Monday, November 3, 2014

usbackroads destination-Snake River Bird Camp

Another year, another bird camp on the Snake River to further remove invasive bird species from the natural eco-system.

The pheasant season and deer season overlap by a couple of days.  And it appears the deer hunters decided to all head for the Snake River this year. When we turned the corner and looked at our camping area, we found a sea of RV's covering the landscape.  We ended camping in an overflow area for a couple of days.  And then as soon as deer season closed we pretty much had the entire area to ourselves for the next 12 days.

There is something about the Snake River landscape that makes it fun just to walk and hunt.  I guess since it in places resembles the Serengeti and I guess my genes still express a preference for the savanna like landscape.

We did use Paul's sled to access many of the riverfront hunting sites.  Last year we made a unsuccessful attempt at hunting pheasants directly from a boat.  This year we focused on walking. Several of these walks turned into a long hike while carrying a gun.  For Bugaboo and the German Shorthairs the walks turn into long runs.  Which usually calls for a short nap for both dog and hunter.

Bugaboo flushed several huns right out of the boat on this "walk". Huns must act different than other upland birds when Bugaboo "points" them. When he "points" instead of locking tight he gets into this slow motion waddle point.  It is rather funny when you see it and it always ends up with a flush of huns.

Then we walked several miles without seeing another bird.  On the way back Bugaboo found a "prize deer bone" and proudly carried it back almost all the way to the boat.  It was a pleasant walk back with my bird dog proudly carrying his "prize" instead of hunting birds.  I am sure that if a bird crossed Bugaboo's path the bone would have been dropped and hunting resumed immediately.

When Bugaboo hunts there is nothing else on his mind.  There were several spectacular points on this trip and one real impressive retrieve by Koda one of the German Shorthairs.  A pheasant flushed wild and Terry did hit the bird, but it turned into a runner.  Both Bugaboo and Kenya missed the pheasant as it quickly gave them the slip.  However, Koda was not fooled and followed the bird for almost a half mile before catching the bird and returning it to us.

Here is Bugaboo on the edge of a wheat food plot on point.  

The past couple of years with the Geezer hunt Bugaboo has started hunting for Terry.  Maybe it is because Terry has had more success hitting birds than me this year and Bugaboo recognized this fact.

Bird camp was different this year without the "boys".  Seems they had to remain in school rather than being home schooled on the river.  Therefore, no stories of monster sturgeon hooked and lost.  I caught one catfish and had a nibble on a shrimp by probably a steelhead.  Otherwise, the fishing turned into a zen experience staring at the bobbers bobbing in the wind created waves.

Kenai had ACL surgery so we were down one dog as he recovered from his surgery.  I am sure the pheasants appreciated having one less dog to keep chasing them.

The weather was warm and sunny for part of the time and warm and rainy for the other part.  In the middle there was a windstorm with 50 mph winds that turned around the tent trailer.  Fortunately, it did survive its third of fourth windstorm on the Snake River.

I missed the windstorm since I hurried back for Ian's wedding reception at Camas.  Now when I got married somebody told me to wear comfortable shoes for the reception since I would be standing most of the time.  I suppose that includes dancing.  Now Ian took this to a whole nother level.

Yes, those are White's boots !  I suppose they were the most comfortable shoes Ian owns.  Being on the Entiat Initial Attack crew will do that for you.

One of the more interesting sights this year was watching six sets of ears swimming the Snake River.
Total distance the deer swam was about a 1/3 mile as measured by Google Earth.  I wish I was that good a swimmer.  They calmly got out of the water and shook like dogs before continuing their journey up slope.  We did notice the habitat they were leaving was much better than the habitat on where they were going.  They must have had their reasons.

For Bugaboo it was all about pointing pheasants.  I did have one good day hunting pheasants in a wheat food plot.  After shooting three birds I headed for the truck and Ian's wedding reception.  Just before Bugaboo and I arrived at the truck he went on point.  I put the gun away and grabbed the camera and walked over to catch the flush on digital media.  Here is the photo.  Not the best.  It is almost easier to shoot them with a gun rather than a camera.

