Sunday, December 30, 2018

So Long 2018: Savor the Moment

Colchuck Lake Trail, July 2018
Here we are again, bombarded with reflections on the year just passed. Often this conjures up memories of previous years, specific moments gone by in the river of time that flows swiftly onward.

A big holiday dinner shared with extended family many years ago came to mind recently. I distinctly remember thinking that day, probably for the first time: Treasure this happy day, in a few years some of these elders likely won’t be here anymore

More than a decade on, three of those elders and, prematurely, two in my generation have since passed away. So I do indeed treasure those memories of family and friends together at the table.

In 2018, I had a good Christmas. Nice dinner with friends on Christmas Eve. Visited family Christmas morning to exchange gifts. Then a lovely little hike in the Cascade foothills along a river to lush waterfalls, followed by Chinese dim sum in Seattle’s International District.  

Twin Falls, WA, December 2018

Jade Garden, Seattle,  WA

As I write this, it’s cold and raining outside, but my little basement office is warm and cozy. My aging and fragile cat is having a good day/week—she finished her breakfast, asked for more, and is now curled up on the shelf beside my desk while I work. I don’t think she’ll be here next Christmas. 

Formerly feral Tashi cat
I have work into the New Year (this is key for self-employed people). The knee I smashed into the pavement a couple days ago after tripping on a sidewalk crack and falling appears to not have suffered more than just bruising – it’s good to ski another day. 
 Crystal Mountain in the video below, January 2018

My middle class life is not extravagant, but it’s rich with my remaining family (that’s growing with the next generation), friends, and experiences.  

Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, October 2018

Today I’m feeling the fleeting beauty of life, its poignancy. I have suffered, I have overcome, and I’m concerned about the future. But today, right now, it’s good. I am blessed. 

South Fork Snoqualmie River, December 2018
Jervis Inlet, B.C, July 2018
May the New Year bring you joy, laughs, and good health. May you find just enough, right now. Because this moment, after all, is everything and all that we truly have.

Deception Pass, WA, January 2018
Near Leavenworth, WA, June 2018

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! 

In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Happy Holidays Pacific Northwest Style

With long, dark nights here in the Upper Left Corner USA (the Lower 48, apologies to Alaska), we celebrate with plenty of holiday lights and savor time outdoors.

While I love holiday gatherings with family and friends to enjoy good food, cheer, and maybe music, for me it's really about the outdoors (surprise!). Whether it's on skis, snowshoes, or just walking, fresh air and exercise keeps us energized and out of hibernation mode (which is easy to fall into with only about 8 hours of daylight this time of year).

When in Seattle, early 1.2-mile walks to tea/coffee with the regulars at Preserve & Gather in the rain, frosty chill, or occasional clear skies get me going on dark mornings. In early December, we walk around Green Lake in north Seattle for the annual Pathway of Lights.

Sunrise walk to tea.
But I and many here are drawn to the mountains. Although we rarely get snow in the lowlands west of the Cascades anymore, we can get our snow fix in just an hour or two drive away.

Icicle Creek Canyon walk.

Early morning brought several inches of fresh snow outside Leavenworth recently.

So we head to the hills, lush forests, or ocean beaches, and get outside.

Frosty winter morning, Washington coast
Hurricane Ridge

Then we escape inside for a hot drink and perhaps a good book by a fire, which is very hygge (as the Danish would say.)

For me, it's tea.

Maybe you like it busy and bustling, or maybe you prefer quiet. Whatever, I hope your find your own authenticity amidst the noise this season. 

And, if you're a true Northwesterner at heart like me, I hope you find yourself outside as much as possible.

So here's wishing you and yours a happy holiday season. Holiday cheers!

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! 

In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Lowland Hiking around Puget Sound: Japanese Gulch

Now that the snow is flying in the Cascade and Olympic mountains, many of us hikers/walkers turn to lower-elevation places for our daily dose. Within an hour or less from Seattle, there are many places to walk in the woods and get a good workout.

This past weekend I ventured about 20 miles north to walk through Japanese Gulch in Mukilteo, close to Puget Sound. The gulch got its name from the many Japanese families who lived there in housing for millworkers for the Mukilteo/Crown Lumber Company, which operated there for about 30 years until 1930.

We passed several large stumps, evidence of the past logging here. What I would give to have seen this area before it was logged, when the grand old growth trees were abundant.

