Monday, November 29, 2010


Mary by Sitka Spruce, 270 feet tall with a diameter of 12 ½ feet and estimated to be 500 to 550 years old.

The Olympic National Park’s 1,400 square miles situated in Washington’s northwest corner ranges from seashore to alpine wilderness. Ninety-five percent of the park is designated wilderness. This diverse national park with its wide scope of vistas and habitats is globally recognized as an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site.

Highway 101 encircles the park and several spur roads lead to mountains, forests and coastline. The center of the park, untouched by roads, offers incredible wilderness adventures. The park is split into two major areas with hundreds of square miles inland to the east and a strip of about 73 miles of wild coastline to the west.

Olympic’s Wild Coast
The expansive, diverse shorelines offer a constantly changing performance with crashing waves, tidal cycles and turning seasons. Most of the beaches along this stretch are wide and sandy with superb hiking and beach combing. One of the best, Rialto Beach, is a photographers heaven with spectacular sunsets, huge stone haystacks, a natural stone arch called “Hole-in-the-Wall” and sweeping beaches.

Olympic’s Rain Forests
You’ll want your rain gear for this part of the trip. Drenched with over 12 feet of rain a year, the forests are magical with curtains of moss hanging like shaggy winter fur from some of the world’s largest trees. Ferns, salal and a multitude of berries and other groundcover take up every inch of space. We saw a healthy fern growing 20 feet up on the branch of an old live cedar. The world is lush green here and the air heavy with moisture.

Olympic’s Sparkling Lakes
Popular Lake Crescent is located 19 miles west of Port Angeles on Highway 101. This shimmering, 624-foot deep jewel was carved out by a huge glacier thousands of years ago. The lake offers swimming, boating and fishing. Other noteworthy lakes include Lakes Quinault and Ozette.

A worthwhile photo stop is the short hike to Marymere Falls, a ribbon of water cascading 90 feet to a pool below. The hike is mostly level with only the last section a little steep.

Olympic’s Majestic Mountains
The most accessible alpine area is Hurricane Ridge, at 5,242 feet and 17 miles up a paved road from Port Angeles. Hurricane Ridge is the only area in Olympic National Park where you can drive from sea level, through lowland, montane, and subalpine forests to the park’s high alpine country. At the top, the stunning view of mountains and valleys makes this destination alone reason enough to visit the park. Miles of trails offer breath-taking views of glaciers, forests and wildlife. Deer, oblivious to humans, graze close to hiking trails. The visitor center is a worthwhile stop.

The Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area offers spectacular winter recreation for downhill and cross-country skiers, snowshoers and snowboarders.

Olympic’s Campgrounds
Olympic has 17 campgrounds with a total of 955 sites. Camprounds offer a variety of sites, some with ocean views, with varying degrees of privacy. Several private RV parks with all the amenities are located on the Olympic Peninsula, but not within the park itself.

For campground information and to see which campgrounds are open year-round, visit

Monday, November 22, 2010

Book Review: Where Gable Slept

Irene Bennett Brown, well-known for her popular historical novels, has successfully crossed genres with the fun cozy mystery, Where Gable Slept. A gifted writer, she keeps readers turning the pages while trying to glean clues to solve the mystery.

Widowed Celia Landrey’s beloved town, Pass Creek, Oregon, is her life. She thrives on its history and does everything within her power to breathe life into what some call a has-been town. But one thing after another threatens her tranquil community. The owner of the locally famous Gable House, where actor Clark Gable stayed as a young man, mysteriously dies. The house’s new owner, a guest at Landrey’s Inn, threatens to demolish it, which would create a huge historical gap in the town’s tourism. One thing leads to another and Celia finds herself embroiled in a murder mystery, an arson, personal danger and, oh yes, romance with a handsome cowboy turned realtor.

While Celia digs herself deeper in a maze of clues, she manages to infuriate the local law authority, upsetting the on-going investigation as she puts herself in even more danger.

Where Gable Slept is the first of a series–I can hardly wait for the sequel!

Bookstores may order Where Gable Slept through Ingram Distributors. Or, the book may be ordered through,, and numerous other on-line bookstores. For autographed copies, order through the Contact page on the author’s website,

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Know Your Insurance Coverage

What kind of insurance coverage do you have, Replacement Cost or Actual Cash Value? It’s important to know your coverage. Before you determine that, let’s briefly discuss a household inventory, which is valuable when making an insurance claim.

If you suffer a loss, whether it’s a burglary, fire, or other cause, an insurance company will need a detailed list of the household contents lost. It’s difficult enough to function after a disaster, and even more so if you have to come up information about specific items damaged or missing. You’ll need detailed information in order for the insurance company to pay your claim.

Making an inventory isn’t complicated or terribly time-consuming. Go through your home, room by room, creating a document that lists: Item — Original Cost — Purchase Date — Serial/I.D. Number — Current Value. Taking photos is a good idea, too. For each room, in addition to that room’s specific items, consider the draperies, lamps, clocks, area rugs, fine arts, collectibles, musical instruments.

Keep an extra copy of your inventory in a place other than in your house, perhaps at a relative’s home, in the event your home is totally destroyed.

If it becomes necessary to make a claim, you’ll want to know what to expect from your insurance company. It’s important to know what type of insurance you have for your household contents, Replacement Cost or Actual Cash Value.

Replacement Cost: The insurance company will provide payment for the actual cost of purchasing a new, identical or similar item. The lost or damaged item will be replaced.

