Little Adventures and a Big, Black Bear

I wasn’t supposed to be there. It had seemed like a brilliant opportunity, a chance to greet my love unexpectedly. But as I stood in the hospital lobby, watching his familiar vehicle like a hawk through the window, facing the shackled prisoner in his wheelchair (just in case), I faltered inside. I was as worried as I was excited. Is this okay? I stood there trying to become more pillar than spring. When the moment came, my smile was real, but I couldn’t connect. My spontaneous mission was successful, so why did I feel like crying?

That was yesterday in Portland. But it’s the other way I want to go, out of the city, and I have. I’ve not been idle. My adventures haven’t fallen away with the leaves. I’ll show you.

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Sunday was my happiest day in recent memory. After a home cooked breakfast, Carter and I didn’t pack much more than a leftover Thanksgiving pie, but he drove us along the old highway in the gorge, partially reopened post-fire, and we began at the end. The end (for now) is Bridal Veil Falls, raging and powerful. We got quite the high! It felt so good to be in our old stomping grounds again. Then, parked across the street from the Latourell Falls trail, we ate the last of the cranberry pie while the windows fogged up. Already wet and without proper rain gear, but not really caring, we stepped back out to visit the less powerful, but often more photogenic waterfall. Heart and soul satisfied.

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We kayaked the Clackamas North Fork Reservoir. He shared his little bottle of whisky with me. Best whisky ever. I can still taste it.

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I went on a solo road trip to meet my newborn niece in Spokane. Couldn’t resist a solo walk while I was there as well.

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My brother rode home with me on a business trip and we stopped at Horsethief Butte to boulder around a bit when I just had to get out of the car.

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But this last part, this is the first thing I did. I got a bear. A big, black Bear of a Labrador from my local shelter. My husband’s husky could really use a friend to help with her energy level, and this big puppy does the trick. There are some major adjustment issues going on at home even a couple of months later. Husky jealousy is no joke. But now I have this doe-eyed love bug who lives to play ball. He makes me happier to come home. (In this photo, his ear fur was still growing back. He’s on a limited ingredient diet while I’m trying to identify his allergy.)

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~River

 

 

 

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Gone Waterfalling

No one has ever seen this waterfall before. I discovered it. This is an original photo. Well, one of those is true. It is my photo, but one like hundreds of thousands taken before. This is a waterfall everyone knows. This is South Falls at Silver Falls State Park in Oregon. This is where Carter and I started five miles of the Trail of Ten Falls, having hiked the other three miles the year before.

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You may have noticed there isn’t much flow. Did you also notice we had a dry summer and the whole state caught fire? Except maybe this little bowl right here. Not that part. Not yet. The water was low but our spirits weren’t.

When we hiked the North Falls section last year, there was a trail marathon the same day, which was why we kept it short. This time, I checked the park schedule before trying to convince Carter to go finish the loop with me that Saturday instead of cleaning his shop. I told him that sounded like a Sunday job. He only pretended to drag his feet.

It’s a big beautiful park and an easy hike packed with, you guessed it, ten waterfalls. We skipped the side trail to Frenchie, I didn’t like the deck overlooking Drake, and Double was on this particular day pathetically drippy. But let me show you Lower South Falls…

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It kept getting better with every step forward, behind, around…I wonder what it looks like when it’s raging. I’ll have to go see!

And then it poured. Even though we had brought our rain jackets, we were wearing jeans and got soaked. We didn’t regret it a bit and I was grinning as it came down on us, really enjoying my first Oregon rainfall of the season. Soon it was wet on the inside of my sorry excuse for a rain jacket as well. I’ll take care of that by and by.

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After a half hour of the determinedly steady shower, it let up and we found a merely damp spot under a tree to devour our lunch of naan bread wrapped around various delicious dips and pastes from our wonderful dinner out the night before. I made puzzled faces at the caramelized onions, but I didn’t quite object and they slithered down. The walnut paste was worth it. I hate onions.

