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


But the Best Ships, Are Friendships…

20 03 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

raging Multnomah Falls. Portland OR

One tier of Multnomah

Multnomah Falls Oregon, Columbia Gorge

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

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

flowing stream after rain, Columbia Gorge

Water, water, everywhere!

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

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

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

historic tunnel, Historic Columbia River Highway OR

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

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

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

And friends we’ll always be.


A Hell-Roarin’ Good Time

19 10 2013

You don’t KNOW me!!

That’s what Mt Adams told me. It was embarrassing. I wrote about how much I knew about Adams, he showed me how much I don’t know. Ok, ok, I get the point! A mountain that gigantic can’t possibly be fully explored in just two trips! Just because I clawed my way up to stand on his peak, and just because I hold daily stare-downs with one side of him doesn’t mean I have any idea of all the wonders he holds within his mammoth slopes. Point taken.

Oh, by the way, this cat-fight between us actually happened about a month ago, the second weekend of September. (Yes, I know I’m a little behind…) J and I wanted to check out a new trail, and we discovered we had a very small window of opportunity to jump over onto the Other Side – the east side of the mountain that is part of the Yakima Reservation. The Res side is only open for a few months in the summer, closing to non-Yakimas October 1st. Hurry – run!!

We buckled Simba into the back of the truck and away we went. We drove through some range land and I chatted with a few lazy cows. We crossed a cattle guard and passed the big sign signifying we had Crossed Over – we were now on Yakima soil!

So we’re driving along, now on the Reservation, and you are never going to believe this but it looked exactly the same! The roads got a little less maintained, and there were more cows everywhere, but still the same forests, still the scars of a fire, still the looming mountain. No horses lining the yonder ridge, their feathered riders watching with spears in hand – maybe I watched Dances With Wolves one too many times? We finally bumped and jarred our way past a couple pretty lakes and up to the trail head where we bought our permit and finally got ready for our hike. Simba was stoked!

We originally planned to hike up to a place called Bird Creek Meadows, but not far up the trail, we came to a fork. Take the wide, well-trampled trail to the left, or the narrow, grassy trail to the right that probably doesn’t lead to the Meadows? I’m sure you can guess which way we chose….

We clambered up the pretty easy trail, the woods to ourselves. We soon saw breaks in the trees to the right, look-out points. And there was a … noise. A sound. No, a … roar! I double-checked that it wasn’t my stomach or Simba, then peeked through the break in the trees of an over-look.

HOLY CANYONS, BATMAN!! Mt Adams had been looming, peering over the trees like a total creeper; but this! – without the trees rudely standing in my way, I could finally see the roar – waterfalls! Spread before me was an incredible canyon, the glacier-carved walls stretching up on the other side to a ragged ridge line, ending in a peak dwarfed only by Adams himself.

HellRoarin Canyon, Little Adams, Yakima Reservation WA

This a little farther up the trail, looking back down the canyon, towards the east. Wowzers.

east side of Mt Adams, Yakima Reservation WA

And looking up the canyon at my old buddy Adams, whom I don’t know as well as I thought.

The U-shape of the rocky canyon makes for great acoustics. I asked J the name of this magical canyon and had to laugh at his response: “This is Hellroaring Canyon. Duh.”

Yep, “duh” is right. Soon we reached the alpine tree line and had a clearer view of this grand spectacle. We could pick out even more waterfalls bursting from under the huge glacier – J said it’s name is Mazama Glacier (not Kalista Glacier, oddly enough).

Mazama Glacier, Mt Adams WA, Yakima Reservation

The impressive Mazama Glacier and me and my hiking buddy

We had a blast climbing around in the super-cool rocks, continuously gazing around in admiration. You can see the folds of a hardened lava flow in the ridge off to the left, and the nice coloring of the rocks on that little peak to the right. I couldn’t get over the size and shape of the glacier – so cool! More breath-taking was to look back down the canyon, especially as we got higher, and try to wrap my brain around the fact that the glacier was once massive enough to carve that whole valley right out of there. All the way down the slope it slid, pushing, shoving, piling and grinding it’s way, leaving behind a couple moraines and this lovely canyon for me to gawk at.

HellRoaring Canyon, Mt Adams Yakima WA

CAN’T.STOP.STARING. Oh, and there’s a shot of the big waterfall, directly to my left.

HellRoaring Canyon, Yakima Reservation WA

And here’s a nice shot of the valley I keep oogling. That far-away lake right in the middle is Bench Lake, and Little Adams is off to the left. That grin just wouldn’t leave!

