Up, Up, and Almost Away!

Last week Tim and I went on a backpacking adventure. Our original plan was flattened when the trail we chose turned out to be a mess of overgrown, tangled, scratchy brush that towered over my head in most places. It was disappointing to say the least considering the area we were in was gorgeous and crowd-free. Oh well.

Lost in the brush – can you see me?!

We turned around and immediately scanned our hiking book for another option. Luckily we weren’t too far away from Bend, OR, one of our favorite outdoor recreation destinations! Yay! So, we settled on camping that night on the banks of Devil’s Lake and then climbing to the summit of South Sister (Oregon’s 2nd highest mountain) the following morning. Good choice!

Full moon keeping us company by our campsite

Despite the never-ending steepness of the trail, reaching the top was a mighty wicked reward. We hiked the same trail six years ago and it was fun to revisit the area. The best part about the South Sister climb is that you don’t need any special mountaineering equipment (depending on the season, of course). You just need determination, lots of water, sustaining snacks, and a good set of lungs! The trail is 12 miles round trip and takes a whole day, but it doesn’t matter because the beautiful scenery makes you forget the struggle. Take a peek!

Early part of the trail – flat for maybe a mile…

Climbing higher…

A gorgeous glacial lake about a mile or so from the summit – Tim and I actually dipped into this lake on our way back down – it was FREEZING (literally). The day was hot and sunny and all the climbing made the quick dip a worthwhile decision!

Getting closer (see the trail cutting into the red rock near the top of the photo?)…

Tim climbing…

Tim walking across the crater of South Sister – we’re almost to the summit!!!!

We made it! Top of South Sister: 10,360 feet. You can see Middle Sister and North Sister behind us. If you look closely, Mt. Jefferson is a tiny speck above the point of North Sister. The smoke on the left of the photo is from a forest fire nearby. It was WINDY!

An unobstructed view of Middle and North Sisters

That’s the trip! The way back down was much faster, but harder on the knees. Thank goodness for trekking poles!

What are some of your favorite hiking places?

Mini Vacation Photo Essay

Earlier this month Tim and I took an extended backpacking trip in southeastern Oregon. We chose a three day loop in the Strawberry Mountains. The timing was perfect because I had just quit my job and all of the anger, anxiety, and frustration that had been brewing inside of me escaped (hopefully for good!). It was a wonderful vacation, especially since we were visiting an area that was new to us. Here are some photos from the trip:

We passed through the Biglow Canyon Wind Farm and the Klondike Wind Farm on the way to our destination. Driving past all the turbines was incredibly mesmerizing. They just kept appearing as we approached the top of a hill. When we looked behind us, all we could see were turbines dotting the landscape. And, it was super windy (which makes all those turbines happy!).

As we continued on, we entered into the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, which is essentially a 14,000-acre park in eastern Oregon renowned for its well preserved, remarkably complete record of fossil plants and animals. The scenery was stunning:

Next, we finally (after a good six hours+ of driving) started our hike! Above is a shot of all the gorgeous wildflowers we saw in the first few miles of the trail.

And then we climbed, and climbed, and climbed, and climbed until we reached almost 7,000 feet. It was a pooper of a climb, but the temperature was hovering in the mid 60’s, so it was perfect!

Then I snuck around in the bushes taking pictures of Tim cooking our dinner. We had gorgeous views across the valley:

And a lovely sunset too:

Lots more climbing on day two led to more views:

We actually encountered quite a bit of snow and Tim had to kick steps into it so we could safely traverse the trail. We were happy to make it to the top of a saddle and rest:

Tim is crafty with the camera so we are out of focus here, which is probably best for everybody.

We reached our campsite,

and made dinner.

On day three we crossed lots of creeks,

Goofed around,

and enjoyed nearly 48 hours of total solitude. We didn’t see a single soul the entire hike until the last two miles of the loop. It was wonderful!

On the drive back to Portland, we stopped and admired the Painted Hills:

The weekend was the best way to celebrate escape from a dismal job and kick off new beginnings for the future. You can check out more photos from our trip here (for example, you might want to see the chocolate cake we made while camping!).

I hope everybody enjoys the upcoming weekend!

Who’s the Big Winner?!

Hello everybody! Guess what? It’s time to announce the winner of the Soy Candles by Phebes giveaway! Exciting! The winner is… Amanda! Congratulations! Amanda choose the Fig Tea & Cucumber candle. With summer in full swing, the scent of cucumber should keep you cool and comfortable! I will contact you by e-mail so we can arrange to have your candle shipped. Thanks to everybody who entered the contest. If you didn’t win, don’t fret – the kind folks at Soy Candles by Phebes are offering readers a special deal: Simply visit their website, buy three candles, and get a fourth free!  Mention that you found the offer on my blog and sit back and wait for your candles to arrive! Seriously, there are so many scents to choose from, you won’t be disappointed. These candles will relaxxxxxxxx you!

Speaking of relaxing, here are some photos from a recent backpacking trip Tim and I took:

Big Slide Lake (we saw osprey!)

We encountered some downed trees on the trail.

Heaps of fluffy green ferns lined the trail.

Snow covered parts of the trail, but that made it more fun!

A buddy we met at our campsite – he posed for at least ten minutes!

Our dinner: soba noodles, coconut curry sauce, kale, and bell peppers.

Our campsite with Big Slide Lake in the background.

Yay! We are planning another backpacking trip soon, so stay tuned for more pictures!! I hope everybody is enjoying some sunshine!

Summer Wrap-Up

It’s been a long while since my last post. Summer kept me busy:



Visiting with my super awesome, lovely friend Celine;


Attending Portland Veg Fest;

Tent & Sun & Fog

Camping on the Pacific Crest Trail;

Nods on Trail

Hiking in the misty, foggy, rainy wilderness;

Misty Ridges

Enjoying the view from our campsite;

Picking Berries

Picking wild huckleberries;

Goofy 1

Goofing around to keep warm;

Protester Tim

Protesting the circus in Portland;


More protesting;

More Apples

Picking apples in Hood River, OR;

Me & My Dad

Visiting with my dad;

Portobello 2

Eating yummy food at Portobello Vegan Trattoria in Portland (lasagna);

Portobello 1

More good food from Portobello (portobello mushrooms and polenta);

Storm in the Gorge

Watching an approaching storm in the Columbia River Gorge;

Nods & Mountain

Backpacking near South Sister (a mountain in Oregon);

Wickiup Plain

Looking into the distance on the trail;

Tent at Sunset

Enjoying the sun setting;

Don't bug me while I eat my bagel sammie!

Munching on tasty bagel sammies;

Cafe Yumm 1

More eating (post-trail food from Cafe Yumm in Bend, OR);

Cafe Yumm 2

I think that’s about all I have for now. Summer was also lots of relaxing, bike riding, donut-eating, cooking, canning, baking, and spending time with Tim. Fall is my favorite time of year though, so expect a bit more of a post commitment this season!

Backpacking Wacky


This past weekend Tim and I headed down to the southern Oregon coast to go backpacking. Despite crazy heat and mosquito posses, it was an absolutely gorgeous area. We saw tiny frogs, snails, birds, lizards, snakes, leopard slugs and so many (think dozens of varieties) colorful wildflowers blooming on hillsides. We even got to jump and swim around in two cold rivers as a reward for enduring the toasty sunshine each day. And, we had complete solitude the entire time – we didn’t see any other people until we were about a mile from the end of the trail. A perfect escape from the city.

Oftentimes, people think of dehydrated packaged meals as the staples for backpacking fare. Tim and I discovered years ago that a little creativity and fresh veggies and ingredients make for much more exciting meals on the trail. While this option might make our packs a bit heavier, we eat tastier, healthier meals! I was too lazy to photograph our lunches but we snacked on homemade bagels (recipe from the kickin’ sweet Vegan Brunch) smeared with peanut butter and bananas we dehydrated a few days earlier. We also had homemade cajun tofu jerky, carrot sticks, pumpkin seeds, and a medley of other dried fruits we made. Here are some photos from our trip, starting with meals.

Soba Noodle Curry

A simple soba noodle curry – We brought along small plastic bottles of coconut milk and a spicy peanut curry sauce to pour over soba noodles (broken in half) and sauteed mushrooms, red bell pepper and broccoli. The meal was then topped with sesame seeds and some toasted coconut. It was delicious.

Of course you can’t have dinner without dessert, right? Right. When Tim and I backpacked around New Zealand in 2000, we brought along an Outback Oven. It’s basically a convection-style oven that you can use with a backpacking stove. It is small, fairly lightweight, and portable. We don’t always use the outback oven, but some of our favorite foods have been enjoyed on the trail when we do bring it along (think cinnamon rolls, pizza, scones…). For this trip, we made a chocolate wacky cake. My favorite recipe is from a Mollie Katzen children’s cookbook. We simply quartered the recipe, packed the dry ingredients in a ziplock, and the wet ingredients in a small bottle. Everything mixed up nicely in the pan and baked in about 15 minutes. We used some addictively yummy chocolate agave packets as a frosting (see photo of packets below).

Wacky Cake!

Wacky cake with about 5 minutes of baking time left.

Chocolate Agave 2

This stuff is so incredibly yummy. I admit to eating a packet straight up by itself. That’s right, you would too.

Next up:

Brekkie Couscous

Breakfast Couscous – Whole wheat couscous, powdered soy milk mixed with water, our own dried strawberries, pecans, agave, and cinnamon. Super quick and simple!

And now some photos from our mini vacation:








Cape Blanco 1.3

I am pretty sure I could do this every weekend…