What goes on behind our backs.
When we sold our house on the other side of the state, we had no idea where we would be landing in the state of Washington or possibly Idaho or Montana. Personally, I didn’t want to move too far from our old home because of the ties. Friends and family and a fierce resistance to change make me like a limpet: I find a place to stick to and I stick to it.
When my husband and son first mentioned the idea of moving I had a tiny panic attack. We’d lived in our house in Snoqualmie for eleven years and in Snoqualmie in general, for about twenty seven. The idea of leaving it all behind and starting out fresh brought a strong fear of the unknown to me that went beyond uncomfortable. I needed time to digest the idea.
For anyone, the idea of moving can be incredibly overwhelming because of the logistics alone. The emotional and sociological impacts only quadruple the anxiety. I was looking at selling a perfectly good home (like jumping out of a perfectly good airplane with a parachute) only the parachute didn’t really exist. My family was my only safety net to cling to amidst the chaos of change.
Logistically, there’s the selling of the home, packing everything you own (which is more than you think), finding a new place and moving all of your stuff there. Emotionally, you have to say goodbye to friends and family. Schools are changed. You worry about the effect it’s going to have on your child. Luckily, our son was on board which made things a lot easier in the guilt department.
As I said, we didn’t know where we would end up when we made the big decision nor did we know if we would buy land with a house or just land. We didn’t specifically think “we want to live off grid” at any given time. That was an aspect of the move that evolved over time. We did know we loved the outdoors and wanted something away from town; something with trees and acreage.
We spent about four months living in the little travel trailer we’d bought as a temporary home while we looked for property. We looked just over the pass near Cle Elum and Ellensburg, Washington and we explored properties further east and north of where I preferred to locate. As the summer progressed and we visited various prospects, it became apparent to me that I might have to accept the idea of moving much farther east than I’d originally preferred. I would just have to adapt.
After a very long drive to see our future home one day in August the decision was finally made. We would be situated in Stevens county in eastern Washington about seventy miles south of the Canadian border and about the same to Idaho. It’s beautiful here and there are seasons, unlike the Puget Sound region from whence we came. The property fit our criteria perfectly so we made the offer and went into a holding pattern until things were finalized in mid-September of 2017.
On September 17th, on an especially rainy night at Snoqualmie Pass where we were camping, we packed up and headed east.
The property was raw land and we knew we would be facing major challenges and expenses in making it our home but we were excited about our new lives and felt we were ready to face things head on. Reality did kick our asses, especially our first winter here but we’re still in the game and loving it.
Living off-grid isn’t just living; it’s an interactive adventure. You are directly involved with the quality of your life and the daily activities you perform to make things work. You have to be hearty and somewhat physically fit to live off grid as the work is hard. If I was a princess type, I wouldn’t survive a day out here but I wouldn’t be here if I was a princess.
When I get stressed out physically or emotionally, I feel overwhelmed and the constant tasks of every day living get to me. I feel frustrated and ask myself “what was I thinking?” but then I walk outside one morning to see turkeys crossing the property or a skunk trotting away from the bag of garbage we accidentally left out the night before. I see trees, mountains, hillsides, other wild animals. We have our spring and our garden.
It comes at a price and it is a life of extremes but that suits our personalities. Our new home reminds us we’re alive.
We have our new paradise and I’m great with it. 🙂
Questions, facts, observations, and our personal experiences with they who are ridiculous: The Turkey.
Here are some trail cam videos. Enjoy!
At night in the woods.
Disclaimer: This is kind of a cliché poem but I had fun writing it.
Air sharp as glass, ice scraping flesh
Breath escaping in frosty plumes
Feet frozen, struggling up hill to the place where the wood lies
Snow glows bluish, dark shapes fracturing it’s crust, frozen in escape
Stillness, snow holding tightly to all sound but the travelers
Constellations assume their poses, looking back through time with patient curiosity, eyes extinguished for millenia
Flashlights swing right to left and back, searching
Pausing, putting down the wood bag; catching breath
One stands watch while the other sets to work
Listening; sharp crack, blade falling
Wood rending under blows
Load bundled, nervous glances; fears better left unvoiced
Back to light, too far away
Not too quick, not wanting to look behind
Home close, steps quicken in urgency
Silent reassurances; nothing is there
A sound from the darkness, wood flung aside, clattering
All thoughts of fire forgotten
In flight, flashlights abandoned
Stairs, porch, door flung open, in
Dawn brings light, safety promised
Door opens, cautious glance
Long shadows cast by an early sun reveal clawed tracks in the snow
This really happened.
Twice in one day. Twice.
It wasn’t bad enough to get lost once. We did it twice…..in one day.
This happened before the move. My husband and I love the outdoors but not so much that I want to spend an unplanned night there.
We used to go to Hanson Creek; a spot off interstate 90 near Snoqualmie Pass, our old haunts. It’s known for it’s quartz crystals and is quite popular among amateur gem hunters. We’ve been many times and this trip started like any other.
You take an exit off the interstate, drive 3 or so miles up a pretty precipitous forest service road and park along the road at the barricaded remnants of a dirt road. It’s about a mile and a half steady climb before you come to a clearing with a hillside made up of mainly reddish dirt on your right.
You start to see very steep trails going up and splitting along the way leading to numerous “digs”. Many go under trees, some very deep under trees where the crystals tend to lodge among the roots.
