November 10 -15, 1999
Big Bottom Outing
November 13, 1999 - Saturday
In the early morning, as it does so often in the mountains, a rain started. It woke me up and I enjoyed the sound of the drops falling hard on the tight rainfly above the tent. Tap, tap, tap then tappity, tappity, real fast. I didn't worry about it and actually enjoyed the sound; at least we had gotten the camp set up without getting rained on. I and everyone else had packed several changes of clothes to try and keep a little dry. I was careful to not touch the sides of the tent. Even plastic will drip some. Finally, I drifted off, but got up and put on fresh socks and underwear and a clean shirt shortly after dawn started coming through the blue of the tent material.
I zipped open the flap and went outside. Rain was dripping from the trees, but the actual fall had stopped. I chopped some wood, slivered some pitch and got the fire going. Then I tried to make coffee on the Coleman stove. Couldn't get the flame right, so gave that up and took out my little propane camp stove and boiled some coffee. That got them out of bed, except for Steve. He planned on going trapping at the "Crack of 10." He said there was a reason to wait. Let the forest critters have their morning stroll before checking traps and bothering the sites.
We had some frosted cake donuts that Woody had brought. They were simple, good and effective gut bombs. Woody knew his way around the woods. Some of the cold chili went down and tasted good with the coffee. The whiskey bottle from last night was on the end of the table and was still respectfully full.
I hadn't heard them, but the others talked about someone who had stopped on the road on the other side of the river about dawn and had banged truck doors and yelled. It was apparently obvious harassment. Woody, Cliff and Steve had heard them. Probably the rednecks that thought our spot was "their" camp. Now we needed a camp monitor for sure.
After breakfast, Woody and Steve took off to check the sets along Big Bottom. Cliff and I drank up the rest of the coffee pot. The sky was actually clearing! Then while Cliff finished buzzing up the downed log, I loaded a bunch of the wood from the pile over by the road into my truck and hauled it to the campfire pile. Then we hauled the last of the rounds over to the pile and got the rest of the wood from by the road. Now we had a very nice stack of wood by the fire. It would be plenty for a good fire for the rest of the camp. I sorted out the pitch wood and put it next to a tree so it wouldn't get burned by accident. We put the splitting mauls over there too.
By the time we got all that done, Woody and Steve were back. No marten. We had some sausage and cheese and a beer or two for lunch. The rest of the chili went down the hatch. Then Woody and Steve went up the mountain to set some more traps. Woody was toughing it out. He wanted to go trapping with Steve and he wanted to go on the trip, but. The But was that he has pins in his ankles and is going to have an ankle replaced next month! He is in good shape and is a tall, clear thinking man of the best character. We could tell he was in substantial pain, but he was in it for the duration and he wanted his field time.
Woody brought his long bow. He is an accomplished bow hunter. He had a good selection of arrows and was looking down over the clear cuts for a nice bear to shoot - that or a cougar or a grouse. He thought a bear might be around camp. He had heard some grunts and sniffing close to his truck in the night. That turned out to be what Steve heard when he woke me up. Woody had gotten out of bed with his flashlight to look around and had slipped on the wet step and had really hurt one of his ankles.
Cliff wanted to stay at camp and play with the trail mobile, so I drove over to Pinhead Buttes for a hike. It took me at least 40 minutes to get there, because I took the gravel loop road to get to Hwy 42. The road was washboard as hell from all the hunting traffic during the fall. It will be a wonder if the Forest Service has enough money to grade it next year. With the virtual cut-off in logging, they don't have money to do much maintenance.
I really like Pinhead Buttes. They are high and on the east side of the Cascades. From them, the slope falls off into the center of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation. They have a different flora feel from the mountains on the west side of the valley. It is more open and the trees change to white and silver firs. They would make the finest Christmas trees when they are small. They don't grow too high, probably because of the thin soil and the cold weather. They do get to be about 4' or larger and their wood appears to be very tight from the stump rings. I gathered some of it for camp fire wood this summer and it makes the most pleasant flame and small sparks imaginable. You can tell the snow depth up there from where the long strands of lime green moss start growing on the trunks. It gets to be about 7' deep or a little more on the south side of the Buttes.
Earlier in the fall, I had called a person at Warm Springs about rock stacks. I still owe him a set of pictures. Anyway, he picked up on my drift real quick and said that he and another science type had investigated a series of large barefoot tracks on the Reservation this summer. The creature had a bum foot, a broken toe or something that showed very clearly in the prints. He said they couldn't do much with them because of reputation and non-proof of Sasquatch.
