The Bachelor

Another morning in that paradise called the Payette National Forest.

Another morning of worship in the church of dirt and trees.

I took the girls to a favorite non-motorized trail - East Fork Lake Fork - for a romp this morning. It was chilly! Upper 30s. Luckily I had a pair of gloves in my car. I was dressed in running shorts, so my legs were a little cold, but I had the good sense to put on a long-sleeved shirt before leaving home.

The girls, of course, we dressed for the weather. Such smart dogs.

The huge Ponderosa pines in this section of forest never fail to enchant me. This trail - with the river running alongside much of the way - reminds me of many parts of western Washington's forests. Any worries or concerns I might bring with me to the start of this trail - or others like it - instantly melt away as the girls and I stretch our legs and ease into our trail running rhythm.

We got a fairly early start. The sun was carving bright paths through the tall trees, often blinding us with its brilliance.

Meadow sampling the wild water at the end of our run. The sun's path through the trees seemed to follow the stream as it fell down this gentle slope and across the trail.

We had the trail to ourselves this Friday morning. When we finished our six-plus-mile run, I heard voices and a truck engine in the parking area. The trail heads into the forest from the back of an unofficial camping area; often I've seen folks pitch their tents here, and once an entire hunting camp set up for what appeared would be weeks judging from the elaborate set up. So I wasn't too surprised, on a summer Friday, to find people arriving.

This group, however, had a TON of stuff already unloaded - several large coolers, tents and gear still packed in duffel bags, a couple of plastic garbage cans filled full with bags of ice. It was going to be a large group, but so far, I only saw three guys and one old white pickup.

As I loaded the girls into my car, one guy approached, asking if it was OK to camp there. I told him it was. There are virtually no restrictions on camping in this forest - pick a spot, it's yours for free for up to two weeks. He and his friend then asked some questions about the trail I'd just been on, what else was in the area. I answered what I could. As we said "have fun" and "goodbye" the first guy tossed out a comment: "Yeah, this is my bachelor party."

Hmm! This could be a good story for my online newspaper, McCall Chronicle!

I grabbed my camera, and after explaining about my newspaper, asked if I could take their photo posing with their gear. They happily complied, thinking it a lark. I asked a few questions, wrote down some names, and told them the article would appear in a couple of days. The groom-to-be (left, in the photo) asked me to write the web site down so he wouldn't forget and could check out the story and photo.

Despite appearances and my initial knee-jerk reaction of "oh god, a bunch of rowdies coming out to party and trash the wilderness" I was pleasantly surprised to meet some very nice and conscientious guys in their twenties who had a weekend of fun planned. Their girlfriends and wives would be joining them for the "bachelor" party - a group of ten total, explaining the large amount of gear - and they already had plans for golf and boating in McCall during their weekend. Like me, they were happy to learn the trail was for non-motorized use only. And the groom made of point of assuring me they always clean up their mess, that they never trash any campsite they use.

I believe them. I just wish everyone I encountered at forest campsites and trail heads was more like them.