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Disconnected

Falls Creek, WAWe’d been camping for three days without cell phone reception. The campground was gorgeous with tall, mossy cedars and maples. A melodic stream rushed past the campsites. Yet I had a hard time adjusting. It took me three days to finally feel comfortable being out-of-touch. And even that acceptance might have been related to the fact that we would be leaving the next day.

Why do I feel such a strong need to be connected? Well, what if our sons needed something? Sure, they’re grown and have moved far away, but still, you never know. What if I have an email waiting, asking me to take on a new work project or a business trip? If I didn’t answer promptly, I could lose out. Someone else might get that trip to Sacramento or San Antonio.Falls Creek Trail, WA

How did we ever manage in the good, old, days? Hubby and I used to take off camping for two or more weeks at a time back before the invention of cell phones. We might call our parents once during the trip to check in, but generally we just sent postcards. One time we returned home to discover that my mother had spent two days in the hospital. Thankfully, she had been released and was doing much better by then, but it gave me a scare. Would we have cut our vacation short had we known? Maybe, maybe not, but we definitely would have called more often. I’m glad we have cell phones now, so the communication is easier.

Hummocks Trail, WAYet sometimes it is good to disconnect. In the stillness of the woods I can relax and feel closer to God, feel more a part of nature, and open myself up to awe and wonder. I can relax from the stress of daily life, including the stress of trying to keep up with my email and text messages. I can just be me. The world of people can somehow manage without me for a few days, and the likelihood I will return home to urgent phone calls and emails is small.

In a way, disconnecting is actually re-connecting. As I step back from the hassles of my daily life into the greenness of towering maples and the enchantment of birdsong, I connect with my soul, I connect with God. An empty well within me fills to overflowing with joy and peace, as the living water pours through me. Pond, Hummocks Trail, WA

How could I forget how much I need the woods?

fern, mossy tree, Falls Creek Falls Trail, WALast month my husband and I stayed at Paradise Creek Campground along the Wind River in SW Washington–a gorgeous place to stay and enjoy nature. I wrote this review of a hike we took, and I am now finally posting it. Better late than never!

The Falls Creek Falls Trail began quietly, through woods filled with ferns and mossy trees. Not as many flowers as the Observation Peak hike, but plenty of twin flowers, salal, and Oregon grape–the last no longer in bloom. We climbed gradually, following the splashing creek and working our way to the falls. The last third of a mile to the falls climbed more steeply before dropping a bit to a wonderful viewpoint. A refreshing breeze hit my sweaty face as we approached, and I was ready to drop onto one of many rock “chairs” to enjoy the view and rest in Creation’s beauty.Falls Creek, WA

The falls itself consisted of three cascades, but only two could be seen from the viewpoint. The upper of the two spread out with many fingers of water tumbling down the rock face. The fingers joined together into one long cascade as the lower falls crashed into a shaded, rocky pool surrounded by green moss. We ate our lunch here, joined by a cheeky chipmunk looking for handouts. We gave him a couple of nuts and a blueberry, figuring those were natural foods for a chipmunk. He ignored the berry, but stuffed the nuts into his cheek and scrambled off to eat.

Falls Creek Falls, WAAfter a rest we headed up–and I do mean up–to the Upper Falls Trail. The connecting trail was steep, but just a warm-up for the trip to the top of the falls. What a relief when we made it to the top. A nice view, but nothing comparing to Observation Peak. Still the trails around it were nice–level paths through open woods with sunlight and lots of green plants. A pleasant change from the grueling uphill to get there.Lower falls, Falls Creek Falls, WA

As we headed back down the steep, narrow trail, the squeal of brakes warned me that a mountain biker was behind us. How he made it safely down that treacherous trail I don’t know. but tracks we noticed on the way up indicated he wasn’t the only one.

The upper loop back was far from the cool stream, and the heat of the day increased until I felt my body could easily replace a room radiator, and sweat dripped off my hair. When we reached the trailhead, I collapsed into the truck and flipped on the air conditioner. Okay, I’m spoiled, I know. But it certainly felt good!

