Archive for the ‘outdoors’ Category

So as previously noted, last Saturday our home was included in this year’s Methow Valley Home Tour, which had the theme “Firewise Homes: Fire Adapted Building and Landscaping.”  We had gotten a good rating when we had the free Firewise evaluation done last fall, but still had some projects to complete outside, including setting up more of a green lawn perimeter around the house with a sprinkler system.  We worked with Eric Carlton of Carlton Landscape Construction in Twisp.  Rick had met him before on some jobs he worked on, and we know his wife’s parents.

Pavers leading into the house and down the side of the shop/studio building

Pavers leading into the house and down the side of the shop/studio building

Front plantings with dry streambed

Front plantings with dry stream bed – should fill in nicely in a year or two

The dry stream bed is more than decorative – it serves as a catchment basin for water that drains off both the house and the shop/studio building, and the pavers are set so that they drain into it as well.  Trust me, this came in handy the last couple of weeks when we had the heavy thunderstorm downpours with hail!

New green grass perimeter with automatic sprinkler system to keep it that way:



On the day of the home tour, we also had the house and our studios open (some of the homes on the tour only had their yards available for visitors to look at).  I am not sure how many people came, but at a guess 100-150 or so.  It was an opportunity to show the work Rick has done here so far, and I made a display board and had business cards out.  There were folks from the Confluence Gallery here to monitor the house, and someone from the Firewise program as well.  It was really pretty fun but we were exhausted by the end of the day.  That is more than partly because of all the cleaning and de-cluttering we did beforehand – yard, deck, house, studios.  Cleanest it may be for some time!

Yesterday we slept in and then took a day off – what a concept.  We went on a 4.5 mile hike to Blue Lake up in the North Cascades National Park just west of Washington Pass.  Someone was kind enough to offer to take our picture with my phone….





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This is shaping up to be a spectacular year for wildflowers, one factor being all the snow we had last winter.  It has warmed up quickly and melted off fast – the Methow River is a raging brown torrent this week.

Our signature wildlflower, the arrowleaf balsamroot (called “sunflowers” by the locals) have come out strong on the hillsides this past week.  We knew we had to get out to see them before they started to fade, so this morning we did the Lewis Butte hike not too far north out of Winthrop, off the Gunn Ranch Rd.  In addition to the balsamroot, the lupine were well along.  I’ll let the pictures say the rest…

Lewis Butte 4-20-16 a

Lewis Butte 4-20-16 b

Mt. Gardiner in the background

Mt. Gardiner in the background

We did it as a loop, with the steepest part (an old jeep track) at the beginning.  We aren’t in the best of shape but we made it!  Maybe next week we will try Patterson Mtn, as we were told it is a little farther behind Lewis Butte in flower development.

Weaving update

I took 7 plaited twill scarves off the loom at the guild room over a week ago, and have been doing the finishing work at home.



Then over Sunday and Monday I wound a new warp onto the sectional beam, tied it onto the old warp (the blue/green colorway) and started the first scarf.  I haven’t done these particular colors for about 4 years and I am excited to see it again – I call it “Sea Scallop”.

sea scallop warp

sea scallop started


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Sun & Snow

Sunday it snowed all day long and our overall snowpack is looking pretty good!  The MVSTA trail groomers have been out grooming our valley’s extensive cross-county trail system every morning. Yesterday there was a break between storm systems so we headed up to Sun Mountain in the late morning for a ski outing.

Not being in the best of shape, we stuck to the lower, relatively flat trails.  We started out along the edge of the beaver pond:

to the Hough Homestead:

then back along the Yellow Jacket trail, which has its ups and downs.  We decided we weren’t quite ready to quit yet, so we skiied back up Little Wolf Rd to the Overland trail, which is a higher route with beautiful trees and views down to the valley.

snow-covered pines on Overland trail

view up-valley along the Overland trail

What a gorgeous, sunny day!  We were out for almost 2 hours of continuous, although not overly strenuous, exercise.

