Blue's Boots

Andrea's adventures on the trail…

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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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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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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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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Goat Yoga – Yes, it’s a real thing.

Not necessarily a hiking entry here, but it sure was fun!  Yoga is what gets me through our horrible, gray, wet, cold winters here in Western Washington. If not for yoga, you could all be visiting me at the State mental institution right now.

I bought some goat feta cheese from a new vendor at our local farmer’s market, and noticed  the words “goat yoga” on their business card.  That was enough for me to hop on the Internet and immediately buy a ticket for one of their classes (laughing to the point where the husband and kid wondered what was wrong with me).

I’ve always thought goats are amazing creatures, very curious, friendly (usually), and generally adorable.  Especially the ones with floppy ears. No boundaries of personal space, “in your face.”  I’ve said for years that I want pack goats. What better way to get to know them than spending an hour attempting yoga with baby goats jumping all over me???

I spent that hour of goat-yoga laughing, and basically didn’t stop laughing for the rest of the day. I’ll admit, there wasn’t much actual yoga going on, as there was too much laughing and being knocked over or jumped on to really concentrate on down dogs. Avoiding piles of goat poo became an essential skill. Scratching those amazingly soft and floppy ears was the icing on the cake. I think that particular yoga mat will never be used again. Would I do it again? Absolutely!!!!

Links to newspaper articles about this class below the photos.

http://www.theolympian.com/entertainment/article151175952.html

http://www.thurstontalk.com/2017/05/17/goat-yoga-olympia/

 

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Zion National Park – Narrows

The Zion Narrows is a must-see for anyone visiting Zion National Park.  The hike starts with a 1-mile paved trail, then when the pavement ends, the in-river hiking begins!  IMO, it’s well worth it to rent canyoneering boots and neoprene socks, along with a walking stick, to do this hike, though plenty of people just use regular sneakers. The canyoneering boots give a lot more stability on the wet river rocks that you will be walking on for miles.

In the Narrows, you can go as far out and back as you want, whether it’s 1/2 mile or several miles. Most of the hike is actually in the river, with 800-foot-tall canyon walls on either side. Some parts have a bit of dry land that you can walk on, but be prepared to get wet for the majority of it. Water levels depend on season and weather conditions. Of course, if there is any chance of rain, this is a hike to avoid because of the threat of flash floods.

There really aren’t words to describe what it’s like being in this canyon, so I’ll just let the photos do the talking…

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Ginkgo Petrified Park and Wild Horse Wind Facility – Eastern Washington

What a fun day in the sun!  I met a fellow “Washington Hikers and Climbers” member for the first time, and she, my husband, and I drove to the other side of the Cascade Mountains for a bit of desert wildflower and sunshine therapy 🙂  We started with quiche and cookies from the Cle Elum Bakery, yum!  Then drove to the Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park at Vantage, right on the Columbia River, and explored the bluffs above the river and took a lot of wildflower photos. It was a bluebird day and the sun felt wonderful.

Next we hiked an old deserted Jeep road for several miles, on the hunt for more wildflowers and bighorn sheep, which unfortunately we never saw.  More sunshine and vitamin D…

Finally we ended up at the PSE Wild Horse Wind Facility, where we had planned on a last short hike for wildflowers before heading home. We walked in the visitor center to get a hiking permit, completely unaware that a tour was about to start. We had hard hats and safety goggles handed to us and were asked to join in, and we had so much fun!  It was completely unexpected, and a wonderful bonus to our day. We got to see the inner workings of the huge wind turbines, and got to go inside one of the towers.  These guys are HUGE, and photos can’t even begin to explain what it’s like to stand next to one of these… the tower is 220 feet tall, each of the 3 blades is 128 feet long, and the “box” at the top is the size of a full-size bus. At full speed, the tips of the blades are traveling at 150 miles an hour.

We ended our day with a short hike in a beautiful area in the wind facility, again in search of more wildflowers. Then the long drive back home, totally tired out, and totally worth it.  Such a wonderful change of scenery!

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Palouse Falls and Eastern Washington State

J. and I spent a wonderful 3 days in Eastern Washington State, following the sunshine. We started by driving to the Richland/Hanford area in search of burrowing owls and were lucky enough to find one of these very elusive birds before it flew away. Then on to Palouse Falls State Park where we set up camp and spent the rest of the day wandering around, flirting with yellow-bellied marmots, birding, and soaking up the sunshine. We had a wild turkey walk right past our campsite that evening.

Next day we hiked out to a ledge below the falls, along the Palouse River, in search of wildflowers, but were a bit too early in the season and only saw a few. We then drove to Lyons Ferry State Park, which is closed, but we spent a while walking around the area looking for birds, and found a bald eagle next on the way back that we were able to get photos of. In the afternoon we hiked to Upper Palouse Falls, not nearly as much of a drop, but very wide with churning water that looked like it was boiling. Recent rains and all the runoff meant a LOT of water flowing through, and even though it was muddy it was just gorgeous.

Clouds rolled in the 2nd evening, and unfortunately so did an extremely rude, obnoxious, loud, disrespectful group of 14 who thought that they could camp wherever they wanted to, even though all the sites were taken. They pitched camp in the dark on top of everyone else, and proceeded to be loud and absolutely horrid the rest of the night, so loud that we could hear them through the wind and rain that pelted us all night long. A boyscout troop actually packed up and left in the middle of the night because of them. So… not a good ending to a wonderful 2 days, but still very glad we spent time there!

On the way home we hiked at Columbia National Wildlife Refuge near Potholes, saw a lot more birds and some absolutely beautiful scenery, before heading home. We were going to stop and hike at Whiskey Dick, but the wind was so strong by that time we could barely get the car doors open, much less hike in it.

Overall, a wonderful 3 days (minus the pond scum people at the campground) and I finally got to check Palouse Falls and Potholes off my wish list 🙂

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Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground, MRNP

J. and I decided to take a long, steep way up to the Indian Henry’s Hunting Ground patrol cabin to see it in wintertime. Loooong. Steeeep. I’ve been through in summertime while on the Wonderland Trail, and in that season it’s a riot of wildflowers (and mosquitoes). Adding cold temps and a good amount of snow in November, it was a hard day, but still a lot of fun and The Mountain cooperated by letting us see her for about 2 minutes before clouding over. It’s 12 miles R/T from the Kautz Creek trailhead, with about 3200 feet of elevation gain, most of it through dense forest with no views, but still beautiful.

We crossed several small high meadows before getting to the actual Indian Henry’s meadow. We were just about to call it a day and turn around when we saw the patrol cabin on the far side of the meadow. It has to be the most beautiful little cabin  I’ve ever seen. We only spent about 15 minutes resting on the front porch before heading back, not wanting to end up hiking after dark.

After the 6-mile hike back down 3200 feet of elevation loss, our legs were jelly by the time we got back to the car, but still very worth it and we felt like we were on top of the world for a little while. 🙂

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