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


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!


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…

Labor Day Death March – DAY 3! (Last one, I promise)

3 10 2012

Missed Day 1 and/or Day 2?  Hurry – catch up! While you’re at it, grab a beverage and pop some corn, ’cause this is the last leg of the journey!!  Then I promise to shut up about it…


I slept like the dead and woke up refreshed, excited and desperate to pee. Stumbling into my boots, my legs screamed their displeasure. Today would be the day I would set my new personal record for most miles covered in a single trip AND the most miles covered in a single day. But that meant I had a long, full day ahead of me. But for now, all I could think about was emptying my bladder.

J started the day as my favorite. He might have sensed I was a touch antsy about the epic day ahead of me, because he had a glorious surprise – COFFEE! We enjoyed the magical brew straight from the cooking pot before bidding our delightful campsite a final farewell. Clint did us a solid by building his cabin there, and I waved sadly, knowing I’ll never be back.

Unlike Day 2, today’s trail began gently, continuing down the valley bottom with a very gradual climb. Gradual as in unnoticeable – my favorite! And unlike almost every other hike ever, the thoughtful, tranquil, Strong and Silent Justin of the Trail was….replaced. In his place was Over-Caffeinated Chatty Cathy, revved to the max and bursting to share every thought that meandered through his brain. I can’t remember saying more than three words the first hour and half, not counting my affirmative grunts just to let him know I was still behind him. I had to giggle a bit at the role reversal – so this is what it’s like to hike with me! Then I tuned him out and let my mind step aside so my imagination could take over, and soon I was busy crafting characters and stories to go along with the beautiful forest around me.

Finally, the trail took a noticeable turn up. If legs could talk, mine would have sounded like whiny toddlers needing a nap. We had already encountered quite a few downed trees we had to climb over, and the increased amount of effort was already being felt. The day was also quickly warming up…I had to slap myself around a bit to get it together! Today was the day to show this Mother Nature lady what I was made of, and this was no way to start! So in full determination mode, up and up we went, and over log after log after log. The ones that lay about thigh-high were the worst. We trudged on and on. Finally, just when I thought I would have to throw my pride over the mountainside and beg for a break, J stopped and dropped his pack. Knowing better than to assume he was tired, I awaited instructions.

“Grab the filter and bottles and leave your pack here. We’ll take a quick detour over to the lake to fill up on water.” Ah, yes, the lake! I dropped my pack like a sack of potatoes (almost going with it) and turned off the trail after my fearless leader. We threaded our way through the open trees, still going up of course, and finally the lake appeared – quite suddenly, out of nowhere, in an unusual place for a lake on the side of the mountain. But there it was. J gave me his bottles and headed off to do his work stuff while I kicked off my boots and plunged my filthy feet into the shallow water. Finally settled, I filled all four water bottles and drank as much as I could. This would be the last water we would have for the next 10 miles or so. Time to activate Camel Mode.

Lake of the Woods, Lake Mountain, Pasayten Wilderness WA

Lake of the Woods, where I am soaking my tootsies over on the other side, wondering if there’s also a Lady of the Woods. If not, I would like to apply.

J returned just as I was getting my boots back on and we left this quiet little oasis (adequately named Lake of the Woods) to go back to our packs. Despite feeling rejuvenated from the rest and the water, it didn’t take long for me to be once again pretending like I was NOT sweating like a whore in church. The trail was getting steeper and the trees thinner as we gained major altitude towards Pistol Pass. Pistol Peaks could now be seen laughing down at us, daring us to come join their party. J had transitioned once more, this time from a chattering chimp to cheerleading coach, prepping me for our Nationals competition, also know as our descending traverse across the slope under Pistol Peaks.

His rah-rah-you’re-a-rockstar pep talk was understandable after yesterday’s freak-out…and much appreciated. We spent that last mile or so to the pass mentally pumping me up for the challenge ahead. I quickly caught J’s enthusiasm and confidence and convinced myself that I am a total bad-ass and that no silly little slope is going to get me down. Bring it, Mother Nature! You just TRY to throw a mean mountain slope in my way! I set my mind against the task before me, even though I wasn’t face-to-face with it just yet. I knew there was no other option – I couldn’t go back, I couldn’t go around, I couldn’t call Daddy to come get me – this was all me. We were days into the wilderness with no other choice…and didn’t really even know what lay ahead, just that it would be bad. This unforgiving beast of a mountain was NOT GOING TO BEAT ME.

And this was my chance to show J that I could hang, that I could go out and hold my own in his turf. So there.

I happily collapsed on top of Pistol Pass and forgot this mountain would buck me off its slopes without thinking twice – I could see forEVER. Way off in the distance, we could see the valley where Mazama lived. A couple peaks on the horizon where ones I recognized from previous adventures last summer. Tons more stood proudly before me, vying for attention in the crowd. Way off that way? That’s Canada.

View from Pistol Pass, Monument Trail Pasayten Wilderness WA

Mountain peaks as far as the eye can see….love it.

I basked in the glorious setting while devouring my lunch. Now that we were sitting, my legs started complaining again, but I could pacify them with promises of no more climbing. This was the high point of the day – everything else would be downhill! Had I known just what kind of downhill we would soon face, I would have gladly climbed up every mountain in the Pasayten if it meant I could avoid today’s descent.

Pistol Pass view of Lake Mountain, Pasayten Wilderness

Blissfully unaware of what’s to come

But I didn’t know what was to come. I just knew there was challenging trail to get from the pass to the ridge line, and I was mentally revved to fight back. I buckled my straps, pulled ’em tight, and set my game face. Here we go!

We were still high (I’m talking altitude, people) which meant about half of the Pasayten stood witness to my struggles. I did well, I’m proud to announce, and there were no more freak-outs. I headed down the trail, traversing right under Pistol Peaks, watching my steps but doing fine. The drop-off to my right was not entirely exposed, since trees dotted the slope.

Then J stopped. He turned around, looked at me a moment, “Stay here. I’ll be right back.” Confused, pride wounded, I waited impatiently as he continued down the trail. Why the hell did he leave me behind?! I saw him kick at the trail here and there, move a few rocks, and cross the vertical gorge the trail went through. Then I saw him stop where the trail widened a bit and take off his pack. I thought he might motion me to take my turn, or maybe just sit and take a little break, but no. No, this confusing man set his pack against a rock and started back across towards me.

