Bear

Doesn’t take much of an explanation. A bear showed up last week and made the circuit between us and our neighbors a few days ago. The neighbors called Fish and Wildlife to make a report. On our end, we’re making sure everything that could attract a bear is locked up tight.

We’ve been watching the cameras and being really careful. I haven’t seen it in any videos for the past couple of days. We’re hoping it’ll move on. It was pretty big.

Itching To Get Out

The advent of Spring has left us dying to get out; maybe go on a hike on solid soil. My husband and I love the outdoors and we live in the woods but we’d like to see some different trees.

Morel season is quickly 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 DNR owns a ton of land that they manage for recreation and various other commercial and governmental type uses.

This area is well laid out 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. We’ve been promised to be taken out to pick but have been warned that the bears love huckleberries also. We’ll be sure to bring our bear spray as we always do The Man, the Bear and the Truck.

While in town the other day I stopped by the Colville station of the Colville National Forest 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. I was instructed to spray our bear spray in a half-moon pattern horizontally to create a sort of wall in front of us before the animal gets close if we are unfortunate enough to have an encounter with a predater. Good advice. I would have just sprayed straight ahead.

I asked about Morel hunting in previously burned areas of the forest. The staff warned of hidden holes and falling trees as dangers so I think we’ll stick to safer places. There’s plenty out there as it is.

When I asked about road conditions the ranger recommended a phone app called Avenza which is free but you can download road and recreation maps of various sections of the national forest in addition to being able to navigate 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, and crawfish waiting for my pot although I have yet to learn the spots they like here locally. We knew the other side of the mountains fairly well (except the time we got lost) but here is a new story. We’re still plying the locals for their secrets; more like begging.

Lastly, I have gold fever again and have been all over our property crushing and breaking promising looking rocks and I dug a hole right into what, to the best of my knowledge, is a geological fault. Our own private one. How’s that for a selling point? Our property has the perfect geology for possible gold and comes with natural springs . Couldn’t get any better for a geology/nature fanatic! Take a look at the map I found showing the fault. The photo is crummy but you get the point.

The back of our SUV is crammed with gold panning/prospecting stuff just in case; classifiers, my pan, my sluice, a shovel, the Fish and Gold Pamphlet required by the state to have in our possession so there are no excuses should we be caught out in the field breaking the law. 🙂

The Wild West

This morning when I opened our front door, my eyes were greeted by a skunk rummaging through the bag of garbage we forgot to take to the enclosure rather than three inches of new snow but nevertheless, it’s a sure  sign we ain’t in Kansas anymore.

Our family moved from the “burbs” to the outlying areas of Stevens County Washington almost two years ago now. We didn’t plan it perfectly, maybe not even fully responsibly, but here we are still although I sometimes wonder if we did chew off more than we could handle.

The differences are cultural on top of pragmatic between the burbs and the country. Here there’s a palpable attitude of “buck up” although I often wonder if that’s really necessary. My preferred “trail mix” is not overly-done PC with some buck up added for good measure.

We aren’t super liberals nor super conservative. You wouldn’t catch me dead wearing Birkenstocks, wool socks and a denim skirt nor will you ever catch me posing with my latest kill. Each to their own with no judgement. We are in the middle on most things and for us, a moderate approach to life works.  We love this area and the people though, and are grateful for the breath of fresh air that is eastern Washington.

Yesterday, we had the pleasure of listening to another of our neighbors taking target practice on the upper property. After a few hours of it, I decided to look up the laws of the state and county as it was close and a bit unnerving. It didn’t help that the title of the county’s official welcome pamphlet was The Wild West and had the same “get used to it” tone. Is it possible to live in the sticks without this?

State law clearly precludes any shooting within five hundred feet of a house or any structure and an earthen berm is required to absorb the impact of the projectiles. The neighbor was shooting from about three hundred and fifty feet with no berm.

Sigh. I decided if they make any habit of it, I’m on it. I’m not letting someone with little respect for other’s safety put me or my family at risk. Don’t get me wrong.  My husband loves firearms and I don’t really have an opinion except are you gonna shoot me on accident? They are shooting from the hillside where some dumbass almost shot one of us when we first moved in.

In the meantime, we are looking for property in the same area but with a much bigger buffer between ourselves and other humankind.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

You’ll never know to whom I’m referring but I need someone to talk to right now, if not someone sitting across from me.

I’m upset and depressed.

I’ve mentioned before, that we have some interesting neighbors but do any of you live next to The Neighbors From Hell? When confronted with conflict with them have you asked yourself repeatedly, “have I somehow caused this or attracted this conflict into my life”?

I have been, but I also feel it is clear that we didn’t “start” this nor have we continued this.

Here’s the story.

About a month after purchasing and moving onto our land, our “nice” neighbors moved into town as they were elderly. They had a house and some acreage just over the hill above the lower part of the parcel that our shared driveway easement passes through. The lower property is not theirs, nor is the easement for their use.

