Oh, Deer! We Live in a Zoo.

One of the two fawns, the most recent additions to animals that call our property home.

One of the two fawns, the most recent additions to animals that call our property home. It’s a cutie.

A few weeks back I blogged on the pregnant black-tailed deer that had taken up residence on our back porch. See here. (Bucks are hanging around now.) Several of you commented that you hoped mom would bring by her babies and introduce them. Well, she did, yesterday. Twins. I think Peggy may have bribed her with an apple.

While Mom searched for apple quarters, the kids checked us out. We were about 15 feet away.

While Mom searched for apple quarters, the kids checked us out. We were about 15 feet away.

I like this shot because it demonstrates just how small these fawns are. They are less than one month old.

I like this shot because it demonstrates just how small these fawns are. They are less than one month old.

Snack time for two.

Snack time.

Check out the length of the legs! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Check out the length of the legs! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Remember how Mom looked in our windows? Now the bucks are doing it.

Remember how Mom looked in our windows? Now the bucks are doing it.

And bed down in the madrone next to our house— a favorite hangout for the deer.  Note: the bucks are still in velvet.

They also bed down in the madrone next to our house— a favorite hangout for the deer. Note: The bucks are still in velvet. This guy will be a three pointer and possibly a four pointer when his antlers stop growing.

Mom had hidden the fawns until they could run. I guarantee they can. They were cavorting all over our yard, like kittens or puppies. Peggy and I sat out on our back porch and watched. A young buck that was hanging out didn’t know how to relate to the babies, especially when they decided he might be a source of milk. It was pretty funny. He gently suggested that they go play elsewhere.

"No, I am not your daddy." Bucks can be fairly aggressive but they are amazingly gentle when it comes to fawns.

“No, I am not your daddy.” Bucks can be fairly aggressive but they are amazingly gentle when it comes to fawns.

This morning, a herd of deer, the downhill crowd, gathered around some shrubs Peggy and I had recently planted. They circled the fence I had built, looking for a way in. It drives them crazy that they can’t get to all of those succulent young green leaves. Finally they gave up and bedded down next to the fence. At one point we had four in a row.

The deer circled the fenced in shrubs, looking for a place to get in. Each day they check the area out to see if something has changed.

The deer circled the fenced in shrubs, looking for a place to get in. Each day they check the area out to see if something has changed. I have strings tied across the top with flags attached. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Finally they gave up and bedded down next to the fence, ready for a nap.

Finally, they gave up and bedded down next to the fence, ready for a nap.

At one point, there were four sleeping in a row along the fence. This is tow of them. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

At one point, there were four sleeping in a row along the fence. This is two of them. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

There is no question about it; we live in a zoo. Our phone has been buzzing. The neighbors are reporting that another bear has come down off the mountain to check out our neighborhood as a possible food source. We hear the dog telegraph each night. They have a special bark for bears. It’s horrendously loud and goes on and on. But we welcome the warning. When I was away at Berkeley last week and Peggy was home alone, the bear came by and took out our garbage can. The can is now living in our shed. If I see the bear, I will advise it, however, that it isn’t wise to mess with Peggy. I don’t.

On the other end of the scale we have the lizards. We park our outdoor shoes next to the backdoor and the lizards think of them as mansions. Given the fact that I wear size 14, maybe they are. Anyway, it is important that we turn the shoes over and give them a sharp rap before we put them on. Peggy failed to do that once. She was painting our shed and her toe had a continuous twinge. Concerned, she pulled her shoe off to see what was wrong with her foot. Out popped a lizard. Boy did it disappear fast.

A lizard duplex.

A lizard duplex.

And ground squirrels, I swear they breed like rabbits. Not even the snakes, foxes, hawks and coyotes can keep up with their burgeoning population. Three years back I bought a Have-A-Heart trap and began transferring them across the river to Bureau of Land Management property, one at a time. It was slow work. This year I wised up and bought a Squirrelinator, a special trap that can accommodate several squirrels at once. I’ve had as many as four.

The first squirrel of the day caught in the squirrelinator trap. He was working hard at getting out but not before he stuffed his cheeks with all of the birdseed I had put in the trap. He spit it out when I came up to take his photo, like he didn't want to get caught with the evidence.

The first squirrel of the day caught in the trap. He was working hard at getting out but not before he stuffed his cheeks with all of the birdseed I had put in the trap. He spit it out when I came up to take his photo, like he didn’t want to get caught with the evidence. He was still getting rid of it. Check his fat cheeks.

