Sunday, September 11, 2005

A Monday Drive

A couple of miles out of Dayton, we parked above the steel silhouettes spread across a field. ``That's pretty neat,'' my wife Darlene said about the 80 figures that represent Lewis and Clark's Patit Creek campsite on May 2, 1806. ``Nag, nag, nag,'' Sadie the Dalmatian said. I stepped from the truck, opened the back and put down the ramp. Sadie grinned, whipped her tail back and forth and scooted down. She snorted, nose to the ground, to clear her olfactory passages. She vacuumed along the fence row and filed away scents of past visitors to the site. Dogs, apparently, can store about 200 scents in their libraries for future reference. Sadie obviously analyzes hers at night or nap time, when her feet trot along imaginary trails and woofs rumble in her chest. Darlene read the informational plaques, one a bronze plate attached to a basalt marker, while I fetched the Nikon camera from the truck, attached the 18-70-milimeter zoom lens, and started snapping photos. ``This is impressive,'' Darlene said. ``But it doesn't say who the sculptor is.'' I didn't know, either, wonmdering if the craftsman would be called a sculptor. Three other vehicles arrived, and more people stood by the fence to study the scene. Sadie sniffed a couple of them. I heard one man say which figure was Meriwether Lewis. I recognized Seaman, Lewis' Newfoundland dog, and assumed that Lewis stood next to him. And I knew there were 37 human figures, 27 horse figures, along with representations of other gear necessary for a typical Lewis & Clark camp. After I hearded Sadie back into the truck and we fastened our seatbelts, I hinted, ``Since we're here, we should drive up the Tucannon River. The road's open now after the School Fire. I heard it burned over 50,000 acres.'' ``Might as well,'' Darlene said. The dashboard clock said 9:48 a.m. We continued on Patit Creek Road, which is paved to Maloney Mountain Road. We turned left and passed graders working on Hartsock Grade. At the bottom, we turned right onto the Tucannon River Road. We soon passed blackened hillsides down to the road. Then large sections of charred pine-tree skeletons, marked the drive from near the Last Resort and Cummins Creek Bridge to a couple of miles past Camp Wooten. I stopped to take photos along the way. At Cow Camp Bridge we began to lose site of the burn. At Panjab Bridge, I suggested, ``It looks pretty good here. But let's go on up to Sheep Creek, just to be sure the fire didn't burn reach that drainage.'' ``Might as well,'' Darlene said. The dashboard clock said 11:39 a.m. We turned left onto Forest Road 4712, and Sadie said, ``Nag, nag, nag,'' with her head stuck through the window to shell. She wanted out. Again. And she nagged until we stopped at the road's end near the Sheep Creek bridge. When I pulled out the ramp, she skated down with touching it and pranced off to snuffle down the aroma of a pile of black coyote scat. I shivered at the prospect of her researching that scent during a nap. ``Do you want to hike up to the falls?'' I asked Darlene. ``No,'' she said. ``Oh,'' I said. ``Well, I hate to come all the way up here and not check to see if the fire reached the falls.'' ``You go ahead,'' she said. ``I'll be fine here.'' ``Well, maybe I'll walke a little way up the trail, just to see how Sadie does.'' So, we did. And an excited Sadie bounded ahead of me. She leaped onto logs and down the other side. She crossed on ditch on a log without hesitation. When the trail edged into the stream or a marsh, she traipsed through without pause. Finally, maybe 50 yards fromt he falls, we encountered a waist-high log. She made one jump, missed and fell back. I offered to help, but she moved into the stream to find an alternate route. Well, there isn't one. I watched her for awhile from atop the log. I encouraged her to try again. I would grab her collar and boost her up. But she refused (it's a pride thing, I think). She searched on the uphill side of the trail, and found no route there either. Then she headed back down the trail. I knew she would get lost and decided to rush up to the falls, just to see it. Sheep Creek Falls looked great. Much of the debris hampering the view had disappeared since my last visit. Water cascaded down to 10-to-15-foot cliff. Water seeped from higher cliffs around the main falls. ``It's a cool place,'' I said out loud as I snapped a few photos before chasing back after Sadie. Well, she waited at the log barrier. She wrigglerd all over when she saw me, and we literally dashed back to the trailhead. ``You weren't gone long,'' Darlene said. ``I know. The falls look great,'' I said. ``I'm glad they're OK.'' As we headed back down the Tucannon River, I intimated, ``Since we're here, we should go on up to the Rose Springs and Clearwater Tower area. Just to see what damage the fire did.'' ``Sure,'' Darlene said. The dashboard clock said 12:47 p.m. And we did, after getting coffee, candy bars and a jerky stick for Sadie at The Last Resort. And, as on the Tucannon River Road, we felt depressed. Huge tracts of forests stood as black skeletons. Once I stopped for a picture and stepped beyond the edge of the road, and sank into ash near the top so my boots. Near Clearwater Tower, we left most of the burn behind us. ``I'd like to go on a little further,'' I said. ``Since we're hear.'' The clock said 2:12 p.m. ``OK,'' Darlene said. We drove all the way to the Mount Misery Trailhead, about five miles off of Forest Road 40. I took photos of Diamond Peak and looking east toward Troy and the Seven Devils, in Idaho. ``I suppose we should feed Sadie,'' Darlene said. And I did. The clock said 3:31 p.m. ``Perhaps we should head back,'' I mused. ``Sure,'' Darlene said. I stopped at photographed a scenic view toward the upper Tucannon River near Hunter Springs. I stopped and photogrtaphed a pile of melted metal, including several vehicles, that had been accumulated near Rose Springs. ``We should stop in Pomeroy for dinner,'' Darlene said, and we headed for Donna's Cafe. It was definitely time to eat.--

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