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Elisa's Ramblings

My mind is constantly running…this is my way of organizing my thoughts!

Summer “Homework”

I’ve been asked to share our “Summer Folder” system that we’ve been using for the past three years…. believe it or not, my kids love it (OK, maybe they don’t LOVE it), but they do ask to do it every summer (which surprised me after the first summer) and here we are four years later…. today is the last day of school and my 10 and 12 year olds both asked me if we could do it again this summer.  Starting on Monday. #soproud

Here’s the nuts and bolts….

I came up with a “Summer Folder” system for the kids.  Each kiddo got their own folder and inside each folder was a reading log (reading 30 minutes per day) and some educational (grade-level appropriate) worksheets that needed to be done THAT DAY.

On the front of the organizer was also a task list with what needs to be accomplished before any screen time or play time or connecting with friends or hanging out at the pool THAT DAY.

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The worksheets in the folder were “Themed” based on the day:

Math Monday– I searched for websites that would provide age appropriate worksheets with answer keys.  I would also do simple addition, subtraction, multiplication and division worksheets.  This summer my kids will use their Moby Math sign-ons to supplement.

Typing Tuesday– I found a GREAT typing website that allows me to be a teacher and assign students so I can go in and check their progress (and time logged, etc.)  I highly recommend this site (so far).  http://www.typingweb.com

Writing Wednesday– This was more handwriting than creative writing.  With today’s communication all being done electronically, I think it’s important to still work on handwriting.  Some of the worksheets were simply copying sentences, or writing out spelling words three times, or answering a question or two. Just write.  Holding a pen or pencil. Cursive or printing, I don’t care.  Just WRITE.

Thinking Thursday– aka “essay”.  Ha!  Actually, most of these were creative writing prompts.  There are many websites with writing prompts or story starters, but for really creative “kids” stories, go to http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/story-starters/

Finish-Up Friday–  This was so that they could finish up any worksheets they hadn’t completed yet (because sometimes things happen).

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Anyway- it was a great system and did involve some effort on my part, but nothing too challenging.  The internet is a great resource- you just need that and a printer!  I also have a few “partly used” summer curriculum books from previous years.  I’m tearing out the still blank pages and putting them in folders for the kids.  Even though those books were for Pre-K, K, 1st – 4th grade…..anything that makes them think is better than nothing!

Here are some great websites for summer learning…

Creative Writing Story Starters:  http://www.thestorystarter.com/jr.htm

Printables for Middle School: http://www.education.com/worksheets/middle-school/

Pre-cursive writing lessons: http://donnayoung.org/penmanship/sm-zaner-bloser.htm

Cursive handwriting worksheets by letter: http://donnayoung.org/penmanship/cursive-words.htm

Free Online Typing Course: http://www.goodtyping.com/

Another Free Online Typing Course: http://www.typingweb.com

Everything- every topic for every grade level:  http://www.education.com/worksheets/all/

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Day Trippin’: Elowah Falls & Upper McCord Creek

After yesterday’s adventure with the Starvation Creek/Ridge hike, we made sure to double-research what type of hike we were getting ourselves into BEFORE heading out the door.  No trusting the magazine directions this time!  Ha!

We decided to do the Elowah Falls hike, which was listed as “Moderate” and 1.6 miles round-trip.  It said you could add an extension by splitting off the trail to hit the Upper McCord Creek Falls, also rated “Moderate”…and the combination of the two would make the hike about 4 miles round-trip with an elevation gain of 600 feet.

NO PROBLEM.

At Elowah Falls, McCord Creek crashes into a huge amphitheater made up of several distinct lava flows. This is a fairly easy hike, appropriate for most beginners, leading to a 289-foot waterfall. There is a small amount of climbing involved, with a summit in the middle of the hike. Follow the trail from the parking area up to junction, veer left to lower trail.

The trailhead is at the John B. Yeon State Park which is at the farthest East end of the Historic Columbia River highway….”end” meaning if you don’t pull over here to park, you will be forced to merge with I-84 and head into Hood River!

[sidenote:  the stupid magazine we used for our other hike has this hike featured in it as well….and (not) surprisingly gives horrible directions for finding the trailhead.  Nowhere does it say to park at the John B Yeon State Park.  Nor does it tell you how to access one trail from the other. So once again, I’m glad we weren’t using that stupid magazine as our guide.]

