One early autumn morning while sitting near a comforting fire in the little shelter we fondly call the •wagner’s Wooden Tent”, I was enjoying my first cup of coffee. Carol notice my lap top computer was fired up and ready to go. She asked if I was creating a new story. I told her I was actually doing a little editing as these stories just gush out of my mind faster than my fingers can hammer the keys. Using this state of the art computer at my finger tips is of great benefit, but sometimes it will try to out think me and put in words that are not my own. If I misspell a word, it will underline it in red or it will put in the correct spelling of a word that is close to word I intended. I made the statement in one of my earlier stories about going back and editing my work, but that is too boring for me because I already know what it says. Just about everyone who reads these stories, want to help me edit them, but to date, my daughter Heidi has made the biggest contribution to this effort and my son Jeremy did his magic on some of my spelling and grammar. The only problem with her editing is that it is too darn good and it does read like I talk or write. So here is the challenge. As you read these stories, have a pencil or pen handy and put it to work when you come across a misspelling, punctuation error or grammar catastrophe. Let me know of your findings, and I will consider them as long as they aren’t too perfect.
If you find yourself a subject or player in any of these stories, please feel free to jot down any corrections in the story line or your interpretation of the account. People, places, things, events, blame, innocence, etc. are my remembrances of the events or stories and enriched by creative license and bad memory. So, have at it if is your story too! Even expand on it if you dare.
Well, it’s mid morning now and Carol already made the rounds at the portion of the Fall Festival held at the Blue Ridge School. The “Run ForThe Pines” antique auto show is underway at the Pine Top Lakes and there is more art and crafts across the street. Clouds are moving in and thunder can be heard in the distance. It may not be a great day for the Fall Festival but Carol already made her contributions to help its success and is satisfied with her purchases. She tries to help out in the community events whenever she can. We also made a stop at Eddies Country Store for a few grocery items. Carol planned doing chicken on the grille if it isn’t raining. She asked if I want wine coolers with our evening meal, but I thought a good beer would be tasty. I used to have beer a month whither I needed it or not, but it has been about ten months since I had my last real beer. I did have an O’Doul’s about a month ago on the golf course with Willie. As I perused the fine beer department with all of the imports neatly placed, I came upon a beer brewed in Flagstaff, Arizona call Wapiti Beer. It came in a large brown bottle with a Picture of a large bull elk standing on the edge of a meadow. What are the chances? I had to have that bottle for the cabin, or should I say •wapiti Crossing”.
Initially this day was to be spent installing making upgrades required by our insurance company. Their fire prevention team made a visit to the cabin back in July. They got around sending a notice of corrections we need to make at the beginning of September and due by the end of the year. Instead of moving forward on out I started installing wood grained, cement board closure panels around the base of the cabin and working out the trim flashing modifications preparation for the new corrugated roofing that will replace the old cedar shake roof. Carol has been weed-eating all the tall, natural grass and wild flowers around the cabin. Carol whacking of the weeds and grass over 4″ was one requirement and closing in under the cabin and front deck was the other. What they did not report is that we have pine trees within one foot from the cabin and we have a 40 year old cedar shake roof. I should complain about what they have us do and tell them that their inspector must be blind not seeing the obvious problems but only the ticky tacky ones. But since we are tacking care of all of these issues, it’s probably a good idea to just conform to their wishes. Maybe I should send them a picture of the grass with 6″ of snow cover on the grass. After a little lunch break, the rain started to come. We decided to take a ride through the woods until the weather clears up a little. The roads were still in pretty good shape except for a little wash board here and there. We did do a little four wheeling on one of the back roads. Got a little mud on the car! Jeremy would be proud.
I noticed elk hoof prints on the side of the road embedded in the fresh mud. We decided to take a little hike in that area and see what we could kick up. The rain had let up a little, but it was still chilly. As we walked through the tall, open pines, perfect place for elk, I spotted something in the distance. I though I saw a white tail deer, but have we put our binoculars on it, it turned out to be an antelope. Then there was another and then another. We finally counted ten, all moving at a fair clip until they saw us. They were about 150 yards away and very curious what we were going to do. They stood there watching us for about five minutes. Then they started moving away. Carol said that made the whole trip worth while. We continued our loop around back to the road. We usually hike the loop method which keeps us turning in a circle until we get back to our car.
The warmth of the car felt comforting as we continued on our adventure. About five miles down the road we came across ten wild turkeys scurrying away form us. They were only about thirty feet from us when we stopped. We decided to get out the car and follow them just for fun. They were headed to a clump of short oaks. They must have high tailed it, because they were no where to be seen. We head a clap of thunder, and thought it would be a good time to get back to the car.
Seeing ten antelope and ten turkeys so far, what would be next? We turned back toward the main forest road at the next junction instead of heading to Porter Mountain Road as we normally would. There are several crossing forest road to get us heading back to the cabin which makes this area so interesting to drive. The scenery is always changing with the variations in elevations. Tall pines change to short pine, then cedars, oaks and aspens with stretches of grassy meadows. With each change, the type of wildlife we see changes. We find elk in the tall pines; white tale deer, bear, wild turkey in the scrubby, dense forest and antelope in the meadows.
