Participants: Steve Schombel, Laura Lindquist, David & Julie Kahl
There Be The Ticks!
It was a perfect day. Weather leading up to this day had made it look like it could be either raining or snowing, but as we met at Walmart the temperature was around freezing, not too cold to gather outside, under a blue sky. It clouded up later in the day, but the temperatures in the 40’s made for a nice hiking day. The Timber Company Gate, just off of Highway 12, has limited parking and a “day use only” sign for non-motorized use. We think that this was some old Plum Cr./Stimpson lands that Weyerhauser hadn’t sold to Southern Pines Plantations, i. e. still Weyerhauser land. It had burned in the 2013 fires and seedlings had been planted, though few survived. It was still a bit chilly in the bottom, in the trees, but shortly we were up off the valley floor into the dry southern facing slopes. There was a prominent rock outcropping above us, as for the first mile or so the road just switched back up the face, with the last long section going below the rocks to a point, that was the east side of Anderson Gulch. Anderson Gulch was the one used by the Nez Pierce to get up on the ridges above and get around the “Fort Fizzle” blockade in 1877. Looking at it in the past, from the highway, with trees in it, it looked daunting, now, with no trees, it didn’t look that bad from above, but still an effort. We stopped for lunch at the point, exactly 2 miles/ 3.22k and high noon. We had a clear view of Lolo Peak to the south, but now it was starting to get covered in snow clouds, and there was a bit of a wind.
It was here we first noticed ticks on David’s pant legs. We had come across several minor road junctions but had always taken the more traveled -that is less brushy- route. Now, we continued on on a more brushy road, with some interesting tall grass on the side, to a second point, above the roping arena. This was as far as we had come from the west, when we hiked these roads a few years ago from just east of Woodman School -an access point now closed to the public. Lolo Peak was now completely obscured, the clouds were looking rainy and there was a whiff of skunk on the wind. And… the next junction that would let us get higher was at least a 1/2 mile/ 0.80k away on a brushy road, so we opted to turn back. On the way back we saw the skeleton of a ruminate down in one of the gullies, a magpie in the same area. Back, going down the face, Laura drew our attention to deer on the ridge to the east. The ridge didn’t seem that far away, but when we finally spotted the deer by their movement, they looked the size of large ants. Visible white butts made us agree they were probably mule deer. Not much further down two blue birds, a male and a female came to check us out. We were disappointed at not seeing any flowers: others had been posing pictures of buttercups, yellow bells and pasque flowers. David, went down off the road and did see some unopened pasque flowers. We had been flicking off ticks all the way back down, and searched everything before getting in our vehicles back at the trailhead. We had gone slightly over 5 1/2 miles/ 8.85k. in a nice mid-day walk.