Friday, November 24, 2006

Up the Tucannon

Oh, my goodness!
My jaw dropped. There she was, Sadie the Dalmatian, head first in the water.
Her back end on the weedy bank. Her front end submerged, and her front legs pushing like pistons trying to back up. And backout.
I didn't know how long she had been snorkling, and I watched for a moment with dumbfounded awe, so to speak.
I'd been casting a rubber lure after steelhead near the mouth of theTucannon River, and Sadie had been standing by my leg in the tall, dew-soaked Reed Canary Grass. Then I'd put down the rod and taken out the camera to photograph reflections on the calm water.
So, you see, I didn't notice Sadie start looking underwater for fish.
Actually, she probably leaned over the water for a drink, and the weeds gave way.
Well, there she was, half in and half out. And there I was with the camera in one hand. I reached for her collar with the other, but it was too far under water.
The idea of pushing her in flitted through my head, but I rejected that, even though it might allow her to get her head above water and breath.
Yet, I grabbed her tail and pulled, dragging her from the water. She aimed glassy, red-rimmed eyes at me. She must have been holding her breath, though. She didn't cough and sputter. She just gave me that look and shook to splatter water on me and the camera.
Well, she did looked a bit embarrassed, too.
We had started that morning at the mouth of the Tucannon, with a soupy fog hanging over the water and the half-dozen boats with steelhead anglers. Anglers also fished the smooth water at the public access parking area half-a-mile upstream. One used a small pontoon boat.
After Sadie's snorkling episode, however, I hustled her back to the truck and toweled her off. She enjoys being rubbed with a towel, so that perked her right up.
Then we drove to Texas Rapids oln the Snake River off of the road to Little Goose Dam. I tossed the same rubber lure, a Swimming Shad type, about 200 times, and had one fish hit it as I finished a retrieve. The fish shot up from a patch of millfoil near the bank, hit the lure and swirled away. Its familiar red streak flashed in the sunlight. Big but not as big as a steelhead. Perhaps a smolt that didn't migrateto the sea.
Then we drove back to theTucannon, and after fishing a spot upstream from Starbuck without any luck _ I kept snagging the lure_ we crossed Highway 12.
As I drove along beneath a warming, late-morning sun and with the mammoth wind turbiness looming on the hillsides, I felt a yen to see the impact of the most recent forest fire.
The devastation left by last year's School Fire, which apparently started in the vicinity of CampWooten, remains depressing enough. Yet, soon after I turned left onto Forest Road 4712 at Panjab Bridge, I felt even worse.
The latest fire had crossed the road, burned down to the Tucannon River and beyond. It had burned well into theWenaha-Tucannon Wilderness in at least one area. A plume of smoke rose from one smoldering spot.
At road's end, we set out for Sheep Creek Falls. The School Fire had missed the drainage. Alas, that didn't happen this time. The fire burned on both sides of the stream and wiped out much of trail to the falls. Sadie had problems with the downed trees. I offered to lift her up, but she preferred that I leave her be to find her own route around them.
She ended up with soot or charcoal all over her back and legs. I had it on my boots, pants and shirt.
Oh, well
In the last hundred yards before the falls, the canyon narrows, and Sadie couldn't climb or circle the barriers.
So, I raced ahead, slipping and sliding and splashing at the edge of the stream. I knocked a notable patch of skin off my left shin in my rush.
The falls remain a special place, with water seeping from the moss-covered rock walls and glistening on the greens and browns of flora and stone.
I snapped a dozen or so photos and raced back to find a cross-looking Sadie stamping her feet in the trail.
We trekked downstream at a slower pace, and at the bridge I washed Sadie by splashing water on her and rubbing away some soot.
At the truck, I rubbed her again with the big towel. It was 2:04 p.m., and we had taken less than an hour to hike to the falls and back.
Sadie climbed stiffly up the ramp to the truck. She didn't hesitate, however, when I lay out her lunchtime snack. Then, as we drove home, I snapped photos of squirrels and deer along the road.
And I stopped at the Last Resort for coffee and bought a giant jerky stick for Sadie. She'd had a rough day, and shedeserved it
See photos at

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