About two miles down this road we came across two bow hunters outfitted with camouflaged gear and walking in the same direction we were heading. They blended in so well that Carol couldn’t see them right away. She asked if hunters normally wore bright outfits for safety. There aren’t as many bow hunters as conventional rifle hunters, so safety is not a critical and bow hunters have to sneak up allot closer to get an accurate shot off, so mistaking another hunter for game is not as much concern. As we drove up to the two men, they turned to greet us, one on each side of the road, as if they were happy to see us. I rolled down my window as we came to a stop beside them because I had a feeling they wanted to chat. They ask if we had seen their silver truck on the side of the road. When they heard my reply, they seemed a little bewildered. We only passed one camp site a few miles back and there were no other vehicles to be found. I offered them a ride to help them find there truck as we were just joy riding anyway. They happily took the offer since I had already jumped out of the car and was making room for them to ride in the back seat. We had one portion folded down to haul our gear and cleared off the other section of scouting toys like binoculars, million watt search light and of course, out cold weather gear. We drove down the road in the same direction we all were heading just in case there truck might just be over the next hill or around the next corner, but it wasn’t. I found a little place to turn around so we could head back toward the junction. As we chatted we learned these boys came all the way from Utah to hunt here in the White Mountains. They also explained how they think they got lost. As it turned out, they were using a GPS, Global Positioning System unit to keep from getting lost. If they would have been using a map with the GPS indicators on it, they would have been fine. Instead, they took a reading at their truck and then accidentally hit the reset button which replaced the trucks reading for the reading they were standing at. They new then exactly were they were, but they didn’t know where there truck was. So, technically they were not lost, the truck was. After hearing that, I told Carol not to get me the GPS unit for Christmas as she had planned. The hunters didn’t see the humor in that. GPS is a complex technology but understanding it can be quite easy if you take it one step at a time and don’t push the reset button!
At the junction, we turned in the direction of Porter Mountain Road heading north. I could see a smile on their faces in my rear view mirror as the surroundings became familiar to them. About another mile down the road we spotted a silver, ford f 150 pickup truck. Now we had two happy campers so to speak. They thanked us as they climbed out of the back seat and gathered their gear. They asked if we wanted a bottle water or pop, but we declined. We told them we were too far from our cabin and thanked them for their offer and headed down the road.
By the time we-got back to the cabin, the rain had let up. It was now time to go back to work. Carol to her weed whacking and I continued with the closing in around the base of the cabin.
(Writer’s note: As I was finishing this little piece, sitting at the cabin’s kitchen table at 5:45 AM with a fresh brewed cup of coffee resting beside my laptop, I spotted some movement out in the forest. It was a coyote looking for breakfast. I pulled out the cabin binoculars that we keep handy on top of the refrigerator. I think the critter could see me as it stopped and stared in my direction. It would then slither for twenty feet and then stop to look again. It did this routing two more time before it went out of view. It looks very healthy compared to then ones we have in the desert. It must eat well up here. It is now 6:30 A.M. and Carol is up. She likes to sleep in. I told her about the coyote. She looked out the window and saw something move in the forest. It turned out to me a cow, munching its way down toward us. Now there is a whole heard coming our way. I smell cinnamon toast! Got to go!)
After that hearty breakfast, Carol and I headed off, through the ·wapiti Crossing” gate and into the forest. •The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.” John Muir. At 7:30 AM we could still see the remnants of frost on the neighbors’ roofs and on the grassy meadow. The coyote was long gone but the cows were still lingering around looking for more grass to eat. They don’t do much more than that all day, do they? We decided to head toward the Grail Tanks, as that is where I heard some elk bugling early in the morning. It was another beautiful day for a hike. There were just a few, puffy clouds overhead and the sun was warming us up with the help of the exercise workout. Just as we started, I heard a strange elk bugle. They were normally very high pitched and drawn out. This time it was short and choppy. As we came upon the tanks, we were amazed with the changes in the flora and fauna the colder night temperatures caused in the last two weeks. Even the oak leaves have started to turn in color.
We came up to the old cattle fence that would eventually lead us to a large meadow below the tanks. We followed the fence line because it is easy walking. Sometimes there is a game trail running beside the barbed wire barrier. It is also used by the cattle and fence menders from time to time. Just then we spotted another elk hunter coming toward us on the opposite side of the fence. After we exchange pleasantries, he asked if we had seen a fallen or wounded elk. We told him we had not. His hunting partner shot one about an hour earlier and thinks he hit it a little high and it did not drop right away. They were trying to track it which is the right thing to do. It would be a shame to have it go to waste, let alone the suffering it would go through whether it died or survived. Carol asked if they have come across any elk racks in their travels. They had not, but they did run across two carcasses with out racks that morning. Just as we finished our conversation, we could hear the second hunter coming. We told them that if we found the elk, we would give them several loud whistles and then try to meet up with them again. With that, we continued our hike. We got back at the cabin about 10:00 AM and immediately went about our chores. We try not to make too much noise early in the morning on Sundays.
The rest of the day was more of our normal routine. Got a lot done this trip in spite of the weather. Carol is threatening Flexal 454 for the both of us.