My adventure this week turned out to be a pilgrimage to honor my parents, though I didn’t know that when I chose it. I was in a quandary about where to go as I have a stinkin’ cold, my first in more than a year. I couldn’t afford to be sick when I had to be with my mother nearly every day. Now that responsibility is over and whammo, out of nowhere. Anyway, the idea of the lawn in an Adirondack chair in the sun at the lodge had high appeal. Maybe a walk in the rain forest. Or not.
My mother and I stayed at Lake Quinault a couple of times when I came home for visits after my father died. She sprang for meals in the dining room at a table by the window, me watching the light change over the lake and the hummingbirds at the feeders hanging from the eaves, she with her back to the light.
It was cloudy when I got up. What? I checked the forecast again. Sun coming soon at home, but not until 11 at the lake. No worries. I love sitting in the lodge; I went several times a few winters ago, driving two hours to write until time to drive back home and make dinner for my mother. I adjusted my vision to a fire in the huge fireplace. I wanted to work on my part of my mother’s eulogy anyway.
When I arrived at nine the fireplace was out of commission for chimney cleaning. Great. I anticipated noise and soot. But it was fine.
I finished my eulogy draft at noon and there was still no sign of sun. I decided to go to Kalaloch (pronounced Clay-lock), 30 minutes up the road. It was my parents’ favorite beach. We went to other beaches when I was a child. Ruby, the next one up, is my favorite; Rialto, a little farther north takes longer to get to because of having to skirt around the Quinault Tribe reservation; camping at Moro. But in their golden years they stayed in the cabins at Kalaloch; and my mother and friends went there for their private Purple Arts Festival for several years.
I ate my lunch in the car because it was overcast and looked too cold to sit on a drift log. As I sat looking out over the river to the Pacific Ocean, I read my 2500 word eulogy aloud to time it. Fifteen minutes. Going to have to cut. Don’t want to.
Turned out it wasn’t cold at all, when I finally went down off the bluff and into nature’s art gallery.
The beach was strewn with millions of razor clam shells (I think) with brittle translucent sails attached, as if set to lift them up in the next storm and transport them elsewhere. I have never seen such a sight. In death, they were the most beautiful thing.
I walked a ways down the beach, first on the logs as I did as a child—going forever without touching ground—then on the sand past the ancient storm-tossed root sculptures, marveling at the trees that cling to to the cliffs in spite of erosion. (Once again, I forgot to look for the so-called “tree of life” across the creek in the other direction. Next time.)
When I returned to Lake Quinault, the sun was out. I wanted never to leave. I’m plotting a camping trip soon. It feels strange to have this freedom to do whatever and go wherever I want without making arrangements for my mother’s well being. I think it may take a while to embrace it.
It’s an unpretentious name for a lake in the Goat Rocks Wilderness, Gifford Pinchot National Forest that’s been on my hike list for a while. After all, it’s just a public water source; undeserving, apparently, of a name like The Enchantments or something.
After six miles of forest service road above the tiny mountain town of Packwood, Flutterby and I arrive just before 9am to an empty parking lot with Mt. Rainier looming across the valley against cloudless blue.
It’s an easy 5 mile hike in to the lake, just 600 feet of barely noticeable elevation change, and I don’t really need my trekking poles, but I use them anyway. Really, I do need them. My joints are aging, they distribute the abuse; nevertheless, I am hurting by the time I get back to Flutterby. Ten miles is a long hike for so early in the season. And there is hiking on snow, and several blown down trees to scramble over.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I’m a slow hiker, I’m okay with that. I hike alone, who cares what my pace is. I don’t. Two, two and a half miles an hour gets me where I want to go. Of course I brake for photo-ops. I remember my mother’s frequent stops on family hikes for picture taking and plant identification. Drove me and my sisters crazy. And now I’m as obsessed as she was. Thank goodness for digital cameras. And solo hiking.
Snow melt has been recent along this trail, as noted by the flattened but not defeated ferns. (Is everything a metaphor for my mother’s old age and death?) The snow under the trees, and in patches on the trail the last maybe mile, competes for season’s rights with the lush green moss and budding shrubs, where death meets rebirth. The creeks are full as they tumble down from the top of the mountain, trickling across the trail where I rock hop across.
I look down at my feet to dozens of heart-shaped rocks. My mother collected them, so I look for one to take home and add to hers. But once picked up and examined, they merely look like rocks, so I leave them lie.
I arrive above the lake, sparkling and clear, Herself reflected right in front of me. I stop breathing for a minute.
When my breath returns, I continue up the trail that skirts the lake for a while, stopping when a serious blow down over a wide creek helps me decide I’m done. I go off-trail over to the lake where I sit on a log and eat my lunch mesmerized by the mountain. The blue sky. The clear lake. The green green. “Stellajoe,” my father would say to my mother, “how would you like to live in a place like this on a day like this?” I would! I do!
