20 Sep (Mon) 35° on the porch. A soggy, cold, but frost-free meadow. Lovely scenes outside when the sun rose shining through the vapors, casting a muted, hazy light—one that makes for bad photos but is sheer delight to witness. Caught the horses easy with a bucketful of horsey-heroin. [e.g., grain.] Cats were both out there and Shitbird chased Lucy across the yard…got her extremely irritated. Now that I think about it, this is right around the time Shitbird was born last year. He was the last gift my father gave me so he’s kinda special in that regard. But, aside from that, he’s certainly one of my best-ever kitties in terms of good nature, intelligence, and fine looks. ◦◦◦◦◦ Rode Woody to Bill’s Creek. Cleaned waterbreaks and rocked trail along the West Fork as far as the metal bridge. Nary a soul did I see. After reaching the bridge, went exploring. Crossed the creek and climbed up on ledges on the other side. Took out an old firefit I’d never seen, climbed up to a high-point and gradually descended past some neat old trees and little sand flats back to the river, following its west side back to the bridge. Some nice views of green pools and ivory slickrock. A quiet afternoon, low waters murmuring. Walked back to my horse and home we went. Wet tread so no dust. Looking stormish again. ◦◦◦◦◦ Back to Piute: at the ford, Lucy was there on the cabin side of the river, hiding in the willows. I spotted her watching us but acted as if I hadn’t seen her. (Didn’t know she came all the way over here; figured she stayed closer to home during daylight hours.) Tom was there, too—he’d heard us coming and dashed over. He fell in behind as we crossed and I abruptly wheeled Woody around so that we were both looking right down on Lucy, huddled there in the bushes all nervous. “Flushed” her by riding right into the thicket. When she bolted for the cabin I spurred Woody up and we went in hot pursuit of my fluffy cat who sprinted full speed across the meadow, all stretched out with paws a-flyin’. Pretty hilarious from my point of view…and I don’t think she was really, truly scared. I pulled Woody up short before heading up to the hitchrail and ran him (against his will) to the back fence, just to mess with his head. Tom came after, obviously glad to have his pal back, ready for a romp, kicking his heels and tossing his neck in equine delight. Then let Woody go home for real which he did most eagerly at subsonic speed, me hanging on for dear life, hooo-wee! Tom met us at the rail, all of us breathing hard, very much alive. Got Woody unsaddled, turned him loose, and just as I stepped onto the porch the sky cut loose. Hailed, then rained for awhile as the sun shined on. ◦◦◦◦◦ After it quit I climbed up into my (slightly damp) hammock to write. Fine views and lights. Saw Shitbird in the meadow hunting for voles—out beyond the back fence! That’s fine…until the coyote shows up. “Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.” I do hope he survives. Strange to be up in my tree, see a tiny dark speck in the meadow about 500 feet away, and realize that I know this meadow so well I could tell that minute speck was my yearling Abyssinian mini-lion. Whistled a few times and he started for home but got waylaid. ◦◦◦◦◦ Took a river bath after the rain stopped. ◦◦◦◦◦ Oh, and I forgot this curious item: awhile back, Greta packed some Fish&Game folk up here while I was gone. When she came out, mentioned to me that she’d lost her radio antenna. (These things screw on and apparently can come loose and unscrew themselves. Hasn’t happened to me—yet). Anyway: right after that, riding back into Piute, I found her antenna beside the trail. Next time out, dropped it off at Greta’s house and, later still, I visited her there and saw the antenna—still on her table, right where I’d left it. Commented on it and she answered back, “Oh…you put that there! Where’d it come from? I’ve been wondering.”——“I found the thing by the trail right after you told me you lost it.”——“Well, it’s not mine. We don’t have any antennas like that.”——“Not yours? So where’d it come from? Did the Fish&Game people lose one, maybe?”——“I don’t know!” Pretty weird; it’s not as if I find radio parts by the trail every day, ‘specially not after just having one reported missing.
