November 10 -15, 1999

Big Bottom Outing

November 11, 1999 - Thursday

I took a load of wood up to the campsite and worried all night that someone would come along and steal it. I took the risk, so I should not have worried, but I did. It was a good load of wood. My next door neighbor wanted to get rid of the old wood pile that was beside her house from the previous owner. It was mainly oak and it was so dry and rotten I could carry out a big arm load of the stuff no problem. I had been using it off and on all summer. Earlier I had put a plastic drop cloth over it to keep it somewhat dry now that the rains had started.

Then, I had some knot wood from down at Babe's place that the log splitter wouldn't split. It was too big for any fireplace and was only good for outside fires. Those knots last a long time because of the tight wood. They are also big. I could barely get one into the truck. The boys had made six punctures in it with the splitter blade and it didn't break. Then I picked up some really good pitch wood.

A lot of flatlanders know of pitch wood as "fat wood," but in my opinion that's just a marketing word to get city people to buy some at huge prices to start fires. This stuff was the real thing. It was covered with rolling gobs of "fat" like on a bad cut of meat. The stuff is sticky and I had put down an old chicken feed bag to keep it from sticking to the bed of my truck. The main advantage to pitch wood is that it will start a fire in the rain. It puts out quite a flame and can't be used in much volume in a fireplace because of the chimney problem.

All in all, it was a great load of wood. Steve and some of the others had pu-pued me and said that there was plenty of wood up there and we could get it going with kerosene. I just had a different opinion about the matter. We heated the house with two open fireplaces when I was a kid. I bought some cheap paving stones to use for things like levelers at camp, used them to secure a blue tarp over the wood, and I was off to the mountains.

I found two women at the camp. They had just come up for the night and were leaving. Yesterday, Steve had dropped two bales of straw I had picked up free from a Halloween display at Zupan's. He had it covered with black plastic bags and had put a big pile of fir boughs over it so it was hard to see. We could use it for insulation and ground leveling under the tents, if we needed it.

I unloaded the wood next to it and did the same, except my plastic was clear and made a lot of light. It took a bunch of boughs. The women asked if they could help me unload for a chunk of wood. I just gave them a nice piece of cedar and in about two minutes they had a flame going about 2 feet high. I think they had gotten a bit cold last night. I told them to use all they wanted. The longer they stayed there, the less likely someone would claim the site.

We were right between hunting seasons this week, but there were still a lot of people up the hill -too many people. It was foolish to think that we could get the site and leave all that stuff without it getting stolen, or the site taken or some other trouble. Some did develop, but it was light duty trouble.

The camp site was right next to the river. The river was low, so the noise was like that of a big creek. It was all under tall fir trees and was about two acres in size. We had plenty of parking as long as you didn't back into or sideswipe a tree. The whole area was covered in wood shavings. Probably some trees had fallen and were chipped up by the Forest Service to clear the damage. Behind the camp was reprod that was about 60' high and there was some virgin timber in a narrow band running along the river. Steve had set two traps within 300 yards of camp, one in the older trees and one in the reprod. Right next to the site, between the timber and the camp was a wide row of rhododendrons about 6 feet tall. They weren't in bloom, but their broad green leaves were nice.

Near the far end of the site was a large fire ring. I had to put the wood over next to the road because a 15" fir tree had fallen across the site. The fall was from a dead standing tree that had broken about 10' up the trunk. Access to the site from the road was a steep, narrow drive that required a quick and sharp turn when you got to the bottom or it was tree bonk time. A bridge crossed the river just north of the camp. That road lead up to the Mt. Lowe, Granite Peaks and Graham Pass areas on the high ridges above us to the west. I mounded up the wood, covered it and headed back. I still had to pack the truck for the main event tomorrow.

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