We printed out a map, but the trails on the ridge above the gulch are so twisty and hard to correlate to the map that we just took forks that seemed to head the general direction away from where we started (next to the dog park).

On a late November day, most of the leaves were down and covering the trails in a slick carpet of brown and gold. It's also muddy in some spots along the trails.

After about 20 minutes of walking down the gulch, then up the ridge, we had a peek-a-boo view toward the Sound at the only viewpoint along the way.

As we walked through the forest, there were a few jets and planes flying close overhead while coming in to land at nearby Paine Field. Boeing owned and used this area from the 1960s until 2007, and the railroad tracks in the bottom of the gulch accessed Boeing facilities. 

Actually the low jets were not all that bothersome, although I can't speak for the wildlife. However, black-tailed deer and numerous cool birds use the area.

Along the trails, there is much beauty to be observed in small details. Pay close attention and you'll spot lots of treasures in a winter woodland.

Maindenhair fern
A profusion of lichen
A friend says that water trapped atop a mushroom is a fairy pool.
About an hour (?) along, we took a fork down toward the stream that flows through the gulch and eventually crossed a small bridge. Then we headed back up the gulch.

This part of the walk, flat between the stream and railroad tracks, is not as scenic, but there were some interesting human-related remnants.

This old car has been in the gulch for at least 30 years.
A deep well riser above the stream.

Overall we walked about two hours with several stops (for me to take photographs), and I estimate we covered about 3.5 to 4 miles. There also wasn't much trail traffic; we passed less than half a dozen other people.

As we near the winter solstice, these walks in the woods, this "forest bathing," is fuel to keep my engine running through the dark months. Until we can get up and go skiing...

I'm interested in hearing about your visits here or other lowland winter hikes that you recommend in a comment below.

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! 

In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.

When You Go
Mukilteo is about 20 miles north of Seattle, Washington, sandwiched between Edmonds and Everett along Puget Sound. To get there, from Interstate 5 take the Mukilteo Speedway (Hwy 525) into Mukilteo. Just before crossing the railroad tracks to the ferry holding area, turn right (north) onto 5th Street. Continue north on 5th for five blocks, then you'll see parking is on the right. There is no fee for parking or using the area.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Gratitude 2018

At Thanksgiving time, I'm once again challenging myself to write about gratitude, as I've done numerous times over the years here at Pacific Northwest Seasons. 

Some days/years it's harder than others to muster the enthusiasm to come up with an inspirational post. Sometimes I have to battle my inner grinch, who has been stoked this year on several fronts. 

But then, when I start pondering, the good stuff wells up pretty quickly. So for starters, I'm grateful to have been born, raised, and spent most of my life in such a spectacular corner of the world. 

When I was a shell-shocked little girl who had lost her mother, I was nurtured by the abundant and healthy western red cedars that grew close around our home. Many nights while the East Wind blew fiercely down the Columbia River Gorge, the branches of an old growth cedar brushed against my bedroom window like comfort, as if to say, I'm old and sturdy and here; I'm never going to leave.

Some of the cedars on the grounds of my childhood home.

So for my "totem" tree (thuja plicata) and especially the tree that still stands strong outside my childhood bedroom window, I'm grateful.

Last night I had dinner with dear "framily" friends. Spending time with these longtime friends, in whose presence I can totally relax, is another balm for my soul. I feel grateful to have numerous such friends, so for all of them, I'm very grateful. I hope you, too, have such friends.

The two in the rear. And many more!
I've been self-employed for 15 years now as a writer/editor. Over the course of those years, I've had the opportunity to work on some interesting projects and meet smart, fun, and dynamic people. For the work and the people I've met along the way, I'm grateful.

Currently working on a Gas Works Park project in Seattle.
I've done some fantastic hikes this year and spend many weekends in and around Leavenworth, Washington. It's such a pleasure to have leisurely time in one place rather than zipping through en route to the trailhead. For the beauty of the north-central Cascades and the friendly community of the Wenatchee Valley, I'm grateful.

View up Icicle Creek Canyon

For the numerous communities I'm involved with, including the regulars for morning coffee/tea at Preserve&Gather in north Seattle, I'm grateful. Because community is the glue that holds together civilizations.

Early morning at Preserve&Gather, our table waiting to be filled with camaraderie.