In Bugaboo mind it was a short hunting trip.  He kept jumping into Paul's boat or the truck to make sure he would not miss a hunting opportunity. Once he got home.....well it was time to relax and kick back.

Hunt hard....sleep hard.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Geezer Pheasant Season....

Geezer Pheasant Season....September 22-26, 2014.

The state of Washington has a two day youth hunt sometime in late September.  This was a great idea to get kids out early and hunting without the competition from adults.

The wonderful idea was followed by a Geezer Pheasant Season where hunters over the age of 65 can hunt pheasants for the week following the youth hunt.  Not sure this hunt is a good idea, but it does get Bugaboo and Snowpatch out for an early hunt.  My "Geezer" friend gets to hunt without much competition while I get to walk along and take pictures of the entire crew hunting pheasants.

This fall we got a "good citizenship" collar for Snowpatch and it made a world of difference.  Now that I can reach out and touch him from 50 yards he his become a very well trained dog!  Seems he knew those commands all that time but chose to ignore them!!

It was an opportunity for Snowpatch to get good and dirty.  Bugaboo got the chance to find every noxious weed in Grant County and lodge them in his tail.  If you look carefully of the picture of the three of them you will notice that the flowing tail of Bugaboo now has the appearance of a rat tail.

Hunting with Bugaboo and Snowpatch does have the appearance of a mis-match.  It takes Snowpatch a bit longer to cover the same ground as Bugaboo.  Ok, a LOT longer.  But on any hunt there are those long stretches of ground where you are only walking and not hunting.  So I at these points I merely throw Snowpatch in the back of the vest and he rides along for free.  I do wish he would bark when he scents a pheasant while in the back of the vest.

Here I am carrying Terry's auto and Snowpatch!!  That auto is heavy compared to my SKB side-by-side in a 20 gauge.  Snowpatch does throw you off balance as he prefers riding on the side rather than in the middle.  He did hang in there and rode for an hour or more watching Bugaboo go on point.

The final count was only four wild birds.  Terry never did shoot a release bird!!  It looks like it will be another slow pheasant season.  Maybe next year it will be time to hunt another state for birds.

The other excitement for the week fishing for a couple of days with Terry at the beginning and the end of Geezer season.  At one secret lake I managed to hook and land the largest fish of the year and that included Minnie.  It was 22 inches long and about five pounds.  It is still swimming with a slightly sore mouth.  The other lakes were not as kind.  Big Twin produced five fish in three hours of fishing but none topped 15 inches.  The other secret lake produced one hell of a strike, but no fish. It is hunting season starting Saturday for quail and chuker.  Snowpatch and Bugaboo are ready!

The other event of Geezer Season was that the Dodge Ram got constipated.  The soot filter maxed out and the rengeration burn to get rid of it failed.  So it sits in Ephrata for a week now waiting for replacement parts. Thanks to the Federal Government for their clean air regulations which require that the truck runs at 5-20 MPH when ANY emission item fails.

This is fine if your truck lives in the city.  Here is a picture of the Dodge Ram right before it "failed" its emission test.  Someday in the backcountry of Idaho, Wyoming, or Montana somebody will die when the truck "fails" during the first fall snowstorm of the season.  Meantime, I guess I better make up a "survival" kit in case it decides to quit running in the middle of somewhere a hundred miles from a paved road.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Chiwaukum Fire, Fire Information, July 16th through July 23rd, 2014

                                                    photo courtesy Vladimir I. Steblina, Forest Service.

Chiwaukum Fire, Fire Information, July 16th through July 23rd, 2014.

As the Mills Canyon Fire was winding down the Team was assigned a couple of fires higher up in the Cascades.  One was Kelly Mountain that eight smoke jumpers parachuted in and started fighting the fire.

