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 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 1,700 miles in six 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. When Jasmin reached out to tell me she had a flexible Summer schedule and wanted to adventure together, I threw out the idea of hot springs hoppin' in the state known widely for...potatoes. 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 (most) National parks at this point.

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

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.

Trail Specs:

4.7 miles

1500 ft. elevation gain

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 ten 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