Lookout Point

This hiking trail is a bit difficult to find. It’s listed in some trail guides but it’s mainly used by locals. And rock climbers are always in the area although I’m not sure many of them use the trail itself. I’ve been up the trail three times for fun and once for no fun at all when our dog got stuck. This past weekend my husband took three friends up there. I was careful not to give them my opinion of the trail beforehand as I didn’t want to color the experience for them.

View from Lookout. You can see Mt. Index and Bridal Veil Falls, which is another challenging, but beautiful, hike.

Many locals love that trail, my son included. In spite of the steepness, it’s normally well worth the hike for the views from the top of the trail, which are beautiful.

Looking down on the North Fork Skykomish River.

Of the friends who went with my husband, one got sick and had to turn back. One walked that friend out of the woods and then decided to wait at the base of the chute, which is the last three hundred feet or so of the trail. My husband and our friend Dan went all the way to the top. This was more challenging than normal because there has been a slide down the chute.

Looking up from the base of the chute.

So yes, it’s a beautiful hike. Yes, it’s typically difficult, especially the chute. But those aren’t the reasons why I haven’t been up that trail for several years.

Our son, at the top, several years ago.

Those who know me personally know that I’m not a superstitious type. Okay, I might be a little superstitious about writing, but mostly I’m a pretty pragmatic person. I don’t get scared often. But Lookout Point just creeps me out big time.

I’ve never had an emotional reaction to a place like this and I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it. But every single time I’ve gone up that trail, I have had a strong thought in my brain telling me I’m not supposed to be there. Have you ever had a moment when your neck hairs stand up and every instinct is telling you that you’ve just made a big mistake? That’s me on that trail.

It’s not the difficulty level because I’ve been up it before. Granted, I doubt I could make it up there now. I’ve done it before and even on the somewhat easier lower portion of the trail, I’m still scared of it.

Our friend, showing the steepness of the chute.

When I wrote This Deep Panic and was trying to imagine the fear characters would feel out in the woods, alone and vulnerable, I dipped into my feelings about this trail. So in a way, the trail helped me with writing.

I strongly believe I am not supposed to be on that trail. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s honest.

Now that there has been a slide in the chute, I have an excuse to say no if anyone invites me to go up Lookout. I won’t have to admit that the place scares me. It’s such a weird thing because, if you know me, I absolutely love the woods. The forest is my home space.

Just not that tiny piece of forest. That trail up Lookout? It doesn’t want me there for some reason, and I plan on listening and honoring that. Even if it does make me sound a little loopy.

I certainly don’t need to go back up it in order to write more scary scenes. My memory will work just fine.

River Solitude

Recently I warned locals about the high number of deer on the highway. I gave the location as the area around Eagle Falls, Boulder Drop, and Split Rock. It dawned on me later that I used the river for highway locations rather than mile markers.

Boulder Drop and Split Rock are specific spots on the Skykomish River that are well known to anyone who lives near the river. And it’s nothing new to use landscape as maps or guidance or to center someone on where they are in their world.

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The husband at Boulder Drop

The 13th of April was Sam Grafton’s 29th birthday. Those who read this blog know he is gone from our lives, lost to a kayaking accident. For his birthday we went out on a sunny and cool spring day to visit some of his favorite kayaking spots. There was still snow on the ground in areas and the old back roads were empty of people in these days of social distancing and self-quarantine. Empty except for us, on our river pilgrimage.


Sam’s mother, when she invited me, didn’t give me directions by saying we were going up highway 2 and turning on a specific road. Instead, she simply said we were going to Top Tye.

From there we followed the river and streams to Log Trap and the Spout and Box Top. I had never heard of these places before as they are kayak routes most kayakers don’t attempt. But Sam did. He was one of only five to ever run Log Trap. A second is Rob McKibben, also known in the kayaking world.


The Spout. Use the rocks on the far side for perspective how high and sharp the drop is. 

Not only is Rob an amazing kayaker, he was also our gentle guide on Sam’s birthday, leading us through the woods from one spot to another, telling us stories and bringing those runs to life for us.


