This is a good article… a very good article.
December 8, 2013
How full of the creative genius is the air in which these are generated!
I should hardly admire more if real stars fell and lodged on my coat.
Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity;
So that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.
-Henry David Thoreau’s journal, January 5, 1856
December 6, 2013
…that winter’s here.
The signs are showing up, as surely as they ever do.
After we return from a drive, the cats are drawn to the warm engines of our cars. They leave scatterings of little dusty pawprints on our cars’ hoods and up the windshields.
Coats are sprouting on the backs of every chair in Red Robin.
After a work shift my car’s lock freezes, requiring me to become a little more inventive on how I am get in and drive home.
Residing in the heart of our house, our wood stove is no longer just a cold piece of furniture to pile our things on, but has reverted to a devouring beast that we must daily feed. We hew trees from their original, towering size into smaller and smaller fragments until our little arms can lift and carry them, and then offer them to the miracle of fire so that our fragile beings can survive through fluctuations of temperature caused by earth’s wobbling travels.
Isn’t it interesting that fire is something that has to continually “kill” in order to “live”? Although I suppose us humans are the same way, we have to devour to stay alive… but back on topic.
The corners of our house are drafty and cold (sometimes not just cold but COLD!), so the family is drawn to the heart of the home where the heat beckons. There is a perfect reclining chair next to the stove (but only one!) and no one in our family is above using cunning tactics to trick someone else out of the chair.
I want to hug everything alive and warm I see. (I’m still hoping for a sloth this Christmas so I can carry it around with me and keep me warm. I’d settle for a koala.)
Tans are replaced by rosy cheeks.
The ground is frosty, and crunchy underfoot.
Yes, I can read the signs. Through careful deduction, my hypothesis is that winter has arrived. I may wait until all the facts are in to draw my verdict, but so far I’m pretty sure…
Oh, and it snowed. That too.
And then I made homemade eggnog. Which definitely makes it winter. Because who ever heard of a mug of homemade eggnog in the summer? :)
November 4, 2013
Maybe you’ve seen this picture before, floating around the web and in the news. You may have heard how it connects to the boy in the book “Heaven is for Real.” If not, you can easily find that story online. What I found today was the poem that the artist wrote along with this painting, and I thought it was interesting, so I am sharing it with you. :)
Perhaps I wanted to catch itperhaps notBut one morning
an eagle dropped a diamond
And right then
with my faulty brush
full of my own hair
I wanted to paint
I wanted to paint the wings-
Too late – they flew away
I wanted to paint a flower
Too late – it withered
That night the rain
was running after me
Each drop of rain
showed God’s face
His face was everywhere
On homes and on me
I wrung out the love
to make the red
I wrung out the stumps
to make the brown
I wrung out the trust
to make the pink
I wrung out my own eyes
to make the blue
I wrung out the seaweed
to make the green
I wrung out the nightly pain
to make the black
I wrung out my grandmother’s hair
to make the gray
I wrung out my visions
to make the violet
I wrung out the truth
to make the whiteToday I want to paint God’s face
IT’S NOT TOO LATE !
October 31, 2013
I’ve been taking my own sweet time to leisurely tell you about our backpacking trip, but here it is: the last installment.
Last we left our three intrepid, tired hikers, they were getting reacquainted with their sleeping bags at the end of the second day of hiking. The storm of rain, hail, and wind had already come through around 5pm that day, leaving behind a calm and the gift of a sunset with all the breathtaking hues of orange, gold, and peach one could want. Sadly that calm was not to last, as the travelers (current destination: Sleep) would soon discover. The dark and the night hours brought another storm, complete with plenty of pounding hail and torrents of rain to make a good deal of noise on the tarps, accompanied by a wild wind that howled and ruthlessly attacked the tarps as if they were sails, lifting them one minute so they flapped like a bird caught by the feet and then letting them fall the next, over and over again.
The three dozers that had just begun to say “hullo” to their neverlands soon blinked open their eyes to the complete dark and lay awake for a long time, listening to the sounds the weather played through their hung gear, listening to the sounds of thunder that danced near and far, inevitably bringing to mind the image of angry gods playing in the roiling storm clouds above. All sounds that kept sleep at bay for a while, instead bringing in worries about gear getting wet and would the tarps hold? and was Caleb on the ground still dry, poor boy? and thoughts of how a mountain storm like this, so far from any shelter or hospital or warm fire to run too, brought such a mixture of fear, worry, and yet exultation in the sense of smallness.
The wind and hail and thunder and rain continued on, but we all found our way back to our neverlands and slept through to morning, when we woke to find the storm had cleared and left blue sky (not that we trusted that anymore!). Since we had cooked our oatmeal the night before – when the stove had already been going for dinner – we simply had to eat, then wash our dishes & brush our teeth by a little stream that ran from Sunset Lake.
