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By Trent Tibbitts

Note. See post “The Bob – Montana ” before reading this post.

After much anticipation and preparing, it was finely time to Go West. Todd and Toni picked me up at 5 AM on the morning of September 10th, 2015. We saw two doe deer on the way to pick up Keith.  We arrived at the Atlanta Airport around 6 for our 8:10 flight  to Los Angeles,  California.  We got through security and to our gate without delay.  When boarding the  plane,  I noticed the gate attendant said “Highly  Favored ” When asked “How are you?”. I thought that was a great response.  Flight DL110 took off at 8:30 for its 4 hour and 5 minutes flight to LAX.  I didn’t 20150910_083417have a window seat and it was mostly  cloudy so I  couldn’t see much on the way out. In fact,  I was in seat C of a plane that had window, seat A, seat B, Isle, seat C, seat D, seat E, isle, seat F, seat G, window. No one was in seat D, that gave me some room. There was a monitor in the back of the seat in front of me that displayed our flight and what part of the country we were flying over. We landed at 9:35 Pacific time in sunny  California and I got my first look at the Golden State. Yes, palm trees. After getting off the plane we had time to grab lunch at 10 o’clock. 20150910_095307

After lunch we didn’t have much of a wait before we got on our next flight. We stared boarding at 11:05 for our 11:45 flight.  This time I did have a window seat on the left side of the plane.  I enjoyed it very much.  I think I have a photo of every inch we flew over from LA to Salt Lake. The airport is right on the coast, as we took off, we flew west out over the Pacific Ocean.  I was looking south down the beach for my first view of the other Shining Sea.

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We made a big circle out over the water as we turned North East to Salt Lake. We could see a lot of the coast, boats, ships and the harbor.  From the beach to the mountains was very densely populated.  Not a very wide area. But, on the other side of the mountains, little to no evidence of man’s footprint could be seen from the air until we flew over Las Vegas, where we turned north to Salt Lake.  The Landscape looked mostly desert and some mountains.  I had never seen anything like it.  I was taking a photo about ever minute.  One thing that I noticed the most was the drainage of the land that was so evident.  We flew over small towns,  mountains and sand. Over Las Vegas,  I could only see the North West urban sprawl and the Red Rock Mountains.   From Vegas,  the flight took a Northern course.  I continually was amazed all the way to Salt Lake City.  Just before landing,  we could see salt flats and the world’s largest copper mine. After landing,  it was a short lay over before we boarded a small airplane at 2:35 Mountain time for our last leg of the flight to Kalispell Montana. As we took off we could see the city of Salt Lake. I was not impressed.  Once air born,  we could see the Great Salt Lake.  Again, I was disappointed.  The water looked very uninviting.  Soon, the flat desert gave way to mountains.  Some snow was visible on the North slopes that were shaded. By chance we were on the plane with a man from Rome Georgia,  just a few miles up the road from Dallas,  where we live. His parents live next to the Bob and he was up to visit them. Our landing approach was over the flat head river. Very beautiful country.

air

We meet Brett at the baggage claim of this very small airports.  I  have seen bigger truck stops. From the airport we could see the peaks of Glacier National Park. Todd Hunter arrived shortly to pick us up in his four door flat-bed Dodge truck.  After handshakes and greetings, we drove the nearly two hours to Todd’s house just outside Eureka, Montana.
He is only nine miles from the Canadian border, and you can see the Canadian Rockies very well from his home. It is a two story log cabin built in 1895. It has large windows with great views that were original to the design.  Todd and his wife Sarah did all of the renovations themselves and it is very beautiful.  They live on a large cattle farm where they help with the operation.  A  farrier was shoeing several of Todd and Sarah’s horses when we arrived. We saw tons of whitetail deer on the way in and a good many were in the alfalfa hay fields around Todd’s house. We took the side by side buggy out before dinner to see the farm and look at the deer. Todd had been seeing some Elk a few days before our arrival,  but no luck this night. Sarah cooked a great meal of chicken and dumplings with  zucchini squash. Todd and Sarah have a three year old daughter named Bella. She is a little cowgirl.  She has her own pony, Biscuit, that she rides. She loves to ride her mother’s horse, Cisco, and can name all the other horses and mules. It’s amazing to see a little three year old girl lead a horse by herself. She will grow up to be a fine young lady someday.  Todd and Sarah have two spare bedrooms.  Keith took one and Todd Tibbitts and I took the other.  Brett took the couch.

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Day two. September 11, 2015.

guide

I  woke up at sunrise.  Todd Hunter,  Brett and Keith were up. Todd Tibbitts  got up a little later.  We all had a cup of coffee, and we were standing at the coral looking at the whitetail deer in the field.  I had gone in the house to put my camera away,  as i was coming back out, a huge Elk appeared on the ridge line behind Todd’s house. He was maybe 100 yards at most away from us. He was silhouetted against the morning sky. It would have been an award-winning photo. Field and Steams eat your heart out type of setting. I ran back inside to get my camera.  When I got back outside,  I saw him jump the fence at the bottom of the hill. He turned and headed away from us. I got a few shots of him as he trotted across the field, but he was a long way off. It was one of the biggest Elk Todd had seen on the farm. With binoculars we could see him cross the road about a mile away. After all the excitement,  we all loaded up in Todd’s truck, Todd H, Sarah,  Bell, Todd T, Brett,  Keith and myself.  We went to downtown Eureka to eat at Jacks Cafe.

house point

cow saha

We came back to Todd’s house and saddled up five horses for a cattle drive. First we went down the road and meet Joe who runs the farm. He was installing pipe for a center pivot irrigation system. We rode the horses down the road pass the hay barn. Sarah was on a 6 year old that she was training.  Todd Hunter was on Cisco. Bell rode with him on the way out. Red was on a wild mair that Todd had borrowed for the trip. Brett was on his horse and I was on Little E. Todd Tibbitts and Keith rode the side by side buggy. They opened the gate for us and took Bell. We rode up a little hill to were the cattle were. The goal was to cut the bulls from the cows and drive the cows to a new pasture.  Todd and Sarah cut each cow a we helped to block them from mixing back together.  Once they were separated we drove the cows and calves down the hill and through the gate.  The push across the field was nice and easy.  We turned them down by the corn and out the gap to the road.  Todd and Keith were waiting for us a little ways down the road.  They had the gate open to the other field and the side by side buggy in the road to block the way and to turn the cows. After a successful cattle drive we had to go on another round-up. A yearling had gotten into a neighboring pasture. The pasture had a heard of Black Angus Cattle that was in the corner of the pasture. The yearling was along the fence next to the pasture he should have been in. We entered the field and had to pass the Black Angus to get to our calf. After we had passed them , they started to follow us. Sarah,  Red and myself turned our horses to face the cattle, while Brett and Todd drove the calf to a small gate where Todd and Keith were waiting.  Once the calf was in the other field,  the Black Angus turned and headed back to their corner.  We then rode over to the gate and joined everyone there. We had a quick ride back to the barn and put the horses away.

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After getting back and putting the horses away we loaded some things into the nose of the horse trailer. We then went to a little fishing village to eat dinner.  We saw several Mule Deer roaming around town.

cowgirl                 20150911_135750 shoe

September 12, 2015

In the morning we saw several cow elk on the other side of the pasture.  We glassed them on our way to breakfast at Jack’s.  When we got back there was another cow out. We herded this one with two side by sides. Once we got it back in the fence,  we saw a coyote crossing the field close to where the elks were. We couldn’t get a shot off. We then packed several bales of hay into the trailer.  Each one around 80 lbs.  Up to this point we had not heard from Cameron, Todd H. friend who was to help pack us into the wilderness.  The other dilemma were the wildfires. The areas we were wanting to go were still closed and we had no idea when or if they would be open. We checked the website each day for updates but our area remained closed while others were opened. We were itching to do something,  so we decided to go to Cabelas. It is in Kalispell, over an hour away.  We all bought fishing license and Todd,  Keith and Brett bought their hunting license.  We loaded up on fishing gear.  I bought a box of bear load for the 44. I also bought a extra battery pack for the solar charger that I had borrowed from John. We then went back to Todd’s house to shot our guns.

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20150912_193908      bell

The hunters shot their rifles.  I shot a few rounds of the bear load in the 44. After the target practice, Todd H walked to the hay barn about 80 yards down the field road. He Spotted a skunk and yelled for one of us to come kill it.  I was elected and Randall handed me his pistol.  We rode up on the side by side. By this time the skunk is in the field.  I take aim and fire from just a few yards. I see a little blood splatter and I go to the skunk.  Well, it keeps going.  So, I shoot at it again and miss this time. It’s moving faster in the field so I run to get in front of it. I shot it a few more times. I know I am hitting it. I can see the lead lodged in its fur on its chest.  It is bleeding from a few good shots but it is still going strong.  I eventually unload the whole magazine, 8 to 10 rounds. Everyone is laughing at me from a safe distance.  I didn’t know it at the time but the pistol was a .22. I thought it was a 9mm. I went back to the side by side and retrieved the 44. One shot of bear load stop the unstoppable skunk.  I am not sure when I got sprayed, but I did. To me it wasn’t that bad, but everyone assured me that it was.  I went to the barn and stripped down. My bag was still out there so I got a pair of house pants out and put those on. I hung all my clothes up to air out. The worst was my belt and wallet, that were leather.  Keith had a bottle of scent blocker. I sprayed it on everything several times.  I then took a shower and got 90% of the smell off. I was now dinner time, we left Todd H picking up hay and we went to Four Corners for dinner.

September 13th. Sunday

We had decided to go to Cameron’s place so we would be ready to head into the Bob once it was open. We packed up our personal items before going back to Four Corners for breakfast.  We finished packing up all of our gear and loaded the horses.  We had two trucks and trailers.  Todd Tibbitts,  Keith, Brett and Red was in one. Sarah, Todd H, Bell and me in the other.  We stopped for lunch, gas and groceries in White Fish.  Then from Hungry Horse it was a 52 mile trip down a dirt road in the national forest to Cameron’s place, Wilderness Camp.

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Back in the 1960s, when the Flathead National Forest was founded,  there were three sites for lodges sold.  Cameron’s father bought one and named it the Wilderness Camp.  It has maybe 15 little cabins and one lodge for gathering and dinner.  He runs his hunting outfitter business from here. A little background on Cameron, he is in his early 60s I would guess. One would call him a drunk if they didn’t know him. Tough as nails. A big man that can more than hold his own. Before the fires, he had a tent setup in the woods where he sleep each night. The firefighters, when making a fire break, cleared all the trees around the camp and exposed his tent site. When we were in the wilderness, he would sleep on the ground each night by the fire. If he wasn’t cussing he wasn’t talking. He was a rough old mountain man but he was nothing but kind and he opened up his place to us .

beer coral

When we got here several fire fighters were staying in the cabins. As we were just setting up,  a fire fighter drove up and talked to us a little.

20150913_172129   highline

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We then put the horses on a  high line in an area of the camp that had been cleared by fire fighters just a few weeks before to help protect the Lodge from the wildfires. All but a very few scattered trees were cut. The high line is a rope that is hung about 6 or 7 feet off the ground from tree to tree. The horses are tied to it. Cameron had a large coral but we did not know when he would show up with his horses and did not want them in with his. The forestry service had Cameron to take his horses out of the forest and away from the fires. At first he did want to take them off but rather take them down to the lake in the delta like area where the river comes into it. We fished down there and it would have been a great place to protect the horses. The head ranger for this area is a lady and she had a meeting with Cameron where she offered a 5th of Jack Danielle if he would take the horses away. He took them to his father’s house. At this point in the trip we still have not heard a thing from Cameron and expected him at anytime.

fire-sign sign

After feeding the horses, Red, Keith and myself walked down to the river at the bridge that was just a mile up the road. I had the big iron on my hip in case of a bear encounter. We walked around until about dark. Then headed back. We had made camp next to the coral and an old horse trailer that was on our East side. We put up a few tarps over a fire ring and setup the kitchen there. Brett and I hung our hammocks to the north of camp. Todd H. and family sleep in their horse trailer, Red, Keith and Todd sleep in Red’s trailer, south of camp. The high line horse were on the west side. We had a good dinner, some of the fire fighters joined us.  We had guitar playing and singing by Todd T. And Red. The fire was good and warm as the night temps stared to drop. The Corral had water and we needed to water the horses before going to bed. We each took two at a time and walked them over to the corral. It was good a dark by this time. I still was not that familiar with handling the horses. I had a lead rope in each hand and was about half way to the corral when something spooked both horses and they both reared up pull my arms up and apart. I had to let go of one rope. I  started yelling for help. The horses never started to run and I was able to grab the other lead rope. Help arrived and took one of the horses for me.

river                  stock-sign

September 14th,  Monday

It rained during the night but not to much.  I was warm dry and happy in my hammock.  We restarted the fire and had breakfast.  This is when Dugan came up to met us. He works for Cameron packing horses.  He is a young man in his 20’s, Tall and skinny.  He really didn’t know where Cameron was either.  We sat around the fire eating breakfast and getting to know Dugan.  As we were talking he told us about his friends who are Blackfoot Indians that lived on the reservation not to far away.  He told us about Indian days,  kinda like the Indian Olympics. Apparently the reservation is a good place to buy horses.  His Indian name is Dances with Pigs. He earned the name after his friends family were going to kill and cook a hog. They tried to do a ceremonial slaughter but they had difficulty killing the hog. With the hog wounded,  screaming and running around.  Dugan caught and killed the hog. As the wind would change the smoke would blow on someone else and they would move.  That is when Dugan asked if we knew why Indians dance around the fire. Answer;  to get out of the smoke. He got us on that one.  We were ready for some inside Secret Indian knowledge.  We would learn that Dugan was a hard worker and good at what he does. In fact he had been working for the forestry service packing in supplies for the fire fighters these past few weeks.

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lodge

fire  flowers.jpg

After breakfast and feeding the horses,  we explored the lodge. As you walk up there is a small porch with a bench against the wall.  Big uncut lodge poles were used for the post. When you walk through the big heavy door you enter the dinning area.  The end of the table is 8 feet from the door. You can sit about 20 people around the table.  There is no electricity.  A battery operated radio is playing. Someone had left Cameron a six-pack on the table.  There are gas light s above the table and a few on the wall. To the right is a large kitchen.  Next to the door on n the right was a desk that served as the office of the operation.  To the left was a couch along the front wall. A wood burning stove was along the next wall and a big chair was in the corner with a book shelf behind it. The building was an upside-down”T” shape.  On the one side was a bedroom, bathroom,  living room then the dinning area with the kitchen on the other side.  Past the table is a steep down to a landing just big enough for a couch on each side.  Then it goes down one flat of steps.  From the front door to the back wall is one long room.  The back wall had a river rock fire-place. I am sure the whole place was built from material found on site.  The back wall being two-story high was full of Elk, moss, deer and all kind of trophies.  Didn’t look like much had changed in the past 50 years.

stove table

Todd T and I joined Todd H, Sarah and Bell on a trip up to the Spotted Bear Ranger Station to try to get information about trail opening.  It was only 2 miles up the road.  We passed the two other outfitter camps. From what I could tell,  I liked Cameron’s place better.  His is close to the Flathead River and they are next to the Spotted Bear River.  A lot of fire fighting equipment was around.  Each building and cabin was protected by a sprinkler system.  The office was new and the old station looked as if it was being turned into a museum.  We didn’t get much information.  Where we were going the fire was out but the road and trail had to be cleared of dangerous trees. We seen a fire fighting airplane and a helicopter off and on.

