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!!





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!!!





Snow! Hurry, everyone outside!!

4 03 2014

I love when people get all huffy and self-righteous on FaceBook, griping about how much they hate when others post about such-and-such. Especially the weather. “Guess I’ll just check Facebook instead of looking out the window today, since every friend I have is posting pictures of their car’s temperature reading!”

Two things: 1) be grateful you have friends at all and 2) take them out of your newsfeed if you don’t want to see their posts! I, for one, happen to love seeing all the posts about the weather. Yes, we all know I’m a big weirdo, but I also grew up in a ranching/farming family, where the weather was everything. Besides, I have friends and family all over the place, so it’s fun to me to see the snow from my friends in Bend the same day as a shot of sun and shorts from a buddy in Texas.

Isn’t life just grand?!

This winter has been completely nuts for the whole country. Winter was late coming for us here in the northwest, and every time it has snowed here at my house, the rain follows almost immediately and turns my beautiful snow to absolute muck. Yuck.

So when I climbed out of bed Sunday morning and saw the blanket of white with more still falling from the sky, I jumped up and down! Yay! Simba get dressed, let’s go outside!! We took a nice long walk in it – probably 3 inches already covered the ground – and Simba was his goofy, snow-loving self.

finally snow at Mt Adams Ranger District, WA

Yay for new snow!!

J had to spend the morning in town, but he promised we would play in it when he got back. And we did! We grabbed our cross country skis and headed up the road to a snow park for a little exercise.

By this time, the snow had been tumbling down all day without pause – deep, fresh powder on the ground! The snow plows had yet to make it out, so the roads were super sketchy, and J’s little Toyota got a little squirrelly. Man, it was the best kind of snow, too. The dry fluffy stuff that sticks but isn’t so heavy.

We finally made it to a snow park and marveled at the gorgeous forest under it’s new blanket. We zoomed off down the trail, sometimes finding tracks to follow, sometimes busting trail ourselves! Simba floundered around in the deep snow, his short legs not helping. Then he’d find a track and become THE FASTEST DOG IN THE WORLD! He’s just the best ever.

The snow was still coming down like crazy, and the deep freshies were a bit challenging at times, but dude, it was so good! There’s nothing like the forest under that much snow, and breathing the cold air with my boo right there and my mutt having so much fun he could hardly stand it – I just wanted to weep with happiness.

But I didn’t. Tears frozen to my face just sounds awful.

cross country skiing on Big Tree Loop, Trout Lake WA

My human favorite ❤

dog on the Big Tree Loop in new snow, Trout Lake WA

My furry favorite ❤

So I just focused on staying upright, keeping the snow out of my eyes, and having insane amounts of fun. We passed a coupled people near the beginning, but most of the time it was just us. I wanted the trail to last forever.

I think Simba did, too.

dog on the xc ski track, Big Tree Loop Trout Lake WA

“Hurry up, slow pokes!”

We got back to an empty  parking lot, save our truck. Simba was crusty with snow and ice and gladly loaded up.

dog with ice beard, Trout Lake WA

Ice beard!

Such a good time!

And now it’s all ruined. Sunday night and all day yesterday – rain, rain, rain. What’s left of my snow is now slush, and the roads were treacherous with ice this morning. Such a disappointment. This is why every time it snows now, I feel it completely necessary to go out IMMEDIATELY and play in it, roll in it, wallow around in it – make sure I let it know how much I love it and that it should stick around.

Because isn’t this kind of snow just the best?!

a foot of snow, Trout Lake WA 2014

This is our official trashcan/snow gauge – and this is how much snow we got just on Sunday!





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??

😀





North Meets South: Company’s Coming!

15 11 2013

Having grown up in the South (or Texas, both for those who believe Texas is it’s own country and for those who believe it’s not part of the South) and having now lived in the Pacific Northwest for 4 years, I can say from experience that there is a regional difference in hospitality. Not that either is inhospitable, their styles are just different.

Last Friday, one of my best gal pals from Bend came to visit, along with her boyfriend. Nikki and I work together and were roomies for about a year in Bend. (I also tried desperately to marry her to my brother, but alas, it just didn’t work.) I have never not had a great time with this girl, but I wanted to make sure we showed them a great time in Trout Lake.

Off to the grocery store!

The pair arrived Friday night and were welcomed with open arms….and a glass of wine and local brew. This I’ve learned from the Northwest culture. No Bud Lite or Coors will do – bring on the local craft beer! We stayed up for hours chatting and catching up (as though we didn’t just see each other last weekend…) and finally decided to turn in.

Saturday dawned gloomy yet again but I was ready. First things first: breakfast! I set to work shredding the potatoes in my new food processor (with coaching and moral support from Nikki) and dicing veggies for the egg scramble. It’s part of my southern up-bringing: company means people to feed! Nikki and I picked up our on-going discussion of future business ventures while the hash browns browned and the eggs scrambled, and decided to add “Cafe” to the list (along with our mini-animal farm and orchard).

