Sometimes I Need Me Time

Is there a mom who doesn’t feel guilty over taking personal time? I hate feeling guilty over taking hikes without my kids – and especially because Kirk watches them while I go out. But I also know I need that time. I am with them 24 hours a day otherwise. But more, for the first time in my life, I am finding I am timid with my kids. Ford went everywhere with me, he was hiking not long after he started walking. We hiked and backpacked thousands of miles. Taking Walker was natural as well. But I have so little confidence in taking Alistaire hiking, where it is me, Walker and Ford and Kirk can’t come. Honestly? What scares me is the thought of him having an allergic reaction in the backcountry with no other adult to help me. For me, this is beyond scary and I cannot wrap my mind around it. Maybe next year when he is older. We will see. Until then…maybe it isn’t bad for me to take trips with just me and no one else to worry about.


I was supposed to go on a much longer hike with my friend Jared and help him finish a section of the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) he hadn’t done, but by Sunday I was exhausted. By the kids, by the week and feeling really anemic. At least Jared is flexible and didn’t guilt trip me too much. I am grateful for that. And he likes to fly fish…and the lake we went to has plenty of fishies to play with.

Early morning at Sheep Lake today.

I end up at Sheep Lake at least once a year. It is pretty, large, has great meadows and is e-z-y to get to. (Seriously, 2.10 miles one way, with only a little elevation gain).


Only one hitch…I was so tired I didn’t pack everything like I normally do the night before. I left my camera behind. Argh. Thankfully I had my phone along…but I really would have had so much more fun shooting flower photos.


We ended up on the far side of the lake, where the fish were jumping (it was around 9 am). The wind was blowing steady most of the day, which kept bugs off of us.

For as sunny as it was, it was really cold at times!

If anything, it was chilly at times, maybe in the mid 60’s at most. Even though it was blue skies and sunny (it is though at mid 5,000’s for elevation).


Jared was the only fly-fisher out there, and was the only one catching anything – he caught quite a few (he uses non-barbed hooks and lets them go).


We spent a good half of the day just lounging around – OK, he was fishing. I spent my hours reading books on my phone (thank you Kindle app), napping and exploring the basin.


The wildflowers were just opening, with Magenta Paintbrush opening.



Give me lupine covered hills and I am in bliss.


That and being lazy. Being lazy once in a while needs to be done more often.



Cherry Cupcakes and a Birthday Weekend Away

This all started with an idea. Why should one celebrate turning 40 with a black cake (or cupcakes)? Why not be happy? Go for bright. Celebrate spring coming! I was a March baby, and as I write this post…it is sunny outside. I am sure it won’t last, but I’ll enjoy the late winter promise of spring.


I considered dried cherries, then fresh. Finding fresh wasn’t going to be easy or fresh, the produce man asked if frozen would work. Maybe it would….and off home I went. Helped I had a huge bag of frozen cherries waiting for me there.


Cherry Cupcakes


  • 1 cup unsweetened cherry juice
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar, preferably organic
  • 1/3 cup neutral vegetable oil
  • 2¼ tsp pure almond extract
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch, preferably organic
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 cups cherries, pitted, drained and finely chopped


Preheat oven to 350°, line 18 muffin cups with liners, such as Reynolds Stay-Brite.

Whisk the cherry juice and vinegar together, add to a medium mixing bowl with sugar, oil and almond, whisk until dissolved.

Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large mixing bowl, pour wet over dry, stir until just mixed, fold in cherries.

Divided equally between lined cups, rap on counter to settle.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool, then frost as desired.

Makes about 18 cupcakes.


If using frozen cherries, thaw, drain and pat dry, then chop.


Cherry Frosting



Beat the shortening with a stand mixer until light. Add in powered sugar, beating in. Add almond extract and 1 Tablespoon cherry juice at a time, beating in, until spreading constancy is reached (mine took about 1/4 cup juice).

The frosting will be a light pink.

Frost as desired.

Now then…how did I spend my birthday weekend?

