Monday, November 29, 2010

Cooper's Spur and Elliot Glacier

In between Yocum Ridge and playing in the snow, our family continued its water cycle hiking up to Cooper's Spur. We wanted our son to be able to experience Elliot Glacier, the largest living glacier on Mt. Hood and the second largest in Oregon.

The winds are so extreme you need to lean into them and boulders are placed around the trail markers to keep them intact.

The Cooper's Spur Loop is really great for ridge running and provides incredible off trail walks to the glacier which do not require crampons, ice axes, or possibly risking death. This is a little more our speed right now. Next year we will hopefully be tackling summits of glaciated peaks and becoming Mazamas. Jules has already summited Rainer, so he is in, but I still need to take CBE or ICS classes for certification. If The Barracuda keeps working on his knots and conditioning he can test in before the minimum age of 15.

So out we drove to Cloud Cap and the Tilly Jane Trail. Tilly Jane connects with the Timberline Trail and gets you up high enough to the ridges that the trail just stops, but you can continue off trail for quite some time.

Looking back at the historic Cloud Cap Inn half way up our ascent. Supposedly, you can see through most of the hiking trails in Oregon from the summit (8,500 ft) when the clouds clear.

Along the way, you begin in forested evergreens but continue up the mountain past tree line. It is interesting to be able to watch not only the vegetation change, but the geology as well. The basalt along Mt. Hood cleaves very distinctly and you can see the work of years of glaciation. There are also giant boulders thrown all about which just scream, "Climb Me!" Not one to ever turn down a good climb, the Barracuda obliged.

Jules illustrating proper form while manteling and the Barracuda's own attempt.

I was fortunate enough to take an Alpine Environments class in college from alpine geography expert, researcher, and adventurer Keith Hadley. The knowledge he imparted on me has given me a whole new level of observation and understanding about just how fragile and important alpine areas are to a holistic planet. It was for this reason, we wanted The Barracuda to witness a glacier up close.
Viewing the lower portion of Elliot Glacier and its recession.

Glaciers are the largest storage of fresh water on the planet encompassing approximately 70% of the worlds fresh water reserves. Without their backstock of frozen water the entire water cycle crumbles. Not only that, they are the entire lifeblood of every watershed in the world. It is due to glaciers that the water we drink today was the same which dinosaurs lived on millions of years ago. Perhaps I'm just a science geek, but I think that is mind-alteringly cool.

Jules and Guadalupe hike toward the moraine of Elliot Glacier. It is like being on a moonscape once the ecosystems change. There is absolutely no vegetation other than lichen and the sparce Krummholtz trees.

Due to being on the north side of the Mount Hood, off trail and in considerable back country, we all wore bright yellow or orange for visibility. Even so, when the fog rolled in it was the dog who was keeping tabs on all of us because visibility was so low. We are lucky The Barracuda is a responsible enough hiker we can trust him explicitly.

Guadie would protect The Barracuda from anything and stand by him through a blizzard if need be. She was sure to continually run the trail between us and our son to make sure everyone was okay.

We spent a considerable time just marveling at the sheer size of the glacial trough and the midden piles of the moraines. As softly as snow falls and the mountain looks on, this is no act to take lightly. There is a reason the mountain has outlived us all. A quiet respect for the monstrous scale of the topography tends to seep into you like the fog itself.

Jules and The Barracuda throw rocks into glacial trough from the outer moraine of Elliot Glacier.

At this point, The Barracuda has witnessed the glacier, watched it cleave into a crevasse and shatter, hiked the tributary back to its source, played in the waters of the Columbia and the snows of the mountains on either side which feed it, read the journals of Lewis and Clark following the river out to the sea, and hiked up Cape Disapointment where the waters finally meet the Pacific Ocean. He has witnessed his watershed intimately, and he helps me filter its rain water every morning for the day's food. Our only hope is that he will grow to take none of this for granted.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tips to Scoring Deals At Goodwill

Due to the response on the previous post about our finds at the local Goodwill and the Goodwill Outlets, I figured I'd inform others out there how they can probably stumble upon the same great stuff in there locations. We have shopped at Goodwill forever and I guess I figured most of you all out there did too. Apparently not.

