September 14, 1999 - Tuesday

To the Top of Oak Grove Butte

Went up alone. Steve and Cliff couldn't go. Clear, warm. To Oak Grove Butte. We had decided on the way back on the 10th that we could have done much better with the strange rock doings.

At the "People Baiting Station," (see September 7, 1999 ) people had camped over the weekend and the place was trashed. Forest hogs.

The big hole with no rock was still there, undamaged or changed. I again looked around and down slope to see where it had gone. Nothing. Today, I saw something in my mind. I saw a roaring contest between a Sasquatch standing here and another on the other side of the river. This was certainly the venue to establish territories. High, looking over to high. Lots of forest in between in case one or the other decides to get physical. Narrow enough for sound to carry when the time was right. I could see it there in the moonlight. A huge Sasquatch roaring and getting a response and then in a fit of anger, yanking the rock out of the ground and throwing it with a mighty roar. Or do they use cat-like calls?

At the road going up to the log and toward the Butte top, there was a stick holding the gate closed. It was placed in sort of an adolescent fashion, very curious. When hunters do that kind of thing, they normally close the gate and put a stick or bolt in where the lock goes. I wondered big time about what was going on around the top of the Butte.

Cliff Olson's found rock pile, Oak Grove Butte 9/99

Drove up to the downed log. Took some more pictures and disassembled the little rock pile. I put a number on the bottom of each, starting with one at the top. There were thirteen little stones and their assembly was very intricate and quite tight. The rocks had been carefully selected. I could see about 30' down the road where some of the road side rock had been pawed through. That was probably where some of them came from. Again, I looked hard for any sign of someone sitting to do the pile. Nothing. I also looked hard on both sides of the road, above and below the tree for any imprints. All I found was ours. No one new had walked in the soft ground.

Scratched rock Oak Grove Butte 9/99

Took my 20 gauge and headed up toward the north, or main "summit" of the Butte. Found a large, flat rock along side the road with scars on the top that didn't seem natural. They were three large scratches across the dull red/buckskin erosion color that showed white underneath. They were all about 38" long and about 1" wide. They started from roughly the same spot on the rock and separated a little, but stayed parallel. Under the rock was a hole that had been used by small animals for shelter. It would probably make ideal winter shelter.

Scratched rock Oak Grove Butte 9/99
9/14/99 Oak Grove Butte. Stone with the 3 deep scratches. Note rodent burrows under. Were the scratches to scare them out? Joe Beelart.

I took a stick and tried to mark the rock. Hardly any mark. Then I took a rock and scratched on the side. More like it, but even with effort, I would never make those marks. They had been there for a while. There were four smaller flat rocks about the sizes of saucers on the top. Around them were needles, twigs and moss.

It was steeper than I thought going up. Also, I was breaking in my new steel-toed boots. They had good fit and traction, but they were still a little stiff. Found a thick batch of brush and regrowth on a little bench up near the top. Didn't find a spring, but there was a little marsh that might hold standing water in the spring. I took the old access road on up. Now it was getting steep. From what Steve had said, I think he stopped at the little marsh. I still couldn't see the top.

I went by a rock face that was probably 20' high. It faced west, toward one of the steep sides of the Butte. Some small rocks were kicked off of it when I went by and they rolled quite a ways before the noise stopped. I wondered what had kicked them loose. There was a thicket around part of the base of the rock cliff.

Up a hundred feet of elevation or maybe a little more, there was another flat spot and beyond that, the final mound to the top of the Butte rose up. I could see a small tower with a solar panel array on the top. I hadn't seen it before through binoculars. The microwave reflector was off to the right, on another little bench about 50' down from the top of the dome. It was big and easily seen with the bare eye from the lower roads. Anyway, on the flat spot, I counted 10 elk beds. They were pretty smashed down, so maybe I had scared them off. It was likely they had gone down the east side, there was the big flat and the trees for escape routes down that side. The west side of the Butte, up this high was just steep for a long ways down.