In a ton of emails one caught my eye awhile back. It was from Lake Quinault Lodge, which sits on Lake Quinault in Olympic National Forest. I have stayed there several times, it was an email with deals for previous visitors with a winter deal. I nearly deleted it, then I took a look. It was a bargain. Buy one night, get one night free, at a fabulous low price ($79 weekdays, $99 weekends plus taxes).


And pretty much all of the rooms were up for grabbing at the lodge. Being that we are a family of 5, I grabbed the Beverly Suite in the Boathouse, which sits between the lodge and the modern lakeside hotel wing. It is rustic, but large, and more so, the only suite (ie. a bedroom for us!) at the lodge. For 2 nights we payed less than $138 (with taxes included). Considering that this same room can run for $239 to $289 a night, you can see what a bargain it was.

Yes, those mailing lists can be a good thing! The Boathouse is the oldest building of the lodge (built in 1923), the suite is the top story.


They don’t lie, you do get a 360° view from the suite, with large windows and views of all sides, especially of the lake. The “suite” is a one-bedroom cabin. Very rustic but comfortable, and yes, large. It has a bathroom (with a very tiny shower), hide-a-bed couch, 3 roll-a-way beds, 6 person dining table, a partial kitchen that has a refrigerator, microwave, sink and a hot plate to use, along with dishes and tools. The bedroom has a king bed and love seat. Lots of ceiling fans and huge windows that open. You do have to climb a very narrow indoor staircase (though the landing before you head up is a great storage area for wet gear and getting boots on). The staircase is NOT child friendly, so we blocked off the top with one of the roll-a-way beds. A baby could take a very scary fall, so be wary. We brought his pack and play for safety. It was a great choice otherwise for our large family. Just be wary of the very slanted ceilings in the bathroom. Our poor teen kept knocking his head. Hehe.

At the price we paid, I was happy. No 5-Star, but for the price it was a good deal. (Although I can’t believe people pay $239 and up for the rack rates for this room!! It isn’t worth that….)


We woke up early on Saturday morning to rain. Gee, no shocker there. It is a rain forest and it is March 😉 It is nice to lay in bed listening to it – and not be in a tent dreading getting out. After wandering around on the covered veranda below – and just enjoying the misty morning, we headed up to the lodge.


Traveling with three kids isn’t the easiest thing I suppose, I learn new things every time. One is a lot of patience. And not over-planning. I let them wander and have fun. The baby had eyes only for the lanterns, his brother, The Toddler, for bossing around his little brother.


Which resulted in “B! You get back here!” (B is Alistaire’s nickname) and B running away. It was one of those moments when life is good and all is well.


After a fun breakfast (yeah, roughing it…maybe not) we set out for a hike. Where upon it dumped as it should in a rain forest. And kept dumping. Our trail eventually ran out, with it under a good foot of water. At least we tried 😀

When Walker was young, I picked up a Deuter Kid Comfort Deluxe Rain Cover to go with our Deuter Kids Comfort III pack. It has been worth the cost, Alistaire was bone dry inside the kid carrier and even took a nap.


Walker, me and Alistaire on my back –


I loved the tree. It looks to me like a large tree with legs, sitting down on the nurse logs (which was taller than Walker). Walker loved playing in the creeklet of water. Finally we got so rained out and with the trail under water, we called it a day. We headed back to the lodge, used that handy landing to dry our rain gear and spent the early afternoon in the lodge’s lobby, soaking up the heat from the fireplace, reading, talking and playing. Lots of other folks were doing the same. Add in a warm mocha and it was very relaxing.


Walker enjoyed finding a tiny rocking chair and a pile of books –


Late in the afternoon, the weather started clearing. Kirk watched Alistaire while he napped and told us to go hiking. I took Ford and Walker out on a short hike –


We found a stream to enjoy –


A set of waterfalls –


And a bridge that Walker had fun crossing over and over –


It was an odd hike in that it was sunny and 60° out!

After, we went out for dinner. We ended up having a 2 hour dinner that was so relaxed I wondered who had switched all my kids 😉 The kids all passed out happy.

