Friday, May 29, 2015

Happiness Is...

....a day in the yard: sweeping patios, weeding flower and raised beds, watering starts, trimming bushes, finally gathering the last of the winter yard debris, spreading 18 bags of wood chips, mowing lawns.

...a day painting old rockers, creating new outdoor seating areas & a new fire pit area, and finally hanging a clothes line.

...Swahili lessons, end of year happy hrs with colleagues, regular class lectures, and final prepping for summer lessons.

...afternoon runs with the dogs, tails wagging, frequent pee stops, & post jog relaxation. evening over pizza, ice cream, and a couple of brews at various joints downtown helping (Reg) D celebrate his birthday.

...mornings waking up with sunlight streaming in, happy dog faces, and lots of furry cuddles.

...finally going on a "stock up" grocery outing and filling the fridge with food galore, fixings for sausages with kraut, tomatoes & mozzarella, perfectly ripened mangos, ingredients for my chicken/salsa/avocado/blackbean/sourcream/cilantro delight! SO exited to eat at home :)

...having just one housemate for the next three weeks, having the house to myself entirely this weekend, and yet still having rent and everything covered for the summer.

...shock over next week already being June...time sure flies!

...researching week long backpacking options.

....laying in the hammock, warm day, slight breeze blowing, dogs lounging, Texas country playing, smelling Poppa's rose bush blooming, surrounded by kiwi blossoms, dragon flies flying, hard apple cider tasting.

...Netflix marathons: Long Way Down series, I Am and Fed Up documentaries, explorer shows, all inspiring.

...summer planning: late summer trips, bday bbq, pre-travel coffee dates & happy hrs.

...three weeks til Africa traveling!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Solo Backpacking Trip

Since I'm currently off backpacking, I figured I'd finally post about the solo backpacking trip I did earlier this month. I have to say that after finally conquering this item off the "bucket list," it's really pretty freeing in a lot of ways. To feel like you can just take off for a few days into the woods and be okay is a pretty amazing feeling, although I can't exactly say that I could totally live off the land for a few days just yet :)

This 28 mile Lucky Lake Loop was one I had discovered after I ran a search from returning from the Lucky Lake trip I did before. While the trail log and maps provided at Cascade Hiking Adventures definitely was a good reference, I did feel like the trail log could have used more detail at times. There were a couple of spots where I started to lose elevation gain or the trail split where I didn't expect it, as the changes weren't recorded on the website. Overall though their review definitely helped and I was able to screen shot the maps to pull them up on my phone en route. (I also had purchased an actual map from REI in Bend.) When I had hit the trail in April, there was minimal snow on the trail and the campsite that I had stayed at while car camping was completely empty. This time I planned to car camp at the same spot the first night and then spend two days completing the 28 mile trek. The original campsite I tried was packed with fisherman however so then I researched and drove over to another nearby camp area where I was able to find some open spots.

These are pictures from the camp location:

 Roxi taking over my spot in the car:

The next morning we were up and on trail by 8:30am. I'd had a solid breakfast with oatmeal and surprisingly both dogs actually ate. It's just over a mile up trail from the Senoj Trailhead to Lucky Lake. The total trail goes by MANY MANY lakes so I'm not including pictures of all of them :)

I would not be exaggerating if I stated that we climbed over, around or under over 100 downed logs on this trail. Apparently a pretty decent wind storm had come through the weekend before. 

There was one section near Corral Swamp where there were so many downed trees that I completely lost the trail. I wandered around for a bit exploring the area and was also able to get a slight cell signal to pull up GPS and be able to see what general direction to head in. A bit of additional gut instinct and I refound the trail...after crossing through the swamp :)

After turning onto the next trail, we hit an area of pure sunshine. There was a side jaunt to an additional lake that we could have taken but I decided we'd just keep on going as we were already going to see so many bodies of water along the way.

About mile 9 or 10 we came across Boyd with his pack llamas. He asked if we would sit for a spell and chat and I always love meeting new people on trail. He has been traveling this trail for over thirty years and had some great stories. The original trail log mentioned camping at around mile 13, but I was able to ask Boyd about other options and he encouraged us to go on. Although he did share his secret camping spot and gave permission to use some of his stowed away goods at his lake about 11 miles in :) 

He also told us about Muskrat Lodge. Years ago this was a great spot with mouse proof cabinets, an incredibly warming stove, and a sleeping loft. He talked about spending time in there warming and sleeping by the fire on snow shoe trips. It was sort of sad to see it in such disrepair now.
After his one pack llama started backing toward as as if he wanted to kick, Roxi almost got into it with his dog, AND Roxi almost sat on a snake, I decided it was time for us to move on. About two miles later, the dogs and I passed the lake where Boyd frequents and we took the side trail toward Snowshoe Lake.

