Kooteney Lake, British Columbia.
In nearly every posting, I talk about how great it is to be out in nature. Away from crowds, emails, texts, traffic…. letting the sight, smell and touch of the earth just sink into our consciousness and senses. It is an experience unto itself; a rush of adrenaline, calm, control, and beauty all at once. The feeling you get as the sun first breaks over the horizon, the fog starts to lift and burn off. Pushing your boat off into cold, clear water, or hitting that first knee to chest deep cache of powder. Watching an owl, bear or moose materialize out of the deepest of early-morning woods.
Color Refuge! Deception Falls, Washington State.
In Japanese, this is called shinrin-yoku, which means bathing in the forest atmosphere, or taking in the forest through our senses.
Kalidiscope! South Fork Skykomish River, Washington State.
Sometimes, especially when you are overly stressed or worried in daily life, that first step into the outdoors, into the wild, is a totally immersive experience. I have often found myself spellbound by the feelings brought on by sunshine hitting my face, the raw, exhilarating inhalation of cold, clean air, and certainly by the first splash of water either from snow, rain, or waves. It provides a jolt of energy and vivacity and is absolutely the best way I can imagine to clear my head and point me in the best direction for the day -- or for life!
Cascade Understory! Washington State.
The idea of shinrin-yoku, or immersing yourself into the wild, is even more powerful in the fall season when the colors of the world flame out along the mountain ridges and low valleys with both exuberance and magnificence. When trees of gold, lemon yellow, lime green, ochre, and flaming red cover the mountain sides, surround you, and light each and every road and trail you follow.
Pend Oreille River, Washington State.
This past week, my wife Stephanie and I took a road trip to spend time together, explore new roads and find fall colors. This early October trip is an annual birthday trip and hike for Stephanie, and an opportunity for us to see larch (or tamarack, a deciduous conifer), quaking aspen, and often just a hint of red maple to add to the overall beauty.
First Light! Sullivan Lake, Washington State.
Not the usual roughing it trip. This was a chance to wine and dine Stephanie with romantic hotels and wonderful candlelight dinners (no sleeping in the truck, no Motel 6’s, no Walmart parking lots). In fact, the truck stayed home, and we took our new plug-in Mazda hybrid to see how it handled on a long-road trip (see Endnotes below).
Slough Along Pend Oreille River. Washington State.
We crossed over the Cascade Range along Route 2, driving at more than four-thousand feet in elevation at Stevens Pass, and back down into eastern Washington State. All the while being dazzled by vibrant red vine maples, scarlet dogwoods, and yellowy orange cottonwoods. Our fall colors trip was off to a great start.
Borders to a Stream. North Cascades, Washington State.
We spent several days really exploring the City of Spokane, walking along the beautiful Riverfront Park, gazing at Spokane Falls (“Stluputqu” or “swift water in the original language of the Spokane people), investigating local restaurants and shops, catching some live music, and enjoying just being together.
After Spokane, we were back to the woods as we headed north up the Pend Oreille River to Metaline Falls, through the Coleville National Forest, and crossing into British Columbia. We took in a good amount of the two-hundred-and eighty-mile International Selkirk Scenic Highway, and found a happy surprise as we took the ferry across Kootenay Lake to Nelson. This is the world’s longest free scenic ferry, and any ferry trip is always a great experience.
Beaver Ponds. Manning Provincial Park, British Columbia.
Nelson is nestled in the Selkirk mountains and bordered by the Purcell range to the east and the Monashee range to the west (along with the Cariboos, the Columbia Mountains). We have been here on several occasions and find it to be a beautiful small town in a stunning location, a great stopping point if you are continuing on to Revelstoke or Canada’s Yoho, Banff or Jasper National Parks, or a great destination all on its own. A highpoint on this trip was a hike up to the high country in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park where the views back down the valley were endless, splashed with color, and dotted by so many lakes and small waterfalls.
First Light II! Sullivan Lake, Washington State.
The final day home was more color and beautiful views as we drove along the Similkameen River, with a stop at a winery in Osoyoos (birthday week, remember?), and a side trip in E.C. Manning Provincial Park where we stopped to watch pikas frolic among the rocks. Passing Hope at the confluence of the Fraser and Coquihalla Rivers, and then back across the border to home.
Views Unlimited! Manning Provincial Park, British Columbia.
At the end, we were exhausted from a long day on the road, and we spent far too long watching the pikas. But who can leave pikas? Pikas, fall colors, a solid road trip all remind both me and Stephanie of what we most love about being in nature. What could possibly top a full week of shinrin-yoku? What tops that is being in nature with someone you love!
· Metaline Falls has historic significance for me. With American Whitewater and the Hydropower Reform Coalition, I spent many months in this area as part of Seattle City Light’s (SCL) relicensing of its Boundary Dam, which produces more than twenty-five percent of Seattle’s hydroelectric power. Part of the collaborative settlement signed in 2010 included removal of the Mill Pond Dam below Sullivan Lake (removed in 2018). Mill Pond had not produced power since 1956.
· Our new car worked great, and while stopped for breakfast in Metaline Falls, we learned we had made the local news. An op-ed in the Selkirk Sun was an anti-tourism rant about the local expense of installing an electric vehicle charging station for wealthy Seattleites (or Bellinghamsters) getting a coffee and driving their “Eco-Rooster-Teslamatic’s”? We fit that description somewhat, and the writer made one good observation -- why should the local town pay for a charging station when SCL is shipping locally generated electricity back to Seattle? It was actually our first time using a public charging station, and we were very appreciative of the service. Oh, and the local food and coffee were excellent!
· When we got to the trailhead in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park, we realized we had been there years before. What reminded us was the chicken wire surrounding the vehicles in the parking lot. In sub-alpine regions, porcupines like to come out at night to chew tires, brakes lines and radiator hoses. Anything rubber. If you’re out overnight for a multi-day trip, you need to protect your car.