Monday, May 31, 2010

PCT Update: pictures & baking up a storm

The PCT crew (they're now hiking in a group of 4) are spending some "Zero Days" over the Memorial Day weekend, resting in Agua Dulce, at the edge of the Mojave Desert, not far from Edwards Airforce Base. Sounds like people who live along the PCT are incredibly friendly and helpful -- it's just amazing!

My daughter, Eldest (for lack of a better name -- as her trailname keeps changing) has just updated Mile 454 on her blog, Kitchensister, and if you want to see some great pictures and video clips from the trail, click directly on the upper row of her pictures, or on "View my Gallery" -- this takes you to her Picasa album.
Phone reception is not great, but we did talk recently (there was some confusion and hurt feelings over a request for replacement of gear, resulting in me spending last Friday afternoon on an expensive shopping trip to REI that was not needed after all, but all is forgiven now!)

So now Liesl (Youngest) and I have turned our kitchen into a production center for Backpacking Breakfast bars: see my other blog, Borealkitchen, for details and recipes. The two of us are having soooo much fun developing recipes, catchy names, and packaging for these bars -- our menfolk are rolling their eyes, but seem to be plenty willing to give opinions and taste-test...

Move over, commercial bars, we got our own brand-names:

A-Bar: Awesome Alaska Bar
baked bar containing oats, cranberries, pecans, pumpkin seeds, flax & sesame seeds.

T-Bar: Truly Tropical Bar
contains Oats, Mango, Apricots, cashews, almonds, almond butter, honey, crystallized ginger.

O-Bar: Ominous* Oat-Carob Bar
contains Oats, carob, sunflower seeds, walnuts, almond butter, honey
*this name is due partially to the ominous brown color, and the fact that carob is NOT popular in this household

That's as far as we've gotten so far, but we've got lots more ideas:

B-Bar: Bravo Blueberry Bar

P-Bar: Perfect Pumpkin Bar

M-Bar: Mom's Apple Pie Bar

any suggestions?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

When I'm old...

Youngest (a young woman now!) is very aware of time and passages right now -- today is her last day of childhood, or at least, of elementary school. She graduates from 6th grade today and is then officially in Junior High!
She told me the other day: "When I'm old, like 50, I want to be like you. And also like my teacher, Mrs.A -- she's training for a 50 K now. For both of you, exercise and health are important, and you don't feel old. That's how I want to be!'"

What a compliment!
I turn 50 this year (disclaimer: I am not training for a 50K), but I do keep active, and I certainly don't feel OLD.

Digression: My grandmother, when she turned 50, stopped wearing a bathing suit in public! She would have considered it "indecent exposure"!

Photo credit:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Semantics: Naturist vs. Naturalist

My job title is Naturalist, which is defined as an expert in Natural History.
Not to be confused with Naturist, which is somebody who likes to go nude, i.e. wear no clothes.

Today's Anchorage Daily News has an article about Nude hiking in Alaska -- not exactly a trend I see catching on big-time, given our state's abundant crop in mosquitoes...!

But I better be extra clear, pronunciation-wise, when I describe myself as a naturalist. And specify that I do wear clothes, which naturists refer to as "textiled".

Picture Credit:
accompanying article that reports nude hiking has been banned in the Swiss Canton of Appenzell.

Monday, May 17, 2010

PCT Update: San Bernadino Nat'l Forest

As best as I can tell, the PCT gals are currently hiking through the San Bernadino Nat'l Forest (photocredit: They are now somewhere North of Lake Arrowhead, roughly between the town of San Bernadino and the Mojave Desert town of Victorville (Route 66 went through there). They might have stopped at the Hot Springs at Deep Creek, and will soon be hiking along the San Andreas Rift Zone, after crossing Interstate 15 at Cajon Pass near Silverville Lake. Within a day or 2, I expect them to call while re-supplying in Wrightwood -- meanwhile, I just wish they would remember to "push the button" on the SPOT every night!!!

