Friday, January 17, 2014

Sasquatch Winter

"Sqwuack!  Sqwuack!'  The sound of a grey jay never sounded so welcoming as it did this sunny morning at 8000ft in the picturesque high country of trinity county.  A friend come to visit gave Chris the final ounce of courage needed to roust himself from his place of safety.  Searching the remains of last night's raid, he couldn't discern whether or not anything was missing so he gave into his rumbling stomach.  Placing his stove on a rock, he struck a match to the granite and kissed the hissing valve with a "poof".  Propane burned blue under a titanium pot.  He carefully measured out two cups of water and poured it onto the hissing pan.  Unfolding his havalon knife, he checked its edge against the packaging of freeze dried biscuits and gravy.  The brand new razor edge passed with a clean slice and he poured the contents into a lightweight bowl, still slightly marred with the remains of last nights kung pao chicken.  "Adds extra flavor" he could hear his Dad say as he shook a few tablespoons of coffee into a tin mug.  By this time the water began to bubble so waiting, he turned his attention to the breathtaking surroundings.  Granite faces, scree slides and vast, flowing boulder gardens offset the greener, softer patches of willow and aspen.  Sunbeams began their march down the mountain faces and Chris suddenly noticed the vibrant contrast from last night.  Mountain chickadees quarreled in concert, squirrels bickered and the intermittent throttle of a woodpecker all joined in the cacophony.  Like the "camp robber" who woke him this morning and now waited patiently on a spruce bough nearby, the animals kept him company.  Unlike last night, when he felt alone.  Alone like a solo tourist who suddenly found himself in a dark alley with three or four "local boys".  Was it just the onset of darkness that unleashed the cloak of silence over the valley?  Or was there a real presence, in the form of a giant ape-man that opened a gigantic can of "shut the hell up" over the area's inhabitants.  Chris had read many stories of the "feeling" that people got from being near a bigfoot.  Now he knew that its presence was as unmistakeable as a light switch:  click it "On" and the creepies invade your gut and escalate to the top of your scalp;  Switch it "Off" and all the heavy, dark feeling lifts as a fog from the marsh.
The water reached a rolling boil.  Poured into the containers, a steam lifted in the air.  His sister used to say you were releasing a spirit when you did that.  Quickly he wolfed down the biscuits, chopping them up with his spork to release the vapors.  Sipping his coffee meditatively, he pondered the dilemma of finding such an elusive creature in such a vast landscape.  His experiences and research told him that looking for them was a futile exercise.  Best to exploit their natural curiosity and let them come to you.  Still, he couldn't just sit and wait all day for nightfall so he laced up his boots and headed for a secluded ridge at the fire side of the alpine lake where he might search for some sign along it's banks and then head for high ground to glass for clues.  He planned on buying a deer tag for this coming fall so was going to use the opportunity to scout for sign.  Figuring he could kill the proverbial "two birds with one stone", he set out to look for signs of life and possibly a bachelor herd of high-racked blacktail bucks with their antlers still puffy in velvet.  His March was a brisk one and he found himself in the valley before the sun.  Skirting the creek, more like a seep really, he searched for muddy spots that might hold a decent track.  Finding one, he squatted to read the story. 

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