December 13, 2009

Late Fall Cabin Fever

It has been a chilly and dry late Fall.  Last weekend there were single digit temperatures, severe windchill, and no decent snow in the vicinity.  Despite some grand designs earlier in the week, we decided to stay home.  However, by Sunday afternoon, knowing I'd be working the next weekend, I had developed a severe case of cabin fever.  So I decided to take a walk across the hill above our house.


A week earlier I had forced the kids to come on a walk with me along nearly the same route.  I was careful not to call it a hike or even a walk so that it didn't seem like a punishment.  Instead I called it an adventure, an "explore."  When they asked how long we would be walking I told them we would keep walking until they saw 10 deer or 10 interesting things.  They didn't much care for this requirement so they immediately began trying to negotiate a deal.  Was a coyote worth two deer?  How much were birds or chipmunks or the moose worth?  Is a rock considered interesting?

Most of their proposals were shot down though I did agree that a coyote would be worth about 3 deer.  Deer have been far fewer this fall, I'm not sure why, and we didn't see any.  So we kept walking.

Over the course of our exploration the kids did discover part of a deer antler, a dead baby deer skeleton, a piece of a coyote's jaw with several sharp molars still intact, and several striped feathers that I'm not sure what kind of bird they are from.  We also found an old metal washtub and a rusted 5 gallon paint can.  They almost fulfilled the "10 interesting things" requirement, but not quite.  As the sun started to sink in the sky, I figured this was a pretty good haul and we headed back.

Near the top of the hill there is a barbed wire fence surrounding several large fields, along the edge of the palouse.  I spotted two hunters mounting a tree stand on the far side of the fence, looking into the forest where we were.  I waved and one waved back.  We were probably ruining their chances of getting a kill, but I'm not sure why they were hunting so close to town.  They even had a four wheeler in case they got something.  I'm not against hunting, but I don't like lazy hunters near my house.

On my walk I was hoping I'd have more success since I could move quicker and scramble across steeper sections of the hill that I hadn't wanted to drag the kids across.  Fresh, untapped territory.  Perhaps I moved too quickly because I didn't find as many small artifacts as the kids.  Instead I found big things, like this felled tree with its bark "skeleton" left behind.


Or this lonely basalt outcropping in the middle of a nice stand of trees.  I had my GPS with me and took a waypoint.  I was tempted to make a little geocache, but since it is on private land it didn't make much sense.


I also found a little tributary stream off Hangman Creek.  It was frozen (the white stuff is ice).


I also came across a short trail that connects a small private road off of Hangman Valley road and S Southfork Ln. 

Before long the sun hung low in the sky and, despite my short list of "finds" for the day, I figured it was time to head home.  I laughed to myself that I wasn't able to fill the required list of 10 things myself, though actually completing the list wasn't the point. 

Ironically, however, on my way back, near the top of the hill where I had seen the hunters several days earlier, I startled a group of about 10 deer and slowly herded them north.  I smiled and laughed to myself again--good thing they weren't here the other day, otherwise the walk with my kids would have been too short and at least one of the deer could have ended up in pieces in someone's freezer.

I sure hope it snows soon.



  1. Have you ever taken the kids geocaching? Maybe they wouldn't hate the hikes so much if you were searching for hidden treasures.

  2. I thought I had your contact info. Can you contact me at johnspeare at gmail dot com? Regarding the private trail that runs near your home. Happy New Year!

  3. It sounds like it was a pleasant jaunt. This certainly isn't my idea of January (or December) weather. I've taken the girls out for a couple of night-time walks, but the dynamics are very different. We've run across a few deer, but it's rather difficult to spot treasures along the walk, and they get cold pretty quickly.