Up in the forest

This week was highlighted by two visits to the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The first was a bit of a debacle. My hiking friend, Maja, wanted to hike a trail called North Siouxon Creek. We stupidly started out just using her phone to get to the trailhead, even though we both have maps of the forest (which we left home). What happened was that well before we entered the forest, we lost our phone signal, so had no idea where we were going, and we had not thought to enter the destination coordinates into her GPS, which of course knew nothing about the trailhead. We referred to the written instructions on the AllTrails site, which we both had in memory, but they were pathetically bad, only mentioning the first road that took us from the highway toward the mountains. There were references to yellow gates, none of which we saw.

The view from Calamity Peak Road, showing some fall color

Finally, after going a long way up Calamity Peak Road, Maja decided to take my suggestion that we try FR-5701. She maintained that couldn’t be the road, since it wasn’t mentioned in the instructions. But hardly any roads were. After a long time of driving on a very poor paved road where lots of the pavement had buckled, we could see on her GPS that the road was ending. We were just thinking of turning around when we ran into a ranger, who told us the trailhead was at the end of the road. What we didn’t know was that it was the Siouxon Trailhead, which turns out not to be the trail we were heading for. After I reconnoitered later in the week and consulted a map, I saw that we were way off, and that the North Siouxon Creek Trailhead was actually in the Siouxon Creek County Park next to the national forest.

Despite an extra hour of bumbling around in the forest, we had a great time. We got to take a beautiful hike through deep forest and along the creek, even though we cut it short because we wasted so much time getting out there. The scenery on the way there, too, was breathtaking. It was a perfect time to go. There was some fall color and hardly anyone else on the trail.

So, that was our Wednesday hike. Very nice. I hope that this Wednesday we have another nice day so that we can go back and try the trail we meant to take. However, forecast so far is for rain that day. When it’s rainy, we stick to trails we know.

On Thursday, I had a busy day, puppy play and errands in the morning, my mammogram in the afternoon (oh joy unbounded), and art class in the evening. I got stuck in traffic on the way to the hospital for my mammogram, and that’s another story. Well, actually, two. The first is about the idiots at the traffic stop. I was going down a two-lane road to the hospital in the middle of the country, and I got to a place where they had flaggers. I was the only car there on both sides to start with, but they had the Stop sign up at both ends while this idiot slowly walked out and placed cones near the dividing line on my side of the road. There was absolutely no reason why they couldn’t have let me go slowly in the other lane, but no. Instead, I had to wait several minutes while this guy walked out and placed all his cones. By that time, there were two cars on the other side of the blocked area, and would you know it? They let them go first, even though I had been stuck there for several minutes before they showed up. Frankly, it made me want to run over their stupid cones and knock them back down, it made me so mad. I was already running late.

The second story has to do with when I got there, because I came into the parking structure from another way than I usually do and mistakenly went down instead of up so sort of got stuck in the basement, where, of course, there were no free parking places. When I finally got going up, I found a place on the second floor. I did not know, however, that the second floor was the pedestrian exit from the garage, so I ended up walking down the stairs to the lower level for no reason. I was heading toward the elevator when I tripped over one of those parking curbs and fell flat on my face. Luckily, I was close enough to a car to use it to stand up, or I would still be down there. I could get to my knees okay but could not stand without support.

I have to say that they took me right in for my mammogram, so one thing that afternoon went right. They are very efficient here, unlike in Texas where I had to wait sometimes for an hour. However, as a result of this adventure, I have a purple knee.

In art class I made some more progress on my landscape. Because of the undercoat we painted, it still doesn’t look like anything. However, my sister’s turtle, which she painted using the same technique, is almost finished and it looks great. I hope I have similar results.

Up on Calamity Peak at the point where the road decided to look more like a cattle track than a road, so we turned around. However, we saw later that if we’d taken a different road, we’d have come back down on the other side. This picture doesn’t really convey the depths of the canyons below us.

