Note: Several places in this story are redacted. If you recognize any of the places shown in the photos, please help to keep them special by not mentioning their names or locations.
The next couple of days flew by faster than I think any of us expected - or wanted. We shouldn't have been surprised, really, because that always seems to happen when you're somewhere fun and surrounded by people whose company is enjoyable.
And while the weather got a little more overcast - and a little cooler - they were still pleasant and went a little something like this...
I'd set my alarm for right around sunrise. Actually no, it was well before sunrise - maybe 45 minutes or so - when I'd climb out of bed, grab the camera and capture the light as it danced across the sky for the first time since the previous evening. We never get to see the light on the horizon of sunrises here, but who cares when the splashes of color are over a valley like this?!
Without fail, I would quickly climb back into bed each morning for another couple hours of sleep. Unlike most trips where we've got many miles to travel each day, this trip is about relaxation and savoring the moment - we had nowhere to be but here. And that meant sleeping late (and napping) was high on the list of must-do's.
Pops would get up reasonably early - just after sunrise, in most cases, I believe - but for a different reason altogether. That guy has birds on his brain, and could probably spend every waking minute looking around for those little feathered fliers if he didn't have to eat and sleep. And morning is a great time to catch the ravenous beasts as they flit from tree to tree, his scope and binoculars moving with the speed and deftness one usually only sees from a cheetah.
The fact that I was able to snap a few photos just goes to show how late in the morning he'd still be at it, since it was probably close to 9:00am by the time @mrs.turbodb and I were finally out of our tent and wondering what was for breakfast.
Even though we knew - we only brought cereal for breakfast.
Anyway, after my morning nap and Pops survey of the land, we usually just hung out around camp for a while - reading books, chatting in our chairs, and enjoying the breeze as it sifted through the pine, fir, and juniper that surrounded us.
Now and then, Pops would perk up and point into the air before asking if we'd "heard that" before rattling off some latin name like Flewus Overheadus, except real.
And now and then, I'd spot a lizard running over some nearby rock. And anyone who knows me, knows that I love catching lizards. So I'd mosey over to the rock and fiddle around for a while until I either got bored, or had a mini-dinosaur was squirming between my fingers. It's a fun game, and even netted me a new variety this time - the coloring not blue, but rather orange on the sides.
We could have done this all day - and I'm sure that on one occasion, we did - but eventually @mrs.turbodb and I decided it would be good to pull together a lunch and go for a hike. There are tons of places to explore in the area, but I figured that with this being her first time to ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮ , a visit to Lost Knife Knoll would be hard to beat.
We set off from camp the same way we'd gotten to the swimming hole the day before. This was slightly confusing for @mrs.turbodb, since she'd seen no way to cross the creek the last time we'd been down this way. Knowing that the water had been too cold for either of us to get all the way in, I may have mentioned that I "hoped she was ready to swim quickly across."
I had her going for a minute, but soon enough the bridge appeared ahead of us and the look of relief on her face was real. This was a much more pleasant way to cross the creek for both of us!
As always, the hike - roughly following the creek while remaining 50-100 feet above it - was terrific. This area - like many in the ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮ Forest - is so pleasant. Ginormous trees climb into the sky, underbrush is reasonably sparse, sunlight filtering down and allowing us to see great distances through the woods. And wildflowers - they were everywhere. It was quite clearly spring in this neck of the woods.
If this tree were measured in houses, it might be more than one.
Pussypaws (Cistanthe monosperma).
Snow Plant. This plant has no chlorophyll; it derives nutrition from fungi underneath the soil, and for this reason the plant is called "mycotrophic". These fungi are the mycorrhizae ("fungus-roots") of conifers, an interesting topic by itself. Many conifers (among other plants) require these fungi to live normally. Mycorrhizae are composed of strands of cells (mycelia) that grow about in the soil; these strands are quite numerous and extensive, and the conifer uses them to bring water and minerals to itself. In return, the conifer provides the fungus with some of the products of its photosynthesis. Snow plant takes advantage of this felicitous arrangement by parasitizing the mycorrhizae of the photosynthate provided it by the conifer, which makes sense, given that it is a plant without chlorophyll, and therefore a plant that cannot photosynthesize. In this indirect way, Sarcodes is a parasite of conifers; this is why they are always seen beneath (or very close to) them. (fs.fed.us)
The spring show continued all the way up the western slope of Lost Knife Knoll, and we took full advantage - stopping every now and then to catch our breath and admire the splatter of color covering the eroding granite hillside. Even so, we reached the top of the knoll by a little after noon, and while I knew what to expect when we got there, the views of the ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮ Watershed were appropriately dramatic for @mrs.turbodb.
