Cochise Stronghold – Winter Journey – February 2018

Tuesday February 13:  No time for a morning walk at Snyder Hill, west of Tucson, as we are packing up and leaving for Cochise Stronghold in the Dragoon Mountains, about 50 miles east of Tucson.

Leaving Snyder Hill.

We make stops for propane, water, and groceries, as well as picking up forwarded mail, so it is afternoon by time we make it out to the Stronghold.

This time we are camping in the dispersed area along the forest road that leads to the campground. This area will give us more space, more sunlight for the solar panels, and it is free. Between the recent wildfire and the forecast for inclement weather, no one is there and we have our choice of campsites.

Dispersed area

We find a spacious site and get tucked in between a couple of oak trees. Clifford takes care of the solar panel and ham antenna while I get the inside ready for us.

We pick a campsite and get set up

I call and/or text my kids to let them know where we are before going for a walk to explore. There are several other campsites that could have been suitable, but this one is good for this time of year. I am happy that it worked out for us to come after all, with the beautiful scenery and ample hiking opportunities away from traffic and noise. There is something about this place that really resonates with me.

Dragoon Mountains – a place that resonates with me

Wednesday February 14: It is cooler here today than the past week in Tucson, with a high of only 60. I send Happy Valentine’s Day greetings to my kids and my siblings. And, of course, Happy Valentine’s Day wishes to Clifford!

Happy Valentine’s Day to my kids, my siblings, and Clifford

This morning I explore the ravine at the base of the mountain, discovering faint trails up the rocky slopes. Walking the road that meanders through the camping area, I find more campsites and another trail up the mountain. I hike a short distance up the trail and sit on a rock there, with a great view of the valley below and mountains beyond.

Hiking up a rocky trail

Back at camp, after writing thank you cards to recent donors to Carnicom Institute, we drive out to the Peace post office and on to Marsha’s Garden, a great little shop of lotions, salves, soaps, creams, and candles made with goat milk and essential oils. I take my time selecting items to purchase, enjoying the wonderful smells of this delightful little shop.

On our way back to camp, even though it is raining, we drive on out to the campground to say hi to our camp host friend, Jimi.

Raining on the drive back to camp
Rainy view from the Cochise Stronghold Campground

Back at our campsite, we discover that our camper has leaked and our bed is wet, all the way to the mattress pad. Ugh. We soak up as much as possible with towels and let the layers dry out over the course of the afternoon. We put a tarp over the vent, as it appears the rain will continue. I am happy to be here and grateful for the rain!

More rain

Spring Journey – Hiking with Cousin Bill – May 2017 (16)

 

Tuesday May 16th – Although there are winter storm warnings for western Montana, it looks like a good day for hiking. We meet Bill and Sally and their big German Shepherds at the village of Glen before following them out to rugged BLM land that reminds me of the buttes of lower Sun River valley where I lived as my kids were growing up.

My cousin Bill, whom I hadn’t seen for 50 years (we are all grown up now,) and his wife, Sally
Heading out to BLM land to go hiking with Bill and Sally

The road gets a bit rough and when we stop, we discover that our 5-gallon water jug has tipped and broken, spilling five gallons of water in the back of the Suburban. Not a good thing, but we park on a slope and let as much run out as possible.

Here’s where the road ends
Ready to head up

 Then Clifford and I follow Bill and Sally up a draw and around to the backside of a large mesa, eventually climbing all the way to the top.

We follow Bill up the draw
We will be hiking around to the backside of the mesa before beginning the climb to the summit

A massive and impressive rock wall comes into view
We pause at the base of the rock wall
Bill, Clifford, and Sally at the base of the rock wall
Here’s where the real climb starts, staircase courtesy of Mother Nature

It is a bit strenuous, particularly on my knees, but the views are quite spectacular.

Scenic view from the top of the mesa
The dots just left of center at the end of the road are our vehicles
Clouds over the mountains become denser

We can see the clouds on the mountain across the valley becoming dense and dark, the harbinger of the storm to come. We make good time going back down, not wanting to get caught in the rain on the rocky slopes and draws. Between ticks and rattlesnakes, we have to be on the alert the whole time, but it is a good hike.

The rocks on the mesa are quite interesting — so  rough and lichen-covered
Pink paintbrush on the slope
We were at the top of this mesa and this is only the base of the backside – there is still the Mother Nature staircase to descend, which will take us back to the draw and down to the vehicles
Bill reaches the rock wall and begins the descent down the rock staircase

Back at the vehicles, we follow Bill and Sally to their place in Dillon, where they show us their pretty flower-filled yard, rock collections, and car restoration projects, followed by a very tasty meal of steak, rice, and the best corn-on-the-cob I’ve ever had.