The clear skies lasted through Sunday morning. One of the prettiest sunrises I have seen over that lake. We got up and had a nice family hike, all of us, before checking out.


Me, Alistaire on my back, Walker and Ford (Kirk took the photo) –


It was this small window of perfect weather. As soon as we got done hiking and were finishing loading the van, it started raining.


My little hiker, Walker –


The lake was calm –



Trail Eats: Fall Eats

Hiking and backpacking was for a long time my driving force in life, until I had child #3 and could barely keep up with life. I know though that in a few years life will settle back down and I’ll be out more. There was a time between Ford (my oldest) being 2 and when was 12 (when I had Walker, our middle child) that I was out backpacking often weekly, dayhiking every couple of days, often with Ford in tow. I was driven to find what lay behind each knoll, what views I could sweat for hours to glimpse. I once cracked a 20 mile day in sheer stupidity, that ended in a long hike in the dark, listening to elk and cougars in the distance.

This picture is bittersweet in many ways to me. Ford and I had hiked for the day to Summerland at Mt. Rainier, with my friend Jared, in the summer of 2009. I was lagging the whole trip. No energy, but the flower show there is phenomenal and it kept me going. It wasn’t shocking to take a pregnancy test a few days later and find out I was pregnant with Walker.

Let it be said, there is a reason the hike to Summerland is packed in summer. It is one of the prettiest sections of The Wonderland Trail. The creek I am by is usually covered in Marmots, lying around like fat sacks of potatoes. And with views of the summit of Rainier and Little Tahoma’s spire…sublime. I spent the night here in 2004 while hiking the Wonderland and vowed I would come back.

And I’ll admit it: I haven’t backpacked since the summer of 2009. It was hard to give up but with back to back pregnancies it wasn’t happening. Add in I was severely anemic for  over 3 years due to the meds I took during pregnancy, well I had no energy. I still dayhike, I still chase what I cannot see but can imagine is there. Always looking for bears, goats and pretty kitties, often surrounded by fields of marmots chewing grass.

I can see next year I’ll be back out there – the kids will be old enough so they don’t overwhelm Kirk when I run away for the night 🙂 And I can take them with me soon enough for overnighters. There is little as good feeling as snuggling into sleeping bags in a small tent with your children. Ford and I backpacked 1,000’s of miles over the years, it is good memories 🙂

About 10 years ago, this was Ford and I on a frigidly cold hike near the Canadian border in alpine, he had just turned 5 years old. It was below freezing the entire hike. It bears significance as well, I came home and found an email waiting for me from Kirk. He had just moved to Washington and wanted to know if that random offer of going hiking was still an option. I often hiked with hiking forum members from online so it wasn’t weird, we had chatted once and I had said “Oh, if you get out here….”. We met, we hiked, we hiked a lot more…and then I realized I liked him on a long hike to a place called Glacier Basin, which sits above the ghost town of Monte Cristo, a long abandoned mining town.

A 12 mile hike gives one time to think. We are coming to 10 years together this month. We started dating in a rain forest and we still hike together, all these years later 🙂

If anything, Kirk encourages me to get out there. He knows nothing makes me happy like a sunny morning at 6,000 feet in alpine at Rainier. He isn’t that crazy over alpine hiking so he takes the kids and shoos me out of the house for the day.

So what does this have to do with the title of my post? A lot 🙂 Kirk encouraged me to go beyond my comfort zone. When he met me I was known for eating Stove Top Stuffing and freeze-dried peas for dinner plus plenty of Little Debbie oatmeal cookies. Yeah, gourmet it wasn’t. I also believed that commercial freeze-dried meals were great. (Eek) I got hooked on light weight hiking, found snazzy new gear to tote and found a budding outdoor cook hiding in me. Waking up to snow on Labor Day weekend on the Pacific Crest Trail and having awesome food to eat? Priceless.