Anyway, we had a later start today because first we had to pack up all our belongings, then check out of the hotel, then use our Fox12 Daily Deal Sunday Brunch coupon to have “brunch” which didn’t start until 9am and was a SIX course breakfast!  So yeah, that took up some time!

We didn’t arrive at the trailhead until 10:30am.

[sidenote: we had ALL of our belongings in our car, in the trunk, out of site, but it was all there.  We have since learned that John B. Yeon State Park has THE highest break-in and theft rating of all the other trailheads in The Gorge!  It is suggested that you leave your glove compartment open.  Thankfully, our car was not broken into.  But we also didn’t park in the parking lot, we parked alongside the road about 100 yards from the actual parking lot.  There were other cars alongside the road, it wasn’t packed, but we figured it was just easier to pull off there.]

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At the base of the actual trailhead is an old water tower, although it’s more like a water tank being so low on the ground- ha!

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It’s too big to fit in my viewfinder, so I took a panoramic shot:

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This thing is OLD.  And where the heck is all that water coming from?  There’s actually a lot of pipes leading in and out of that thing… no idea what it’s original purpose was, I’m sure I could research that, though.

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Anyway, onto the hike.  The hike goes uphill for a short distance before coming to a split.  Left to Elowah Falls or Right to Upper McCord Creek Falls.  After we took the left to Elowah Falls, it was mostly downhill.  A lot of switchbacks.  A lot.  Some of them had decent paths to shortcut straight down between them, which we’ve since learned you should NOT do because it causes erosion and damage to the official trails.  So we won’t do it again.  It’s just so tempting to have these shortcuts sometimes!

The trail is nicely groomed for the most part and easy to walk.

And there it was…. the falls came into view:

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This is definitely a place to be on a hot sunny day.  The water cascades down onto some boulders, rather than directly into a pool.  There’s lots of giant boulders to set up “camp” and lay out in the sun, and the pool seemed like it would be relatively swimmable, but don’t quote me on that.  We didn’t get close enough to check it out.

I found this picture online to show what I’m talking about:

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The falls were too big to fit in my camera viewfinder, so I had to set it to panoramic mode-which leaves choppy water blocks:

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If you cross the bridge at the bottom of the trail, you can get much better pictures of the whole falls:

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Scramble down the rocks to the edge of the stream and the view is even better:

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I absolutely love how clear the water is in the creeks below the falls.

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And of course I had to take the obligatory waterfall selfie:

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Oh- after crossing the bridge, there’s another length of trail:

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We weren’t sure where it went so followed it for a bit, then realized it was climbing up and away, so we turned around and headed back.  After all, we had to go back up to the trail junction and do the Upper McCord Creek Falls hike still!

We got to the trail junction and started up the next trail which starts out as a typical hillside trail with steep drop offs and a few obstacles.  Old pipes, down trees, it wasn’t the easiest trail to walk, you did have to be aware and navigate carefully in a few spots.   Totally fine for the kids to do it, though.

Eventually the trail takes you cliffside for quite a stretch:

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The view is amazing:

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We are so enamored with the view of The Gorge and trudging along and watching our step that we don’t even really look at the falls we are walking past.  I mean, the trail description said we’d be hiking above Elowah Falls and we’d already seen it from below so we didn’t really need to focus on it from above.

Yep, there it is.  No biggie.  No picture taken.

Anyway, we keep trudging along, there’s a lot of damp spots where the mountainside is ‘leaking’ and it’s a narrow trail so we just focus on our footing and keep going as far as we can.  Eventually we hear a bunch of voices and laughter ahead (and a very whiny 5 year old girl) and arrive at what appears to be the end of the trail.  The family had been wading in the creek and were in the process of putting their shoes back on, so we stuck around, waiting for them to leave so we could get a photograph of the falls:

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What a boring falls!!  Is this the Upper McCord Creek Falls?  Hmmm……not as exciting as I thought it would be.

We did find this, though:

But seeing as how neither of us had anything we were willing to part with, we didn’t open it to see what was inside or make any trades or anything.  We didn’t even try to hide it – just left it where it was, only touching it with our vision.

Such a strange hike to go all this way for such a small falls.  Hmmmm.

We did see a not-often-used trail that went up further, and we followed it for a bit, but then decided to turn back.

Oh, I forgot to mention…. on our hike up we had come across another couple, she seemed to struggle with the trail, not a very strong walker.  We passed them and then as we were further up the trail we looked down and saw them sitting and resting.  Well, as we were walking back down the trail, away from the anti-climactic short falls, they approached us and asked us “how much farther?”  We assured them that they were really close- ALMOST there!  Keep going!  And we went on our merry way.

