Category Archives: Hiking

No Bears are Out Tonight

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Bear River Campground Me & Jill, the Mini Winnie & the Tiny Trailer

Last week, heading southeast to Wyoming to fish with my friend Jill, I started wondering about place names … it started when I noticed the next exit to Rattlesnake Pass. We’ve had a lot of rattlesnake sightings and funerals this summer up at the ranch and we are in hyper-watch mode. I imagined  homesteaders trailing into the desert sagebrush frightening and frightened by enough rattlesnakes that the place became a landmark. You know, turn right across Rattlesnake Pass.

If names reflect the landmarks then what do I think as I pull into the Bear River Campground, which is next to the East Bear River Campground, both of which are right on the Bear River? I’m thinking that I didn’t bring bear spray only my new little Kel Tec 22 pistol with snake shot … then to enhance my awareness of place names there were the bear warnings everywhere in the campground. Do NOT leave any food outside, nor in tents, nor in tent trailers that could attract bears. Do landmark names really reflect the truth? As I set up the Mini Winnie I wondered if it was bear proof?

Forgetting landmark names  and thinking FISH, the first morning out we headed up the Mirror Lake highway past all the private property & no trespassing signs to park in an off highway spot (remember to pick up your parking passes at the Ranger Station). Down to the river through willows and brush and trees. Jill went downstream and I went up.

Day one was eventful … I was sucked into a quicksand/mud bog hole crossing a side water stream to reach a rocky island where I went from mid-calf water to over my knee in a blink … luckily I fell into the bank, desperately holding my fly rod in one hand and some wee grasses with the other,  hoping I didn’t fall all the way in and wash downstream. Slowly I  pulled myself out of the water with a mucky sucking fuoosh as the black goop let go of my foot. All that and I didn’t catch one fish … notta … zippo.

Fire Scar Meadow …

Day two started with a beautiful hike to the East Fork Bear River through an old fire scared meadow down to the river … I caught a few fish, evaded some extremely large bovines and fell in the river (again). Yes, you heard me right … I fell in the river.

Wet wading in t-shirt, shorts, and my trusty old Asolo trekkers with my wading staff floating at my feet I caught a flash of fish out of the corner of my eye. I turned too quickly, not watching my feet placement on the slippery stones nor my wading staff floating between my feet. I turned, the staff didn’t and I went down on my butt, water to my chest and my backpack acting like a balloon on my back. Not good. After I righted myself and found my footing again I stood dripping in the still cold, winter run-off water, holding my legs still so my shorts wouldn’t touch them.

Then, planner that I am I remembered the change of clothes in my pack, just in case, because, let’s face it … I tend to slip on rocks in a rushing river. However, opening my pack it was obvious that it wasn’t waterproof. Everything was wet or wet enough that it wouldn’t have made a difference if I changed or not.

I just started fishing again (further up stream from my debacle) hoping the sun would peep between thunder storm clouds which didn’t happen, but I got a double soaking when the heavy clouds opened up  as we hiked the miles back up to the parking lot.

Evening found us up at Lily Lake, named for the thousands of lily pads that clog about 1/3 of it  and it was a beautiful spot (to lose a lot of flies) … I’ve not fished lakes with a fly rod much. Score: Lily Lake Trees about 10, Fish 1 and Me? Zero.

Bear River off the Mirror Lake Highway, Wyoming

Our last day I headed back up river while Jill packed up her tiny trailer. After catching a few fish and enjoying a sunny morning I headed back to the truck … when I arrived Jill was waiting and watching the river. She worried I had fallen in and drowned myself … she was checking the river to see if I floated passed. Day Three … I did NOT fall in the river. I count that a plus.

If you’re looking for a quiet night and pleasant camping, and aren’t pulling a gargantuan sized trailer the Wyoming side of the Mirror Lake Highway is a nice, peaceful place to stay and it’s away from the heavily packed campgrounds on the west side of the mountains … I highly recommend giving it a try.

Though the fishing could have been better the camping was great, we didn’t get many thunder storms and there was plenty of firewood to be picked up from old slash piles. But, we didn’t press our luck and play no bears are out tonight … we just watched the fire burn to coals and listened to the river’s song.

Next trip, Sweetie and I are heading to Washington state to fish near Mt. Rainier with his daughter & son-in-law where I’m hoping to catch a few more fish and NOT fall in the river.

Until next time friends, tight lines and blue skies.

and We Didn’t Take Any Photos!

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Upper Bear Creek Trail, Payette NF … hiked to snow line and we were stopped at crossing 5 of the raging creek.