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We spent most of the day fishing the river just above the lake. We drove down from camp,  all in one truck. Some of us sat in the back.  It was just four or five miles down the road.  We passed the Spotted Bear Air Strip and the area that was currently being logged for timber.  They were doing a great job of clean up.  It was a heavy thinning operation but it was not clear cutting.  All debris was picked up and moved to one location.  We passed or was passed by logging trucks often.  They tried to make two loads a day. One trip was over hundred miles just inside the National Forest.  No one had any luck fishing.  I spent my time talking photos and exploring.  Where the river meets the lake it is a large flat grassy delta. Cameron’s horses would have been very safe here if this area had burned.  We did see moss tracks in the mud.

On the way back, close to sunset, we stopped at several area overlooking the river where we could see the mountain sides. We searched each one for Elk. We passed the airstrip right at dark and saw a few whitetail deer.

sing

Back at camp we had another outstanding dinner.  I think we had hamburgers.  A few of the fire fighters joined us again and we enjoyed Red and Todd playing and singing.  I am sure we watered and feed the horses at some point.  I explored taking time laps photos of the stars.

September 15th,  Tuesday

After Breakfast, we set up a electric fence to keep our horses in so they would not be in the same coral as Cameron’s horses. It was a team effort, everyone had a job. The location that was chosen was in an area next to camp that had just been cleared as a fire break. 95% of the trees had been cut but there were just enough left that we could use them as fence post. A small stream was close by and we incorporated it inside the coral. That would keep us from having to water the horses. The fence consisted of two wires that were attached to the trees with insulators that we screwed into the trees. It was electrified with a battery.

Then Cameron showed up with a load of hey. We all started to help unload the 80 lb bales on to a large stack of hey that was already there that was keep under a tarp. We all got introduced to Cameron. We then unloaded all of the pack saddles that he had taken with him due to the threat of the fire.

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Todd T. Brett and myself decided to hike up the mountain behind the Lodge. The trail was Stony Hill Trail. We were hunting Western Rocky Mountain Rough Grouse. Cameron loaned us his .22 rifle and Todd H. his .22 pistol. We took a lunch and stopped about halfway up where there was a great view of Silvertip Mountain. We continued on up the trail but did not summit. One the way back down and close to the bottom we spotted several Grouse. Todd shot at them several times with the rifle and missed each time. He then pulled the pistol and killed one Grouse. We hunted the cut timber between the base of the mountain and the road back to camp. When we got back to camp, we did some practice shooting with Cameron’s rifle. Turns out it was shooting way to the right, about one foot at 30 yards. I mean it was way off. We learned to adjust our aim. Todd showed Brett and I how to clean the Grouse by standing on its wings and pulling its legs back towards the head to remove the breast meat. Todd then cooked it over the fire. It tasted very good.

grouse

While we were hunting, everyone else went fishing. We had another campfire dinner. Life was really slowing down for me.

September 16, Wednesday

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Todd H., Sarah, Bell, and Red went with Cameron back to his dad’s house in Hungry Horse to get Cameron’s Stock. Todd T., Keith, Brett and Myself went back to Colombia Fall to get more supplies and to change our flights to a later day because the fires had keep us out of the wilderness. On the 52 mile dirt road in the national forest we saw a lot of Whitetail Deer. On the way back in we saw a Black Bear and her two cubs.

bear

We moved Todd’s stock from the coral to the hot wire that we had put up the day before. It was the first time that I caught and bridled a horse on my own. What you do is ease up to the horse and lay the long end of the rope over the neck of the horse. He then thinks he is caught. On the more tamed ones you could then slide the bridal over their head and buckle or tie it. On the more wild horses, I would hold the rode around their neck with one hand while putting on the bridal with the other.

fire gt

Cameron and Todd showed up late in the afternoon with Cameron’s stock. You could tell they were happy to be back home. We had dinner in the Lodge and a big fire in the fire ring at the pavilion in-front of the lodge. More singing and star gazing. A little bit of snow was falling on the mountain top.

September 17th, Thursday

The morning low was 25 degrees. Remember, we are camping. This was our fourth night sleeping outside. Me and Brett were in Hammocks. Todd H, Sarah, Bell were in one horse trailer and Red, Todd T and Keith were in another.

ham

Some of the guys got up early and went riding the roads looking for bear. Some of them had a bear tag. Later on after breakfast  we rode up to the trail head that we would be taking into the wilderness. It was the first time we saw where the wildfires had been. We saw the parking area and the temporary corals they have there. On the way I shot a Grouse with the .22 rifle of Cameron’s. I aimed about a foot to the left and killed it.

stock tg

It was Todd T. birthday. We had his birthday dinner in the lodge and like on his last trip, Sarah made him a birthday cobbler in the dutch oven.

diner cob

September 18th, Friday

Mule shoeing day. Todd had his stock shoed on the day we arrived. The young man that did it was very good. The same guy came out to Cameron’s to shoe his horses and mules. He also shoes the National Park’s horses. He did the horses with out any problems out in a grassy area just out side of the coral. The mules were a different story. Cameron had build a stale he called the Iron Maiden out of 6 inch steal pipe, with 4 or 5 pipes on each side about a foot apart. It stood about 6 feet high. One the front was a wall of 2 x 12 boards just as high. Each leg of the Mule was tied tight to the steal pipes. The Mules would buck up and slam their heads against the boards and knock themselves silly and buckle their legs. It was a fight for the young man to shoe those Mules. Most of the day was spent tending to the livestock. After all of Cameron’s stock had new shoes. He and Dugan carried them up to the corals at the trail head. We moved Todd’s Stock back into Cameron’s coral and took down the hot wire. We learned that Cameron had shot at a bear on his way up to the trail head. We packed up camp. I took a shower for the first time in a week. We had ribs for dinner and we all stayed in some of Cameron’s cabins for the night.

September 19th, Saturday

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We were up before the sun. Loaded the stock into the trailers and was at the trail head at daybreak. Cameron and Dugan were already well on their way packing their stock. They would go ahead of us. Dugan led a 10 mule train.

train

It took us another hour or so to get packed. We had 6 riders and 4 pack mules in our group. It was a 16 mile ride into camp. It took all day. I was on a mule called Hot Sauce. With this fire and other fires a lot to trees were down. So many, that the trail cleaning crews only cut up the ones that could not be crossed by the mules and horses. In the wilderness, not gas powered tools are allowed, that means no chain saws, only hand cross cut saws. So that keep a lot of down trees from being cut too.  As we came to down trees, my mule would jump the logs instead of stepping over them. I lost my hat twice. I final figured out how to pull back on the reins enough to keep him from jumping. We got on the trail at 10:30 and got to camp at 4:15. We had not gone very far when one of the pack mules was biting at another and it bucked, losing it’s load. This is called a wreak. We had to stop and repack. Sarah carried Bell the whole way in. We lost Red at the trail head. He could not make the ride in with us. We saw a little doe deer at the trail head and a few Grouse on the trip in. We rode by mountain top cliffs and through areas that had burned in years past. We followed the Spotted Bear River up and had several stream crossings.

cb               clif

creek

trent.jpg b.jpg

ride

When we got to camp, an area the National Parks has designated for outfitter to camp. Each outfitter has there own locations. This is a very nice area along the Spotted Bear river. There is a large meadow and we camp on the east end. Dugan has unloaded Cameron’s mules and is headed back to the truck with most of the stock for more supplies. He had a 32 mile ride that day. Most of what we pack in is hey for the stock. During the off season every thing must be disassembled. We are the first group in, so we have to reassemble the camp. First order is the coral. Lodge poles are used for fence railing and hay bale string is used to tie them to the trees. The poles are in place around the coral, all we have to do is pick them up and tie them to the trees. In just a few minutes we have built a coral. We put Todd’s stock into the coral and Cameron ties his horse up and lets his mules roam free. The horse is the leader and the mules will not leave it. Plus the mule will keep the bears away. Cameron’s mules are huge. They were breed from Belgium Horses. Everyone is dead tired, it has been along day. We just do hamburgers for dinner. Brett and I find a place for our hammocks, Todd and Sarah put up a Tee Pee tent, and Todd T. and Keith set up a lean-to. That evening, two guys come into camp. They are friends of Cameron’s. One of the guys named Lawrence had killed a 5X5 Bull Elk. We all enjoyed seeing his trophy and hearing about the hunt. It was opening day and the first kill of the season. We also had fresh meat in the camp. The Elk meat was hung on a pole to air out and covered with a pack mantie. Time to watch for bears.

coral           elkhammok          lean-to

September 20th, Sunday

I sleep to 9 AM. Todd and Brett had taken the advice of Cameron and went out Elk hunting on Pivot Mountain. The two hunters who had came into camp had gone to the continental divide to Goat hunt. After a banana for breakfast we took the stock down to the river for water. Keith, Todd H. and I set up the big Cooking Tent. No one sleep in it. We only used it for the kitchen. It would have be a shelter if we had gotten bad weather. Cameron would use it for the rest of the hunting season. Like the coral, the poles were left behind, we just had to figure out he right combination.

camp

I had one of my MREs for lunch. I had been sleeping on Keith’s air mat and he was on mine while they camped on the hey in the horse trailer. It had started going flat on him so I swapped back. His was nice and conferrable. We cut wood for fire wood with a cross cut saw. We put up a high line for the horses if needed. We worked on Keith and Todd’s lean-to tarp some more. We cut brush to put around it to help block the wind and placed a pole under the tarp to help hold it up. I heard a gun shot around 4:40 and 5:30 in the direction that Todd and Brett were hunting. We had fresh Elk steaks for dinner from Lawrence’s Elk. The term “It’s Getting Western” started to get kicked around. Todd and Brett came in after dark with the story of how Brett killed an Elk. Then the two other hunters came in with their kill of a Goat. In Brett’s excrement of telling his Elk story, he triggered his bear pepper spray in his pants. Everyone scattered when they heard the can go off. I think Brett took a dip in the river. We had high winds all night long and we keep hearing trees fall. We knew the trail would be a mess for Dugan who was bringing in more supplies the next day.

tent

gaot elk-goat

September 21, Monday

We were all up early to go pack out Brett’s Elk on Pivot Mountain. We were on the trail by 9:30. We took one of Todd’s Mules that he had borrowed from his boss and left the other on a high line at camp. It was a two and half hour horseback ride to the top of Pivot mountain. We ate lunch at the summit. It was just a little walk to an area where you could look north into Glacier National Park a 30 miles away. After lunch, we hiked down the side of the mountain for an hour. That tells me it was about 3 miles away to Brett’s Elk. It took two hours to dress it. Then it took two hours to hike the meat back to the the horses on the top of the mountain. We all were packing about 50 lbs. Except Sarah, she had been carrying Bell the whole trip. We packed the mule with the Elk meat and head. It was another two and half hour ride to camp. The last hour was in the dark. The Horses knew the way. We rode with out lights.

cabin                 keith

highj

lunch        walk

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When we got back to camp from a long day of riding and hiking. We unloaded the horses and mules. We put them in the coral for the night. The stock we had with us drank water when we crossed the river at camp. Todd H and Keith went to water the stock that had stayed back. This is when we learned of the first fatality of the trip. Todd’s bosses wife prized mule that he had to basically beg to take with us, had died. The Mule is dead. It just got Western. Several things led to its death. First it had a halter on that is like a choke chain. Used in pack trains to keep mules moving. If the mule stops, the lead rope will pull on the halter and will close the mule’s air way, making the mule move on. Second, the mule was tied to a high line. Third, the mule stared going wild when we left with the horses and the other mules. It started pawing the ground and acting up. Forth, Cameron wanted to stop the mule from pawing. So he tied one of the legs of the mule up. At some point the mule fell on the ground, cut off his air supple, could not get up on three legs and died. Nothing like a death to put a depressing mode on the camp.

September 21st, Tuesday

I sleep late dreading the deed of removing the dead Mule. I believe the proper thing to do is to notify the park ranger and have them come in and blow up the caucus so bears will not get to it and develop a taste for stock. Cameron is not the type to call in the park rangers. They get along but I think they leave him alone and he leaves them alone.  I didn’t know what we were going to have to do. I didn’t want to have to gut a mule and quarter it up to remove it. Then there are the bears to worry about. We had a breakfast of fresh elk tenderloin from Brett’s Elk, before removing the mule. What we did was to take a rope and tie it to the mules neck and then we used Cameron’s big horse to pull it father into the woods. We also tied ropes to the mules front legs and we help to pull. We tried to get it away from camp, because we knew in a few days it would begin to smell.

I took a “bath” in the river with wet wipes. I got in but it was to cold to wet my head. Sarah fixed a pot roast in the dutch oven and let it cook all day. We saddled up and went down river a few miles below the falls to fish. Because no fish could get above the falls.  The trail was littered with down trees from the wind storm. We saw where Dugan had cut his way through. He said he ran out of gas in the chain saw before he go to the Wilderness. It took him almost twice as long because of the down trees. Cutthroat Trout was what we were fishing for. We did not have any luck. Back at the camp Todd T, Brett and myself were preparing for a trip up to the Continental Divide for a overnight Mule Deer Hunt. We would spike camp just below the divide.

September 22, Wednesday

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Cameron lead Todd T, Brett and myself up into the Hart Basin and on to Hart lake. Base camp was at 4800 feet about sea level and Hart lake is at 5700 feet. It was a three mile ride. We passed an area on the trail that Cameron told us to be on the look out of Grizzles. It was the spot that Lawrence had killed his Elk just 4 days ago. We were too late, the Bears had already taken the carcass away. Only a few Ravens flew up as we passed by. The natural lake is feed by snow melt and was close to being dry when we arrived. It is the only water for miles. We brought our own water to drink but the stock needed water. We dismounted and walked them out to the water. We passed several sets of Grizzle Bear tracks in the mud. After Cameron showed us the trail-head for the top of the Divide was, he left us in the wild and headed back down tail to camp. We watered the stock and rode on up the trail.

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After leaving the lake, we starting riding through areas that had burned in just the past few days. As we got higher the view got even more fantastic. We were reaching 6500 feet above sea level and was looking for a place to make camp. Once above about 6500 feet the trees started to thin out and more large alpine meadows appeared. We found a spot we liked in the shadow of Table Mountain. We could tie up the stock and make a lean-to shelter in a few trees. After we got the shelter up, we took a little nap before a afternoon hunt just up from camp. We each took a section of the hillside meadow. I watched a coyote work his way up the draw. Very Western and Wild.

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Last Two Photos are not mine.