Pushed through some brush and climbed the final mound. Went past a tan fiberglass domed shed that had something in it. There were electrical wires running from it up to the solar array. They were a nice blue color. Now the reflector showed big on the east side, just down the hill. I wondered how they engineered it to make it take the wind and the snow load.

Stacked rocks, top of Oak Grove Butte 9/99

On the northwest side of the top of the Butte - the whole thing was maybe 40' x 40' and flat, there was a vertical rock cliff that dropped off 30'-40.' Then the trees started. That was definitely virgin timber. Where the brass surveyor's circle should be, on a foot square of poured concrete, I found a short and wide stack of rocks! They weren't a surveyors stack and they weren't enough to really protect the marker from vandalism; but they were quite a pile. The surveyor's stainless steel hollow post holder just stuck up out of them. Now, I discovered that I had not brought up the camera! Drats.

Stacked rocks, top of Oak Grove Butte 9/99

Nothing to do but go back down, get it and come back up. I had to have a picture of the rock stack. On the way down, I flushed two grouse just at the tall tree line. They went under the canopy, probably to run like they do. I searched around for them for a while, then gave it up with no shots. With all the shadow play under the tall tree canopy, it would have been a miracle to have gotten my eyes on one of them on the ground. Their colors are wonderfully matched to the duff. Anyway, "Groan, Groan."

It took me about two hours to go up and back down the first time. I had been looking around. I left the shotgun in the truck and just took up the 357. Now I just went for it, stopping only for a drink of water and to catch my breath. Like with all things though, I saw a lot on the trip back up that I had missed the first time around. For instance, I really hadn't looked at the big high flat that had been logged a long time ago about 400' under the east side of the Butte. Actually the tree blocked the road that went into it. Excellent hunting area for everything. Tall trees and escape routes circled the whole area which was probably 160 acres minimum. I also had a fantastic view of Devil's Ridge. It really put things over there into perspective for me.

Got up to the top again and took the pictures I wanted. A chippee ran out from under the rock pile, his little tail just awaving. Love those little guys. On the way back down, a cat-like night call came from the big thicket near the lower rock face. That steeled me good. It was almost like the calls from up at the rock quarry. It was not shrill or deep. It didn't sound like a bird, but could have been one. Then the creature called again, low this time. I watched the thicket for a long time. I called back in a poor mimic. It answered me, briefly and low again. I tried. It answered for a second time!

There was no movement or other noise from the thicket. I thought about going in, then I thought about a cat tearing at me and decided not to. I was alone and it would be a day or two before I was found. I tossed some rocks into the thicket. No noise, no brush moving and to my mind, most important, no birds flew out.

On the way back down, I took some pictures of the flat rock with the heavy duty scratches on it.

While I was sitting on the tail gate drinking a beer and resting from the second trip, a big clean truck came up the road and parked behind me. I had put the day-old muffins in the back of the truck. I had only eaten two of the little gut bombs on the way up this morning.

A clean cut and trim man got out. He had a well groomed little dog with him. He was quite inquisitive and really looked me and the beer and the truck over. He wanted to talk and wondered what I was doing up there, in a polite way. I told him. Turned out, his wife was a teacher at West Linn High School, just like Thom Powell's. He was grouse hunting. The muffins, the only thing on the dark bed liner of my truck, seemed to fascinate him.

I got to thinking he was an off-duty policeman. I recommended that he hunt the fringes of the open area just up to the northwest of us. That was that big flat I had seen from the top. I told him to be careful, that something had been in the brush up where I had been and didn't seem too happy with me being there. He decided that he didn't want to hunt the flat. He asked me about any other areas and I told him how to get to the saddle between Devil's Ridge and where we were. He thought that might be a good way to go and off he went. I made sure he knew how to get down.

I drank another beer and decided to go down the long way, over the Devil's Ridge road. I passed the clean cut man's truck parked next to an overgrown logging road on the way down. I was tired and sunburned. My new boots had ground off some skin on my toes. It was a long drive home.

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