Hiking up to Elk Meadows for Rosh Hashanah

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Monday, 10-Sept-2018

Rosh Hashana, one of the Jewish High Holidays, is traditionally spent in the synagogue, surrounded by family and familiar prayers and wearing our best outfits.  The most working out that we do is alternating between sitting and standing, along with some bustling in and out of the kitchen afterward when making the big dinner.
We didn’t quite follow those traditions this year.
I apologize to my Grandma, but I wasn’t able to find a synagogue that we wanted to attend, and so Sarah and I started looking at some alternative ways to celebrate the New Year – specifically, ways to celebrate that focused on motion and hiking.
Sarah, as usual, took the lead in finding us an excellent hike.  I, in turn, made sure to request the time off (as is traditional, since most companies haven’t even heard of the High Holidays), pack our bags, and prepare a bit of a plan for what we’d eat for the hike.
Eating is key, you recall.  Jewish holidays tend to have a focus on food – even Yom Kippur, when we fast all day, has the breaking the fast as a critical point.  Rosh Hashana is about chicken dinner, apples and honey, and making sure to ring the New Year in as a sweet one.
The day dawned, and the car zoomed toward Mt. Hood.
The target that Sarah had selected was Elk Meadows, on the South Eastern face of the mountain.  It’d be a fairly long drive, but an extremely scenic one – definitely a good way to start the New Year.  But we also held with another important aspect of Rosh Hashana – reflection.  Rosh Hashana starts what are called the “Days of Awe”, where one is supposed to reflect on their past year prior to Yom Kippur.  In that vein, Sarah and I discussed our various upbringings, Religion, and how the previous year had gone… along with how the current course of the year seemed to be going.
Honestly, it was surprisingly positive when considering how rough this past year has been.  Moving, being unemployed, injuries, challenges… we’ve been overcoming them all, and are honestly in a far better place than we were before.
Okay, that’s a lot of backstory.
We got to the trailhead.  It was beautiful.  It was a bit rainy, but we both put on our big-kid pants (along with our no-less-helpful rainpants), shouldered our packs, and started in.  Ollie had her backpack too, of course, and was running her usual role as outrider – making sure no interesting smells or food could sneak up on us without her having first thoroughly investigated them.
The hike in was lovely – a really pleasant increase in distance and elevation gain from our previous weekend’s hike to Veda lake.  It wasn’t extremely long, but it was definitely an increase in both duration and difficulty… which is good, since increasing difficulty is the best way to ramp up strength and become unstoppable juggernauts of endurance.
Past that… it was hiking, you know?  We chatted, walked, chatted some more, and even took a short break at one point!  Super exciting stuff.
The most exciting was the meadow though – Once we arrived, we seriously had to just take a few minutes to sit and enjoy the views.  Elk Meadows is up at elevation – right around 5,200 ft, in fact – and right on the steps of Mt. Hood.  it’s gorgeous; a huge rolling alpine meadow with a few copse of trees connected by little streams and rolling grass.  Even better, we found what we assume to be a trail maintenance crew camp!  We’re talking a little area complete with table and chairs (made of cut trees), tree benches, and a perfect view over the meadow toward Mt. Hood.
With a camp like that, there’s no way we could have found anything better.  Time to stop, and enjoy a Rosh Hashanah lunch!
Lunch was:
  • Apples and Honey.  Obviously.  But two types of apple, and two types of honey!  Because we’re fancy.
  • Hot Cocoa.  Not just regular cocoa either; Sarah mixed us up some rather impressive cocoa ahead of time, and kept it in a thermos so that it’d be nice and warm.
  • Sandwiches, made fresh!  These.  These were the key.  I was dreaming about these sandwiches all day as we hiked.  Fresh baguette.  Thin sliced Fuji apples.  Brie, spread over the whole piece of bread.  Cured prosciutto.  Drool!

And it was a glorious lunch.  Perfect views, perfect company, and perfect weather.  A little chilly, which was ideal for the Cocoa to help warm us right back up.

