My fatigue-dimmed wits finally grasped the "thump-thump-thump" as I pushed the final tent stake into the ground.
I unbent an aching back, straightened stiff legs and gazed across Kirkwood Bar.
Three deer, does or antler-less bucks, sailed high enough to clear grass that stood up to my waist.
Nora the Schnauzer hopped silently up-and-down (to see) in their wake.
Two deer left the flat, paused and arched their necks to nibble short hillside grass.
The third stopped to study Nora.
Nora, no brazen yapper, studied the deer.
I studied both, ready to wave weary arms and yell.
We had reached the campsite after 4 1/2 hours on the trail from Pittsburg Landing.
I thumped the pack onto the picnic table. Oblivious of stained and warped boards, I stretched out beside it.
So did Nora.
We had started the modest six-mile trek at 11:34 a.m. Nora trotted ahead, checking back often that I followed.
I stopped to photograph a rock wren and a scarlet tanager near the river.
At the swollen first stream, I wobbled across on rocks without getting wet. Nora danced across.
At about two miles, we met a day hiker headed back. About a mile later, three day hikers passed us, headed our way.
I shuffled across the trickling second stream.
I paused often to photograph stark and steep Hells Canyon scenery, of course.
Once, baby chukars scattered ahead like spilled marbles.
A hen sat frozen among dark stones before stirring to blast a clucking tirade at me. I snapped photos and moved on.
When we started down the switchbacks at Kirkwood Bar, we met the three day hikers as they headed back.
After dozing on the table for half an hour, I unloaded the pack and set up the tent.
Nora explored in the shade along the river until she spooked the deer. All but one.
I watched that one walk to within 15 feet of Nora. I reached slowly for the camera in the tent vestibule, but the deer turned and sauntered away. Nora sat as it went.
Finally, we took the 100-ounce CamelBak bag, the Katadyn water filter and the cook pot to Kirkwood Creek, near the caretaker's house and the museum.
I pumped the bag full to drink and dipped the pot full to cook (ha!).
By 7 p.m., Nora and I had shared tuna and Idahoan dehydrated potatoes, followed by a desert of crunchy peanut butter and grape jelly on a bagel with cocoa-coffee.
Restored somewhat, I rigged up the four-piece, five-weight fly rod with a floating line and a black wooly bugger.
We moved upstream to the mouth of the creek where jet boats dock. I threw many casts onto the stream, stripped out line to be carried into the Snake River and mended it so the fly drifted naturally (ha!).
I did this for a long fishless time.
At dusk, we walked among the farm implements drawn by horses about a century ago, and I read the plaques aloud.
As darkness settled on Kirkwood Bar, I hung the water and food bags in a hackberry tree. I donned long johns and tucked the backpack (stuffed with my boots, pants and shirt, etc.) in the vestibule.
Nora and I crawled into the narrow, quarter-dome, 3-pound tent and lay on the Therm-a-rest mattress.
With the 44-degree temperature, I pulled the down bag over us and lay my head on the stuff-sack pillow (stuffed with a jacket, down vest, extra socks, handkerchiefs and long johns).
I opened a mystery novel, but it fell onto my chest, losing my place, in seconds.
I awoke once during the night, rolled onto my side and slept again.
Part 2 of this report about hiking the Snake River Trail to Kirkwood Bar will appear in this space next Wednesday.
If you Go
Pittsburg Landing is about 215 miles from Walla Walla. Take Highway 12 to the bypass across the Snake River before entering Clarkston (left turn, right turn). Continue on Highway 12 up the Clearwater River to the Highway 95 exit. Follow Highway 95 south past White Bird, Idaho, to the right turn near Hoots Caf?©. Drive 17 miles over the pass on a well-maintained gravel road to Pittsburg Landing.
Before reaching the main campground, turn left (unmarked?) to the Snake River Trail trailhead.