High in the mountains

Though marijuana use is now legal in both Oregon and Washington... this is the high I'm after.
Though marijuana use is now legal in both Oregon and Washington… this is the high I’m after.

Before I left, I told my neighbors I would be gone all week, and by way of explanation I said, “The reason I work is so that I can hike.” It’s only a small exaggeration. Aside from taking care of Tara, and having a house to call home base, the reason I have a job is so that I can save up vacation days and then pay for my play time. Two things top the list titled Play Time: 1) travel, 2) backpacking.

I reluctantly left my comfortable-as-a-cloud hotel mattress behind me in Leavenworth, Washington, ate breakfast at Kristall’s (with a name like that, I had to), and found the trailhead in 15 minutes. I was on the trail by 8:20 am and in no time I had left civilization well behind me.

Looking from the first set of switchbacks toward the western edge of the town of Leavenworth, and the road to the trail head.
Looking from the first set of switchbacks toward the western edge of the town of Leavenworth, and the road to the trail head.

I climbed 3500 feet in elevation in about 5 1/2 miles to Nada Lake – the one you see pictured at the top. There were so many switchbacks climbing up and up and up. On this trip, unlike last year’s, my spirits were soaring, the weather was amazing, and the sights along the trail were constantly photo-worthy. Yes, it was a rough climb, and I was tired, but not discouraged at all.

This is called the Snow Creek Wall, and is popular with rock climbers. On my way up, and back down, I looked carefully, but did not see any climbers on the wall itself, though I did see climbers making their way through the valley back to the trail.
This is called the Snow Creek Wall, and is popular with rock climbers. On my way up, and back down, I looked carefully, but did not see any climbers on the wall itself, though I did see climbers making their way through the valley back to the trail.
Funny thing about the higher elevations: Spring comes so late that Fall overtakes her. Here fireweed continues to bloom, while Autumn turns the leaves orange.
Funny thing about the higher elevations: Spring comes so late that Fall overtakes her. Here fireweed continues to bloom, while Autumn turns the leaves orange.
These bleached white ferns caught my eye.
These bleached white ferns caught my eye.
What month is it? It's the month for oranges and reds and yellows!
What month is it? It’s the month for oranges and reds and yellows!
Cedar trees reach their fingers out to soak up a bit of Snow Creek.
Cedar trees reach their fingers out to soak up a bit of Snow Creek.

I gave myself a break and stayed the first night at Nada Lake. I have not been able to hike all year, and I also have not been exercising regularly. I wanted to be smart about this and save some reserves for the days ahead, since pushing too hard out of day-one-excitement can lead to injuries.

For my campsite I chose a cute little peninsula that I assume is usually below water, based on the signs of lake level around the shores. It’s the end of the season, which means water levels are at their lowest.

As soon as I spotted this peninsula jutting into Nada Lake, I knew I wanted to camp there. Look at the incredible aqua blue of this lake - isn't it remarkable?
As soon as I spotted this peninsula jutting into Nada Lake, I knew I wanted to camp there. Look at the incredible aqua blue of this lake – isn’t it remarkable?
While searching for a way to get to the peninsula, I took off my pack and gazed up at the far end of Nada Lake. Look at my pack there, on her back with her legs curled above her like a dead beetle.
While searching for a way to get to the peninsula, I took off my pack and gazed up at the far end of Nada Lake. Look at my pack there, on her back with her legs curled above her like a dead beetle.
Home Sweet Home. It was as splendid as I imagined it. Who needs a designated camp site?
Home Sweet Home. It was as splendid as I imagined it. Who needs a designated camp site?

I had loads of late afternoon sunshine, so I took my time and cooked up a nice meal for an early supper. I’ve mentioned before that I eat well when I’m camping. The down side is that my food weight is higher than most reasonable back packers. The up side is that… well… I eat really well! And, I always carry wine with me, because one must celebrate her accomplishments, and I like to celebrate with wine.

