Squirrel Creek

Searching for something "new" and an interesting outing for the girls, I drove us to Squirrel Creek trail this morning. Our last visit to this area was in late May (see the May 31, 2008 blog entry), but because of downed trees on both the road and the start of the trail, we didn't actually leave the road. Prior to that, our last visit was August, when we encountered the mama bear and cub (see August 19, 2007 entry). I was certainly hoping we wouldn't repeat that encounter!

The first half mile of the trail was cleared and in great shape. We ran close to Smokey Boulder River and through the forest, spooking some deer. I had high hopes.

Then we hit an open section that's always overgrown, but this year, worse than ever. It seems to be a grove of mountain laurel shrubs. I think it's worse for me than the girls - they can follow the trail underneath most of the foliage; I, however, and pushing through it, not able to see where my feet land, scratching arms and legs and trying to keep the branches from hitting me in the face. The only reason I push through is because the rest of the trail, from about the first mile on in, is great. Or has been in the past.

Not this year.

We encountered more vegetation growing over the trail (lots of salmon berry and who knows what else - none of it stinging or with pricks or barbs, thankfully) and several downed trees. Meadow would fly over the trees, while Maia and I would pick our way around or over. It was slow going.

But eventually, about two miles in, mostly walking because of the conditions, we came to the downed tree in the photo above. Huge. Right over the trail. Someone - or something - had made a tunnel through the broken branches, between the tree and the ground, suitable for dogs. I might even have struggled through it, following the girls...

... but I could see that just around a bend, after a creek, more big downed trees blocked the trail. And who knows what we'd find beyond that?

I called the girls back. Maia, especially, was happy to comply and head back to the car. I think she, too, was pretty tired of getting hit in the face with brush and shrubs.

Here's Meadow coming through the hole under the big tree. Gives a sense of the size of the tree, and how difficult it would have been for me to go either over or under it.

This final photo was an attempt to capture how dense some of the undergrowth was along the trail, although this hardly does it justice. You can barely see Maia, in the lead, about to be swallowed by the brush. I simply couldn't get a photo of the mountain laurel area that illustrates just how thick it is. Use your imagination, and know that I was pretty desperate to find a "new" place for us to play this weekend!

Too bad Finn isn't ready to join us. He's short enough that he wouldn't have been bothered by much of what we encountered.