Autumn News

I recently made the decision to delete my Facebook page. I’ve thought about it for some time and have deactivated it for short periods in the past. This time, I am done. Already I feel a difference–a little more at peace. October was the perfect month for me to let go. I love October–that perfect blend of the last of the sunny days, the beginning of chilly nights, some much-needed rain that can be appreciated now (we will get tired of it in a few months here in the Northwest!). The colors are beautiful, nature is bountiful. It’s a time for a last burst of work in the garden, and then we turn inward–to cozy homes, cats on laps, good books, family gatherings, and introspection at the winter solstice.

Our year was full of ups and downs, as most are. For us, the last few years have seemed to bring far more downs, but there have still been good times. We did quite a bit of visiting this summer–two weddings, a small family reunion, a lovely trip to Alaska thanks to my wonderful Mom. We saw lots of family and some very dear friends who might as well be family!

At home, it was a quieter summer. I am still recovering from a shoulder injury in May so there wasn’t much in the way of hiking and very little kayaking. We had a particularly hot and smoky summer in western Washington, which also made for a little less adventuring. Our garden was mixed–decent on the veggie side though not as productive as last year’s, but pretty good for my calendula and chamomile crop (which, along with the nasturtiums, are still blooming).

We’ve finally been able to get out and about locally the last two months for some easy hikes, a light paddle, and some successful foraging for berries, apples, rose hips, and huckleberries. We found a great place for U-pick corn. Our freezer is full of goodies! There is something so immensely satisfying about a freezer full of food from your own garden and woodlands.

I’ll close with a few photos from October outings. On to November!

Of Knees and Trees and Too Much Rain

Way overdue for a post here, but I have to admit, I’ve been a bit grouchy. I don’t want to complain too much, because my Midwest and East Coast friends have had it way worse, but I am tired of our very wet, cool spring here in the NW. I don’t know why–we’ve been here for almost 30 years, but this spring has been mentally tough as well. Still going through challenges with Jim’s job/non-job. There needs to come a time when one must just move on, but then something comes up that gives hope. The back and forth makes planning for the future difficult; but then, that’s what this blog was supposed to be all about. How to deal with changes you were not expecting.

Along with the monetary challenges of a much-reduced income, we are starting to feel old. We can still do all the things we used to do, for the most part (I will never kneeboard again, but didn’t care for it much in the first place!), but we no longer recover quite as quickly. Last November, I had a fall due to a startled cat and possible overconsumption of wine. My knee was just starting to recover when we had a nice week of weather and decided to order 12 yards of dirt for our eco-lawn and gardening projects. After moving 11 yards of the dirt (half of it by myself) and then replanting 32 raspberry plants that our neighbor didn’t want (Jim had to dig them all up first), my other knee decided it was only fair for it to have time off as well. So much for spring hikes of any length or difficulty! At least, in this case, the bad weather has helped. I have not felt the need to venture out in one of the wettest Aprils in Washington’s recorded history.

We have managed a few shorter and/or easier ventures that have been quite enjoyable.

We’ve gone back to Bloedel (my mission is to go once a month–next visit is this Friday).  After two visits I am already thankful for having purchased the yearly membership. Such a lovely, peaceful place.

We made two other trips before the last rainstorm hit–one up the North Shore of Hood Canal to DeWatto and another to the Rocky Bay Conservation Area. The DeWatto trip was more of a leisurely scenic drive than hike, but perfect for my injured self. We first stopped at Menard’s Landing and then took the back road to DeWatto. Who knew we had our own ‘road to Hana’???? Complete with scary turns, cliffs, and grouchy locals, but not nearly as long or as crowded. We came home the easy way, past Tahuya. The DeWatto campground was closed for camping but we were able to walk around the campground and along the river. We hope to go back and kayak on the bay this summer.

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Our next mini-adventure was Rocky Bay Conservation Area. This was a pretty, easy hike that’s close by Belfair, Gig Harbor, and Port Orchard. Several people were out with their dogs, as it was a lovely day. We met one woman who paints rocks and hides them along the trail for the kids (and us adults!) to enjoy. Saw some salmon fry in the creek. The only drawback for this site is no bathroom. Still, I was able to enjoy this hike with little knee pain.

Today the rain finally let up and I was able to get back in the yard. Planted potatoes in old grain sacks (my recycling project for the day), and pulled bunches of alders and scotch broom. We had grand plans for our place when we moved in but the job loss has put most on hold. We have however, managed to get a good garden in and are slowly gaining ground. The slower process has let Mother Nature take a greater hand and it’s been very interesting to watch our great bare patch of dirt turn into a nice meadow with very little input from us. The deer love to hang out there and we even had a duck visit our seasonal pond/mud puddle the last few days. We’ve planted native flowers in one of the remaining bare spots, so am hoping to get more bees and butterflies. A little at a time, but it’s getting done!

