Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Salmo Priest Wilderness, Border Patrol on Mustangs!

Lookout station, Salmo Mountain.

Salmo-Priest Wilderness
August 21, 2011

Sorry for the lack of blogging.  For more than two weeks, Zak and I have been camped in the far Northeastern Corner of Washington,  6 miles from Canada, in the Salmo-Priest Wilderness.  No internet up here, but it’s a perfect camp for horses, with a large meadow full of lush forage, tall pines for shade, and a clear running river near camp.  The “stay limit” is 14 days, but the ranger lady informed me that because of low use this year, it would be ok to overstay a bit.  We are about 20 miles from Metaline Falls, almost to Salmo Mountain, in a camp spot known as “Gypsy Meadows”.

I think new campers are coming in today.  So far, we’ve had the place all to ourselves, except for the couple who were here when we arrived.  They went back to their jobs in the city, and we took over the “sweet spot” they had occupied.  It’s the only camp spot with river access off the meadow, so while many campers have come and looked, so far nobody else has stayed, searching out a river campsite back down the road, of which there are many. 

A few days ago, a couple stopped by to check out the situation and stated they’d be back on Sunday, which is today.  They have horses and are planning to stay a week, so it’s looking like we’ll probably hit the road tomorrow if they show up, and hand over our serenity to them.

It’s time for moving on anyway.  There are a lot more trails to ride in Washington.  In fact the couple mentioned above gave me a couple of Washington back country guide books (nice!), and I’m excited to get moving and explore the Cascades, the Olympic Forest, and some of the many other horse camping spots described in the books.  It will be getting cold in the high country in a month or two, so I’m feeling like I should make tracks to get the most out of exploring this beautiful state during the good weather at the end of summer. 

And Oregon.  So many choices!  We have an invite to stay at a cabin outside of Sisters, Oregon, near the route of the PCT.  I also have a great friend in Eugene, and Zak has friends to connect with in Portland and Seattle.  New adventures beckon.

It will be hard to leave this place though.  We’ve settled into a routine here.  My friend Patty from Colorado came for a few days, and we enjoyed some good times around the fire, gourmet meals, a couple beautiful rides up the mountain, and some Tango dancing in the almost full moonlight. 

Little "Foo".  
Zak caught a little chipmunk using nuts for bait.  He sewed a little jacket harness for her – huddled in the bear cupboard for hours to keep her captive in the process.  She was with him for 24 hours, but when we noticed her teets were engorged, and that she must have hungry babies somewhere, he decided to let her go and try to catch a male instead.  So far, he’s had no luck, but I’m happy that little “Foo” as he named her, is back in her nest.

As I write this, I am sitting in the shade, the scent of pine and cedar perfuming the air.  The horses stand quietly in the shade – the geldings tied while Maggie gets to graze freely.  Occasionally she comes through camp to water at the river.  Sometimes I give her a carrot when she strolls by.  In a little while, the “boys” will trade spots, and she will rest while they roll and graze and water.  It’s our routine here – changing out every couple of hours.

The massage table is set up “up river” a bit, waiting for someone to lie down.  Patty was the first to receive massage there – the sounds of a little waterfall the music for her bodywork in the wilderness.  Zak and I agreed the other day that this is the best “house” we’ve ever lived in.
Best Massage Studio Ever!

I also am happy to report that the new water filter I purchased at REI is completely awesome.  It’s a “Platypus” brand, and is the best system I’ve used.  One bag is filled at the river, then hung above a second bag, connected by tubing and a filter between the two.  In about 2.5 minutes, we have 4 liters of clean cool water ready for use.  Sure beats the pump type filter I’ve been using.  So easy!  I also tried the “steri pen”, and was horrified when it stopped working on the PCT – many miles from nowhere – we got the little frowny face that said the battery was dead after only a couple of days of use.  We had to boil all water after that.  What a pain.  This system is the bomb, although it cost $100.00.
Magic helps with the washing.

Today is laundry day.  I enjoy washing clothes out here.  I put them all in a large tub, which is actually the horses water tub, add laundry soap, fill with river water, and agitate.  Clean clothes in no time!  Rinse, and hang to dry.  I’m careful not to put soap in the river.  We are doing our best to follow “leave no trace” principles.  So much faster than sitting at a Laundromat.  And I love the way the clothes smell after hanging in the sunny breeze in the woods.

Senior Border Patrol Officer, Bill
The last day in the Salmo Priest, Zak and I decided to drive to the top of Salmo Mountain and take a morning look at the view.  We met Bill at the top, an officer with the Border Patrol.  I have a certain affection for the Border Patrol because my father, Harvey, was with Border Patrol and then INS for 35 years.  Bill and I had a nice chat in the sunshine at the top of the mountain, and I learned that he runs over 20 head of Mustangs as pack and saddle horses in the rugged mountains of the wilderness in Northern Washington.  How cool is that?  The mustangs are pulled off the BLM and then started in a prison system training program in Nevada.  Bill gets them after 100 days of training, and then they go to work for the Border Patrol, heading into territory that does not lend itself to even four wheelers.  Narrow trails, steep mountains.  What a great way to marry the noble mustang to an important job.  I really enjoyed meeting Bill - just wish I could have seen his herd.  He seems perfect for his role.  A former ranch foreman, he knows horses.  Professional and courteous, he's just the sort of person you'd want to meet up with in the wilderness if you were having trouble.  Our borders are in good hands with this kind of fellow.  

Bill said it was ok for us to check out the view from the lookout tower.
You can see a long way from up here. Salmo Mountain Lookout station.
View from Salmo Mountain
Idaho and Montana behind me
Not a bad place to patrol, but you better be tough!
We said goodbye to Bill and headed back to pack up our wonderful camp.  We'll always remember the wonderful trails of the Salmo Priest. 

 Zak and I arrived back at the Spokane Fairgrounds last night and spent time today with resupply, a haircut for Zak (looking good!), and a movie, which I don't recommend.  You would think Aliens vs Cowboys would be a comedy, but it wasn't, and it was bad.  Don't waste your money.

  We leave tomorrow to head west to the Cascades and the Olympic Pennisula.  Seattle, here we come!