A Journey to Visit Modern Mountain Woman

Thanks to the milder than normal January here in northern Idaho and western Montana, I decide to make a trip over Lookout Pass to visit my daughter, Ang, who lives off-grid and blogs as Modern Mountain Woman.  I take it easy going over the pass as it is hard to tell melting snow runoff from black ice in the shady spots.  Once down the other side, the highway is clear and I make good time.

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Clark Fork River

It is tempting to stop and take photos of the Clark Fork River, but I am eager to get on up to the cabin.  Once off the highway, road conditions deteriorate somewhat.  The state highway out of the village is mostly clear, but a little icy in spots; the road up the mountain begins as snowpack and mud, but soon turns into a sheet of ice topped with a layer of water.  Nice and easy does it right to the driveway, which is a steep upward turn.  Ang and friends have not been able to get up to the cabin, even with chains, but I am not crazy about carrying all my stuff – clothes, food and books to share, and a cello – up the icy driveway, so I decide to see if I can make it up to the cabin.  Well, you gotta love a Subaru with good tires!

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From cabin looking down the driveway

The next few mornings are spent enjoying the first light of the day, sharing French press coffee, talking about books we are reading, the writing contests she is planning on entering, sacred geometry, and manifesting.

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Morning sun beams

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Sunlight on the trees

Over the next several days, numerous bonfires are built – no easy task with everything outdoors either still under snow or wet from the humidity and the rain that fell softly one night – and deadfall is burned to begin a clearing process to let light into the forest and to create an opening for terraced gardens, greenhouse, and chickens come summer.

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Getting the bonfire going with damp and green wood

One morning while Ang is working for the neighbor down the road, James and I have a fire making contest.  Each of us had a fire pit and worked to see who could get a good fire going first.  Although I had some flames at one point, James didn’t fare any better, and it was only when Ang returned that we had a really good bonfire.

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Fire building winner is the modern mountain woman

Wood is cut and other chores are attended to.  James and I play cello together, the first time doing a duet for him.

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Ang cuts wood for the cabin’s wood stove

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James gets a haircut

We visit with friends and family.   Sometimes we drive out in my car and sometimes brave folks drive up to the property, walking through the woods to join us at a bonfire.

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Friends come for a visit

Most evenings we go down to the next door neighbor’s place, as he is not quite so off-grid and has internet, electricity, and running water.  We take care of business involving the internet, take showers, and share a meal while we watch Stargate. Back at the cabin, peaceful evenings lead into quiet nights except for the puppy and the cat when they get restless.

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Ang with Boots and Thor (naughty but oh-so-cute puppy)

The cabin is cozy; I sleep on the bench/bed that will one day be part of the rocket stove, which will be built before next fall.   I can look out the window and see stars on the clear nights, little solar lights, and the embers of a recent bonfire.  I am delighted to be surrounded by great tall trees in the daytime and complete darkness at night except for these small gentle sources of light .

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Evening bonfire that will soon die to embers

Although I probably could not live totally off-grid by myself, I enjoy the opportunity to share a few days in the life of a modern mountain woman.  Tomorrow I will head for home; the next day Clifford will return from his business trip to California, and soon we will be able to take the Pony (our pop-up tent trailer) on a camping trip, our own version of living off-grid.

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With errands to run, Ang trucks on down the icy road to town

Bass Creek Camping – October 2014 – Part 6

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Blue-sky day

Monday October 20, 2014 – It is going to be sunny today, but I make a small campfire for the warmth until the sun reaches the campsite, enjoying my morning ritual of fire, coffee, and journal.   After breakfast we make a quick trip to Stevensville for ice and a few groceries.  Back at camp, we decide to hike the Bass Creek Trail which leaves from a parking lot at the end of the campground.  Based on the doctor’s recommendation, I’ve not been exerting myself, but every day that we are here, I feel better.  There may not be another chance to hike the trail with a great blue sky and sunshine while we are here.  We drive around to the parking area, although it wouldn’t have been terribly far just to hike to the trail head.  I have a small thermos of tea, my hiking sticks, and the Canon G1X.  I am going to mosey along taking photos while Clifford goes on ahead.  I will only go as far as I feel totally comfortable with.

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I am thrilled with the sunlight coming through the aspen trees, turning yellow to golden.  The western larch are also a rich autumn color.

AutumnBass_G1x 407Although I can hear the creek below me, the dense growth often obscures the sight of it,

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The creek below the trail

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Colors of autumn

The further up the trail I go, the chillier it is.  As we were getting ready to go, I discovered my day pack was left at home by mistake.  It was warm enough at the camp that I didn’t think I would need more layers than what I am wearing, but now the windbreaker and gloves in the day pack would be most welcome.  Reminder to self to have the extra layer just in case.

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Patches of sunlight on the trail

So, I hike from one sunlit patch to another, stopping to take photos whenever autumn leaves catch my attention.

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AutumnBass_G1x 437Several times I stop, thinking I will turn back, but after resting on a rock in the sunshine and drinking some of my hot tea,  I go on, eager to see what is beyond the next bend in the trail.

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Around the next bend in the trail

Eventually, it is the deepening shadows on the trail and the chilly wind that forces me to turn back.  I am glad that my stamina was not the determining factor.

