I’m dreaming of a Red (wiggler) Christmas

At the last home, I never had problems with mice in the compost bins – but the new home is very close to lots of undeveloped land.  Fields, an active creek, even some wooded areas.   Close enough that it isn’t uncommon for me to see bunnies making their way through the POA-mandated shadowbox fences.

I wasn’t terribly surprised when I went out with the weekly container of kitchen scraps and found a little furry brown buddy scampering away.   Normally, I’m live and let live when it comes to outside critters who have the good sense to remain outside but those little fellas carry disease and so are not welcome in my bin.  (There’s also a solid possibility that I brought them home with the truck-load of free straw bales I recycled from a Halloween display.) For most of the year, the heat and moisture of the pile keeps mice and other scavenging critters away but the winter temps seem not to allow the waste to break down fast enough.

I wrote a letter to Santa and he delivered, via UPS & Amazon, the Worm Factory 360Momma gave her blessing to keep it in the kitchen for a few months until the weather is a bit more forgiving for me to move it into the greenhouse.  (I’m still seeking a heating solution for the greenhouse that works with my accidental fire anxiety.)

I unpacked it today and set it up in the corner of my kitchen, hoping that vermicomposting will help me with a few things:

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  • I need to up the humidity around my Meyer lemon trees while they’re indoors.  I’m in my first year of trying to grow lemons and still learning.   One of my trees is doing well, to the point where it has about a half-dozen nicely forming lemons.  The other is distressed and shedding leaves.   Hopefully the moisture of the working beds will contribute to raising the humidity at least a little in that area.
  • I also am worried about keeping the soil in those Meyer pots fertile.  The 360 has a spigot at the bottom where I can drain off some nice rich tea I can use to water the lemon trees.
  • And, well, it’ll keep the kitchen scraps indoors and out of the reach of my furry field friends.  I won’t set traps or poison for them outside or near the bed, so I need to make it a little less attractive.  You’re welcome, little buddies, now scamper along elsewhere.
  • I absolutely love fishing, so I have a longer term plan to have a bait source.  We have great trout waters within driving distance, there’s a catfish hatchery-release lake very close to our home, and plenty of public fishing areas a short car (or a medium bike) ride away.
  • I want to grow the worm presence in my raised beds.  They’re worm-free at this point and the impact is noticeable, compared at least to my former raised bed.

I prepared the bedding this morning and anticipate delivery of my first 500 red wigglers any day now.   I’m a little concerned about how well they’ll survive shipment in such cold weather, but we’ll see.

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Dehydrating eggplant and zuke to the left while waiting on the worms to arrive.

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Egg with Sage & Polenta

All of us are off this week for Thanksgiving Break, Momma & I both being educators.  This past Saturday, once it warmed back up, I turned the last of the summer garden into the compost bins and put the boys on hauling the rotting remnants of Halloween decorations from the front porch.  Momma started hanging lights on the front evergreens while I spread straw over the beds and new trees.  I noticed that the sage was looking particularly nice.  I started growing sage for one recipe and one recipe only – Eggs with Sage & Polenta – and I never grow enough to sate my love for fried sage.

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Unless you’re fortunate enough to have a live-in Italian grandmother to make your polenta for you (I’m not), then you can find the perfectly serviceable tubes of it in your local supermarket.   It keeps well on the shelf, so I always have a few tubes of it in the pantry. I’ve never been able to find acceptable fresh sage in a supermarket, though.  It is easy to grow and I stagger the seeds out every few weeks the entire summer so that I always have fresh, young, flavorful sage to pluck.

The ingredients for this are easy:  Eggs, olive oil, fresh sage, polenta, salt & pepper.