Wanderingkeri isn’t lost … and I’ll stop talking about myself in the the third person … this summer so far is Awesome! Between friends and family our guest rooms are full and what is summer without parties and road trips? There’ve been some garden days and more than a few wish it would actually spring up days and quit with the rain and wind. The youngest grandson MK and I were washed and snowed off the mountain on our camping & hiking trip last week and it hasn’t been truly warm since we parked the micro mini in the yard. It’s June 13th and there is a fire in the stove … really!

I really hope the winter run off starts to slow a little, the rivers are too fast for my fishing skill level.  Our fishing gear has been cleaned and ready  for months … and so are the golf clubs, and the bicycles too. I’m still in the find some new hiking trekkers ’cause just in case you’re wondering … my new Asolo’s are relegated to winter (no gor-tex for summer for me). I’m back to wearing older pair 2 until I can find a suitable replacement …

2017 American Fork High School Graduates; Bryson Taylor & Kaylee Quinn Taylor … Go Cavemen!!

I love summer! And I’ve come to realize my mantra so far is “we didn’t take any photos”!!

Just because this makes my mama heart sing!

 

7 Days 7 National Parks … RED ROCKS TOUR 2017

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We’re Baaaack! If you were wondering whether I had truly packed too much into our southern Utah/northern Arizona red rock road trip … the answer is Nope! I surprised myself that the sack was just big enough and not too full. It is possible to smorgasbord a little bit here and a little bit there and taste some of the wonders of my favorite part of the world … whetting the appetite for more, and more, and more.  Of course, the more and more is for another adventure. It always comes down to too little time and soooo much to do, see, learn & experience.

So, after planning, mapping, and anticipating this 8 day adventure (not counting the going there and getting home days) I can recommend this Itinerary with the caveat that in my experience, going to a National Park after Memorial Day is only for the strong of heart and crowd loving. That said, even two weeks before the official start of the summer travel season the National Parks, camp sites, view points, restaurants, and highways were FILLED. It was a shocker to my system.

We officially started our road trip from American Fork Utah when we met up with the cousins from PA , driving their rented from Salt Lake City RV America motor home. On to Moab, Utah where we arrived to find EVERY campground full, every side track FULL, and finally found an unpopulated gravel pit 10-12 miles down SR 313 toward Dead Horse Point, off of a side road. I’m not kidding, any area that would accommodate a tent, a car, a trailer or RV was taken.  So beware.

Delicate Arch … there is Always someone beneath it. Sigh.

Arches National Park, by 9 am was almost bumper to bumper to the Delicate Arch parking lot. The hike to the arch is worth the effort. Honestly! In the evening Dead Horse Point, showed off the river and canyons with joy. Albeit with cold wind and gray clouds making us hurry more than usual. I was murmuring outloud that I wished the sun would come out and put the canyon walls on display. Someone took ‘offense’ at my remarks, saying something like This is Beautiful … what more could you want? If you’ve never seen a golden sunset on red rock walls and reflecting from the ribbon of river wound through the country below … well, you can want more than flat light.

Island in the Sky never fails to inspire the heart and soul and the walk along the rim shows wonders yet to explore (next time). Then off to Bluff, Utah … pioneer history, Hovenweep … ancient history, Butler Wash … even more ancient history, then Monument Valley … John Wayne history (think Nathan Biddles in the 1949 movie, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon), and onto the southern route to the Grand Canyon.

Monument Valley: We didn’t see Forrest Gump, but did see a group of Japanese kids recreating the iconic scene!

 

We turned onto a Kaibab National Forest road about 8 miles from the south entrance and found a grand camping site. Then the wind and rains came.

It’s May … not Elk Camp in the Fall!!

Here were are, in ski hats and winter coats (we could have been at fall elk camp it was so cold). In fact, the next morning traveling toward the gate at the south entrance to the park there was SNOW on the ground. Not just a skiff, but large patches. And I was into layers of jackets and a coat to stay warm.

What can I say about the Grand Canyon that isn’t a cliche? It’s is an experience everyone should aspire to behold. Photographs, paintings, watercolors, mixed media interpretations just can’t open the heart to its immensity and timelessness.

Packing up that afternoon we were again on the road through Cameron AZ toward the Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument where we arrived too late for a camp spot at the Stateline campground near the Wire Pass Trailhead … so morning found us waking up in the trail head parking lot, along with several others.