The trail wandered through the rest of the Alaska Basin – worn into the dirt, it made the fading wildflowers that grew on both sides seem as tall as our shoulders. The trail began to climb steadily uphill and Caleb drew further ahead until he was a silhouette on the top of the hill, pausing to look down on us for a moment before turning and disappearing down the other side.
Kevin and I walked together out of the Alaska Basin and onto increasingly rocky and bare hills, with views of the Shelf behind us and before us, the very tops of the Cathedral Group showing over our coming ascent.
The wind increased as we climbed higher, became two lone figures in the middle of the mountain wilderness. We reached Hurricane Pass, which is a thin ridge between valleys. There the wind reached its pinnacle, chilling our skin and playing with anything attached to the backs of our packs.
We stayed there for a while, enjoying the view and experiencing again the frustration of being unable to capture with our cameras the beauty of the sun against the mountains, the immenseness.
Then we began the descent downwards, into Cascade Canyon.
Throughout the trip I kept telling the boys – oh just wait, next it’s the Shelf! I love that part! or – next we’re hiking into the Alaska Basin, it’s so beautiful! But honestly, now that I’ve done this hike again, I would have to say that my favorite part is the view from Hurricane Pass and then the descent through the South Fork of Cascade Canyon. The South Fork is… ethereal. Straight out of a book. From small, broken lakes set in the greenery that reflect the dark hues of the sky, to the slender brooks that are truly silver, cascading, musical strands through the landscape, to marmots that dart from the shadow of one rock to another, to the stately mountains that overlook it all.
All we were missing as we hiked through the South Fork was 1) for the wildflowers to be in bloom and 2) some fluffy sheep grazing in that valley! ;)
We met up with Caleb and all of us agreed to hike further into the camping zone before stopping for the night, so as to make tomorrow’s hike shorter. We also decided that we would hike back down Cascade Canyon, not down Paintbrush Canyon as had been our original intention. This would save us several miles and several thousand feet of climbing.
It began to sprinkle as we walked and we paused to put on our rain gear. The boys looked so macho… (see picture below)
Since we were all three hiking together, Caleb taught us some of the marching chants he learned in the army (“shoot ‘em, shoot ‘em, til they’re dead!”… how quaint), and some of the songs he learned while working at camp this summer (“Bill Grogan’s goat – not a chicken but a goat…”). We sang the latter song until we were thoroughly sick of it, but it passed the time nicely and was a good change from Caleb listening to his audio books and Kevin & I hiking mainly silently (so I could focus on breathing. Like Gimli).
We kept going for about another hour before swerving off the trail into a campsite, where we ate lunch and set up our hammocks/tent. By then it was still only about 2pm-3pm so we pulled out a deck of cards and played what games we could remember, using our bear canisters as seats and semi-flat rocks for a table.
Once we had exhausted our memory of card games, we explored our campsite a bit and collected dry wood for the evening. It began to sprinkle again so we all retreated to our beds, where we spent several hours reading and dozing.
When dinnertime came we tumbled from our beds to congregate beneath Kevin’s tarp, where we began the process of coaxing our stove to the point of being able to boil water. The fire had just reached that point and we had just placed the pot on to boil our tortellini when the rain began in earnest. Very much in earnest. We pulled our backpacks around to shelter the stove from the wind and tried to scoot further under the tiny tarp to keep ourselves from getting wet, but it barely five minutes later a river of water was flowing through where we squatted, extinguishing the little fire in our stove and soaking everything. And from the sound of the sky, this storm was not going to relent anytime soon.
We abandoned our efforts and fled to our beds, after making sure that everything we owned had the best chance of staying dry. Just like last night, the rain, thunder, and wind was unrelenting, but unlike last night, none of us were completely covered by our tarps. We had hung separately instead of combining our tarps and hanging together, our too-short tarps were causing water to drip on one side or another (or all sides…) of our contraptions.
Hmmm… “If we do not hang together, we shall assuredly… all get wet?” :)
I wrapped my raincoat around one end of my hammock, so while cold water was dripping on my hammock and making its way to my sleeping bag, my clothes, my soul… it was doing so very slowly and I thought I would be able to sleep through the night, though restlessly and uncomfortably.
About 8 o’clock Caleb’s voice came drifting out of his tent, asking how we were faring. Kevin responded “all right,” and I responded that I was getting a little damp but would be okay. Upon hearing my answer, the boys confessed that they were not all right, but completely soaked (Kevin) and sleeping in a puddle (Caleb). Even though the sun had just gone down and the rain was showing no sign of relenting, we came to a group decision to pack up and hike the remaining 6-8 miles out.
So, in the rain, we emerged from our beds (it’s easier to leave when it’s damp and cold… sorta) and stuffed everything haphazardly into our packs. I didn’t bother to put on my rain jacket since it was already thoroughly wet. We all put on our headlamps (remember I mentioned earlier how Caleb used the batteries for his mp3, and we were all fortunate our headlamps worked the whole way down? …yep) and set off.
