Spring is here

Got home from work about 2 pm and headed right up the hill behind the house. I could not hear any birds hooting, and figured I’d hike up to the Treadwell Ditch trail and if I didn’t hear any by then I’d come back. As I neared the trail, I heard hooting. I crossed the trail and up into what I think is the Eagle Creek bowl. There was a hooter on the left hillside, and of course it was way up in the bowl, near the top. Up and up I climbed. I think it was a 3 hour hike. I finally got to the bird, and after I got the bird, I sort of started to the next bird until I realized it was all the way across the bowl. So I started down. There was still an ice layer in the little ponds of these upper muskegs. When I got to the Treadwell Ditch trail, I remembered an easier way down if I could find, so I headed towards Dan Moller, and sure enough, found the trail. Took me about 1 and a quarter hours to get down from the spot I got the grouse. What a great day. Went hooter hunting up the side hill of Thane on Friday afternoon. Of course, the birds were in the trees at the very top at tree line. Took about 2 hours to get up there in a steep climb. When I got to the bird, there was also another about 1/4 mile away across a grass/alder/devils club snow slide. I got the first bird, and when it cartwheeled out of the tree, there was a sickening sound of it flapping down the steep incline. It was down about 50 yards, in a creek bed. I climbed down to retrieve it, then back up the hill side, and side hilled it to the other group of trees where I heard the other hooter. I saw some wolf or coyote skat with hari and small mammal or bird bones in it. I also saw lots of scat in the woods today that was almost a green color, and about 3 times as long as a deer skat. They were not in piles of more than one, but they were all over. Kurt thought maybe they were marmot skat. When I got to the tree stand, there was a problem: the bird quit hooting. There were eagles soaring in the area, and it may have spooked him. I waited and waited and it did not hoot again. I looked down across a wide, wide valley – Sheep Creek – to where the next trees were, and that was way too far to go, so I headed down the hill. I came to a limited roadway. I’d seen a gate not far from where I parked Sara’s van, and figured this road would take me down. I wound and wound my way down until I came to a tourist area for the AJ Mine. I had no idea it was even here. A few trucks were parked, but I didn’t see anyone and made my way down to the highway and a short walk to the van. Lots of work for a bird, but a great day. The Sierra Leoneons came over on Saturday, and Rorie made a guest appearance. Andrew asked if I could take hang with son Samuel on Sunday, and I said I was going to our cabin Sat and I could take him with me. When I got to their house, Gloria said 7 year old Samuel did not want to go, to which Samuel quickly changed his mind to spite his 16 year old sister. Smart girl. We gathered a coat and his boots and a change of socks and off we went. We planned to fish today and hunt hooters on Admiralty tomorrow. When I backed down the boat at the ramp, I told Samuel to go up on the dock and then he would get in the boat once I launched it. There is no direction without a litany of “whys”. This was all new to him. He no sooner walked down the dock when he thought he’d jump down into the shallow water on the ramp. First time for that, I guess, as he jumped into knee deep water with shin high boots. He slogged up above the water line, took of his boots and drained them out. It did not phase him. We launched the boat, and off we went to the cabin. We dropped a dungy pott, then fished for about half an hour and then pulled into our cove to use the easy out to keep our boat at low tide mark. Samuel jumped onto the beach off the bow, then walked down into the water, again to knee high. Another slog to the beach and dumped the water from his boots. We got to the cabin, and Samuel checked out every cranny of the cabin. It was a sad day for the boy when he found out we had no television, no ‘ipad’ for video games, and not even an indoor toilet. Not what he had in mind. He said he wanted to go home. I said it was too late for that, and he then said he didn’t want to hunt in the morning but go right home and I said that would be fine. He took my tools out and I told him to fix a loose arm on the rocking chair and he was all over that. He’s good with his hands. We went to bed about 8 pm after listening to Wisconsin beat unbeaten Kentucky in the final four. Samuel climbed into the top bunk and was sawing logs in about 5 minutes, still with his life vest on. I woke up wide awake at 2 am, so went down and got the woodstove going again as the fire was out and the cabin cold. Samuel woke about 3 am and said he wanted to go home now. I told him it was still dark out so he’d have to wait. He whined a bit until about 6 am and then was out like a light for another 2 hour sleep. I split some wood, did the dishes, and off we went. I asked if he wanted to go to the front beach or directly to the boat at the back beach, and he said the front beach. When I got to the treeline, it was low tide and he had already made a bee line to the water’s edge. He checked out all the life in the tide pools, and I showed him all the bivalves – mussels, butter clams, cockle clams, steamer clams – and barnacles. He soon knew them all. We worked our way around the beach line to the boat in about an hour, and the hooters were calling on Admiralty. Samuel was not deterred. He wanted to go home. We checked the crab pot, which held 2 small king crab and a small tanner crab. He was not happy to learn we could not keep any of these by law. He could not believe it. When the pot was down, I sat down in the co pilot seat next to Samuel in the captain’s chair. I talked him through the shifter/throttle, and he did a good job running the boat all the way to the dock. I tied up the boat to the dock rail. I walked up and backed down the trailer. I told Samuel to untie the line and hand it to me as I stood on the trailer tongue. He handed me the line, and I asked him to push the boat away from the dock so I could pull it onto the trailer. He did not shove the boat out, but hung onto the side of the boat as he pushed it out. Before I knew it, he was at 45 degrees, then 60 degrees, then 75 degrees and it was too late. He fell in the water up to his arm pits, still with his life vest on. He pulled his cold self up onto the trailer and walked up past me, slowly emerging from the water, walked up the tongue and into the back of the truck. I could not stop smiling. Experiential learning is what Uncle Mark is all about. We pulled up the boat, then I turned right instead of left towards town as I wanted to go out the road to see if any hooters were hooting. And they were. I told Samuel I’d drop him off and come back. And now he wanted to hunt – soaking wet and all! I talked him out of it. He said his dad would leave soon for work, so I told him I could drop him below his apartment and he’d have to walk up the hill because I could not turn around with the boat trailer. He reluctantly agreed. I called Andrew and said he was on his way up and Andrew soon called me back, laughing, as he’d gathered up his waterlogged son. Samuel will chew his ear with all his stories. I went back after the hooter I heard. Less than an hour walk to it. I’d brought back the single shot 12 ga from the cabin, and was carring that instead of the side by side. It was a long shot, and I only flushed the bird. The single shot puts out a pretty wide pattern and the bird was in a tree on a bench so I could not get elevated for a shorter shot. The bird looked like it flushed to a tree a short ways down but I looked for an hour and never could find where it landed. On the way back to the van, a bird silently landed on a branch not 10 yards away. I thought it was a female hooter, and was about to get the gun out of the pack when I realized it might be a raptor because the tail feathers were too long. It looked back at me for awhile, not really all that nervous. It took off a short time later, silently again and I knew then it was not a hooter. They do not fly silently. I looked it up and believe it was a northern goshawk. Not something you want to shoot, by mistake or otherwise. Kurt came by for a drink on the deck on a beautiful spring day of about 50 degree and we watched a hang glider flying above the mountain goats on the mountain side behind town.