The mountains are calling

“The mountains are calling and I must go”. John Muir

It’s been a cool summer so far. A pocket of unseasonably cold weather got stuck in the Pacific Northwest while the rest of the country has been sweltering. And that’s just fine with me, as I don’t like baking heat. But I do love hiking in the mountains. And you can’t really get out hiking at higher elevations (where the mountains are….) until most of the snow melts. Normally by mid July we’re able to get to most of our favorite trails. Not this year. I’ve been impatiently waiting, and when an outdoors writer for the Seattle Times published an article this week titled “Too much snow on your favorite flower trail? Here are 5 hikes you can do now, with blooms aplenty”
it seemed like she was speaking to me saying “time to go”. She mentioned a trail at the east entrance to Mount Rainier National Park where we hike most every year. As the weather predictions called for Yakima to hit 90 degrees today, we thought it was a good day to head for the hills. I watched the temperature monitor on the car drop as we drove higher. By the time we reached the parking lot for the Sheep Lake trailhead, it read 54 degrees. Hey, that sounds familiar. Kind of like the temperature for most of our visit last week to the ocean. Not only was it cool, but the parking lot indicated lots of reasons to be concerned about this “snow free” hike.

We put on our fleece jackets and packs, grabbed out hiking poles and left the car. A forest service employee was greeting people at the trailhead, making sure they knew there were many sections with lots of deep snow and obscured trail. We felt pretty well prepared so we headed off into snow. Early on the trail changed to snow free for awhile and we were delighted with gorgeous wild flower displays. Notice how the flowers are blooming as soon as the snow melts.

In snow free areas, flower displays were colorful and thick.

Also, lots of majestic vistas.

And many sections where we were left wondering just where the trail was.

While the pace was slower than normal due to all the snow, we did reach the lake. And warmed up considerably while getting there. However, we decided not to continue onto Sourdough Gap as we usually do. Just too much snow.

So, what does this have to do with being a food scientist and food? Lots, I think. No recipes today, nor photos of food being prepared. Instead another quote from John Muir to end this post.

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul.”

birch bark madness

We just passed the date for the annual wine bottling party with my wine making group. Unfortunately, Dave and I had another “engagement”, raising funds for a conservancy group’s land along the Yakima River Canyon. But I “paid my bucks” and got my wine. It came to $50 for 41 bottles of home made wine this year. Now, is that extravagant or what? We have Trader Joe’s “Two Buck Chuck” beat by a long shot.

Here’s the best part of all. The wine is fine (and I’m a poet, if you didn’t notice). But some of the labels this year were beyond fine. Last year we peeled off some birch bark at the vineyard, and thought it might lend itself to some very nice home made labels. And this year we made it happen. The first attempt was a failure. The iron on transfers did NOT work. But with a lot of messing around, we ran pre-cut pieces of birch bark through a printer and ….. Success!!!

Look closely. Admire deeply. Handcrafted. These really are birch bark, not paper. Unique? Yes, I think so. Don’t you wish you were part of my wine group?