On Friday, a nice outing with Wayne. These are few and far between, since he doesn’t like to do anything anymore. I told him all about the nice drive we had on Wednesday, and it was in a direction we hadn’t taken yet. He likes driving expeditions sometimes. Friday was supposed to be a lovely day, although cold, so I suggested we go, and he agreed. We drove largely back up the way Maja and I had driven, except rather than take FR-5701, we drove further up Calamity Peak Road to see where it went. At the top, when we decided to turn around, it was only 46 degrees, whereas when we went down the mountain five minutes later it was 60. Chilly and windy, but beautiful. We were high on the mountain and could see down into deep canyons below. On the way back, to top off the outing, we made an un-Weight Watchery stop at the little ice cream shop in Amboy.

On Friday while we were enjoying the cold, we got to contemplate the mystery of whatever happened to Wayne’s jacket. He has, or I guess I should say had, a nice dark blue jacket that I bought him when we first moved here because I could see that his windbreaker wasn’t warm enough. It is lightweight but heavy enough to wear until it gets really cold. However, it is nowhere to be found. My last recollection of it was that this jacket as well as two of mine were in the back seat of the car one day after it started out cold one morning and then got warmer. (I had left one of my jackets in the car the day before for the same reason.) But I took all of them out that day, and mine are here. He apparently took it off somewhere and left it. I called his doctor’s office and two restaurants that we visited, but no one claims to have it. So, either someone took it, or he left it somewhere else. I have already ordered him another jacket, so this will be the time for it to reappear somewhere in the house. But I swear, we’ve looked everywhere. I don’t know how he does this. The first time I bought him a pair of gloves, he wore them on our trip to Germany and then one week later, when they were about a month old, he left them on the bus. Who takes off their gloves on the bus and lays them on their seat instead of putting them in their pocket?

On Saturday, it wasn’t raining, but it was cloudy all weekend, so not as nice. On both days, I went out for a while and worked on planting bulbs in my orchard. It’s my wish to have the entire orchard full of daffodils, so I plant some every year, and some crocuses, too. This idea was inspired by my aunt and uncle’s house in Ohio. They had a wooded knoll next to their house, and in spring it was covered in daffodils.

Since I moved here, I have been borrowing my niece’s long drill bit to plant bulbs. It works great. You just drill a hole in the yard, plop in the bulb, and push some dirt on it. This year, however, I bought a new drill bit for myself that was designed for planting. It is wider, so makes a bigger hole (some of the bigger bulbs were difficult to plant with Katrina’s drill bit), but its design is faulty. It only goes in two inches at most, and much of the time, even with hard pushing, I could only get it down about an inch. So, I planted a few bulbs over the weekend and then borrowed my niece’s bit again. I finished planting on Monday, which was a gorgeous day. This year I planted about 16 daffodils and 35 crocuses. The crocuses and snowdrops I planted the first year are so small that last year when I went out to look for them, I didn’t see them at first. I kept wondering why my sister’s came up and mine didn’t. Last year, though, I planted larger ones. I didn’t actually know they came in sizes, and the larger ones are very nice. The smaller ones are just color dots in the lawn.

Luke has begun to be very bad about staying in the car. We have been putting him in the wayback only to have him jump back out before the door can close. (It closes very slowly, and you can’t push it closed yourself or you’ll break the mechanism.) Wayne had him tricked by putting a cookie behind his cushion in the back so that he would take a minute to get it out, but on Monday when I tried this technique, he actually jumped out rather than try to get the cookie. I had to let him ride in the front, because I couldn’t get him to stay in the car. I’m hoping that once we have him trained on the electronic collar, we can stop this kind of behavior.

Ironically, he wants to go with us, but he doesn’t want to ride in the wayback. When we have the liberty to do so, we have taken to putting him in his crate and leaving him home if he jumps out of the car, but most of the time we actually are taking him somewhere, so we can’t do this. I’m hoping that if he has to stay home enough times, he’ll get the idea. He finally got house trained when I got smart enough to put him in his crate if he had an accident.

After a long break, he seems to be turning into Destructo Dog again. Last week he got one of my bras and tore it to shreds. This week, he fished one of my gloves out of my coat pocket and ruined it before I noticed what he had. These were purple leather gloves that a friend bought me for Christmas forty years ago. I’ve worn them every year since then. But one good glove doesn’t really do me any good, so I threw them away.