Upon reaching me, J helped hold me steady and took my pack from my back and transferred it to his. He gave me a reassuring smile and an enthusiastic “You got this!” and returned once more to cover the section of trail he had just covered. Twice. I followed, and didn’t have long before my brain realized what he was doing. He had cleared the trail, kicked in foot-holes at the really bad spots, and then took my pack so I would have as much of my normal balance and center of gravity as possible. And I made it across that sketch-ball, super scary, ridiculous piece of trail with my body and mind both intact. What a gem. 🙂

Monument Trail down from Pistol Pass, Pasayten Wilderness WA

If you squint real hard, you can see the gnarly trail. I crossed this bad boy – high five!

After that, I was superwoman – nothing could get in my way! Granted, we didn’t encounter any more trail that bad, but there were a few more iffy spots. We made it to the ridge and stopped under a tree for a snack break. Not too much further – just across this ridge and down the menacing slope to Eureka Creek. Once we made it there, all we had left was three flat miles to the awaiting truck. Piece of cake.

Fat chance. At the end of the ridge, we began losing the trail. The forest here had burned something like 25 years ago…meaning the trees that once stood here, tall and proud, now lay scattered around the ground, some tumbled on top of others, many charred and black, and plenty across the trail. We tried to follow the trail where we could, climbing over downed logs, sometimes hopping from tree to tree, but other times it was easier to go around. The terrain here threw in the extra element of danger, as this was cliff country, and walking too far from where the trail had been constructed could result in impromptu cliff diving…with no water at the bottom. Not cool.

Very quickly, I became irately pissed off. Pissed off at the stupid trees in my way. Pissed off at the insanely steep grade of the slope. Pissed off at my knees for aching with every step. And super pissed off at the tweaked muscle in my butt-cheek from the motion of lifting my leg like a peeing dog forty-gazillion times to step up and over yet another damn log. Oh, boy was I pissed. Unfortunately, this did not end any time soon. We made it to the top of one knob, only to realize there was another beneath us. As we descended farther below the tree line, there were just more trees. I was hot, sweaty, grimy and PISSED.

Eureka Creek from Monument Trail, Pasayten Wilderness WA

You can see Eureka Creek waaaaay down there. But I have to make it to that second knoll first…..oh, boy.

Believe it or not, the terrain worsened. I couldn’t even remember the last time I had been on legit trail and I was doing more downhill dirt-surfing than I was one-foot-in-front-of-the-other walking. This caused more dirt, which then proceeded to coat my sweaty body and stick to every inch of me. Pretty sure I could have blown black boogers, had I chose to do so.  At long last, we reached the top of the second knoll.

Eureka Creek Monument Trail, Pasayten Wilderness WA

Pissed on top of the second knoll. Smack-talking the trail (or lack of) the whole way down.

The end was (sort of) in sight. At the bottom of this last nasty beast of a hill, I could finally relax. I was SO CLOSE! We picked our way slowly down and found more and more trail. Not that it was much better – I was basically stumbling through awful, loose rock and STILL had logs to crawl over. My attitude had also changed. No longer was I steaming mad (well, ok, yes I was) – now I was venting. First, I unleashed a tirade of smack-talk. I called that mountain every terrible name I could think of. I railed against stupid Mother Nature and her stupid fire and her stupid wear and tear of the trail. Then I turned on the “trail” and tore it a new one, using words my momma would slap me for, words that would make a sailor blush.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you’re my momma), this wore me out pretty fast. Time to switch tactics again. I started dangling the proverbial carrot in front of my own face. “If we just get to the bottom of this hellish mountain built by Satan himself, I get to walk on flat ground. If I just make it those last 3 miles, I get to take these awful boots off and put on my sparkly flip-flops. Once in the truck, we’re driving straight to Jack’s and getting the biggest cheeseburger they have and as much Dr Pepper as I can drink!!” Justin thought this was funny, until I became so focused on the cheeseburger part that I asked if he could produce a cheeseburger costume out of thin air to put on. If I had a real cheeseburger to follow instead of just the visualization in my head (amazing as that one was), I might be able to pick up the pace.

It was getting hard to put one foot in front of the other, and this caused me to stumble more often. My legs were in agony, my feet were obliterated, my mind was shutting down. I slowly slipped into a blank silence as I solely concentrated on keeping my legs moving. I was sure we didn’t have far to go, but my battered brain finally registered a new fact: the sun was sitting on the ridge next to us. It would dip below at any minute, then it would disappear completely. There was no way to avoid hiking in the dark at this point. Oh boy.

J kept asking if I wanted to stop for a quick break. I refused every time. I really just wanted to get to that creek, to cross to the flat ground, to get to the truck and my sparkly flip-flops and a juicy cheeseburger. My legs had reached a state of numbness and were lifting for each step as if they were programmed machines, not attached to my body at all. My feet were a different matter. We were still hiking through the nasty rock slides, and the first round of blisters had popped long ago. New blisters had formed under and around the old ones, and every single rock I stepped on jabbed at one sore spot or another.

The sun went down and I thought I might have to just lay down on the trail and die when I heard the most blessed sound to ever reach my ears – gurgling water! The creek! I wanted to weep with joy. I hobbled a little faster and came around the last curve where I could see the trail disappear at the creek crossing. I made it! I was there! I had almost made it to the end!  We took our boots and socks off and rolled up our pants to wade the creek, since the bridge had been washed out many moons before. J made it first and helped me up the bank. I would have laughed out loud, if I had possessed the energy – there was a finish line waiting for me! Ok, so it was actually just tape to indicate that the trail ended here (when coming from the other direction) but I still felt like it was there for me, and that I should celebrate. A primeval yell tore from by parched throat as I attempted to charge up the hill.

Eureka Creek at Lost River, Monument Trail Pasayten Wilderness WA

I am a ROCKSTAR – and who put this amazing finish line here for me?! Must have been my adoring fans.

My quasi-celebration was short lived, partly because I collapsed and partly because this was not the end. Yay! I did it! I survived! Oh, wait, nope – 3 more miles to go, in the pitch dark, with a body that can barely hold itself upright. With a heavy sigh, I turned around and let J dig in my pack for my headlamp. Lights on, break over, we began the very last bit of our epic 3-day journey.