I sit on the log for an hour with my notebook and pen, writing a beginning of my part of my mother’s eulogy. I cry again for her loss and for my gain to have been her daughter; in gratitude that my parents migrated to this land where I can always find them in places of beauty.
The only people I encounter all day are a party of four that passes me on the way back, and their dog named Grace; and a party of two I meet an hour later, and their dog named Grace. Grace has walked with me for the past two weeks since my mother entered her final bit of the journey, when grace walked her home. I carried her with me today.
It’s raining and blustery this morning. Again. Although 10-day forecasts are notoriously unreliable in these parts, each time I check it there is one sunny day in 10. As I am both a fair-weather adventurer and a fair-weather gardener, at least this time of year when I am also content still to be cocooned with indoor projects, it’s a problem.
Last Monday Flutterby—my new monarch orange Nissan Rogue—and I headed north and west for a hike on the Olympic Peninsula, the first of what I hope will be a weekly adventure from now into autumn. (Read that one here if you missed it). I huddled inside the next three days as the spring monsoons drummed on the roof and spattered against the windows and the valley below the house turned to lake.
Friday we got a bonus sun day, warm even. I should have been fixing my garden gate, planting the beets and potatoes, cleaning up the property from the winter storms. But after an aggravating visit to my mother, full of demands and accusations and her own grumpiness, I was in a rainy mood and blew off the beautiful day. I stayed inside finally energized to do projects I should have been doing over the winter. (What a lot of shoulds in this paragraph.)
Yesterday I got a reprieve, another unexpected sunny day. And a Monday, adventure day! But there is all the work to be done outside. What to do? I check Weather Underground. The next predicted sunny day is a week from Thursday. I compromise: both/and.
I run out to the Manor first thing and find Mama alone in the dining room still dawdling over her scrambled eggs while a staff person vacuums around her. We walk a lap of the hall then return to her room to listen to bad knock-knock jokes from Alexa. “Alexa, tell me a funny joke!” “I don’t understand that,” Alexa retorts. As pissy as Mama was on Friday, she is sweet today and when I take my leave we are both in a good mood.
I spend three hours working outside, then shower and eat lunch. At 1:30 Flutterby and I head out across the lake in the valley. I look at this valley everyday, from the vantage point of the hawks and eagles, but rarely am I down in it. We cross the water and head into the hills, traveling south across the Alpha-Centralia Road, an I-5 alternative to get to US Hwy 12 that goes to the mountains. (See it winding up the hill in the photo above?) My destination is Mossyrock to see if the DeGoede bulb farm is in riotous tulip color yet. I’m quite sure it’s not, but it’s a pretty drive, which is the point of this shunpike adventure.
As we roll along, south and east, I decide to go somewhere else first, in the delicious freedom of being master of my destination. I have driven by the road to Mineral, (population 202 in the last census) countless times on my way to Mt. Rainier, but I’ve never driven into the town. It is home to the Mineral School, an arts residency program in the former elementary school. It is also home to what was the smallest post office in the country (retired now), according to a friend who delivers mail in the Seattle area.
I stay on WA 508 to Morton. We travel through bucolic farmland and wind through deciduous and hardwood forests, not yet showing much in the way of spring green despite all the rain. I round a curve and run into Herself, having forgotten she would be here.
I wait 20 minutes for a work crew to clear the road of a dead fallen maple trunk, finally getting one massive end lifted in the jaws of the bulldozer and chainsawing it into manageable chunks. In all that time only a handful of cars were lined up on both sides. This is rural Washington.
I’m enchanted by a watery grove of birches filled with the bright golden bloom of skunk cabbage. I pull off the road and revel for a few minutes.
In Mineral, I stop at Mineral Lake and feast my eyes on Mother Mountain. Now I’m sorry I didn’t blow off the driveway cleanup and head up to Paradise early—another hour away—which according to the webcam yesterday looks to have a couple feet of new snow. I haven’t been up there in the snow since the then boyfriend, later husband, and I took his Mid-west parents up for a fourth of July picnic, eaten in the parking lot because everything else was still under the white stuff. That was more than 40 years ago. Next time. I make a date with Flutterby.
We turn back toward home and skip over to Hwy 12 in Morton, heading back toward Mossyrock. There are no tulips yet, just vast fields of promise. That visit to Paradise will be timed to the bloom, perhaps at the end of the month. I’ll keep an eye on the 10-day, check the webcams, watch the farm’s Facebook page, make a plan; and then wait for what really happens. I guess this is what retirement is: not without work and responsibilities, but with opportunity to blow it off and live into spontaneity. Life is short, eat dessert first.
Flutterby and I went on our first adventure together today! (Well, not counting taking my mom for an Easter Sunday drive. She loved the heated seats!)
