Thursday, August 7, 2014

Cliff Lake 2014: Day 4 -There and Back Again

Here we are on the final day of our hike.  The morning started off smoky and cloudy.  The wind had picked up and grew strong during the night and brought smoke over from the French Fire.  It was a little hard to breath so we didn't do much sleeping in.  As soon as it was dawn, we began packing up.  By the time we had finished breakfast and packed, the smoke cleared away somewhat, making it easier to breath.  We hit the trail early, leaving behind the beauty of the high Sierras to descend back down into reality.  We followed the same hike out as we did hiking in.  The overcast sky made all the vivid greens pop out.  It was absolutely beautiful.
I feel so blessed to have been able to go on this hike with my amazing husband.  While I missed my kids a lot, it was really nice to be able to have some "us" time.  Some day when the kids are older, they will be coming on these hikes with us and I can't wait to be able to share these experiences with them.  Hopefully they will develop a love for these quiet woods like we have.

Happy Anniversary to my wonderful Bryce who has made these past ten years the best in my life.  Here's to many more wonderful memories together!

In case you missed them:

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Cliff Lake 2014: Day 3

click on the picture to make it bigger.
 Here we are at day 3 of our anniversary hike.  This was a day that we kind of took it easy -sort of.  We decided we wanted to hike to the top of Dogtooth Peak since the last time we were up there (two years ago) we were involved in a search and rescue and didn't really get to enjoy it.  The panoramic shot in the above picture is about half way up where you can see several of the Dinkey Lakes (which aren't as easy to see in the picture) as well as a couple of the meadows we had hiked through the day before.  If for nothing else, the hike up to Dogtooth peak was good because it really gave us a perspective of just how far we had walked the day before.  The map below shows our general rout.  In reality we did a lot of exploring and just meandered our way up to the top.
 Here's a picture of the actual peak.  Do you see that big pile of rocks?  Yeah, we climbed all that.  I will admit that it was a lot of fun and I felt quite adventurous.
 When you get to the top of Dogtooth Peak, there is a little opening with incredible views and large chunks of quarts all over the ground.

 Then if you climb a little more, it opens up and you are standing nearly at the top.  Bryce got way to close to the edge for my comfort.  I was content to just sit on a rock and enjoy the incredible view.  Oh and if you are wondering, that is Courtright Reservoir in the background.  It's basically a puddle.
 The rock formations everywhere on Dogtooth Peak were amazing.  I thought they were fascinating so I took lots of pictures.

 After we had hiked all over the peak, we climbed back down off the big pile of rocks and had lunch in the little clearing near the top.  As we were sitting there, we noticed a rainbow.  Then we noticed the rainbow around the sun.  The rainbow almost made a perfect circle around the sun.  It was one of the most fascinating things I had ever seen.  Definitely a first for me.
 After exploring all over the place up there, we started to make our way back towards camp.  There are so many pictures that I took of fascinating rocks but I suspect there's only a few of you who'd actually be interested in rocks like I am.  If you are a rock person, let Bryce and I know.  We'll tell you about all the minerals we found up there.

Here's a nice view of Cliff Lake as you are hiking back down to the pass.  It really is a beautiful place.
 As we meandered our way back to camp I took pictures of trees, and some more trees, oh and some other trees.  I like trees and it would probably bore you if I posted all the pictures of trees that I took.  I did get creative with some of them though.
 When we got back to camp I decided I wanted to walk around the lake some more.  Bryce, because he loves me, humored me and we strolled along the shore while I took pictures of . . . you guessed it -trees!
 Oh, and some more flowers too . . .
 Bryce even got in on the action and took some pictures with his phone.
 Yep . . . though I love this one.  It makes me smile.
 The rest of the afternoon we relaxed.  Bryce went for another swim.  We played the card game "War."  We ate some dinner.  Played more cards.  Then we just talked.  It was nice.
 Here's a panoramic shot of Cliff Lake that Bryce took.  His phone really was invaluable when it came to the panoramic shots because despite the fanciness of my camera, it just can't do this.
 Well hopefully tomorrow I will have day four, our finale day of hiking up.

