outdoors

Cross-Country: Adventures Alone Across America and Back

400T E cover

I am proud to announce the publication of my new book, a non-fiction travel narrative entitled  Cross-Country:  Adventures Alone Across America and Back:

After a childhood of summers spent in the back seat of a car, and four months before the turn of the millenium, M.M. Justus decided to follow in the footsteps of her heroes John Steinbeck and William Least-Heat Moon, not to mention Bill Bryson, and drive alone across America’s backroads for three months.  Like the bear going over the mountain, she wanted to see what she could see.

The places she visited ranged from the homely to the exotic, from the Little Town on the Prairie to Scotty’s Castle, from New York’s Twin Towers to an ‘alien’ landing site in Wyoming.  From snow in Vermont to the tropical heat of New Orleans. 

After over 14,000 miles, history both public and personal, and one life-changing event, she finally arrived back where she’d started from, only to discover it wasn’t the same place she’d left behind at all.
It is available in print through Amazon and CreateSpace, and through other retailers coming soon, and as digital editions through Amazon and Smashwords, with other retailers coming soon:

You can read the first chapter for free here:  http://mmjustus.com/fictionCrossCountry.html

Thank you for your time.

M.M. Justus
Categories: books, Cross-Country, exploring, highways, Long Trip, museums, national parks, outdoors, parks, philosophy, self-publishing, travel, writing | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

I’m living in a Pemco commercial!

I was in my sewing room this afternoon, looked out my window, and this is what I saw in the septic field behind my condo:

goats 1

Goats!

 

And more goats!

And more goats!

 

Hey, lady, I didn't give you permission to take my picture.

Hey, lady, I didn’t give you permission to take my picture.

 

The septic field’s been something of a jungle for quite some time, and I guess the condo board finally decided to do something about it [g].  They’re sure a lot quieter and more environmentally friendly than a bush hog.  Not to mention cuter.

And if you’re wondering about the subject heading…

Categories: animals, outdoors | Leave a comment

more earthquakes in Yellowstone

This article from my local news station, located in Seattle, talks about recent swarms of earthquakes in Yellowstone.  Earthquake swarms aren’t all that unusual there, but what fascinated me was the last three paragraphs:

“Smith traced the three recent earthquake swarms to the Hebgen Lake quake [in 1959 — my time traveling hero’s earthquake].

‘These are a really related,’ he said.

‘We think that much of the seismicity is still aftershocks from that event in 1959. It can go on for hundreds of years.'”

 

Categories: geysers, national parks, outdoors, parks, Repeating History, Yellowstone | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Wow, what a view

Wednesday my friend L and I did something we’d been wanting to do for a long time.  We went up to Crystal Mountain Ski Area, and we rode the gondola, which is open to sightseers in the off-season.  It cost twenty bucks, but it was worth every penny.  I really had no idea how far we’d be able to see from up there.  I’d been to Crystal to ski several times, but that was fifteen years ago, and even then I’d never gotten that high on the mountain (the easiest trail down from the top of the gondola is intermediate, and I never got much beyond high beginner trails the entire decade or so that I skied regularly).

Anyway, the day was about as clear and dry as it gets in the Pacific Northwest (and hot — 90+F in the lowlands, which broke records for this time of year, and in the upper 70sF even at almost 7000 feet at the top of the gondola), and the views ranged from Mt. Adams, clear down by the Columbia River, all the way to Mt. Baker, all the way up by the Canadian border.  And Mt. Rainier looked as if a person could reach out and touch it.

The only view even slightly obscured was down towards Puget Sound, where haze hovered over the water, blocking our view of the Olympics and of the cities down there (I bet the nighttime view in clear weather of those cities must be absolutely amazing).

There’s a fancy restaurant up at the top of the gondola, but it was beyond our price range, so we’d packed a picnic (actually, we’d bought our picnic at a Subway on the way), and we had plenty of chipmunk company while we ate.

All in all, it was a seriously spectacular trip.  If you happen to be in this part of the world on a clear day, don’t miss it.

Mount Rainier from the top of the Crystal Mountain gondola.  That's the White River down below.

Mount Rainier from the top of the Crystal Mountain gondola. That’s the White River down below.