There was snow on the deck when I left, but the sky was going blue. I did not start Flutterby from inside the house to warm her up before I climbed aboard. It was chilly out though—34º according the Flutter’s thermometer. Picked up my road latte at 8:20 and we were off up I-5.
Left the interstate at Tumwater and headed toward 101 N. and the sparkling Hood Canal toward the snowy Olympics and the town of Brinnon to Dosewallips State Park. Temperature up to 42º.
I hung my new Discover Pass from Flutter’s mirror and donned my knee straps, since the meniscus tear in my right knee has been bothering a bit after garden work. I skipped the ankle brace—didn’t have it, anyway, as it turned out. Took my trekking poles, but didn’t use them.
I’ve finally found some new hiking pants that fit my criteria; i.e. crop length, not grey, zippered pockets. I didn’t realize until I got them home that they matched the socks a generous friend gifted me with. And not until I put on my shoes today (that need to be replaced), did I discover they also match the pants. Matchy-matchy.
Washington Trails Association trip reports had confusing information about where to start the hike, so I just picked one: Maple Valley Trail. A mile or so in, I crossed the fire road to Steam Donkey, so named for the machine that dragged logs to the railroad—that also ran through the area—in the early 1900s.
The trillium were blooming at the lower elevation, but other than a few buds, not much else in the way of spring. I chased a flicker with my camera as it flew from tree to tree, but wasn’t able to capture it.
It was a perfect hike for the first of the season. Not too long, about 3-1/2 miles or so. A lovely pond, many bridges across streams. Much of it looked not unlike the woods behind my house, but it was good to be out in the air and the mountains. I’m hoping to beat my epic hiking record set last year, with both new and favorite trails. I started a month earlier, so I’m on my way.
Back at the campground, I ate my lunch at a picnic table then drove on up the highway to the Dosewallips Recreation Area and Rocky Creek Falls, behind the Rocky Creek hydroelectric plant, just a few hundred yards from the road. Breathtaking. Saw two gangs of elk along the road.
Ended the day in Hoodsport with Lemon Lavender ice-cream as the cloud cover (the beginning of the next 10 days of it) began rolling in. Perfection. I love where I live.
#ilovewhereilive, Adventure Log, Grays Harbor, Mt. St. Helens, Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, Olympic Mountains, Pacific Ocean, Salzer Valley, Seminary Hill Natural Area, sunrises, Three of Earth Farm, Three of Earth Farm Airbnb, Westport WA
It’s been an aggravating week of technology failure, including (still unresolved) loss of internet at home. On the up side is WiFi is back at the Manor, and along with it, Alexa is back in Mama’s room. She loves Alexa. Visitors are treated to her rendition of Star Spangled Banner. Now I just have to learn how to program her to do things that Mama would enjoy and that would be helpful. More technology. Ugh.
I’ve had a full two weeks of guests in the Airbnb, a good thing; and lots of cleaning, laundry, and baking.
The happy news is the rains stopped on Monday and rather than do the yard and garden work that is getting out of hand, I got out of town for a drive through the valleys of Lewis County to Grays Harbor and the edge of the continent.
And a best friend from Raleigh made a 24-hour visit on her way to British Columbia. On the way from and back to the airport, we stopped at Nisqually Wildlife Refuge. In between walked in the woods behind my home. We talked and talked, diving quickly into the depths of our lives. I love where I live. And I miss my dear friends. A few hours with Grace reminded me of the loss.
And then there is this…
I have taken my sweet time honoring my promise to myself to log more winter adventures, but I took the first step today. It was a nearby destination; just up I-5 to the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. I hadn’t even quite finished my 16-ounce latte when I arrived. I left home before dawn, hoping for a sunrise; but there was no color this morning (nor sun, until I got home), but it didn’t matter.
The Delta is comprised of nine unique habitats: the Nisqually Flats, shrub, coniferous forest, freshwater marsh, salt marsh, open saltwater, rivers and creeks, mixed grasslands, and riparian woodland. Dikes and boardwalks provide limited access to the eight square miles of the Refuge.
I beat the crowds for a ringside view of bathing and breakfast for some of the 200 species of birds that visit the Refuge over the course of the year.
Did I see a thousand geese? If you count the cacophonous announcing of unseen presence, I surely did. Too bad you can’t take an audio photo.
I wish I knew the names of all the ducks, perhaps a new mission is to learn them. Here’s a start.
The sweet sandpipers and the brilliant white gulls. How do they stay so clean?
The Great Blue Heron. Really, is there a more cool bird? Certainly none better dressed. Or more photogenic.
And a special treat, seen through my zoom lens and only because of the birdwatchers who have super human spotting abilities: a Great Horned Owl.
I didn’t get the sunrise today; and the ebbing tide—halfway between high and low when I got there—revealed more mud, less water, than I had hoped for. I’ve never been there at high tide. But the Refuge is only a latte away; I can visit again and again. Once a month sounds about right. I’ll be watching the tide table and the forecast.