With the fires and all the trees being conifers, it was hard to find fire wood. We were also a little concerned with starting a wildfire of our own. We found a hole where a stump had burned out and made our fire pit in it. For dinner we had brought fresh Elk steaks from Brett’s Elk. It had gotten dark on us while hunting. We had the fire going good. I had cooked steaks over open fires before but like I said earlier there was very little wood and finding forked sticks to support the steaks was impossible. We decide to cook over hot coals. The way the stump burned where we had our fire, there was a small ditch where a root once had been. We drug hot coal into it. We then made a grill from small dry sticks by laying them over the coals and the steak on top. It worked and I have used that idea on trip since then. We had a few Doe Mule Deer that came around the camp that night and I took a lot of night photo with my SLR camera. I was able to take a lot of really nice shots.  It was going to be cold and we went light on the supplies. No one had a sleeping bag. I did bring my sleeping bag insert made of silk. Not much but glad I had it. Brett and Todd didn’t want the fire to close to the tent. I think they regretted that decision by morning. We sleep on top of the saddle blankets for a insulator from the cold ground. I don’t know how cold it got, but deferentially the coldest I have ever been while sleeping. I just turned on my stomach and pulled my arms in and prayed for sun up.

September 23rd, Thursday

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Todd and Brett headed out at just before day break hunting Mule Deer. I stayed back and grazed the stock around camp. I would keep moving them from one small patch of grass to another. Keeping them untangled from there lead ropes was another chore. While I was breaking camp and tending to the stock, several Mule Deer came in and around camp. Two fauns nursed near by. Then a young buck spared with a more mature buck. I could have easily shot the big buck. I didn’t for several reasons, one being I didn’t have a tag, I also didn’t want to disturb Todd’s and Brett’s hunt, and I didn’t want to have to deal with it.

After the Mule Deer moved on and the horses were feed, I took a pack and hiked up to the Continental Divide. Our camp was at 6800 feet and about a mile from the Divide. We  were about 1500 feet in elevation lower than the divide. The highest peak I got to was just over 8300 feet. I had never hiked in this high of elevation before. Quite different than the 5000 to 6000 feet summits of the Appalachian Mountains back east. From the camp to the summit was a 45 degree slop, very steep. It was one of the most strangest landscapes that I have every been on. Running horizontal were mounds of loose rock. One the uphill side of these 15 to 20 feet high mounds were deep ditches. Then a patch of trees. This repeated several times. Once I was passed the last group of trees, it was bear rock and low grass to the top. All I could see in front of me was this slop and sky. I had know idea what was waiting on me at the top. If every I had a view take my breath a way, this was it. Imagine walking for up and not knowing one moment and then the next seeing the view in the above photo all at once. It fells your whole area of sight at once. I was on the edge of a 1200 foot cliff. Lake Levale was Glacier Blue below me. Strait ahead was 20 miles of mountains in the Lewis and Clark Nation Forest. To the left and north 30 miles away was the high peaks of Gracie National Park. To the right and south was the Great Chinese Wall. In the shadows and crevices of the wall was patches of snow that had lasted the summer. Totally amazing. I ate my MRE for lunch. As far as I could tell I was the only person on earth. During lunch, I saw a few Grouse. I then walked to a high point the jutted out along the Chinese wall. I was about half way there and realized I had forgot my phone. I had to turn back to find it. I was able to make it to the very high point. What a grand sight.

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The last Three Photos are not mine.

Not wanting to go back but knowing I needed to hike back to camp to check on the stock and see if Todd and Brett were back, I left my Rocky Mountain High.

It was more of the strange landscape on the way down. On the way up I was hiking at an angle so not to go strait up the steep slop. Now I was making a strait shot to camp. My loop hike was about 3 miles total. When I got back to camp, Todd and Brett were there packing up. They did not see any Mule Deer but did see four mountain goats in the same area I was in. I told them about the camp deer and they both said I should have shot the big buck. Not what I was there for. We saddled up and made the easy 5 or 6 mile ride back to camp. The rest of the crew had been fishing and had a lot of luck catching Cutthroat Trout. We had fish for dinner.

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September 24th, Friday

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A little about Bell. She is 3 years old and went everywhere we did. She was a ball of energy and keep all of us running and on our toes. She did very little fussing.

Our last day in the Bob. We had Eggs and Bacon for Breakfast. We spent the morning packing up camp. It always seamed to take a long time to get everything loaded up. We set up Todd’s electric bear fence around the tent for Cameron. He would be there alone with a dead mule in camp. He wanted a little extra protection while he sleep. We heard after we got home that two Grizzly Bears did come in and were fighting over the mule. We were down one mule and need another to pack out the meat, so we used two of Cameron’s. We packed ham and cheese sandwiches to eat while riding. It was another long ride out. At one point during the ride, we met another hunter and mule train in a tight area of the trail. Todd lead us in to the woods and we let the other party pass. Todd knew the man, he was the county sheriff. We also met three people hiking. It was late when we got onto the trail and we spent a good bit of time riding in the dark. Sarah was leading and was the only one with a light. Too many light would confuse the stock so it is best to only have the one. We were still several miles from the end of the trail and riding in the dark when we came to a stop. I was in the back of a 60 yard mule train. We could not tell what was the problem but after a few minutes we started moving again. We found out the next day that Sarah had heard a strap snap on one of the mules. She heard it and knew what it was. Then stopped us and had Todd fix it. Her skills with the stock was amazing the whole trip. The moon was almost full and we could see the outlines of the mountains. We got back to the trail head at 11 PM. The sheriff told us about a pizza that he had in his truck. That was a nice bit of Trail Magic when we got there. Another hour to unload the packs, take off the saddles and pack the trailers. We got back to the wilderness lodge after midnight. We turned the horses and mules into the coral and spent the night in the cabins again.

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September 25th, Saturday

We loaded the stock up for the last time, said good by to the Wilderness Lodge and drove the long the 52 mile dirt road out of the Flathead National Forest. Once in Colombia Falls we stopped and ate breakfast at the Night Owl. We then stopped at a bar called the Blue Moon to see the owners big game trophy collection of Polar Bears, Grizzly Bear, Big Horn Sheep, Elk, Deer and so on.

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Back at Todd’s house, we unloaded the stock and supplies. Processed the meet of Brett’s Elk. Showered and repacked our bags that we would ship home. We then wanted to take Sarah out to dinner, to thank her for all she did while on the trip. We went to the nicest place around, On The Rocks. We pulled up and there were like 10 cars in the parking lot and Todd and Sarah said it was packed. We had to wait 10 minutes for a table. Apparently that was unusual. I think we all had stakes. Mine was delicious.

September 26th, Sunday

One more breakfast at Jacks in the little town of Eureka, Montana. Todd then showed us his old house on the way to the airport. We all said our good byes. Brett was on the same flight to Saint Paul, Minnesota as we were. We ate dinner together at the airport, then he went on to D.C. and we made it to Atlanta by midnight, where Tony and Sonya were waiting to pick us up.

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Some closing stats from the trip.

Miles Traveled:

Air miles – 4950

Paved road miles – 630

Dirt road miles – 322

Miles on horse back – 68

Miles on foot – 18

Animals Killed:

5 -Mountain Grouse

2 – Bull Elk

1 – Skunk

1 – Mountain Goat

1 – Mule

Several Cutthroat Trout

Animals Seen:

One Black Bear with two cubs

One Big Bull Elk at Todd’s and several Cow Elk

Countless White Tail Deer all over

Several Mule Deer

Mountain Goats

Two Coyotes, one at Todd’s and one in the Bob

Golden Eagle

Bald Eagle

Osprey

Ducks

Blue Jay

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Google Earth photo of the Chinese Wall Continental Divide where we made our Spike camp. The Lake in the foreground is Levale. Lake in the background is Heat Lake. Spotted Bear River is top right. Our Spike camp was almost center of the photo. Point on the left of the lake is where I walked to, 8300 feet above sea level. Just as high as Table Mountain in the top right.

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Google Earth photo of Pivot Mountain where Brett killed his Elk. The location was down the ridge to the right of the Pivot Mountain Summit in one of the clearings about low center of the photo. Our Camp was about dead center along the river, but we had to ride up the ridge line of the mountain to get to the hunting spot. Table Mountain it top left. Spotted Bear River runs down the photo.

This was a great Western Adventure.

Montana – The Bob

Montana – The Bob

By Trent Tibbitts

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Part one. – Introduction

I was invited to join my brothers on the same trip they had taken a few years ago to the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana.  The  Bob is a one Million acre Wilderness in the middle of 4 million acres of national forest. It’s northern border is the southern border of the Glacier National Park.  It is a 14 day trip with 10 days in the Wilderness.  For those who may not know,  a wilderness doesn’t have roads and mechanized equipment is not allowed.  Bicycles are not allowed much less gas-powered equipment.  The group will be Todd, Keith, Brett, and myself who will join Todd Hunter along with his wife and three-year old daughter.  On day one we will fly out to Salt Lake with a layover in  LA before flying on into Montana.  Todd will pick us up at the airport.  We will spend the next day gathering last-minute items and packing. We will ship most of our supplies days early and have a mule team pack our gear in for us before we get there.  What we will be carrying will be our clothes and small items.  On day three we will get up early and load up the horses and drive several hours to the national forest that surrounds the Bob. Then a few more hours on the dirt roads to the trail head where we will unload the horses and pack them up. It is a 20 mile ride to the campsite on the Flathead river.  Day four will be cutting firewood and finish setting up camp. Day five will be the opening of Elk season.  Todd and Brett will be hunting.  I plan on doing a lot of fishing and hiking.  We will pack out on day twelve and fly home on day fourteen.

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I have started to gather the items that I will need on the trip.  I have to get it ready to ship out. I bought an air mat, ordered a hiking guide-book,  ordered a case of MREs, and ordered hip waders.  I am in the process of going through my supplies and packing.  But first I was thinking of a survival kit.  We will be in very remote county and you never know what will happen.  While the camp will be well stocked with anything we need, I want a pack that I can carry with me anytime I leave camp. Here is what I came up with.  A 7 by 9 tarp for a shelter.  Water filter life straw with bag. First aid kit stocked with 6 band aids,  2 butterfly bandages,  4 small band aids, 2 round small band aids, 2 gauze Triple Antibiotic, Sting relief,  antiseptic wipe, razor, med tape, candle, and water proof matches all in a ten box. In a 32 oz water bottle that has measurements marked on the sides I put a saw, several fishing hooks, 20 feet of fishing line, artificial bate, lighter,  Swiss Army knife,  whistle,  compass,  2 packs of peanut butter, hand warmer, light stick and cord. I lashed the bottle to the bag with the tarp and first aid kit. Then added a carabiner.  All together it is less than 5 pounds.  This will help me survive a few days if need be.

Part 2 – Packing

The following is a list of the items I will be taking from home to the Bob. We will pick up a few items once in Montana like more food and bear spray.

This is my ENO hammock system. It includes the 2 man hammock, 2 Slap Straps, Rain Fly, 7 sections of 5 foot each paracord, 2 carabineers, 2 quick tie carabineers and bag that it all goes into.

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This is my 30 degree sleeping bag, air pillow and silk sleeping bag insert. The silk increase the warmth of the bag.

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Odds and Ends Bag. 2 pair of Hand warmers, Tooth Past and Toothbrush, large knife, Compass, Leather Man multi tool, pocket knife, AA batteries, Candle, Lamp, Head Lamp, Flashlight with lamp, 2 glow sticks, 100 feet of paracord, battery charger for phone and bag.

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This is to show what is inside a MRE (meals ready to eat). Gum, Salt, Seasoning, Most Towel, Toilet Paper, Drink mix, Energy bar, Applesauce, Crackers, Main Meal, M&M, Spoon, Peanut Butter. You put the Main Meal in the green bag, add a little water, fold over the end and place it in the box. A chemical reaction takes place and heats the Meal.

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This is the camera equipment I will be taking along with my phone. Camera Bag, mini CD for the camcorder, Camcorder, utility knife, extra memory card, tripod, bag for extra lens, 35 mm to 55 mm, camera with 55 mm to 110 mm zoom with and a polarizing filter.

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Binoculars with case.

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Three Blue Jeans, Two Camouflage Paints, One Weather Proof Paints, Six Long sleeve shirts and two short sleeve shirts.

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Survival Kit. Saw, Glow Stick, Artificial bate, Hand Warmers, Whistle and compass, cord, two Peanut Butter, Swiss Army Knife, Lighter with 20 feet of fishing line, two different size fishing hooks and a water bottle with measurements listed on the side.

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Orange Vest and hat for Hunting. Fishing Vest. Two pair of gloves, Rain Paints. Rain Jacket, two different toboggans.

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High top water proof boots, Hiking Boots, Cowboy hat, tracking poles. 9mm pistol with holsters and extra clips.

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Nine MREs and 4 Mountain House dinners with one desert. Two water bottles.

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Four pair of socks (I added 4 more pair), 4 pair of underwear.  Fleece Vest, Fleece pullover, two tee shirts, three under paints, 4 long sleeve under shirts.

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Three sets of insulated underwear and one long sleeve under armor and one short sleeve under armor. Air Mat.

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Hip Waders.

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I updated my first aid kit to this one that had a lot more items. Everything but my food, Camera and a few items in my day pack.

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This is all I am taking with me. I was able to get the air mat into the duffle bag.

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Part 3 – Forest Fires

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Update.  August 23rd.  T -18 days. Several wildfires are burning in the western states, including Montana. It has been very dry there and it has been a bad year for fires. They have claimed the lives of firefighters, burned homes and thousands of acers of land. Todd got word from Todd Hunter that a 400 acer fire grew to be a 10000 acre fire over night on Friday. It burned the parking lot of the Meadow Creek trail head where we were to start our ride into the Bob on houses.   Trucks and trailers belonging to people who were in the Bob at the time were destroyed by the fire.  Todd Hunter was helping with the evacuation.

From the National Forest Web Site on August 24th.

FIRE SUMMARY: Two large fires are being managed by the Northwest Montana Type 3 Incident Management Team Bear Creek Fire and Trail Creek Fire. Management objectives and priorities for the fires are: Firefighter and public safety, minimizing the impacts to recreationists, local outfitter & guides and resorts, and protection of the Spotted Bear Ranger Station facilities.

FIRE STATUS:

Bear Creek Fire – Size: 19,595 acres. The fire burned today with moderate fire behavior and moved toward the east onto Meadow Mountain and is moving down Larch Creek to the north. Firefighters mopped up hot spots at Meadow Creek Trailhead and completed structure protection (wrapping with fire resistant material) on the recreation facilities loading ramp, hitch rails, bulletin boards and the Meadow Creek Gorge Pack Bridge.

Trail Creek Fire – Size: 9,500 acres. The Flat Creek Fire and Trail Creek Fire have joined and will now be managed as the Trail Creek fire. A management objective for this fire is to keep the fire to the north of the Spotted Bear River Road.

CLOSURES:
– The Spotted Bear River Road #568 is closed, as well as the trailheads and trail systems which start from this road.
– An extensive area closure for the Trail Creek Fire is in place in the upper Middle Fork from the Spotted Bear River Road and the Eastside Reservoir Road around Upper and Lower Twin Creek, eastward to Dolly Varden Creek.
-A large area closure is in place in the northern portion of the Bob Marshall Wilderness. The Meadow Creek and Gorge Creek Trailheads are closed. The Eastside South Fork Trail #80 is closed from Meadow Creek Trailhead south to Damnation Creek. Access to the Bob Marshall Wilderness is via western and southern trailheads.