The spur road I took, according to the Forest Service good road map - the one from under the counter at the Estacada station - ended about a quarter mile short of the Reservation. It is bad business to trespass on the Reservation, so I care about those things. While there was virgin timber along the road to the north of me, going up South Pinhead Butte, to the east was a line of tall timber running roughly north and south that was probably the Reservation line. It was well over a ¼ mile and probably closer to ½ mile away.
On the south side of the road was what appeared to be natural reprod. It was like the most beautiful, random set Christmas tree farm you could see. The firs were all similar to noble firs, although I am sure they were silver tips. Their bark was pale and it was obvious that they were very slow growing. From the condition of the logging leavings, I would guess that big chunk of hill side was cut 30 years ago. The tallest trees were only about 10' and there weren't many that high. Out to the south, I had a great view of the Olallaie Butte. The east half of its top had slid and the slide was clear on the blue sky. Further south stood Mt. Jefferson. Some high wind clouds made a white flowing plume off its summit.
Carrying my 20 gauge in hopes of finding a grouse, I walked a ways south in the regrowth. I just enjoyed the day. The slope wasn't bad and the footing was good. I was at about 5,000' and on that side of the valley, the underbrush wasn't thick. Once, three beautiful robin sized white and black streaked birds with short beaks came and landed on one of the trees within 6' of me. They stayed minutes, unafraid and then beat off. After a while, I turned toward the standing timber on the Reservation and made my way to it. All along the line was some major and jumbled windfalls. I tried to cross over the mess and didn't find a clear path so crawled my way back out and turned north.
The sun was warm and the wind pleasant on my back as I wound through nature's Christmas trees. Up by the 90 degree place where apparent Forest Service land met apparent Reservation land was another mass of blow downs. I turned west and when I got to a good spot, I turned north into the tall timber and started up the hill. The effects of cold and elevation made easy walking through the downed timber littering the slope. There wasn't much underbrush.
The sun light was wonderfully filtered and the moss hung about seven feet off the ground on the trees. They were tall and straight and the bark was a light color. The swirls of branches seemed to start higher than they did on mature Douglas firs. I went up to where it looked like there had been an old burn and turned west again. I paralleled the slope and when I thought I had gone far enough, I turned downhill, or south, on the diagonal. After too short a time, I saw more light coming through the trees and shortly I dropped out on the gravel road where it made the turn east.
I walked back to the truck and leaned against the hood, looking at a map and drank a beer. Then I drank another beer and headed back down the hill to camp. The great basin to the north of Olallie Butte was clear from the angle of the afternoon light. It was perhaps the most pleasant and solitary hike I had ever walked. I was gone about 1 ½ hours and had made about 2 ½ miles. Just because it was enjoyable, didn't mean that I didn't have to be careful and slow. I was alone and a long ways from anyone finding me if I broke a leg. Besides I wanted a grouse, but didn't see or hear one. Unfortunately, I didn't see any Sasquatch sign. I was looking.
When I got back to camp, Bill Harper had arrived. Bill is a self-made, thrifty, quiet man. He says he just sort of got interested in Bigfoot because he lives and works in the St. Johns area and Ray had opened his shop there. However, Bill has spent a lot of time in the woods since he was young. He's a bit over 50, tall, slim and in shape. He has a trim white beard and big smile. Bill doesn't say a lot and what he does say, he thinks about - except when he's talking history and he knows history. He had pitched his orange short wall tent that he has had since the late 1960's just to the south of my tent. It looked simply orange against the green forest background.
Shortly, Thom and Jim and Keith drove down the slope in Jim's red and experienced van. They are quite the bunch. They have done all the neat stuff like lots of river rafting and kayaking and hiking. I don't get the impression they have done much blood sport. Thom is a science teacher, Jim works on houses and Keith is an electronic control person. They are all in their late 30's and have lots of energy and drive. They were reved. They needed some exercise to calm them down.
Just after they got there, Woody and Steve came down off the mountain and everybody had a beer. Then I encouraged the terrific trio to go to Pinhead Buttes and do a hike to see what they thought of the area. Woody wanted to come, so off we went. Up near the top, we found a work crew of Hispanic laborers had moved in on the high road. They were manually digging ditches for spring runoff control and putting up a berm on an old logging road to help keep 4x4's out. Later, we would hear their shovel and picks on stone far up the mountain.
We parked at the end of the road where I had parked. All of them marveled at the view and the slide on Olallie Butte. Our view showed the slide perfectly and the ragged volcanic shaft that was left on the east side. The west side just looked like a regular steep sloping hill. It took some persuasion to get Thom, Jim and Keith to head up the hill. They needed some leg time, they just had too much energy and besides, I wanted their opinion on the place.
