Summer Adventure + Tasty Bite Review: Part II

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Several weeks ago, I had a decent stretch of time off from work – simply because that was the way my schedule ended up. In a span of seven days, Tim and I spent five of them immersed in the wilderness. It was awesome. If you didn’t catch Part I, you can read all about it here!

I’m quite fond of backpacking trips that lead out of the trees and into a world dotted with alpine lakes, wildflower meadows, and grand views of snow-capped peaks. We have a few favorite trails, one of them being the Broken Top Loop near Sisters, OR. We hiked this 25-mile gem two years ago and knew we would make it a point to return again.

Sadly, during the year between our first and second visit, a wildfire damaged a generous portion of the trail (4-5 miles or so). The area is still beautiful, but wow, what a transformation of landscape! Charred tree trunks, dusty black ash underfoot, not much greenery, and no shelter from the sweltering summer sun.

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This time around, we took less photographs, but I think we still captured the beauty. And, we had a Tasty Bite meal to review. Easy dinners are always appreciated after climbing for 8 miles!

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We camped close to a mountain lake on our first night – the perfect place to splash around in icy water and cool off. We had the company of dozens of squawky Clark’s Nutcrackers. They are noisy and hilarious. Tim recorded them and you can listen here and here! I loved hearing their sharp beaks peck away at pinecones.

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After relaxing and rehydrating, we whipped up dinner: a pouch of Tasty Bite’s Ginger Lentil Rice plus some kale and vacuum-packed tofu we brought from home. Gourmet, right?! It was filling and very flavorful. We marveled at how we could detect all the fresh spices and ingredients.

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I would absolutely make this meal again. Dry rice takes too much time to cook when backpacking so this was a special treat. Tasty Bite provides lots of nourishment in a small pouch, and enough food to feed two hungry (HUNGRY) vegans.

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As you can see, Tim is a fan of smiling for the camera. We hope to get several more backpacking trips in before the weather turns wet and cold. We have a few months still so it should be easy!

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See ya next time!


Summer Adventures Part III

It’s time for the third installment in my Summer Adventures series! Did you miss Part I or Part II? Catch up quick because the fourth installment happens later this week!

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that Tim and I are lovers of outdoor adventure and travel. Last month we went on the most incredible backpacking trip. We have backpacked many, many, many trails and this particular hike instantly became our new favorite. Our three day trip was filled with icy lakes, thunderstorms, sunshine, glaciers, dozens of snowy mountains, rainbows, solitude, tacos (!!), wildflowers, deer, and dark starry skies. Where did we go? We went deep into the Three Sisters Wilderness near Sisters, OR. The trail we chose was a 25-mile loop around an extinct volcano called Broken Top. It was definitely challenging, but also overwhelmingly rewarding. Here are some photos highlighting the best parts:

Golden Lake – Located about a mile from our campsite on Day #1

Campsite on Day #1 – Broken Top and an unnamed mountain lake are in the background

Dinner on Day #1 - Soft corn tortillas filled with refried beans, smokey soy curls, bell peppers and avocado. We made these under the shelter of a huge pine tree due to on/off thunderstorms all night.

Tim eating tacos in the company of rainbows. There was a small lapse in the rain and we took full advantage of photo opportunities!

Sunset on Middle Sister and North Sister - This was the view behind our tent

Morning light on Broken Top, Day #2

South Sister

Green Lakes Wilderness – Understandably one of Oregon’s most beautiful and popular recreation areas

Mt. Bachelor – A popular skiing area during the winter months in Bend, OR

Can you see the hiking trail?

Dinner on Day #2 – Soba noodles, shiitake mushrooms, kale, carrots, and sesame ginger sauce

Tim making chocolate cake for dessert on Day #2

Eating chocolate cake with chocolate hazelnut butter on top

Climbing, climbing, climbing on Day #3

Lots of colorful wildflowers

Admiring a hidden meltwater lake with Broken Top looming above

Tim executing a perfect rock-n-roll jump on a rock in a glacial lake

Tim hiking across snowfields and red cinder

Me traversing across a massive snowfield

The Three Sisters – South, Middle, and North

That pretty much sums up our backpacking trip! It was unbelievably hot despite the snow and higher elevations. By the time we finally reached the trailhead on Day #3, we were sweaty and covered in layers of dirt, sunscreen, and vegan-friendly bug repellent. Plus, we stunk! Luckily there was an inviting, cool (translation: very COLD) lake to jump into near where we had parked our car. Needless to say, we dropped our backpacks and SLOWLY worked our way into the water. Refreshing!

Later this week I will post my final installment of my Summer Adventures: a recap of a family vacation in beautiful Nova Scotia! Stick around :)

Oh, and here is one more photo from the outtake file:

Apparently Tim’s timing is off…

Summer Adventures Part II

Are you ready for Part II of my summer adventure series?

When Tim and I returned from our cross-country road trip we were very tired. But, we did summon the energy to go blueberry (and marionberry) picking the next day. On that same trip to our favorite u-pick farm, we also took home five pounds of fresh pickling cucumbers – the first of the season! That afternoon I made blueberry jam, marionberry jam, and dill pickles.

A few days ago Tim and I decided to go on a day hike. We choose the highest hike on Mt. Hood, the Cooper Spur Trail. We actually started off on an unofficial trail and just followed a ridgeline until we reached a junction with the Cooper Spur Trail. This made for a strenuous, but very scenic 8+ mile loop. It was unbelievably quiet. The only sounds we heard were from our own movements, the occasional gust of wind, and river currents. Despite a gorgeous 75 degree Friday afternoon, we only crossed paths with a small handful of other hikers, all headed in the other direction. I love having a trail to ourselves!!