Serenity at Bloedel Reserve

A few weeks ago, we made it out to Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island. Bloedel is one of those in-your-backyard sort of places that we always seem to put off. It’s going to be too crowded, it’s too expensive, it’s just a garden, we’ll do it another time, it’s not adventurous enough, it will always be there. I have talked about going for years but always came up with an excuse. I am so glad we finally went.

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Bloedel is not just a garden. It’s 150 acres of spectacular scenery, both wild and groomed, and full of life, even in the middle of February. We saw ducks, geese, a Pileated Woodpecker, and a number of smaller birds. Heard a raven and frogs. Saw a deer and a coyote. Flowers were already blooming–hellebores, camellias, primroses, and others. As beautiful as it was on the overcast, chilly day that we went, I can only imagine what it will be like in April or May.

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We enjoyed it so much that we went back to the admissions desk and bought a year-long pass for the two of us, plus two guests. Well worth the $100 (plus you get a 10 percent discount at the gift shop, which has a lovely selection of local art and things–and where else can you find squirrel earrings!). I plan on going back once a month to chronicle the changes throughout the seasons.

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There is lots of information on their website and at the Reserve so I won’t tell you all about it here. Part of the fun is reading about the history in the lovely home on the grounds. There are a number of special events throughout the year, or you can just go for a walk on your own. It took the three of us almost three hours (although some of that was in the gift shop!). We were constantly stopping to marvel at some beautiful plant or scene, but there were also people who live a little closer who use the Reserve for a brisk walk for exercise. I think I would do that if I lived on Bainbridge as well!

PS: Do be aware that pets are not allowed, and they will not let you keep one in your car while you visit (good for them!).

http://bloedelreserve.org/

 

Salmon at Twanoh

It’s been a pretty quiet autumn so far. We’ve had the normal shit going on and some illnesses and injuries to recover from. In fact, I am just getting over my latest injury. It finally happened–one of the cats tried to take me out. He bolted under my legs and literally knocked me off my feet. I fell and hit my knee and chin on the floor (always graceful). When he realized it was the food lady he almost killed, I think he actually felt remorse and spent some time trying to make amends. I now shuffle my feet whenever he is around.

We were able to get out for a few very local trips in the last few weeks. When one lives near Hood Canal, local is just fine. Especially at this time of year. Maples turning yellow and spreading a lovely carpet of gold everywhere (I can say that because we don’t have any and I don’t have to rake!). Mist rising off the still waters on the Canal. Birds of all kinds everywhere. And my favorite–the return of the salmon. Watching the salmon run is fascinating–both beautiful and sad. It makes me feel closer to nature to be able to witness such a marvelous thing.

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Twanoh State Park is the perfect place to watch the Chum Salmon returning to spawn. It is a little jewel of a park, right on the water. The campground itself is across the road, tucked into a narrow canyon with the river running down one side and a trail going up the river. On the water side, there is a big beach and roped off swimming area, picnic tables, restrooms, and a boat ramp. It’s a great place for camping, a short hike, a swim on a hot day, kayaking whenever the water is calm, and even just a quick stop to watch the sunset. And right now you can get a closeup view of the salmon. But do it soon because it will start to get a little smelly soon!

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http://parks.state.wa.us/294/Twanoh

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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Garden Bounty

I know I’ve been quiet lately. It’s been a difficult summer. Not in a catastrophic way, like our last few years, but one of those where so many smaller things pile up that it suddenly becomes too much to take, especially for someone with chronic depression. I haven’t had my normal outlet of hiking for some time. Jim got a bad burn on his leg early in the summer (luckily it has completely healed–even the scar isn’t bad) and I hurt my foot last month. We have been paddling a few times–lots of fun, but not as often as I would like. Last month everything seemed to happen at once and I got to the point where I just had to hold on tight and ride out the storm. I’m finally reaching the end of this one and my saving grace has been my garden (and having the time to be out in it).

Gardening requires patience. You can’t rush it. Even when it’s exploding with produce that must be picked, you can only go so fast. This gives the mind a break from life’s chaos. The combination of being out in the elements, working in the soil, smelling the vegetation, and slowing down has a wonderful soothing effect on the soul. I have a chair near the vegetable garden and often just sit and listen to the bees. Even watering can be a relaxing routine–Jim fills the cans for me as I water (though next year we will probably look into a more efficient system!)

