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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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

Mid-winter Walk

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At the edge of town – dam on Placer Creek

Cabin fever:  I’ve been reviewing photos from previous camping trips, excited to get more blogs written showing some of my favorite places on the planet.  But sitting at a computer editing photos and writing blogs is lacking what I really need at the moment; I need to get outside and spend some time with the “real deal” – creeks and trees.  Even though it is mid-February, it feels like early spring: a good day to walk.  So I head out of town on my two feet; don’t even need ski poles this time.   Arriving at the Pulaski Trail, I only hike a short ways in, as here the shaded trail is quite icy and ski poles would have been handy.

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Bridge over Placer Creek at Pulaski Trail Head

But that is okay;  I dilly-dally taking photos of moss and ferns and dead leaves along the trail.

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Moss bright and fresh

Placer Creek is a challenge to photograph today due to the sunlight being brighter than it has been for some time.  The creek is also running high and wild due to snow-melt – in February!  Trying to get that wonderful silky look just isn’t happening, so I go for the frothy look instead.

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Placer Creek – the frothy look

I’m grateful for my wonderfully improved vision after recent cataract surgery; the world is bright and clear.  Even though I don’t get many “savers” on my outing, I find great delight in merely looking at bare winter trees intermingled with the grand firs towering over me, naked bushes and shrubs along the dashing creek, moss perking up, and other signs of life along my path.

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Signs of life

Soon we will be on the road, heading to new camping places and new sight-seeing adventures, but for today a good walk along Placer Creek invigorated my body, brightened my mind, and soothed my soul.

Journey to the Creek; Journey Inward

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Finally, some real snow – light and fluffy, and enough to make the landscape new and magical.  Oh, we’ve had some snow and cold, but just enough to make walking icy and slow.  This time, however, it is irresistible for a photographer.  So, I bundle up, drape the camera over my shoulder and head out.  As I walk to the edge of town several blocks away, there are many beautiful snow-covered trees, but power lines and buildings spoil every photo that I want to take.  Once outside of town, I walk alongside the edge of the road, shuffling through the snow, keeping my distance from the traveled portion of the road.  It is a relief to be away from power lines and fences and driveways.  It is even better when I am far enough out of town to be beyond the concrete canal that encloses Placer Creek to make sure it behaves during spring run-off.

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Now I can walk along the bank above the creek.  And here it is that I take photos and more photos, loving the dark movement of the creek against the purity of the white snow and backed by snow-covered trees, dark and mysterious.

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As I walk and observe and take photos, I am thinking about my life at this moment.  Healing is a complex process.  It isn’t just a matter of incisions drawing closed, the simple healing of a wound.  The deeper wound is “how could this have happened?”  How do I know it will not happen again?  It took me so by surprise – I who had not been to a doctor in over 20 years – faced with a life-threatening condition.

A new lease on life has been given to me, but here I am, waking up with anxiety and going through my day with a sense of weariness.  Even though I approached all the procedures as openly as possible, seeing the process not as a war against cancer but as a journey back to wellness,  I still feel battle-weary.  Where does this weariness come from?  It occurs to me that even though I am busy every day, getting caught up with bookwork and housework that has fallen behind in the last several month, as well as helping out more with my husband’s non-profit, this busy-ness is without enthusiasm and sense of purpose.

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I KNOW what my purpose at this time in my life is, but I can’t seem to accomplish it in a meaningful way here and now.  I’ve always been a person with my ducks in a row, but now I feel that I’m floundering in a life that isn’t my own true life.  It is most uncomfortable.  Perhaps a time of being lost in the desert is okay, or even good and necessary, but it is still uncomfortable.   I have spent too much of my life being in resistance to “what is” – a long and difficult first marriage, more recently a move that has left me longing for a home that is no longer my home, and my family still too far away to give and receive the hugs we all need.

Placer Creek Snow 045It is a leap of faith to be totally accepting of this present state of affairs, to lovingly embrace my life as it is, with all of its uncertainties and ducks running amuck.  I want to be like this creek as it flows toward the sea, flowing effortlessly over and around the rocks in its way.  I want to be joyfully alive and surrounded by beauty.  This is my gift to share: seeking, finding, and sharing beauty.  So I will accept the floundering and look for the beauty in each and every day (and ignore the ducks as best I can).

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!

A Short Placer Creek Outing

Oh, the To-Do list is on my desk, but I scarcely look at it.  Is there anything that can’t be put off or ignored completely?  I make a cup of yerba matte with honey and coconut milk, sipping at it as I write in my journal.  What do I really want to do today?  Well, an outing with my camera, of course.  So, I decide to head up Moon Pass Road along Placer Creek to see if there is any frost or snow at a higher elevation.

Placer Creek 2 Nov 002I drive up a fair ways, but no frost and only the highest mountains around have snow at their crests.  I turn around at a wide spot and decide to explore as long as I am up here.  A mere couple feet off the road and I am walking into a rain forest – dark, moist, mossy.  Kind of spooky, in a way.  If Clifford had come with me, we might have hiked in a ways, but as it is, I just go far enough to get a feel for the place without loosing site of the car.  Guess it doesn’t help that we just read last night about murders on one of the passes outside Wallace just a few years back.  Should I let that stop me – no – but I wonder about Bigfoot being here; it feels like a Bigfoot type of place.  I walk further in as I take photos of the little stream and after a while, I feel more relaxed and connected to the mysterious beauty of this forest.  I’ll come back another day when I can stay longer.

Placer Creek 2 Nov 007I head back down the road and turn off on a narrow side-road that goes goodness-knows-where.  I like crossing the bridge, as Placer Creek is right here close at hand unobscured by brush.