And speaking of him, we played a form of tic tac toe in his class this weekend where teams competed to place their pieces on a grid if they were the first to all get their dogs to follow a series of commands. I feared that with Luke on the team, we would lose all the time, but we actually did fairly well except against a team that was blatantly cheating by not waiting for the moderator to check them before placing their piece and going on to the next set of tasks. Once she stopped them from doing that, they still cheated, because they had disks that they could throw onto the grid, whereas we had cones. We would be told at the same time that we had finished, but they would throw their disk on while we had to walk up and place ours. After that, she only let one team place their piece at a time, and then we actually beat them in every game. Still, one person on our team plainly didn’t play tic tac toe, because at the point where she only had to place our cone in the right spot to win, she put it somewhere else. We won on the next turn.

It was amazing to me that adults would actually bother to cheat during a silly game meant to show whether our dogs understood their commands. Later on, I talked to one of them, and we decided it was just the difference between how Ash, who instructed my team first, gives instructions and Dawn does. That other team had been playing a much more disorganized game with Dawn before we were switched into the room.

On a more prosaic note, I spent the time on Saturday that I wasn’t taking Luke to class or planting bulbs cleaning out my refrigerator. It’s embarrassing how long it’s been since I did that. It’s also amazing to me how little actual good food we had in there. Now I catch myself admiring how easy it is to find things in there and how nice it looks.

Indian summer gives way

Last week was beautiful, with warm sunny days and cold nights. We started using our wood stove in the mornings and some evenings. The leaves were turning. Yesterday, however, it was cold and overcast all day, and it rained all evening.

The fall color at June Lake. The waterfall is off to the right.

For our hike last Wednesday, my neighbor and I tried to go to Lava Canyon, which is at the end of the road up in the Mt. St. Helens area of Gifford Pinchot National Forest. When we got to the point of the road where there was only Lava Canyon left, however, we were turned back by a ranger. He said they were doing a search and rescue in the area. I don’t remember hearing anything about it on the news, so they must have found the person. We drove a couple miles back down the road and took the June Lake trail, which I took with my family during the summer. It wasn’t as tough as I remembered, probably because I wasn’t trying to keep up with my family.

My sister and I skipped out of the Weight Watchers meeting to go to a nearby bookstore and look for ideas for paintings. We ended up buying a couple of scenic calendars, and I bought a book and a hat. My art teacher and I picked the subject of my next painting, a picture of Mt. St. Michel. My teacher warned me that it would take me a long time to paint this picture, but when I pointed out that in a year I had only painted three pictures, she nodded and said okay.

My great nephew with his gigantic sundae.

On the weekend, my husband and I attended my great nephew’s fifth birthday party, which was at a pizza restaurant. For dessert, we had these truly decadent frozen custard sundaes. Yes, I had one, too. I doubt if my weigh-in this week is going to be that great.

It looks like Lukey might be almost house trained. No accidents this week until last night, when it was raining. We would take him out and he would want to come right back in, tent notwithstanding. He had been ringing the bell incessantly, and then he stopped. Then just before we were ready to take him out before bedtime, he had both kinds of accidents.

Other than that, we have been preparing for my niece and sister’s annual Halloween bash. I haven’t done much of anything but line up the things I need to make my food contribution. I’ll take pictures and report next week. It’s a potluck, but the tradition is to bring spooky food. I think mine is going to be pretty cool. On Friday, I’m supposed to go over there and help carve pumpkins.

At art class I finished painting the first coat of my flowers, and now I am doing final touches on them and on the shadows in my painting.

Walks to waterfalls, beaches, and other amusements

I didn’t manage to post last week as I planned to, because I took an unexpected trip with my brother. The day I usually post, I was staying in a motel with a poor internet connection.

My brother John arrived the Wednesday before last. His flight was an hour late, and it was already due in latish, so we didn’t get home from the airport until midnight. Then, of course, the two of us stayed up late talking. That was the first of many nights in a row where I didn’t go to bed at my usual time, which is tough for me these days, but it was fun to stay up and chat. Some of the evenings, we sat out on our deck and listened to frogs, watched bats, and heard a pack of coyotes in the distance.