The other fire was in the Chiwaukum Creek drainage.  It was mostly located on Weyerhauser land high above Highway 2.  The fire was located in cutover timber with a lot of down slash (dry fuel) on the ground. The fire blew up and quickly grew from 500 acres to well over six thousand acres that day.  The column grew to 25,000 feet and was visible from Seattle.  To keep things in perspective this was much shorter than the 50,000 plus column put up by the Table Mountain Fire in 2012.

                                                     photo courtesy Vladimir I. Steblina, Forest Service.

I did not get any pictures of the column.  I was too busy driving from the Nason Creek area down the Chumstick back to fire camp.  What is did notice was how dangerous that part of the landscape was if the fire crossed Highway 2.  In the Plain area and the Chumstick there were well over 800 homes under a level 3 evacuation.  Level 3 is "get out now".

The few spots that jumped Highway 2 were all caught by firefighters.  Otherwise we would have been off to the races.  Many of those homes in the Chumstick drainage were not defensible.  The loss of homes would have been devastating.

                                                      photo courtesy Vladimir I. Steblina, Forest Service.

The Mills Canyon Fire camp was moved to the National Fish Hatchery in Leavenworth and a helicopter field was established.  

                                                     photo courtesy Vladimir I. Steblina, Forest Service.

I "timed out" and demobed on Wednesday, July 23rd.   There is a mandatory two days off before returning to the fire.  I decided to extend the days off for a week since Alexandra was coming over to visit from Seattle.  As I post this on Thursday, July 30th the fire is still burning and put up a "nice" column today.  The good news that it is still burning within fire lines on the north and east sides of the fire.  The west side is burning up into the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and higher elevations.  The south side of the fire was a concern when I was demobed as there were no good control lines on that side of the fire.  So it will probably continue creeping south.  This is a picture of the fire as it burned down to the Wenatchee River.

                                                        photo courtesy Vladimir I. Steblina, Forest Service.

I go back up as available on Monday, August 4th.  Hopefully, the fire will be well under control and resources will be being demobed.  It is only the start of August and it seems like fire season has been going on for months.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Mills Canyon Fire, Fire Information, July 9th through July 15th, 2014

                                                      photo courtesy Vladimir I. Steblina, Forest Service.

Mills Canyon Fire, Fire Information, July 9th through July 15th, 2014.

The previous post covered the first day of the Mills Canyon Fire.  On the second day, a Washington State Incident Management Team took over the management of the fire and I was offered a position in fire information.

The above picture was taken that first night on the fire from the Entitat River Road.  NBC news liked the above photo and asked for a credit line.  I do not know if they used the photo or not.  That night I drove back via Highway 97 across on the other side of the Columbia River and there were some great photo opportunities, however, I decided that sleep was more important than photography at that point.

                                                      photo courtesy Vladimir I. Steblina, Forest Service.

The fire burned right down to the river.  The picture was taken from Entiat High School which was the fire camp.  If you enlarge the pictures the tradition is for every graduating class at Entiat High School to paint their year on the rock face.  It looks like the class years survived the fire.

                                                      photo courtesy Vladimir I. Steblina, Forest Service.

The above photo was taken driving to camp the following morning.  The fire had reached the highway and for the following week the highway was open and closed depending on fire conditions.  This fire burned over much of the same area that was burned in the Swakane Fire that burned in 2010.

                                                     photo courtesy Vladimir I. Steblina, Forest Service.

For several days the fire reached the highway at various points.  The smoke, fire activity, and firefighter trucks lead to the highway closures.  As you can see in the following picture.  It did get dark along the highway.

                                                      photo courtesy Vladimir I. Steblina, Forest Service.

For most of the week our house at Burch Mountain Road was under a Level 1 advisory to be prepared for evacuation.  The evacuation notice came just as the Washington State Incident Mangement Team was replaced by a Forest Service Type 1 team.  Northwest Team 3 was also here for the Wenatchee Complex. I also got an evacuation notice, but for Camas when that team was here two years ago.  Team 3 shows up and I get an evacuation notice!

