Monday, September 8, 2008

Artesian Wells and Black Gold

Like General Douglas MacArthur we have returned. And like Doug we too have brought reinforcements. Daughter Danae and Wife MJ have joined us. Our rousing tales of a veritable Blackberry Valhalla peaked their interest. They packed their berry buckets and were ready to hit the trail. Always appreciative of the company, we eagerly accepted their help.



Our plan was to mount a two phase attack. Our full force would drive deep into the heart of the wilderness. Once firmly entrenched behind enemy lines, MJ and Danae would attack the berry patches with full force. While these two veritable picking machines devastated the harvest, Janette and myself would push on to the well. After our goal was achieved and success assured, we will return and help pack out the spoils of war.





We headed off down the trail through the old orchard we had encountered on the first trip. The apples now sporting a hint of red were still more sour than sweet. We pocketed a few handfuls for later on the way.


In the clearings between the trees small patches of berry bushes beckoned. Their berries were surprisingly large considering what little rain we had been having. The girls were eager to get picking. Janette and I were equally eager to find them a staging area in a large patch so we could proceed with our phase of the mission. In true Binder fashion we reached a compromise. We continued on picking the largest berries as we went. Janette and I lent a hand (usually two) and while progress was not as quick as I would have liked we were able to continued at a somewhat regular pace.




Finally we reached an old clear cut area. The berry bushes had taken over every square foot of usable ground. I had attached a five gallon bucket to my pack frame, we placed it a bit down the trail from where they were picking, and we headed off to find the well.



It was obvious as we headed down the trail that every animal in the woods was taking advantage of the berries. Each pile of scat on the trail contained predominately blackberry seeds and all were stricken with diarrhea. I guess at some level it is worth the pain. As we passed a particularly thick patch of berry bushes we were somewhat startled by the flush of a large bird. Janette momentarily had a flash back to her grouse experience but it quickly passed. I could tell by the sound it was no grouse. The bushes were too thick to get a good look but the feathers he left behind confirmed it was a turkey.





By this time we were on new ground. Bob from work had informed me that we had not gone quite far enough. There were a few more minor details he neglected to mention but rather than embarrass him let’s just say we were happy to know we were now on the right track.

The trail crossed the entrance to a long valley. A dug road ran steeply up the side. At the far end was a cement culvert. I wonder if this marked the stream we were looking for. There was a fair bit of water in it for this time of year. We could see small trout darting under the banks as we approached. It is doubtful this creek ever dries up. We decided to follow it up the valley. As we headed into the woods we noticed that the stream meandered back and forth across the hollow. At that point the road seemed an easier way to follow.



The road was steep and out from under the protection of the foliage. The sun was high now and it was very hot. The temperature ranged into the mid 90’s which made the climb even more difficult. Watching the stream from the hillside we figured we had a ways to go being the flow had not diminished. I noted in a field just ahead of us a large pipe extending about four feet out of the ground. It was close to eight inches in diameter and seemed to be riddled with bullet holes. As we approached it was clear that the holes had been drilled. At the base of the pipe the holes had rusted through and tennis ball sized orifices were formed. From here the water gushed fourth... we had found our well.


The volume was quite impressive all the holes 8 inches up the pipe were flowing. The water was very cold and quite inviting. We refilled our depleted water bottles and drank them greedily almost to the point of cramps.


After we filled our belly's we decided to take the temperature of the water. The temperature was low enough that it was hard for Janette to hold the thermometer in the water long enough for a good reading. The lowest we register was about 45ºF. It was quite refreshing after our arduous hike in. We sat for a while and just enjoyed the sight of the well. Something about flowing water that just can mesmerize you.


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A text message from MJ brought us back to earth. Their battle was won. The berries were in full retreat and it was time for us to pick them up and bring this mission to a close. We bounded up the trail refreshed by the frigid waters and quickly met up with the rest of the party. We shared the water we had brought and headed for the parking area.

The trail out was a lot steeper than we counted on. The trip in is very deceptive, the slope out is much greater than it seems coming in. Add to the fact that we had exhausted our selves hiking and picking. I shoulder my pack frame. The attached 5 gallon bucket was more than half full. The adventure car was a welcome sight at the top of the trail. Although it is always bittersweet to end an adventure.




Back home we quickly cleaned and processed about 12 quarts of berries. Not a bad for a few hour’s work especially if you figure in the number we ate. Daughter Janette pulled some jam recipes off the internet. Black berry jam is especially good on our homemade wheat bread. I like to mix the frozen berries with a little milk, simply decadent. MJ mixes them in her cereal or oatmeal, but for Danae it is all about the muffins.

Epilogue: Old Faithful it is not, but by far the coolest thing we have done to date. It is amazing what is in your own back yard. Thank to good folks like Bob, willing share their local info, we were able to successfully complete this adventure. For our next trip, we are looking at an area marked on our topo map as Devil’s Den. Bob has already been a fount of information on this site.

On a sad note Janette is moving to NYC. This will be an adventure in itself. We are going to work hard to carry on that spirit of adventure she has inspired in us. I’m sure when she comes to visit she will be ready to join us on whatever adventure we are doing. Who knows? We may join her for an adventure.