Since this was a rather impromptu post, we headed out to Goodwill so that there would be pictures. This was just a regular Goodwill trip only armed with my camera. December is a good month to go because people are not only cleaning out their stuff in hopes of Christmas, but also kids have gotten bigger and need new snow clothes. Tax season is almost over and people are gutting their houses (and closets) for the write offs. The post is sprinkled with items we saw today on our visit. If I didn't visit the store myself, I'd say I was full of crap too. You have to go and go regularly to realize the awesomeness. Click on any of the images for a larger view.

Doc Martin Rain Boots and Haflinger slippers were both under 5 dollars.

When I was in high school, I had this idea of what thrift stores were. People with dirty children, no money, and run down lives shopped there. The clothes were very worn, always off brand, and never fit normal people. If they were certain resale shops everything was fancy, designer, vintage and extremely expensive. Then I dated a guy in college who has shopped at Goodwill forever. I went to impress him with how open minded I was. I was stunned. There were designer clothes. There were clothes I couldn't imagine getting rid of that someone had donated. Even more, there was an actual strategy to shopping and finding the good stuff. I have been a convert ever since.

If any others of you out there have such thoughts (no good stuff, diminished status, or ill fitting) remember that so do most of the rest of the population. They don't shop there and thus are leaving the great stuff to others. The first thing that is necessary to remember is to get over your standard misconceptions.
1. It's not like it used to be! Goodwill used to be a place where people just dropped off their undesirable items or the remains of a garage sale weekend. Not anymore! Not only do people drop off mountains of incredible things, but stores like Target, Kroger, and others now use Goodwill as a place to write off unsold sale items. In this way, you can find underwear and socks at Goodwill now as well. Tags on, never worn, entire rack (like 30+) bras which look exactly the same in varying sizes with the Target clearance sticker right next to the Goodwill tag. The stores can claim they are "greener" since it was not going to the landfill and also get a hefty write off. I interrogated the sales lady when we first saw this because underwear was definitely on the "not a resale item" list for our household.

All of Jules' Carhartts have come from Goodwill and most fleece is 7 dollars regardless of manufacturer.
2. People are lazy! They don't want to take the time (0r have the knowledge) to eBay their stuff. They don't want to garage sale it. They don't want regift it, or have it clutter their closets, or have outgrown it, or whatever. The best thing for them to do is donate it and have the accountant write it off their taxes. By doing it that way, the entire value of the item goes into the write off versus the supposed amount they might get from selling. They can also feel good about themselves for giving to "charity."
3. Every time isn't great. Sometimes you go to the store and you find nothing. Other times when you find the designer item it makes up for it. This means you have to go often and search through undesirable stuff. It also means to not have great expectations. Sometimes things don't fit correctly or have a broken zipper which can't be fixed. Other times, it is like Christmas multiplied by a thousand. Buy it when you find it, because the next day it will probably be gone.

4. Consumer Culture is Rampant.
I will admit we are in a gear rich area where there are many outdoorsy people. However, I do not think the finds we have at the local Goodwill are unique to just that. We have visited Goodwill stores in Oklahoma which also had incredible finds (an Osprey backpack). The problem is the desire for the latest and greatest item. Areas where outdoorsy isn't second nature would mostlikely have even better items because those who participate go out of their way to purchase or have the discretionary income to travel to the outdoors. The constant need to replace gear for greater stuff often leads to incredible items which are only a season old.

The most important thing to realize is that Goodwill is a company which trains people either in English or in job skills. Some of the people who sort the clothing have absolutely no idea what they are looking at when they see a Solstice fleece jacket or a pair of 7 of Mankind jeans. Some of them may have developmental disabilities, some barely speak enough English for an interview and cannot read the language yet, some might not care. The company is awesome for this very reason, but it also means as a shopper you need to look a little deeper than normal. To find out about the sorting process, visit this website.
5. Look Everywhere! Don't just hit the sportswear section. My Patagonia and Mountain Hardwear capaline have often been found in women's tops or blouses. Today, LL Bean turtlenecks in merino wool were in with knit tops as were numerous Columbia Sportswear items. Jules found men's XL Prana climbing pants tucked in with women's miscellaneous pants. Many of my Nike DryFit softshell pants (and my Burton snow pants) have been in the children's section because I am a small female. Sometimes fleece is in with sportswear; sometimes jackets; sometimes sweatshirts; sometimes it is in all the places at once.

Don't forget to check out shoes and other sections as well. Most shoes seem to have never been worn and lots of the dishware can be bleached easily.
6. Forget About Size. My son is a women's extra small. He is 6. There isn't a children's sportswear section, so we look in the women's section. The colors are happy and bouncy, we don't tell him it came from this aisle, and we take a Sharpie to the word "womens" or "girls" on the label. I'm a childrens size large or extra large for shirts, but pants won't work because I have hips (thank you pregnancy) which look funny if I can even get the pants on. Sizes also fluctuate with the year they were made. I'm now a Patagonia extra small; however, I am a Patagonia small if the clothing was produced in the 80's to early 90's. Jules has found many pants which fit in the waist, but are high waters because he has a 36 to 38 inch inseam. They become knickers or shorts. So try it on and see if it works. Don't allow yourself to be married to a size or gender. Part of this is due to the above where many things are miscatagorized, but also lots of retro gear was never made for women and thus is unisex.
7. Know Your Brands. The icon on a piece of clothing often catches our eye long before the rest of the item. Nike, Salomon, Lucy, Prana, North Face and others often have a very recognizable logo which is placed on sleeves, legs, or back collars. The cut and cloth are also a great indicator of price. You can tell Patagonia and L.L. Bean fabric often from quite a distance. The tailoring and cut of Keens, Sorel, Kamik, Burton, and older Columbia Sportswear make them stand out from the rest quite readily. Skimming the shelves for quality can make searching much simpler.

Lucy makes some of the best gear for women, hands down. They only make women's clothes, are designed by active women, and the tailoring shows.
8. Consider the Price. I would never purchase Columbia Sportswear clothing for our family if I had to purchase it new. I don't believe in their company, the things they do overseas to their workers, or the quality of the product. However, I do believe in Goodwill, how they treat their employees, and the quality of their service to the neighborhood. I have to keep these things in mind. Columbia doesn't see a dime of the money and if a 7 dollar jacket it will get us through till The Barracuda needs a new one, the purpose has been served.

Some Goodwill stores are better than others or have a specific clientele of donators. Suburbs where money is ample generally have better stuff than lower income areas. They also have fewer people shopping at their stores. If you don't have luck at one Goodwill, try another in town. Sometimes only a few blocks can make a big difference.

Each week there is a color which is half off the posted price. The red plastic piece in the Columbia shirt indicates its color. If the color was red today, the shirt would have been $2.50. Those Prana pants were under 4 dollars for this reason.

The Bins!
The Goodwill Outlet is by far the best place we have found for deals. However, it is not for the faint of heart. Many people wear latex gloves and carry sanitizer with them because you literally have to root through stuff. This is the place where unpurchased items go. Items can only live on the Goodwill's shelves for 2 weeks to a month. After that, regardless of what they are, they are sent to the Outlet (aka As Is Store or The Bins). In this place everything is dumped (unsorted) into giant trough like bins and then sold by the pound. Some of the items are ripped or stained, some are completely soiled, others are pristine. My designer jeans have come from the Bins, The Barracuda's REI down jacket and Columbia Titanium soft shell are both from there as well. Most of our capaline has also been found there. It is rad. Clothing costs less than 1 dollar a pound. For more information about the process Goodwill's clothes go through and shopping at the Bins, this website is awesome. This is an outlet in our area, but not the one we attend. To find a local outlet this website has a few listed (though I have found out not all of them).