The squirrels growl and chirp at me when I pick up the trap to put it in my truck— but I sing to them: “Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go.” Odds are they may meet their grandmother or grandfather, not to mention brothers, sisters, cousins, parent, aunts and uncles. I’ve transported lots of squirrels, 15 this last week alone. It’s never dull here. Just wait until next week when five grandsons descend on us.

A final photo of the twins by Peggy.

A final photo of the twins by Peggy.

The Baaa’d Goat Feast

Goat in Jackson County Oregon.

Billy Goat, aka Rambo, stood on our front porch and posed for Peggy. He was a handsome fellow.

“Curt,” Peggy hollered at me from the kitchen, “there is a goat running around in our back yard.” I looked out. Sure enough, a white billy-goat was dashing back and forth in the field above our house baaing like the Hounds of Hell were on its heels.

“Maybe tomorrow’s dinner has escaped,” Peggy suggested. Perhaps she was right. Our neighbors Margaret and Bryan were hosting a goat bar-b-que for Memorial Day. It’s something of a tradition, but normally they cook a lamb. This year, our next-door neighbor, Jim, had donated a goat. I could understand why it might want to get away.

While Peggy called Jim and grabbed a camera, I went out to have a discussion with Billy. I baaa’d at him. I often talk to Jim’s goats. And yes, they talk back. Sometimes we have extended conversations. This time Billy came rushing over to tell me his woes. I started scratching him behind the ears. It works for dogs, cats, and horses, why not for goats. Soon Billy was purring like a cat, or he would have been if goats purred. Jim arrived in his truck.

I scratched Rambo behind the ears and calmed him down.

I scratched Billy behind the ears and calmed him down. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

“Come on Billy,” I suggested, “let’s go see Jim.” Billy dutifully followed along.

“His name is Rambo,” Jim informed me as he beat on a can filled with goat food to entice his errant ram. Rambo wasn’t buying it. He was obviously irritated. At a minimum, Jim had interrupted a good ear scratching.

“Are we looking at dinner, here?” I asked Jim. His last ram had ended up in stew.

“Oh, no,” Jim told me. “That’s Pinky.” Pinky had been a bad goat in the spring and caused the demise of two kids from another Nanny. That had irritated Jim, which isn’t a good idea. “Pinky was Rambo’s companion, however.” Jim explained. “And now he is mad.” Apparently Rambo had escaped from his pen to mount a rescue effort. Back in his pen again, he sounded like an angry bull elephant on a rampage. The whole neighborhood shook from his complaints. Jim retrieved another nanny to put in with him. Rambo shut up— immediately. So much for true love.

The next day…

“Stop that,” Bryan’s father Bernard urged when Jim referred to the goat that was roasting on the spit as Pinky. Obviously Jim was having fun, teasing. A fair-sized group of neighbors, friends, and a contingent from Southern Oregon University had gathered for the feast. Everyone had brought food to go with the goat meat and several had brought wine. Fred, the brewer from the Caldera Brewery in Ashland, had brought a generous supply of the brewery’s award winning beers. I considered it my responsibility to sample a few.

This Caldera IPA was quite tasty. So tasty in fact, that I had to drink another.

This Caldera IPA, Hopportunity Knocks, was quite tasty. So tasty in fact, that I had to drink another. I can honestly report that the brewery’s other ales were quite good as well.

Goat bar-b-que in Applegate Valley of Southern Oregon

Ex-Pinky roasting away over an open fire.

Spices and oil are bushed on the goat by Brian's brother-in-law Kieth. The brush is also made of spices such as rosemary and sage.

Spices and oil are brushed on the goat by Brian’s brother-in-law Keith. The brush is also made of spices such as rosemary and sage.

There is something primitive about carving your meat off of an animal that has just been roasted over an open fire. It’s enough to make squeamish folks hesitate. Throw in the fact that it was goat, and even more people opt out. The real gourmet challenge, however, was the Kokoretsi Bryan prepared. He had taken a portion of the goat’s intestine, stuffed it with cut up pieces of the goat’s lungs, heart and liver, trussed it up, and cooked it beside the goat. The meal required a bold palate.

Brian carves meat off the goat roast.

Bryan carves meat off the goat roast.

Bryan serves on neighbor Jim, who donated the goat for the feast.

And serves our neighbor Jim, who donated the goat for the feast.

Kokoretsi being grilled in the Applegate Valley of Southern Oregon.

The Kokoretsi all trussed up.

But the goat and the goat intestines were quite tasty. With the exception of a vegetarian or two (understandably), everyone lined up for goat meat and most people tried the Kokoretsi. I went back for second helpings of each. As for the vegetarians and the more dainty eaters, there were numerous options, including a delicious apple pie Peggy had baked for the occasion. No one went home hungry.

