Pacific Northwest Adventure: Hoh Rainforest

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hoh rainforest-12From Portland, we drove up through Washington to Olympic National Forest. Occupying most of the northwest corner of Washington, Olympic has four distinct ecosystems and no roads that drive across the park. To start, we visited the Hoh Rainforest, on the west. Surprisingly for October, it was not raining when we arrived. We hiked into the trees to get to our campsite. There was moss and mushrooms everywhere and a handful of trees were changing color.

We set up camp at one of the designated sites right next to the Hoh River and went off to do a little more hiking. When we returned, some deer were grazing not far from where we had set up our tent. They ambled through the woods, munching on leaves, ignoring us entirely. We made our dinner overlooking the river as the sun set; a delicious meal of no beef stroganoff, a new staple in our camping kitchen.

It rained lightly overnight, just enough for us to enjoy the percussion of drops hitting our tent. We woke early, ate some oatmeal and hiked back towards the visitor center and our car. In the early morning we were only ones on the trail and as we walked we listened to the sounds of the forest. I heard a rustling of branches and we stopped to look for movement. Off in the distance, hidden in the trees I spotted the flank of an Elk as it bounded off. Though it was just a tiny glimpse, we were both elated. We continued walking, so pleased with our luck, when we came upon an entire herd of elk crossing the trail in front of us. We were surrounded by elk on both sides and in front of us. They continued to cross the path, slowly going deeper into the woods. We heard a few of them bugling. It was truly magical.

If you missed it, here is part one of our Pacific Northwest adventure: Mt. Hood.
Next on the trip: Hurricane Ridge.

Pacific Northwest Adventure: Mt. Hood

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hoh rainforest-1As promised, a few images and notes from our trip to the Pacific Northwest. We started our trip in Portland with breakfast at Vita Cafe. After walking around for a bit we grabbed some treats to go from Back to Eden and headed up to Mt. Hood. The Timberline Lodge that is perched half way up the volcano is where some of the exterior shots in The Shining were filmed. It was too early in the year for snow at that level but it was lovely to walk along a tiny bit of the Pacific Crest Trail that I’ve been reading so much about for the past year.

After doing a little bit of hiking and exploring the lodge itself, we made our way down the mountain to Mirror Lake where we ate the quiches and pastries that we had picked up from Back to Eden. They were delicious, all having a singular flavor, and the perfect picnic meal. We walked around the lake before it got dark, enjoying the views of the mountain and the wooded terrain.

Making our way back towards Portland, we stopped and hiked up to Little Zigzag Falls. The short trail was lush and green and beautiful. It was such a stark contrast to all the dried up rivers and streams that I’m used to in California. Seeing water rush over the falls was a real treat.

We spent the night at McMenamin’s Kennedy School. Last time we were in Portland, we had stayed at the Ace, which was great for exploring the whole city on bikes. We both loved the vibe of the Kennedy School, with its long hallways and hidden rooms. It was conveniently close to so many of the restaurants we wanted to visit and just blocks from our favorite bar, The Bye and Bye.

Previously, riding bikes around Portland really allowed us to connect with the city, to travel slowly and take in all the different places we visited. This time, while we did a fair amount of walking around, we opted to try and visit as much of the Pacific Northwest as possible, getting more of a sense of the whole area, rather than just Portland specifically. While it wasn’t quite as immersive, it was great to see some of they outlying areas like Mt. Hood.

Next up: we travel up to Washington to see the Olympic National Park.

Mí na Samhna

October has long been my favorite month for all the Halloween celebrations and fall festivities. It is often so full of activites and projects that the final days seem like a marathon where I find myself trudging through the events exhausted and depleted and only half enjoying them. I seems impossible to let one element of celebration go to the wayside though when this is the only chance all year to indulge in all things spooky and dark. Then when October ends it as if you snap your fingers and the year is over too, everything moving too quickly.

This year was different though, we started off the month with a grand adventure, heading up to Oregon and Washington. I’ve been wanting to return since we went to Portland back before we were married. I fell in love with that little city and it became a sort of dream future home. Someplace smaller and slower. This visit, we spent a little time there, but drove up through Washington to visit a few of the National Parks and just explore the whole area. Posts from our trip coming soon, as I just started to sift through the photos.

When we returned, October marched forward, we visited haunted houses, we had our Halloween marathon, we watched scary movies and spent time with friends. There were obligations and stresses just like regular life but it wasn’t overwhelming like it sometimes is. Sometimes I want to do everything and I cannot possibly do everything.

This year has felt slow and strange. I had a sort of self imposed moratorium on creative projects over the past few months as we went on more outdoor adventures and I just didn’t have the time. What I realized though, as I took the time to create my Halloween costume this year, is that I missed the simple joy of making something with my hands. It may not measure up to the experience of exploring a new place but one can’t be away from home all the time (well, that’s arguable, but it’s certainly not for me). There’s also the gratification of being able to finish something, even if it is small, which is a counterpoint to the ambiguous and drawn out completion of film projects. It’s something I had been telling myself wasn’t so important, but is really something that I need.

Last year at this time I shot my short film, Forgiveness. Since completing that project, my feelings of accomplishment have tapered off. Having any sort creative success means constantly pushing forward even when no one is looking and it’s tiring and often unrewarding. I wrote another feature earlier this year but since then I’ve been struggling to start the next script, one that I have almost entirely mapped out already. I managed to break through whatever bizarro writer’s block I was experiencing and get a handful of pages down finally. I know it will still be work to get through the rest, but having finally started is freeing in itself.