Mt. Hood

Can you see me standing on the rocks? The summit of Mt. Hood may look enticingly close, but it is actually still about 4,000 feet higher than where I am standing.

Our lunch spot yielded views of five mountains. You can see three in this photo (although they are hard to spot with the small size of the photo): Mt. Saint Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams. We could also see Mt. Hood (of course!) and Mt. Jefferson.

The trail and some more spectacular views

The trail on our way down presented views of Mt. Rainier (very faint on the left) and Mt. Adams. We also saw plenty of yellow and purple wildflowers.

People skiing in the distance

Tim admiring Mt. Hood (my favorite photo of the day)

We have plans for two backpacking trips in the next few weeks: one around Mt. Saint Helens and one around the Three Sisters. It’s time to start meal planning!


Summer Adventures Part I

Wildflowers and Mt. Hood

Hi everybody! It is certainly never my intention to let so much time pass between blog posts. However, the last several weeks have been very adventurous. Sunshine in the Pacific Northwest has been a stranger this season so any opportunity to find warmth is welcoming. And I sought the sunshine! I am splitting my recent adventures into several posts because I have too many pictures to share.

I mentioned in previous posts that fruit picking is the ultimate highlight of my summers. Spending the morning in a sunny, quiet, open field collecting berries is one of the best stress relievers. This year I managed to pick mountains of fresh local berries (with Tim’s help, of course). Aside from enjoying the fruit fresh and stuffing as much as I could into my freezer, I also canned nearly 30 half pints of treasures. My resource for delicious jams and preserves is The Joy of Jams, Jellies, & Other Sweet Preserves by Linda Ziedrich. Every recipe I have made so far has been a no-fail, simple, and fun afternoon project. I’ve had my copy checked out of the library for over a month! Look at all those jars:

Bounty of jams

Then, at the end of July, Tim and I visited my family in Pennsylvania. I hadn’t been home in nearly four years so the trip was well overdue. My older sister and her family, who live in Germany, were visiting too. My sister has two children, one I had never met. I am absolutely terrible with children but homemade cupcakes and trampolines can fix my aunty ineptness:

Cookies-n-Cream cupcakes

My nephew, Kai, jumping on a trampoline from my childhood

Sunset on Lake Erie

We lounged around in the sunshine, wandered the shores of Lake Erie, spent a day at the local amusement/water park, made lots of yummy vegan food, and then spontaneously decided to drive across the country back to Portland. We took a car my dad gifted to us since our 16+ year old car has been having some troubles that are too costly to fix. We visited friends in Madison, WI and Omaha, NE along the way. It was fun, but goodness, was it ever HOT! The temperatures exceeded my comfort limits and detoured our travels. Scenes from the road:

Road in Wisconsin

Puffy clouds enroute to Madison, WI

Wind turbine

Me and my friend Tait in front of Madison’s Capitol building

Somewhere on the way to Omaha, NE

Banana Pecan Pancakes from McFosters in Omaha, NE

Cloudy skies in Colorado

Little America, a rest stop in Wyoming

Sunset over Wyoming landscape

Wind turbines in Eastern, OR (almost home!)

The road trip was exhausting, exciting, and gorgeous. It was nice to visit with friends and drive through new places. We have a few more adventures planned in the upcoming weeks and a trip to Nova Scotia with Tim’s family fast approaching. Check back tomorrow for Part II of my Summer Adventures series!

Menu Exploration

Whenever Tim and I sit down to plan our weekly meals it quickly becomes obvious that we have a knack for repeating our favorites – a lot. For example, nutritionally balanced pizza (topped with homemade pesto, mushrooms, olives, spinach, and marinara sauce):

And BBQ tacos (filled with homemade BBQ sauce, soy curls, caramelized onions, and black beans):

And yummy veggie burgers, like this beet burger:

Tuesday is grocery shopping day and I have a handful of new and exciting meals planned for the upcoming week:

1. Summer Squash Soup (from Color Me Vegan)
2. Sesame Lime Soba Noodles with Shiitakes and Snap Peas (from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan)
3. Cashew & Red Lentil Burgers (from Color Me Vegan)
4. Peanut Butter Pancakes (from Color Me Vegan)
5. Couscous & Veggie Medley (from Color Me Vegan)

I always insist on including recipes we’ve never tried into our meal plans, but laziness can sometimes foil that plan. Despite having two shelves stuffed with cookbooks (and a fat binder overflowing with recipes printed from food blogs), I never seem to use them to their potential. There’s simply no excuse!

Summertime is the ultimate season for menu exploration because the bounty of fresh produce is unbelievably exciting. I am twirling with glee for pea tendrils, basil, golden beets, squash, peaches, and fingerling potatoes. This weekend I am hoping to buy some pickling cucumbers and can a bunch of dill pickles (not that pickles are a meal by themselves, but they are a nice accompaniment to vegan burgers and sammies!). I made them a few years ago and they were a lot of work, but so worth the effort (especially since I had a pickle canning companion)!

The best part about trying lots of new recipes is the potential to create more and more favorites! If I was capable, I’d challenge myself to try a new recipe every day for an entire year, but that would require some serious commitment! How do you avoid repeating favorites?