Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway

Lately I haven't felt compelled to share play by play's of specific trails or even trips. I'm much more interested in using this blogosphere to ask and work through big questions. The internet, and social media especially, is at an all time low point of interest for me. Everything is overrun with a fury of negativity (note: annoyance) that seeps its way into my bones if I allow it.

Creating a distance between myself and the interweb is downright necessary. After all, the most notable thing to happen to me on the internet since More Life hit 200k all time views was my ex boyfriend's latest girlfriend stalking my Instagram. Hardly riveting.

It's impossible to avoid the rampant negativity running amok on the web. Even my blessed trip reports on the Washington Trails website, something I've started my mornings with almost every day for five years, are full of complaints. The frustration is palpable and at times entirely relatable. I too am sick to death of overcrowding in the outdoors and mingling with new hikers who have zero respect for the basic rules of Leave No Trace. This past weekend on a dispersed camping adventure along the Cowlitz River, we were absolutely horrified by the amount of trash we encountered. Amazon boxes, piles of soiled toilet paper mere steps from the water, shot glasses and broken bottles. Facing the reality of increased recreation on public lands is fucking terrifying. 

Because of this, I haven't made hiking as much of a priority this year as in others past. Aside from being outside -you know, when it's peaceful, and therapeutic- my greatest source of joy is quality time with good friends. If the pandemic taught me anything at all, it's how furiously and profoundly I NEED the company of my people.

On that note, I want to share some belated photos from Jasmin and I's early June road trip along the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway.  If you're considering a trip to the area or the Sawtooths in general please feel free to comment or contact me for specifics regarding our route and itinerary. 

Immediately proceeding our adventure, I hit total burn out between a roller coaster relationship, my mom's Parkinson's diagnosis, and my beloved companion Mac's intense decline. I warned Jasmin that I'd probably burst into tears repeatedly without notice. The breakdown I expected never came, though. This trip was nothing short of total respite and life affirming joy. Jasmin has always been a light house for me, a safe shore. We've managed to have an ease-filled, high reward friendship for more than 15 years. We both thrive in zero pretense environments and almost no one makes me feel as accepted and supported as she does.

Traversing 1700 miles in 6 days, we cut across Oregon to explore the very underrated state of Idaho. As an absolute hot springs hound, I've had my eyes on Idaho for a few years. I've discussed it with a few different people, but when Jasmin let me know that she had a flexible schedule and wanted to adventure together this Summer, I threw out the idea of hot springs hopping in Idaho. She immediately agreed and got to work researching an area she knew absolutely nothing about. BE LIKE JASMIN! Say yes to random and lesser known things! Everything else is crowded anyway...

Idaho City, Idaho. A true relic

An old mining cemetery

A taste of the magic we encountered, including a butterfly migration


My favorite hot springs of the trip

This hot springs was too crowded for my taste but gorgeous regardless

You simply can't capture the Sawtooths in a photo

Such a memorable dinner on Red Fish Lake for Jasmin's Bday

See my last blog for more on our hike to Norton Lakes

Stanley, ID. An immensely groovy town

Headed to our private hot springs soak



Shoshone Falls. INCREDIBLE

Pinnacles near Shoshone

Beautiful incense cedar- one of many new-to-me plant and tree species encountered in Idaho

The winding, scenic byway we took from Boise to Ketchum was flanked with towering pines and constant views of the Payette River. We visited four hot springs in two days, three of which bordered the rushing river and offered alternating hot and cold dips.

Stanley, Idaho was somethin' special; from our 8am private hot spring soak inside an old barn to discussing wolf sightings in the catch-all tool and grocery store. We passed a hot afternoon drinking in the local watering hole among men who looked like part of the crew who stormed the capital, all while the jagged mountainscape loomed through every window and bison heads peered down from the walls. An immensely unique and memorable experience that I will never forget.

Our road trip to Idaho has inspired me to let go of my preconceived notions towards less visited parts of our country in favor of  experiencing wild zones that aren't oriented towards tourism and capitalism exclusively. I'd much sooner go back to Idaho for a trip around the Northern hot springs than return to New York or even a national park at this point.

Jasmin put together a very fun video of our trip, which you can view here 

Plus-more musings on the bounty of female friendship here

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Hiking in the Sawtooths: Norton Lakes

 
 
Transporting back to exactly a month ago, on the fourth day of Jasmin and I's road trip through Idaho, where we embarked on our first-and only-hike in the Sawtooths. As luck would have it, I broke my toe (?? questions remain, doctors were not consulted) the day before we left. Folks, you can't make this shit up. I iced the blue and purple digit religiously for the first few days of our journey and taped 'er up for a necessary jaunt into the Sawtooth wilderness.
 
 
 
While staying in Ketchum, we chose a moderate hike to nearby Norton Lakes since I wasn't sure how the toe would fair. It proved an excellent choice as the trail wandered through alpine forest, fields of robust sage, and creek crossings that kept the incline interesting. We were baffled to not see a single bear (or three) in what was so clearly bear heaven. Meadows of wildflowers and a fully stocked lake of rainbow trout danced in speckled sunshine below the cliffs of Norton Peak. 


This was one of only two times I've felt the physical affects of altitude. I relaxed and caught my breath at the lake while Jasmin ambled on to check the next ridge. There's opportunity for fairly high elevation views here in Washington, though nothing like the 14'ers of Colorado. Even Sunrise-the highest point accessible to cars in Mt. Rainier National Park-is only 6400 ft up. In comparison, we topped out at 9200ft of elevation on the Norton Lakes trail. 


We were grateful to complete this out and back early in the day before temperatures sizzled their way back into the 100's. While planning our early June road trip to one of the sublime hot spring capitals of the US, we had no idea what was to come weather wise...

Flowers identified: silky lupine, spreading dogbane, heartleaf arnica, manyflower stickseed, dark throat shooting star, wedgeleaf draba, and rydberg's penstemon.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Dad Days of Summer

This Summer my Dad is back on his park host grind after a year off due to the pandemic. He's 2.5 hours from me in Estacada, Oregon so we met up three weeks ago for an inaugural midpoint hike at Cape Horn in the Columbia River Gorge.

A portion of the Cape Horn loop closes seasonally for peregrine falcon nesting, so we turned this into an out-and-back. Immediately we were greeted by fields of 4-6 foot tall cow parsnips- later identified by my PictureThis app. 


PictureThis is the only app I've ever paid for and truly one of the great joys of my life. I have so much fun adding pictures to the "My Plants" section and coming back to it again and again to study and learn about the species I've come in contact with. 

Just a week after this hike, I was listening to an episode of the Ologies podcast with Black Forager. She talked at length about cow parsnips, and I just about squealed with delight. It was very exciting and affirming to actually know what plant she was referencing and to hear her wax poetic about it. Highly recommend a listen.

We were lucky to catch the last few blooms of a handful of gorgeous early season wildflower specimen including toughleaf iris, candle larkspur, columbine, and tiger lily (pictured below). 

Looking forward to more Dad days of Summer with Pops so close to home. We both love the Columbia Gorge area, but perhaps a central Oregon adventure or trip to Rainier awaits as well.

Turning to nature and family (both chosen and blood) as I navigate some really difficult times. I said goodbye to my 14.5 year old dog Macaroni this past week, and I've been an absolute mess of grief. I miss him so, so much. 

More to come soon when I can focus my brain for longer than a 10 minute post. One of my besties and I embarked on an incredible road trip to the Sawtooths in Idaho earlier this month. So many photos and thoughts to share from that restorative trip. 

For now, here are some past posts worth diving into. In the next day or two I will hit 200,000 all time views on this blog which absolutely blows my mind. Thank you so much for coming here to share in my ruminations about hiking, writing, and staring into the abyss. I love you.

More on the Columbia Gorge

My first trip to Zion with Dad

My first post on Blogger - April 2017



Thursday, May 27, 2021

I've Changed My Mind

 

So much of life is how we define and present ourselves. Even to ourselves. Our identities can be held captive- not only by the most well intending of friends and family, but by us. Cultivating and sharing our identity can trap us in titles and beliefs that seem disingenuous to change abruptly. But actually, most self discovery is exactly like that- sudden bursts of realization and breakthroughs from which there is no turning back.

We desperately need to normalize changing our minds. This requires checking in with ourselves as often as possible about what we truly want and need. Asking tough questions, being willing to shock and even offend our previous thoughts and beliefs; statements and promises we've made with total conviction. Agreements, contracts, and commitments we made and now find doubt or disillusionment in. Stepping out of the shadows where we hide our most eccentric parts and allowing our ever evolving desires to see the light of day. Practicing saying "I've changed my mind" without needing to explain ourselves further in every instance.

It also means that we have to learn how to receive and accept the sometimes painful reality that everyone else will change their mind as well, even if they turn away from us in the process. Somehow we have to grow closer to an ultimate understanding that nothing is promised or set in stone, whether emotional or tangible.

“We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person.” 

-W. Somerset Maugham

In the chaos of self development and expression our truest selves can be pretty easily overtaken by outside noise, trends, and comparison. Often we default to wanting a version of something we've seen modeled to us already. We can be shaped by representation: what we see in the lives of those around us, or in the specific media we consume, rather than pure self discovery. 

Stripping ourselves of the programming of what "success"or "joy" means is hard to do when we're bombarded with imagery of what they look like for everyone else. Cultivating wildly unique dreams and goals that aren't pre-programmed takes sincere effort and an immense amount of confidence.

We have no idea how passionate and committed we can be- towards a person, interest or pursuit, until we discover it. Following a track laid out for us by example can feel safe and even good until we're exposed to something that rocks our spirit in an undeniable way. The more random our passions or ideas, the more suited they are to guide us on our personal journey.

