It’s About Time!

It’s About Time!

Yowza, December 2018 was a blur! After beating a fast retreat from the wintery Norther Rockies with my Southern sandals-in-December tail between my legs, I made it to the one and only big city with the best food and winter and proceeded to try and squeeze an entire year of living into just a few weeks. Needless to say, by Christmas I was whuupped from the over-indulgence in visiting, eating, drinking, and all the other carryings-on.

Monty at the Montrose Paint Wall (formerly known as the Biscuit Wall)
Visiting the moody winter beaches of Galveston
Every party ends up in the kitchen
Snuggle Buddies!
A favorite place is the area around the Menil museum
The Water Wall with my favorite fellas.
Can anything be prettier than River Oaks at Christmas?
the don enjoying the outrageous display of lighting in River Oaks
Skyspace, the James Turrell thingy at Rice University with the almost-full moon above.
Dancing through the winter’s eve keeps the soul warm and snuggly
Happy that I got to see this kid for much of my time in town! Alex has always been my best date!
Enjoying the intersection of woods and urban at Memorial Park with the don
Maybe THIS is why some of the visit seemed a blur! Great hosts offering an out-of-this-world rum flight for enjoyment and testing liver function
Central Market- best grocery store ever. Even the don agrees!
Such a phenomenal view
Art. Life.
Now I want a bison on my truck!
My favorite, the Beer Can House
My other favorite!
I like big girls and I cannot lie
Moose and Monty creating mayhem. Okay, not really. These guys would probably run from the ducks
Monty had friends to visit, too
For real

the don came down to see the town I had been bragging on so much and that, too, was virtually non-stop action of sights, friends, family, and food. Fortunately we did not encounter mosquitos but any Gulf Coaster knows the perils of the December mosquito, so much so that Medicaid rightly provides spray.

It’s all about prevention, y’all.

Since Monty is not allowed to fly commercially, I drove down to Houston in my beloved Pearl, a 2007 Toyota Sequoia. It was the last year of this model and I still believe it to be the prettiest of all SUVs. Pearl was equally at home in the city or on country roads camping and acting as an RV. Her only challenge was the 2 wheel drive thing which wasn’t a challenge for most of her city-dwelling, summer-camping life. And even the one time she went to the snow it was in a relatively populated area with treated roads (and filled with people and stuff so she weighed quite a bit, too). Yes, until this rural living thing happened, Pearl was my jam. But then I did make a change and decide to try northwest country living and 2WD was not working out for me (as mentioned in a previous post). The hunt for a 4 wheel drive was on, and while I’m at it, maybe a truck, too. Most everyone out here drives a truck. They are good for hauling wood that you just cut in the forest to heat your home which is the only heat-source, btw, a not-uncommon thing out here. Trucks are also good for pulling trailers, whether it is a cargo trailer, horse trailer, or boat trailer. Oh, and did I mention I was also shopping for a cargo trailer? So yes, a truck it is. My oldest child was quite vocal about the idea of me driving a truck, “I just never saw you as a truck person.” Turns out I am not really a truck person. It was hard to get excited about truck shopping. My decision coming down to what would have the best resale value in a couple of years if/when I got tired of truck life and wanted a different vehicle.

Leah, about 15 minutes after she became mine but before I realized she wasn’t what I thought I was buying.

And so I present to you Leah.

Her name comes from the Judeo-Christian Bible story in which Jacob makes a deal to marry Laban’s daughter, Rachel, only to find after the wedding that he has been fooled into marrying Leah. In the purchase of my truck, Toyota’s brochures made it appear that the Ensuite system would have a navigation by map. When I test-drove the truck and mentioned the navigation, my salesman said that it would connect to my phone and I would download a specific app and then navigation would show on the screen. Fine. I LOVED the nav system in Pearl and it was quite my habit to glance at the map frequently.

I took possession of the truck and traded in my Pearl on Christmas Eve. On the morning of the 26th I was back at the dealer because I could not get a map to show on my screen. A couple of hours later I was sick to my stomach and asking to have Pearl back because it turns out that particular feature is not even available on this truck. And they wouldn’t give me Pearl back. I could probably have tried a law suit but in the end it just wasn’t worth it to me. Pearl had over 200,000 miles and a recurring emissions issue which cost over $900 to fix the first time.