Back at camp, as we nap, tired out from the hike, it begins to rain, and the rain becomes heavier as the evening progresses. Looks like the winter storm that was forecast is moving in.

Road Trip – Stouts Grove – April 2015

Thursday April 30: We are up before 8:00 this morning. The odd thing is that I seldom know what time it is, what time we get up, what time we eat, or what time we go to bed. This morning, after a short walkabout to visit flower-friends, I make a campfire, not really because it is cold enough to need it, but because I enjoy it.

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My friends Ken and Shelley Anne who have been so supportive over the preceding challenging months are on my mind. I give them a call, thinking I will get voice mail and am pleased to talk to Shelley Anne in person for a few minutes.

Once the coastal redwoods covered 2 million acres of land, mostly in California, but due to logging in the late 1800’s to the 1920’s, only about 100,000 acres of ancient redwood forests remain. Today we drive to Stouts Grove near the beginning of Howland Hill Road (or end, depending on which way one is traveling). This is an old-growth grove in what is now Redwood National Park and Jedediah Smith State Park, a co-operative effort on the part of national and state agencies to preserve what remains of the old-growth forests. What a loss it would be to both the natural world and the civilizations of the world to not have the redwoods. These ancient giants deserve our very best efforts to preserve them for their invaluable role in the ecology of the planet, as well as to inspire all those who gaze upward toward their lofty heights. We today are most fortunate that efforts have been made to preserve these remaining great trees.

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Redwoods may reach a height of 370 feet tall and may be as much as 20 feet in diameter. They can live to be 2,000 years old, although many are merely 500 to 700 years old. I am in awe of them as I walk the trail. The tops cannot be seen by looking up; it is like trying to look at a mountain peak when standing at the base of the mountain where one can see only the foothills. Photos do not do justice to their majestic size unless a tiny human is included in the photo.

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Notice the tiny human (me) and this is not one of the largest trees that we saw

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Notice the really tiny human (Clifford) on the trail

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We have learned something of their growth patterns that allows these great trees to survive.  Bulbous outgrowths hold the potential to grow new trees out of the old – like a fetus waiting to grow and be born as a baby.  Some redwoods grow in a tight cluster from one root system, their strength supporting each other.  Thick bark protects them from insect injury and even damage from fire.  Many of these old trees, still living, bear the scars of severe forest fires.

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Not only are the trees wonderful, but the ferns and shamrocks are lush, adding color and texture to the scene.

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Shamrocks grow from the decay of a fallen redwood

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Fern and shamrocks growing from a decaying redwood

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Back at the campground, I take the trail down to the Smith River and find a place where I can take photos of some of the rapids along this stretch. I am drawn to the beautiful clear aqua water of this lively river.

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Lovely color of the Smith River

 

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Rapids on the Smith River

We have nachos for dinner and do crossword puzzles, which are both addictive and annoying. One of these days I am going to not do the crosswords with dinner. But tonight I do crosswords until I can’t stand doing another one. I go to bed thinking not of crosswords, however, but of great tall wonderful trees.

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Consolation Prize

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Morning Rain

The Blazer was all packed and the Pony (our little pop-up tent trailer) in place; we were ready to leave on our 2 1/2 month road trip to Oregon and California.  Then, during the night Clifford got sick, really sick, and didn’t start to get better until after I took him to the clinic where he had a couple liters of fluid dripped into his blood.  He is still very weak, but at least he is alive.  But the trip is on hold.  Now and then I go out to the Blazer and unpack something that I need – my cameras and journal were first to come out, then  essential oils and hiking shoes, tomorrow the supplements which are buried a bit deeper.  Don’t want to give up on making the trip yet this spring, so hesitate to unload more than is absolutely necessary. But I am sorely disappointed that we are not at the moment camped along the Deschutes River in central Oregon.  So, as a consolation prize, and I mean this in the very best sense of the word, I decide to drive up the creek outside of town and take time to be with the creek and the trees, the fresh air and the breeze… to console myself and sooth my soul.

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Mist Rises from the Ravine

The morning had started out rainy; I see mist rising from the ravines and droplets clinging to branches on the nearer trees.

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Droplets Cling to Tree Branches

By time I reach the Pulaski Trail Head, it has stopped raining altogether, and sunshine peeks through the remaining clouds, creating highlights on the frothy rushing of Placer Creek at the beginning of the trail.  The rain has certainly brought flamboyance to this little stream.

