Rain and High Water

High water for us means that Battle Creek is actually flowing across the southern end of our property, and when it does, we’ve had a lot of rain! God blessed us with more than 3 inches of moisture in the last couple of weeks, which sure gave every growing thing a needed boost! There is a favorite spot along Battle Creek, fondly referenced by a small cave we found which we dubbed “the Mountain Lion Cave,” where the creekbed winds its way through a ravine, with high canyon sides bordering the creek from one side or the other, and clear green meadows opposite, scattered with oak trees and adorned with dame’s rocket. Even when the creek is dry in that stretch, it is a favorite place to explore and rock hound and scramble, but with water running the fun level goes up drastically. We took the dogs down there so they could run and play in the water. I love watching delight play out on an animal’s face. Those two goofy dogs loved the water! Sarah did, too, and went wading in the creek with the crazy canines. I don’t think our pups wanted to leave! Poor Trixie is such a snow dog, the summer heat really gets to her. She becomes a water dog out of necessity!
IMG_7172eIMG_7195eIMG_7180eRain – what a blessing.

Muddy Boots, Fresh Soul

IMG_8376When the temperatures soar into the 50s and 60s in February, the only thing I want is to be outside! On Wednesday, after getting some mundane duties done in the morning and running an errand to Mt. Rushmore, Sarah and I took off for Big Falls, the site of some old mining operations from the early part of last century. Battle Creek roars through a deep ravine, and pours over a falls into a deep pool some twenty feet below. In the hot summer months, it is a popular swimming destination, but I think I prefer it in the off season.

IMG_8352The sun, which had shone so brightly in the morning, was obscured by cloud-cover, but it was still a beautiful day, balmy, fresh, and quiet. The road to Big Falls is forest service access, which means not a lot of road maintenance, particularly this time of year. But the old orange Jeep can take just about anything, including the mud from the snowmelt, and the washed-out places.

IMG_8371The hike down from the trailhead is short, steep, and beautiful. The creek was frozen thickly over in places, but the clear, clean mountain water still rushed and chuckled over the rocks and under the ice. The last quarter mile follows Battle Creek, so we poked around on the sandbars looking for garnets, picking up odd rocks and chunks of quartz, snapped some pictures, scrambled around on boulders, enjoying the damp and the balmy winter air. And the quiet. We stayed on the upstream side of the Falls and ate a little picnic of apples. We tossed the apple cores into the stream and watched them eddy around until they were caught in the current and shot over the edge into the pool below. In the middle of a busy week, how pleasant it was to simply sit and enjoy the beauty in the depth of the Hills!

IMG_8427On our way back out, almost to the top, we dawdled in a clearing at the edge of the canyon, and caught a glimpse of something a half mile down the canyon and across. I grabbed my camera and my 300mm lens and sure enough, there was a mountain goat standing on the edge of a precipice. He was barely distinguishable in the picture, in the right upper quadrant of the photo, but clearly a mountain goat.

IMG_8432We took a few pictures of the far away goat before realizing that directly across the canyon from us, there were two more! One of them just lay there, looking calmly at us, unbothered. I wonder how long he had been keeping an eye on us. I don’t see mountain goats very often – Sometimes they can be seen around Mt. Rushmore, and I’ve seen them while hiking Harney Peak, but this is the first time I’d seen them by Big Falls.

IMG_8444After soaking up the freshness of February, the peace of the wilderness, the cool damp of the Battle Creek air, we headed home reluctantly. We were a little muddy, a little leg sore, and a lot refreshed. It was one of those days when I was even more thankful than usual for where I live, this beautiful place I’ve always loved.

Laura Elizabeth

Big kitty

DSCN1092.1We’ve got lions down on Battle Creek! This is nothing new–We’ve known it for awhile, guessed it for even longer than that. There are reasons we’ve got a place we call the Mountain Lion Cave. But I finally collected photographic proof of their prowling down near the Cave.

Because of all the rain we got, Battle Creek flowed through this canyon all summer, finally going underground about 100 yards upstream from this place sometime in the last week or so. There’s a pool of stagnant water into which the creek is pouring, but the water stops there.

DSCN1082.1But downstream, near the ravine where our Mountain Lion Cave is, there is a cliff face and a little pool beneath left in the muddy creekbed. There in the black mud, all around this pool and intermixed with coon prints, were dozens of cat prints. There would appear to be multiple cats, maybe a baby, since there appeared to be a few different sizes of prints.

