Saturday, June 06, 2015

Crab Creek (April 2015)

Crab Creek is an old acquaintance I get along well with, but haven't seen in years.

Chris says he will camp near the bridge over the creek. "Sure - I know where that is," I told him. But I arrive in the dark and suddenly remember there are multiple bridges over the creek - two of which we have camped next to in the past. Each parked vehicle becomes a mystery: Chris's car?

Not convinced of any, I choose to camp next to the farthest bridge - the last checked and the most likely. There are people around, but not where I park and none that I recognize. I do not know the people joining Chris and I am shy to disturb strangers in the quiet, dark night. I go for a walk and in the darkness rely on my ears as much as my eyes - am surprised on the bridge when after walking past I hear a noise. I turn and can make out two darker figures if I don't look directly at them. They say "hello" and we move on.

Fortunately the night is warm, though windy. I don't want to set my tarp tent up in the dark and decide instead to lay out in the back of my truck - tarp pulled tight around my sleeping bag, holding my warmth against the wind. It is a restless way to sleep, every hour or two waking up to a chill, or an aching body part. Re-adjusting myself and my tarp, I check on the stars that show the gaps in the clouds, then I am back asleep. It's a great way to wake in the morning. Too uncomfortable to be lazy, too beautiful to be sad about that.

I wrap my sleeping bag around me as the horizon brightens and I walk out to get reacquainted. It is a landscape of subtle color. This season's wildflowers are vibrant up close but at a distance and in the early dawn, shades of grey, brown, and pale green predominate. As the sun's gradual appearance adds color to the scene I see Chris across the creek and we join our explorations. Small dunes spotted with sage brush stretch along the creek. We wander through looking for tracks and sign, catching up on the months since we've seen each other as we catch up on what has been happening in the previous hours and days of life along the creek.

After an hour or two, we head back to the bustle of camp as people prepare breakfasts, kids run about, and the last stragglers rise from bed. It is good to be back.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I went down to the beach today with a couple of friends. There have been some very low tides these few days: a -3.6 at the beach we went to today. We saw a lot of cool stuff (though it makes me realize how inter-tidal spoiled I was growing up in southeast Alaska), including this guy who looks like an escapee from an H.P. Lovecraft story. I imagine that's going to take a while to digest!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Went tracking at a local park with a couple of friends this weekend. One of them has spent quite a bit of time there and showed us several really cool things including several black bear beds/dens.

Here's Mark enjoying a cushy den built under a nice sheltered overhang.

And here is a nice bed with a thick layer of sword ferns. So cozy. Note as well the marking on the tree behind the bed.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Mystery of the Mouse in the Tree

While doing a wildlife survey this weekend, we happened upon a mouse - its head sticking out from a hole in a tree. Was it just the head? Was it still alive (seemed unlikely)? What was it doing there? It was about 9 feet up in the trunk of the tree with no branches nearby. We reached up with a stick and managed to pry it part of the way out - it was whole, definitely dead, and wedged in there pretty tightly.

The wood around the mouse appeared to be recently gouged. It was difficult to see it clearly, but it looked like the marks might have been made by a beak. If it was a beak, that leaves us with the question of what bird could and would do such a thing? The only bird we came up with that would seem likely to have the capability of doing it would be a woodpecker (needing both the ability to comfortably hang on the side of a tree and dig into solid wood), but why would it do so? What other possibilities might we not have considered?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Weekend Near the Skagit

It was an eventful weekend. I went up near Concrete to go trailing with Brian McConnell and some members of the tracking team.

I got to:
-Follow the trail of a pair of elk around for several hours
-Get eaten by mosquitoes
-Get eaten by flies
-See some black slugs copulating (Just learned from the wiki article that they were used in Sweden for axle grease. A much better use for them than mine which is so I can avoid eating my home grown veggies)
-Follow a couple of bear trails
-Touch the still warm insides of a next recently occupied by thrushes
-Get my first ever bee sting - it reminded me a lot of a nettle sting, though a bit more potent. Somehow the bee made it up my pant leg and near the top of the inside of my underwear before I got her out - fortunately the sting occurred on my knee!
-Sleep on a mountainside
-Follow another bear trail for several hours
-Discover that at least one bear really likes the brush - particularly it enjoyed going through thick patches of devil's club. At one point we were trying to figure out where it had crossed the creek, having lost its trail shortly before. Hugh decided he knew where to find it - he figured it would be in the thickest patch of devil's club around and he was right! And that was near the beginning of our travels through devil's club
-Find out what it is like to crawl through thick patches of devil's club on all fours somewhat like a bear, turns out bears can fit through pretty small places - I don't think I've ever had as many devil's club thorns in my head before
-See where the bear had knocked over and eaten on large chunks of devil's club
-Oh, yeah - last and probably least (as far as size is concerned) - got to see/walk through/get dripped on by/accidentally taste/etc. a profusion of spit bug froth.

All in all a great way to spend a summer weekend in Washington.