The long and short of it is LOVE YOUR GOODWILL. You will be amazed at what you find if you take the time to frequently look. It is beyond rad. You can not only get all teched out in gear, but regular clothing as well. I only took pictures of gear related stuff, but Banana Republic, 7 of Mankind, Gap, Ibex, Lucky, Gucci, Chanel and others have all graced the shelves. I look at the clothes and still wonder "Why on Earth would anyone give this to Goodwill?!"

Update: I have since learned that Goodwill Outlet stores are called "Blue Hanger" stores in Texas and "As Is Surplus" stores in Hawaii. If the outlet has another name where you are at, please let me know.

Friday, November 26, 2010


Well, we made it back! Wahoo! No truck in the ditch and us having to use the giant conglomerate of tools Jules prepared! Being a Southerner, driving in the snow is not something Jules is incredibly familiar with. Over the last few years with The Barracuda and I, he has gotten pretty good at it however.

Over the past few years, the snow has always come to us. Sometimes in large quantities, sometimes just enough for a couple of runs down the local hill. The only time The Barracuda has been taken up to the snow was so long ago he doesn't really remember. Regardless of how cute the pictures were, he didn't really care all that much either. It was more for Jules and I than anything else. So this time, we wanted to make it about him.

When we stopped to chain up, The Barracuda was gleeful just watching the snow come down.

Thankfully, the local Goodwill and Goodwill Outlet (aka The Bins) have been really good to us. We are fully geared up and ready for whatever may come. From Sorel to Salomons, Smartwool and DryFit softshell pants, Patagonia capalene or Jules' Ibex wool jacket, we have gotten everything second hand. Like it or not, the secret to fun in the woods is ultimately decent gear and we don't have the money to buy it off the rack. This is one of the first times I have come home from feet of snow with dry feet and base layers.

Dreadlocks are like having wool scarves directly attached to your head.

So off we trudged, kicking steps through the snow. Our steps went down easily 2-2 1/2 feet coming up to mid thigh on our little man. This was an important part of our trip. Our fiercely independent child needs to learn that sometimes, even though you could probably do it yourself, following in someone else's footsteps can be welcome help.

It is also nice to reinforce the fact that sometimes it takes quite a bit of work to get your big pay off.

Dad was a bit unsure; child was eager and ever trusting.

Dad was terrified and beginning to pray; child was ecstatic and still trusting strong.

Dad is thankful to get off; child wants to go again with his hero.

Goat Rocks!

We are on vacation house sitting for some friends. We figured why not go venture into the wilderness we are so close to and do some snow hiking. Though heavily geared out (Jules literally has 2 snow shovels, an entrenching tool, an ice mallet, 3 flares, a military grade first aide kit, and more clothing than I could list all in the back of the truck), this is slightly high on the craziness scale. If you are going to go play in the snow, why not do it big! I'm incredibly excited, Jules is leery, the Barracuda is driving us both crazy not getting his boots on, and the dog has heard the word backpack associated with her name so she is bouncing off the walls!

If no one hears from us in about three days, we went to Snowgrass Flats (Trail #96) in the Goat Rocks Wilderness.

Photo stolen from a flickr account via Google search.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Physics Fun

So, what do we do without television? We play weird physics games on the computer and making loud "OH!" and "Daaaah!" noises as our attempts fail at completing the level.

We have allowed The Barracuda open access to the Internet for a number of years now and he repeatedly amazes us with the cool things he finds. Red Remover is one of such games. Along with a couple others at, this game teaches the concepts of physics in highly engaging and very creative ways through play. The entire family has really enjoyed it!

Be forewarned: there are plenty of games on Play 181 that are not incredibly appropriate.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cocoa and Cookies by the Fire

We are currently under a "winter weather advisory and hazardous weather outlook".

Yay Snow Day!

The last few years of winter have been dramatically different than when I grew up and much closer to what my father remembers the area being like when he was a child. Though we do not get the feet of snow many of you out there do, we tend to have weather conditions which are just disgusting. The snow which comes down is more like a complete slushy mess creating extreme traction problems when driving, yet chains are completely useless. The clouds dump that gunk while then proceeding to create low lying fog to blind the driver as well. Oh Goodie! Then everything locks down tight at night when the temperatures plummet (and stay) in the 20's. Long story short, you just don't go out.
Maybe it is just the math nerd in me, but the ice can be incredible sometimes.

