August is a month that most people from our area associate with the blistering 100 degree heat that is associated with wheat harvest. The first day of August is a day that big game hunters associate with the opening of general bear season.
With these two thoughts in mind, and since I am not involved in wheat other than when I eat bread, this was a perfect chance to invoke the old hunting law. You know the one, Murphy's Law.
On Friday, Aug. 6, I called my longtime hunting partner, Bill Riley, and asked if he would be interested in going up and taking a look around the next day. Since the weather had cooled down from the week before, he thought that would be all right so we planned on leaving the next morning.
When he picked me up it was slightly overcast. As I viewed the sky I figured it was nothing to worry about, but I did throw in a long sleeve Henley in case it was chilly enough that I needed something to put on over my T-shirt.
We started up the Tollgate Highway anticipating that it would clear off and the temperature would raise to a comfortable, but not too hot level, although the further up the mountain we went the darker the clouds seemed to get.
When we approached Langdon Lake it started to sprinkle, but we proceeded, undeterred, heading for Timothy Springs. We talked of walking down a trail that we call Five Point, but settled on a logging spur we knew about that goes into the upper end of Little Lookingglass.
As we drove past Jubilee Lake the rain became steady, but not heavy, more like a drizzle. We discussed how to hunt bear and finally settled on the idea that without bait a person just goes out and walks through the woods and hopes he runs into one.
We arrived at our parking spot and proceeded to load our rifles and decide how far to go. With the steady drizzle we decided to go out to where it broke down a steep slope, approximately a mile and a half, and then decide what to do next. With the distance to the slope so short we opted to leave our packs, which was probably a mistake on my part. Bill donned the jacket he had brought as I pulled the Henley over my T-shirt.
As we walked and the rain drizzled, I couldn't help but notice how quiet everything seemed. We looked for deer or elk sign, but both seemed scarce except where we found a spot that seven or so elk had bedded the night before. Droppings were few and tracks seemed far between, so upon reaching the slope we decide to turn back. It was at this time I started to feel how wet I was, especially my back. Now I knew why I should have lugged my pack along.
Upon returning to the rig I mentioned to Bill I couldn't believe we were hunting bear in August and were soaking wet. He agreed. We decided to leave the bear for another day and explore roads instead, so we headed over toward Lookout Mountain and made a loop back to Four Corners. From there we went around through Jarboe Meadows, over to Lower Lookingglass, up Mottet Creek and back to Tollgate.
This is where our friend Murphy came into play.
As we approached Lincton Mountain Road on the way home I mentioned I hadn't been down that way for more than a year. So we decided to take that road. We were less than two miles from the pavement of the Walla Walla River Road when we had the flat tire. On about a five degree slope we managed to get the tire off and as we were wrestling the spare on Bill hit the frame of his glasses and knocked out the screw that holds in the lens.
As we drove home with Bill looking out the one lens left in the frames of his glasses he looked at me philosophically and said, "You know other than getting soaked in a rainstorm in August, having a flat tire, and knocking the lens out of my glasses, it was a pretty good day."
Frank Dixon lives in Milton-Freewater and is an avid big game hunter. His column appears every other week.