Itching To Get Out

After months of snow, we can’t wait.

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. šŸ™‚

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.”

On The Road

Eluding the forest police.

We were on the road in our little trailer from sometime in May to September 19th of 2017 while we shopped for a place to live.

We spent most of the time in the Snoqualmie National Forest on the west side of the Cascade mountain range. You’re only supposed to spend a total of two weeks at a time camping there but we bounced around for a couple of months. We didn’t have a place to live, after all.

A lot of other people didn’t either. We met quite a few who made the forest their temporary home. Ours was by choice – I don’t think many of them had one.

The areas are well patrolled by sheriffs and we had to play a kind of a game of hide-and-seek to keep them at bay. In the middle of summer, we had to stay at an inn at Snoqualmie Pass for a couple of weeks to burn up our “not allowed” time before we returned to camp.

We stayed in designated and undesignated sites (which is allowed) and moved from the north side of I-90 to the south side to keep a low profile.

Camping was the cheapest and most viable option for us. The hotel cost us an arm and a leg. Until we found some land to buy – the road was our home.

When we finally found a place, some paperwork got lost in the mail and things dragged out for weeks longer than we anticipated. Our agent got pissed at us because things were taking so long.

I reminded her that someoneĀ elseĀ lost the paperwork, and although I was pissed at her we had to smooth things over as it’s one of those relationships that you have to maintain in your own best interests and everyone knows it.

We stayed at a couple of pay-by-the-night campgrounds. The first featured an ogre and his wife; the kind who watches every move you make from his RV. He would literally look at his watch when we would come to pay for the day, as if he was counting on us to be late. He was just a rude asshole. I felt sorry for his wife.

The hosts at the second campground we stayed at were very friendly and we actually worked out a deal with them to do the final cleaning of the fire pits in trade for a few days of accommodations. My husband and I scooped and cleaned out about thirty to forty fire pits for the close of the season.

In general, we kept the lowest profile as possible until we could get out of the forest and to a place we owned whereĀ no oneĀ could tell us how long we could stay or what we could do.

And I could dig as many holes as I wanted at any time of the day I wanted. šŸ™‚