When I was a kid, my dad worked at the Pentagon. Now that I’m older, I realize that it was probably a pretty stressful job. Oftentimes when he’d come home in the evening, he’d take off his uniform, put on blue jeans, and announce that it was time for “yard patrol.” We’d then stroll around the yard for a half hour. Not really doing any work, mind you- not mowing grass, trimming hedges, raking leaves, or anything like that. Those were weekend tasks. It was more just looking around, noticing the seasons changing, smelling the air, being in the place. Of course, at 12 years old, I didn’t really see it that way, I just thought my dad was weird.
Now, however, these are things that are important to me too. Today I went on the first real “yard patrol” of the Gravel Creek property since we bought the place. On that day, it was 40 degrees and raining sideways, and turned into a pretty miserable 3-hour slog through the jungle to never even get to our objective. Today’s patrol was exactly the opposite: Sunny, 65 degrees, and no rain for a week so the ground was firm enough to walk on. I grabbed my machete, loaded GPS waypoints from Google Earth into my iPhone, and set off once again to find the eastern corners of the property.
On the way, I found some pretty amazing things. The first was this behemoth tree, a spruce with a base about 8′ across. I didn’t realize there were any of those on the property! This one is even visible from the house, if you know where to look, but doesn’t LOOK that big because it’s far away and growing in the valley, about 40 feet lower than most of the surrounding trees. It screams TREE HOUSE. Later, later.
Shortly after the behemoth, I came to a really scenic stream crossing. Gravel Creek is a healthy, salmon-bearing ecosystem and it apparently even supports beavers. I didn’t see any dams or lodges, but this tree clearly didn’t get that like that any other way. Moving on, I climbed a hill and turned around to see a pretty forest of alders. They gave way to hemlock father up the hill, sitting upon a large plateau with a cliff overlooking the creek some 50 feet below. Wait, this is my YARD?
After about an hour, I reached the southeast corner of the property, more or less. I don’t think there have ever been stakes, at least I didn’t see one, and I could have been off by 50 feet depending the GPS and how accurately I transcribed the corners from the tax map to Google Earth. It’s kindof funny that it doesn’t even matter if I know my property line to within 50 feet. Heh. The land to the south of us is owned by a lumber company, and is a clearcut with two or three year old trees on it, so it’s not going to be changing much for the next 30 years. I’m toying with the idea of trying to buy it some day, in part to control our viewshed, but also because it will get me an LOP hunting tag due to the extra acreage.
The southeast corner of the property is loosely defined by a really large tree, visible on Google Earth. Besides the overlay, the other reason I think it’s on our property is because it would have been cut down in the last clearcut if it weren’t. It’s a really big cool tree. Apparently, it originally grew out of an older nurse stump, which has since decomposed, leaving a large opening within the root system. Hard to tell from the photo, but it’s easily big enough to stand in.
I then started moving north to find the remaining unvisited corner. It was at this time that I started stumbling across mushrooms. One of the local delicacies here is the chanterelle, famous as one of the best edible mushrooms. They usually get picked by elk hunters, as they pop up during elk season (now) and can be found mostly in hemlock forests (like we have, and elk like to hide in). I am mot a big mushroom hunter, but chanterelles are a pretty safe bet, because not a lot of mushrooms can be confused for them, and the one that can is both very uncommon, and not very poisonous. In the next 15 minutes, I picked a bag of them. But don’t worry, I took them to a knowledgeable friend to verify the identity before I ate any.
There were a lot of other cool mushrooms that I didn’t identify, and I’m showing them here for fun. Ooo, wait, that last one isn’t a mushroom, it’s elk poop. Just testing you.