Monday, June 18, 2012

"Mom," said Emma, "when are you going to make some more fruit candy?"

fruit candy

Mangos on sale at the supermarket and strawberries from the Farmer's Market.  Last jar of 2011 plums (from our yard) pulled down from the top shelf.

Candy accomplished.  No added sugar, nothing but fruit.

Have I mentioned that I love my dehydrator?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Want to see some more geocaching adventures?  OK!

Last weekend my friend Anne let me and Emma tag along on a trip she was taking with a group of friends to northern Idaho to go garnet hunting.  It was super fun, and over the course of the weekend we found 27 geocaches!

leaving Lewiston, ID

This is the view back generally toward Lewiston on Friday evening, as we wound our way along the Clearwater River toward Idaho. We geocached along the way, and found lots of pretty places.

On Saturday, the entire group (10 of us) went to the Emerald Creek Garnet Area.  This is a developed area within the Idaho Panhandle National Forest, where people can "dig" for garnets in a much more controlled fashion than if everyone randomly started digging up the streambed and forest.  They haul in the garnet-containing sediments, and the sieving troughs where you extract the garnets from all the mud run on a self-contained flume with a settling basin.  This way, the large quantities of sediment that are the inevitable part of mining don't end up choking Emerald Creek.

Garnet hunters!

It was a drizzly rainy chilly day, and we got very muddy, but we also found garnets!

garnets I found (6 oz total)

I found a total of 6 ounces of garnets, shown with a dime for scale.  I have no idea what the quality of these are, but some of them are nearly complete dodecahedral crystals.  Probably some of them are worth polishing.  Super cool!  (Anne found the prize of the day- one that weighed two ounces by itself and was the size of a ping-pong ball!)

Emma got pretty cold pretty fast, and bailed when half the group went back to the cabin after lunch.  I think she liked it, though- she asked if we could go back this weekend.

We left on Sunday morning, and tootled home the long way, through Moscow, ID, stopping at a few more geocaches.  Here's Emma at a BIG log on a little nature walk we took at a campground to find a cache.

Emma geocaching

She's holding up a snail to show me, but I like how she is mimicking the tree!

One geocache we stopped at was super cool.  It's an EarthCache, so there's no physical cache container or log to sign.  EarthCaches are learning stops, to highlight some geologically interesting feature of that point.

This one was near Kendrick, ID, and was about plant fossils!  You can pull up to a roadcut, get out of your car, go look at the rocky rubble at the base of the cliff, and find FOSSILS!  Real ones!  Just sitting there!


We finally continued on home, up and over Rattlesnake Grade, which is a very twisty, winding road in southeastern Washington that took us south into Oregon.

Rattlesnake Grade

It was an amazing weekend.


Today after work, Emma and I went on a much tamer trek to find a couple closer geocaches at Bird Track Spring campground and Red Bridge campground.  We've been both these places many times, but the nature trail at Bird Track, especially, is always worth a repeat visit.  It's one of my favorite places.

Grande Ronde River

The trail winds out to the river through the cottonwoods and willows.  We always look forward to The Tree Gate.

the tree gate

The wildflowers were pretty, and the weather was lovely and sunny and warm.


This pretty little butterfly, a Greenish Blue (Plebejus saepiolus) was fluttering around the whole time we were having our drink and snack.  There were several other species along the river bank, but the weather was so warm that they were too active to sit still for a photo.

Greenish Blue (Plebejus saepiolus)

We poked around the river for a while,

looking for critters

and saw a juvenile garter snake hunting in the water, lots of insects under the rocks, a few mussels, and tons of itty bitty fish.

These are salmonids that probably hatched this spring (tiny ones) or last fall (bigger ones).

We couldn't find any of the three geocaches we went out after, but you know what?  It doesn't matter.  As Emma said on the way back to the car, "We found our own NatureCaches."  And that's really what geocaching is all about.

All in all, a great way to end Friday afternoon.

Grande Ronde River

Thursday, June 07, 2012

It's 8:54 pm.  The sky is still just barely light; deep steel blue and heavy with rainclouds.  I am restless and feel the need to DO something.

