slot cyn AZHS

Ken and I hiked in to Arizona Hot Springs last week. It’s a short drive (<1 hour) from Las Vegas, and an easy hike in. We opted for the route at hiker’s left to avoid having to climb a 25’ ladder, on the other route. The National Park Service calls this hike “very difficult” but the only challenge is making sure you don’t lose the trail. Basic routefinding skills are useful. It’s an elevation loss of about 800 gradual feet on the way in. Our hiking time was about 90 minutes each way without hurrying. The guidebook information doesn’t indicate that the springs are in a slot canyon, so we were delighted and surprised to find that they were. There were a few other people around, and everyone was was wearing bathing suits, so we did the same. There are currently three pools, all barricaded at their far ends with walls of sandbags. Water temperatures at far (coolest) end of each pool: upper 107F, middle 103F, lower 96F. All three pools are very clean and in good condition, and the ladder is steel, bolted to the rock, and looks bombproof–my thought is that the NPS put it in and it’s not going anywhere.  That said, it’s 25’, and I was happy to not have to climb it.

AZ hotsprings
It’s a lovely hike and a nice soak. I plan to visit any time I’m in Las Vegas in the cool months.

AZHS selfie


Basqueing in Boise



Boise has the largest Basque population outside of Europe, so after failing to enjoy this niche cuisine on the way home from Stanley a couple of weeks ago (nothing’s open on Sunday!), we left Seattle just before 5 am yesterday with our palates set on a little slice of redemption.Gernickasign The smoke from forest fires began to clog our lungs before we even crossed into Idaho, but that was quickly forgotten once we landed on the Basque Block in a hip section of Boise. It surprises me that there are so few establishments celebrating the heritage. We settled on Bar Gernika—it looked to be a casual place that’d be perfect for a couple of road-weary gastronomes.We loved the look of it, a simple little corner bar that just happened to serve Basque food. After perusing the menu, Ken went for the paella with a salad, and I did the Solomo (pork) sandwich with croquetas (fried potato balls) for my side.menu Basque food’s known for being very modest and simple, and the prices certainly were as well. I took a few pictures of the space while they put our lunch together. It’s pretty cool that they make food like this in a kitchen about the size of your big toenail.the-bar

It wasn’t more than a few minutes before our food came out. Ken’s paella looked a little puny and unimpressive at first glance, but the flavors were dead-on, and the richness meant a giant portion was not required.


The rice had a certain unctuousness to it, and the tender chicken thighs and spicy chorizo offset one another beautifully. We both got a laugh over the grated cheese on the salad-it’s something of a standard salad garnish in the often food-challenged inter-mountain West. After trying Gernika’s paella, I’m ready to give mine another go—the last time I took a run at it was in the early 1990s when I was still learning my way around the kitchen.

My Solomo was a bit disappointing. The pork cutlets were ample and the seasonings were balanced, but with nothing more than a roasted pepper sharing bun-space, there just wasn’t much to it. Fortunately, there was a bottle of Tiger Sauce on the table, and that stuff’ll make cat poop taste good, so it made the Solomo prett’ durn shagadelic .


Now let’s talk about those croquetas. Crispy, right-out-of-the-fryer hot, and meltingly, achingly ohhhh…..I need a moment. Yeah, I’ll be counting the days until I can eat those bad boys again.

Lunch at Gernika made the early get-up time worth every agonizing moment of being conscious before the birds were chirping. There are a couple more Basque eateries in the neighborhood, and one of them even has a lodge upstairs. This adventure to be continued…..

Bull Trout. Photo courtesy of Jim Cummins.

Bull Trout. Photo courtesy of Jim Cummins.



After repeated stop and starts, and lawsuits and every kind of obstacle imaginable, it’s finally time to send comments in about the new EA for the Suiattle Road. This road is the most important western portal to the Glacier Peak Wilderness, and must be saved in its entirety. My apologies for not providing much more than resources here—I’m really up to my ears in everything right now. Kim Brown lays it out fairly succinctly here:

Which Alternative?


Please comment electronically or by snail mail by 4/20.


There are only three alternatives on the table:

Alt A: Do nothing. The road is currently closed at MP 6, which is a bit below the Tenas Creek road.

Alt B: Repair the road all the way to the end. Reroute the road in a few spots to get it out of the channel migration path of the Suiattle. This would not require moving wilderness boundaries. Extend the downriver approach to the Downey Creek bridge so that it’s raised, allowing for restoration of the natural alluvial fan of Downey Creek, which was nearly obliterated when the original Downey bridge approach was built. This will increase and improve the spawning habitat of the native (listed) Chinook and Bull Trout that spawn in Downey Creek. The habitat restoration has been signed off on by the federal fish biologists.

Alt C: Repair the road to the Green Mountain cutoff. We’d lose about 4 miles of road. Under this plan, the Downey Creek bridge stays in place, and the alluvial fan restoration of Downey Creek is not done.
The Fed bios have signed off on the Alt B improvements. The cost for Alt B is 5M, but the money does not come out of the MBS’s budget.

There’s loads more information on NWhikers.net here:
Your comment can be as simple or complex as you want. If you simply say “I support Alt B” that’s just fine.