See the map above. We were to camp on Black Bear Creek just above Black Bear Cabin. We were to enter on the yellow road that is now closed and come down the yellow trail that is now closed. Maybe the area will be reopened by the time we get there. Todd is looking for other locations for us. We may have to come in another way and camp closer to the Salmon Forks Cabin as I understand it.

News update.

Two fires in the remote Spotted Bear Ranger District of the Flathead National Forest on the edge of Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness exploded late Thursday, prompting emergency evacuations of outfitters and more than 70 head of stock and the closure of a major wilderness trailhead.

The Bear Creek fire, about 55 miles south of Hungry Horse, exploded from 465 acres Thursday morning to 17,755 by evening, driven by high winds. The Trail Creek fire grew from 3,500 to 8,463 acres, consuming a smaller fire as it moved through the heavy timber.

Al Koss, a public information officer, said even computer modeling couldn’t predict how fast the fires would move.

“It was just a very unusual situation that occurred yesterday,” Koss said.

With the fire headed toward the Meadow Creek Outfitters, which has five corrals used by outfitting businesses, Forest Service personnel teamed with outfitter employees to round up 70 mules and horses. Halters had to be put on the animals, which then had to be loaded onto trucks.

The evacuation, which was occurring at about 6 p.m., proceeded efficiently, Koss said.

“People knew what they needed to do and they got on it and it happened,” Koss said. “It was a little bit chaotic, but the district here is used to working with stock.”

The remote U.S. Forest Service ranger district is on the southern end of the Hungry Horse Reservoir. Employees arrive in May and move out in December. It includes homes for employees, bunkhouses and a warehouse.

There wasn’t room to fit all of the animals in the trailers, so some were let loose. A person on a horse moved them down the road and out of the fire’s path, Koss said.

No injuries to people or stock animals were reported, and no structures were lost, he said.

As the operation was finishing up, the fire was moving down the hill toward the trailhead, Koss said. Once they were out of danger, forest personnel and the outfitters watched the fire roar through. After it passed, they went back in and started putting water on the Meadow Creek Gorge Pack Bridge so it wouldn’t burn.

However, a few outfitter vehicles and trailers were burned, as well as some hay.

The two major fires are just two of more than 20 burning in the Spotted Bear Ranger District in the Bob Marshall Wilderness and the Great Bear Wilderness.

The fires were sparked by lightning storms that passed through on Aug. 12 and Aug. 14.

A type III incident management team has been assigned to two major fires.

“We’re finally starting to get a few more resources in, some crews, some engines,” Koss said. “That’s helping.”

Given how fast the fires moved, structure protection is now occurring at the Spotted Bear Ranger District compound, which is 10 miles north of the Bear Creek fire.

The high winds pushed the Bear Creek fire east down Bunker Creek and across the South Fork of the Flathead River. The fire moved through the Gorge Creek and Meadow Creek trailheads and the Meadow Creek Outfitters Corrals.

Heavy winds drove the blaze through heavy fuels and it built up energy as it moved across the landscape, faster than computer modeling had predicted it could move, Koss said.

Thinning of fuels that occurred in the area over the past few years helped to reduce the severity of the burning through the trailheads, he said.

The Meadow Creek trailhead, a major trailhead into the Bob Marshall Wilderness, has been closed. With the trailhead closed, the wilderness will now need to be accessed from the west or southern sides.

News update.

The Bear Creek Fire near Spotted Bear swept through about eight miles of forest, jumped the South Fork River and grew from 465 to 17,755 acres in just a few hours Thursday afternoon.

The fire’s rampage torched vehicles, sheds and trailers at the Meadow Creek Trailhead, although livestock were rescued from the fire area.

The fire was sparked by lightning Aug. 12 and by Thursday morning had only burned about 465 acres in the Flathead National Forest several miles south of the Spotted Bear Ranger Station.

Then it erupted on Thursday, driven by rising temperatures and wind.

No one has been injured in the fire’s expansion, and the only threatened structure, the Meadow Creek pack bridge, has been outfitted with sprinklers and was untouched — despite the fire burning on both sides of the creek.

“What protected the bridge, it’s open around there, and as soon as crews were able to get into that area they started wetting it down with water from the engines,” fire spokesman Al Koss said.

The Trail Creek Fire, another lightning-caused fire south of the ranger station,  also was stirred up by the windy conditions Thursday, more than doubling to 8,463 acres from 3,500 acres.

Koss said firefighters were able to get about 70 livestock out of the Bear Creek Fire area unscathed, and wilderness rangers swept through trails to guide eight to 10 visitors to safety.

The fire has since slowed down but had still seen some activity Friday afternoon as it continued to move east.

“As the humidities dropped and the temperatures went up, the inversion broke,” Koss said of the fire’s run on Thursday. “It started building energy, it crossed Bunker Creek to the south and actually got into a place where the Late Creek Fire was burning and started burning in very thick timber on a north-facing slope … As the fire started building and gaining momentum, it got more energy and started to move fast, and those winds really pushed it through that timber.”

Winds were gusting at about 30 to 35 miles in the area on Thursday.

Koss said no suppression activities are being conducted aside from point protection, assessing where the fire is headed and what structures may be threatened. About 10 miles north of the fire front sits the Spotted Bear Lookout, and the Black Bear Cabin is about 10 miles south.

No structures are currently threatened, but forest officials are planning to wrap both structures in fire-resistant materials in the next couple days.

While the fire tore raced through the densely wooded area, Koss said that fuel reduction around the Meadow Creek outfitter corrals and Gorge Creek helped keep property damage to a minimum.

“There were approximately 15 vehicles from people recreating and all of those vehicles were spared,” he said. “That’s kind of neat to be able to see that that really worked — it met its intention of fuels reduction right there.”

Update Aug. 26. The Bear Creek Fire east of Swan Lake continues to be the largest blaze in the state, chewing through more than 28,000 acres. On Wednesday, fire crews were mopping up the area around the Meadow Creek Trailhead that burned late last week when the fire grew from 465 acres to more than 17,000 in just four hours. Fire crews are also working on protecting various backcountry structures in the area.

Fire Tower being covered with fire resistant material.

News Update.

Posted: Wednesday, August 26, 2015 8:06 am | Updated: 5:21 pm, Wed Aug 26, 2015.

Frustration, awe and relief. That might best describe the mood at the Spotted Bear Ranger Station as fires burned both to the north and south of the remote outpost on the north end of the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

The Bear Creek Fire struck awe Thursday afternoon, defying the best fire models as it burned more than 17,000 acres in just a few hours.

The fire had skunked on the slopes above the Bunker Creek Road for several days but appeared to be in check. But on Thursday afternoon it burned down the slope, crossed the Bunker Creek Road and got a head on the north slopes, explained incident commander Andy Huntsberger.

The north slopes in a normal year are wet, but in this historic dry year the fire took off and raced down the Bunker Creek Road and across the South Fork of the Flathead in a matter of hours.

Both private citizens along with Forest Service and fire crews were able to get about 70 head of stock out of the outfitter camps before the fire blew over. No animals or people were injured but three vehicles burned – two older trucks and a newer Subaru as well as some stock trailers, a tack shed, an outfitter tent and some hay, said public information officer Al Koss.

The fire is now more than 28,000 acres.

But despite the fire’s intensity, it laid down when it got to the Meadow Creek Trailhead and campground, where the forest had been recently thinned. Other thinned areas along the Meadow Creek Road had spot fires, but were not actively burning. By contrast, the unthinned areas were a moonscape of fried trees. The Meadow Creek pack bridge was unscathed by the blaze, though a bridge in the upper end of Bunker Creek did burn.

Huntsberger said the fire defied the models. He said their fire analyst has run the scenario through computer models several times and it still doesn’t do what Mother Nature cooked up.

There was also sense of frustration among Forest Service personnel from the Trail Creek Fire.

The fire, burning 9,500 acres north of the Spotted Bear River Road, had burned through timber sales – sales that would have likely been harvested by now had they not been held up by several years of litigation – litigation that the Forest Service prevailed on. The sales were designed to thin the forest and restore historic Ponderosa pine stands in the area that had been overcrowded by fire prone species like lodgepole pine.

The Bear Creek Fire is now listed at more than 28,700 acres and is moving to the east in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. It’s about four miles from the Spotted Bear Ranger Station. Protecting the ranger station and nearby outfitter camps is the top priority for fire managers.

A host of trails, including the Spotted Bear River Road, Spotted Bear Campground and the Meadow Creek Road and campgrounds area are all closed.

A contrast

A contrast

Al Koss looks over the Meadow Creek Trailhead and camp where a previous thinning project stopped the Bear Fire from destroying the campground.

New Update

Posted: Thursday, August 27, 2015 5:24 pm | Updated: 1:30 pm, Fri Aug 28, 2015.

As fires bloom, the options to recreate in the Bob Marshall Wilderness are rapidly diminishing.

The Spotted Bear Ranger District will shut down the entire wilderness portion of the district because of fires and fire danger beginning Friday morning, fire information officer Al Koss said. That includes lands in both the Bob Marshall and the Great Bear wilderness areas.

 The closure includes the Schafer Meadows Airstrip.

The nonwilderness portion remains open although Spotted Bear Campground is closed. Koss said wilderness rangers are giving people already in the backcountry a few days to get out of the area.

The decision came as at least 20 multiple fires burn in the district east of the Flathead Valley. One new fire, detected Wednesday is near Lena Lake in the wilderness. That fire is now 40 acres, forcing the closure of the Holland Lake Trailhead.

The Meadow Creek Trailhead also is closed due to fires.

On the other side of the mountains, meanwhile, the Rocky Mountain Ranger District has closed the Benchmark Trailhead as well as several trails up and down the Rocky Mountain Front due to fires.

The Benchmark Fire is about 50 acres, according to public information officer Wendy Clark. The Benchmark closure means three of the most-used trailheads into the Bob Marshall Wilderness are now closed.

The Benchmark Road is closed from the Benchmark Wilderness Ranch to the trailhead. An evacuation order is in place for dwellings in the area.

In Spotted Bear, outfitter ranches in the area have been fitted with sprinkler systems and a line was put around the Wilderness Ranch on the Meadow Creek Road, Koss said. The lodges in the area are privately owned but are on land leased from the Forest Service.

The Bear Creek Fire, the largest in the state at more than 28,000 acres, is working its way down to the Meadow Creek Road near Jungle Creek. Crews have created a shaded fuel break in the area to keep the fire from spreading east toward the Spotted Bear Ranger Station as well as the Spotted Bear Ranch and Diamond R Ranch.

The fires could gnarl hunting season in the backcountry.

Archery season starts Sept. 5 and general hunting season starts in the wilderness Sept. 15. Many outfitters rely on the hunting season for their livelihoods.

Spotted Bear closures Aug. 28

This map shows closed areas on the Spotted Bear Ranger District due to 20 fires burning on the district.

I think this latest closure got our back up plan.

News update.

Just to give an idea of what is going on in the wilderness.

Mother Nature threw up a long detour for a group of friends turned away last week by the Bear Creek Fire in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

“We could see the trees torching,” said Luke Kantola of California. Kantola and his friends Charles McGrail, Clara Hanson, Vinnie Inzano and Colin Arisman had hiked in the Bob Marshall Wilderness down the South Fork of the Flathead to the White River junction.

Once there, they floated in pack rafts to just a couple of miles above the Mid Creek takeout. They made camp and could see the smoke and a glow in the distance but didn’t know how far away the fire really was.

A wilderness ranger came into camp told them they had to turn around. They hiked back to Black Bear Cabin, arriving at 2 a.m. They spent the next day at Black Bear and rested up a bit.

Smoke and ash from the fire rained down on camp, but the Forest Service crew there made sure they fed well.

The next day they hiked out via Smith Pass, 32 miles in one day. Once there, they were met with the kindness of strangers again. It was about 10:30 p.m. when they got out, but a crew from Swan Mountain Outfitters got them food and gave them a ride back to Spotted Bear.

The group gave a big thanks to the Forest Service, including wilderness ranger Rich Owens, and Swan Mountain Outfitters for all their help. On Sunday, they were reunited with their vehicles and were making phone calls back home from Spotted Bear, to tell family members they were OK.

Save for a few blisters and a good coating of dirt and soot on their clothes, they were no worse for the wear. The group has plans to return next year so they can complete the trip.

News Update 9-1-15.

Basic Information

Current as of ‎8‎/‎31‎/‎2015‎ ‎5‎:‎49‎:‎34‎ ‎PM
Incident Type Wildfire
Cause Lightning Strike
Date of Origin Wednesday August 12th, 2015 approx. 01:35 PM
Location 3 miles SW of the Spotted Bear Ranger District, 57 miles from Hungry Horse.
Incident Commander Reed ICT3(t)

Current Situation

Total Personnel 83
Size 67,594 Acres
Fuels Involved Timber (grass and understory); Timber (litter and understory)
Significant Events Active; Crowning; Wind Driven Runs; Group Torching

Outlook

Planned Actions Assess Bear Creek Fire outside of wilderness for opportunities for direct suppression to reinforce point protection priorities. Implement suppression tactics with limited resources to protect improvements and infrastructure.
Projected Incident Activity 24 hours: Humidities are expected to increase although winds will become breezy during the day. Precipitation possible.

48 hours: Winds will become breezy during the day. Seasonal temperatures. Rh dropping.

Remarks IMT3 is also managing the Trail Creek Fire (21,100 acres). The Lake Creek Fire was consumed in the Bear Creek Fire.

Spotted Bear Ranger Station

Bear Creek Fire Update – 9-3-15

Incident: Bear Creek Fire Wildfire

With a cool and rainy weather pattern in place, the focus on the Bear Creek Fire turned from fire management and suppression to safety considerations, trail rehabilitation and preparing wilderness access for the upcoming hunting season. The fire burned through a small area impacted by a previous wildfire on its southern flank, but made little other movement. While smoke could be seen from Black Bear Cabin, the structure was not threatened by the fire’s expansion.

Current and forecasted weather will provide firefighters with a window to finalize containment efforts on spot fires and work on removal of hazard trees and slash associated with the shaded fuel break on the Bruce Creek and Meadow Creek Roads. Selected heavy equipment used during suppression activities is being demobilized, while sawyers are being brought in to handle technical hazard tree falling needs. A trail assessment crew from Spotted Bear Ranger District will be mobilized to assess trail clearing needs, with a focus on reopening access points and trails as soon as it is safe to do so.

Structure protection (hoses, water pumps, and sprinklers) remains in place at the three guest ranches – Diamond R, Spotted Bear Ranch and Wilderness Lodge as well as the Spotted Bear Ranger Station itself. Most structure protection personnel have been re-allocated towards helping with hazardous tree removal operations on the Bear Creek and Trail Creek Fire areas and surrounding access roads.

Bear Creek Fire Update – 9-4-15

Cool and rainy weather continues at the Spotted Bear Ranger District in the vicinity of the Bear Creek Fire. With fire activity significantly reduced and debris associated with construction of shaded fuel break removed, selected crews and machinery assigned to the fire are being demobilized. Sawyers are focusing efforts on felling hazard trees along roads. A trail assessment crew from Spotted Bear Ranger District will assess trail clearing needs today, with the dual objectives of evaluating work needed to provide access to backcountry administrative sites and assessing work needed to reopen access points and trails. Preparing the wilderness for the upcoming hunting season remains a priority.