After the numbingly cold water of the creek crossing, my feet now had more feeling than before – and it was not good feeling. Needles stabbing into me would be a better description of the pain. And  due to the state my body was in, every movement took effort, every step was a full-body event. I knew I was going too slow, but I had already hit the wall, I had already surpassed my breaking point. Our bodies have limits – we all have physical limits – but I wasn’t finished yet. I couldn’t quit yet. I had come so far, accomplished so much, but I was not done!

I finally broke. The trail seems flat on a normal day, but this was not a normal day, and every slight slope was excrutiating. Every rock threatened to be the last I could handle. And finally, it was more than my body could handle. Tears started to fall, mostly out of exhaustion and frustration, a little from pain. Thankfully, I possess a stubborn streak a mile wide, and I discovered that night in the woods that my mind is much stronger than my pathetic body. My mind lifted my leg and placed my foot. Then it did it again. Over and over, my mind forced my body to continue, despite the protests from my whine-bag physical self. I know J was worried, and he asked over and over if we should stop, if we should just take a quick break. And my mind shouted over the roar of my distressed body to tell J “no” every single time. It knew that if I were to stop, even for a minute, I wouldn’t be able to start again. And I was so. damn. close.

Those were the longest 3 miles of my life as I literally limped out of the forest. But I made it. I made it all the way to the truck. I didn’t even give up my pack, but carried it all the way to the end. I probably would have wept like an infant at the sight of that beautiful, majestic vehicle, but I was already crying and couldn’t tell. Leaning against the tail gate, finally relinquishing my pack, I realized that I had run out of tears, run out of thoughts, and run out of strength. Once my mind realized that it had got me here and could finally let my body rest, I went limp like a wet noodle. J helped me into the truck and out of my boots, but the excitement of my sparkly flip-flops was gone. Saddest of all was the time – it was now 10pm, those last 3 miles taking me somewhere near 2.5 hours. All the burger joints were now closed and the prize that had kept me going for so long was now unattainable… 😦

I sat in a daze all the way to the ranger station. I somehow limped to the car and stared into nothing all the way home. J was lecturing me on how I shouldn’t have pushed myself that hard, I should have stopped, we could have set up camp if it was that bad. Then he brought up something I was oblivious to at the time – my whimpering. The last mile and half or so, I had started a soft whimpering that escalated when I went up or down hill. I had sounded like the injured animal I was….which could have drawn predators. It’s very possible we could have had company out there – a cat, maybe more than one. We could have been in more danger than we knew.

I couldn’t process anything he was saying that night. I managed to get into the house and even stood just long enough to shower off the trail grime. I slept fitfully and had crazy dreams all night…

And there you have it. Despite the best efforts of both Justin and that whore Mother Nature, I survived. And you know what? I loved it. I loved every minute of it. I can’t wait to get back out there. Ok, no, I don’t want to do that exact route again, but it was amazing to spend that kind of time out in the wilderness like that. To know that your day is about hiking, covering ground from here until you get as far as you can. I loved that.

I taught myself a lot on this trip, too. I proved to myself that I can do anything I put my mind to, even if that means pushing myself to extremes I never dreamed of. And I can push my body beyond anything I thought myself capable of. What a wonderful feeling that is! Day 3 was 16 total miles, 8 of those being from Pistol Pass down to Eureka Creek. I hiked 16 miles in one day! Over terrible, awful, hellish terrain! I was so proud of myself. So proud! My mom can’t believe I thought that was fun, that I did that on purpose – and want to do more long trips like that. But it’s something I can’t explain, that feeling, the endorphines, that high I get from the physical accomplishment – everyone has their thing that gives them that rush, that giddiness, and this did that for me.

And! on a side note, my first ever 3-part post! That counts for something, right? Or just means I’m way too long-winded. The latter? Well, that’s alright.  It took me forever to be able to process all this and get it down in words, but we have it – my tale of the weekend J tried to kill me, and how he DIDN’T succeed!


Day 3 stats:

16 miles total (5 from Clint’s Cabin to Pistol Pass, 8 from Pistol Pass to Eureka creek, 3 from Eureka Creek to the trailhead)

Elevation gained: 3000 ft;
Elevation lost: 5000 ft;
Body parts left on the trail: none that I know of!

Labor Day Death March – DAY 2!

20 09 2012

In case you missed Day 1, click that link and get with the program. Are we all ready? Moving on. 

Day 2 started out…cold. I was super snug in my sleeping bag, but hadn’t slept all that well. And as I woke up (way earlier than I had planned), I had a problem: my stomach seriously hurt. Unfortunately, I knew what had to happen. I took a deep breath and whispered J’s name. Amazingly he woke up and peeked out at me from his cocoon. “J, it’s Time.” He looked at me super confused as I unzipped my warm, cozy, oven of a bed. I finally had to nudge him out of the way since he had yet to move away from the door. “Where are you going? What’s it time for?” I slipped into my boots and out into the trees.

My first major accomplishment of the trip: my first-ever poop in the woods! You think that’s funny? Have you ever had to go poo in the woods – as in no outhouse, no Port-a-Potty, dig your own hole kind of deal? I have gal pals who can’t even PEE in the woods. TMI? Too bad. I was tremendously proud of myself; this was a milestone. Yay for me!

And then I couldn’t go back to sleep. So I popped in my contacts and puttered around taking care of all my morning duties (no pun intended) – retreieved the bear hang, ate breakfast, made my lunch for the day, repacked my pack, brushed my teeth. Lazy Bones J was still sawing logs in the tent while I was chilly and fighting a righteous headache. I headed up to the lake shore and waited for J to get up, stretching my stiff muscles. Nothing like early morning yoga watching the sun rise over a high-alpine lake. J finally woke up and we were soon ready to get back on the trail.

unmaintained monument trail, Pasayten Eureka Creek WA

Unmaintained trail from here on out – caution all ye who continue forth! (Oh we’re continuing all right!)

We circled the lake and came to a tree down, blocking the trail. This was it: the end of the maintained trail – nothing beyond this point had been kept up for the last 25 years or so. Woo! Around the huge tree we went, and started the vertical ascent to the top lip of the glacial bowl we had slept in. The trail wasn’t much, but obviously used. We trudged up the steep grade and finally summited the saddle. My breath was literally and figuratively taken away. Valleys are peachy keen for pansies who like it on bottom, but no valley bottom has a view this incredible.

Above Fred Lake, Pasayten Wilderness WA

Reached the top! These views are totally worth the grueling climb! (This is facing the way we just came up, with Fred Lake down below me.)

