helped along by J tugging a bit on the leash. His belly got a little wet and you’ve never seen a mutt so excited to run out the other side.

creek crossing, columbia river gorge Oregon

Come on little buddy, you can do it!

And hiking in the Gorge always mean waterfalls. Fabulous waterfalls. Starvation Creek Falls might be the big boy on this section but Lancaster Falls, Hole-in-the-Wall Falls, and Cabin Creek Falls are all pretty awesome in their own right. We made sure to detour over to Lancaster Falls and splashed around some more. It was only as we started back towards the main trail that we noticed the first tier of the falls farther up the slope – a much taller, breath-taking torrent.

Lancaster Falls, Starvation Creek Ridge Loop, Cascade Locks OR

Didn’t even realize this was the small section!

We also passed by the base of Tunnel Falls…which we discovered later is actually called Hole-in-the-Wall Falls. The original waterfall on Warren Creek was diverted through a tunnel they blasted in the cliff-side so the overflow during high flows would stop damaging the old Columbia River Highway. You could drop your head way back and squint a little and see the man-made tunnel the falls tumbled from. Pretty dang cool.

See the tunnel way up at the top?

See the tunnel way up at the top?

Back on flat ground, we finished the loop back to the parking lot, passing by one last waterfall: Cabin Creek Falls. Close to the trail and slightly hidden by a couple of ridiculously huge mega-boulders, you don’t really get a good view of the whole sha-bang. But it’s over 200 feet tall, so you get a pretty good idea.

Back at the car, even Simba was reluctant to go, despite all the water we dragged him through. The sun was slowly sinking and the air was cooling off, so we headed home to rest up.

I’m pretty sad about the lack of snow and true winter we’re having up here in the PNW, but the spring-like day was awesome for a good hike!

starvation creek ridge loop trail, cascade locks or, columbia gorge





Another Year of Awesome

8 09 2014

This morning was so nice and cool, I had to slip on a sweater while sipping my coffee. Summer is coming to a close! That also means the last couple months of absolute craziness are coming to a close, as well. But the end of summer comes with a super awesome celebration: J and I’s anniversary!

This year, we actually had to celebrate the weekend before Labor Day since J had to work, but it was no less awesome. As is our tradition, we pass on the gifts and opt for adventure instead. (Flip through the archives if you want to read about some of our past anniversaries of adventure…like the time J tried to kill me, or the big, shiny rock I got last year…)  This year, we celebrate the big cuatro, so we planned a whole weekend getaway.

Ok, so “plan” is a bit of a stretch…more like we just threw our camping gear in the car and headed west with a general idea in our heads. Neither of us have been to the Olympics on the west coast of Washington, so we decided this would be a good time to change that. What could be better than coast and beach and rainforest and camping and hiking?

NOTHING, that’s what. We had the best weekend, and it was exactly what we both needed after the crazy summer we’ve been having.

Summary: We took off Friday afternoon, west bound and giddy, car loaded for fun. We finally hit the Olympic National Forest, spent the night in the car after a bit of  a hiccup with campgrounds, and hit Ruby Beach nice and early Saturday morning. If you’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing an early morning on the northwest coast, this a taste of what you’re missing:

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Yes, this is in August. It’s not sunny, it’s not warm, it’s not tropical – it’s magical. We roamed for a few hours, sipping the coffee J boiled for us on our camp stove, enjoying the mystic morning and all the wonders to be discovered.

tide pools Olympic National Forest Ruby Beach

 

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Ruby Beach Washington

 

After we spent several hours poking around, we somehow – by some miracle! – managed to snag probably the very last available campsite on the entire Washington coast. And boy was it a terrible spot…..

camping in the Olympics, WAThis pretty much sums up the rest of the day for me. We explored this new section of beach, played in the driftwood, watched some dolphins, collected rocks. It was lazy and relaxing and splendid. We made lunch on the camp stove, drove down to the cute little lodge, stopped at the Big Cedar, and we smack-talked over a rowdy game of gin rummy. Best way to spend a day.

Big Cedar, Olympic National Park WAThis is called the Big Tree. Well, one of them. There’s the Big Cedar and the Big Spruce. There might even be a Big Pine in there somewhere, but we have one of those at home. This guy was made into a tourist attraction with a sign on the side of the rode pointing to it. So I hugged it. We’re friends now.

After a delightful Saturday and the best night of sleep I’ve had in a long time (possibly due to the pounding surf just beyond the tent flap), we woke Sunday not wanting to leave. J took a run down the beach with Simba and I relaxed for just a teeny bit longer. Then we packed up and made one last stop before hitting the open road: the rain forest!

Hiking in the temperate rain forests of western Washington is like being transported to a Jurassic Park movie. Thankfully, it wasn’t raining and we had a gorgeous hike. Massive old growth trees, ferns and flowers, vines and babbling brooks. The trail followed a little creek canyon of sorts and we took a longer loop to see a waterfall. (Sadly, we’re quite spoiled to spectacular waterfalls here in the Gorge, so it wasn’t much…) The second half of the loop followed the shores of the lovely Lake Quinalt, the sun sparkling off the water and inviting us to swim.

Then back in the car to drive home. Now we can check off another place from our list – another Northwest jewel has been explored! I still think we need to make another trip to the north side to see more of the National Park and maybe climb Mt Olympus, but Simba can only go in the National Forest, not in the Park, so that trip may not be anytime soon….

Oh, and I might be a bit biased, but I think I caught myself a keeper. Here’s to many more years of adventures, honey. 🙂

rain forest of Olympic National Forest, WA

 

 

 








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