Just being out in the woods was relaxing and restorative, but the best part of the Memorial Day weekend was the day hiking. On Monday, when everyone else was packing up, Ambrose and I headed out into the wilderness to check out our familiar routes along the Queens and Little Queens Rivers.

To start, we headed east along the Queens River. The plan was to explore a trail junction that we hadn’t taken before. It would be before the first crossing of the river, and so we wouldn’t have to worry about getting wet on our day hike.

Crossing the bridge.

To be in the wilderness is a different experience even from being at the trail head. We crossed the bridge over the Queens River and the roar of the water concealed the fact that more than a dozen people were still camped out not very far away. I followed Ambrose, because I wasn’t quite awake yet.

The first thing I noticed when we entered the wilderness was that some of the signs were missing. I couldn’t remember offhand what the signs had been, but there was clear evidence that they had been removed.

There should be a sign here.

The trail was familiar by now, but we don’t typically travel it in that direction so the experience did have some newness to it. Shady copses of trees and large open meadows. Meandering away from the roar of the river and the abrupt realization that the sound of the water was gone. Birds cried and Ambrose’s new trekking poles squeaked.



I had layered myself up in preparation for the weather starting out cold and getting warmer. It wasn’t long before I had to do some de-layering, taking off my long sleeve shirt and exposing my forearms to the still chill air. And then we hiked on, but not for long.

Last year, Ambrose and I searched diligently for morel mushrooms in this area. We were sure they were around somewhere, but the more we looked, the less confident we became. We even joked that we wouldn’t know a morel mushroom if it rolled down the trail and kicked us. 
Well, Ambrose can no longer claim that. Because we were hiking along when he stopped. Why did he stop? A morel mushroom had rolled down the trail right onto his boot. 
And then I spied two more right off the trail! 
We cut them off the stems before taking pictures. This is what it looks like if someone got to the morel before you.
And then we looked and looked and looked, but didn’t end up finding anymore. 
This was the biggest morel we found, but not the first.

We took our time during the rest of the hike, pausing periodically to scout fruitlessly for mushrooms. I loved watching the land change as we slowly made our way down the trail. Mountains were revealed from behind ridges, and rocks upthrust with hardy trees eking their lives out in seemingly impossible positions.

Distant mountain

Not a morel, but a cool mushroom.
I thought we would reach the junction a lot sooner than we did. That happens to me on some trails. Some of them, I have an understanding of, I can break them into sections and know where I am on them. Not this section. I suppose there are too many similar sections, too few distinctive landmarks. When we found the junction, the sign was there, but torn up. 
Someone got mad at the sign?
Really, really mad? 

For the first time, we took a right at this sign. It used to read that the trail went to Atlanta, ID, but it was no longer readable. We trusted that the destination hadn’t changed and hiked on. The trail wasn’t the easiest to follow, but we took it in turns to scout and ensure that we stayed mostly on it. The ground in this direction was quite moist and shaded, so we looked hard for those elusive morels while we made our way.

There was a bog crossing that we traversed without getting wet, but then we came upon a stream that would have needed a boots off crossing. It was after 11 am and we planned on eating lunch back at the trail head so we took a break, had a snack and then turned back. With long pauses to search for morels.

New trail

Deep water

Up the uncrossed stream

Even with the snack, I was starting to want lunch. I won’t say that I got irritable on the hike back, but I was ready to settle down for a bit.

Heading back

This was the shake down hike, the first hike of the season. Not with a backpacking pack even, but a little day pack. And it was good. My boots felt good on my feet, and I figured out some pack adjustments that allowed greater comfort. But I wanted to get to my lunch and I was counting down the stream crossings.

How many more stream crossings until lunch?

That burned log only looks like a bear from this exact angle. It may have scared Ambrose. A bit.

And yet, as much of a hurry as I was in to get to my lunch, I had to stop in that first meadow and get some flower pictures.


Close up of bluebells
What can I say? I’m a sucker for flowers. 
That bridge means lunch.

We got back to the trail head to an empty campsite. All our crazy neighbors had vacated and we ate lunch in peace, with only the company of a deer.

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