Thursday, May 18, 2006

Checking trail.

We went from an unusually wet spring (or extended winter) right into abnormally hot weather. In fact it has been breaking records for this time of the year. 95 degrees at my house yesterday; way to hot for so early in the season.
The dogs have really been feeling it. I sent my clipper blades away to be sharpened as I don’t normally give the dogs their summer haircuts this early, and I haven’t got them back yet. I’ve been due for a change of scenery anyway, so I thought today I would burn some gas and take the dogs down river and up on the mountain to Lover’s Camp and Trailhead. See if I could gain a little altitude and beat the heat. I would have gone to Shackleford Creek Trailhead as it is closer to home, but I’ve heard the road is washed out and I can’t get there from here!
One section of the river road almost fell into the river last winter, and it is still unrepaired. The County crew erected a barricade of sorts and called it good until sometime in the future when they can get to it. The river itself is running high and muddy from snowmelt in the high country. Some of the kayak groups that show up here in the summer to run the river could have a wild ride right now through the rocky stretches, but sometimes discretion is the better part of valor.
Soon after I left the river road and started up the mountain I saw a pile of bear scat. There are a few around now. This is big timber country. Pine, fir, and cedar, with some oak, chincapin, and madrone. Maple grows in the damp places along creeks, and dogwood is in bloom. Most of the rocks had been removed from the road, and I saw a Forest Service truck and lowboy parked at a wide spot, so I knew some sort of heavy equipment was working farther ahead, but I never saw it. I saw a pair of mountain quail on the drive up the mountain, and farther along I saw a deer on the down hill side of the road. I drove into Lover’s Camp without incident, but I wouldn’t have made it a few days earlier. There was a spot where a mud slide had blocked the road, and it was obvious from the color of the dirt that it had been removed just recently.
The place was deserted, so I turned the dogs out of the truck to run around while I walked down to check on the corrals. They looked to be in good shape, and the water had been turned on to the water troughs. Water is piped to the corrals from a spring, and it is turned off in the winter to prevent breaking the pipes. I didn’t see any bear sign around the corrals which surprised me. I would expect to find some there at this time of the year.
It was still plenty warm even up here, but not as bad as at home. I decided to hike up the trail about 3/4 of a mile to the fork to check things out. The trail is well shaded along this stretch, and there is a trickle of water crossing the trail every 100 yards or so, so the dogs could get a drink or even lay down in it anytime they want to. Trillium was beginning to bloom in places next to the trail.
I get a kick out of Dove and Sadie. I really thought that Dove would have to whip Sadie before now, which she could do easily enough if it came to that. Dove doesn’t want to fight, but at home Sadie is so jealous of Dove that she can hardly stand it. Out hunting or on the trail the two are inseparable. If you see one, you don’t have to look for the other. She is right there, within a few feet, or yards at the most. They are together all the time.
I’ve been wondering how Kelly, now 12 years old, is going to get around in the mountains this year. He’s really been feeling the heat with the heavy winter coat he is carrying, but when we started up the trail he lined out just like old times. I think once I get the hair off him he is going to do alright. Bear has youth on his side, and a lighter coat. It’s hard to slow him down.
About 100 yards up the trail I found the first down tree across the trail. I could step a horse over this one with no trouble. Where the trail intersected with one from the backpacker’s camp there was a single set of boot tracks. There wasn’t another human or horse track on the trail, so it was plain that the Forest Service trail crew hadn’t been there yet.
I hiked along the trail until I came to the fork where one trail goes on to Marble Valley and another crosses Canyon Creek and leads to Red Rock Valley. Right at the fork a down tree blocked both trails. I could climb over it easily enough, but the trail is blocked to horse traffic. With an ax and some work it would be possible to clear a way around one end of the tree to get a horse past it, but the Forest Service frowns on such things. Better to wait for the trail crew and let them earn their keep. They’re going to have fun with this one. It’s about 3 feet in diameter and will likely have to be cut in 3 places. It will take a team with a misery whip and a come-along to clear it from the trail. This is within designated Wilderness Area, so no chain saws allowed!
This is as far as I hiked up the trail, so I don’t know what lies ahead, but you can bet there are more down trees. Probably lots of them. It was a hard winter. I walked down to the creek and took a break while the dogs waded around in the water. I would have to want to get to the other side pretty bad to ride a horse off into that right now. Running high and swift. After a little while we headed back down the trail to the corrals and the pickup.
Back at the truck I got out an electronic caller and set it down by the corrals, then backed off to a shady spot at the camp where I have spent so much time over the years. I could sit in comfort while I ate my lunch, with a slight breeze blowing while I watched for any action. Usually there are a few ravens around to provide entertainment, but all that answered the call this day were a few Stellar Jays which lost interest after a few minutes.
When I finally decided it was time to head back down the mountain I looked around for the dogs. Dove and Bear were laying next to me. Sadie was down by the corrals poking her nose into whatever she could find to interest her, but I didn’t immediately see Kelly. The old dog knows his place in camp! I soon saw him bedded down in the shade under the low branches of a tree, exactly where he is normally tied when we camp at this spot. It was home to him.
According to the folks who make a living guessing what the next few day’s weather will bring, we have a major cool down coming. Supposed to be back to more normal mid 70's by the weekend. I think I can handle that.