Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Camping on Cook Mountain Ridge

Fourth of July weekend was the inauguration of our "new" camping trailer, designed to get us out of town and on the road. We camped with our friends Paul and Katy and their two new mules, Kit and Kate, who had just arrived from Tennessee two weeks ago.

We went up Cook Canyon out of Ellensburg and then up on the canyon ridge. Dry meadows were blanketed with purple lupine. Spring-fed meadows still nurtured wild Iris, hellebore and other wild flowers.

We arrived Saturday afternoon and set up camp, which consisted of our portable fire pit, a pile of wood and four chairs, and a table right outside our trailer with the extra campstove, where I did some of the cooking. We were set for a relaxing weekend.

We were also expecting Paul and Katy's daughter, Allyson and son-in-law Tony for an evening by the campfire and a birthday celebration for Allyson. They were staying at Paul and Katy's for the weekend with their daughter, Lily, and taking care of Greta, Paul's year-and-a-half old hunting dog. Greta was hyper and Paul decided against bringing her because they wanted to work with the mules.

About 7 p.m. Katy received a phone call.  When she got off the phone, she said, "Greta is dead." She had strangled on the fence next to her dog house, apparently getting the snap on her collar caught and unable to free herself. Tony had discovered her, too late to help.

Tony and Allyson arrived grim-faced at camp with Greta wrapped in an old quilt. We talked through what happened and then near midnight sang happy birthday to Allyson and ate birthday cake before they headed back to town.

We went to bed, but around 1:30 the mules began stomping their feet, apparently bored with their confinement. Around 4:30 a.m., Paul and Katy got up and tied them to the outside of the trailer. At 6 a.m., Paul and Katy went for a short walk to the edge of the ridge to watch the sun come up. When they got back to camp, Kit was loose, somehow releasing the snap on her lead. Katy kept looking for the meaning behind two snaps: one causing death, the other causing release.

While they stalked Kit, I made a breakfast of eggs, bacon and potatoes, knowing that Paul's diabetes was going to wreak havoc if he didn't get fed. By the time Paul laid a hand on Kit's halter and was able to tie her again to the trailer, he was shaking.

We sat around a dead campfire and ate our breakfast, preparing for the next step--burying Greta, still wrapped in the quilt in the back of Ben's truck. The day was warming and it was time.

Wild Iris

Ben and Paul found a spot under a pine tree while Katy and I gathered rocks to place on the grave. Once Greta was covered, Paul threw tobacco on the grave, a Native tradition, and prayed that her spirit would fly free of chains.

After the burial, Ben and I went to get water from a spring for the mules and walked along a road lined with Lupine and Wild Iris, keeping Taz close. No more traumas for the day.

Wild Iris

That night we ate dinner around the campfire and watched in awe as deer skirted our campsite as dusk settled. The second night we were snug in our new trailer, hearing nothing, not even the deer that relieved itself next to the trailer in the night. The mules settled in and didn't mind being trailered.

Wild Iris 
Monday morning Ben and I walked up another road, saw a large buck with a antler span of 24 inches bound across a hillside meadow. I took more Lupine photos and talked with Ben about the van I still want for traveling places a trailer can't go. He just sighed.

That evening Paul and Katy talked more about Greta, how she died, how bad they felt, and eventually how she really hadn't been the right breed for them, philosophizing and grieving the way one does after one loses a pet.

In spite of the sorrow of Greta's passing, it was a good weekend with beauty and sorrow.

Have no idea what this is

Ben and Taz enjoying the view

A view from Kittitas Valley to where we were camped. 

Greta's gravesite.


Jay said...

Goudeygal, The flower is an onion, genus "Allium",species I don't know. Sorry about your friends' dog. Fences and leashes are a bad combination.

Jasara said...

I love this. Between your vivid descriptions and meaty pictures, I felt like I was there. "Meaty." That's a funny word. I guess I'm thinking that the definition between things in the pictures is so available and present, like I could reach out and grip that far ridge in the distance and squeeze it or bite it.

O.k. Now I'm getting weird.