Towering peaks rose to greet us on all sides, their slopes giving way to tumbling valleys stretched out as far as we could see. Whoa. The morning sun warmed the air and we stripped a layer before continuing. We dropped down to Doris Lake and met a bunch of different groups. Good thinking the night before – it was crowded up here. I was a bit bummed, to be perfectly honest. I come out to a remote wilderness…only to be surrounded by people. J assured me we would soon pass the throngs of people – most came here to climb this awesome series of peaks – Osceola, Carru, and Lago. I hope to work up the cahones to do that one day….

Osceola, Carru, Lago Peaks, Pasayten WA

Left to right: Osceola, Carru and Lago. And Doris Lake to the left, under Osceola. How cool to climb these bad boys! (And please ignore any weirdness in light – this is a stitched panorama…)

We lost the trail after leaving Doris, but knew the general direction to head. J was leading (since I had been fired) and we dropped elevation fairly quickly, through lush meadows broken by the odd stand of trees, babbling brook and patch of shrubs. I slowed us down a bit when the trail got sketchy, but I couldn’t help it. I was still getting used to the weight on my back changing my balance. Finally, we made it to the very bottom – a dead end up against Shellrock Pass, and the headwaters of Eureka Creek. I’ve been to the end of Eureka Creek, where it hits Lost River, so this was pretty cool to me. Shellrock Pass, however,was a different matter….

Shellrock Pass, Pasayten WA

Ah, Shellrock. The pass is up to the left. We traversed that nasty rock above the tree line. It was hell.

The morning was close to over and we had a long ways to go. First order of business: conquer Shellrock Pass. Up we go (again)! We crossed huge rock slides where marmots and pikas chirped at us, scolding our every step. The bottom of the rock slides was a kind of marshy area with several puddles. Soon, the massive rock faces glared at us from all sides – we were eye-level now, baby. Looking across, we could see a couple of people traversing one of the slopes. I couldn’t help but be impressed – there’s no trail up there, nothing to even guide you…in fact there’s nothing. You are fully exposed, just you and the sky and a wicked drop-off.

The trail intensified and I soon received a slap in the face from old Shellrock – my first test. The “trail” was in loose, nasty, gravel-like rock and was traversing across the slope. So to my right: steep slope up; to my left: steep slope down. I was going pretty slow, picking my way across, when my boots slipped. I froze in place, not wanting to throw myself further off balance. I finally managed to pick up one foot and then the other and take a few more steps, carefully placing each step and testing it before putting my whole weight on that foot. Then the trail became a bit washed out and my boots slipped again. I grabbed for the up-slope, but there was nothing for me to hold on to. I’m not afraid of heights at all, but in that moment, I panicked and became terrified of falling down that slope. I became frozen with fear and cried out when a shift in weight caused my boots to slide further. J had turned around to see what happened, and I think he freaked out a bit – not necessarily at my position, but at me freaking out at my position. He’s used to this sort of thing, he knows his boots might slip but will catch. And he’s a mother-loving mountain goat. But I’m not. And I don’t know that my boots will catch. And I do know that it was a hell of a long way down, and that my only choice was to keep going. J couldn’t save me, or even help me really – I had to get myself out of this. I wanted to come on this trip, I wanted to do this, so it was time to get my act together and man up. Leaning into the up-slope, I shuffled one foot forward a bit. Then the other. I finally got one foot solid enough to stand back up and took the last few steps to where the trail widened and flattened – sure footing. I heaved a huge sigh of relief and stood for a moment, trying not to look down. J probably thought I was still stuck, since he was still coaching me: “You’ve got this, you can do it, you’re doing great, just a little farther…” I gave him a weak smile and started walking again, slowly, placing each foot more precisely than before.

Shellrock put me to the test, shoved me right out of my comfort zone and tried to break me. Too bad, Shellrock, I beat you!

Shellrock Pass, Pasayten Wilderness, WA

Thanking my lucky stars with each step, now that I’m on trail that isn’t try to kill me. Nothing like living on the edge!!

We made it to the top of the pass without further incident, though I was slow. J was freaked out by how quiet I was and filled the silence by telling me what a rock-star I was (ha) and that I was almost there, and that the rest of the day would be downhill. As the trail peaked and I was finally on top, I dropped my pack and let my shaky legs rest. We ate our lunch surrounded by this harsh beauty. I was glad I was on this trip with J and had a whole new appreciation for his abilities. He related a story of his own not-so-wonderful trip to Shellrock as a teenager – a trip in which J’s cousin dubbed this ShellShock Pass. I heartily agreed that was a much better name.

Shellrock Pass, Pasayten Wilderness, Monument Creek, WA

Looking out from ShellShock across towards Many Trails, Lost Peak and Three Pinnacles. We’re headed down, down, down the valley.

We descended the other side of ShellShock into a marshy area full of flowers, a few trees, and water. It looked like a park. The little tarn made for a great camping spot, so I dropped my pack and settled in for a little rest while J checked for campsites. My mind wandered delightfully as I gazed around this little oasis, idly stroking the little purple flower next to me. By the time J got back, the sweet breeze in my hair and sun on my face had just about put me to sleep.

Tarn under Lago Peak, Pasayten Wilderness

Apparently, this is called a “tarn”. Don’t make me pronounce it…my redneck shines through….

Stumbling up and back into my pack, I fell into step behind my fearless leader. We didn’t have far before another break, but my mind was whirling the whole time. By the time we reached the junction for Butte Pass, which J was going to quickly run up to grab a sign and run back down, I was a wreck. My tired, convoluted female brain had convinced itself that J’s silence and quick pace were sure signs that he was not just pissed for letting me come along but pissed to the point that I would never get to come on another trip ever again. Well, great! And just when I was having SO MUCH FUN. (Turns out this was, in fact, all in my head.)

wilderness signs, Pasayten Wilderness WA

Old signs, pointing the way

We stopped so J could run up to Butte Pass and I kicked my boots off for a bit. Then my over-active imagination took over and I started turning every sound into a potential bear attack. I laughed at my silly self but put my boots back on, just in case. I had no idea how long J was supposed to be gone, nor did I have a watch, WHERE THE HELL WAS HE?! Convinced he had been eaten by a bear, I was ready to go hunt for him when I saw him jogging back down the trail. (Seriously. Jogging.) Whew! He wasn’t eaten! (J said this wouldn’t be where bears would hang out anyway. Now he tells me.)