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Trail in shadow

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Deepening shadows on the trail

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Down the trail toward the lingering sunlight

I hike briskly back down the trail, not stopping until I reach the trail head, where the last of the afternoon sunshine brings a bit of warmth.

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Last light coming through the trees

Back at the campsite, I am too cold to play cello, so go on inside the Pony to warm up.  Make a hot cup of tea and get on with editing.  Clifford has hiked considerably further up the trail than I did, so it is a while later before he comes.  Then we have dinner and I continue editing.  I am nearly finished with the book I am working on.  I download the photos taken today and am pleased with the beautiful autumn colors.  I am looking forward to doing some photo editing soon.  And off to bed with vision of golden trees dancing in my head.

Nambe Lake

Nambe Lake Backpacking Trip –  1,800 foot elevation gain, about 3 ½ miles each way.

Friday, September 21, 2012 – We arrive at the Santa Fe ski basin and are on the trail to Nambe Lake a little after 3:00.  Uphill to the wilderness boundary – about 800 foot gain – then slightly downhill, descending 400 feet, to the Nambe Lake trail junction.  At the junction, the trail climbs steeply upward over rocks and exposed tree roots, hardly a trail in many spots, steep and challenging.

The Rocky Trail to Nambe Lake

Alongside the trail, a wonderful little creek tumbles downhill over boulders, making little waterfalls here and there, quite magical in its descent.

Delightful Little Creek

Being as late as it is, we don’t have time to stop for photos or even for the break that I am needing.  This steep uphill is challenging for me, especially with the pack being heavier – warmer clothes for the cooler temps.  We finally, gratefully, reach Nambe Lake about 6:00 after 1,000 foot elevation gain.  Nambe Lake sits in a mountain bowl with rock-faced cliffs on the east and south and with steep treed slopes on the north and west.

Nambe Lake – View to the South

Then we look for a campsite.  We find one on a bench on the west side of the lake.   The fire-ring is surrounded by fallen longs and we find a spot just barely big enough to set up the tent just outside the ring of logs.  Clifford gets a little cook-fire going right away so we can heat water for tea.  He is feeling a little dizzy and we figure having hot tea will be relaxing and refreshing.

Our Camp at Nambe Lake

Just before the sun goes down, there is a wonderful golden color on the cliff-face to the east.  I get a few photos before the color fades.

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Golden Reflections on Still Waters

We make raman for dinner with dried spinach, peas, and salmon added – much tastier and more nutritious than plain raman.  After dinner and clean-up by lantern-light, we hang the food bag and then head to bed.  I am sleeping in my bathrobe, warmer, but heavy to pack in.

Woke up in the night with painful cramps in my thigh.  Happened several times.

Saturday, September 22, 2012 – Daylight and I wake up having no idea what time it is, so doze off and on several times before finally getting up.  Gather some small twigs to start the cook fire. Clifford is soon up, so he takes the twigs and gets the little fire started.  We heat water for hot drinks and have enough hot water left for our oatmeal for breakfast.

Heating Water for Hot Chocolate on the Cook-Fire

After breakfast, we hike around the lake.  There is a really pretty campsite at the end of the lake, but someone was there when we arrived yesterday.  They are gone now and we didn’t even hear them leave.  This is where I’d like to camp if we make another trip up here.  As we hike around this small lake, I take photos here and there of the reflections on the calm water and of the autumn colors.

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Across the Lake

When we get back to camp we have hot tea, do crosswords puzzles, Clifford reads and I write in my small backpacking journal.   While Clifford naps after lunch, I do some editing – about 50 small-print pages of the novel “Emperors and Exiles.”  Along with taking photos of the lake, the editing keeps me busy until dinner.

We go down to the lake outlet for more water as the sun is setting.

End of Daylight

The wind comes up, but we have a cheery campfire and a hot dinner.

Cheery Campfire

After dinner and cleanup, as soon as the fire burns down, we head to bed.

A wonderful Autumn Equinox day.

Slept better – warm in tent even though it is windy all night.

Sunday September 23, 2012 – I am up before Clifford and start collecting twigs to start a fire.  He is up by time I get back from my wanderings.  We get a fire started and heat water for hot chocolate.  Blue sky is becoming obscured by hazy clouds.  Still windy off and on.  Oatmeal for breakfast and then wash up – head to toe for me after dishes are done.  Start packing.   Do another crossword puzzle and thought I would start reading the new Backpacker, but it is later than we thought, so we finish packing and head on down the trail.

Steep going down, but a lot easier than the going up.   Part way down, the women ahead of us have taken a wrong trail.  We continue on a ways, but Clifford is concerned, so we take off our packs and he goes back to see if he can find out if they are okay.  He isn’t gone very long, as he as figured what they had to do to get back onto the main path along the creek.  It is no wonder hikers get lost up here every year; the trail just isn’t obvious much of the time.  On down we go.

Once we reach the junction, it is uphill to the boundary and then the last steep downhill to the ski basin, taking photos along the way.   It is so pretty  – I love the rocks and the golden-leaved aspen.

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Colors of Autumn

Back in Santa Fe, we run a couple of errands and then Harry’s for dinner, sitting in the garden with all the strings of lights on.  Very charming.    So ends the successful outing to Nambe Lake.