The new neighbors then moved in and almost shot us right away when they shot over our property with a gun, ricocheting off of one of our trees. I hit the deck and yelled at them that there were people there.

Then they let their dogs lose and accused us of killing one. Of course we didn’t but we put up with them pooping on our property and chasing our cats without escalating as well as we could.

Last year, they decided to trespass across that section of land with their snowmobiles, riding up and down the hillsides and across the easement and tearing up the road. We complained second hand to the realtor who had just sold them the property rather than confront them face to face.

Whether or not that was the right thing to do; that’s what we did. They were given a warning not to trespass again, and, aside from hearing their twenty or so dogs barking twenty four seven, we’ve gone out of our way to have nothing to do with them. Until now.

We suspect a friend of theirs bought the upper parcel to the property that was divided into three and, to our best guess, their friend has invited them to use that lot upon which to ride their snowmobiles.

Here’s the problem. For the last two evenings, the non-owners of that property; our “interesting” neighbors, have brought it upon themselves to ride their snowmobiles from their house, through the upper property, and down through the shared easement (that we have plowed at our own expense all winter), and are circling back up to their property. Like a race track; through our property.

I think anyone in our shoes would be incensed so I left a second note in their (open) mailbox this afternoon telling them to stop.

Not fifteen minutes later after we’d returned home, we heard her yelling at the top of her lungs to stop messing with her mailbox. It was all I could do not to yell back to “stay off our f***ing property.

I know we are in the right and we are already planning on using law enforcement as the go-between from here on out now that we’ve notified them for a second time. My issue is that I feel like crap emotionally and we’re scared of them because we know they have guns.

I simply need someone to talk to. Would you feel the same had this happened to you? Their dogs have repeatedly gotten lose also and their pit bull charged me and my son on several occasions. We lost the phone videos we shot, unfortunately.

Have any of you been in this situation? Did it help to know you weren’t alone; just in need some moral support? We have a plan of action thought out and the evidence captured. It’s just the emotional stuff. I don’t like this personal second-guessing.

Thank you for listening.

The Hill Of Death Revisited

My husband and I went down the road again today that I wrote about in an earlier post. It’s steep and windy, has a very precipitous drop off and gets icy during the winter months; and there are no guard rails.

Originally we swore off of it but as the weather conditions improved, we began to use it again then they went back to bad and we found the road to be reasonably kept up sanding-wise.

Because of the expectations we’d built up, we decided to venture down the Hill Of Death again today, not expecting it to be the Hill Of Death but now it’s the Hill Of Death again in our eyes.

I started to record on my phone as we approached because the hill had become the subject of some contention amongst the community and I like to document things just in case.

Sure enough, we began to slide about halfway down and I had a heart attack. My husband remained remarkably calm. No, I wasn’t planning on sliding. I didn’t enjoy the experience at all. No set up here.

I posted it to the local discussion/classifieds Facebook page calling for the installation of a guard rail and all hell broke lose. To my surprise, the video has been viewed over two thousand times since this morning (a lot for anything I’ve ever posted anywhere).

An almost cultural debate has arisen out of it. Some folks swear you should just stay home if you don’t know how to drive in the snow or don’t move to the country if you can’t stand the heat.  Others maintain the government has a duty to provide reasonably safe roadways to the public. I agree with the latter. BTW, two other people came dangerously close to sliding off the edge.

At the end of the day, no amount of local rhetoric about “staying home” is gonna keep an accident or death from happening due to the negligence of the party responsible for it’s maintenance. No amount of “buck-up” talk will prevent the issue from the inevitable reckoning that will take place within the justice system. And most importantly, no amount of “get some chains, idiot” talk is going to bring the dead back to life.

Decisions involving public safety on publicly maintained roads are rightfully made and administered by the government agencies responsible for them. In my humble opinion.

One gentleman replied to my post on Facebook with the reply “it’s Winter”. That sums it up, I guess. I wrote a poem in response:

Winter the disqualifier

Why sand roads or put out fires

For that matter who needs seatbelts

Hunker down wait till the sleet melts

Groceries gas are overrated

Don’t complain or you’ll be hated

It’s winter that makes perfect sense

Fits most every circumstance

If you’re not a seasoned expert

It’s on you deserve what you get

Having standards is for sissies

Center lines, stop lights are prissy

We don’t need no traffic laws

Cause we have hydraulic jaws

Summer fall just pick a season

Don’t need logic or good reason

It’s wintertime yup that explains it

No one should have to maintain it

I believe in common sense

Use your brain in self defense

But we don’t all drive the same

Let’s be clear on who’s to blame

It’s winter – lower expectations

Don’t deserve safe transportation

Its winter after all why bother

That guy who died he ain’t my father

Crash and burn on your own time

Just don’t do it on my dime

If you die don’t take me with you

Safety for the whole’s no issue

Dog eat dog philosophy

Winter means its you not me

Public safety how absurd

No one cares be rest assured

Wait that guardrail they left out

Car went over hit my house

Now who pays who is at fault

Wish they’d sanded put down salt

Suddenly its now my problem

County pay my bills all of ’em

Gubment should have done much more

Car parts on my kitchen floor

Group responsibility

Applies to you but not to me

Its winter that is my excuse

Backfired badly now I lose

 

 

 

Wood Gathering: A Poem

At night in the woods.