In case you missed it:
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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Cliff Lake 2014: Day 2 -An Unexpected Journey

Cliff Lake August 1, 2014, morning
Well we are onto day 2 of our 2014 Cliff Lake anniversary hike.  Sleeping did not happen for me the night before.  There was a mound of dirt right under my back and no matter where I moved, I could not get comfortable.  If for a brief moment I did actually manage to fall asleep, a part of my body would go numb and I would wake up because of it.  It was quite possibly one of the longest nights of my life.  Anyway, when morning came I couldn't have been happier.  We ate a quick oatmeal breakfast, took some pictures of the lake (in horribly bright light), stored everything in the tent then took off for our next great adventure. 
 This day's adventure was going to be an exciting loop along some trails that Bryce and I had never been on.  Well it proved to be an exciting loop that NO ONE had ever been on, or so it seemed.
 We started out by trying to find the Bullfrog Lake turn off.  I thought it was in one direction, Bryce in another.  So at one point we stopped, Bryce dropped his pack and ran back down the trail to see if he could find it.  Turns out I was right.  :-)  This is a shot of Bryce actually running along the rugged terrain.  Yes, he enjoyed himself.
 Ok, so once we were actually on the right path, headed to Bullfrog Lake, we lost the trail.  Now we are pretty experienced hikers.  We know what to look for as far as trail markers and such.  We back tracked to the last trail marker we passed and looked everywhere for the right path.  It was rocky terrain and there was no visible trail or markers that we could see.  Anywhere!  This is where I began to pray for help to find the trail.  Bryce and I both felt prompted to go a certain way and we found a trail marker just a little ways down.  Things were good.  

We followed the trail markers along the increasingly steep path and then the trail disappeared again.  More prayers.  This is where we got out our map and compass because despite looking all around, there were no trail markers of any kind.  We compared the map to our surroundings, figured out where we were and felt assured that if we followed a particular creek down, we would eventually meet up with Helms Meadow Trail which is where we were wanting to go anyway.  We had missed seeing Bullfrog Lake but at least we knew where we were.

So down, down, down we descended into the depths of the forest.
It's a little hard to tell from this photo just how steep this terrain was.  It was steep enough that we had to create our own switch backs and I believe we stepped in places no human has stepped in either a hundred years or ever.  We saw a few deer and more then one bear track.  There were fallen trees that we often had to climb over and my appreciation for nature's ability to take care of itself grew as I observed how large trees decompose back into the earth.  It wasn't uncommon for us to see long lines of decomposed trees with new saplings growing up from the middle of them.  Truly amazing.
 After what seemed like an eternity, the forest began to open up into little meadows and natural springs.  Water bubbled up out of the ground and flowed through meadows filled with wildflowers.
 This part of the forest felt so alive with the sound of the springs babbling down the hill and the bees buzzing from flower to flower.  The sun was warm and inviting.
 We eventually made it to the bottom and found a running creek that had brook trout in it.  We knew that the Helms Meadow Trail had to be around here somewhere.  Using our compass and map, we followed the creek upstream until miracle of miracles . . . we found a trail marker!  Then we found another one, and another one.  We had found the Helms Meadow Trail.  Oh, and a sign that said that Bullfrog lake was 4.25 miles back in the direction we had just come.  Humm, that's no where near the 1.9 miles our map had said.

