onions.jpg

Two days ago it was summer, sunny and 92 degrees. We went for an after work swim in the lake. Yesterday it was fall, breezy and 70 degrees. We harvested the onions from the garden.

The in-between season has arrived. Summer has given its notice to vacate and fall is preparing to move in. The signs are everywhere. Some are subtle hints while others are in-your-face obvious.

Subtle signs:

  • Color shift. Nature is gently shifting from green to gold. Trees that were a Kodachrome green a month ago now have some golden tints.
  • Fewer hummingbirds. My fuschia plants attract hummingbirds throughout the summer. Visits by these little birds have dropped in recent weeks.
  • Less garden produce. Our garden is in transition as we tear out summer crops to make room for some winter ones. The winter garden will be smaller and we’ll rest some beds.

Obvious signs:

  • Less daylight. The time between sunrise and sunset is shrinking.
  • Parks and beaches are less crowded. The weather is till pleasant but fewer people are flocking to local parks, beaches and trails.
  • Back to School. Families with kids are busy preparing for the start of the new school year. Retailers are holding Back to School sales.

What signs have you noticed of summer’s impending departure and fall’s arrival?

 

 

louise_inbtween

August 20, 2016

I’m itching to wander the higher elevations of the Cascades. To hike? No. To wander among wildflowers? No. To reconnect with nature? No. I have huckleberry fever.

Huckleberry fever is a condition that drives afflicted persons like me into the mountains in search of plump, juicy, mouth-watering wild huckleberries. When the fever strikes, the only relief is to go picking!

Steve and I have been picking a couple of times and we’ve amassed plenty of these berries–enough for 8 or 9 pies. But not enough to cool the fever. I think one or two more berry picking trips are in order.

Huckleberries

Barn Quilt Trail

A few weeks ago, I embraced the day by traveling east of the Cascade crest for a bike ride. My destination was the pastoral Teanaway Valley with its scenic, low-traffic backroads.

I pedaled leisurely up a road enjoying the sunshine and rural beauty of Kittitas County when I spotted this:

bike-barnquilt

Displayed on the side of a barn built in 1900 was a quilt block called a Wagon Wheel. Hmm, I thought to myself. An historic barn featuring a traditional quilt block in rural central Washington seemed perfect. I had stumbled upon the Kittitas County Barn Quilt Trail.

The first of its kind in Washington state, the Barn Quilt Trail highlights the region’s agricultural heritage and celebrates the tradition of the American quilt. The route features over 100 quilt blocks scattered throughout the county.

The Barn Quilt Trail is designed to be a self-guided driving tour but it’s possible to turn segments of the route into a bike ride. Their website includes downloadable maps and information on each of the quilt block installations.

 

The fitness industry must be booming. There are six fitness facilities within a mile of my home–more if you include yoga, martial arts, and other specialty studios.

I’m glad that people care about their health and well being, but I don’t relate to going to the gym for a workout. Why spend time indoors spinning on a stationary bike when I can be outdoors exploring roads like this one?

I’ll share my 5 reasons to #optoutside:

  1. Variety. I can change up the scenery, terrain and duration simply by varying my travel route. My ride can be at dawn, at night, or anytime in between. I can ride rain or shine, on streets or trails, or in urban or rural environments. I can do all of this walking on my two feet as well.
  2. Time. The beauty of biking and walking is that it’s active living. I don’t have to carve out special time to do these things. Walking the dog, biking to work, jogging to do errands are examples of active living–daily tasks that incorporate physical activity. I am free to allocate my time to other pursuits rather than going to the gym.
  3. Money. Joining a gym or signing up for a fitness program costs money–sometimes a lot of money. I’d rather spend my extra dollars on travel, a night out with friends, or adding to my yarn stash.
  4. Accessibility. Almost everyone can walk or bike. Most of us can do it from our door step and it’s affordable. Neighborhood sidewalks and streets that take you to local parks, shops and libraries are enough to get you started.
  5. Nature. There’s a growing body of evidence that spending time outdoors is good for our health. That walk in the park or bike ride on a trail reduces my stress and mental fatigue, among other benefits.

Ok, now it’s your turn. Do you #optoutside? What are your reasons for doing so?

 

In Between: Next Chapter

Life Chapter QuoteI found myself in between life chapters when my job of 20 years ended last December. Happily, I’m about to begin a new chapter when I start my new job next week.

We leave some things behind when we close one chapter to start a new one. Like a book, some lovable characters, favorite haunts and familiar routines from the previous chapter may not carry forward to the next one. It can feel sad and scary to leave the familiar behind.

But we must close the chapter and move to the next one if we are ever to finish the book.

As my career of two decades drew to its conclusion, I bid farewell to colleagues, volunteers and acquaintances, realizing that many of them would not continue into the next chapter. I gave myself some time to pause and reflect on the end of my job and the end of my organization as I knew it (it was merged into a larger one), to re-read that chapter of my life.

But I am finished with that chapter and ready for the next one to unfold. New characters will be introduced and some old favorites will return. The setting will change and the plot will twist as it follows the mission of my new organization.

So the story will continue.

Wallowas: A Hike on the Wild Side

Wallowa wildflowers

Wandering a wildflower-filled meadow while gazing at hazy blue mountains in the distance, the Wallowas casts its magical spell on me.

One of the advantages of living in Puget Sound is easy access to hiking in the mountains.

One of the disadvantages of living in Puget Sound is that nearby hiking trails are often busy because of their close proximity to the urban area.

Because we craved an outdoor experience that would be quieter for our 4th of July holiday, Steve and I journeyed to the lofty Wallowa Mountains in eastern Oregon. We were rewarded with expansive views, winds whistling through evergreens, sparkling mountain streams dancing downward to valleys, and sharing sunset with an elk herd. And solitude.

Solitude is a key element of the wilderness experience for me, and our backpack into Eagle Cap Wilderness delivered on this point. We avoided the popular Lakes Basin area and chose to hike into the wilderness via the lonelier Summit Point trailhead. Amazingly, we encountered only one other backpacker during our 4-day ramble.

But we were not alone. We camped a couple of nights on the edge of a beautiful meadow populated with song birds, hummingbirds and Clark’s Nutcrackers. At sunset, a herd of elk joined us to graze on wildflowers and drink water from a nearby pond.

Camping in view of granite peaks.

Camping in view of granite peaks.

One morning as we hiked a trail, I noticed a cougar paw print among the elk hoof prints. Now alert, I looked around but saw no other sign of it. This is typical. Backcountry visitors seldom get to see this solitary, secretive creature.

Hiking in the Wallowas is an exhilarating experience as the granite peaks rise like skyscrapers above the valley floor. We found ourselves wandering meadows and ridges upwards to 8500 feet in elevation. These heights offered us breathtaking views of mountains near and far, farm lands in surrounding valleys, and glimpses of the Snake River and Hells Canyon on the Oregon-Idaho border.

This was my fourth visit to the Wallowas and I don’t expect it to be my last. When the daily grind of urban life builds its crust on my spirit, I will again answer the siren call of those remote peaks.