"Unofficial" Yacolt Burn Forest Watch Patrol
July 18, 2009. It was about 4:00pm in the middle of a long, hot afternoon. Darel and Rick had just opened up the heavy shop doors to try to get motivated on one of the "way too many projects to list". Tinker with this, tinker with that - it's just too **** hot!
Same time, Kira and Crystal are just sitting down to their computers to work on some club website changes and some other miscellaneous club projects that needed attention. The air conditioning is nice, but they decide it's Satuday afternoon and they would rather go out and have some fun...
With a little arm twisting (not!) they talk Darel and Rick into taking a drive to Dole Valley to check out the Wetland Restoration Project and see how the replanting was progressing. Beautiful day for a ride in the Jeep. Wind in our hair, sun warming our skin - jealous looks from passers by as they sit in their sedans thinking "I should have bought a Jeep".
The drive is warm heading slowly through Battleground, North onto 503 heading for the woods, our woods, our forest - the spectacular Yacolt Burn. We love it there - just leaving the city behind and crossing into the coolness of the tree cover immediately puts us all into a better mood. It's always an adventure - no matter what brings us here each time, every trip is a new experience...
We pull up to the little rock barricade blocking access to our precious project in the wood. Jump over the rocks - moving through the trail - but wait -- what are all of these ribbons and cones and markers?
We decide it must be a future timber sale. Really mad (just for a moment) - how dare they cut trees near our little oasis! Then calm again - remembering all the good things that come from those timber sales. A quick hike back to the wetland --click, click, click -- some pictures for the much overdue follow up report for this project on the club forum.
Feeling some pride, taking the ownership to pull some Tanzy while we're there - every little bit helps.
Notice that some of the garbage is still there. Make a note to add it to the list for the clean-up in September.
Back to the Jeep, pictures in camera, Tanzy laying on hot rocks to await certain death. Our short excursion into the woods is almost over -- way too soon, really. Let's take a drive through the forest and see "what's goin on".
As soon as we transition from the pavement to the gravel service roads we see emergency vehicles and law enforcement -- then, the one thing we hate to see more than anything -- smoke from a forest fire.
As Darel stops the Jeep so as not to interfere with the emergency staff I take a quick minute to peer over the back-side of the Jeep to make sure I remembered to put the new WA OHV sticker on (it was due in May - I didn't renew it until July because I was still mad about the NOVA funds). Whew, it's there - that's a relief. Back to the fire -- quite a crew out there working in this heat (feel bad for them in this hot weather). It looks like there are about 15-20 folks responding to this fire. Calculating in my mind all of the dollars wasted on fighting forest fires caused by reckless behavior.
Then, way cool (we're just like little kids again) a helicopter arrives with water to dump on the fire to help out the ground crew. First I think - "wow - cool", then I think "wow - that must be expensive" -- then I reminise about the "good ol' days when I would have stopped at "wow - cool".
A few cars pull up behind us - mostly locals - no one was getting through because the road was blocked. One guy asks if the road is blocked - we later come up with a great Bill Engval comeback "Nope - it's a Firetruck Cruise-In, just waitin' to get in... (too late, but still funny).
One noteworthy individual was an older gentleman on his way to the corrections center to share bible study with the inmates. Not once did he complain about "his" inconvenience, but he worries about the inmates feelings -- that they will think he doesn't care about them if he doesn't show up. I'm humbled for a moment - thinking about how lucky I am to have the life that I do...
After watching the helicopter and the fire for awhile - the road finally opens up when the tanker heads out to re-load.
We cruise on by the emergency rigs and see our buddy Steve (Rhodes) - DNR Law Enforcement on the other side. As we pull up he tells the fire coordinator that he's with -- "It's OK - it's the Pistons". Feels like family working with some of these guys - makes the forest feel like home... Talk to him for a while - tells us that they're doing saturation patrols in the Yacolt Burn tonight with Clark County Sheriff (I feel OK printing that now that the patrols are over). The fire fighter coordinator mentions that they have already responded to 108 fires on DNR land in Washington State this season -- unbelievable!!!
Steve also shares with us that the new Education & Enforcement Officer is down patrolling in Jones Creek and that his name is Shaun. Maybe we'll get a chance to meet him later...
We let Steve get back to work and head on down the road - just a nice cruise through the forest. Not many people here today (maybe too hot - there were TONS of people along the river on the way to Dole Valley). Couple of shooters, couple of dirtbikes, couple of cars.