We kept scrambling higher, taking our time. Then I saw a pack sitting next to a rock and noticed a person perched on a rock. Then J pointed out the real spectacle: wildlife!! My first ever MOUNTAIN GOATS!! So exciting. Simba didn’t seem to notice, but the goats noticed him. Momma Goat took Baby Goat up to a higher perch while Billy Goat hung out down below. They were right there, so close! But I didn’t want my first goat encounter to turn into a grand goat chase, ending with me and Simba at the bottom of Hellroaring Meadows, so J took the pictures.

mountain goats on Mt Adams WA

Momma and Baby, posing for us. They tromped right up that rock like it was NOTHING!

mountain goats in Hellroaring Creek Trail, Mt Adams WA

The whole family, with Big Billy down below. Super cool critters.

Simba and I did a little more exploring down below, sliding down some rock scree to a little stream so Simba could get a drink and cool his butt-cheeks in the soggy moss. The cold water bubbled up from the rocks and I looked closer at the waterfalls. The glacier stretches down the slope, and the melt-water comes from underneath as well as the top. Then it gushes over in the beautiful waterfall, pools a bit, then most of it disappears down into the rock. Neat-o! It makes a bit of a reappearance further down, where the water comes back up and creates a stream. The meadows in the valley below are soggy, from reports I’ve read, and I could see where the water has created an awesome gash and probably another waterfall down by Little Adams. I want to explore so bad! I just checked and found a sort-of trail to climb Little Adams and walk a bit on the ridge over on the other side, which happens to be called the Ridge of Wonders (with a name like that I might not even rename it to Kalista Ridge!). Well, that will have to wait for next summer. 🙂

Little Mt Adams in Hellroaring Canyon WA

My deep thinker and Hellroaring Canyon, with the Ridge of Wonders and Little Adams for company off to the left. .

The hike down was quick and made me a little sad to leave this lovely place – the cool breeze coming off the glacier, the knowledge of lakes and cool stuff just a little higher than we went, the constant thunder of water echoing around the rock. Then I saw this sign, which I somehow missed on the way up:

wilderness sign, Yakima Mt Adams, WA“The richest values of wilderness lies not in the days of Daniel Boone, nor even in the present, but rather in the future.” Aldo Leopold. How amazing is this?! I just love it. I just love the wilderness and the woods and the mountains, and the days I get to spend in their midst.

By the way, if you need a refresher on the difference between mountain goats and mountain sheep, you should check out this video. It’s annoyingly catchy…

The Secret Lady of the Lake

9 10 2013

Holy autumn, Batman!! Is it really October?! *sigh* Life happens. On to today’s post….

Back at the beginning of September, a good friend from the Methow had her bachelorette party in the little town of Chelan. A weekend full of great times with amazing gal-pals? Count me in!

I can’t tell you much of what went down over the course of that weekend – not because I don’t remember (what kind of lush do you take me for?!) but because what happened at the bachelorette party stays at the bachelorette party. My mother reads this, for crying out loud! We’ll just skip the inappropriate games, the skinny dipping, the old gentleman I proposed to….. wait what?

*ahem* So I’m going to tell you a tale from the same weekend that had no male genitalia, dare checklists or absurd confessions involved. This is the tale of the Lady of the Lake.

I learned long ago that guide books or other advice on “Best Things to do Around such and such State” are full of crap. Or I’m just not their target audience. I don’t care about the best hotel or amazing shopping. I want beautiful vistas and hiking trails and places full of character. Washington, as well as all states I’m sure, is full of delightful gems no one seems to know about. Well, no, that’s not right – delightful gems no one tells you about. Lake Chelan is one such gem. Have you ever heard of it? Exactly.

Despite the shenanigans of Friday night, my Twisp Bestie and I dragged our tired buns out of bed at the crack of dawn Saturday (7am) to take a little boat ride. Tickets bought and breakfast in hand, we boarded our vessel: the Lady of the Lake EXPRESS. We took the fast trip so we could be back by early afternoon to continue bachelorette shenanigans. But we couldn’t miss this opportunity!

The boat wasn’t full, maybe because tourist season is pretty much over. The weather was absolute crap, but Twisp Bestie was thankfully much more prepared than me and had not one but TWO raincoats stashed in her back-pack. We rode on the upper deck, braving the wind and the rain to stand out on the open end, and spent several hours admiring the scenery and catching up on life.

Lake Chelan Lady of the Lake Express, WA

We’re having no fun at all. We just don’t do that.