Back down the valley, more pretty scenery, and we start chatting again. I’m amazed at how well the trail has held up, after all this time. J tells me stories of other wilderness trips. We had much discussion around the day’s destination and finally decided that today we’re going to stop at a campsite called Clint’s Cabin instead of trying to make it all the way to Lake of the Woods. We had already lost too much time throughout the course of the day, and a longer Day 3 would be better than pushing too hard and hiking after dark. Now that we’ve got that settled, I no longer feel like I should be pushing my legs as fast as they’ll go. Yay!

Not much further and we reached Monument Creek. We hadn’t followed it long before we stumbled upon something peculiar: rusted out old stove parts. Like super old. Maybe from mining days? Then I saw a faint trail that seemed to head toward the water. Hm, guess I better see where it goes! It did indeed lead down to the creek, it’s waters running over super cool rock slabs. You could see evidence of how gnarly the creek could get in spring. J joined me and we explored a little farther down, stumbling upon the coolest spot – a perfect swimming hole! We knew we didn’t have much farther to go and plenty of time to get there, so….. Skinny dipping time! Well we couldn’t very well get our only clothes all wet, without being in camp to hang them dry, now could we? 🙂

Monument Creek, Valley bottom, Pasayten Wilderness WA

The light was terrible for pictures, but I instantly fell in love with this secret little swimming hole.

Probably since I was bragging on it earlier, the trail soon started getting much harder to follow, once we finally returned to our hike. Ok, so realistically this was due to the fact that we were now in the bottom of the valley, and there’s more vegetation to grow over it, more trees to fall across, etc. We crossed some little streams and completely lost the trail…as we emerged from the trees into this amazing meadow dotted with aspens. Looking up, I realized it was probably the very bottom of an old avalanche shoot, but whatever. Who cares – it was gorgeous. There was this serene hush over the whole place, broken occasionally by the rustling of the aspen leaves. J about left me as I dawdled in this magical spot.

avalanche shoot, Monument Creek, Pasayten Wilderness WA

I expected to find some fairy rings or elf houses or something. It was like a scene from a Disney movie.

Then I heard him shout. Wait, what? More noises sounded like something in the trees, and I rushed to catch up. Would I finally get a wildlife sighting? Was my bear finally here to eat me? Yes and no. The critter we startled was a huge porcupine, lumbering off with his quills at attention. He didn’t go far before he must have decided we weren’t a threat, and he turned to look at us, sitting up on his back legs like a circus dog. What an amazing animal! I never knew how BIG porcupines can get! Doesn’t take much to impress me…

More trail, more pretty trees, across the creek, hey! there’s a cabin! No, for real this time! Well, it used to be a cabin. I didn’t even have to ask if this was Clint’s Cabin – there was a sign! Those helpful Forest Rangers. We tossed our packs and started poking around. I got the filter and water bottles and started looking for a way to get back down to the creek. Tomorrow we would be covering a lot of ground with few chances to fill up our water, so we were trying to hydrate as much as possible beforehand.

Monument Creek at Clint's Cabin, Pasayten Wilderness WA

Man I love this creek.

All the awesome rock that the creek had carved out made some crazy little cliffs, and I had a great slab to sprawl out on while I pumped water. Such a sweet place. Clint did a great job picking out a spot for his cabin – I would LOVE to have this backyard! Finally I headed back and J already had much of our camp set up.

Client's Cabin, Monument Creek Trail, Pasayten Wilderness WA

Home Sweet Home. Well, for the night. Thanks, Clint, whoever you were!

The sun was going down and we put an extra layer on. Then J gave me fantastic news: we were having a FIRE tonight!! The site already had a rockin’ awesome fire ring – off to gather firewood! In no time at all, we were snuggled all cozy-like on a nice log bench soaking up the toasty fire glow.

Oh, but J wasn’t done – he made the evening even more spectacular. While I lounged and played in the fire, he cooked us a romantic freeze-dried dinner, complete with some candy for dessert! I may be a hopeless romantic, but this was whole scene was getting me all mooney-eyed and full of butterflies. J even found a freeze-dried dinner that didn’t have any kind of cream or other dairy, since I’m lactose intolerant. How thoughtful! (Or that was for his own safety. Either way, still gets him bonus points.)

Clint's Cabin campsite, Monument Creek, Pasayten Wilderness WA

JRock building us a fire to cook me a romantic dinner with which to woo me. It worked.

Full, warm, and happy, I crawled back in my sleeping bag, once again scooting over as close to J as I could get. What an awesome camping buddy! I drifted off easily, slipping into a dreamland of aspens and fairies and porcupines…..and that’s the end of Day 2!

Day 2 stats:

About 11 miles total;

Elevation gained: 3500 ft; elevation lost: 2000 ft; near-death experiences: 1.


Shellrock: 0; Kalista: 1


The Labor Day Death March

16 09 2012

…also known as “The Weekend Justin Tried to Kill Me.”

…or maybe even “The Best Weekend I’ve Ever Had.” It’s hard to pick. They all apply.

So just what kind of torture did I endure, you ask? Only my favorite kind, of course: hiking!  This was no normal jaunt down the trail, however. This was a 3-day wilderness expedition, complete with unmaintained trails, burly mountains, and full packs. And before you start harping on ole JRock for dragging me out and trying to murder poor little me, know one thing: I begged for this trip!

Oh, you heard me. Begged. Three-day weekend, and I needed out. Out of the house, I mean. Away from my desk, away from my chair, away from this house, AWAY. A case of summer-time cabin fever, feeling swamped at work, and too much time at home by myself. So J agreed to take me out with him.

If you’ve been around awhile, you might remember this time last year – J and I celebrated our 1-year anniversary atop a mountain, on my longest ever hike. This trip would get to double as a get-me-the-hell-outta-the-house trip AND our 2-year anniversary back-packing trip!! (Awwwww…) The trip would also trump last year’s and become the new Longest Ever Hike (for me).

I went into this trip knowing a few keys points: I would be covering more mileage than I ever had before, and I would be doing it in some of the most brutal and unforgiving country out here. (insert gameface) BRING IT. I was so pysched to get out and push myself; let’s see what this chick is really made of!

