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Archive for the ‘outdoors’ Category

Greetings from the soggy Methow Valley.   We have had a steady supply of precipitation – if only it would stay about 5 degrees colder… then it would stay as snow.  At least we got a nice 3-4″ over Saturday night, and some of it is still on the ground, but the roads are once again completely clear.  Last week we twice went on a 2-1/2 mile round trip walk up our road, to the end of pavement, which most winters is a treacherously icy affair, best not attempted.

I hear most of the groomed ski trails in the valley are still in decent shape, though.  There was a big national level Nordic ski race here last weekend, the SuperTour, and they had to change the venue in part from the track near Liberty Bell High School to the north summit of Loup Loup (which has a groomed ski trail system of its own).  By all accounts the conditions were good and it went off well.

Not at the championship level ourselves, we were content to ski some of the trails up at Loup Loup South Summit last Sunday.  It was a little slow but not sticky and we were out for at least 2 hours.  Towards the end we had a light snow mixed with rain, so we got pretty wet, but it was great to be out there and doing it!

Yesterday I went with my Tuesday group for a snowshoe outing.  We drove up the Twisp River Road and tried the Buttermilk Sno-Park (not tracked and too icy), another spot at the end of plowing up the south side of the Twisp River (neighbors known to be unfriendly to parking there, were home, and some of our group were nervous…), and finally the end of plowing up the main Twisp River Road.  There we had luck and saw only that some skiers had been in before us.  We had to “break trail” but the surface was firm so it wasn’t too much work.

This was the turn-around spot for some, the beaver ponds and a rather grey outlook:

Twisp River beaver ponds

Four of us continued on to War Creek Campground for a lunch break and turn-around spot.  We figured we did 5 miles round trip, and I was a little tired!  But had a lovely hot soak in the tub on returning home.

On the fiber arts front, I finished my third Jared Flood hat from his “Made in Brooklyn” booklet.  I used my handspun grey Corriedale plus a strand of grey Rowan Kidsilk Haze.  It is wonderfully soft and springy!

I also finished up spinning some dyed wool roving that I bought from Heidi Parra at The Artful Ewe in Port Gamble about 2 years ago.  The roving was dyed mainly green with some areas of brown-into-black, so the color varies subtly along the length of the spun singles.  I wanted to ply it with something else so I could get more yardage, so rummaged around in the spinning fiber boxes and came up some baby camel/merino (50/50 blend).  So here is the final yarn, it is a 2-ply and about fingering weight.  I have 220 gm total or about 1/2 lb of yarn, approx 850 yds and I think it will be knit into a lace shawl.

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My Tuesday hiking group went up to the abandoned fire lookout on Leecher Mountain yesterday.  That is right above our place so the group picked me up at 8:15 AM on their way up the road to the National Forest.

Leecher Mountain Lookout

Leecher Mountain Lookout

It’s not a very long hike, only about a mile from the locked gate, but the views to the west and north into the Methow Valley are very good.  Not much snow left on the high peaks.  We are having a drier than normal year in the northern part of the Cascades.

Leecher Mtn 2I also climbed the stairs as far as I could go (you can’t actually enter the lookout) and could gaze out to the Okanogan valley to the east and our own Benson Creek drainage to the north, but there was nothing particularly picture-worthy.

Rick and I drove down to Wenatchee in the afternoon, “did Costco” and then picked up a Wells Cargo enclosed utility trailer that we found last week on Craig’s List.  It’s in fine shape and we are quite happy with it.  Then we had dinner with friends in Wenatchee before driving home, arriving close to midnight.  A long day!

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Big Buck

Friends from Ashland, Oregon visited this weekend.  We have known them for over 35 years, and as always, it was a great visit, although short.

On Friday we went up the Twisp River and then Frost Road to the Big Buck Wildlife Area, and walked from Big Buck Lake to Aspen Lake, a distance of about 2 miles along old ranch roads.  The arrowleaf balsamroot (“sunflowers”) are in full bloom now, and it is really a spectacular year for this signature flower of the Methow.  The plants are vigorous and full of flowers, and the hillsides are carpeted in yellow.

just like old times

just like old times

A view of Mocassin Lake and the snow-covered peaks of the North Cascades/Pasayten Wilderness to the north:

Mocassin Lake amidst sunflower-covered hills

Mocassin Lake amidst sunflower-covered hills

And here are some shots of the arrowleaf balsamroot:

Big Buck 3

Big Buck 4

We finished up the day at the Twisp River Pub, where local musicians Leah Larson, Brad Pinkerton and Paul Gitchos opened for the band – bluegrass/”alternative country” vocalists Laura Love and Mollie O’Brien, with guitarist Rich Moore and slide-guitarist Orville Johnson.  The place was packed!

