Jul 292014

Hells Canyon Raft with Kurt and Heidi Armacost via J5MM.com

Sitting on the edge of the Airstream bed while petting Oliver, B watches me with a curious eye as I pack his dry bag.  A nice {big} dry bag that Kurt and Heidi from Hells Canyon Raft dropped off with us at our campsite at the McCall RV Resort.  Tomorrow morning we begin a multi-day whitewater rafting trip with them. Where the Snake River heads north and carves the border between Idaho and Oregon, it forms the infamous Hells Canyon which happens to be the deepest gorge in North America (and deeper than the Grand Canyon!) and just happens to be where our rafting trip will take us . . .

McCall RV Resort and Northfork Lodge in McCall, ID via J5MM.com

“Mommy, will I be able to fish?”  B asks . . .

I glance over my shoulder and I smile {big} at him as I finish packing his dry bag.

His eyes grow bigger — and he too — smiles :)

He knows my answer.

What about Oliver?  Can he come? Where will we sleep?  Will our Airstream be okay alone here? 

So many questions my little boy has.

I reassure him everything will be perfect.

And it was . . .

This is how our two-night // three-day trip with Hells Canyon Raft began each morning . . .

Morning Sun in Hells Canyon via J5MM.com

Breakfast riverside with Hells Canyon Raft via J5MM.com

From falling asleep in our comfortable tents under some of the most amazing star-lit skies and crisp cool canyon air, we are awoken gently the next morning with soft sun beans shining through our tents gently warming us awake.

We unzip our tents and follow our noses to the smell of freshly brewed cowboy coffee and breakfast being prepared riverside by our guides Patrick and Elaine.

Riverside Dining in Hells Canyon with Hells Canyon Raft via J5MM.com

With coffee in my hand and hot cocoa in B’s — we decide to take a hike together and explore our surroundings.  Just he and I . . .

Soon enough we hear the call that breakfast is ready — so we start to head back down to our riverside camp.

But not before I give B a head start . . .

{a big head start}

Because I couldn’t get over the landscapes and views here.  Amazing.

I could have taken pictures forever . . .

Camping along the Snake River in Hells Canyon with Hells Canyon Raft via J5MM.com

Riverside breakfast in Hells Canyon with Hells Canyon Raft via J5MM.com

Homestead Camping in Hells Canyon via J5MM.com

Hells Canyon Rafting experience via J5MM.com

Sunny mornings at our riverside camp consisted of chatting with new friends from far away places, sipping hot coffee and hot cocoa all while enjoying some of the most delicious gourmet riverside meals.

After breakfast one morning, Patrick and Elaine offered up a “easy” hike to take.  “Monica, the view from the top is one you’ll never forget.” Patrick tells me as he can see I am questioning whether or not to go . . . because the hike is on the other side of the river and it looks steep.  Very — steep.  I’m not a fan of heights.  But he reassured me that people of all ages and skill levels can easily take this hike.

So I went. And I am SO glad I did.

Hiking to Suicide Point in Hells Canyon via J5MM.com

And along the way we would spy some of the canyon’s beauty . . .

Hiking to Suicide Point in Hells Canyon via J5MM.com

Hiking to Suicide Point in Hells Canyon, ID via J5MM.com

When we arrived at the view point our guide Katie began to explain the story of how the name of this point came to be:

“Once upon a time, a very long time ago . . . two beautiful souls from different backgrounds met here in the canyon.

They became friends.

BEST friends who LOVED each other.

But in the end, their families disagreed and would not accept that they were in love.  VERY much in love they were and VERY unaccepting were both sides of their families.

They were very unhappy about that and decided that if they weren’t allowed to be together surrounded by the love of their families, they would find another way to be together.


Their fate was very sad :(

Standing ontop of Suicide Point in Hells Canyon, ID via J5MM.com

B was very moved by this story too . . .

“Mommy, that story is like the story from my Mountain Man book when wild Bill and Running Moon fell in love with each other.”

I was touched that he could relate both of those stories together because he was right, they were very similar . . .

B onto of Suicide Point in Hells Canyon, ID via J5MM.com

After a long while we all decided to head back down and continue on our journey.  Everyone in my group was taking pictures.  Picture – after – picture.  We would all stop, pause and wait until they got just the right shot.  We were all so awe struck with the beauty and dramatic landscapes here.

Fishing Hells Canyon with Hells Canyon Raft in beautiful Idaho via j5MM.com

Whitewater rafting through Hells Canyon via J5MM.com

Native Trout in Hells Canyon via J5MM.comNative Trout in Hells Canyon via J5MM.com

From catching and releasing some of the most beautiful native fish to some heart pumping wild rapids there was always something new to discover such as the (now) historic pioneering homesteads.