Buckskin Gulch

The hike into Wire Pass and a right turn into Buckskin Gulch slot canyon(s) is always a wonderland of experiences … and this one was no exception. The usual drop over the rock at the mouth of the first slot was made much harder from last fall’s rainstorms which washed out the landing area … the drop was far greater than the last visit. Getting back up was accomplished only because we arrived at the same time folks were starting the drop. A big push from below, a huge tug from above … no skinned knees, but it was a blessing ‘fer shur’.

The last stage of the trip, a night in Kanab, dinner at Houston’s Trails End,  and some sand scraping before the final day at Zion National Park. Description? ZOO, it was a ZOO! There were so many people and cars, trucks, motorcycles, trailers, RVs, bicycles and hikers that I went into sensory overload. We hit the road north early and stayed the night camped at my mom’s in Orem, which was a smile on my heart.

Last night of the trip found us in Salt Lake City, at the Little America Motor Lodge … ah, a long hot shower, dinner with some of the Utah fam and Sunday morning to sit in the historic Tabernacle at Temple Square and listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (for FREE)! Wonderful.

I slept most of the way home to Boise.  So, chalk up another 2100 plus mile road trip that’d I’d take again in a heart beat and stick around a few areas a while longer … that stick around a while longer is already added to “The List”.

 

Yosemite-What More Can I Say?

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I love finally exploring an iconic area that has been on my I have to go there and experience That for myself  list.  It’s not a “bucket” that I toss experiences into with a been there-done that check one off and head to the next one on the list. That phrase bucket list seems to take the life out of wonder and has a frenetic sort of collector feeling to me … like I ‘have’ to get through this list before I die quality to me.

I’m about dreams, and what inspires me. I’m about anticipation and exploration … tasting, touching, listening, feeling awe at the magnificently spectacularly diverse world we’ve been given to live in.

By Ansel Adams wanna be Keri Vest-Vergari

Ansel Adams’ dramatic black and white portraits of Yosemite National Park’s granite peaks and roaring waterfalls ignited one such dream. And last week, for our 12th anniversary, Sweetie and I spent 2 nights near Yosemite Falls staying with friends who live and work in the park, Kelly Martin (Chief of Fire & Aviation Management at Yosemite) and her husband Paul Heffner. While Kelly had to work, Paul gave us the ‘insider’s view’ through the park. Did you know that Yosemite has its own zip code, its own jail and judge and has a permanent and temporary workforce population that is 4 1/2 times larger than Council Idaho? Or, did you know that a past concessionaire trademarked historic Yosemite names and places and once they lost their contract kept the trademarks and the park had to change the names? What? And we let them?

We picked the perfect time to visit, and although the campgrounds, cabins, and hotels were semi-full we felt as if the place was almost empty as we hiked and walked around the valley.

By Ansel Adams’ wanna be Keri Vest-Vergari

So, I joined the thousands of wanna be Ansel Adams’ and attempted black and white visions of the granite peaks from the valley floor … the Half Dome hike seemed daunting for a first hike of the season and to tell the truth, we didn’t even think about it!

Yosemite is a wondrous place and you can find solitude even in the midst of the waves of humanity that flood the canyon all year long.  We did and it was a dream.

On a personal note: Happiest 12+ years ever Sweetie!! Just so ya know … I love you and THANKS for bribing me with Yosemite. The whole week was perfect!

**photos taken with an iPhone 6 and a clip on telephoto lens**

 

 

New Trekkers, New Trails, New Adventures

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Current Relationship

The other night I looked down at my shoes … I love my shoes, Asolo Trekkers … they looked a bit sad. They’ve been down rivers, across mountains, through desert sand and on many streets U.S.A. & abroad. I wear them almost everyday hence the worn tread, dusty suede, and lining formed to my foot.

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Meeting someone for the first time

Online I went, since they are hard to find around Boise, or at least the style I love. Which of course, every 2 years when I need another pair, they’ve changed them up in some form or other and I have an inner hissy fit complaining about  messing with a good, nay great thing. After the hissy fit, I ordered ‘the new style’. When UPS dropped them at my door, I immediately ripped open the box, ordering online is a little like Christmas, don’t you think?  … and … what did I see? a ‘gore-tex’ lined tag. (I don’t know why I didn’t see that little addition in the description).

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First Love & Best Friends

When I first discovered this particular shoe I was looking for a great hiker, that wasn’t a boot, and weren’t tennis/trainer/running shoes and didn’t have some splash of neon.  I love that the laces go clear to the toes which gives a great fit and the moderate tread is excellent on the mountain, but not so heavy that I trip walking across the floor. No break in time … ever … and though I buy a new pair every couple of years, the old ones have yet to be turned out to pasture.

I did say I wear them almost every day? It’s a good thing too. One day on the spur of the moment I decided I’d do an overnighter on the river for an evening and a morning of flyfishing.  I tossed my gear, tent, and cooler of food into the Escape and headed out.  Pulling in just in time for the evening hatch I setup my fly rod, pulled on my waders, and DANG! I left my boots 1 1/2 hours away, in the garage, next to the recycle box. There was no way I was turning around and heading home.  So what did I do? I opened the laces of my trekkers as wide as possible, slid them over my wading socks, tied them up and stepped into the river.  Excellent traction and they dried out the next day with no damage at all.  From then on we were friends for life.

Buying new shoes gives me angst … Will I love them as I’ve loved each pair I’ve owned? Will the addition of the gore-tex end my love affair? These are serious questions … well, I won’t know until I take the leap every new shoe buyer must take.  Slide them on, tie them up and hit the road, or rather I’ll spin them around the house, down the street and around the corner. The trails here are snow covered and my ski boots are still my best friends.

Cheers to new trekkers, new trails, and new adventures!

 

How to take the Perfect Free Form Road Trip

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Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park

We did it! We fled our day to day and hit the road in the Escape-mobile.  Taking a free-form, take a break, go somewhere different road trip … Sweetie and I had only one fixed destination point and time that was Willow Creek California to spend a few days with an old smoke jumper friend of Greg’s. To and from there we had no idea where we would end up …

We may not have know how and where we’d end up, but I’d put a couple of I’d like to do’s on the list: First was an item from my wanna do list ‘experience the giant redwoods’, then maybe some time on the coast, we wanted to find roads that we’d never driven, before we wanted to have fun, and I wanted to flee from the madness and negativity being generated by “the” election … banning talk radio and news reports.

In remembrance of our last spring’s no power, food, or fuel experience in Moab, I promised myself, no more road trips with out a bit of emergency preparation on hand so into the Escape-mobile I tossed our faithful camp-in-a-box, a sleeping bag, a couple of chairs and our pillows. Of course, 2 gallons of water and foodage … snacks and power bars, and several books on cd.

But in all that preparation we forgot … maps.  At the first fuel stop Sweetie bought more maps … maps of states we already had in our map case, at home … guess a back-up could come in handy … at least if we remember them.

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Crater Lake National Park in the snow … Nov 2016

All trips from Boise, Idaho start off East or West on I-84 … for us that means turn left and head west. Ontario to Vale to Jordan Valley then a right turn onto and onward through Christmas Valley on our way to Crater Lake National Park.

I love coming to a fork in the road, consulting the trusty map and sometimes almost tossing a coin for directions … we finally made it to Crater Lake; beautiful, deep blue, and snow covered.

Dropping off the mountain hunger overtook us and we stopped at a little spot called Becky’s Cafe in Union Creek. It’s been there since 1926 and is in an old and quaint log building … I had their excellent chili …

But as I sat there, I kept looking around, and then … “I think I’ve been here before”. Déjà vu .. shivers! …it came to me, driving back from a fire assignment in Grant’s Pass, a friend and I had made a detour to Crater Lake and had actually stopped at this place for dinner  years before …

Headin' South

Headin’ South

On to Medford Oregon our first night’s stop … I tapped booking.com for a place to stay … and found a nice place downtown, the Inn at the Commons from the list and booked it.  When we pulled into the parking lot and walked inside, Sweetie looked around and said, “I think I’ve been here before … it used to be a Red Lion. I was here on a fire assignment.” Laughter and  another Déjà vu!

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Gold Beach near Gold Beach Inn

From the mountains to the coast then north to Gold Beach, we embraced a storm so strong rain was sheeting from the windows when we stopped for lunch … the surf was high, doing a fine imitation of a 767 revving to take off. From our ocean side beach view room at the inviting Gold Beach Inn we slept with the balcony door open to the storm.

Headin' South

Headin’ South

Next morning the sun  shone bouncing off of puddles and asphalt … I was psyched … it was visit the redwoods day … Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park and a pleasant walk around the Simpson-Reed Memorial Trail … stretching as tall as possible and feeling as tiny as Tom Thumb against their magnificent hugeness.  Perfect! and another … Cliche warning … breathtaking!

Bottom Pic ... that is ONE tree Greg is standing against ...

Bottom Pic … that is ONE tree Greg is standing against …

I love checking places off my wanna do list … but I also love finding ‘that’ spot, the one I didn’t know about that just tickles me to the bones.