Structure protection (hoses, water pumps, and sprinklers) remains in place at the three guest ranches – Diamond R, Spotted Bear Ranch and Wilderness Lodge as well as the Spotted Bear Ranger Station itself. Protective wrapping (i.e., fire-resistant wrap) will be removed from selected structures, such as bridges surrounded by burned forest. Most structure protection personnel have been re-allocated towards helping with hazardous tree removal operations on the Bear Creek and Trail Creek Fire areas and surrounding access roads.

Update 9.6.15

Last updated on the Bear Creek Fire.  The area has received  rain and the fires are contained or out. Higher elevations have received snow.

Part 4 – “When the Woods Were Wild”

In Preparation for the trip,  Keith gave me two books to read.  The one I read first was “When the Woods Were Wild ” by Stephen Hawkins.  Stephen is who Told Hunter bought his outfitter business from.  Todd no longer has the business.  The book gives a back story of Stephen’s childhood and how his love of hunting grew into a very good business. The book gives a insight into the world of an outfitter.  There is a lot of work that goes into each trip.  Transporting supplies into and out of the wilderness is a large task. A normal hunting or fishing party would be 6 to 8 people.  Then it would take another 4 or 5 guides, wrangler and cooks to support the group.  There maybe 12 people or more that needs food, shelter and clothing transported in on horseback and mule.

A large group may need 15 to 20 pack animals plus the horses for the people to ride. That is a lot to keep up with.  One thing I learned is that a line of mules tied together is called a pack string.  The other thing I learned is that mules and pack strings have wrecks.  This is why a small rope is used to tie each mule to the next. If a heavy rope is used and a mule wrecks, I will take the whole pack string with it. But with a small string it will break and only one mule would be lost.

The other book I read was by Howard Copenhaver called “They Left Their Tracks”. He and his brother started  guiding before  World War II and continued after the war, some 60 years as an outfitter. He tells short stories of trips and interesting adventures with  guest and crew. He is a bridge from the old west to the present. In fact one of his hands rode with Butch Cassidy.

Reading these books about the Bob and Outfitters has given me a little  insight into the Bob Marshall Wilderness and what to expect.

Part 5 – Bears

The Bob Marshall Wilderness has the largest concentration of Grizzly Bear in the lower 48 states.  The Bob is home to more than a thousand. Though a concern, I am not to worried about them.  I have camped and hiked in Black Bear Country many times with out fear. I have had several bear in counters and all have ended with the bear running away.  However I don’t to sound aragonite or foolish,  I  will be carrying bear spray and a 44 pistol with me. Most Grizzly  Bear attacks happen to solo hikers. So rule number one is don’t go alone, take a friend. That is a hard rule for me because I do like to explore  on my own. I think me and Keith have the same adventure spirit and we can explore together.  Bears don’t like to be surprised, so a group will make more noise than a solo hiker. Rule number two, don’t hike alone, take lots of friends . So that’s two rules I don’t like. If you do come up on a bear and it doesn’t run away.  Try to make yourself look bigger. Raze your  arms  over your head. Hold your jacket out to make yourself look bigger.  Do not turn and run. Back away slowly. We will be on horseback and will look bigger.  So rule three is don’t hike alone, take a horse. If you are charged by a bear, throw something at it. I prefer lead. So rule four is don’t hike alone, carry a big gun. There have been reports of men killed by bear after unloading all their rounds into the bear from a small calaber handgun. If the bear gets through all the lead and spray, and you can’t get away, cover your head and curl up in a ball. Then hope your budy is a good shot. Rule five is don’t hike alone, take a marksman with you. So I will be going everywhere on horseback with someone out of the group,  they are all good marksman.

Along with the Grizzly Bears are the Mountain Lions. I don’t know the concentration of lions but they are also a concern.  They will stalk you and attack from behind  and above.  I think the same five rules for Grizzlies  will apply for Lions.

Next on the list would be Black Bear, Wolfs, Wolverine and and maybe a Badger. Not really much to worry about.  There are no poisonous snacks in the Bob. I think we will have to be more careful about slips and falls than the wildlife.

20150826_210531

Upgraded to a 44.

Part 6 – MovingCamp

The original plan was to enter the Bob  at the Meadow Creek Trailhead and camp at the influx of the Black Bear Creek and the South Fork of the Flathead River. The Bear Creek  Wildfire put an end to that. From what I can tell on map, the entire area we would have been hunting,  camping and fishing in was buried.  The trailhead most definitely burned.  Even if that area was opened back up, the hunting would be terrible.  With nothing to eat, the wildlife that was puhed out will not return this year. A new hunting area is needed.

See post “It’s Going To Get Western ” for the rest of the story.

 

LINVILLE GORGE HIKE

 20150307_101040

By Trent Tibbitts

The toughest, roughest, most demanding, most rewarding hike per mile I have ever been on. Located in the Pisgah National Forest north of Ashville, North Carolina. The Linville River cuts between two mountain ranges. Creating a 2000 foot deep gorge with step hillsides topped with a cliff face.  It doesn’t look very intimidating when looking at a map.  In fact we blow it off as child’s play a the beginning of the hike. By the end we had full respect for the wilderness we  had endured.

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It was February 2015, Brandon and I were just20150116_115746 off a Hike we had done in late January 2015 in the Smokies when he started planning another adventure.  We had hiked from Twenty mile ranger station to Gregory Bald where we had camped the first night.  Then to the AT and camp site 113 for the second night before hiking to Shuckshack fire tower and back down Twenty mile creek. It was a 22 mile loop. The first day was all up hill after the first mile. 20150117_113048This is the Smokies and its a steep climb. This was one of those trail that you keep thinking you’re at the top but it just keeps going. I was out of shape and my pack was over weight . I had met Brandon that morning at a local Wal-Mart where I bought my food for the weekend.  That was not the best idea. But I didn’t prep and I need food.  I was grabbing what I thought I needed. Like; a 20150117_113002potato,  ribeye steak, rice, trail mix, pack of flour tortillas,  thin cut steak, can of tuna,  crackers and other things that were heavy.  The one pound of trail mix was the first thing I left on the trail. We arrived at the trail head around noon. By the time I made it to camp it was dark and Brandon and Mike had been there about 2 hours.  I’m glad I saw them first because I was camping with whoever I saw first. There were two or three other groups near by. I set up my hammock and not expecting any rain, I just had my rain fly tied lousy.  I grilled my steak over the open fire and cook the potato in the hot coals.  I could not eat it all and shared the rest with Brandon and Mike.  My pack is now 3 pounds lighter.  But it’s not that much help. It was cold but we were dressed for it. We all climbed in bed for a well deserved and need sleep. Around 2 AM the wind started blowing and didn’t stop. We were camped in what’s called a saddle.  The low point between two high points. So this meant we were where the wind had the easiest place to cross. The valley funneled the wind straight through our camp. My rain fly was going crazy.  I had to tie it down and wrapped it around my hammock for more protection.  I then put my parka over my head and chest and got into my bag as much as I could.  I slept good. The noise was the worst part. 20150117_114903The next day after packing up it was a short up hill hike to the bald. The wind was still going strong.  We were late getting out of camp and people were stating to arrive from hiking up for Cades Cove.  The views to the South were great 20150117_114847from the Joyce Kilmer over to Clingmans Dome. You had a good view of Fontana lake. It was mountains after mountains.  To the north was Cades Cove with a great view of the layout.  After 40 year of visiting the cove it was nice to see it from this position. Past the Cove was the foothills Parkway and the Tennessee Valley.  Maryville  was very clear and you could make out Knoxville. We could see all the way across the Tennessee Valley to the Cumberland Mountains. That is when I noticed 20150116_122820two little gaps in those mountains.  It couldn’t be what I thought.  I pulled out maps and sure enough,  it was.  Cumberland Gap.  I could see Cumberland Gap 90 miles away.  Wendy and I had been there two or three years ago.  To pick out a landmark 90 miles away with my necked eye was wild to me. I’m sure you couldn’t do it in the summer.  The bald is covered with grass and blueberry bushes.  We hung out as long as we could stand the wind and then headed on. Mike was still at camp. I keep up with Brandon until we got to the AT. I stopped to rest and he pushed on. Mike caught up to me just as Brandon got out of sight. He pushed on and I brought up the rear. The wind seamed to die down some. We made it to camp with daylight left. It was off the trail down in a small valley.  A lot of protection from the wind.  There was a nice place for their tents and a good water supply but I had to venture up a way to find a good spot for my 20150117_171145hammock.  We had a great night by the fire cooking the steak strips and making steak tortilla. We went to bed looking forward to a good night of sleep.  Well, it started snowing around 4 AM. Then turned to light rain. I put my boots in the hammock with me and covered my pack as best as I could.  20150117_202437It never got heavy but I was not sure what was coming  so  I packed up my wet camp and hit the trail around 7 AM. Fog had set in and there was no view. The trail to the tower was a mile down trail and when I got there knowing there was no view and it would add two miles to my trip, I turned onto the Twenty Mile Trail and headed down to the truck.  The weather improved fast. I lost a lot of elevation on the steep descent.  I could now see the old fire tower but I wasn’t going back. I made good time going down hill and a somewhat lighter pack. Brandon had driven,  so once at the truck I couldn’t get in. I napped in the bed. I then unpacked and dried all my gear. I explored the ranger station then packed things up as they dried. It was about 3 hours before Brandon showed up. Mike was not to far behind.  They got some great shot of the tower.  We drove to the base of Fontana Dam before heading home.

20150117_113405

Brandon was wanting to hike the AT north from newfound gap to Charlie’s Bunion.  Stay at the Ice Water Spring Shelter.  Hike the Boulevard to Mount LeConte for the second night and down the Alum Cave Bluffs trail to Newfound Gap road. This would have been great.  You start at a very high point with out a lot of climbing.  Day three is all down hill.  Great views. Stay in the shelter,  so no hammock to carry.  The Boulevard is a tricky hike so there is a challenge.  Mount LeConte is the second highest peak in the Smokies.  Alum Cave Bluffs trail is the best trail in the park.  It would have been a great trip. The only problem.  Everyone else thinks that way too. The shelter was booked when we tried to make a reservation.

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20150307_103038That is when Brandon asked for a backup plan.  I had been interested in the Linville Gorge for some time. I  have seen it in the Blue Ridge Outdoor magazine a lot. I told Brandon and he had been interested in the gorge for sometime too. Now we had to find a hike. I had the Linville Gorge Mount Mitchell National Geographic Map.  It has a lot of information but cover a much larger area and does not give detailed information on the trail we are looking at. Next stop is the internet. We don’t find a lot of information. One site gives a loop in the south part of the gorge but the information is loss at best. All the post we read talk about how this is the toughest hike they have ever been on, we got lost, we almost died, maybe not the dying part but they were making a big deal out of it. Brandon and I just said they haven’t hiked with us. I mean come on we just got off 22 miles in the Smokies. We hiked the Art Lobe Trail. We Climbed Pilot Mountain and hiked 16 miles that 20150306_122954day. We had been on the toughest sections of the BMT. We had done the AT in Ga. We had been up and down mountains in the Smokies. We had done all these things and more. We were experienced. We could take care of ourselves. What were these people talking about? We got this. With very little information we planed our trip and started the invitations. Everyone always wants to go hiking but when you start asking they can’t make it. The crew was four of us; Brandon, Jason who is an experienced hiker and has been with us before on the BMT, Russ who is an all around expert, and myself. The trip was set for March 6th 2015. We would drive up Friday morning and come home on Sunday. It was Monday and we still had not gotten much more information. As a last-ditch idea I searched Face Book for a page on the Gorge. That is when I found Linville Gorge Adventures and Phil Phelan. I read his web page and sent him a message telling him about our hike. He sent back a pumped up message about the gorge and got us excited. We exchanged several messages and he told us where we could get his book and a better map of the gorge.

20150306_115920Friday came and we were to meet at Brandon’s office at 5 AM. I was out the door around 4:20. About half way there I couldn’t find my phone.  I thought I had grab it but it wasn’t where I normally put it. It had the address to Brandon’s office, GPS and Brandon’s cell number.  So, I was lost. The only choice was for me to go to my office and look up Brandon’s number from my contacts off my email.  Luckily our office are very close. I get to my office and call Brandon.  He gives me directions and I grab my tablet so I would have something to take photos with.  Once at Brandon’s office,  I unloaded my pack and find my phone. That saved a pound from not having to carry the tablet.  The message I missed from not having my phone handy was everyone was running late.  Russ and Jason were there but I beat Brandon even with my delay.  Once Brandon got there, we loaded his truck with our packs and hit the road. A few hours and stops later we were in Morganton NC. With directions from Phil, we went to the CBS sports store to get his book and a better map,  The Linville Wilderness.  I also got another Map of other trails 20150306_144552close by. Russ got a set of Tracking poles. This would be the first time I ever used tracking poles also. I bought some at REI a few weeks pyro. I filled my water bladder at the store and we stopped at Subway before heading to the trailhead. We had seen this crazy looking mountain on the way into Morganton.  Turns out its Table Rock where we are going. It looks like a monolith sitting on top of a mountain range. Like a small Devil’s Tower.

20150306_112452The trailhead is on Wolf Pit Road and we get there in short order.  We are excited to get on the trail.  We grab our gear and hit the trail.  One thing I like about backpacking is that you have to bring everything you need for survival with you.  Total self-reliance. A few hundred yards up the trail and we find a good spot for a 20150306_11485420150306_121501group photo.  It’s still cold but the heat we produce as already got us losing layers. The trail from Wolf Pit to the Mountains to Sea Trail is all up hill. It’s not a bad climb at all. There are plenty of switch backs and steps cut into the trail. The area was hit by the 2013 Table Top wildlife and is wide open. Young pines are just starting to grow back. These affords us the opportunity to have great 180 degrees views. We can see Lake James very well. As we make our way up we are still wondering what all the fuss is over this trail.  By all measures, this is an easy climb. Where we are climbing is the south end of the gorge on the east side, Shortoff 20150307_105641Mountain. The Wolf Pit trail intersects the Mountains to Sea Trail a little over half way up. We turned right on it. Once we reach the top we start to see the rock face of the gorge.  It has only been an hour’s walk from the parking lot and 1100 foot climb to a different world.  We drop our packs and explore the cliff edge.  We take more and more photos as the views get better and better. Large ice sickles fall from the cliff face in the warm afternoon sun and crash down hundred feet below.  We pack back up and keep exploring each side trail to the gorge edge as we make our way to the top. We then find a nice over look that gives up a clear view up the gorge. We can see the Linville River cutting its way through the gorge.  This area was named for father and son setters who were scalped by Cherokee Indians. The upper gorge is very narrow.  Closer to the end it opens up and there is some room on the side of the river. We take a break here and eat a snack. We could see Table Top in the distance,  our goal for the day.  The map shows water there and 20150306_13064820150306_121642we were told by fokes at the sports store that it was the only water source for this part of the trail.  After the break,  we passed a small pond. The last water source, not a place you would want to get water from. We were all still good with our Water supply and with the promise of water at Table Rock we keep going. The trail pulled away from the rim’s edge and continue up a rise that did not get burned. We emerged from the woods to more fire damaged landscape.  We follow the Ridgeline with the gorge on our left and Lake James on our right.  It makes a large sweeping curve to the left.  It was down hill for the first time then right back up to a point and trail junction where the fire did not touch. The trail turns right and starts an almost straight down hill decent. We loose 500 feet of elevation, close to half what we had gained through out the day. I hated to lose it because I knew we would have to make it back up. Chimmeys gap was the20150306_141134 low point at 2500 feet.  Then came the climb back out of the gap. This side of the gap was pines that were 6 to 8 inch in diameter and 15 to 20 foot tall. The fire had 20150306_144552come through here but the timber was still standing dead and black with soot. In area trees blocked the trail. On the decent, I had been eating trail mix and had fallen behind.  The rest of the crew was now out of sight in the thick dead forest. It was a steep incline and I could hear them often over head. It was a 1000 foot climb to the top. I caught back up with everyone at a nice rocky over look. We had a good view of the Chimmeys and Tablerock. I took off my pack a rested for a minute while taking photos.  Then it was back on the trail and more climbing to the top.  It wasn’t any worse than anything else I have climbed. In fact it was a short climb compared to the climbs in the Smokies,  but it was late in the day, a day that had started at 4 AM. So when we got to the top and found a camping spot I was all for stopping here for the night. We did a quick survey of the area and pick our spots. Next order of business was to go find water.