After a while, Woody and I decided to head back. We briefly stopped at a couple of spots so he could video it for future reference. I wouldn't doubt that he will go up to Pin Head Buttes or the basin to the north of them for some bow hunting during the last season. The others knew the road well enough to get down, we hoped. Woody needed to sit down. His ankle was bad.
We weren't back down long before the terrific trio in the red van drove back into camp. Somehow Cliff, with help, had rigged up a big tarp over the cooking shelter making it twice a big while we were gone. The roping and counterweighting they did was quite the thing to marvel at. Hanging the tarp was good, since the only person missing was my companion from past trips. We needed the covered space if it started raining again. Unfortunately, companion didn't show at all. But the outing was turning into more of a social gathering than a major trapping and Bigfooting effort. There wasn't much brush diving at all.
While we were enjoying some almost cold ones, it came out that Thom, Jim and Keith had climbed to the top of South Pinhead Butte in about 45 minutes, one way! Those men are animals. Trapper Steve and I still groan with the thought of the Roaring River hike that Thom and Jim took us on. They said there are trees all the way to the top and there is a ridge of broken rock up there.
Mostly due to the good weather, Saturday evening turned into quite the event. First there was the supper and did we do good or what? Steve heaped about 5 pounds of hamburger into the pot and added about 4 cans of beer and got it boiling. It was for the spaghetti. Woody had some of his bear sausage - of course it was from a bear he had shot himself. The sausage was red and hot and had a small game flavor. We decided the butcher had put in too much pork fat or something. There was white, aged cheddar that someone had brought Steve as a present and there were lots of other good things that came out of the ice chests. And since we had plenty of beers I could make my cheeze nacho dip.
I didn't spell cheeze like that by mistake. When I went to Costco to buy paper plates and plastic knives and forks and napkins, I knew I needed to bring something to eat. So I bought a big stick of good Italian sausage and just down the isle, I see this can of nacho cheeze dip. Mind you, it wasn't a little can. I had some major intestinal plug sitting right before me. The label said there was spice and chilies in it. There was no mention of "cheese product." That was good. There were about 15 substances in the ingredients list that I couldn't pronounce, but the dipping picture on the label sure looked good. I bought it, all of it, a gallon can of it for about $5. Then I went down another isle and picked up a couple of really big bags of corn chips. We were in business.
I guess the first indication we were in trouble with the mystery yellow substance was when I opened the can in rather chilly weather and the stuff just poured out like it was a warm spring day into my big pan. I licked the spoon and it tasted good, just like some spicy stuff after a couple of beers should. Then it went over the little propane stove. Occasionally I stirred it. I had to. Then I dumped a good dose of picante sauce into it and stirred it all up. That also comes in big cheap bottles from Costco.
The little stove for this purpose had two heats, off and on. Pretty soon, from over in the shadows where the others had banned the heating scheme, some smoke arose. I was encourage to do more stirring and I could tell that the cheeze was sticking to the bottom of the pan. The others were getting anxious, this seemed to be a rare treat acoming. Truly, it was a rare treat. At least the bubbles and smoke indicated it was getting close to the desired 160 degrees in the instructions.
Now, you have to know that I was inadvertently doing a service to one of my fellow campers. Jim had the runs. He isn't too thick to start with, so the extra water loss was no good. All of us knew that a good dose of cheeze was good for that and for the next several days after that, so the dip was somewhat eagerly anticipated to remedy his situation. After all, they had already had the bear sausage, some other treats and the spaghetti sauce was getting close to done, so a little cheeze dip would fit right in.
Well, as soon as boils started rising in the cheeze, just like on a river's surface, I takes the stuff over to the table. We had some paving stones for insulation, so the heat didn't do damage to the table. There were paper plates and corn chips of various types and there was a spoon to dip the stuff and there was the left over jar of salsa and the bottle of medium hot picante sauce.
Everybody dipped in real good and Jim was encouraged to get more of the cheeze dip than a bear could eat. It was tasty enough, but a whale of a lot of the pot was left when the spaghetti got done, so I set it aside to cool. The spaghetti was great. Since everybody had lots of room left after the bear sausage and the cheeze dip, the spaghetti went over grand. Trapper Steve knows how to run a camp kitchen.
Now the fire was up and the rains hadn't come and the chairs were around the fire. There was a bit of whiskey in the cups and the talk was starting for earnest. Then there was a truck driving up and down the road and we were watching because of the earlier bother. Cliff's son finally drives down the access. Cliff's Dad had died.
