hiking

All posts tagged hiking

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Portland At Last

(Photo: Dry Creek Falls)

8/18-8/28

I arrived in Corbett, Oregon on Sunday evening; its a picturesque sleepy farm town about twenty minutes west of Portland right off the Columbia River. Its part of the Columbia River Gorge which has endless hiking trails, waterfalls, the Pacific Crest Trail and Bridge of the Gods, which was featured in the movie Wild. Its an outdoor mecca flocked by many Portland residents each weekend. And it was my privilege to stay at the Kadinky farm for my last woofing destination before heading back east. It wasn’t’ the largest farm I stayed on, but they did have the largest cultivated acreage to maintain in comparison to the other homestead farms I worked on. Its been said that the work is never done on a farm, but I would add that the work is rewarding giving a farmer renewed purpose every day.

When I arrived, I was welcomed by Susan, Janet and their son Jude. They gave me the tour of the farm which included a barn with a kitchen attached (for me to use), a fenced in chicken coop (the ladies weren’t laying eggs just yet) and three patches of garden. The main one was on the hill below the barn and used to be full of produce for Janette’s restaurant. While I was there only a portion of it was being used for personal consumption and the rest of the plot was fallow. They had kale, swiss chard, cucumbers, zucchini and other veggies along with dill growing next to giant sunflowers. The second garden was a decent sized pumpkin patch further down the hill. The third garden contained rows of beautiful flowers; Susan collected and dried flowers for decorating wreaths. They also had a sizable green house with more edible plants, a lush garden next to their house with grapes, roses and apples, and a patch of Oregon (non edible) natives. The untouched areas of the farm were full of blackberries just coming into season, ripe and ready for the picking. I was encouraged to eat as many as I wanted and to harvest and eat anything I’d like from the garden. It was a vegan dream!

They showed me the area on the far side of the farm where I could set up camp in a clearing near the outdoor bathroom. I picked a spot under a tree mostly surrounded by blackberry bushes. I ate some every day, and they are by far the best I have ever had! The outdoor bathroom was still a work in progress as the sink didn’t function yet and I think they had plans for a roof which wasn’t on it yet. It had barnyard wood walls and rubber mats on the floor, which kept most of the dirt off. And it had a compost-able toilet for solids only; I was given permission to pee anywhere I found privacy (I had my spots). The shower had black hoses leading to it which were coiled in full sun, so the water was supposed to be warm. But the reality was that it was cold for the first two seconds before it was completely freezing. They offered for me to shower inside as an alternative; but I only took them up on it twice, once was on a rainy cold day, and the other was when they hosted a group of campers on the property. Otherwise I showered in the late afternoon when the sun was beaming right onto me. The cold water was still shocking, but glorious. Have I mentioned that I love outdoor showers? I could see Mt. Hood from the bathroom and gaze out onto the neighboring flowering fields in absolute privacy.

Janet and Susan worked in Portland most days. Janet’s restaurant is in really cool part of North East Portland on Alberta St., and Susan is a school teacher. Jude was four and went to preschool. I worked most days with Charlie who also lived on the property. Our first project was to create extra insulation for his A-frame house against the heavy winter winds that blow up through his floor boards. With Charlie’s father’s help and direction we positioned twenty-eight cement blocks along the structure, filled them with earth, sealed up the cracks with insulation and laid grasses over top.

We also worked on projects in the garden. We spent several days weeding in the main garden and the native patch. We harvested and blanched broccoli for freezing. We prepped the soil of another bed clearing it of weeds and planted root vegetables. We also cleared out a portion of an old chicken run full of wild growth more than six feet high. Thats where I got burdock in my hair, right at the top of my head! Even with some help, I still needed to rip out a whole clump of hair to get rid of those nasty buggers. Now I have bangs, and I opted to wear a hat each day after that.

Charlie taught me about different plant families and new techniques for mulching, harvesting and planting. He was a delight to work with; he’s a gentle soul, a hard worker and an artist. We exchanged life stories over glove-fulls of weeds and hoisted heavy wheel-barrels full up and down the hill. It was daily exercise just going up that hill to the kitchen barn. It was exhausting at times, but I loved it.

On the weekend, Charlie joined Anuk and I on a hike to Dry Creek Falls which weaves along a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail. Sadly many of the trails in the area were still closed from the devastating fire that destroyed much of the wilderness two years prior and even forced the Kadinky Farm to evacuate. Jude still spoke fearfully about fires. Anuk handled the the five or so miles like a pro! Then we grabbed lunch at a brewery in Hood River which is a cute dog friendly town along the Columbia River.