I imagine at one point that the Helms Meadow Trail used to be a highly trafficked place.  There was a definite trail warn into the earth and trail markers on the trees along the way.  However, we don't think it's used very much anymore.  Thick layers of pine needed and leaves cover the path and mushrooms grew in spots along the way that had it been a more frequented area, would not have survived.  It very much felt like we were alone out there.
We continued walking and walking and walking.  It was absolutely beautiful but by this point we were beginning to run low on water.  We went into conservation mode and continued walking.  We had to keep going.
 This little pond doesn't have a name, but we found it along our way in this little secluded meadow.  We got eaten alive by mosquitoes here so we only stayed long enough to take a picture.  This was about where the trail turned and started heading back to the Dinkey Lakes.
 This is a panoramic shot that Bryce took on his phone of a very large meadow that you walk through as you are headed into the Lakes area.  On my "Day 3" post you will see another picture of this meadow but from a different perspective that will truly amaze you.  It is just past this point that we ran into the first hikers we'd seen in five hours.  That's right, we hiked for five hours without seeing another human soul.
 Because we were running low on water, we bypassed First Dinkey Lake and went to the next lake along our path which supposedly is Second Dinkey Lake.  It's a little hard to know for sure from the map.  We took a quick break then continued onto Rock Lake.

 Rock Lake was the last lake on the trail before making the trek up to the pass.  From here we climbed up and up, meeting lots of people along the way.  Once we were at the top of the pass, we drank the rest of our water, (which wasn't much by this point) and hiked back down to our camp spot at Cliff Lake.

 Here is a nice view of Cliff Lake as we hiked down.

We arrived back at our camp at 4:00pm which meant that we had hiked a total of seven hours.  We also figured that it was about ten miles of hiking with several elevation changes.  We rested for a few minutes, drank lots of water then went swimming.  The water was very cold and while it felt refreshing at the time, it put my body into shock after already having been exhausted by the day's trek.  Despite being fully dressed in a mummy bag, by body could not get warm and I shivered uncontrollably until I was able to get some warm food in me.  We had a feast that night and soon I was warm and enjoying the rest of the evening.

If you missed it, you can find my "Day 1"post here:


Monday, August 4, 2014

Cliff Lake 2014: Day 1 -Our 10th Wedding Anniversary

On July 31st, Bryce and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary.  It's kind of hard to believe that it's been that long.  It's sort of been a tradition of ours to go on hikes for our anniversary, starting way back from our first hike together on our one year anniversary.  That was our nine day, seventy two mile hike that ended with a hike to the top of Mt. Whitney.  Since then, whenever situations allowed, we have tried to go off on a hiking adventure.  For our hike this time, we went back to Cliff Lake.  I know, unoriginal since this was our 4th time going.  But we love it there and it's a great place to go if you need easy access and can't rely on a "drop off" and "pick up."  You can actually drive right to the trail head which is pretty nice.  

OK, so onto the trail.  After making sure everything was situated at home with the kids and my awesome mother-in-law, we got in our car and started to drive.  We started hiking at 3:00pm and made it to Cliff Lake at 6:00pm.  I have highlighted our rout on the map above.  It's about a six mile hike with some intense climbs but wonderful views.
And we're off!
I would just like to point out that my husband is awesome.  He took a lot of the load of gear so that I could lug my camera along and not have too difficult of a time.  He's the best.
I would also like to point out that's I'm not really a photographer but I'm trying my best to learn my camera so I can eventually take really awesome pictures.
Onward!
The bridge.
Why a picture of the bridge?
Well because it's tradition.  Here's the first picture we took back in 2009.  It rained on us that time.
Cliff Lake Trail Bridge 2009
There were so many beautiful things along the way.  I took lots of pictures of trees and sunlight on grass.  I know, I know.  Silly me.  But I also happened to capture this beauty.  A Hydaspe Fritillaries (Butterfly).
Hydaspe Fritillaries


See, lots of trees, lots of grass, flowers, logs, sunlight.  Oh and look! A random sign on a tree.  Bryce went to check it out and it's actually an "end of the line" marker for snow surveys.  There was a sign of explanation as well as a request no to tamper with the signs.
About the time we began to make our major hike up, we saw a deer.  I didn't have my telephoto lens on at the time so this was the best picture that I could get, that I then cropped and enhanced so you could actually see that it was a deer.  This was the first of several deer that we saw throughout our trip.  This is the only picture I got though.
As I mentioned before, we got to the lake about 6:00pm.  We hiked to the back side, hoping to get the really awesome camp spot we had discovered the last time we were at Cliff Lake but alas, it was already taken -by the current or former (not really clear which) president of the Sierra Club and their party.  They were a lively party as well.  The forest rangers we talked to told us about them and how they had all kinds of food, including . . . brownies.