So we stayed in and made cookies. Though I cannot claim this cookie recipe, it is hands down the best chocolate chip recipe I've tried. It kicks Nestle's butt and makes Chips Ahoy shameful. It was taken off of All Recipes and looks very unassuming. A standard recipe, but it has hidden cookie ninja powers somewhere because it is always amazing.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup of butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons hot water
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter and sugars together. Add eggs one at at time. Mix in vanilla. Dissolve the baking soda in the hot water and blend with batter. Combine flour and batter 1 cup at a time. Fold in chocolate and nuts. Bake on ungreased cookie sheets for approximately 10 minutes.

Thankfully for our pancreas and our teeth, we do not eat the cookies while drinking cocoa. However, we take turns between the two on cold days. Cocoa is an essential for fall and winter backpacking. Though I now prefer tea, cocoa wins out with my boys so we just carry it to make things simpler. The problem with most powdered cocoa mixes isn't only in what miscellaneous junk they throw in (for seemingly no reason) but also in the packaging. When you are packing out everything you pack in, a dozen little wrappers is just annoying. We now make our own cocoa mix and store it in a glass jar at home or one single Ziploc when we go out. If you only use the non-dairy creamer, the recipe is also vegan.

Homemade Cocoa Mix
8 cups powdered milk
4 cups non dairy creamer
6 cups powdered sugar
3 cup cocoa powder

Put then all in an very large bowl and mix thoroughly. Keep in a dry place. Alternately, you can put it all in a gallon sized glass jar, screw on the lid tight, and allow your child to play with it for a half hour. We opted for the second option and it came back thoroughly mixed.

The fires been going all day, and though there isn't any snow on the ground, the ice still isn't leaving. We're in permafrost right now and it doesn't look to be breaking till sometimes in the next few days.

We're well set with cookies and cocoa.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Big News!

I'm writing this from the bathtub sipping on a peppermint latte, having just finished reading a large section of the book Radical Homemakers. My friend was kind enough to lend it to me and I must say it is AWESOME! None of this gluttonously indulgent moment would have been possible had Jules' meeting not gone well this morning.

The stress threshold in our lives tends to directly correspond to the extent we are willing to reflect on our actions. It was at blinking red light, sirens going off, nuclear core meltdown point before I finally quit school. It was at drowning our sorrows on substances, junk food, and late nights starring at the screen before I left my job to be home full-time. Jules and I were bickering and tense before we finally chose to homeschool The Barracuda. Each major choice has been made progressively sooner in the frustration gradient because we are getting better at living slowly, both as a family and individuals. Not only that, all the choices have been centered around fully committing to our household rather than pulling energy from our family. Now that we know how life feels when it is working well, it is much easier to see when something just doesn't fit.

So, when nights began to get later and later again, the trips to eat out more and more frequent, the tobacco usage higher and higher, and the mis-communications were turning into full scale squabbling, it was time to look around. Something wasn't fitting. However, unlike the times before, our lives really hadn't changed. This time it was us who were different.

The truth of the matter is, we have outgrown our house and our community.

We live in one of the most progressive cities in the nation and are well known for letting our freak flag fly. The sea of blue which swims around us politically isn't an issue either, nor is the large swath of green which is also well known to reside in our locale. The problem is we are in the city. An awesome, sustainable, liberal city, but a city none-the-less. As our ventures in simplicity have progressed, so have we as people. Our lifestyle just doesn't fit a tenth of an acre city lot, with a large mortgage, and an hour plus drive into the forest.

So we are moving!

The meeting today was with the mortgage company and the realtor came by last week. We viewed property about a month ago. I was sold then, but it took Jules a bit longer to decide :) We are for sure about the moving and also the location we will be moving to. The house will go up for sale around the first of the year. The actual residence is a bit blurrier.

