OUTDOORS - 'Stuff happens' — like water-filled boots — on a trip to Sheep Creek.



Dave Kime takes a photo of a photographer before heading back along Sheep Creek.


Fallen timber clogs the waterway below Sheep Creek Falls.

When Sheep Creek filled my boots, I relaxed and waded the rest of the way to the falls.

No matter that a witness saw me slip on a rock, swing from a log and, mumbling, drop into the knee-deep current.

Stuff happens.

I had parked earlier at the trailhead for Trail No. 3135, five miles upstream from Panjab Bridge on the Tucannon River, when a white sedan arrived and the driver visited the one-holer.

I slipped into my day pack, attached the camera to the chest harness, picked up my bamboo walking stick and headed toward the bridge over the stream.

I met Dave Kime there. He hails from Charlotte, N.C. He's an electrical engineer spending a year working at the Hanford cleanup site.

He's also a veteran hiker, and since he will be in this area for a year, he explores it on weekends.

I invited him to make the 35-minute hike up to Sheep Creek Falls with me.

I warned him that the final few yards could be difficult because fallen timber usually blocks the way.

Yet, with Nora the Schnauzer leading the way, we turned left before crossing the bridge and found a faint trail parallel to the stream.

Once located, the trail may be easily followed. It rises gently through an area blackened by fire a few years ago.

Dave and I chatted along the way while looking for deer or elk. Or coyotes or cougars or bears.

Soon we reached the first massive clog of timbers and heard the tumult of the falls, still unseen in the narrow canyon.

The stream rushed by, a foot wider than I could step or jump. At my feet, Nora looked up at me. She clearly had a question in mind.

Dave stood behind us as I studied the barrier. He said he didn't think he would go any farther.

One jagged, well-anchored log reached across the stream within a foot of me. Larger logs lay to the right and also crossed the stream.

"I can cross that," I said.

Dave sat on a log and watched.

I stepped onto the jagged log and crossed by using the other logs and my stick for balance.

I looked back for Nora. I coaxed, but she wouldn't jump onto the log. So, I leaned my stick against a timber and went back.

By balancing with one foot on a stone in the stream and one foot on the jagged log, I lifted Nora and set her on one of the larger logs. She scooted across.

As I opened my mouth for a witty comment, the stone tipped.

Before splashing backwards into the stream with the camera attached to my chest, I flung my arms around a small, head-high log.

I swung there a moment, with no place to go, and dropped into the water.

"So much for keeping my feet dry," I said to Dave.

Dave didn't want to soak his feet. We snapped a photo of each other snapping a photo, and he left.

Nora and I made it close enough to the falls for me to take photos.

Then we found a faint, sodden path up the canyon side and followed it. It led back to the clog where I'd filled my boots.

A few minutes after that, we met a group of four young men and one woman. From their clothing, I guessed they worked for the forest service.

They asked about fallen timber, and I suggested they turn up the steep hill at the first big clog.

Back at the wagon, I put on sneakers, poured water from my boots and stuffed them with rags.

On the way home, I stopped to photograph a dove on Hartsock Grade and elk eating wheat along Patit Creek Road.

At home well before dinner, I treated the boots with Nikwax and changed the damp rags for wads of newspaper. By morning the paper would be soaked and the boots would be dry, at least until their next dunking.

Stuff happens, after all.

Contact Don Davis at dondavis@wwub.com.

If You Go

Drive 12 miles east of Dayton on Highway 12, turn south on the

Tucannon River Road.

Continue for 32 miles to Panjab Bridge (or take Patit Creek Road from Dayton and Hartsock Grade to the river road).

At Panjab Bridge take Road No. 4712 to the left for 5 miles to the end of the road.

Before the bridge, look for a trail upstream.


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