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The New Meaning of All Inclusive

We sat around the campfire, waiting for our veggie kabobs to fully cook, as we watched the sunset bathe the Sawtooths in a pink hue. The clouds this evening appear to be light blue and pink puffs of cotton candy floating high above us, scraping the sharp mountain tops.

For me, having a fire in the summer is standard. Many nights of the week we gather here to cook our dinner, enjoy each-others company, and share some laughs. Our banter latent with silly movie quotes and the sounds of Hank Williams Jr, Hayes Carll, and Muzzy Braun.

Campfires here in the “Upper Loop”, as we call it, are truly amazing. Allowing oneself to be summoned by the laughter of future friends and glow of the fire is all you need. Campfires have the power to call others, even the unknown person, to join in the fun.

Each year there are new faces in the “Upper Loop”. This is because of the many seasonal positions the forest offers, ranging from maintenance to river ranger to firefighter. I have felt like a stranger here, as though I am in an alternate universe, because of the ever changing personnel. Many times I have thought, this is the same spot I lived last year, the same campfire ring, the same Mountain bluebirds and mountain views, but I don’t know my neighbors, the blaring rap music seems different from last years guitar solos, and everyone seems to be getting younger…

On this week day evening, the campfire has summoned a few firefighters to share in the conversation and tell funny stories. After finishing our final bites of deliciously grilled carrots and zucchini, we notice a new face walking across the sage filled space, in the middle of the many dwellings which make up this area. A new employee, a newbie to Stanley and the West.

Normally, I would shy away from this type of situation. You see, I am all for change, or I try to tell myself that, but I don’t always enjoy making new friends or talking to new people. This stretches my mind and is somewhat mentally taxing for me. My husband, being the amazing human being which he is, on this particular evening, excitedly says hello, welcomes this man into our circle, and introduces himself.

Our circle, a fire ring, surrounded by rock, which is surrounded by half a dozen stumps and camp chairs, is where we have sat for many years, with many different meals, and many different people. All of whom are close and dear to my heart. The way I feel about Stanley, the “Upper Loop” and this fire ring was explained best by Robin Kimmerer when she wrote, ‘…it doesn’t change much from summer to summer. We can put it on in June, like a faded flannel shirt still smelling of last summer’s woodsmoke. It’s the bedrock of our lives, our true home, a constant amidst so many other changes’. And here I am, in my true home, faced with opening my circle, broadening my mind, and possibly experiencing something different and amazing, or closing it off, creating discomfort and dis-ease within myself and another.

Today will not be the day I regress. It will not be the day I practice non-acceptance. I see myself in this new face. I was once new to this place, new to these mountains, and new to the ways of life in a mountain town. As I introduce myself, I feel a sense of compassion wash over me. My mind may not feel relaxed or at ease when meeting new people or experiencing various personalities, but I sense myself growing and my aperture expanding.

I believe my husband said it best, ‘it makes the soul feel good’, and it does. My soul, my heart, my being feels good. I learn each and every day about acceptance, acceptance of myself and acceptance of others. My husband is one of my great teachers in life, demonstrating love, patience, and acceptance at every turn, no matter the conflict or event, and apparently I am learning.

 

Are you sure it’s July?!

I looked down, noticing the color of my toes changing from bright red to white. ‘Maybe Chacos weren’t the best choice’ I said to my husband/ hiking-guide-for-the-day, who quickly replied, ‘my toes are very happy with my decision’. ‘What a guy way to respond,’ I thought.

As we reached the first lake on our Saturday morning hike it began to rain… again. Yeah yeah I know, we need the water. I know I enjoy clean, fresh water coming through the faucet each time I lift the lever, but really?! Again?

Although it’s July I can remember many similar days in October when I have been covered head to toe in a wool layer, then goose down, followed by a rain jacket. ‘Ski pants,’ I thought, ‘That’s what I need. Where did I store those again?’

When we reached the second lake on this day’s adventure, I decide it’s time for some lunch and a reassessment of the plan. Maybe stopping here, Washington Lake, will be the perfect end to a cold, wet day. Although we had planned to do 10 miles instead of the 5 miles we have traveled, I liked being on the conservative side when it comes to losing feeling in my appendages (appendage meaning- it’s attached to me and I’d like it to stay that way).

Why am I so conservative and/or attached to my fingers and toes? Well, there’s a story for that..