Digression: The SPOT is a Satellite GPS Personal Tracking device, and lets loved one such as WORRIED MOMS, check on the progress of somebody hiking in a remote wilderness. The Prof (my husband) is starting to grumble when I keep on checking the computer late at night and first thing in the morning, and worriedly report that the SPOT hasn't been activated in over 24 hours. "Just think, in the old days, you wouldn't have heard from them for 5 days at a time, and been just fine with a weekly phone call!" EOD

After Wrightwood (near Big Pines and the Mountain High Ski Resort), the PCT passes through the San Gabriel Mountains and descends to Highway 14 at Agua Dulce. The next stretch takes them through the longest dry stretch (western arm of the Mojave Desert) before climbing the Tehapachi Mountains.

Right now I'm working on a care package to mail to Agua Dulce -- perhaps I should include some dehydrated water (ha, ha, ha!) for the long dry stretch!

Friday, May 14, 2010

End of schoolyear BUSY-ness

It's just been crazy around here: something going on most every single night!

We're still managing to eat dinners together, but then have to rush off:
Volleyball practice & icecream treat after -this Saturday is Pixie's last game!
String Instruments getting hauled around - lessons, recital (both kids, played beautifully last night), and Wolf's orchestra also played "Pomp and Circumstance" at High School graduation the night before.
Babysitting - Youngest is in high demand.
Phonecall - Eldest called from PCT, made it to Big Bear City, and we all talked to her for a long time. She's 1/10th of the way.
Birthdays - 3 celebrations this week.

All is well, just super BUSY!
Next week school ends, and we go CAMPING!!!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

"Why would she work here?"

A mosquito landed on me recently while teaching outdoors. Kids can get very distracted by such things and it can be a challenge to get them refocused (forget teaching if they spot a squirrel!).
They often interrupt me with: "em, Naturelady, there's a mosquito on your forehead."
So I shoo away the mosquito, saying something like "it's just a mosquito, don't worry about it".
Soon another mosquito lands on me, and I hear the following exchange:

girl 1: Another mosquito landed on her.
girl 2: Mosquitoes don't bother her.
girl 3: Yeah, why else would she work here?
girl 1: what do you mean?
girl 3: It's a Nature Center, stupid! Mosquitoes are part of nature!

So there you have it.
If it only were that simple-- how about all the pollen that are bothering my allergies right now?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

It's a gorgeous Mother's Day here in Alaska, and we're celebrating Wolf's Birthday too, who made his appearance on another gorgeous Mother's Day 17 years ago!

The PCT gals send a pictorial Mother's Day greeting by writing I Love U in the snow along the trail.

To view, follow this link to their Picasa page, MothersDay Greeting from PCT

Misadventures on the PC Trail

The PCT gals are detouring around the snow-bound section over Fuller Ridge as recommended, and have picked up the Pacific Crest Trail at Black Mountain Road.

Their progress can be followed on SPOT -- see sidebar on this blog.
They also posted pictures from their first section the hike from Campo to Idyllwild.

I'm not entirely sure what exactly happened this morning, but I received a message from my distraught daughter after she realized she was somehow separated from her camera and Leatherman (see picture). Sounds like it was lost, or perhaps, stolen by a fellow hiker....

She's retracing her steps, and I'm trying to help out by making a bunch of phone calls (to motel in Idyllwild, and the trail angel who gave them a ride this morning). No news so far...

Besides meeting some wonderful people on the PCT, she's also finding out about the less savory side of humanity -- I guess she's learning not to trust every handsome guy she meets on the trail!

I wish her luck. The camera and leatherman might be goners, but I sure hope the rest of the day (and the trip) will turn out better!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

PCT update: too much snow!

