Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Adrenaline, Gunpowder, and Feathers

The fall and winter of 2007 has been much different from any other that I have experienced. I have had the opportunity only a handful of times to hunt waterfowl. Those few times I have hunted were with my cousins in Star Valley Wyoming, who have always been big hunters. Here in Utah I had never been able to get into the birds or even know where to start really. This year however I of course hooked up with my good friend Kirk, and he has lead me to yet another addicting hobby.

Though Kirk is even fairly new to the game, he does have a decent boat and gets out on it as often as he can. Here in Cache Valley there are some wetland areas that make for some great waterfowl habitat and thus some good waterfowl hunting. The area we typically hunt is the Cutler Marsh and all this season we made it out at least once a week if not more. It is impossible for me to explain to my wife and many others I know that it is actually fun to get up at 5:00AM, dress in everything warm I can find, boat around in the dark until we can set up the decoys, park ourselves as well hidden in the cattails as we can get, and then blow on duck calls for the rest of the morning. All this while fighting the extreme cold and trying to avoid falling in the water.

It is a bit nuts for sure, but many hunters can attest to the adrenaline that flows through your veins when those birds cup their wings and make their approach towards your decoys. My heart thumps in my chest so hard that I have to calm myself and focus, so that if in fact they do come in to us I can at least attempt to down them with my shotgun. The duck calling and the aim with the gun are arguably the most important parts of duck hunting, but as Kirk would agree my areas that need to most attention. After I shoot my gun three times and not bring down any birds I cannot even recall taking aim or even remember what actually goes through my head when I am shooting, all I know is that it was incredibly fun and sometimes I can bag a bird or two.

I cant wait until next season! We bought a MOJO duck and plan on adding to our spread some geese or other hunting items to make it even better. There is so much to learn and experience, I look forward to taking my boys out someday and teaching them how to hunt and love the outdoors.

Kirk and I with our days bounty.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Horses in the High Uintahs

I was recently invited to go on a camping and fishing trip with my friend, Kirk and his father in law. They were headed into the Uintah mountains, a place that I had never been, but heard much about being the location of the tallest mountain in Utah, King's Peak.

Our trip began much different than I had anticipated and I knew I was in for one stupendous weekend when we finally headed up the trail with only a couple of hours of light left in the day. Getting ourselves and the horses ready was a lot of work. Once on the trail we only had some real fun things happen. The pack horse had a panic attack throwing and trampling all of our gear until it was scattered all over in the woods. In all of the chaos and panic the lead horse took off on its own down the trail, leaving Kirk and I chasing after it on our own out of control horses. We did finally make it to a respectable camp spot for the night after repacking the horses and building up our courage again to get going again. Kirk and I both are quite far from horse folk.

The rest of the weekend went much better than the first day of adventures. We were able to catch many Brook trout in the high alpine lakes and even enjoyed some fine dining while roughing it in the outdoors.

The Uintah mountains are extremely pretty and full of great scenery that is unique from other mountains in and around the Utah area. I was taken back by the beauty that I had lived so close to for most of my life, but had never enjoyed until this weekend. I look forward to returning to this high mountain trails, though I hope to experience them in a much more foot to trail way, rather than hoof to trail.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Backpacking the Worlds Steepest Mountain Range

Yes, actually I have conquered the steepest mountain range in the world. Many, upon hearing that might not believe me or have some picture in their heads of this grandeur mountain like Everest or K2, but both assumptions would be inaccurate.

The valley where I grew up has at its western edge a mountain range called the Wellsvilles. As a kid growing up in Cache Valley this mountain range does in fact seem to be the tallest mountains ever. To make sense of that for you let me briefly explain. You see what it actually means is steepest not tallest. The vertical incline from the base of the mountains to the very peak has the steepest average. So its not that they are so awe inspiring to compare them to the Himalayas or any other great mountains, its just that from the very bottom to the very top the angle as a whole is steeper than any other range. It also pertains to the range in its entirety, not just comparing one mountain to another.

It has been about twenty years that I have lived under the shadows of the Wellsvilles. As a kid I would day dream about one day climbing them or maybe even skiing down the face of Wellsville Cone. This last weekend at the age of 27, I finally made my trek to the top. It was not just a trek either, it was a full backpacking excursion.

