Following the cow trail to the banks of Chaffen Creek looked to be a relatively easy trek. I could see a spattering of snow still holding on to the base of some of the willows. The ground for the most part was still frozen. The hardened boggy areas able to transport me on the top of the ground without worry of being sucked into ankle and knee-deep mud and water.
It is obvious that the way of the creek has no choice but to meander around large clumps of grass and earth that have been undermined and deposited from the shore by previous season’s flood waters. A stark reminder that the solid-looking creek edge may have been softened and eroded from below. Waiting for any weight from above before folding into the water.
Gravel bars and rocky faces of the bank display interesting geological layers of historic existence. Minerals, decaying plants, bones and other unknown bits of life. Some holding fast, others have been displaced and now reside at this location. For now.
It is evident that others have found the willow thickets and creek bank to their liking. Moose have been eating the young branches and sampling the early pussy willows.
Old sign that elk, deer, bear, beaver and coyotes have made their way along these same paths. Leaving evidence behind to remind me I need to continually be aware of my surroundings, even though buildings are within my line of vision.
Further along, the ice has given way to the sound of running water. The creek chortles over rocks, mud-covered twigs and raw roots. Playing hide and seek along the edge of the bank. Soon engulfed, once more, by the frozen layers of ice. Crossing the creek on the ice, at this time of year, is definitely not an option.
Natural springs erode the ground on their way to join up with the creek. As this part of the country thaws under unseasonal warmth, the saturation spreads. The devastated landscape shows new signs of sloughing along these already scarred hills .
Everywhere, gnarled roots are seen hanging along the creek bank. Sporadic grasses and other plant life trying to eek out a living by pushing through the silt ridden shores.
New fence lines constructed to replace those damaged or washed away by tumultuous, unchecked waters that overflowed banks and created havoc in its wake. Damage by flood waters is evident everywhere.
Yet, on this day Chaffen Creek slithers under the ice, through the willows and wild grasses on it’s way to meet with the Old Man River. A place to learn and be taught. Quiet and inviting until the next days of hell are unleashed by Mother Nature and all that has become common is replaced.