That’s when I looked back and realized that the falls we had seen earlier, the one that we had assumed was the top of Elowah Falls, was NOT Elowah falls, it was the McCord Creek Falls- THE falls that we were hiking to see!

Oh geez…..

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Wait a minute…. what is that I see?  Movement….. um….

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OMG! It’s the couple we just passed!!  The unsteady walker in the blue shirt… and her husband.  Are they really crossing the falls there and going out to that seemingly slick looking rock?

OMG they are!!!  The are OUT THERE!!!

We stayed and watched them for a while to make sure they were being “safe”.  But oh my gosh.  Even I wouldn’t think of doing that!!  I don’t even know how they got there!  We didn’t see any trails going down to the water’s edge.

OK, so wait.  If that falls is the Upper McCord Creek Falls….and we’re supposedly above Elowah Falls….where the heck IS Elowah Falls?  The falls above were the only falls we saw on our walk.

As we continued along the cliff, now occasionally looking down over the edge to find the falls, we eventually spot the bottom of the falls, in a brief glimpse.  We can see the bridge and pool area….

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And after getting a bit father away (and leaning over the railing a bit) I was able to capture this picture:

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There it is….Elowah Falls from above.

We had totally missed it on our way up/to.  We blamed the view of the beautiful Gorge as being our distraction.  It’s all good.

I wasn’t totally oblivious to our surroundings.  For example when we came upon this cliffside, I saw a face, so I took a picture:

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When I looked at the picture again, several hours later- I saw a different face!

Anway- all in all it was a pleasant hike and took us about 2 hours total.  Actually, we were back at our car by 12:30 so it was EXACTLY two hours.  A nice little 4-mile morning jaunt.  A great way to keep our muscles loosened up after the prior day’s events!

Ha!

Here are some links to reference if you are interested in doing either of these hikes:

Friends of the Columbia Gorge: Elowah

Friends of the Columbia Gorge: Upper McCord Creek

Oh, and if you don’t see the faces in the rocks, here’s a little help:

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Hiking Starvation Creek Loop……or maybe not.

Saturday morning after what could possibly be THE most delicious breakfast either of us has ever eaten (at the Columbia Gorge Hotel), Jim and I were sitting in the hotel lounge, sipping coffee and perusing various Gorge magazines to find an easy day-hike….

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We were hoping to find a simple hike that would include a waterfall.   When we saw this description, we thought it sounded perfect:

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Three miles seems easy enough… even if it’s labeled as “moderate to more difficult”.  A 600 ft Elevation Gain didn’t seem too big.  And the hike features a great view and three waterfalls- you betcha!  We’re on it!

We grabbed a couple snack bars, 1 bottle of water each, and a backpack to carry those things in.  I carried a small purse to store my sunglasses, chapstick, a nail file, my mini-wallet and my cell phone.  You know, the essentials.   I was also going to carry the magazine with me for trail directions, but Jim suggested snapping a picture of it instead- easier to reference and not carry anything extra.

The “Starvation Creek” parking lot was easy to find, the parking lot was beginning to fill up, though.  We grabbed one of the last spots- it was just after 9:00am.  We changed our shoes, hit the restroom, then headed for the trailhead.

We didn’t bring any “hiking” clothing or shoes, just wore our running shoes.  Jim wore cargo shorts and a Columbia Sportwear “cooling” shirt and I wore my cutoff jean shorts and a cami-style tank-top.   It was chilly and I didn’t have a sweater or jacket.  I figured I’d get warm on the walk, but I hadn’t anticipated being this cold at the start.  Brrrr.

Directly ahead of us was a guy fully decked out in hiking gear- had the sturdy hiking shoes, zip-off pants, long sleeves (or maybe it was a light jacket), a hat, a backpack, etc.

Anyway, we started down the trail and quickly came to the “Starvation Creek Cutoff” trail marker as the magazine said we would and I was delighted to see the guy ahead of us turning up that trail as well.

And there it began.  A grueling steep hike.  Oh man.  It was steep.  And narrow.  And wild- soft dirt, big rocks, branches, etc.  This was not like any groomed trail I’d been on…this was NOT a groomed trail!  This was “real” hiking.   It was definitely something I’d rather go UP than DOWN.  I was grateful that we were on a loop- I did not want to see this section going back down.