Saturday morning started off well. We made it up to the trailhead at Hart’s Pass, which was a plus since I’ve failed at this before. Day One would be fairly mellow in terms of terrain we were covering, compared to what was in store. We headed down, down, down, dropping elevation as we cruised down the valley of the middle fork of the Pasayten River. This cruise lasted for about 8 miles, miles we filled by practicing Spanish vocabulary (Me: como se dice “bush”? J: “arbusto” Me: Me gusta el arbusto!), discussing the summer of fun (“did you see my killer dance moves at A and M’s reception?!”), and dreaming of our future (“and when I finish the teleporter and become a billionaire, where should we live first?”). There were also times we would both lapse into silence, drifting off into our own heads, entertaining our own wacky brain trains for awhile. This would occasionally result in hilarious random word vomit as one of us would suddenly spew forth random sentences which the other had absolutely no clue about. Even more crazy is that the recipient of this would often add a completely unrelated comment stemming from their own internal conversation and we would both once again retreat into our internal mine shafts. I seriously wonder how I make it out of there alive sometimes….

We met several groups of people out enjoying the weekend. One group was a wilderness leadership group out for 18 days – now that’s intense! Another group of a couple dudes was headed the same direction we were, and we leap-frogged down the trail, re-passing each other as we stopped for breaks at different times.

Pasayten Wilderness, North Cascades, Washington

Down the trail we go!

We reached the bottom of the valley and had the pleasure of hiking alongside the currently calm waters of the Pasayten River. In spring, the river rages, but this time of year it’s content to babble along the rocks, singing us a sweet song as we marched along with it’s beat. With the calmer waters, we had no problem crossing and stopped on the other side, in a nice meadowy area for lunch. The surrounding forests, open meadows, and towering peaks piercing the sky all around made for some beautiful scenery – as usual. No, I will never grow tired of the awesome beauty of Mother Nature’s work out here.

At one point, we came upon a campsite that J checked out, only to find a trail leading up the bank on the other side of the river. Of course, we dropped our packs and rock-hopped across the water to check it out.

Trail to stock camp, Pasayten River, WA

What’s this? A secret trail? Better check it out!

We found a pretty old stock camp from who knows when, which rang a bell in J’s noggin: there was a report of a cabin back here. Time to explore! We set off in opposite directions to see what we could find. I, naturally, caught a glimpse of it almost immediately. Until it turned out to be a tree. I headed across the bottom of an avalanche shoot and back into the trees and saw the real cabin. Until that turned out to be some shrubs. I got fired from discovering the cabin, which we never did find, and we finally headed back to continue our journey. (This was the second time I got fired – the first was for bad navigating. And all in the first half of the first day….)

Not long after this, we came to our juncture: one trail kept going straight, the other turned and headed up. I’m sure you can guess which way we were headed. We rested with a quick snack before the last 2-ish miles of the day. (Snack breaks are my favorite.) Then began the climb. The day so far had been cool and breezy, enough so that I wore my jacket most of the day. Not anymore. I was stripping all the clothes I could as I poured sweat with every step. The climb was steep, filled with switchbacks, but at least in the trees. Despite my intense heavy breathing and disgusting amount of sweating, I felt pretty good and kept on chugging along. As with most climbs, I was delightfully rewarded.

Fred Lake, Pasayten Wilderness North Cascades, WA

Wowzas, I like this place!

At the top, we came to a little stream running down – the outlet of the lake. Fred Lake, to be exact. Our day’s destination. A couple of gentleman were crouched at the stream, filtering their water. We stopped for a chat and discovered there were quite a few people up here. All but these guys had continued on, headed to Doris Lake. We had thought about doing the same, but we decided to stay away from the crowds in case there were no campsites left. Almost immediately within arriving at Fred, I started adding my layers back on. A brutal wind was whipping down from the peak, chilling the air quickly. I had grand plans to soak my feet in the lake and rinse off my filthy legs, but only one leg got dipped before I decided I’d rather be dirty. Brrr!! I raced back to camp and shimmied into my long johns. We set up camp and ate dinner, huddled against the wind. I had serious doubts about making it through the night.

Fred Lake, Pasayten Wilderness, WA

I was freezing. I have on every piece of clothing I brought, plus J’s rain jacket. J put on a light jacket and hat. Show off.

Finally, out came our food – dinner time! J and I each brought a dinner for the trip. I had made a cold pasta salad for us, which immediately became Day 1 Dinner since the cooked pasta was heavy. Oops. But it was delicious and lightened our packs! Then J fired up our little stove and made some hot apple cider. The sun was still up so we headed over to the lake to enjoy the view and drink our cider, warming our souls and bellies before getting ready for bed. He even let me hold the pot (which we were drinking the cider straight out of – we don’t need no stinkin’ cups!) so the heat could seep into my cold thighs.

Despite the beautiful setting, we hustled back to get everything prepped for the night. J tried teaching me how to make the bear hang (a bag with all our food, etc, so bears couldn’t get it and so it’s not in the tent with us in case they try), but I was shivering and just wanted in my sleeping bag. Yes, knot, ok, four feet from tree, right, a bunch of feet from the ground, sure ok, whatever you say, let’s go! Finally there was nothing left to do…so off to bed. Burrowed in my cozy bag as tight up against J as I could get without slipping off my thermarest, he poked just enough face out to kiss me good night. Happy Anniversary, darling. And that’s the end of Day 1!

Fred Lake Stock Camp, Passayten WA

Resort de la Fred, home sweet home for the night.

Day 1 Stats:
Start: Harts Pass; End: Fred Lake;
about 10.5 miles total; elevation drop: 2000 ft; elevation gain: 2000 ft.

***Editor’s note: I’ve been working on this post a heck of a long time. My blog has not been neglected, but I’ve been unable to publish. Writer’s block maybe? I finally decided to break out each day of this trip into separate posts so I could actually publish something. I don’t flatter myself in thinking anyone has been on the edge of their seat for weeks, waiting to see what I’ve been up to, but I wanted to just assure any who cared that I had not, in fact, been eaten by the monstrous spider who is STILL outside my bedroom window. Days 2 and 3 of the Labor Day Death March will be up shortly. Then probably another post right after that because I just have SO MUCH TO TELL YOU!!


Manly-Man ManFriend

3 06 2012

Boyfriend. What a stupid word. A male you are in a relationship with but to whom you are not married. Boyfriend. Ugh, so stupid.

I can’t exactly pinpoint why I hate this word. Maybe because it makes no sense to be. After high school, despite their immaturity, “boy” is not a correct label for most dudes. And “friend” – doesn’t the very definition of the term “boyfriend” imply more than simple friendship?