Anyone interested in a sustainable house in Portland, Oregon?!

For most all intents and purposes, we are moving to the middle of nowhere. It is in the Columbia River Gorge, tucked back into the Western Cascades. Various times of the year, you cannot drive up the only 2 lane highway which gets you there (rock slides, mud slides, and snow) , you have to plow your own roads, and it is at least an 1 hour from any kind of major civilization (one with a chain grocery story) and more like 1.5 to 2 hours from anywhere which would be considered a big city (it is a small big city at that!). In the other three directions, you would have to drive significantly longer. However, we are surrounded on three sides by wilderness areas, a national forest, a mountain which is a major rock climbing destination, and some of the best wind surfing and kite boarding in the nation. You can go white water kayaking and horseback riding right down the street. The other bonus are the numerous organic family farms which exist in temperate climates making our garden rather unnecessary. This area will allow us to spend the next couple of pivotal years in The Barracuda's life drenched in outdoor recreation. It will also provide us with enough money saved and experience gained that he and I can through hike the Appalachian Trail in less than 5 years.

As for the specifics of the house, we have found one which is rather amazing. We really like it. It would allow us to cut all our bills in half. The problem resides with the fact it is on leased land (all those national forests and wilderness areas). We need to hash out the lease to make sure it is transferable as is. But it is rather awesome.

This is the deck which looks out over a lake.

This is the private dock right out front, which comes with the house and looks out at the waterfall across the water.

The sunroom encompasses over half the house and looks out on the lake and the wrap around porch.

The entire front is a wall of windows, making the house mostly a sun room and seem much larger than it's square footage. The smaller floor plan than our current 900 square feet is another positive as we try to simplify even further. The lake has ample fish and is a salmon spawning area during the fall run. It's pretty sweet.

It is not for sure however. Many things need to fall into place (Jules wants me to make sure everyone knows this) and most hinges on the lease agreement. Since we do not, and cannot legally, own the land the house is highly inexpensive but also cannot be a permanent residence for rest of our lives. It is a weigh station to enjoy, save, and relax.

If this house falls through, a coworker of Jules' owns another house just down the road which we can lease. Equally awesome and allowing us to have an actual yard and not a lake. It is kinda hard for The Barracuda to camp out in a lake. The price is virtually the same and so is the area. Either way, I'm rather excited!

In the end, we're just looking for a lot more of this.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Mulling and Plodding

Jules and I think about things completely differently. Often times we will have the same intention and wind up at the same place, but the getting there is quite different. This is probably why we work so well, but we drive each other crazy sometimes too.

I am a muller. My brain will be off thinking about things completely by itself and not let me in on what it is thinking. My job is to go along for the ride, busying myself about my day and work with complete faith that my brain will let me know when it has worked things out. This drives Jules crazy. He is concerned and wants to know when something is bothering me. Shouldn't we talk about it? What is it? How can he help? I honestly don't have the answers as most of the time I don't know myself.

When I was still dragging myself through school I would have a term paper due at the end of the quarter. I wouldn't be actively working on it. I'd have a title, I'd be doing research, but no drafts or outlines would be written. I'd just be thinking about it. As an English teacher, he would be incredibly nervous. There should have been a draft by now. Why had he not seen a draft to correct and rework and edit to pieces?! About a week before the paper was due I would sit down and write it in entirety, even if it was around 20 pages. I'd been mulling, everything was all stacked up well in my head, I had faith it would be fine. There would always need to be small edits here and there, a few reworked sentences, but no major ripping and tearing apart. My life is much this way. When something is bothering me, I go get a book from the bookstore, I sit and knit, I just let my brain be and it will soon lay it all out.

Jules is a plodder. He makes elaborate lists of all the details. Nothing can be discussed, hope about, dreamed on, or even considered until the list of steps is worked through methodically. He actively does research to find out if he has missed any steps. If a step has been missed everything is on hold till it can be evaluated. It drives me insane. My patience with this is not very good. I want to say "gimme the freakin' list and I'll just do it!" but I wouldn't do it correctly or patiently. I would miss things or race though steps. Jules misses nothing. He meticulously figures out every problem. He plays the game and talks to everyone in his slow and Southern way. Complete patience. As he says, "I get sh*t done."

