Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Oregon Butte - A Washington Hike

Looking for some last swills of summer adventure?

I have a hike up my sleeve for you, that is if you are anywhere near south east Washington.

On of my very favorite Bellingham friends spent part of her summer vacation making the trek across Washington State to come spend a few days in the desert. She is awesome. We are pals, we will be friends for a very long time, it is just one of those friendships.

Spending time together is easy. Cooking together is easy. Adventures together are fun. She knows a lot about me, our friendship is something special. She is on her way to Japan this weekend where she will spend time with family and friends. I am totally going with her next time, even if I have to beg to go.

There are man made springs along the trail. The water is potable, amazing mountain water to clench the soul's thirst.

Last summer, using this same chunk of time we drove north together, in our trusty van full of climbing gear, bikes strapped to the back, across the border. We climbed Squamish, biked Whistler Bike Park, pedaled the backwoods of Squamish, swam in Alice Lake.

This summer her request was simple, relaxing and different.

We wanted to car camp, drink wine, relax. Forget heavy packs, long hikes. We brought our cameras and enjoyed stopping at every single interesting piece of trail.

We stopped constantly. We talked even more than we stopped.

No long days in the saddle, getting lost, crashing. Nothing scary, no climbing. Not too hard, no long and grueling hikes. We have done all these things together and we both decided that a short hike, shopping, wine tasting, and catching up was more important than some challenging adventure. There is a time and place for everything.

You won't believe this but Julie, this woman who staffs this lookout three to four months out of a year, we have mutual friends. Small planet.
We picked out Oregon Butte. Normally, when I think of a Washington mountain, I  think of a lofty volcano or a sky splitting peak with snowy slopes and glaciers hanging all over it. Here on the other side of the state of Washington, the dry side, the mountains are lower and so is the amount of snowfall. Diamond Peak and Oregon Butte are the two highest peaks in this section of the state. Oregon Butte is the highest peak in the southeastern part of Washington State and is the highest peak in the Washington section of the Blue Mountain range.

It isn't a difficult or technical peak but it is a special place. No lofty summit but the reward is plenty of views in all directions. If you live in the southeastern part of Washington State, the Blue Mountains are the peaks closest to home.

Oregon Butte has an actively (wo)manned lookout on its summit. It lies in the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness Area and the lookout was built in 1931 and is listed on the Historic Nation Register.

This stove was hit by lighting several times. When it is struck all the metal plates "jump".

When there is a lightening storm, perch your tush on this pedestal.
The trail to the summit is 3 miles one way and only has an elevation gain of 890 feet, a true walk in the park.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Really Franklin Barbecue? This is Austin, TX!

I have just proven to myself that I am just not a big city chica.

With that said, I bet Franklin Barbecue is the bee's knees, if you can hang with the hype. Hype. HYPE.

If you are familiar with city life please enlighten me. How do you put up with crazy long waits, inflated prices and never feeling hip enough? Seriously. There was a time that if there was a fifteen minute wait on a Friday night we would stroll somewhere else to eat. I am more patient these days but still have a hard time swallowing the prices.

As we rolled into Austin, Texas for a few days on our recent adventure, I was stoked to finally get the opportunity to get my slice of Franklin Barbecue. It was early in the day still, creeping up to the noon hour. After much confusion over the actual location of the current and only Franklin Barbecue, we landed and I of course got rather excited, did a jig as we strolled up to the turquoise accented building and the end of the long line of good folks eager to get a helping of brisket, ribs and sausage.

Surrounded by friends, an energetic three year old and family, I was distracted for a good chunk of time. A sweet lady soon came to ask us if she could brink us something cold to drink. She came back toting several cold Shiner Bocks and Dr. Pepper in a glass bottle and asked if we were expecting ribs because by the time we would be able to place our order, in two hours, they would be out of that but most likely still would have brisket.

The beer went down easy, it was cold and crisp, the way beer should taste in the summer, the way beer should taste in the Texas summer.

Two hours.

Two more hours.

I got some Franklin Barbecue, the line that is. The wait. The line that wraps through the dining area, snakes out the door, down the steps, in the sun and into the parking lot.

Two hour wait. On a Tuesday - before noon.

Not kidding for a second.

This summer has been a scorcher in Texas. Triple digits for days on end. Hot wet humid heat. The kind that is crippling, leaving one searching for shade, reprieve and cold beverages. It is for real. No weather to be standing in line, on pavement in direct sun.

The last thing we wanted to do was waste our precious hours in Austin waiting in line to eat food that might be sold out. We decided unanimously and in unison to blow the wait ad walk to the nearest restaurant, which would most likely be good since we are in Austin, Texas, food central.

Speaking of Austin and all the great food you must listen to this Guy Clark song, makes me all weak in the knees and restrain myself from purchasing another trip to the Lone Star state just to eat.

There you have it, I tried Franklin Barbecue, tried to eat there but I would have consumed enough beer by the time I got to order that there would not have been any more room for the real meal deal, the best Barbecue in the United States according to Bon Appetite.

I will side with Guy and rest assured that Austin is full of great food, not just at Franklin Barbecue.