From what I am starting to gather, the PCT North of Idyllwild is way too snowy, and the gals are going to hitchhike and get around it.
Yesterday I talked to my daughter while they were re-supplying in Idyllwild, and they did not mention anything about that. Today when I checked their location on SPOT expecting them somewhere N of Idyllwild, I was surprised to seem them backtracking back South -- WHAT WAS GOING ON?
Being a good worrier like only moms can be, I left messages for the girls along the lines of "what's going on, why are you backtracking?"
Finally I had the good sense to check the PCTA website, and found this announcement under trail updates:
On 05/04/10 PCTA received trail condition report from thru hikers; it took 9 hrs to travel about 12 miles. Fuller Ridge is still dangerous and under ice/snow with lots of exposure. They had a good topographic map and compass and had to do quite a bit of route finding and still ended up off track a few times but made it to Black Mt. Rd. late last night. PCTA is currently recommending: Hikers hitch from Idyllwild, CA on Hwy 243 North, to Black Mt. Rd. (8miles) Then, hike the 8 miles from the Black Mt. Rd./243 Junction, up to Fuller Ridge Trailhead in order to miss the dangerous section that the two hikers mentioned. (16 mile total detour ) (Black Mt. Rd. is currently closed and gated at hwy 243, but open to foot traffic). Fobes Saddle to Saddle Jct. is still under snow. Dangerous conditions exist around Apache Peak. We recommend that hikers that are not comfortable with snow travel or equipped with light mountaineering gear get off at Fobes Saddle and hitch to Black Mt. Rd. in order to bypass the dangerous conditions which exist in the San Jacinto Mts. (If traveling through the San Jacinto Mts., light mountaineering gear, a good map, compass, or G.P.S. is recommended.) For more information contact PCTA’s Idyllwild office at 951-257-4100
Now I understand -- they probably hitch-hiking to get around that stretch, perhaps even by way of Palm Springs with a visit to a spa...?!?
Still hoping to hear from them soon, as hitch-hiking makes me more nervous than them hiking thru bear country...

Update on an update -- looks like they hitchhiked do Hwy 74 and are now camping along the PCT on the same stretch they just did a couple of days ago. Maybe they're figuring on doing that stretch twice, then hitch-hike around Fuller Ridge and pick up the PCT again at Black Mtn Rd.

Enough worrying -- they're probably hoping to meet up with some cute guys that were a day behind them...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Joys of teaching... with jello

I just finished 2 days of 4th grade Geology camp, and now I can teach about glaciers in my sleep!
One of the really fun things I get to do is to demonstrate glacial action with the use of gummi bears and blue jello.

We are surrounded by glacial features in this glacier-carved valley, but few kids really understand geology because of the large time scale involved.

Around here there are many glacial erratic boulders, and there is one right near these kids' school that often gets painted by rival schools. Last week the rock was yellow, but this week it's blue!
When I ask the students if they have ever seen a glacial erratic boulder, they say "no", unaware how the yellow/blue rock got to where it is now -- what fun it is to tell them about how that rock got there -- this is the kind of thing that makes geology relevant to them. I love to be able to teach "hands-on" science, and the biggest praise I get is when a kid tell me after the lesson "I really get it now!"

For teachers out there -- here's what I do:
1) Before class, I built a mountain-valley landscape on a large tray, using crushed soda cans and the like for the mountains, then covering the whole thing with aluminum foil, and then some clear plastic wrap.
2) In the first part of the lesson I do a demonstration using gravel, carving a U-shaped valley with snow and ice, demonstrating moraines.
3) Then I get out my Aluminum-clad landscape and sprinkle a few gummi worms, telling the kids that they are rocks and boulders.
4) Next, we have us an ice age! I start piling on the blue jello spoonful after spoonful high in the "mountains", while talking about the process of firnification (how snow turns into glacial ice).
5) They watch the jello getting heavier and heavier in the mountains, until gravity starts pushing it downhill -- and the gummi "boulders" start getting pushed down the valley.

Then I have them write a little story of how their school rock got to its present location.
I remind them that the word erratic means "out-of-place", and the rock obviously does not "belong" there, in other word, did not start out there. So while the kids are all quietly writing their stories, I serve up dessert: a bowl-ful of glacier-jello with a few erratics embedded in them...