“Hello? Anybody home?”
A man and a woman in tan uniform are at my door. “National Forest rangers,” the man announces.
The crew, of course, bursts out the door, barking like maniacs. “Good morning!” I greet them both cheerfully. Oh, I hope nothing’s wrong.
“Very nice set-up you’ve got here. I like your trailer.” He’s leading with a compliment to set the tone before he hits me with the bad news. “Thank you. I bought it last August. I’m very pleased with it.”
“We’re here to inform you – uh oh, here it comes – that fire restrictions are in place.” Whew! I relax. “No campfires are allowed.”
I tell them both that I gave up building campfires several weeks ago.
“It’s common sense not to have a campfire when so many forest fires are breaking out.” This statement seems to put everyone at ease. We chat for a while. The female ranger is young and lets the male ranger do the talking.
“I’m a teacher, too,” the male ranger reveals. “Science, chemistry, sometimes math. This is a summer position. It makes a nice balance.”
I take the opportunity to ask questions.
“I saw a sign that says something about a conservation pool in the reservoir. What does that mean?”
“The reservoir provides water to farmers. A conservation pool means the reservoir must be maintained at a certain level for the fish.” That makes sense. Yesterday some official-looking guys were out here measuring water and taking samples. Then this morning the lake is much higher.
“What about bears?”
“You don’t have to worry about black bears. We haven’t had any incidents this year with them bothering people.” Well, gee, I don’t want to be the first. He continues. “We make sure the bears are afraid of people.”
“How do you do that?”
“With dogs. People with dogs, usually some type of hound, get a Pursuit Permit. It’s good for certain times of the year. It allows them to chase the bears. Once a bear goes up a tree, they leave it alone. That way the bears become afraid of people and dogs.”
“Oh, so it’s like coon hunting in the South, only without the guns. I like that.”
They don’t seem to be in a hurry to leave, so I ask another question.
“The other day there were people driving up and down this road. Now it’s pretty quiet. No one’s around. Why is that?”
“This is a detour road from 153 that goes up to an area of summer homes and another lake. Part of the road fell away. It was so bad they couldn’t fix it without blasting into the mountain.” Hmm . . . part of the road fell away. Lovely. I’ll be sure to picture that as I creep down off this mountain.
He compliments me again on the BLT and they go back to their truck. “Enjoy your stay!”
The next morning . . .
I wake up early. The sun’s barely up. This is a good time to see some wildlife. We’re all alone here; even the guys with the tent are gone. Two sleepy heads peer out from the covers. If we go out while Bridget and Spike are still sleepy, maybe we won’t scare anything away.
I take them out quietly and sit in the camp chair at the front of the PTV. I wait. Oh darn, nothing. We must be too late.
The crew wanders around looking for the best place to relieve themselves. Suddenly Spike stands at attention, and then starts trotting. Bridget and I watch.
Three deer have been grazing right in front of us! They’re perfectly camouflaged against the slope of the earthen dam. The deer run and then stop and look back at Spike. What a beautiful sight. How graceful they are!
Spike decides to let them be.
He’s a good boy. He knows they’re no threat. The deer also realize there’s no danger to them. Slowly they walk single-file along the dam and into the forest. What a wonderful way to begin the day!
Later the three of us stand together at the edge of the lake. I look out over the still water. A mountain lake surrounded by pines and aspens . . . all to ourselves. Silently I give thanks and say goodbye.
“Take one last soak, Spikey. We’re off to a new camp today.”