21 Sep (Tue) Up at 6:00. 33° on the porch. Got into this log and found that the “Piute Fire” [lightning-caused fire, given an official name as per standard procedure] started on August 10th—that day it rained all day. I believe I heard the blast that lit it. It’s still smoldering, apparently. Let the thing burn, say I! (Anybody who works in Wilderness has a bit of anarchist in them…a love of chaos.) ◦◦◦◦◦ Fed the stove and read the Jüng bio, Lucy sleeping on a folded towel I put on the open stove door right beside me—one happy kitty. A word about living with cats: ◦◦◦◦◦ These two are both loaded with personality. Lucy sleeps probably 16 hours a day. She has genuine feline charisma, loves attention (a real hedonist) and is a delight to pet and rub because she enjoys it so much, and shows it. She looks me straight in the eye sometimes, with a calm openness that’s utterly endearing. She responds to my moods; when she’s “been bad” and I growl at her she cowers and appears abashed—a common reaction to disapproval in dogs but rare with cats. We have a wonderful, fellow wild-animal rapport. Then, Shitbird: a stunning beauty and I often gaze at his leonine form, marveling at the subtle Abyssinian coloration. He’s full of life and himself, is active probably ten hours a day (quite a lot for a cat). He’s willful and impatient, resents intrusion, purrs loudly when in his affectionate state. ◦◦◦◦◦ Both cats sleep with me in the loft and nap there all day after about 11:00. My sleeping bag is filthy, inside and out, but I can’t see it very well in the eternally dim light up there and don’t really care to think about it, thank you. The point of this sidebar is that I have thoroughly enjoyed the company of cats as long as I can remember. There have been times in my life where my best friend was a cat. (That implies bad times….) They make solitude so much easier to bear. Next to women, they’re the finest of sleeping partners. It’s a great comfort for me to wake in the night and feel a warm Lucy curled by my shoulder. A quick pet and a purr in the dark and I’m asleep again. When it’s cold I’ll drag her under the covers. (When it’s really cold she crawls in on he own.) All I know is that I dearly love to sleep with something soft and warm and alive by my side—truly one of life’s finest offerings. My life would not be nearly so rich without the kitties. They’ve educated me, shown me lots of things, and especially have tried to teach me how to live gracefully. ◦◦◦◦◦ Had leftover dinner for breakfast. Washed dishes, hauled water, swept the floor, wiped counters, filled lanterns, split kindling. All the little chores that make my days unfold so slowly. The morning rhythm here is very pleasant. ◦◦◦◦◦ Walked up the Kirkwood trail to clean waterbreaks. The trail was scoured by the recent storms—lotsa loose rock to move—and, as always, sad to see the trail tread being washed away. Truly, these brief summer thunderstorms are far and away the greatest erosive agent. Fortunately, almost all the breaks and dips had been working. Still, a lot of wet sand to dig and I worked like a dog, sweating from the humidity. Nonetheless, a fine quiet latest-summer day in the mountains. I really enjoyed being out working and I’m so fit I can take this back-wrecking labor in stride. ◦◦◦◦◦ KING BOLETES all over the place! Perfect weather for ‘em: relatively warm with the repeated light soakings. Definitely “mushroom weather.” ◦◦◦◦◦ At one point a couple miles up the trail I spotted a funny little rock “overhang” 50 feet above the trail, something I’d never noticed before. It just caught my eye, a little chunk of rock with a shady bit of ledge below it. I hesitated but thought, “Hey: go check it out. Ya never know what you might find.” So I scrambled up there and, along the way, found an old blaze on a lodgepole. I recognized the still-visible part as an over-grown, stylized “R,” part of a common carving hereabouts that I’ve seen in a dozen locations, some of them with dates from the early 1890s. (I never would have spotted this from the trail but it’s barely visible there from, now that I know.) I continued on up the slope and found a stunning little spring that slid over a graceful polished slab. Lovely feature with a nice view through a window in the trees. The little overhang turned out to be nothing but I sure was glad it pulled me off the trail. ◦◦◦◦◦ Surprise! Hu-man by the trail! First of four, first people I’ve seen in three days. Others strolled up and we had a nice visit. I sent them over the hill into Rainbow, then Thompson Canyon to Peeler Lake as a more adventurous route back to Twin Lakes. They were game and very appreciative of the hot tip. As they’d come up