In 2011 my husband and I were informally, as this race isn’t super formal, invited to run the Lucky Peak Challenge put on by Chad Fisher and Tate Fischer on the first Saturday in April each year, which supports fallen wildland firefighters. Being the wife of a wildland firefighter makes me,  without thought, do anything to support this amazing foundation (Wildland Firefighter Foundation). WFF helps firefighters and their families when tragedy occurs, so when asked we emphatically said ‘Yes!’. This race starts at Lucky 13 in Boise, Id and proceeds up Lucky Peak. 13 miles round trip, 3,100 feet of elevation gain (pretty steep!), but you go slow-ish and stay in a group (it’s not really a ‘I made it to the top first! haha I win!’ kind of race..if you get my point). We make a day of going to the top and back, followed by beer and delicious food.

On this particular day in April the forecast said rain. Because of that, we donned our hats and gloves, preparing for a two or three hour run with little water or food. What we were not prepared for was sleet, high winds, and 3 feet of snow near the summit with a round trip time of five hours. Two hours into the journey I lost feeling in my feet and hands. By hour three, they’d turned greyish blue, which wasn’t nearly as overwhelmingly eye-opening to my fellow hikers, as my inability to communicate.

Thanks to a firefighter/ ski patroller familiar with symptoms of hypothermia, who noticed my inability to move fingers and toes or communicate, I was brought down the mountain. Thankfully I regained feeling in my fingers and toes, which was one of the more painful events in my life. I was lucky only to have had frost nip, making my fingertips sore for four or five days. This event gave me a greater respect and just fear of the weather, and how quickly it changes, which is why I am thinking of ski pants and goose down in mid-July.

As we solidified our plan to retreat, we took one more look around, noticing the sea of wildflowers swaying in the breeze. Never before had I seen so many different varieties, all in peak bloom, in one area. The rain is graciously accepted by nature, and represented here in an array of colors and sizes. And as I reflect, I recognize my own gratitude toward it. Cleansed and renewed, I leave Washington and Fourth of July lakes behind in search of hot tea and a fire.

 

Snow Fed Waterfalls

As I hiked, I pondered how many hours I had spent on this trail over the past seven years. Had I been fully present and aware of my surroundings on each journey? Or had my mind pulled me into the past, rehashing some confrontation I’d experienced which I wished played out differently? Possibly  I had  been in the future,  conjuring up this very moment in which I find myself  now, sitting on a once-was mountain, watching  storm clouds pass by while  baby Douglas Firs dance in the breeze, while the lake’s glassy waters reflect the jagged edges high above.

I have always dreamt of kayaking along this lake’s edges. While  the middle of the lake has a granite slab bottom, making it seem as though the water is shallow,  the edges are a vivid blue, inspiring thoughts of the depth and the unknown. Is this where the large lake trout spend their time?

I imagine paddling to the opposite side and touching the waterfall, which is fueled by the snowfields above. My fishing line is  pulled by the small metal weight, down to the depths of the lake. ‘Not today,’ I think . ‘It would have been a bit much to carry a kayak up the eight mile, 1,100 foot elevation gain.  Next time.’

Next time would be different. It would not be this amazingly green, fragrant, or quiet. It seems as though the storms have kept the masses at bay, which has given me the opportunity to think and write. The journey would be different, but maybe that’s good. I predict, ‘Maybe, next time, I’ll have the legs for it.’

Here come the sprinkles of rain again, forcing me to leave my perch overlooking the lake in search of another cave-like boulder to take refuge.

Until next time, happy hiking.

 

Feed the Hunger!

In the last year, quite possibly a year and a half, I have made many changes to my lifestyle. Firstly, giving up alcohol (thank you Kate) and secondly, giving up meat/dairy (thank you Mariah), and lastly, giving up running, which has made my mind and body much happier. On this journey through veganism and raw food, on the hunt for mental clarity, I, for the first time, am experiencing life in an entirely new way.

Most days I stick to a pretty basic, easy, raw vegan diet. This means grapefruit, oranges, apples, smoothies, and kale salads, but on occasion, I need more. I need MEAT!

So what does a raw vegan do when they need meat?! Simple, they call their friend, and raw vegan (she prefers ‘live foods’) chef, Mariah Grooms, for a recipe to feed the hunger.