Here’s a shot of the house with its new blanket of snow on the roof:

The next system is moving in from the coast, and we are supposed to get another 3-6 inches today and tonight!

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Last week we spent 3 nights out at Lake Quinault at our friends’ cabin resort:  Lochaerie Resort on the north shore, in the Olympic National Park (see link in sidebar).  The occasion was a fund-raising bike ride around the lake (31 miles if you make it all the way) for the Quinault Cancer Fund.  I believe this was the 22nd annual ride!  There were 10 of us plus our hosts:

who moved there last year after retirement and spent the wettest winter in recent memory (which is saying a lot, since this is the rainforest we are talking about) tearing down and rebuilding the main house, while living in one of the cabins.  But it is substantially done and they are moved in now.  It’s a fabulous house:

The bedrooms are on the top floor and Rick and I got to stay in the guest room in the main house.  The view is magnificent out to the lake, and down on the cabins below:

On Friday Rick and I drove out to the ocean (only about 45 minutes from Lochaerie).  We went for a little beach hike at Beach 4, just north of Kalaloch.  It was a beautiful day and we hadn’t been out to the Washington coast for quite a long time.   So nice to see and smell the ocean.

trail to Beach 4

looking north up the beach

Tide was low so we had tidepools!

Saturday was the actual bike ride, and we had a perfect day for it – sunny but not hot.  We made it about 20 miles, over to the Rainforest Resort on the south shore, lunch on the lawn and the “sag wagon” back to Lochaerie.  That’s what we managed last year, as well, and our behinds were just as sore and legs as weary as last year, too.  But it was fun!

Here’s some of the group having wine/beer/appetizers after the ride:

They all like to cook, so our potluck meals were delicious and I came home with 2 new recipes.

While there, I finished the shawl I have been knitting out of handspun wool & silk.  It’s a pattern from the internet called Bell Pattern Shawl.   Just got pictures today:

One of my pet peeves about triangular shawls is that the ends don’t drape nicely but want to head off towards the side.  In an attempt to avoid this, I added two extra repeats of the Bell Pattern just at each end, using short rows, so the first repeat spans 8 “Bells” at each end, and the second repeat only the 4 outer “Bells” at each end.  Kind of hard to describe, but here is a photo:

short row shaping at end of Bell Pattern Shawl

I think it worked, as you can see in the first photo above.  The points hang straight down instead of pointing off to the sides.  I am quite pleased with how this turned out, actually.  The pattern was suitable for this rather rustic yarn with lots of flecks of silk in it – it didn’t show regular lace patterning well at all (I know, I tried…).  It was easy but not boring to knit.  The size is just right for wearing over a shirt in the evening.  And, I only had about 2 feet of my handspun yarn left when done!

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My civic duty

This week brought me a stint of jury duty over at Okanogan Superior Court.  I was to report at 8:30 am and left at 7:30 as it is about 45 miles from home and involves driving Hwy 20 over Loup Loup summit (about 4300 ft).  Of course, after a beautiful sunny weekend, it started snowing fairly heavily Tuesday early morning, so the drive had to be slow and careful.   I was selected for the jury, and it turned out to be a one-day affair, although we did not reach a verdict until after 7 pm.  So I didn’t get home until almost 9 pm.  Fortunately, the highway was clear of snow and no deer decided to jump out in front of my car!

Yesterday we went out for a ski in the morning.  It was a bit sticky but the trail had been freshly groomed, which helped.  We started across the road from our house (going in through the neighbor’s driveway) and skiied towards town, crossed Twin Lakes Rd, and did the Bitterbrush Loop, which has some fine views up valley:

Close-up of Mt Gardiner

As you can see, we still have plenty of snow!  It has been almost a year since we moved to Wolf Creek, and at this time last year there was mostly bare ground on the valley floor and around the house.  It has warmed up a lot this week so who knows how long it will last, but it sure is pretty.