That shadowy curve above the crags is Mt. St. Helens.

That shadowy curve above the crags is Mt. St. Helens.

Mt. Adams, and the tubs of flowers on the path to the restaurant.

Mt. Adams, and the tubs of flowers on the path to the restaurant.

Welcome to Crystal Mountain, elevation 6872 feet.

Welcome to Crystal Mountain, elevation 6872 feet.

That little white triangle on the horizon towards the righthand edge of the photo is Mt. Baker.

That little white triangle on the horizon almost dead center is Mt. Baker.

Lunch company.

Lunch company.

Really brave lunch company.

Really brave lunch company.

Headed back down the gondola.  Taken through the clear cover, so please excuse the reflections.

Headed back down the gondola. Taken through the clear cover, so please excuse the reflections.

Just a reminder, the Time in Yellowstone series: Repeating History, True Gold, and Finding Home, and the story “Homesick” (including chapters from all three novels, and only 99 cents for the e-version), are now available as ebooks on Amazon and Smashwords, and Repeating History is now available as a paper book from Amazon and CreateSpace, with the other books coming in paper editions very soon.

Categories: "Homesick", animals, books, exploring, Finding Home, flowers, Mt. Rainier, national parks, outdoors, parks, Repeating History, travel, True Gold, weather | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

book news

First, the proof copy of Repeating History arrived in the mail today.  To say I am pleased and amazed falls rather short of the mark.  Not to sound like a cliché, but you know what they say about lifelong dreams?  Yes, that.

Anyway, here’s photos of the absolutely beautiful cover, if I do say so myself:

 

The front, obviously.

The front, obviously.

And the back.

And the back.

The photo is one I took.  The background texture is actually from the same photo.  And the design is all mine.  I couldn’t be more pleased.

I need to make a few small corrections, then I will be hitting the publish button and uploading the other three books in the Time in Yellowstone series to CreateSpace over the next week.  As soon as they’re available I’ll be posting links here.

Also, the third novel and a short story in my Time in Yellowstone series are now available at Smashwords.

Finding Home

“Homesick” , which includes chapters from all three novels, and is only 99 cents.

Both books are also being published on Amazon for the Kindle, and should be available in a day or so.  I will post those links here as soon as I have them.

Categories: "Homesick", books, Finding Home, geysers, national parks, outdoors, parks, Repeating History, self-publishing, True Gold, writing, Yellowstone | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

salt water and gardens

Point Defiance Park is one of the most beautiful places in Tacoma, Washington, and that’s saying a lot.  It’s a huge city park (708 acres) on a point sticking out into Puget Sound, with a zoo, a waterfront promenade and beach, a replica of a historic fort, extensive gardens, and expanses of old-growth forest laced with hiking trails.

I had a meeting in Tacoma yesterday afternoon, and afterwards I decided to go walk the promenade, enjoy the gardens, and take some photos.  Here’s a selection:

An iconic western Washington view -- the Pt. Defiance-Vashon Island ferry making its run.

An iconic western Washington view — the Pt. Defiance-Vashon Island ferry making its run across Puget Sound.

Shaded in the foreground to the right is the waterfront promenade walk at Pt. Defiance.  In the background is Mt. Rainier.

Shaded in the foreground to the right is the waterfront promenade walk at Pt. Defiance. In the background is Mt. Rainier.

It's the time of year for dahlias, and the dahlia test garden at Pt. Defiance is in full bloom.  This is my favorite kind of dahlia, known as a ball dahlia.

It’s the time of year for dahlias, and the dahlia test garden at Pt. Defiance is in full bloom. This is my favorite kind of dahlia, known as a ball dahlia.

This dahlia looks like a peppermint stick.

This dahlia looks like a peppermint stick.

These white dahlias were bigger than my outspread hand.  Some of the dahlias on display were bigger than my head.

These white dahlias were bigger than my outspread hand. Some of the dahlias on display were bigger than my head.

One of a dozen rows of dahlias in the test garden.

One of a dozen rows of dahlias in the test garden.

This pretty walkway lined with yellow rudbeckias and green hostas, among others, is near the dahlia garden.

This pretty walkway lined with yellow rudbeckias, white Japanese anemones and hostas in lots of shades of green, is near the dahlia garden.

Pt. Defiance also has a huge rose garden, which is still going strong now in late August.  I don't know what kind these are, but they're profuse.

Pt. Defiance also has a huge rose garden, which is still going strong now in late August. I don’t know what kind these are, but they’re profuse.

This is my favorite color of rose, kind of an orangey salmon.

This is my favorite color of rose, kind of an orangey salmon.

And here's a view of part of the rose garden with its gazebo, which is popular for summer weddings, and for good reason.

And here’s a view of part of the rose garden with its gazebo, which is popular for summer weddings, and for good reason.

Categories: flowers, hiking, Mt. Rainier, outdoors, parks, plants | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My 20th? annual trip to Sunrise

Actually, it may be my 19th.  I moved here twenty years ago this month, but I don’t remember if I went up there that year.  I know I’ve gone up there twice in a summer at least twice, so does that count?

I love both Paradise and Hurricane Ridge, and I’ve been to a lot of other wonderful wildflower hunting places (including Yellowstone, which doesn’t seem like a likely place to find a lot of wildflowers but most certainly is, and an incredible little state park in Indiana called Clifty Falls, which is absolutely amazing in April), but my favorite wildflower hunting grounds of all time are at Sunrise at Mt. Rainier National Park.

The Mountain from Sunrise.

The Mountain (as it’s referred to locally) from Sunrise.

This year I was slightly late getting up there — my beloved alpine phlox was all but over except in a few favored places — but I still managed to rack up 36 different kinds of flowers.  That’s my best total this summer!

One of the really neat things that the rangers do up at Sunrise (and at Hurricane Ridge) is put little signs near clumps of blooming plants that tell you what they are.  I also have a couple of ID books, and I take photos of everything I see, so I can examine them better when I get home.

Here’s a sampling of what I saw today:

Pink and one yellow monkeyflower on the road to Sunrise.

Pink and one yellow monkeyflower on the road to Sunrise.

Small-flowered penstemons (their name as well as an accurate description).

Small-flowered penstemons (their name as well as an accurate description).

Partridge foot.  I don't think I've ever ID'd this one before.

Partridge foot. I don’t think I’ve ever ID’d this one before.

Subalpine daisies (genus Erigeron).

Subalpine daisies (genus Erigeron) and one of those nifty park service signs.

Magenta paintbrush -- see, they're not endemic to the Olympics!

Magenta paintbrush — see, they’re not endemic to the Olympics!

A clump of scarlet paintbrush in a field of subalpine daisies.

A clump of scarlet paintbrush in a field of subalpine daisies.

Jacob's ladder, aka Polemonium.  One of its relatives is a self-inflicted weed in my garden.

Jacob’s ladder, aka Polemonium. One of its relatives is a self-inflicted weed in my garden.

A field of sickletop lousewort (what a horrible name to inflict on a perfectly nice wildflower!), in a damp spot where it's happiest.

A field of sickletop lousewort (what a horrible name to inflict on a perfectly nice wildflower!), in a damp spot where it’s happiest.

Elephantella.  The flower book calls it elephant head, which is an accurate description of the flowers, but I grew up calling it elephantella.

Elephantella. The flower book calls it elephant head, which is an accurate description of the flowers, but I grew up calling it elephantella.

Dwarf alpine lupine at Sunrise Camp.

Dwarf alpine lupine at Sunrise Camp.

White rhododendron, which doesn't look much like a regular rhody to me.

White rhododendron, which doesn’t look much like a regular rhody to me.

Cusick's speedwell, whose formal name is Veronica.  I didn't see Betty.

Cusick’s speedwell, whose formal name is Veronica. I didn’t see Betty [g].

