Jumpoff Ridge and Clear Lake

A Jeep drive to an exploratory hike.

Kirk and I spent much of Wednesday morning clearing boxes of items out of my RV (AKA the “Mobile Mansion”) as part of a major cleanup. It was a big job made more manageable by a helper who kept me focused and moving. I suspect that if Kirk and I joined forces for any big job, we’d get it done in record time.

Afterwards, we went inside for a break and lunch. I whipped up some pizza dough and picked eggplant, zucchini, and tomatoes from my garden. By 1 PM, we were each making our own pizza masterpieces, which we later ate out in the shade on the deck.

That took us to 2 PM. Half the day was still ahead of us.

We’d talked about taking out the boat for a short ride, but it was windy down on the Columbia so we put it off for another day. Then Kirk suggested taking the Jeep up onto Jumpoff Ridge, where a road wound along the edge of the cliff. I’m always game for a Jeep ride, so we pulled out the Jeep, loaded Penny and some bottled water on board, and took off.

On Jumpoff Ridge

Jumpoff Ridge is the name of the cliff face due south of my home. It rises more than 1,000 feet from the shelf where my home sits. The side facing me is layered basalt columns that are strikingly beautiful, especially with golden first or last light shining on them. Topo maps and satellite images show a road up there that meanders along the top of the cliff. One of the local property owners, in an attempt to avoid contributing to road association fees, claimed he’d use that road to access his land — yes, his 20 acres does include the cliff face and a sliver of land on top. I’d been wanting to check out the road for at least a year and was looking forward to the drive up there.

Jumpoff Ridge Topo
A topo map shows the steep cliff on the north side of Jumpoff Ridge. The road we planned to drive is indicated by the double dashed line atop the cliff. The blue track line to the right of the sharp turn is the road I live on, which was built after USGS topo maps were published.

I knew how to get to the road we sought. Follow Joe Miller Road to Stemilt Loop Road and turn left at the church. Then follow that to Jumpoff Ridge Road. From there, it turns to improved gravel. It’s a moderately steep climb through ponderosa pine with tantalizing glimpses of the orchard-filled land in the Stemilt Hill and Wenatchee Heights areas below. There are about a dozen lots, some of them with homes on them, at the top of the road. One of them belongs to one of my charter clients and I’ve landed and departed with the helicopter from his yard at least a dozen times over the past two or three years.

Top of Jumpoff
At the top of Jumpoff Ridge, the topo map showed a 4-way intersection. But there was no left turn to the radio facility.

That’s also where the road splits. A left hand turn at my client’s house would take us to the road we sought, but the only left hand turn we saw looked like my client’s driveway. We could see the antennas — marked “Radio Facility” on the topo map — beyond and knew that’s where we needed to be. But there didn’t seem to be a way to drive through. So we went straight, looking for another left hand turn.

We found it a while later, but it was gated and locked. We kept going, passing under the Bonneville power lines and a handful of other homes. (When people say I live “out there,” they should come visit these people. They’re way out there.) Realizing the road was not likely to take us where we wanted to go, we turned back and had a closer look at that gate. It was securely locked with signs warning against trespassing. The road was strictly for communications company and power company use.

I guess my freeloading neighbor had no idea what he was talking about when he claimed he’d use that road to access his property. (Or, more likely, he was just a lying sack of sh*t.)

We stopped to consult the map I’d preloaded onto my phone’s Gaia GPS app. I’d already told Kirk about Clear Lake, where I’d stopped in November with my friend Don. It had been frozen hard that pre-winter day, after an early hard freeze. Don had bowled rocks across its surface just to hear the weird echoing sound as they bounced and slid. I thought it was a good alternative destination. The map showed a road off the southwest-bound powerline road (which was not gated) that would “shortcut” to it. It even had a name: Rock Ridge Road. We headed off to find it.

The road climbed steeply up a rocky slope and joined up with the Bonneville Power lines. It veered off into the forest and rejoined the powerlines. Then there was our right hand turn, right where the map said it would be. But there was also an “Authorized Vehicles Only” sign. Really? Ugh.

Faced with the choice of going back or taking the longer way around, we kept moving forward. The road was a lot longer than I remembered. It joined and left the powerlines several times, mostly climbing. There were tall pines, surprisingly green grass, and large meadows. I could easily imagine elk grazing there.

My 1999 Jeep Wrangler drove like a champ. I’ve owned this vehicle since new and, quite frankly, I don’t take very good care of it. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that I routinely beat the crap out of it. It had been flashing the Check Engine light on rough terrain on and off, coupled with a stuttering engine, for months.. Earlier in July I’d finally had it checked and fixed. Turned out to be a wiring harness damaged by rodents — a much cheaper fix than I’d been prepared for. This was a good practice run for our upcoming camping trip to Glacier National Park and I was glad to see it running so smoothly.

After miles of rough road, we finally found and made the right hand turn that would take us down off the ridge: Schaller Road, according to the map. It was rocky, rough, and full of switchbacks. That dumped us onto Upper Basin Loop Road. We caught a glimpse of a pickup truck turning onto a road up ahead — the first vehicle we’d seen in over an hour — and kept on straight until we reached the turn for Clear Lake.

