Blue's Boots

Andrea's adventures on the trail…

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June 2018 –  I had a wonderful 3-week trip to Ireland and Scotland in May – I got to cross off hiking in the Scotland Highlands from my bucket list, it is so beautiful there!

My daughters and I just spent several days at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon, which is something we really look forward to every couple of years. I’ll get to spend time at Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens with my niece and nephew, which will be a first for them. Backpacking the Eagle Cap Wilderness is on my list again this year as well. Hopefully I’ll finally get up to North Cascades National Park this year, those plans all were cancelled last year due to extreme wildfire smoke. I also got a permit for the Northern Loop Trail at Mt. Rainier for this fall.

I’ll be heading to Wyoming and South Dakota for a trip this summer (again, with my new trailer) and I can’t wait to spend time exploring areas new to me: Mt. Rushmore, Custer State Park, the Black Hills, Badlands National Park, Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, and Devil’s Tower.  I’ll be taking my kayak with me, and am looking forward to learning a new way to travel with my little home on wheels.

UPDATE: I’ve just booked permits for 4 of the New Zealand Great Walks for next year: Abel Tasman, Milford, Tongariro, and Heaphy. MAJOR BUCKET LIST TRIP!!!!  I’m still pinching myself that this is real 🙂

~~ Andrea ~~

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Isles of Mull and Iona, Scotland

One of the days we spent in the Scotland Highlands in May was a trip to the Isles of Mull and Iona, in the Inner Hebrides. It was a long day, a 1 hour car ride from our Airbnb, 1 hour ferry, 1.5 hour bus ride across the Isle of Mull (one lane road with turnouts, kinda fun in a huge double-decker bus!), and another short ferry across to the Isle of Iona – then everything in reverse. But the weather was wonderful, the scenery was amazing, and it was well worth every minute of the trip.

The final destination was the Abbey of Iona, which has been beautifully restored. It’s believed that the Book Of Kells (now in the Trinity College Library in Dublin, Ireland) might have been originally produced here close to the year 800. It was also in Fionnphort, Isle of Mull, that I took a rather embarrassing tumble in a pile of seaweed and was soaked from the waist down – luckily I dried out in the sunshine in time for the bus ride back across the island!  Mull is known for its pink granite, and Iona is known for beautiful light green marble.

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Glencoe Valley, Scotland Highlands

We spent a week exploring and hiking around the Glencoe area of Scotland in May. This is one of those places where photos don’t come close to doing justice to the beauty of the area. We were incredibly fortunate to have a streak of warm and sunny weather while there, and we made full use of it! We stayed in a small town south of Fort William called Ballachulish, which used to be the site of an old slate quarry. From here, it’s a short 15 minute drive to the gorgeous Glencoe Valley area, with stops everywhere for exploring and hiking. It’s a very desolate-looking area, in a very beautiful and surreal way. It’s either rocky or boggy, with not much else for miles and miles. It’s also close to the Inner Hebrides Islands along the coast of Scotland. Some day I’ll go back here, there is still a lot more exploring to be done here!

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Newgrange, Ireland

My family and I had a fantastic 3-week trip to Ireland and Scotland in May. Newgrange (Brú na Bóinne) isn’t a hike per se, but it’s one of my favorite places in all of Ireland and I wanted to share it here. It’s a passage tomb/mound built around 3200 BC. The exterior has been rebuilt, but the interior is still in perfect condition and has never been rebuilt or repaired, still watertight. No photos are allowed inside, but I encourage people to look online for photos of the interior. On the winter solstice sunlight shines into the interior for about 15-20 minutes; this is the only time of year there is natural light inside. Going inside is by tour only, from the excellent visitor center nearby.

This place gives us all goosebumps, in a very good and amazing way. It is older than Stonehenge or the pyramids of Giza. To be able to stand inside of thousands of years of history is very humbling and awesome. We love this place so much that my daughters and I all have a triskelion tattoo inspired by the swirls that are carved on the entry stone of Newgrange. If you ever get to Ireland, this is the ONE place I always suggest to people. The final photo is of Knowth, another nearby mound with excellent rock carvings, but not accessible on the inside to the public.