Bryan's father, Bernard, makes an annual trip down from Portland to oversee the cooking of the lamb/goat. It's a family affair.

Bryan’s father, Bernard, makes an annual trip down from Portland to oversee the cooking of the lamb/goat. It’s a family affair.

Margaret teaches at SOU and served as editor of my book, The Bush Devil Ate Sam.

Margaret, looking chirpy,  served as editor of my book, The Bush Devil Ate Sam.

It wasn't only people who had fun at the goat feast, This dog made quick work of some spilled beer.

It wasn’t only people who had fun at the goat feast. This dog made quick work of some spilled beer.

It was the Australian Shepherd puppies that stole the show, however. I don't know how many there were, but it seemed like there were plenty to go around.

It was the Australian Shepherd puppies that stole the show, however. I don’t know how many there were, but it seemed like there were enough to go around.

Like, how cute can you get?

Like, how cute can you get?

After all of that attention, this one needed a nap.

After all of the attention, this one needed a nap.

Peggy attests to just how good the goat meat was.

Peggy attests to just how good the goat meat was. NEXT BLOG: I’ll take you back to the magical Greek Island of Santorini on my Wednesday photo essay.

 

 

Who Needs a Dog When You Have a Deer?

Blacktail deer stares in window of home in southern Oregon.

“I know you are there Curt. Feed me.” One very pregnant deer showed up on our back porch last week. Here, she is staring in the window at me.

We don’t have a clue why a pregnant doe showed up on the back porch last week at our home in southern Oregon. But there she was, curled up, resting on the cement, and behaving like a dog, a very big dog. She looked up as if to say, “You wouldn’t make a pregnant lady leave, would you?” Or maybe she was saying, “Do you have one of those green apples you occasionally toss out because they are old?” I suspect it was the latter.

Momma doe sleeping on porch in southern Oregon.

We looked out our back door and momma doe was curled up on the porch, sleeping like a dog. Her ears are whipping around to keep off flies.

She looked up, curious about what we were going to do, but hoping it involved food.

She looked up, curious about what we were going to do, hoping it involved food.

Deer have insatiable appetites. We have gone to extreme measures to encourage them to leave our flowers and shrubs alone. Peggy has long discussions with them about what they can eat and can’t. We have planted things that give them tummy aches, such as foxglove. And we are seriously into fencing.

One of the plants we have found that deer won't touch is foxglove. We are planting it liberally around our house.

One of the plants we have found that deer won’t touch is foxglove. We are planting it liberally around our house.

In addition to being deer proof, it provides beautiful flowers.

In addition to being deer proof, it provides beautiful flowers.

Close up.

Close up.

Last week, we put in a number of native Oregonian plants to eventually form a hedge. But first they have to avoid being eaten. This is a fence I put up. It seems to be working.

We recently put in a number of native Oregonian plants to eventually form a hedge. But first they have to grow up and avoid being eaten. This is a deer’s eye view of the fence I put up. The spider-web top is to keep deer from jumping in. The herd comes by daily to check things out. So far, so good.

Last week we made a quick trip to Sacramento, leaving plants and mom behind. We didn’t know what to expect on our return. The plants are fine; mom is gone. I suspect she went off into the forest to have her baby. We are just glad it wasn’t on our back porch. In the meantime, our neighbors reported we have a visiting bear. Things are never dull around here.

This photo is to provide perspective. I have a very comfortable lounge chair that I can swivel around to look out the window.

This is one of my favorite writing spots. I have a very comfortable lounge chair that I can swivel around to look out the window. When the footrest is up, my feet touch the windowsill. The doe in the top picture was pressing her nose to the opposite side of the window. The door on the right provided the view of her lying down.

The door on the right has a screen that we use when the door is open. Here, Mom has her nose up against the screen looking at me in my chair. Had the screen not been there, she might have invited herself in.

The door has a screen that we use when the door is open. Here, Mom has her nose up against the screen looking at me in my chair. Had the screen not been there, she might have invited herself in. Note the size of her ears.

Later she came over, stood looking in the window at me, and then took a nap.

Later she came over, stood looking in the window at me, and then took a nap.

 

Happy Earth Day 2015… A Walkabout in Southern Oregon

White oak woodland in Southern Oregon in the Applegate Valley. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A variety of trees exist on the five acres around our home in Southern Oregon. These are white oaks. It looks like the Sherwood Forest of Robin Hood, or at least like I imagined it as a child. The road leads down to our house.

It’s Earth Day 2015. To celebrate, I am writing this post from a small deck Peggy and I had built on the upper portion of our property. I took the photo of white oaks from where I am sitting.

