2016 Review: Conclusion

In February I began a more dedicated routine of taking notes (journalling) about my outdoor experiences. In April I began the dedicated routine of taking a Sunday Walkabout. Except for major holidays and pressing family obligations, I was not easily deterred from the routine. Hunting season presented some challenges as I was not prepared to go hunting myself, and thus I felt some hesitance for going into the woods. In the fall of 2017 I must either be content to go hunting myself or continue being creative with how I can get around that issue safely and respectfully.

I greatly appreciated the many times that someone gave me a ride to a trailhead or to the base of a forest service road. These drop-offs would not take but a few moments in a car but would save an hour or so of walking at the first of the day, an hour that could be added to more interesting locations for walking and exploring.

While I captured many experiences in writing, the fact is that there is just as much stuff that I did not write about. For example, in my weekend excursions this year, I only spent one night outdoors, but in point of fact I spent the night outdoors more than a few times in the Monday-Friday routines of life. And we spotted rare and beautiful wildlife on drives that did not show up in my Walkabout journals.

Speaking of the journals, this is the first journalling regimen which has led to any serious review, so there is something to be said for it. I journal everyday, (have done so for years), but I never go back and reread those daily entries, which must mean that there is something mundane and uninteresting in my daily experience which I feel the need to overcome. The Sunday walkabout routine should be something of a standard whereby other days of the week can become “infected” with that greater sense of freedom and purpose. If in 2017, I can but make brief notes in my Outdoor Journals about interesting stuff that happens all the other days of the week, then I think that would be a serious improvement.

2016: Walkabout Highlights Summary

FEB 19—Jump off logs on steep slope, with snowshoes—fun! Fresh fox sign.

FEB 25—Eastern branch of “Three-Horse Rivulet” there are some large Doug. Fir. Learn ropes? Fool Hen. Northern slopes are steep enough to allow “skiing” on snowshoes—fun. Two otters in river in meadow in front of cabins.

APR 17—Hike forest service trail; need snowshoes toward the top. Find nice moose shed (antler).

APR 24—temp in 40’s. Rainy afternoon. Shelter after lunch 2.5 hours of sleet/rain. Make walking stick out of yew. Need snowshoes some stretches of the road.

MAY 1—Discover “Squirrel Rock” and “Daydreamer’s Meadow.” Close encounter with doe. Good numbers of small purple Violets and yellow Trout Lily, and a good number of Trilliums.

MAY 15—Elk common. Deer too. Find small pocket of beautiful red-orange clay, quite pure. Find morels on path to old clearcut.

MAY 22—Harvest some morels and fiddleheads. Fail to find northern approach to Daydreamer’s Meadow, (not using GPS, which would make it easy). Travel east through rough terrain. Find a spring.

MAY 31—A Tuesday Walkabout ends in failure—a teachable moment.

JUN 5—Resume where left-off Tuesday. Male grouse observed atop log. Revisit “Squirrel Rock” and “Daydreamer’s Meadow,” this time continuing northward to discover its relative location from that direction. Accidentally leave walking stick behind.

JUN 12—“Spruce Creek.” Eastern branches sport healthy underground springs and water flows. Make new yew walking stick. Find expansive yew grove and relative watercourse. Following water the terrain becomes increasingly difficult, almost impossible to traverse. Explore mountaintop clearcut: so much waste it looks apocalyptic!

JUN 25—(Not Sunday.) Search for unnamed lake on map. Miss the mark and descend steep gorge along good watercourse.

JUN 26—Retrieve walking stick left behind on JUN 5. On creek to the west, do some “emergency” fishing but eat none. (Resolution: include an imitation fly or two in emergency fishing kit, as live bait can be very elusive.)

JUL 10—Much cold rain! AM hours doing inventory of gear—need better outer shell. Take hike in afternoon towards “Paradox Trail.” Collect handful of huckleberries. See lots of deer.

JUL 16-17—Want to try new hammock. Sleep in notch 7-8 miles out from trailhead. Bad location for sleep: too much breeze; too cold; a terrible night’s sleep—basically none. Pick many huckleberries on return.

AUG 7—Feeling sluggish, feeling malaise. Nice rock structure fifteen minutes from drop-off point. Harassed by hornets at lunch but not stung: scouts, not defenders. Hour of good rain. Sleep under tarp for that hour. Good thimbleberries.

AUG 14—A trip into bona-fide wilderness, a step up from the National Forest I typically haunt. A 1.5 hour early morning ATV ride to the trailhead. (Don’t forget hat and gloves next time!) Goal of the day: 1) get back into habit of drawing/sketching; and 2) catch some fish in alpine lake. Twenty minutes of drawing=an hour of fishing. Steep and rough descent to a lake that is overpopulated with trout. See fresh, large cougar tracks while searching for something to draw. Sketch “bonsai” looking alpine fir growing from crack in boulder. Return to gear at primitive campsite on NW corner of lake. Fifty feet away, smell and see extremely fresh bloody bones from cougar kill in a matted down circle of grass at the lake’s edge. Catch many fish, but most seem a bit skinny and none are over 13”. Golden eagle observed gliding over the ridge below me as I near the top of my ascent from lake area.