I began to realize I was not appropriately dressed.  I was slightly embarrassed for myself.

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My shoes were doing OK, but it definitely required me to intentionally place each step to keep from slipping.  I was making it….and although I was quite cold at the beginning of our walk, I was plenty warm within minutes of our trek.  Comfortably warm.

The guy ahead of us felt the heat, too.  He had stopped to strip a layer- we passed by him.  Suddenly I felt “proud” of my warm weather outfit!  Ha!  Bet he wishes he was wearing shorts and a tank-top too!

It wasn’t long before the trail turned into super long stretches of relatively steep uphill climbs.  Switchback after switchback up the hillside.  We were “grinding” it out- staying strong and steady- stepping in a rhythm, breathing in a rhythm, trying to keep our bodies moving and our heart rate from going too high.  Just.  Keep.  Going.

We made it to a trail junction that labeled “Mt Defiance Trail” and “Starvation Ridge Trail” and we referenced our directions which said to turn left at the fork.  So we did… and we kept going up higher and higher and higher.  The guy was still behind us.

Our hearts were pounding so we needed to slow down every once in a while and at one of those brief points of rest the guy passed us.

Eventually we made it to a meadow area. And there it was- a gorgeous view of the gorge:

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I asked Jim, “don’t you think we’ve made it 700 feet yet?”  We were pretty high!!  He was sure we had to be about that high…. we had to be close.

We looked up the meadowside and could see the guy that was ahead of us.  He had caught up to another person- also fully decked out like an official ‘hiker’.  They had poles, too.  It looked like an even better view up there, so we decided to keep climbing.

I think this was the worst part of the hike because it was not only steep, but slippery.  So so slippery.  The trail was now super hard dry dirt with a layer of fine loose dirt pebbles.  Slick stuff.  I just could not get the traction I needed in my running shoes.  I really had to agree with the book now- that it was safer to go uphill than downhill.  I was so so glad we would not be taking this back down.  I can’t imagine how we would without sliding!

More meadowside switchbacks….we stopped to take another picture of our breathtaking view:

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Here, let me zoom in on that a bit so you can see the switchbacks….

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You can see the trail going through the powerline tower.  And then switching back and forth below it.  What you don’t see is that every switchback goes into the forested area, it’s not just across this meadow part.  It’s steep, and on loose dirt, and in the sun.  I was sweaty and hot….

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But we continued up higher…

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The cars below are barely distinguishable!

This just doesn’t seem right…this seems higher than 700 feet, and we aren’t even to the top yet!?!?  So we kept on climbing.

And there it was…. the ultimate viewpoint for the Columbia River Gorge:

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See that tiny power line tower on the left?  Yeah, that’s the one from a couple pictures back.  We were so so much higher than that.  Definitely had to be higher than 700 feet.

And look at the parking lot from here- our car is down there!

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We took a lot of photos at this viewpoint…

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Even had fun with some of them:

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It was almost 10:00am by that point.  We had done that hike in about 45 minutes!  We felt great!  What an accomplishment!

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We re-read the directions….. it said that once we reach the top, the trail will intersect with another trail and in a short distance we will come to Lancaster falls.

We didn’t see any intersecting trail and it seems like we are at 700 feet already, but I guess we’re not….so we continued on.  The trail turned into the forested area, following the top of the ridge, taking us away from the river. We turned around for one last picture of the amazing view and where we’d just been:

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The rest of the hike looked like this:

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Just a simple trail through the woods.  FINALLY, an easy walk.  But where the heck is that intersecting trail?  We are seemingly going farther away from the gorge and the description of the trail.  We should be coming upon three waterfalls, too.  There’s no water anywhere near us.  We are so high…and seem to be getting higher?  And the fantastic views were supposed to be at the top of the trail.  That wasn’t the top?  There’s not going to be any better view than what we just saw.  And if this is a 3-mile loop hike, something is really off.  It just didn’t feel right.

Oh gosh, what if we made a wrong turn someplace?

So we re-read the instructions….and we did exactly what they said…. so we kept on going.

The two guys weren’t too far ahead of us, it seemed like we were gaining on them.  They had their walking poles out and were trekking along.

Although the terrain wasn’t as steep, it was still tricky in spots and once again I was grateful that I would not have to go back DOWN the way we came!

Or would we?

Ugh.

We stopped again to read the directions….again.  According to the magazine we did everything right.

