Road Food

While most of my food was cooked over a fire or on my little camp stove, and PB & J provided almost daily sustenance, I would occasionally splurge on local items, or grab a bite with my hosts.  Those explorations resulted in this list of edible and potable stand-outs that are every bit as memorable as the scenery I encountered along the way.  While it didn’t make this list, though, I would like to give an honorable mention to Lipton Noodles and Sauce, the prolific varieties of which provided many a satisfying camp meal – everything tastes better outdoors!

Top 5 Food and Drink – Roadtrip 2010

5. Morel and cream pasta

This was the best of my own creations on the road.  I rehydrated the last of the morel mushrooms that I had harvested and dried in the spring, sautéed them in butter with salt and pepper, added some heavy cream that had probably spent a couple days too many without refrigeration, and stirred the resulting sauce into cooked bow-tie pasta.  Voila!  A delicious dinner to keep me warm as the night temperatures neared freezing.

4. Colombo Pizza

I went to Colombo’s Pizza and Pasta because I had to… but I was sure glad I did!  Fresh vegetables were piled high on the pizza with home-made sauce and crust and just the right amount of cheese.  The place was bustling with college students, families, and young adults alike, and the service was friendly and efficient.  You may not think of pizza when planning a trip to the Rockies, but after a long day of skiing, hiking, or paddling the area wilderness, you won’t be disappointed.

3. Stephanie’s cooking

Anyone who has met Stephanie has probably tasted something she’s cooked… and not been disappointed.  Not only did I get to taste just about every variety of soy food produced by Ota Tofu, but I got the gourmet preparation to boot!  Fresh salmon, delicious cheeses, and crisp veggies rounded out our meals, and her mom even introduced me to Puerh teas, which I have since made a part of my regular diet.  I don’t even remember everything we ate in the few days I visited, but I sure wish I had Stephanie here to make my dinner tonight!  Mmmmmm…

2. Texas Tacos

I’ve never seen quite the variety of tacos that I got in Austin, TX, and all of them were wonderful.  Fish tacos, fusion tacos, veggie tacos, traditional tacos… the list could go on and on, and I certainly didn’t get anywhere near sampling everything available.  Your next trip to Texas should probably include a “taco tour”!

1. Fresh-hop beer

If you’ve been reading this long, or talked to me in the last year and a half, this ranking won’t come as a surprise to you!  The awesome variety of high-quality beer amazed me – and that’s coming from a girl used to Wisconsin’s motley brews.  However, the fresh-hop beer was more than just tasty… it revolutionized my way of thinking.  See, I never liked IPA’s, or APA’s, or any PA’s for that matter, because they were just too bitter.  The beers brewed with fresh hops (only a few hours off the vine), Pale Ales or not, were light, crisp, and fragrant without the bite!  Once I learned how delicious hops could be, I was able to find the flavor underneath the surface acridity in the ales I’d encountered before.  Now I’m at least as likely, if not more likely, to pick up a Hopalicious, Hopdinger, or Hop Hearty than anything else.  Thanks to Oregon’s healthy, hearty, and delicious beer industry!

Do you have any good food experiences on the road?  Know the best thing Stephanie has ever cooked?  Have an IPA recommendation?  I can’t wait to hear about it!



Shortly after returning from my big trip a year and a half ago, I took a new job and moved to the northeast corner of Wisconsin – a land of tall pine trees, clear waters, and primal predators.  Living in the land of wolves, Wild Rivers, and old-growth hemlock has its perks, but I alternated between exploring my new territory and missing the cows, prairies, and delectable local brews (and cheeses) of the southern portion of the state.  I’ve had a lot of questions about what I’ve been doing up here (and, from the skeptics, what there is to do up here), but new friends have also been asking me about the trip I took, and one of the first questions out of everyone’s mouth is, “So, what was your favorite part?”  In light of that, before I jump into my “new” adventures, I thought that I would present a post on my “Favorites” from the cross-country travels that inspired this blog.