Food eaten and kitchen cleaned (mostly by Nikki, the dish-washing fool!) it was time for adventure! Any time people visit, we have to take them on an adventure. It’s probably in the state constitutions of both Oregon and Washington, and we are law abiding citizens! I panicked as we loaded into the car because I didn’t have any snacks to bring (that Southern must-have-food-to-hand-out-at-all-times thing again) but we decided we would just grab lunch after our hike so snacks weren’t necessary. Whew!

We headed down to the gorge and pulled over on the side of the road. J told us to start looking for a way down. “There’s not really a trail, just a scramble…” We went over the lip of the slope and started a perilous descent, picking our way down the rock slide. Slippery moss, hidden holes and damp stone made the going slow. I’m very proud to say Nikki and I made it to the bottom. Alive. And mostly unharmed.

rock scramble to Spirit Falls, Stevenson WA

We didn’t DIE! Yay us!

We finally made it down and discovered the reward: a beautiful waterfall! (Another Northwest thing. Especially in the Gorge.) Spirit Falls on the Little White Salmon River is a gorgeous waterfall cascading into a bowl, then bouncing down another little fall and through some rapids. Kayakers loooove this place.

top tier of Spirit Falls, Stevenson WA

Spirit Falls! Worth the “hike” we endured.

Making it back up the horrible rock slope was easier and much faster, fueled by our growling stomachs. We decided on a rockin’-awesome pizza joint in Bingen for lunch, but were surprised to find it closed down. They were moving the business across the Columbia to Hood River, so we decided to see if the new location was open yet. Another sad disappointment led us to one of the several local breweries. The Northwest had shown me that even the small little towns can support multiple craft breweries! We picked Double Mountain, both for the food and beer, and chowed down on a delicious lunch.

Next stop: wine tasting!! (Yet another Northwest favorite I’ve hi-jacked. Yes, I know they wine taste in other parts of the world. But the Northwest seems to really pack in the wineries.) We hit up several awesome tasting rooms downtown Hood River, some that Nikki and I had visited back in the spring.

Cerulean Winery tasting room, Hood River OR

So many awesome tasting rooms, yet this one always brings out the party in us…

After several tastings and lots and lots of laughing (and one spilled glass due to my dramatic gesticulating), it was time to go home. And time for an epic battle of Settlers of CATAN!!

Settlers has become our board game of choice, and we love forcing it upon our house guests. Nikki and her dude were very gracious, even though J still beat the britches off all of us. It was slightly embarrassing.

Also slightly embarrassing was how long it took me to get motivated Sunday morning. But my Southern-ness finally kicked me hard enough to get breakfast going, and soon we were all full of little mini-quiches. So yummy! Then we switched back to Northwest mode for our second adventure: caving!

After exploring the Falls Creek Cave a couple weeks ago, J and I have decided to explore ALL OF THE CAVES. And in this area, we have our work cut out for us! The choice of cave for this trip is the closest to our house that we know of. It’s called the Cheese Cave, because there used to be a gent who actually made cheese down there. The cave is still full of collapsed wooded structures that used to be part of the cheese-making business, and are super creepy.

The Cheese Cave is on private property, but the nice proprietors don’t mind folks exploring their cave. We descended the sketch-ball ladder, then clambered down the rubble pile into the lava tube. I have a weird obsession with lava tubes these days, and I loved seeing our guests reactions. They’ve both been in the lava tubes around Bend, so this wasn’t super out of the ordinary for them. But Cheese Cave has something none of us have ever seen: a metal staircase leading up to a hole in the ceiling…and directly into the owner’s HOUSE! It’s like they have their own personal BATCAVE!! Can you imagine growing up in a house that had a secret trap door into a legit CAVE?! You’d be the coolest cat at school for sure.

Cheese Caves, Trout Lake WA

Perfect timing with that shaft of light streaming in, making Nikki glow like an ANGEL!!

And then my dear pals had to hit the road. We hugged and hugged, sad to not be spending the following weekend together, but planning for our next reunion at our company Christmas party in December. She really seems to bring out all the best of both my north side and my south side, and I love her with ALL sides!

Nothing beats a weekend full of the best of times with the best of friends.

And more friends coming THIS weekend! Stay tuned!

😀





Mother Earth’s Deep, Dark Secrets

24 10 2013

The weather was absolute crap for most of September. Or all of it. So J and I had to venture away from our normal hiking activities and get a bit more … creative.

So much rain, wind, fog, clouds, and cold nearly sent me over the edge – I was quite sick of Mother Nature’s shenanigans. Time to dig up a little dirt on the hussy and get even. That’s the mature way to handle the situation, right? I thought so, too.