I think I should tell you the back story for all of this first.. From the time I have been able to decide what foods I ate, until the time I was 20 (10ish years), I didn’t eat much meat, or any meat. Meat always made my stomach hurt and, for lack of better words, grossed me out. But after moving to Idaho from Colorado, and originally, Oklahoma, my future-to-be step-mother-in-law, who is from Texas, made brisket. Not just any brisket, the most delicious, juicy, tender meat with homemade, freshly baked, buttered rolls to put the brisket in, which made these heavenly little sandwiches. They were perfectly sized for my big mouth, which I gladly stuffed with too many to count. That night I ate (not exaggerating) a whole pound of meat, which started me on five years of meat exploration which included bacon, steaks, bacon wrapped steaks, fried chicken, carne asada, and (my favorite!) MEATBALLS!

So now, here I am, craving meat, which my body and ethics tells me not to put in my mouth. But, luckily, I have my friend Mariah to help me out with my cravings.

Here is her recipe for, what I call..

Nut Meatballs

Things you’ll need: Mixing bowl, homogenizer (champion juicer with blank plate or a food processor), and a dehydrator or oven set at a low temperature

Ingredients:

½ cup Sunflower seeds

½ cup Pumpkin seeds

½ cup Pecans

½ cup Walnuts

(2 cups any nut/ seed will do, but this is the combination I prefer)

1 medium tomato, diced

¼ medium onion, diced

2 mushrooms (½ cup), diced

2 cloves garlic, diced

Jalapeno (optional)

1 tbsp Chili powder or 1 tbsp Italian seasoning

1 tbsp Sage

2 tsp Cumin

1 tsp Salt

1 tsp Pepper

Directions:

Soak the seeds/ nuts 2-8 hours in room temperature water, strain, and let air dry for 30 minutes.

While the seeds/ nuts are air drying, dice the tomato, onion, mushrooms, garlic and jalapeno, then put them in a large mixing bowl. Add the seed/ nut mixture to the mixing bowl. Add salt, pepper, sage, cumin and chili powder in with the other ingredients and stir.

Right here I like to taste the mixture to make sure the seasoning tastes good to me. You may need to add a little salt or pepper, more sage, or chili powder. Do whatever tastes good to you!! Hell.. even put different seasonings in.. whatever you put in your real meat- meatballs, add it in, it’ll only make it better.

Add this mixture, 1 cup at a time, to your champion juicer with the blank plate or your food processor.

After the mixture is homogenized (meaning smushed together sufficiently), put it back into the mixing bowl.

At this point, you can decide, meat balls or vegan tacos or nut meat burgers.. all of which are delicious and nutritious!

If you are going to make meatballs, continue: Begin to form the meatballs by taking ¼ to ⅓ cup of nut meat mixture at a time, rolling it into a ball and setting on dehydrator plates or a cookie sheet.

If using an oven:

Preheat oven to the lowest temperature possible (usually 200 degrees) for 10-15 minutes or until warm.

If using a dehydrator:

Place nut meatballs in the dehydrator on low/ medium (usually 100-140 degrees) for 30 minutes or until warm.

These nut meatballs are ready to pop in your mouth!! Or you can add them to your favorite spaghetti dish or zucchini noodles for an Italian treat, vegan style!
I know when I am craving meat and need to feed the hunger, these hit the spot! They are comparable to other real-meat meatballs, which may be another post in the future. Until then, happy eating!

 

Healing the Heart

There I was, looking at scrub oak, green and lushes from the overwhelming amounts of rain from the past month of storms, thinking of the family I had found. Through the forests’ many varieties of flora, I saw two buck deer prancing away, as if the sounds of three women blabbing wasn’t the usual noise on French Lake Friday evenings. This ruined our chances of getting good photographs, but was that really the reason why we were out there?

Meeting, for the first time in many years, the wife of my recently deceased uncle and my father’s, who’s death is not so recent, sister out in ‘the refuge’ for an evening on the water was an unexpected opportunity, which I gladly said ‘yes’ to when given the choice. After 20 years of not seeing my uncle, his wife, or their two children, I hadn’t ever thought of doing much of anything with them, but there I was, looking through the murky water at the carp swimming below, listening to the birds call to each other, just as us ladies were calling to each other. As I listened to my aunts tell never before told stories of my father and uncle, spending numerous hours hiking, fishing, and hunting on these lands, in this water, I felt, finally- the first time in 20 years- at home. At home in the heart. Warm. As if the mountains were lulling me to relax, the warm breeze filling my heart with love, and the laughter of two women, two amazing women, tickling my senses.