Cut the polenta into rounds about 1/2 inch thick.  Warm your cast-iron skillet up and add just enough olive oil to start browning the polenta.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  I have some smoked black peppercorns that I ground up just for this morning’s dish.  You want it nicely browned on both sides.   Once that starts to happen, put in a little more olive oil (the polenta soaks it up pretty quickly) and toss in the whole sage leaves.   Watch them – you don’t want them to cook too quickly or to turn brown.  What you’re looking for is a nice crispy green as they flavor the oil.   Get them out of the oil as soon as they look ready and set them on a paper towel.   Drop your eggs in and fry them just enough to get the edges brown and crispy but not so much that you harden the yolk.  Pour a fresh up of coffee.   Plate and live well.

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If you’re unable to find polenta, I’ve used left-over cornbread with this recipe and it was still good eats.  The cornbread will be considerably less dense than the polenta, though, and won’t require nearly as much time to brown up.

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Scones w/ Blackberry Preserves

I decided after a fun week of learning how to pickle things, I would ease back into something I’m a little more familiar with.   I had one last gallon of frozen blackberries from this summer and figured it was time to make preserves.   So I did.

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Last night was our first freeze.   I woke up around 6 to the outside temperature reading 29 degrees.  Momma loves her sleep, so I figured I had a few hours to plan the day.  Got the fireplace going, did a little light cleaning in my kitchen.   Bogey flits in first, clutching a warm blanket and a toy he slept with last night.  Bear Bait staggers his pre-teen self out of bed about thirty minutes later, heads straight to his phone and disappears into the back playroom to do whatever it is 12-yr-old boys do on Saturday mornings.

Around 8:30, I figure I have a half-hour before she comes out for coffee.   Throw some medium roast beans into the grinder and prep the coffee pot.  So, here’s a good time to admit that I’m a cookbook junkie and have been longer than I’ve actually been able to cook.  I have a new one that I’ve only (unsuccessfully) made one recipe from and decided it was time to try again.

100 Great Breads by Paul Hollywood.  Pulled down the Kitchen Aide, filled up my favorite mug of coffee, and got to work.   Baking is probably my weakest area in the kitchen. . . mostly because it requires such exact measures and I really don’t like to follow rules.  Still, it is one of my favorite new additions to the cookbook library.

I decided that the recipe for scones fit my on-hand ingredients and time constraints quite nicely.  (Momma gets cranky when she’s hungry. . I really needed a blackberry preserves delivery device that didn’t take too long to rise.)

She woke up just as I was putting on the first egg wash, turned on the coffee maker, and asked me what I was up to.  Didn’t take much explaining before I knew I was racking up some high-value Good Husband points.

Thirty minutes idsc03571n the fridge, one more egg wash, and about fifteen in the oven.  Just enough time to arrange it all pretty.  At the last minute, I braved the cold morning air to snip the last brave blossom of the season.  Did a once-over on the raised bed and, yeah, the cold night ended the long run of my early girl tomatoes and that magnificent patch of okra.  I’ll be cleaning that out later this afternoon once the sun warms it up.

 

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Yeah. . . I think they’ll eat. 

 

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November

Calling it.   The last of my summer crops has finally given in to the cold nights.  This weekend is going to bring a few 30-degree nights, I think, and even the new pods are starting to mottle brown.  The blooms have dropped off.

I haven’t pulled them up yet.  That’ll be a Saturday job.   Turn them into the compost bins.  Fold the leaves that my boys have been piling and exploding and piling again into the raised bed.  I’ll head up to the school over Break and clean up the straw bales that a PTO mom stacked up for October decoration.   Those will turn into mulch for the strawberries, the blackberries, the beds.   If I have enough, I’ll stack it aside for compost layers.

The basil has gone fully to seed and dried.   I’ll clip a few heads off and put them in the box with the dried okra pods that rattle with promise.  .  .  any two of the dozen or so I kept would be sufficient.   Today, to get ahead of the freeze, I took the last of the still-tender pods no matter what their size.   Canned my last two jars of pickled okra just now and waiting on the lids to pop.   I ate the last couple of blackberries that turned black just in time.   I hope to get up early enough to get a picture of frost on the red ones, if it gets that cold.   May not.