AUG 21—Take pickup downriver, closer to town. Search some fishing holes for a handful of miles. With fishing fix out of the way, I can get down to some good walkabout action! Ascend narrow gorge with beautiful creek. The terrain proves more difficult than I first imagined. Impossible to stay along the creek, so climbing walls of gorge necessary. Sketch a neat ponderosa from a distance before dropping back down to creek for lunch. Throw some bits of lunch into a pool and learn that there are fish present. Steep and risky climb back up western slope just to descend back to road. Drive to one more fishing hole on main river, where I will land a couple of beauties; but first rest in hammock twenty feet from road, at such a distance and still out of sight. Goes to make a point that a guy does not always have to go to great lengths and take great risks to feel concealed and content, remote and rewarded.

AUG 28—some of my better walkabouts have been spontaneous, with no clear goal or destination in mind. Today, that is not the case, as I feel compelled, on a relatively nice day, to go forth very close to the cabin, in search of the “perfect shelter site” for the hypothetical rainy day situation, wherein I would like to go outdoors but where I would need quick shelter. I quickly tire of the search, realizing that there is no such thing as the “perfect shelter site,” (except perhaps that which is created out of necessity and keeps you protected when you need it the most.) Lesson learned: do not be only a fair-weather explorer, but at the same time don’t push the envelope of your experience too far too fast.

SEP 4—dropped at same spot as AUG 7. Explore rock structures. Climb eastern slope. More open-minded today about speculating into hypothetical shelter sites, which born out of spontaneous effort does not seem like a burdensome task. On top of hill, just inside tree line, see bull elk (spike) laying down. Healthy patches of wild strawberry on logging trails. Need shelter from an hour of rain. Watch two does while sheltered. Hot lunch gets rid of slight chill. Much traffic on main road, owing to this being a major holiday weekend. Count 13 vehicles (including ATVs) while walking along a two-mile stretch. Surprisingly see a black bear 250 feet in front of me in the road before it bolts back through the river and up the woody hillside.

SEP 18—father-daughter fishing day. Rain looms overhead but misses our location. Sample wild edibles (elderberries, bearberries, and rose-hips) and eat fish for lunch. Thousands of ladybugs on rocks and on ground.

SEP 25—“stealth” bike ride towards “Paradox Trail.” Abundance of fresh balsamic fragrance in the air. Explore “Paradox Trail” on foot. Some interesting natural control points available in the occasional boulder cluster. Spot fine little trout in creek. Find prospective shelter on the side of a neat rock formation. Harvest bearberries for experiment in making jam.

OCT 2—Not typically plagued with indecision about what to do for a Sunday walkabout, but today proves different. I do not get going until noon. Bike ride a long forest road loop with minimal gear (basically just a water bottle and pocket-knife). See several small groups of deer, but they are more skittish nowadays. Would not have hurt to have brought a little more gear on such a ride: a lighter and a wind-breaker would not have been a burden.

OCT 9—Rose-hips better but not great. Blackberries still harvestable. Fish along river on way home from town. Unfortunately, had to make gas run. ‘Poor town folk’ I sympathize. But, I guess they get days off work too.

OCT 16—Heavy rains last night have swollen the river and muddied it more than I can ever remember. I try to fish but not worthwhile. Sharon and Jess are along today. They look for fossils and rocks. I collect some slingshot ammo from a gravel bar at the river’s edge. Sharon finds wild grapes but they are yet a bit sour.

OCT 23—Feel attracted to interesting trees growing from rocks. Climb some steep rugged ground in search of these natural “bonsai” trees, and returning greatly is my interest to develop skills with rappelling gear. A little hand-pruning would not hurt some of these little guys, and perhaps a little fertilizer at their bases would help too. (Resolution: purchase fabric tape-measure to include in daypack gear, so I can measure gaps and holes in rocks where I could hide a cache someday and would need to know what size of a cache container a given spot could hold.) Collect some rose-hips to make tea back home.

NOV 20—Use InReach device for first time. Find another yew grove. Spook a nice buck on corner of a forest service road. Practice dulfersitz rappel method on a 100’ bank. Two does come onto road and one watches me a moment. Run across a fool hen on way home. Tough detour through woods cutting off last mile of road.

NOV 27—Another drive down-river to climb, draw, and explore. Find acreage of wild rose bushes, and waypoint the “rosegarden.” Harvest quite a few as they are now in good flavor, and I suspect may have been so for the past week or two.

DEC 4—After much snow in past two weeks, (about two feet deep), I cannot help but break out the snow-shoes. Go up nearby forest service road, with some difficulty. No base, and it is like walking through cookie dough. Skis might be better here today. Run out of drinking water, so drop down to creek. Boil water for lunch. Must return to old tracks, so climb steep slope back to road. Getting dark as I get home. Fortunately, the family was put at ease via InReach messaging; they were not too worried by my late arrival.

DEC 11—testing an unorthodox tool for firewood gathering. Conduct fire tests near stream. Notice my first-aid salt-tablets are going to expire in February. (Resolution: use existing supplies as needed, and resupply soon.) Abundant snowshoe hare but no large game tracks; however, a deer does take advantage of my snowshoe trail, as I notice on my return trip.

DEC 18—go out a few hundred yards behind cabin to conduct more fire tests with unorthodox wood-gathering tool. A beautiful day, albeit relatively cold.

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