Sunday, December 19, 2010

Cow Camp at Pumpkin Creek

Pumpkin Creek cow camp

We've lived in cow camps ranging from a place to pitch a tent to a two-story house. At the Steen Place on the edge of the Zumwalt Prairie we summered in a 100 year old log house with walls that bore testament to some of the previous residents via initials carved into  the front porch. There was also a barn, extensive corrals, and out behind the kitchen, an enormous multi-chambered root cellar in a state of collapse. The cellar had a log front and thick stone walls that birthed boulder-sized rocks, pushed out by the settling hillside. Even though it was our summer place, we stayed there into December while the cows were in the breaks of the canyon, and we were thankful for the enormous barrel stove and the thick logs insulating us from the cold. 

At Pumpkin Creek, the accommodations are simple. A roof overhead and all the basics you appreciate at the end of a long day and a steep trail. 
"Fully equipped" kitchen

A "real" bed

Last weekend, Mike installed an old cast-iron dry sink for the kitchen, an improvement I'm looking forward to using. While he built the sink stand, I hiked the steep norths above the narrow bench to gather cattle and move them up Pumpkin Creek. I had to work two good dogs while keeping a pup and a big slobbering Labrador out of the way, which proved interesting at times. 
Mike builds stand for the dry sink
Narrow trail on a steep north

Frozen spring shedding ice in the sun
The sun was brilliant and the ground still frozen as I side-hilled along, gathering up little bunches of cows and heading them south. At one point, I came upon a spring flowing out of the ground above a rock outcrop. The rock face dripped with moss and a few stalwart icicles clung to the basalt, while the ground below was strewn with chunks of ice fall, collapsed in the sun after the night's frozen temperatures. 

Looking north toward the Imnaha

It was nice to have most of the snow melted off after the last storm, to have open ground for the cattle to travel in. Looking  back toward the Imnaha River, I saw the high snowy rims of Haas Ridge, and was reminded that winter has a long way to go yet. 

From Sara at Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef