Blue's Boots

Andrea's adventures on the trail…

William O. Douglas Wilderness

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” ~ John Muir

I get restless this time of year, knowing hiking/backpacking season is coming to a close. I crave wilderness time, solitude, Mother Nature, wild beauty, silence, connecting with the natural world around me. It’s how I recharge my batteries, replenish my soul, and give myself a much-needed break from civilization. Time slows out here as the light changes throughout the day.

Spending days away from people, sleeping in a tent, staring at a campfire, waking up to incredible views like this… it’s where I’m the best version of myself.

Food tastes better out here. Air smells so much fresher. Everything looks crisper, colors are more vibrant. I hear whispering breezes and birds and insects I would not be able to pick up at home. All senses become more heightened.

The first night it got to freezing, and the 2nd night it was 28 degrees. And I was warm and cozy with my layers of fleece and down, tucked inside my extra-puffy down sleeping bag in my tiny little cocoon of a tent. I usually sleep deeply in the wilderness, one more way it helps me restore and refresh.

I can’t describe how glorious it was to see the full moon rise over the mountains and to feel the morning sunshine reflecting off the lake as it warmed me up.

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Mazama Ridge, MRNP

It’s a 2-hour drive from my house to the Paradise area at Mt. Rainier, one I usually avoid in the non-snow months because of crowds. But, every once in a while I make the drive to look for wildlife, and this trip did not disappoint, even though there was haze from wildfires.

I first stopped at Reflection Lakes to take in the beautiful views of Rainier, and then headed to Faraway Rock, which is a fantastic place to look down onto Louise Lake and across to the Tatoosh Range south of the volcano.

I headed up toward Mazama Ridge and the Sluiskin/Van Trump/Stevens Memorial, commemorating the first climb of Mt. Rainier in 1870. Though wildflowers were spent for the season and fall colors were setting in, the views are wide open and beautiful from this area.

Near the memorial I saw the biggest, fattest black bear I’ve ever seen in my years of hiking these trails, foraging for berries and getting ready for his long winter sleep. I saw him again in a different area on my way back to the car some time later, still working his way through fields of berries. I also played peek-a-book with a beautiful deer near Faraway Rock.

Mt. Rainier – every time I hike here, I have a feeling of coming home, of being in the place where I’m the best version of me and where I belong. I never take her for granted.

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Let’s talk Yoga

Not exactly about hiking and traveling, but as many of you know another passion of mine is teaching yoga. I’m so thankful to be back to teaching in-person at my local YMCA, and I’m also now offering classes online via Zoom.

I teach Hatha and Yin yoga, with a realistic approach that works for anyone regardless of age, size, or ability. I encourage a lot of yoga props, and offer alternatives and options for poses so that you can decide what works best for YOU.

If you’re interested, please register here for any of my weekly classes (Pacific Time). I’d love to meet you on the yoga mat!!

Online Hatha and Yin Yoga class schedule

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Joshua Tree National Park, CA

Joshua Tree National Park rests in the mountains above Palm Springs. Some of the most interesting rock formations I’ve ever seen are here, along with Joshua trees, cholla, ocotillo, and many other desert plants and animals that have adapted to this harsh environment. Since I love scrambling on rocks, Joshua Tree NP is a perfect playground for that.

We played on the rocks around Arch Rock, but unfortunately it was very crowded and many people were intent on climbing the arch, not allowing photos for the rest of us.

We next headed to Split Rock Trail, and had a wonderful time watching rock climbers, exploring the area, and getting off the main trail for a quiet lunch spot in the rocks.

We drove to Keys View, only to find that it was so crowded we had to wait 20 minutes to park, with no way to turn around. The view down into the Palm Springs valley is impressive, but also many times covered in a haze that is a combination of marine air and L.A. smog.

We ended our first day by wandering in the cholla cactus garden and the ocotillo area. Very surreal, and also incredibly easy to impale your shoes with cholla barbs!!

On our second day we decided to try to get away from crowds, so we chose to explore the Wonderland of Rocks area, and it was a great decision! We started on the Boy Scout Trail, veering to the right on the Willow Hole Trail. We saw very few people, and spent the day exploring the area. The trail was very easy, and we spent a long time scrambling on rocks and taking in the views.

Like Death Valley, Joshua Tree can be brutally hot in summertime. February was a perfect time to visit, sunny skies, mild temperatures, and a surreal and beautiful landscape.

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Death Valley National Park, CA

Death Valley National Park stole my heart! I never imagined that more than 3,000,000 desolate acres could be so beautiful and amazing. Our timing was perfect in February, with cold mornings but wonderful afternoon temperatures and a lot of sunshine. In summer the heat is brutal, so late winter/early spring is a perfect time to visit.

We love scrambling through canyons, so our 2 choices for this trip were Mosaic Canyon and Desolation Canyon. We also walked miles in Badwater Basin, drove the scenic Artist’s Palette Drive, and visited the Devil’s Golf Course. So much to see and do here, and this is a park I will definitely get back to some day!

Mosaic Canyon was our first hike, with 2 roadblocks of a boulder jam and a dry falls that we knew ahead of time how to get past thanks to information from the Death Valley NPS website. In this canyon the rock is incredibly slick, the walls have been scoured smooth by millennia of flash floods. If you take the time to stop and look around, you’ll see many different rock colors that are beautiful!

Zabriskie Point is definitely worth a 10-minute drive to get to a viewpoint above the valley floor.