That proved to be a little more difficult than I thought.  There are a few places that stand out as #1 or #2 on my list, but when I try to expand that to a Top 5 or Top 10, I find myself asking, “Well, Favorite what?”  Places, people, and things might be highly memorable for only one reason, but not qualify for the overall “Favorite” distinction.  Since they say that people today like easily-digestible, prescriptive information, I thought that I would provide a few different summaries of such things as my favorite foods and beverages, wildlife and plant experiences, music and radio stations, and of course the overall cream of the crop.

I’ll start with a list of places that may or may not have made my overall favorite list, but that might have if I’d given them a better fighting chance.  I call it:

Top 5 Places I Want to Go Back to and Explore More

1. Salmon River/Idaho Rockies

Some of the other places on this list might think that it isn’t fair to include this, since I’ve been hoping to plan a trip out here ever since I first saw the area in 2001, moving between Alaska and California.  I made a conscious choice not to spend time in the Rockies on this last advenure, because I felt like a week-long backpacking trip needed more specific planning.  I wasn’t even planning to go to Idaho, until I made the spur-of-the-moment decision to follow Louis and Clark’s tracks over Lemhi Pass.  My one night on the Salmon River was not only a breath of cool air between the heat of central Montana and that of the coastal Central Valley, but the babble of the blue river was a relaxing break between two long and winding days of driving.  I’m hoping to get back to the general vicinity sometime in the next two years for a more in-depth experience.

2. Sonoran Desert/Tucson, AZ/Saguaro National Park

I also decided not to spend a significant amount of time in the desert Southwest, since I had spent over a week there in 2003, moving back from California.  I did, however, take a more southern route, and the plants of the desert astounded me more than the red rocks of northern AZ and NM had years before.  I dragged my feet a little bit through Arizona, trying to take it all in, but I never had a chance to spend much time in any one place.  Specifically, I would have liked to spend more than 18 hours in Tucson, visiting family and getting to see some of the artistic side of the town.  I would also get slightly out of town to get to see the more wild and undisturbed portion of Saguaro National Park, and to get a better understanding of desert ecology and plant life.  I hope to get back there sometime in the next five years, maybe for a springtime blooming of the desert.

3.  Gulf Coast

When planning my travels in Texas, I didn’t even think of the ocean and beaches, so the time I spent there was short, but enjoyable.  I wouldn’t mind spending a couple days lounging on a beach, eating oysters on the half-shell, and learning about the coastal ecology that is so valuable to the healthy function of our hemisphere.  A couple years back I went to New Orleans for a weekend, and I remember thinking that, if I had scheduled it better, I would have saved some time for the coastal bayous, as well.  I’ll probably get down to somewhere along the Gulf coast in the next few years for an informative, tasty, and relaxing few days!

4. Oregon

Unlike every other place on this list, Oregon was an integral part of the planning for this cross-country journey.  I had never been there, and wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  During my week there, I had the opportunity to look at most of the more exciting parts of the state, but each portion only briefly.  I could spend a lot more time in the mountains of the Cascades and the Coast Range, exploring the neighborhoods of Portland, and dipping my feet in the Pacific.  It would be fascinating to give myself a rigorous course in volcanic geology while driving around the state.  Most of all, however, I’d like to do a focused survey of the fresh-hop beers that are tapped late every summer.  I got a small sampling when I was there, but I was a little late for the peak season, and I hadn’t planned on touring brew houses.  Next time I go back, I’ll make sure to be better organized and have a clearer direction to my visit.  It might be a good idea to trek the mountains before I start the beer tour, though!

5.  Big Thicket

If you recall my recent post on the Big Thicket National Park, you’ll remember that I was very excited about this ecological melting pot, but didn’t even have time to enter the park proper.  I’d like to spend several days in this north Texas/north-western Louisiana area with a few good field guides and maybe even a local naturalist to lead the way.  Not sure when I’ll get back there, but there’ll be some good botanizing when I do!