Falls Creek rapidsFalls Creek Falls Trail is a beautiful hike, but my recommendation for all but those working on stamina training: stop at the falls. It’s the highlight of the trip, and the Upper Falls Trail adds little to it. Is there a metaphor for life here? Not sure. Maybe just that effort and reward are not always equal.

 

 

Lilies on the trail

Queen-cup lily

Trapper Creek Wilderness

Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington

Hubby patiently waits for me.

Hubby patiently waits for me.

We set out bright and early, bumped along rutty gravel roads, and reached the trailhead for the Observation Peak hike shortly after 8 a.m. Morning coolness still hung in the air, as we donned our packs and headed up the trail. Tall cedar and fir surrounded us, and wildflowers brightened the sides of the path–Indian paintbrush, bunchberry, anemone, queen-cup lily, vanilla leaf, and coralroot, among others. No sounds of civilization met our ears, not even an airplane. The deep silence was broken occasionally by a bird singing from some hidden branch high above us–and by the incessant buzz of flies and annoying whine of mosquitoes, who left their marks on our tender skin. Even after we applied repellent, they danced around our faces and ears, looking for spots we missed. Still, not the worst insects we’d met hiking; they were bearable.

View of Mt. Hood

View of Mt. Hood

My husband forged ahead on the trail, eager to reach the promised viewpoints. I plodded slowly up the hill, making frequent stops to enjoy the scenery and take photographs–oh, yes, and to rest. Uphill hiking and I have our differences. The tall trees and abundant flowers gave me something to admire as I rested. Beauty can sometimes be as refreshing as a good sports drink.

After some ups and down of the trail, we climbed the last 0.6 miles of steady uphill. What a relief when the trees gave way to rocks and new types of flowers–bear grass, Mariposa lilies (I think), two stately tiger lilies, and a bright purple flower that I have yet to identify. We topped the rocky ridge and the world spread out before us, the views as spectacular as the guide book suggested. Dark green, rolling hills below us and majestic mountains whichever way we looked. Rainier, St. Helens, Adams in Washington state, and Hood, Jefferson, and the tiniest glimpse of the Three Sisters in Oregon. Absolutely gorgeous!

Mt. Adams

Mt. Adams

That purple flower with Mt. Adams behind it

That purple flower with Mt. Adams behind it

We munched on PBJ sandwiches and enjoyed the cooling breeze as we took in the scenery. One thing about hiking around mountains; most trails go uphill. It can be hard work to reach the top–very hard work for some of us–but once I make it, I’m always glad I kept going. The wonderful view–and the feeling of accomplishment–makes it all worthwhile. A metaphor for life, no doubt. But I’d still love to discover a way to reach the top without working so hard!

Pink dogwood Pink reminds me of little girls in frilly princess dresses playing with their baby dolls. Growing up as a decidedly unfeminine girl, I’ve always preferred green and blue—or red and yellow when it comes to flowers. However, this time of year, I can look out the window while I work and see our pink dogwood in full bloom, sometimes with a bright blue sky behind it for contrast. However, even on a dull, cloudy day, the bright pink blossoms light up the yard. We had a pink dogwood in our front yard when I was a kid; I loved it then and I love it now.Wild bleeding heart flowers

Other pinks decorate the spring landscape. In our woods the wild bleeding hearts bow their purple-pink heads beneath the trees, delicate and beautiful. A few brief days and they are gone—a reminder of the transitory nature of love and life.

apple blossom budsThen there are the white pinks—the subtle pink of apple blossom buds before the little white shells of petals open, fragrant with promise. And the white rhododendron whose flowers turn pinker with age before dropping off and giving way to new green leaves. Honeysuckle and columbine. Not to mention the lavish display of cherry blossoms and the azalea by our front porch that will, in a week or two, be thick in pinkness.;ink rhododendron

Spring puts forth such a display of beauty, a reminder of rebirth, of new life, of the amazing gifts that we are given to enjoy—and to share.

Inertia

Springwater Trail, Boring, OregonInertia. Back in school I learned that inertia is the tendency of a body at rest to stay at rest and the tendency of a body in motion to stay in motion. Inertia explains why you are pushed back into your seat when the car or bus moves suddenly forward—and why the car won’t stop immediately when you hit the brakes. It’s a good principle to know.