Pearl turing 200,000 miles somewhere in the snowy mountains of Nevada. Notice all the warning lights are on

And so this truck’s name is Leah.

I am reminded that Dante wrote of Leah and Rachel in his poem about Pergatory. In his dream just before he reaches the paradise on Earth he sees Leah and Rachel, who in this poem are symbols of the active and thoughtful aspects of living, respectively. One translation has it as, “in my dream, I seemed to see a woman both young and fair; along a plain she gathered flowers, and even as she sang, she said: Whoever asks my name, know that I’m Leah and I apply my lovely hands to fashion a garland of the flowers I have gathered. To find delight within this mirror I adorn myself; whereas my sister Rachel never deserts her mirror; there she sits all day; she longs to see her fair eyes gazing, as I, to see my hands adorning, long: She is content with seeing, I with labor.” (Purgatorio, Canto XXVII, lines 97-108, Mandelbaum translation)

So in Dante’s poem, Leah represents the worker, the active part of the full life and was envisioned just before he entered the Garden of Eden or Paradise on Earth. That’s not a bad namesake.

Leah did a darn good job of getting me to my own little paradise. With the help/guidance/bad-ass-ness of my sister, Leah pulled the new cargo trailer filled with heavy outdoor furniture and other outdoor living items. And some clothes, and some kitchen items, and a bicycle… On the way I learned to tow a trailer at 70+ miles an hour on freeways. We were blessed with good weather for the first day but then rain and then freezing rain and then icy snow on curving mountain roads in the dark. Yeah. I didn’t drive that last part. I managed light snow on curving mountain roads up to about twilight and my sis was talking me through it, what to do if I hit a patch of ice (scream? No, fight your instinct and turn into the slide. Ummm, it takes training to fight your instincts and I have definitely NOT been trained unless there is some Jason Bourne shit going on here. Nope, upon reflection definitely no memory loss that could be tied to some secret mountain-ice-towing-assassin stuff. My only memory loss was that weekend in Mexico and some homemade mescal, back when you could safely get drunk in Mexico and not fear for your well-being.) Thankfully I only hit one or two tiny patches of ice and it felt a lot like hitting that gumbo clay back home after a gully-washer, just a little wiggle and the wheels were back to being best friends with the pavement. Of course, I was driving about 35-40 miles per hour on a 70 mph road so cars would occasionally pass me. Fine, let ‘em. But come dark, I was not going to drive. I am a person with extraordinary good luck but even I know when to fold. So the BadAssSis took over for the night. Or at least the hell-storm part of it and I drove again somewhere in the middle of the night with only rain. We did 2400+ miles in a weekend with only a 6 hour layover to sleep. Like I said, she’s rock hard bad ass. I’m more on the squishy side but can tag along sometimes.

Here’s a couple of photos. This is Leah and the trailer safely parked in Texas before the big road test.

Play it safe, y’all

Here is Monty all buckled up for safety. Dogs can be seriously hurt in car accidents if they aren’t secured. Also, you do not want 60 pounds of muscle hurtling around your head.

Again, this is for real
I wanted to find out if there should be a comma in this but decided that sometimes not knowing is funner.

Yes, there really is a Weed Police. It was here that the weather intimidated me. To my credit, just before reaching Weed, California I saw not one, not two, but THREE cars that had slid off the road, one a roll-over. And these cars were visible because they slid into the center median. The poor bastards who weren’t so lucky to slide towards the center of the highway slid right off the mountain. I was not in the right frame of mind to enjoy Weed. Maybe next time.

The sign might have read, “Sharp Curves Ahead, I hope you have your will updated.”

And here is a photo oh, maybe an hour later.  Yep, had it been me driving in this bit of road hell, Leah the Toyota would have been FORD (found on the road dead). That sign reads, “Sharp Curves Ahead.”

