September Escapes

Smoke hangs heavy in the air, obscuring my promised mountain views. Flies swarm in and out with their incessant buzzing. The only wildlife spotted has been a handful of birds, one black squirrel, a lone mule deer and a pesky chipmunk we have dubbed “Alex”. He’s grown quite bold over the last couple days, and somehow found himself inside our cabin making an attempt at our trash bag.

The few deciduous trees have become brilliantly gold in the short time of our visit. Autumn is rapidly approaching these Idaho mountains. Meanwhile, fire watch planes roar overhead, blotted out by dense smoke. Despite these inconveniences, there is extreme beauty and much needed peace.

I do get a bit saddened seeing how dry the landscape is. Even after the big fire a few years ago, summers were filled with rain, and lushness continued to embrace September. Mother Nature is parched.

In consideration of cold nights and wanting, needing to umplug, we rented a rustic Forest Service cabin. Dating back into the early 1930’s, equipped with wood stove for heat and hand pump for water, this was to be our home for four glorious nights. Forest Service cabins are a great alternative to camping in cold temps, or for those wanting to get their feet wet with the great outdoors. The prices are usually fairly reasonable. Ours has two beds, tables, solar lighting, propane cook stove and stocked with pots, pans and dishes. And yes, there is also an extremely clean vault toilet out back. We are quite comfortable.

The sun is beginning to set, marking the approach into our third night. Time has been filled with a small hike to a once amazing hot spring. Forest fire and human abuse have turned it into nothing more than an algae covered muck hole. Two wonderous soaks have been enjoyed at one of my favorite spots. Games have been played, many pictures taken and much pleasure has been relished. If the smoke lifts, tomorrow will entail hikes and more hot spring exploration.

Taking this time to disconnect and reconnect with nature helps me recharge my batteries. All too soon inclement weather will be upon me. Mountain trips will be more difficult. So, I will ingrain every moment of this visit into my soul and carry it with me to the next opportunity. In the mean time, I’ll dust off my winter adventure plans.

Coping With the Unexpected

Life has a way of throwing up unforeseen obstacles that must be overcome. This transcends into time in the outdoors. There are some trips, no matter the detailed preparation, that the unexpected creeps up and can whap you in the kisser. One such journey into the forest recently happened to me.

I was planning on spending a few days in the Payette and Boise National Forests, with the intentions of avoiding the traditional holiday campers. I looked back through old trip notes as well, because I also wanted to avoid the Tribal Salmon fishing season. I have entered into this area in the past during fishing time, and was greeted with an overwhelming amount of people, noise and rude behavior. My notes dictated that this particular event was still a couple weeks away. I was in the clear!

For days I was looking forward to campfires, starlit nights and serene hot spring soaks. My food was in order, gear double checked, weather forcast perused and the vehicle had been given the preliminary once over. I was ready. The drive, as usual, was gorgeous. The scent of pine and earth drifted through the open windows. A smile split my face from ear to ear. It was just me, SS and our four legged friend. The trip was lining up for perfection, until we turned onto the forest road of our destination.

This narrow, winding mountain road had turned into L.A. gridlock. Almost every pullout was packed with cars and trucks. Our usual campground was filled beyond capacity. We slowly made our way further down. We found a half full campground! The first night was quite peaceful. There was even a midnight soak to be had.

Upon awaking with the sun, the campground had filled up completely. There were even illegal makeshifts spots created by the creek. I was dumbfounded. The holiday was still 5 days off, how could there be so many people? As we sipped our tea and coffee, the answer was shown to us. Truck after SUV after car rolled by with traditional spear and nets. We had arrived just before salmon fishing started. The signs had not yet been posted when we entered the forest road. Run-off was also early this year so fishing was able to begin sooner. I was almost crushed. There went our peace and quiet. There went our private soaks. There went less stressful driving. We had already paid our camping fees, so we decided to make the best of it.

Up went the privacy shelter, which helped tremendously. The volume of people was not the only issue we faced. Mother Nature decided to be about 15 degrees hotter than the weather man predicted. Now 15* doesn’t sound like much, but when it is 90* as to 75*, with little shade and the creek being bogarted, it’s just plain hot.

Solutions, solutions. The privacy shelter helped with the overfilled campground and provided a little extra shade. We also explored a new trail which we didn’t have to drive to which led to another section of the creek with bountiful trees and a great spot to picnic. The biggest and most important solution, was an attitude adjustment. Sometimes you simply can not predict what is going to happen. During this same trip we experienced a few more unexpected obstacles. However, making up my mind to enjoy my time in the mountains, not letting the unplanned grate my nerves, allowed me to truly experience nature. I still found my moments of tranquility, my moments to reconnect. And I took away a valuable lesson; to cope and adjust are a necessity if one is to adventure.

Rebeginning

Oregon Desert Landscapre

Staring out at the desert landscape I contemplate the last 18 months. Crickets chirp, insects buzz my head and a breeze blows through the stubby grass and sage brush. There is so much life in this corner of the Oregon desert.