Middle North Falls was at the far end of our loop and the last new-to-us waterfall we’d see that day, but it was being upstaged by a tree, a chained tree, a dead chained tree. I stopped, I gawked, and another hiker standing there was wondering the same thing. What did this tree ever do to be sentenced to eternity chained?

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There are no dogs allowed on the Canyon Trail. When it was one little dog, I didn’t really notice. When it became several large dogs, I had to speak up. I didn’t feel good about it and the group of young hikers ignored me. It’s rare for those encounters to go well. That experience stayed with me for a while and I considered how to improve the odds, but they still aren’t great.

Back at the lodge, not really wanting to leave after waiting so long to come back, we indulged in a drink. I had cider and he cocoa. For me, sitting there together after hours of golden leaves, heavy drops, many steps, and light falls, it was the best part.

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~River

 

 

 

Meeting Mount Adams: Day 5

So I have this cartographer, Carter, if you will. Though he does offer to carry my pack from time to time (not gonna happen), this incarnation of carter expands my horizons and marches me all over our northwest map, perhaps someday beyond. My world is bigger now. That was never more clear and solid and present as when we woke up that last day ready to face anything. We came, we hiked, we experienced, and now we were both ready to come down peacefully.

I didn’t hike all the miles I came to hike, but I challenged myself, pushed my limits, and learned from it. I’ll be a better backpacker for it, starting with the luggage scale I picked up back home.

But we weren’t finished yet. We raced the rain clouds to pack up, a fun but ultimately unnecessary game, and crossed our moody little creek toward the PCT. Southbound, which at this point on the trail jogged westward to the junction that would let us drop down the side of mountain, our backs to the disappearing peak, down Stagman Ridge with its crying trees, back to the truck.

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This section was new to us. We had taken a shortcut over to Lookingglass Lake on the way up, remember? My interest was piqued, my step fresh, and my eyes clear and calm. It was dusty, ashy. There were roots and I tripped. There were little burnt trees with their tops curved over the trail, arches I rarely had to duck and Carter often had to go around.

When we reached the junction with the Graveyard Camp trail, we finally closed our loop and lingered at the creek one last time. Oddly, I wanted to leave it less than the meadow. Its water had just tumbled down from there, after all. It was the last tangible connection with the heaven above us. But we weren’t really going home yet. It wasn’t really over. And we continued our dusty way through the morning sun, across hundreds of tree shadows, and through a charming fireweed understory.

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We were fresh on our feet all the way down, unhurried. We were content to plod along, look around, listen to the birds and notice all the flowers going to seed. Our last surprise was that the thimbleberry bushes we’d failed to notice at the outset were perfectly ripe, a very sweet end to the last stretch of sunny trail before reentering the shadows of live firs just uphill of the trailhead.

In Hood River, Carter finally got that beer he’d been craving and I got that goat cheese pizza he’d promised, though we weren’t feeling depleted enough to enjoy it to the fullest after resting the day before. Then we did something new we’d both been looking forward to. Instead of going our separate ways, we made our way to our favorite hotel to recover together. Not a lot of recovery was required, but the shower, the real bed, and the (Day 6!) morning after a trip were things we’d always had after saying goodbye. We could reflect on it together while he sipped from the fishermen’s fly mug this time, and it was special. It will make a great addition to the tail end of our longer adventures.  It made going home easier, if surreal.

Here at the end of September, I’m asking myself now what?

~River

Meeting Mount Adams: Day 4

The light woke me and I rose automatically, but only to pee and take a quick look at the sky. The giant beside me slept on and I crept back into my warm bag. I would stay there, though he rose. I would stay there, though the sun climbed. I would stay there until called out, enticed by coffee, only to sit up and accept it in bed. I was still exhausted.

I struggled to decide what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go, or even to determine what I was capable of at the moment. It was a mental struggle, not a physical one. Physically, I was one big NOPE.  One more hour in bed for me to decide, I reluctantly agreed. I closed my eyes and considered my options.