An Acorn Woodpecker is hammering away at a dead pine. He just stopped to issue a staccato comment on the day, a Woody Woodpecker laugh. I can also hear a Robin’s distinctive chirp— they are migrating through, scratching around for juicy bugs. Flickers and Stellar Jays join the chorus. The jays are discussing the fact I haven’t put out their morning helping of sunflower seeds. They are loud and raucous, hoping I will hear them. How could I not? I was soundly scolded on my walk up here.

As for the Flicker, he has gone to pounding on our roof vents several times a day. Who knows why, but it sounds like a jack hammer. It gets Peggy quite excitable and she charges around whacking our ceiling to scare him away. I’ve checked the roof, so far no damage. I am not so sure about the ceiling.

One very pregnant and obviously uncomfortable Black Tail doe walked by a few minutes ago. She’s restless. I watched her yesterday as she disappeared behind our pump house for a few minutes (it’s cool and shady), came out, munched on some grass, walked to our house, and plopped down against the side. She will be having her fawn soon, probably down in our blackberry filled canyon. We won’t see the baby for a week or two since does carefully hide their babies and insist that they remain hidden for several days.

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

The ballooning mom-to-be leans against our house and looks at me with her big brown eyes. It’s like she is saying, “Really, now what?” The deer are used to being lectured by Peggy about eating her flowers.

A cool, fresh breeze is blowing. Puffy clouds float by. The wind is welcome; it’s been hazy for the past few days. The weather people tell us that the haze is caused by smoke blowing in from Siberia. Apparently fires that Siberian farmers were using to clear their fields escaped. Our earth, this seemingly huge planet, is a small place after all. We are all neighbors. If people choose to pollute the air, discharge waste into water, cut down forests, and litter the landscape with the leftovers of modern civilization, it impacts all of us. We all suffer.

Haze from Siberia fills the valleys between our homes and the Red Butte Mountains.

Haze from Siberia fills the valleys between our home and the Red Butte Mountains.

But enough doom and gloom—today is a day to celebrate the natural beauty of our earth. Let’s go for a walk. We will start at the Applegate River at the bottom of our property and move up the hill to the National Forest boundary marker. I’ve built signed trails throughout our property and named them after our grandkids (all boys). Ethan’s Hidden Springs Trail and Connor’s Jungle Trail are examples. The first thing the kids do when they arrive is run off to explore their trails. It is Peggy and my hope that we can instill in our grandchildren the same love of the natural world and desire to protect it that we have.

A Note: I wrote this piece and did our walk yesterday so this post could go up today.

This beautiful river flows out of the Siskiyou Mountains a few miles away from out home.

This beautiful river flows out of the Siskiyou Mountains a few miles away from our home.

Cold, pure water.

Looking down into the river.

I scrambled over and down these rocks to get to the river. Bureau of Land Management land is on the opposite shore.

I scrambled over and down these rocks to get to the river. Bureau of Land Management land is on the opposite shore.

This handsome guy is a mere shell of his former self, literally. I believe it was a dragonfly nymph before the dragonfly popped out of the shell and flew away.

This handsome guy is a mere shell of his former self, literally. I believe it was a dragonfly nymph before the dragonfly popped out and flew away in one of the miracles of nature.

Likely native American grinding rock on the Applegate River in Southern Oregon.

Located among the rocks is what Peggy and I suspect was a Native American grinding rock.

Lichen on river rock of the Applegate River in southern Oregon.

Lichens (from my perspective) always make interesting photos.

Here's a closeup.

Here’s a closeup.

Now it is time to hike up the hill. Our small 1500 foot with its sunroom is perched on the side. The tall tree on the right is a Douglas Fir.

Now it is time to hike up the hill. Our small 1500 square foot house with its sunroom is perched on the side. The tall tree on the right is a Douglas Fir.

Our fence is designed to fit into the local environment.

Our front fence is designed to fit into the local environment.

While oaks dominate the northern side of our property, Ponderosa Pines, Douglas Fir and Madrones dominate the south. I've created signed trails running through our property and named them after the grandkids such as Ethan's Hidden Spring's Trail and Connors Jungle Trail.

While oaks dominate the northern side of our property, Ponderosa Pines, Douglas Fir and Madrones dominate the south. This is Ethan’s Hidden Spring Trail.

Ponderosa Pines growing in the Upper Applegate Valley near Applegate Lake.

The trees, like these Ponderosa Pines, grow quite tall.

Ponderosa Pine growing at the 2000 foot elevation on the Upper Applegate River.

Check out this beauty.

Large Madrone growing near Applegate River in southern Oregon.

This large Madrone with its unique bark lives next to our house.