20150306_163341 I took my head lamp just in case it got dark and a pullover if it got cold. Plus I had my water bladder. We had only seen three people on the trail and that was at the start. We came across a man and his daughter making camp. We asked about the water we had seen on the map. The map showed a blue diamond,  bathrooms and a parking lot all right together.  He told us there was no water there. The bathrooms were just privies. No running water. He said he and his wife ran into the same problem last summer and went 24 hours without water. He suggested that we check the tops of the rocks a long the Chimmeys for pools of water or ice sickles.  We split up in search for water. I stayed on the trail and everyone else checked the top of the rocks.  I came around the corner of the trail and had a great view of the gorge.  The trail is narrow here with some rock hopping. I found a rock slide and see ice sickles above. I made my way up and started harvesting ice. Putting it 20150306_171036straight into my water bladder.  I made my way to a large cave like over hang.  Would have been a great place to make camp. Had a wonderful view of the gorge.  I got as much ice as I thought I needed. Then headed back to camp about a quarter-mile away. I stopped to talk to the guy who told us about the water. He said he and his wife had done the same loop we were doing. When they ran out of water. He told us of the next water being about 4 miles away on the trail down to the river.  He said the bridge was out and they waded across. He said the trail was real rough and the climb back out was awful hard. He hadn’t eaten well and it was very hard for him. I asked if it was harder than the hill we just climbed up20150306_115755 out of the gap and he said yes. I wasn’t to concerned about him saying that the bridge was out because Phil had said there was a new bridge at the top of the loop. We knew we would have to wade the river at the down stream crossing.  This trail still hadn’t shown us anything that tough and rugged. What were these people talking about? Back at camp we prepared our dinner.  As the sun set. I used my new alcohol fueled stove to cook Mexican rice and pan fry steak strips for camp fajitas.  The camp fire was over looking the east and we had a clear view as the moon came up over the horizon bright red. It was big and was a grand sight to see. The wind was picking up and the temperature was dropping fast.  Water in my water bladder was already freezing.  Some of the guys boiled water and put it in a water bottle and slept with it. One, it helped to keep them warm and two, it kept the water from freezing over night.  I set up my hammock and made sure to tie the rain fly down good. I didn’t want a repeat of the night in the Smokies a few weeks back.  The wind was strong during the night but the rain fly did the trick in blocking it. Over night temperature was around 15 degrees. Everyone survived.  I was warm all night.

20150307_095637The next morning,  I was up first and got my things packed.  It was cold and I didn’t want to spend too much time in camp. I did get the fire going and made a cup of hot chocolate. I had lost my head lamp the night before while looking for water.  I needed time to look for it so I headed out before everyone else. I searched the trail as I walked but I had an idea it was where I had gathered the ice. Having not found the light on the trail,  I stopped at the landslide area where I was the night before and dropped my pack.  I back tracked my path and found the head lamp at the point where I had turned back.  Once I got back to my pack,  Brandon had caught up to me. The view up the gorge was fantastic from the trail.  We took our time and made a lot of photos as we explored the rock formations along the trail.  Jason and Russ caught up to us.  We passed a group of campers and asked about trail conditions.  They too told us that the bridge was out.  Last summer they had cross with a use of a rope up river and the rope may still be there. We walked on to a rocky over look that gave us a 360 degree view.  The discussion of what to do was intense. 20150307_101730 Was the bridge out or not? Did we want to hike down and see? If it was out,  then what?  Would we swim?  Would we hike back out?  Do we call a shuttle and leave from the parking lot at Table Rock? We text Phil and asked him about the bridge.  Yes that bridge is out, he said.  The new bridge is at the top of the gorge. With the winter flow and the added water from rain earlier in the week,  we would have to swim.  But we still didn’t think we would have to swim.  Surely we could find a way to cross. Maybe we could rock hop or find a down tree. We decided to go take a look.  We scrambled over more rocks before leaving the Chimmeys and entering the camping area next to the parking lot. Unfortunately the restrooms were locked. We stopped to rest and check the map. The Table Rock was right in front of us.  We took more 20150307_103149photos.  Then we climbed up the trail from the parking lot on the North West side of the mountain with great views of the gorge.  We passed two guys collecting water from a wet weather spring on the side of the trail. They gave us more advice on how to cross the river.  On up the trail where we were to leave the Mountains to Sea Trail,  we met a large group of Boy Scouts.  They to had done our loop last year. More advice on how to hike the trail. We started our decent to the river. It was straight down hill, no switch backs.  I was getting a little hungry so I slowed down a little to eat a snack while walking.  We started to hear water and was soon at a small creek and our first fresh water on the trail.  I used my new life straw filter for the first time.  From here it was up and over several ridges till we got to a camping area. We stopped to check the map. There was the trail we walked in on and it looked like it went straight ahead. There was a trail coming in on the right down the crest of the hill and a trail to the left. After looking over the map,  we went straight ahead.  After a few hundred yards of down 20150306_170514hill hiking the trail disappeared.  More map reading and discussion of what to do.  We turned back and bushed wacked our way up the draw to the trail junction. More map studying and up the hill we went. It was a short climb.  We passed a young lady hiking by herself.  I thought how dangerous it  for her to be alone. We soon came to another trail junction.  We turned left and started our decent to the river.

20150307_140240We got to the river at lunch time.  There were a few people hanging out on the rocks.  Two ladies with a dog were finishing up their lunch.  A couple was sitting on a large boulder that was once the landing of the now missing foot bridge.  We dropped our packs and began exploring the area for a way across.  Where the bridge once stood was a gap much to wide to jump.  There was a boulder below that we might could have jumped to but if we didn’t make it we would have been swept 20150307_141053down river in the raging white water.  The river was up due to rain just two days before our trip. There was a row of smaller boulders below a pool that looked like we could have rocked hopped across but again it was to big of a gap. I made my way up the river looking for a way to cross.  The gorge is very narrow and the hillsides are like walls.  I could only crawl and climb over rocks for a short distance before coming to a point that could not be traversed.  I made my way back to the trail and reported my findings.  Jason and Brandon tried a route a little higher up the hillside with the same 20150307_144354results.  I ate my lunch of tuna with crackers.  The talk of swimming the river came up again.  The air temperature was in the 50s. Remember it had been a low of 16 degrees over night. There was a very deep pool of water just above the spot where the bridge once span the narrow slot of swift water that funneled all the river. Not a place you would want to get caught up in.  The plan was evolving.  We looked where to enter and where to exit. What would be the easiest and fastest way across without getting caught the current and be pulled into the rapids.  Russ was the biggest supporter of this plan.  Jason was up for it too.  Brandon and I had not fully committed.  That was going20150307_140311 to be some cold water.  Part of the plan was to ferry our packs across on a rope.  Two of us on one side and two of us on the other to handle the rope and packs.  We stripped down to our underwear and put our clothes in our packs. Brandon and I were still not sure if this was what we wanted to do.  While discussing our options and had almost decided to bail out and head back,  we heard Russ splash in. There was no turning back now.  Jason quickly followed with a dive into the clear frigid waters. They were across in about 15 seconds. That doesn’t sound long. But believe me you couldn’t stand much more than that. After they caught their breath, Russ took a position on the lower bolder.  It had a 30 degree angle into the water and was not that good  a base. I think Russ may have swam with the rope.  We had found a big carabiner on the old bridge foundation. We used it to attach our packs to the rope. The upper end of the rope was looped around rebar that was part of the old bridge and I anchored it.  Russ ran the lower part of the rope behind his back while sitting and Jason anchored the end of the rope. Brandon loaded the packs and send them down to Russ who caught them and passed them to Jason.  Talk about a team building exercises. It was now mine and Brandon’s turn to swim.  We waded in until 20150307_144400the water was waist deep then started our swim.  I made the mistake of keeping my sandals on thinking they would help me walk over the rocks.  They were pulling me down a little and slowing down some too. I was almost to the other side and was at a point where I thought I should be able to stand up but to  surprise I could not touch.  I felt that I was in a fight for my life.  The cold water had taken my breath.  I was trying to take in deep breaths. I was getting encouragement from the guys on the shore. It was the most primeval feeling of survival I have ever had.  One on the back of the river I collapsed with deep gasping for air. After the shock wore off and I regained feeling,  I was the most refreshed I had ever been.  I also had a huge sense of accomplishment.  We got out of our wet short, got dressed and got back on the trail.

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20150308_092534The trail now followed close by the river.  Never losing sight of it. We were still in the narrow upper part of the gorge.  The trail was narrow and climbed up and down the side of the hill.  It really was a goat path. Large trees littered the way. This was becoming the worst part of the trip. More people were on this side of the river. There are a few trails coming in on this side and more camping opportunities. Most  If not all possible camping areas were occupied.  We made our way down to below the chimneys before we made camp.  Almost even across the20150307_171408 river from where we had camped the first night.  The sun was low in the west and its soft light painted the cliff face above on the east rim of the gorge. It was a sight worth the efforts of the day.

20150308_113040Our camp was a spacious area. We had plenty of fire wood and room to spread out.  Brandon pitched his tent and the rest of us hung our hammocks. We cooked dinner,  I had a setak cooked over the open fire.  Then it was a relaxing evening around the fire.  The night was not as cold as the night before.  The next morning I cooked eggs for breakfast.  We had a big day ahead of us. We broke camp and we all hiked together, getting back logged at each down tree we had to cross.  Some 20150308_115634were quite tricky, like a puzzle you had to solve before you could pass. The morning trail was much like the afternoon before.  It was a goat path on the side of the hill.  We took lunch at a campsite that was just passed where the gorge started to open up.  After lunch we hiked in the flat flood plain of the river for about an hour until we could go no further.  The river cut into the steep mountain side blocking our path.  This would be our second river crossing.  The river was very wide here and didn’t look to deep except right next to the bank on our site. We looked for a spot that wouldn’t be too deep. Again we stripped down to our underwear and I put my sandals on.  This time they worked as planned.  The river20150308_134841 turned out not to be too deep.  My shorts didn’t get wet. The water was cold but refreshing.  Jason took the opportunity to soak his knees for a while.  This is where the trail ends and your own your own.  After gearing up we wander and bushwhack our way down river.  We found a road a little inland and took it out of the national forest onto to private land.   About a mile on down the road it crossed the river and there was no way to continue down the river without crossing. We studied the map and decided we had to climb out up the mountain to the east. We were looking to hit the Mountain to Sea Trail on the ridge top. The mountain side was steep. I believe it was a 1100 foot climb.  We did not have a trail to follow.  It was get to the top.  We were soon on the west slop where the fire had burned all the trees. We were without protection from the afternoon sun.  It was slow going.  My tracking poles helped a lot. We had to take several stops.  20150308_135306We found the trail and took a left and continued to climb the mountain along the ridge line. This trail intersects the trail down to the truck almost at the top of the mountain so when we found a side trail that looks like it cuts a  cross the side of the mountain we take it.  It goes up and over several ridges but it was a shorter route.  The guys turned on the over drive and left  behind.  Once a Wolf Pit trail I turned right and it was all down hill to the truck.  It took a little longer to get down than I thought it would.  The small parking lot was packed.  We loaded up and headed to the nearest waffle house.  Great trip.

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Confession of a Rebel

Some of you may not know this about me. I am not proud of all I have done but feel I need to tell my story.  

I came from a broken home.  My mom died when I was very young.  My dad fell in with the wrong crowd and left me and my sister.  I was sent to live with my dad’s half-brother on his farm. It was in the middle of nowhere.  I never saw my dad when growing up.  I thought he was dead from the storied my uncle had told me.  Come to find out he had not even told me half of what my father had done.  He was a war hero. A great pilot. A warrior. He nearly died from his battle wounds. But he changed with the death of my mother.  He went crazy, destroyed the hospital room.  That’s when he turned evil.  

My sister went to live with a family friend.  He was in politics and lived far away from us.  I didn’t see my sister for a long time.  Her adopted family got in trouble with the authorities and she got caught up in it to. We were both in our late teenage years at that time.  She had made a video of herself and when  I saw it, I had all these strange feeling come over me. She was in trouble and I had to go see her.

I didn’t have a ride so I asked some friends to help me out. My aunt and uncle that I lived with had just both ben murdered. I had found the bodies.  It was awful. Turns out one of my buddies that we were catching a ride with, owed a lot of money to an underworld gangster.  Plus Federal special agents were looking for him. He had been smuggling “supplies”. So we blasted out-of-town.

  We found out that my sister was in jail.  We went to pick her up. At first she didn’t know who I was and then on the way out she gave me a kiss.  It wasn’t a sisterly kiss. Said it was for good luck. She told us how her adopted family was murdered. Their home was destroyed.  She couldn’t go back. We then went to her friend’s place.

My buddy was trying to put the moves on my sister but she blew him off and laid another kiss on me.  Again I had more strange feeling. Her friends were at a place that was cold and snowing.  I took a walk, got lost and nearly froze to death.  Lucky my friends found me the next morning.

Then Me and my friends shoot up a police station on a fly by. We needed to lie low. I went to one of my dad’s old army buddy’s place.  He lived way back in the woods.  A swamp really.  A good place to hide.  I think he was hiding out himself.  He was a war hero too. He was a high-ranking general during the war. He and I started a training program.  Stuff he had learned in the service.

The other guys and my sister went to the smuggler’s friends place.  That guy ran some kind of underworld operation, too. They thought they could hide out there. Turns out the Feds had his place under surveillance.  They conducted a raid, my sister and most of my friends got out in time but my buddy got caught.  Through corruption of the system, the gangster he owed money to get a hold of him. My sister tried to negotiate his release but was kidnapped too. Me and some more friends had to bust them out. I killed several people who day, including the kidnappers.