Of course, the reason one makes the trek to Lost Knife Knoll is not for the dramatic views. No, the reason is to see if the lost knife itself still remains hidden along the ridge, an Easter egg for the inquisitive explorer.
No need to worry, the lost knife is still easily found if you know where to look.
Having made good time - and having had a reasonably late breakfast - we weren't yet hungry enough for lunch and so did what we do when we've got nowhere to be but where we are - we sat down and soaked in the view.
From here, we'd planned to head back down - off of Lost Knife Knoll and to the ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮ Trail - where we'd hike another mile or so to an overlook of ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮ , but as we were standing there looking into the valley, it seemed that if we just followed the ridge down, we'd end up on a really nice point with perhaps an even better view!
As we made our way down the ridge, ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮ peeked out to our south, framed by hanging sugarpine cones.
With less than a half mile to the point we'd seen from above, it didn't take long for us to reach the rocky outcropping at the end of the ridge. It was steeper than it looked, so I made @mrs.turbodb go first - you know, in case someone was going to fall.
No, I'm kidding, I'm kidding. I went first to scout the route and then hopped back down to get a few shots of @mrs.turbodb on the way up - the route more of a fun/easy bouldering challenge than anything really dangerous.
Soon we were at the top, where we found a pointed obelisk carefully placed at the highest point - a nice balance to ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮ in the background. I knew we had to name it, and so it was that this place will be forever known as Tip of the Spear Point.
It was the perfect spot to eat lunch - well, except for the wind that was starting to pick up - so we broke out our rations (PB&J for me, and a quiche for @mrs.turbodb) and had lunch with a view.
If it hadn't been for the wind, we probably would have stayed at Tip of the Spear for another half hour at least, but instead we made the call to head back down towards the trail, and to see if we could find our way out onto the big granite pillow across the creek from our camp site. Like most of our hike for the day, this part was cross country - to me, one of the most enjoyable types of hiking - the experience unique by definition.
A different perspective of camp.
Having reached all of our destinations for the day - and after a few "whoop, whoop's" to Pops who was still back at camp watching us with his birding scope - we figured the excitement was over as we headed back to camp. Little did we know, it was not!
You see, as @mrs.turbodb was walking along, she noticed the ground move - literally - next to her foot. Curious, she stopped and looked down. Following about 15 feet behind, I stopped as well and noticed the same movement she did - and then a head popped up! It was a mole, its eyes closed as it sniffed the air to see who could have possibly disturbed its tunneling through the silty soil.
We were at a standoff - none of us moving - until I reached down with a small stick and poked the location where I thought the rest of the mole's body should be. Well, you can imagine how that might make you feel if you were blind and someone poked your back side - the mole lept out of his tunnel and scurried to a nearby hiding spot as best he could. Which really wasn't all that good, since he was basically blind.
Not so good at the seeing. OK when you live in dirt I guess.
When we got back to camp, there was only one thing to do: take a nap. There's nothing better than a light breeze blowing through the tent on a sunny day, and within minutes of turning on our Kindles, we were both nodding off.
Refreshed, we found ourselves back in our camp chairs, chatting with Pops about this and that - as one does in a situation like this. I also took a few minutes to prep the firewood we'd be using for the camp fire - a nice break in an otherwise relaxing day!
Eventually - as always happens - the sun got lower and lower on the horizon, then went behind the hill to the west of our camp. As in the morning, light plays across the valley and sky at the extremes of the day, and I'll never tire of the view from this place.
Once again, we chatted into the night, this one a bit cooler than the last - the fire providing plenty of heat to keep us warm. The next day would be Pop's last, and we'd have only one more after that. Never enough if you ask me!
Our routine the following morning was much the same as it'd been the previous few. Sleeping and birding, breakfasting and sitting around. We could get used to this.
But Pops was antsy - I could tell. Antsy because he didn't want to leave - not yet. With a planned departure of 11:00am, it was 1:00pm when I noticed him looking out from camp, over to Lost Knife Knoll...
It was nearly 2:00pm when he finally stowed the last of his things in the back of his limo for slow - yet comfy - the drive out of camp; a four hour drive to get home, assuming he didn't stop to bird along the way. (Of course he stopped to bird, duh.)
The rest of the day passed much like the previous - @mrs.turbodb and I happy to be here, the sky clearing as the afternoon wore on. With an early departure the next morning - we planned to leave around 4:00am to make it all the way home in a single day - we pulled the 4Runner closer to camp so we could load everything up prior to hitting the sack.
An early dinner - Ramen - hit the spot and we were soon climbing up into the tent before the light of day had left the sky. It had been another amazing trip, one we wouldn't soon forget. And now, I'm not the only one in the house who can't wait to go back!
The Whole Story