There's nothing quite like a new day full of promise! Refreshed and feeling positive, unlike the day before, all we had to do was load the dogs and crates, ice chest with cold/frozen food, and ourselves. Grande Mocha in the cup holders, muffins in hand, and it's East for us! The weeks forecast predicts perfect camping weather- 80's for high, dry, clear, 40's for low. Ten minutes into the drive I state, "We're on the road again now." Tom replies, "Not yet." "What do you mean?" Silence. "Oh, I know! We won't officially be on our way until we pass the spot where yesterday we had to turn back." "Exactly!" So, was Sunday just a trial run? I think not, but in many ways it did turn out for the better. Go figure. Much to our delight, and theirs, Greer drooled, but no more vomiting, and that was without Dramamine. Obviously, something about being snuggled in her crate made travel more pleasant for her, thus all.
~ on the ferry crossing Lake Roosevelt ~
We arrive in Wenatchee precisely at lunchtime (Tom planned it!) to indulge in our favorite 1950's-style decor burger joint, Dusty's. :) Just north of town we are detoured off Hwy. 97 N to Hwy. 2 E due to a damaged bridge ahead. This is a rather barren route we haven't traveled before. It led us to the southerly approach to Republic- across Lake Roosevelt via ferry and north through the Colville Indian Reservation. Beautiful! Tom told me to watch out for deer and bear, instead we had to avoid deer, cows and a flock of wild turkeys! The closer we got to Republic the more butterflies fluttered inside. It's a good thing we left early cause it took 2 hours longer due to rest stops for the dogs. It was so worth it, though, to see them have such fun during the week! A quick stop at the K-Hall construction site to see the progress (very cool!) then onward to our land.
There it was, waiting for us in all its quiet, wild beauty. Our Highland gem! As we pull up and park on what is to be our campsite, I could barely breathe from anticipation to actually set foot ON it. We take the dogs out, walk to the property line, unlatch the rustic cowboy gate. I hold my breath... one step... two steps... I'm on our land!!! We slowly pick our way along the brushy drive just inside the edge of the woods. I feel like a wide-eyed child on her first visit to the zoo. It's gorgeous!!! We so wanted to keep exploring, but it was already 5:30 p.m., daylight wouldn't last long. Camp needed to be at least partially set up, dogs fed, light dinner of sandwiches for us, and loo installed (for 'nature' of another sort was calling, loudly.) Sounds like supreme, or ridiculous, self-control, but restraint comes easier with utter exhaustion! We decide to set up the tent in the morning and just sleep in the minivan. It was a cold night, low around 34 degrees F, but we managed just fine.
~ our south fence line ~
~ dog crates and bucket loo tent ~
~ Girl Scout-green camp kitchen Tom's mom put together from a kit in the 1960's! ~
Tuesday, Sept. 22:
In the morning, scarf, gloves and enamelware cup of hot cowboy coffee (aka camp coffee) helped to warm the outside, as the cockles of our hearts were warmed gazing around at the hills and trees kissed by the rising sun. The meadow we camped next to (not one of ours) revealed a small herd of deer emerging from the thicket. Not alarmed by our presence, they calmly nibbled on browse as they made their way... somewhere.
After setting up the tent, our first stop was Stewart's house. How nice it was to meet and see their efficient homestead! From there, we drove along the road that crosses our property near the woods. Tom pointed out this or that, the views I'd seen in pictures and video taken in May and August. Like puzzle pieces they were forming a big, wonderful picture. Into town we go for food supplies and a bale of straw (how fitting!) to scatter underneath the tent for warmth and softness. Worked perfectly, too! On returning, a brief visit with our nearest year-round neighbors, Steve and Kathy. Up the drive we also meet Phil, with the front 40; though he doesn't live there, he was visiting to care for some business. It was great to meet them all.
~ first straw bale dwelling, of sorts! ~
Another all too short walk into our woods before the iron dinner triangle rang out, figuratively (but I do have a real special one just waiting to be hung in its new home!) Hot cocoa that night under the stars. Oh, the bejeweled black velvet sky! Stars so big and bright and twinkling around the gauze-like expanse of the Milky Way. Happy Campers, one and all, we doze off into sweet slumber.
Wednesday, Sept. 23:
~ morning vistas ~
Today Kelly, our architect, arrives. Excitement is high! While we wait, a picnic lunch is packed, water for all creatures, I read a little in between helping Tom construct a private outdoor shower. Let me tell you, showering under the big blue sky while viewing the near mountains is a marvelous experience! We highly recommend it if ever you get the chance. ;) That morning also, the buck of the deer herd in the meadow must have realized we would be there for a spell, and that he did not like us. So with barking and stamping, he took his family away, never to be seen for the duration of the week. Humph!
In one of the quiet moments, it occurs to me how in such peaceful surroundings ones senses are heightened- hearing more acute to pick up a new birds song, chipmunk chatter, the wind in the trees; eyesight more keen to focus on the red-tailed Hawk soaring above, deer grazing, color of the aspen and larch trees as they begin their autumnal change; nose appreciates the pure mountain air, scent of the majestic Ponderosa pines, earthiness of the hot coffee. Deep thoughts.
