Mystic Beach Hike: Into the woods

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Three cameras. Four rolls of 400 speed Fujifilm. One pair of Dr. Marten boots. A rain slicker. As Noah drive Rhiannon, Isobel, and me towards our destination, I wondered if my boots would suffice- my hardcore Keen hiking boots being back in Montana- and as it began to rain and rain hard, hitting the windshield with a veracity that seemed almost personal, I thought, I should have worn warmer things. Luckily, by the time we pulled into the trail head, the rain had stopped. A cool mist, the kind that is omnipresent on the coast of Vancouver Island in the morning, hung around us. The air, heavy with moisture, felt good and I breathed it in deeply. We were on the edge of the dense, hyper-saturated woods of the Pacific Northwest.

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My parents started taking my sister and I camping, hiking, and deep into nature when we were only a week old. Our whole lives have been laced, consistently, with adventures where the smell of soil, the sound of water, the delighted finding of animal footprints, and the deep responsibility we have to nature comes through. I remember helping my father catch fish and learning how to be gentle with them, how to properly hold frogs, how bird feathers worked as part of a wing to help them fly. One time, to a show and tell at school, I took a duck foot in a Ziploc bag to demonstrate how a certain muscle, when pulled with tweezers, retracted the foot. (No, that did not help me make friends.) My sister and I were taught to identify footprints, find patches of fur stuck to brush, to scout for feathers, for signs of life. Something my parents have done is give me a strong, very intense emotional connection to the woods. When I walk into any forest, I feel quietly humbled,  immediately renewed, and a sort of basic instinct whispers that I am part of this, and that I owe it so much. My sister has a poster that says “The woods are my church,” and I agree with this to a certain extent. Spiritually, going into nature feels like walking into a cathedral. It’s not about you, it’s about something bigger than you, and allowing that to be alright.

As we meandered down the twisted-root and mud-puddle filled trail, I mentally marveled at the wood’s density and how sound traveled in trapped, quick pockets, roped in by tree trunks and muffled by moss. Ferns grew out of old logs. Trees rose high, higher, highest, chasing sunlight. Saplings, small ferns, and fungus all compete to cover every surface. Birds chirped from branches up above. Pieces of moss trailed from branches, catching the light. Stumps of enormous size looked like squat, wooden boulders, surely occupied by insects, birds, and other animals. Downed woody debris is vital to any landscape, and here, where everything is fertile to an almost-ridiculous extent, I acknowledged every bit of the landscape. It all had a part to play.

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One thing I am still not used to in these greener, more lush woods is the wet.  It keeps evidence of life to itself more. Water distracts and obscures and I wondered what else had been on our path or had crossed it earlier. The woods here are full of cougars, bears, raccoons, deer, and eagles, but their signs were more difficult to find, because the soil and the wood-covered ground do not hold footprints as well- the water saturates the ground and erases or muddles them. I wondered who our neighbors were- what quiet, stealthy animals were nearby? I knew that they were aware of us- our smells, noises, and our lack of grace may as well be like a flare launched to the natural world. WE ARE HERE!

About an hour down the trail, we finally came to a series of steps down to the sea. It was high tide, and the ocean roared. We could see the cloud and snow capped Olympic mountain range in America across the strait, and the sea spit forth foam at our feet. The forest goes right up to the edge of the ocean, and the two share much with each other, as these two ecosystems tend to do here in the Pacific Northwest. If you want to become enraptured with this part of the world, and the power that some of these forests hold, I highly recommend The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant. That man has a way with words I haven’t experienced before and his ability to describe the woods and the land are unparalleled.

We gazed at the sea, went near a waterfall, and soaked in the sights and sounds. I cast loathing looks at the jacket-wearing chihuahuas that were brought along by their owners (I loathe small dogs for some reason.) The ocean’s tempo of rising, falling, gathering, spreading, taking and leaving, spoke to each of us in ways I don’t think we fully understand. After taking photographs, breathing in the salt air, looking at the clouds, and enjoying the sun, it was time to descend back into the thick copses of trees and bid the coast adieu. The light, in the short time we had left the woods, had changed significantly. It was warmer, more golden, and it seemed to cloak everything in a comforting light. Even the shadows beckoned in a welcoming fashion. We made our way, souls content, to the car, and the urge to fall into a relaxed slumber was almost overwhelming.

What a marvelous day.

Nature has the perfect sort of silence

This morning I woke up and it was pouring rain at 7 am.

So I slept some more.

Waking at 8, the rain was gone. I got up, filled my Nalgene, packed a rain jacket, and ate some breakfast.