 

After lunch we rested a bit, and explored the meadows.  It was pleasant and relaxing – we’d left our bags, and so just wandered for a bit, enjoying the breeze and the sun and the open air.  Lovely.

The hike back?  Ehh, nothing too special, honestly.  We passed a family who was on their way up to the meadows who’d never seen a dog as… energetic… as Ollie, which was definitely entertaining, but aside from that it was just fun and pleasant.

The drive home was the same – nothing to really write home about, though we did stop to get some excellent black cherry lattes to help fuel our return drive, and continue the tradition of starting the New Year off sweetly.

 

 

Camping at Veda Lake 02 & 03 September, 2018

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Camping at Veda Lake 02 & 03 September, 2018

Sunday, 02-Sept-2018 through Monday, 03-Sept-2018

 

It’s labor day weekend, and we’re not planning on laboring particularly hard.  In fact, our goal is to basically labor not at all.  The car’s going to do the bulk of the laboring.
Specifically, we’re going backpacking!  Sarah’s first post-surgery backpacking trip!  Woo!
It’s a trial run, though, not a full-on trip.  More of a “see how our legs feel, and make sure all the gear still works” kind of trip, instead of a “let’s work ourselves and be exhausted by the end of it” sort of trip.
With that in mind, Sarah was careful about which hike to pick… and found what was absolutely the perfect destination for us: a place called Veda Lake.  It’s a small lake South of Mt. Hood, about a mile away from the trailhead.  The challenge, though, is getting to the trailhead itself – it’s 30min down an extremely rough road – rough enough that the trip reports all warned us that we’d need a tough vehicle and even tougher nerves to make it up.
Sunday
Thankfully, we’re tough cookies, and the Subaru is just as tough a car as we are cookies.  We made it up without any trouble, and found a beautifully empty parking lot waiting for us.  There were cars there, true, but not nearly as many as we’d seen on the drive in – and since it was labor day that was a rather major blessing for us.
The hike in?  It went quickly and easily.
I mean, come on.  It was barely over a mile – we’re out of shape, but thankfully not that far out of shape.  I’ve been working out a fair bit, and Sarah’s been doing a ton of PT, so the hike was pretty clean for us.  The only challenges arose from my backpack – this was the first time I’d taken it out for a real backpacking trip, and it’s definitely a bit different than the one I’ve gotten used to.  I… hesitate to admit to the sheer number of curses I uttered as I was packing it and trying to get it comfortable, but that’s how it goes with a new pack, right?
We walked in, past a few groups walking out, and even passing one going in!  Don’t let that fool you though, the only reason we were able to pass them was because they were a huge team – three humans, four dogs, and one kayak.  Not one of the light ones either… one of those heavy wal-mart kayaks.  They… they were making some life decisions that day.
Anyways, we ended up being thankful for that Kayak, because it slowed the other team down long enough for Sarah, Ollie and I to get one of the best campsites on the lake.  It wasn’t right on the water, but it had a nice fallen tree to eat dinner by, and enough room for us to set up the tent on perfectly level ground beautifully devoid of any roots or rocks.  It was lovely, and we had camp set up quickly enough that we were able to spend some time exploring the lake and playing around in the water before dinner.
One strange thing we found?  Spears.  As in, wooden sticks that had been sharpened, and stabbed into a dead tree in our campsite.  Not in a creepy way, though.  I know that description sounds “children of the forest hunting for your face-meat”, but it was more “some young kids sharpened sticks and threw them at a tree because it’s fun” sort of thing.  So clearly Sarah and I had a spear-throwing competition in the middle of the woods.  I can’t remember who won, but I can promise that Sarah and I both enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.
Dinner?  Simple stuff this time – just mountain house freeze-dried meals and some whiskey and tea.  It was a practice run, remember, so we wanted to go light and simple.  No back country cooking cuisine this time, I’m afraid.  But hey – that’s fine.  We enjoyed ourselves immensely!  Just being outside, watching the sun set and then watching the stars come out… it was beautiful, and an amazing chance to enjoy spending time with each other.
Evening
Random challenge that I didn’t expect to run into?  Getting Ollie to come to bed.  When we camp, Ollie usually runs right into the tent… but for some reason she was on full sentry-duty this time, insistent on guarding the campsite all evening.  She was good, and came when we called her, but she wasn’t super happy about it.  She’d even made a little nest for herself under one of the trees nearby, so that she could overlook the camp and keep watch… cute!
Monday
Monday dawned bright and early – it was perfect, and we were even able to wake up quietly and pleasantly, since Ollie was nicely tired from the day before and wasn’t quite into full spaz mode just yet.  Getting to bed early definitely helped too; we were up and mobile early, having breakfast and enjoying seeing the sun rising over the mountains around us.
Quick side note?  Starbucks instant lattes are delicious… when they’re fresh.  Turns out, they do go bad.  Not like “make you sick” bad, but… definitely less than optimal.
We played around in the lake a little bit, but honestly… it was cold, yo.  Veda Lake is in a depression, with pretty steep hills all around it, so we didn’t get any direct sunlight until we had already packed up and were heading out, sometime around 9:30 or 10:00.
We’d planned on staying most of the day; swimming and catching crawfish and enjoying the solitude of the lake, but that didn’t quite work… so instead we aimed to head back into town early and enjoy the chance to rest, relax, and make a fancy dinner.
Packing went well, hiking went well… the walk out was honestly really pleasant.  The sun had already risen, so it was that perfect kind of weather where it’s warm, but not hot quite yet.  Cool enough that we enjoyed the walking, but not so cold that we wanted to put jackets on.
Ollie, of course, loved the whole event – sprinting forward and backwards, jumping over logs, and sending out the kind of happy energy that makes you wish that you could just run screaming through the woods for hours at a time.  You know, like I did when I was younger and somehow even less sane than I currently am?  Yeah, just like that.
It was a good trip.
**Last side note: Ollie doesn’t like sitting up front at first.  She’s always cranky about coming up, instead of just hanging out in the back seat.  But the problem is that she gets bored in the back seat, and barks at everything that looks interesting as we drive.  Once we drag her into the front seat, she remembers how fun it is to stick your head out the window!**