My supplies for my first supper: Thai curry with chicken, fresh broccoli and mushrooms.
My supplies for my first supper: Thai curry (yes, I used coconut milk) with chicken, fresh broccoli and mushrooms. There are apricots in the photo too, but I did not use them.
Finished product! It hit the spot. Once I cleaned my plate and everything settled, I filled the plate and ate this much again! ha ha
Finished product! It hit the spot. Once I cleaned my plate and everything settled, I filled the plate and ate this much again! ha ha

Wednesday night I had pasta with alfredo sauce, sausage, and sundried tomatoes. I did not bring milk for the alfredo, but with powdered milk, real butter and pre-grated parmesan, that sauce was mouth-watering despite being made with lake water. I use a lot of water camping, and I just boil all the nasties out of it, so it’s safe. In 15 years of back packing, I have not yet been sick from the water, so I’m pretty sure I’m doing it right. I had originally intended to make the alfredo and pasta with chicken, but I was not in the mood for chicken on a second night and opted for sausage instead.

Thursday night I had burritos with rice, refried beans, pre-sauteed onions, cheese, salsa and fresh avocado. There are no photos because I got back to camp late and ate in the dark. I discovered that chipmunks love avocado, when I accidentally left one half of the shell outside by the camp stove overnight, and in the morning found it spotlessly clean with teensy tinsy teeth marks all over it. The avocado trick I learned from back packing mentor M, who took me on my very first trip ever, in 2000. M showed me that if you pick a rock-hard avocado in the store, and carry it for a few days in your pack, it’s perfect!

Before I left I baked cookies packed with things from the pantry: chocolate chips, dried cranberries, oatmeal and walnuts. I also boiled eggs. So several breakfasts were hardboiled eggs and cookies and coffee. I always bring Peets coffee (my fave brand). One morning I had sausage and scrambled eggs from real eggs that I carried. Unfortunately the container I chose to store the eggs were not leakproof, and for the rest of the trip I had a bit of raw egg on the packaging of my other food items. Ah well. I typically melt the Tillamook cheese over the eggs, but it was 34 degrees that morning and the heat would not have been maintained long enough to melt the cheese. I had to scarf it down while the eggs were still warm.

A word on dishes. The blue plate came along not simply because the cobalt blue enamel is lovely and makes my food taste better. The plate is perfectly sized as a lid for both the deeper pot, and the shallower pan that I brought. The pot is for boiling water mainly, but having multiple dishes allows me to store one cooked item while cooking the second item. You can see my entire dish selection below: one pot, one pan, one plate, one cup, one fork, one spoon. I also bring one sharp knife that can be used for food as well as for cutting rope or branches as needed.

Cleaning dishes in the mountains is an endeavor. First of all I try to avoid using soap if at all possible. It is good for killing bacteria and thus is not good for the environment. Scoop a little stream or lake water into your dish, and add a handful of sand. Use your hands to scour, then dump the dirty water well away from the shore. Since it was so bitterly cold in the evenings and mornings on this trip, I was forced to heat the water to make that process effective. Using sand is amazingly effective. You won’t believe it till you try it. The two meals with sausage, I had to use Dr. Bronner’s soap because of all the fat left behind. You want to use the mildest, most quickly biodegradable soap you can bring, and always dump the water well away from the shore, and not onto plants.

Alright, that’s my public service message for the day. Tune in next time for the rest of the trip!

Alfredo sauce, sausage, sundried tomatoes.
Alfredo sauce, sausage, sundried tomatoes.
The final meal. The pasta has a dark colour because I boiled it in the same pan in which I cooked the sausage. That made the water brown, but oh so flavourful.
The final meal. The pasta has a dark colour because I boiled it in the same pan in which I cooked the sausage. That made the water brown, but oh so flavourful.
Roughing it? Says who? I do breakfasts too. Here you see the remainder of the sausage, scrambled eggs, sliced cheese and coffee (in the coffee/wine/alfredo all-purpose tin cup).
Roughing it? Says who? I do breakfasts too. Here you see the remainder of the sausage, scrambled eggs, sliced cheese and coffee (in the coffee/wine/alfredo all-purpose tin cup).

