(dreary day outside my apartment window, taken with a make-shift pinhole camera)

Portland is being awfully stubborn by withholding warm weather and doling out plenty of cold, gray days instead. My immense love for cloudy skies and raindrops on the roof is fading into a deep abyss – I need some sunshine!

Tim and I thought we could capture some warmth by heading out of the city and onto our bikes. Well, we definitely worked up a sweat, but the cold weather followed us as we pedaled uphill and downhill. Where did we go? We went to the Banks-Vernonia State Trail: a beautiful, old, abandoned railroad path in Northwest Oregon’s coastal range. The trail maintains a relatively gentle grade with the exception of two mighty steep parts. It is 21 miles one way and we chose to ride the trail out and back, making for a long 42 mile ride. Needless to say, I was pooped when we finally crashed at home after the ride. Smartly, we started the ride in Banks, OR and rode to Vernonia Lake (our halfway point) for a lengthy lunch break. We were in company of red-winged blackbirds, osprey, and other sweet chirping creatures.I wanted to stop along the ride and photograph more beauty, but I wasn’t up for losing my momentum – which was keeping me warm!

(Banks-Vernonia State Trail)

(Vernonia Lake)

We snacked on some gluten-free vegan sambusas (a test recipe for Kittee’s almost-done cookzine!) before dinner to warm ourselves. These are amazing – pure, spicy, snacky, goodness that is portable, for folks on the move.

Speaking of Kittee, have you seen the new website she and two other amazing women launched yesterday? Well heck, you better go check it out! It is a 100% vegan and gluten-free website filled with everything you could ever wish for. Seriously. So proud of them.

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?