Saturday, July 7, 2012

Adventures on the Mountain

Yesterday I mused about being on the mountain, today I'll give you a glimpse of the adventures we had.

There are three old cabins on the mountain. None are glamorous or have electricity or running water. They include my grandmas cabin where we cook, eat, and my parents sleep, the Butch Cassidy cabin which is in the middle of the meadow, and vole-house formerly known as the sawmill cabin.
Doug and I American Gothic style in front of vole-house
You may ask why the sawmill cabin was renamed vole-house, and why it was named the sawmill cabin in the first place. Well, the mountain has a ton of trees, and as responsible forest owners, we thin the trees every few decades. The sawmill owner built the sawmill cabin to stay in when he was working many years ago. Like over 50 years ago. My dad fixed up the sawmill cabin and put some beds in it. Doug wanted to sleep in there rather than staying in the tent. I reluctantly agreed and went in to look around. Just as I was warming up the place, I saw what I thought was a dead mouse in the middle of the bed which resulted in me leaving vole-house very quickly. Doug still wanted me to sleep in there and nicely removed the "mouse." He then informed me that it wasn't a mouse, it was a vole. I then informed him that I would be sleeping in the tent and not in vole-house. Penny got vole-house all to herself.

After vole-house was named, we decided to go toad hunting. Boreal Toads live in the stream in the meadow. They are a regionally endangered species. The toads live all over the Western United States but in Utah they are scarce. Doug works as the assistant curator in a herpetology collection at his University. As part of his job he processes specimens. Since the Boreal Toad is endangered it cannot be collected. But we can submit the pictures of the toads we caught and they will record the location, the date found, and us as the finders. We found three big old toads. There were probably more but we got a little tired of looking.
A Boreal Toad
It thought it was hiding. You can see it by finding the line down its back
The stream with the toads leads to the Butch Cassidy cabin in the middle of the meadow. When my dad was a kid they stayed in this cabin. At the end of a two day cattle drive to the meadow they spent the night here before riding their horses back down the mountain.
Doug and my brother Jess in front of the Butch Cassidy cabin
Legend has it that after a few of his robberies Butch Cassidy hid out in this cabin. It is very remote so I can imagine it was a good place to lie low while the posse was searching for him. Way too many people have heard this legend and as a result thought that gold was buried in the dirt floor. It's not, we've been through with a metal detector.
The inside of the Butch Cassidy cabin
Penny went on our toad search across the meadow. We tried to let her wander off her leash but she kept finding way too many treasures to eat, including a dead fish, a dead bird, and multiple elk droppings. Overall she had fun and luckily didn't get sick from eating all that garbage.
Penny going through the fence
We made out way back to vole-house and my grandmas cabin to take a nap. Instead we were summoned by my dad to hop in the car and ride to the bridge to make repairs. Every year the bridge has damage from the snow. This year the damage was minimal and consisted of replacing the ramps up the the bridge deck. After repairing the bridge, we drove to the upper 80 acres of land. One of the wildfires was reported to have burned some of the property. My family was devastated and angry. A few days later we found out that it hadn't actually gotten as far as reported. We drove to see where burned and how close the fire really got. 
A herd of elk or wapiti
On the way we saw a herd of elk. We couldn't get very close without spooking them but there were probably at least 50 elk in the herd. We found that the fire got within about a mile of the property. We were lucky this year. Hopefully our luck will hold out the rest of this fire season and many years to come.

Our final task was to repair the east fence so the cows can't get out. The fence is made of cut trees stacked like Lincoln Logs. It just has to be tall enough and sturdy enough to keep the cows and calves on their own sides. By this time I was really tired. I managed to take one last picture of my brother next to some super tall trees.
My 6'6" brother next to the tallest aspens I've ever seen
We returned to the cabin, ate a delicious dinner of soup, stew, and sandwiches, then retired to our tent. No way was I sleeping in vole-house. My sleep was interrupted by elk bugles and cow moos but it gave me the chance to step outside and see millions of stars. It was a perfect way to end the day.

The next day we packed up early and drove 16 miles on the dirt road back to civilization and to our jobs. I can't wait to go back, hopefully for longer next time.

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