A great deal of life has happened since I last posted to Suniechick. I graduated college, the first in my family. Many adventures were had including foreign places and a foiled pack trip to a still sought after hot spring. Healing of the heart and soul from the loss of my Mom and darling Dolly, has begun. I have had to refocus on other aspects of my life for awhile. A temporary hiatus was needed for all this life to occur.

The sun begins its descent, yet still nicely warms my skin. I think about myself, direction, who is Suniechick? She is a strong, independent woman. Someone who is surrounded by love. She is passionate for the outdoors and wishes to protect it and share it with whomever will listen. Suniechick believes that these places are the foundation of life, and that everyone has the right to experience them. Whether you’re packing out 50 miles into wilderness or strolling through the park watching the ducks, those experiences, those moments where we can connect with nature are deeply important.

There has been a refocus, a rejuvenation. While I, Suniechick, will be here to help guide you to partaking in the glories of nature and sharing my adventures, I will also be sharing with you some of what else lies close to my heart. As I said, I wish to help protect and preserve the drastically dwindling amounts of wildlands left. This may come in the form of “activism” or my rambling thoughts. For me, Suniechick is new and improved. This is an exciting time. To live life, take advantage instead of for granted. It is a rebeginning. I hope you join me.

Backcountry on the Back Burner

Well, that statement isn’t entirely true.

2010 brought a roller coaster of life, and many changes.

This summer was filled with nights under the stars in the Boise National Forest, soaking up the hot springs, hiking in Yellowstone National Park and breathtaking views of the Black Hills. There was actually little lack of backcountry.

As some of you may recall, I spent summer of 2009 in Northern Idaho with my Mom. It was a difficult summer, filled with chaos and a plethora of emotions. However, it is a time that I would NEVER take back. In June of this year, my Mom passed away from pancreatic cancer. She was the ultimate outdoors woman, the woman who introduced Mother Nature to me. Her passing has rested heavy on my heart. Now that some time has passed I am ready to jump back on the bandwagon!

The backcountry is in my soul, and forever will be a part of me. The outdoors is a passion, an obsession. Due to the changes in life I didn’t spend as much time with the pack strapped on, but not all was lost, just momentarily set on the back burner.

Camp Time, Almost

The camp director hat has been placed upon my head once again.

Two summers ago I embarked on a unique undertaking. I was the Camp Director for a Girl Scout camp in central Idaho. Once again I am about to commence on a 5 week journey filled with trials, challenges, personal growth and joy.

The quest has already begun with pre-camp planning. This year I have been given more “control” of camp happenings. I have been put in charge of hiring staff, programming and a myriad of other details. There have been moments of frustration and moments of pure excitement. I am thrilled to have several staff members return to be by my side this season, as well as welcome new faces to join in the experience.

I hope to be able to share my stories along the way. I aspire to inspire more women to take a leap, enjoy the great world with their daughters, sisters, friends and anyone else they can grab hold of!

NWF 2010 Be Out There Resolution

National Wildlife Federation Challenges YOU to be out there, everyday in 2010!

“Go play outside” was a common phrase in my household growing up. The weather didn’t matter. Snow, sun, brisk temperatures, outdoors is where we were supposed to be. I think it was mostly to get us kids out of my mom’s hair, but a connection was being built. Now, “playing outside” is what I desire most.nature's beauty

During the time I have spent as a Girl Scout Camp Director, and as many of my friends have children of their own, I have noticed a disturbing trend. Many of these children don’t know what it’s like to run and laugh and experience the great outdoors.

I would like to challenge you, along with NWF to get you and your kids outdoors everyday. Rebecca P. Cohen took this challenge in 2009. A short walk, bird watching, gazing at the stars, fifteen minutes minimum is all it takes. Help build that relationship for your children which we have all cherished. Be out there!

2009 Reflective Musings

A year themed by change.

As I sit at my laptop, reflecting on the passing year, I realize that I have changed in so many ways. Mentally, emotionally, physically. Maybe change isn’t the right word, but I have experienced growth.

Many wonderful adventures of all sorts were had. I backpacked through the Smokey Mountains, soaked in some marvelous hot springs, spent many nights gazing up at the stars and conquered Hoodoo Mountain to gaze upon Hoodoo lake.

Outdoor WomanThe sights replenished my soul and brought me peace. Even now, I crave the outdoors, the connection with Mother Nature. I yearn to feel hiking boot against trail while the sun warms my skin and the breeze whispers secret thoughts for only me to understand.

I chuckle to myself as I recount the morning my precious dogs made an escape hatch through the back of the tent, cutting our trip short. I groan as I remember the excruciating climb up mountains, and again resolve myself to be in even better shape next summer. A smile parts my lips while I reminisce of the two months spent in North Idaho with my Mom. Days lounging on the lake, mountain hikes, all attributed to her for introducing me to the outdoors.

Campfire meals never tasted so delicious (even with the potatoes more than slightly undercooked). Stars never shone so brightly. And when I thought my appreciation for this wonderful world could not grow any deeper, it explodes and rises to a whole new level.

As I look at my reflection, seeing beyond the newly acquired lines on my forehead (perhaps from age or not enough sunscreen?), I see myself. I am an outdoors woman, and I can’t wait for the adventures to come!