Watering the plants in the greenhouse today I saw a small grey and black camouflaged tree frog perched on the edge of a blueberry pot (The first lid just popped!) and moved a shallow pot down and filled it with a little extra water.   Maybe he’ll winter over in the greenhouse.  Maybe he was just hopping in for a look-around.

I’m excited about Winter coming, even though my heart is always Spring and Autumn.   We didn’t get snow last year and it would be nice to get a little this year.  Just enough to really make me yearn for those first green glimpses of daffodils at the end of it all.

(The second one just popped . . . let me go get my camera, I’m proud of these two.) 

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Garden walk with me

If I could only grow one herb, it would be rosemary.   It was the very first thing I put in the ground when I moved to the new house.   I put four plants in a tight row directly underneath my kitchen window.

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When the windows are open and the breeze blows through it, the whole kitchen smells of rosemary.

I’d like it to grow into a nice little hedge under the window where the bricks keep it warm enough to be usable year-round.  Granted, the leaves are thinner in the winter but it is still fresh rosemary.   I don’t bother trying to dry or preserve it since my plan is to grow it as much as an ornamental as anything else.  It is the first culinary herb my sons have learned to identify and Squirrel especially loves to run out and get a sprig for me.

I read somewhere that a healthy, vigorous rosemary bush indicates that the woman wears the pants in the family.  Momma would probably agree with that.   When it comes to a nice balance between an urban homestead and a lazy gardener, you just don’t get better than this.

How I use it:

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  •   Cooking, primarily.  My favorite food to cook is pretty much anything Italian and rosemary plays heavily in my family recipes.  It also goes nicely with just about any meat dish and plenty of vegetables.  Makes a nice garnish, too.
  • Aromatic/ornamentalMomma loves cut flowers and so I try to keep fresh arrangements in the house from things growing naturally around.  A sprig or two of rosemary adds great scent, color, and texture . .and it will often outlast everything else in the vase.
  • Garden helper.  I use it because bees seem to really love it and it is supposed to repel other nasty insects (like mosquitoes).

 

Over the next year, one of my personal education goals is to learn more about medicinal plants and herbs.  Rosemary oil is reported to have some antibacterial properties, but I’ll share more about that when I know more.


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Near the rosemary hedge is a small lavender patch.  It was an experiment this past Spring and I love it so much that I’ll definitely expand it this next Spring.  Currently, there are no flowers on it because they’ve been cut and added to an arrangement inside.

Before we had children, Momma loved to make her own soap.  Now that they’re old enough to be a bit more help around the house and also very very interested in anything that feels like a science experiment, she’s getting back into it.   Right now, the only way we use it is as an aromatic/ornamental addition to inside arrangements and an insect repellent to discourage flies.  I didn’t want to harvest too much this year as it became established.  Upcoming plans include soap and maybe as a neat little addition to salads.


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While it doesn’t look like much in mid-November, I’m very proud of this patch of brambles.   Just 18 months ago, there were five little canes – approximately two foot tall each.  Apache, Arapaho, & Navaho cultivars primarily.  Thornless with huge, sweet berries.  I saved the most aggressively growing plants from my last home and planted them before we even closed on the house.  I mulch them heavily with grass cuttings and water them sparingly.  Mixed in there is an unknown cultivar that is a thorned variety.  It is my first to bloom in early March and will produce berries through November.  I also foraged a few runners of wild blackberries breaking way from an old pasture.  They were destined to be mowed under by the city since they were too close to a sidewalk.

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Still producing well into November.

My goal is to have enough to make preserves, but my boys rarely allow me to save up enough.  They devour them as soon as they ripen and if I do manage to get a pint or so picked, then it ends up in muffins or pancakes or ice cream or cereal.