You may have noticed my intermittent dissatisfaction with Los Angeles. A big part of it is the heat. The temperatures here can be oppressive in an undefinable way. I realize it’s not so hot as some other desert places but the way it drags on for so much of the year wears on me. This drought too has been occupying a space in my mind, a constant worry in the background, one I can hardly do anything about. It seems selfish to complain about warm weather and sunny skies but there is a certain monotony to it and a certain smoggy haze too.

This Halloween we went to a party at some friends’ house and as we roasted vegan marshmallows over a fire pit it started to rain. Did I mention my costume was a rain cloud? We drove through the edge of West Hollywood to see those who were making their way to or from the parade there in their wild costumes. We ended the evening with a late night meal with friends at Doomie’s. As we drove, the gentle rain turned into a downpour. It was beautiful and such a relief.

The weather has been cool now and it finally feels like fall (though it’s going to be nearly 90 degrees again this week). I knit myself a new hat (pictured above) snuggled up in bed watching X-Files. Shawn and I walked around town while we were waiting on some car repairs and passed through a movie shoot where hundreds of bikes were set up in the middle of Wilshire Boulevard. We visited LACMA and Whimsic Alley and I started to come to peace with this city. I know it’s only because I’ve never lived anywhere else that it’s hard for me to see how special Los Angeles can be. I know crazy magical things happen here all the time, they’re just not usually the same kind of magic I’m looking for.

Pinnacles National Park

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A few weeks ago, on our way up to the Bay Area, we made a detour to visit Pinnacles National Park. It is one of the newest parks, just converted from a National Monument in 2013 and is quite small in comparison to some of the other parks in California. You could hike all the way across the park in a day if you wanted. The rocky landscape was formed by a combination of volcanic activity, movement of the tectonic plate and erosion. Red rock pillars jut into the sky and fallen boulders make caves throughout.

We wandered the trails through the park, making our way through the caves and up to the reservoir built in the 1930’s. There weren’t a ton of people out and we found most of them relaxing by the reservoir. There were quite a few rock climbers and it was exciting to see them high on distant peaks.

The place felt old and mysterious. We joked that we were stepping into Picnic at Hanging Rock. At the end of summer the place was still hot and sort of desolate feeling. Though it would be difficult to get lost in the clearly marked trails, you could imagine in an earlier time one of your party going missing.

There’s a feeling that this place is just crossing over from remote tourist attraction to a protected park. The campground was not very enticing, more of an RV spot than anything, though it oddly had a swimming pool. If we had more time, I would have liked to hike more of the trails. Still, it was fun to picnic there and climb through the caves, exploring nooks and crannies with giant boulders overhead.

7th Annual Halloween Movie Marathon & S’mores bars

s'mores-1I may get my blogging credentials* revoked as I did not take any photos during this year’s Halloween Movie Marathon. It was year seven and we switched it up a little by starting the fest in the morning rather than at night. Since the marathon has been officially running for 24 hours for the past few years, we thought this would make it less about endurance and more about just having a fun time. We also stuck to mostly classic films and included some that were not as scary. It was a great time.

I made the usual treats: caramel popcorn, sugar cookies and spinach artichoke dip. Shawn set up a hot dog bar as always. We kicked things off with fresh bagels and cream cheese for the morning crowd. There was late night cashew mac and cheese. At one point, our friend, Scott, showed up with two seitan meats jesus pizzas from Pizzanista. There was so much food we couldn’t eat it all. I had made jackfruit carnitas for burritos but we never got to making them. There were secret donuts that we were all too stuffed to eat.

The one specialty thing I made on a whim were mini s’mores bars. Someone asked that I post the recipe so I will do my best, considering I just winged the whole thing. They were awesome though and really easy. For me, the perfect candy treat. Recipe below!

And of course, for posterity, our playlist for this event:

1. The Worst Witch
2. The Wicker Man
3. Psycho
4. Blue Velvet
5. An American Werewolf in London
6. The Lost Boys
7. Rosemary’s Baby
8. The Orphanage
9. The Quiet Ones
10. Poltergeist
11. The Exorcist
12. The Brood
13. Halloween


Mini S’mores Bars


1 bag vegan chocolate chips
about 1/2 cup Dandies mini marshmallows
5 or 6 Speculoos cookies
chocolate mold – I used a chocolate cup mold, but you could probably just spoon these onto aluminum foil and be ok

Break up the speculoos cookies into small pieces and crumbs, making sure they’re small enough to fit into your mold, but not all powder. If you can’t find the Dandies minis, you can cut up some larger mallows into pieces. They’ll get really sticky, so rolling them in powdered sugar will make them easier to handle.

Melt most of the chocolate chips in a double boiler on medium low heat (or in a bowl over a pot if you don’t have a double boiler like me), setting a small amount aside for tempering. Once the chips have melted, remove from heat and stir in the remaining chips until they are also melted.

Mix in your marshmallows and cookies. Measurements above are approximate so you might want to do this a little at a time so that there the mixture is still sort of drippy and mostly chocolate. Spoon the chocolate into your mold and let cool in the fridge for 1/2 an hour to an hour. Pop out of the mold and store in a cool place, or refrigerate. Try not to eat them all at once, even though you’ll probably want to.

*as if there were such a ridiculous thing