Thanksgiving 2017: Sunset Crater

After heading north from Montezuma Castle, newly armed with an America the Beautiful Pass, I headed for Sunset Crater National Monument. I knew I was running a bit short on daylight for making both Sunset Crater and Wupatki National Monuments (they’re located on the same loop road).

Because I was short on time (and because Sprocket wasn’t allowed on the trails), I just hiked the really short A’a trail. It was super short but it did get down into the lava flow and was pretty darn cool.

The views across the expansive lava fields was really cool though. The landscape was definitely one worlds away from what I see in Colorado! Unfortunately, the summit of Sunset Crater is closed to the public (too much erosion was occurring so it is now off limits).

Shortly after passing by Sunset Crater, the view to the east opens up. There was a really nice overlook and Sprocket and I pulled over to take some photos in the stiff breeze. I love this old boy.

From there, we wound a little more east and then to the north to enter Wupatki National Monument.

On The Page: Fiva

fiva

Usually stories of setting out on adventure unprepared are frustrating—it can be hard to feel sympathy for the adventurer who doesn’t understand what they’re getting into. Gordon Stainforth’s account Fiva: An Adventure That Went Wrong of his disastrous attempt on Store Trolltind doesn’t elicit this frustrated and judgmental response from me at all. Although Stainforth and his twin brother John drastically underestimated the time (and the food) their route would take and also overestimated their route finding capabilities on the mountain, I instead felt myself willing them up the wall as I read. In his preface, Stainforth explains that he’d tried to start the book several different ways before settling on writing the story in the first-person present tense as his nineteen year-old self. Sometimes I found the perspective a bit forced but I believe it was also what allowed me to cheer for Gordon and John in their misadventure rather than feel disapproving.

Trollveggen

Gordon and John’s introduction to climbing and mountaineering had begun three years earlier when their father had taken them to Switzerland in the wake of their mother’s death. Although they were not allowed to climb the Matterhorn, they found themselves enthralled by the freedom of the mountains. Upon their return to the UK, their father enrolled them in a beginners’ rock climbing course in Wales, they obtained a little snow travel experience on subsequent trips to the Alps, and practiced their climbing anywhere they could (including on trees). They had no big wall climbing. On their trip to Norway in 1969, while waiting for their friends to join them, they decided to climb the Fiva route on Troll Wall. Armed with a barebones guidebook route description, a couple of cheese sandwiches, some chocolate, and a “Space Blanket” they headed up the wall. As can be expected, they faced hunger, cold, injury, and route uncertainty on the way.

Gordon Stainforth

Fiva is a page-turner. Like many adventure books, you know the ending but learning just how that ending happens becomes your singular focus. With each switch of the belay, I found myself even more deeply invested in just how Gordon and John were going to extricate themselves from their seemingly bleak situation. Despite looking more than forty years into the past, Gordon Stainforth has written a fast-paced engrossing story of a misadventure that takes the reader along on a harrowing series of events. John’s pictures from the assent along with his Afterward fill out the story. Fiva won the “Best Book—Mountain Literature” at the Banff Mountain Festival in 2012, an honor that seems quite deserved.

Fiva: An Adventure That Went Wrong was provided by Mountaineers Books to 3Up Adventures for review. All opinions are Beth’s.

On The Page: Wolves in the Land of Salmon

I picked up David Moskowitz’s Wolves in the Land of Salmon at the library. As a little kid, wolves were my favorite animal and I couldn’t read or learn enough about them and their habits. I was ten in 1995 when wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone and was so excited about wolves being reintroduced to the American West. My passion for wolves as an essential part of the landscape hasn’t faded (I follow the controversy over wolf-human conflicts and cheer on OR-7 as he travels around Oregon) so I was excited to read the book.

