Part II: A Walk on the Wild Side of Southern Oregon… from the Mail Box

Numerous ferocious animals are found along our mailbox route, including Charlie who barks more in a minute that the minute has seconds.

Ferocious animals are found along our mailbox route, including Charlie, who barks more in a minute that the minute has seconds.

I took you along for a walk to my mailbox in the last post. We hiked over Cody’s Bear Trail, went looking for a wayward skunk, and found the deer herd that believes it is the true owner of our property. Maybe it is. We then detoured through the Klamath National Forest, rejoined our neighborhood road and arrived at the mailbox.

Today we are completing the trip. We will walk along the Upper Applegate Road, check out the Applegate River, visit with one tiny and two huge dogs, and finish our hike on Ethan’s Hidden Trail. The total walk to and from the mailbox, with detours, is a mile and a half.

But first I have to report on two new developments. One, I found the skunk. He is a magnificent creature, by far the biggest skunk I have ever seen. I’d gone down after dark to collect our garbage can on the main road. And there he was, waddling. In fact he waddled right into our front road culvert. He is one culvert-loving skunk.  I am surprised he fit.

Two, I received an award from the Word Press blog Animal Couriers. I love these people. They transport people’s pets all over Europe but also throughout the world. And they do a lot with rescued animals. They’re good folks. Was the award for my great humanity, good looks, fine intelligence and quick wit? No, sigh. It was for my “off the wall” comments on their blog. So there you have it, in case you haven’t noticed before: I am an off the wall type of guy. I like it.

Upper Applegate Road, Southern Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

On leaving the mailbox, our counterclockwise journey takes us along Upper Applegate Road. It’s my kind of highway. At night, I can drive the whole 13 miles without meeting another car. Charlie the Dog lives up the road on the right. Our river property is just above the grove of trees.

Trail on Upper Applegate River in Southern Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

I quickly leave the road. There is the Applegate River to explore. Besides, if I had been born to walk on roads, I would have been born with wheels.

There is this sign... but I am sure they can't mean me. Plus I haven't met the owner to ask for permission in my three years of living here.

There is this sign… but I am sure they can’t mean me. Plus I haven’t met the owner to ask for permission in my three years of living here.

River rock covered in moss on Applegate River in Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

I learned a long time ago that beauty surrounds us, if we are willing to see it. This river rock covered in moss is an example.

Wood grain photo on Applegate River in Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Another example: grains in wood. I found this long-dead limb just beneath the no-trespassing sign.

Applegate river in winter. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

And here is the Applegate River. It is running low now because we haven’t had much rain but that doesn’t detract from its beauty.

Manzanita growing on Applegate River in Southern Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Recognize this bush? It’s smooth skin is the primary clue. This is manzanita. In the spring it hosts small pink flowers that smell oh so sweet. In the fall it sports bright red berries.

Manzanita Flowers. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A photo of manzanita flowers I took last spring.

Oregon Red Cedar. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

We return to the road, walk past Charlie’s house, and come to this magnificent red cedar that marks our property line.

Granite rocks on Applegate River in Southern Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Before we head up Ethan’s Trail back to our house, we’ll make a quick detour onto the river property we co-own with out neighbors. We have to scramble over granite rocks to get there.

Applegate River. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

But the journey is worth it.

Lichen on rock along Applegate River. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Walking back from the river I find this lichen…

Pool of frozen water on rocks next to Applegate River in Southern Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

This small pool of water that was frozen over and offered a fun reflection. The pine needle on the left side provides a perspective on the size of the pool.

I also found this site of a feast. Poor birdie.

I also found this site of a feast. Poor birdie.

We have now arrived at our front road. Our sunroom is hiding behind the oak tree on the left. Ethan's Hidden trail starts in the trees on the right. I found the skunk about fifteen feet below where I took the photo.

We have now arrived at our front road. Our sunroom is hiding behind the oak tree on the left. Ethan’s Hidden Trail starts in the trees on the right. I found the skunk about fifteen feet below where I took this photo.

As I head over for Ethan's Trail more neighbor dogs come out to greet. These are A guard dogs and regard everybody but their master with suspicion. I think Griz is finally starting to like me. I've told him waht a good boy he is at least a thousand times.

As I head over for Ethan’s Trail more neighbor dogs come out to greet me. These monsters are Anatolian guard dogs and regard everybody but their master with suspicion. I think Griz is finally starting to like me. I’ve told him what a good boy he is at least a thousand times. He actually wagged his tail.

His brother Omni, on the other hand, has that look that says come across the fence so I can eat you. He lost his eye as a puppy.

Omni didn’t. He has that look that says come across the fence so I can eat you. He lost his eye as a puppy and has been irritated about it ever since.

