Vernon was born in the Pacific Northwest and still lives in the shadow of Mt. Hood, near the small town where he grew up. Vernon has spent decades wandering the hills, hunting mushrooms, camping and riding motorcycles into the remotest nooks and crannies to be found in the region.
Winter was dry. Spring was drier. By the time June rolled around, it was impossible to deny: we were in the middle of a full-on, record-breaking drought.
We went all summer without a drop of rain. Day after day the temperatures crept higher – a few weeks in the eighties then the nineties, topping out at over one hundred ten degrees. My brother and I decided it was time to find a new campsite, one that was close to water.
Our explorations eventually zeroed in on Pistol Creek.
Flowing from its source in a distant meadow, it meanders through miles of forested plateau, before disappearing underground. The stream is only accessible after snow melts in late Spring, by a badly rutted and potholed road.
My brother and I set out on a game trail, upstream from the road. We were looking for an isolated clearing with access to the water, easy enough for us to pack a tipi in but not so easy to get to that we would have to share our site with strangers.
The trail soon disappeared in a tangle of deadfall and vine maple
It was hard going, but we pushed through…
…emerging at a high bank, overhanging the creek.
The sun was shining on a low gravel bar on the other side, and it looked like there were some clearings behind it which had potential for camping. There was no good way to get over there.
I decided to scootch across a log on my butt. It was a little sketchy, high above the water with branches and broken logs I had to get over. It wasn’t a graceful crossing. I lost my balance a couple of times and my phone worked its way out of my back pocket, but I was able to grab it before it fell.
Andy declined to follow me opting to look for an easier way over. Walter Dawg stayed with my brother. I could track their progress through the brush by his whining.
I found a nice meadow with a beach and hollered at my brother, encouraging him to join me.
He crossed a narrow stretch, partially bridged by a weathered snag.
The meadow had possibilities, but there was no easy way to pack into it.
We turned our attention back across the road. Andy walked downstream while I set out through the woods, looking for a game trail or old roadbed that might get us in.
We didn’t make it far; Andy was stopped by deep water, steep banks and a tangle of logs. I met up with him emerging from the trees after fighting through underbrush and deadfall.
The following Friday, Andy was busy, so it was me and the dog.
We snuck in on a spur road, a bit inland, parallel to Pistol Creek. There were large trees down across the road, stopping us a short way in. We parked and I packed my gear through the woods to the other side of the roadblock.
I lashed a travois together…
…and Walter helped haul our load down the abandoned road through dense old growth, stopping at the first of a series of connected meadows and smaller, second growth trees in an old cut.
It was a hot day. Before setting up the tent, WaIt and I went looking for the creek.
Stumbling through the dense growth in the general direction of the creek,
…we were eventually rewarded.
It was too late to do much exploring, so after a quick dip we returned to the meadow and I set up a base camp.
The meadow was filled with strawberries
– and fresh bear scat, but we didn’t actually see any bears.
Cap’n Ron joined me later that evening, when he got off work.
We made dinner…
…and had some drinks before retiring to our beds.
The sun rose brightly Saturday morning.
The Cap’n not so much. He had a fitful night. The hammock folded him up like a banana and squirrels pelted him with twigs from above.
We ate breakfast and packed up.
After breakfast Cap’n Ron sent his drone up to do some aerial reconnaissance.
Comparing the map to his recon footage, we followed a compass bearing to the creek. There were several clearings separated by thickets of conifers. Closer to the water, the forest transitioned back into older tall trees.
the understory was clear, but there were large downed trees to work around. Where the sun could get through, there were huckleberries…
…and patches of salmon berry and more…
Pushing through a final clump of salmon berries, we found ourselves on an open gravel bar with Pistol Creek meandering through it...
….dropping into a deep pool around the bend. There was room to camp at the stream and more potential campsites nearby. Perfect!
Having achieved our objective, we returned to the meadow, gathered our gear and hauled out..
My friends and I spent the rest the summer exploring the area, clearing a trail in and setting up a campsite. The more time we spent there, the more satisfied we were with our discovery. We looking forward to future camping trips on Pistol Creek.
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