Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Busy Baby B

The times are a changin. The newest addition to the extended family; busy baby B. I'm adoring the opportunity to get know him and marvel at his perfect mini-person features. Loving be an auntie.  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


 The last few months have provided the opportunity to visit some new hotsprings, a favorite pastime of mine. On the way back from Oregon we stopped for a few days at a lovely place called Avalanche Ranch. A small working farm, antique barn and cabin rentals complete the experience. Although I very much enjoy the springs lost in the mountains, the uniqueness and beauty of the many pools at this place are quite welcoming.

The newest pool at Avalanche Ranch; a cedar tub in the old barn

I've been to a number of "natural springs" and yet every time I travel through Idaho it never ceases to amaze me. The springs here have an appeal unlike anywhere else. Generally clean, without hoards of people and surrounded by beautiful forests make Idaho's hotsprings an unbelievable experience.

And finally onto the most recent find and one of my favorite yet. The hotsprings along the Verde River in Arizona. This place is remarkable. It was a historic lodge from the 1920's that burned down in the 60's. What remains is this: the springs, the old foundation and a lot of care from some hotspring loving locals. The springs themselves are a bit terrifying in depth. Something like 9 feet that crawl under the stone structure only to open into caverns. Not somewhere one would choose to venture but indeed a pleasant soak assuming you stay on the surface. The catch to this place is that it requires a decent wade through the river to get here. We opted to hike above the spring and then blow up the packrafts and partake on a bit of squirly ride to the springs in lew of the immersion. A smart choice in November.


 History in some of the most unusual of places. I've found a new interest in recent ruins; they have stories. Sometimes the stories are on the surface and other times they are locked deep within. These old army barracks were a bit like a maze- dorm style bedrooms, work spaces, a theater, labs, dining halls. Abandoned, a history left for demise.

 Colorado ghost towns...remnants of mining and life at 12,000 feet.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

the four month island

Four months. Time dissolved as though it never existed. The days long but length retains little meaning when the daylight stays well beyond its usual invitation. Time is measured by meals (and time in-between) Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. Each time new eyes set sight on the floating dock it was new; new to them and therefore new to me.  The beauty of a long day is that it is what you do; you are simply living. Living on an island of bears. Each piece functioned and thus the system went. Take a piece, even a small one, and the system begins to slow. This was the extraordinary reality of the island of bears. The energy was the breath. One day I walked by the outhouse, the one I shared with 11 other individuals. For the first time I actually took note of the door. Exit. Here is where you exited the island. That is until another comes along.  Out the wide crack you see them waiting their turn so you enter back onto the island. I watched the grass come in; the leaves appear on the trees and the remnant snow of winter fade. The first of the flowers came out; the dogwoods, the lupine, the yarrow. The garden went in. The loons wandered from the nest with a wee one trailing, a single baby.  I know the day the fireweed first started to bloom.  The day mama bear appeared with her babies. This year she had two.  I awaited the rose’s arrival, they never really came. I think it was a cold year. The moose and her calves; long legs and all. The daisies, white that covered the ground. Summer. I blinked and the  cranberries showed up. Mushrooms. Hillsides of purple and pink that even the tallest of men cannot peek over. I blinked again and the colors came. The fireweed nearing the top of the stock.  The birch trees began to shift their mood to yellow and the fireweed put on quite a display. The currents… wow. A windstorm blew in and  I thought it might pull every remaining leaf off the stem.  They hung on. The wildflower field was another story; it looked like someone had run a comb through it and parted the grass in a well -organized fashion.  The giant birch tree that lay across the trail would take testimony for this story. Mama bear appeared once again, this time her cubs plump and healthy. Five loons. They danced in a circle on the middle of the lake. The woods undeniably smelled of autumn.  It was time to send the fuchsias in on the float plane. The woodshed was tidied and ready for another long winter. The chicken coop got an overhaul. The days had turned to nights and the nights began to quiet. Down coats came out with the headlamps. Bags were packed and sent in. Four months over as though it never existed.

Monday, July 16, 2012


A story: I was 22 years old and was just about to finish up my undergrad degree. I was focusing on natural resource management and rangeland ecology. This was the last summer before graduation and I was looking for a job relevant to my career field. I looked for jobs with the Forest Service and with the BLM. I was offered a position doing rangeland inventory. In the job search process, I had also applied randomly for a job in Durango teaching arts and crafts at a children’s summer camp. Not relevant what so ever but I had a longing to be back to Durango; I had lived there a few years prior and missed it terribly. Sure enough I also got offered the Durango gig. On my plate came two choices: the responsible one… the career builder or the other one…. The fun one. Which do think I choose? Off to Durango I went. That summer was revolutionary for me. I found myself surrounded by a community of life-loving individuals, young and old. We played, we created, we dreamed, we explored, we loved. Many people from this epic summer are still in my life today. Friendships that will last a lifetime. At the end of the summer, I packed up my car with two friends and we explored the southwest for a week. We camped in magical places and saw sights I never imaged so beautiful. During this week, I picked up a growler of beer from a small brewery and the growler, long emptied, rode around in the trunk of my car. We returned to Durango and I lingered even longer, hesitant to return back to the Front Range and back to college to finish my final semester. I knew I had to go. I was bitter.

Yet, I returned with a new outlook on life. A window had opened for me and knew how easily it was to fly through it. Days on the Front Range were tough. I loved my friends and family but there was this pulling on my spirit that told me there was more I needed to do. One day, rooting through my trunk, I found the growler and my heart sank. I missed the adventures that added this treasure into my life. I taped a piece of paper to the growler and wrote the letters TBA. Each day I diligently added money to the growler. Some days it was only coins, other days, particularly the most frustrating days for me, I added dollars. My funds grew. For what, I did not know. They were for TBA “the big adventure”…whatever that was. My graduation grew closer and I was offered a management job at the florist I had worked at for the last few years. I took the job. I graduated in December and mid-way through the month I realized I needed to move on. I started looking for jobs…all over. Putting out applications anywhere I thought I might be interested in going. My mentality: I had nothing to lose, I could accept only what I wanted and it never hurt to see what came back. Choices. Options began to spring up. I narrowed it down to North Carolina. I had never been there before but had heard it was beautiful. I had two jobs on the table once again. Both teaching environmental education. One on the coast; a well-established center that paid better than the other. The other: in the mountains, just starting up, didn’t pay well, had a garden. The garden sold me. I accepted a position at The Herringridge Environmental Center in the Appalachian mountains. I nervously stewed over telling my boss at the flower shop. I worried for weeks. And then finally I told him. He was ecstatic for me. This was the 180 I was not expecting. I stayed on at the flower shop through Valentine ’s Day and then finally the time came. I began “the big adventure.” It started with a week with my cousin backpacking the Grand Canyon. We hiked into valleys with sparkling waterfalls and watched the sun rise and set over the red sandstone cliffs. We re-learned who each other were. We had not spent time like this since we were children.

I moved to North Carolina at the end of the month and starting teaching little ones about the soil, wildlife, the environment. The center was based on a theme by the Lorax. The ecology center was a residential program; on the last night there was a big scavenger hunt for the truffula seed throughout the surrounding forests. Life-sized lorax costumes adorned our staff. One night, as the sun was going down, I was running through the woods with children hot on my pursuit. I ran from them in a giant yellow swammy swan costume. Four years of college to don a giant chicken suit and evade children with a fake truffula seed in my hand.  This was my job. I got paid to do this. And so the story goes….

As the years went on I found myself exploring new places – California, Alaska, Oregon. I’ve taught along the way. Finding a special niche in experiential education. I’ve met amazing people. Sure, life has not always been easy to pick up and go; I’d actually say it is quite hard. When you begin to find strength in a community, it is hard to move away and re-establish yourself again. But it has been an adventure. I remind myself that I can always go back to any of these places. It has almost been six years since my big adventure began. Life is changing, I find myself slowing down a bit. Longing for land to call my own, for a community to stay in for a while, for a garden that I work on for more than a single season, for my own animals, to keep bees, to be closer to my family. I guess this is the next big adventure to come.

Along the way, I’ve kept a list. It has been my to-do list. My personal list. It keeps me motivated and helps me to realize what is truly possible. I recently crossed off my master’s degree from this list and it felt so amazing. If you are reading this and you have that desire inside of you, get it out. Onto paper. Write it down. In doing so, I think it helps to remind you that it is possible. You just have to want it. I think too often we tell ourselves that our dreams are not attainable. They are only dreams. You tell yourself you don’t have the money, or time, or you are too committed to other things. These are disguises to hide fears about meeting your dreams. You let the challenge stop you. The difference between a dream and a reality is that you have to take that leap. Face any fears that linger there and don’t let them stand in the way. There is a way around challenges. It is possible to move and travel on very little. I am living proof of this. Time is what we make it and commitments are real but if approached correctly, people will understand when you have to pick up your feet or when you change your mind. It may take creativity, but it is doable.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

61° 59′ N 152° 04′ W

 61° 59′ N 152° 04′ W
Today, this is where you can find me. Mid July. teaching yoga, greeting guests, serving meals. A month and a half ago I packed up life in Oregon; packed it into a storage unit and closed the door for four months. I found my way back up to the place where my adventures began almost four years ago. Back into a little island of wilderness that is separated from the hustle and bustle of everyday life… no roads, no sirens, no cement. The loudest noise that meets my ear is the landing of a float plane, or a helicopter, or the howl of 19 sled dogs at 4am. The days are long, this I cannot sugar coat but life all the same has but one singular focus… this place and these people. The newspaper arrives in a brown mail bag three days late and news travels by word of mouth. Don’t get me wrong, I could be more in tune. I choose not to. For this short time I am on vacation from the world of news and have adapted my thought process to include what is happening with my family, my friends, and about my island wilderness. I think sometimes it takes that step back… that is what these months have begun to shape into for me. My eyes are noticing things that get lost when life moves at a quicker pace. I've slowed it down and in doing so I’ve observed what plants are coming into bloom; I find myself waiting in anticipation as the fireweed blossoms develop…. they are almost there. When they burst the hillsides around us will light up with purples and pinks. For almost a month now I've watched a mama bear with her babies. I’ve noticed how her babies have gained dexterity over these last few weeks. They don’t trip over their own paws quite as much. I've sat in one place and the world has walked through my front door. Literally. Where life will go after this summer I am not so sure but for now I'm in a holding pattern. Content.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Pacific Northwest

It is almost the end of May. The rains are retreating and sun is beginning to lengthen it's appearance. A solar eclipse occurred three days ago and clouds broke just long enough for us to witness. Life has been full of learning and busy times which have woven themselves into what will now become transition. Closing of one chapter and the opening of another. here are a few recent favorites from my adventures in the Pacific Northwest. 
The Alsea River

the Havest
Sunset on the Olympic Peninsula

Thursday, May 10, 2012

the great gaper hunt

One of the lowest tides of the whole year. It just happened to be the morning I woke on the coast. I'm a lucky girl. The huge tidal swing was caused by the Perigee moon. What exactly does that mean? I "borrowed" this picture from NASA to help explain. The moon's orbit around the earth is an oval shape (think egg). One side of this orbit is actually closer to the earth (perigee) while the other (apogee) is a bit further. When a full moon occurs on the perigee side it appears very big and bright to us, the on-lookers from earth. Not only did the moon offer some brilliant lighting all through the evenings clear sky, but it also lent a fabulous day for clamming.

We woke early, 5:30 with anticipation of the tides. I'd been razor clamming, once, so obviously I'm a pro....yeah. The learning curve was a bit steep for the gaper clams we were after. We spent practically two hours trudging across the clam beds while the clam holes spouted water at our feet in the rhythm of 100 old faithfuls. Only these buggers alluded us. We dug after them...nothing. This is frustrating. We had rakes, shovels, buckets, clam guns. no clams. When you can't figure something out, what should you do? Well spy on someone else of course and then follow by example. We lurked close enough to observe another group who appeared to be on their hands and knees elbow deep in muck. Yes this was it! So we dug, and dug some more and finally reached a hardened mud layer. We broke through it and sure enough. Their snorkels retreated but my paws are fast and I'd grab on while someone else dug around my hands to retrieve the clams. We found the best technique was to dig a hole with the shovel and then get down and dig. Out of each hole we were pulling at least 10 clams. We had our gaper clam limit in less than a half hour.

From there I met a local woman who then asked me if we were going to head over to dig for cockles. We had our 12 gapers a piece so that meant we could still go for 8 cockles. "Well yeah... we were planning on it (never actually heard of it)... so how exactly do you do that?" She told us we needed a rake because they sat just under the surface of the sand. She also said her daughter liked to go barefoot while she looked for cockles because she could feel them with her feet. So there we went to the side of the bay to look for cockles. S dressed to his best in hip high waders and took to cockle raking the deeper channels and I stripped off the extra tuffs, rolled up my pants and took to feeling around the sand with my feet. Sure enough we found cockles. the raking technique required a good ear because when you raked over a cockle they made a sort of rumble sound from the ridges. Sometimes you also turn up angry crabs. they are not happy and will try to bite your fingers off. If they are boys and over the size limit, the unhappy crab is yours to eat. Turns out I'm a sucker and the crabs we caught were the luckiest crabs ever because while I intended on eating them, I actually let them go... I felt sorry for them! The barefoot method found me smaller cockles but worked wonders. I trudged around looking for the tell tale two holes in the sand, would run my feet over the place and sure enough would find a cockle just an inch or so under the surface. Needless to say, we ended the day with a feast fit for kings.


Two years in the making;  it finally gets checked off the list...

Monday, February 20, 2012

Snow on Warner Mountain

 The Pacific Northwest provides some pretty spectacular adventures, there is no doubt about that. About a year ago I added this item to my list and this January I checked it off. Renting a forest fire lookout. People here love these; with justified reason. But because they are so well loved, if your idea of an adventure to a lookout has anything to do with a weekend day, well than the planning upfront requires something along the lines of 5 months. They tend to be that far booked out! I booked the Warner Mountain lookout the previous August and still was only able to get a Sunday and Monday night reserved. Turns out I am a lucky girl and my days just happened to unexpectedly fall over a three day weekend. Joined by a longtime friend from Seattle and her significant other, our party of four made the venture into the hut on skis and snow shoes. The website cautions you that the road is not maintained for winter travel and it is advised to park a good distance away and hike in (good distance = 8+ miles). We had two pretty hardy trucks so the adventurous side of us put us something like 3.5 miles away. We questioned this choice but decided to play our cards. The next few days that followed it snowed. I don't mean a little. I'm referring to something along the lines of feet of snow. It snowed A LOT.
 so conversations went along the lines of "hmmm it is really a blizzard out there...yeah there is kind of a bit of snow coming down" In the midst we enjoyed ourselves. You see, inside the hut you are quite cozy. I was amazed to find a propane heater, a fully equipped kitchen, tables, chairs, a bed. We were set. During the day we used our back country setups to do a bit of skiing and exploring and in the evening enjoyed hot toddies, good food and good company. On departure day, we had received so much snow that our tracks in were so far from covered, I questioned our choices of parking. Out we went, blizzard to accompany us. Reaching the truck we found it practically lost in white. Chains on and 4 wheel drive set to low we amazingly creeped our way out with not even a slip. The daring parking move in the snow; would I advise it? not at all, not unless you really enjoy digging. We just got lucky. Upon leaving we passed the new Warner Mountain residents on their trek in. They had covered something like 4 miles from their car already and were still about 4 miles out. They had parked their Subaru way down the road and were making the day long slog in. I guess we had it a bit easier.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


 Absentee. That I have been from my blog for some time. But in that time much has changed. my eyes have seen new experiences and met new people. I've seen changes throughout my family, moved to a new home and ventured a three week road trip across the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Purchasing tickets was a bit of an endeavor; we wanted to go south. that was the criteria. Monitoring website after website for cheap fares became exhausting after some time. you just get sick of it. but one Tuesday night in late November turned up some reasonable tickets into Cancun. Not quite my style but it'd do for a port of entry out of the states. So there we went. Cancun-bound for two nights before picking up a rental car (found through a less-know Mexican car company).                                 One night, that was it. Cancun was like a sandy Las Vegas. It took less than 12 hours for us to re-arrange our rental car for earlier pick up and get the hell out of Sand Vegas. Our Chariot for the next few weeks: a dodge "something."A miniature white spaceship that proved to be a beast in the sand, excellent on gas mileage and only complained once when we tried to take it across a road with holes as big as the car. It regained it's composure after we limped it 4 hours out of the way to provide it with a bandage (a new tire). The first few days of the journey found us in touristy places; ones where we still managed to find places to camp and cheap street food but still were littered with tourist souvenir shops and kiosks selling tickets to the newest "eco park." I can't complain however because this first week also found us still a wee bit high strung from the months of craziness we left behind and these popular tourist destinations exist for a reason; they have absolutely stunning white sand beaches. We planted our rear ends in the sun and commenced to washing away the Oregon white skin with help from Mexican cervezas.
The weeks that followed found us in rural Mexico. Off beaten tourist tracts and loving every minute. We pieced together Spanish. Enough to purchase tacos and local fruits, to ask for directions, to ask permission to camp and rent scuba diving gear.
I believe I've mentioned it before but I thrive on lists. i love them. I was able to cross-off some of my own "to-dos" on this trip so it seems only fitting to break down the remainder of this trip into some of the best of the best pieces; recommendations for those who may just be making this same venture sometime in the future. Enjoy.
  1. Diving. Wow. Xcalack proved to be best of the best. Hiring the local dive master and boat not associated with what seemed to be the only dive shop in town was the way to go.
  2. Cenotes- a must visit for diving, snorkeling... swimming... whatever. just go see them.
  3. Izamal- yellow, think yellow.
  4. Campeche- a colonial style city sitting on the heart of the ocean still encompassed by an old fortress of stone walls.
  5. the street tacos. fresh oranges with chili powder
  6. Puenta Herrera. Trust me you can get there. take a spare tire.
  7. Book as you go hotels, plans just can't do you justice (just not during Christmas time!)
  8. The bikes (see below.) you'd be amazed at how many people you can fit on one. really.