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. ūüôā

Tidbit

All I see are the points of two ears angled sharply backward; below them are two intense eyes barely visible above the snow line. Retinas contracted into black slits in the brilliant sunlight, they bore a hole right through me; it’s target. I stare back.

I didn’t see it until I was almost on top of it. Most of it’s body was hidden in the snow, the predator having found a depression within which to lay in wait. Too late, I see the butt wiggle in preparation for the attack then…..it launches at me.

Tidbit, our cat, connects with a brilliant catfoo double-time cuffing at my legs before ricocheting off at a ninety degree angle, ears still laid back. Recovering, he swaggers away, satisfied he has made the kill. Time to go summon the pride for the feast.

I just stand there giggling. wishing I’d gotten it on my phone. I continue on my way and cat falls in behind, para-scope up (what my husband and I call the tail when straight up in cat greeting).

Half of Tidbit, the white half of his black and white coat, blends into the snow leaving only the black features of his little body visible against the winter backdrop. He skulks up the hill, sprinkling a path of miniature paw prints behind him. This is routine for him. He follows us around the property, targeting bits of snowballs and taking advantage of the deepest footprints we leave behind for cover.

Our entire property is crisscrossed with cat trails. Their little paw prints reveal their wanderings in search of birds, sounds, snowballs, sticks, mice, or whatever else draws their attention. Tidbit and Asshole, our other cat, go in and out of our house hundreds of times a day, it seems. We wonder how they occupy their time when they’re by themselves. What is entertaining to a cat? Hunting is the obvious answer although we rarely see them actually catch anything other than a careless grasshopper or the unluckiest rodent of the day.

A cat can’t just walk with a human. They have to turn it into an epic display of their prowess and it takes a lot of energy to make it look like you’re not “with” the human; that you just happened along.¬† This particular cat will run at a gallop aiming directly for the space between your legs. Faced with either stepping on the cat or falling, you are forced to choose.¬† I can’t tell you how many times he has noodled me and I never see it coming.

Tidbit acquired us a few months ago when he showed up at a friend’s house hungry. Apparently, he waltzed right past their four Corgies on “guard duty”,¬† and found the cat dish inside the house. He was still munching when I got there.

A search for his owner didn’t yield any immediate results so when I was ready to leave, we took him with us to keep unless someone surfaced. My friends were full up on cats horses and dogs and we had an opening anyway.

He made himself welcome immediately and we had him fixed a couple of weeks later. Asshole was annoyed at first but soon warmed up to the idea that he had an extra toy to play with.

Tidbit craves¬†attention and we wonder if he was taken away from his mother too early. Our answer to this is “regression” therapy. It’s good for all of us. He loves to be wrapped up tightly where he goes into infant mode. So do we.

Tidbit is boneless. He goes limp when stroked. He is more like a dog than a cat. He falls over and roles onto his back and let’s us rough his tummy up. He has no dignity. He doesn’t care

Tidbit is also the devil in a fur coat. He rattles around the house all night. He gets into Asshole’s face constantly, and steals our seats as soon as we get up.¬† His cuteness factor offsets the annoying stuff though.

It’s been about three months since he came home with us and his owner never came forward.¬†This cat is the most unique cat either my husband or I have ever met and he fits right in with the eccentric theme of our family.

Gotta go…he’s on top of the RV again.

Lost In The Woods – Twice In One Day

This really happened.

Twice in one day. Twice.

It wasn’t bad enough to get lost once. We did it twice…..in¬†one day.

This happened before the move. My husband and I love the outdoors but not so much that I want to spend an unplanned night there.

We used to go to Hanson Creek; a spot off interstate 90 near Snoqualmie Pass, our old haunts. It’s known for it’s quartz crystals and is quite popular among amateur gem hunters. We’ve been many¬† times and this trip started like any other.

You take an exit off the interstate, drive 3 or so miles up a pretty precipitous forest service road and park along the road at the barricaded remnants of a dirt road. It’s about a mile and a half steady climb before you come to a clearing with a hillside made up of mainly reddish dirt on your right.

You start to see very steep trails going up and splitting along the way leading to numerous “digs”. Many go under trees, some¬†very¬†deep under trees where the crystals tend to lodge among the roots.

People take all sorts of excavating implements and sifters to do their mining. Sometimes they’re left behind for the next person to utilize.

We quickly set to digging and sifting. My husband almost always finds the best and biggest specimens but I found a ginormous one the last time we went that I made a necklace out of.

You move around on the hillside with your tools, sliding and trying to keep your footing while trying not to knock down rocks and debris that might go tumbling and injure someone below. You look for the “hot spots”. The more adventurous, or more foolish (as it turns out applied to us), climb¬†way¬†uphill beyond most of the quarries to seek new sites.

My husband and I left our backpacks at a spot on the hillside and decided to go farther up. Usually we keep an eye on the lower hillside to keep our bearings but this time we didn’t watch closely enough.

Sure enough, at one point, we looked downhill and couldn’t spot anything familiar. I started to get a little nervous and suggested we go back down. We turned around and headed downhill but still didn’t see anything we recognized. We continued on as I grew more and more concerned until we finally realized; we were lost.

What direction do you go when you lose your bearings? You just give it your best guess and conference about it. We started hiking and after an hour or so, it really dawned on me that we were in the woods not knowing where the hell we were; for real.

We hiked for hours, trying to listen for the interstate. We tried to walk towards the sound of traffic in the distance. I was hungry and thirsty. We had left¬†all¬†our stuff back on the hillside including our phones. Brilliant. We climbed down hillsides, over logs, through brush as I grew more and more weak. It’s amazing how little time it takes to miss food and water. And the fatigue.