My days flew by, and my evenings were quiet. One of my goals for this trip was to finally visit Portland, which I did a few times. I spent time on Alberta Street and Mississippi Avenue, both great areas for shopping, dining and walking around. I even went to the REI downtown which was a nightmare in traffic, but Anuk had popped my air pillow so I made the heroic journey into the most crowded REI I had ever seen! Then that night Anuk popped my air pad; I was frustrated to say the least. I ended up sleeping on the ground for a few nights before I ordered a mat that she couldn’t pop, which I picked up from an REI south of Portland. Portland is a great city, full of clever and creative people, who are open-minded and chill, with amazing food, stellar breweries and friendly people. And before I knew it, it was time to leave again.

Highlights:
Fresh blackberries and produce every day
Outdoor shower
The time and space to play with Anuk each day
Hiking in the Columbia River Gorge
Great vegan options in Portland
How green everything is

Lowlights:
Anuk popping my camping gear

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Finding Endor & Oregon

Aug 16-18

Anuk and I left early the next morning, and found that my car had been cleaned. One of Adam’s neighbors really likes to clean, and my car was in the perfect state of filth. So thank you stranger for cleaning my car!

After we left the Bay area we continued up the 101, and diverted only a little to take the Avenue of the Giants. This narrow road winds through the Humboldt Redwoods State Park in Northern California, where massive trees hug the side of the road. It is hard to describe what I felt while I was there. It was like stepping into a place of dreams or fantasy. I could feel the very energy of the place. I was both humbled and filled with reverence, what I would expect to feel in a holy place. This holy place was not built and contaminated by human hands, but grown forever ago, and still here to experience. I could have paused there for years. The air is almost heavy and rich with the smell of Christmas trees. The trees are so big that you need to include a person or a car to show the scale. But you have to stand way back to take the picture, and even then you can only get a small portion of the whole tree. This was hard to do on my own, but I propped up my phone on some rocks to take a selfie using the timer function on my phone. I could see myself on the planet Endor running through the woods amongst the ferns and ancient giants building humble structures out of fallen trees and living off the land. Instead I was merely passing through, a tourist to nature’s beauty.

We stopped at a few places and found our way down to the river. Anuk ran across the rocks while I tossed pebbles around for her to chase. It felt like we were the only ones around, and in some places I’m sure that we were. I didn’t have any set plans for the night, so thankfully we found a state park camp ground along the road which had campsites available. I found the best ever campsite there. I picked the one with a cluster of six or so trees growing in a tight circle with a space in the middle big enough for my tent. There was an entry way between the tress with roots that acted like steps leading down. It was perfect!

I understand that trees can communicate with each other, and I asked for permission to set up my tent in their midst. Of course they could have said ‘no’, but I felt peace here and joy like being a kid again with a vast imagination. I used to make hideouts in the bushes around our house, and being here took me right back. The ground was so soft with fallen leaves that I didn’t need more padding than my sleeping bag on the ground. I don’t remember the dreams I had that night, but it was a peaceful nights rest, and I was sorry to leave in the morning. I had some noisy neighbors though that woke me from this dreamlike state of mind. So as usual, it was time to press on.

I spent the next day winding north up the 101 and into Oregon. The coast there is magical, sand dunes in some places, rocks jutting out of the water in others. Giant structures of nature and soft grasses hounded by the wind. I stopped at viewpoints along the way expecting to see beautiful cliff overlooks, but found thick forest instead. Steep trails led into the trees and wound down to hidden coves which I could not see from above. I wished that I had time to explore them all, but I had to drive on. Move on, keeping moving on.

In the evening I stopped at a state park campground that I found along the way. The host said that they were fully booked and he was doubtful I would find a place with openings nearby because it was the weekend. This is the downside to being in an area where folks love to camp; the weekends are just busier. By this point week day or weekends all felt the same to me, they were just days that flowed from one into the next.

I drove on as the day was waining reasoning that I could sleep in my car somewhere if I needed to, but all the parking along the coast had giant signs that said there was no camping or overnight parking anywhere. So I pressed on, hopeful to find something. I made it north of Port Orford and found a sign for an RV park. The attendant there said they had tent camping sites, all of them were empty, and I could take my pick of the bunch. She even offered for me to check them out first. They had free wifi near the office and free showers all for $20. I paid her without needing to see the campsites. This seemed like a luxury by this point, and I didn’t care what ground I camped on at this point.

The campsites turned out to be pretty plush. I picked the one on the far side of a small grove of pine trees with a beat up picnic table a good distance away from all the RV’s. It was actually quite pretty nestled between the trees and a wild field with plenty of privacy and space to throw the ball for Anuk. The sun was just sinking down in the sky as I set up camp (by this point my setup only took about 20 minutes) and I cooked my dinner by flashlight. The temperature was dropping, and I was exhausted as usual, so I opted to pass on a hot shower and went to bed early instead.