Fast forward to this party we were at. I had seen my sister in a two piece bikini.  More strange feelings. Did she like me or my buddy.  I knew she had kissed him too and told him she loved him. I walked outside to clear my head and she followed me out. We stated talking and I told her I had to go fight Darth Vader our father.

April Fools!

God

There is Good and there is Evil in this world.  There is Right and there is Wrong in this world.  Evil is wagging a war against Good. Michael and his Angels are fighting the Devil and his Angels. It is a warfare that starts in each of us. Each chose we make is a battle in this war. Will we choose to do good or to do evil.  Choose you this day whom you will serve,  for me and my house will serve the Lord.  “My House” is not your household,  but rather your body.  Your body houses your soul.  The Devil is in this world. He said that he is going up and down,  to and fro in the Earth seeking whom he may devour.  Again the Earth is not plant Earth but our Earthly body. He is going up and down in our body and going from person to person.  So the battle is in us. I would do Good but Evil is present.  We will win battles and we will lose battles. Let God fight your battles and you will win. As a Christian you will fight two major wars and win them both. As a non-Christian you will fight the first war until you win or die. At that point you lose.  The first war is for your soul. As you come to the age of accountability,  that is to know right from wrong,  good from evil and accountable for your own actions, you will enter this war. This happens at different ages for different people. It occurs when you realize you will die one day and spend eternity somewhere. An event may trigger this realization. For me it was Dooms Day. Back in 1982 all the planets were on the same side of the Sun and there were Dooms day predictions.  The fear was that the gravitational pull would blow up Earth. The talk and buzz got me scared. Fear of God is the beginning of Wisdom. I was only 8 years old, the age of accountability hit me. I talked to dad about it, how I was scared. He told me about God, Heaven and how beautiful it was there. He compared it to the Mill Branch. A small stream in the hills behind our house where we had been hunting just days before. It is still one of my favorite places. You could call it my Bethel. Where I first knew the Lord. I don’t believe I was ever lost or out of the grace of God. I won that war at age 8. It was any easy one for me. I just believed in Jesus. As I grew up my belief also grew. I now believe that Jesus Christ, son of God, came to Earth, borne to a Virgin 2000 years ago, preached His own everlasting Gospel, set an example for us to follow, set up sacraments to be handed down, gave His life on the Cross of Calvary as the supreme sacrifice for all sin, rose on the third day with a glorified body, was seen by many for 40 days, set up His Kingdom in the hearts of those who believe upon His name, ascended to Heaven to the right hand of God where He makes intersections for us with groanings that can’t be uttered and sent back the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us on Earth.

Why are we here?,  you may ask yourself. Well it isn’t about you. In short, it is to worship God. But you say he has the Angles and all the Heavenly Host to do that. Yes he does and they do it continually. But consider this, they were created to worship God and can not disobey God. They do not have freewill. We were created with freewill. So when we stop what we are doing in our lives and give God praise it is a true praise that the Angles can not give. You may say, I am a good person, why does bad things happen to me? Again, it is not about you. It is about God. When trouble befalls you, consider it great joy. Why would you do that? Here is why. If everything in our lives were easy go lucky, peace and happiness we would not feel the need of God. If we have troubles and seek the Lord for his help and receive a blessing, then we have a reason to give him praise.

Civil War – Tibbitts

By Trent Tibbitts

One story passed down about my great, great grandfather Madison Green Tibbitts goes something like this: At the age of 18, He was in the 14th Ga. Infantry. During the Battle of the Wilderness, on May 6th, he was shot through the right knee. A silk handkerchief was used to clean the wound by running it through the hole created by the mini-ball.

While in the hospital he was bunked next to a Yankee named John. They became friends and keep in touch after the war. Once he was released and after the war was over,  Maston took a train to Ga. He had to walk a long way to his home in Paulding county on crutches from the train station.

He received a war pension for his knee, $50 a month. For two summers,  he attended Bowdon College in Bowdon Ga. It was one of five Ga. colleges commissioned to provide free tuition to poor and maimed Confederate veterans. There he learned to be a cordwainer (shoemaker) or a cobbler (repaires shoes) or both.  He walked from Paulding to Bowden on crutches, a distance of 60 miles one way. He was joined by Bill Sheffield and A.C. Scoggins. The Union army had destroyed everything along the route, including stores and hotels.  They relied on the generosity of strangers for food and a bed for the night. One such person was Mr. Dyer in Sand Hill. They would stay with him on each trip. On his last trip home, Maston bought a heifer calf from Mr. Dyer. He drove the calf home with a rope while still walking on crutches.  He was to marry Mary Ann Starnes and needed a cow of his own. This was the first new livestock to come into Paulding County after the war.  Paulding was totally devastated from the live off the land campaign of the Union.  Paulding had the most soldiers for the longest period of time than anywhere else during the war. Very little livestock was left.

Maston’s friend, John sent word and invited him up to visit and paid for his trip. John was a wealthy man who had indoor plumbing.  Matson asked to use the restroom. John showed Matson were to go. When he came out and walked back to John, he said, “John I have to ask you a question. When I was sitting there, I looked up and to my surprise there was a nice big framed painting of General Bobby Lee. What in the world is a Yankee doing with a painting of General Lee?”. John replied, “there isn’t anything that could move a Yankees boules like Robert Lee.”

 

 

Some of my Confederate heritage

By Todd Tibbitts

 

In the Spring of 1864…. March 19th according to enlistment records… my great, great grandfather, M.G. (Maston Green) Tibbitts was talked into joining the 14th Regiment, GA Volunteer Infantry, Company K (Etowah Guards – Bartow County), of the Confederate States of America by his two older brothers who’d already enlisted a few years earlier at the beginning of the Civil War. The two older brothers were James W. (Jim) Tibbitts and Thomas J. Tibbitts, and while on furlough back home in Dallas, GA, northern Paulding County, they talked the younger Maston into signing up to fight so that they could receive signing bonuses.

 

M.G (Maston Green) was born on October 13, 1845. Private M.G. Tibbitts was wounded during his first campaign at The Battle of Wilderness, VA, May 5-7, 1864, just a few short months after enlisting. He was transported to a hospital in Augusta, GA for treatment and rehab for his battlefield wound… a mini-ball had passed relatively cleanly through the knee allowing for recovery without leg amputation. (His Confederate Pension Application reads/// “Application for Allowance for ‘Disabled Leg’. Amount $50. Entered on Record, March 29, 1894.” He walked with a limp the remainder of his life while carrying on a full and productive life raising his family and working back on the farm in Dallas, GA. Maston Green died on February 13, 1924 and is buried at Old Harmony Grove Church Cemetery, Paulding Co., GA.

 

Older brother, Thomas J. Tibbitts was born on December 12, 1841. Sergeant Thomas J. Tibbitts was also wounded in battle, just a few days after his younger brother, Maston Green, was wounded. It happened in the very next battle of the 14th Regiment, GA Infantry which was the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, VA, May 12, 1864. (His Confederate Pension Application reads … “Application for Allowance for ‘Left Leg’. Amount $25. Entered on Record, July 16, 1888”) Thomas J. Tibbitts died on June 18, 1924 and is buried at Mt. Moriah Baptist Church Cemetery, Paulding Co., GA [Note: If one looks closely at his weathered marble headstone, along its top line, one can still make out the inscription…KKK.]

 

Older brother, James W. (Jim) was born on June 29, 1837. Corporal James W. Tibbitts served through the entire war, even having sustained a battlefield injury early on at the Battle of Mechanicsville, VA in 1862, and he also stood with General Robert E. Lee and the CSA troops at the surrender at Appomattox, April 9, 1865. (His Confederate Pension Application reads … Application for Allowance for ‘Leg Disabled’. Amount $50. Entered on Record, October 8, 1890”) He later died in 1909. James W. Tibbitts is buried at Old Harmony Grove Church Cemetery, Paulding Co., GA.

 

A fourth brother, W.A. (William) was born on June 26, 1839. William A. Tibbitts moved to Arkansa, fought with the 6th Regiment, Ark. Infantry, Co. H, and was killed in battle during the Battle of Stones River, TN on December 31, 1862. Apparently, he is buried in the mass grave of unidentified Confederate soldiers in the Evergreen Cemetery in Murfreesboro, TN>

 

These brave and honorable brothers were the sons of Joseph Chitman Tibbitts, 1812-1892, who was listed on the GA Militia Roster but never served due to his advanced age. Joseph C. Tibbitts is buried at Old Harmony Grove Church Cemetery, Paulding Co., GA.

 

Respectfully submitted: Todd Tibbitts, Dallas, GA. Son of Thomas Hershel Tibbitts. Grandson of Joseph Holis Tibbitts. Great Grandson of Maston Elihu Thibbitts                              August 15, 2012

By TRENT TIBBITTS

Ecleasties Tibbitts was born to Maston Elihew and Frances Bowman Tibbitts on Aug. 14, 1905. She was their next child born after my grandfather Hollis,  who was born in 1903. When she was at the age of three, the family was living in Alabama. They may have followed Frances family out there to farm.

On the faithful morning,  Elihew went to the barn to let out a mule from his stall. Not knowing that Little Ecleasties was near by, he opened up the door of the stall. The mule, being happy to get out of the stall, ran out kicking up his heals. The mule kicked the young girl in the head and killed her.

Francis dressed her and a pine wood box was built.  Wanting to take the child back home to Burnt Hickory, Elihew took her body by train to Georgia.  He departed the train at McPherson,  west of Dallas.  He didn’t have any way to transport her so he walked to a nearby home looking for a horse and Wagon to barrow.  The first person turned him down.  The next person was willing to help.

Word got around to family and friends. A funeral was held at Mount Moriah and Little Miss Ecleasties was laid to rest in the cemetery behind the church.  She is in the back left side of the old cemetery.

The Elihew Tibbitts family moved back to Burnt Hickory not to long after this happened. Elihew became a Deacon of Mount Moriah.  His son Hollis and grandson Hershel were Moderator of the church.  His great grandson Todd is the current Moderator.

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Tibbitts Lake

A few days ago I was at Tibbitts Lake standing on the bridge.  I was thinking back about my childhood growing up on the lake.  I’m 40 now,  I built my house, got married and moved out when I was 20. So, I spent 20 years living at my parents house on the lake and 20 years with Wendy in our house in the woods.  The two areas are so different but are less than a 1/2 mile apart.  Mom and Dad’s house sits on a hill above the lake and has a huge two acre yard.  Lots of grass to cut. There’s fruit trees,  grapevines,  pecans,  blueberries and lots of sunshine.  After growing up cutting all that grass each week and then working in the landscape industry during the summer starting when I was 14. I didn’t want any grass at my house.  When building our house we keep as many trees as we could.  I have two very small patches of grass that may only get mowed 5 times a year.  It doesn’t get enough sun to grow.  The trees keep us several degrees cooler here too. We are in a hollow at the base of a small mountain.  So there are no long distance views like a mom and dad’s but there is a lot more wildlife.  Just the other day I walked out on the front porch and two twin deer fawns were in the woods 40 feet away.

Growing up, when people found out l lived on the lake they would say “if I lived on a lake I would go fishing everyday”. Well I didn’t.  I did a little fishing but mostly social fishing.  It was mostly some friends would want to go and I would take them.  I would go by myself some.  I liked to walk to a small cove on the other side of the lake.  Dad’s side of the lake was open and no trees. The west side was wooded. From the open dam, I would walk a path next to the lake in the woods to my spot at the cove. This is where I caught the biggest catfish I ever have caught.  I also liked to go below the dam and fish in the spillway.  It was also wooded and was a challenge to get to. First you walked over the dam by the fish hatchery.  Then cross over the spillway.  It was a ditch as deep as I was tall. I had to pull myself out using exposed tree roots. Then down hill again and cross the small stream to the little fishing hole.  Fish that had been washed out of the lake would get trapped here. There was always someone, a friend,  a cousin or someone fishing.  I would go down and hang out but did little fishing.  Jonathan was who would fish every day.  He lived just up the road a few houses.  His grandmother and my dad are brothers and sisters.  She built a house across the lake from dad. Jonathan is two years older than me.  Just about every day after school he would be fishing.

I did like to go on fishing trips.  Mostly for the trip.  I love a adventure. If it was some where other than the house,  if there was a boat or best of all if it was saltwater. Dad bought a boat when I was 10 or so. Not much, but it was a boat. I remember going with him to pick it up.  He bought it used from a local man. We took it to Altoona a few times and down to lake Oconee to our deer hunting land a few times. That place had a really nice big cove that was just below deer camp. Between hunts we would fish.  Dad would let me drive the boat some.  Then as I got older I would take it out by myself on Tibbitts Lake. I have talked about our deep sea fishing trips in other post so i will not recap here but to say they were really fun.  One summer just after Wendy and I were married,  Jason bought a old bass boat.  I think he paid $300 for it. Trailer and all. That guy needed the money bad. Jason and I wore Corley’s Lake out. We had a lot of fun catching bass.

I have covered the catfish farming before to but that was a big part of my childhood working on the lake.  I was doing something just about every day on the lake from feeding the fish, to gathering fish eggs, to working the fish from one lake to the other, and then selling them.

When I started to write this story it was to be about deer hunting not fishing.  I got distracted.  I will have to do a follow up on hunting and the history of Tibbitts lake.

By TRENT TIBBITTS

 

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My Papa Tibbitts, Joseph Hollis Tibbitts,  who was born in 1903, would tell us, as kids, short stories,  poems and songs. He called them speeches.  His mother taught them to him during his childhood, a time before television,  phone,  electricity,  computers and all the other modern conveniences.  These speeches were part of their entertainment. When he was raising his own family he taught them to his own children.  He gave each child one that was theirs to learn.  They would recite them while doing chores and one they learned it, they could be done with that chore. Around the age of 80 he recorded several and I have transcribed them here.  They tell of life on the farm in the Rural south.

 

Hollis Tibbitts recordings:

 

Number One.  The shortest speech.

 

A squral is a pretty thing, carries a brushy tail, cuts down the farmers corn, he shells it on the rail.

 

Our old Sandy sow is next.  Number two.

 

Our old Sandy sow she had a great long snout,  she stuck it in the potato hill and rolled all the potatos out. Same old sow had eleven pegs,  she razed them all on nuts and twigs. She razed them all to be seven months old. We sold them all for weight in gold.  So what we going to do for bacon now.  Sambo shot the Sunday sow. She jumped a fence, she broke a rail.  Sambo shot her through the tail.

 

We ain’t got no bacon yet.

 

Next the little bird. Truth in it.

 

Once there was a little bird that lived outside the door,  wanted to go inside and hop up on the floor.  No, No said the mother bird, you must stay with me, for little birds are safer sitting up in the tree.  I don’t care said the little bird,  he gave his tail a fling.  I don’t think you old folks know, quite everything.  So down he flew,  and the cat grabbed him before he had time to blink.  He cried, I’m sorria (sorry) but I didn’t think.

 

He should have minded his Mama and been all right. That’s the way little children ought to do. Mine Mother, be good.

 

The raccoon,  opossum and the rabbit.