Then we pulled out our smart phones to look at Google Maps and it showed us as being on Starvation Ridge Trail #414….which yep, the directions said, “the trail intersects with Starvation Ridge Trail 414” so we were on the right one.  So we kept going.

Not too far up, we stopped again.  I looked for the falls on Google Maps…..and um, well, the falls were at the very bottom of the hill- closer to I-84, so I was really concerned now.  We had to have taken a wrong turn.

I followed the trail we were on (via Google Maps) and it looked like if we continued following it, it would take us farther and farther into the mountainside until it intersects with a trail not mentioned in the magazine, which then connects to another trail, which then eventually connects to the Starvation Ridge Trail at the BOTTOM.  And it certainly couldn’t be just 3 miles because by the looks of it, we were only 1/5th of the way…..which means this is more like a 10-mile trail.  And we couldn’t see the elevation to know what we were looking at.

We decided to continue going…..maybe that intersecting trail isn’t much farther and it’s just not on Google Maps.  After all, we had followed directions!

Worst case scenario…if we have to hike 10 miles, we can do it.  Then we stopped and thought about it.   We had no real food.  We had just one bottle of water each.  Nothing else.  We didn’t know the trail we were on, nor where it went, so had no idea what to expect ahead.  We were climbing higher and higher….how much higher would this trail go?   We also knew we would want lunch sooner than 7 hours from now.   We had already hiked for an hour, so it would take another hour to get back to where we started.

Yeah, we better just turn around and go back down the way we came.  Maybe when we get to that sign we saw earlier, we’ll see our error.  Or maybe we just missed a turn that we didn’t notice?

So we turned around and headed back down that nasty steep trail.  This picture shows the easy part.

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I would like to share that we passed several hikers on their way up…. every single one of them had full gear, backpacks, walking poles, sturdy shoes and tall socks or long pants.  Each person was appropriately dressed for a rough hike.  Hmmmm.  Probably a good thing we turned back.

I was seriously embarrassed for how we, er I, was dressed.  Did they look at us and think, “Losers!  Ha ha ha- they were so unprepared that they had to turn around and go back!” or did they think, “Wow!  Those guys were daring to hike up to that viewpoint and come back down!”

Whatevs.

We made it back to the trail head and found the error… we should have turned RIGHT not LEFT to stay on the trail.  FREAKING TYPO IN THE MAGAZINE.  Although the magazine doesn’t clearly state what trail you should be on, or take, it just said to go Left, so we did.

Grrrr….

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Anyway….back on the right track, we fairly quickly came to what was the top of the trail… the 700′ viewpoint.  Not nearly the same viewpoint that we had seen earlier in the day!  It was so anti-climactic that I didn’t even take a picture.

We talked to a couple that was resting there and confirmed that we were indeed on the right path now, and yes, we were going to see the three falls we had intended to see.

We continued over the ‘peak’ and started down the other side….

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Switchbacks through a meadow.  This path was just as slippery as the path up top…tiny loose pebble-dirt.  I felt like a monkey swinging between trees, except instead of swinging I was slipping and sliding towards the skinny pole tree to grab before falling- then letting go to slide to the next one.  I tried walking on the edge where there was grass and such, but not knowing what Poison Oak looks like, and not wanting to walk on the edge of such a steep slope, I decided to just keep doing what was working.  Boy, I really need hiking shoes.

Eventually we dropped down to a stream, which we had to cross.  Fortunately there was a fallen tree to use as a bridge- although it was a little scary! Higher than I would have liked, longer than I would have liked, with bone breaking fall risk!!  I got 2/3 of the way across then Jim got into a position where I could grab his hand to steady myself the rest of the way. Yuck.

The hike went back uphill again, around a bend, then back down a bit.  We came upon a fork in the trail….one path (left) went to Lancaster Falls.  The other path (right) was Starvation Ridge Trail and it would take us to the Hole-in-the-Wall Falls and Cabin Creek Falls.

Ahhhh, now this makes sense.   THIS is the fork in the road that the magazine was mentioning….THIS is where we turn left to see Lancaster falls…….I get it now.  The first fork we came upon isn’t even mentioned in the magazine!!!!

Lesson learned, never follow trail routes published in a magazine.  It’s likely that A) the editor has never walked the hike for themselves and B) any directional errors will not be caught before publishing.  Do your research, folks!

Lancaster Falls was great to see.  There was a family there (2 YOUNG kids, 2 adults) and the dad was standing in the falls hootin’ and hollerin’…. getting soaked in his underwear and having fun.  I think our presence surprised them all!  Ha!