Wolves In The Land of Salmon

First off, this book is beautiful. Moskowitz also took the photographs for the book and the beautiful shots are scattered liberally throughout the book. Maps are used judiciously throughout the book to illustrate just where wolves can be found today and where they were found in the past. The photos of wolves vary from absolutely sweet pups to the chilling stare of an adult. Photographs of the landscapes in which wolves can be found also add to the book.

Washington wolf map

Moskowitz put a ton of research into this book, as the twenty page bibliography shows, but does an excellent job of relaying the information to the lay reader. The book’s text is also aided by the amount of time that Moskowitz himself spends outdoors tracking wolves. Grouped into chapters about each of the Northwest regions where wolves can be found (North Cascades, Vancouver Island, Inland Northwest) and chapters about specific wolf qualities (social behavior, hunting & eating, wolf-human relationship) this is a very readable book.

My favorite part was the last chapter discussing how wolves might return to the Olympic Peninsula. The last confirmed wolf killed in Washington state happened on the west side of the Olympics in the 1920s with credible sightings through the 1930s. However, because of the Peninsula’s isolation it is unlikely that wolves will disperse to this area and will probably require human reintroduction to this high quality wolf habitat. What I didn’t know was that the Olympic Marmot, an endemic species, is struggling due to coyote predation and that some scientists think that reintroducing wolves might help reverse population loss.

If you like nature writing, check out Wolves in the Land of Salmon (this is one I would recommend not getting on your Kindle, the book is too pretty in old school form). It’s an excellent portrait of wolves in the Northwest. It is certainly skewed towards support for wolves but I’m skewed that way too so it didn’t bother me in the least. It is more than a regurgitation of facts already in the news and I learned a lot.

Wedding, Part 13: Morning Glory Canyon Hike

Bright and early, Stacia, Andrea, Amanda, and I headed for Morning Glory Canyon (aka Negro Bill Canyon) to do some hiking. There was actually a little more to the plan than just hiking through the beautiful canyon but only 75% of us knew that. 🙂

Amanda relates the story pretty perfectly over at her blog with lots and lots of pictures. Here’s a couple of my favorites, plus some more tidbits from me.

Stacia and I weren’t sure how far we wanted to hike or exactly what setting she wanted to propose in. What we did know is that we were the only car in the parking lot so we had the canyon to ourselves. There were a few almost right places but when we came to a place where the creek ran right next to the gorgeous red rock with a stone out in the middle of the water we looked at each other, Stacia nodded, and it was a go. I wandered back towards Amanda and Dre and sort of ushered them forward while I headed back down the trail to figure out how to climb up to a ledge above the trail (and in the process managed to scratch my wedding ring just 12 hours after putting it on*).

After what seemed like an appropriate amount of time, I headed back up trail to see if the coast was clear. It was and I pulled a specially carried bottle of sparkling cider from my backpack…only to discover I’d forgotten the bottle opener… oops. (I did try to open it on the rock but only succeeded in scraping my knuckles, alternative bottle opening technique is F’s gig.)

The rest of the hike was awesome. We went another 3/4 of a mile or so while Andrea gushed about how surprised she was and while Stacia told her story of how she pulled it off.   It just couldn’t have been a more perfect morning of love.

Congratulations guys, I’m definitely looking forward to your wedding.

*Which isn’t something I was sad about, it’s something I fully expected. I just figured it would take longer than that.

All photos © 2012 Amanda Summerlin

America’s Public Lands: Under Attack

Conservation means development as much as it does protection. I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us. -Teddy Roosevelt

America has a lot of public land—in fact, more than 30% of our land area is public. In August of 2010, I heard Tim Egan speak in Wallace. He spoke about Teddy Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot, the Fire of 1910, and his book The Big Burn. The thing I remember most, and that I scribbled in my notes from the evening, was his comments on the importance of America’s public lands, “‘We didn’t have a home on Hayden Lake like the swells,’ Mother said, ‘We’re richer than the bastards! We have the national forests!'” In an op-ed piece for the New York Times, he elaborated: “Not long after I was old enough to cast my first vote, I realized that with American citizenship came a birthright to my summer home.”