To all my fellow adventurers out there – have you been to any of these places or done any of these things?  Do you have suggestions for off-the-beaten-path exploration when I finally get a chance to return?


While no match for the torrents of the Cascades, LaSalle Falls is the highest waterfall in Florence County, at 14 ft. Here, it is a torrent of its own, after 4 inches of rainfall in just over 24 hours!

A year ago today, I was in the Cascade Mountains in central Oregon.  Tall trees, snowy bowls, swiftly-flowing streams, crisp mornings, lava beds.  In some ways, that landscape was radically different from the one I’m in now, but I’ve been reminded of my time there recently.  In fact, over the last several weeks I have thought back on most of last fall’s journey.  Depending on the stage of the season and the weather conditions, I have been reminded daily of everywhere from Isle Royale to the Rocky Mountains, down to West Texas and back up through the Ozarks.

We have had our share of cold and damp in northeastern Wisconsin this fall, with our first frost over Labor Day weekend, 3 hard freezes in September, and two nearly straight weeks of rain and drizzle.  The last couple weeks, however, have made up for my disappointment with the failed garden, as we’ve had nearly constantly clear skies.  This, along with the natural senescing of vegetation, has resulted in low humidity, near-record daytime temperatures (81 today!), and chilly evenings (except for this weekend, when I sat around the campfire in shorts and didn’t feel a chill until after midnight).  It feels like waking up in the mountains.  Specifically, it feels like waking up in the Rogue-Umpqua National Forest south of Crater Lake, where I was on October 4th of 2010.

The Pine River at Meyers Falls in northern Florence County, WI

What exactly does that forest have in common with the Chequamegon-Nicolet, other than the hyphen?  They both have Wild Rivers flowing swiftly over bedrock.  Chilly, dewy October mornings with warm, sunny afternoons. Sandy soils supporting conifers and heath species, with an understory including wintergreen and the always-popular pipsissewa.  In that respect, really, it’s not too different from, say, the Superior National Forest that I hiked through on my way to Isle Royale, at the beginning of my trip.  Or the Chippewa that I crossed in drizzle through northern Minnesota, watching the beginning of the brilliant fall foliage.  It’s easy to be reminded of those places from here in Florence County.

Heading north on WI-55 in northern Forest County, WI

Fallen leaves and drooping Wild Rice characterize the "north country" in the fall, here at Glidden Lake in Iron County, MI

Though one of the smallest counties in the state of Wisconsin, Florence Cty. actually has two distinct ecoregions in it – the “northern forests” that I cited above, and a bracken grassland/jack pine barrens that is an open, hilly

Jack Pines dot the bracken grassland at Spread Eagle Barrens State Natural Area in northeastern WI

landscape of sparse vegetation, growing on sandy glacial outwash.   When I’m over in the eastern half of the county, I’m no longer reminded of the wilds of Oregon or the headwaters of the Mississippi.   Instead, I feel as though I never left the glacial hills and aspen parkland of northwestern Minnesota.  As the colors turn to browns and reds, it even looks a little like eastern and central Montana, or the hills of West Texas.

Ferns, heath, and trees changing color at Lake Mary Plains in Iron County, MI

Blueberries and other heath species have colors as brilliant as the scrub oak around them

Which reminds me… I still have some catching up to do!  The long-awaited story of my travels through Texas is coming up soon, and I hope to be caught up on all of last year’s adventures before a year has passed.  After that, I’ll fill in more of what I’ve been seeing since my return!

Crater Lake

Crater Lake National Park

Day 36

Oct 3, 2010

Mile 4373- 4584

Crater Lake National Park is located in south-central Oregon, along the eastern edge of the Cascades.  It is aptly named: a lake in a crater, and it is lovely, though I was probably more impressed by the concept than the beauty.