This is a short pano of Snowshoe Lake, which is where the guide suggestions camping: 

I kept checking mileage on the maps and seeing how the dogs and I were doing. Since we were in pretty decent shape (and I didn't see the point in stopping hiking til evening), we continued on til we made the Pacific Crest Trail shelter off of Cliff Lake. 

This made a great little spot to set up camp: 

Both dogs were pretty beat after 18 miles and scarfed down all their food. I had plenty of daylight to change into fresh clothes, set up the tent and sleeping gear, prepare hot cider to keep my body temp up, make some dinner, and then soak my blistered feet in the icy lake. I spent a few moments in my camp hammock and then crawled into bed to read for a bit. Roxi got to spend a few hours sleeping inside the tent for the first time ever, but she decided she likes it outside much better. :)

On Day 2 we headed out back on the PCT:
We passed several more lakes before starting to run into snow, even as we were dropping elevation. Interestingly we came across the worst of the snow banks about 4700-5200ft and once the final trail split off, it was a struggle to find the trail. This is the start of where the trail split and headed into even more snow: 
There were a couple miles in here where I could hardly determine where the trail was and seriously had to start contemplating turning around in order to backtrack all 22 miles. (We only had six more to go.... but the trees on this trail aren't stamped nor marked like many other winter trails...) Eventually I was able to pick up a pair of slight footprints that you can see two pictures down. Someone had come through on this trail probably a couple days prior and knew where they were going. Thank the Lord....because backtracking 22 miles would have been horrible! This was also the moment when I realized that Reg D truly needs to teach me map & compass navigation. 

Senoj Lake was beautiful!

The footprints! Woohoo!

Besides the initial mountain behind Lucky Lake, this is the only other decent viewpoint from the trail. This is at the highest point of the hike which is about 6000 ft. 

From the viewpoint is a few more miles back to Lucky Lake. On the route from Lucky Lake back to the car we met another older gentleman who we chatted with for ten minutes. He advised that I just get a GPS rather than use the old map and compass system :) 

The dogs ran straight to the car and jumped inside. They were happy to have more food and some additional water. I changed clothes, used the actual bathroom at the trail head, shoved an apple in my mouth, and then headed back to our favorite camp site to check my work email, soak my angry feet, and take in some great views. I contemplated spending another night here as most the fishermen had headed out....but decided to head back to the valley and work instead.

Altogether I learned a few lessons but was also really glad at how well the trip went overall. General rule of thumb is start with highest elevation first. I also figured out that drinking a hot beverage right after stopping mileage granted me additional moments of finger usage. I have Raynauds so once I stop moving and my core body temp starts to drop, I tend to lose sensation in my fingers for quite a while. I've learned to work around this by doing everything that I need to do with my fingers (changing, setting up the tent, getting dinner ready, getting fresh water, etc) within 10 minutes of stopping. The hot beverage trick granted me more time and I also noticed that I didn't lose sensation in all of the fingers this time. It was great! Besides compass skills, I also probably need to be in the market for new hiking shoes.

But altogether a pretty successful first solo excursion! And I didn't even have that on my goal list for this year :) Glad to be on trail with Reg D this weekend however!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Fun Crawfish Friday

Blog catch-up time :)

Two weeks ago, we were headed into a full sunshine and heat weekend. Since it was Thursday I asked one of my massage clients what she was planning on doing for the weekend and she told me all about local crawfishing and how I should go. After spending a few years in Louisiana, I couldn't help but get excited.....and I went and bought a crawfish trap at Bi-Mart right as my shift ended :)

I spent the evening researching the best spots to crawfish and what regulations might exist. (Which there are none if you're doing it for sport.) I had seen a few posting that mentioned that the Wilson River had crawfish which was perfect as that's where the dogs and I do a lot of hiking. I figured that we could hike a few miles and then the dogs could relax on the river bank while I put the trap in and lounged reading.....