Madrones shed their leaves in summer. It is like having two falls. The shadow of a fly can be seen through the leaf. Shortly afterwards it flew down to bite me. Bad decision.

Madrones shed their leaves in summer. It is like having two falls. The shadow of a fly can be seen through the leaf. Shortly afterwards it flew down to bite me. Bad decision.

Signs of animal life are found throughout the property. This large hole was probably drilled by a Pileated Woodpecker.

Signs of animal life are found throughout the property. This large hole was probably drilled by a Pileated Woodpecker.

Cat eye flower grown in the Upper Applegate River Valley.

Flowers were few and far between on my walk but I did find this interesting cat eye.

One of the reasons we bought our property was this sign, a boundary marker for the Klamath National Forest that borders the back of our property.

One of the reasons we bought our property was this sign, a boundary marker for the Klamath National Forest that borders the back of our property. Between Klamath and other national forests, over a million acres of public lands are found out our back door.

While our front fence is a fairly serious fence, our back fence is strictly for aesthetics. It is an open invitation to the deer, cougars, bear and other wildlife that live in the forest to "come on down." We'd even welcome Bigfoot. (grin.)

While our front fence is a fairly serious fence, our back fence is strictly for aesthetics. It is an open invitation to the deer, cougars, bear and other wildlife that live in the national forest to “come on down.” We’d even welcome Bigfoot. (grin.) HAPPY EARTH DAY.

Now Playing in Our Back Yard: A Turkey Fan Dance… An Interlude

Wild turkeys use their tails for a fan dance in southern Oregon. (Photo by Curtis Mekemson.)

Wild turkeys use their tails to perform a fan dance in our back yard.

It’s pouring down rain as I write. Northern California is getting slammed and some of the rain is slipping across the border into Southern Oregon. The Weather Channel has named our deluge THE MONSTER STORM. Get out your hammer, Noah. I sat in our sunroom (very much a misnomer today) and watched the rain fall while Peggy listened to Christmas carols and worked on a quilt inside.

Our deck reflects the rain.

Our deck reflects the rain. The last of fall adds a touch of color along the Applegate River.

Rain splattered windows provided a view of our cedar tree out of the sunroom.

Rain splattered windows provided a view of our cedar tree from the sunroom.

I was escaping from work, playing hooky. Things have become a bit hectic around here. Christmas and a trip to Tennessee are just around the corner. So I have been shopping, writing the Christmas letter, and putting together the annual family calendar.

I am also up to my eyeballs in writing an extensive blog about the time that Peggy’s father was forced to bail out of a damaged airplane into the jungle known for headhunters when he was flying supplies into China during World War II.

And last— very far from least, the final proofs on the book about my Peace Corps experience in West Africa are supposed to come in today or tomorrow. I can’t figure out whether I am more nervous or excited. The book should be available world-wide as an E-book by Christmas. So keep your eyes open for The Bush Devil Ate Sam. Several of you helped me choose the title. I will post how to obtain copies on my blog as soon as it is available. Peggy and I are donating half of whatever profits we receive to fighting Ebola in Liberia.

A carved rendition of a Liberian Bush Devil that I purchased from a leper in Ganta, Liberia in 1965.

A carved rendition of a Liberian Bush Devil that I purchased from a leper in Ganta, Liberia in 1965.

One result of all this activity is that my blog production has slowed down. So I was delighted this afternoon when a flock of turkeys that hangs out on our property came by and put on a fan dance with their tails. It was a blog-ready show! And the rain was taking a break. I grabbed my small S-100 Canon and ran out to join them.

Wild turkeys on display in southern Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

The turkeys line up for their dance.

Turkeys strut their stuff in southern Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Begin.

And strut their stuff.

And strut their stuff.

Doing the turkey trot.

Doing the turkey trot.

With tail feathers extended. Next blog: Peggy's dad crashes his air plane in a remote Burma jungle.

With tail feathers extended. Next blog: Peggy’s dad bails out into a remote Burma jungle during World War II.

Kayaking the Beautiful Squaw Lakes of Southern Oregon… An Interlude

Kayaking on Squaw Lake, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Peggy paddling our inflatable Innova Kayak on Little Squaw Lake.

We went kayaking yesterday at a small lake near our house. It’s about seven miles away southeast of Applegate Lake. We can easily head up there when we have a couple of hours to spare. I am not done with my Burning Man series but thought you might enjoy this interlude. When I complete Burning Man, I am going to blog about a weeklong sea kayak trip Peggy and I took this summer off of Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

Reflection shot on Squaw Lake in southern Oregon.

Paddling under cloudy skies, we thought it might rain.