The crater in question was formed approximately 7,700 years ago, in the climactic eruptions of Mount Mazama.  That mountain had been formed over hundreds of thousands of years of regular eruptions, alternately being built up by its own ash and pumice and being eroded by passing glaciers.  Over time, the pressure of the magma under the volcano caused additional vents to

"Pumice Desert"

develop, and in one final enormous eruption, the magma chamber was virtually emptied, and the weakened cone collapsed into itself, leaving the depression now known as Crater Lake.   The NPS brochure explains: “Ash from these eruptions lies scattered over eight states and three Canadian provinces’ some 5,000 square miles were covered with six inches of Mazama’s ash.  In the park’s Pumice Desert ash lies 50 feet deep.”

Eventually, additional volcanic eruptions caused the floor of the remaining caldera to be sealed, and rain and snowmelt began to collect in the basin.  Further eruptions built up small cones within the crater – one of which is visible

Wizard Island

above the water line as Wizard Island.  Today, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States, and in the top ten in the world (some sources say 7th, some 9th… ).  The great depth is what causes the deep blue color, though the day I was there the light angle was only bringing out a lighter blue, though still very pretty.

Paintbrush flowers on a dry Crater Lake slope

Whitebark Pines are twisted by the wind on Crater Lake's rim

Ash, pumice, and high desert aridity create a barren landscape

The rock formations are Crater Lake were pretty fascinating, and I have no clue what caused most of them.  The “pinncales” or “hoo-doos” in these photos, though, I know to have been created by steam vents.  As hot underground gasses continued to escape through the molten lava, the resulting rock was flash-hardened into these spires.  Eventually, streams (such as the one at the bottom of this valley) eroded away the surrounding rock, and these ultra-hard tubes

The Pinnacles

remain.  Apparently, most are still hollow inside.

This rock formation is called the "Phantom Ship"

A wildfire is allowed to burn in the northeast corner of the park

Looking north from the rim of Crater Lake, as smoke from wildfires settle to the ground like fog.

Roadside Geology of Oregon

The Three Sisters in the Cascades, viewed from Eugene, in Oregon's central Wilamette Valley

Roadside Geology (and some Ecology) of Oregon


One thing that struck me, driving back and forth through western Oregon, was how young the landscape was.  The Cascades are still volcanically active (witness Mt. St. Helen’s), and the geologically-recent eruptions throughout that range mean that the soil and vegetation are still relatively simple.  In the last post, I showed you the Belknap Crater, near McKinley Pass, and its surrounding lava flows.

Looking westward from The Dalles along the Columbia River - fog and rain just barely creeps over the Cascades all day long.

That volcano erupted over 4,000 years ago, and very little has colonized the area since then.  Bright green lichen has gained a toe-hold on much of the rock, but pioneer grass and pines are a long time in following, and only a portion of the area has enough vegetative history to have developed a thin layer of soil.

This same story repeats itself throughout the state, as the overlapping volcanic and glacial histories define the landscape and its ecology.   Glaciers of the last Ice Age defined the wide valley of western Oregon between the coastal mountains and the Cascade range, and the eastern second set of mountains,

High Desert, between Bend and Crater Lake

The "pumice flats" are areas of lava and ash where anything has trouble growing

however, and the eastern portion of the state is considered High Desert, barren and sparsely populated, despite the glacial deposits found there.   In between, the Cascades rise,formed by millennia of volcanic eruptions.  Despite having more rainfall than the eastern desert, disturbance by rock-fall, erosion, unchecked winds, and of course molten lava create a  harsh life there for trees and groundcover.

If you look closely, you can see the difference between glaciated peaks and volcanic ones: Mt. Washington (on the left) has been carved by glaciers over the milennia, but Mt. Jefferson (center, in the distance) has erupted since the last glaciation, and stil maintains its cone shape.

