Saturday, August 27, 2016

Making a Day Special

Ok, full disclosure: my birthday was this week and I've been doing little things to celebrate . . . well, I guess all month, but particularly this week. I often try to get out on a hike on the actual day, but this year it fell on the same day as my weekly yoga class, and I sure wasn't going to give that up! Besides, I was compelled to take advantage of that small window of perfect hiking conditions early in the week before the heat returned and the wind shifted to blow smoke from the wildfires around Spokane, WA back into the area. THE day proved to be pretty perfect weather-wise too and these flowers that arrived before I left for class really made my day!

Orchids, I'm told. Beautiful, softly scented, more buds to open.

I didn't have a desire for cake this year, have been fixated on pie for awhile. So after class, I stopped by The Pie Hut to check out their selection. If I were having cake, it would most likely be German Chocolate. Imagine my surprise to see a German Chocolate pie in the case! Box me up a slice please - I'm on my way to City Beach. Well, of course I'd spend time at the place I most enjoy spending time at and ate that rich rich slice of pie sitting on a bench enjoying the view of lake and mountains. Sorry - no picture of that pie.

Mechanical Pencil sketch
Another reason I'd come to this spot was to sketch. I simply don't make enough time for it, am always on a mission or short on time but taking note of what I'd like to come back and draw nearly everywhere I go. Today it was the lifeguard station on my agenda, which had to be drawn while standing - a bit more challenging than while sitting but I've done it before. Interesting angles, shadowing to add, finding myself using the trick of drawing the negative space shape in some areas, and wondering whether to add the lifeguard. I hedge when it comes to adding people to my sketches, but not much of the lifeguard was showing so I gave it a go. Dang, he fidgeted the whole time, changing leg positions and moving his head back and forth, then left altogether before I was quite done with him. So if he looks a bit funky, that's my excuse!

My favorite bench and view taken at a different time of year.

After I finished, I wandered towards the car, thinking my time here was through, but as so often happens, I found it hard to pull myself away. So I returned to a bench and just stared off into the distance for the longest time. My yoga teacher calls this 'just being" and the human race should surely do more of it. My attention eventually settled on the sailboats that had come out to play. They do this every Thursday evening, practice maneuvers and even take on board novices who would like to learn the ropes of sailing. I noted at one point that they all put out their spinnaker sails and were heading as a group toward one side of the lake. Then I spotted a red buoy as one after another changed direction rounding it. Off they went in the other direction, our little Pend Oreille armada.

Typical scene on the lake

It was only the cooling of the breeze as the sun dipped behind the mountain that sent me on my way home, with a quick sidetrip for a take out dinner from the best burger place in town. Since returning to Idaho, I'd searched for what I refer to as "the burger of my youth" and I've found it here! Nutrition Nazis need not comment. :-)

Hanna Flats Addendum

I do have a few thoughts and additional information to share about my brief time in the Hanna Flats Cedar Grove. I do love getting back into the woods, but then there comes a point when I am struck by the dead quiet, sometimes not even broken by a bird call or the chattering of a squirrel. I'm suddenly aware of my vulnerability, that the animals that call this home rule here and may have the upper hand. I was entering this grove late in the afternoon, about the time many woodland creatures are leaving wherever they spend the heat of the day and move towards water. As I made my way deeper into the towering trees spaced wide with little undergrowth between them, I remembered bears roam this area and I should be making noise so if one were close it would not be taken by surprise but move away. I usually whistle to announce my presence, so I let one off while looking around. It was like being in a cathedral, my usually weak whistle carrying clear and loud under the canopy of high-up branches. I hustled along.

The point where the trail loops back toward where it begins is the thickest with cedar trees, both young and old. I was suddenly overwhelmed with the scent of cedar at a strength I only remember experiencing at Christmas when dad would bring fresh cut boughs into the basement family room to arranged on either side of an exposed overhead beam and along the fireplace mantel. Always a surprise how scent can instantly trigger a place, a memory.

Cedar boughs with their needles are flat as opposed to other pines with needles that hang down in clumps like tassels or brush bristles. This has always fascinated me. The individual needles are also quite small, so the overall appearance is delicate, light, airy, almost lacy. For the woodsman, a stack of boughs can serve as a mattress under bedding or arranged to provide shelter overhead. I might not know this if not for my dad's tales of camping rough while out hunting.

Something else I learned from Dad - see that long wispy stuff hanging from the tree? That's a kind of moss, he informed me, that the deer and elk survive on throughout the winter when there's not much else to feed on. Packed with nutrition, he told me, while I looked high in the branches and wondered how they reached it. It does become dry and brown and blows off the trees, but then there's also the deep snow that, if it can be walked on without punching through, brings the hungry deer closer. 

Technically, I think it is a form of lichen, but this is softer, the strands finer, like tufts of hair, at least until it dries up. These strands can be 12 to 18 inches in length. Can't remember what my dad called it, except for the moss part.

And try as I might, I simply can't stop photographing tree trunks. As I zoomed in on one of the last ones, I realized I could take pictures of their textures all day!