Whoa -- wait -- that is a stunning view of the mountain (my mind slips away for just a brief moment to snowmobiling on Mt. Hood)
Of course, since it's the "neighborhood", we came across a red DNR truck and get a chance to say "hi" to the new guy, Shaun. He asks if we "know the rules" -- Kira and I try not to giggle. Short visit - moving on...
Rounding Deer Pen and find another "new" abandoned vehicle along the road - a VW Bug - must say, we haven't seen one of those out here before. Again, make a mental note to add it to the list for the September clean-up.
Take a little detour on the spur road out of Camp-X and find a squatter (motorhome, trailer, generator) tucked away at a dead end. A couple small dogs looking out the window - no people around though. We try to remember the rules - and are pretty sure that overnight camping is only allowed in designated areas - we'll report this to Steve tomorrow. My mind objects for just a moment - he's obviously a motorized enthusiast - where the **** is he supposed to camp? I digress...
We check out a few more "known" dump sites along the way and are pleasantly surprised to find very little garbage - the patrols are starting to pay off. We chat amongst ourselves about what a great job Steve Rhodes does and we really hope that the new guy follows in his footsteps...
Moving on through Jones Creek - pretty quiet - 4 dirtbikes loading up to go home. Trailhead looks great (very clean) -- thanks to inmates at the corrections center. ;)
The crazy stuff always happens at the beginning of the day or the end of the day - today we got caught on both ends. Forest fire coming in - and canine rescue heading out. As we were heading out Boulder Creek Road just past the one lane bridge we saw two cute little Springer Spaniels jump up onto the roadway and start to jog down the road. Their feet and bellies were covered in mud, so we figured they had just been romping in the creek and were on their way home after a long play day. It was just getting dusk and we noticed that they didn't seem to be heading anywhere specifically and the little one seemed really tired. Since it was starting to get dark and we didn't want them to get hit by a car - we stopped to take a look at their collars to try to take them home.
Darel pulled over into a driveway and I jumped out of the Jeep (I love dogs and dogs generally love me back). I talked to the big one first - he was a little timid, but he let me grab his collar to take a look -- **** it, no tags -- just a bright orange shock collar (I hate those things). I tried to reach for the other one, and the first one put himself in between us to protect her from me - it was the simplest, purest show of love and dedication that I had seen in a long time. They must be littermates I thought - just like my Scout & Gracie. I was finally able to get through to the little female and found her covered in Porcupine quills! Darel immediately jumped out to help me with them. She was in quite a bit of pain, overheated and just generally not well. Darel pulled all of the quills out (there must have been 20 of them) and we gave them some bottled water. She seemed to relax some - but she was completely exhausted.
Just as we were deciding whether to take them home and look for the owners or take her to the vet - the Clark County Sheriff was driving by and I waved him over. I was hesistant at first, because our prior interactions with them have not been great up in the Forest. I did not catch this guys name - but he was wonderful! He immediately went to one of the neighbors to try to find who owned the dogs. He came back and said one of the neighbors was actually a kennel and that they would take care of the dog until the officer was done with his patrols and then he could take them to the humane society (or the vet) in the morning.
I'm still worried about the little female and I posted a lost & found ad on craigslist - I hope they find their way home soon - they were perfect little dogs and I'm sure their humans miss them terribly. I will be calling the Clark County Sheriff in the morning to check in on them...
We loaded the pups into the Sheriff's SUV and headed on down the mountain.
Fully dark now and getting cool - they all laughed at me when I grabbed my club hoody on the way out the door - but I'm warm and happy now...
We rolled into our driveway just before 10:00pm, cooked up some chicken in mushroom and wine sauce for a late dinner (yummm) - then Darel and Rick both fell asleep on the couch watching Speed Channel while Kira and I worked on updating the website.
Still on a natural high from the day - I headed out to the club forum (which I've been neglecting lately) for some much needed updates.
Well, that is the official story of our "unofficial" forest watch patrol for the day.
It's almost 5:00am - I'm headed for my pillow and a quick nap before tomorrow gets here -- I can hardly wait...
We had a great time - we checked on our Dole Valley project, witnessed mother nature at work, watched our tax dollars at work, talked to some nice folks, met the DNR "newbie", planned for a future event, made a new friend, saved a couple dogs and had dinner with friends . . .
What more could I possibly ask for?
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