I visited the facilities first thing in the morning taking Anuk for a walk. I had just enough time to do my thing when a cat waltzed into the bathroom and got Anuk into a frenzy and I needed to leave before she woke everyone up. I opted to pass on the shower yet again, reasoning that it was only a couple days since my last shower and I would have one at the farm later that day. I packed up our gear and we headed out on the road getting an early-ish start. Packing up always takes longer than setup (roughly an hour) especially if I make coffee and breakfast (peanut butter and bread sandwich + fruit). Sometimes I help myself by making my breakfast sandwich when I make my dinner, then I have less to do in the morning. But I wasn’t in a huge rush this morning.

The drive no longer hugged the coast but carved inland where it was enveloped by thick green forest. We continued north on the 101 for a bit and visited a state park to stop and play. I found it totally necessary for Anuk and a wonderful treat for myself. Then we headed east through more scenic countryside and quaint towns to Eugene where we stopped for a late lunch. I found a brilliant vegan (all day) breakfast place with outdoor seating where everyone asked to pet Anuk. And she relished their attention as if she had known them all forever. I was told by a woman in a a coffee shop in Colorado that just seeing my puppy had brightened her day, and that everyone needs a little puppy in their life sometimes. I found this to be true everywhere I went. Anuk would make people’s faces light up everywhere, and this was my delight to witness. What a wonderful way to start life, seeing happy faces everywhere one goes. Its no wonder that Anuk loves people so much and she wants to meet everyone. What a perfect companion for a traveling introvert.

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Here I sit in Arkansas

I’m sitting in a coffee shop called Onyx in northwest Arkansas, they call it the NWA (not to be confused with the gangster rap group from the 80’s). Its said to be the best area of the state, which I don’t doubt. Its a mecca for outdoor activities, hiking, rock climbing, white water rafting and miles and miles of farming. This is also the home for the founders of Walmart, who have made oodles of money off their cheap goods for the impoverished and thrifty masses putting tons of local mom and pop’s out of business. But I will not turn this into a rant of any kind; I smile sweetly. Instead I have benefited from the quality goods these rich Americans have dis-guarded at the local goodwills. I mean I found a sweet Colombia fleece barely used for a mere $7, but less about that stuff.

I am staying here with my friend Greg who is staying with his two best friends Becca and Sam who are married with five kids. They are Kyla (13), Nathan (11), Malachi (8), Kierstin (6) and Lincoln (4). They have been wonderful hosts letting me crash in their sweet decked out trailer that they use for their camping/traveling expeditions. Becca home-schools these lively intelligent kids who are surprisingly self-sufficient. They have welcomed me in like one of the family. They live on a generous plot of land filled with wild blackberries around every corner, large patches of garden set back off a country road up a super steep driveway. This hilly landscape is a joy to drive through on a beautiful sunny day. I have often found myself blasting tunes and singing loudly as I drive along, not caring what I look or sound like. Its a wonderful state of mind.

The hiking around here is gorgeous. There seem to be endless trails to choose from off the Buffalo National River, and then there is of course the Buffalo National River itself. Greg and I ‘floated’ down the river in canoe, but really it was more of an easy paddle highlighted with maneuvering through rapids, and many stops to choose from to swim, hike, take pictures and rest. One of the first places we stopped was a small waterfall that fed into the river. I hiked the short distance and stood under it for a refreshing shower. A-mazing! We also did the 2 mile-ish hike up to hemmed-in hollow, a breathtaking waterfall with a breeze so strong it was super chilly to stand anywhere near close by. I couldn’t imagine doing that hike in the winter time. Though I hear that it freezes over when its at its coldest.

The hikes we chose to do the next day were to Lost Valley and Whitaker’s Point (Hawksbill Crag). Lost Valley is a simple and gorgeous hike highlighted by waterfalls, mossy boulders that look like they were tossed around by giants and an enormous cave called Cobb’s cave. Apparently back in the day settlers used it as a place of refuge, and possibly lived there; it did smell pretty stale and old. Only a panoramic picture with a person in the frame helped to display its massiveness. At the very end of the trail there is a waterfall which pours out of a cave. I read that you can explore further into the cave, following the water’s source. Its a windy tricky stretch of 200 feet where you need to duck, crawl, slink around corners, move slowly and carefully and you end up a bit wet and dirty (I recommend pants and a head lamp). This opens up into a cavern of total darkness with an amazingly loud 35 foot waterfall. Admitably I am not very fond of tight spaces, or the thought of being stuck underground, so I didn’t want to hang out there for very long. But the thrill of the challenge to get there and the obvious reward had me glowing for hours. Thanks Greg for guiding the way!

