Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mr Doofus Takes His Ticking And Goes On Hicking

Now for the wiggly things.
Morning two, temps rising, along Crooked Creek.

Much pleased at having survived severe sucking while tromping roughly 10 miles (16 km) downhill through frequent brushy patches (like being buffed by dry, wiry, whirring, rotary brushes at a faulty car wash), Mr Doofus went to bed after removing as many of the brainless nippy critters as he could find.
Hey, there is a sign at the Oregon border, nailed to a tree.

That night he expected to feel the feeling of little tickly feet creeping around under his clothing, or to reach up under his fuzzy sleeping cap to scratch and have his hand come back with two or three hard-shelled flailing nippers stuck under as many fingernails, but instead he slept and had three interesting dreams, none about bugs, and only one about working in a cubicle.

The most fun part was that, being a dream, it was hyper-real, the way really-real never is. You know. Reality, as it's done in the real world is never that good. It's too real. Something always gets screwed up. Half of everything ends up wrong in the worst possible, most surreal way.
River-bottom grass.

But dreams. There you have something. Perfection in a hyper-real way, all squeaky-clean and shiny, and smelling new. And most important, believable in a way that life isn't.
Flower growing out of trailside cliff.

So, in this dream world the office drones were all buffed and polished and smiling and enthusiastic and showed very many teeth at Mr Doofus, but in a happy way, and were more terrifying than ever.

But skipping the details we move back to hiking. Because Mr Doofus woke up.

It was 4:30 a.m. and he had an extreme urge to water the flowers.
Temperature still rising, but no more ticks!

Not only that, but he discovered there was something else that needed tending to, which is about the time he remembered that he had hung his bag of little white squares of (being discreet here) "utility paper" up in a tree with his food, and the whole of it was bound up in a complicated array of lines and ad hoc knots involving two separate trees, neither one of which had been very happy about the whole arrangement, and now he needed to act efficiently and decisively and (most important in this particular situation) quickly, to get that bag down in time, to be followed only milliseconds later by his pants or a Very Unfortunate Incident Would Ensue.
Bridge over Crooked Creek at confluence with Wenaha River.

Jumping right to the conclusion of this story, everything fell out felicitous, as though this was the best of all possible worlds.

After a further two more (blissfully dreamless) hours in his hammock, Mr Doofus arose again, ready for Day 2, though not for more ticks.
Flats along Wenaha River, headed west, looking southeas.

Let us reduce the possibility of harmful stress right now by saying that there were no more ticks on this trip, which is even spookier somehow. They showed up in (OK, "relatively") huge numbers on the first day, in the middle altitudes of Melton Creek canyon. And that was it. There must have been a one-day convention, after which they all went home again.
I don't know either, but it looks good.

The second day began with a crossing of First Creek, which was only a few steps beyond Mr Doofus's camp site. Once at the creek, he found that he'd lost the barely useful but superlight camp shoes he'd made out of insoles and shock cord. Not sure if he'd stuffed these into his pack or left them at the campsite, Mr Doofus decided to trudge back, down the 45 degree slope to his campsite, over to the bath spot where he'd scraped off the last of his ticks, and found the shoes on the ground where he'd thoughtfully left them for himself. Then it was back up the slope for the second time that morning, across First Creek, and on down Crooked Creek.
Wenaha River, looking west.

"The Wenaha–Tucannon Wilderness is home to a variety of wildlife, including Rocky Mountain elk, bighorn sheep, whitetail and mule deer, black bear, cougar, coyote, snowshoe hare, rattlesnake, and pine marten," according to Wikipedia. Mr Doofus saw none of this except for one lizard, two rattlesnakes and 13 apes on horseback.

A rattlesnake came first.

Once at the confluence of Crooked Creek and the Wenaha River, Mr Doofus hung a right and tromped over the delightfully solid bridge there. By this time the day was hot. Eventually the temperature hit 80 F (27 C), but a little before that finally happened, Mr Doofus was clumping along a trail bordered on both sides by forest, and fringed with a little brush. In mid-stride, with his left foot raised and swinging forward, he decided to stop moving and see what was making that intense rustling sound on the trail right exactly below him.
Ditto about being plant-ignorant. It's my specialty.

Anyone reading along doesn't need to be very bright to be way ahead by now. No, not even that far. Back up just a tad. The sound was a "rustling", not a "buzzing", but it was still a rattlesnake.

Rattlesnakes seem to have a problem. It must be a snake thing. If you come on a snake, and it's on your left, then for some reason it absolutely has to zoom across the trail right in front of you so it can be on your right. And if it's on the right, it goes the other way.
Two strong ducks swimming upstream to avoid the Doofus.

Well, this was a rattlesnake, and it started on the left, and so had to head for the right side of the trail, and there was Mr Doofus in mid-stride and all, looking down at this sound that was like the driest of dry leaves rustling together intimately, a sound so clean and sharp that it could have made his ears bleed, if he still had all his hearing, though as it was it was enough to get him perky and paying attention in a right smart way.
Wenaha River, looking west.

Which is where we get to the disappointing part, because rattlesnakes are reasonably intelligent and fast, not to mention efficient, and Mr Doofus isn't. He had a camera, a fine, new camera, zipped up in its cute little pouch, and all he could do was stand there with one foot in the air, looking down at this dandy lovely snake, watching it well, watching it snake across the trail, the muscular loops of its body coming again and again within a half inch (13 mm, plus or minus a kiss of death) of his right shoe, until all of the snake had efficiently slithered into the brush on the right side of the trail and gone invisible and silent again.

So there's no photo.

Not long after, the first two horse-apes came along. This is being too harsh on them, but hey. They were a man and his wife, each astride a horse. The lead horse stopped and got twitchy, and the man said he and his wife had seen two rattlesnakes, and the lead horse thought Mr Doofus as another snake, an observation that led Mr Doofus to raise his opinion of equine intelligence a notch and a half. Most people aren't that perceptive, even if they try.
Ponderosa pine.

But after a short conversation the horse decided that it would rather go on and find more real snakes than stand there and hear Mr Doofus talk, so it moved on, and soon the whole party was gone.
Camp. Nice to have a big tarp, but it's not so good in wind.

That night's camp was at Fairview Bar, a place listed in the guidebook but possibly nowhere else. Warm, flowing water, a couple of decent hammocking trees, and short grass made it a good camp.

Then rain fell all night.

Previously: Mr Doofus Gets Ticked

Pig-Monkey's story

Wenaha–Tucannon Wilderness

Umatilla National Forest

Blue Mountains (Oregon)

Tucannon River