Lake Chelan is an amazingly unique place that really took my breath away.  The lake is a deep gorge, gouged out of the North Cascade Mountains of northern Washington 17,000 years ago by massive glaciers, the last one being well over a mile thick. Steep rock walls guard the waters, which run 51 miles from the source to the dam. But the width of the lake never gets more than about a mile and a half or so, and cinches down to a quarter mile through a section creatively called the Narrows. The lake is the 3rd deepest in the US at 1,486 feet, and arguably the deepest gorge in North America. One section of the lake bottom drops to 386 feet below sea level, and the top of Pyramid Peak overlooking Lake Chelan stands at 8,245 feet. That makes the gorge a total of 8,631 feet deep. The Grand Canyon is only about a mile deep. Wowzers!

boat on Lake Chelan to Stehekin, WA

Bummer weather but still amazing scenery. I mean totally baller, un-frikin-believable, totes re-donk-ulous…and all those other “hip” expressions…

But despite these impressive statistics concerning the lake itself, there are a few more facts that just blast my brain to bits, and all of them are related to the most invasive animals on this planet: humans. At Lake Chelan, humans have yet to destroy the near-pristine environment. Yes, there is the town of Chelan down at the southeast end, but it only has a population of about 4,000 people. I’m sure the summer-time tourists swell that to a much higher number, but still, that’s not many. And once you head upstream, signs of human life diminish quickly. There is one road that travels along the southwest shore that reaches as far as 25 Mile Creek State Park, which is 19 miles from Chelan – not even half the length of the lake. From there – nothing. There are, amazingly, the occasional lake-front house, boat dock, and even an abandoned copper mine-turned-village up about 12 miles from the water. But that’s it. To reach anywhere past 25 Mile Creek, you have to take a boat or a float plane. Or hike in from far away, like my Twisp Bestie has done…

Nothing, that is, until you reach the other end. Here, nestled in the raw forest and mountains, is a speck of a town – more of a village, really – called Stehekin. Almost 100 people live here in this isolated town at the end of this immense gorge, cut off from society and, well, everything. There are a few roads around town and a few cars that were shipped up on barges, but no Internet, no TV, no PHONES – not even landlines! Don’t worry, this isn’t a prison or punishment camp of some kind to send misbehaving teenagers. These people live here on purpose and refuse these modern-day “conveniences” – not simply get by without them, they specifically refuse them. And wouldn’t you know, the 12 children who attend the one-room schoolhouse here, all taught by the same teacher until 8th grade, receive an outstanding education. WITHOUT THE INTERNET. (Dear God, what do they use, books?! Heathens!)

So, Twisp Bestie (referred to as TB from now on) and I have several hours of jaw-dropping nature to feast our eyes upon, all the while chatting, laughing, and fumbling over our own words trying to remember all the stories and tidbits we’ve been saving up to tell each other. We don’t get to hang out nearly enough. And all the while, sentences were continuously interrupted with exclamations of observations: “…and it was so hilarious that I just – WHOA DO YOU SEE THAT MASSIVE WATERFALL?!?!?!” This makes conversation much more…challenging. But we managed.

Lady of the Lake Express to Stekekin, WA

The weather finally took a turn for the better and some of the mountains appeared. We enjoyed the breeze!

We made a few stops along the way to pick up people or drop off cargo, but soon we reached our destination: Stehekin! Villagers greeted us as we unloaded, most of them there for the anxiously-awaited mail and supplies. We admired the lodge right there by the pier but decided to grab the one and only bus that would take us up to Rainbow Falls. A bus tour of the tiny village that doesn’t really have cars…. Indeed.

lodge at Stehekin, Lake Chelan WA

The main buildings of Stehekin! I believe this one is a lodge, but there’s another one that has a gift shop selling crafts the folks make during the long winter. Totally not kidding.

Remarkably, due to the massive storms that passed through the North Cascades the previous week, the roads were sloppy and the going slow. Then ceased; a mud-slide had ripped right through the middle of the village and took with it a good part of the hillside, washed out part of the road, and buried a bike rental shop. No bueno. A crew with a couple front-end loaders was clearing the road as fast as they could and we didn’t wait long. (We were under a time crunch due to the departure time of our boat.) Moving once again, we passed quaint houses, the older one-room schoolhouse, the huge community garden, and the famous bakery loved by PCT hikers. Then we stopped and unloaded to see the falls.

I won’t lie, my expectations were not high. Living in the Columbia Gorge with the highest concentration of tall waterfalls in North America, I’ve become quite spoiled. Don’t misunderstand – waterfalls are still one of my favorites, but when someone says “beautiful, towering waterfall” I know to expect some exaggeration on “towering”. Do I sound like a waterfall snob? I really don’t mean to, but maybe I am. But I at least glimpse Multnomah Falls every time we go to Portland, so my perspective is skewed. But back to Rainbow Falls – low expectations or not, I was blown away. The area right around the falls is a micro-climate, created from the mist and differing temperatures of the waters that plunge 312 feet over the cliffs, where you can find ferns and other plant-life that can’t exist anywhere else in the surrounding area’s much dryer conditions. So cool.