I do supplement by a little bit of urban foraging in the summer.  There are so many old pastures that are or will be transitioning into more subdivisions in this rapidly growing area.  Blackberries and dewberries grow wild and prolific along interstate green-ways and fence rows.   I’ll throw a bucket into the basket of my bike and ride out early in the morning.  I’m sure I look sufficiently dorky in my shorts and rubber boots with a milk crate zip-tied to the back of my bike.  The great thing about being over 40 is how easy it is to be cool with looking like a dork.

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Planning the Suburban Homestead

2016 has been an interesting year.  One of those, should we live through it, that will end up being in my great-grandchild’s Social Studies report. . . if they still do those kinds of things in the future.

I’ve not been on that many hikes, which doesn’t lend itself to too many blog posts about hiking.   We’ve been settling in our first year in the new house.  Took a few unexpected financial hits but once we saw to the other side of those, Momma gave me the go-ahead to start turning the yard into food.

We live in a good neighborhood. . smack in the center of a rapidly growing area.  The hopeful anarchist and stubborn individualist in me chaffs at having a POA – but the pragmatic side of me appreciates things like property values and living very close to where we work and shop.   I’ve poured over the covenants and it looks like I’m going to be able to do almost everything I want to do.  No chickens, but I have a plan for that.

Back in May, I had a week off work and put in the first of what will be 5 raised beds.  This one is 10×4 and raised 2′ off the ground because my knees and back aren’t getting any younger.  I put the garden in late and haphazard in desperation to get something in the ground – following (mostly) square-foot gardening.  Bear Bait is 12 now and a hell of a carpenter’s helper.  He helped me build a compost bin that doesn’t look like a compost bin. . 4x4x4 w/ hose racks mounted on the sides.  The soil isn’t what I want it to be, yet, but composting and this year’s leaf drop will help me with that.   I’ve put in two smaller pre-fab plastic compost bins.  One for the raw matter, one for the first turn.  The big bin is as much as storage for ready compost as it is the final turn.

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Early June, 2016

The blackberries I saved from the last house went crazy – producing two gallons of berries in their first year here.   I supplemented that by foraging wild blackberries & dewberries from the fence rows of some old pasture land that is slated to turn into more subdivisions soon.  I ended up with two gallons frozen berries and an additional three or so that we devoured before I could turn them into jam.

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July, 2016 – before the Japanese beetles took the corn and squash bugs took the zukes

 

This year was also the year to get trees established.  In April, I potted a pair of Meyer lemon trees that will overwinter in my kitchen by two big sunny windows.  I planted two plum trees along a north fence.  I also put three blueberry shrubs in patio containers, put in a pair of raspberry plants on one fence, and transplanted a few of the more prolific wild blackberries I was foraging from.  This past October, I put two paw-paw trees and a Chicago-hardy fig in the ground . . and that pretty much ended my tree budget.

 

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A 10x8x6 greenhouse I found on sale at Harbor Freight went up in October and I moved my potted plants in there.   I have a greenhouse crop of leaf lettuce, kale, and herbs holding on in there while the summer lettuce that bolted a couple months ago has come back from seed and we’re starting to eat off of that.

 

 

My goal is to produce more food than I can eat or store just with my family – and so will have to find ways to give or trade it away.  Already I’ve traded some blackberry shoots for a pot of strawberry plants that a friend thinned out and a bag of jalapenos that promptly fell prey to my newly learned pickling skills.  There are two vibrant Farmer’s Markets within a short drive of here.  I also had a few dog-walking neighbors who would catch me out working in the yard stop and comment about how they’d love to have a bit of a garden.  Come early April, I’ll start offering free seeds and try to set up a neighborhood trade cooperative.

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Late October, 2016:  kale, broccoli, sage, lettuce, marigolds, turnips.  In the back, late season tomatoes & that beautiful bonanza of okra still going insane.

 

 

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First-ever batch of pickled okra.  Ran out of freezer space so had to get creative about what to do with the late-season pods.

 

This year has been about just getting it started.   Stop thinking about it.  Stop planning it out.  Stop wishing for it.