7 years ago, over Thanksgiving weekend, in 2005, Kirk and I hammered out what would become our first book – Freezer Bag Cooking: Trail Food Made Simple. The first version looked different, it had less content and a different cover. We brought a revised version out in 2007, the one that sells now. I was prepping a wholesale order this week and it got me thinking of the years of writing and developing outdoor recipes. When Kirk and I set out, in 2004, it was a different world for publishing. We took a risky plunge and self-published, deciding we wanted all the rewards, hard work and risk. I was “schooled” in PR, thanks to my friend Cat (of Verdant Life). who helped me grow the business. My friend Dani was also there with me, both of them helping me run booths at hiker conventions around the Northwest. I found I achieved goals I didn’t know I had. The first one was strangers buying our book. That was shocking. I’d have been happy selling 50 copies. Many, many thousands later and 7 years later, strangers from all over are still buying my book, around the world. That in itself made it worth it. I was featured in Backpacker Magazine, and then I wrote an article for them as well and realized I just do NOT like writing for corporate magazines….just um..too stifling. They do not see the world as I see it. It is boring and dry…..I like having the freedom to ramble on about whatever catches my fancy. And to be an idiot if I choose 😉 To the point I have turned down writing offers from them. It plays into why I blog here as well. I love being able to talk about what makes me tick, what makes me wonder. It is also why I chose to be my own publisher. And hey, being sold in REI for years was pretty cool as well……I have countless photos of me holding my book in REI’s we visited (dork alert!).

I di though find some writing I liked – it was recipe development for Washington Trails Magazine, in a column that became known as Trail Eats. I have done it for a couple of years now and enjoy it. It is more my style!

With fall settling in, the newest issue of Washington Trails Magazine has arrived. In it are three new recipes for fall-inspired noshing – enjoy the article!

Fall brings crisp days and cold evenings. It also brings Thanksgiving and hearty appetites. I often do a traditional Turkey Day dinner for a hike, complete with mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole and more, this year it seemed right to try a new approach. If you would like great ideas & recipes from our collection please visit our Thanksgiving Collection of recipes.

PS: If you want a cheater dessert, look for the tiny pecan pies sold at gas stations. The little sugar bombs make a great treat! (Although super unhealthy…but hey….)

Harvest Rice


  • 1 cup instant rice
  • 1 cup instant brown rice
  • ½ cup freeze-dried vegetables
  • 2 Tbsp homemade broth mix or 2 tsp lower sodium chicken bouillon
  • 2 tsp dried parsley
  • Pinch of sea salt

Also take:

  • 5 ounce can (w/ pop-top lid) or 7 ounce pouch chicken
  • 1 Tbsp or packet olive oil
  • ¼ cup finely chopped walnuts

At home:

Pack the rice ingredients in a sandwich bag or quart freezer bag, depending on cooking method. Mark “Add 2 1/2 cups water” on bag. Pack the walnuts in a snack bag.

One Pot Method:

Add the chicken, with any broth, water and oil to a cooking pot. Bring to a boil, add the rice bag, return to boil. Turn off the stove, cover tightly and let sit for 15 minutes. In cooler weather or at altitude insulate the pot with a pot cozy.

Stir the rice, top with the walnuts.

Freezer Bag Method (FBC):

Bring the water to a boil, set aside. Place the freezer bag in a cozy, add the oil and chicken, with any broth and the water. Stir well, seal and let sit for 15 minutes.

To make a second ‘bowl’ bring along a second freezer bag, cuff in half.

Divide the rice and top with the walnuts.

Serves 2.


This recipe can be adapted to vegan by leaving the chicken out and adding in chickpeas if desired, or more nuts. Use the same amount of water called for, if using dehydrated chickpeas, hydrate them separately  add, drained, with the hot water to the dry rice..

To make your own vegan-friendly dry mix see here.

Cranberry Pear Compote


  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup dried pears, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp dried orange zest (or a True Orange packet)
  • Pinch fine sea salt

At home:

Pack the ingredients in a snack bag or pint freezer bag, depending on cooking method.

 Insulated Mug/Bowl Method:

Add the ingredients to an insulated mug or small bowl, cover with ¼ cup of water. Cover and let hydrate for 20 to 30 minutes. If a bit dry, add in a little more water as needed.