I couldn’t fit the whole falls in my viewfinder…..

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It’s definitely one you can stand under, though.  It’s not very tall and the flow of water is not terribly heavy.  I bet it was cold though!

Here’s a full vertical panoramic view:

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We’ll have to bring the kids back here sometime (just not on the route that we took to get here!).

[Side note: the trail actually crosses the falls here and picks up on the other side if one wanted to stay on the Mt. Defiance Trail and not go back to the Starvation Ridge trail.]

I made my husband do selfies with me…. ha!

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We went back down to the fork and started hiking the lower Starvation Ridge Trail.  What a break!  Whew!  This is easy stuff here!

Surprisingly we passed A LOT of people heading up the hill….taking the trail in a counter-clockwise direction, which I would not recommend.  Unless they were going specifically to this falls and then turning around to go back down.  I would not go down the cutoff trail that we initially started up on!

We got to the Hole-In-The-Wall Falls pretty quickly- and I’ll just say it’s aptly named:

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I used the Panoramic feature on my phone to take this picture- which has digitized blocks of water cascading down- oh well:

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Farther down the trail you can see how tall this falls really is…

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Anyway…. it was an easy trek down the rest of the trail.  So easy that we ran into another family at the Hole-In-The-Wall falls pushing a STROLLER.

By the time we got to Cabin Creek Falls I was less than enamored with any type of falls or viewpoint.  I was done.  But I took a picture of it anyway:

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And that was it.  Our hiking adventure was done by 11:54AM.  We spent nearly 3 hours hiking, much of it on very steep terrain with loose footing making it quite slick and slippery.  But I would totally do it again.

After we got home we used Google Maps and Google Earth to map the distance and elevation and find out where we went wrong:

– Overall we hiked about 4.95 miles in under 2.75 hours.

– The first segment of the hike, to the fork that wasn’t listed in the magazine- the one where you turn LEFT to go up to Starvation Ridge…..well that section is .4 miles from the trailhead and an Elevation Gain of 446 feet.  So yeah, that’s steep. Again, I would not want to take that back down!!

– Our “mistake” hike that took us up to the viewpoint- the viewpoint was an elevation of 1,066 feet.  The actual Gain is 912 feet and we did that in about 45 minutes.  Distance of 1.5 miles.

– Since we kept going up the ridge before turning back, we estimate that we reached an elevation of 1,476 before turning around.

– If we would have continued going up that trail, it would have intersected with the Warren Lake trail, taking us to Warren Lake, then we could continue up the other side to Mt. Defiance Trail and take that trailhead back down to Lancaster Falls, cross the falls and connect up to the lower Starvation Ridge (Starvation Creek) trail.  That loop is 11.6 miles and has an elevation gain of 4,000 feet.

Jim and I have decided some day we’ll go back and tackle that!!  Of course with better gear, official hiking shoes, and an ample supply of food and water.   EACH.

It’s likely that the people we saw coming up the hike (towards the end, the one’s who were seemingly taking the route counter-clockwise) could have been going to Lancaster Falls to cross the water and continue the Mt. Defiance Trail up to Mt. Defiance.  Supposedly spectacular views up there, and something we could certainly try sometime.

Anyway- this map shows the route we took in red and pink:

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Here’s a “formal” map of the trail system:

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Here are some helpful links if you are considering doing this hike:

Lower Starvation Loop (our originally intended hike with much better directions)

This set of directions is also good.

Defiance-Starvation Loop Hike (a backwards version of the super long hike we want to do sometime)

Here’s the crazy part.  Jim and I are not hikers.  The only other “hike” we’ve done was the weekend prior and it was a half-mile round trip.  It was fun, and fueled our “hey let’s find some hikes this weekend”.  Thankfully we are physically active people- walking almost daily (I’ve been averaging 15,000 steps daily).  We do our HIIT circuit workout classes (less frequently than we’d like to, but hey, we still do them).  Anyway- we aren’t “hikers” but we consider ourselves to be decently fit.  When we got back to our hotel and researched the hike we’d just completed, we learned it’s labeled as one of the most difficult in the Gorge.  Apparently we also completed what many describe as being the most difficult portion, but having not done the giant loop I can’t confirm whether or not that’s 100% true.  But we did it and didn’t die of physical exhaustion or have to spend the next day on the couch.  In fact, after we got back to Hood River- we ate lunch and then climbed Gil’s staircase (413 stairs) without difficulty.  We walked to dinner that night (granted it was only a 1-mile walk each way) but we still walked.  The next morning we went on another hike.  The hike-fiasco in this story didn’t seem to phase us….so that’s good!  The only soreness I felt was Monday- my calves were sore and would tighten if I sat or rested for too long… so I just spent my “downtime” on the treadmill!  Ha!

