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!!

😀





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

 

 





It’s almost NOVEMBER?!

23 10 2016

WHAT KIND OF EVIL SORCERY IS THIS?!

Oh, right, it’s just time, flying by at warp speed. Did it speed up? Am I just going crazy?

Wait, my sanity has taken quite a hit lately! Regardless, I guess I’m just busier than I have been in a while. Or, like ever.

Good news, though: I’ve been teaching 5th grade for a month and a half, and no one has died! Or even been majorly injured! (Except my sanity.) I gotta say, though – teaching is HARD, ya’ll. Not so much the act of teaching content, life skills, and social skills to 31 individuals all at different levels and with different learning styles and abilities – no, that part I feel like I have down. If only that was all my job was about. But then you throw in the other things…the bus duty, and cafeteria duty, and changing schedules, and parent communication, and tracking/documenting every little thing. Don’t forget to collect evidence for the yearly teacher evaluation, and remember your month for birthday snacks, and didn’t you know everyone wears blue on Fridays?? Well they do. And that kid that won’t get on the bus needs consoling so he’ll board and everyone can go home. Staff meetings every Tuesday, new teacher meetings on Mondays, grade-level collaboration on Wednesdays, weekly catch-up on Fridays, and someone is sure to stop by on Thursdays. Don’t worry, the adventures of being across a parking lot from the main building in portables only adds to the everyday excitement! It’s just a little rain kids, we won’t melt!

So yeah, time has left me behind. Thankfully, I have the greatest group of 5th graders on the planet, and the most amazing coworkers to pull me through on a daily basis. The struggles some of these 10-year-olds are forced to face would rip your heart to pieces, but they still push on. I require all my students to write in a journal, and turn it in once a week. Some write beautiful poetry, some create incredible works of fiction, some regale me with tales of their weekend adventures. When the threat of a bad grade is removed, and they aren’t focused on spelling or grammar, they start writing all kinds of things. And man do they love science! And history! We currently have jugs of mini compost habitats for red worms on the bookshelf, and our butterfly larvae just built their cocoons! We researched butterfly facts all one afternoon, after spending the morning lost in the rainforests of Central America searching for Maya ruins. It’s been a lot of fun. If they learn anything at all in my classroom, I hope it’s to use their imaginations to problem solve, and that finding information isn’t nearly as important as figuring out what to do with it.

And I even managed to sneak off one weekend and tie the knot with that handsome JBoo of mine. Our families flew in from all over, several friends drove in from Bend, and we had an epic weekend overflowing with love. It was pure magic. We all gathered at a big beach house on the Oregon coast and just relaxed together. The weather mostly cooperated and two families became one. Since we had all weekend, everyone got to spend time together, and we bonded over ax throwing, ultimate frisbee, long walks down the beach, rowdy games, and lots of amazing food. The collaborative spirit of our friends helped us pull the whole thing off, and the whole group contributed to make the weekend go without a hitch. Despite the incredible weather we were blessed with, it turned windy, cold, and foggy Saturday afternoon for the ceremony. Thankfully, it was a pretty short and sweet affair, though we didn’t quite get all the pictures I wanted. It was too cold to stand out there! But our awesome photographer, Jon, snapped quickly and captured some fantastic pictures. He was able to shoot all during the weekend and documented the candid fun beyond just the formal ceremony. So good.

married on the coast, Rockaway Beach OR 2016

Happily ever after.

Yep, I’ve been a little on the busy side. We’re settling into a routine, and life is chugging along. We just booked our honeymoon over winter break, so we have something big to look forward. My class size was reduced to 27, from 31, which has made a big difference in my classroom. I’m figuring things out and finding my way around my school, while trying to find a work/life balance. The next time I get a chance to blog, it might be Thanksgiving…or New Year’s…but that’s ok. I have found where I’m supposed to be, doing what I’m meant to be doing, and I’m happy.

Life is good. 🙂





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!!!





Song of the Mountain Goat

24 08 2015

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

Oh what to do?!

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

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

The location: the Mount Margaret Backcountry, which is on the north side of Mt St Helens, in the blast zone from the 1980 eruption. The plan: backpack up to Panhandle Lake, under Mt Whittier, and spend two nights, then hike back out. The participants: myself, JBoo, J’s pal Andy, and Andy’s pal Sara. The trail description on Northwest Hikers is awesome and totally worth reading and tells just what’s like: http://nwhiker.com/GPNFHike84.html

map of mt margaret backcountry whittier trail

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

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

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

mt st helens and spirit lake from bear pass

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

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

Mt Whittier trail Mt St Helens national monument

Hike with a view. So worth it.

 

hiking in Mt Margaret back country, Mt St Helens

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

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

wild huckleberries Mt St Helens national monument

HUCKLEBERRIES!!! nomnomnomnom

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

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

Panhandle Lake, Mt Margaret back country, Mt St Helens

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

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

boxed wine camping Mt Margaret

Undeniably classy. Lovely merlot.

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

Lake Panhandle, Mt St Helens WA

Morning reflection on the still water. Lovely.

huckleberry picking Mt St Helens WA

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

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

fly fishing Lake Panhandle WA

The boys “fishing”.

Swimming Lake Panhandle WA

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

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

climbing to Mt Whittier WA

Pffffffth difficult schmifficult

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

trail to Mt Whittier WA

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

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

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

mountain goat on the cliffs Mt Whittier WA

Magnificent creatures

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

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

Mt Margaret backcountry WA

Views for days

Bear Pass, Mt Whittier WA

My favorite view of them all ❤

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

But, more on that later…..

Happy trails!!

😀





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:








%d bloggers like this: