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Category: hiking

Summer Camp For Grownups

Last week, Mom and I set off for southern Utah.  That’s right, we went to the desert in the summer.  We were bound for Red Mountain Spa, a “fitness spa”, where we could basically play all day, meet nice and interesting people, and eat delicious food.  It was sweet.  And really hot.  But pretty much just sweet.  I arrived on Wednesday on a harrowing flight from Salt Lake where things were flying around INSIDE the plane, and I was failing miserably to stave off a panic attack.  “Don’t worry, it’s like this all the time”, assures the stewardess, which really makes me question her sanity.  But anyway, after finally arriving alive in St. George, I was greeted by a very nice man, and toted back to the spa with another guest, T, who would become one of our buddies for the week. 


Red Mountain is incredible.  It’s rust colored buildings blend in nicely with the red, browns, oranges and yellows of the surrounding desert landscape.  The resort its self backs up to Snow Canyon State Park, nestled within  soaring red rock outcroppings.  Gorgeous.  Around the resort, there are many species of native desert plants, (and some not so native, but pretty, so it’s ok), including the barrel cactus, which I had never seen before, but was very cool.  And spiky.  I had borrowed the 100mm Canon lens from friends back home and had a blast taking macro shots of all the interesting plants on the property. 



Every day is busy and full at the spa, but only as busy and full as you want it to be.  We began every morning with the guided hiking tours led by Jack and Jill, (yes, I’m serious).  Now, if you read this blog, you know that I hike a fair bit, and while I’m not in the shape I’d like to be right now, I still feel like I know what I’m doing in a pair of boots.  These hikes, especially the one where we went straight up the rock face, had me huffing.  I could give the litany of excuses: it was hot, there were no switchbacks, there was no shade, IT WAS HOT!  Honestly, though all of these things are true, and do have a real impact on performance, I think I just need to work out more.  So.  More cardio on the horizon.  Truly though, I loved the morning hikes.  They were my favorite part of the trip, especially since I got to hike with Mom!



We would arrive back from the hikes around 10, since the sun gets so intense after that.  There were any number of activities we could chose to do then, yoga, stretch, water aerobics, etc.  Each day, however, we went to cooking class!  Sous Chef Mike taught these one hour classes, and they were different every day.  We learned about different types of grains, green smoothies, drank Mormon Tea, and generally sat in awe of his awesome knife skills.  Seriously, I’m jealous.  I want to wield a knife like that.  Our places had little name tags for us every day too, making us feel very important.  Later in the week, I “worked” with Sous Chef Mike in the real kitchen when I was “Chef For the Day”.  Very cool. I sliced, (not as well as Sous Chef Mike), and diced and worked the GIANT immersion blender to puree soups.  It was rad.  I got to keep my chef’s coat.  It makes me feel special. 



Cooking class was followed by lunch, which was served buffet style.  We learned to eat cold soup, and Mom learned about hummus and flat bread.  What a wonderful thing.  We were also often joined by some of the friends we made, L, T, or B.  They couldn’t be more different from each other, but all are fabulous women, whom I hope to keep in touch with out here in the “real world”.  After lunch, we would either go to another fittness class, or take some lounge time by the pool, or ride our bikes up some killer hill in the gazillion degree heat to the local hippie-artist-coffee shop community, or get complementary makeovers.  We did all of those things.  The fittness and biking were hard, the lounging and makeovering were not.  Both were wonderful and left smiles on our, sometimes sweat streaked, faces.


In the evenings, it would cool off, and we would walk, or bike, to dinner, again often joined by friends.  We often sat at the “Community Table”, where anyone can join, or we created our own.  Mom and I are social creatures, and will talk to anyone.  This is how we make friends.   Dinner was usually a drawn out affair, with everyone sharing what they did that day, and planning for trips, classes and excursions for the next day.  Sometimes dinner was followed by something fun like Outdoor Yoga, a photography class, or Texas Hold ’em.  Mom won of course, though she didn’t even know she was holding a straight. 



We had a wonderful time at Red Mountain.  It was great getting to reconnect with Mom, and meet lots of new and interesting people. I’d love to go back with Mom, or girlfriends.  It’s a beautiful place.


Backpacking to Eightmile Lake

The sun came out!  School is out!  Classes are over for the quarter!  Did I mention the sun came out? Spring has been hanging on with both hands out here, but the gray skies finally cleared for a few days this weekend, so Tom, B, E and Little Baby S ventured out for the first backpack of the season.  We headed up to Eightmile Lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness near the “Bavarian Village” of Leavenworth.  We wanted an “easy” trail to start with , because I, unlike Tom, have not been doing so much hiking recently.  I’ve mostly been eating, drinking, stressing out and not sleeping.  This does not equal optimal hiking shape.  I’m working on remedying this situation. 

We started a little late because Tom and I had gone out to see The Paperboys at the Tractor the night before, and decided to sleep in.  We hit the trail in the early afternoon, and man was it WARM!  Almost HOT even!  What a change!  My weak Seattle blood had a hard time with this, and I was quickly chugging water.  The trail is in great shape, and climbs steeply at first, but levels off after about a mile when you enter the wilderness boundary. Unfortunately, we saw several people blatantly disregarding the “no dogs” signs, which was disappointing. 


After a little more climbing, and even more sweating and water chugging on my part, we took a break at Little Eightmile Lake.  Little Baby S was totally fascinated by the moss on the tree and wanted to touch and eat it all.  The trail winds through boulder choked fields, and cool forests where the scent of sun-baked pine surrounded us.   


We made the final push up to Eightmile Lake, and found an amazing campsite right near the lake.  It had a sloping section of rock that lead out from the shaded campsite and we whiled away the rest of the afternoon and evening lounging in the lingering sun by the lake.  Across the lake from us was Eightmile Peak, (really original names going on here), which is still snow-covered.   Tom and B took a quick dip in the bracingly cold lake, while E and I decided we’d be content to simply rinse off.  There was a minute when E needed to do something quickly and handed Little S to Tom.  They had some bonding time, and Little S quickly discovered that pulling on Tom’s beard made a fabulous toy to pull on. (This is for you, Mom)


 After a yummy dinner, (freeze dried food never tasted so good), we set up camp, read a bit and headed to bed.  Luckily it wasn’t too cold, and we all slept well, even Little S!  The next morning, we enjoyed a tasty breakfast of not-too-stale lemon and cherry cake-bread.  NOM.  On our way out, we were able to get some nice views of Mount Stuart and some beautiful wildflowers that I’d not really appreciated on the way up, due to all the huffing, puffing and water chugging. 


It was a beautiful hike and it was wonderful to be there with friends.  I feel like summer is finally coming, with lots of new adventures to enjoy!


Hiking to Lake 22

Oh wow, this happened a while ago.  In fact, I think it was the last time I’ve hiked…hmm.  We must remedy this.  Soon.  But it’s been raining, and there’ve been progress reports, and…and…   Anyways, we went up the Mountain Loop Highway with B, E and little baby S a few weeks ago. The trail was snow free until the last 1/2 mile or so.  We brought the snowshoes anyways though, because Tom’s training to climb Mt. Baker in a few weeks, and “needed the weight”.  Ah, my husband the pack mule.  The trail up was pleasant with several nice waterfalls along the way and some big, fuzzy trees; a Northwest speciality.



When we got to the lake, it was still mostly frozen and the ice was making these beautiful swirly patterns where it was starting to melt.  Lake 22 sits in a basin right behind Mt. Pilchuck, and the view of the mountain was quite stunning.  It was also VERY bright at the lake, and I found it very difficult to be without my sunglasses for even long enough to take photos.  Tom, however, forgot his sunglasses, so he took more photos.  And they turned out better.  Here’s one!

Lake 22 was my first adventure on the Mountain Loop Highway, and we will definitly be back soon!

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Capitol Reef National Park

The last park that we visited on our trip to Utah was Capitol Reef National Park.  Neither Tom or I had heard of it before, so we did a bit of research before hand, and made sure to talk to the rangers when we arrived.  We stayed in the park for two nights, and really were able to get a feel for the place.  The park is known for to very different things. The first is that it is geogologically interesting.   The “reef” has nothing to do with oceans or fish, but is actually what is known as the “Waterpocket Fold”, which used to be part of the Colorado plateau. Some very difficult to understand things happened to do with faults and erosion, caused the Waterpocket Fold to be exposed after millions of years, and the result is a beautiful monocline which seems to jut out of the earth.  The entirety of the Waterpocket Fold has been protected in Capitol Reef National Park.  The creation of the fold is described in way more accurate detail on the Capitol Reef National Park website.

The park also exists to preserve the historical heritage of the area.  It was the original home of the Fremont Indians, who left petroglyphs in the sandstone cliffs.  Later it was settled by Morman pioneers, who created the town of Fruita.  They planted fruit orchards, thus giving the town it’s name.  The Fremont River flows through the valley that lies below the upthrust of rock, and this river is what allowed the settlers to survive in the otherwise arid surrounding dessert.  More details about the settlement of Fruita can be found here.    One of the homes of the settlers has been preserved as a museum dedicated to showing what pioneer life would have been like for the first settlers of Fruita.  Happily, the Gifford House museum also sells homemade pie and locally produced salsas and jams.  Yum!

We arrived in the park in the afternoon our first day, and spent some time setting up camp, and eating our first of several pies of the visit.  We checked out some of the historic buildings which have been preserved by the park service, including the one room school house.  As a teacher, I could not imagine having to teach 20 students of all ages in one room, and have all the respect and admiration in the word for those women who did.  ::shudder::

That evening, we watched the sunset paint the dessert red and orange.  I had lots of fun photographing this tree.  It was so photogenic!

On our second day in the park, we hiked the Rim Overlook Trail, which wound its way up to the top of the monocline feature.  We started early in the morning and had cool temperatures and beautiful light.   We passed through several different layers of rock as we climbed, even encountering large, black, pitted boulders which were deposited by an ancient volcanic eruption!

As the day progressed though, it got much hotter and the trail wants for shade.  It is almost completely exposed the entire way.  When we reached the top, we were rewarded with expansive views of the entire valley, the mountains beyond and the historic town of Fruita, with its orchards, a few thousand feet below.It probably didn’t get hotter than around 80 degrees F that day, but that’s quite warm for us Seattlelites who haven’t seen 80 degrees since last August!  We were hiding under every overhanging rock and scrubby tree we could find when we stopped for water on our way down.

Captiol Reef is a beautiful and interesting park, and I am suprised that it is not better known.  I would recommend it to anyone making a trip through Utah’s parks to check it out, it is definitely worth the trip!

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Canyonlands National Park

Part two of our Spring Break adventure had us heading west from Arches to Canyonlands National Park.  We spent two days in this park in two if it’s three distinctly different areas.  We visited the Needles district first, which is in the south eastern area of the park.  The Needles is an interesting area, and I’m somewhat at a loss to describe the landscape there.  It’s almost as though the consistency of the rock was changed to hot wax, and then dribbled out to form columns, blobs and mushroom-like formations.  We even camped under our own large mushroom of a rock that night, which somewhat cut down on the wind (yes, there was MORE wind).

After we arrived at the park and set up camp, we decided to go for a hike.  We decided on the Chesler Park Trail, which twists and turns through towering spires of striped red, orange and cream colored rock.  We climbed over large rock blobs, down through slot canyons, and between towers of rocks much much taller than our house.  The trail leads to an awe inspiring amphitheater of rock towers all lined up in a row.  It looks like a fossilized cityscape dropped off in the desert.  Fascinating.   (yes, I know I’m going a bit overboard with the superlatives.  Deal.)

The next day, we left the Needles area, and headed up north to the Island in the Sky area.  I thought the NPS had gone a bit overboard with the name, until I saw the place.  This section of the park is located on the top of a giant mesa, and from the edge, you look out over the different levels of sub-mesa, all the way down to the valley floor where the Green River meets the Colorado, thousands of feet below.  The views were a bit ridiculous. We also visited Mesa Arch, which while interesting, was very crowded.  The arch has a killer view down into the valley and of the snow-capped peaks beyond, and the drop off is immediate.  There were many families with small children who were being not so attentive.  We got out of there quickly because I kept getting more and more scared for other people’s children!

We decided to do a short backpack that night, since the campground was full, and we wanted a bit more solitute.  Since this national park is not heavily visited, there aren’t really backpacker campsites exactly, they have “backpacking zones”.  There was a one party limit in our zone, so we were it.  Sweet.  We hiked out onto a slender finger of mesa poking out into the void and really felt the immensity of all. that. space.  It was quite humbling really.  We had our dinner on an outcropping of rock near the brim while we watched the sun go down and make the desert landscape burn even more orange.  We also packed the kindle in, so that we could read to each other.  You may laugh, but we’ve often been known to bring books or games when we backpack.  Tom even carried the hardback version of the sixth Harry Potter on a three day trip on Lake Chelan a few summers ago.  Trust me, the kindle is an improvement.

Now, I am somewhat paranoid, especially when we’re backpacking out in the middle of nowhere; I’m conviced every rustle of a branch is a cougar coming to eat us, or that scorpions and rattlesnakes are going to take up residence in my boots and backpack.  This trip was no exception.  Luckily the night wasn’t too windy (!), so I made it through alright, and even slept pretty well.

The next morning, we did a few short walks around the park to see some of the different areas and vistas we hadn’t seen yet.  We did a two mile trip out to a different finger of mesa where we got a rare great shot of the two of us together!  The thing that surprised me most about trails in this park was the total lack of railings.  Now, I’m not a huge proponent of making things feel safer than they actually are and giving people a false sense of security, but we’re talking about drops of thousands of feet here!  While it was fascinating seeing that kind of exposure, it was a bit heady for me. I’m pretty sure my dad would have either passed out or refused to get out of the car.  The views were totally worth it though.


Arches National Park

Last week was my Spring Break.  WHEE!!  Spring Break is such a magical time.  This year, Tom and I decided to head wherever was cheapest, and fun…est.  We also wanted to try to include some National Parks, as we are still on our quest to visit all of the NPs in the country.  We ended up deciding on Utah, and specifically visiting Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef National Parks.  We started off in Arches, which is just outside Moab, Utah.  We arrived late on Sunday night and camped at a DNR campground just outside the park, next to the Colorado River.  The forecast called for a cold, windy night, but it was windy beyond belief.  Like, I thought the tent might collapse kind of windy.  Sweet.

So after not too much sleep, we headed into the park the next morning. Many areas of middle to southern Utah are made up of these gorgeous red-rock mesas, gorges, and arches, and this park is no different.  Soaring walls of stark reddish orange towered over us as we snaked through the park to arrive at Balanced Rock. Basically, the “rock” is there because it is made up of a more durable (less susceptible to erosion) type of rock, while the rock underneath is much softer, making it erode more quickly, giving it the “balancing” look.  Eventually the base will wear away completely, and the “Balanced Rock” will collapse to the ground.  The light was a bit tricky early in the day, so our photos here aren’t super fabulous, but the feature was really interesting.

Next we traveled deeper into the park to an area called Devil’s Garden.  By this point, it was afternoon, and we still hadn’t seen any of the park’s namesakes!  I wanted to see some arches!  We found them here though. The first one we visited was Landscape Arch, a delicate, impressive span that looks almost impossibly long.  We were unable to venture under it, as I believe the park service is worried about parts breaking off and landing on tourists!

After that we ventured up the “primitive trail” to Partition Arch, which is visible in some of our photos of Landscape Arch.  Up here the wind started kicking up, as in gusting probably 30ish mph.  With sand.  Right.  Partition Arch was amazing, as it overlooked the entire valley; we could see for probably a hundred miles. Amazing.

Leaving this area of Devil’s Garden, the wind started blowing in earnest.  We kept having to stop and turn our backs to the gusts and hide our eyes.  The sand stung our skin and was burning our faces.  This was when I realized I am not really cut out for desert travel.  Clearly something I needed to learn the hard way.  We did stop by Pine Tree Arch and Tunnel Arch on the way out, but spent very little time there due to sandblasting.

We decided to risk one other area of the park to visit Double Arch, which, as the name implies, is where to arches were formed from the same part of rock, but span in two different directions.  Yay erosion!  I have a feeling the wind had something to do with this as well.  After taking about a gazillion more photos, we retreated back to the car.  It took very little work to “convince”  Tom that we needed to spend the night in a hotel that night rather than camping in the 40+ mph winds again.  And there was a shower. Whee!  The Super 8 cost 55.00 with our AAA membership, which meant we got a room and a tub.  No closet or, strangely, trash can, but hey, I wasn’t complaining.  There was no wind.

The next morning, before we headed over to Canyonlands, we went back into the park to check out Delicate Arch.  This is THE arch.  Like, the one Utah deemed worthy of putting on it’s license plate.  In the morning light with some spectacular clouds, the scene was striking indeed.  It was quite cold, and guess what, windy!  The arch was exquisite though, and quite fun to photograph.   Arches was a wonderful way to start out our trip to this very unique part of the country.


Trip to Orcas Island

Two weekends ago, Tom and I went with Brendan, Ellie and Sierra up to Orcas Island, which is located in the San Juan Islands, northwest of Seattle.  You have to take the ferry to get there, and while the jury is still out as to whether my stomach likes the ferry or not, I do always enjoy looking at the mountains and the beautiful Puget Sound on the trip to the islands.  Spring camping has become somewhat of a tradition with this group.  Coincidentally, the first camping trip of spring is also usually associated with something important in the lives of the four of us.  For example, last year’s spring camping trip was when Brendan and Ellie told us they were pregnant with Sierra.  This year, it was Sierra’s first ever camping trip, something to be celebrated indeed.

After we arrived and set up camp, we decided to hike up Mount Constitution, which is the high point of the island, and I believe the high point of all of the San Juans.  The hike starts out very flat, and arcs around a lovely lake.  We cruised this part, stopping only to take pictures.  Once you leave the lake, however, the trail gets serious.  Quickly.  It climbs over a thousand feet in about a mile and a half, and quickly had us slowing down and breathing hard.  Tom is training for a mountaineering class, so he was carrying about 30 lbs of all of our water and stuff, and was working the hardest.

About three quarters of the way up the mountain, Sierra needed to eat, so Ellie took a break to nurse.  Since Tom’s training, he wanted to keep his pace and momentum, so we told him to go on ahead.  Remember how I mentioned that he had all the stuff?  Right. So about ten minutes after he leaves, Sierra decided that then would be a good time to have a total diaper blowout.  Not good.  So we sent Brendan scurrying off after Tom, and Ellie did her best to carry Sierra in a way that wouldn’t make her messier than she already was.  So now Ellie and I are alone with the baby, with no rain gear, diapers, blankets or anything and the wind starts to pick up.  And it’s about to rain.  This is not a good situation to be in, and we should have known better.  Luckily, before our situation could turn from bad to worse, we heard Tom and Brendan coming down the trail.  After a quick on-the-trail change of the diaper, we were off again.

We finally made it to the top, where there is a castle-esque look out tower that was built by the CCC .  From the top of the mountain, the view overlooks the sound, Mount Baker to the east, Vancouver, Vancouver Island and the mountains of Canada to the north, and Anacortas and the Cascades to the south.  Beautiful.

Back at camp, the evening was uneventful, and quiet, even though the stove broke and Tom and Brendan had to improvise by cooking over a fire.  Sierra slept well, snug as a bug, though I think Ellie was a bit cold.  All in all, a successful weekend adventure in a beautiful place.

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Talapus and Olallie Lakes

Last weekend, it was sunny and blue skies again!  Seriously, I could get used to this.  I’m not quite ready for the rain and the cold to come back, since I’ve been spoiled so much by all of this incredible weather!  Anyways, to take advantage of the sunshine, Tom and I headed up to Talapus and Olallie Lakes.  We weren’t sure where the snow line would be, or what the snow conditions would be when we got there, so we packed the snowshoes just in case.  We didn’t end up needing them, but a pair of YakTraks or some other type of small traction device would have been nice, as the later parts of the trail were covered in slippery, compact ice.
We started out with no snow, and the warm temperatures soon had us shedding layers like crazy.  I think that by the time we got to the snowline, I was down to shorts and a tank top it was so warm.  Eventually we did find the snow, right before getting to Tallapus lake.  Just for perspective, the last time we were in this area, we barely made it to the first lake, as the original trail was totally snowcovered and impossible to find, so we just went straight up.  This time, there was a nice, well graded trail to follow, past a lovely stream, all the way up to the lake.

There were some sketchy “bridges” on the trip.  One slip would have gotten you quite wet.

We skipped past Talapus and headed up to Olallie.  Here the snow and ice got worse, and we started to slow down, as we were slipping more and more. It still wasn’t quite right for the snowshoes as they would have been more cumbersome than helpful I think.  Eventually we made it to Olallie for lunch.  The sun was out over the frozen lake, and Granite Mountain was there in all of it’s glory, (and it’s got quite a bit of glory in my opinion).  We took some photos, and headed back down.  Carefully.

We stopped at Talapus Lake on the way back down as well as it had some beautiful light, and we wanted a break to eat Girl Scout cookies.  Yum.

Beautiful day, beautiful hike!

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Felted Ear Warmer

Tom’s mom, my wonderful mother-in-law’s, birthday is at the end of February.  She loves walks, and being outside.  She also lives in Baltimore, where they’ve been breaking all sorts of snowfall records this year. Clearly she needed a knitted something for her birthday to help keep her warm on her walks in the snow.  That “something” turned out to be a felted ear warmer from the Knit One Felt Too book, by  .  I have very little experience with felting, and since we’ve recently upgraded our washer to a fancy pants front loading one, I wasn’t sure how the felting would work.
**Side note – “felting” is when you knit an oversize item out of 100% wool, (other animal fibers work as well), and shrink it down in the washing machine.  Kind of the opposite of what you want to do with a wool sweater.  The agitation of the washer and the water make the wool “felt”, which is to say “shrink” and “get all fuzzy”.
Thankfully, due to the power of the internet, I was able to find directions for felting in a front loading washer, yay!  I felted the ear warmer, pinned it out to dry on our ironing board, then sewed on some velcro for a closure.
Here I am modeling the ear warmer.
Please excuse the hair, and the fact that I look a bit blue in the photo, I couldn’t fix it in post processing, I’m not sure why.  I think it has something to do with florescents + a flash.  But I digress.  I’m happy with the ear warmer.  It was super fast and easy, and looks nice!  Jennifer was happy too, which really was the main point in the first place!
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Skyline Ridge

About two weeks ago, our friends Sam and Meghan moved to Seattle!  Yay!  They’ll be staying with us for a few weeks until they get jobs and lodging and stuff, and it’s been great to have them.  Last weekend, Meghan decided to be brave and accompany Tom  and I on her first ever snowshoeing adventure.  The weather was AMAZING, and we were able to get up Skyline Ridge with no difficulty.  The sun was shining, which, around here is the best kind of therapy.

We started out parking across from the Steven’s Pass ski resort, and headed up.  This trail climbs relentlessly, so I’m glad it’s short!  Once we broke the treeline, the views were great, and they just kept getting better the higher we went.  Eventually we reached Skyline Lake, which was completely snow-covered and frozen.  Not wanting to touch the pristine snow, (or text the ice), we followed the boot path around the lake, and continued up the (steep) path until we were high on the ridge.  With sweeping views to the south and west into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and more, we decided it was lunch time!

Tom wanted to venture up a little higher, but I was too chicken, so Meghan and I hung back at the lunch spot and took pictures.

Blue sky, snowcapped peaks, and sunshine.  Can’t ask for much more than that.

After lunch, we headed back down, with Meghan leading through the trees, back to the lake, and back down to the car.  It was a wonderful day, and I think Meghan has become a snowshoeing convert.  It was a nice mid-winter reminder about how much I love where we live.