Hanna Flats Cedar Grove Tour

This protected cedar grove was minutes away from my hike along Priest Lake's Beach Trail, so before heading home, I couldn't resist driving over to see it. I'll let the markers along the quarter mile interpretive trail and my photos tell the story.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Priest Lake Adventure

Summer is slipping away from me, I lament, as I realize August is nearly over and I've not taken one hike on a new trail yet. Between illness, recovering from illness, baby quilt deadlines, wet weather, too hot weather - well there have been lots of reasons I've not been out. But I've been feeling perkier and I noted that the temps would be in the 70's several days this week (my idea of perfect for hiking), so shut my ears to the voice of shoulds and priorities I pay too much heed to. I didn't get over to Priest Lake last summer (another real gem in north Idaho a little over an hour away) so I chose that as my destination, poring over the pamphlets in my file. I set my sights on the west side of the lake and the rated easy Beach Trail.

I started at the northernmost point where the trail drops down into deep woods from the parking lot near a boat launch. Many trails in the area are open to mountain bikes and even horses as well as hikers, but as you can see from the sign, this one is exclusively for foot traffic - my preference. I don't care how skilled, a mountain biker tearing down a trail is more likely to bowl you over than be able to swerve around you and if coming from behind, you might not even hear him or her until they streak by - ask me how I know.

Only a few yards in and I am rewarded with this view of tri-colored water...

...and views of mountains with great swaths of exposed granite.

I'd brought along my better camera with an excellent zoom which pulled in these faraway shots. It was a bit hazy and I struggled a bit with settings but if you click any of the photos, I think you can see this is definitely not snow. I think this particular outcropping is called The Lion's Head.

From this end of the trail, you can see several islands. That long dark land on the horizon is one of the larger ones and has a trail around its 2-1/2 mile circumference. Only hitch - it's accessible only by boat.

You can camp over there and as you can see from this zoomed in photo, there's a nice beach for swimming and pulling up your boat. Why the trees look dead in this photo I can't explain - an ill-chosen setting on the camera no doubt. Truly, they are green green green!

And then there's this tiny little island with a view. I'd be curious about the topography under the surface of the water as there must be more of these little "peaks" not tall enough to break through. The lake is up to 300 feet deep and there is actually a separate upper lake that can be accessed by boat along a narrow bit of water that joins the two.

I never really know just from looking at maps and reading descriptions what the terrain might be like and was happy that this trail wound through tall pines.

And never more than a stone's throw from where the lake lapped gently along the shore. It reminded me a lot of the Pend Oreille Bay Trail closer to home.

It differs, though, in that there are private homes along here, even though this is part of a National Forest. I believe people leased property to build on but that structure has recently changed see this link.

At any rate, all come with some sort of shore access be it a small beach or a private boat dock or both. The trail gently undulates up and down and some owners have a longer drop to the water than others.

I wouldn't call any of the homes I saw "cabins", although some were more modest than others. Many had cute names attached, play on words similar to the way some boats are named. This one proclaimed itself a cottage, but to my mind, it's anything but the classic idea of one.

But this behemoth didn't bother with pretense and labeled itself not at all although I'd be quite comfortable labeling it a lodge.

And in your classic idea of what comprises a cabin at the lake, that getaway on the weekend, would you include a satellite dish? Oh, we cannot be without our creature comforts even with a glorious lake and rugged mountains filling our view out the window. Yeah, that was a bit snarky but seeing so many of these did make me chuckle.

I was quite surprised and delighted to spot this very large rock hogging part of the trail.

To someone's credit, it was not deemed "in the way" but worthy of working around. I love that.

There was only one spot along the two miles that I hiked where the forest opened up a grassy area.  The full length of the trail is 6 miles and can be accessed at several points from a road that parallels it on the backside of the private houses and campgrounds.

This is a land of tall tall trees.

Mingling with the private homes are a few campgrounds and day use areas with access to public beach and swimming areas. Several more large rocks share space with the beach.

One of these day use areas at the 2 mile mark where I planned to turn around has a museum housed in a log cabin originally built in the 1930's by the Civilian Conservation Corp as living quarters for forest service personnel. I didn't take time to go inside but did look at some of the old mining and logging equipment they had outside like this boiler used at a nearby mine.

There's also this information about our state tree, the White Pine, and the fight to save it.

And some mighty tall and thick examples nearby. No way to get the entire tree in the picture.

There's also a very nice area of native plants helpfully identified. This is the state flower, the Syringa, which bears white blooms in spring. Some of it grows behind my house in a wooded buffer zone.

By the time I got back to the car, it was getting late, but I'd brought along a brochure on a stand of old growth cedar in the area which upon closer inspection showed this stand was about 2 miles on up the road. As long as I'd come this far . . . that report in an upcoming post!

I see future trips to this area, maybe even booking a several days' stay in one of the resorts/motels as I've just scratched the surface of what there is to explore. Besides the rest of the beach trail and several other trails nearby, there's a whole 11 miles of the east side of the lake that includes a state park and more trails.