Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Sugar Lake

lakes,wilderness area

I had an urge to see some mountains, different from the one behind my house, and a brand new fishing license burning a hole in my pocket; so yesterday I loaded Sis in the trailer and Bear and Chigger in the truck and drove over to the Russian Wilderness Area. It’s about an hour’s drive from my house to a trailhead, and another hour and a half on Sis up the trail to a lake.

The trailhead is unmarked, and the Forest Service abandon the trail years ago. Not to many people know where Sugar Lake is, just a few of us local yokels, which makes it a nice little hide-away. It’s rare to find anyone else there, and I could probably count on the fingers of one hand the times that I have encountered anyone. There are enough of us who visit the place to keep the trail maintained after a fashion; but you are pretty much on your own in there. This time when I pulled up to the wide spot in the road that serves as a trailhead I saw tire tracks where someone had parked a truck and trailer, and there was a pile of road apples, so I knew someone else had ridden up the trail. I saddled Sis and turned the dogs loose, and rode around a corner to where the actual trail leaves the road. There was a pickup truck parked there in a shady spot, so I knew that at least 1 or more backpackers or day hikers was somewhere ahead of me.

It was already getting hot by the time I left the trailhead, and I shed the sweat shirt I had been wearing. We were soon in the timber and gaining altitude, and I was quite comfortable in short sleeves. Dogwood was in bloom on the lower section of trail, but we soon climbed above the elevations it prefers.


When we reached the lake no one was immediately within sight or hearing, and I assumed whoever owned the truck back on the road must have gone somewhere else; but while I was putting my fishing rod together a big yellow dog came from around the side of the lake followed by a young couple with a papoose in a back pack. The young man was carrying a fishing rod, so while the dogs got acquainted I asked him how the fishing had been. He said he had caught a couple of small brook trout, but it was pretty slow. These folks were just day hiking, and they were soon on their way back down the trail.

Sugar Lake has always been hard to fish. The timber and brush grows right down to the water’s edge, and in the 3 years it has been since I was there last the couple of spots where I usually fish had become over grown. It was hard to find a place where I could get a line in the water. Chigger didn’t help any. This was his first trip to a lake, and there was more water in one place than he had ever seen. He couldn’t stay out of it, and was constantly getting tangled in my line. I managed to catch a single brookie before I gave up in frustration. I fried it along with my bacon and eggs for breakfast this morning.

While I was putting my fishing tackle back in my saddle bags, Chigger and Bear had their first serious disagreement. Chigger is still of an age where he believes the world rotates around him! I sat down with my back against a big boulder to take a little rest, and Bear laid down beside me. In a sudden fit of jealousy, and like the big dumb pup that he is, Chigger flew into the older dog. They really made the fur fly for a few seconds, and there wasn’t much I could do about it. It ended almost as fast as it started, and I’ll have to call it a draw. Neither dog would back down, and they stood glaring at each other. I could get them separated then without getting bitten myself in the process, and no serious damage was done to either dog. Once started back down the trail, Bear took up his usual position, ranging far out ahead of me, while Chigger stuck closer. By the time they got back together they had forgotten their differences.

I was feeling the effects of the ride long before we reached the truck and trailer. I don’t do long rides at all anymore, and this little trip had been enough. I’m 72 years old now, and the old bones are getting tired. I still had to drive home and do the normal evening chores. It’s much easier when I have a camp set up at or near a trailhead. When I ride into camp all I have to do is take care of the animals and fix something for myself to eat. The day’s work is basically done, and I can sit down and relax. I’m waiting for a hay delivery right now, and I know better than to be caught camping anywhere over the 4th of July weekend, but once the holiday is over the next time I pull out of here with the trailer I should be on my way to set up a camp somewhere and stay awhile.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Mystery solved!

To make this post I have to refer back to a blog entry I made some 8 months ago. Here’s a link to that post.