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Shawl-o-rama

Sorry I haven’t been blogging much lately!  I have been trying to spend a lot of time with the loom, finishing some shawls for now.  I am building an inventory so that I will be able to participate in the Twisp Farmers Market this summer.  I sent in my application yesterday.  They operate April through October, Saturdays from 9-12, but I will probably wait until it warms up a bit in May before testing the waters.

Here are 4 shawls I finished this week.  Two used the “Arctic” colorway wool boucle warp.  On the first one I used black alpaca for the main weft color and a turquoise blue kid mohair/silk blend for the stripes.  On the other I used a rich brown alpaca for the main weft color and a burgundy kid mohair/silk blend for the stripes.

"Arctic" shawls with black and brown alpaca

"Arctic" shawls with black and brown alpaca

The other two used the “Copper” colorway wool boucle warp.  On the first one I used black alpaca for the main weft color and a fuchsia kid mohair/nylon blend for the stripes.  On the other I used a red alpaca (which I picked up at the knitting retreat “stash reduction” sale at a bargain price – thanks, Janet!) and a gold kid mohair/silk blend for the stripes.

"Copper" shawls with black and red alpaca

"Copper" shawls with black and red alpaca

The last 2 days I wound the warps for 5 more shawls, and have started weaving the first of those.  I am on a roll!

We’ve also been trying to get out walking – the weather has been mostly fair, with some cloudy days, and still getting down to freezing at night.  But the snow is disappearing fast, at least in our yard.

Last Monday we went for a nice long walk up the Balky Hill Road with our friend Hannchen, who was over from the coast.  Balky Hill is across the river and somewhat north of Twisp.  It’s a steady uphill climb with fine views to the west and south.

Above Bonner Lake on Balky Hill Road

Above Bonner Lake on Balky Hill Road

Looking for birds on Balky Hill Road

Looking for birds on Balky Hill Road

Mountains to the west from Balky Hill Road

Mountains to the west from Balky Hill Road

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I was able to go on a Tuesday outing today, for the first time in several weeks.  It has turned warmish and melty over here so the question was where to find snow that wasn’t total mush, and could we avoid being rained on?

We went up the West Chewuch Rd out of Winthrop to the Sno-Park lot at the end of plowing, about 10 miles from town.  We were a small group today, only five, with 3 of us on cross-country skis and 2 on snowshoes.  This is a mixed use snowmobile and foot-powered sports trail, but it was well packed down and there was not a snowmobile in sight.  The skiing was remarkably good, actually – not icy, not too soft, not very fast but that was OK.  We went in about 2.5 miles to the Falls Creek Falls campground.  I love that name – the creek that comes down there is called Falls Creek, because there is a waterfall just a few hundred feet above the road, which is so aptly named “Falls Creek Falls.”

Along the way, we noticed there were cougar tracks going both up and down the road.  We had Otis along, who is Barb’s daughter’s dog (part Boxer and part Golden Retriever), so we had to make sure we weren’t seeing Otis tracks at first.  But a dog leaves a toenail print and a more pointed toe, whereas the cats have a very round print with only the toepads leaving a mark, as the claws are retracted.

cougar tracks in the snow

cougar tracks in the snow

The gang always stops for lunch at the turnaround point:

falls-ck-lunch

Then we walked up to view the falls, which are still mostly frozen, but do have water breaking through in places now.  Barb was up there last Friday and said it was completely frozen then, so that is yet another sign that the thaw may be coming.  We experienced a mild chinook-like wind on the way out.

Falls Creek Falls

Falls Creek Falls

Felt good to get out on the skis today.

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We started the day yesterday, like many people in our country and around the world,  glued to the TV screen to watch the inauguration of Barack Obama.  What a day!  It certainly feels like this is a turning point in our nation’s history – I so hope this is born out in fact.

But, it being a Tuesday, it was also For Snowshoeing.  Our little group did not convene until 11:00 am, as we all wanted to watch the inauguration ceremonies first.  The freezing fog caused by this seemingly interminable inversion was still with us.  We headed up to the slopes above Pearrygin Lake State Park, in vain hope of getting above the fog layer.  However, this was the first time in months that all nine of us were together for the hike.

The trees and shrubs were heavily coated with ice, thanks to the freezing fog, creating many beautiful sights such as this magnificent pine tree:

pearrygin-snowshoe-1

Here’s an “action shot” of some of the group heading up the trail:

pearrygin-snowshoe-2

And here is my attempt to show Pearrygin Lake the way it appeared through my yellow “snow-glasses”:

pearrygin-in-fog

That evening, Rick and I went up to the Twisp River Pub for the tenth-birthday celebration of the Partnership for a Sustainable Methow, also featuring the release of their new publication “The Local Source”, which is a directory of Methow Valley goods and services intended to help residents and visitors shop locally.  They also showed a short film titled The Story of Stuff, a look at the hidden and not-so-hidden costs and effects of producing all that “stuff” that people seem to think they need to have – and throw away.   It seemed to fit nicely with the themes of the inauguration day.