Anyway . . . as I was saying, we got there about 6:00pm and started to set up camp.  As Bryce was unloading his gear, he handed me an anniversary card with several bars of chocolate that he had tucked away into his pack to surprise me with.  Sometimes, sometimes he can be really romantic.  I love that guy!
at Cliff Lake, waiting for dinner to cook.


Well there's day one for you.  Because of the amount of pictures I took, I decided that it would be best to break our trip up into a few blog posts instead of one really long one.  It's more fun that way.

Cliff Lake 2014:  Day 2 -An Unexpected Journey 
Cliff Lake 2014:  Day 3 
Day 4

Friday, July 25, 2014

Strawberry Limeade Water Kefir and Fresh Canned Peaches

 Well I've had a busy day, busy week, busy month.  But you don't need to hear about that.  I seem to recall a mini grumbling in the last post I wrote.  Anyway, I wanted to share with you one of the things our family has been trying out the last couple of weeks.  Healthy, Pro-biotic Water Kefir.  This was something that I've been wanting to try out for a while but I was a little timid about it.  After all, drinking a mixture of bacteria and yeast . . . yuck!  Well at least that's what I thought.  But watching a video about how horrible the American diet and food industry is (seriously, ignorance is sometimes bliss) I was convinced to at least give it a try.  We had already switched to a much healthier diet, but Bryce was still experiencing some health issue. We thought we would try this whole things out to see if it helps.  Well after getting my water kefir grains in the mail, we dove into the process of making kefir water.  After a lot of trial and error, including making a batch of vinegar by accident (not kidding at all) we have finally discovered something absolutely delicious.  Strawberry Limeade Water Kefir.  Here is a good video on how to do a basic water kefir.


What we discovered in our trial and error was that our kefir was ready after the first 24 hours.  It's been so warm lately that that's not a surprise.  I imagine that once the weather cools off (if it ever does) then it will take longer.  The other thing we discovered is that we DON'T like letting it go for a second ferment out on the counter.  The purpose in that is to give it some more carbonation but it also gives it another flavor that we just don't really care for.  Also, vanilla extract isn't all that great (but I might be willing to give it another try now that we've sort of figured it out) and root beer extract, even though we love root beer just doesn't taste good in the kefir.  

To make this Strawberry Limeade Water Kefir, we took a cup of pureed strawberries, half to a full lime chopped up and smashed to release the juices and one quart strained and finished water kefir.  We mixed it all up, put a lid on it and let it sit over night.  The next morning I strained out the lime chunks and put it back in the fridge until ready to use.  This is seriously so delicious.  It made all that time of trial and error (and reconsidering my sanity for even wanting to try this) all worth it.  Even Bryce admits that it is delicious and I've had to restrain my kids from drinking too much.  It is refreshing, slightly fizzy and a very healthy drink.  I'll let you know later on if our health improves.  I think it's still too soon for us to tell
Next are the canned peaches.  I just canned these this afternoon.  Bryce was given a 25 pound box of peaches a couple of days ago and today they were finally ripe enough to start doing stuff with them.  So far I've only canned the seven quarts but tomorrow I'm hoping to make up a couple batches of jam.  However, Bryce and I are the only ones that like peach jam so maybe I'll just can the rest.  I don't know yet.  I ran out of regular sized lids though so I'll have to get more before I can continue.  Have you ever had fresh canned peaches?  Well they are delicious!  Even if you can them in light syrup like I do, they are way better then anything you could buy in the store. 