As such, the division of labor in our house is decided upon by who has the better route to handle things. I get to handle the long term life decisions and directions. These are things which do not have very specific steps and require an amount of flexible faith. Jules takes care of those big and important, nitty gritty, decisions that I tend to take way too lightly and must "get done," as he says.

It is with Jules' all important steps and list in mind that I cannot write about the big, fun, awesome news I have been mulling over for the past few months. After a Saturday meeting, I can hopefully blurt it all out in one big, exciting blog post. Here's hoping that no other steps arise.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Making Kid's Boots Last Longer

What do you do when you see a practically new pair of fleece lined kid's Sorel boots at Goodwill costing under 5 dollars? You buy them and you don't ask too many questions!

The fact they don't fit your child isn't important, even if the child has three sizes to go, the shoes look massive, and you don't know where to store them. You know why? Because that can easily and cheaply be fixed for way under the 70 dollar price tag of purchasing them new.

We don't allow The Barracuda to wear shoes which don't fit him, unless they are his Crocs. (I don't know a single child who can immediately fit their Crocs since each shoe is designed to fit 2 or three sizes.) Fit is even more important when they are shoes he is going to hike in or use to really be playing around outside. The problem is, kid's grow so fast that quality shoes are an expensive purchase. Often, we cannot justify the cost with how little use he will get out of them.

Enter the insoles. Using insoles can allow you to eek a few extra sizes out of quality kid shoes. For this example, the Barracuda is going from a squarely 11 sized foot to a 12.5/13 sized shoe without any issue. As he gets bigger, we just remove the insoles and the boots still work. We have not tried this on K-Mart shoes. It would probably work as long as the shoe has some form of liner or insole itself.

Go and get a pair of hiking insoles from the local outfitter or somewhere like REI, Dicks, or Sportsman's Warehouse. They don't have to be incredibly high-end, but at least a step above Dr. Scholls. These cost just under 14 dollars. Most of these are not produced for kids, so just get the smallest adult size they make.

Next, yank the inner lining out of the boot. If you are doing this to hiking boots, the shoe's insole will work as well. (Very shortly we will post how to get the most out of kid's hiking boots by using quilting foam.)

Place the liner down onto the insole and trace around the edges. Be sure you are lining up the heel of the insole with the heel of the liner. In most insoles it is the heel which is raised going into the arch. Once traced, cut off the toe portion of the insole and trim it to fit the lines. The raised portion should not be cut as it is what provides the structure allowing the kid's foot to stay in place. It is also what eats up a lot of space inside the shoe allowing it to fit.

Fold the insole in half and guide it back into the shoe. I use the word guide loosely. What I really mean is manhandle the crap out of it until it sits in there correctly. To test if it is really in there, squeeze the sides of the liner for feel as Jules is doing in the picture above. The insole shouldn't move around or be so tight fitting it pushes on the liner.

Next, manhandle the liner back into the shoe. The best way to do this is to place one hand inside the liner and the other stiffly hold the back of the heel. Once in, repeat on the other foot.

Then force your child to wear the boots and spring around gleefully with promises of snow hiking so you can take a picture for the blog.

You can always go with the "wear three pairs of thick socks" method that my parents so loved, but they never seemed comfortable. Inevitably my feet would be on fire, or something would get stuck between sock number 2 and sock number 3, or the toe seams on sock 1 and sock 3 were rubbing against my feet in awkward ways which would start to hurt. This method alleviates all those fabulous ways that kids can make a simple hike last an extra 3 and a half hours.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Indian Heaven Wilderness

The Cherokee called them the Nunne'hi, the Passamaquoddy called It Kci Niwesq, to many Plains tribes they were the Canotili, to the Yakama and many other tribes who frequent the Indian Heaven Wilderness they were all present but not spoken of. The Indian Heaven Wilderness is one of my favorite places on the planet due to the souls which appear to live everywhere within the 20,600 acres. Jules had never been and neither had The Barracuda so we set off to a weekend of backpacking.