One, we could hike out a day early, as the giant had a powerful beer craving. Two, we could make the short hike back to the lake. That way, I’d at least be doing a little work today and we loved it there. Three, take a zero. Stay here. Relax. Recover. Rejuvenate. Sometimes I try so hard to give him what he wants, or what I think he wants, that I lose sight of my own desires and needs. But after half an hour, with the sun’s rays gently encouraging me as fully awake as I could be, I had finally decided what I wanted for myself, and felt better for it. I was as ready to leave the mountain as I was to put my pack on. We weren’t going anywhere, he was accepting, and I was relieved.

After a great muesli breakfast, there was plenty of time to take a slow, thorough approach to chores. My water filter needed some serious attention. The silty stream hadn’t been kind to it, but I babied and backflushed it back to health. Here’s a look at what backflushing just the tube water produced.

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I don’t remember how we filled an entire day, but we never got bored. We snacked, we coffeed, we chored, we lounged, and we listened for the mountain. But today it was quiet under a gentler sun and the sky gradually turned gray.

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Since it looked like rain, my giant wanted to change our sleeping arrangements. I spread out my tarp as a groundsheet on a more level section of our large site and he created a shelter above it with his larger tarp, some lines, and three of our poles. Just as he finished, the first drops came down. With our books, bags, and cozy shelter, bring on the rain! Our guests had long gone and we had the stormy meadow to ourselves this one last time. We would cinch the tarp down tighter for nighttime, and I would peek out early in the morning to check for stars. They were there.

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~River

 

 

 

Meeting Mount Adams: Day 3

If I could wake up to that view every day, I’d be tempted. There he was, my big draft horse of a man with his bad bear personality, sitting on a log in camp while making our morning coffee, staring up at the misty mountain in his thick wool cap. I’d woken to paradise, but we weren’t to linger. Today we would walk the PCT.

The stream was no longer the warm, low friend of the day before. The water had risen, was carrying more silt, and was cold. But it was still just a small hop, so over and out we went. Having scouted the junction on my own the day before, I swung to the right without pause and we began to rise away from the meadow.

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We climbed steadily in the growing warmth. Already we were thankful for the colder stream water against our backs. There were many steps up over sharp, upward-facing rocks installed on the trail. Even though we hadn’t been hiking long, we took a short break in a patch of shade, listening to the bees and watching several thru-hikers pass by. Where had they all been last night when we had Horseshoe Meadows to ourselves?

There were plenty of wildflowers to keep us company and so many large rock formations that we didn’t have a clue beyond mileage which was the Bumper, which was the Hump, and which weren’t named at all. We certainly didn’t care. The big rocks we could identify were mountains which, beyond the fascinating new view we were gaining of a different slope of Adams, we could barely see at all. There were obvious places where hundreds of hikers had stopped to photograph the neighboring cascades. St. Helens, which was so covered in smoke it could have had a top hidden under there. And Mt. Rainier, which would have been a magnificent shot, you could barely make out the base of, just an impossibly long line with the promise of invisible grandeur.

We stopped at what felt like the highest point of our route at what might have been midday. We were hot! The only view was in the foreground, a few leftover huckleberries in the bushes at our feet. A family of young men and their father caught up with us and were aiming around the mountain, but today, they were headed near Sheep Lake, like us. We moved on and left them our break spot. I kept expecting them to pass us, but they didn’t catch up until, after a dozen dried up used-to-be-somethings, we finally arrived at the lake, if you can call it that.

It was a stagnant pond. We didn’t want to drink it, we didn’t want to camp by it. So much for being done for the day. We looked at the map. Riley Creek was close by, and a short way beyond that, the Riley Creek trail promised a nice camp beside the water. Onward we went, tired and more than ready to take off these heavy packs. Too heavy, we realized, but far too late to do anything but carry them.

