August 25th & 26th, 1999
Stayed on mountain Wednesday night
Up to Mt. Lowe & Burnt Granite with Trapper Steve and Cliff for a camp out. Left at 9 a.m. Drove up via Devil's Ridge road because 46 closed between Ripplebrook Ranger Station and Collawash River junction for road repairs.
Went straight up to the Thomas site. Cliff confirmed that we had found the right place. We talked a little on how words and descriptions and time change between people and even to ones self. Looked over the site again. Had SLB's good camera along, but couldn't get the film to wind. Still had the point & shoot that Steve had loaned me. Her camera became a heavy burden in the pack. Why I didn't have her do the loading or at least show me how, I don't know. I even had the instruction sheets. Anyway, Steve found a hornet's nest in the scree and got them stirred up so that was about it for the Thomas site.
Steve and Cliff started out toward the screes on the ridge, up past the first tree line. I piddled around at the Thomas site, then followed them. It was sort of a high meadow open walk, but there wasn't a trail. Some brush and big rhododendron bushes to walk around. They were in bloom and quite pretty against the dark of the trees and the blue high mountain sky.
Got up to the first scree in the woods. Piles of rocks!! Looked around. Holes!! Didn't see Steve or Cliff. Looked around and started across the scree. Finally Trapper Steve called. He was on the far side of the scree. It was a treacherous crossing and the rocks were dry.
We went through some spindly virgin timber to the next scree, and it was the same! More piles! This scree was big and long, running down over the steep west face of the ridge. From it, we could look across to Granite Peaks and the Collawash River drainage.
It was very dangerous, but we scrambled over and around on the unstable rocks. We looked at many, many rock piles. It was obvious between the ones made from natural erosion and the stacked rocks. Who would have done all that? Native Americans? Cults? Bored climbers or off work loggers or road construction people? The last two weren't too likely. When loggers and road builders spent full time in the woods, they worked long hard hours.
Finally, we ended the exploration. We could see another scree to the NE through the trees, but that wasn't for today. All of our legs were shaky and Cliff was glad he hadn't turned his knee. By skirting along the east side of the screes, we didn't have to cross much rock, just move through the trees.
For anyone trying to go out there, safety is paramount. It would be foolhardy to go when there was any rain or frost on the rocks. One fall would mean a broken wrist or worse, probably much worse. A fall could very well require an expensive rescue operation.
We thought about camping up on Burnt Granite. It was very scenic and would give a good audio reach down two sides of the mountain if we stayed on the ridge. However, it was fire season and it was dry, so there was great fire danger. We couldn't have a fire up there due to the vegetation, and we wanted one, so we needed to find another place to camp. We ended up back at the high rock quarry where I had spent the nights. It wasn't so scenic, but with the very wide expanse of open ground, a fire would be safe.
First, we went about and around and got some more wood. Most of it, we got up under Mt. Lowe. Then we set-up Steve's portable shelter and kitchen. That went very fast. The square canvas topped shelter sort of accordioned out with a bunch of little cross members and was up in minutes. His kitchen took just a little longer after we slid it out of the truck. It had shelves and places for water containers, two tables and a cooking area. Steve made some of the best chili ever. He used some canned fixing's and cooked the hamburger special with onions and spices. We ate hearty, but there was plenty left for breakfast.
It was hard to believe, but by then we were done outing for the day. We set up the chairs and relaxed. We drank a little, but not too much. We talked and we explored the quarry. I found a single flat rock stacked on the northwest quarry jumble. It just looked out of place and I didn't remember it from my other times up there. It was right next to where I had lit a scented candle as an attractant and it faced the Thomas site. I had walked around the quarry many times and was quite sure it wasn't there before. Steve decided to stack another flat rock on top of it.
We didn't light the fire until after dark and stayed up around it. The night was cooling and the fire felt good. It was sort of comforting seeing the shadows play against the boulders on the quarries west wall, just behind us. The moon came up almost full and bright orange. It lit up the mountains. The only lights we could see were the bright band of Government Camp far to the north on the south side of Mt. Hood.
A heavy dew set in. Cliff was sleeping in his Tahoe, so it was no problem for him. In fact, he was pretty comfy in there what with his air mattress and all. Steve and I were under the stars on cots. Steve put his between the quarry wall and the fire. I had a devil of a time picking a place that just felt right and must have moved my cot five times. Ended up near the truck, with a good view of the night sky. Steve had put a tarp over his bag to protect from the dew, and I just waited until it was time to go to bed to put my bag out. The dew was done by then.