the trail these guys were seeing my work all fresh, clearly done after last evening’s storm and they were glad to meet the worker. One fella, when he walked up said, “There’s the man with the shovel.” ◦◦◦◦◦ Walked back home on the old trail along the river. First time in a few years. Admired the flood’s ravages in the meadows. ◦◦◦◦◦ To the hammock again. Sure enough, a little storm has moved in as I write this and I see drops dimpling the surface of the river but the tree’s canopy is protecting me for the time being. Solitaires calling and the odd thunder-rumble; fine sunlight glowing up the mountains. More rain: down I go. ◦◦◦◦◦ A bit later, almost dark. I’m in the cabin. It’s raining vigorously outside but just lightly in, thanks to the leaky skylights. I have my dishpans laid out in a familiar pattern. (They have to be moved several times as the storm progresses and the drips shift.) A half hour ago I was languidly reclined in my aerie until it started dripping on me. I was writing…mostly trivial stuff because not much happened today. Truth is, as I went up the trail with shovel this morning I was reflecting that I’ve bragged to people that “every day it’s something new, something amazing happens every day, bla bla blah.” Was noting that this was a truly outstanding late-summer day, no bugs, perfect temp, charming clouds. But I was just cleaning w-breaks—that most mundane rangerly activity. Not much chance of human interaction; barring some unforeseen nature display or a meteorite plowing a furrow to my feet this was panning out to be a pretty boring day. But I started packing up to climb down the tree when all hell broke loose. ◦◦◦◦◦ First off: I’m putting my shoes back on, getting ready to head down, happen to glance out across the meadow. And there’s a coyote just beyond the back fence. I don’t know where Shitbird is and I get a wave of paternal anxiety. (He’s been hunting right where the coyote is.) So I do my cat whistle real loud and Shitbird bursts out of deep sedges on this side of the fence—only 30 yards from the coyote—and Mr. Coyote simultaneously breaks into a run but he’s making a beeline for the forest. I see two brown animals making for nearest cover, heading in opposite directions. I get a full adrenaline rush—it looked like the ‘yote was stalking my cat and I spotted it at just the right moment and broke up the action. I descend my tree post-haste. Cat comes into the yard and I scold him like a parent. It’s the “golden light” and raining hard. Just then the sound of a helicopter intrudes and here it comes—looks to be buzzing that little Piute Fire but it swings around over the meadow and I see it’s one of those bright-orange rescue helicopters. It veers back toward the smoke and zooms out of sight—lightning strikes going off in the clouds above—and I’m getting amped. “What the…!?!” Then it’s here, suddenly right overhead, and I’m out in the meadow getting pelted by hail, gazing up as it wheels 250 feet overhead. I can clearly read NAVY and RESCUE on its sides. As the beast turns I see a guy hanging in the open door, see his helmet and goggles and flight suit and him looking straight at me and I do an exaggerated shrug, the universal sign for “WHAT THE FORK!?!” They scream off and I wave a goodbye. Then run for the radio, call Minden Dispatch to see what’s going on. Not surprisingly, they know nothing. Meanwhile the ship is buzzing around down-canyon, doesn’t come in close again but hovers in the vicinity of the smoke. Minden comes back saying Pickel Meadows [the nearby Marine Corps base] knows nothing about a flight. And it’s raining hard with lightning going off all around and this incessant chopper noise coming loud then soft. Last sun on peak tips…a dramatic evening storm which I normally would’ve enjoyed quietly from my porch. Instead, I’m running around in the rain, anxious for my cat’s life, dashing for the radio, multiple helicopter attacks. Life of a ranger, I guess. ◦◦◦◦◦ It got dark. The helicopter disappeared like a hallucination. But it kept raining into the black, lightning too. Very unusual to have storms hang around this late into the evening. But just fine for a cozy night in the cabin by the stove. Except it postponed my steak barbeque.
The next day I got a call from the radio dispatch center letting me know that the helicopter was searching for a missing airplane and, from a distance, spotted the smoke from my little wildfire and came in for a look. They had no business being there (flying over designated Wilderness—one of the prohibitions), especially without contacting someone first. I never heard anything further about a missing aircraft.
©2017 by Tim Forsell 24 May 2016, 20 August 2017