 

 

 

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Butterfield Hiking Trail – 1/2/16

(all the pictures in this entry were taken by Lucky.  I was too busy playing guide to worry with cameras)

<- Day 1

After dinner, we stoked the fire and sat on the rocks surrounding it.   Now and again one of us would think of something to say, but mostly it was just watching the fire burn while the sun disappeared behind the mountain and the stars began to shine.

I got up to check the little thermometer hanging from my pack and it was just shy of freezing.  One mark of a good hiking partner is that there isn’t much need to fill the air with talk for the sake of noise.  Comfortable silence broken only by humorous anecdote or inquiry.  Lucky is going to work out just fine, it seems, with our little rag-tag group of hikers.  Already talking about how he could get his kids out on the trail.

Around 7 or 8 or so, I crawled into my hammock and bundled up for the night.  Fell asleep almost immediately and didn’t wake up again until around 4 a.m. – which isn’t odd for me.

Day 2

I read until about 5, some Backwoods magazine I saw on the rack next to the candy bars and impulse items.   Finally lost the battle of wills between a warm body and a full bladder.   Tromped out to handle business and breathe the fire back to life.

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That may be one of my favorite parts of a hike. . . huddling over the white ashes of last night’s fire, everything bone-colored in the moonlight while you exhale warmth into being.  The smell of the leaves catching fire.  The soft crackle before heat turns to fire.

 

After breakfast we broke camp, tossed on the packs, and headed back out toward the last 7 miles.

This was the most beautiful part of the trail and we finally began to see people who all were heading clockwise.   Nice sized group camped near us at Rock Hole were still asleep when we walked by.   Another pair passed while we were going through a boulder field.    Stopped here and there at the various running streams and washes to let Lucky take pictures.

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Stopped at Rock House to show him a brief short-cut I learned when caught in an overnight hailstorm with Bear Bait once.   Then headed into Quaill Valley.   Just as we came upon it, I stepped back and asked him to take lead.  I really wanted him to see it first.  Wanted to watch the look on his face when he came upon the waterfall.    Totally worth it.

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Great spot to stop for lunch, so we did.   Walked around some.   He took some pictures.   Planned out some next hikes with other folks.  How to introduce them slowly to the trail.

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Okay, maybe I took this one – but it was on his phone.

Back out, then, toward Hwy 74 where we took another break.  Watched a couple gear up in bright shiny new gear.   New outfits.  Big ol’packs.   I can’t help myself, people watching I mean.   I’m nosy.   I like to help.  So when they walked by, I asked them where they were going.   We talked a bit and I told them the address of this blog.  Hope they check in – I’d love to hear how their hike went.

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Descent back to the camp was beautiful, of course.   Lucky took more pictures.   Made it to the truck by about 1:00.   I made sure he got himself a patch when we dropped off the permit.

Introduced him to the concept of a celebratory cheeseburger on the way home.

Got a feeling he’ll be out in the woods again before too long.

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Food Interlude – BHT: 1/1/16

 

Five years ago, I managed to cook a pair of 8 oz fillets on 2nd night of a backpacking trip.   You can read about it here.   It is a meal that still gets talked about whenever we’re sitting around a fire ring.    So when I aimed to impress a new convert to this mad hobby, that was my go-to idea.

There were some adjustments to the original recipe — I took a shortcut with the gravy, didn’t have any goose fat handy, that sort of thing.   But here’s how I pulled it off:

Ingredients:

2 7-8 oz. beef fillets
2/3 of a decent sized bundle of asparagus, cut into 1.5″ pieces
1 pkg. Mckormick Mushroom Gravy Mix
1 pkg. Idahoan Baby Reds Flavored Mashed Potatoessalt, pepper, garlic powder, dried rosemary, dried tarragon
2 tbsp bacon fat
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Using my standard cook kit (explained here), with only the addition of a large plastic spoon.

1st – season the meat with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.   Sear it about a minute on each side and a minute on the edges using half of the butter and olive oil.   Set aside.

