Sunday, July 27, 2008

"What keeps a man away from the waterfall & the lion will kill him."

Found this quote tucked in an old shoebox Saturday morning a few hours before heading out Wildhorse Canyon for a 3 and ¾-mile uphill hike, which ultimately leads to a cascading waterfall. Although you can actually drive to the falls, the walk is only mildly rough and the road not very steep.

Parking near the campground area is a good starting point. Last year, after leaving this trailhead, we went up the road and encountered a bear within the first mile. The bear seemed to sense that we were not hunters as she trotted up the ridge in a mild gait. A few weeks later, Fish and Game had to relocate that bear, as she could no longer resist the temptation to come into camp at night, to look for easy picinikings.

With this year’s hike, the three of us, along with Lucas, started in a mild afternoon heat. This was good, because we knew of the cool reward, which lay ahead. Lucas became excited when he saw that our sunny adventure was about to begin. So, we started tracking out fresh with our hiking poles and daypacks.

Within a mile, we encountered my next-door neighbor, who is a strong man, built like a bear. He had led his family on an ATV tour, turning around at the broken bridge, below Arrowhead Lake. They told us that there weren’t many people about, which meant there was a chance we would have the waterfall to ourselves for our mighty splish-splash.

Being familiar with the trail, I purposely set a slow pace to inhale the scenery, rather than “bust up the hill.” Besides last years bear encounter, in previous years, we had seen moose munching moss from the creek bottom. As I lagged behind my companions, hoping for glimpses of more wildlife, Lucas dashed back and forth to tether our group together. Suddenly a tiny quartz glint caught my eye and then right after that, I found a mysterious willow stickcarved with four notches and of strong animal scent. It was as if someone had placed this reed here for me to find.

Sagestick or dipstick?

Finding this wood stick in such a way, clicked something within me, as a reminder of a sage stick, involved with some fanciful dreams of flight.

Soonafter, at the thickest shade of the jeep trail, we heard some wailing from the forest. At first, we thought it was a bugling Elk, but then the cries sounded like a young animal injured and beckoning for help. Was it a mountain lion? As the eerie noise continued emanating from the other side of the dark shade, another noise from a creaking tree directly above us added to our confusion. We backtracked to try to find the animal, but from where we stood, it was too elusive for us to identify. Meanwhile, about two minutes previous, we had heard some motor vehicles chugging down the path. At this puzzling point, I held Lucas by the collar and wondered why they had not yet passed. After recovering from the distracting cries of the strange forest creature, we realized that the running engines were no longer within earshot. After a few minutes, we walked up the trail and saw why. Only minutes before, a hundred foot tall, pine had plummeted to block our trail. Now another man, strong as a bear, pushed the enormous tree off the path to make way for his family and their all-terrain-rigs.

The giant we encountered was not actually this large. Our Giant was able to move the 100 ft pine because it landed in such a position that it was easy to pivot for a 'regular strong man'

For a short while, I considered the possibility that the unknown creature of the forest was sending out distress signals to forewarn us of tree’s impending doom. However since we did not hear the tree fall, its downfall must have occurred several minutes before we reached the area. Since my next-door, neighbor traveled through that area without trouble 40 minutes previous, at that point the tree was still standing.

Nonetheless, the unknown creature from the other side probably held some strong connection with the tree. Perhaps it had built a home within the pine, and was injured during its toppling.



Right before we parked at the trailhead, while steering the truck through the most treacherous part of the jeep trail, it flashed through my head that this would be a bad place to intersect with an ATV operator. Suddenly I had fleeting vision of one crashing through our windshield in this narrow rocky stretch.

The four notches carved on the willow could signify the time of four decades, since I am in my forties.

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