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Kalaloch and Ruby Beaches, ONP

Every once in a while we get an amazing few days of weather in early spring, and I took full advantage of that last weekend, hitched up my trailer, and headed to Kalaloch Campground in Olympic National Park on the Washington Coast. I managed to get one of the best sites in the entire campground with a perfect view. To be able to wander the beaches in March barefoot, in shorts and a tank top, is such a treat and I loved every minute of it.

After getting set up at the campground, I headed north to Ruby Beach for the afternoon. Ruby is by far my favorite beach on the Washington Coastline. I spent all afternoon walking miles barefoot in the sand and soaking up the sunshine. Back to Kalaloch campground for dinner and watching the sunset from my incredible campsite before snuggling into my trailer for a wonderful night’s sleep.

The next morning after a refreshing sleep, I walked Kalaloch beach, found an amazing huge driftwood log, and did some yoga to start my day. What a wonderfully restorative, peaceful, beautiful trip 🙂

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MTTA Bruni’s Snowbowl Hut

My husband and I along with 3 friends had a wonderful 3-day snowshoe trip to MTTA’s Bruni’s Snowbowl Hut in perfect snow conditions (MTTA = Mount Tahoma Trails Association). MTTA is south of Mount Rainier, and when it’s not snowing with white-out conditions, the view of Mt. Rainier from the Snowbowl hut is incredible! We were lucky to get a 30-second window of time where we could see the mountain. It’s approx. a 3.5 mile snowshoe up to the hut along forest service roads. We had several inches of beautiful fresh powder, and it snowed most of the time we were up there.

The hut is a fully stocked, heated cabin that sleeps 14 people in an open loft on the upper floor. There is a propane heater/stove and a propane cooking stove. Water comes from collecting snow from outside and melting it by the propane heater, then filtering it. Works great if everyone who is staying there helps out to do their part. The kitchen has everything you could possibly need. The best part about staying here is that you don’t have to backpack your tent, cooking stove or utensils, etc. Bring your food, clothes, and sleeping bag and everything else is there waiting for you!

I can’t wait to get back out there again with friends, we had a great time in an absolutely beautiful setting. Topping the trip off with lunch at Cooper Creek Inn was a perfect ending.

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Tanning in Washington in Jaunary

It IS possible to work on a tan in January in Washington State… you just have to hit the mountains on a bluebird day, wear a tank top, bring an air mattress and a picnic lunch, and enjoy the day!!!  This was above Paradise at Mt. Rainier this past weekend.

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John Muir

Not only was John Muir an incredible naturalist, he was also a wonderful writer. I have one of his most famous quotes tattooed around my ankle: “The mountains are calling and I must go.”

Here’s another one that calls me to the mountains time and time again…

“I don’t like either the word [hike] or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not hike! Do you know the origin of that word ‘saunter?’ It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, ‘A la sainte terre,’ ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.” – John Muir

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Paradise snowshoe – MRNP

There’s a saying in Washington, “We don’t tan, we rust.”  I certainly feel like that often, but sometimes we get lucky and have a few glorious winter days where it’s much warmer up on Mt. Rainier than it is in the lowlands. In wintertime, I live for those weather inversions! THIS is how I like to get a winter tan, and get a little bit of vitamin D to get through these short winter days 🙂 I only wish I’d had shorts on.

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A few of my favorite books…

Since I’m laid up for a while with my arm in a sling from shoulder surgery, I’ve been reading voraciously.  I’ve read some wonderful nature-related books this year, and wanted to share. I’ve also decided that I should have been a geologist. Our world is so incredible, if you just take time to experience it and learn about it.

The Wild Trees – Richard Preston.  This book digs deep into the incredible life of the Redwood trees in northern California. Each redwood tree is a complete world of its own, and this book explores everything about these trees. Absolutely amazing!

