Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The magic jacket

J and I get to the farm some time around 9.  There is some wind, but the temperature is comfortable.  Rain will come at some point today, that is certain.  J joins me on a trip to climb the upriver end of the DNR hill.  I've explored the bottom up there, but wanted someone along for the steeper sections.  At least I have figured out the easiest path through and around the blackberries that guard the bottom of the hill.  If all works out, we will cross over the hill and descend to the squatter's cabin.

We walk up and through the north fields to the river, which we can follow a hundred yards or so over to the top end of the slough.  During high water, the river runs into the slough.  Today it is a shallow creek.  But, it is choked with logjams and is only the preferable route because it avoids the blackberry tangles.  We make the final crossing where a creek enters from the hillside.  There is a fine beaver dam right there and from my past trips I know that it is just one of many.

Mother and Sons

The bottom of the hill is not too steep and we pick up a good trail that follows the state property line.  I suppose that I don't take the shallow slope as the warning it should be.  We soon find ourselves in some of the steepest terrain that I've seen on this hill, just as the first rain comes, bringing with it some small ice pellets.  It is a very strenuous section, made especially pleasant by the 25 pound pack on my back.  But, face down sucking breath like that, J finds a beautiful bird nest on the ground.  I don't have a box to save it in, so after we look at it some, appreciating the delicacy, I set it under a downed log so that it will last as long as possible...for whom, I don't know.  I pull my rain jacket out of my pack and the rains soon stops.

J thinks that it is made of cedar roots

Once past that grunt, the hill gradually relents and the sky shows more and more through the trees.  A last push through new alders, a sign of cutting, brings us to a logging road that has a fine view.

From here, we follow the road around and up to the top of the hill, which is just a bit over 1000 ft.  The weather has closed the view in some, so we drop down into the forest, stopping to listen to a chorus of frogs in a small pond.  When they spot us, they stop as quickly as if they had taken their cue from a conductor.

The descent goes well.  While often, the descent is more difficult than the climb, this time it seems almost casual...which I know is not true from past trips.  It is the brutal climb on the other end of the hill that has made it so.  I pick the route by feel and by sensing that things look right.  There is nothing tangible for me to key off of, and I often wonder how the human brain can pull off such complexity.  Eventually, I look down through the trees and see the boulder and roof of the squatter's cabin directly below us, and I wonder how often I would be able to do that.

squatter's cabin

We spend some time examining the cabin and then take our last hour and walk the lower farm, checking out beaver drags and lower beach.  One last rain shower brings my magic jacket out of the pack.  The rain shower stops. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

New Terrain

I needed to write, today.  I don't remember ever feeling that I needed to write, even after a couple years of writing my journal from the inside of a canoe or while in the forest.  I was a creatively bad English student, unable to comprehend the passion for words that my teachers had.  When I think about it, it was that their formula for writing was not the one that I require.  They succeeded in a system where people sit at a desk and write creatively.  I sit at a desk and, at best, I doodle - more likely, I just fidget.  Movement triggers the stuff that I put into words.  Even as I drove the car up here to the farm, a 100 thoughts about my beautiful wife went through my head, thoughts that could not be written at sixty miles per hour, and as with thoughts that come while moving, they are fleeting thoughts.  Even unwritten words have value.  If only she knew.  Maybe she does.

I plan to head up valley and around the east side of the DNR hill, where I haven't been, yet.  Dense brush and blackberries have turned me back twice, both times with hiking partners that didn't need to abuse themselves that much.  The water in the slough is down quite a bit and where it was thigh deep on my last trip, it is just ankle deep.  The winter seems to have pushed the blackberries down to a level where I can strategically dance step them to ground...I just walk on top of most of them.

I find a witness tree with its shiny aluminum plate.  It was placed on August 22, 1996 and notes that I am on the line between sections 9 and 16 of Township 32N, Region 6E.  It is unusual in that the surveyors have listed their names - Olsen, Herrick, Carlson, and Lonpher (hard to read that last one).  I cross the slough nearby near a silted in beaver dam.

There is a nice game trail climbing cross slope and easterly.  Soon, it coincides with the timber boundary, so it may be a man/animal mutual trail, although I doubt anyone has walked this in a couple years.  I stop to photograph myself with a couple of fine old cedar stumps.  I also grumble silently about the ridiculous amount of stuff that I have put in my field pack today.  I move on.

Squirming through brush and fallen alder, I dream of "losing" the damned machete that keeps hanging up on everything (because it strapped to my pack - useless piece of shit tool that it is, unless you want to open up your shin, of course).  I talked myself into taking the hazard because of the blackberries, but it has to be a lot worse than this before I start swinging a rusty dull samurai sword with only me in killing range

I come out to an amazing cedar stump.  She is thoroughly wrapped in the roots of her offspring and leans out over the hill above a sandy depression left by the falling of another tree.  Parts of her, huge red-brown blocks, dangle in the air like jewelry suspended by thin strands of root.  I feel something off.  There is a sense of something amiss here, something dark that I do not want to know about.  She is not to be photographed, and it is not a place to linger.  I'm not one for spirits and ghosts, but I came to the forest to feel, and it is only foolishness to deny a feeling, even if it doesn't figure.  I circle up high and wide around her.  She disappears in the brush not too soon.  I will avoid her on the return, I am not supposed to be there, and I don't know why, but I don't want to be there.

logjam in the upper slough

I drop down onto the slough and follow it up river.  This might be the most interesting terrain that I have seen in awhile.  One branch is a series of beaver dams and ponds.  I think it leads to a drainage coming off of the hill.  The main channel is broader and shows frequent high water.  It connects to the river farther up.  It is choked with log jams, but the going is relatively easy.  It takes me to a fine gravel bar in the Stillaguamish where I sit for a time and end the days exploring.

Just as I near the log bridge while returning to the barn, I hear frogs and frogs and frogs singing out in the wet field under the hill.  I am watching a snipe when the frogs all go silent, all at once.  I take a knee and wait, wondering what has scared the frogs.  I wait for a 1/2 hour.  Still the frogs are silent.