Category Archives: Mountain life

Falls Creek hike and Zumwalt drive and writing oh yeah

The day started out kind of gloomy and moody and slow. I needed to work on edits for a short story so that’s how I spent my morning. By the time I was finished, though, the sun had come out. Husband and I were ready for an Adventure, so we decided to go hiking up Hurricane Creek. As we started up the trail, though, we decided to give Falls Creek a try. I’d read that it was both easy and difficult…well, we opted for the difficult hike up the slope, not bouldering along the creek bottom.

Hmm. All the photos loaded at once. Well the first and sixth shots are of Falls Creek Falls. The last three are on Zumwalt Prairie.

Anyway, we hiked uphill a bit over a mile with at least a 1000 foot and probably a 1500 foot elevation gain. Then we decided to go for a cruise out to the Nature Conservancy preserve on Zumwalt and see what we could see.

We ended up taking the old road from Midway to Imnaha, and saw nearly two dozen deer, at least one eagle, northern harriers, a rough-legged hawk, a number of kestrels, several meadowlarks, two chukar, and three turkeys. The road was such that I was glad we were in the truck and not the Subaru, as we had to ford water running over the road in several places (clear, seasonal creeks with rocky bottoms, no problems).

A glorious day.

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Transitions

I’ve taken up a new transitional ritual every time we return to the Enterprise house. After we’ve unloaded, done our evening stuff, and had dinner, I go into the bathroom, pull out the jar of Fango facial mud, and give myself a facial. During this hot, muggy summer it’s felt like purging the grime and stress of the big city and beginning a lovely period back up in the mountains with clean air and fewer people. I don’t know that it makes that much difference in my skin but it definitely helps me relax back into the pace and rhythms of Enterprise as opposed to Portland.

But transitions are happening everywhere. It’s the season for wrapping up summer chores and finalizing winter food prep for humans and creatures alike. The wheat threshers work long hours harvesting fields while those of us who can and freeze are busy. Most of the most recent cutting of hay is already put up, but those ranchers who haven’t finished with the hay are hustling. This week alone, while juggling novel, back-to-school prep, and other stuff, I put up zucchini relish and a lot more applesauce than what I want to think about. Between canned applesauce and frozen applesauce we’re in good shape–the trees were quite productive. We’ll be going back to Portland and Clatskanie and I’m already planning what to do with cabbage, corn, and zucchini (relish and pickling ahead). This was my first canning in Enterprise, and the kitchen passed the canning test with flying colors, even with adjusting for altitude.

Just through this week I’ve noticed the arrival of fall. The angle of the sun. A damp coolness in the air. A late summer thunderstorm briefly grumbled over us last night, processing from Ruby Peak over town and continuing northeast toward Idaho. The leaves on the burning bush add a little bit more red every day.

Today Mocha and I jumped up a whitetail buck by the road. As he bounded away, I noticed that his antlers were the bright white of freshly sharpened horn. Hunting season has opened for archery and gun season is a month off. No more bucks in velvet, I guess. Our late afternoon ride was cool, and I realized that this might well be the last shirtsleeve ride of the year, if not one of the lasts. Mocha’s been hairing up the past couple of weeks, winter coat starting to come in. One doe I saw today already had a winter coat coming in.

We also marked yet another transition today as the last construction project on the house wrapped up. Today the contractor put the last touches on the front porch. For the first time since March, 2014, we no longer have construction projects pending on this house. We do have some plans for future things to be doing, but nothing as big as what we’ve already had done or are doing.

More warm days may return…but autumn is here. High autumn, with the hopeful promise of early winter and a good snowpack.

I think I’m ready for it.

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Adventures in woodcutting and hunting

Dang, the days are getting away from me again. We did a whirlwind trip to Portland, then came back to Enterprise for a whirlwind of prepping for hunting season and hunting camp. Our friend S. brought his wall tent that has a small portable woodstove in it and we did all the food prep. It’s been nearly thirty years since we last did this type of camping–nearly glamping in some respects–so there were some real questions about if it would work. Especially since last time we did it S and his late wife L lived here and did most of the prep. This time we were the ones prepping.