Most of the time John was here we all sat around talking, one day playing in the kid’s pool. For dinner, I was responsible for portions of two meals. The first was the Indian meal. I underestimated the time it would take to get my Big Green Egg up to temperature, so we ended up eating about an hour later than planned. Still, the tandoori chicken came out great. The naan didn’t seem to have the right texture, but I had trouble with the dough and will continue to experiment.

I also made almost all of a Mexican meal, enchiladas Suisses, topopo salad, black beans, and flan. It had been years since I did the beans, and I misread my cookbook to the result of destroying the crock for my crock pot. I thought it said to cook the beans in a crock on the stove, which I thought odd, but did it anyway. The author had been talking about crocks, and I was the victim of my own skim reading. The crock seemed to be okay, and then it went “Bang!” and it cracked clear around the bottom. All the black bean water went out onto the stove and into the cupboard below and on the floor. I managed to salvage the beans and spent quite some time cleaning up the water. Then I rechecked the recipe, and sure enough it said to cook the beans in a pot on the stove. Yikes! Later, that evening, my great niece remarked that my feet were completely black on the bottom because of wading around in the bean water trying to clean it up.

On the first Saturday John was here, we all decided to go for a hike. We were having a hard time deciding where to go, trying to find a hike that I could do but that would take us near water so that we could cool off, as it was supposed to be a very hot day. We drove way up into the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, the part that is near the east side of Mt. St. Helens, and we went on a series of short hikes. When it came to going somewhere with water, though, we hadn’t reckoned with the fact that all the trails in the Gorge near last year’s fires are closed, bringing all of the people who would usually go there up here. We went to Lower Falls on the Lewis River, and it was packed with people. The descent to the river was too steep for me, although it looked lovely, with a beautiful blue swimming hole. We couldn’t believe the number of people there, with boom boxes, umbrellas, and rolling coolers. Not our idea of a getaway. There was even a traffic jam.

Here’s a selfie we took while out hiking. That’s my sister, me, my brother, and my niece and her two kids, with her husband taking the picture.

I was able to cool off at Lower Falls and Middle Falls by walking farther down the river. At the one, I found a place where I could put my feet in the river, but it was too rocky and shallow to go swimming. At the other, we found our own private waterfall, just a little one with a hole at the bottom where you could sit and let the water trickle down on you. I will be detailing all four of these hikes this week and the following weeks on my blog The Fat Girl’s Guide to Hiking.

Steve, his son Will, John, Steve’s daughter Nadia, and Sage, the dog. Steve’s wife Mary and his daughter Áine were back at the hotel.

On Monday, John was due to go to Seattle to visit my youngest brother, Steve, and his family. Up until he left, they tried to get him to change his plans, offering a variety of reasons. Finally, they announced that they would actually be in Ocean Shores, and then they would be camping, and he was welcome to join them. John is a big camper, but he came prepared for hot weather here and Seattle, not for cooler coastal weather and camping. He didn’t even bring a long-sleeved shirt or socks. We brought up a load of camping equipment for him to borrow. Then Steve invited us all to come along. At that point, I decided to go as a surprise, although I would not be camping.

So, I unexpectedly went out of town on Monday and spent the next four days with them. We were in Ocean Shores for two days, which we spent at the beach and doing other things to amuse the kids, playing put-put golf, playing games at an arcade, and bowling. Then we started out on a tour of the Olympic Peninsula. We saw some beautiful beaches and did a couple more hikes, which I will also detail on Fat Girls. John was happy that I had gotten a room in a motel in Forks, because when he saw Steve’s camp site outside of Forks, he realized another tent wouldn’t fit, so he stayed with me. We spent a late night around the campfire with them and then went back to our motel. It rained all night, though, and so they did not camp the last night in Sequim.

We got back Friday afternoon and went over to Katrina’s for dinner, and then my sister took John to the airport on Saturday morning. I was so tired from all the late nights that I did a lot of sleeping that weekend. And as it has worked out, I have missed most of my usual activities this week. On Monday, I was still too tired to go to tai chi class. Monday night, I was driving my great niece to tae kwan do class and picking up my sister at her mechanic’s when I hit a pothole and got a flat tire. We changed to the spare, and since I already had an appointment for yesterday at the dealership (to replace a piece of our rear-view mirror that went missing on our trip around the Peninsula), I just thought I’d take my tire in for them to repair.