J found a good secret for us to investigate, and we geared up. I donned my ninja gear: black pants, black sweat shirt, black gloves, and black beanie. (Ok, all the black was not actually intentional, but once it happened, I let it be. Ninja’s are just that sneaky, and who am I to argue with the ninjas?!) Flashlights and headlamps, water, snacks, and camera – here we go!

Off into the forest we went. It was opening weekend for deer, and massive canvas wall tents declared the presence of hunting parties all over the forest. I traded my black hat for neon orange as we parked the truck. Just in case. Not far into the trees, we found what all the gossip said we would find: a hole! And not just any hole, but an entrance. Indian Heaven Wilderness, between St Helens and Mt Adams, happens to have one of the largest collections of lava tubes in the US, if not the world!

And we were going to explore one.

Falls Creek Cave, Indian Heaven Wilderness WA

Preparing for my descent into the DARKNESS

We walked a little ways down a faint trail, then stopped short as we came through the trees. A large sinkhole gaped in front of us, the rocky ground sunk down with a few trees sprouted in the bottom. Moss, grass and ferns clung to the sides and – well, you can see for yourself in the image above.

A little research on the cave had told us the secret to entering: find the second collapsed “hole” and climb down. There will be a cave – scramble in. The climb down is a short one, then climb right back up to emerge into the third collapsed portion, where there is still quite a bit of ceiling…and the real entrance into the tubes. We followed these instructions and sure enough – they were right!

Falls Creek Cave entrance, Indian Heaven Wilderness WA

Through the first mini-cave. In we go!

Falls Creek Cave system, Indian Heaven WA

Out of the first “cave” and into the crazy-cool third collapse. Found the black entrance – time to go underground!

The ferns were my favorite. Headlamps switched on, we climbed down into the mouth of the earth.

Falls Creek Cave entrance, Indian Heaven Wilderness WA

Looking back at the way we came down – the last sunlight we’ll see for several hours!

In no time at all we had ventured out of the range of the few sunbeams that lit the entrance. With only the dim light of my headlamp (whose batteries I realized might need to be changed), I gazed in awe at the foreign sights around me.

The cave was much more enormous than I had imagined. The ceiling could be seen up above, but barely. Chunks of rock, hardened lava, littered the floor, making for a slow pace. The air was cool and damp and dark. So very dark.

I loved the texture of the walls as we scrambled along. Some places bore the horizontal stripes like in the shot above – from the slow scraping of the flowing lava perhaps? Other places were jagged, exposing layers beneath layers where sections had broke off. My favorite walls were the squiggly walls. Hardened lava-sicles and crazy designs – squiggles is really the best word I can think of. J’s theory is that they might have been formed by remelt – hardened rock remelted on the surface by a fresh flow. (Anyone else have any good theories?!)

lava tubes, Indian Heaven Wilderness WA

WALL SQUIGGLES!

We explored on and on and on, the old lava tube winding around corners, narrowing here then widening there, changing texture, shape and size. Our world was reduced to just what we could see in the beam of our lamps, with no knowledge of where we might be, no clue how deep we might be.  At one point, we stopped, took a deep breath, and turned our headlamps off. The blackest black, the darkest dark, the most complete nothingness I’ve ever known. Scary doesn’t begin to describe my immediate reaction – frightening, heart-stopping, unbelievably terrifying – I switched my light back on before a full minute passed. I found J waving his hand in front of his face, amazed that he saw big fat nothing.

At one point, the upper half of the wall gave way to nothingness – no more wall. We climbed up and found a secondary tube – this is like a Tube of Wonders!! We continued on some more, and our new tunnel looped around to the original tunnel. We climbed down the wall to that original tunnel, crossed it, then climbed up the other side to another tunnel. This one actually petered out until it became too small for us to go any further. J got down and crawled a little ways further, but the lack of knee pads on the jagged floor had him turning back. Another day, perhaps.

The time came that we decided to make our return to the land of the living. We saw another side tunnel, but the wall would need to be scaled, possibly with ropes, and neither of us were feeling that ambitious. So we worked our way back down (or up?) the tunnel, back towards the entrance, towards our rebirth into the sunlight.

Falls Creek lava tubes, Indian Heaven Wilderness WA

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

The rain was coming down as we emerged from the depths. A constant dripping had accompanied us throughout our underworld explorations, but we were oblivious to the weather up above. Once back at the truck, I caught a glimpse of myself in the glass reflection – wowzers! Several hours in the damp caves had done amazing things to my hair! Good thing J was more interested in recapping our adventure than noticing my ‘fro.

So we explored local lava tube caves and didn’t die. Nothing crept out of the darkness to eat us, and none of the caverns suddenly collapsed after thousands of years of … not collapsing. Therefore, I want to explore ALL OF THE CAVES!!

And TAKE THAT Mother Nature! I’ve told everybody about your secret!!








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