At Clear Lake

Clear Lake
Clear Lake is a small reservoir in the woods.

Clear Lake is a very small reservoir in the Stemilt Basin. It likely collects and stores water for one of the dozens of Stemilt cherry, apple, or pear orchards in the Stemilt Hill area. The road ends at a locked gate close to the lake. We parked and got out for a walk. Penny was very happy to get out of the Jeep, where she’d been riding on Kirk’s lap since our departure from home. There was no one around and it was peaceful.

The topo map showed another larger lake to the west, on the other side of the ridge: Lily Lake. Although our time was somewhat limited — Kirk had a meeting later that evening in Cashmere and the drive had already taken longer than planned — we set off to see if we could catch a glimpse of the other lake. Like me, Kirk has kayaks and we’re always interested in finding new destinations for a leisurely paddle.

Lean To in the Woods
We stumbled upon this old lean-to in the woods up the hill from Clear Lake.

We followed a trail and then a road and then a trail o the west side of the lake and started the climb up the ridge. Near the top, we found an old lean-to made with branches and the remains of a campsite. But not much else.

Thimbleberries
Ripening thimbleberries. While not as tasty as raspberries or blackberries, they do make a nice treat.

We dropped down and followed the road back to the southeast. There was another locked gate and we walked around it. That took us southwest on a road that small trees were already starting to reclaim. Thimbleberry bushes lined the road and Kirk and I picked and ate the reddest ones. A small creek roared in a steep but narrow canyon beside us. After about a quarter mile, the road dead-ended at a dam with a valve: the control for the underground pipeline that was filling Clear Lake from the creek. There was no road or trail beyond to Lily Lake.

Dam
A concrete dam in the forest formed a small pond where a buried pipeline fed Clear Lake. Water over the spillway fed the creek we heard in the ravine beside the road.

After snapping a few photographs, we headed back to where the Jeep waited. We’d visit Lily Lake another day from a road on the other side of the ridge that I’d already spotted on the map. There were other lakes up that way and it would make a good day trip for us, giving me the Jeep outing I wanted with the hiking Kirk preferred. Win-win.

Heading Home

The trip home was uneventful. It was less than a mile back to pavement from Clear Lake. Then back to the church and Joe Miller Road and, eventually, my road.

Kirk snacked on some cold pizza as we loaded up his car. He headed out for his meeting. I heated the rest of the pizza in the oven and snacked on it while unwinding from the bumpy trip, glad to have found an excellent traveling companion for future adventures.

Curious about our route? Click here to see it and all the photos I took.

What’s Keeping Me Off My Blog

Someone special.

Well, it’s been nearly a month since my last blog post — the longest gap between blog posts since I started blogging back in 2003. Why the delay? Well, I’ve found something else to take up my time. Or perhaps I should say someone else.

Maria and Kirk
I danced barefoot with my new sweetie at the Ohme Gardens Wine Gala last week. My friend Kriss shot this photo of us.

Yes, it’s true. After three years of being single, with occasional time-wasting dates that really made me happy to be single, I began a serious relationship with someone I’ve known for about a year. His name is Kirk, he’s retired (early), and he lives on a 15-acre orchard/farm in nearby Peshastin. I ran into him at a Meetup event the Thursday before my birthday at the end of June, he invited me on a double date for dinner and dancing in Leavenworth the next evening, and things progressed rather quickly from there. He treated me to the best birthday I’ve had in more years than I like to admit — pardon me if I leave out the details. We now spend quite a bit of time together doing the kinds of things we both like to do: hiking, dancing, eating out, picking blueberries, cooking, flying, exploring swimming holes, you name it.

And yeah, that, too. I’ve done more of that in the past month than I had in the last three years of my marriage.

Kirk is smart, upbeat, and friendly. He’ll start a conversation with anyone and learn interesting things along the way. He’s confident and comfortable in his own skin. He knows how to make me feel good about myself and never belittles me or tries to embarrass me in front of friends. He obviously doesn’t feel threatened by either my intelligence or success. There doesn’t seem to be a mean bone in his body.

He doesn’t have any previous relationship baggage and isn’t a slave to a job or tied to high-maintenance offspring or parents. He says Yes far more often than No. He’s willing to try anything once and then do it again if he likes it. Better yet, he actually suggests fun things to do so I don’t have to.

He makes me happy. Very happy.

And he keeps me busy. So busy that I simply don’t have time to blog.

So if you don’t mind, I’ll need to cut things short here. He’s on his way for dinner tonight. I’ll grill up some chicken tenders and he’ll cook green beans from his garden. I’m hoping he’ll bring some rhubarb, too — I’m thinking of strawberry rhubarb topping on vanilla ice cream for dessert. Wine on the deck for sunset. Later, when it gets dark, we’ll take out the telescope and explore the heavens.

Still later, we’ll likely do some other things that I won’t detail here.

I’ll get back to blogging regularly one of these days. I hope you’ll keep checking in.