OK I should go clean my kitchen now and maybe switch the laundry.  I'm going out on a date with my husband tonight and I want to leave a clean(ish) house when I leave.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

One Of Those Days

I am having one of those hard days.  Those days where you absolutely just have too much to do, a teething baby who won't let you put him down, a tightly wound little boy who is so frustrated that I can't understand what he's trying to tell me, a little girl who I had to send outside because I couldn't stand listening to her whimper and cry anymore that her brothers are mean and won't let her play with them and an increasingly defiant almost eight year old who doesn't want to do anything I ask him to do.  That's not to mention the church calling things I need to do, the soap I need to make (by the way, a big thank you to all my customers who are so loving a patient.  You guys are the best!) and a long list of other things that have been put on the back burner but are creeping up on me because they just have to be done at some point.  Yet here I am.  The baby is finally taking a nap and I have two free hands that I can actually use to do something productive like do the dishes or fold Mt. Laundry.  But that's not what I want to do.  It's what I should do but not what I want to do.

Right now I just want to go lay on the couch and go to sleep.  Or, paint the sunflowers you see in the above picture.  Since the kids are around and would probably want to paint too (and I just can't handle that right now), then maybe actually do some work on the book I started writing at the beginning of this month.  Or, and you might think this silly, uninterrupted organization and cleaning.  You know, being able to clean or organize ONE THING without being interrupted or distracted, only then to forget about it, leaving it half unfinished.  Did you know I like cleanliness and order?  Yep. I do.  Which is why I should probably go clean something.  But no, I'm procrastinating because I just really need a break right now.  And maybe a really yummy salad made from the beautiful vegetables I saw at the farmer's market last Friday.  That's where I found these beautiful sunflowers and I've been in the mood to paint ever since.

So . . . I will let Princess back inside and go get baby up from his nap (which was way too short).  Then maybe, just maybe I'll get to do something relaxing soon.  Something quiet.  Oh, I do still have that chicken story to tell you.  My hands are just needed right now to pick up Baby H.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Everything is Awesome!

 "Everything is awesome
Everything is cool when you're part of a team
Everything is awesome when we're living our dream."

Well, if you haven't guessed by now, our home has been invaded by The Lego Movie.  To be honest, I think it's a fantastic movie that was so well written and a nice change from the questionable messages of Frozen.  

Anyway, we've been pretty busy as you probably have guessed.  The pictures are not in exact order.  I love the above picture so that's why I put it first.  It pretty much sums up Tank's personality.
 We were very blessed to be able to spend the 4th of July weekend at my Sister-in-law's house.  We had a lot of fun with fireworks, swimming and spending time with family. 
 "Oooo fire!"
 We also got to bring one of my nephews home with us.  He kind of bounced back and forth between us and Grandma/Papa's house.  On one of the days we decided to go to the lake and hang out.  Everyone got in the water and had a blast.
And last but not least, a picture of the moon.  A few days ago there was a super moon so I decided I would try and take pictures again.  It was kind of trial and error.  I really wish I could take a class on how to do stuff with my camera.  I know just enough to know what it can do but can't remember how to get it to do it.  Well this shot was taken when I managed to get it off of full auto and I could work with the brightness.  Then I worked with it in Photoshop (something I am actually VERY knowledgeable at) and came up with this.  If possible, look at it on a big screen.  It's pretty amazing.

OK, well everything really has been awesome, at least the important things.  I have a chicken story to tell you but I'll save that for another post.  For now, keep smiling everyone.  :-)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Princess Ballerina

Well as I promised on facebook, here's the blog post.  There isn't too much to say except that I'm proud of my little Princess and how well she did in her first recital.  Thursdays were her favorite day of the week this past school year because it meant dance class.  This girl loves to dance and sing and make music.  These pictures (and video) were taken during the dress rehearsal, the morning of the recital.  We got there just a tad early so I could take pictures.  You know, cuz that's what I do.  This is by far my favorite picture of Princess.  I love the little overhead lighting with a dark stage background. 
The little ballerinas gabbing it up before the rehearsal starts.
Some action shots . . .
This one is another one of my favorites.  She's doing her pose perfectly and enjoying every minute of it.
Watching the teacher . . .
Final pose.

Here's a video of the dress rehearsal.  Sorry about my under-the-breath comment to the person who stands in front of me while I'm taping.  She was just doing her job :-)   Also, I will be making this video private in about a week or so.  So if you would like to watch it, do it now.