Have you been to Austin? Ever ate a Franklin Barbecue? Do you live in a big city and wait hours for your favorite food? Please do share.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Vienna Bread & Kaiser Rolls

My heart is still warm and bubbly from our Texas vacation.

As I grow closer with family, let people in and I search my soul hashing out my intent, suddenly my shoulders drop and I breathe easy. I know that everything will work out.

Everything works out in its own time.

As our future unfolds I feel increasingly certain and confident in the direction we are going. The path may be a bit rocky but I can tell you with a twinkle in my eye that we are going where the light shines and there are smiles on our faces. There are aspects that are out of our control, decisions that have been made and things that we must do. To balance that we have little obligation and wild imaginations. Our time in the desert dwindles to a few weeks. The boxes are filling and we are packing, freeing space, lightening the load. The next month will provide much needed change.

As we do what makes us happy, I hope with all my heart that you do the same.

This will probably be the last loaf of bread that I will ever cook in the Tri Cities area of Washington. What oven I will warm next is still a work in progress. Exciting to say the least.

We have been working our way through a huge batch on Vienna bread. Half of the dough was shaped into a perfect loaf that J has sliced and used to warm our bellies in the lazy weekend hours dusting a petite wedge with cinnamon and sugar and soft from a smear of butter. I just used two slices to slop up the dressing from the biggest salad bowl I could find to eat dinner out of.  The other half I shaped into four large rolls which you see. The recipe was August's Bread Baking Babes challenge. It was a great loaf in which I had not made before but will keep it in the back of my mind as a go to for a sturdy white loaf to break at a dinner party.

Check them out and bake for yourself and others:

Vienna Bread & Kaiser Rolls

I will be back in the next day to share another handful of fun photos from our time in Texas, this time we hit the streets of Austin.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Grandpa and Guns

Yesterday I told you about fishing in Texas. Nothing beats fishing in the summer time deep in Texas country.

Sipping cold beer, silently casting into ponds with less than a care on the mind. It is simple. It is real.

But honestly what would be a trip to the country without shooting guns? Seriously folks.

We like to play.

This is CBS, J's older sister, the only other sibling. She has amazing red hair, the prettiest hair around. Her style is pretty much top notch. She is a straight shooter.

Meet Mama Bets. I love her to pieces. Yep, I love this lady. I am so glad that she is my family, family that is way too far away.

I was a little nervous to fire this little sucker. Focus.... steady.... fire!

See that little man behind me? He is always up to something. As we are shooting at this big piece of wood that J set up for us in a dry pond, Ralph sets up his own target. It is a small tear of paper dangling in the weeds.

Dead ringer. What more would expect from a generally sharp shooting man that celebrated his 90th birthday a few years ago? Seriously.

Meet J's grandpa, Ralph. Bubba Billy's dad. Together they still have a head of cattle (is that what it is called? head?) at the Triple S Ranch and work them together. Ralph gets out, tends fences, customizes his "mule" with horns and mirrors and has several farm dogs that faithfully follow him everywhere.

The steering wheel, yes that is a custom job.

My favorite farm dog, Hank. Sweet stinky Hank. Hank limps, Hank has a harder time walking than Ralph does. Ralph still gets around.

 Looking sharp for dinner.

I am pretty sure this is what J is going to look like in 60 years. I am totally okay with that.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Getting the Line Wet in Texas

We spent a nice long hot and humid week deep in the heart of Texas. As you know, there is a big huge gaping warm and gooey spot in my heart for my Texan. Put us together in the Lone Star State, surround us with wonderful family, spray Southern hospitality, stuff us full of Southern cooking and drench us in sweet tea and cold beer.... may never hear of us again. We will be fishing, shooting guns, picking pecans, planting a big garden in dark black Texas soil, chasing kids around, spending time in Austin listening to as much music as possible....Well until we touch back down in Washington and preach the love for the PNW and just dream of the country life that Texas offers.

The moment J landed back at the Triple S Ranch he spotted the fishing reels, guns, and the ORV to get us to big open pastures that beckon him with freedom and take him back to carefree childhood days. As we load the tackle, water, dogs and head to the fishing hole we dodge epic proportions of grass hoppers, J is reminded of years long gone when he would race down the same roads on a motorcycle, fish in every pond, swim in every pond, shoot rain gages, shoot birds..... 

A smile crosses his face and an easiness is present the rest of the trip. That is what Texas does best.

Did I say that the first thing we did was go fishing? Well, actually right after we had dinner, we are in Texas ya'll....

I will never tire of fishing these little ponds. Never ever. 

 As long as I have this red bearded Texan by my side.

CBS has a few years of fishing under her belt. She is a champ.

I honestly thought that J might change our flight, the very last day we started to catch cat fish, 10 pound cat fish. I don't have any pictures of that, it might just be fish tales or it might be the 110 degree heat that had me passed out on the shore too hot to even consider taking pictures.

Bubba Bill really did catch the biggest cat fish I have ever seen.

We had fried cat fish for lunch.

Next? We broke out a small arsenal of guns... there might even be a video!