Freezer Bag Method (FBC):

Bring ¼ cup water to a boil, set aside. Place the freezer bag in a cozy, add the water and seal bag. Let hydrate for 20 to 30 minutes. If a bit dry, add in a little more water as needed.

Serves 2.

Pumpkin and Gingersnap Pudding


  • 2/3 cup dry milk
  • ¼ cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3 Tbsp cornstarch or favorite thickener, arrowroot works as well
  • 2 Tbsp dried and powdered pumpkin purée (see below)
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • Big pinch ground nutmeg
  • Big pinch ground ginger
  • Big pinch salt

 Also take:

  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 bag crisp gingersnap cookies (any size, more is better..say 7-9 ounces)

At home:

Pack the pudding ingredients in a sandwich bag. Tuck the butter in a small bag.

One Pot Method:

Add the mix and 2 cups cold water to a cooking pot. Using a small whisk, stir while bringing to boil, over a lower flame. When the pudding comes to a boil and is thick, take off the stove and whisk in the butter. Serve warm or let cool, a cold stream or snow bank works well for chilling.

Divide between mugs or bowls – or in a pinch served in pint freezer bags.

Crumble up some of the gingersnaps, dust on top, serve with the rest to dip in the pudding.

Serves 2 to 4, depending on appetite.


Dried pumpkin? Very easy! Spread a can of organic pumpkin purée on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, dehydrate in your oven at lowest temp till bone dry, then powder. Store tightly sealed. Or see here on how to do it in a dehydrator.

Want it even better? Add in some rum at the end, after it comes off the stove.

PS: Wondering what an FBC Cozy is? What FBC means? A full on primer of what the heck Trail Cooking is? Dehydrating 101?


Trail Eats: 3 Raw Recipes

From our column Trail Eats in Washington Trails Magazine, in the July/August 2012 issue. The focus (or theme if you will) was healthy trail snacks in easy, portable form. Recipes that are raw, vegan and gluten-free.

These bars carry well, wrap tightly before packing.

Blueberry Almond Bars

Chop the dates up roughly. Add them and the remaining ingredients into a food processor. Pulse until chopped up, run on high for 3 to 4 minutes until finely diced and starting to stick together.
Line an 8″ x 8″ glass dish with parchment paper on the bottom, knock the mixture into the dish and flatten out, pressing down hard to compact it. Cover and refrigerate. Cut into bars of desired size, wrap each bar tightly.
For long term storage keep in the refrigerator, use up in 3 weeks for best taste.

These bars are full of fiber, nut protein and chocolate to crave the sweet monster but with no refined sugar (dates give the sweetness).

Chocolate Chia Bars

  • 1/3 cup Chia Seeds
  • 1 cup Raw Almonds
  • 1 1/2 cups pitted Medjool Dates(15 to 25, depending on size)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp pure almond extract

In a food processor pulse the almonds a couple of times, transfer to a small bowl. Add the dates and process until a paste forms. Add the nuts and remaining ingredients in, process until mixed.
Line an 8×8″ glass baking dish with plastic wrap, knock the mix out and flatten into the dish, until even, press down firmly.
Cover and refrigerate till cold, cut into bars and store tightly wrapped.
Chia seeds can be an odd texture if you are not used to them. To make them finer, grind them in a clean coffee mill first, use as directed above. When eating the bars be sure to drink plenty and to be blunt: if you are not used to a higher fiber diet eat these in SMALL servings!

Enjoy these little bites. They are a pretty green and purple from the pistachios.

Pistachio Truffles

  • ¾ cup Almond Meal/Flour
  • ½ cup D’Noir Prunes, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup natural peanut butter or favorite nut/seed butter
  • 3 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips, chopped
  • 1/4 cup unsalted pistachios, chopped

Stir all the ingredients but the pistachios together until well mixed in a bowl. Add the pistachios to a shallow bowl. Use a 1 Tablespoon Disher (scoop) to make balls, roll gently in your hands to smooth out, then roll in the nuts, gently pressing them in. Store wrapped in the refrigerator until trip time, use within 3 weeks for best taste.
Makes about 15 balls.


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