However, on Tuesday morning I finally talked my husband into going with me to the Y to take the arthritis water class while I did my deep water exercise class. We were on our way to that, after which we were going to the dealership, when practically every warning light on our dashboard lit up. This was so alarming that we pulled over and called up the dealership, who told us to come on in. Of course, we were there for hours, and it turned out I had bent both the front and back rims of the wheels.

Then we had to deal with the insurance person, who wanted us to let the car sit at the dealership for three days until some sort of inspector could get there to look at the damage to our car before the repair. We thought this was ridiculous, because the dealership said they could get the parts the next day or the day after. That would have delayed the repair on our car to the point where we would be without it for at least a week. My husband worked out a deal where we could pay for the repair ourselves, take our rims to the inspector afterwards, and get reimbursed.

Then the insurance person was supposed to send us a rental car. We waited and waited. Finally, I called the only office in Vancouver for that rental car outfit, and they had no order from the insurance people. We didn’t have our claim number because they emailed it to us at my husband’s email address instead of mine, where I could have got it on my phone. So, I went back to the dealership rep and asked him to get us a rental car, as I didn’t want to spend the whole day there. Enterprise was there to pick us up within 10 minutes. When we were at the Enterprise desk filling out the paperwork, the other rental company called me FROM OREGON! That’s right. Our insurance company contacted a rental car company that wasn’t even in the same state as we were. She knew we were in Vancouver, because she gave us the name of an inspector in Vancouver that we had to take our rims to. We don’t know how they’re going to handle the fact that we cancelled the rental car company, but we didn’t care.

On the garden front, while I was gone, my peas finally gave up the ghost because of the heat. I got another cup or so of them, and then I pulled them all up. Now, my onions and my beans will get some more sunlight.

And that’s about it. No art this last two weeks, just lots of sightseeing. However, my sister contacted me while I was away to tell me she had gotten a call from our art school. She is back in my class!

Critters and paint

My husband went to bed early the other evening, so around eight I went down to the pond. I walked down very quietly so as not to disturb any wildlife that may be down there. Over the past few days, we’ve noticed a pair of woodpeckers who have their nest in a hole up high in the dead tree near our bench. One day when we were down there, they were taking turns popping in and out of the hole. The next day, though, they wouldn’t trade places while we were there, so we left them to it and went back up to the house.

I had barely sat down on the bench that evening when I heard a sound. I couldn’t tell if it was munching or drinking. It sounded like it was just over to my right, so I stood up with the idea of walking down the path closer to the pond to see what it was. As soon as I stood up, I could see a sizable animal at the place where the path meets the pond eating ferns and other greenery. He was concentrating so hard on his eating that he never noticed me, even though I watched him for about ten minutes. He was in full view, and it made me wish I had my phone with me, although a picture probably would have looked like a brown blob in a green blob.

I didn’t have a picture for you today, so here’s a picture from the Canadian Encyclopedia of a beaver. I haven’t actually seen ours head on, just in profile or in the water swimming far out in the pond.

What I was trying to do was see whether he was a beaver or a muskrat, but I couldn’t see his tail for the longest time, until he slipped back into the water and started to swim away. Then I crept down the rest of the path and was able to see his wide tail. A beaver! He swam away to the left side of the pond giving no indication of whether he knew I was there or not.

Most of this week I have been working on painting the bedroom. I have one more wall to go and then part of the bathroom. Each day I have either taped the next wall or touched up the last wall and painted the next wall. I’m slow, I know, but there have been some days I haven’t had time to work on it.

One of those days was last Sunday when I thought it would be a nice break to help my husband stain the railings for the outside steps that were put up last year. We have three sets of steps: one from the main house level up to the ridge above our house, one from the main house level down to the lower drive behind the house at basement level, and one from that level down to the bottom of the orchard and the pond. We decided to start with the lowest set of steps, which is also the longest.