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I’m tempted to stay parked right in the middle of the bridge to drink my hot tea and do some book editing.  But it is a one-laner and I wouldn’t want to block someone coming up behind me.   Instead, I drive on down the road until I find another place where I can park right by the creek without being in anyone’s way.   It is a habit of mine – trying not to be in anyone’s way, even when no one is there,,,   maybe that is one duck that I should let run wild.

Placer Creek 2 Nov 025I sit in my car with the engine off and the window down, listening to the gurgling of the creek as I edit, until I get too cold.   I realize there is a part of me trying to find the missing piece of the life-puzzle that was left behind in New Mexico.  Of course, I can’t get that particular piece back, but sitting by the creek helps sooth the yearning.  It’s odd, but my life feels like I am trying to work with more than one puzzle and while each had or has its good pieces, I can’t seem to combine them into one workable picture.  Even if that is not truly how it is, that is how it feels to me right now.  But the piece I am working with today, seeking and sharing beauty, has always been there… and it is good.

Scouting Outing

So, what makes you want to get up in the morning?  This is an important question to ask and answer for one’s self and then make sure you do it as often as you can.  The “shoulds” and the “musts” and the “to-do” list so often take priority.  I think, at this point in my life, I would be a lot healthier if I had done way more of the things that make me want to get out of bed.  But I’ve always been the type to take care of the shoulds and musts and the to-do list, letting them have too much of my precious time.  Of course, if one has a job to do – do it in a timely manner, in an attentive way,  But, again I say, do the things that bring life into you as often as you can.

So, today, as most days, I want to find a pretty spot outdoors to take photos, preferably where there is water.  I just don’t want to go by myself, as it is a chilly overcast day, not the best day to be outdoors.  However, Clifford says he’ll go with me.  Hooray! So, right after breakfast, off we go.

We are always scouting for possible places to camp, and because of the weather, decide to scout close to home.  First we drive up a gulch with the name Lake Road.  Now that sounds pretty good, but not too far up, there is an active mine and the road seems to end in their big parking lot.  Hmmm…….  No lake here for us, so we head back down and find Two-mile

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South Fork of the Coeur d Alene River

Creek Road, crossing over the South Fork of the Coeur d Alene River just outside of Osburn.  We drive up this road.  It is kind of pretty here with a very small creek running alongside the road.

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Two-mile Creek

Once we get to a spot where the road narrows and climbs, we know this is not Pony (pop-up tent trailer) camping country, but it was fun to take a look at it.

Next, we decide to head over Lookout Pass to the Taft area, as we had heard that there are places to camp up that gulch.  We have been intending to explore there for months and just never got to it.  On the way, we stop at Elmer’s Fountain to take photos of the ice that is beginning to build around the fountains.  The water flows down Gold Creek from Gold Lake.  Up the mountain from the fountain location is a small water dam and a water flume that skirts the mountainside before a final steep drop to a valve which controls the flow at

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Elmer’s Fountain (the smaller fountain)

each fountain. The water supply remains unfrozen during the winter because the builder, Elmer Almquist, a miner from Mullen, was smart enough to store the water upstream in a horizontal mine tunnel.  The water is reputed to be wonderful tasting.  Seems I am there when the water drinking fountain is frozen, but I would love to get some of that water for drinking next spring.

The highway is clear, but it begins to rain as we near the pass.  On the Montana side, there are low clouds obscuring the mountains and the rain is heavier.  When we reach the Taft exit, we discover that the road is covered with a thin sheet of ice.  I take a photo of a

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Creek at Taft

creek that we would have crossed over, but this is as far as we are going today.  It seems like a good idea to head back to Wallace before the freezing rain settles down on the interstate.

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The Road Not Taken

We didn’t find a place to go camping, but an outing with a few photos makes my day.  The to-do list remains largely ignored; I am doing only those things that I would do even without the list.  Of course, not everyone can do this everyday, but when you can, give it a try.  Bring as much joy and meaning into your life now, today, and every day.  Life is too precious to waste on getting all of one’s ducks in a tidy row.  Let them run wild now and then and see how it feels.

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.

Scouting: Winter camping on the North Fork of the Coeur d Alene River

Bumblebee Nov 034Saturday November 15:  Today is a scouting-for-camping day.  We had hoped to take a road trip to Oregon this month, but since that is not happening, we decide to scout around for possible winter Pony (our pop-up) camping closer to home.  We drive to Kingston – about 20 miles from Wallace where we live – and then north on the Coeur d Alene River Road, turning northwest on the Little North Fork Road which runs along the North Fork of the Coeur d Alene River.

Bumblebee Nov 031 We know that the Bumble Bee campground is closed, but we had camped in the meadows along the river this summer and have hopes that the meadows are still open.  However, they have been closed off, so we continue along the gravel road and find several places where a person can pull off and camp.  My favorite is a spot right by the river.   Due to the chilly day – temps in the teens – there is still frost on the river banks even at mid-day, which is quite delightful for a photographer, especially along with the gorgeous blue sky that we don’t often see here.

Bumblebee Nov 030Bumblebee Nov 027Bumblebee Nov 021Bumblebee Nov 013Now, there are some drawbacks to winter camping in northern Idaho.  It is already cold, there could be a lot of snow, which would make it hard to get in and out of the area, and it is dark by 5:00 although more than a month until the solstice; afternoons outdoors are very short.  So, why bother to go at all given the cold, snow, dark days of winter.  It is hard to explain, but there is something REAL about being on the river bank surrounded by trees and sky – no pavement, no power lines, only the sounds of the river and perhaps a few winter birds.

Bumblebee Nov 011 The Pony can be kept warm, there is room to cook and eat, room to read and write, and a comfy bed.  Life becomes more basic; I become more in tune with what is truly important in my life and in LIFE.

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