Badwater Basin is the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level. The ground looks like snow, but it’s a huge salt flat that goes for miles and miles, and is wonderful to walk around on. Walking a few miles out into the basin helps to give perspective on how huge this valley really is. There is a sign on the cliff above the parking area that is sea level, helps put things into perspective.

Artist’s Palette Scenic Drive showcases beautiful colored soils and rocks. Mother Nature truly is an artist, and she shows it off here. This is a one-way drive, take your time and take it all in.

Desolation Canyon is aptly named, and a beautiful hike that involves scrambling up two 6-8 foot walls that are easy enough to maneuver, especially with help from a hiking partner. Once you get to the ridge up top, there are expansive views of the valley below, and you realize that you are literally standing right above the Artist’s Palette Scenic Drive. For being so desolate, this was a phenomenal canyon hike and one we would definitely recommend.

Natural Bridge is a great easy hike if heading far into rocky canyons is not your idea of fun. It’s easy and short, we saw many people with children on this hike and would suggest it for anyone. The most impressive dry fall we saw was just after the Natural Bridge – it goes to show the incredible power of water in the desert.

Devil’s Golf Course is named very well … these spikes of heaved soil and salt deposits are 1 to 2 feet high and as sharp as razors. A fall here would not be fun. It was surreal walking among these formations.

Lastly, I can’t finish without mentioning the local wild burros that greeted us early one morning as we were driving to the park 🙂

Overall, Death Valley was a huge YES for us, a place we will definitely spend more time exploring sometime in the future.

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Brilliant words…

I just finished reading a book by Katy Bowman called Move Your DNA about movement, and how the human body is designed to be out in nature moving naturally, not confined to a chair all day long. I loved her brilliant words at the end of the book, and I think this pertains to spiritually as well as physically. Get out there and be a part of it…

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Digging for fossils in Fossil, Oregon

There’s a tiny town in Central Oregon named Fossil because… you guessed it, there are a lot of plant fossils in the area! Behind the high school field anyone is welcome to wander up a small hill and dig for fossils. There is a little shed with tools for use, so with shovel and pick and plastic bag in hand, I headed up. Even by 8 am it was hot out, but I dug for about 45 minutes 🙂 I still have a bag full of rocks to clean and look through, but one I know for sure is the tip of a Dawn Redwood from millions of years ago. I think this is so fitting, considering the northern California redwood forests are one of my favorite places on earth!

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John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Clarno Unit – Oregon

Maybe my favorite of the John Day Fossil Bed Units – this is where plant fossils are up close and personal on the trails and you can see many of them. All 3 units of John Day are impressive in their own way. I hiked all 3 short trails here, the Geologic Time Trail, The Trail of Fossils, and the Arch Trail. Again, very HOT, but worth it. Sunscreen, big hat, a lot of ice water.

The Geologic Time trail runs parallel to the road and has many interpretive signs showing what life was like in this area up to 40+ million years ago. From this trail there are excellent views of the Palisades, wonderful rock formations that change in the light and depending on what angle you’re looking from.

The Trail of Fossils has many signs that point you toward leaf fossils in big boulders, with specific instructions on where to look, since they’re hard to find. I had so much fun fossil hunting along this trail. It’s amazing to think that some of these plants are preserved from tens of millions of years ago!

Last but not least I hiked uphill on the Arch Trail, to the base of the Clarno Arch in the Palisades. There are 2 large petrified logs in a T-shape on the cliff walls as you hike up. Again, signs point out where to look and what to look for. Wonderful!

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John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Painted Hills Unit – Oregon

After the Sheep Rock Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds, I drove to the Painted Hills Unit. It was late afternoon and the heat had taken a lot of energy out of me, so I didn’t hike much here. Fortunately, not much hiking is needed to see some beautiful scenery. I stopped at the Painted Hills Overlook and hiked the Painted Cove Trail. This area is fairly small, and the roads are gravel. It’s a quick but beautiful stop.

The Painted Hills Overlook is mesmerizing. It almost looks fake, like someone spray-painted the hill in stripes. Different minerals in the soil make up the different colors. They also show different climates and weather patterns through history. Again, Mother Nature is simply amazing.

After stopping at the Overlook, I drove a bit further to the Painted Cove Trail (1/4 mile stroll). It’s a small section of other-worldly-looking hills in several different colors, again from different minerals in the soils creating the color palette.

Beautiful. Just beautiful…

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John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, Sheep Rock Unit – Oregon

More photos from my recent road trip with my Hiker Trailer 🙂 I spent 2 days exploring the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, which is made up of 3 different units. I didn’t hike as much as planned, it was 100 degrees and just a wee bit hot! But still very fun to explore. I also didn’t want to venture too far out because this is also rattlesnake territory.  A lot of sunscreen, a hat, and a never-ending supply of ice water came in very handy.

This is the Sheep Rock Unit, where the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center is. I stopped at the Mascall Overlook first, before driving through Picture Gorge toward the Visitor Center. There are excellent displays of 45 million years worth of fossils, dinosaur bones, etc. And air conditioning.  Let me say that again… Air Conditioning.

Across from the visitor center, I wandered around at the historic Cant Ranch. I can’t imagine a more harsh but beautiful place to raise sheep and homestead.

After the Cant Ranch, I drove north to the Blue Basin area and hike the Island in Time Trail. This area is surreal, I felt more like I was on the moon than in Oregon. Again: hot hot hot, but sunscreen and a lot of cold water did the trick. The scenery here is fantastic.

The last place I hiked in the Sheep Rock Unit of John Day Fossil Beds was the Foree area, on the Story in Stone and Flood of Fire Trails. I was withering in the heat by this time, so these short but sweet hikes were just right for me.

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