Log Trap to the right and Box Top to the left. Photo doesn’t show drop well.


It was a beautiful day that will become one of those gems in my memory. I am grateful Sam’s family included me, and so glad I gave the day to sunshine and woods and river and stories and friendship.

I came home and pulled up a YouTube video called ‘Tumwater Solitude: Sam Grafton Kayaks Wenatchee River Class V’ (link below). There’s a scene in the five-minute video, right about 2:25, that is framed from above so that nothing is visible except water and Sam. The river is a living force in that frame, whitewater foaming and rushing, and this little spot of green in the midst of all that power. The video is heartbreaking to watch, but it’s also beautiful.


Log Trap. Again, the photo doesn’t give a good perspective for the size of the drop. 

Those few brief seconds encapsulate all that the river is and how it impacts us and forms our lives and marks our landscape. And how it forms our memorials, not just for Sam, but also for my sister, who loved the Columbia River in its wide-reaching depths. This coming weekend should have been her memorial, but it was canceled because of the limit on gatherings. We were to release her ashes to the river on that day.

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The Columbia

Two people important in my life, both deeply tied to rivers.

Those few brief seconds in that video encapsulate how Sam was part of the river. Not ‘fighting’ the rapids or ‘beating’ the run or any other phrase commonly used to show that someone ‘wins’ against nature.

He was just there, with the river.

We will reschedule my sister’s memorial and release her ashes and she, too, will be with the river.

And then both Jani and Sam will be with their rivers, forever.

Tumwater Solitude



For the past three years I’ve been writing a new story. I’ve mentioned it here a few times, but only briefly because I’m superstitious that if I talk about an infant story too much, it dies and I never finish it.

Three years. Granted, I’m a slow writer in the best of times. But this has been hard because I’m trying to stretch my wings as a writer and am not sure if I’m succeeding. This one has multiple perspectives and story lines. It’s darker than I’ve written before, and it’s scary. Well, my goal is to make it scary. I’m not sure it’s scary enough.

My editor has her fingers in the story now, and she’s challenging me to delete chapters, strengthen motivations, and work on the scene/sequel process. It became obvious the beginning was very rough and needed a lot of work. No surprise there because beginnings can be the hardest thing to write as they have so much to accomplish.

The idea for the story came from a news event, but I don’t think I could have written it without being in a darker place myself. Without saying, ‘these are the things I’m afraid of in this world’ and then trying to place those fears on paper.

Anyway, I am hoping to have the book available by the end of summer. Cover art is in the process and I’ll share versions here to get opinions. But in the meantime, below is the beginning. The prologue. It’s still in edit but I’ll share anyway. Comments, first impressions, and opinions are appreciated.

And of course it’s copyrighted.


The Hole in the Wall wasn’t really a hole but a dead-end shaft with a steel door that could be barricaded from within and locked from without. And the Wall wasn’t really a wall, but a granite mountain deeply fissured and hung with a dark and shadowed forest curtain. One that went straight up, creating a sense of severe vertigo overwhelming anyone leaning back, and back, and back, to see the top. Here and there, stunted fir and cedar and hemlock twisted and bent waiting to fall.

Occasionally the Wall would free boulders to plummet down and leave deep impact craters in the forest floor.

Few rock climbers, hanging with harnesses and bandaged knuckles, knew the door was there, far below them where the forest washed up at the base of the Wall.

Curtis Jonason locked himself in the Hole five days a week. Some days he imagined himself a climber suspended in the heights, able to see for miles, see the rushing white water of the Skykomish River, speckled with daredevil kayakers. Or to gaze down on the tiny, tiny town of Index, Washington nestled a mile off Highway 2 in the Cascade Mountains. But he wasn’t an adventurer. And he had long ago come to terms with the reality that his adventures were only found in imagination and books.

Instead, each day, in cold weather gear, he unlocked the Hole with his smooth scientist’s hands, slipped into the dark, and bolted the door behind him. There, he would spend fourteen hours alone burrowed into the granite, a small stream rushing under his workstation, a flashlight his only illumination.

Alone with his machines.

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Morningstar climbing route on a small portion of the Wall