Beer Bread

More than just a good way to get rid of beer you don’t like.

There’s a restaurant in Wenatchee, near where I live, called McGlinn’s. It’s a casual dining place with a pretty big menu and lots of beer. Although it’s not one of my favorite places, it’s pretty popular with most of the locals and I’ll usually say yes if one of my friends suggest it.

Beer Bread
A recent loaf of beer bread, cooling on a wire rack.

One of the things on their menu is beer bread. A fellow pilot from Utah was raving about it when I spoke to him and I’ve had it. But I told him what I thought: my beer bread was better.

I got a chance to prove it last week. He hosted a steak cookout at his cherry drying base for all the pilots working with me this summer. I promised to bring along a fresh loaf of my beer bread and didn’t disappoint. He agreed that it was great — but I can’t recall whether he admitted it was better than McGlinn’s.

Anyway, here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups self-rising flour
  • 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds (optional)
  • 1 12-oz bottle of beer or ale*
  • 1/4 cup melted butter or margarine

* A note about the beer. I usually use whatever I have around that I don’t like to drink — which is pretty much any beer. These days, with friends stopping by all the time, I have a lot of different beer around. I’ve been making this bread with Coors Light leftover from a party, which no one seems to like. I don’t really like it as much as when it’s made with a darker brew. Guinness is probably my favorite for this. I tried Pyramid IPA the other day and it wasn’t bad.

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Butter (or grease) a large loaf pan.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together all dry ingredients. I usually skip the caraway seeds because (1) I don’t like them and (2) I seldom have them around.
  4. While stirring, add the beer. The batter should be very thick.
  5. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.
  6. Pour the melted butter over the batter.
  7. Bake until done, about 50 minutes. The crust should be golden brown and crispy.

I like to serve it hot. It also makes great french toast.

Amazon Reward Points Scam

Come on folks — don’t fall for this!

I’ve been getting so many of these in email lately that I figured everyone else must be, too. It’s a scam. Don’t click any of the links. Throw it away.

Amazon Reward Points Scam

If Amazon.com was writing to you, they would use your name, not your email address. There is no Amazon.com Loyalty Department. When you point to one of the links, it displays a URL that is not on Amazon.com.

If all that fails, look at it logically: are they promising “reward points” or a “$50 Amazon Gift Card”? A real promotion would be clear. Don’t let the placement of a few Amazon logos fool you.

Orange Yogurt Scones

Real scones, real easy to make.

Every once in a while I fall in love with a specific kind of food and want to eat various versions of it all the time. (As you might imagine, eventually I get sick of that kind of food and move on to something else.) For the last six or eight months or so, scones have been high on my list. I think it started with a few instances of really good scones bought at a coffee shop. From there, it became a sort of goal to try scones in various other places, looking for “the best” scone.

Plated Scone
Here’s one of the scones I made yesterday, served up with some apricot preserve. (Orange marmalade would have been better.)

When I unpacked most of my kitchen equipment and put it away in my new kitchen, I began baking again. And because my cookbooks were still packed, I relied on the Internet to find recipes — knowing the whole time that one of my cookbooks contained my very favorite scone recipe. After a few disappointing muffin-like concoctions, I finally dug out the cookbook with the scone recipe, Sunset Recipe Annual, 1997 Edition. This was a cookbook I got from my mother way back then. It has two recipes that I turned to over and over; this is one of them.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cold butter or margarine. I used butter.
  • 1 6-oz container of orange or lemon flavored yogurt (about 1/3 cup).
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange peel.
  • 1/4 cup orange juice

Instructions:

Here’s how I made it for a Sunday brunch at a friend’s house yesterday:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Oil a 12 x 15 inch pan. I used spray oil, which I rubbed into a nonstick pizza pan.
  3. Combine flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. I did this in my food processor.
  4. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles crumbs. This is very easy (and quick) in a food processor. (Indeed, I think food processors were made for making scones and pie crust.)
  5. In a separate bowl, combine yogurt (I used pomegranate because I didn’t have any orange or lemon), orange peel (which I didn’t use), and orange juice.
  6. Add the yogurt mixture to the flour mixture and stir until evenly moistened. This is where the total amount of yogurt matters. The Chobani that I used comes in 5.3 oz containers — not 6 oz. So I added more orange juice to make sure I had enough moisture. And no, I didn’t do this in the food processor.
  7. Mound the dough on the prepared pan and then use your hands to pat it into a 9-inch round. The cookbook suggests flouring your hands, but I didn’t need to. I’m thinking my mix might not have been moist enough.
  8. Use a large knife to cut down through the dough to make eight wedges but don’t separate them. All you’re doing is scoring the dough so the scones break apart easily later.
  9. Sprinkle the remaining sugar on the dough.
  10. Bake about 25 minutes, until scones are golden brown.
  11. Cut or break into wedges and serve hot or warm.

Baked Scones
Here’s what my scones looked like, right out of the oven.

I’m pretty sure that you can modify this in a variety of ways to make different flavors. Next time, I’ll get the orange yogurt and grated orange peel to make it the way I used to years ago.