Grilled Salmon and DEET

Lisa with apple in front of mountains

Demonstrating advanced trail food preparation

When my husband and I moved here from Chicago, I thought that I was finally coming into my element. Mountains, ocean – all the things the Midwest couldn’t provide. We had mastered what the flatland could offer us in regards to camping, so we were ready to up our game. For those of you lucky enough to have been born and raised in this lovely region, you know that my attitude was like thinking I was ready to play in the MLB because I batted cleanup in t-ball. Thankfully my husband was more experienced in these matters, and managed to keep up safe, dry, happy, and entertained in the wild. He’s since joined the Mountaineers and has been scrambling on the tops of mountains, while I have contented myself with scrambling eggs at camp and taking photos of mountains from the relative safety of familiar flat land.

Needless to say, I have some learning to do. I think I’m finally over the hump of thinking I’m always on the verge of being eaten by bears. Seeing a bear retreat in horror from my loud approach last weekend helped me realize that they don’t want to deal with me either. Now I’m going through the enjoyable process of checking out the library’s resources on all things outdoors. I know this isn’t a shock, but there is a lot here to get through.

Scout's Backpacking Cookbook

Not surprisingly, my first foray into outdoor ed. was the cooking section. It looks like I may be able to salvage that ill-conceived food dehydrator purchase from the kitchen gadget bone-yard after all. There are a ton of books in this area, so I quickly eliminated anything to do with RV or car camping (we’ve got that down). My favorite was The Scout’s Backpacking Cookbook, by Tim and Christine Conners. This book was packed with useful information about equipment, cooking techniques, meal planning, safety, ‘Leave No Trace’ cooking and camping, and recipes. There were also wonderful appendices that provided measurement advice, additional reading, and helpful websites.

Other picks:

The Trailside Cookbook by Don Philpott

Camp Cooking in the Wild by Mark Scriver

Longstreet Highroad Guide to the Washington CascadesWith the food taken care of, choosing a destination was my next priority. When we camp, we choose our destination based on a few different things. Weather is the most obvious determining factor; last weekend we went over the mountains to find the sun. On other trips we’ve selected sites because they were off pleasant drives, or offered a selection of excellent hikes. The Mountaineers Books has a fantastic series of Day Hiking titles that cover different regions of Washington and Oregon. My favorite book that I found about exploring Washignton was the Longstreet Highroad Guide to the Washington Cascades, by Allan May. May created a guide to geography, history (human and natural), and recreation in the Washington Cascades, all wrapped into a very enjoyable read.

Note: Sometimes published info about campgrounds, trails, and roads can be outdated. To be certain that you can actually get to where you’d like to go, call ahead to the ranger station in the area you’re planning to visit to make sure that everything is open.

The Backpacker's ManualLast, and certainly not least, I looked into info on safety and preparation. This is perhaps the largest section of outdoor materials we have because there is much to be said on the topic. For a beginner’s overview to all things backpacking, The Smart Guide to Hiking and Backpacking is a good place to start. More advanced advice on trip planning, cooking equipment, and more can be found in The Backpacker’s Field Manual, by Rick Curtis. I found some really helpful illustrations and ‘how to’s’ in Basic Illustrated Wilderness First Aid, but I strongly recommend attending some courses on the topic if you are serious about venturing into remote areas. If not, be sure to trek with someone who has.

Other titles that I found helpful tips in:

Hiking with Dogs by Linda B. Mullally

Ultralight Backpackin’ Tips by Mike Clelland

Making Camp: A Complete Guide for Hikers, Mountain Bikers, Paddlers & Skiers by Steve Howe, et al.

So there you have it – my newbie backpacker reading list. Come in and browse the shelves; there’s a lot more here for those who are more advanced than I am. As for me? I have a date with the food dehydrator – who doesn’t want to try powdered cheese?

Lisa

Haunt Locally

I grew up in what’s known as one of the most haunted small towns in America. Alton, IL is home to haunted mansions, schools, and churches. Ghost sightings and spooky histories are more abundant than actual people to tell the tales. There was never a shortage of material for the ghost stories we told around bonfires on chilly autumn evenings.

And guess what? The greater Seattle area is full of similar spots and stories, just waiting for you to explore and discover. Even better? The library has several books to help you find ghostly hot spots and haunted locales.

The easiest way to see as many haunted locations as possible is to follow the driving routes in Washington’s Haunted Hotspots by Linda Moffitt. There are 17 separate road trips, taking you from one end of the Evergreen State to the other. Everett falls in chapter 7 and includes some familiar local buildings. The Rucker Mansion, for instance, is said to be haunted by Bethel Rucker’s mother-in-law Jane, who died in the home of natural causes. Jane must have been a virtuoso in her day, because now she can be heard playing the piano when no one else is at home. Everett High School is also mentioned as being haunted by a man wandering the halls. A construction worker fell to his death when the school was being built—could this be the same man?

Spooked in Seattle by Ross Allison is another book packed with local ghostly lore. Each chapter centers on a different Seattle neighborhood. Most locals are familiar with ghost stories surrounding some of these spooky hotspots, like the Seattle Underground, Smith Tower, and Pike Place Market. But the Museum of Flight, Fremont Troll, and even the Rite-Aid in West Seattle are also apparently visited by spirits from the great beyond. Familiarize yourself with some of the more obscure tales and impress out-of-town guests the next time you head down to the Big City.

While it has the fewest photos, the best written book of the bunch is Ghost Hunter’s Guide to Seattle and Puget Sound by Jeff Dwyer. Don’t be put off by the sections of serious ghost hunting information in this book. Sure, I giggled at the thought of Dr. Venkman and Dr. Spengler running around Capitol Hill on the trail of Slimer. But I urge you to look past that to the wealth of ghost stories that are sandwiched in between ghost hunting tips and ghost sighting report forms. From Manresa Castle in Port Townsend to the Mount Baker Theatre in Bellingham, this book covers much more than just the Emerald City. You may be particularly interested in the story about the haunting at the Historic Everett Theatre on Colby:

For nearly thirty years, patrons, theater staff members, and renovators have reported encounters with an elderly male presence. Many have gotten the impression that this ghost is a devoted patron or a former employee. Psychic investigations of the site have confirmed the presence of a spirit. The entity has been located in the balcony, the aisles of the main floor, backstage, and in the lobby near the four white columns.

Whether you believe in ghosts or not, I guarantee you’ll find at least one story to interest you in these tomes. In fact, if you’re planning a bonfire and an evening of storytelling, be sure to pick up a copy of one (or all) of these books. When you read some of these stories out loud, you’ll have your audience in the palm of your hand.

Carol