The trail was mostly swamped – worn into the ground by many hikers, it made a welcome channel for the rain. It made our nocturnal walk all the more interesting as we had to frequently skirt large puddles and walk on the very edge of the trail – if the side foliage permitted. And while I had my sturdy, gortex-lined hiking boots (thanks, Aunt Sharon!), Kevin’s hiking shoes were not water proof and Caleb’s shoes were torn-up, falling-apart old tennis shoes.
The rain did let up after a while as we marched on, our vision narrowed to roots and tree limbs that flashed by. The mountains were only shadowy hints in the distance. Once we had cell service I called my friend and former roommate, Anna, and told her we’d been rained out.
We were drowned rats scampering off the boat.
We hiked down & down – slowly – to Jenny Lake, around Jenny Lake, and finally ended up at the parking lot, the same trailhead I had started at last year. It was about 11, 11:30pm. Not long after Anna showed up and we ended up spending the night under a roof, fed and clean and warm and dry. All lovely, wonderful things.
And thus ended our backpacking trip in the Tetons.
The boys will agree with me, I know, that the views were magnificent and impossible to comprehend or describe. That the storms made the experience and the story better. And that nothing can beat the coming back, the renewed thankfulness for simple comforts.
Our trip concluded with meeting back up with our friends Olivia & Kelton, spending a night in Idaho Falls & then driving to Portland where we enjoyed the Portland Saturday Market, Voodoo Donuts, and Powell’s before heading home. ^^ All in all a great road trip.
October 14, 2013
2 weeks after my first post about our backpacking trip in the Tetons… here’s the continuation of the story. :)
We spent a restful night at our campsite in Death Canyon, and our return to the trail the next morning was pushed back until about 9:30am because we had to start a fire and coax it to boil water for our breakfast of oatmeal. But return to the trail we did, and headed onwards and upwards. The trail continued in a peaceful meandering way through woods and along brooks, eventually breaking into an opening and skirting around the edge of a wide meadow of fading flowers. As we followed the trail on a southward curve, we moved into the back of the mountains and into their shadows. The sun did not break over the hills until around 11am.
Caleb stayed a ways ahead of Kevin & I because he was faster… and while he loves us, at the moment he loved the audiobook he was listening to more. :) Later I would find out he stole the batteries from our headlamps to keep his mp3 going, so we’re lucky the headlamps all worked when we needed them… but that’s a later part of the story. ;)
We climbed out of Death Canyon by way of a switchbacks that laced across an open hill. Last year while hiking down that hill I had seen a group of hawks in the distance, circling what I assumed was their craggy home. I kept my eyes peeled but did not see them this time.
We met some hikers when we reached the Death Canyon Shelf, the first people we had seen in quite a while. We would meet a smattering of people as we continued on, but mostly enjoyed the mountains all to ourselves. No freeways, no neighbors calling the kids in. No cell phones making any sounds. Just a peaceful, natural quiet.
We spent lunch on the shelf then kept making our steady way towards the Alaska Basin. Having risen from the valley walls of Death Canyon, on the Shelf we now had a drop off to our right and high, impressive rock cliffs to our left. Though pray don’t get the idea that we were traversing a narrow, Indiana-Jones style rock ledge – the Shelf is quite wide, consisting of rock fields from the crumbling cliffs where pikas and marmots dwell and scattered stands of trees that are stunted from the high altitude. The trail meanders along far enough from the edge for anyone with acrophobia to feel at ease.
When we left the Shelf we climbed into increasingly barren land. The wind rose as the trees disappeared, and we snaked behind mountains and over hills while to our left the land scooped down to offer a fine view of Idaho. The trail took us to the bottom end of the horseshoe-shaped Alaska Basin, providing a flat overlook for admiration before turning sharply to the right and descending down several switchbacks into the heart of the Basin.
There we reunited Caleb and all of three of us, weary, took a catnap in the sun on some flat rocks. Not the best when your body is already sore… The weather was changing and threatened to rain, so we roused ourselves and continued on, keeping our eyes open for a good camping site. We were now on the other side of the horseshoe and behind us, where we had been only an hour or two earlier, a thunderstorm rolled through, taking up half of the sky. So half of the sky remained blue and sunny while the other half emitted bursts of lightning and deep thunder rumbles.
Though it sprinkled and threatened to rain harder, we kept going and ended up hiking all the way to Sunset Lake – which was only a mile or two further than I had thought we would go, but still, at that point of the day a mile feels like a lot! As soon as we picked out where we would camp for the night the heavens let loose and the rain fell in earnest. We pulled out our tarps and threw them over us and our packs, huddling over on the ground until the rain relented and let us emerge. We began to set up camp but only Kevin had his tarp & hammock close to set up when the rain returned a few minutes later. I abandoned the spot where I was trying to hang up my hammock and ran for Kevin’s site.