Kayaking on the small Squaw Lake in southern Oregon provides beautiful refection shots. Photo by Curtis Mekemson

But then the sun came out, allowing for this very green reflection shot.

Young steer next to Squaw Lake in Southern Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

We kayaked up to the end of the lake and caught this photo of a young steer, who also seemed happy to see the sun. 

Cumulous clouds dominate the horizon at Squaw Lake in southern Oregon.

Towering cumulus clouds dominated the horizon.

Cumulous clouds reflected in Squaw Lake of Southern Oregon near Applegate Lake. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

And were reflected in the lake.

Turtle sunning on Squaw Lake in Southern Oregon near the California border. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A curious turtle, blending into the green, checked us out.

Jane and Jim Hagedorn kayaking on Squaw Lake in Southern Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Peggy’s sister, Jane Hagedorn and her husband Jim, joined us. We often take friends and family up to Squaw Lake. Its beauty and small size make it an ideal location for beginning kayakers.

Photo of Squaw Lake in Southern Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A final photo capturing the beauty and peace of the lake. Ripples from a fish that had just jumped are on the lower right. Next blog: Back to Burning Man.

There’s This Bigfoot Trap Near Our House…

 

Bigfoot trap found above Applegate Lake in Southern Oregon.

The world’s only known Bigfoot trap. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

I’ve blogged about Bigfoot before. How could I not when the world’s only known Bigfoot trap is four miles from our home on the Applegate River in Southern Oregon?

My wife Peggy and I went out and revisited the trap just before we took off for Nevada three weeks ago. Since we were heading out to explore ghost towns, the Extraterrestrial Highway, Area 51, Death Valley and Las Vegas, I figured that searching for Bigfoot would put us in the right frame of mind.

We added looking for morel mushrooms as part of our Big Foot hike. They reputedly grow in the area. From my experience so far, however, I am beginning to believe they are even more difficult to find than the Big Hairy Guy and UFOs combined. Our carpenter, who was building us a pole barn while we were in Nevada, assured me of the morel’s existence. He had found one so big it was featured in the local newspaper and on Paul Harvey. “Morels yes, Bigfoot no,” he told us.

Our carpenter, Larry Baleau, shows off the huge morel mushroom he found while out identifying wildflowers.  (Photo by Bob Pennell of the Medford Tribune.)

Our carpenter, Larry Belau, shows off the huge morel mushroom he found while out identifying wildflowers. (Photo by Bob Pennell of the Medford Tribune.)

I am not quite so emphatic about Bigfoot’s existence. Our front window looks out on Bigfoot Country. There have been a number of reported “sightings” over the years. One led to the building of the Bigfoot trap.

It isn't hard to imagine Bigfoot prowling around in the forest when you look out our front window on a misty morning.

It isn’t hard to imagine Bigfoot prowling around in the forest when you look out our front window on a misty morning.

It all started when Perry Lovel, a miner living on the Applegate River, discovered 18-inch long human-like tracks in his garden that were six feet apart. His tale captured the imagination of Ron Olsen, a filmmaker from Eugene who headed up an organization known as the North American Wildlife Research Team. Ron decided to catch Bigfoot– allegedly for scientific purposes. I suspect he had other motivation as well. Imagine owning the rights to the movie?

This image of a big foot appropriately marks the beginning of the Bigfoot trail.

This image of a big foot appropriately marks the beginning of the Bigfoot trail. It is proof that the US Forest Service has a sense of humor.

Anyway, Ron and his group built a sturdy 10 by 10 foot box trap located a mile or so above Perry’s garden. A raised, heavy steel gate was added to provide Bigfoot with access to the trap. Meat was then placed inside and connected to a lever that released the gate, which came crashing down with all the subtlety of a guillotine.

Bigfoot trap door.

Looking up at the heavy trapdoor that was supposed to capture Bigfoot.

Ron then built a ramshackle cabin a couple of hundred yards down the hill and hired a miner to hang out and monitor the trap. He was given a tranquilizer gun and a very large pair of handcuffs. You get the picture. I assume the miner also stocked in a year’s supply of booze. Make that a six-year supply, since that is how long the trap was maintained.

Remains of cabin where miner lived who was supposed to tranquilize Bigfoot if he was caught in the Bigfoot trap in southern Oregon.

All that remains of the miner’s cabin is a pile of old boards, limbs and tar paper.

But was the effort successful? In a way, yes. The miner actually captured two grumpy bears who were under the mistaken impression they were getting a free lunch, not realizing there is no such thing. But Bigfoot didn’t take the bait. Here are my thoughts on why.