TB and I rushed past the lower viewpoint headed straight for the upper deck – we wanted to see the rainbow! And see it we did. The recent rains that had caused the earlier scene of destruction now put on a different performance, gushing over the massive drop. With the mist in our faces and giggles in our throats, we posed for pictures and gawked at the sight.

Rainbow Falls, Stehekin WA

TB and Rainbow Falls – tall falls, tall tree, tall TB!

We shimmied down to the lower viewpoint to make sure we didn’t miss anything and almost missed the bus. We made a stop at the famous bakery for a super-fresh, delicious lunch and then jumped back aboard to return to the Lady of the Lake.

…and we got stuck in traffic. I kid you not. The impossible has happened. The landslide was again the culprit, and the machinery working on the road blocked the only passage back to the landing. The driver was back and forth on the radio, all the while watching the construction. The Park Service tour guide told us the house we could see next to the road that was almost buried – though left standing – by the landslide belonged to our bus driver. And yet she was here, driving a busload of gawking tourists around her little village. That wonderful woman managed to hurry along the construction dudes and we made it to our boat before it left. Hallelujah!

The trip back down to Chelan was no less eventful than the trip up. Different angles, moving clouds, and less fog gave us plenty more views to soak in. We created our little bubble of sorts, laughing and getting rowdy. By the time we docked in Chelan, our hair was wind blown, our cheeks rosy, and our smiles unmovable.

Lady of the Kake on Lake Chelan, Washtington

TB getting her hairs did. 🙂

We rejoined the group at a winery and the party enveloped us back in like we were never gone. The entire weekend was unforgettable, and our little side trip seemed to exist in a parallel universe or something – was that even the same weekend?!?!  We had seen the secrets of the lake, marveled at the other world of Stehekin, felt the speed of the Lady of the Lake.

And I’ve decided that I think I could be the next Lady of the Lake! What if I dropped everything and moved to Stehekin, ditching all this technology and getting back to the simple life? Well, I’m not going to, but it sure fuels a lot of awesome daydreams…..


Gray Skies and Gray Hairs

30 05 2013

Man, talk about a downer kind of week! The gloomy skies and dribble of rain haven’t let up since last Tuesday. It has put me in a funk, a funk I tell you!

Friday was great and a trip to Portland with my beau lifted my spirits from the drab week. But I wore my contacts and paid the price Saturday. Blind and in pain, I stayed home instead of going hiking with J. LAME!  Sunday, the rain slowed down, so J and I went for a run. I just didn’t have it in me that day and couldn’t make the 6 miles. We turned around earlier than planned and J tried to keep encouraging me (we did still go 5 miles) while I just tried not to pass out. I felt ready to either throw up or break down in tears by the time we made it home. Bigger LAME!

And on top of all that, I was just generally foul. The cranky bug bit me and I couldn’t shake it. I sulked, I pouted, and I moped.  Then came the icing on the cake, the topper to really kick a girl when she’s down: blow-drying my new super-model hair-do, I found 6 or 7 gray hairs right on top. I’m only 28, for crying out loud!

Things that normally cheer me up didn’t work. My long holiday weekend was going to waste because I couldn’t escape from my self-induced pity party.

That is, until I decided I must. I finally reached a point where I couldn’t stand myself anymore and wondered how long J hadn’t been able to stand me, either. So Monday morning, I got up. I took Simba for a walk in the drizzle and didn’t get mad when we tracked a mess through the house on our return. I ate my cereal as cheerfully as I could, though poor J was still cautiously eyeing me from across the room. Finally, he ventured closer for conversation.

“So, would you want to go hiking today?”

I glanced outside at the steady rain, turned back to him and said, “Yes. I would.”  Enough is enough.

We changed clothes. I dug out my rain pants and old waterproof boots and filled a pocket of my cheerful, blue raincoat with treats for Simba. And out the door we went.

hiking in the rain, Falls Creek WA

We’re going out hiking and we’re HAPPY ABOUT IT, DAMN IT!

We drove a ways out toward Carson, WA. J had a particular trail in mind, one he thought I would really like. He’s good at finding trails I like, and I felt stirrings of excitement. My grumpy-pants cure was coming, I could feel it!

The farther west we drove, the harder it rained. The forest was dark and saturated. We made it to the trailhead and stepped out to an eerie hush about the trees. Just the drip-drop of water on the leaves and puddles, making me think of the rain scene in Bambi. You know the one? Drip drip drop little April showers…but without the scary lightning at the end…

Today’s trail, Falls Creek Trail, was relatively flat (compared to the mountains we’re usually climbing) and we  fell into a nice rhythm. We sloshed along and I tried to release my negative energy to the trees, soaking up their life and wisdom. I think trees are just so wise, especially the gigantic old-growth ponderosa pines we passed beneath, quietly watching over the forest for hundreds of years.

