A Walk in the Woods

Stars, when you shine, you know how I feel.
Scent of the pine, you know how I feel.  Nina Simone

I wasn’t raised on hiking; my parents favored gardening for exercise, and my mother played tennis. I have proved lacking in intuitive gifts in either of these areas, but in Colorado, I discovered hiking. That was in my 20s, but it’s my 40s that have truly been my Cheryl Strayed – minus the heroin addiction – decade. I have spent glorious, verdant hours in the woods, and I have loved it. I have hiked in the desert too, (narrowly escaping death [see “Die Another Day“]) and actually, that was pretty fun too. Trails often mean swims, and they always mean picnics.

This year, I was off to a joyful start when I took my oldest to Little Si in January, on what proved to be the only nice day for several sodden, frigid months. I had to abandon my plan to hike once in each month, but am picking it up again in 2018. I live wonderfully close to the Olympic National Forest, where some of my favorite spots are. Getting to the North Cascades requires more time and tedious traffic, though as I was recently reminded, it’s worth the effort. Behold:

Gregory at Picnic Rock, Lake Serene

My longtime friend, Gregory Ann, and I converged at the trailhead to Bridal Veil Falls and Lake Serene. She came from the north, me from the south. Her washing machine exploded as she was trying to make her escape, I encountered hours of traffic, and 30 Mad Max minutes in the warehouse vortex of Tukwila, asking people at the side of the rode if they knew where I could get gas. No one did. I finally had to render some fuel from discarded briquettes I found behind an abandoned house. It’s a simple process really.

I hadn’t been on Highway 2 in a few years, since the time I hiked to Surprise Lake after a night spent (surprise!) in my minivan with my sister in the Gold Bar fire station parking lot. I don’t always plan well (though I always bring my dad’s 65 year old snake bite kit from the Korean War). But fortune favors the bold, (and sometimes the idiotic) so in spite of the day’s repeated thwartings of our goal to just please meet up for a hike for pity’s sake, I arrived in the dusty parking lot within seven minutes of her.

I will say this: if you can get to this place, then go. Be sure to take the side trail (this adds one mile to total 8.2) to the falls. Then get back on the main trail and go all the way to the lake, even if it takes hours. In 100 Classic Hikes: Washington, Craig Romano rates this hike “moderate.” Okay, for an ultra runner, maybe. Greg trots up mountains with a goat’s nonchalance, but on this humid, 80 degree day, we agreed this was on the rougher side of moderate. I am just telling you so you bring enough water. My advice remains: get your ass up there.

And since you’re going, swim in the lake. I felt deeply humbled by the purity of it – the teal green depths cupped perfectly below eerily beautiful rock formations. The water was not nearly as cold as I braced for, and as I slipped in, I felt my good fortune surround me for a moment: a good friend, a perfect spot poised between heaven and earth, and of course, a picnic.

Cookies to Get You There

These are such good cookies. When you make them with macadamia nuts, you swoon; so make sure you are not perched on the edge of a precipice. Macadamias are expensive, so feel free to use another nut, chocolate chips or an additional dried fruit.

1 cup flour (I have used almond flour, though it’s hard to get the dough to cohere)
1 cup rolled (old-fashioned) oats
1/2 cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts
1 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut (I sometimes replace the oats with more coconut)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Mix flour, oats, nuts, coconut, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. In separate bowl, beat butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until blended. Beat in the egg until smooth, then drizzle in the maple syrup and vanilla until incorporated. Turn mixer to low and gradually add dry ingredient mixture and dried cranberries. Blend just to combine.

Chill dough up to 30 minutes, covered. All cookie dough, in my experience, works better after a bit of chilling. I have chilled it longer, but it gets a bit firm. Bake in walnut sized balls at 350 for 9 minutes. As always, that’s an estimated baking time. When they are lightly browned on top, they are done.






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