....except when I arrived to the trailhead I had in mind, the Forestry gal told me that the Wilson was too fast moving and that the Nehalem would be much better. The Nehalem had been mentioned on the forums also but was 45 minutes away. I decided to get the dogs on trail for a few miles and think on it. My feet were still recovering from my backpacking trip so we only hiked up and in about two miles and then ran back out. There were several guys on trail mountain biking and it's always entertaining to hear grown men hollering like lil boys as they excitedly come around corners ;)

When I came off trail, I decided that it was a nice day for a drive, so I loaded the dogs back in and off we went. We made it to the campground the gal had suggested about two and I was able to get the trap situated and in the water within thirty minutes. I used chicken for bait and as soon as I put the trap in I could see the crawfish coming toward it....

.....but let me tell you....those crawfish are SMART! :) At one point I had  15-20 crawfish ON the trap. As in they knew they could just eat my chicken through the trap without going inside it. I was able to catch three by hand, but really wished that I had a small net to just scoop several more up. Eventually I tied the chicken inside in a way that they couldn't eat it through the sides...and of course they were less interested. At the end of the day I had only two crawfish inside the trap and one of those was smart enough to know how to swim out! Ha.

I came home with four crawfish....but it made for a pretty entertaining day anyway. I also struggled with whether or not to boil them up once I had them home. They just looked so sad in the bag on the counter and in reality you don't get much meat off a crawfish. So I seriously debated letting them go in the local creek by my house (which I found out later is either frowned upon or illegal...can't remember which), but eventually I sucked it up and just dropped them in.

Altogether I learned a lot, still felt proud to catch my own dinner....and now I'm pretty excited to go fishing with an old buddy of mine for free fishing weekend (June 6th and 7th). :)

Friday, May 8, 2015

Things I'm Loving

1) Two new housemates arrived and are settled in. So far I really enjoy both of them and honestly each of us will only live with the other for a max of two months, so I'm hoping this really works out well.

2) It's a high of 80 today and a high of 85 tomorrow! One of my clients told me about local crawfishing. I bought a trap & some beer, found my old lawn chairs, and plan to head to the river later today after some grading to try to catch some dinner :) We'll also see if we can get a few hiking miles in! Oh and my Friday meetings were cancelled for both today and next Friday.

3) Yesterday was my last day at the massage job. I really enjoyed the diversity of clients that I was able to work with and it's incredible to spend an hour with someone and watch their tension, headache, ailments slowly disappear....but there were also things that I definitely learned from that job that I won't be looking for should I look for massage work in a clinic again. Everything is a learning experience. :)

4) The dogs and I went back to Central Oregon this last weekend and had a fun time soaking in the views at our favorite camp ground before heading out to complete our first solo backpacking trip! I plan to write about the trip on it's own later but it was a pretty awesome trip, and ironically I didn't even originally intend to check that bucket list item off the list this year. It's really sort of freeing though in a sense--to know that you can go into the woods and be comfortable overnight and alone.

5) The visit with my old friend last Saturday went really well, although I got a bit delayed starting on my trip out of town. I also stopped at my sister's to see her family and her (& my great niece who was visiting) and then swung by my parent's place to chat with Dad & Granny and drop my massage table off. Granny was in great form that day and it was great to spend a few moments with her. I also stopped by my parents place on my way home from the trip and had a great visit with all of them. It was really nice to see them so much in the last week. They'll be up here at my aunt's for mother's day on Sunday.

6) By the time I leave for the Tanzania trip, I think my credit card will already be at the 75% goal mark that I'd set at the beginning of the year (well minus, the extra from the plane ticket that will be reimbursed). I have the tendency of always striving for there's the chance that the credit card will be paid in full by the end of the year. Since I'm planning on taking that road trip the end of this summer and probably only renting out just one room in the fall, repayment will definitely slow down but still exciting to be so close to the original goal for the year :)

7) Two more outdoor trips are in the plans. Reg D and I are planning a 5-6 day trip with the dogs to tire them out before they go to my parents in June and then we'll also do a shorter trip over part of Memorial Day weekend. If I can square all my grading away, I could also go somewhere next weekend but I haven't decided if we should head out or just hang out closer to home for a bit.

But lots of great things in the works. There's the occasional speed bump but I'm pretty stoked with where life is and where it seems to be heading....just trying to enjoy, live a life I love, and trust the process....