Falls Creek Trail, WA

Falls Creek Trail, following (wait for it) FALLS CREEK!

The creek rumbled below and we passed over a couple awesome bridges that scared the bajeebas out of Simba. But my brave little mutt tucked his tail, hunkered low to the boards, and scurried across both bridges, despite his concerns. Good boy!

Unlike Simba, the crashing and tumbling of the swollen creek struggling over the rocks was like a cool salve on my cranky soul. My phone couldn’t capture the healing surroundings very well in the rain, but I tried anyway.

Falls Creek Trail, Carson WA

A little side stream, babbling it’s way down to the bigger brook

Blurry and water-spotted, but beautiful. I tried to focus on that beautiful forest, pushing my stress out. I ignored the blisters forming in my too-small boots, and the dripping strands of hair that refused to stay back, and the water that somehow made it inside my jacket and was trickling down my neck. I took deep, refreshing breaths and took it all in. I….relaxed.

Falls Creek Trail, rainy westside WA

The muted sunlight filtering in through the leaves…breathe in, breathe out….

After just about 2 miles, the chatter of the creek became more of a roar. I nearly bumped into J before noticing he had stopped and was pointing. Duh! Of course there would be a waterfall on Falls Creek. I should have been paying more attention. I still was not prepared for the waterfall we came upon.

Falls Creek Falls, Carson WA

So humbling, I could barely eat my snack!

The above image is just HALF of the waterfall – the top portion is cut off. There were sort of three parts to the falls, and once I quieted my belly with a little snack, I just stood and stared. And stared some more.

Falls Creek Falls hike, Carson WA

Amazing, awe-inspiring waterfall and my two favorite boys – BE HEALED!

And there it happened. At the base of this 200-foot waterfall, with my two best dudes, I felt better. Whatever weight I had been carrying around was lifted, and I felt my old happy self returning. I should have known – if a hike with these two knuckleheads can cure a hangover, it can cure anything!

After a happy hike back, I realized once we got to the car that we were a trio of drowned rats. I brought a towel for Simba and tried to at least get some of the mud off, which was difficult since he was sitting on the towel in the back of J’s car. Then I whipped off my rain gear as fast as I could, threw it in the truck, and dove into the front seat. It was still pouring and I was trying to stay dry! A quick inspection revealed J looking normal, just me and Simba as total train wrecks. But we pretended not to notice and ran some errands on the way home.

…one of which was to pick up a little box that would take out the last little bit of sadness I had left in me. I spent an hour and a half in the bathroom and solved every problem I had left. No more faded, mousy brown, no more dreadful gray.

dark hair shining in the sun

My super-model look is now complete. My hair looks dark until the light shines on it. Then it turns BURGANDY!

Why go gray when I can go Black Cherry?!

Good-bye dreary, dreadful cranky-pants, hello fabulous!!


Through Hell to Get to Heaven, Part DOS!

18 07 2012

Sorry, I got a little excited there. This is my first ever two-part post! I don’t really know why that’s exciting, but surely it’s a milestone of some sort….

Ok, so Part 1 took us up Gold Creek to Crater Creek trailhead, where we climbed a pretty brutal 4 miles up to Crater Lake. But the gorgeous lake and blooming wildflowers and massive mountains that all happen to literally be in my backyard made the Hike of Hell totally worth it. Right? Right.

So what did we do the very next day? Another hike that was even more steep and more exposed to the harsh, hot sun and swarming with mesquitos! Yay!

I guess you could call us gluttons for punishment…..

This trail was in the north end of the valley, up the Chewuch River a bit, kind of at the base of Big Craggy and Isabella Ridge. This was another trail that would give me a whole new perspective on things, being that this mountain and ridgeline dominate the horizon north of Twisp. So I was about to clamber up into the backdrop of my everyday life. Pretty cool!

We got a real early start, when it was still nice and cool, and pulled up to the Copper Glance Trail. I would have missed it. There was a little sign next to a gate blocking a super old road that I would never have thought marked a trailhead. But there it was – the Gate to Hell. As soon as we opened the doors of the truck, the ‘squitos attacked. Nothing gets you moving like a bazillion biting little bastards! I was ready to sprint up the trail just to try to outrun the little blood-suckers!