2nd – melt the bacon grease with half the butter & olive oil in the smaller pot.  Add the asparagus pieces and stir constantly on medium heat until it starts to get fragrant, bright, and just a little softer.   Remove from heat.

3rd – get your bigger pot, add the gravy packet and just enough water to make a paste.   Then stir in about 2.5 cups of water.  Bring it to a boil, then cut the heat and set the steaks into the gravy.   After 5 minutes, flip the steaks and then dump the asparagus on top of them.  Sprinkle tarragon and rosemary on them.  You’re going to use the heat of the gravy to bring the internal temperature up to preference.  The steam from the pot will finish cooking the asparagus.  I like my steaks really bloody . . but Lucky seemed a bit put-off by that level of rare.  Ended up getting them just shy of medium.

4th – bring water to boil as per the potato instructions.  Remove from heat, stir in the instant potatoes and add the shredded cheddar cheese.

 

Serve on a deep plate with the meat and taters and gravy and asparagus chunks swimming around all thick and warm and filling.

Be amazed as your hiking buddy loses the ability to speak in coherent sentences while enthralled with the glorious sustenance you just bestowed upon him.

SteakNTaters

 

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Butterfield Hiking Trail – 1/1/16

Pre-Trip planning:

I really wanted to wow my neighbor & new hiking buddy with a phenomenal meal on his first night so, of course, I went with fillets.   Picked up a couple of 7-8 oz. fillets, a cluster of asparagus, a packet of mushroom brown gravy and a packet of instant skin-on red potatoes. The night before, I put the meat in the fridge.   I put a stick of butter, about a cup of shredded cheddar cheese, and a few tablespoons of bacon grease in the freezer.   Also froze four water-based cooler inserts.  I use an insulated kids’ lunch box to carry ingredients that need to stay cool.  Freezing some of the ingredients the night before helps keep things nice and cool even on warm days.

New additions to the kit:

On my last hike, my cheap tin cup finally gave up the ghost.   I’ve purchased an Olicamp Hard Anodized Space Saver Mug and a hunter’s orange Sea to Summit X-Mug.   The X-mug collapses to fit perfectly as an insulating lid for the Olicamp mug.   I wrapped the Olicamp mug  in orange 550 para-cord with a little loop on the side in case I wanted to hang it from something.   I left the bottom unwrapped so that I could put it on a low heat to warm up.

 

I also bought a Rothco Molle Water Bottle Pouch to hold one of my Nalgene water bottles.   I finally got tired of reusing old sports drink bottles – mostly due to the small mouth.   Just can’t beat a wide-mouthed Nalgene.   The pouch on the outside is a perfect fit for two Polar Pure bottles, a cigarette lighter, and my Leatherman Skeletool.   It would also easily fit my camera, a candy bar, and one bottle of Polar Pure if I wanted to use it as a quick summit/off-trail exploration kit.

Finally, in anticipation of making mashed potatoes on the trail, I cut the handle down on a big plastic spoon so that it would fit in my mesh cook kit bag.

 

Friday morning, 1/1/2016

No better way to kick off the new year than to head out into the woods.   The weather for the past week has been torrential rain with flooding everywhere.   This ushered in the coldest temperatures so far this winter . . . with highs in the upper 40s and overnight lows dipping below freezing.   I figured a few dry days would be enough to lower the creeks around BHT while still letting just about every waterfall in the area flow.   Winter leaf-off, full waterfalls, cold enough to keep most folks off the trail. . . I can’t really think of a more perfect way to introduce someone to the trail.

About 7:45 am I backed the truck out to warm it up and stash the packs . . . only to see my neighbor heading on down the road toward my driveway with that grin on his face we all have heading into a hike.   Plan was to be on the trail by 9:00 am.

Signed in at the visitor center and found there were two other groups, both going clockwise.   I hate doing the trail clockwise.   Parked at the trailhead, took obligatory pictures, and then headed into the woods.