The Snake riverside is dotted with many of these  homesteads built in the late 1800′s.  Imagining living in the primitive conditions as the homesteaders did back in the 1800′s sent goosebumps up my spine.  It must have been a very hard life amid such wilderness and beauty.

Take for example the Kirkwood Ranch home of the Jordan family. In the depression years of the 1930s the Jordan family was desperate and bought a sheep ranch in the Canyon to try to reverse their failing fortunes. They lived with their children at Kirkwood Ranch for several years and had a few neighbors scattered up and down the canyon.

The Jordans left the Kirkwood Ranch at the beginning of World War II and Len Jordan went on to become a U.S. Senator which I think was quite a feat considering the hard times he must have endured during the depression and homesteading on the ranch.

Len and Grace Jordan's home in Hells Canyon along the Snake River at the Kirkwood Ranch via J5MM.com

Below are pictures I took of the family cabin dining room and the apple orchards that graced their property.

Not to mention the abundant cherry trees . . .

After enjoying a few cherries, I secretly put the pits into my pocket.

Maybe I can grow these same trees back home on my property in Roslyn . . .

We’ll see.

Len and Grace Jordan's home in Hells Canyon along the Snake River at the Kirkwood Ranch via J5MM.com

Len and Grace Jordan's home in Hells Canyon along the Snake River at the Kirkwood Ranch via J5MM.com

As we floated down the river, our guides explain to us that the Native Americans were the first humans to settle in Hells Canyon. For many years the canyon provided a passageway and temporary home for the Nez Perce tribe and evidence of their settling is still found in Hells Canyon today via their pictographs.

I couldn’t even begin to describe how excited I was to be able  to see these pictographs up close and personal . . . and imagine myself standing in the very same spot the Native Americans did.

Nez Perce Indians Pictographs in Hells Canyon along the Snake River with Hells Canyon Raft and Kurt and Heidi Armacost via J5MM.com

Hells Canyon Raft with Kurt and Heidi Armacost via J5MM.com

After our full day of exploring the canyon it’s time to head to camp.  Upon arrival, our tents are all prepared for us and our guides begin to set up the kitchen and get dinner started.

Meanwhile, we all settle into our tents and get refreshed for a relaxing evening by the river.  B chooses to continue to fish, hubby takes a dip and I swim in the 72 degree water.  I feel so refreshed.

So happy.

Soon our guides bring out beautiful big plates adorned with with dutch oven melted brie that has been wrapped in a garlic butter drenched flaky phyllo dough and topped with the most delicious cherry chutney.  I failed to take a picture because everyone was devouring this most delicious appetizer.

And dinner was delicious (and beautiful) as usual . . .

But it was that Cherry Chutney I couldn’t get out of my head.  The cherries came from the Kirkwood Ranch and were turned into the thick, heavenly sweet chutney by Heidi Armacost — owner of Hells Canyon Raft.

Maybe if I asked nicely, I thought . . . she would share the recipe with me :)

Hells Canyon Raft with Kurt and Heidi Armacost via J5MM.com via J5MM.com

Hells Canyon Rafting Experience with Hells Canyon Raft with Kurt and Heidi Armacost via J5MM.com

And in my last email with Heidi, while thanking her for the incredible trip — she did share her recipe with me !!  And now YOU :)  Bon Appetit !!

Kirkwood Ranch in Hells Canyon Cherry Chutney Recipe from Hells Canyon Raft via J5MM.com

So this past weekend, back home in Washington while glamped on our piece of property in Roslyn, I find my cherry trees are still going strong.

I walk around my property, with basket in hand, picking the cherries off my heirloom trees.  These trees of mine, once belonged to a hard working coal mining family — they have deep history, just the cherry trees have their own deep history at the Kirkwood Ranch in Hells Canyon.

One-by-one I reach up and pick the cherries . . . just like Heidi does in Hells Canyon back at the ranch.

I take my happy little basket of cherries and retreat into my silver kitchen where I slowly start to pit the cherries, chop up the onions and stir the sweet bubbling mixture on my little stove top — all while reflecting back on our most amazing trip through Hells Canyon.

At this moment I am thankful.

Thankful for this life and thankful for the memories.

Hells Canyon Raft Cherry Chutney Underway In My Silver Kitchen via J5MM.comHells Canyon Raft Cherry Chutney Underway In My Silver Kitchen via J5MM.com

While my cherry chutney mixture is cooling on my countertop I open the Airstream door and walk outside.  I walk quietly next to my cherry trees admiring them.  I then stop to dig a little hole here and another little hole there.  I continue to dig little holes and in each hole, I place a precious cherry pit from the cherry trees of Kirkwood Ranch deep in Hells Canyon.  The ones I kept when we all enjoyed them when visiting the ranch.  They lived in my pocket and then my dry bag.  They came all the way home with me living in my Airstream cupboard from deep in Hells Canyon.