Camp turned out beyond our wildest dreams in many ways, except for one thing. The long hot, dry summer and warm fall meant that there were a lot of yellow jackets out and about. As long as there was daylight a low, persistent hum throbbed around the campsite. The yellow jackets weren’t attacking but they were persistent. I ended up eating some daytime meals in one of our pickup trucks to be safe since I’m allergic. But we ate well, slept well, and had a lot of fun for five days out in the woods. Granted, we ended up making a daily trip into town either for meetings, checking on the horse, or bringing a deer into the meat locker because the yellow jackets were just too aggressive. Still, that’s also one advantage to camping out near the house–being able to run into town during the day to take a shower and pick up other things we need.

In any case, we explored a couple of areas within our hunting unit. Another objective was scouting out locations for firewood cutting. We found some stunning views, some rough roads, and one opportunity to master some nuances of four wheel drive. Let’s just say I’m much better at shifting the pickup into four low now. Climbing a short steep hillside where I can’t look over the top of the hood helps, because you sure don’t want to run out of steam when attempting something like that.

This year we’ve seen more deer in our hunting unit than ever before, to the point where we’re recognizing family groupings of does, fawns, and yearlings. The bucks, of course, are more reclusive and have been that way all along. Until today, when we took a different route, we’d average seeing about twenty does and fawns. The buck spottings have been less frequent, but we’ve seen six of them…and killed two. At least out here where we’re hunting, it’s more of a challenge to find the bucks. And then when you find them, you have to hit them. Of the shots taken, only two made contact–the others were too long, or through brush which deflects a bullet, or a quick shot made while the buck was fleeing. Sometimes you don’t even get a shot, like what happened to my husband this morning. A forked horn hopped across the road, in a dense stand of young lodgepole pine. He jumped out and stalked it but was unable to get a clear shot (stand hunting is not as common when hunting mule deer; walking hunts or road hunts are the usual).

Still, we’re happy to even see the bucks, as we haven’t seen this many deer in years. Part of that is due to the reality that this year we spent a lot of time in our unit scouting for deer while cutting wood and looking at potential campsites. Being able to spend that time over several months as opposed to coming in for three days makes a huge difference. The mild winter is a factor in the deer presence for certain. The two bucks we got were yearlings, in good flesh. One of them might not have survived a harsh winter as though he was a sizable fellow, his horns were still in velvet.

Camp went from Sunday to Thursday. I had a reading on Friday night, so we didn’t go out that day. The last three days, though, we’ve gotten up at oh-dark-thirty and headed out for a morning of woodcutting and hunting. We got to see a dusting of snow on the mountains Saturday morning, thanks to evening rain. Some of it still lingers, but otherwise it’s been a warm hunting season. We’ve brought in a cord and a half of wood for a total of five and a half cords, and plan to cut at least another cord and a half if not two cords (we have permits which allow us to harvest up to eight cords). Our woodcutting has been going on around our campsite, because there’s a lot of dead lodgepole pine there which is the best burning firewood available in this area.

And…I’ve gotten some worldbuilding stuff done with a Weird West novel. Given the positive reception to a Weird West short story excerpt at the reading on Friday, I decided that maybe I should just get to work on that now.

So things are going along fine…just busy. Winter is coming, and we’re hustling to prepare for it. Deer meat is going to be in the freezer, which is good, and we’ll have a full compliment of wood for supplemental heat when things get really cold here.

There will be a picture post. I promise. Just…brain dead and tired. But that will be coming.

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Sandy River Flooding pix

Interesting lessons learned from doing the photo shoot yesterday:

1.) Moving water closeups get blurred unless you have a rill of whitewater for the autofocus to work (I wasn’t playing with apeture/speed settings, could have but I was trying to get in, get shots, get to work).

Example:

2.) Framing through trees can be hard:

(actually, this one isn’t too bad)

3.) But sometimes the magic works

4.) During big weather events, pack the damn camera!

I could have gotten much more impressive shots than this:

Last night I was standing on the bank about thirty feet behind those sandbags in the picture above, with the river up about a foot higher.  I had permission then; I didn’t have permission in the morning.

Following this Sandy River flooding story is…interesting.  Thinking very hard about it.  It’s a shallow glacier-fed river and the biggest impact on flood levels during the winter is the freezing level up on the Mountain.  A combination of a Pineapple Express weather event, sizable snowpack, and freezing level retreating up the Mountain means a lot of water gets dumped into the river.  The river bed is gravelly and sandy (ergo, “Sandy River,” as William Clark dubbed it) so it’s not inclined to stay in its bed.

Meanwhile, after last winter’s disastrous floods, there’s rumors of scandals in the wake of flood restoration and repair.  It will be interesting to watch how this shakes out.

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