Ethan's trail

Applegate Valley trail through ponderosa Pines and Douglas Fir. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

While Cody’s Bear Trail makes its way through White Oaks, Ethan’s Hidden Trail wanders through Madrone, Ponderosa Pines and Douglas Firs on the opposite side of our canyon.

Blackberry vines growing in the Applegate Valley of Southern Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Blackberries fill the canyon. By August these vines are loaded with fruit that the deer help us harvest, delicately.

When we can see our pump house, we are almost home. An interesting aside... When we bought the property we noted that the ceiling of the pump house was filled with outlets. "What the heck?" we thought. And then the light dawned. We were in rural Oregon. The pump house had been used for growing pot. I tease Peggy that If our retirement funds ever run out, I am going to become a pot farmer.

When we can see our pump house, we are almost home. An interesting aside… when we bought the property we noted that the ceiling of the pump house was filled with outlets. “What the heck?” we thought. And then the light dawned. We were in rural Oregon. The pump house had been used for growing pot. I tease Peggy that if our retirement funds ever run out, I am going to become a pot farmer. She smiles indulgently.

Madrone tree in Southern Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Finally, when we arrive at the large Madrone that provides our back yard with shade on hot summer days, we are home. The smooth skinned Madrone is related to the Manzanita. Thanks for coming along on the Mailbox walk.

NEXT BLOG: I will return to our pre-Christmas visit to Puerto Vallarta where Peggy and I will visit the small town of San Sebastian located high in the Sierra Madre Mountains.

At Home in the Woods of Southern Oregon

 

This view from our patio features the first snow of the year. You are looking south at the Red Buttes, which are part of the Siskiyou Mountains that form the border between California and Oregon.

Two years ago Peggy and I decided to ‘settle down’ in Southern Oregon after travelling around North America for three years in our small RV. It was a good decision. We ended up purchasing five acres of property. The beautiful Applegate River flows in front of our house. Our back property line is the gateway to over a million acres of National Forest land.

The Applegate River, in front of our property, displays fall colors.

Walking out the back door and up our road leads to over a million acres of National Forest Land.

This graceful Madrone with its strange, pealing bark, provides shade for our home. It is one of numerous trees on our property. Other trees include Douglas Fir, Ponderosa Pine, White Oak and Red Cedar.

Morning mist outlines one of the Douglas Firs.

The same Douglas Fir, this time set off by the evening sky.

Peggy loves rivers and I love wilderness. It is a perfect match. Every morning we wake up with smiles on our faces.

Deer, bear, squirrels, foxes and numerous species of birds consider our property as part of their territory or at least a convenient stop off place. Last year a bear tipped over our bar-b-que. A couple of weeks ago a skunk let go under our house. This summer Peggy waged an unceasing war against ground squirrels that discovered her garden.

It all comes with country living. Mainly, we are amused by the antics of our furred and feathered friends.

Which way is the garden?

Is it here on your back porch? ( Junior has a better idea about where to find food.)

Surely you can’t resist feeding me? “Our” deer herd has trails running all over the property. Every day we get to see bucks, does, fawns and teenagers go about their lives.

At 2000 feet, we don’t get much snow… just enough to create a beautiful white wonderland. The deer, BTW, are Black Tail Deer. (Note the far deer.)

I used a Have-a-Heart trap to catch the ground squirrels and founded a new colony down the road and across the river on BLM land. The little buggers always went for the zucchini bait. I told them Peggy would be much less merciful. She was starting to practice with her pellet pistol.

We have been enjoying a beautiful fall and feel a slight tinge of regret that we are leaving to travel. I suspect the cruise of the Mediterranean with its extensive stop offs will make up for any regrets. Peggy and I do love to wander.

Gorgeous fall colors keep me running outside with my camera. I am admiring this beautiful Oregon Maple out the window as I type this post.

Another view from my writing chair. With fall arriving and temperatures dropping to freezing, this Geranium is one of Peggy’s last flowers of the season.

I thought about blogging while in Europe but I want to spend my time exploring.

So I’ve decided to focus my blog, Wandering in Time and Place, on my experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Liberia, West Africa. The stories are already written. Every other day I will post a new one chronologically in chapter format. When I get back in two months, I intend to publish the tales both digitally and in print as a book.

In the stories you will meet Boy the Bad Dog who ends up as guest of honor at a village feast, learn how to wage war against Army Ants, attend the hot machete trial of the Woman Who Wore No Underpants, and discover why the Liberian government felt the second grade reader I wrote was a dangerous revolutionary document. And that’s only the beginning…

I hope you will join me on the adventure.

The main street of Gbarnga, Liberia in West Africa where I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

The Great Tree Race

My grandson demonstrates his tree climbing skills on a large madrone.