 

The raccoon tail is ringed all around but the opossum tail is bear, the rabbit hadn’t got no tail attail (at all), just a little white bunch of hair. But in the night time, is the right time, so I’ve understood, is the habit, of Sir rabbit, to dance in the woods. The opossum was in the persimmon tree and the raccoon on the ground.  The raccoon said to the opossum,  shake me some persimmons down. Raccoon and opossum were both walking across a log, Raccoon said to the opossum, I think I hear a dog.  Raccoon and the opossum,  they travel after dark,  but they don’t ever think to be afraid to they hear my hound dog bark.

This is a fellow that had a yellow cat and he couldn’t get shed of him no way.

Because the cat came back the very next day, the cat came back,  because he wouldn’t stay away.  Old Bill Jones had troubles of his own, had an old yellow cat that wouldn’t leave his home.  He tried all plan he thought was new, none of these plans it never did do. Because the cat came back the very next day,  the cat came back,  because he wouldn’t stay away.  Old Bill Jones done what he thought was the best,  he gave him to a Niger that was going out west. He went around a corner and struck a broke rail, wasn’t a soul left for tell the cat tail. Cat came back the very next day,  the cat came back, because he wouldn’t stay away.

Now next is our friendly cow.

Our friendly cow all red and white, I love with all my heart.  She gives us cream with all her might,  to eat with apple tart. She wanders low, here and there and yet she can not stray. All in the pleasant open air, the pleasant light of day.  She is blown by all the wind that blow and wet by all the shower.  She walk along the meadow grass and eats up all the meadow flowers.

These speeches and sayings covers most everything on the farm in the old timely days of life.

Next is a chicken speech.

The old roster was named Barn Door. The little hen was Little Wife.  Barn Door stayed up at the barn and he said to Little Wife,  come along my Little Wife let’s take a walk today.  There is barely in the barely field and hay seeds in the hay. Thank you said the clucking hen, I’ve got something else to do.  I’m busy sitting on my eggs,  I can not walk with you.  The clucking hen had made a nest,  she had made it in the hey. Warm and snug,  beneath her breast a dossen white eggs lay. Crack, Crack went all the eggs. Out dropped the little chickens small.  Come along my little chicks, now I have you all. Good morning old Barn Door.  We’ll all take a walk with you.  Hello said old Barn Door.  Cock A Doddle Doooooo!

This is a cow in a garden. Don’t sound like it but that’s what it is.

When I went into my wherely whicky whacky.  I met old Boom Bicky Back and I called old Tom Ticky Tacky to come run old Boom Bicky Backy out of my wherely whicky whacky.

It was just a cow in a garden is all it was. The garden was the whicky whacky.  The cow was a Boom Bicky Backy. My dog Tom Ticky Tacky had to run Boom Bicky Backy out of the wherely whicky whacky.

Little Robin Red Breast.  This was mothers first speech that I ever learned.

Little Robin Red Breast, he’s coming in the snow.  He peeps in the windows while the cold wind blows.  He’s waiting for his breakfast with a merry song. He comes every morning all the winner long.

The faithful dog.

The only unselfish friend that a man may have in this world is his dog. His son or a daughter that he has reared with great love and care my prove unfaithful to him when misfortune sets his clouds up on your head. The dog will stand by his master in health, sickness and poverty.  When the wind blows cold and the snow drifts appear,  if he’s only near his masters side. When riches takes wings and reputation falls to pieces, the dog is constant in his love, as the sun in it’s joinery  through the heavens.  Finally last of all when death takes his master, in it’s embrace and his body is to be laid under the cold grave and all other friends pursue their way from the graveside,  there by the graveside may the noble dog  be found with his head between his paws but his eyes alert.  Fateful and true even in death.

Here’s another old speech that I learned when I was very small.  It tells you something little children.

Old lazy sheep now tell me why all in the sunny field you lie.  Your doing nothing all the day if what good are you I pray. Little boy I thought you knowed on my back your coat once growed. If no more knowledge you can show,  you better go to school and wiser grow. For you must be an ideal boy, you better now your time employ. Stop not over that fence and peep, but grow and be useful like a sheep.

This is a little girl speech about a doll.

Suppose my little lady, your doll should break it’s head. Could you make it whole again by crying till your eyes and nose were red? Wouldn’t it be wiser just to take it as a joke and say you was glad that dolly’s head and not your head that broke.

Now here’s a little boys speech.

Drive the nail aright.  Hit it on the head. Strike with all your might.  While the iron is red. If you got a job to do,  do it with good will.  For they that reach the top, first must climb the hill.  Standing a the foot gazing at the sky how can you get up there if you don’t never try.

Here’s some poems of ryms now. I’d knowed’em a long time.

Man of words and not of deeds, is like a garden full of weeds. When the weeds began to grow,  when the weeds begin to grow,  it’s like a garden full of snow. When the snow begains to melt,  it’s like the gardens full of himp. When the himp begins to rust, it’s like a garden full of dust. When the dust began to fly,  it’s like a Eagle in that sky. When the sky begin to roar,  it’s like a lion at the door.  And when the door begin to crack, it’s like a Hickory on your back.

Here’s about a common little house fly. Now lesson at it.

Baby by here’s a fly, let us watch him, you and I. How he crawls up the wall, yet he never falls. I believe with those such legs, you and I could walk on eggs. I can show you if you choose where to look to find his shoes. Three small pair, made of hair, these he always wears. So there he goes on his toes, tickling the baby’s nose. Spots of red, dots his head. Rainbows on his wings are spread. That small speck is his neck,  see him nod and beck. Little fly, mind your eye, for spider is near by. If a secret let me tell, spider will not treat you well.  For in the sun, webs are spun. What if you were to get into one. But when it rains, he complains, with his busy wings on the window pane. So little fly heed your way, little fly good day.

The Lullaby Lady.

The Lullaby Lady from Hushaby Street, come stealing, come creaping, with the popys that hang from her head to her feet, they each have a dream that are tiny and sweet, and she bringeth her popys to you my sweet, when she finds you sleeping on Hushaby Street.

This is the old farmer of years ago.

Come wife said good old farmer Gray, put on clean cloths this market day. We’ll be off to the nearest town, we’ll get back before the sun goes down. Old Spotty barked, Spotty wined, he maid up his doggish mind to follow along under the wagon.  So they went, the route not paved, joy came into the farmers face. Spot said he wants to come, but I’m awful glad he’s left at home.  For he minds the barn, he gides the cot, keeps all the cows run into the lot. I’m Not so sure of that thought said Spot. Because the big dog was under the wagon. On to town, all the produce sold, they got their pay in yellow gold. Started back after dark,  through a lonesome forest.  A robber sprang from behind a tree. Your money or your life said he. The moon was up, but he didn’t see the big dog under the wagon.  Spot didn’t bark, nor he didn’t wine, but he quickly cought that theft behind.  He drug him down,  in mar and dirt, he tore his coat, he tore his shirt. Two front feet the farmer bound, come Spot up into the wagon.  He rode grand and gay. A silver collar, Spot wares today. Among his friends and among his foes, every where that farmer goes, he follows on his undercoat the big dog under the wagon.

This is what king Kanbo wanted.

Mr.Frorg went a courtin, he did ride. A Rig Bong Dum De Kind Bo. Had a big pistol on his side. A Rig Bong Dum De Kind Bo. He rode up to Mis. Mouse’s house. A Rig Bong Dum De Kind Bo. There he gave a great loud squawk. A Rig Bong Dum De Kind Bo.  He says Mis. Mouse are you within. A Rig Bong Dum De Kind Bo.  Yes kind Sir, I sit and spin. A Rig Bong Dum De Kind Bo.  He took Mrs. Mouse upon his knee. A Rig Bong Dum De Kind Bo.  Says Mis. Mouse will you marry me.  A Rig Bong Dum De Kind Bo. No kind Sir, I can’t do that . A Rig Bong Dum De Kind Bo.  With out consent from old Uncle Rat. A Rig Bong Dum De Kind Bo.  Old Uncle Rat, he gave consent.  A Rig Bong Dum De Kind Bo.  So they got married and away they went. A Rig Bong Dum De Kind Bo.  Where shall our wedding super be. A Rig Bong Dum De Kind Bo.  Way down yonder in a hollow tree. A Rig Bong Dum De Kind Bo.  What should our wedding super be. A Rig Bong Dum De Kind Bo.  Two butter beans and a black eye pee. A Rig Bong Dum De Kind Bo.  While they were eating what did happen.  A Rig Bong Dum De Kind Bo.  Great black cat, she made a snap.  A Rig Bong Dum De Kind Bo.  The mouse went a running up the wall.  A Rig Bong Dum De Kind Bo.  Her foot slipped and she got a fall. A Rig Bong Dum De Kind Bo.  (The cat eat it up) The frog went a swimming across the lake. A Rig Bong Dum De Kind Bo.  He got swallowed by a snake.  A Rig Bong Dum De Kind Bo.  That was the marriage of the frog and the mouse. A Rig Bong Dum De Kind Bo.  Neater one of them lived to need a house. A Rig Bong Dum De Kind Bo.  Cairo, Cairo Captain Pharaoh, fem fom, shem shom, roddle bottle, Rig Bong Dum De Kind Bo. 

Well we have had a few funny speeches, a few funny songs. Lets get back and sing some that’s not so funny.  I will sing the old Uncle Ned song.  He was an old Niger long time ago, but we still got his song if he is gone.

Old Uncle Ned was a good old Niger and he died a long time ago. He had no hair on top of his head, the place where the wool ought to grow. So he layed down the shovel and the hoe, and he hanged up the fiddle and the bow. No more work for old Uncle Ned,  done gone where the good Nigers go. His fingers was stiff like the canes of the break. He had no eyes for to see. He had no teeth for to eat a whole cake, he had to let the whole cake be. So he layed down the shovel and the hoe, and he hung up the fiddle and the bow. No more work for old Uncle Ned, done gone where the good Nigers go. Old Uncle Ned was sitting on a stump. Just as happy as a Niger could be.  So Along comes death, thumped him on the head. Come on Ned with me. Had to lay down the shovel and hoe, had to hang up the fiddle and the bow.  No more work for the old Uncle Ned,  done gone where the good Nigers go. So his poor old dog, he lay on the grave,  howls by the light of the moon, waiting for old Uncle Ned to catch a opossum and a coon. Done layed down the shovel and hoe, done hung up the fiddle and the bow.  No more work for old Uncle Ned, done gone where the good Nigers go.

Well that’s the Uncle Ned song.  Heres another, sort of like it. Fits me pretty good, I tell you thetruth about it.

Still to come:

I am getting old and feeble

Rich old merchant

Put my little shoes away

Little Mary Phagan

When the evening sun is setting

Lost child

There are more that I need to record here but I want to get these published for now. If you have a story of Papa’s or a story about Hollis I would like to here it.

 

 

 

Building a Home

By Trent Tibbitts

Dunning science class in the 9th grade a little girl started hanging around me and stole my heart. We went to our freshmen Homecoming dance together and dated most of the year. We would be on and off until mid 11th grade, and have been together since then. One of our first dates after I could drive was the North Georgia Fair. We went to the Prom together our Jr. and senor year. Wendy was in the color guard and I was at every football game to watch her perform. She would get to seat with me during the third quarter. I also went to several Band competitions where they always won Grand Champion. She got to perform at the Citrus Bowl too. I played Soccer and ran Cross-Country. She would come to my games. We were out every Friday night somewhere. A lot of times we would double date with friends. We had a lot of fun in high school. Our class voted us Cuties Couple for sensor superlative. After graduation we took at trip to visit Wendy’s grandmother in Miami. We drove back up to Orlando and went to Disney World. The first of many trips. Her cousin Amanda was young and we took her to the beach with us one of the days. As we drove by a power plant and white smoke was coming out of the stacks. Amanda said “so that’s where clouds come from”. We spent a few days on the beach and a few days at Disney. Wendy showed me all the places around where she grew up. Her Grand dads hotel that he managed, her old schools, places they would go and things like that. We took a dinner Cruise to no where. It was really a casino ship. There was not much for us to do after dinner so we just walked the deck through the night. I had been planing this trip for sometime. I had bought a ring with money I saved from working summers at Post Properties in the landscape department. Brandon was the only person who knew I had bough the ring. I knew there would be a full moon while we where there, and I knew when it would rise. I decided to ask Wendy to marry me in her home town on her home beach of Fort Lauderdale. I had the ring in my pocket, after dinner we stopped and parked at the beach for a moon light stroll on the sea-shore. It was around 10 PM and no one was around. I got down on one knee and asked her to marry me. When she said yes, there was a continues streak of lighting that circled us around the horizon. We came back home and continued our plans of going to college. I was going to what was the called Southern Tech and Wendy went to West Georgia. The plan was to finish school the get married. Well we couldn’t wait that long. It was getting harder and harder to say good-by each night. I thought I wanted to be an architect, but I didn’t. I went to school full-time the first year. Then started working more and more at Post. I would sit in class and think about all the money I could be making if I was not in school so I started going nights. I got raises and promotions at work and felt I was doing pretty good for a nineteen year old. We decided to move up the date of the wedding and we started to build our house. Dad gave my brother Todd, my sister Tammy and myself all about three acres next to each other when I was ten. So I had the land. Wendy and I were able to get a loan. I acted as the general contractor. First I got a drive way permit. Then I got a septic tank permit. We had to get a soil scientist in to sign off on it because of the perk test failed. I started clearing trees and debris for the driveway and house site. I cut a lot of wood and had a lot of brush fires. Wendy was still going to school and planning the wedding. The first real activity was cutting in the driveway and digging the basement. Dad helped out a lot. He worked with the bulldozer operator and helped cut trees as they were pushed over. Where the driveway started was an old dumping ground. Back in the day people would just through their trash out in the woods and this area became popular. There were old washer, dryers, refrigerators, sinks, along with household garbage. We dug a big hole and buried it along with the tree stumps. We loaded the Pine trees on my uncle Fed’s dump truck and sold them at the lumber yard. The Oak trees I split by hand and sold as firewood for the next few years. The next project was getting power. We were the first to build on our road so power lines had to be installed all down the road. That made a big difference in the way our little dirt road looked. Before then the trees would touch one another overhead like a tunnel. The foundation was next. The ground was to rocky to dig in the foundation like we did by hand at Todd and Toni’s A frame house they built. We poured the foundations on top of the rocks and a few days later the basement walls were poured. Two concrete trucks got stuck and I had to pay to get them out. We had to fill the basement floor with gravel to raise it up before pouring the concrete floor on top. The water proofing was done Easter morning. Dad and I used the farm tractor to back fill around the basement. We had a well dug. It only took a few day for the framing. Once the roof was on, the electrical and plumbing was in I started installing the insulation. The drywall was installed in one day. Wendy and I did a lot of painting with moms help. Wendy did most of it. Dad did a lot of the door trim. We had the house bricked and a very nice fireplace made. We had a lot of help when we built the porch and deck. Keith was a big help cutting out the steeps. We help, I did all the things I could. Wendy and I built our house with our own hands at the age of 19. I turned 20 on May 6th, we closed the loan on May 13th, Wendy turned 20 on May 22nd and we were married on May 28th. We spend the first night in the house on our wedding night. We Honey Mooned in Destin.

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