The trial/road didn’t waste any time. We immediately started climbing. Then we very quickly stopped to take care of downed logs across the trail. The moment we stopped moving, the buzzing picked up and I was busy swatting. However, I soon learned that putting my earplugs in to block out the chainsaw also blocked out the incessant buzzzz of the ‘squeeters and they amazingly didn’t bother me as much. And I actually got my gloves dirty this time helping clear the trial of what J cut. Just being a helpful citizen…

The pace was slow with lots of logs down. I have never been more excited to work in my life. “Oh, no, another one? (huffpuff) What a shame we’re already stopping again…” The work of moving limbs and logs was a relief to the intense up-hill.

J stopped ahead of me, with no logs in sight, and I couldn’t help but triumphantly shout in my head “HE needs a break! HE must be too tired and needs to stop! Even before I did! Man am I an awesome hiker or what?!”  Oops, too soon. As soon as I set my pack next to his, ready to gloat, he turned toward the slope next to the trail and started up it. This was no steep-grade trail, this was straight up the rocky mountain-side! Was he crazy?!

So, of course, I scrambled up after him. Slipping several times and trying to come to terms with the fact that I might tumble to the valley floor and die at any moment, I finally heaved myself over the edge of the nasty rock I was sliding in and on to flat ground. J was searching the ground like he’d lost something and I leaned on my knees a second to catch my breath and thank the universe for keeping me alive.

Then I looked up and almost fell back over the wall I had just climbed. There was a gaping hole in the mountain!! Then the facts all clicked into place: a road up the mountain that was now closed off, up the steep, winding side of a mountain to nowhere, ending at a gaping hole in the rock – a mine! Then it also donned on me that I had just climbed mine tailings to see this. Hm….

Copper Glance Trail, WA mine shaft

So spooky! See anyone in there?? Maybe it’s haunted!

Rushing over to the hole, I was ready to explore. I was gonna be rich! Maybe all these years had eroded away a new vein, and I would see it with my eagle-eye vision, and I could move to the Caribbean. Woo! My lucky day!

Sadly, as soon as I reached the opening, I felt a slosh as my boot sank in mud. The mine was underwater. Lame! But I had to stand and stare a minute into all that blackness…can you imagine descending into this abyss every single day, fueled only by dreams of striking it big?? Then as I examined the rock of the entrance, I noticed the…sparkle. I wiggled a piece lose with my fingernail and held it up – I was going to be rich after all! Whirling around to tell J, I nearly knocked us both into the mine shaft, since he was standing right behind me, holding his own rocks…that were bigger than mine. “Cool pyrite isn’t it. Nice and shiny.” All my hopes and dreams shattered. Damn fool’s gold!

Copper Glance mine shaft, Methow Valley WA

Yay I’m RICH!!!

I stuck it in my pocket anyway and we headed back down to our packs to keep going. We still had a good ways to go. And man, that trail never let up. No flat spots, no dips where we could go downhill for even a second – up and up and up! The mesquitos were here and there, not so bad, but man it was getting roasty hot. Hell’s furnaces were firing up!

Then we came to a huge tree blocking the path that was going to take a while. I went up the trail just a bit to see if there were any more logs coming up, and suddenly found myself in a big, open, picturesque meadow with an amazing view of Isabella Ridge. I was floored to realize how far UP we had really come!

Isabella Ridge, Copper Glance Trail, WA

Oh, hello, Isabella. Nice to finally meet you in person.

The lupines were blooming, the birds were chirping, the trees swayed in the breeze – just a quick little glimpse at Heaven, right in the middle of Hell. Not bad motivation to keep going…..

Once J finished and we continued, I soon realized it was indeed possible for the trail to get worse. This didn’t happen so much due to the grade, although it did increase a bit, but more due to the fact that the slope next to me was a very sheer drop. I can’t tell you what it dropped down to, since I refused to look down, but even the trail was at a slight tilt and made me walk funny, with the right foot on higher ground than the left. Thankfully this didn’t last the rest of the way, or I might have been forced to sit down and cry….

Relief came in the form of trees. Despite the beauty of the meadows, they allowed the sun to scorch down upon us and offered nothing to catch me if I tripped. Unfortunately, the trail through the trees didn’t change much, and I was about fed up with this uphill nonsense. But about the time I thought I was doomed to climb forever, we reached a lovely creek making lovely little waterfalls as it tumbled down the mountain. We both dropped our packs and dunked our faces, relishing the cold water as it rinsed off the sweat. Ahhhhhh, another taste of Heaven.

The trail after this did finally level out a bit, bringing us to a little pond. Or maybe it was just a swampy area…I’m not sure. But there was a little campsite with some logs that looked like a perfect place to rest my tired butt cheeks and eat some lunch. The shade and cold water made this a nice cool spot to stop, but I hoped as hard as I could that this wasn’t the lake. I’m no expert, but there just wasn’t enough water to classify it as a lake. But food distracted me and I attacked my sandwich like a bear coming out of hibernation.