People take all sorts of excavating implements and sifters to do their mining. Sometimes they’re left behind for the next person to utilize.
We quickly set to digging and sifting. My husband almost always finds the best and biggest specimens but I found a ginormous one the last time we went that I made a necklace out of.
You move around on the hillside with your tools, sliding and trying to keep your footing while trying not to knock down rocks and debris that might go tumbling and injure someone below. You look for the “hot spots”. The more adventurous, or more foolish (as it turns out applied to us), climb way uphill beyond most of the quarries to seek new sites.
My husband and I left our backpacks at a spot on the hillside and decided to go farther up. Usually we keep an eye on the lower hillside to keep our bearings but this time we didn’t watch closely enough.
Sure enough, at one point, we looked downhill and couldn’t spot anything familiar. I started to get a little nervous and suggested we go back down. We turned around and headed downhill but still didn’t see anything we recognized. We continued on as I grew more and more concerned until we finally realized; we were lost.
What direction do you go when you lose your bearings? You just give it your best guess and conference about it. We started hiking and after an hour or so, it really dawned on me that we were in the woods not knowing where the hell we were; for real.
We hiked for hours, trying to listen for the interstate. We tried to walk towards the sound of traffic in the distance. I was hungry and thirsty. We had left all our stuff back on the hillside including our phones. Brilliant. We climbed down hillsides, over logs, through brush as I grew more and more weak. It’s amazing how little time it takes to miss food and water. And the fatigue.
I don’t know how much time had passed when we came to a juncture, a place we recognized. The Iron Horse Trail. I was so relieved! But we had to make a decision. Which way to go from there on the trail. I argued for right and my husband insisted on left. Thank God I listened to him. My way would have put about 5 miles between us and the Snoqualmie Tunnel; an old decommissioned train tunnel that went 2.2 miles under the pass. That would have made for about 7.2 miles before we emerged on the east side of the pass close to civilization. And the tunnel…I’ve been through there several times during the day and it’s nothing but 2.2 miles of complete and utter blackness. And cold. Thank you husband for making the right decision!
We walked about a mile or two of the trail before we came to the trestle that spanned the forest service road that lead up to the parking area. Relief like no other. We descended to the road and walked the mile or two back to our car.
There’s nothing like seeing your vehicle after being lost all day. Nothing. We stopped and ate a cold can of spaghetti and meatballs but we still had to hike back up to the mining area and retrieve our backpacks.
It was getting close to dark though. We didn’t have much time.
We hoofed it back up the hill as fast as we could as the sun sunk towards the horizon. We had our car keys and all of the rest of our gear in those backpacks including our phones.
It was dusk as we approached the hillside and we hurriedly climbed up to where we’d left our backpacks. I quickly called our friends to let them know what had happened and where we were but it was getting dark fast. Too fast.
We set off down the hill again. We expected to intersect a trail that ended near the bottom of the hillside, but as we continued down, keeping sight of each other, we realized with horror that we must have overshot it.
Oh no. I couldn’t believe it as it dawned on me that we had managed to do it again.
We were lost; for the second time.
This time we quickly decided that we weren’t about to keep walking in the dark only to stumble over the edge of a cliff, not to mention moving farther and farther away from a landmark. We decided to stop, make a fire and call 911.
We hunkered down and proceeded to build a small fire to keep warm. Thank God we were at least somewhat prepared in that we brought our cell phone chargers. That saved our asses. We recharged a phone and called 911. They told us to keep our phone on so they could triangulate our position and said to hold on while they sent out a party.
We just sat by our little fire and waited: me hungry and thirsty again. I think I was in shock too. Search and rescue called us a couple of times to let us know they were on their way. I couldn’t wait. We didn’t know where we were so we were surprised when we finally saw lights approaching from up the hill rather than down. Shows you how disoriented we were. Good thing we stayed put.
They came down the hillside like angels. Our saviors.
The rest of the events unfolded in a kind of fog for me. That’s what makes me think I was in a state of shock. They immediately gave us food and water and had a very reassuring demeanor. I don’t know how many there were of them. Maybe 10 or so; men and women.
They gave us head lamps, put us between them in a line and shepherded us up and out of our unplanned day out to hell. I was completely disoriented as we climbed hillsides and crawled over logs before we got to the main trail and even then the experience felt surreal.
We reached the main road and walked the trail going down to the parking area where they made sure we were in our car and pointed in the right direction before we bid farewell. We thanked them profusely before we headed home.
This is where it gets interesting. I was driving out to the interstate and gaining my sense of reality when I noticed that my pants were spit all the way down my rear all the way to my ankle. Nothing underneath. It was then that I realized with horror that on the journey out of there, climbing up hillsides and over trees, that my backside and privates were completely open for everyone to see! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.
It was then that my husband told me that the rescuer behind me was privy to all of the nature I had to offer. Inches from his face. As soon as my husband saw what was happening, he quickly inserted himself between the rescuer and myself for everyone’s sake.
We made it home without getting lost again and the next day, I looked up the unit that had rescued us and wrote another big thank you to them and apologized for the extra exposure they’d witnessed. I was so embarrassed.
Incidentally, my husband said the guy who was directly behind me chatted me up a storm on the walk back to the car.