Pistol Creek was shaping up to be an excellent choice for a new campsite, but the trail in was a concern. It is a long haul for the tipi covers and heavier gear – doable, but might there be an easier way?
The obvious solution was to float our gear down the creek, but was it navigable? The aerial photos looked like it might be, if we could find a way through a couple of log jams. I called on my friend Robert. He knows better, but never seems to let that stand in the way of another harebrained adventure. He showed up at my door around noon that Friday.
We loaded our gear, the 12’ tipi and a 17’ canoe on the truck and headed for Pistol Creek.
We parked where the road crosses the stream and unloaded the canoe. The water was shallow and the boat grounded when we loaded it, so we left most of the gear in the truck, taking the tipi cover and a few other small items for the first trip.
Robert and I hauled the canoe through the shallows. When it was deep enough to float, we got in and paddled, hopping out to line it through small, rocky riffles and hopping back in at the deeper pools.
Walter Dawg ran alongside until we got to a deep pool with steep banks. We couldn’t coax the dog into the canoe, so we left him to figure it out. We could hear him whining as we rounded the bend. Soon he appeared, swimming as fast as he could. We let him catch up, and he swam alongside.
The next bend brought us up short. Large logs lay crisscrossed in a jumbled pile, completely blocking our forward progress. I had hoped we could do an end run around them, but high banks and thickets of brush made that impossible.
Robert disembarked and climbed over the log jam to scout downstream. Walter tried to follow him, but couldn’t surmount the fallen timber. Whining, he ran back and forth on a low, broad log. A mat of hemlock needles covered the water where the snags met. Walter mistook the floating debris for solid ground and plunged head first into the stream. He came up sputtering, with a look of total betrayal on his face. Laughing, I climbed out of the canoe and hauled him back up on the log.
Rob reported one more piece of timber to traverse downstream, with a clear passage beyond.
We were able to force the canoe through the brush around the far end of the first snag, and drag it under the next one clearing that first snarl. A short float brought us to Robert’s final blockade, a large log with deep pools on either side. We had to balance on a smaller floating log to lift the canoe over the big timber in our path. The canoe proved too heavily laden for us to lift, so we off loaded our cargo, carefully balancing it atop the big log as we slid the boat over. Rob stood on a slippery submerged log next to the canoe while I handed down the tipi and gear for him to stow, and then we were on our way once more.
There a couple more gravel bars and some small rapids to line our vessel through and we arrived, tuckered out, at our beach. It was four o’clock. There were three more loads back at the truck.
We paused long enough for beer while discussing our options. The voyage down had been arduous and we both doubted it was practical to retrieve the rest of our gear and provisions by boat; we would have to pack it in.
We took the trail out, hiking back to the truck in our wet sandals. When we got there, we put on our boots, harnessed Walter to the dog cart and shouldered our packs.
The sun was getting low by the time we got back to camp. It was a warm evening with clear skies so we opted to save time by not setting up the tent. Robert assembled our cots while I made hamburgers for dinner.
It got cold once the sun went down. We ate, drank and talked for a bit, then turned in, drawing a piece of canvas over our bunks to keep the dew off. I stared at the moon and the stars until I drifted off.
Walt woke us up to a beautiful, if brisk, morning. We brewed caffeine and I made breakfast. We lay on the rocks and baked like lizards in the morning sun.
After a suitable amount of time indulging in lethargy, we went into the woods to collect a few poles, returning to the beach to set up a shelter over our cots. Lashing four rough poles together to erect a base, I tied the cover to a fifth pole which we lifted into place, wrapping the canvas around the poles to form a rude tipi. We stacked rocks around the base to keep the canvas from billowing if a wind came up.
Shelter attended to, we grabbed some beer and a bag of chips and boarded the canoe to explore downstream. By this time Walter had grown accustomed to swimming along with us, ranging along the shore where there was beach and paddling next to the canoe where there was none.
We passed through a number of deep tranquil pools before coming to a narrows where we beached the canoe and continued on foot.
The water eventually disappeared underground leaving us a broad, dry streambed which we followed for a bit, until it formed a desiccated delta in the woods. It was obvious that a good deal of water raged through here in season, but had disappeared well before August.
We walked back to the canoe and paddled upstream to camp. It was time for afternoon cocktails!
Back in camp, we enjoyed a Pims Cup as the shadows grew longer.
After the cocktail hour, it was approaching dinner time. I made lobster mushroom carbonara and heated up some garlic bread.
Robert shared a Marion berry pie for dessert. I was full as a tick by the time the sun set.
Sunday morning dawned brightly on Pistol Creek.
We had bacon and skillet fried oat cakes topped with fig jam for breakfast.
Since there was pie left over from last night, we had that for our second breakfast.
Allowing a suitable amount of time to pass for proper digestion, we started packing around noon. Using our back packs and the dog cart we hauled our dunnage halfway out and cached it by the trail before returning to camp for the boat.
It was almost two o’clock when we launched the canoe for our trip upstream. We learned our lesson from the trip in; we didn’t stow anything aboard weighing more than a six-pack.
We had a pleasant voyage out. This time we knew how to negotiate the log jams. The current was not too strong, allowing us to enjoy a beer as we paddled through the placid pools between obstructions. We arrived at the truck in less than an hour, a considerably faster passage than our inbound journey.
We loaded the truck and drove to the trailhead, so we could hike back to our cache and retrieve the rest of our trappings and equipment. Walter and Rob took a short break in the shade while I exchanged my wet sandals for dry boots.
Then it was time to harness the dog and hoist our heavy packs and hike out. The weekend had come to a close.