Sarah and Ben’s three year anniversary!

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Sarah and Ben’s three year anniversary!

Tuesday, August 14th and Wednesday, August 15th

 

Three years.

Three years of adventures, excitement, challenges, love and mutual admiration.

We’ve lived an hour apart, Sarah’s gone on a multi-month roadtrip, and we’ve lived together in a tiny town of 7,200 people.  We moved her from Portland to Hood River, and then from Hood River back to Portland.

We’ve been to Spain, England, Scotland and Italy – not including layovers.  We’ve climbed all over, succeeded at summits and given up on summitting less than 100ft from the summit block.  We’ve backpacked and hiked, biked and roadtripped.

Three.  Years.

 

Now, our anniversary fell on a Wednesday.  Thankfully, my job is flexible enough (and limited to a hard-cap of 40hrs per week) that I was able to bend my hours so we could take the whole day off.  Our original plan was to go up to Mt. Adams, and camp out at a small lake near the base of the mountain… but unfortunately this is fire season, and that plan pretty quickly got dumped in favor of driving somewhere a little less smokey.

Sarah searched far and wide, pouring over maps and lists of campgrounds.  She cross-referenced air quality maps to campsites, and finally found our destination: a campground on the North Fork of the Siuslaw river.  It wasn’t a short drive from the house, but that wouldn’t be too much of a hassle – She’d pack the car, and then as soon as I got home from work we’d catapult off into the sunset!

 

Tuesday

Getting on the road ended up taking a bit longer than expected, unfortunately… but that’s how things go, and soon enough we were burning gas escaping the smoke and smog of Portland.  We had a few hours of driving ahead of us, but we churned through it pretty quickly – even making some time to stop at Dairy Queen and have a quick snack to help us power through the last few miles to the campsite.