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Frothy Placer Creek

At first I plan only to go in a short ways, as I don’t want to leave Clifford alone too long, but once I am on the trail, it is hard to turn back.  The rain has brought a richness of color to the earthy trail, the trees, and the moss. Saturday the 21st 045Saturday the 21st 014 Around each footbridge along the trail there exudes a musky odor from the creatures who live beneath – muskrats, perhaps.

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Musky Footbridge

I feel drawn to go further into the quiet moistness of the ravine.

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Quiet Moistness

Clifford doesn’t like me to hike in by myself – a mis-step on the trail, a wild animal, a weirdo, whatever.  But if I don’t hike alone, I might not be doing much hiking at all, so I continue on… alone.  I hike to my favorite waterfalls, the one I call Fairyland Falls, which in summer is a delicate falls encased in green shrubbery and abundance of mossy rocks.  Now, with the recent rains, it is not quite so delicate, but showing its more exuberant side.

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Exuberance

But this is as far as I will go today.  Heading back down the trail, I find a place alongside the creek where I can hang out for a few minutes, watching the water dash by, letting myself feel oneness with the lively movement of the water and the strength of the tall forest trees. Sunday outing 027Sunday outing 035 My soul is soothed; I am consoled.

A Walk in the Mountains

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A walk in the forest begins in the sunlight

While folks around the country have had more snow and wintery weather than ever and are weary of it, we in the Silver Valley of northern Idaho have had little.  So, my friend Sally and I drive up the road – literally to higher elevation – and then hike up the Pulaski Trail – we don’t go far enough to really call it a hike, even though it is a hiking trail – to even higher elevation….  and revel in the beauty of winter.

It was 15 degrees this morning, but blue sky above and and sunny where the sun’s rays reach into the valley.  The first part of the trail is in the sunlight, but we are soon walking in shade and snow on the trail.

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Icy edges on Placer Creek

Hiking along Placer Creek, we see some very enchanting ice formations.

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Ice formations hanging from a log over Placer Creek

Photography is a bit tricky with the low light and high contrast between snow and the almost-black water of the creek.  In spite of that, it is a delight to be here.  At the half-mile mark is my favorite waterfall, a fairlyland all mossy and green in the summer, but in the chill of the last days of winter, it is enchanting in quite a different way.

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Fairyland Falls in winter

We both would have like to have gone further, but Sally is in the process of moving and I am packing for our first road trip since last fall.  So, we turn back and soon see sunshine before us, beyond the grasp of the cold and winter-wonderland that we have briefly enjoyed.

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Sunlight ahead

Bass Creek Camping – October 2014 – Part 8

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Sunny autumn skies – camp tree

Mostly sunny this morning, but a very damp 35 degrees after yesterday’s rain.  The campfire is reluctant this morning, but after awhile a cheery blaze warms me as I sit with my cup of coffee and “A New Earth,” reading about the pain-body, the condition where one identifies with one’s pain so much as to lose touch with the real person.

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Keeping my coffee warm

After breakfast I walk across the meadow, irresistibly drawn to the aspens on the hillside.  This time I find a game trail that ascends at a comfortable angle and I am soon at the aspen grove.  I take lots of photos even though the angle of the sun is not ideal.  There is quite a breeze, causing the leaves to shimmer and sparkle as they dance about.  It is really quite marvelous and I thoroughly enjoy being there.

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Leaves shimmer and sparkle as they dance about

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I walk with trees

Back at camp, I have a long cello session broken by wood gathering in the deep woods behind the camp.  I realize there is so much more to explore.  I did not have the energy for it earlier in our stay, but I feel like I’m missing out on something important.  Well, next time….  The twigs and branches that I find are really quite wet, so I reluctantly leave the magical woods

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Magical woods

and walk across the meadow to gather twigs and branches that have had more time to dry in the sun and the wind. Back at camp I continue with playing cello until Becka calls.  Someone made her angry and she calls to talk about camping because it makes her feel better.  We plan a camping date for next summer, perhaps right here.  Clifford needs to use my cell phone for a business call, so I give him the phone and head on back to the aspens.

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The sun shines low from the west

The sun is now low in the west, shining through the gap between mountain peaks.  It is cloudier this afternoon, so I have to wait for sunnier and still moments to get shots with the glow of the leaves as the sun shines through them.  Back-lit leaves of plants and shrubs also get my attention.

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Back-lit

Even while I wait for these photo-opp moments, I am thrilled to be here on the mountain with these lovely trees.