The land area of the United States is about 2.26 billion acres. Of that, the Federal Government owns 605 million acres that are administered by the public lands agencies: the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, the National Parks Service, and the National Wildlife Refuge system. In addition, state governments own 197.5 million acres. The lands are administered in a variety of ways, they include recreation areas, forest land sold for timber purposes, and the lands in the National Wilderness Preservation System (cited data). Whether it is Tim Egan acknowledging the wealth the lands grant to all Americans (and millions of foreign visitors) or Teddy Roosevelt designating 230 million acres of public lands America’s public lands have been repeated acknowledged as an asset to our country.

Public Lands: BLM

Continue reading “America’s Public Lands: Under Attack”

EMT Class: The End

Tomorrow is our last day of EMT class. We passed the final. I’ve been checked off on all my skills. Forrest only has medical assessment to be checked off tomorrow. This is the biggest relief ever. Especially when we start to see forecasts like this:

Looks like class is ending just in time so we can be outside in the afternoons now and not sitting in class. (This lovely weather should also do wonders for snow melting!)

I really enjoyed class for the most part. As we moved into the skill section, it really slowed down and sometimes that 3 hours can realllly drag when 20+ people are working through assessments with only two instructors. I learned a ton  though (yay! learning!) and in the end the driving was probably worth it. You should probably check with my handsome chauffeur on that account though.

Saturday is the practical examination through the State of Idaho and sometime next week we should be taking our National Registry examination. So close!

Wedding Cake

The guiding principle of our wedding planning has always been, “We’re doing this our way.”

My way involves birthday pies instead of birthday cakes. Forrest has always been okay with birthday pies.

And then he said “But you have cake at weddings.” I might have looked at him like he had two heads. The boy who has advocated no invitations, adamantly believes we should have no seating chart, and no amplification for the ceremony thinks that cake is a necessity at the wedding.

I’m not a cake baker. I actually really like cake but I’d rather my cake be unfrosted. I don’t really like frosting. I don’t mind eating buttercream frosting from the bowl but in the end, I think frosting mars my cake yuminess. I’d much rather have pie but since Forrest actually has much more of an opinion on this than me, cake we shall have.

Attempt #1

My first attempt at a practice wedding cake was Sprocket’s birthday. I made the vanilla buttermilk cake and frosted it with the Swiss buttercream from Smitten Kitchen. I loved the frosting and wasn’t crazy about the cake. I’d made some adjustments to it according to the Joy of Cooking’s high(er) elevation directions (the >2,000 feet but <5,000 feet ones) and that might have been the problem. Turns out, Forrest doesn’t like buttercream.

Attempt #2:

I decided to simplify. I made a “wedding cake version” of boxed cake. That’s right. I took a normal white cake mix and doctored it up just a bit (according to miscellaneous internet recipes to give it the necessary density). SCORE.

Forrest convinced me to try a basic white frosting…fail. The frosting tasted like it belonged on a Safeway birthday cake. Fortunately, Forrest had convinced me to only frost one layer of my cake experiment so we had another layer waiting for me in the freezer for frosting attempt #3.

Attempt #3:

The good ol’ boxed wedding cake came out of the freezer after almost two weeks nice and moist. Win.

This time I tried Ms. Humble’s Whipped Cream Cheese frosting. I’d heard that whipped cream frostings wouldn’t hold up under warm conditions. Fortunately, my house sits at about 80 degrees with low humidity all the time in the winter which just so happens to be a whole lot like Moab in September. The frosting didn’t seem to have any issues at all.

Attempt #3. Yummy.
Boxed Wedding Cake:
1 box white cake mix
1 small box instant vanilla pudding
4 large egg whites
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 c. sour cream
1/2 c. milk
1/3 c. oil
Mix on low 30 seconds then on medium for 2 minutes. Bake in greased and floured pan according to the box directions. (I suspect the vanilla made it more yellowy than white but you can’t see it until it’s cut and then you’re about to eat it so I’m sticking with it. It was yummy.)