I don’t know how much time had passed when we came to a juncture, a place we recognized. The Iron Horse Trail. I was¬†so¬†relieved! But we had to make a decision. Which way to go from there on the trail. I argued for right and my husband insisted on left. Thank God I listened to him. My way would have put about 5 miles between us and the Snoqualmie Tunnel; an old decommissioned train tunnel that went 2.2 miles under the pass. That would have made for about 7.2 miles before we emerged on the east side of the pass close to civilization. And the tunnel…I’ve been through there several times during the day and it’s nothing but 2.2 miles of complete and utter¬†blackness.¬†And cold. Thank you husband for making the right decision!

We walked about a mile or two of the trail before we came to the trestle that spanned the forest service road that lead up to the parking area. Relief like no other. We descended to the road and walked the mile or two back to our car.

There’s nothing like seeing your vehicle after being lost all day. Nothing. We stopped and ate a cold can of spaghetti and meatballs but we still had to hike back up to the mining area and retrieve our backpacks.

It was getting close to dark though. We didn’t have much time.

We hoofed it back up the hill as fast as we could as the sun sunk towards the horizon. We had our car keys and all of the rest of our gear in those backpacks including our phones.

It was dusk as we approached the hillside and we hurriedly climbed up to where we’d left our backpacks. I quickly called our friends to let them know what had happened and where we were but it was getting dark fast. Too fast.

We set off down the hill again. We expected to intersect a trail that ended near the bottom of the hillside, but as we continued down, keeping sight of each other, we realized with horror that we must have overshot it.

Oh no.¬†I couldn’t believe it as it dawned on me that we had managed to do it¬†again.¬†

We were lost; for the second time.

This time we quickly decided that we weren’t about to keep walking in the dark only to stumble over the edge of a cliff, not to mention moving farther and farther away from a landmark. We decided to stop, make a fire and call 911.

We hunkered down and proceeded to build a small fire to keep warm. Thank God we were at least somewhat  prepared in that we brought our cell phone chargers. That saved our asses. We recharged a phone and called 911. They told us to keep our phone on so they could triangulate our position and said to hold on while they sent out a party.

We just sat by our little fire and waited: me hungry and thirsty again. I think I was in shock too. Search and rescue called us a couple of times to let us know they were on their way. I couldn’t wait. We didn’t know where we were so we were surprised when we finally saw lights approaching from¬†up¬†the hill rather than down. Shows you how disoriented we were. Good thing we stayed put.

They came down the hillside like angels. Our saviors.

The rest of the events unfolded in a kind of fog for me. That’s what makes me think I was in a state of shock. They immediately gave us food and water and had a very reassuring demeanor. I don’t know how many there were of them. Maybe 10 or so; men and women.

They gave us head lamps, put us between them in a line and shepherded us up and out of our unplanned day out to hell. I was completely disoriented as we climbed hillsides and crawled over logs before we got to the main trail and even then the experience felt surreal.

We reached the main road and walked the trail going down to the parking area where they made sure we were in our car and pointed in the right direction before we bid farewell. We thanked them profusely before we headed home.

This is where it gets interesting. I was driving out to the interstate and gaining my sense of reality when I noticed that my pants were spit all the way down my rear all the way to my ankle. Nothing underneath. It was then that I realized with horror that on the journey out of there, climbing up hillsides and over trees, that my backside and privates were completely open for everyone to see! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

It was then that my husband told me that the rescuer behind me was privy to¬†all¬†of the¬† nature I had to offer. Inches from his face. As soon as my husband saw what was happening, he quickly inserted himself between the rescuer and myself for everyone’s sake.

We made it home without getting lost again and the next day, I looked up the unit that had rescued us and wrote another big thank you to them and apologized for the extra exposure they’d witnessed. I was so embarrassed.

Incidentally, my husband said the guy who was directly behind me chatted me up a storm on the walk back to the car.

Goose On The Lose On Gold Creek Loop

Honkers

Posted To Local Facebook Group on Febrary 3rd, 2018……

“Goose on the loose on Gold Creek Loop.

Neighbors big white goose followed me and my husband up Gold Creek Loop about a mile from Corbett Creek road couple of weeks ago. He’s missing now. We thought he’d have the sense to return the whole half a block home but no, he seems to have upped and runned. We couldn’t turn back at the time and feel terrible. He might come to the name “Honkers” or message me if you know any thing.”

We met Honkers the first week after we moved in. He was a hefty white domestic goose with a lot of character. He seemed quirky like us and we quickly “adopted” him as the security system and gate guard.

He belonged to the neighbors who lived on the road going onto our property. You had to drive past their house on a common road to get to our gate. Honkers had a penchant for cutting us off while driving by and we had to start figuring in extra time when we left for the battle to pass. He came to know us and the sound of our truck and we were soon obligated to stop and say hi to him and a quick pet.

We were told by his owner that he had survived an attack by a predator and being hit by the owner’s vehicle. He would waddle up the dirt road next to my husband and they looked adorable together. I regret I can’t seem to find any pictures or videos of them.

Then one winter day, me and my husband were frantically trying to get our truck out of the long driveway, around the corner, and up the hill of the main road during a snow storm when Honkers waddled out. We were extremely stressed out and taking turns pushing the truck up the slick road but seeing Honkers was both funny and dismaying at the same time. He needed to go back.

By the time we got the truck to the top of the hill and hopped in, we didn’t have time to have one of us hop out and usher the goose back to the driveway just down the road. We thought he would have the sense to just turn around and go back home but he didn’t.

We’d like to think that Honkers found some other geese to fly away with but no one really knows as we never saw him again after that day. Miss you Honkers ūüôā

Next: The Spring