Disclaimer: This is kind of a cliché poem but I had fun writing it.

Air sharp as glass, ice scraping flesh

Breath escaping in frosty plumes

Feet frozen, struggling up hill to the place where the wood lies

Snow glows bluish, dark shapes fracturing it’s crust, frozen in escape

Stillness, snow holding tightly to all sound but the travelers

Constellations assume their poses, looking back through time with patient curiosity, eyes extinguished for millenia

Flashlights swing right to left and back, searching

Pausing, putting down the wood bag; catching breath

One stands watch while the other sets to work

Listening; sharp crack, blade falling

Wood rending under blows

Load bundled, nervous glances; fears better left unvoiced

Back to light, too far away

Not too quick, not wanting to look behind

Home close, steps quicken in urgency

Silent reassurances; nothing is there

A sound from the darkness, wood flung aside, clattering

All thoughts of fire forgotten

In flight, flashlights abandoned

Stairs, porch, door flung open, in

Dawn brings light, safety promised

Door opens, cautious glance

Long shadows cast by an early sun reveal clawed tracks in the snow

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A track my husband found right outside of our trailer last winter after hearing howls “like out of a movie” nearby.

On The Brink

Our near death experience on the road last night.

We had our first snow yesterday. We were sitting in our truck ready to go to town and there they were; the first few flakes of the year.

Here it comes. Snowmaggedon. And slippery-as-hell roads.

The county and city road clearing crews are, for the most part, prepared but some things you just can’t fix…or can you?

We were headed back from town about 5:30pm last evening when we started up the main road that goes to our intersection. It’s a big loop and the side we were traversing was washed out completely about a year and a half ago so we’d always had to go the long way around to get to our turn near the washed out side.

It seemed like forever before the county finally got to work this summer and cleaned up the mess left by the washout, graded it and started the first portion of the paving. We were so happy! I can’t tell you how many times we turned the wrong way to go the long way to town before we remembered “our side” was now open. The new route saved us about five miles one way into town.

The road is a fairly steep winding grade up the hillside with a VERY steep slope dropping off hundreds of feet to the bottom at a creek. A few months ago, someone stole a vehicle and rolled it over the edge where I can’t imagine what it looked like plummeting down the grade before it slammed into the bottom, leaving it smashed in the front, it’s doors wide open. They brought in one of those really big tow trucks and I imagine it must have taken a lot of power and cable to get that truck up and out of there.

Back to yesterday.

We began to ascend the road slowly and I cringed when I saw the shear delineation of wet road turn to obviously icy pavement and sure enough, as soon as we hit the icy part, we began to slide around.

I covered my eyes and my heart began to pound. My husband continued to maneuver the truck slowly up the grade but we lost traction one more time and started to slide toward the edge. I completely freaked out and just prayed we would stop before we went over.

It seemed like forever after we regained traction and SLOWLY crept up the remaining length of the road to the top.

I’ll never use that road again until spring or until they put guard rails up.

Wait, I forgot to mention…NO GUARD RAILS on this thing!

As we topped the hill, my husband pulled over to put the truck into four wheel drive and we noticed another vehicle across the street pulled over with a woman doing something outside. I’m not sure what she said but my husband told her what had happened and he said she had much the same experience going up just in front of us.

When we got home, I called the city not understanding it was a county matter. I wanted to warn someone right away of the treacherous condition of the road. Someone was bound to go over the edge sooner or later. I had my husband call 911 too as I was only able to leave a message.

I posted about our experience on Facebook and asked the question “does anyone else think this road should have a guard rail?”. Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so. The general sentiment of the conversation on Facebook was that the people wanted one but the engineer who designed the new road had left extra space as a shoulder on the drop off side to negate the necessity of having a guard rail.

Stupid!!!! Once you lose traction, your vehicle is going as far as it needs to to reach that edge and go on over; that buffer is only going to serve to give you a second or two more to contemplate your imminent death before over you go. Especially going downhill due to good ‘ol gravity. We were going UP the hill when we almost piled over that edge.

My son rides the school bus that way and I’m calling the school to warn them and urge them to change the route. In the meantime, we’re going to have to pick him up from school every day now and give him a ride home. That section of road is a death trap.

I wrote the county an email also. My husband and I will NOT be using that road until something is done. I don’t want to die any time soon. I just hope the county takes this situation seriously and either closes the road or puts in a guard rail before it’s too late.

If we want to plunge down a slope at breakneck speed, we want to be on a sled on our property.