 

Sometimes I forget it’s summer.

My work has no windows. Like absolutely no windows. There’s a glass door and that’s it. So sometimes, in the middle of the day, I forget how absolutely glorious summer is.

And then I go home and once I’m there, or on the way there if I’m on my bike, I realize how gorgeous it is here in the Valley for summer. Does it really get any better than a mountain valley in summer time?

Day 17: Key Largo, Florida to Everglades National Park, Florida

Pulling out of our hospital campspot, we headed down the Keys trying to make it to Key West before the major tourist rush began. The drive was pretty but not quite what I’d expected. Precious waterfront real estate wasn’t about to be wasted on the road except where the islands were so narrow it was absolutely necessary.

In Key West, we put Black Dog on the leash and walked around a bit. We walked around the downtown tourist core, along the water (no beach) looking at the giant cruise ship docked there, and checked out the piers (“Sail at 2, $26 each and puppy can come!”). We chose not to partake in any of the sails to keep our money available for less touristy activities. All in all, I wouldn’t go back but Forrest went back so I could see it!

On our way out, we stopped at Ann’s Beach where we went swimming with Sprocket. He’s getting to be quite a swimmer but I think he feels like the “Responsible Puppy” (his version of responsible person). He gets quite upset if we make wining noises to tease him and swims over to us as fast as he can (which is pretty fast!). He also doesn’t like it when he can’t see both of us at the same time. He’s like a water sheepdog! After our swim, we rinsed off our salty puppy and ourselves and headed out of the Keys.

Driving through Homestead, FL on Day 15 we’d seen lots of restaurants that looked fantastic: El Salvadorian food, Peruvian food, Mexican food, etc. so we drove back that way for dinner. The place we chose to eat at advertised Nicaraguan food but I’m pretty sure what we had was fantastic Mexican food. I had a shrimp dish cooked with onion, garlic, and red pepper…it was amazing! Forrest had chicken quesadillas that he raved about.

We had been hoping to reach the Everglades on May 1st so that the new parks pass we’d have to buy would be good through Memorial Day of 2011, but we were running out of things to do in Florida so we headed for the park anyway to see if we could buy our pass as a May pass or possibly hope the booth wouldn’t be manned at 7PM. F repeatedly told me that it was my responsibility to “sweet talk” the ranger at the booth for a May pass which I fully accepted. Pulling up to the entrance, I politely told the ranger that our pass had expired and we needed to buy a new one but asked nicely if he could punch it for May. He smiled and faux whispered, “I think I can do that.” Forrest was so excited to explain our trip to the ranger that he immediately launched into the story of how we’d driven 4,500 miles to be there before he realized the ranger had already agreed. He says that he didn’t say that and was commenting on how easy it is for girls to get what they want. I laughed.

In the park, we headed for King Palm to do a short hike before it got dark. We hiked the Anhinga Trail. We saw lots of birds, turtles, swamp rats (aka alligators), and heard lots of frogs. I decided it was the noisiest national park I’d ever been to. As we walked out on one of the viewing platforms we spotted a gator swimming from across the pond, in the gator-y silent way it glided under the platform on which we were standing and just hung out there. After our hike, we headed to Lone Pine Key campground, set up camp, and tried to take Sprocket on a walk but were turned back by the mosquitoes.

Excited for a night uninterrupted by traffic sounds or light, we crawled into bed early. Quickly we realized that the mosquitoes were smart enough to fly around our cracked windows and attacked us. We grudgingly rolled up the windows and suffered through the most stifling night ever. Sprocket was rather unhappy and was being attacked by bugs. F and I would wake up and hunt the remaining mosquitoes and toss around hot and unhappy. Finally it was over…phew.