Saturday, August 30, 2008

Spring up Oh well!

Our many thanks to my co-worker Robert (Bob) Bailey who clued us in to this adventure. He is truly an adventurer at heart. He spends many hours around the break room and water fountain regaling the masses with his own tales of daring do. He is an avid outdoorsman with all the trophies to prove it. He mentioned to me the existence of an artesian well in our area. His claims of volumes of ice cold water spewing from a pipe in the earth peaked my interest. He gave preliminary instruction on reaching the area. I knew of the area he mentioned but I had rarely visited it and had never explored much beyond the parking area.

On the third of August, Janette and I set off late in the afternoon to search for the illusive well. The parking area we started from was a stone’s throw from the Prospect radio tower. This is a well known landmark as it can be seen for miles perched atop one of the highest hills in the area. The State Game lands parking area is famous with hormonal teens and locals who consider drinking beer and listening to Coyotes howl a sport. A dug road just off the lot leads into the valley on the west side of the mountain. It runs clear to skinner creek road and is closed to motorized traffic.

The road was well maintained and had seen heavy equipment recently. Some of the heavy brush on the edge of the road had been cleared (mowed actually). The area looked to be an overgrown orchard more than forest; the apples were plentiful but still green and bitter. The road descended through a small stand of hemlocks and into more a forest proper. Lots of black cherry and in the clearings between the trees were thickets of berry bushes. Red raspberries were just finishing up; the few that were left were very sweet. The black berries were just beginning to come on and the bushes were loaded with unripe fruit. We enjoyed a few as we searched for our stream.

Our information was that our stream would come in from our left as we traveled down the road it would cross to the right and continue down the valley. The sides of the road were majorly overgrown which could make it difficult to find this stream. I figured that the stream would have to be fairly good size if it was to live up to my friends tales. We continued on our way marveling at the fauna as we went. We came across a tree with clusters of unripe berries. We were clueless as to the identification, as well as a tree that looked to be similar to a horse chestnut only smaller. I would have liked to have a field book handy to aid with the ID.

As we continued I did notice a small stream to our left as predicted. It looked way too small to be fed by the legendary well. We continued downstream to try and confirm that this was indeed the waterway we were seeking. It crossed under the road to the right and then back to the left. The culverts construction betrayed some serious water flow. The amount of water was consistent and sparse, we found it hard to believe the well was indeed the source.

We had traveled almost a mile since it had first crossed the road. The stream was deep in the valley and we decided it had to be what we were looking for. We convinced ourselves that the low levels were due to the dry conditions. With little rain in many weeks the water table had dropped to a point that threatened the existence of the stream. We headed back up the trail determined to find the source and our well.

We buoyed our spirits with several handfuls of berries from the sides of the trail. We noticed that within a few weeks the blackberries would be in full fruit. It is definitely worth a picking adventure with MJ and Danae. We could tell by the droppings in the roadway that the bears were taking good advantage of the crop already. One pile was a bit disconcerting being that it consisted entirely of long black hair. This bear had killed and eaten either a cub or a possibly a large dog. There were no noticeable bone fragments so it was probably a larger animal (i.e. not a squirrel). I have heard that male bears will not tolerate other males of any age in their territory. A possible answers albeit not one I am not anxious to solve.

We arrived at the spot where we first noticed the stream. We left the trail and continued to follow through the woods. To our surprise the stream did not head up the hill but crossed back to the opposite side of the road. We had not seen it due to the thick underbrush on the side of the trail. And more likely we were preoccupied with wildflowers and berries rather than with looking for the stream.

We were hot and tired. The trail is deceptively steep and the hike out was more than we anticipated. With no artisan spring water to slake our thirst we decided to call it a day. We vowed to return armed with more information and our berry buckets.

Lots of Coyote dropping and bear poop. Probably best not to tell MJ and Danae about this when we invite them on the next trip in. We discussed purchasing a spray can of mace. I hear in grizzly country they call it “hiker seasoning”.
I like eating green(unripe) apples as I am more a fan of sour than sweet. My method too avoid a sore tummy consists of masticating the fruit to extract all the flavor then, expelling the pulp. It's not pretty but it works.

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