DSCN1080.1Likely, the cats are living in one of the many caves and holes that pock the entire canyon. Wouldn’t it be exciting to see one!

Laura Elizabeth


Sunday Adventures

DSCN0001.1The express purpose of our adventure was to see the water gushing through Hole-in-the-Wall. That may seem a little drab, as far as an evening excursion goes, but if you could see Hole-in-the-Wall with water gushing through it, you would make a spontaneous trip there to see it, too. Guarantee it. In spite of mosquitoes, ticks, and a trail partly underwater. You’d go. So with this goal in mind, Sarah and I and a family from church set out to explore Hole-in-the-Wall.

Because of all the rain we’ve gotten, Battle Creek is, for the time being, no longer a dry creek bed on our place or the neighbor’s place. In fact, it is a rushing, roaring river, with intimidating rapids, an unfordable current (we discovered this yesterday), and the loveliest scent of damp earth and rocks.

The road to Hole-in-the-Wall is nothing more than a jeep trail, two well-worn ruts wending their way between hills and through gullies, following a dry creek bed for most of the way to the Battle Creek crossing. Right now, the grass is pretty short, but this summer the grass will be shoulder-height and singing with insects. In dry weather, the trail goes over two dry forks of Battle Creek and continues on up the other side of the canyon or gully, along the top and down the other side into a lovely, open, tree-bound meadow. Looking across the meadow, the miner’s cabin is barely visible in the treeline on the far side, tucked under the protective shadow of Hole-in-the-Wall. Hole-in-the-Wall is a man-made tunnel cut straight through this ridge, when miners for mining purposes took it upon themselves to redirect Battle Creek, about 100 years ago.

DSCN0003.1But I get ahead of myself. In dry weather, we cross Battle Creek at the crossing. However, yesterday, at Battle Creek crossing we followed Battle Creek downstream, finally climbing a ridge and following the ridge until it crossed over Hole-in-the-Wall. The ridge above Hole-in-the-Wall afforded a lovely view of Battle Creek, the meadow, and a distant glimpse of what is left of the mining camp. We followed the ridge over, took a scramble down the other side, and reveled in the mist and coolness of downstream Hole-in-the-Wall. When we came to the back of the ridge, we left the sunlight behind–I wonder if there would have been rainbows in the mist during the day. We kicked off our shoes and waded in the rushing water, watching the foam churn and froth in the pool under the ridge.

When we had had enough of that delight, we continued on, following the ridge further and assuming it would eventually slope into a gentle enough hill that we could scramble down it into the meadow and have a look at the miner’s cabin. We had never been to the meadow by the back way before, and found another mining pit with the remnants of mining equipment and some things that looked like rockers or sluice boxes. Remnants of a bygone era.

DSCN0006.1Sure enough, the ridge met the ground and we came out into the meadow, not far from the miner’s cabin. This old shack enchants me. The glassless windows, the doorless doorframes, the leaking roof, and old whitewashed walls, the weathered wood and the rusted nails–I wonder what the miners thought each day as they looked out on the beauty around them. Perhaps the beauty was marred by the hardship, or perhaps their young, supple bodies took to their tasks gladly. Perhaps some of both.

DSCN0014.1Phlox was flowering deep and purple in the shadows by the cabin. Mounds and mounds of it, spread in a rich carpet around the dilapidated cabin. I had never seen phlox there before, since this is my first spring here. The sun was almost gone behind the hills, but the light lasts a long time, a diffuse, ethereal sort of light. I couldn’t resist a few more pictures of the same interior of the same cabin. So enchanting. People lived here, worked here, slept here–Back when the roof was whole and the doors were on their hinges. And it is interesting to me that there is beauty, even in fragmented, decayed relics of yesterday.

DSCN0010.1Our hike took us through the meadow and down to the Battle Creek crossing from the other side. We were so close, we though we might as well see if it was possible to cross the creek on the underwater jeep trail. We attempted to cross it–or rather, the two men did– but when they were up to their waists in rushing water and not even halfway across the first of the two forks, we decided to backtrack. We looked for another place to cross, but no luck. Back we went through the meadow, up one side of the ridge, over Hole-in-the-Wall, and down the other side, back down the jeep trail to home, tired and sweaty, bug-bitten and thirsty. And we would have done it again in a heartbeat.

Laura Elizabeth