Exception: Most insurance companies have a specific item limit, such as jewelry, between $1,000 and $3,000. They will pay up to the limit and no more. If you have valuable items such as jewelry, camera or musical instrument, consider getting a rider on your policy to cover these special items.

You pay higher insurance premium for Replacement Cost, but you’ll be given the money to replace the item at their value today.

Actual Cash Value: Sometimes called “Fair Market Value,” this method takes depreciation into consideration. The amount covered will be based on the replacement cost less depreciation.

You pay a lower premium for Actual Cash Value, but may have to pay more out-of-pocket costs to replace lost items.

Be aware of which type of coverage you have: Replacement Cost or Actual Cash Value. Knowing this information will save time and confusion when you need to know what you can expect from your insurance company.

There are several on-line resources for taking a home inventory. Search for “household inventory.” The internet is also a good place to shop for an insurance company.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Book Review: Stealing the Wild by Beth Hodder

Beth Hodder’s Stealing the Wild (Grzzly Ridge Publishing) has all the ingredients of a good coming-of-age story–excitement, outdoor adventure, and a worthwhile lesson in the devastating act of poaching. In Montana’s Great Bear Wilderness, there’s not a telephone, cell phone, or Internet access within miles, as is still the case in many parts of the United States.

In the sequel to The Ghost of Schafer Meadows, Stealing the Wild finds twelve-year old Jessie Scott with her friends Will and Allie. While horseback riding, they come upon a deer carcass, an obvious case of poaching. Alarmed, the kids become obsessed with finding the perpetrator. As people pass through this section of wilderness–a group of four young people, obviously not experienced in wilderness travel; a lone horseman leading a mule; a hiker who has a knack for getting lost--the three friends are constantly exposed to clues and are drawn even deeper into the mystery. Jessie’s father, a wilderness ranger at Schafer Meadows Ranger Station, warns them about the danger of getting involved, but the three can’t ignore the intriguing clues.

Hodder’s real-life wilderness experience with the U.S. Forest Service for more than 25 years gives the story authenticity. She presents believable characters in this environment, while imparting the message that our wilderness is fragile. Further, Hodder handles the world-wide problem of poaching with finesse and without preaching, emphasizing the importance of putting a stop to this illegal trend.

Stealing the Wild is an exciting read, a story that both kids and adults will appreciate.

The book can be ordered through your favorite bookstore or through Grizzly Ridge Publishing,

Monday, November 1, 2010

Authors Retreat to Rancho de los Caballeros

Author Mary Trimble, standing on viewers’ platform, watches Heidi Thomas make friends with a ranch horse. Image by Linda Mocilnikar

Women Writing the West’s 16th Annual Conference was an opportunity to reconnect, re-inspire, rejuvenate and relax. A retreat in every sense of the word. What better place to accomplish all these things than at a guest ranch, namely Rancho de los Caballeros in Wickenburg, Arizona, in the High Sonoran Desert. Set in the graceful hacienda of the ranch, this year’s conference was the best of both worlds.

Rancho de los Caballeros was an extraordinary western setting for a group who writes about the American West. The Gant family has operated the 20,000 acre ranch for nearly 60 years. The ranch’s name implies “gentlemen on horseback” and horseback riding is just one of many recreational opportunities. An 18-hole golf course is another, or there’s tennis, hiking, biking, or swimming in an outdoor pool.

A guest doesn’t have to ride horseback to enjoy the horses. Each morning we watched the “Running of the Horses,” a twice-daily event when about 100 magnificent horses–manes flying, hoofs pounding--run from where they’re stabled at night to the large ranch coral. A group of us enjoyed dinner in town before returning to the ranch for a Board Meeting.

The next day, Friday, many of us braved a “Morning in the Desert” tour to Hassayampa River Preserve. An amazing array of wildlife exists in the wildly changeable desert and our knowledgeable guide shared fascinating information. The hike wasn’t too vigorous, but the heat around high noon encouraged us to seek the shelter of the scrubby Smoke Trees. Rather than the desert tour, some of the group visited the Desert Caballeros Museum, also worthwhile from all reports.

Friday afternoon brought a wide selection of presenters and workshops. A colleague, Joyce Lohse, and I shared the spotlight with “Adventures in Freelancing,” sharing tips on submissions and war stories about the freelancing process.

Friday night’s event was truly a highlight with a hay ride to a cookout a distance from the ranch buildings. Afterward we sat around a bonfire and listened to Caroline Markham’s remarkable singing while she accompanied herself on the guitar. A very special evening.

Saturday’s itinerary was chocked full with more inspiring sessions. The WILLA Finalist Awards Luncheon and WILLA Awards Banquet dinner were both marvelous, well thought-out events. The prestigious WILLA Awards, named after Pulitzer-Prize winning Willa Cather, honors the best in literature that features women’s or girls’ stories set in the West.

Sunday morning it was my pleasure to introduce our Marketing Specialist, Mara Purl, who spoke on the importance of newsletters. After her presentation we held our annual WWW meeting.

As usual, all during the conference a bookstore sold books written by WWW authors. Members and hotel guests had ample opportunities to browse the varied selection of books.

Also during the conference, publishers, a magazine editor and a marketing specialist were available for private appointments to discuss attendee writing projects. This year, I again coordinated that event. My mother used to say that the more you put into something, the more you get out of it. I can vouch for that–it was again a pleasure to manage that part of the conference.

All in all, it was a marvelous conference with an amazing setting, inspirational presenters, and, most of all, comradery among a very special group of Women Writing the West members.

To learn more about Women Writing the West, visit