Saturday, December 26, 2015

North Bank Deer Habitat 12/2015

I have met my nemesis and it is cheesecake. I was good at Christmas dinner and ate just one small slice of the calorie-laden carb-infused delicious goo-on-a-pie-crust. However, the leftovers mysteriously wound up inside our refrigerator and just as mysteriously, a large portion was consumed by some anonymous sugar-eater. It surely wasn't me and that is my story and I'm sticking to it. However, just to be sure, the day after Christmas was an opportune time for yet another calorie burning hike in the North Bank.

Leafless oak on a winter morn
The weather had not been very hiker-friendly in December but there was a short break in the deluges the day after Christmas and grandson Aiden and I were appreciative of the dry weather, although it could have been just a tad bit warmer. Actually, it could have been a lot warmer as the temperature was well below freezing as we set out in the early morning. Aiden was sporting a lot of warm weather clothing, courtesy of Santa Claus. I had received a lightweight hammock and rainfly as my reward for being nice all year (stop with the snickering, already) but the hammock is of little use in cold weather. Aiden must have been nicer for a larger part of the year.

Don't want to talk about it
At any rate, it was a frosty walk to the wet lowland sporting the hilarious name of Soggy Bottoms. I told Aiden that Soggy Bottoms was my nickname in grade school but I didn't want to talk about it. For added emphasis, I hung my head down as if in shame. Without missing a beat, he dropped his head down and said "It happened to me, too". He's from my gene pool, he can't help it.

Ice, waiting for the boy
We took the Soggy Bottoms Road because it is the easiest way to get up to the high ridges of the preserve. Any other trail would be a grueling test of manhood but the Soggy Bottoms Road settles for for merely going uphill. The air was crisp and ice crunched under our feet as we walked. Frozen puddles offered a certain grandson the opportunity of noisily cracking the ice crust.

The pooologist
The habitat's sole reason for existence is to preserve a herd of endangered Columbia white-tailed deer and we saw several deer scampering through the woods of Soggy Bottoms. The cougars consider the habitat to be their fast-food restaurant and we stopped to examine some predator poo which contained hair, bone bits, and maybe a white tail or two. I'm just saying, but pooing bone bits...yikes!

Bad creek!
As we walked, we had to ford several creeks while blue jays shrieked at us as annoyingly shrill as a sister. Soggy Bottoms was just that, and the water laden hillsides had slid down over the trail in a couple of spots. The swollen creeks had taken out part of the road beds here and there and the maintenance crew will have a lot of work to do once things dry out a bit.

Trail, at snow line
"What is that thing?" asked Aiden.  It was white and small, about the  size of a silver dollar. When we picked it up, it was hard but extremely cold.  Yes, it was our first glimpse of snow on Soggy Bottoms. As we reached the head of the valley, we were walking in perma-shade and more and more snow appeared along the trail. We are not talking ski-country snow and snow shoes certainly were not needed, but it was fairly unusual to see the white stuff lying below the leafless oaks.

Why we hike
As the trail left Soggy Bottoms and began angling uphill to the northern ridge, the air temperature dropped considerably and we encountered more and more snow and ice on the way. The views improved as we gained elevation with layers and layers of snow covered peaks dotting the horizon to the south. By the time we reached the Powerline Road and Grumpy's Pond, we were hiking in a veritable winter wonderland. The hills were bald and covered in white (just like my head!) and we enjoyed the scenery as we ate a hurried lunch at Grumpy's Pond. We were not the only ones lunching however, a lone hawk patrolled the snowy fields in search of a tasty mammal morsel.

One small leap for boykind...
Aiden started out being fairly ambitious at the start of the hike and was game for a 10 miler. However, his youthful enthusiasm waned once we reached the top of the boundary ridge. All that puddle stomping had wet his feet and he was getting both tired and uncomfortable so we grabbed the Blacktail Basin Road, which sadly took us out of the snow and down into the soggy bottom of the basin. And thus began the descent and a few moments of wet hilarity at a creek mishap.

Creek, crossing the trail
Because of the long run of wet weather, creeks were full and there was a particularly deep creek running across the trail in Blacktail Basin. I just waded through but Aiden bushwhacked downstream in search of a narrower crossing. The perfect spot for a leap across was found and he took off his hat and lobbed it across the creek. He tried to take off his brand spanking new Christmas winter jacket but the daypack was in the way so he sort of removed both at the same time. Grabbing a shoulder strap, he slung the pack across the creek. Unfortunately, the jacket was still entangled in the pack and while the pack sailed across the creek, the jacket separated in mid-air and floated down into the icy stream. I didn't know jackets could float like that and I didn't know Aiden could run along the bank that fast either. The jacket was safely plucked from the water just as it was about to go over a 4 foot waterfall and disappear forever.  

Tree under the incoming clouds
From there it was a quick walk back to the car as clouds scudded over and took away the blue sky. Obviously, it's time for another round of winter storms, darn it.

We walked in a winter wonderland
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.


  1. All I have to say is that you are giving me some great ideas of things to do and say when my grandson is old enough to hike with me. Since he is only a month old, that may be a few years though. It is great too see some much snow which hopefully will translate into a beautiful spring and summer of great hiking!

    1. Normally, I'd say they are never too young but since he's only a month old...? My grandchildren range from age 18 to a month old and I have 13, don't try to keep up! You up for a Crater Lake snowshoe hike?

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