Riley Creek was a clear beauty, and we were relieved to find such fresh water so soon. The trail passed over and beyond, curved around to the left, and offered us Riley Trail. We descended into a greener, wetter world with healthy, mature trees. We were very tired, but appreciated the cool lushness of it all. We crossed the creek again and passed a number of naked posts, perhaps meant to mark the trail in soggier seasons. Riley Camp was not on the trail at all, but across the creek again in its own meadow. Silly Camp, we found you!

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Just to the right of the photo, we dropped our packs in the shade of a sticky Noble fir and dropped our butts on the ground next to a big sandy hole perhaps dug by a coyote. We looked inside first. We had some lunch, refilled our water, and refreshed ourselves in the creek. We liked it here, but it was just okay after spending time at Horseshoe Meadows. We were ashamedly underwhelmed, were feeling much better, and there was a whole lot of day left. We were too far behind schedule to consider adding the Riley Camp loop back into our itinerary and knew we’d be headed back down the PCT tomorrow anyway, so… We were crazy, but we decided to go back. Now.

I should’ve known what I was in for when that first climb back out to the PCT was a push. At the time, I was just pleased that I did it steadily in one go. Heading south, pleased that I was getting such a good workout today and that I was doing the kind of mileage I originally intended to test myself with on this trip, we set off back down the PCT. I was a north and south bounder today. Before I realized this was an uphill both ways journey, I enjoyed the kinder, gentler, afternoon light.

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There was nothing I was missing, nothing I needed. My heart and my pack were full, too full on that second one. I was walking my favorite trail and it was no longer blazing hot. So what was wrong? I was dead on my feet, that’s what. My shoulders hurt, that’s what, and stopping to lift the weight off and give them breaks didn’t help a bit. I knew this was as much a mental battle as a physical one, but recognizing that didn’t mean I had a game plan. Lucky for me, my boyfriend did. He was just as exhausted as I was, but he started asking me questions about my favorite things to get my mind off my body. It helped to a degree, but I struggled to gather my thoughts. The answers wouldn’t come. He said we were on the last climb on half a dozen climbs, until I giggled despite myself. I didn’t care anymore if it was the last climb, but I wanted to hear him say it was.

When we could finally see the meadow again, I barely believed it. When we collapsed back onto the same ground from which we first rose so well-rested that very morning, then I believed it. I wasn’t moving for a while. I’d been dreaming of our dinner for miles, but sitting on my ass to recover was my first priority. It was 6:40.

Slowly, I noticed the camp opposite the trail from us was occupied. Then a thru-hiker, pack light as can be, a marvel to me, came through the meadow obviously looking to settle down, but respectfully moved on when he saw us. I wanted to catch him, call after him, but I sat and did nothing. My brain was working, but my body wasn’t ready to cooperate. He turned around after a few minutes and this time I called him up to us. We offered him the semi-private space adjacent to us and he took it gratefully. He propped up his tent with his trekking poles and wandered off to take pictures. I never saw him eat or drink, just heard a wrapper inside his tent, so I don’t think he carries a stove. I felt guilty, though ravenous, as we cooked our fragrant dinner: sauteed garlic and Spam with peanut-lime sauce over ramen noodles. It was so good!

We did the minimum of evening chores in the dying light. I didn’t wash my face or brush my teeth. I couldn’t get into my sleeping bag fast enough. I woke in the night and gazed at the star-bright sky, relieved that I didn’t have to move.

~River

Meeting Mount Adams: Day 2

I woke with relief to a lightening sky, thankful I’d no longer need to try and sleep. It was the morning of the eclipse and we planned to stay until it was over. We had lots of time, days and nights of time if we wished, to do nothing but enjoy each moment. Not-Stoic made us some instant coffee, which was better than it sounds, and I sliced up the sharp white cheddar I’d brought, suspicious of its softness, while he heated more water for the rest of our apple crisp breakfast.

Full, I did some minor packing on our side of the lake while Not-Stoic wandered around the other with his camera. But only our spot had the gentians.