Inertia applies in other ways, too. Like to my exercise program. During the Christmas holidays I didn’t get out running much. After the holidays ended, I caught a nasty bug that was going around and didn’t have the energy to exercise for two weeks. And then work got really busy, and I was spending too many hours on my rear in front of the computer. When a day finally came that I was able to get out and run, I really didn’t want to. I knew I needed to, but I did not want to. Inertia wanted to keep this body at rest.Sun through clouds

Once I pushed myself—with help from hubby—to get out and move, it wasn’t so bad. I did two miles and felt good about it.

 … At this point, I intended to turn inspirational and tell you all how I kept at my running program, and it just got better and better. Inertia keeping my body in motion and all that. Unfortunately, that did not happen. Work and bad weather kept me inside for a while longer. The next time I got out to run, I tried to do my usual three miles. It was a disaster. My legs tired quickly, and I think the pace of my walk breaks was faster than that of my running. The next day my legs ached, and my right knee kept giving out. I skipped a couple more days of running, and my next outing was not fun at all. Apparently inertia is not so easily overcome.

Maya, our black labIt takes a force to overcome inertia; the greater the mass, the greater the force required. Can that be why it’s easier to get our dog to move than me? Hmmm. Might be some other principles involved there, too. Still, it can be done. We ran on the Springwater Trail yesterday—just 2.5 miles, so as not to overdo it. Trees were beginning to leaf out, flower buds were swelling, signs of spring everywhere. Beauty can be a force, too, at least for me. It makes the effort to keep those legs moving worthwhile.opening leaves of Indian plum

How about you? Where in your life is inertia keeping you from moving? And what force will it take to break inertia’s hold?

GBBC 2014

black-capped chickadee

black-capped chickadee

dark-eyed junco

dark-eyed junco

Steller's jay

Steller’s jay

varied thrush

varied thrush

It’s that time of year again: the Great Backyard Bird Count! I’ve been putting out extra goodies for the birds and faithfully counting–or trying to count–each feathered friend that drops by. It’s as much a challenge as ever to get an exact count of juncos that blend into the winter ground and chickadees that flit in and out, so that I can’t tell if the one at the feeder now is a new bird or the one I just counted. The big birds are easy–the jays, flickers, varied thrushes. But those little gray and brown guys–whew! And then there are the “missing in action”–the birds I know are around somewhere, but that won’t come by to be counted. The cute little bushtits haven’t dropped in yet. One downy woodpecker visited the suet feeder today, but the hairy woodpecker hasn’t been by. I only have robins because I took a walk and saw them down the street.

There’s still one more day left, so if you want to take part, throw out some birdseed and see who shows up. It really is great fun watching the birds interact as they gobble down the food–some of them are real characters. Give it a try! And here are some of the ones I saw today, filmed through the window, so please excuse the blurriness.

Snow and Ice

snowy woodsThe first tiny flakes danced and twirled across the sky like dust blown by the East Wind. After awhile they began to settle into little drifts in sheltered areas where the wind couldn’t blow them about. By evening the wind died down, but the snow kept coming, covering the brown winter earth with a cool blanket.

snow on cedar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Morning light reflected off the whiteness, all fresh and new. I ventured out before work–glad that I work at home–to take pictures and enjoy the magic. It rarely lasts long around here. We threw out extra sunflower seeds for the birds (and nuts for the jays and squirrels), trying to find places where the seeds wouldn’t just sink into the soft snow. The flower boxes on our porch worked pretty well, once the little sparrow types noticed.junco in the flower box

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ice-covered twigs

Then came the ice. Sleet, then freezing rain, coating everything within its reach. The fluffy snow gained a crunchy coating. Every twig and bud became encased in crystal. And again the birds gathered–the shrieking Steller’s jays, varied thrushes, flocks of juncos and sparrows of various types, energetic chickadees, and, of course, the squabbling starlings. Two Anna’s hummingbirds chased each other in and out of the porch area, battling for control of the hummingbird feeder. It was quite a show!ice-covered azalea buds

 

Life goes on in the snow and the ice. And I watch as the fire in the woodstove merrily crackles and pops, and water for tea heats up in the kitchen.  Beauty comes with the cold, but I’m still glad that I’m not a bird.

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