Then I drove into Hyalite Canyon.

I am ashamed to say that after having spent 3 years in Bozeman I had never explored Hyalite properly. Last fall Chris and I went up there a few times and camped out but this time I was determined to drive all over the roads and walk up quite a few trails.

It was chilly and damp, and everything was full of water- dew drops hanging off of plant edges, pine needles raining water on you when you moved a branch. Driving I had the windows down because it was so beautiful and cool outside.

I didn’t know where to start hiking, and I started at the easiest “hike” to Palisade Falls. It’s paved the whole way but the falls were pretty. The whole morning I barely saw a soul, and that was the best part. I drove where I wanted, as slow as I pleased, and paused a lot to take pictures or photograph a plant (that post coming soon!)

Overall it was the most refreshing and beautiful morning. I ended up getting pretty wet at the end of the Falls hike because it started pouring rain and even a bit of snow. It was entirely worth it though- I got to drive and see all the beautiful things I’d been missing.

Now I need to go back to discover more. I think next time I’ll bring my kayak.

Montana, I love you, but this is ridiculous (I want greenery)!

02480002 018515-R1-04-21 - Copy 018512-R1-19-6 - Copy 018512-R1-03-22 - Copy 02500016 02500009 06950002 06950014 02500004While ice lingers on the INSIDE of my windows, creating a chill that resonates in my bones, I think about things that make me happy: Being outside.

I may wear SPF 70 and fall a lot, but I love being outdoors. I’ve been camping since I was a week old (one of the first questions my parents asked the doctor was how young was okay) and even though I don’t camp as avidly and often as I did in my youth (my youth being like 14 and younger, I’m not ancient at 21), I still love hiking and getting outside.

Montana is a gorgeous place, even when there is a foot of snow on the ground with 5 degrees F outside, but this is how I like to remember it. Enjoy.

 

Refrigerator Canyon hike

Kristin and I decided that a hike was much needed in our blood, and decided upon one of the most interesting hikes in our area. After an 85 minute drive, some hairy switchback turns, and getting sunscreen on, we began the hike.

The canyon funnels all the wind into it, so it actually is about 5 to 10 degrees cooler for the first 1/2 mile or so of the hike- the canyon reaches up to 200 feet tall in some places. Kristin and I scrambled over rocks, around trees, jumped over the meandering stream running through the canyon, and made our way through the breezy nature-made wind tunnel.

Montana hikes are often not the greenest. We’ve got fierce heat, not a lot of moisture that hangs out, and wind that takes off top soil like nobody’s business. Refrigerator Canyon’s hike is almost the exact opposite- the humidity is high, every surface is lush and fertile, and greenery takes over. We hiked for about 6 miles through the trail, and admired Western Tanagers, scouted elk prints, and found the leg of a deer. We ate a quick snack at the overlook, where you can see the surrounding hills, and continued on our way.

Overall, the hike was easy, and we went at a good pace. It was a perfect hike for a couple of hours of fun in a gorgeous setting. I need to  hike more around my area, seriously!

I hope you all had an awesome weekend! Now I’m making Cocoa Pebbles marshmallow treats and cleaning my house. Tschüß!

The gang

I am so excited to see my family again! There are a lot of things happening right now, and not all of them marvelous, so focusing on the best thing is the most one can do. The best thing for me is my family.

I’m especially excited to have intense debates with my dad. We are both very loud (I wasn’t born with an inside voice) and usually dinner turns into us “discussing” with Mom and Emily just groaning as our food gets cold.

I get to hug my Mom. This is such a cheesy post, but seriously, I’m so close with my family. Being abroad for the better part of 2 years hasn’t changed that.

My grandparents are coming up for Em’s graduation in June! AH! This photograph was taken sometime in the early 70’s, I’m guessing.

My grandfather and I like discussing cars. I think maybe, since he’s got 4 granddaughters, it’s nice to discuss something other than what the other three do. I think we’re going to make a trip to a car museum in Deerlodge one day!

The more I look at old photographs, the more I realize how awesome my youth was. We were constantly either travelling around the States or camping or canoeing- we weren’t a very languishing family. My parents prioritized travel and being outside, which I truly think is extremely important. Even though we didn’t stay in luxury hotels or go anywhere international, I’ve done some amazing things that no 5-star resort or international trip can give you- like realizing how to paddle a canoe, or knowing how to track animals, or start a campfire, or how much you can stand each other on 16-hour car rides. Or even how awesome it is that your parents allow you to just go and play in the mud and catch snakes and frogs.

Family! I see you May 15th!