Comments Concerning Cairns and the Tedious Business of Huckleberries

Last month we found ourselves in Moab, Utah, for a week of hiking and quad/dirt bike riding with friends. I had my first quad trial by fire (i.e.; ride, which was supposed to be easy, except for the hair-raising ride up and down the incredibly rocky, narrow ledge that passed as a road) but prefer the quiet moments out in nature so Jim and I did some hiking as well. Our last hike of the trip was to the Fisher Towers along the Colorado River just NE of Moab. Stunningly beautiful territory and a hike we would heartily recommend to anyone planning a trip to the area. Do watch the weather, which comes in quick (as it does here in the NW). We were keeping an eye on some thunder and rain storms that pretty much split the formation we were hiking. (The lyrics from King of the Mountain kept going through my head! “Mountain in the shadow of light, rain in the valley below”–Midnight Oil). Wind was wild in places, and really caught everyone off guard as we came around a corner to one of the popular stopping points–from perfectly calm to wind that blew the glasses right off my face and sent someone’s backpack tumbling back down the trail. I basically dropped and clung to the bare rock for fear of following my glasses over the edge. But the wind did die down and Jim was safely able to rescue both glasses and backpack. The trail ends on a similar windy, bare, exposed rock with an incredible view. I crawled up it; Jim of course stood right at the edge.

This hike, in addition to being amazing in so many ways, was also interesting in that much of the trail is marked with cairns. We usually do relatively easy day hikes here in the Olympics and the only cairns I see on a regular basis are often found along our rocky riverbeds, where the rocks practically beg to be stacked. However, I now see exactly why experienced back country hikers hate to see cairns that are made for no reason. They really do make a difference is some areas. When you are hiking across hard, bare rock, they may be the only way to mark a trail. Randomly piling up rocks can send people off in the completely wrong direction. So if you love them, make one, take a photo, and then take it down, or make them in your own yard.

On a completely different subject, we returned to huckleberry season in the NW. These are not my favorite berries to eat right off the plant, but they are wonderful in pancakes, muffins, and other such things. They are also free and in great abundance on our property. With our meagre income, who are we to turn down free food? On the flip side, free is not necessarily easy. I see why someone in the area is charging $9 for a half-pint of the berries. After several days of picking and sorting (which is way worse than the picking), I think she was undercharging! They are lots of work. But my stash in the freezer is growing and I will keep at it until they are gone for the year. We will all be glad in mid-winter! Tomorrow we tackle the mountain of green tomatoes in the kitchen.

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