You just gotta keep moving.

The VonVonni Convertible Dress….

Have you seen the “convertible” or “transformer” dress?  It’s a single dress that you can wear multiple ways…

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I first saw one several years ago, and I’ve been interested in actually trying one on sometime, but didn’t have a clue where to find one.  Actually, that’s not entirely true, I think I saw something similar when I was dress shopping back in February/March, for over $100.  Not quite what I was looking for at the time….so I didn’t give it a second look.

Anyway, earlier this week I had the TV on and “Better” was doing a what’s hot and what’s not segment and they showcased this dress as “hot” in a hot color.  It looked so good on the models and when they said it was a convertible dress made by VonVonni and available from Amazon.com for $49…I was instantly sold!

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I was so excited to see so many colors to choose from!  But also overwhelmed.  Yikes!

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I was originally going to go with a turquoise/teal color, but then I saw THIS PRINT:

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Instant LOVE!  Dress it up or dress it down!  And for just $39!  With Free shipping and Free returns!!??!  It was a deal I couldn’t pass up!

I couldn’t wait to try all the tying combinations to see which ones I like best:

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Thanks to Amazon Prime, I didn’t have to wait long.   2-day shipping- I love it!!

The dress arrived, I took it out of the package and my first thought was WOW this is quite heavy!

It’s A LOT of material.  A Lot.  The material is thick enough to go bra-less (and having a pattern helps even more)!

I can’t even show you how long it is!  I mean, LOOK at it!!

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And, how the heck does this thing work????

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So I put it on.

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It’s LONG.  Like L-O-N-G.  I mean, look at how LONG those straps are!!!!

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SEVEN-AND-A-HALF feet long.  7.5 FEET long!  Um, hello???  I’m 5’4″.  I can’t even hold it up for ya!

OK, so here’s how the dress works…. essentially…

It’s a full length skirt with a finished back edge and two wide straps/panels sewn onto the front.  Here’s the back view- at the waist.  So yes, it’s open back.

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It has two super wide “straps” that are ever so slightly overlapped in the front, like by less than an inch, gathered nicely to accommodate any size bust:

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For the dress itself, you can also pull the waist high like an empire dress, or wear it low for a really low cut front.

You can pull the straps straight up and over your shoulders, or cross them to the opposite shoulder, or cross them again for a tighter halter line, or wear a necklace and feed the straps through it, or you can pull them apart, wrap them sideways, the possibilities are endless.

After you have the coverage you want, you can lay the straps flat or twist them or knot them, or feed the straps through bracelets or use some sort of string to wrap and tie them if you want added decor.

OK… so here’s my first tie debut:

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Pulled up straight, then twisted, twisted down my back then wrapped around and tied in the back.

I am in love.

So I tried several of the tying combinations I had seen when I looked online the day I ordered it….

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This one was Jim’s favorite:

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I had completely forgotten about several other tying methods I had seen….Darn it!

All I know is I’m looking forward to trying other tying methods, or using a bangle or necklace to add another dimension.  Heck, a belt would even look good with some of the tying combinations.

And I like that I can dress it up or dress it down.

As for sizing… it’s one size fits all.  The waist of the dress is very fitted, fit me very well, slimming and comfortable.  I have a 29″ waist.  I have no idea how this stretches to fit over larger people, but apparently it does.

It also has a no-need-to-sew finished edge.  The straps AND the dress… whatever the material is made of, you simply CUT it with scissors if you need it to be any shorter.

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Crazy, I know!

So here’s my tips…

– Give yourself PLENTY of room to swing the straps around.

– Prepare to “dance”.  It’s much easier to step over the straps than it is to pull the whole length around you.  Maybe I’ll you-tube it someday to show how funny it really is and how easily you can get tangled up.  Especially when you start twisting the straps to get a ‘fancier’ look.

– Don’t do this in the bathroom unless you want to risk one of the ends falling into the toilet or flailing around the floor.  Not that it happened to ME, but after seeing how much the chest/shoulder/waist pieces drag all over the floor and get tangled up and get flopped around, I would not do this in a dirty environment.