“I can climb that tree, Grandpa,” my six-year old grandson announced proudly to me yesterday. It’s a refrain I’ve heard frequently over the past week from the visiting six-year old. His three-year old brother has similar ambitions, if not abilities. Their father is building them a tree house in Tennessee. It’s the ultimate dream of all impassioned tree climbers.

I remember when my dad (Pop) built a tree house for my older brother Marshall and me in the graveyard next to our house.

I’ve posted earlier blogs about the graveyard’s jungle-like nature. It’s potential as a playground was impossible to ignore. Young Heavenly Trees made great spears for throwing at each other.

That game ended when we impaled Lee Kinser’s hand. Neither Lee nor his parents were happy about this development and our efforts to master spear throwing were brought to an immediate halt. But a greater challenge remained.

Two incense cedars dominated the Graveyard. From an under five-foot perspective, they were gigantic, stretching some 75 feet skyward. The limbs of the largest tree started 20 feet up and provided scant hope for climbing. As usual, Marshall found a risky way around the problem.

Several of the huge limbs came tantalizingly close to the ground at their tips and one could be reached by standing on a convenient tombstone. Only Marshall could reach it; I was frustratingly short by several inches.

Marsh would make a leap, grab the limb and shimmy up it hanging butt-down until the limb became large enough for him to work his way around to the top. Then he would shimmy up to the tree trunk, four to five Curtis lengths off the ground. After that he would climb to wonderfully mysterious heights I could only dream about.

Eventually I grew tall enough to make my first triumphant journey up the limb. Then, very carefully, I climbed to the heart-stopping top, limb by limb. All of Diamond Springs spread out before me. I could see the school, and the mill, and the woods, and the hill with a Cross where I had shivered my way through an Easter Sunrise Service. I could see the whole world.

Except for a slight wind that made the tree sway and stirred my imagination about the far away ground, I figured I was as close to Heaven as I would ever get

By the time I finally made it to the top, Marshall had more grandiose plans for the tree. We would build a tree house in the upper branches. Off we went to the Mill to liberate some two by fours. Then we raided Pop’s tool shed for a hammer, nails, and rope.

My job was to be the ground man while Marshall climbed up to the top. He would then lower the rope and I would tie on a board that he would hoist up and nail in. It was a good plan, or so we thought.

Along about the third board, Pop showed up. It wasn’t so much that we wanted to build a tree house in the Graveyard that bothered him, or even that we had borrowed his tools without asking. He even seemed to ignore the liberated lumber.

His concern was that we were building our house too close to the top of the tree on thin limbs that would easily break with nails that barely reached through the boards. After he graphically described the potential results, even Marshall had second thoughts.

Pop had a solution though. He would build us a proper tree house on the massive limbs that were only 20 feet off the ground. He would also add a ladder so we could avoid our tombstone-shimmy-up-the-limb route.

And he did. It was a magnificent open tree house of Swiss Family Robinson proportions that easily accommodated our buddies and us with room to spare. Hidden in the tree and hidden in the middle of the Graveyard, it became our special hangout where we could escape everything except the call to dinner. It became my center for daydreaming and Marshall’s center for mischief planning. He, along with our friends Allen and Lee, would plan our forays into Diamond designed to terrorize the local populace.

It also became the starting point for the Great Tree Race. We would scramble to the top and back down in one on one competition as quickly as we could. Slips were a common hazard. Unfortunately, the other boys always beat me; they were two to three years older and I was the one most susceptible to slipping. My steady diet of Tarzan comic books sustained me though and I refused to give up.  Eventually, several years later, I would triumph.

Marshall was taking a teenage time-out with our grandparents who had moved to Watsonville down on the Central Coast of California. Each day I went to the Graveyard and took several practice runs up the tree. I became half ape. Each limb was memorized and an optimum route chosen. Tree climbing muscles bulged; my grip became iron and my nerves steel.

Finally, Marshall came home. He was every bit the big brother who had been away at high school while little brother stayed at home and finished grade school. He talked of cars and girls and wild parties and of his friend Dwight who could knock people out with one punch.

I casually mentioned the possibility of a race to the top of the Tree. What a set up. Two pack-a-day sixteen-year old cigarette smokers aren’t into tree climbing but how can you resist a challenge from your little brother.

Off we went. Marsh didn’t stand a chance. It was payback time for a million big brother abuses. I flew up and down the tree. I hardly touched the limbs. Slip? So what, I would catch the next limb. Marsh was about half way up the tree when I passed him on my way down. I showed no mercy and greeted him with a grin when he arrived, huffing and puffing, back at the tree house.

His sense of humor was minimal but I considered the results a fitting end to The Great Tree Race and my years of close association with the Grave Yard.