Dear Bob and Sue – Matt and Karen Smith.  This is written by a couple who visit every US national park. They are really funny, laugh out loud funny. Their sense of humor and adventure get 5 gold stars. This book is guaranteed to get rid of the winter blahs.

The Nature Fix – Florence Williams.  Tech has completely changed our world and society as we once knew it , and not necessarily for the better (yes, as I sit here connected to the Internet). This book describes how getting out into nature is so so so important!

The Invention of Nature – Andrea Wulf.  To copy from the description at Amazon: “Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) was the most famous scientist of his age, a visionary German naturalist and polymath whose discoveries forever changed the way we understand the natural world. Among his most revolutionary ideas was a radical conception of nature as a complex and interconnected global force that does not exist for the use of humankind alone.”

The Hidden Life of Trees – Peter Wohlleben.  This book is about how trees communicate, how they form actual communities. It goes into detail about the life cycle of trees, how parent trees support their young, and how trees in a forest are all connected in ways we had no idea existed.

The Good Rain – Timothy Egan.  Wonderful author, wonderful book. Timothy Egan covers the history and land across the beautiful Pacific Northwest, from forests to volcanoes to rivers, across time and people who have lived here over the centuries.

Cascadia’s Fault – Jerry Thompson.  Scary, but this goes into great detail about the Cascadia fault line that is just off shore from northern California, Oregon, Washington, and Vancouver Island. It describes in detail all the scientific evidence being discovered that there have been massive earthquakes along this fault line in previous centuries.

On Trails – Robert Moor.  To quote Amazon again:  “On Trails is a wondrous exploration of how trails help us understand the world—from invisible ant trails to hiking paths that span continents, from interstate highways to the Internet.” I’m part way through this book right now and it’s very well written. I’ve really enjoyed the read so far!

The Big Burn – Timothy Egan.  This book covers the largest forest fire in recent history in 1910, from the politics of the national conservation movement that protected our wild lands to the personal lives of the individual firefighters who fought the flames.  It’s a beautifully written story of the history of the Northwest during the early 1900s.

Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens – Steve Olson. An excellent mix of human stories and science in the months leading up to the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens. Also goes into the timber industry and how it has shaped the culture of the Pacific Northwest.

Mary Oliver – Poems and essays by an amazing author who totally understands the reason why I hug trees and love being in nature, from the big picture down to the tiny little insects and flowers.

Wendell Berry – Another author who is deeply connected to nature and the land. Beautiful writing!

And it goes without saying that John Muir, William O. Douglas, and Edward Abbey are well represented on my book shelves also!!!!

 

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Hiker Trailer

I’m changing the game up a bit – This spring I ordered a teardrop trailer, and we were able to pick it up just in time for my birthday at the end of September. The brand is Hiker Trailer, built in Denver, Colorado ( http://www.hikertrailer.net ). The company is absolutely wonderful to work with, and will customize so that you only pay for exactly what you want. Each trailer is custom-built, and I am so thrilled with mine!!!

I got a 5 x 8 foot size. It’s small enough that I can tow it easily, and it’s so light I can even move it around by hand if I need to. The inside fits a queen-size mattress perfectly, so I have a folding mattress that can lie flat for a bed, or fold up into a couch – perfect for reading! Perfect for one person, but plenty of space for 2 also. The back galley has large shelves, a pull-out table, as well as a detachable side table that is perfect for cooking on. Eventually I will have an awning installed, hopefully next summer.

I take so many road trips and do so much camping, this trailer is going to make those trips so much better. I won’t have to pack and unpack for every trip. I’ll be able to  comfortably get out of bad weather and sleep in an enclosed, secure, weather-proof space instead of a tent. I’m in love!

I took my trailer out alone to test it at a Kanaskat-Palmer State Park, and it was so comfy I slept for 10 hours that night. It’s now tucked away in the garage for the winter, but I’ll be planning and scheming road trips for next spring and summer with it while I’m recovering from shoulder surgery 🙂

 

 

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