Emma is with Shaun tonight, and I'm home all by my lonesome.

I'm going for a run.  Because I can.

[Edit at 9:47pm]  I didn't realize until I stepped outside that there were not only rainclouds, there was rain.  Pouring rain, and wind.

I'll admit I hesitated.  But I went, and here I am thirty-five minutes and four miles later.  It was totally great and I feel wonderful!

post run

Sunday, June 03, 2012

All recent posts notwithstanding, I really don't sit around all day feeling sorry for myself.  Like I said, there are good days, too.

Emma and I have recently gotten into geocaching, thanks to my friend Anne.  Geocaching is like a grown-up treasure hunt, wherein you use a GPS device to locate a specific set of latitude and longitude coordinates and find the treasure box (the "cache") hidden there.  Sometimes it's a large box with trinkets you can trade, sometimes the container is tiny and you just sign the log.

Thanks very much, Anne.  I really needed another hobby.  ;-)

Geocaching is SO FUN.  It's a perfect excuse to get out and go for a walk or a hike, or just see a place you've never been (and likely wouldn't have seen otherwise).  I love it.  And it's very good for Emma, who is otherwise prone to whining when I say we're going for a walk.  Geocaching gives her a goal, something to actually look for (and takes her mind off how tiiiiired her legs are, pleeeeease carry me Mom...)

It is also helping her get past her fears of bears and wolves and getting lost, a relatively recent development in her outdoors awareness thanks to a forest safety talk that the kids at her afterschool care program were subjected to last year.  Grr. But that's another story.

Anyway, we've been out and about.  Last weekend we went to a scenic overlook right off I-84 west of La Grande.  We've been here before, but were not aware of geocaching then.  So we found the cache, then enjoyed a little hike around the area again.

Blue Mountains overlook

It is so beautiful here.  Breathtaking.

The wildflowers were ramping up, and the larkspurs were casting a blue-purple haze over the hillside...


with the hairy balsamroot just starting to bloom...


scattered among the sagebrush, against the backdrop of dark green firs.


We walked down the trail to the lower overlook, and while the wild pink onions weren't quite blooming yet, it was still spectacular.

Blue Mountains overlook, Oregon

By now, that nearest hillside is probably pink with onion flowers.  I was going to go back today, but it was rainy and gray and I didn't get organized soon enough.

It was a great day.

self-portrait on the Oregon Trail

So that was last weekend.

Today, we went on another geocaching expedition (slightly closer to home because we didn't get out until late afternoon) to Hilgard Junction State Park.  This is right outside of town, right off the highway, in the canyon that the Grande Ronde River flows through.

There are two caches here, one of which is at the entrance, and one of which you have to walk for.  We got the first quickly, then set off down the forest road.  I was glad to see that the gate was locked and we had to walk the half mile in.

Hilgard Junction State Park, Oregon

The wildflowers were beautiful here, too.


The columbines were lovely sparks of color along the embankments.

The last bit before we found the cache took us away from the road, up a hill and into the woods.

on the trail of a geocache

Note please, the relaxed and smiling face, and complete lack of bears and wolves.  Geocaching is a really, really good thing for Emma.

(Also, how is it possible that she is so big?!!  And is now a fourth-grader?!!)

On the way back to the car, we spent a little time exploring Rock Creek, which flows along the road and joins the Grande Ronde River.  Very, very pretty.

Rock Creek

I also discovered on this walk that if there is a rock outcropping that is easily scrambled up, Emma must howl from the top.

howl like a wolf...

Apparently, it is required.  Yet she's afraid of wolves...?  I'm not sure what that's all about, but it was very funny.

The prize for me today, though, was the flower we saw on the walk back to the car.

mountain lady's slipper, Cypripedium montanum

Any day that I see an orchid is a good day.  And to see this spectacular mountain lady's slipper (Cypripedium montanum) in the wild, unexpectedly, was the icing on the cake of my wonderful day.

mountain lady's slipper, Cypripedium montanum