In addition to affecting the vegetation, volcanic activity changed the terrain.  Driving through the state, one can still see evidence

Upper Rogue River Gorge

of these eruptions as though they had just ended.  In geological terms, I guess they really have!  Where rivers have carved

Lava flows and collapsed lava tube along the Rogue River

Rogue River flowing over volcanic basalt

through softer layers, the hardened lava almost looks like it is still moving: separate layers of distinct lava flows can be seen in places like the Upper Rogue River’s gorge.  Along the banks of this Wild and Scenic River there is also a very clear example of  the lava tube formation.  In this case, lava flows continuously out from a volcano (sometimes for periods of several months), and eventually the upper crust of the flow hardens after prolonged air contact.  The continuing eruption, however, keeps the flow moving between that hardened crust and the bedrock below.  Once the volume of lava has decreased, and the flow finally stops altogether, the crust

Rogue River pouring out of the lava tube

Top crust of lava tube (the river is flowing underneath it here... see the outflow at the top of the photo

remains, but the tube through which the molten lava has been flowing is empty.  These tubes can (apparently) be miles long.  Most times the crust eventually collapses, leaving deep holes at the surface, or shallow caves when encountered from the side.  In some cases, water, always looking for the easiest way to the sea, breaks through softer rock into these tubes.  This is the case on the Upper Rogue, where the river, diverted by the eruptions, worked its way through both collapsed and entire lava tubes to create the gorge seen today.

Unfortunately, this dam is the reason that only the Upper Rogue is considered "wild and scenic."

I certainly am not a geologist (if you couldn’t tell from the preceding paragraphs), and the volcanic landscape still seems eerily barren to me, but I learned to identify what I was viewing with a basic understanding, and witness these patterns repeated as I went along.  Crater Lake (initially formed by an eruption 7,000 or so years ago) may be one of the more famous locations

Lava spouts at Crater Lake National Park

for viewing the aftermath of volcanic activity, and I spent a day hiking and driving around its rim.  Check out the next post for the stunning detail of that trip!

Secondary eruption wthin Crater Lake

Crater Lake sneak peak!

Into the Cascades

Day 34 – 36

Oct 1 – 3, 2010

Mile 4236 – 4373

Eugene, OR to Chemult, OR

On Friday, I left Eugene and headed up into the Cascades.  Driving up the McKenzie Highway, I checked out the Cougar Dam and REservoir on the McKenzie River, dallied in some hot springs, and spent the night at Paradise Campground.  Saturday morning began with a nice hike through the woods, full of mushrooms, huge trees, and tons of mosses.  Then it was up a twisty road to the top of McKenzie Pass, and the volcanic landscape there.  I bid a fond adieu to Stephanie at that point – she headed back to Eugene, while I went on to spend the night in the high desert outside of Bend, Oregon.  Not before I’d sampled a few of the many brews made there in town, and taken a gander at the most famous of their breweries: Deschutes.

Cougar Reservoir

Wow, that's a big tree! On the Ollalie Trail on Horsepasture Mountain.

Two of the Three Sisters at sunset form Horsepasture Mt.

Belknap Crater and its resultant lava flows. This volcano erupted about 4,000 years ago.

Pioneer trees on Belknap Crater

Not much but lichen growing on the rocks

A couple "islands" of forest were untouched by the lava flow and are now thousands of years ahead of their surroundings in plant growth.

The North and Middle Sister, viewed from McKenzie Pass

Oregon Coast

Day 30-31

Sep 27-28, 2010

Mile 3960 – 4154

Warrenton, OR  – Florence, OR

Having followed the Columbia River to the ocean, I traveled with my friend Stephanie down the Pacific coast from the northernmost point of Oregon, to somewhere near the middle (Florence, to be precise).  While it looks foggy, I was assured that in fact it was extremely nice weather for the Oregon coast.  Actually, the sun shone on us most of the day, and the water wasn’t even too cold on our bare legs (once we got used to it)!  We camped at Tillicum campground in the Siuslaw National Forest, listening to the waves crash on the beach.  Tuesday morning, after a cup of coffee in Florence, we headed inland to Eugene, through the coastal range, dripping with mist.  Lovely!

Haystack Rock

Waves crashing on the little haystacks




Bridge over the Siuslaw River in Florence

The Siuslaw River estuary in Florence on a foggy morning