Snail Mail Address:
Federal Highway Administration
Attention: Denise Steele, Suiattle river Road Project
610 East Fifth Street
Vancouver, WA 98661-3893

Email comments should be sent to:
Here’s where you can look at the EA:

Here’s the project’s home page:

The Environmental Assessment is also available in hard copy at the following locations:

Darrington Ranger Station
1405 Emens Avenue North
Darrington, WA 98241

Everett Public Libraries
2702 Hoyt Avenue and
9512 Evergreen Way
Everett, WA

Darrington Library
1005 Cascade Street
Darrington, WA 98241

Please keep in mind that the original road washout happened almost 10 years ago now, and there have been many alternate plans considered. Those are covered in the EA. They want us only to pick one of the three alternates listed in the EA.

Please comment electronically or by snail mail by 4/20.


This kind of sums up the whole place. I mean, come ON, we saw a traffic jam that involved stop signs fergawdsssake. The first thing you notice about PDX is the SCALE, which I shouldn’t capitalize, maybe I should say scale. It’s very livable, very walkable, it’s kind of….delightful. Though in a sort of twee way. More on that in a bit.

Ken and I decided to run down just for the day to see the Rothko show at PAM. I love Rothko, but I gotta say this show left me wanting for more—too much early work, pre color fields. Then there was the fact that two of the big pieces were study paintings for the Seagram commission. Look that up on Wikipedia if you don’t know the infamous tale of the commission. Weird to see people staring slack-jawed at something clearly unresolved and lacking the ephemeral floating bits that makes a Rothko a Rothko. This half-painted thing was one of them. It also stars in the stage play, Red, a piece about the man in his studio.

It’s just so….flat. There WERE some gorgeous pieces mixed in though, including one that I snapped a photo of. Now pictures don’t do these things justice, but you can at least see some of the luminosity I’m talking about.


Then it was off to find some food. Portland has a ridiculous surplus of surface parking, and they’re making good use of it with these “pods” of food carts. Basically think of a parking lot ringed with food trucks, only they are facing out toward the sidewalk. The interior of the lots are still parking. As there are over 800 of these carts in town, we just went to the closest pod and rolled the dice.


Ken went with a porchetta sandwich from The People’s Pig, and I got a goulash platter from a Polish place.The brick ledge seen in the photo is were we ate. One of the deals with the carts is that seating is very limited. I think you’re expected to take stuff back to your office or something.The food was, in both cases, good but not great. Like most things in PDX, it seemed to take quite a while to get the food. Portlanders are VERY laid-back people.

Our next stop was Powell’s Books. We had a lot of fun wandering the aisles, but after a while, it devolved to total information overload. Then we were off to Voodoo Donuts. There was a giant line!


The Voodoo people have it dialed though, and before we knew it, it was time to hit the streets again with our pink Voodoo box.

It was during this leg of our walk that the chatter from all of the good-looking healthy young people sitting on the sidewalk begging for money really hit terminal velocity. We must have looked ridiculous with the Voodoo box, the Powell’s bag, and the DSLR, because these kids, well, they were pretty relentless. The weirdest one was the guy who kept yelling “mom, daaaad, don’t leave me here!” Now I probably look like a giant ASS going on about these kids, but seriously, if you saw and heard them, you’d be somewhat insensitive too.

Last major stop was an olive oil shop I’d seen earlier in he day. There was lots of tasting of different olive oils and vinegars, and we chatted with the owner about the homeless youth issue. He explained that kids flock to Portland to, as the “Portlandia” Season One theme song said, “where people in their ‘20s go to retire”. The endless panhandling from people with more expensive haircuts than me, well, I wasn’t impressed.

So what’s my take on our little sister town to the south? It’s fun, and very liveable. I can see why it’s so appealing to some—it’s a hip and cool town, but not so big that you can’t sort of chew the whole thing. It feels a lot more like a mid-sized American city than, say, Seattle, which has much more of a big-city vibe. So if you want almost-infinite food options, a cool PNW vibe, and walkable neighborhoods, all in a town that is trying a little too hard (sorry, don’t hate me!), head on down to little ol’ Portland. She’s eager to please, and won’t disappoint, so long as you keep expectations reasonable.



Planning any out-of-state hiking trips this year? You’ll want to take a look at this.

Ok, it’s probably just a simple case of laryngitis, but the long and the short of it is that I can’t make a sound besides an unintelligible skwak. It’s been an interesting day, attempting loud whispers, being asked to say things again, and then making….unintelligible skwaks. It’s met first with puzzlement, and then sympathy, and then something coming close to frustration that I, ALLISON WOODS, can’t express myself the way I always have. This frustration is not from me, it is from the whole world of people who deal with the oversized, referential, dry wit that comprises most of what is me on a daily basis. I often think that many to most of people don’t “get” me or my point of view, but if I am reduced to hand gestures and eyerolls, I realize that most of what I put out there is actually not lost. Pretty big revelation for a girl who spends a lot of time thinking people are not getting my schtick.


At the risk of sounding overly nice, and possibly a bit introspective, I have this to say: No one should ever have their voice taken away from them. It is so much of how we exist in the world, so much of how our whole raison d’etre comes through the trappings of our personality, that is is a crime to take that away.

Oh, and hopefully I’ll stop hacking and not being able to clear my throat by tomorrow, because not being able to talk really sucks.