After the goodies were all devoured, J decided to keep exploring, and we found where the trail continued. More brutal ups and downs brought us right up to the face of Isabella Ridge and into a rock field.

Isabella Ridge, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest

I’m almost there!!

It reminded me of the lava fields in Oregon, but not made of lava rocks. A few scrawny trees managed to grow here and there, and I finally saw the Pearly Gates: a bright teal, crystal clear, shiny lake with a waterfall feeding it directly from the snowfields.

Sweet Jesus, this might have been the most beautiful lake I have ever seen.

Copper Glance Lake, Isabella Ridge WA

So clear, so blue, so pretty…so cold!

A couple campers had a tent on the other side and were lazily fishing in the afternoon sun. J went around to talk to them while I hopped down on a rock and yanked my boots off. Sadly, the water was at such a frigid temperature my toes couldn’t stand more than a few seconds.

Copper Glance Lake, Methow Valley WA

The mermaid rock I perched on to rest my feet

I relaxed with my toes in the sun, bathing in the beauty and serenity of the mountains. I’m telling you, this is Heaven. The trail was most certainly Hell, and this was the closest to Heaven on earth that I have experienced. I only wish my time in Heaven could have been longer, but J was working, and we had to keep moving.

At least the trail down was just that: down. I’m finally figuring out how to relax and not hurt my knees, making the return a bit easier. And it’s always fun to see the opposite views once you’re facing the other direction – it’s like a whole new trail. For instance, instead of looking up at the towering peaks of Isabella, Craggy and Sherman, I now had the splendor of the whole valley opening up below me. The smokey haze from a wildfire or two in the area gave the view a softer look, despite the glaring sun.

Methow Valley from Copper Glance Trail, WA

Wow, Methow, you’re really rockin’ the “smokey” look

Stumbling down and down, we quickly came back to the second crossing of Copper Glance Creek (or the first crossing on the way up). I had already forgotten all about it. There used to be a nice bridge to cross, but alas, raging waters or some other force of nature have since collapsed the bridge. Crossing it is now a feat that should normally be reserved for those accustomed to walking high-wires in the circus. The boards are slippery, the water fast and cold, the logs to hold on to wobbly at best, and the outcome of a fall would be nothing fun…if you survived to tell about it.

collapsed bridge on Copper Glance Trail, WA

Poor bridge has seen better days. Time to practice my mad skills!

Thankfully, I did survive, since here I am, still telling you about it. We made it back to the truck, sweaty and stinky and covered in mesquito bites, with one soggy boot from where I stepped off into the waterfall. But I had that vision of Heaven still dancing in my brain, reassuring me that given the chance, I would gladly hike right back up that trail.


Weekend stats:

Saturday – Crater Creek Trail, 8.3 miles round trip, 2195 ft elevation gain in 4 miles

Sunday – Copper Glance Trail, 6.5 miles round trip, 2800 ft elevation gain in 3 miles

I not only survived, I’m getting the hang of this……

Kid Sister and Me

8 05 2012

Anyone remember the doll? She was pals with My Buddy??

Kid Sister Doll

Dolls still creep me out

Don’t worry, this post has nothing to do with this weird-o doll and everything to do with my real-life kid-sister. Who, by the way, is so much more gorgeous than this dumb doll.  (And me, if we’re being honest.)

pretty sister Falls Creek Okanogan Forest

The Pretty Sister – excited to be in Washington!

Do you have a kid-sister? Well, even if you do, yours can’t be half as cool as mine. And no I’m not sharing, you can’t have her. Last Thursday, my sister packed her car, bought an atlas, and drove the 450 miles or so to come visit. Her first solo road trip!! (She’s only 21…) And what a road trip – it took her almost 9 hours to get here. But get here she did! And oh the adventures we had….

We cooked a lovely dinner Thursday night and sat down like a little family – salmon, black bean and corn salad, and of course, some red wine. Just like old times, when we were roomies in Bend.

Friday was just another day of work for me. Until about 8:30, when my Internet when down and wouldn’t come back. I tried to resuscitate my router, my modem, my computer – nothing! I started to panic a bit….I don’t have the PTO to miss a day! We threw ourselves together and jumped in the car, headed for Twisp. The bakery has wifi and we set up shop. After chatting with some other locals, we discovered the fiber optic cables for the main internet provider for the whole valley had been hit during some routine road maintenance. Wooo! Whoa, wait. Not good. The bakery uses a different provider, so we sat there….all day. We had breakfast, lunch, and several beverages. Thankfully I also got a good chunk of work done. And thankfully I have an understanding sister who cruised the Internet, hour after hour, until the bakery started closing and we were forced to leave. However, this meant I was off work for the rest of the afternoon!  Sure, I’d have to make up my lost hours on the weekend, but now we could go play!!