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Yesterday morning started with a moose sighting!  Rick was downstairs making coffee and he saw it running right by the house.  By the time I got downstairs, it was heading towards the fields across the road, so we didn’t have a chance to take a picture.  We have heard of moose occasionally being seen on the valley floor, but I think it is still a very unusual occurrence.

Our long-time friends who now live out at Lake Quinault on the Olympic Peninsula were our second set of visitors for the week.  They have owned a small, rustic cabin resort on the lake for 30 years (originally with partners, and more recently as sole owners).  Last year they retired from their jobs in the greater Seattle area (3rd grade teacher and landscape architect), sold the house in Bellevue, and moved to the Peninsula.  They basically tore down the old house and rebuilt it and now that is their home.  So check out Lochaerie Resort – 6 rustic housekeeping cabins, most built in the 1920’s and 1930’s, on the North Shore of Lake Quinault in the Olympic National Park.  It’s like stepping back in time – but very clean and with hot showers!

Yesterday, post-moose-sighting, we put the cross country skis in our truck, drove up to Sun Mountain Lodge, and skiied back down to the house.  It was very foggy in the valley yesterday, so the only sun and views were up at the lodge at the beginning of the coast downhill.  It was a lot of fun and took us about 3 hours (we took the long way around at the end).  On the way down the Winthrop Trail, at a spot where we can look out across the valley to our home, we noticed large cloven hoofprints in the snow along the ski trail.  About the size of horse hooves, but definitely cloven.  So the inescapable conclusion is that this where the moose came up out of the valley after it crossed the fields from our place.  Too cool.

We met a friendly skier along the way, and he took our picture:

On the Winthrop Trail

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I finally seem to be back in the groove with my hiking group.  For many reasons, Tuesdays have been hard to schedule for the last couple of months.  Anyway, last week we went up to Goat Peak, a hike I have not done before.  This is a manned lookout up above Mazama in the upper valley.  Specifically, it is manned by Lightning Bill Austin, who is a poet among other things!   Unfortunately, Monday and Tuesday are his days off, so we were not able to visit with him (which evidently often involves a poetry reading…)

This is a short but very steep hike.  If memory serves, we started at 5600′ after a longish drive up from Mazama, and ended at 6800′.  My valley floor lungs were suffering.  But, despite the warm weather of late, at that elevation and fairly early in the morning, it was not really hot.

Beautiful views at the top (knoll before final ascent to lookout).  Individual photos do not really do justice, so I made a rather amateurish panorama for you:

That’s the lookout on the left, on top of the peak in the foreground.  The mountains are in the North Cascades to the south and west.  We did not continue the final 1/2 mile or so to the lookout, since there were still significant snow patches on the north-facing side of Goat Peak, and we had achieved our other goal, which was to deliver a “travel bug” to its final destination in a geo-cache near the peak.

What is a travel bug, you might well ask?  Welcome to the world of geo-caching – I still have a lot to learn!  Here are the Travel Bug FAQs, but basically it is a trackable tag that is attached to an item and logged into the Geocache.com website, so that it “becomes a hitchhiker that is carried from cache to cache (or person to person) in the real world and you can follow its progress online”.

This particular travel bug originated in Chicago, and it took 3 years for it to reach its defined goal, which was to go to Lightning Bill!

This week, yesterday actually, four of us made it to Black Lake, which is a 5-mile hike up the Lake Creek trail in the Pasayten Wilderness (accessed via West Chewuch Rd out of Winthrop).  Our group thought this hike is in the area burned in the 30 Mile Fire back in 2001, but this trip report from the Washington Trails Association website says it was actually burned in the 2003 Farewell Fire.  It also says it is only 4 miles.  Hmmm… felt like 5 miles!

Anyway, the trail has little elevation gain and follows along Lake Creek most of the way.  Despite all the burnt trees, it did not feel really desolate, since a lot of the understory is coming back.  In fact, the trail could use a good brushing-out!