It is hard to tell if the quiet is eerie or comforting.

You can feel the presence of an "other" within the air between the trees. Perhaps it is the Old Man's Beard which hangs from the limbs and trunks, perhaps it is the fog which lingers or the burls along the gnarled backbones of the trees, but soon after the Lemei Trail crosses into the Indian Heaven Wilderness you realize you are not alone.

Jules would wear shorts on the top of Everest! Even the dog was cold.

The Indian Heaven Wilderness is nestled on the Western slopes of the Cascades, in the shadow of Mt. Adams. It is comprised of dozens of alpine meadows and lakes. There are so many they don't map half of them, you merely discover new ones as you hike around. The entire area is also covered in huckleberry bushes which burst into vibrant flaming colors. We were late in the season, but so was the sun this year so we were able to catch a few frozen huckleberries still on the bushes. These sweet treats didn't escape the local wildlife either. Pristine tracks from elk, deer, and multiple birds were spotted all around the lake.

You can't miss the Huckleberries this time of year.

We ventured to Lake Wapiki and spent the night in the calm alpine air. The rains came and went, along with the fog, but it couldn't deter us from the serenity of undisturbed wilderness. Jules agreed we needed to come back and we see a long day hike coming in the spring. Unfortunately, much of the area is blocked by snow in the winter months and it is a self rescue area. Not necessarily friendly for our adventurous son.

The fog tends to come and go all day adding to the mystic feel of the area.

It is the Pacific Northwest, so of course it rained...and the sun would break through...and then it misted some, followed by rain. It didn't much faze us as we hiked on. The Barracuda now compares just about everything to backpacking in Aldo Leopold Wilderness.

"At least it isn't New Mexico"

I have no idea if The Barracuda can adequately express reverence for a space quite yet. He will spill out "wow's" and comments like "tonight smells like moon" at the stars. He will spend large amounts of time updating his nature journal with the smallest and most mundane plants as well as the most incredible fungus and rocks. He definitely loves the woods far more than the city. But he has now walked sacred places on both sides of the country as well as in between. Hopefully somewhere in there, an impression has been made.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Yocum Ridge

We hiked out to Yocum Ridge to see the water cycle happen. As learning goes in our household, our son is a highly visual, kinesthetic learner. To do the science of nature, he likes to be in it.

Yocum Ridge is literally less than 1 hour from the summit of Mt. Hood. It is a 15 mile hike round trip and a 3,600 foot elevation gain. At 7.5 miles, 3,600 seems so very minor. That is until you realize the last 3 miles are over 2000 of those feet and the next day my thighs were definitely feeling it! The Barracuda did it in stride, though, and now not only has seen the transformations of water, but better understands the concept of preserving a watershed.

Mt. Hood as viewed from the Sandy River

As you begin hiking you are in the foreground of the mountain you will be climbing and the glacier is large enough you can watch yourself get closer to it. You literally follow the tributary of the Sandy river, back up Ramona Falls, and finally get to the Yocum Ridge trail to begin hitting switchbacks till you get to the alpine meadows of Yocum Ridge.

Jules filters our water at Ramona Falls. Yocum is a dry alpine meadow.

From the ridge you can witness the glacier cleave into a crevasse and travel down the mountain to create the water we drank, the rivers we crossed, and plants we identified. The scale is mammoth. As we slept we heard the cracking ice of the glacier cleaving off all night and the thundering of the ice falling hundreds of feet below.

Yocum Ridge in the background. Camping in Yocum Meadow.

The nights are crisp and clear up on the mountain (in the low teens) so the stars really come out to further our child's wonder. It is important to us that he experience the world on a level to which he realizes the city is a bit of a burn on the landscape. We want him to realize that nature exists in spite of the work human's have done against it and in fact, it still nurtures them. It is hard to leave a place like this without feeling humbled.

You are but a bug; a speck on the surface of the earth. We need to revere its beauty, understand how it works, and begin to live within it.