Tag Archives: summer

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.

The Aimless Bike Ride

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We live in a society that values productivity and achieving goals.  Work hard, play hard. Worthy attainments, yes. But sometimes overrated in my opinion.

My idea of a full and productive life includes ample amounts of unplanned time. This free time allows me to be spontaneous in joining friends at the last minute for an activity, or it’s a time to chill, or it can be used to wander and wonder.

I frequently opt to wander and wonder. These aimless rambles are on foot or by bike, and are often in my neighborhood or an easy bus ride away. They typically involve exploring streets, paths and alleys in search of the interesting, unusual, odd or beautiful gem. And they always include a pause to take in my surroundings, reflect, and wonder.

I went on an aimless bike ride on Sunday, rolling down the hill to a waterfront park. To my surprise, it was low tide–reason enough to pause, sit, and take in the Puget Sound views. Continue reading

Hiking is Sensual

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The roar of a creek as it tumbles over a cliff in a waterfall. A wildflower field splashed with colors from a painter’s palette. The sharp, resiny scent of pine in the woods. There is nothing quite like a hike in the wilderness to engage the senses and bring me into the moment. I recall many hikes in vivid detail because multiple senses were involved. Continue reading