Trust yourself and your instincts- even if you contradict a previous version of yourself in the process. Everything is temporary. It doesn't necessarily feel secure to acknowledge the constant change we are capable of, but it should definitely feel liberating. There is a limitless bounty of paths your life can take. A new one can start any time with the words I've changed my mind.


*Photo: Otter Falls*

Thursday, May 20, 2021

April and May

 

A beautiful day on the Hood Canal

High Steel Bridge overlooking the Skokomish

Weekly nature walks with Mac and Aga

Blue poppy

Rhody season

From the top of Mt. Walker- 2000ft eg in 2 miles

I live for the fruits of this season

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Better than Fiction

  

Life long reader here. Convinced that most people who "don't like" to read just haven't found the right book/s for them yet. One of my greatest joys is the art of selecting a specific book for someone. Really, my love language is literary.

I'm a lover of all genres, though all books are not created equal. In fiction especially, it's all too common for a book to start strong and captivating then fritter into something less than cohesive or enthralling. A story that loses its grip and becomes a thing I want to rush through in order to get to the end.

Because I HAVE to get to the end. I've always been this way with books, despite the fact that I've walked away from sooo many false starts and half done's in all other areas of life. I feel strangely indebted to the author. Imagine the tremendous sadness of a novel discarded and forgotten! Pushing through can be rewarded with a twist at the end or a spectacular finish but not always. 

 

Unlike my reading habits, I want my life to be interesting until the bitter end. I want it to be unusual, wild, supple, and captivating in its bleak and best moments. I can't settle for anything less. This life simply can't be a 3/5 on Goodreads. I need the absolute, consistent freedom to change my mind and my course at any time- even if all it goes is delay some inevitable destiny.

"Joy is not made to be a crumb."  

-Mary Oliver

Unlike a work of fiction, I don't imagine a grandiose or even succinct ending. Just a finite string of interconnected moments and discoveries, a story that begins and ends in an infinite middle rather than some standardized arc with loose ends tied up in an unrealistic bow. I want my life to read and feel like poetry rather than narrative. 

"Even more than bread we now need poetry, in a time when it seems that it is not needed at all." 

-Leon Staff

 

In this strange and uncomfortable era of COVID I've dived deep into apocalyptic literature. I've always been interested in sci-fi themes, but somehow reading about the end of life as we know it has become comforting in both a comparative and preparatory way. 

A few of my absolute favorites:

Station Eleven by Emily St. Mandel 

Severance by Ling Ma

Everything Matters by Ron L Currie Jr.

Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Desert Notebooks: A Roadmap for the End of Time by Ben Ehrenreich


*Photos from Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in Nevada*

Friday, April 2, 2021

Fresh Eyes

 

Post vacation blues are real but there's a funny antithesis to them as well- a reacquainting with the norm. When you return home familiar things are ripe with temporary novelty. Your car feels different after driving another. Suddenly you appreciate the lighting of your home, how 7am hits different than it did in another place. Your space, and in ways your life, persist without your presence and feel oddly new again upon return. 

Sadly these feelings are as fleeting as vacation. We default back to chugging along, mostly unconscious of the bounty of our "normal." Novelty is so frustratingly fickle and fragile. Its opposing force of complacency is the silent killer of all good things, somehow managing to conquer our psyches again and again.

We shouldn't need bad things to happen to rattle us into gratitude and exultation for what we have. Finding wonder in our lives without being provoked by physical or existential threat can be oddly difficult. It's a gift to be able to look at our lives and surroundings with fresh eyes. This is so true of our relationships as well. Complacency is often at the root of separation between people who mistakenly think they know all there is to know of one another.

I was lucky enough to relish in that particular feeling of returning home this week after a fantastic trip to Nevada to see my Dad. It had been a very long year since our last reunion at the onset of the pandemic. I missed him terribly and really wouldn't have flown for any reason other than to see him. I didn't get nearly enough time with my Dad growing up, but now he's one of my best friends and the person I most love to spend time with outdoors. 

It's especially nourishing for me to spend time with him as my relationship with my Mom remains so incredibly difficult and distant. The strain of the schism between us has not gotten easier. This is an emotional time of year in general as we approach the anniversary of Lauren's death. She is a constant presence in my mind and I grieve the absence of her wit and love fiercely. 

I'm grateful for the forces of nature and family as they hold the pieces of my heart together. Thank you, Spring, for the blooms and accompanying sense of hope in a cycle as old as time.

Well, friends. I feel a bit sheepish returning to this blog after such a long absence, but I have many more photos to share from Nevada, and as always thoughts that need processing. See you soon I hope, with fresh eyes.

Sometimes I need

only to stand

where I am 

to be blessed

-Mary Oliver



*All photos from the two days we spent in Valley of Fire State Park. A dream of a place painted with a pastel palette by the Universe itself*








On treasures in plain sight