June 28, 2013
A Tour Across FR 31 and a Visit to Ladd Marsh Refuge, 6-28-13
As we neared the high point of Forest Road 31, about 10 miles from Interstate 84, I panicked.
My cell phone no longer pressed against my right hip.
"I've lost my cell phone," I blurted to Darlene. She and Nora the Schnauzer turned concerned looks toward my face.
No doubt it slipped from my belt when I loosened it to, well, stuff in my shirt tail. I had done that several times as we meandered slowly from State Route 204 east of Spout Springs.
"I.m sure I had it after some of those stops," I said. "I remember loosening my belt when Nora and I walked through the yellow lupines on that slope above Summerville.
"And I may have done that again a few miles later when I spent so much time shooting the little butterflies on the yarrow. I don't remember that for sure."
I had no choice but to turnaround and search. If I lost the phone when shooting the butterflies, it would be easy to find, providing no one passed the spot and saw it before we got back.
That seemed unlikely. We had seen only two other vehicles since we turned onto Summit Road (FR 31).
If I lost it among the lupine it could be tough to find.
"Do you have your phone?" I asked Darlene. ""You call me and the sound may help me find the phone."
She had her phone, but she doubted if it would work in the mountains. Despite the high altitude, so did I. It seldom worked, period.
We left Walla Walla at 10:04 a.m. with the loose plan to check the wildflowers on the mountain.
We didn't see many along 204, but they abounded along Summit Road, especially after we passed Ruckle Junction: Balsomroot (hookers and arrowleaf), lupine, penstemon, buckwheat, wild hyacinth (brodea), larkspur, honeysuckle, paintbrush, Nora, onion, chives, stonecrop, big-head clover, Oregon gold, golden pea and so on, on and on.
We stopped first for the field of balsomroot at Ruckle Junction, 10 miles from 204. From there, every time we spotted a panoramaic view or an interesting looking blossom, we stopped.
And, more often than not, at each stop, I loosened my belt and, well, tucked in my shirt, prompted, I suspect, by the four cups of coffee consumed before leaving home and the Grande downed before reaching Summit Road.
My prospect of finding the phone after so many stops grew less likely the more I thought about it.
Yet, no more than five or six minutes after turning around, we approached the pullout where I spent half an hour shooting the pretty, accommodating little butterflies.
"There it is," I said with relief if not jubilation.
In my outdoor travels over several decades, I've lost many, many things including car keys, GPS units, Swiss Army Knives, fishing rods/reels, lens hoods ... well, you name it, I've lost it.
Like the cell phone, however, I've often back-tracked and found the lost item.
On one occasion, I left a pair of glasses on a rock beside a stream in the Eagle Cap Wilderness when walking from Minam Hill about 50-miles to Wallowa Lake. On the way home, I stopped at a gas station in Elgin and asked if the glasses had been turned in.
They had. I feel good about fellow travels and my luck when that happens.
Anyway as we reached Interstate 82 at a few minutes after 2 p.m., I asked Darlene how she wanted to return home: go back the way we came, go west through Mission for a late lunch or go east to La Grande and a late lunch.
She chose La Grande so that we could then make a tour of the Ladd Marsh Refuge, to see if it had and water birds.
We ate at a Subway and found no water birds and very little Marsh at the refuge.
I did shoot tree swallows, quail in trees, a red-winged blackbird on a post and the osprey on a nest at Hot Lake that I shot in May.
All that, especially retrieving of my lost phone, made for a darn good outing.