Over the Memorial Day weekend, my husband and I headed up the to Queens River Trailhead Campground. On the drive up Saturday morning, we passed by many crowds of campers at more accessible sites. I began to dread what we might find at the trailhead campground, especially when the site right before it was chock full of people.
But at the edge of the wilderness we found a nearly empty campsite. We took the site next to the bathroom and the river. Already settled in across from us were three men and their ATVs. Not long after I set up the car camping tent, they set off, leaving us in peace for the afternoon.
The weather wasn’t as inclined to leave us in peace… But it held for good stretches of time. And I took the opportunity to practice lighting a fire with flint and steel.
Ambrose and I had recently watched the finale of Survivor where two contestants had to compete in a fire making challenge. They took over 53 minutes to spark their coconut husks. And so I was inspired to make sure I knew how to start a fire with flint.
My first attempt was not very effective. I was too sparing with the magnesium and unprepared for what to do once the moss caught. Ambrose stepped in and demonstrated setting up a home for the sparked moss and scraped more magnesium on my bundle of moss tinder. Then it caught and we made a small fire together.
After the fire pit cooled down a bit, I set up my own little fire bay, ready to receive my sparked tinder. I shaved way more magnesium into my bundle of moss than I thought was necessary and in less than a minute I’d sparked it and started a fire. I would imagine that if I didn’t have instruction, I might have labored for over an hour. But I can’t imagine being on Survivor for more than 35 days and not getting fire making practice in.
The next fire challenge was to build a fire bow, and I started that day by finding and notching a flexible piece of wood. And then I took a nap. A really nice nap. Something about the sound of water rushing by a warm tent just makes for the best sleep.
After dinner, Ambrose and I holed up in the tent. And the ATV guys came back with a friend. They proceeded to scare the heck out of us by shooting a variety of guns. Though they didn’t shoot them at us, the sounds were loud and scary. And then, after they stopped, they started blasting a radio. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with music, per se. It’s just that it’s not the kind of sounds we go to the wilderness to enjoy…
We were up fairly early the next morning. Well before our neighbors began to stir. The sky was clear and the sun was starting to peek above the ridgeline. We ate breakfast and then headed out for a day hike, filling out the permit that we brought, anticipating that there wouldn’t be any stocked at the trailhead so early in the year (and there weren’t).
Ambrose said he’d let me go on ahead at my faster pace, but he almost immediately called me back after we crossed the bridge to show me the benchmark that I wasn’t sure we’d noticed the year before.
We hiked on up the trail along the Little Queens River. The plan was to take a leisurely hike down to the ford of the Little Queens, determine if we could make a crossing or not, and then hike back and hunt for mushrooms since last year we saw people taking quite a haul of morels out.
It was clear that some maintenance had been done at the first little side stream crossing since the big washout last year. The modified trail was more clearly marked and it was not too difficult to cross. Ambrose splashed down with one foot while trying to step across the narrow spot, and I did not. So I won the crossing.
|The trail now diverts to the left to cross a side stream.
We almost stopped at the next stream crossing, because it was a little deeper than we wanted to navigate. But Ambrose remembered that there was a convenient fallen log that could assist us, and we crossed on it.
|A little too deep for comfort…
|A pretty good crossing log – except for that narrow section at the end.
It wasn’t far from there to the ford. And this year, the water level is much lower than last year. In fact, last year at the same time, this area still had a good amount of snow.
|Yeah, we can cross that…
|It’s just gonna get wet.
Then we took a moment to sit and drink before turning back. We had three areas we wanted to explore. First, by the last bridge was where we saw the mushroom hunters last year. Next, there was an old track heading away from the river I wanted to check out. And then there was they mystery of the old bridge.
Ambrose had read that morels could be found near burnt logs that had been on the ground for at least two years. So we examined burned logs and hiked up the steep ridge next to the trail. Before too long, I’d found an old trail and we decided to follow it towards camp for a while and hunt along it.
We found a lot of mushrooms.
But not a single morel.
So we headed back to the trail and sat on the bridge and ate a snack. Then we walked back towards the trailhead to the track I wanted to explore.
The track soon petered out, but we found even more mushrooms.
But still no morels!
We made our way back to the trail and walked almost back to the intersection of the rivers before diverting to our left to see more of the mysterious bridge. From the trailhead, it looked like half a bridge, a board pinning back a massive bundle of washed down logs. Up close, it was even more impressive.
|Bridget to nowhere
|Reclaimed by the river
|The far bank used to be there, I think. Under all that water…
The bridge appeared mostly intact. I kind of wanted to scamper out on it, but I didn’t even need to ask to know what Ambrose would think of that idea. It looked like the far bank had been completely washed out some time in the past, and instead of rebuilding, it was left where it was and the trail and bridge further down the trail were built.
I also photographed a good number of the flowers that I saw on the hike:
I swear at some point I’m going to get around to identifying all of these.
We came back to the campground around 1pm. The sun was shining down through fluffy clouds and the forecast rain seemed to be playing hooky.
But we actually got back at a good time. I did have some time to complete my firebow and spindle, but afternoon showers kept me largely to the tent. And I took another nap.
The early evening brought us not just rain, but thunder, lightning and hail.
I sat up in the tent, spying through a flap in the rainfly as the hail tapped down. I love being outside in such weather, protected from the wind and ice by only thin sheets of nylon. I feel close to nature, a step away from danger.
And, even with a nap, I slept well that night.
We drove out on Monday morning, beating any crowds on the road. Next weekend is backpacking. The season is on!