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.
airbnb, airbnb guests, airbnb super host, Centralia WA, Chehalis WA, Lewis County, locum physician, Notes from Three of Earth Farm, Salzer Valley, Seminary HIll, SW Washington, Three of Earth Farm, winter in the PNW
We are in a full-on, two-fisted grip of the rainy season here in SW Washington. As a true Northwesterner, I love it. The sunbirds leave for warmer climes, but I am content to wait for it to come to me. The winter rains foretell the verdant greens of spring and summer; indoor projects get done so I can spend summer outside.
I’m less crazy about the wind—living on the side of a water-saturated hill, surrounded by old trees—and it has been windy. A tree fell the other day (the only one that has fallen, at least since I’ve been back here). I heard the crash just before I was to leave for Seattle for time with the littles. (Have you ever heard a tree fall? It’s very loud. I often wonder what the rain forest and mountain forests sound like during a winter storm.) I envisioned something across the driveway, blocking me in. I donned my rain jacket and rubber boots and pushed my way through wind and rain to investigate.
It was the deciduous tree that fell two or three winters ago and was caught by other trees on the way down. It’s been leaning at a 45 degree angle ever since. It wasn’t endangering anything, so I had let it be. Nature will do what nature does. And now it’s down, and available for firewood, should I want to pay someone to cut it up.
Meanwhile, my Airbnb is hopping. Thirteen nights booked in January. The twin cities are a popular destination even in the dead of winter! I got the loveliest review in my in-box this morning from Alex, a young doctor from Madison, Wisconsin who was in town for a job interview. (Through his Airbnb bio, I learned a new term: locum physician.) He interviewed in Chehalis for a permanent position.
I traveled to the Pacific Northwest for the first time, and Gretchen’s lovely apartment was everything that I hoped for that captured the vibe of this part of the country. I’ll tell you my routine yesterday. I usually sleep poorly, but I woke up well-rested because the bed was comfortable and I stayed warm all night. I woke up before sunrise and ran down the hill that her home is perched on overlooking a green valley. I got coffee at Jimmie’s on Tower (damn good coffee) and jogged back as the sun rose. With the mat she provided, I did some yoga on the bluff and just chilled for a couple minutes…something I forgot do for many months rushing from one task to another. I then ate the absolutely delicious (healthy but hearty) breakfast of a homemade muffin along with homemade apple sauce, yogurt and granola (I now have a new favorite breakfast). I got ready for a job interview in the right head space…and I got an offer just after the interview! If you want authenticity, special artistic touches and the sound of wind passing through firs as you drift off to sleep, this is your place!
Isn’t that beautiful! It made me teary. The summer calendar is now available! You can read about Three of Earth Farm and book dates here. If you are local and have friends coming to town, let them know. (Oh! I have just been officially designated a “super host” by Airbnb! How great is that?)
Monday dawned beautiful and I decided to take off for adventure. The first year I was here (four years ago next week) I went out exploring often. It doesn’t happen much now, as my responsibilities have increased, and I’ve been a lot of the places close by. But this was the day. Where to go?
I browsed through “My Backpack,” my bucket list of hikes I’ve read about and stored on the Washington Trails Association website. Goat Creek at the end of Riffe Lake looked good, right here in the amazing (political climate notwithstanding) county I live in.
I got dressed, made lunch and filled two water bottles, grabbed my ready-to-go knapsack and went upstairs to say goodbye to my mother. I found her lying down having a rare breakdown over a bit of information I had given her a few minutes earlier that I had no idea would upset her. I thought I wouldn’t be going, but I patiently sat with her and got her through it.
I was about an hour behind the time I thought I would be leaving, but really I had no agenda. I was discombobulated by the unexpected event, though, and drove right past the coffee kiosk where I had planned to pick up my trip latte. I’d already had coffee, since I didn’t know I was taking this trek, so I didn’t seek out another venue.
The most difficult part of the trip is the 4.5 miles of single lane, pot-holed, rutted road that takes 30 minutes to drive. In many places, the speedometer didn’t register movement. Good old CuRVy is a champ. The photo below is the good part of the road. In a couple of spots, a quarter of the side of the road has disappeared down the mountain.
The Goat Creek trail area is on the back side of Mt. St. Helens, untouched by the eruption. That in itself is amazing. There are no views of the mountain, but there is a glimpse of Rainier on the road up.
It’s a little-known trail, and signage to get there is well, non-existent, including the Forest Service road numbers in the WTA directions . A sign at the beginning of the one-lane road (thank god I met no cars) is hidden behind a bush. I am surprised to find five cars in the parking area that holds about seven. No facilities, nothing telling you where you are—or where the trail is—no fee station.
The trail itself through old growth forest is not strenuous. There are lots of waterfalls and rushing water and streams to cross. As I get into the woods I hear a jet in the distance, the roar growing louder and louder. The fighter jet buzzes overhead so low I swear I can see the pilot. I have to plug my ears, it is deafening. Some time ago I wrote a letter in protest of JBLM (Joint Base Lewis McChord) using the Gifford Pinchot area as training grounds. Apparently the protest was ignored.Surely it terrifies the animals, and it does me too. It’s jarringly out of place in this serene wilderness. (I see no animals the entire day, except for a plethora of tiny frogs.)
And then come the falls. I hadn’t read much about the trail, I was in a hurry. I knew there were waterfalls, plural. But I hadn’t anticipated Cathedral Falls. It is absolutely breathtaking as it plummets over the precipice in dancing free fall. The photos do not do it justice, but I tried.
I am quite proud of myself for denying my aeroacrophobia and going behind the falls on the wet, narrow trail where a misstep would be a very long fall. I stand there and feel the mist from the undulating falling stream and listen to it splash and crash onto the rocks as it hits and bounces on to continue its quick descent. I eat my lunch on the other side and watch and listen and breathe. And say “thank you.”
After the falls, the trail is anti-climatic, but beautiful. And no more fighter jets. I come to a fork with a sign that has seen better days. Like I said, this area is not well-maintained since there are no hoards of people coming here. (I did see nine people and three dogs, however. Two of the cars in the parking area must have been backpackers.)
I want to see the left fork of the rushing water I can hear and glimpse through the trees. I navigate a mud hole on a makeshift series of branches (thank you poles), and get halfway across the river crossing then decide that is it for me. I think I can get to the other side, if the logs don’t roll, but I’m not sure I can get back with dry feet.
On up the trail, needing to turn back but wanting to see what is just beyond—like the proverbial bear on the mountain—I finally come to non-navigable blowdown and turn back. I think I was near the top of the mountain. I do wonder what was next. (As I write this I read a WTA trip report of the entire loop, looking for answers, which are unclear, but there are many more miles, more waterfalls, lakes, and multi-mountain vista views. I learn my round trip hike was about six miles.)
The road home, past Riffe Lake and through the marsh lands, the white cloud fluff against blue sky is beautiful. I want to see other places in the West and across the ocean, but I can’t imagine finding any place more spectacular than where I live.