It was very quiet. No night bird or animal noises. We all thought that was odd. Off and on, I would get up an put some wood on the fire. I was having a hard time sleeping. The Milky Way was beautiful and clear in the night sky, so I had not problem with relaxing and enjoying the night. About 3 a.m., the moon set in the southwest, behind Mt. Lowe.
Then the noises started. I listened. First there was the owl. It had called before when I was up there. I think it's nest was in the timber just to the west of the quarry. I had seen the great huge thing had flying out of there two times. Then there came about four coyote calls out of Lowe Creek. And then the crying calls started. I woke up Steve and he listened to them. I knocked on the door of Cliff's Tahoe and he opened it and listened to them. They were close in again and intermittent. The next day, each said they didn't remember hearing anything like them before.
Finally it was morning. I had gotten several hours sleep and felt fine. Coffee. The weather was clear and warm. Ate some of the left-over chili. It was good. A little later, Steve made some Jimmy Dean sausage and had some good rolls to go with it. Excellent.
After that, we got out the weaponry and shot the following at the dirt pile about 100 yards across the quarry: 357 revolver, 44 revolver, 9mm auto pistol, 22 rifle, and the 45-70 rifle. The yellow jackets came out thick in the morning heat and didn't bother me too much, but they got Steve and Cliff both once or twice.
Then a little after 9 a.m., we did some quick packing, put some water on the fire and we were done with the camp. The big wood pile had gone down considerable, but there was still a good jag left and we left it. It was mainly Wendy's old wood. Cliff went toward Mt. Lowe to look around and Trapper Steve and I decided to try our luck at Tarzan Springs. Cliff's knee was aching, so he wanted to drive, not hike.
Tarzan Springs was about dry. Still some grass and willows. Went up the bench. Steve found two old "hard to describe" imprints. They weren't close together and no toes could be seen, but if they were made by a man, it was from one big boot. Also, they were driven into the ground about an inch. When they were made, it was probably wet. We looked hard and couldn't find any more of them.
We split up. It was steep after the bench and no use trying to pace each other. I went on the west side and Steve tried for the scree above the Springs. It was slow going. There was a little brush, but it was just plain steep. I zig-zagged and finally could see the scree through the trees to the east. I was just too tired to try and make the push over to it. One thing that refreshed me was a lot of really good blue berries up there. It was strange the animals hadn't gotten them. They were cold from the night and full of juice. I picked handfuls and ate them. About four hours later, I would pay dearly for that. In one of those odd things about hiking in the mountains, it was just as much work to go down as up. I came out next to the old landslide and walked back to the truck.
Steve said he had just gotten to the truck a few minutes before me. He had come out of the woods just east of the little quarry at the Springs and came to the truck. We opened a beer and he sat on the tailgate in the sun and I sat in the shade on the ground. We talked. I didn't have much to report, except that I couldn't make it over to the scree. He said he had went up by the rocks at the quarry and up and around. He said he had gotten within about 50 yards of the bottom of the scree and could see it. However, just like me, he was tired and said the slope was just too much and it was something we could check out another day. Then he went parallel across the top and dropped down to the road.
We looked the ridge over and figured that another way in to check the scree for piles of rocks was from the east. There was a logging road about a half-mile down that was closed. We could walk along it to the ridge crest and then hike through the trees along the ridge to the scree. That would be much easier and probably not too much further than just going up slope.
We remarked on how strange exercise works in the mountains. We both ended up at the truck at about the same time. We both had some shake left in the legs from yesterday and now from the slope today. The beer tasted good. Then Cliff came down the gravel road from higher up. He reported that a coyote had come out and run in front of his truck when he went back by the quarry. He figured it had come in to investigate us after we left.
He said he had found another scree for us to climb to. Said they looked promising through his glasses, but that he didn't want to break brush with his knee like it was. Just like us, he still felt a bit shaky on his legs after the scree walks from yesterday. We thanked him for that. Just what we needed. He laughed. We looked a bit at the scree just at Tarzan Springs. No stacked rocks on it that we could see.
We looked at the trucks. Both Steve's and Cliff's are black. They were covered in tan dust. Where the dew had run, there were rivulets of black that had refilled. It was quite funny to look at them. Then we started back. I switched rides to break up the trip twice.
On Friday, I called the Forest Service to see if they had any information about rock piles up high in the mountains. I was routed to some fellow who got really pissed off at me. Thought I was an environmentalist. When I told him to calm down, that I wasn't a tree hugger, just interested, he told me that 25 timber sales had been shut down just this week alone for environmental reasons. They expected more to be cut off.
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