My buddy Kirk had planned a backpacking trip to the top of the mountains this summer and invited me to come along. We planned and anticipated the trip for about six weeks and left Thursday, August 30th at lunch time and began our 4,000 foot climb. The plan was to hike to the top and camp in between the two most prominent peaks, Box Elder Peak and the Wellsville Cone. There is a nice bowl between the two and we had been told there is a spring as well, so this was our destination for our camp site over the next two nights.

The Summit of Box Elder Peak seemed to be forever away and took around five hours for us to reach. I didn't think that was too bad considering the 50lb packs we were carrying. Well, Kirk had 52lbs and I had only 38lbs in my pack. I knew that if I carried as much as Kirk I would be left behind or be carried most of the way. I carried about ten pounds less water than Kirk, which was a gamble on the spring having water. If there was nothing but dirt and gravel I would be a sad little man, but I would have dug into Kirks supply when he was asleep if infact I was running low on water, so I took the lighter load for sure.

Once on top we beheld the most amazing views. I have never seen the Valley from such perspectives before. We could peer down one side into Cache Valley and on the other into Brigham City and even towards the Salt Lake valley. Towards the southeast we could see the Uintah mountains, which we have a trip planned there soon as well.

From the summit we made our way down into the valley to set up camp and found that the spring we hoped for did still have water flowing. This was a major relief for me, meaning I would not having to ration water so heavily. We set up our camp, made some dinner, and then being exhausted from the hike, got ready for a great night sleep. My thoughts were heading to the sleeping bag that I have never hiked so hard in my life and I am going to sleep very well, however I was horribly mistaken. That night was absolutely the most horrific, unbearable, wishing for death kind of night that I have ever had. The overcast kept the night very warm and muggy. It was too warm in fact to even be in the sleeping bag, but if any part of your body was out of the bag the swarming mosquito's would bite all night long. It wasn't just the biting that kept you awake, it was them buzzing your head and face constantly, sometimes even flying into a nostril or ear allowing near zero sleep the entire night.

Our camp location proved to be popular that night as well. We set up just down the ridge from the spring which is probably some of the only water on the mountain. There were a few times that we had animals tromping by as they made there way to and from the spring. None were more exciting than the very large and loud animal that grunted at Kirk and I. There was a stand off for quite some time as we knew he was just out of our view in the pitch black night and he clearly knew where we were as each of us tried to out listen the other. Eventually we got so brave that we tossed rocks towards the animal and screamed to hopefully scare it away.

The night was very eventful and exciting, however none of the events included any sleep whatsoever. The next day we made ourselves a makeshift debris hut and scouted around a bit. We gathered grasses together to make a soft be in the hut to ensure a better nights sleep for our second go around. That night things went much better for myself, as for Kirk he ended up moving out of the hut, deciding to sleep elsewhere away from my snoring.

The trip as a whole was quite the adventure. I am glad to have been up there and can look up from the valley below and now know exactly what is up there and have a much different perspective of the mountain range they call The Wellsvilles.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Wind Caves Deluxe

The month of August this year has been filled with more activity than in the last two years combined or so it seems. The past two summers we have been so swamped with building our house and trying to keep our lives rolling that we have hardly done any activities as a family at all. This summer has been better already. I have been camping with my two boys, Dane and Ty, we have done some fishing together, and been riding the mountain bike towing them in the bike cart behind me.

In another week or so I am headed on a fairly rugged hiking trip with my buddy Kirk. It will be a three day two night excursion and I have wanted to get some smaller hikes in to try and prep the legs a little bit. Recently I found myself home alone with just the boys, a single parent for the night, and thought it a good opportunity to get out with them. I remembered that we have a kid carrier backpack, it does leave the shoulders aching for some padding, but works just fine. I decided that it might be fun to go on our own little adventure in the mountains, just me and the boys. There is a trail up Logan canyon that leads to what is called the wind caves. There are a few neat features in the rocky hillside that make for a great day hike and is marked by a smooth, easy trail.

Being that it was just myself trying to do the Mr. Mom thing, we struggled a bit to get ready and out the door. Finally after getting two crazy boys ready, and our small supplies packed, we left at about 6:30PM. This was much later that I had hoped, but my thoughts were that we could hike until Dane got tired and turn around,... no big deal! Much to my surprise Dane is quite the trekker. As Ty sat in the pack behind me, loving life, Dane hiked his way slowly up the trail tagging along, and struggling to not focus on bugs and other critters. The going was slow but to my surprise Dane kept a consistent pace all while constantly informing me that "Dad this is a long ways".

