In which Fiddle and I do not get lost, but we do get bewildered.

"I can't say I was ever lost, but I was bewildered once for three days."
--attributed to Daniel Boone

I have a pretty good sense of direction, but I have had plenty of bewildering moments.

I can wander around the wilderness for days, and know where I am within about a quarter-mile. That's pretty good. (this is only true outdoors, BTW. I have been lost several times in the mall, walking in circles for hours and always ending back at the --ick-- perfume counter at Macy's. I just don't go to the mall anymore)


The problem is that knowing where I am is not exactly the same as knowing how to get home.

Sometimes the road just stops. Sometimes there's a tree blocking the trail. One memorable time, there was a gigantic irrigation pipe across the path that we couldn't go under, over or around (we were bewildered until about 2 a.m. on that little adventure).

Today, Fiddle and I returned to the trailhead we visited last week. The last time I considered myself "familiar" with this trail system was in 2004. Since then, the forest has changed. Some parts have been chopped down, other parts have grown tall. There are no reliable trail markers, and there's no map. But, what the heck: it was a good day for bewilderment!

I took the GPS with me, but today we had a heavy cloud cover and some rain--not ideal conditions for a good GPS signal. As I expected, my wristtop GPS "chirped" at me several times to indicate that the signal was weak.

I also took surveyer's tape to drop along the path. Unfortunately, because I had lost the bright pink tape on my last ride, I had to use green tape. It blended in with the foliage really well. Sigh.

Speaking of blending:
This little doe was hoping that I wouldn't see her. In fact, I could see her quite clearly, but the camera had trouble spotting her (it was raining, and the sky was pretty dang dark considering that it was 1:00 in the afternoon!)

After passing the deer, I pointed Fee up a STEEP trail that ascended the side of a clearcut. When we had almost reached the top, I saw something unusual in a teenage fir tree:
I know, it's a crummy picture. I could see the owl quite clearly, but she decided that my big moosey-horse was scaring all the game, so she left before I could get a good photo. I've never seen a wild pygmy owl before--she was about the size of my hand, and she flew like a chickadee, dropping down from the tree before bobbling up to the top of a tree further away from us. To learn more about pygmy owls (and see better pictures), click here. They are pretty cool little creatures.


The view from the top of the clearcut.
Here's a little video I shot from the top. I was so proud of Fiddle for hauling my butt up this trail, and she was hardly winded at all...in fact, partway through the video you can hear her munching on a tree branch because she's bored with standing still while I run the camera. The trailhead is at an elevation of about 200 feet (or fewer) above sea level.

All the elevation you see was gained in about 3 miles of scrambling up a skinny little trail.
It's no wonder the pygmy owl was surprised to see us!

About 100 yards after the owl abandoned us, Fiddle alerted and signalled "predator." Fiddle's signals are not totally reliable. She thinks cows are predators. However, we were on the side of a wilderness hill, and I know there are bears and cougars in the area.


My solution?


Sing!


Human voices in general are shunned by bears and cats, and my voice, lifted into a boisterous version of "Oh Dear, What a Catastrophe / Seventeen Pirates got Stuck in the Lavat'ry" is pretty much guaranteed to warn off anything shy of a rabid wolf.


(we don't actually have wolves here, rabid or otherwise, just in case you were worried).


Within 100 yards, Fee stopped alerting. Whatever it was decided that the better part of peace and quiet would be elsewhere.


At the top of the scramble, the path wound through some Very Tall Trees. It might be tempting to call these "old growth trees", except for the stump that sits as a reminder of what REAL old growth trees were like:
The cedar tree that used to be attached to this stump was cut, by hand, at least 80 years ago. That means that 80 years of rotting has gone by, and the stump is still more than twice as big around as the trees surrounding it.


Cool.

Walking through the climax-forest. These trees have very little undergrowth beneath them. They will continue getting bigger until they are cut (or burnt) down.

A much larger log shows how "little" the standing trees really are. The fallen log has probably been down for at least 20 years.


When I emerged from the patch of tall trees onto a logging road, I was interested to discover that, although I mostly knew where I was, and was perfectly capable of re-tracing the route I had just travelled, I really didn't know where the logging road would lead. The trailer was parked to the south, but the road to the south went uphill. When you've parked at sea-level and want to go back to the trailer, uphill doesn't help much, even when it's the right direction. So, with 6 hours of daylight to play around in, Fiddle and I chose to go downhill and northwards.


The logging roads aren't nearly as steep as the scramble trail we had taken uphill. It was nearly two miles of gravel downhill before we came to a trail that turned south and downhill. I walked beside Fiddle and fed her grass. I sang. There are lots of verses to the Pirate song, and I can make up lots more whenever I need some.


It was good.


The downhill/southwards trail started seeming familiar, and suddenly:
pink flagging tape! I know who put that on the trail!


Just around the corner from the flagging tape was a property marking sign.

From the sign, just 2 more miles of familiar trails until we hit the "main" logging road that led back to the trailer.


Total time elapsed: less than two hours

Total milage: about eight miles


Total fun?


You know it.


Life is good.

Comments

  1. I am so jealous!! Except for the not knowing where you were part! That is a gorgeous trail!! You will have to tell me where that is!

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  2. What a great ride - and thanks for the owl picture - that was amazing!

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  3. My kind of ride! Just my horse and I exploring!

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  4. You are so brave!

    I am not quite that brave, however, I am going to get me some of that hot pink tape, great idea!

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  5. Paint Girl: "Morgan Club" tract of the Pilchuck Tree Farm. Info here: http://www.mhcws.org/treefarm.html

    Kate: the owl was tremendously cool!

    txtrigger: yep, it's the kind of ride I like best.

    Jocelyn: pink tape is good. orange is good. green tape, not so much.

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  6. Hah! My sentiments exactly! Looks like a terrific way to spend the day. I hope I'll feel brave enough again in the future to ride alone. I love the peace and quiet of nature...and the wildlife, too. And if there are bears or lions....I'd be joining in your loud singing of my own renditions of the pirates in the lavo'try song. lol!

    Thanks for the video tour. The views are gorgeous.

    Also thanks for the kind words over at my blog. You really made me feel great. :)


    ~Lisa

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  7. I wants to hear me some pirate song singing!!
    Looks like a lovely ride, and one I wouldn't have hesitated to take a few years ago. Now, maybe...

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  8. EvenSong: if you show up at the Renegade Rendezvous ride, even just to say "howdee", I will sing the Pirate song for you. July 3rd, at the Nile.

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  9. A wee owl! And a doe! And an invisible swordsman! TOO COOL.

    Fee is an excellent horse. And it's so beautiful up there... except it rains all the time. Ick :-/

    Good job getting unbewildered! I've never gotten so lost that I didn't know which way to go to eventually get back to civilization. I often don't know the quickest way, but I always know which way.

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