22 thoughts on “High in the mountains

  1. My god woman – you are impressive!! And you do this all on your aloneness too……… ‘Fess up time says I think twice about going to the mall on my own!! I have so much to learn from you!! I am amazed – can you tell?? I’m looking forward to the rest of the adventure.

    1. Aww shucks, Pauline. 🙂 Honestly the mall is probably more dangerous. Being in the wilderness is easy and safe if you take it slow and keep your own personal abilities in mind. My biggest fear is getting injured and not being found for a while. So I let several people know my plans and my itinerary before I go, and let them know when to expect me to check in afterwards. When I hiked in California, I saw a lot of black bears, but as soon as they spotted me, they took off at a run, so they aren’t very frightening. Still, I try not to leave tempting food smells around camp. I look forward to sharing the rest with you.

    1. Thank you for the compliments and for leaving a comment. I envy having a second person to share the weight. You could plan just one special meal and see how it goes. Over time, I have learned the limitations of a cook stove. Mine is either off or blasting, so it’s very hard to cook something that requires low heat.

    2. Oh! I also meant to comment on your name, Jogging proud. There were JOGGERS on the trail, ha ha! They camped at the lower lakes, then spent the day running up to the higher lakes and back down. Whew! I haven’t got it in me, and I’m pretty sure I would trip over a root. 😉

  2. We use a Coleman stove when we tent camp or use our pop-up camper. We either boil something in a big pot, either water for pasta, or heat up a stew. We also bring our cast iron skillet or use either on the stove or over the campfire. It works great and doesn’t get too hot too quickly.

    When we backpack or kayak camp, we use a Pocket Rocket stove. It gets super hot super quick, so boiling water is quick and easy. Heating soup, however, is tricky. You have to stir constantly to keep it from burning.

    As far as jogging, I have pretty much put that hobby on hold. My left ankle has been pretty weak since I rolled it a few times this past year. Biking and kayaking keep us busy though. We hiked today, but I took it slow. Check out my blog if you want to see our pics. Fall is awesome and the trees here in NC are really pretty right now.

    Have a great rest of your weekend.
    Simon.

  3. I knew it would be beautiful but I didn’t realize it would be a gastronomical event. The views are spectacular. That’s a lot of me time to reflect I can see why you would want to go there. Glad the trip turned out so perfectly.

    1. Now that is an important question, Andrew. 😉 I could fit more, but I usually bring only one. When I am less worried about weight and will be out awhile, I’ve carried two. I transfer the wine to a nalgene bottle, then use the empty bottle to store trash on the way out.

      1. Hm, that’s an excellent thought. Nalgenes are plastic, so they aren’t much weight. But the advantage to a carton would be if I hiked to an area that allowed fires, I could burn the wine carton when I finished. Viola!

  4. Gorgeous photographs and excellent catering service. Apparently in UK if you walk from Lands End (in the south of England) to John O’ Groats (in the north of Scotland) you can watch daffodils emerging all the way, because Spring takes eight weeks to travel up there.

    1. Oh that is good to know! Wouldn’t it be a marvelous trip, seeing daffodils (and other bulbs blooming I imagine) all the way. Daffodils are one of my favourites. They grow wild in profusion here in Oregon, and they never cease to bring out my smile. Thank you for the compliment on my photos.

    1. I hoped you would, Curt! This was the kind of adventure that I suspect you and Peggy enjoy. I eat too well, and really suffer from the pack weight. It’s all my friend’s fault, the one who introduced me to backpacking. She insisted on the finest meals. (And she also insisted on staying in full fashion and makeup while on the trail, which I think also makes her amazing, but that’s another story) I backpacked with her my first four years, and I guess I don’t know how to do it any other way now.

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