Constantly turning around to check on both my little guys and encouraging Dane, I started to not pay great attention to the trail in front of me. This was greatly apparent when suddenly just beside my right leg was this loud rattling, so loud in fact that it was almost a hiss and scarred me stupid. I immediately knew what it was and jumped a mile into the air, even with Ty on my back and let out curse that I thought the whole canyon heard. Once I came down from shreiksville I turned to see exactly where the bugger was. It was indeed a rattlesnake that appeared to be about two and a half feet long and was coiled up ready to strike. Luckily as I had walked by it only 6-8 inches away it did not strike, but quite briskly coiled, then retreated into the rocks. I am extremely glad that there was no further encounter with that bad boy, other than nearly soiling myself. Dane was just sad that he missed it, and wanted to go searching for it. He believed me though as I told him that it was a bad snake and did not want to play.

Dane, Ty and myself made it to the caves just fine. We took some quick pictures and threw some rocks off the ledge as Dane was of course fascinated with as we watched them shatter far below. I soon realized that light was fading fast and the we needed to cruise down off the mountain. No sooner had I realized our daylight problems did I realize that most all Dane's energy was spent on the way up and I knew that in order to make it down alright we could not take the same 3 year old pace as we did coming up. So I took Ty out of the pack and placed the much heavier Dane inside(approx 37 lbs.). Then held Ty across both my arms (about 22 lbs.) and started the hefty trek off the mountain. Now with the much heavier kid in the pack the shoulder straps were really digging in, but there was absolutely no time for comfort or breaks, we had to get down. Once we made it about two-thirds the way down it was too dark to see my footing on the trail, and hefting the two boys I surely didn't want to fall, so I had to put everything down and get out my new trusty headlamp. Once loaded up again with my two fat farts, at least they felt that way, we made it down safely and without further incident.

We were able to have a fellow hiker snap a shot of all three of us boys on top of the caves.

Any future hikes we embark on I believe we will do so with a bit more planning and possibly not push the little guys so far in order to complete the second half of the hike a bit better. It was one of those experiences that was fun and one to laugh at later, but we should do better on our future excursions.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Monster Cats

We had been living in Nibley for one year now, and have struggled getting to know everyone in the neighborhood, because there is always someone new moving in. I had just briefly met one of our neighbors that had been around for a couple years, Kirk Earl. He seemed to always be riding his bike or talking to someone about fishing or some other outdoor adventure. As I got to know him a bit more I mentioned that if he ever needed a fishing buddy that he should call me. It took a few more times of this type of self invitation, but one night I was just finishing up work at about 8:30 Pm and I got a call from Kirk telling me that "we are going fishing tonight". I said "alright, who is we"? There was a pause for a minute and Kirk on the other end of the phone says, "ME... and you", which made me laugh, here it is mostly dark already and this dude wants to go fishing.

Once I figured out that he was dead serious I actually got excited. It was one of those spur of the moment things that most folks say you shouldn't do, but that's part of what made it exciting. So I stopped at the store bought a fishing license and went cat fishing in the middle of the night for the first time.

This trip I found out was also Kirks first attempt at this type of fishing. He had heard from a source that catfish like hot dogs and so he brought along these spicy, Mexican flavored sausages... I don't think there were any Latino fish in the river that night, because we didn't catch a thing. However that same week he calls me up with some new ideas and wants to head out again soon. Our next attempt I went to the store and bought some actual catfish bait and we went again that weekend. That night I caught some really big catfish, and Kirk,... not so much. We were both stoked to catch some fish and were ready to come back soon.

Since that time Kirk and I have been fishing at least twice a week and killing ourselves with sleep or major lack thereof. We have used all kinds of bait options and still cant seem to find the magic wand that will always catch fish. We have been able to catch a couple big ones now and again and we are always getting better. It seems as though now we cant keep the little mud cats off of our hooks and struggle catching the much larger channel cats, but we are both hooked. The long hours sitting in the camp chair with no other company but each other, a million mosquito's, and other night animals has been good for conversation and has lead to other great ideas.