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He had a weighty surprise for me and pulled out his cooking pot to melt up a disk of Mexican chocolate in sweetened condensed milk. I enjoyed taking turns sitting and stirring, waiting for the puck to thin enough to break. The only cramp I got all week was in my hand while stirring that chocolate with a spork. It was the thickest, richest chocolate I’d ever tasted, like a warm candy bar in my cup.

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When we finished taking photos of the eerie changing light, and watching a crescent sun on my skin through a pinhole in a square of plastic, we packed our bags leisurely, already letting go of some planned miles to better enjoy the scenery. In fact, we hiked a maximum of two and a half miles on Sunday! That’s right, we slaved and huffed and puffed ourselves all the way up and over to Horseshoe Meadows, admiring wildflowers along the way. When we dropped our packs in the first convenient place to take a break and look around, it was such a beautiful spot, Not-Stoic suggested we stay the rest of the day and night to enjoy it. I had no agenda other than to be where and with whom I was, and happily agreed.

I had plenty of energy and explored every use trail in the vicinity, every possible camp spot, and kept anticipating thru-hiker company, since we could see the PCT junction from camp, but it never came. A few people passed by, but no one stayed. I went barefoot up and down the warm, sandy-bottomed creek, which felt amazing. My barefoot prints are all over the campsites and Round the Mountain trail at the edge of the meadow. So are many, many hoof prints, not only from the few deer we saw and heard on and off early and late, but from horses, shod and unshod, on and off trail, but we saw none.

Eventually, I settled down for a snack and we had little mountain bars while listening to the rocks rumble and move up above, cracking like thunder and creating clouds of dust near the peak.

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We cowboy camped under the stars, that great big, clear sky with its many constellations, tracking the satellites and bright, streaking meteors. I slept surprisingly well, feeling safe even out in the open. We didn’t know it yet, but we had a big day tomorrow.

~River

Meeting Mount Adams: Day 1

It didn’t feel quite real when Stoic, who says he hates that name, picked me up from home. Surely we’d be back by tomorrow. But no, we were free to move about the mountain all week, just like we’d planned. We rolled through our own tiny town for breakfast on the way, and I sipped from a mug with fishermen’s flies painted around the rim, then he drove us further east to lands that felt both familiar and unknown.

I was on the lookout for hikers hitching to Trout Lake from the Bridge of the Gods following PCT Days, but there were none. When we arrived in Trout Lake, there were several thru hikers sitting on the porch of the store, and I suddenly felt very conspicuous in my very clean, very new aqua Columbia shirt. For the first of many times, I noticed our packs were twice the size of theirs…

After a wrong-road detour because I wasn’t paying attention and ignoring Google directions because they were silly, it wasn’t far to the trailhead, but it was packed full of vehicles. Surprise! But throughout the morning, we saw half of their passengers hike out.

We were there. It was starting. See you in five days, great adventure truck. I filled out a wilderness permit and, just like that, we entered the shade of the canopy. I struggled almost immediately. The extra weight of my pack was pushing on that damned nerve again and I was hurting from the hips down. Even after adjusting a couple of times, I couldn’t relieve the pressure. Stoic, who needs a new name, suggested I shorten the torso length and that saved me. It wasn’t easy to do with a full water bladder in the way, but it was done. Thank you for your incredibly calming influence when I was frustrated, partner.

Now I could hike pain free and go up, up, up, out of the shade, into the sun, along Stagman Ridge covered in grasses, blooming fireweed, ripe huckleberries, and an endless ghost of a forest. The Cascade Creek fire of 2012 had no mercy and left no survivors. As we climbed, we began seeing many, very sticky, young noble firs taking on the task of reforestation. The wind moaned through the gray, charred trunks and sounded like a woman crying. I kept stopping to listen, wondering if the eerie sound would keep me up at night. I kind of hoped it would.

Speaking of Cascade Creek, we eventually met its west fork at the Graveyard Camp junction. This was the shortcut we’d been looking for. Only one more mile left for us today! It would take us across several creeks before reaching our overnight destination. I soon learned that just because it’s shorter doesn’t mean it’s easier. We hopped over the first creek easily enough, and the next couple were dry, though we had to descend and climb back out of their tiny canyons, hot and tired and slow. Expecting the last crossing to be a challenge, I was surprised to find this little delight instead. We were enchanted and stopped to take several pictures.