Like the Siskiyou Smokejumper Museum (It was cool … and we found Greg’s name on a jump log from his days smoke jumping out of La Grand Oregon). Or the It’s a Burl wood shop … I felt like I was in Rivendell.

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Our last big stop was in Willow Creek to visit a friend and fellow smoke jumper, Dick Kirsh and his wife Judy. Leaving town we stopped to check out what is billed as the largest collection of Bigfoot memorabilia in the world, but just our luck the museum was closed … and we had no sightings, fleeting or otherwise, of the creatures on our way through the mountains either. Sigh.

Willow Creek California ... Bigfoot Capital of the World

Willow Creek California … Bigfoot Capital of the World

The last couple of days of our never-drove-that-road trip we took a lot of dirt roads (which kept Greg holding his breath, fearing a flat tire).

We passed through the Hart Mountain Antelope Preserve where despite being told there were 1000’s of them … the sightings of antelope were more frequent than Bigfoot, but not by much.

Onto Frenchglen, the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and stopping to see John French’s Round Barn before the miles and miles and miles of long, clear, vistas and horizon hiding roads before finding ourselves back on I-84 blacktop and home.

I’ll take a free-form, asphalt free (at times) road trip  anytime!  A couple of stats … 1500+ miles, 6 days, one 14 hour audio book, no flat tires and uncountable laughter.

I love travelin’ with my Sweetie.

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John French’s Round Barn … he was shot and died … the shooter was acquitted. Mr. French, he had a temper, so the sign says.

Until next time …

 

Lizard Killer

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Lizard Killer.  Yes, I’m a Lizard Killer.  Thanks Jill for your comments last week … they got me thinking that wandering is more than where I am and what I am doing now.  It’s the anticipation of doing, it’s the doing, and later, re-experiencing the doing when a sensation, smell, or word opens that door in your brain and you are again “there”.

Jill, I hadn’t thought of our whole Cedar Mesa trip for years. But with those two words, Lizard Killer, it all came back to me. Forgetting my hiking shoes until we were 150 miles from home and the small towns we passed had no shoe stores and I spent days hiking in your too short for my feet Tevas, since my slip on Birkenstock weren’t built for red rock.  I was again climbing from the bottom of that narrow, what we thought was a box canyon, saying, wouldn’t it be cool if there were ruins up there? Then clambering over fallen rocks to discover Anasazi ruins hidden behind a collapsed overhang.  I held my breath side stepping the narrow trail worn almost perpendicular to the wall which led to the tiny storage room stuck like a mud dauber’s nest to the wall of the cliff; inside mini corn cobs still littered the floor .

It was long enough past that I don’t have digital photographs.

<p>Panoramic evening view from the southern edge of Cedar Mesa, overlooking the <a Jack Brauer www.mountainphotography.com

Panoramic evening view from the southern edge of Cedar Mesa by Jack Brauer http://www.mountainphotography.com

OK, get on with it … did you really kill a lizard? You want to know ‘what happened’, so here it is: the creepy “coincidence” that gave me the moniker, Lizard Killer.

Jill and I had been hiking most of the morning and stopped 20 feet or so apart on the red rocks to talk  … during the conversation a small lizard zipped into a crack just to the front and side of my toes.

He would pop his head out, then back in, testing the air; in and out, in and out, prepping for his sprint to ultimate safety I’d guess.  I watched him for a few minutes, mentioned it to Jill, and then forgot him.  I pointed out a spot of shade with a spectacular view as a perfect spot for lunch. Just at the moment I stepped forward, the little lizard leaped from his hiding place; and I squished him.

His race to speed away and my step to shade collided and in that instant, he was flat.  I was devastated!

Later, eating lunch, I pulled a SoBe drink from my pack. I twisted the cap from the bottle and there, written inside were words bold, and black that proclaimed: Lizard Killer.

SoBe LizardI do not believe in coincidence, or karma, or fate …. but that day? In that moment, I believed.

Cedar Mesa is a mystical place; not haunted, but it feels sacred. There are hundreds of ruins hidden throughout in the 25 x 30 mile mesa … canyons to hike, containing thousands upon thousands of pictographs telling the stories of an ancient world.

What draws me to wander such far away spaces? Winds through the piñon, sage scented fire, and silence you can hear and feel.

To find the mesa, drive a long, long way to no where, turn left, then left again … and take a very good map.  It is a wondrous place of heat, canyons, red rocks, little water and mystery.  It’s a place for a vision quest.

Enter softly, walk quietly, stand in silence and the voices  of the ancients will sing to your soul. Even as they did to me, Lizard Killer.