Maybe one day I will have a Kirkwood Ranch Cherry Tree growing here.

Maybe . . .


Hells Canyon Raft Cherry Chutney Recipe via J5MM.com

Cherry Chutney Phyllo Brie Bites

HCR’s Homestead Cherry Chutney


  • 3/4 cups Cherry Preserves
  • 3 tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoons Allspice (Ground)
  • 1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil
  • 2/3 cups Chopped Onion (I used Red)
  • 2 cups Fresh Cherries (Pitted)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper


Step 1
Simply place all ingredients into a sauce pan and bring to a simmer, stirring often in the beginning and every now and then during the cooking process. Cook until the entire mixture becomes reduced by half.
Step 2
Pour into a glass container and let come to room temperature before serving.
Step 3
Bon Appetit and thank you Hells Canyon Raft !!

And if you would like to recreate the appetizer simply buy yourself some phyllo cups, melt some butter and throw in that butter a garlic clove (or two) and let the flavors infuse . . . brush your phyllo cups with the garlic butter and place a tiny square of brie cheese into the center.  Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes — or until the cheese inside melts.  Immediately top with your cherry chutney and serve.

These go fast, so make a lot :)

Camping along Snake River in Hells Canyon via J5MM.com

Mar 102014

Bonner County Fairgrounds in Sandpoint, ID with our Airstream 2014

There’s always a day during our trips where I like to take it easy.  Easy as in, taking my good ol’ sweet time in the morning preparing breakfast and then heading out the Airstream door to really get acquainted with whatever town we are in.  Ever since arriving in the town of Sandpoint I’ve been eager to check it out.  Since hubby was off on his own skiing with his friend Tom, it was the perfect day to do this.

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Jun 252012

“Did you know you would be spending over six hours on Yellow Island Monica?” asked Phil.

“Why yes!”

(he smiled and looked very surprised)

Who is Phil you ask?

Well, to me, he is one of the most incredible people I have ever met. Ever.

You see, Phil lives here on Yellow Island which is one of many islands here in the San Juan Islands.  He lives in a cottage, by the sea, that looks like it came straight out of a fairytale. He has lived here for not one, not two – but 14 years and he helps take care of Yellow Island for the Nature Conservancy.

“It’s just the seals and I,” he tells me when I mention to him how wonderful it must be to live here.

Of course he has a boat to reach Orcas Island but just for a moment, try and imagine his life here as I take you through my day on Yellow Island.

Skipper Ward Fay of Northwest Classic Day Sailing brought me to Yellow Island so I could photograph the wooden sailboat race that had its course plotted around the island of which hubby and little B were participating in.  Access here is via boat (there are no docks) or kayak. 

Prior to the race, Skipper Ward took us on a beautiful cruise in the San Juan Islands aboard “Aura.”  He showed us many breathtaking places and even let B take the helm.  Oh the thrill B had knowing that “Aura’s” destination was completely in his little hands.

I spent my day on Yellow Island photographing the boats as they sailed by and taking in the stunning landscape of this magical island.

When my day was over and we arrived back at the Airstream I couldn’t stop thinking of all the beautiful colors of the wild flowers that surrounded me during my stay on Yellow Island. With inspiration from those colors I put together a colorful salad and baked a cherry clafoutis for dinner.

Classic Northwest Daysailing
~Skipper Ward and B

~ Aura and Skipper Ward well on their way . . .

~ Just one of many pathways to serenity you will find here on Yellow Island

Yellow Island, WA State

~beautiful wooden kayaks on the shore of Yellow Island

~ Kayakers paddling past Yellow Island

~ Phil’s Cabin

~ Fava beans from the Orcas Island farmer’s market

view of Yellow Island from the top of Turtleback Mtn, Orcas Island
~ Yellow Island as seen from the top of Turtleback Mtn., Orcas Island, WA

~ Yellow Island as seen from the water

~ Cherry Clafoutis fresh out of my Airstream oven

~Beautiful “Aura”

~ Phil waving good-bye :)

It was the perfect ending to a day that I am certain I will never forget.

Thank you Skipper Ward Fay for the incredible day!  Not only did we enjoy viewing the islands through a different perspective, I was able to enjoy my day on Yellow Island.

You can find the Clafoutis recipe here and as for the salad?  I used Tom Thumb lettuce that I grew in my home garden, watercress, quickly blanched fava beans, sliced red onions and grape tomatoes. The magic happens with the basil oil and a squeeze of lemon.

Basil oil is simple — just a handful of b
asil and 1/2 cup of olive oil and give it a whir in your blender. Don’t forget to add some salt and voila — you have a delicious oil you can use on anything from salads to soups or mix in with sour cream for a delicious dip.

Bon appetit!