We had a little spat before we started. We had driven in to town that morning to buy sand paper and stain. We got home around 11. It was supposed to be a hot day, in the high 80’s, but at 11 it was still only in the 70’s. My husband decided to eat lunch then, even though he usually doesn’t eat it until 1 or 2. An hour and a half later, I had been waiting for him for an hour while it got hotter and hotter outside, and he was still sitting there doing a crossword puzzle. I told him I was going to go down and get started but I wasn’t going to sand because I hate sanding. He got upset and started lecturing me about my “work standards” (which, by the way, I was known for when I was working, my good ones, not my poor ones). I told him it wasn’t that I didn’t want to do the work right, just that I wanted to do it before it got to be 100 degrees outside. So, we got the stain and went down.

This was a different type of activity than painting walls, to be sure, but I hadn’t reckoned with how much bending there would be. I have never been diagnosed with a back problem, but I have a very stiff lower back and neck. I think this is because my family has a big problem with rounded backs and dowager humps (my dad’s spine looked almost like an S), and I have been conscious of my posture as a result. My neck is fastened to my spine at an angle, so I already know I have a tendency toward it, and I have been forcing myself to stand up straight my whole life. As a result, as I am older, my back hurts after certain activities, and apparently bending over to paint railings is one of them. After I had only finished one railing section, my back was hurting.

My husband sanded the rails in about 10 minutes and then he began staining higher up the steps ahead of me, I guess with the idea that when I got to where he started, we would be done. However, of nine sections of railing, he gave me five to do. Then he began staining at an incredible speed. I had barely finished two of my sections and he was almost done. I couldn’t figure out how he could go so fast, except that I was occasionally stopping to rest my back (but not that often!). I still had more than two sections to do when he announced he was finished and left! Remember, I was helping him. I was upset about this, but I decided I was going to finish my sections and then go lay down and rest my back. After I had finished the third section, my husband came back down through the orchard, moved up past me and started on the last section. So I only had to do one more.

The mystery of his quick work was solved, though, later in the day after the stain dried. I walked down the steps and saw that he had completely missed large patches of his part of the rail, including half of the back side of one section. That’s how he got done so quickly. He has not yet gone down and fixed those patches, and I’m beginning to think that after I finish painting my room, I will have to do it, because he’ll forget. My part of the railing was covered completely. So much for work standards.

On the walking front, my sister and I had an eventful outing, although we didn’t get much walking done last week. She had an idea of where we could walk in the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest. So, we drove out there looking for a trail head she thought she knew of. We never found the trail head, and we drove and drove through the forest and eventually ended up on state land. All around the national forest are large patches of state land. I’m not sure which one we were in. Finally we found a trail head for the Tarbell trail. At that point, she acted as if that was what she had been looking for, but later she showed me a trail on a map that turned out to be for off-road vehicles. She has misread the map and thought it was a hiking trail. We got out a couple of times and did a little hiking, but only about 20 minutes each time because we had done so much driving. Finally, we decided to go back to the Tarbell trail this week.

After that, we drove up to Chelatchie, where there is a ranger station for Mt. St. Helens, with the intention of getting hiking maps. We ended up with some maps, but we found that neither of them was very good for hiking. One of them was strictly for vehicle use, although it was very detailed, and the other showed the hiking trails but hardly any of the trail heads. My sister knows there is a better hiking map available because she used to have one. We may have to go to the ranger station in Stevenson to find it.

Last week, my niece gave me some starts for squash, cherry tomatoes, and an artichoke. The next day, I went out and found an eggplant and two tomato starts and then I planted all the rest of my plants, including some pole beans from seed. Everything is doing well. My peas are now about four or five inches tall. One of the tomatoes already needs a tomato ladder, so I put one up. I expect I’ll be putting up the other tomato support and the eggplant support next week. The beans haven’t peeked out yet, but it hasn’t even been a week since they were planted.

My niece and sister have invited us on a family outing in late June to the San Juan Islands. Of course, my husband has refused the invitation, but I am going to go. I have always wanted to see the San Juan Islands. After the kids go back, my sister and I are going to dawdle around on the Olympic Peninsula for a bit.