As we’ve been telling each other around here lately, happiness comes not from having what you want, but from wanting what you have.

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Visitors from The Coast

Friends Chris & Tom came over from The Coast to spend 2 nights with us over this MLK weekend.  The night before they arrived, we had a lovely sunset:

sunset-16jan2009

This was taken from our bedroom window.  This building was already here when we bought the place, although we have added a shop extension, carport and covered walkways to it.   I always think they built it “backwards”, in that the best views out to the mountains are from the two bedrooms.  Apparently he intended to have the upstairs serve as an office, and he wanted the views from his office.  Go figure.

But I digress.  Chris and Tom came over for the weekend.  Saturday night we went up to Local 98856 for dinner, joining some other friends who are, well, local.  “The Local” is mainly a breakfast/lunch/deli type of place, but they have occasional themed dinners and special evening events.  The owner, Tess, is a strong promoter of eating locally grown, fresh organic produce and meats.  This past Saturday was one of her “Farm-to-Table” dinners, with a guest chef.  They set it up as open, family style seating at big tables, and overall it is a very relaxed, convivial atmosphere.  Our dinner stretched out over several hours and a good time was had by all!

Yesterday started out quite foggy – we have had a lot of freezing fog over here lately, which coats the trees with ice in a beautiful way, but is a bit dismal since we are used to having our sunshine over here, after all.  We were planning to snowshoe and selected an area that hopefully would get us above the valley fog.

We drove up north on the Twisp-Winthrop Eastside Road, turning up Bear Creek Road to the Campbell Lake Rd turnoff.  Met some other folks there, so we had a party of eight and started out with the sun trying to break through.  This road allows snowmobiles so was quite packed down – we initially walked and carried our snowshoes. (But fortunately, not a single snowmobile was seen or heard during our hike.)

That’s my friend Chris on the left, we have been buddies since the 7th grade.  On the right, Marlene and Nora.

Gradually the North Cascade mountains to the west emerged into sunshine:

Mt Gardiner from Campbell Lake Rd

Mt Gardiner from Campbell Lake Rd

Eventually we struck out cross-country from the road, and climbed up into the hills to get even better views.  The snow was so condensed and crusty that you could easily walk just about anywhere.  It was a really fun day, which ended with a nice cold beer at the Twisp River Pub before heading home for hot showers and a delicious dinner (Chris cooked, not me, so this isn’t bragging….)

View west from hills near Campbell Lake

View west from hills near Campbell Lake

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The Alfalfa Loop

About 4 acres of our property are part of a larger alfalfa field, farmed by the neighbors up above us on the other side of the road.  This year, a group of folks on our road, who are interested in cross-country skiing, got permission to establish a ski track around the perimeter of the field.  About 2 weeks ago I went out and snowshoed around 3 times (over 2 days) to establish the route – that was a workout, let me tell you.  Then some of the neighbors went over it with their snowmobiles to widen and pack it down.  I skiied on the snowmobile tracks last week, and it was pretty good, despite the big thaw that had come along.  Still enough snow on the field!

Next step was the arrival of the tracking sled.  One of the neighbors up the road had this made by a young man who works down at Mission Ridge ski area above Wenatchee.  It is a small sled with 2 skis on it, meant to be towed behind the snowmobile to set a ski track.  Our neighbor Mike went around with it on Monday.  The snow is pretty crusty and icy by now, but this did establish enough of a track to make the skiing easier.

Rick and I went out for a couple of laps this morning.  We estimate it is about 2 miles around, and of course it runs right by our place on the other side of the creek, so what could be more convenient?  It was still cold (16°, brrr…) but clear and beautiful.

Alfalfa Loop, looking west

Alfalfa Loop, looking west

And here we were out in the sun, looking up our little creek valley to the east:

Alfalfa Loop, looking east

Alfalfa Loop, looking east

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Tuesdays are for snowshoeing

Tuesdays are the day I go hiking (spring through fall) or snowshoeing (winter) with a group of ladies here in the valley.  At 59, I am the youngest in the group, and feel privileged to be included.  Many of them have known each other for over 20 years.  The hikes are not always ambitious or difficult, but we often go places that they know about that are not in the guidebooks, and I probably would have not found on my own.

Today we had a small group, and snowshoed up to a place they call “The Point”, on an unplowed Forest Service road up the Twisp River.  They wanted to break the trail again as it had snowed a fair amount since the last time they were up there, and a group of them (hardy souls) always go up there for the full moon every month, even in the winter.  The full moon is coming up next Sunday.

I talked Rick into coming along today, so he got to see where The Point is, and took turns with me going first to break the trail.  Carol brought cookies and peppermint schnapps for our cocoa, so a good deed did not go unrewarded.

the-point-09jan6We had a fire while eating lunch, and it was snowing which made for poor visibility, otherwise I would show you a picture of the views from up there.  They have a stash of firewood and some old beater folding chairs up there, so no, we didn’t carry those in!

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