It wasn't unexpected according to Cliff and Chris, but that sort of thing is tough.
We sat around the fire for a while and Cliff and Chris spoke quietly just beyond the light of the flames. Then Cliff came back and said he was going to stay the night and Chris left. We sat looking at the fire. It was a good fire and a fine night for the middle of November. Stars showed through the canopy of the tall trees.
I had been talking up the rock quarry about seven road miles above us earlier in the evening. It was a clear night. Pretty soon, the consensus was to go up there and make a fire and have a toast to Cliff's Dad. This particularly appealed to Thom, Jim and Keith who hadn't been to this area before. Besides, it turned out Keith was a star watcher and this couldn't be a better night than this. Steve and Bill stayed to watch the camp. Chairs and carefully selected wood went into my truck and the red van and up we went. Cliff and Woody got real cozy on the passenger side of my truck. They are big fellows and after a day an a long half in camp, they were startin' to smell just about right too. Soon we were at a the rock quarry, a flat and mostly unobstructed place high in the mountains, just as I had said.
I had spent two nights out and one night in the truck up here earlier this summer and one night up with Cliff and Steve to monitor the night sounds. For some reason, for some spooky reason, people don't spend time in the pit. The fire wood that I left there in late August was still there. True, it was in a lower part of the quarry, next to the boulder wall and was wet; but even where it was dry, there was only one new small fire char. Sounds and things happen in that quarry. To the NW, it looks directly at and you can see, the Thomas site on Burnt Granite. On the night Steve and Cliff spent there with me, they heard things they had never heard before in their woods time.
Anyway, over by the cliff side of the quarry is a pile of crushed rock and behind that rock on the cliff side, protected from the breeze, we built a fine fire and put the chairs around it. Far to the north, only one light was visible. The Milky Way was radiant above us. Some shooting stars made their fast way across the dark sky. After a while, short and appropriate toasts were made. Cliff's Father had made good seed for the Earth.
Then we went over with flashlights to the place where the flat stones had been piled after my visits. There were three more somewhat matching stones on the pile and point toward Burnt Granite, there was a small piece of knot wood! Thom wanted to mess with the pile, but I became drunkenly excited and conservative and persuaded him to not mess with them.
At just this point, I believe there is some connection between stacked rocks and the Big Hairy Beasts. Later, on a subsequent trip to that side of the dark quarry, Thom started another flat and smooth pile to entice the critters to show their skills. In my opinion, that was a good move.
While the others sat by the fire and talked, I spent most of the rest of the time in the quarry up and away from the light. Occasionally one and by the end, all of them had gone for a walk with me around the quarry. It was a big place, probably about 2 acres and even in the dark with no moon, the light was good enough to see my way around. On the other nights up there, about 30 minutes after moon set, the howls started. Fortunately for me, the night Steve and Cliff spent up there with me howls started just on time. Only that night, the moon set about 3 AM. Kind of disrupts the evening.
While we planned to stay for only a little while until we doused the fire, we stayed until after 1AM. Jim and Thom played some alleged Bigfoot sounds out of a player/amplifier/speaker combo from the open van doors. They did it several times. Once, from up by the road, I heard an answering howl coming from far away down Tumble Creek. It was probably a coyote. Game was scattered and deep in the brush due to the hunting seasons. I imagine it was the same for Sasquatch.
We went back down to camp. Woody wasn't drinking so was a good and fine driver. I rode in the back. Damn road was real rough and pounded my fat ass good. The brake light thing on the cab was just swell and Cliff made sure to stick his head out the window and ask about my situation every time we hit a big one. Very thoughtful of them.
Bill still had the fire a blazin.' Steve had went to bed about 10:30. He was tired. Cliff went to bed and we poured ourselves another drink and started sitting around the fire. Then Thom and Jim decided that they wanted to go back to the rock quarry and play some more Bigfoot sounds and draw one of them in. There was quite a commotion to keep them at camp since it was late and it wasn't no use. They left at about 2 AM, off to get the Bigfoots.
The next morning, Steve says that he heard the talk about not going back up the hill. The other two got froze out and came back real early. No Bigfoots that night. They said they just crawled in their sleeping bags when they got up there. No noise playing or anything. We aren't as young as we used to be.
I ended up putting some knot wood on the fire. Everybody else went to bed and I fell asleep in the chair. When the fire died down, I would guess about 3:30 AM, I got up sort of drunkenly - course I had quite drinking about 2, looked around and tried to figure out where I was and finally did. I put another big knot on the fire and zipped open the tent flap and flopped down on the cot.
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