The advent of Spring has left us dying to get out; maybe go on a hike on solid ground. My husband and I love the outdoors and we live in the woods but we’d like to see some different trees for a change.
Morel mushroom season is approaching but not fast enough so we settled for a drive up the road to DNR (Department of Natural Resources) land near us the other day.
The area is cross-crossed with dirt roads threading through forested hillsides and mountains. There are a couple of silver mines, plentiful sources of wood that some hardy locals take advantage of to make a living (they are a special breed), and hidden huckleberry patches known only to some inhabitants.
A local promised to take us out to pick but we have been warned that bears love huckleberries also. We’ll be sure to bring our bear spray The Man, the Bear and the Truck.
While in town the other day I stopped by the Colville National Forest ranger station for some advice as my husband has been chomping at the bit to go on some overnight backpacking trips. I asked if there were really Grizzly bear in Washington state and in Stevens County and the answer was “yes”.
The ranger said they hung out closer to the Canadian border and at higher elevations so I think we’ll stick to the lower areas. If we have to use bear spray, the ranger told us to spray in a half-moon pattern horizontally in front of us to create a sort of wall. I would have just sprayed straight ahead.
I asked about Morel hunting in previously burned areas of the forest where they thrive after fires. The staff told us there are hidden holes and the danger of falling trees so I think we’ll stay away from those. There’s plenty of mushrooms out there as it is.
When I asked about road conditions the ranger recommended a phone app called Avenza. It’s a free download that shows road and recreation maps of various sections of the national forest. You can also use them off-line. We could have used that a couple of years ago when we got lost in the Snoqualmie National Forest Lost In The Woods; Twice In One Day.
There is wild asparagus coming up although I have yet to find a single sprig. Crawfish are fun to catch (and delicious to eat) although I don’t know where to find them on this side of the mountains. We knew the back roads and where to look for things where we used to live (except for the time we got lost) but here is a new story. We’re still plying the locals for their secrets.
Lastly, I have gold fever again and have been all over our property crushing and breaking rocks. I dug a hole right into what I believe is the location of the fault running across our property. Imagine having your own private fault line? Take a look at the photo that shows its location. 🙂
The back of our SUV is crammed with prospecting equipment just in case. If you look for gold in Washington state, you have to keep a copy of the Fish and Wildlife pamphlet with you. It has the rules for prospecting in it.
Let me close with an example:
“You can pan in the northwestern upper corner of the easternmost part of whatever creek as long as you use a sluice no longer than your arm but no shorter than the length between your elbow and your hand. You cannot dig more than three feet past the upper waterline of a hundred-year storm nor under the lowest point of a hundred-year drought on Saturdays and Sundays and only on tributaries to every river in Washington state except Snohomish County. You may wear only bright purple and use a shovel rather than a pick ax unless you are driving a Suburu in which case, you may wear purple with polka dots. This only applies to prospecting done during leap years.”
We camped in the national forest near Snoqualmie Pass during the summer of 2017 while we looked for property to buy. It was a popular area and most of the spots were full at that time of year.
Every now and then, a bear will discover that food is readily available in these places and will take advantage of the smorgasbord. One had been seen going up and down the road so the Forest Service had posted warning signs.
My husband and I were driving back to camp one afternoon when we spotted a truck parked just off the road with the tailgate down. At the end, and supplies at the end.
We pulled over. The bear took off and I very carefully crept up to the truck hoping I wasn’t about to see a blood bath. I got close enough to peak into the back and into the shell.
There was a man asleep but very much alive in the back! His feet had been mere inches away from where the bear had been destroying his goods. I woke him up and told him what had happened. Can you imagine if he had woken up while the bear was at work? He would have had no where to go.
Our family has had our own bear encounters.
One year one kept coming into our campsite so we moved our food to the car with the exception of some canned goods. We learned that cans don’t stop bears when we woke up to find it with a can crushed in its mouth, enjoying the contents through the holes it had bitten.
It continued to cruise the campsites so we called Fish and Game. I don’t know what they did about it.
We now carry bear spray wherever we go.
Recently, two men who were mountain biking near North Bend, not far from where we used to camp, were attacked by a cougar. One of them ran, and was subsequently killed. . This was just months ago.
We now live in much closer proximity to predators.
A couple of years ago, a bear attacked a neighbor’s dog in her carport and she beat it away. There are wolf packs in the area that are being tracked for conservation efforts. They have been killing livestock which has lead to ongoing friction between the conservationists and the ranchers.
Be prepared if predators may be around: make noise so you don’t surprise an animal, be aware of your surroundings, store all food away from yourself, and carry a firearm or bear spray.
If you’re not careful, you may not be as lucky as the guy in the back of the truck.