Well, despite time and again assuring you I don’t write about my significant-other-to-whom-I-am-not-married-but-am-in-a-serious-relationship-with, I am succumbing to my own selfish heart and writing about him all the same. Yes, this is a story of our most recent out-doorsy adventure, but this post is really about him. What warrants such a lapse in my usual avoidance of discussing my own relationship? Because he’s gone, that’s why, and I miss him and I’m lonely and he won’t be back for a week yet, meaning he likely will never see this post so he won’t read all the things I have to say about him. That’s why. And it’s my blog, I can write about whatever I want to!

Ok, now that I’ve justified my topic to both of us, I’ll get to the story. This particular hike actually happened last weekend, Memorial Day Weekend, and Justin had to work. (I’ve been calling him “J” in my posts because I thought he would appreciate the attempt at anonymity, but he’s not here, is he?)  Like last summer, I signed the necessary paperwork to be a volunteer with the Forest Service, so I got to go. The trail he needed to hike that day would most likely need some TLC that only a chainsaw can give, and as a safety precaution, no one can operate a chainsaw alone. I was his safety check.

Remember my adoration of the forest from our hike up Lost River? Well, this was basically the same forest, as we were just one valley over, heading up Reynold’s Creek. So I loved it just the same. And we really didn’t have all that far to go, a short day since our friends were coming in from Seattle later that evening. However, I was promised some crazy-cool waterfalls – my favorite!

When we arrived at the trailhead, I readied my gear while Justin talked to campers. I made sure no one was looking and checked my self out in the truck window. Let me just say, I looked like a bad-ass. No joke. Good hair day, black t-shirt, pack on my back like I meant business, and sealing the deal – an axe slug over one shoulder. Bad to the BONE.

Justin, as usual, was a step or five above me on the ladder of bad-assness, with his much-larger pack carrying way more stuff, his snazzy and intimidatingly official uniform, and of course the chainsaw. Whatever, I still strutted my stuff up that trail, just daring the trees to fall across the trail so I could whack ’em apart with my mighty axe.

Hiking along, I watched Justin’s back. He shouldered that chainsaw like it was nothing. And his uniform really does give him this air of authority. Then we came to the first log blocking the trail. A fairly small log, but one that needed to be dealt with all the same. I whipped off my pack and pulled out my gloves, thinking I would get to swing that axe I’d been hauling around. Before I even had both gloves out of my pack, Justin was in position, telling me to get my earplugs in.

Oh, right, we weren’t in the wilderness, and we brought the chainsaw to use, not just look cool. I stood back a bit, stuffed the plugs in my ears, and watched as Justin yanked the cord and the chainsaw revved to life. Bracing himself, he went to work. Within minutes, he had cut the log in pieces that were easily rolled away to clear the regulated width of trail. Repacking his tools, he was ready to go again before I had my unused gloves back in my pack.

Right, I’m just supervising, I knew that. Before long, we came upon two more logs, one fallen straight across the path, the other at a dangerous 45 degree angle, caught in the trees on the other side of the trail. This would take longer, as the diagonal tree would need careful handling. So I settled on a rock with my trailmix where I could help watch for falling limbs and such, but be out of the way of danger. And I observed.

People say women tend to fall for men similar to their fathers, or father-figures in their life whom they admire. I totally believe this. My dad and brother planted opinions in by brain as a young girl of what a “man” should be like, and so naturally, that’s what I look for in a dude. “Manly” in my opinion is the rugged, outdoorsey type, like the Marboro man or Clint Eastwood. You know the type. Strong and capable, they always get the job done and done well. They are (usually) well-mannered but rarely show emotion and certainly don’t waste words on nonsense like “feelings”. Okay, Justin isn’t exactly like a John Wayne character, but he does exemplify “manliness” as I was taught it should be.

I mean just look at this:

forest ranger clearing trail Okanogan National Forest

What a beast!

Then came the tricky part:

forest ranger safely using chainsaw Okanogan National Forest

Working on the tricky tree – glad he knows what he’s doing!

I don’t worry about him, because I know how he is. He’s a stickler for doing things the right way, and if he’s going to do something he’s going to do it well. (This is super awesome since I don’t worry well…) Don’t these pictures just scream MANLY?!

There’s another part to being manly that a lot of people seem to forget about: how to treat a lady. I’m not much of a “lady” – I’ll be the first to admit it – but I feel more feminine in the presence of all that manliness. He’s sweet to me, bringing me wildflowers, helping me with the dishes, asking me to volunteer for the Forest Service so I can spend more time with on the weekends. Things like that make me miss him like crazy when he’s gone. But he’s gone because he’s on a 9-day back-packing trip through the Pasayten Wilderness – off being manly.

I never did get to use my axe that day. I should be grateful all the hard work was left to my man, but I felt my bad-assness slipping away from me. I finally got to help clear debris from the trail and got my shiny new gloves dirty. We stashed the chainsaw on the wilderness border, since there was no point carrying it where we couldn’t use it, and I really felt lame without my axe. But the roar of the swollen river below us soon directed my attention elsewhere AND I was rewarded with my promised waterfall. Justin and I ate a lovely lunch on the bridge at the bottom of the Beauty Creek waterfall – how romantic!

Beauty Falls in the Okanogan Forest

My sweetie-pie 😀

See why I can’t seem to call him “boyfriend”?? There is nothing “boy” about Justin. He’s my “manfriend”!  My manly-man-friend. My manly-man manfriend!!  😀

Finding Lost River to Eureka!

20 05 2012

Ok, so maybe I didn’t really find Lost River as in “discover” it, nor was it “lost” and needed someone to locate it, take it by the hand, and bring it back to its mommy. However, I’ve know Lost River existed (mostly because of the Lost River Winery!) and I’ve never come across it before. So when we drove up and I saw the sign marking “Lost River” I yelled a nice “AHA! I have FOUND you!” and in my convoluted way of thinking, I found Lost River.

This story, though, is not about my discovery of yet another beautiful river. We drove down the road and there it was. Boring. No, no, this story is about my little hike along side Lost River and the inevitable mishaps along the way. And what was at the end? Eureka!!