 

And man, this was a campsite.  Nicely secluded in the woods, surrounded by massively tall trees and miles away from the highway noise or forest fire smoke.  A dense tree canopy overhead, and a nice tent pad for us to set up on.  Ollie, of course, was freaking out the whole time about how awesome it is to be in the woods.  Thankfully she wasn’t barking, but just running around in circles trying to smell all the trees and bushes and branches and dirt all at once.

It kept her occupied, though, which made setting up camp a heck of a lot easier for Sarah and I.

Once camp was set up?  I’d love to say that we made a small fire and relaxed around it, just talking and enjoying the night… but honestly?  We just passed out.  It had been a really long drive, after a rather tough escape from Portland, and by that point we both needed the sleep more than anything else.

 

Wednesday

Waking up in the forest, in a tent, is amazing.

Even when waking up in a forest, in a tent, with a dog who desperately wants to run and explore and hunt.

Logically, it should be really annoying – Having someone literally standing on your face, whining and yelping to be let out is not really pleasant or relaxing.  But somehow it’s endearing, just how earnest Ollie is about it.  She’s not doing anything to be mean, it’s just that she’s effectively a machine designed and bred to hunt and track and explore… and there’s an outside that needs to be hunted, tracked, and explored.  You want to be annoyed at her, but all you can do is smile, hook her up to her leash, and set her loose.

So, that meant we got up fairly early, for it being our day off.

I mean, we were awake fairly early.  We’ve gotten wise to Ollie’s ways by now, and had set up a leash for her outside that bought us a solid extra 45min of sleep before we had to legit get out of the sleeping bags and start making breakfast.  But that’s okay – Coffee and oatmeal is always a good way to start the day, especially when it’s camping!!

 

Once coffee was drank and a light breakfast was eaten we headed back into town toward out first stop of the day – a coffee shop on the river near the bay.  Yes, yes, we’d just had breakfast and coffee… but we still needed second breakfast, obviously, and second coffee to go with it.  The views were gorgeous, the coffee was strong, and the breakfast burrito was… well, it was definitely interesting.  It was delicious, but the fact that we had to microwave it ourselves was a little surprising, to say the least.

Staring off over the fog-covered river though, we didn’t mind a microwaved burrito to go with our artisnal lattes.  It was beautiful, and since Ollie was hanging out in the car we were able to thoroughly enjoy ourselves.

We relaxed at the coffee shop for a while, then did a bit of a walk around town.  It was a small tourist / fishing town, sort of like some of the smaller places around Maine or New Hampshire, and I really enjoyed it.

 

 

From there, we headed toward our main target of the day – Hobbit Beach.

Sarah had picked it out because it was a fairly short hike in from the trailhead, was mostly deserted, and had huge long runs of open sand for Ollie to run and play on.  Ohh, and it also had faces carved into the cliffs.

That last part was pretty key, actually.  Really adds to the mystery of the place, you know?  Not creepy at all, imagining faces being carved into cliff sides…

The hike in was lovely – it was a bit steeper than we expected, but it went well which is what matters in the end.  Sarah’s legs held up quite well, and we both enjoyed the chance to get back into the woods and enjoy the outdoors a bit.  Seriously enjoy the outdoors – Sarah was literally giggling the whole time, hopping around and loving the fact that she could fully walk again.

The beach itself?  It was what you would expect.  Lovely, huge views, and the amazing sounds and smells of the pounding Pacific Ocean.  The cliff side carved faces were a bit less impressive than expected, but that’s totally fine because it meant that they were far less creepy than we’d expected.  Sarah did carve her own, of course, but went with a bit more whimsical option instead of the standard fantasy-style faces.  She made a cat.

 

After enjoying the beach for a good long while we headed back, and drove back home to Portland.  Simple and easy, but pleasant and extremely fun.