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But it wasn’t the last creek crossing. So when we reached the easternmost fork of Cascade Creek, we were in for a surprise. Stoic had been smelling gunmetal for a while and was confused until we saw this comparative monster.

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We saw no other water like it, but the red rocks high on the mountain tell its tale all the way down. We changed into our sandals for this crossing and it was ice cold. I highly recommend using poles for this one. I was concentrating on my footing, but grinning on the inside. I love these!

Satisfied that this was the more challenging last crossing we’d expected, we kept our sandals on and clipped back in. Lookingglass Lake should be just up and over the other side. And it was. More than that, the perfect camp spot was immediately at our feet. No need to hike around, at least not before dropping our packs. We had arrived and it was more beautiful than I had hoped. The light kept changing and I couldn’t stop taking pictures.

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There was a clear inlet stream beside us as our water source and a grassy area just the right size for our pads and sleeping bags. We’d brought our hammocks, but were doomed just to carry them around since all the trees were dead. This first night of our vacation, he set up the tarp overhead, reminding us of our first night together, up on Mt. Hood four Augusts earlier.

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The wind didn’t howl or moan or cry, but still I could not sleep. Oh, well. I was happy.

~River

 

 

Muggy Meadery

We crossed the Columbia twice to get to camp. First we rose over the Lewis and Clark bridge and, later, after the dog drank from a dirty fountain in Clatskanie and my husband did not, we crossed again from Astoria.

The park was a zoo, the registration booth surrounded by RVs and cars trying to squeeze between them. I was surprised to hear they were showing up on a summer Sunday without reservations and actually getting in. When I chose a site online, the campground map showed us next to a small lake on one side, but it didn’t show the road and booth on the other. Was Cape Disappointment aptly named this time?

We packed dinner, but got so hungry on the drive that we stopped for takeout on the way, and we sat down at our picnic table to devour every last morsel by five o’clock. The chicken strips were funnily shaped, as if plucked from a Dr. Seuss illustration, trailing curly tails.  Later, we would share a bottle of mead, a rare treat, while sitting by the fire and covertly observing the Canadian couple in the site beside us. I enjoyed it more than he, but we will try different flavors since he found a horde in a store back home. Honey and apples and spices, oh my!

His little tent went up quickly in the grass, and we wandered down the park road to find a trail we haven’t walked. Finding ourselves at the bottom of McKenzie Head, we started up the hill. Off a side trail was a small and crumbling concrete building. There were holes in the walls and half the roof had fallen in. It would be an oddity if we didn’t know we were so near an old battery. We found it at the top, and entered…

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Despite the obvious camping opportunity, we decided to stick it out in the tent. And in spite of the cooler temperature at the coast, it was so muggy there wasn’t much relief, and no wind. However, there were an abundance of fighting crows before dark and an army of raccoons to sniff and brush the tent walls after, which is alarming and exciting if you’re a dog. Before first light, an angry fog slowly pelted the rain fly with tiny droplets in the thick air.

After packing up in the morning, we were back on the trail, this time to North Lighthouse. I was right to be skeptical of the difficult rating. It was undulous and rooty, but never hard. I didn’t take a single photo of the lighthouse, but we stayed to endure the noise of the unexpected restoration crew, watching lines of low-flying pelicans rise and dip with the swell while we snacked on ‘paradise’ trail mix before quietly heading back.

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It wasn’t far north to Long Beach, a town with history and memories for us, where I hunted down a walk-up chowder joint for lunch. Although we were feeling sleepy, we parked for a quick walk on the beach. The trip just wouldn’t be complete without it.

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I got to play with my new adventure camera on this trip. It fits just right in my hand and now I won’t be draining my phone battery on walkabout. Uploading the photos to my chosen program is a thorn in my side that is slowing me down, but that will be remedied.