And finally, here is Leah enjoying the brand new driveway, if a 900+ foot stretch still counts as driveway, of the parcel of land that the don and I are developing on the western edge of Washington.

And one last photo, here is Brighty. If you will remember, her job is to be a winter home while the development occurs. She sat for a couple of months alone and, unfortunately had to bear some pretty harsh storms by herself and did not get out unscathed. But that is a story for another time.

Brighty and Leah

Wish you were here!

Oh, and here are some photos of the drive down from Idaho to Texas in early December 2018. For your viewing pleasure.

I purchased some turkey from Subway for the little Monty-ster. Turns out he actually enjoys eating meat
Hoover Dam
Hmmph, Monty was not so impressed by the Pony Express

Hell’s Canyon

 

Monty gazing out over the mountains of Hell’s Canyon

“The grandeur and originality of the views presented on every side beggar both the pencil and the pen. Nothing we had ever gazed upon in any other region could for a moment compare in wild majesty and impressive sternness with the series of scenes which here at every turn astonished our senses and filled us with awe and delight.” Benjamin L. E. Bonneville, an early explorer of Hell’s Canyon, wrote about the place I was getting ready to spend two weeks camping and hiking.

Sunset from the Cougar Basin campsite with a view into Oregon.

The area has seen much since white men entered its waters, from its early days of exploitation for copper and gold ore to inciting national division in the 1950s and again in the 1970s on damming the river to present-time recreational pursuits. For many years Hell’s Canyon was hailed as the deepest canyon but that is now contested. Regardless of the numbers, I was about to walk into a place of no outside contact. Not that this is a new experience as I have been solo hiking sections of the Continental Divide Trail for a number of years, but this time was different. I was heading into the area with three mules, three dogs, my friend I call the don and his brother. Would Hell’s Canyon live up to its name and reputation? What hellish fate might await, i wondered?

Could it be anymore perfect for a Texas girl than to have PURPLE bluebonnets?
Okay, technically a cousin to bluebonnets but that can be overlooked.

Obviously I have lived to tell the tale. And share some photos…

the don and his mules

Monty had never been around mules so it was with some slight trepidation that he was introduced to them. He did live through the two weeks but only through the grace of God who looks out for little white dogs.He was disbelieving these creatures were not just big dogs thus he continued to try and befriend them by getting too close to their feet. He would also try to insert himself in the mule train between two mules if I was riding a mule so I ended up in the saddle about 100 yards and then walking the remaining 18 miles into camp the first day. Monty did finally learn, mostly anyway, not to get underneath the mules and would walk very close to the back of the last mule. Thankfully the mules were very patient with this city boy who was just learning the ropes when it came to mule packing. Monty and I had that in common on this trip. One mule was particularly patient with me as I learned to halter and saddle and lead the mules and even let me braid his tail.

Monty learned to stay out of the mule train and trailed along behind. Can you see his tiny white body there?
Otis sporting a fancy tail-do. Definitely a sassy ass!

Hells Canyon will extract its pound of flesh, no doubt ’bout that. Just so you know, there are TWO different manifestations of poison ivy in these parts. There is the normal, vine-trailing-on-the-ground type found in moist areas like near creeks and under trees. Then there is another type that does not resemble a vine or a bush. This nasty and tricksy mo-fo is a stick about three feet tall with lovely white to cream dried-looking berries on it. At least that is how it looks in early spring, maybe in June it gets leaves or hairyness or something but in April it is just a lovely berry-topped stick with delicate red undertones hanging out with all the other grasses that looks like it is begging to be in a floral arrangement.

DO NOT BE FOOLED BY IT

A tricksy mo-fo , this poison ivy, growing along the trail and hillsides in very dry areas and with no leaves.

Another tip, if you are traveling with animals or some companion that goes tromping pell-mell through the grasses, DO NOT LET THAT BEING INTO YOUR SLEEPING BAG, even if it is a skinny puppy shivering in the cold night. That shivering puppy will run through the tricksy poison ivy sticks ALL DAY LONG and then, in the wee hours of the darkness, will bring all that urushiol into your bag and onto your skin. Just imagine what the results of hours and hours of laying in the poison oil will do to your skin as she cuddles up so sweetly to you. All the weight you have lost from so much lovely exercise will not be evident due to the horrible sores and swelling from the blisters and your new trail name will be Scritchers.