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I have always enjoyed gardening, but this year it’s taken on a new meaning, as we can really use the food–it helps with the grocery bill! We are making an extra effort to not be wasteful and it’s paying off with a freezer full of goodies, plus lots of fresh meals. I have only purchased lettuce once in the last several months and haven’t had to buy tomatoes since mid-July. Sunflower seeds are being roasted today, tomatillos have been roasted and frozen, zucchini grated, kale leaves packaged, salsa and sauces made and frozen. Peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers are all going strong. Fall seeds will be going in soon.

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An abundance of fresh produce can encourage a search for new recipes. We’ve tried zucchini raviolis and lasagna, using strips of zucchini in place of pasta. Both are wonderful and the raviolis make a pretty spectacular presentation, especially when topped with a sauce of fresh picked tomatoes and herbs. Our simplest go-to recipe is to take whatever has just been picked and put it in a freshly made tortilla (super easy to make!).

Growing your own food is incredibly satisfying. I’m very lucky to have room for a big garden, but even a few potted plants on a windowsill, balcony, or counter will give you a connection to nature. Many vegetables grow well in containers on a patio or deck. Tomatoes and strawberries can grow in hanging pots. Herbs can be easy to grow and have so many uses in both cooking and beauty products (I use a rosemary rinse for my hair). You can start small and still enjoy the benefits!

Happy gardening to all of you!

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First Impressions are Not Always Right

This week we had an interesting hands-on experience of why one should not make snap judgements. We were camping at a state park here in Washington. We had settled in already and were relaxing in the campsite (with our tent and tent trailer) when a very large fancy RV pulled in a few spots down. They had the generator going pretty quickly and I remember thinking, I hope that doesn’t go on all night. Apparently there are rules in most campgrounds that state the generators should be off by a certain time–from what I hear it is 10:00 in many places but was 9:00 at this particular campground. We didn’t think much of it while going to bed, other than a mild irritation that it started up again later in the evening. We went to bed very early that night. Right after nine, there was a huge ruckus down the road. Swearing, yelling, an air horn that scared the crap out of us, and all kinds of hullabaloo. Other campers were indignant about this RV running its generator late at night. And I must admit, at the time I was kind of on their side. I like the peace and quiet of old school camping. But we didn’t get involved in the fray.

The next day we found out that the poor man who owned the RV turned on his generator that night because his wife had a severe attack of heat exhaustion. He was running it to keep the air conditioner going while he was trying to pack up his campsite late at night so he could get her home. Did anyone offer to help? Did anyone ask him nicely to turn the generator off? Did anyone ask why he was running it after hours? No, they started right in with the swearing and belligerence. He tried to explain that his wife was sick but was shouted down. Isn’t someone’s health more important than an hour of noise?

We all make these snap judgements at some time. It’s one of the big problems in our society. How dare that person buy a cake using food stamps, how dare you have an Iphone instead of health insurance, how dare you have a car that actually runs well if you are getting any kind of aid, how dare you this and that. It’s time we take a step back and use kindness as the first approach. Is there a reason for this behavior that we may think is wrong? If so, how can we help? If you have no idea of how someone came to be in their situation, maybe you shouldn’t put them down until you hear their story. And just maybe you shouldn’t put them down regardless of their story.

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The Elwha Loop

First of all, a big thank you to those of you who have stayed with us! We did not, quite, drop off the face of the earth–just had to sit back and weather the storm for a bit. On the plus side, Jim has made an incredible recovery from his second-degree burn. I really thought he might be out for the whole summer, but he has almost completely healed. As long as he slathers 50+ sunscreen on his leg, he is good to go!

One of latest adventures was the Elwha Loop just past Port Angeles. Because of Jim’s injuries, we haven’t done as much this summer and we were looking for something not too strenuous. This was a great hike–quite easy and very beautiful. A bit of a drive for us but easily done in a day.

One of the things that struck me most about this hike was how quiet it was. This is an easy hike in the Olympics, and we went on a Friday in late July–prime tourist time. And yet we saw very few people on the hike–just the way I like it!! Contrast that with a recent hike to Lake Serene in the Cascades, also on a July Friday, which was like I-5 at rush hour through Seattle. More on that adventure later! This is described on some sites as a heavily trafficked trail, so we may have just been lucky, or maybe some people are still not sure what’s going on after the removal of the dams on the Elwha. Whatever the reason for the lack of people, it worked out for us!