I never did find that skunk. There was so much skunk odor around here for awhile that it was impossible to pinpoint any source where it might be coming from. The odor finally went away, and I just assumed old stinky had gone off in the woods somewhere and died. I knew it had to be dead, and was surprised it even made it out of my yard after taking a shotgun blast up close and personal.

Yesterday I moved the few remaining bales of hay I have left in order to make room for the 3 tons of new hay that I will be getting in soon. Of course there is quite a bit of old hay scattered on the ground that I will rake up and use to mulch some potatoes that I planted a few days ago. I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. This morning while I was outside doing the usual chores I saw Chigger over there digging around where the old hay stack had been. He grabbed something and ran over on the lawn shaking the daylights out of it. At first I thought he had found a dead chicken that had crawled under the haystack; then I saw the black and white color. It was the old dried up carcass of that skunk! Amazingly itstill had a little odor left to it.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Scared pup!

Yesterday evening I hitched a horse trailer to the pickup, and this morning I saddled Sis and headed up the mountain to a trailhead. The last time I checked the road it hadn’t been graded yet. Quite a bit of rock in the road, but passable. The single horse trailer is pretty low to the ground, and I thought I might have to stop in a few places to move some rocks. Not to worry. The road has been graded, so we moved right along.

There wasn’t another soul at the trailhead, so we had the country to ourselves. I unloaded Sis and turned Bear and Chigger loose. There were horse and man tracks in the mud of the trail, so someone had already been up the trail. Maybe a Forest Service trail crew cutting out deadfall, but I saw very little work that needed to be done. Bear knew exactly where he was, and he headed up the trail in high gear. Chigger spent his time running ahead trying to catch up with Bear, then running back to me.

Chigger made it past the first creek crossing, but the second one stopped him. It was running high and swift, and he had never had to cross anything like this before. The creek through my property is running higher and faster, but he doesn’t have to cross it. Bear was somewhere up ahead by now, and Sis picked her way across the slick rocks like a good mountain horse should. Chigger sat down on his butt and began to bark. I rode a little farther up the trail, but not out of sight, and tried calling him. He wouldn’t budge, so I rode back to the creek and tried coaxing him. No deal! That fast water had him spooked. There was no one else around, so I decided to just leave him there to work it out by himself. I thought the worst he could do was go back to the truck and wait for me there.

Bear had his first run out, so he came back to me and just tagged along with an occasional side trip to check something out. In places the trail resembled a muddy creek bed more than a trail. There was water running everywhere from the melting snow pack. I rode a couple of miles up the trail and began to pass some still unmelted patches of snow. I could see the snow on mountain ahead of me, and I knew it would be impossible to make it up the switch backs to Campbell Lake. Even the rock pile leading up to Log Lake would probably be slick and treacherous, so I decided to head back and check on my missing pup.

I heard him before I saw him. I don’t know if he had been barking non stop since I left him, or if Bear’s appearance ahead of me set him off again. He hadn’t gone back to the truck, but had finally picked up the courage to cross the creek. He just didn’t know enough to trail me up. He was a happy pup to see everyone, and he had the creek crossing thing down pat now. He crossed without hesitation on the way back down the trail. I ate lunch at the truck, then headed back down the mountain toward home. It had been cool, on the verge of being chilly in the mountains. The farther down the mountain, the warmer it became; and the dogwood and lupine were in full bloom. When I got home, the thermometer on my front porch said almost 75 degrees. Now it is getting cloudy, and they say rain again tonight and tomorrow.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Creek's up!

We had light rain most of the day yesterday, then it got serious last night and really poured. Still cloudy today, but warm. The creek that runs through my property is running swift and muddy, which means snow is melting in the high country. Shouldn’t be to much longer, and it will be worth hauling my mare up to a trailhead.

I made a quick run into town today, and on the way back home I happened to see a buck with new antlers about 3 inches long, standing along side another creek in a patch of yellow wild mustard. I had a camera in the glove box of the pickup, and it would have made a dandy picture. The buck would have none of it though. He saw the truck stop and back up, and he moved off before I could get the camera out. One of those picture postcard scenes though.