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That’s my neighbor and new trail buddy, Lucky.  I told him we had to take pictures now because we won’t be this pretty when the hike ends.

We weren’t.

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I purposefully chose counter-clockwise for a couple of reasons. The first one is the Devil’s Half-Mile.   In my opinion, that’s the most difficult part of the trail and I really like to get that behind me.   Another reason is that once you get up on top of the mountain, it is pretty easy going until Junction Camp.   I didn’t know anything about how Lucky was as a hiker and this was going to be a good chance to test him out.   I figured if it took us too long to get to JC, then we could easily hike out to the trailhead in the morning and it would still “count” as an overnight trip.   I’m not big on taking risks and felt responsible for making this a fun, safe hike for him. The final reason is that I really don’t think that section of the trail is as pretty as the rest. I wanted to end the hike with the wow-factor of heading through Quaill Valley.

We hit the trail at 9:00, approximately, and made great time.   Just before we turned up the mountain, we did come across a trashed campsite – which was disappointing.   It did provide one more picture, though, for my ongoing scavenger hunt of odd & inexplicable items found on the trail.

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Yep. This.   Sitting on a rock.

I also found a long section of orange paracord hanging from a tree, so I salvaged that while Lucky took pictures of the running water. Up the mountain, then.

I was huffing and wheezing like an asthmatic locomotive heading up that bit.   He’s behind me barely breaking a sweat.   I’m feeling every one of the pounds I put on this holiday season. Every. One.   We do make it up to the top and head on.   There’s been some kind of shifting or significant erosion on that side over the past few years.   Lot of trees down across the trail, one section almost washed out.   Nothing dangerous, just like I said – not the prettiest part of the trail.   I got turned around once while telling a story.   Saw a double-diamond and just did a little u-turn and zeroed in on the first diamond I saw.   About ten, fifteen steps down the trail I hear him say, “Um. . . I think you’re going the wrong way.”

Heh.   Nothing inspires confidence in your guide like watching him lose track of what side the mountain is on.

Stopped for lunch just as the trail takes a turn down toward the creeks.   Down went the packs, out came the cameras.   The water was just rushing.   Beautiful.   I’m leaning back on a rock noshing on a candy bar and grinning like I’m the one who made the water flow. It is really fun watching someone see this place for the first time.

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Made it to the turn-off to Junction Camp around 1 and, really, I just couldn’t make camp that early.   I did want him to see the campsites down there, though, so we walked through and took a few pictures. Recent flooding had dropped considerably and there was nobody around.

Spent the next two hours hiking to Rock Hole Camp. I figured the clockwise groups would be camping at either Quaill Valley or Rock House.   At 4 we set up camp at the tall fire pit in the middle of Rock Hole Camp. Slung the hammocks, started a fire.   I treated some water and started getting my cook kit together.   When I showed him the steaks, he was dubious.   “Those are. . uh.. pretty thick steaks.”

I just grinned.

This is how I keep the crew inviting me along. I ain’t pretty, I ain’t fast, and I don’t always smell so good after the first day.   But I can cook like nobody’s business.

Posted in Backpacking, Devil's Den State Park, Trip Report | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Back on the trail

Finally settled into the new home.  Great neighborhood, great house.   I invited one of my neighbors over to a crawfish boil and ended up talking (of course) about hiking.  He seemed interested and said he’d like to go some time.

So, I invited him.    We knocked out the Butterfield Hiking Trail Friday overnight into Saturday.   I’ll get some pictures up and do a trail report soon.   Met some good folks on the trail, too.  I’m hoping they’ll check in here and let me know how their trip went.

For them as well as my new friend, it was their first taste of overnight backpacking and their first taste of the Butterfield.    I’m so accustomed to following along behind Kat (who wasn’t able to join us on this hike) that I forget how far I’ve come as a backpacker.   It was a whole lot of fun playing guide and helping folks discover such a beautiful trail.

Also saw that the visitor’s center had new patches, so I couldn’t help myself.

NewPatches

 

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