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Lovely aspens dance for me

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Hard to say good-bye while the sun yet shines

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Still saying good-bye

I can’t bear to leave until the sun has settled low enough that no more sunlight illumines the grove. Finally I say “good-bye” and head down the  hill, picking up chunks of wood on my way.  Back at camp, it is time for another campfire, hot tea, and journal writing. Bass Creek has been good for me.  Every day I breathe in the fresh air; I am surrounded by mountains, tall ponderosa at the meadow’s parameters look down on me, dark mysterious woods invite me to explore, and golden aspen dance for me – they have all shared their strength with me.  I am feeling healthier and more peaceful being here at Bass Creek. There are even moments of joy.  I hope to carry this joy with me as I move forward to what lies ahead.

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Moments of joy

Bass Creek Camping – October 2014 – Part 7

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Misty drizzly morning

Tuesday October 21: We were going to put the big tarp over the Pony yesterday since there is a forecast of rain, but we were too tired and cold when we got back from hiking and figured we could do it this morning.  Then it started raining in the night, so it is too late to put up the tarp.  Too wet for a fire this morning – I could build a fire, but can’t read and edit in the rain, so it is an inside morning.

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Rainy day at Charlie Waters Campground

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Mossy tree trunks, all in a row

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The rain emphasizes the moss on the tree trunks

Later, when the rain lets up a bit, I decide to go for a walk across the meadow,

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Our campsite as seen from across the meadow

and once there, emboldened by my successful hiking yesterday, I hike on up the hillside to the grove of young aspen that I have admired from a distance.

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Hiking to the aspen grove

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Nearing the aspen grove

It is pretty here, even if there is no sunlight to bring a glow to the leaves.  I walk amongst the trees, admiring their autumn colors and smooth cool bark. I could be an aspen tree.

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Walking with the aspens

By time I get back to camp, my shoes, socks, feet, and sweats are wet; I change clothes and wear slippers the rest of the day as I only have the one pair of shoes with me.   Another oversight in planning and packing – of course I know better, but sometimes things fall through the proverbial crack.  I haven’t gotten all my ducks lined up properly this fall.

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Rainy view from the Pony

I finish editing “Against All Odds” and then edit photos from our British Columbia trip until the battery on the laptop runs out.  That is the drawback to camping without enough sunshine to inspire the solar panel to create electricity for us.  Time now to write in the journal – real paper, real pen – no electricity required. Chilly outside all day, but the Pony is cozy, so we don’t mind.

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.

Pulaski Trail in Late November

Okay, so it’s only 12 degrees out this morning, but the sun is shining and not a cloud in the sky, at the moment, anyway. Rare for Wallace in the winter. So, Clifford and I decide to go for a little outing close to home. We both have a busy day lined up, but this is too good to resist. We bundle up in winter clothes and head to the Pulaski Trailhead, just a couple miles out of town.

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Clifford on the bridge over Placer Creek on the Pulaski Trail

Although down in Wallace the trees are are, here they are snow-covered,

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Snow-covered trees

We don’t know how far we’ll hike in, as it is quite chilly out and the trail is mostly in shadow this time of year.

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The trail into the sunless forest

Even though I’m dressed warmly, gloves light enough to finger camera dials are not quite warm enough to grasp ski poles (safer than hiking sticks on the snowy trail) comfortably.

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Warmly dressed

But it is easy to ignore the cold fingers as I become enchanted with taking photos of snowy trees and ice on the creek.

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Along the creek

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Encased in ice

Snow changes the look of everything. All becomes fresh and new.

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Fresh and new look

My goal is the bridge at the half-mile marker, as that is where my favorite waterfall is located. I’m not sure we’ll get that far what with the deeper chill in the sunless forest. I stop often to take photos (while Clifford waits patiently) and before we know it, we have arrived at the falls.

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Fairyland Falls

It looks so different with all the moss hidden under a layer of snow, and now it is the surrounding trees that make this a special wonderland.

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Wonderland trees at Fairyland Falls

I feel blessed to be here at this special place. Soon, however, we head back down the trail and find great delight in reaching a spot where the sun shines through the trees.

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Briefly basking in the sunshine

What a great outing: beautiful and refreshing!

South Fork of the Coeur d Alene River

Wallace River Walk Nov 006No, its not a camping trip; its not even an outing, exactly.

Wallace River Walk Nov 008Temperature is up to 20 degrees and I need to get out and walk,,, and take photos.

Wallace River Walk Nov 027So, I walk the back way to the bridge over the South Fork of the Coeur d Alene River near the Wallace Visitor’s Center and then back along the river to the crossing at 6th Street.

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Zen Rock

Now 20 degrees on a sunny day is one thing, but 20 degrees on a cloudy day with a breeze and high humidity is something else.

Wallace River Walk Nov 014However, I am warmly dressed and I don’t mind the cold.

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It is very lovely along the river, seeing what the low teen temps have sculpted.

Wallace River Walk Nov 031I am grateful that a river runs through our town.