Let’s set the story up first. It’s a normal Tuesday night after volleyball and J asks if I’d be up for a hike the next evening. Could I work early so I could get off a little early in hopes of avoiding hiking after dark? Of course I could! What fun! So Wednesday at 4, I whipped up a quick dinner to go, grabbed my pack and met J at the Forest Service office in Winthrop. He, of course, had a hike all planned out and there was not a second to lose! (Cue dramatic music)

About 45 minutes up to the trialhead and we’re ready to go. We already crossed the bridge where I “found” Lost River and I am so pumped to be out in the woods on a random Wednesday after a long day at my desk. Keep in mind that we never do a “normal” hike, there’s always some element of challenge to it. We’re climbing straight up a mountain, we might have to traverse a massive snowfield, there’s the possibility of needing to ford a river where we might die of dysentery…you get it. So I waited for today’s challenge.

“Alright, so it’s about 6 or 7 miles round trip, nice and short, but we only have about two – maybe two and half – hours of daylight. So we’re going to have to book it.” J is looking at me expectantly and I now know why we’ve been in such a hurry. Well, what are we waiting for?! I put on my best game face and reply, “Let’s DO THIS.”

game face

This kid knows what I’m talking about!

By now, I’ve seen my fair share of forest. We hike a lot. Like a LOT. And being that we mostly hike in our own ridiculously beautiful backyard, you would think I’d be over it by now. Big trees, check, pretty undergrowth, check, usually running water of some sort, check, it’s all the same over and over, right?

Not to me. And this patch of forest we are now hauling ass through is my favorite yet.  There is just something more wild and untamed about it. Yes, I know we’re always out in the wild woods, sometimes even in government-designated wilderness, but here, here something is different. We’re cruising down a valley bottom, for one thing. Usually we’re climbing, climbing, reaching for peaks and summits. Today, we are snaking through the valley with the river, through heavy underbrush, over fallen logs, encased in tall trees and immense rock outcroppings. We can hear the engorged river off to our right, startled deer up ahead, and pissed off squirrels in the trees all around. Despite our full-steam-ahead pace, I gape at the uninhibited beauty of the natural world around us. This is why I don’t want to move back to Texas, Mom.

Monument Trail Lost River Mazama WA

J looks so tiny out here in my new favorite bit of forest!

We hike along for two miles or so, me yammering on like a monkey in a tree whether J was listening or not, probably exclaiming over every detail I found so astounding. Suddenly, the roar of water was much more than the river below us. Surely that must be a waterfall! I figured this was what J was excited to show me, knowing how much I love them. I was gloating over the knowledge of what great time we had made – man I’m an awesome hiker!! – not realizing that we were not at the end of the trail, but only about 2/3 of the way done. My gloating came to an abrupt halt as I came into full view of the lovely falls…and J rolling up his pant legs.

waterfall crossing Lost River Mazama WA

This angle makes me look like I have cankles. I’m sexy and I know it! (wigglewigglewigglewigglewigglewiggleYEAH)

That’s right, this was just a seasonal gush of water from the spring snow melt. And we had to cross it to continue down the trail. Hm. Ok, yeah, no big deal, it didn’t look that bad. J went first, hopping on some rocks. Then came the tricky part – no rocks showing above the water, just some slippery logs and powerful water. J picked up a long stick and start jabbing into the torrent looking for rocks and checking the depth. (He’s so smart!) He plunged ahead, jumping through the water and up the opposite bank. He made it look so easy, and barely got wet! My turn!

waterfall crossing Lost River Mazama WA

This is actually on the way back. He’s in the tricky part in this shot. I’m pretty sure I didn’t look quite this graceful…

I’m sure you’ve already guessed that of course my crossing didn’t go quite like J’s. I did fine on the rock-hopping part, then J passed me his jabbing stick. I poked around, found a rock that seemed like a good launch pad to the other side, and went for it. Let me just say, that water pouring into my boot was COLD. But I did make it up the bank without slipping, falling, tumbling or ending up at the bottom of the falls. Therefore, we’re calling it a success.

We didn’t exactly end up on the trail and had to crash through some wicked brush, only to find the trail now a stream of its own. My steps were already a bit squishy so I didn’t even notice if any new water made it in. And soon we were past the water and crossing huge rock slides. I don’t do well on these rocky slides. My klutziness might have a part in this. But J is a peach and slowed down for me on this part so I didn’t roll an ankle or trip and cause a massive rock slide.

The valley quickly started narrowing and cliffs towered on one side of us. Me being the rock-nerd that I am, I had to stop and examine the stone, the vertical walls. So cool! We saw a spring bubbling water straight out of the ground. I was close to my limit of how much awesomely amazing stuff I could handle in one day when the trail abruptly stopped. I was vastly confused – the river curved and the cliff went right up to the water. The trail just ended? Then I went to the edge to investigate and found my answer on the other side of the trees – the trail continued on the other side. Then I looked downstream and realized we were no longer on Lost River. We had just passed the place where this new stream joined Lost River – Eureka!

Eureka Creek at Lost River Pasayten Wilderness WA

Wild waters!

No, really, that’s the name of the new stream – Eureka Creek. And there would be no crossing it today. The bridge here washed out quite a few years ago, and even if you crossed in low water, the trail on the other side is brutal. (My trail guide, J, fills me in on these cool details.) I was happy to rest a minute on the remaining concrete slab before booking it back down trail.

Eureka Creek Pasayten Wilderness WA

See the trail on the other side? I won’t be crossing this creek today.

Maybe it was the liter of water I drank on the hike in or maybe it was the constant rushing water, but I had to pee. I told J not to look as I headed for the one tree at the very end of the trail, but instead of turning around he started shaking his head at me. No, no, that was too close to the water. Come on, now, didn’t I know the rules? (He won’t let me get away with nothing!) So I had a very exciting little scramble up the rock wall to a little patch of pine needles and brush to finally be far enough to relieve my bladder – 200 feet, in case you’re wondering. The way down was even more…exciting. Sheesh.

The way back was just as wonderful for me, with a new perspective and new things to notice. I love the woods. 🙂 The waterfall crossing was quite entertaining again. This time, I pretty much fell in and filled my boots right off the bat. I tried hopping up to the rocks, which didn’t work, and finally made it out dripping, with soggy socks and dripping pant legs where they were rolled up and pushed to my knees. What a sight.

Because we are super awesome, we did in fact make it to the car with a teeny bit of day light left. Even with my stops for photos, a pee break, and examination of new flowers, we made excellent time. And the best news? I kept up!! J didn’t have to stop and wait on me, and I wasn’t exhausted and ready to die. Ok, so it was maybe 7 miles, but let me have my small victories.


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