As I sit here at the keyboard and think about my gratitudes, the list grows. So much to be grateful for! Good books, bad jokes, my family and loved ones, the double-edged sword of social media (yes, have reconnected with some childhood friends), morel mushrooms, the kindness of strangers, belly laughs, fall colors, art in its myriad forms.....

 Just think of everyone's list together, and it's infinite.

I would be honored if you share some of your gratitudes in a comment below.

May everyone have a place to call home.
Wishing you and yours a lovely Thanksgiving and holiday season, whether it be boisterous and hectic or quiet.

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! 

In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Foraging for Wild Morels: A Treasure Hunt in the Cascade Mountains

Several decades ago, I read the news that four people in Portland, Oregon, who foraged wild mushrooms ended up requiring liver transplants after consuming them in a stir-fry dish. They mistakenly gathered and ate a highly toxic mushroom variety nickednamed the "death cap."  I remember distinctly thinking at the time:

Nope, never going to eat wild mushrooms.

Then about a decade later, chanterelles and morels started showing up at local farmer's markets and grocery stores. Somewhat hesitantly, I bought a few and brought them home to cook. 

Chanterelles were my gateway wild mushroom.  Sauteed in butter and olive oil until slightly crisp, then folded into an omelette or spooned atop roasted chicken or fish, they quickly became a seasonal regular in my kitchen.

Since then, I've experimented with porcini, oysters, lobster, and other varieties of wild mushrooms.

But heart belongs to morels. Besides being weirdly wonderful looking, their earthy, complex, tangy flavor hooked me right away. When they appear in markets for a month or so each spring, I always snatch some up. The rewards in flavor are great.

Over the years, I read about "foodies" foraging for mushrooms and found blogs like Fat of the Land devoted to foraging. But I didn't know anyone directly involved and pined for an invite from afar...until this year, when I finally got invited to go hunt for morels. 

I was seriously thrilled.

Of course I've been sworn to secrecy, but I will tell you we left Seattle around 6 a.m. on a late spring morning. I can't tell you which direction we traveled, but we were in the Cascade mountains. 

Blond morel
Three of us traveling together arrived at a recently burned forest, which morels love. After all, they are among the first line of organisms to regenerate the burned soil and, ultimately, the forest.

“Morels thrive after wildfires because they are feeding on the released carbon and minerals after a fire,” says David Rust, a co-founder of the Bay Area Mycological Society. “Post-fire they give off their spores and regenerate.” 

After we parked, I followed the others up a steep slope into the burned woods with my basket and small knife. As we spread out, pretty soon I heard whoops of joy. Not long after, I spied my first morel. Whoops all around!

Carefully observing the ground all around and in front of me with each step engaged all my senses. While I make attempts to practice Zen meditation, this was truly Zen meditation. Paying attention, each second, to what was in front of me. 

Just this.

Factoid: Mushrooms are not a plant or vegetable. Their DNA is more closely related to humans.
And so it went, for much of a beautiful spring day. In addition to the exquisite morels, there were other treasures too, like brilliant tiger lilies and ferns springing from the burned forest floor.

Besides our occasional calling out to each other, it was quiet, with just the sounds of the forest, birds, and occasional breeze rustling branches and shrubs. At one point we heard a strange whumpf sound that I thought was a bear, until we realized it was a small night hawk circling overhead.

I must say, it was all addicting, the thrill of finding a morel or patch or morels, being on a mission in the wilderness without the distractions of "regular" life.

It was hard to tear myself away when it was time to take leave and return to the city.  I harvested about 5 pounds, but the others, more experienced, got 9 and 11 pounds.

For a few days it was all I could do to cook and eat them (it's not good to overdose on them, even if they're an edible mushroom) and give some away. So my patron/inviter dried the rest for me. They're excellent reconstituted in water and thrown into risotto, salads, soups, and more.

Overall it truly was a bucket list experience. I'm grateful for the splendid day, and I'm happy to have plenty of dried morels to take me through the winter.

So how about you? Have you foraged successfully for wild mushrooms? I'd love to hear in a comment below.

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons! 

In between blog posts, visit Pacific NW Seasons on FaceBook, Twitter, and Instagram for more Northwest photos and outdoors news. 

When You Go

Don't go unless you're with an experienced forager! I don't want anyone ending up like those people at the dinner party in Portland many years ago.