 And here’s the list, pretty much in the order I saw them:

Monkeyflowers (Mimulus), pink and yellow

Small-flowered penstemon

Pearly everlastings

Broad-leaved and dwarf lupines

American bistort

Potentilla

Gray’s lovage

Thread-leaved sandwort

Common yarrow

Partridge foot

Subalpine daisy

Cascade aster

Pale agoseris

Fan-leaved cinquefoil

Pasqueflower seedheads

False hellebore

Sitka valerian

Spreading phlox

Paintbrush, scarlet and magenta

Polemonium (Jacob’s ladder)

Broadleaved arnica

One lonely Columbian tiger lily

Sickletop lousewort

Elephantella

Beargrass

Harebells

Pink heather

White rhododendron

Cusick’s speedwell

Mertensia

Newberry’s knotweed

Mountain ash

Pussy-toes

Oh, and I saw a bear!  In all the times I’ve gone hiking up at Sunrise, this is the first time I’ve seen a bear.  It was at the Sunrise Camp, which is an ex-auto camp that’s been turned into a backpacker’s camp about a mile and a half behind Sunrise visitor center.  There were about twenty of us watching it browse from a safe distance when I was there.  It obviously knew we were there, and it equally obviously couldn’t have cared less.  It was a bit closer to the trail than I was comfortable with, so instead of making my usual loop, I went back the way I came, along by Shadow Lake.

The first bear I've ever seen at Sunrise -- the ranger had me fill out a report when I went into the visitor center to tell her about it like the sign says to.

The first bear (photo taken with the zoom) I’ve ever seen at Sunrise — the ranger had me fill out a report when I went into the visitor center to tell her about it like the sign says to.

And I saw this bird.  It’s got some blue on its back and rust on its front, and it’s about 6-8″ long, maybe?

A bird I'm hoping my friend will ID for me.

A bird I’m hoping my friend Katrina will ID for me.

Categories: animals, birds, exploring, hiking, Mt. Rainier, national parks, outdoors, parks, plants, travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A day at the mental hospital

No, this entry isn’t at all what you think it’s going to be.

The Heritage League of Pierce County, Washington, holds an annual outing for its members every summer, in which we (I’m a member of the board) showcase one or more of our members’ museums or other facilities.  In this case, three closely-related organizations.

At one end of Fort Steilacoom (STILL-a-come) Park in the city of Lakewood, which used to be part of the grounds of what was once called the Washington State Insane Asylum, now Western State Hospital and one of the largest facilities of its kind in the U.S., is a cemetery, where the remains of over 3000 early inmates and some staff members of one of the oldest facilities for the mentally ill west of the Mississippi are buried.  For many, many years, these graves were only marked with a number, and the records of who was buried where were kept private because of the stigma of mental illness.  In 2000, concerned citizens formed Grave Concerns, a group which eventually got state law changed so that these graves could have proper headstones with the proper information on them, and started raising the money to replace the old numbered gravestones.  They’ve made a lot of progress, and we spent an hour or so being taken by Laurel Lemke, the current president of Grave Concerns, on a tour of the cemetery, in a beautiful spot sprinkled with trees, between rolling hills.

After a picnic lunch in Fort Steilacoom Park, we crossed Steilacoom Blvd. to the current hospital grounds, where we met with Kathleen Benoun, who runs the Western State Hospital Museum, in the basement of the main building.  Because of its location, the museum is open only by appointment, but it’s well worth the trouble to call and make one.  The history of mental illness and its treatment is, in equal parts, scary and fascinating.  Some of the equipment, housed in the museum, for these so-called treatments is enough to give a person nightmares.  But seeing how the treatment of the mentally ill has changed over the last almost 150 years is heartening, too.

The hospital has a long history for this part of the world.  It opened its doors in 1871, the same year that our first national park, Yellowstone, was created.  It’s had a few famous patients over the years.  The most famous, or infamous, was Frances Farmer, the actress whose story was immortalized in the movie Frances, starring Jessica Lange.  The museum devotes a whole room (albeit a small one) to her.

The museum itself is housed in a few of the old treatment rooms, which definitely gives an air of authenticity to the whole place, especially with the echoing tile walls.

The third museum of the day was historic Fort Steilacoom itself, first built and manned as a defense against Indians in the 1850s.  It was decommissioned in 1868, and the land and buildings given over to what is now Western State Hospital, but several of the fort’s original buildings still survive on the grounds.  It’s open on weekends in the summer, staffed by volunteer re-enactor docents, and is also well worth a visit all on its own.  The main building houses exhibits as well as an enormous diorama depicting the fort in its heyday, and several of the smaller buildings are furnished as they would have been originally.