The second hike was a steeper trek leading to breath-taking overlooks. Quirky shaped rocks set my imagination to what they could really be. I saw alligators, intense faces and unfamiliar creatures in them. Most had flattened sides that made them look like building blocks, mountain building blocks. These monoliths clung to the edge of mountain heights so staggering I felt nauseous to try and look down. I kept asking Greg as we walked along if these rocks were Whitaker’s point. But he was right, Whitaker’s point was obvious when we finally got to it. Its a boulder big enough to be someone’s house foundation, though there was nothing cozy about it. Many people have fallen off the rock to their death because of getting too close to the edge, which rounds off, so the end isn’t exactly clear. It sent my adrenaline pumping to be there, and I didn’t dare walking anywhere near the edge. We met a lady and her son up here and took each other’s pictures. This continues to confirm what I have found so far on this trip that there is always someone around when you want your photo taken. Thankfully the sound of thunder hastened us along to return before we could get poured on. If you do find yourself in this area of the country and want to do this hike, I recommend a stout car that can handle lots of steep gravel mountain switchback roads, because the road to this trail head is not for many cars. Thankfully Greg was driving his truck, because I’m not entirely sure that coco could have made this trek. Even his truck’s transmission got a bit overheated and we needed to pause for a while to wait it out. I’m glad we made it though, both of these hikes were well worth it!

Highlights:

The kids catching fireflies
Picking blackberries
Canoeing and hiking along the Buffalo National River
Hanging out with the kids, getting to know Becca, Sam and Greg
Painting with Kyla
Driving through the country side
All the great travel pointers that I got from Becca (Thanks Becca!)
Finding Lovers Leap (I’ll tell this story later)

Lowlights:

Watching out for ticks
Seeing the transportation of chickens on the roads

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adminHere I sit in Arkansas
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Stormy Tennessee

It rained on my drive from Charlotte, NC through the Smokey Mountains and into Tennessee. It was a theme that seemed to follow me through the state. I arrived at Fall Creek Falls in the early afternoon and by then the sun was beating down and it was toasty as I explored the campgrounds. I have nothing negative to say about their setup, and my campsite was ideal giving me a gorgeous view of the forest. When I went to sleep (my first night camping alone), the heavens let loose. Thunder and lightning woke me up repeatedly throughout the night. The wind and rain were intense. I prayed for my safety. Amazingly everything in my tent stayed dry, nice job Hubba Hubba tent from L.L. Bean.!

I spent the next morning with some rigorous hiking to the falls and around the area. The main trails there are pretty short and I opted not to explore the longer trails. I was pretty tired from driving and the lack of sleep was taking its toll. I’m learning that the hard part for me isn’t to press on and get more miles in, but its hard for me to let my body chill when I need rest. I am threatened by guilt of all that I am not getting done. If I let myself, I could run on a hamster wheel to the end of my days with piles of projects completed beside me. But life isn’t all about finishing a check list. All those lists will never be finished. This trip isn’t about filling a list of everything I have done and seen. Its about being open to the opportunities of growth. And growth means stretching. I have definitely felt some stretching so far.

After a couple of beautiful days exploring Fall Creek Falls, I headed on to a little farm I found on hipcamp called Stillwater Farm. Its about 1.5 hours east of Memphis. If you happen to be in the area, I highly recommend it! Its a super sweet farm with sheep, donkeys, chickens, quail, horses and cows. Valeria is an outstanding host eager to share all about her farm, and help in any way she can. And get this, she is from Titusville! It’s a small world indeed!

I enjoyed some much needed yoga with a backdrop of horses grazing in the field and then a shower in her quaint bath house. While I was toweling off with her plush towels that made me feel like a spoiled queen, I heard the wind picking up outside. I quickly dressed and left all my stuff and ran to up-stake my tent. Valeria rode over in her golf cart to help. We moved my tent under the pole barn as the dark clouds rolled in angrily. The wind was so strong that she had to hold my tent in place while I staked it down, and then she hurried off to seek shelter. That storm was crazy, and it seriously scared me, but nothing bad happened. I opted to skip making dinner that night and just ate the last of my pasta salad out of the ziplock bag and drank a hoppy beer while I sat in the dark. It was a low moment, but it didn’t get me down. Two of the farm dogs came out for their nightly jaunt. They played heartily giving me a good laugh.

The next day I packed up in the summer heat and headed west to Arkansas. The windy country roads were a pure delight! Its what driving across the country is all about.

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