Happy New Year. See you all in 2010!

Fall Backpacking Smokey Mountains Adventures

The Smokey Mountains are a beautiful place to enjoy fall backpacking.

Just over two years have paSS851868ssed since I ventured out to Skillern hot springs on the edge of the Sawtooth National Forest. The leaves began to don their reds and golds, and I even crunched through many that had reached the ground.

We arrived close to dusk to begin the almost 3 mile trek. The hike was easier than I remembered. That must mean I’m in better shape! Night had begun to take over while I forged for firewood, as the night was getting chilly. SS set up our tent, cooked us a delicious dinner and we settled in for the night watching the stars and the fire.

The next day was glorious! (Other than a motor-dirt biker driving through our campsite at 6:00 in the morning). We traversed over to the hot spring, which was only about 100*, much too cool for an early morning soak. However, it was fantastic to relax in during the afternoon.

The time had come to pump water. SS and I put the girls (our dogs) in the tent like usual and headed over to the nearby Big Smokey Creek. SS happened to turn around just in time to see Moose pop her head and shoulders out the back of the tent! Next SS851836thing we know she’s completely free and Doogal is right behind her. Our girls had decided that they didn’t want to be left behind and created an escape hatch.

We’ve never had this problem before. Our dogs are very well behaved when we go into the backcountry. When they go in the tent, they stay in the tent, happily. I’m not exactly sure what happened in this case. Lesson learned: one of us needs to stay behind from now on.

Another lesson learned on this cut short trip, long handled titanium sporks rock! No more stickinng your hand all the way into your rehydrated meal to scrape the last of the goodies.

Despite only getting one night, the trip was amazing. The stars blinked brillantly, autumn’s colors so vivid, everything combined made me feel reconnected and at peace.

Our mishap goes to show, no matter how experienced you think you may be, the unexpected can happen.

Happy Hiking!

10 things every outdoor woman should experience

Experiencing Sunset

There are so many things in the outdoors to experience, a simple list can not begin to cover them all. Here are a few things that are tops on my list for every outdoor woman to experience.

1. A starlit soak in a backcountry hot spring. The feeling of peace and serenity this brings is beyond words.

2. A hike that pushes your limits and breaks your boundaries. Challenging oneself physically and emotionally gives us a greater appreciation for ourselves and the world.

3. A gourmet meal cooked over a campfire. Who says delicious food only comes from the kitchen? Savoring the flavors of a scrumptious entree, or dessert, in the great outdoors is fabulous.

4. An afternoon nap in nature. This is one of my favorites. I’ll crawl in my tent, open all the windows letting the sun in and snooze away with a smile on my face.

5. Camping by yourself, just once. To newbies this can seem a bit daunting. Heck, even to seasoned outdoors women this can sometimes be a bit scarey. However, knowing that you have no one to depend on but yourself, and there’s no one but you to depend on you is pure independence.

6. Backpack for more than one night. One nighters are great in their own way, especially if that’s all your able to do. Multi-nigt trips though take on a whole new meaning. I’ve found that it takes more than one night to adjust and unleash the shackles of everyday life.

7. Walk around au naturel in the forest/desert, wherever your stomping grounds are. There are a couple caveats to this: make sure you’re not in a public place and shoes are still a good idea. I know that this one sounds a little crazy if you’ve never tried it. Believe me, there’s nothing so freeing and invigorating as walking around in the buff with nothing between you and nature except the wind. (don’t forget the bug spray!)

8. Skinnydip. Along the lines of #7, you just might not need shoes.

9. Sleep under the stars, sans tent. Falling asleep while watching the constellations travel across the night sky brings sweet dreams.

10. Share a moment in nature with another outdoor woman. Whether she is experiencing it all for the first time or the 100th time, sharing a moment with a good friend in the outdoors is a delightful memory.

Running Shoes and Hiking Boots

I strapped on my running shoes this morning. Feeling my feet on the pavement and trail-runningfinding the trail has helped bring me peace. It is a time where I can focus solely on myself; on my body and mind with no other distractions.

When I was a teenager my mom wrote a story about me. It was about the different shoes I’ve worn throughout my lifetime. I had my baby shoes, dancing shoes, running shoes; all figuratively speaking. She used my shoes as a description to show how I have grown to be strong and independent, how through each stage of my life I have changed my shoes in order to face whatever challenges have crossed my way. Even now when I read that story it evokes very strong emotion within me, and reminds me that I can overcome anything.

I’ve never been a “runner” per-say. I’ve always preferred my hiking boots until recently. With the new challenges that I have faced in the last six months, since the diagnosis, I have changed my shoes once again. My hiking boots will not get dusty. In fact they are still well used. But my running shoes are helping me cope. They are enabling me to become stronger mentally and physically.

This is what I need for now. I am trying to listen to my body, to take the advice that I so easily dole out to others. In times of stress and trauma it is very important to take care of oneself, to not let yourself fall by the wayside. For now my Mom is growing stronger, but she still has her bad days. We are not sure what the outcome will be. I am taking it all one day at a time, and today I strapped on my running shoes.