The only way they might have captured Bigfoot was if he were rolling around on the ground laughing so hard he couldn’t escape. If he exists, this larger than life character is far too intelligent to get caught in anything as obvious as the trap that Ron built. Otherwise there would be much more definitive proof of his existence beyond a few photos of dark blurs disappearing into the woods.

Since I was about to visit Area 51 in Nevada, I had a final whimsical thought: maybe Bigfoot is an alien. That would explain lots of things. (Grin) We didn’t find Bigfoot, and we didn’t find any morel mushrooms, but there were other strange things along the way…

Selfie of Curtis Mekemson.

What’s more strange than me taking a selfie?

Ferns growing near Applegate River in Southern Oregon.

And how about these alien looking plants. Actually, they are young ferns. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Shelf mushroom found near Applegate Lake in Southern Oregon.

We didn’t find any morels, but I did find this shelf mushroom growing on a dead tree.

My greatest find: as Peggy and I were hiking out from the Bigfoot trap, I found this image staring out at me from the bark on a Madrone tree. I'm thinking maybe Bigfoot had his own approach to taking a selfie.

My greatest find: as Peggy and I were hiking out from the Bigfoot trap, I found this image staring out at me from the bark on a Madrone tree. Maybe Bigfoot has his own approach to taking a selfie.

NEXT BLOG: The journey to Nevada begins and we admire the mystical and majestic Mt. Shasta and stop off at beautiful Burney Falls.

Ghost Bird… An Unusual Photo

Mourning dove leaves ghost-like impression on window. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A crash-landing Mourning Dove left its impression on a window of our home on the Applegate River in Southern Oregon. It looks like a ghost bird hovering outside.

“This can’t be good,” Peggy commented from her office. I suspected that the deer were chowing down on her flowers and walked in to watch. Instead, neatly imprinted on her window, was the image of a bird with a 16-inch wingspan. It looked like a ghost. The Mourning Doves now had something to mourn about. One of them had taken a beak-dive into our window. I grabbed my camera– like what else was there to do– and recorded the crash landing from inside and outside of the house.

Black tail deer visits the Mekemson house in Southern Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

What I expected to see– a hungry black tail deer lusting after Peggy’s flowers.

Impression left by dove after crashing into a window. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

What I saw instead. I took this photo from the outside looking in with our trees being reflected in the window. Note the eye. Eerie, isn’t it?

I fully expected to find one very dead birdie on the ground, but none was to be found. Peggy and I are hoping that the dove picked itself up after the incident and flew off, a wiser bird with a headache.

Since I decided to put up a blog between blogs today, here are a few more photos from yesterday that I took while Peg and I hiked a section of the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail. The trail follows an historic 26-mile ditch that was built in 1870s to carry water to Sterling’s hydraulic mining operation outside of Jacksonville, Oregon. Its relatively flat nature makes it an excellent beginning of the season trail. Backpacking season is coming soon and Peggy and I have to get in shape! In the next couple of months we hope to explore the Red Butte mountains that look down on our home and I have a 40-mile hike along the Rogue River planned.

Peggy and I have looked out on the Red Buttes since we moved here three years ago. Now it is time to meet them up-close and personal. Recent snows may delay our backpacking trip.

Peggy and I have looked out on the Red Buttes since we moved here three years ago. Now it is time to meet them up-close and personal. Recent snows may delay our backpacking trip.

Peggy will be floating down the Rogue River in late May with our friends Tom and Beth Lovering. Since I need the exercise, I am going to hike the 40-mile backpacking trail that follows the river. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Peggy will be rafting down the Rogue River in late May with our friends Tom and Beth Lovering. Since I need the exercise, I am going to hike the 40-mile backpacking trail that follows the river. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Photo of the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail in Southern Oregon taken by Curtis Mekemson.

The historic 26-mile Sterling Mine Ditch Trail wanders through a variety of terrains ranging from dry, brush covered slopes to cool, pine and madrone filled valleys.

Shooting Stars found along the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail in Southern Oregon.

Early spring flowers, including Shooting Stars, added color along the trail.

Oregon Grape flower found along the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail in Southern Oregon.

We also found this impressive Oregon Grape flower, which happens to be the state flower of Oregon. Later in the summer these flowers turn into berries that wildlife find quite tasty and supposedly make good jelly.

Old tree stump along the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail in Southern Oregon.

A rotting tree stump caught our attention for a moment. You can see tunnels left by insects as they feasted off of the wood.

A vine-twisted madrone tree found on the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail.

Our most interesting find of the day. Peggy and I love Madrone trees and their silky, almost sensuous bark. But we have never seen one twisted like this. Close inspection showed that it had been caused by a vine that had worked its way up the tree.