Finally, Kelly and her four-legged companion, Zoe arrive. Dogs meet and like one another instantly. A quick recap of where we'll hike and what we hope to accomplish while there, and we set off for the South Meadow. Up until now, we kept the dogs on lead to get them used to the camp as being our temporary home. It was now time to un-clip 'em and let 'em run! I swear I could hear, "Woo hoo!" "Yippee!" "This is great!" They both did awesome, waiting for us to catch up, checking on me... the slowpoke. Tom and Kelly are fast, strong hiker-types. I'm the slow and steady variety, but reach my destination all the same. I tired to take notice of and appreciate the land as we went, but somehow being careful of my footing (without proper hiking boots, I was) while trudging through the underbrush and steep slope, and breathing took precedence. Although, on my many stops I did take a gander around... lovely. As we neared the top, I went even slower so as to soak in the view and feel the emotions. Breaking through the edge of the woods and out into the Meadow, suddenly the expanse opens wide to huge blue sky and forested mountain tops as far as the eye can see. Breathtaking indeed!!! As I stand there drinking in my surroundings, knowing we belong to this land, the tears come. Unlike my usual emotional self, I stoically choke them back. But as we relax, eat lunch, talk, watch the dogs at play rolling in the soft grass, relish the cooling breeze, look over Kelly's adjustments to our house design, and finalize the house site- tears periodically well up behind the privacy of my sunglasses. And in my quiet alone times since, I allow them to flow free.
I must tell you about this nifty gadget Kelly brought, called a Solar Pathfinder. It's used to determine how appropriate a site/location is for solar purposes at any given week/month/time of day, throughout the entire year. Way cool! With its assurance, the site we picked for our home was confirmed as near perfect- the west side of the South Meadow, nestled next to the woods, gorgeous mountain views stretching from east to west.
All good things must come to an end, well, some... time to head back down to camp for dinner. Going down hill is easier, but not without it's own issues! Kelly and Stewart, who joined us on the Meadow earlier, shared in our dinner of hearty Hamburger Stew (my great-grandmother's recipe) and cornbread baked over coals in a dutch oven. Hot cocoa under the stars for dessert. A meal doesn't get much more soul-satisfying than that! We even got to watch the Space Station on its 4 minute west-to-east orbit across the night sky. Kelly and Zoe slept at their own tent site. Was I sore from the hike? You bet I was! But it felt good. :)
Thursday, Sept. 24:
Bright morning, warmer than the rest; hot cowboy coffee, a.k.a. camp coffee, not thick enough to stand a spoon in, (thank goodness Tom got real good with this method) bacon, eggs, pumpkin bread. Good eats! After breakfast, the three of us sit down to go over more details of the house- window size and placement, kitchen counter lengths, roof trusses, roofing material, loft, etc, etc, etc. It feels so real now! We can feel the momentum picking up speed, but also the need to stay on track and keep our eagerness to speed things up tempered. ;) The entire process even up to just this point, let alone farther along, demands patience. If you are contemplating a similar adventure, learn and practice patience before embarking!
Kelly wanted one more look at the South Meadow before leaving, so she and Tom took the dogs up; I stayed in camp to rest. My sweet Eoin and Greer came back to check on me! Greer was one tired puppy! Once Eoin was satisfied I was alright, he went back up, but Greer stayed, resting at, no ON, my feet in the shade. While up there, a 200' gain in elevation from the valley floor, Tom staked the corners of the house and took pics to show me. How cool is that! Then, it was goodbye to Kelly and Zoe, and we went into town for more ice.
Upon returning to camp, we took a leisurely walk into our woods for a picnic lunch. Lying back on the soft grass in the cool, musical, sun-dappled wood was like being in a movie scene written just for us.
Friday, Sept. 25:
A couple weeks prior to our trip, I happened upon the website of a farm near Republic, in Curlew, where this couple raise and sell grass-fed beef from their fold of Scottish Highland cattle. Arrangements were made to tour their farm. This morning was the time! Hamilton Farms rests is a 200 acre farm in the Kettle River valley nestled at the foot of high, craggy mountains. Pat and Nancy couldn't have been more welcoming, down-to-earth, helpful folks! Their amazing cattle tolerated a couple of city-gawkers walking in their midst. The big bull- Zeus- and a couple cows, even wanted to be combed; we happily obliged. Gotta love those fuzzy ears, shaggy coat and beautiful horns! Can't wait to try the beef. :)
~ Zeus ~
~ the original 100+ year old homestead ~
Stopped by Stewart's to say goodbye. Tom wanted to walk up to the NE corner of our land to find the monument. Greer stayed with me, against her will, and he took Eoin. We chatted back and forth on the walkie-talkie, great fun to 'hear' what he saw! Our last dinner- grilled pork chops, sliced home-grown tomatoes (from Stewart's mom, thanks again!) and roasted potatoes. Finally, I got to toast marshmallows for dessert!!! How can anyone go camping without toasting marshmallows? It's sacrilegious!
Saturday, Sept. 26:
With heavy hearts we take one last stroll into the woods first thing in the morning. How we will miss this place! Take down, pack, load, and drive away... until next visit. We thoroughly enjoyed the week, learning and getting much accomplished. Although Tom had a little accident wherein a branch attacked him, he's okay. Greer cut her lip biting on a branch, she's okay, too. I got a rash from overexposure to the sun, I'm okay now.
Though glad to not be bouncing along the road anymore, none of us were really glad to be back in the city. Eoin, usually happy to be on his home turf, looked at us like, "What are we doing here? I liked it at the camp." Us, too, Lad. We'll go for another visit soon, promise.