The trail itself was well maintained and shady most of the way (we also lucked out with weather and had an overcast and cool-for-summer day). We took the lower part of the loop to start and made the very short and definitely worth it detour to Goblins Gate, which is stunning! The color of the water is spectacular. Could get really crowded very fast, but we saw only two others people there. Perfect!

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Another detour worth making is the Dodger Point Trail to the suspension bridge over the  Elwha. This is another beautiful spot–nice place for a bit of lunch if you didn’t already have it at Humes Ranch. You can check out Michael’s Cabin on the way back, though it appears that local rowdies party there. The sign out front said you might be able to find remnants of spearmint in the garden. I just found some skivies and nasty old socks. I think someone had too much fun there. Lots of rat poop on the porch too, so be careful where you sit. You are more daring than I am if you choose to climb the ladder and look in the loft!

All in all, it was a good hike. Worth the drive. No blisters either!!

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Close to Home

Last week we took a short trip to Mason Lake with the kayaks. I had wanted to go to Twanoh, thinking that Mason Lake was just the slough out to the big lake. Beautiful but full of boats and often rough. Thankfully, Jim talked me into the lake. Little did I know the wonders of the lagoon and creek off to the left of the boat ramp. Lily pads, herons, ducks, flowers, and absolute tranquility awaited us. We even headed down a little creek, with a definite flow and a bit of a paddle back! Too far down and you lose your head in a culvert under the road. We didn’t get that far! But what a gorgeous day. Never underestimate the little secrets close to home. Sometimes the best adventures are fifteen minutes away.

That little adventure can be all that it takes to reset your balance in life. You don’t always need an exotic trip or an intense hike in the mountains. Take that path across the street, bike that easy trail you always pass up, kayak that little lagoon. Find yourself in those small moments of beauty and peace. Namaste!

 

 

#masonlake #kayakingadventures #stillwaters

 

 

Icicle Canyon

Jim and I had a very short but wonderful trip to Leavenworth just over a week ago. One night, two delightful hikes. We almost didn’t go, but I am so glad we did. Not only was it a good break from the constant drama that seems to be our life now, but it turns out, it also might be the last hiking we do together for several months.

I postponed a blog post about this until after the long holiday weekend, thinking that many people would be out either enjoying the great weather or attending services in remembrance of loved ones. But on Monday, my husband had a nasty little accident (honestly, no alcohol involved) with a fire. It had been going well but he got tired at the end and a little careless. He now has second degree burns on his left elbow, wrist, and a really big one of the outer leg, from just below his knee to a few inches above his ankle. He is lucky in many ways–it could have been much worse, but he had the presence of mind to stop, drop, and roll (yes, those childhood lessons do help) and he had a running hose readily available. Sadly, his hiking days are over for awhile.

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It’s been hard to start this post, but it is, after all, a blog about dealing with cosmic crap. It happens to all of us. I’ve been depressed this week (more so than usual), thinking about how our summer plans will be changed dramatically, but honestly, this kind of stuff happens to all of us. I just need to suck it up and move forward. At the least, I can share some words and images from our little trip–sharing some spectacular scenery (though from comments I’ve heard from friends, my husband and I may be the only people in Washington that haven’t been to Icicle Canyon before!).

Our first hike was the Eight Mile Lake hike. What an interesting hike! We saw mountain goats, chipmunks, and a marmot who posed quite a bit for us. Wildflowers were blooming in abundance (lovely to see as it’s still early here on the west side of the mountains!). The landscape is a fascinating glimpse of the incredible power of the elements. Earth, wind, fire, and water have been at work here, reshaping the environment. The water is flowing fast and furious and you can always hear its roar from the trail. There was still quite a bit of it on the trail itself but only a tiny bit of snow left way up by the lake. Cold and windy at the lake, but we managed to find a nice protected spot (near the marmot) for a quick lunch before heading back down. Ended the hike with some beautiful Western Tanagers flying around the parking area.

We took it easy the second day, as we had a long drive home ahead of us that afternoon. The Icicle Gorge Trail is a very pleasant four-mile stroll up one side of the river and back down the other. As with every “creek” we saw in Icicle Canyon, the water was raging, and spectacular to view! This day was warmer and not as windy so the bugs were out, especially in one marshy section of the trail. Once you got through that, it wasn’t bad at all. Again, lots of wildflowers everywhere, including an abundance of fairy slippers. We had lunch on a wooden bridge about halfway through the hike and spent some time there watching a water ouzel in the creek.

Honestly, you can’t miss in Icicle Canyon–everywhere you look it is stunningly beautiful. Lots of campgrounds and trails and climbing areas and river rafting (and on and on). An outdoor paradise for sure.

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