Widow makers are what timbermen and woodcutters call them. Snags are a common name. They are dead trees. Many have fallen across the trails we travel here in the north end of the Sawtooth Mountains where an 11 year old wildfire swept the area leaving behind whole stands of stark skeletons. Makers make you nervous when you weave through them or stop to saw your way through standing trees swaying in the wind.
I have memories of the danger that are vivid. The first occurred over 55 years ago when myself and another kid were hacking a fire line out on the perimeter of a wildfire in northern Idaho. We worked beneath a snag that came down and killed him. In 2000, my buddy Jake and I weaved around burnt snags like we were doing today; I was in the lead of our 3 mule train. A mule in the rear hooked his pack on a slender snag. I felt a whoosh of air as the tree came down, narrowing missing me. My skull would have cracked.
Now we lunch away from snags on a bench below the Trail Creek Lake basin, a place I’d hoped to make a base camp for a couple of days to explore the basin above. A tree fell nearby as we lunched.
Sarah and I left that party, split up, racing up the mountain to find a safe place for camp. I found a site away from the threat of falling snags, came back and packed up the llamas with the rest of the party. Sarah arrived, sharing that she had found a campsite near the lake.
A DANGEROUS CAMPSITE
We came to my “safe place’ first, with a splendid view, graze for the llamas, but rough ground upon which to camp. Sarah didn’t like it; she and Louise took off to closer scout her lake campsite, at which at 7 pm, we eventually arrive. We found 2 safe tent sites near the lake for Louise and John and Jonas. Sarah and I snuggled up against a big boulder, hoping that if the snags came down, we would not be crushed.
The burn of my fury I felt arriving at Sarah’s better site turns into a silence that was hot to be around, but I kept my tongue. It was, after all, 7 p.m., and we were all tired after a long day of route finding, tree clearing and sawing. Louise, John and little Jonas, and ourselves has jelled as a party in managing the trail challenges and llamas; an argument about moving camp wasn’t needed.
Sarah and I did not sleep much that night. I talked out my anger. Her own admission of fear during the night and apology were pivotal points in clearing the air. We searched and found our own safe tent site by moving a campfire ring and ashes near the lakeshore. Everyone had a fine day hike into the uppermost Trail Creek Lakes.
The physical body diminishes with age, not so strong character and will. Sarah and I had pushed each other numerous times when danger threatened during our 2 ½ year Alaska Odyssey. This time we agreed we’d scout the route ahead together when danger threatens.