Anyway, I really look forward to wearing this dress… a lot.  And I’m having a hard time not also ordering this one:

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Ugh.  New addiction maybe?

Here’s a YouTube video from the designer himself showing all the various ways to wear the dress…. it’s fun to watch.

Maintaining “Platinum” Blonde

Man-oh-man! This hairstyle and hair color is HIGH maintenance!!

I thought being any shade of blonde was hard to maintain, but platinum- it’s definitely MORE maintenance than I anticipated.  But I LOVE it and I’m not giving it up any time soon!

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I’ve done three separate root touch-ups now, so I think I have a system down that works for me, and I should share it here so I can remember it for next time!  Disclaimer- this is what works for MY hair.  I have short hair, it’s baby fine, a natural color of about 6.5 dark ash blonde. I am not a hair stylist.  I cannot tell you what will work for your hair.

TIMING:

For my last two root touch-ups, I waited 4-5 weeks between each one.  At week 3 my roots become quite noticeable.  At week 5 they are scary long and with my pixie do it looks very interesting at the back of my head!

The other aspect of timing- how long does it take me to do my root touch-up and toning?  About 2.5 hours start to finish (not including any coconut oil soak time), this usually means I have to wait for a free weekend to do the processing.

PREP:

It’s best to have NOT washed your hair for a couple days.  It’s even better do to a coconut oil soak at least 2 hours prior to the bleaching process (do not rinse out the coconut oil).  It does NOT affect the bleach if there’s oil in your hair.  I saturate my hair with coconut oil, wrap my scalp in saran wrap and throw on a thick ski hat. Wear it for a couple hours, then towel ‘dry’ my hair as much as possible, then comb it all through.

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PRODUCTS- BLEACHING:

Developer:  I’ve been using Wella Color Charm 20 volume cream developer, but moving forward I will be using the Ion Sensitive Scalp 20 volume developer.  My scalp is a constant itching blaze during the process and I’m hoping the Ion brand will help with that.  I’ll report back on that.  [Follow up:  the Ion brand doesn’t burn nearly as much, has a different smell- sorta good I guess? Seems to have worked the same]

Lightening Powder:  I use the L’Oreal Quick Blue powder.  Purchased a giant tub of it on sale from Sally’s a while back.

Ratio is 1 scoop of powder to 2-2.5 ounces of developer.  Mix well.  Really well.  And start working fast.  But thoroughly.

In the pictures that follow, I didn’t add any of the Ardell Red/Gold corrector.  This most recent time (not pictured) I did.  I think it works better without the Ardell Red/Gold corrector.  I won’t be using it again.

BLEACH APPLICATION:

Apply to growout ONLY- roots ONLY.  Try not to get any product on previously bleached hair.

I apply to my part first, moving across my crown and forward.  Then I do the very back moving down, then equally on both sides towards the front.  The sides always bleach fastest.  The back bleaches slowest it seems.  It typically takes me 20 minutes to apply to my roots.  After that I like to wrap my hair in saran wrap and set a timer for 20 minutes.  After that time is up, I comb the product through my hair and let it set for another 10-15 minutes.  Total time is about 30-35 minutes.

The goal color is pale banana yellow.  Not banana peel, but like the inside of the peel.  It will be YELLOW.

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Rinse well.  Shampoo with hydrating shampoo.  Rinse well again.  Towel Dry.

TONER:

I use a Wella T18 and Wella T14 blend.   I equally mix those two colors together with 15 volume developer.   (Basically I mix equal parts of 10 volume and 20 volume in order to get 15 volume.  The theory being it’s less damaging.)  I also add in a half packet of Ardell Red/Gold Color Corrector.

So 3/4 oz of T18 + 3/4 oz of T14 + 1.5oz of 10 volume + 1.5oz of 20 volume = 4.5 oz of product.  Barely enough.

Once again, apply to roots only- paying particular attention to any brighter yellow areas.  Once applied, set a timer for 8 minutes.  Wait a minute or two, then start combing through hair to the ends.  The ends of your hair will really suck up the color- turning your tips purple- so you don’t want to comb through too soon!

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Rinse well.  Shampoo with hydrating shampoo.  Rinse well.  Condition with a deep conditioner (leave on for 5-10 minutes if possible).  Rinse well and voila!  Done!

When it’s freshly bleached and toned, it will have hints of yellow and purple (or gray/silver)…but after a week or so it all seems to mellow out!

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And here’s the cut and color I’ve been maintaining for well over a year now….

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