We jumped in the car and zoomed up to Winthrop for some shopping. I’ve lived here for a whole year and haven’t been in most of the little shops. Its not so fun to go by myself, and J would rather backpack clear across the Pasayten Wilderness and back barefoot than willingly join me. But now I had my best playmate to shop and explore and giggle with. We roamed the little clothing boutiques, knick-knack shops and tourist traps. It’s still the in-between season, and we pretty much had the town to ourselves. I bought a fun new hat for summer and matching leather bracelets for us both. They each have a pretty flower on top with a bright colored band. Of course we sported them all weekend together.

As the town started closing down around 6, we headed back to Twisp for our hot date with J at Antlers. It’s one of the old, original buildings in the valley, back from the rough days of mining and logging, and my sister was stoked to see the bullet holes in the wall from a long-ago gun fight. Burgers and beers later, we drifted back home, sleepy and satisfied. We sat up for a while yakking, then passed out peacefully.

Saturday morning, we were up and rearing to go. I made us a tasty breakfast before we parted ways with J to go explore the valley. I had so much more to show her! We hit up the Farmer’s Market for cheese samples and pastries then headed out into the woods for some hiking.

Let me just fill you in on a little back-story here: my sister is not exactly out-doorsy. Well, she wasn’t…until I forced it upon her. Nature, I mean. When she moved up to Oregon with me, I dragged her up mountains, through forests, down rivers, across deserts – you name it. Sometimes in snow, sometimes in blasting heat. And she was such a TROOPER!! No matter what awesome crap I put her through, she was always up for more. And now I think she secretly enjoys it, though I don’t know that she’ll admit that.

boulders in Okanogan Forest Winthrop WA

This is her showing her love of nature…

So when she drove her cute buns all the way up here, all by herself, what did I do? I dragged her up one of my mountains, through a forest, and up, over, around and through all sorts of trees, rocks, trails and cliffs. Oh, and by the way, she’s afraid of heights. Doesn’t stop her – not once. She went rock climbing with me at Smith Rock, for Pete’s sake! ROCK CLIMBING! And Saturday she stood on the edge of a high ledge to look down a gorgeous waterfall we found. Tell me that isn’t rock star.

Falls Creek Okanogan Forest WA

She’s standing on a cliff, with a brutal drop-off, to take this picture!

mountain top, Okanogan Forest WA

Supermodel on the mountain!

We took tons of silly pictures, hugging trees, posing on rocks, and having a ridiculously grand time. That’s one of my favorite things about hanging with my sister – we can be silly, we can be goofy, we can have deep conversation in the middle of a fantastically beautiful forest.

posing on log Okanogan Forest WA

Working on my hot modeling career….

pushing tree pose Okanogan Forest WA

Don’t let it crush you!!

Here’s a great example, as I struggled to get myself over a fallen log, almost face-planting in some rocks in the process:

Me: Why the hell do I have to be short? Why did YOU get all the long legs??

Her: You have to be short. The world would be a much less funny place if you were tall.

See?? That’s the other good part of being with my sis – she’s straight up honest. Not everyone will give you the blunt truth. I miss that. I miss her.

After our jaunt around the woods, we dropped by a volleyball party then zipped on home. We cleaned up – and I mean cleaned up. It was Cinco de Mayo, after all! My sister was stoked to hit up all the exciting nightlife of my little valley – “Let’s go bar hopping!!”

sisters for cinco de mayo winthrop wa

Terrible quality from my phone, but we looked GOOD.

We were dressed to the nines (which in the Methow means we did our hair and added a little make-up…) and hit the town. The brewery in town had some live music playing and has yummy beer and food, in that order. So that was our first stop. Then I showed her how to do the Winthrop Bar Hop and we crossed the street to the saloon for a shot of tequila. That was it!! We bar-hopped!! I don’t think she expected that to literally be just one hop….

Once home, my live-in bartender made us a drink as we played our traditional game of Farkle. We Farkled all over her futon until we could barely keep our eyes open and went to bed.

Then she packed up Sunday morning and left me. I spent the day in my garden, lonely without her. If you don’t have a kid sister, you won’t get it. Or yours just isn’t as cool as mine.

Her name is Breanna, but she’s gone by Brea forever. And that’s pronounced like BREE the cheese, not like the “Bray-uh” tar pits in California. I, however, nicknamed her Breazy. She’s my Breaze of fresh air and family and I hope she knows how much it meant to me that she came to visit. (Of course I don’t just tell her that. I don’t do the mushy talks well.)

So, there you have it. Can’t wait for our next adventure!

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