And that was my day at the state psychiatric hospital (to use the modern and more appropriate term).  I highly recommend a visit there for anyone.  Just be sure to make that appointment to see the hospital’s museum ahead of time.

Categories: exploring, history, museums, outdoors, parks, plants | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

A trip to Hurricane Ridge

Hurricane Ridge is in Olympic National Park. I don’t get up there every year — it’s a bit farther than it is to Mt. Rainier — but I did combine a trip up there with a stop at the annual quilt show in Sequim, Washington, which in turn is associated with Sequim’s annual lavender festival. All in all it makes for a terrific, but very long day.

I’m going to concentrate on the wildflowers I saw, like I did with my last post about Paradise. The lavender festival was a bit earlier than usual this year. It’s usually the last weekend in July, but this year it was the 19th through the 21st. This meant that the flowers I saw were a bit different than those I normally see on this trip, because summer progresses so quickly in the mountains.

Most of the flowers I actually saw this time were on the Hurricane Hill trail, the first mile or so of which is along a south-facing slope. The meadows above the visitor center at Hurricane Ridge itself were mostly not quite in bloom yet, especially the lupine, which can turn whole sections of the meadows blue.

Anyway, here’s a sampling of photos of what I saw, with the full list after.

Columbia tiger lilies -- literally dozens of them.  I've never seen that many at one time before.

Columbia tiger lilies — literally dozens of them. I’ve never seen that many at one time before.

Scarlet paintbrush, just opening.

Scarlet paintbrush, just opening.

Harebells, or, as my flower book insists on calling them, bluebells of Scotland.  How can they be of Scotland if they're here?

Harebells, or, as my flower book insists on calling them, bluebells of Scotland. How can they be of Scotland if they’re here?

A cow parsnip, a purple thistle, and a meadow.

A cow parsnip, a purple thistle, and a meadow.

Scalloped onion.  I'd never seen this one before.

Scalloped onion. I’d never seen this one before.

Rockslide larkspur.  The last time I saw these I was in Yellowstone.

Rockslide larkspur. The last time I saw these I was in Yellowstone.

Some sort of saxifrage, I think.

Some sort of saxifrage, I think.

A nice bouquet of larkspur and paintbrush.

A nice bouquet of larkspur and paintbrush.

Nootka roses.  I don't think I've ever seen them here before.

Nootka roses. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them here before.

Broad-leafed lupine.  I had a hard time finding any that weren't just in bud, but these were lovely.

Broad-leafed lupine. I had a hard time finding any that weren’t just in bud, but these were lovely.

Magenta lupine, which the flower book claims is endemic to the Olympics. But if that's the case, why have I seen it elsewhere?

Magenta lupine, which the flower book claims is endemic to the Olympics. But if that’s the case, why have I seen it elsewhere?

Those white dots are American bistort, and the mountains in the background are the Olympics, with the visitor center in between.

Those white dots are American bistort, and the mountains in the background are the Olympics, with the visitor center in between.

And here’s the list:

Western wallflower

Broad-leaved arnica

Yellow monkeyflowers

Alpine phlox

Nootka roses

American bistort

Columbian tigerlilies

Paintbrush, magenta and scarlet

Harebells

Hawkweed

Yarrow

Woolly sunflowers

Pearly everlastings

Cow parsnip

Avalanche lilies

Thread-leaf sandwort

Thistle

Saxifrage — not sure what variety exactly, sometimes it’s hard to tell

Scalloped onion

Fireweed

Leafy peavine

Rockslide larkspur

Broadleafed lupine

Mountain heather

Asters

25 in total.  Not quite as many as I saw at Paradise, but a credible day.  I wonder how many I’ll see at Sunrise next week?

Categories: exploring, hiking, national parks, outdoors, parks, plants, quilting, travel | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

counting wildflower species

Can be quite the process on Mt. Rainier this time of year [g].  I spent the day up at Paradise (including a short jaunt down to Stevens Canyon) today, and counted 28 wildflower species that I could identify, and at least one that wasn’t in my book.  Not bad when you consider that there were still two and three-foot snowdrifts around and about at Paradise.  Instead of showing you the usual tourist pictures of the mountain for this trip, I thought I’d pull a Katrina (a birder friend who posts lists with accompanying photos) and show you some of what I saw.

