Thursday, September 18, 2014

Day 8
Worked things out with my lovely spouse so that I could have a few days in a row to do an extended hunt.  I went to the super-secret spot that everyone else knows about, but ha ha! I had a day off in the middle of the week and it was almost like a wilderness experience.  I live for that feeling of isolation in a world that is wired so differently, with completely different rhythms, than the one I live in the rest of the time.  Parked at the end of a spur that continues on deep into a drainage past a tank trap which discourages most of the ATV's and other off roaders.  I have found elk in here virtually every time I've been here.  It has that dark, lush and steaming feeling of the primeval forest I've described in earlier entries, most of the time.  However, after 7-8 weeks of 80 degree plus temperatures, and no precipitation, it was like walking through a bowl of corn flakes. It was getting late but it had been a long three days at work, and I was restless.  (I shouldn't complain, I shorten my work week during hunting season which is a luxury many don't get to enjoy).  So I grabbed my gear for an evening walk down into the drainage to see what was happening.  Elk in this area, even during early hunting seasons, seem to mostly stay down low in these steep coastal mountain drainages. 
The downside of this is they are hard to get to, hard to sneak up on, and the pack out, if you're lucky, is daunting.  The upside is that they are there, and you're likely to see one of the more majestic looking critters in the North American wilds sooner or later if you spend enough time, plus, you'll get natural scenery like the pictures provided.  This is about as good as it gets on public land, and I am grateful it is still here to see.  Got a serious case of what my wife teasingly calls "the bends" (I gotta see what's around the next one) and ended up farther out than I had planned.  Tired and happy, with some old elk sign for encouragement, I returned to camp.
Day 9
Up later than usual, and sore.  Did an abbreviated version of my morning routine to shake the rust out of my joints, and traveled a twin track uphill, figuring that by mid-morning elk and deer would be finding a safe ridgeline to bed down on.  Saw 6 deer (all does) and a cow elk on my way up, so I was practically running to get to the spot I'd decided on.  Spent the day hiking ridges, and the evening back in the drainage of the night before.  Despite lots of sign, didn't see anything else for the rest of the day, other than a few vistas that stopped me in my tracks and distracted me from the pursuit.
By this evening (Friday) the local hunters started racing in after work.  Two separate trucks came down the 1/2 mile long dead-end spur I was camped on, looking for a place of their own.  While I can't begrudge others like myself who are looking for space to hunt away from the daily grind, it does underscore how necessary it is to protect such rare and precious
places that are left.  There are only going to be more people who want to have the experience, and with more people comes more pressure.  My secret place is obviously not a secret. 
Day 10 
Up on time this morning, my last day away from home.  It's a Saturday, so the hunting community is out in full force.  I'd decided to drive to a new area, but on the way found myself following a couple fellows who were driving pretty slow and glassing the slopes from the road.  They obviously didn't see me and I wasn't of a mind to honk (there's no honking in hunting!). Eventually they noticed me and let me by, and I noticed that I was starting to get a bad attitude.  Figuring that the best I could hope for today would be to scout somewhere I'd never been, I picked a heavily overgrown twin track and crashed my truck through the high grass and saplings down a bit in to a drainage I hadn't explored before.  Got out, grabbed my stuff, and walked the rest of the way.  Turns out that was the ticket.  While the SUV's, ATV's, and 4x4 pick-ups buzzed around above like gnats over a fruit bowl, I started a hike down into isolation that eventually led to this....
Then this...
And finally, this...
They were in the bottom browsing calmly, as if they hadn't a care in the world, seemingly unaware of the dangers all around up above.  Maybe confident in their ability to outrun and out-negotiate the terrain in this area, against anything that might threaten.  Certainly it was true in my regard.  Between my self and this small group was the detritus of old logging operations, consisting of a knee deep layer of small branches (what my timber-cruiser uncle would call "dog hair," as in the piles of fuzz that you find in the corners of a room while vacuuming).  Interlaced through this were small briars, equivalent to 4-5 pound test monofilament.  One alone is not much of a barrier, but drag your foot through 3 or 4 and you'll likely end up on your face.  Sprinkle on top a layer of dry leaves, and the futility of attempting to sneak up on them becomes obvious.  I tried anyway, with predictable results, though I did notice that my attitude problem had disappeared all of a sudden.  Off they went with the "crash crash, thadump dump dump!" sound of heavy animals quickly leaving the scene.  I finished scouting the area after they had left, and determined that I will not be driving that twin track any more.  I want the saplings to continue growing so as to discourage frustrated knuckleheads like me from driving down into my new "secret" place.  I'll walk there instead.

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