 

Only 6 months old, Finn already loved to run the hills all day and snuggle all night.
Three dog night. I finally learned to keep the dogs out of my sleeping bag yet they still loved to snuggle up to me. Here you can see Q, Finn, and Monty’s yellow coat.
Poison ivy legs. The rash was everywhere on my body except my upper back due to a snuggling puppy in my sleeping bag. So much for wearing skirts anytime soon.

This concludes my public service announcement.

Now for the good part, and if you heed my advice above, you can skip the icky and go straight to the good part. People tried to settle the canyon years ago and planted gardens. Most of the people and settlements did not last but some of their food-stuff is still there. If you go in early spring (as for this area, not the early spring of Houston) you will be fed well from the coffers of the canyon. the don knew of several spots where yummies were growing and shared them with me. Sadly I did not get photos of the morel mushrooms the don gathered and then cooked in butter on the wood stove (yes, for real. this is my life now) but i promise they were exquisite. The same day as the mushroom gathering, he showed me where asparagus would grow. Only a few stalks were showing then but when I went back a week later, JACKPOT!

Asparagus growing in the wilds of Hell’s Canyon. Can you believe the luck!?!

I gathered a quart ziplock bag and nibbled on quite a few stalks as I gathered and only took about 20% of what was showing. There is also an area where watercress grows and we enjoyed fresh greens pretty much every day of the trip.

Watercress growing along a creek just waiting to be made into a delicious salad.

Can you imagine a two-week camping trip with fresh asparagus and watercress and mushrooms? and all cooked over campfire or woodstove. Hard to believe yet I offer photographic proof.

Watercress salad with beets, coconut, and mango. The latter two were rehydrated since I have yet to find a mango tree in Hell’s Canyon.
Cooking asparagus over a campfire. Also on the menu this evening was polenta with tomato sauce which you can see in the background.

Monty was his usual majestic self and struck a pose on every rock formation he saw. Truly, I do not pose him and rarely do I even try to arrange a photo. Mostly he gets his vogue on and waits until I finally realize I should take a picture. He even photo bombs and, as usual, his version is much more interesting than my own. Do you think Ansel Adams might come back as a photogenic master in a dog body?

Monty photobombing as I try to shoot landscapes. As usual his version is way more interesting than my boring ol’ flower picture.

I’ll put more photos at the end of this post. At the time every single view was breathtaking and so I have tons of pictures of Monty posing with some dramatic view.

As you may know, I am a former city girl who has decided to try a completely different lifestyle. I am learning so much every day! For example, do you know where the antlers for those awesome chandeliers in hunting-themed lodges come from? Out here it is a hobby to collect the ginormous antlers that are shed naturally every spring by the elk. the don and his brother engage in antler hunting and I began a little hunting myself.  I was better at finding asparagus.

“Glassing” the hillside looking for antlers.
I spy an antler!
Here is one of the smaller antlers. Some were almost as big as me!

Fresh mint- perfect for adding to salads and also to a bit of rum
Waiting for snow to melt and getting a suntan at the same time
Still waiting
Dinnertime in Hell’s Canyon
A fresh and cold spring at just the right height for bottle filling. Hell’s Canyon will extract its pound of flesh but will also provide
Another awesome view of Sheep Creek
Spider on flower. I was so intrigued by this little guy hanging out in the flowering bushes just waiting for bugs
I forgot my hat one day and ended up making one from my bandana and some of the branches from the bush behind me. The branches were to make the brim and I have to say this worked out very well for the entire day!
Rose hips. Reminded me of chinese lanterns
Pictographs!
Curious Otis
the don and mules near suicide point. Can you see them on the trail?
My boy
A view into Oregon
Bear claw marks on pine. I promise, Mom, I never saw any bears this trip!
Brain freeze

Monty near Old Timer
Monty on the mountain

I don’t need inspirational quotes
I need coffee