Washington Team 2 was reassigned to the Carlton Complex to deal with one of the four lighting fires burning in the Methow River drainage.   That at the time looked like the easier assignment, but with the high winds a couple of days later it turned into the firestorm that ran all the way into Pateros, Washington.

For me, I was looking forward to a couple days off as Mills Canyon came under control, but then the team was assigned a fire high above Highway 2 at Coles Corner.  That resulted in another eight days on a fire assignment and will be covered in the next posting.

                                                       photo courtesy Vladimir I. Steblina, Forest Service.

Fire season is early this year and many of the starts are human caused.  Be careful out looks to be a very long fire season.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mills Canyon Fire, July 8th, 2014, Entiat, Washington

Mills Canyon Fire, July 8th, 2014, Entiat, Washington

It looks like this summer will be a hot one in central Washington.  The forecast is for hot weather the next two weeks with temperatures bumping 100 degrees on several days.  Tomorrow, it look like it will be a red flag warning for high temperatures, low humidity, and most important high winds up to 30 mph.  Tomorrow, would be a good day for the National Weather Service to miss their forecast!!

The fire started as a structure fire in Mills Canyon, which is just south of the Entiat River.  The fire spread from the structure into the adjacent wildlands.  The report of the fire was received at 11:54 am.  The picture above is taken from the bottom of Burch Mountain Rd. in Wenatchee.  This picture was taken at 4:31 pm.

At the time the estimated acreage was 2,000.  This photo is taken 13 miles from the fire.  Reports are that there was a significant ash fall from the column.  I heard at least one helicopter flying the fire.

This picture has a slightly different perspective.  As you can see in the picture the winds are pushing the fire in a south-east direction.  This picture was taken at 4:52 pm.

Chelan County has closed the upper portion of the Burch Mountain Road.  The following picture was taken at 5.29 pm.  One air tanker is now on the fire, along with two helicopters, 15 engines and 250 firefighter according to the Forest Service at 3:15 pm.  A Incident Mangement Team is taking over the fire management duties tomorrow.  The Chelan County Sheriff has ordered evacuations in the vicinity of the fire.

Large fires starting in Mills Canyon area in previous years have ran all the way into the outskirts of Wenatchee.  This happened in 1970, 1988, and most recently in 2010-Swakane Fire.

It should be a very interesting day tomorrow.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Skyline Fire, July 6, 2014, Wenatchee, Washington

Skyline Fire, July 6, 2014, Wenatchee, Washington

These are my personal photos and are copyrighted.  Permission must be granted before use.  I am NOT working on this fire.

This blog posting is the progression of the Skyline Fire as viewed from Burch Mountain looking across the Wenatchee Valley.  I first noticed the fire when awoken by our cat.  It seems he fell off the "gangplank" that leads to the bedroom deck.  He is an old cat.

Without my glasses on, I saw some new "lights" across the valley and pretty quickly knew what it meant.

The official start of the fire was at 02:15 am.  My first picture was at 02:34 am. You can see how quickly a fire moves in light fuels.

This second photo is eight minutes later at 02:42 am.  I did change exposures slightly between the two photos.  If you look closely between the two photos you can see how quickly the fire is moving.

This photo is 03:26 am.  Notice the hot spot at the upper end of the picture.

The photo was taken at 04:16 am.  At this point the fire is starting to move west in a more aggressive manner.  When the fire started there were significant winds down valley.  I suspect at this point the down valley winds were starting to abate.

This photo is just 14 minutes later.  Dawn is breaking.

The photo at 05:30.

This is at 06:46 am.  

At 08:25 am.  At this point the first acreage estimate was announced at 400 acres.  The Chelan County #1 helicopter was flying the fire at this point.

At 09:29 am.  At the left side of the picture there is a dense, while streak.  That is the Chelan County #1 helicopter dropping water.

At 11:06 am.  Update acreage to between 300 and 400 acres.  There are two DNR helicopters working the fire.  The Incident Commander sounded optimistic on the radio interview.  Higher westerly winds predicted for around 5:00 pm tonight.  If lines hold through that it should be looking fairly well.

The Incident Commander did mention that fires started by fireworks in Douglas County limited the number of personnel available immediately for this fire.

Good job, catching this fire quickly.  I started the photo sequence and left "plenty" of room for it to grow on the photo's.  Good thing, I did not need it!!!!

More photo's will be posted on an hourly basis.  As noted all photo's copyrighted and can be used only with permission.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Traditions: Minnie Lake, Marriage, and Fishing and Hunting Buddies.....

Traditions:  Minnie Lake, Marriage, and Fishing and Hunting Buddies.....

I could tell by the voice on the other end of the phone link that it was not good news.  "I can't go to Minnie. My daughter is getting married that week".  There is much less respect for tradition these days and so the annual fishing trip is missed for a once in a lifetime event.  Since I was NOT the father of the bride, Minnie Lake remained a spring tradition for me in 2014.

For many people marriage is a once in the lifetime event.  Unfortunately, though fishing and hunting buddies are almost as important as that "significant other" in life, you tend to go through many more of them in life.

There are many books on marriage and one can even argue that the Bible is really a book about marriage. For some reason, there a far, far fewer books on fishing and hunting buddies.  I suppose the current leading expert on this subject is Patrick McManus. His outdoor stories almost always revolve around the fishing and hunting buddy named Rancid Crabtree. As a role model Rancid leaves something to be desired as a fishing and hunting buddy. The good news is that fishing and hunting is NOT about good role models.

Wives and hunting buddies have a lot in common.  A bad wife can make a lifetime seem like eternity, while a bad hunting buddy can turn a short lifetime into eternity with one badly timed shot.  It is just as important to spend time selecting a hunting buddy as it is a partner for life.  Maybe more the dog starts working a pheasant I always keep an ear out for the click of the safety. If I hear that click "early" that is enough to drop the person off the list for a "second" hunting trip.

Finding a partner for life is usually a private matter between two people.Yes, families have some influence, but unless there are children involved from a previous marriage it pretty much is between two people. Not so with a hunting buddy. It is likely that there will be four of you involved since your DOGS will have to get along with each other and you as well.

I ran into a guy that seemed like a pretty good match for a fishing and hunting buddy. My dog even liked him! Actually, I think my dog preferred him to me.  Unfortunately, for her his dog did not care for either me or her. Once, on the boat his dog slowly maneuvered until she with a little ceremony shoved my dog off the boat and into the lake. I knew it was over at that point.

At some point in life your wife will become more concerned about your current fishing and hunting buddy than old girlfriends. You will know when you get that awkward phone call from a girlfriend you have not seen in almost 40 years. The question you get from your wife will be "does she have any grandchildren?". Take a phone call from your fishing and hunting buddy and when you come back into the room the accusations will start flying. "So what are you two cooking up now?  Where and when are you planning on running off to now?? You spend more time with him than me. When are we going to do something together??".

And so it was that I left Wenatchee and drove to Minnie Lake by myself. Next to me was a small gray box.

above photo by Tom Jones.....

I remembered the previous spring when peals of laughter greeted me as he landed another fish fishing a bobber (strike indicator) and a very small chironomid fly. His chortling continued throughout the afternoon until he finally caught his 25th fish.  And then the catching stopped and the lake fell quiet.

above photo by Tom Jones......

I anchored myself in the same spot. Reached into the gray box and pulled out a small black and red chironomid. Under a bright red bobber and ten feet of leader it bobbed up and down in the waves. It went down on a fairly consistent basis. That is until I landed my 25th fish and then the catching stopped once again.

Tradition. It is more than walking down an aisle.