March 18, 1999 - Thursday

An Unusual Break

Went up with Trapper Steve in his truck. Trapping season was over, so he had cleaned out his gear under his canopy. However, the scents of the season remained strong, especially when the black truck and canopy warmed up.

High overcast, no precipitation and no ice on the roads. The Clackamas River was way down and green - good fishing color. Turned off at Premonitory Park, way short of our usual run. The road there goes up the north fork of the Clackamas River. Went along for about 4 miles and came to a road shut down with a dozed barrier. There was good reprod all around and some brushy cover under the tree canopy. A little trash, but not much. Trapper Steve found a hammer in good condition right beside the road.

We walked down to the river and then east along it until we hit some heavy brush and steep slopes on our side. It was mushy down there and there were plenty of pools of water to walk around. On the other side was good walking ground and an old-overgrown logging road, but we didn't want the hassle of wet boots and jeans to cross that early in the day. All along, there were beautiful little rapids and pools. The water was clear and green was the color everywhere. There was even good green spring moss on the rocks. The only dark was the dead brush and downed rotting timbers.

We went for at least mile, one way - probably a lot longer. We had lost a lot of altitude on the moderate down slope, so we took a bit coming back to the truck from the river bottom. There were few deer tracks and no other tracks. The place was just empty. It felt empty. We were in a forest full of empty. One thing was odd about this section of woods. There had been very straight, narrow paths of trees cut going up the hill. They were not wide, maybe 15' and their purpose was unclear.

Went on. No real landmarks. There was the ridge over on the other side and we were on a flat plateau on our side. The reprod was about 60 - 100' high and consistent, so not much to see. At the 8 mile marker the road started to pull right from the ridge line and there was an overgrown logging road going up toward the ridge. We stopped and started up it. Lots and lots of little alders. It would have been a bad job to walk it when their leaves were out.

There were deer tracks up here, lots of them. There were many deer rubs on the alders. In fact, it was remarkable there were so many. There were old slash piles that Steve said would be good for marten, although he didn't think they would be down this low. There were many branches and small trees that had obviously been snow broken.

Then Trapper Steve found one very unusual break in a 1" scotch broom. It had been twisted in two! It was not at all natural. Whatever had done it had great strength. No man could have twisted it two. And the break was still green, it hadn't discolored or hardened at all. It was a fairly fresh twist-off. We cut out the twisted break, top and bottom. Later we would give it to Ray Crowe, who was also surprised that anything could break a wiry, stringy scotch broom like that.

We kept going up. A grouse was up in a fir tree and the bugger kept moving around the limbs and we were trying to keep up with it with the binoculars. Quite a project. It was a beautiful bird. Finally, it flew down the slope into the river canyon. They normally try to fly down slope. Then we walked back to the truck. The slope up was such that we noticed the effort, fortunately this route went up first and down on the way back. That is the best way to hike.

Then we tried to get down to Huxley Lake. No go, too much snow, so we came back to the main road and continued east. When we hit the snow block there, we stopped and I had a treat.

Trapper S. opened up the nifty pullout drawers in the false bottom of his canopy and there was one of his muzzle loaders! It was a 36 caliber and very pretty. He had assembled the rifle from a kit and had polished the stock himself. He went walking across the snow to a big fallen log about 100' away and put our paper coffee cups on the log. Then he came back and showed me his "possibles" bag and how to measure powder from the horn and load the rifle and how to tamp the bullet down, just so.

Then he took aim at his coffee cup and steadied himself and then reaimed. He was comfortable and he pulled the set trigger then the hair trigger after a bit and the little caliber barely moved in his hands as the smoke blew out of the barrel. It seemed like there was just a discernible fraction of a second between when I saw his finger move on the hair trigger and the flint holder slam down and when the shot went off. The gray smoke mushroom hung in the quiet air. He had "missed" the first shot and was he disgusted with himself! He quickly reloaded, tamped the bullet, pulled up and fired. His coffee cup bumped off the log.

Then it was my turn. I set the hair trigger on the first try and the rifle misfired. Trapper Steve did some things and then I tried again and the cloud of smoke just in front of my face really suprised me. There was almost no recoil and my coffee cup went for a fly.

On inspection, we found that Trapper Steve had hit his cup twice. What was left in the bottom was just enough to keep it from coming off the log on the first shot. Both hits were well within the limits of my thumbnail.

Then we tried the first Bigfoot can call. We had been talking about lures and calls and such and Trapper S. had decided to try his hand at a call. Basically, it was a coffee can with a nylon cord attached to it. We wetted the nylon cord and with a wet cloth for a hand protector, Steve pulled on the cord while I held the can away from my body. It put out a great guttural sound and the echoes from under the trees were excellent. Steve thought that we might do better with the volume from a 5 gallon paint can.

We checked out some imprints in the snow made by people fooling around, decided we had had a pretty good day and headed home. No BF'in next week. We both have things to do.

Roads today: 224, 4610, 4612 short, 4611 Hyde Lake turn back.

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