One more week to Mt. Adams! I’m excited and scared. It will be a dream.

~River

Abandoning the Apoc-Eclipse!

New maps spread out on the bed in our adopted small town this morning, one of us read hike descriptions aloud from a book while the other followed along on the map. Stoic and I are leaving on our first long backpacking trip together in two weeks and planning it all over again. You see, the upcoming eclipse has kicked us out of Oregon.

Incidentally, we were going to be in the path of totality. Since the predicted crowds spilling over into the back country have grown along with the wildfires, we’ve decided to skip the double trouble and abandon our last-night-out cabin reservation.

So what will it be? Goat Rocks? Mount Adams? Indian Heaven? Those were the three main contenders of the morning. Mount Rainier requires advance permits and we’d rather do St. Helens in spring or fall. Our beloved Mt. Hood is still too close to the action. We chose trailheads and pieced loops together, logged mileage and added up elevation. We are leaning toward the mountain and looking forward to rising up to meet it. I can’t wait to say hello…

~River

All Over The Atlas

Due to a minor dairy explosion and my reparatory actions, Stella smelled like a sour latte, so the family wanted to take my husband’s cushier sedan to Idaho instead. Fine! It may seem counter-intuitive to go through OR while traveling from WA to ID, but it was the fastest way from our Columbia River border town. Alongside 395, we managed to secure the biggest and best caramel apples in existence, and I ate my juicy prize over an entertaining game of cards that night at my brother’s near palace in Spokane. Yes, that’s right. WA to OR back to WA before ID. North Idaho, specifically. It makes sense. I promise. Don’t hurt your brain.

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Tuesday we walked the shoreline of Lake Pend Oreille. I was pleased that I could identify the dried up plants, but rather sorry to see them spent. There was recent fire damage among the pines from perhaps only last year. I admit it was too hot to hike, and the troops wore out quickly, but they rallied when the kids accidentally discovered a geocache. I hid it better when we were finished adding to the tiny notebook.

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Our hotel was at the northern end of the lake, and after struggling to find a place for breakfast, we spent all of Wednesday at Silverwood, the local combination theme and water park. When I say all day, I mean we were there from just after they opened at eleven and rolled out at eight. Not knowing what to expect on all the rides added to the experience. We all really loved it. The only thing that stopped us was exhaustion. We could easily spend all day in the water park side alone, but my flayed toes wouldn’t thank me.

We were ready for something tamer the next day, but finding breakfast was again a challenge. I didn’t want to return to the dirty restaurant we’d already tried, so I asked for advice while purchasing an Idaho atlas (because I was sure we’d lose phone service at the lake). Everyone in Idaho was very friendly and helpful, but when it comes to the first meal of the day, they’re at a loss. They don’t eat it.

I had thought we’d drive all the way around Priest Lake, exploring the Upper Priest Lake area as well, but the atlas told a different story. We stopped at the state park store, where we bought drinks and unexpectedly found a nice handmade set of consignment hot pads, then parked by the water to enjoy the pretty granite beach. We stood at the end of the dock watching the waves in the wind. I was mostly content with staying ashore today, but the water was calling. Before moving on, I gave the girls a bear encounter primer and we blended into the forest for a short while. It was hot in the shade and the trail got sunnier and sunnier, so we turned around. I emerged embarrassed, however, for I slipped and fell off a log bridge!

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As the road turned to gravel, I wisely held my tongue and we arrived safely at our next stop, a beach on the northern end of the lake where the kids went for a swim. I spent the hour relaxing on the sand, thinking I needed a whole day of doing nothing, not just an hour. But there was more driving ahead, and it would be a long slog home. I’d save that thought for tomorrow, and set my sights back on Spokane and and its orange kitten tonight. Paddling Upper Priest Lake was not to be.

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We didn’t rush off. Spokane held us a while longer. Riverside State Park was an unexpected gem that made me wish I had more time to offer it.

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I hugged Washington’s lower curve all the way home.

~River