NEXT BLOG: My choice for the title of the book on my Peace Corps experience.

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.

A Walk on the Wild Side of Southern Oregon… to the Mail Box: Part I

Applegate River in Applegate Valley, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Peggy and I always stop to admire the Applegate River. Here it reflects the afternoon sky and trees along our mailbox walk.

It’s a new year– a time for resolutions, a time for planning. Right? I mean, right! My laptop is poised and ready for action. But wait, my mind isn’t here. It’s outside wandering around in the woods with the deer and squirrels and foxes and bears.

Why should this be so tough? I love planning. I’ve been doing it forever. I still have plans I developed in high school bouncing around somewhere. I was doing MBO before Peter Drucker invented it. I have plans on top of plans. If I don’t control me, no one will. Or worse, someone else might.

But today, this third day of 2014, my mind just isn’t into planning. Fortunately, I am even better at rationalizing than I am at planning. One of my resolutions is more exercise. Isn’t it everybody’s? It’s on my list every year, regardless of the results. So I will go exercise. I’ll be resolute instead of wishy-washy. I will walk to our mailbox.

Join me as I take a walk on the wild side.

Applegate Valley, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

We will start our trip to the mail box following Cody’s Bear Trail. Each of our grandchildren (5 boys) has his own trail. Cody’s happens to be the trail the bear follows when it comes to visit.Last time Bear came by, he tipped over my grill.

Applegate Valley,Oregon deer trail. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

The five-year old Cody and I could have named it Deer Trail, instead. (It’s more like a deer freeway.) But that lacks the pizzaz of Bear Trail.

Coming off Cody's Trail, I smelled a skunk. Was our culvert occupied again. Last summer, I had to replace the culvert. My 76-year-old friend Tuffy was removing the last few feet of the old culvert with a backhoe, when the fattest skunk I have ever seen came waddling out and disappeared into the blackberries where the foxes live...

Coming off Cody’s Trail, I smelled a skunk. Was our culvert occupied again? Last summer, I had to replace the culvert. My 76-year-old friend Tuffy was removing the last few feet of the old culvert with a backhoe, when the fattest skunk I have ever seen came waddling out and disappeared into the blackberries where the foxes live…

I got down on my knees and looked into the culvert. I wanted a skunk photo for this blog. Peggy hates it when I poke my head into the culvert; she's afraid I'll be sprayed. No worry, the pipe was empty.

I got down on my knees and looked into the culvert. I wanted a skunk photo for this blog. Peggy hates it when I poke my head into the pipe; she’s afraid I’ll be sprayed and she’ll have to live with me. No worry, the culvert was empty.

Looking back down the road past the culvert toward our house. I would have followed the road if I hadn't used Cody's trail.

Looking back down the road past the culvert toward our house. I would have followed the road if I hadn’t used Cody’s trail.

Blacktail deer herd in Applegate Valley, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Ten members of the local Blacktail deer herd were present, however. They were curious about whether Peggy had left them any apples. I caught four of the deer in various poses.

Blacktail deer scratches belly in Applegate Valley, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

One doe had an irresistible itch on her belly.

Now I am faced with another choice. Do I walk up the neighborhood road past our fence, or do I cut through the woods?

Now I am faced with another choice. Do I walk up the neighborhood road past our fence, or do I cut through the woods?

My preference is always for the woods. Our property line on the back is the Klamath National Forest.

My preference is always for the woods. Klamath National Forest provides our back property line.

Hobbit Tree in Applegate Valley, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

So I head up the trail past the Hobbit Tree.

Ponderosa Pines in Applegate Valley, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

And past the Ponderosa Pines…

Just "me and my shadow strolling down the avenue."

Just “me and my shadow strolling up the avenue.”

View of Red Buttes from Upper Applegate Valley, Oregon. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

There is a small knoll at the top of the mailbox walk where I can look south toward the Red Buttes (looking quite blue) in California.

Now it's time we leave the woods and rejoin the neighborhood road.

Now it’s time we leave the woods and rejoin the neighborhood road.

A week ago this road was a sheet of ice.

A week ago this road was a sheet of ice.

And the goal! Our mailbox is on the right just across the Upper Applegate Road.

And the goal! Our mailbox is on the right just across the Upper Applegate Road.

My reward– a new Scientific American.

My reward– a new Scientific American. “Our Unconscious Mind, It exerts a profound influence: Shaping decisions, molding behavior, and running our lives.” Hmmm.

NEXT BLOG: We walk along the beautiful Applegate River, meet the neighborhood dogs, and follow Ethan’s Hidden Trail as we return to our home from the mailbox walk.