Thursday, July 11, 2013

Pack River Adventure

Adventure in the Blue Goose
The Blue Goose fires up without the aid of jumper cables. This means we can actually turn off the truck and do some hiking without worries of restarting it. We leave behind Elmira Pond in the care of  Canada geese.
View From Samuel's
Pack River
Coors Water
Baby Bull Trout
Happy Bobo
Mountain Peaks
Indian Paintbrush
Yes, This is a Road
Beaver Pond
Chimney Rock
Eagle's Toe
Unknown Flower
All Rock
Almost All Rock
Patch of Snow

Our first stop is the dump. In rural northern Idaho, we have no garbage service, so we haul it out ourselves. Today, we have a small rubber  garbage can since we didn't haul garbage last week. The lady at the dump loves our dogs. How much? Enough to bring them treats fit for celebrities. She knows that Grendel has a corn allergy so she keeps meat on hand. Seriously. Today, they get half a pork chop each, raising the bar on their expectations for dog treats.

Next stop is Samuel's Corners, the gas station along HWY 95 at the entrance to the Pack River with its restaurant of home-cooking. We go through the fence and sit at a table on the patio since they let us have our dogs out there. The waitress serves us breakfast, coffee and brings a strip of bacon out for each dog. During breakfast, I snap a shot of the Selkirks from where we sit. That's where we're going today.

The "hills" that run behind our house edge the McArthur corridor, creating the valley we live in. Basically, the Cabinet Mountains that run between Idaho and Montana end across the highway from our house and the hills are part of the Selkirks to the west. On the other side of those hills, the Pack River runs as gold as Coors beer, cutting a deep canyon through the granitic Selkirks, part of the northern Rocky Mountains.

After breakfast, we follow the Pack River as it tumbles across white boulders and curves through a narrow channel of private land and national forest. It is interesting to see our Elmira hills from the backside, knowing the pond is over the ridge. Yet these hills with canyons, streams and draws are vast. The scars of a forest fire perhaps 30-40 years old, evident from the pond, is more pronounced from the Pack River canyon. The farther north we climb, we see evidence of the deadly 1910  fire in old-growth stumps still clinging to mountain soil. A new forest has taken place of the old.

Wild daisies, tiger lilies, Indian paintbrush, mountain raspberries and some terrific white cluster on a tall stalk splash color here and there. We stop to let the dogs romp in the river and we nearly loose Bobo, the current is so swift. She's a fighter, that one, and struggles to get back to shore. She runs happily through the forest and back to the water again. A small minnow swims at our feet. Todd says its a bull trout. I ask him how he knows, and he says, "Markings." Signs tell us we're in bull trout territory, anglers beware. It's illegal to fish for them as they are considered endangered. Signs also tell us we are in bear country...grizzlies.

The road narrows and forks. We take the east road, hoping to climb high enough to glimpse a view of Elmira Pond from the ridge. We get as far as a beaver pond with trout so big they create ripples as they swim. Grendel jumps into the pond and it is deeper than three feet, yet is so clear it looks mere inches deep. Todd is wanting his fishing pole. I'm wanting to continue on, so we walk. Butterflies flit all around us and a roughed grouse leaps from the raspberries so thick as to hide a bear that I scream. False alarm, just a bird.

We decide to try the road in the truck, but soon come to a stretch paved in boulders. Pop into to 4WD, I say, but Todd declines, making excuses about the truck needing work. Desert boy, I mumble under my breath. I learned to drive on logging roads in the high Sierras and if my parents knew the truth of the places I drove their Willy's Jeep, they'd understand that this incline is nothing. Not that I meant to drive off the logging road when I was 15, but I did and managed to drive down to the next switchback. 30-some years later and I'm still craving the climb.

But we descend instead. Back at the beaver pond Todd realizes that we have lost our garbage can. Surely we'll see it on the way down, but we don't. We head down the Pack River until deciding to take the other fork that leads into mountain peaks of sheer granite slabs. It's the kind of rocks you want to climb. Okay, it's the kind of rocks I want to climb. Todd taught mountaineering in the Army and our daughters both rock-climb. Me, I just clambered up and over boulders and granite slopes, having grown up in a place called Alpine County because it was as mountainous as the alps. I want to clamber so we walk instead, and I shoot photographs, dreaming of stronger, younger legs.

Finally, we call it a day and head out. Half way down the Pack River we turn a corner and see our garbage can sitting upright alongside the road where some nice Idahoan propped it up for us to find. Guess neighbors loose their cans around here and now we know the protocol.

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