When the rain abated again I moved my things and hung my hammock right next to Kevin, sharing one tree so we were close but not touching. We used both of our tarps (cheap things) and managed to hang them in such a way so that we were both entirely covered. Seeing our setup, Caleb decided not to set up his tent, instead just rolling out his sleeping bag on the ground directly beneath our hammocks.
Again the storm returned ferocious and wild, this time bringing hail and driving us to our beds, where we lay listening to the crackling thunder and waiting for a reprieve. This time when the reprieve came, it left a long calm that let us build a fire, cook dinner, and enjoy the light of the slipping-down sun playing across the wispy clouds. Sunset Lake certainly lived up to its name, that night.
We had ramen for dinner and then – in a stroke of genius by yours truly – also cooked our oatmeal so that it would be ready to eat the next morn, and we would not have to spend time starting a fire and boiling water.
One chapter of Sherlock Holmes and then we were too tuckered out for more. Only inches from each other, all three of us switched off headlamps, curled into our sleeping bags, and fell asleep in the remote wilds of the Tetons.
Pictures below. :) But a taste of the incomprehensible beauty along the trail.
September 30, 2013
… and I must go.”
Back in a June post I referred to the Tetons as my siren’s call. Their beauty is… haunting, and certainly tugged at my mind throughout the summer. I was so busy I was not able to go hiking ONCE, except for our summer vacation to the Grand Canyon. So when a friend of mine told me she wanted to take a road trip to Wyoming, I jumped on THAT bandwagon before you could say “Let’s absquatulate to Wyoming post haste!” She brought along a younger brother of hers and I brought along two of my brothers (after all, we needed someone to help pay for gas) and we banished them to the backseat of the car for the entire trip (none of them could legally drive…) while we controlled the music and read aloud a book that might have contained… a bit of romance. Poor little men. They bore it well.
We all gathered on September 12th, Thursday, and between the five of us managed to pack the back of the car solid. It was a marvel of a packing job, truly. After plundering our parents’ pantry we hit the road around 2:30pm. Apart from picking up Starbucks in Ellensburg, dinner in Spokane, and gas all over the country, we drove straight through Washington and Idaho and into Montana and finally stopped when we turned onto I-15, a few hours from Idaho Falls. I had driven the last 300 or so miles and pretty much parked the car, grabbed my sleeping bag, and collapsed in it onto the lawn of the rest stop directly in front of the car. Everyone else joined me and we slept there for four hours then drove the rest of the way to Idaho Falls, where we had breakfast with a friend. Then on to the Tetons, and nachos for dinner!
It was a bit bizarre walking around Signal. I saw a lot of familiar faces, but there was also a good amount of new employees, strange faces that seemed out of place. It was as if nothing had changed – yet a whole year had passed.
And a lot changes in a year. A lot changes in a day.
My friend and her brother traveled on to Eastern Wyoming so she could visit her old friends, while my brothers and I stayed at Signal. We spent Saturday just enjoying the lake, the lodge (the free coffee at the lodge…) and joined some of my old co-workers and friends for Thai food in Jackson.
On Sunday we leisurely got around to unpacking our backpacks and re-packing them with only the absolute necessities. We obtained backcountry permits and bear containers from the rangers in order to be completely legit, and started on the trail around 2:30pm.
Our plan was to hike up Death Canyon and camp one night in the lower camping zone, hiking onto the Death Canyon Shelf the next day and then into the Alaska Basin for the second night. On Tuesday we would hike up to Hurricane Pass and then meander down into Cascade Canyon, spending the night at the North Fork and finishing the trip by hiking out of the mountains through Paintbrush Canyon on Wednesday morning. We would be traveling the opposite way of the backpacking trip I took last September, by myself.
We hiked around Phelps Lake (easy) then up the Death Canyon switchbacks (Uphill. Switchbacks. Need I say more?) until we reached the camping zone and found a good camp site close to the river with trees that would acquiesce to hold our hammocks. All in all only about 6 miles.
I could tell I had not been hiking regularly… My legs were unaccustomed to the climbing and my lungs were unaccustomed to the elevation. We were all glad to stop for the night and enjoy a hot meal, cooked over our tiny camp stove that only needed dry sticks, a little tinder, and a good amount of tending.
After reading some Sherlock Holmes aloud together we retired with the sun – Kevin and I to hammocks and Caleb to a one person tent. The mountains and trees surrounded us and the cool, pure air of the wilderness drifted in and out of our lungs as we slept. No sound of freeways. No trains passing by. No neighbors. The silence of nature surrounded us.
We slept deep until the rising sun, the daily miracle, lightened the world yet again and woke us to another day of hiking.
To be continued…