After the very hot temperatures of last week, we were glad it had cooled off, and we had high overcast as well, so what could have been a long and hot hike was simply a little long.  But it felt good to get out and get that much exercise!  And to our surprise, there were really NO BUGS – amazing!

Our final destination, Black Lake:

It was actually kind of cold and windy at the lake, enough so that we had to put on our windbreakers to eat our lunch.

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The arrowleaf balsamroot, perhaps the signature flower of the Methow Valley and known locally as “the sunflowers”, are finally in full bloom up in our part of the valley.  Also, last week was the peak of the serviceberry bloom, which is a medium sized shrub that is ubiquitous in the valley – the flowers are white and the masses of blooming shrubs along the roadways and hillsides are quite beautiful.

Our Tuesday hiking group went up some old ranch roads northwest of Pearrygin Lake yesterday.  The views were stunning, even from where we parked:

How green is my Valley

There was a heavy snowstorm in the Cascades Sunday night and into Monday, so the mountains had a fresh coat of new snow.  The hillsides in the valley are carpeted with new green grasses and flowers.  It won’t stay this green forever, but it sure is beautiful now!

It was windy and cold so we had to bundle up:

Sunflowers and vistas in abundance:

Three of us explored up the road past the lunch/turnaround spot, hoping to find a route that led over the hill to another network of roads, but it petered out on us.  On the way back down we saw dozens and dozens of mountain bluebirds in the fields around us.  I had my binoculars along so I could get a really close look at them.  Then I wished I had the big camera with the telephoto lens, instead of my little pocket-sized digital camera!

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It was hard to think of a title for this post since I am mostly trying to keep apace with events.

No pictures today of the new house, but we have been up there all week painting.  It turned out that most of the interior was painted a flat battleship gray only because that was a tinted primer or undercoat – not meant to be the final color!  Rick and I painted all three bedrooms, the laundry room, and the living/dining room – 2 coats.  It just about did my lower back in, unfortunately, and I am hobbling around here today.  We wound up hiring a professional to do the hallways and entry (which is 2 stories tall in places).  So now everything is painted except the kitchen and we can start moving some things in.  We have decided to go ahead and have the drywall done in my studio space, so we will have to hold off moving some things until that is completed, hopefully by the end of March.

I did take a day off to go hiking with my Tuesday group.  There were only 6 of us and we headed down valley in search of a place where the snow would be mostly gone.   “Mud season” can be challenging!  We went down south of Carlton to a wildlife area that used to be the Judd Ranch (cattle ranch).  A little hard to find if you don’t know it is there, which is a plus as far as we were concerned.  We walked up an old ranch road that climbed steadily for a couple of miles, and the views up higher were wonderful – looking off to the west to the hills and mountains between Gold Creek and Libby Creek.  This is definitely a place to go back to in a couple of weeks when the wildflowers start emerging.  There was still some snow and ice on the road where it was shaded.

Judd Ranch road hiking

Judd Ranch Wildlife Area

The gray hills of early spring

The gray hills of early spring

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A good Friday

Not too much to report here, but yesterday was a nice well-rounded day.  Rick went up to town to have a coffee date with some of his friends at the Cinnamon Twisp bakery in the morning, and I made good progress on the bookwork while he was gone.  After he returned and we had some lunch, we suited up and headed up to Loup Loup South Summit for some XC skiing.  They had just groomed that morning and it was relatively clear and cold-ish so the trails were in pretty good shape.  We were out for 2 hours and it felt great!

Not too much to take pictures of (just trees and snow, what can I say?) except on the way back we did come to a nice viewpoint to the west and the mountains:

Today we’re driving to Wenatchee so Rick can pick up a bearing he needs to fix his planer, which has been out of commission for 2 weeks.  He ordered parts from a place in the Midwest, but they sent the wrong bearing and now it is taking forever to get it re-sent.  Found out he could get one in Wenatchee, and we need to make a trip to Costco anyway, so off we go.

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