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Last week the girls and I took the pop-up camper 300 miles away to the very scenic Takhlakh Lake in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The lake is at about 4300′ elevation on the NW side of Mount Adams. The nearest towns are Randle and Trout Lake and the roads to get there are not exactly what I would call good. I think it was 32 miles from Randle and that last bit, after driving 270 miles, seemed endless. Despite its remoteness, the campground stayed nearly full the five nights we were there.

For the first three days, the temperature was well into the 90’s in the afternoon and the black flies loved it. Our campsite was mostly sunny so there was no retreating to the camper in hopes of escaping the flies. It was like an oven in there. We walked often to the lake so we could cool off. Even our morning hikes were pretty warm and the insects were relentless – the worst I have seen in many years.

The area is known for lush meadows and numerous lakes and streams. This year, it’s been very dry and the meadows and trails were dusty. Our morning hikes were a struggle for Luna. At nearly 13, she doesn’t handle the heat very well and welcomes any bit of water she can find. So we had to spend our afternoons taking it easy. I was ready to leave Wednesday night but Thursday morning it was cool and misty so we stayed another day.

There is a shady one-mile trail around the lake and we walked it twice a day. It really was quite nice with lots of points to access the water. Most campers had some kind of people-powered watercraft from small fishing boats to every kind of inflatable imaginable to SUP’s to pool toys and I really wished I had one too. They said the bugs were not nearly so bad when they were on the water and I noticed a difference when I was wading in the water. I’ll know next time.

I saw a fair amount of birds in the area and a Barred Owl woke me up one night with its distinctive call. I wondered how many other campers heard it and wondered what it was.

Here is a list of birds I observed while I was there:¬†Mallard, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, Ruffed Grouse, Common Nighthawk, Black Swift, Rufous Hummingbird, Spotted Sandpiper, Osprey, Cooper’s Hawk, Bald Eagle, Barred Owl, Belted Kingfisher, American Three-toed Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Canada Jay, Steller’s Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Pacific Wren, American Robin, Evening Grosbeak, Dark-eyed Junco

We all went camping last week and had a nice time away from home in a beautiful and place and offline too. It rained some. There was one big thunderstorm that went on for an hour or more. We never got too hot. Or cold. Sky may have jumped in a lake or two. Or three.

We spent last week at Lost Lake in the Okanogan Highlands in eastern Okanogan County. If you’ve followed this blog for long, you know we go there just about every year. What is it about this place that we find so inviting? Let’s see: old growth western larch forest, Common Loons, wildflowers, historic CCC structures, peace and quiet, wildflowers, perfect small lake for paddling and relaxing, brook trout in that lake, good birding and much, much more.

Weather was kind of chilly and we enjoyed our campfires each night. Fishing was off from other years but Ken was able to bring in enough for two meals. A friend joined us for a couple of days. We did some serious birding and she got to paddle Ken’s fishing kayak. The dogs were happy and busy and they slept like rocks each night. I think we all slept well with the frogs in the background. We woke to singing Swainson’s Thrushes and Ruby-crowned Kinglets each morning.

We left Lost Lake and drove east and south to explore the St Joe River watershed in north Idaho. We’d never visited that area before and were not sure where we were going to stay. Fortunately we found a very pleasant campground about ten miles out of St Maries and settled in for the night. It was unusual for a US Forest Service campground because it wasn’t in the forest. It was in a meadow of tall grass that was mowed for the camping areas. The river is wide and slow there, not the mountain stream that we were expecting. Across the river there was an active logging unit with folks starting work early in the morning. We discovered that the logging industry is still very active in this part of Idaho and we saw and heard many log trucks coming and going starting before five am!

The next day we explored Marble Creek – an area that once held millions of board feet of white pine trees. The history of the area was fraught with danger in the form of terribly hard work and sometimes criminal activities in order to take over the prime old growth forests. They are still logging there although most of the white pine is gone due to harvest and disease. Much of the drainage is now in a mixed stand of second growth. We were surprised with the diversity of the forest and rate at which trees grow there. We read that north Idaho gets on average, 45 inches of rain a year! That’s a lot compared to our paltry 12 or 15 inches of rain per year. No wonder the forest was so dense.

We drove on upstream to Avery which was a very busy railroad town for many years. The electrified Milwaukie train had a major stop there. We traveled up the North Fork of the St Joe following the route of the train tracks through several tunnels and across one old steel trestle. It is amazing to think of these huge projects that were accomplished in the 1800’s!

The next day we headed to Montana via Forest Road 50 along the St Joe and Gold Creek. When the asphalt ended we had left Idaho.

 

We got away with our camper for a week or so at the end of May. Last summer there was no time for camping between work and wildfires so we just decided to block out some time early and do it. With a little luck, maybe we can go again later in the summer.

The Lost Lake Campground was created by the CCC. Signs indicated the work was done in 1940 and ’41. There is a cabin and shops and also some buildings at the adjacent Kiwanis camp all built by the CCC workers. The cabin is badly in need of repair. I do hope the US Forest Service can find the resources to preserve this historic building.

Western larch is the predominant tree around the campground. These are tall stately conifers with needles that turn golden yellow in the fall before dropping. In the spring they grow vibrant green foliage. Apparently the area was logged in 1963, taking many of the big old trees. There are at least two remaining and a nature walk will guide you to them. The area was thinned/logged again around fifteen years ago, I think. This thinning has produced a healthy and attractive stand that is also more fire resistant than it was prior to that.

We were joined by Ken’s brother and the two of them enjoyed fishing for brook trout from the short kayaks. We had two good meals of fresh fish cooked over the fire. I enjoyed birding from my kayak. Ken and Carl saw a moose swim across the lake while they were fishing. Of course, I missed it! We all enjoyed listening to the loons calling to each other.

It was nice to get away from home and the ever-present electronic world.

Here is our bird list from Lost Lake.

Canada Goose

Wood Duck

Mallard

Green-winged Teal

Ring-necked Duck

Common Loon

Turkey Vulture

Bald Eagle

Red-tailed Hawk

Virginia Rail

Sora

American Coot

Spotted Sandpiper

Great Horned Owl

Barred Owl

Common Poorwill

hummingbird sp.

Williamson’s Sapsucker

Downy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Northern Flicker

Pileated Woodpecker

Olive-sided Flycatcher

Hammond’s Flycatcher

Empidonax sp.

Gray Jay

Steller’s Jay

Common Raven

Tree Swallow

Violet-green Swallow

Black-capped Chickadee

Mountain Chickadee

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Marsh Wren

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Western Bluebird

Townsend’s Solitaire

Swainson’s Thrush

American Robin

Orange-crowned Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Chipping Sparrow

Dark-eyed Junco

Song Sparrow

Red-winged Blackbird

Red Crossbill

Pine Siskin

Evening Grosbeak

 

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