Avalanche lilies -- if you time it just right, you can see literally fields of these at Paradise.  I did time it right this year.

Avalanche lilies — if you time it just right, you can see literally fields of these at Paradise. I did time it right this year.

One of the few I haven't been able to ID yet.  This was a woodland flower near where I stopped to photograph the Columbia tiger lily, between the Nisqually entrance and Longmire.

One of the few I haven’t been able to ID yet. This was a woodland flower near where I stopped to photograph the Columbia tiger lily, between the Nisqually entrance and Longmire.

I must have passed three or four clumps of these Columbia tiger lilies before I found one in a place safe to photograph without running the risk of getting hit by a car.  Thse were growing down near Longmire.

I must have passed three or four clumps of these Columbia tiger lilies before I found one in a place safe to photograph without running the risk of getting hit by a car. These were growing down near Longmire.

One of the two kinds of penstemons -- these are Davidson's penstemons, and I found them on the Stevens Canyon road.

One of the two kinds of penstemons — these are Davidson’s penstemons, and I found them on the Stevens Canyon road.

Rosy spirea.  This is all over the place at Paradise, and was just starting to bloom.

Rosy spirea. This is all over the place at Paradise, and was just starting to bloom.

Alpine phlox, my favorite wildflower, growing out of a crack in the rocks on the Paradise loop road.

Alpine phlox, my favorite wildflower, growing out of a crack in the rocks on the Paradise loop road.

Spring beauties on the trail to Myrtle Falls at Paradise.  They were growing some distance away on the hillside, but I did my best.

Spring beauties on the trail to Myrtle Falls at Paradise. They were growing some distance away on the hillside, but I did my best.

Jeffrey's shooting stars along the Stevens Canyon road at the Snow Lake trailhead.

Jeffrey’s shooting stars along the Stevens Canyon road at the Snow Lake trailhead.

Beargrass! on the Stevens Canyon Road.  I think this is the first time I've ever seen beargrass at Mt. Rainier.  I normally associate it with Glacier National Park.

Beargrass! on the Stevens Canyon Road. I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen beargrass at Mt. Rainier. I normally associate it with Glacier National Park.

Red heather along the steps down to the Myrtle Falls overlook.

Red heather along the steps down to the Myrtle Falls overlook.

A patch of glacier lilies (glacier lilies are yellow, avalanche liles are white, otherwise they're basically identical -- repeat until memorized [wry g].

A patch of glacier lilies (glacier lilies are yellow, avalanche liles are white, otherwise they’re basically identical — repeat until memorized [wry g].

Potentilla along the trail at Paradise.

Potentilla along the trail at Paradise.

Part of a huge patch of mertensia along the road almost to Paradise.

Part of a huge patch of mertensia along the road almost to Paradise.

I love summer, and mountain wildflowers are a big part of the reason why.

Oh, and here’s the list of everything I saw today that I could identify:

Goatsbeard

Mertensia

Potentilla

Avalanche lilies (white)

Glacier lilies (yellow)

Violets

Pasqueflowers

Spring beauties

Red heather

Mountain ash

Alpine phlox

Sitka valerian

Mountain bistort

Columbia red columbines

Beargrass

Serviceberry

Pink spirea

Jeffrey’s shooting stars

Two kinds of penstemon, Davidson’s and one not in my book

Lupine

Two kinds of paintbrush (magenta and scarlet)

Clover

Veronica

Columbia tiger lily

Cow parsnips

Ocean spray

Oh, and one more thing, or, rather, two.  I saw a dipper at Myrtle Falls (at least I think it was a dipper — it was too far away for a formal ID, but it was acting very much like a dipper, which is pretty distinctive, at least I’ve never seen any other kind of bird that dives into pools just above waterfalls).  And a pika skittered across the trail in front of me on my way back from Myrtle Falls.  He was too fast to get a photo.  But you can hear the pikas everywhere up there this time of year.  They sound very odd.

That’s it.  I think [g].  It was a gorgeous day in Paradise, what can I say?

Categories: animals, birds, exploring, highways, hiking, Mt. Rainier, national parks, outdoors, parks, plants, travel, weather | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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