1. AJ Sees A Fish
I was crossing Pioneer to empty our compost, and I saw a steelhead! It was just lazing in the shallows, taking a break. Seeing an anadromous fish here, in one of the most distant places a fish could possibly travel from the ocean, just felt like such an amazing thing. It was like seeing a dodo or a passenger pigeon.
2. AJ Takes A Walk
Holly told me that there was a patch of rhubarb upstream by the mouth of Rush Creek, a remnant of an old homesteader's garden patch. I love rhubarb, so I decided to hike up and see if I could find it.
I took the trail that runs up along the sidehill to the Sage Flat, then switchbacks down the hill to Rush Creek. The felled log that's used as a bridge across the creek had been rolled in the high water, but it was still usable. I crossed over and spent the next 45 minutes bushwhacking my way to the mouth of the creek. Part of this was on talus slopes when the creek ran close to the hill, and part of it was on shrub-choked flats as the creek veered away. It was thorny and boggy and not much fun. It was a nice sunny day out, but the creek and the undergrowth made it terribly humid.
I made it to the mouth of the creek and found an old bear bait station, but no rhubarb. I REALLY didn't want to bushwhack all the way back through the brush and hike back up the hill, because if I could just ford Rush Creek, I could just walk back on the airstrip, which is easy. I found a place to ford and took off my boots, and gave it a shot.
I could see within a few feet that it wasn't going to work. The water was up to my thighs very quickly, and was going so fast that I knew I'd be overpowered if I kept going. I could have swum it easily, but I had my camera in my backpack. I turned around and went back to the bank. I hiked upstream to a wider point and found an old cracked cottonwood branch that I could use as a prop to lean on. This time, I made it. It was difficult, my feet got a little cut up, and I had difficulty scrambling up the high bank, but I made it.
So, it took a lot of my time off, it wasn't much fun, and I didn't get what I was after. But I was still glad that I did it. It's been a while since I've had to rely on myself in the backcountry, and I missed how good it makes me feel.
3. AJ Takes A Ride
On my way back up the airstrip (stick in hand, feet bare, soaked up to the waist), I saw that Jim and Holly and the interns were putting our two draft mules into harness, so I stopped to watch. These two mules don't respond well to finesse. They are strong and have a very high pain threshold, and so controlling them is more a matter of brute strength than skill. This can be really dangerous when pulling a mower, so we wanted to get them some training on the cart ("to get their brains in gear") before moving to high-stakes equipment.
They were hitched to the forecart (a small two-seated affair with a hitch to pull a real cart behind), and Jim and Holly took turns riding up and down the strip with one of the interns. After everyone had gone once, Holly asked me if I wanted to take a ride, and I jumped at the chance.
But when Holly backed the mules out, they took the turn too sharply. This spooked them, and also put them at an angle where Holly didn't have enough leverage on the lines to stop them. They took off running!
Holly managed to pull them to a stop at the bushes that line the airstrip. But that only worked for a few seconds before they took off again, pulling us right through. Holly handed me the left line, and we leaned back on those straps with all our might, finally forcing them to a stop after they'd dragged us through the creek.
It was scary, but educational. We both kept very cool heads throughout. The mules were fine, although they ended up breaking the tongue of the cart, so we need a new one. Jim says that next time, he's hitching up the perpetrator mule (Bird) with a running W...it's a hitch around the animal's legs, so if they run away again, we can force an emergency stop by pulling their legs out from under them.
4. The Adventures of Pan-Cat, Epilogue
You already know this story.
Pan's getting better, but slowly. He was really nervous and jumpy the first few days, and seemed to be afraid of the bathroom (which is where his food and litterbox are kept). He goes in the bathroom now, but he still gives that corner with the water heater a wide berth, which is probably for the best. The tooth sockets in his mouth seem to still be quite sore, because he hasn't been closing his mouth all the way (so he's been sticking his tongue out at us for days now), and that makes him drool a bit. It's slowly getting better (no drool at all today, and more mouth-closing).
He hasn't been eating as much as usual, but is doing pretty well with soft food and he even gets a little of his kibble down. He's also been sleeping a lot, which is probably good for him.
We need to change the bandage on his back paw, but the bandage has some tape over it that's stuck to his fur, so he struggles whenever we try to take it off. Scissors don't work very well, and someone loaned us his beard trimmer, which would work great if Pan wasn't afraid of the buzzing. I think we're going to give him a tranquilizer tonight and try it again.
So, he's a very sad and repentant kitty, but he's slowly becoming his playful self again. Tyler took him outside today and he had a grand romp in the sunshine.
5. AJ Takes A Swim
We went for a ride up to Cabin Creek yesterday...me, Holly, two interns and a half-intern. Holly rode one of the draft mules and led the other (we have 6 animals, and we can't leave anyone alone or they freak out). I rode the lead mare, since Holly wanted me on a more challenging animal.
We had a nice ride, 6 miles upstream. My mare kept harassing the one in front because she's lower on the pecking order, but this was solved when we switched places later. When we arrived at the wide flats of Cabin Creek, we noticed two of our students on the other side of the river. They'd hiked up to Cabin Creek the day before, but taken the mountainous overland route that puts you on the other side of the river from where we were. It would have been easier for them to hike back on our trail, so we decided to see if they needed/wanted help crossing the river.
The river forks into two streams at Cabin Creek, which rejoin as it leaves the basin. I was nervous about crossing the first stream, which was deep and fast, and my horse ended up having to swim it a little. We got to the island and Holly tested the second stream, but quickly surmised that it was too fast and we wouldn't be able to cross it safely, especially with inexperienced riders. We turned around and headed back to recross the first stream.
However, we didn't come back to the place we had originally crossed. We got to the halfway point when Holly decided she didn't want to cross there. But I was frightened about crossing the deep river, and my horse was pawing and acting agitated, so rather than start over, I urged her into the stream and we swam across the rest of the way.
The problem with my decision was that I was riding the lead mare, so when I crossed, two other mules instantly followed me. The first, a young half-thoroughbred named Penny, made it across fine. The other, an elderly half-Tennessee walker named Cricket, did not. She almost made it to the shore, but stumbled on a hidden ledge and went down. Her rider bailed off and waded to shore without trouble, but Cricket couldn't get up, and she gave up and started to wash downstream, where she quickly got hung up on a shrub and almost went under.
Holly and the other intern were still on the island. Holly jumped off and waded in to Cricket and held her head up. The mule she was leading promptly crossed the stream, where I caught her. The intern's horse also crossed the stream, but slammed into Cricket as she swam, knocking her loose. Another intern caught the horse, the other intern and Holly got Cricket, and they all crossed the stream to us.
We were all soaked to the skin, but we proceeded with the rest of our plans. We ate our soggy lunches while drying off in the sun, rode up a little further to see the huge cave at Cave Creek, then rode back downstream to home. We got back around 6:30 and I was completely exhausted. But in retrospect, it was still a good day. And good experience for the future.
In other news, I love my job so much.