The above photo is one of many beautiful places between Reynolds Creek and the South Fork of the Cowiche. Much of this property is on private lands, so know where you travel, and mind your manners. It was well over 20 years ago, I saw our only native Boa Constrictor on a trail connecting the meadow you see in the upper right to the wonderful stand of Birches that often play a melody in the soft breezes found here on a hot summer day. It took me another 20 years to spot a second one and photograph it. Look up the Rubber Boa if you want to know more about this timid snake. The meadow up top is full of wild onions, and you can sink into the soft wet ground until late summer most years. From where I took this picture, you take a steep game trail down, ford two streams, and then make your climb up thru the birches and take a stair case trail up to the meadow. That big tree with the dead top on the far left is all of 100 feet tall to help you set scale.
We planned our trip to arrive on a Tuesday, we generally don’t see other humans in these parts during the week and listening to nature without the sound of man’s machines mixed in is a special treat. Weekends can bring a lone wood-cutter who takes the easy windfalls alongside the road and fills the air with the noise of a chain saw. The sound can drift on the wind for miles. weekends can bring in an occasional dirt bike, and some riders think a loud exhaust is all too cool.
This is the magic time of year, plenty of feed, there’s countless wild flowers of near every color, the Lupine, Paint Brush, and many other flowers color the landscape so brilliantly that you’ll reach for your sunglasses while walking through the open meadows with the sun high.
My Wife and I generally walk 6 to 12 or more miles a day in order to visit our favorite haunts. Our sense of smell awakens from a long winter’s sleep each year. the scent of wild flowers, the scent of animals, the sweet near overpowering smell of the cottonwoods with their new leaves coated in a sticky sugar-like resin. There’s trails here that Animals have used for thousands upon thousands of years. Some of them are migration paths that will take you from one major stream bottom to the next. You best be in shape because Elk and Deer don’t much care if the trail is steep, there’s nothing in their handbook about grade limitations.
We arrived at the cabin during the early evening and a piece of fat wood got the wood stove going. I struggled to get the L-16 sized battery out of the truck and positioned to feed a few lights, and the TV we pack in. We unload drinking water, food, bedding and more. and opening the shutters for the first visit of the year is a 30 year old ritual now. Sharon has her list of things that need be done, and I have mine, after all these years, it’s almost like a dance.
Once our chores were done, we sat at the table and looked out the cabin window down the long ridge top, there’s still hours of daylight. Sharon noticed a Grose about 120 feet out from the deck, he was ‘sounding off’ and strutting back and forth on a small log, his tail feathers spread, and his chest all puffed up. As the evening went on, we saw a Coyote come across the top of the ridge, and as he cut across the Grose’s path, the brakes went on and his nose scoured the Grose’s stand. I’m sure he was taking notes for later, but he continued on towards Rock Creek, he likely had friends to meet up with.
Later, the Elk arrived to graze, one cow had her calf in tow, it was still ‘all legs’, and the calf thought 10 feet was too far to be from Mom. Then the Deer came to browse, and we enjoyed watching wildlife till our eyes grew so heavy that we retired to the warm loft and freshly made bed. The wind came up, and like a mountain song can do.. it put me fast to sleep.
The next morning, I got up first and made coffee, we had a basic breakfast of Oatmeal, but for some reason it taste so good up here. Could it be that the pan and the wood stove add to the flavor over making it in the microwave at home?
After breakfast I visited our spring, the small cistern was full, and in overflow mode. I thought about all the shovel, pick, and bar work I had done over the years, and how I might bury the permanent water line between the cistern and the cabin this year. I’ve been over thinking the system I guess, will it be a 10 year project? Part of the concern is experiencing a freak year with no snow for ground cover and a frost driven deep enough to break the water line. After a lot of thought, I’ve decided to run conduit, and the water line inside, in theory I could run a new one if something unexpected happens. As a safety, it might be smart to have a valve that automatically lets the water drain from the line so it doesn’t freeze. How will I set the RV pump up? Occasionally there will be a visitor in the mountains that would work for hours to steal another man’s RV pump, I’ll certainly engrave it with my name and offer a reward right on the side of the pump, but maybe it’s best that I put some quick connects on it and take it with us? The largest problem is arriving at the cabin expecting something to be there and it’s not. I’ll do an article on the finished water project this summer.
On Saturday, we sat with our morning cups of coffee thinking about moving our departure time from noon to late afternoon, and we did, it was just too peaceful and beautiful to be in a hurry to leave.
After closing the shutters and door, we both had long faces, the hours had passed too quickly. After breaking camp and packing up, we headed down towards the South Fork of the Cowiche headed for Tampico, the first bend in the road wit a name on our way out. We met another pickup above the South Fork, he flagged us down, and had his window down to greet us. I stuck my hand out, and as we were shaking hands, I told him my name… “glad to meet you” he replied but never offered his own name. I shut off my diesel engine, but quickly noted he left his running. I don’t like yelling over engines, but I refrained from telling him to shut of his..
He told me he had gotten himself stuck up there earlier and had to walk out.. Then he went on to say he had bought a 40 acre parcel on the north side of the hill. He was up from California, and now retired and living in Yakima. He went on to say he was having trouble with an adjacent property owner on the hill, how he was a member of ‘eyes in the woods’, and how he thought the mountain was a paradise.
I pulled the brim of my hat up, and said “California Huh?…. you’re not going to be pushing to bring sewers and sidewalks up here are you?” He didn’t even take a breath, and responded it’s just going to be me and a little travel trailer parked on my property. Soon we parted, and I wished him a pleasant summer..
I’ve been thinking about this ‘eyes in the woods’ thing.. I do hope he calls the Sheriff with the license plate of every person he catches littering on our Mountain, I’ve often thought I was lucky NOT to be armed when I’ve seen people fling beer cans out of their truck window as they go down the road.
As we traveled towards home through the most beautiful Yakima Canyon. I thought how fortunate it was to have met this guy on the way out versus on the way in. God’s creatures and my Wife were the perfect company, and it was 3 or 4 days of relaxing with nothing to stir my thoughts of what lays in the lower elevations. His place is on the North side of the Mountain, ours is on the South side, I was thinking that might work out just right.
Photo above: Part of the 15 head of Elk that surrounded the cabin when I got up to visit the outhouse around 5:20 AM. Elk make good Neighbors…..