Ooops, sorry, somehow this didn’t get published at the correct time. This technology, or lack of is driving me mad!!
Our first day off started with a leisurely cooked breakfast in the sunshine. Oh, no, it didn’t. It started with the alarm set for 7.15 for us to get up to feed the horses. We didn’t mind, we’d offered. Whilst Ray has been away Bailey has been coming in from town at that time each morning and then going home for breakfast before coming back for 9am. We’d finally persuaded her that we weren’t on holiday and happy to do it. It just happened to coincide with our day off but we would enjoy doing it as all the horses are so pleased to see you. We also needed to let the dogs out and turn out Trigger and Rocky. We were back at the cabin by 8am so plenty of time for a jug of coffee and cooked breakfast. We were ready to set off by 9.30ish although in no real rush but wanted to let Bailey know that we’d done no other feeding as couldn’t remember who received which grain or nuts. We were just considering leaving her a note when she rolled up bearing chocolate mini eggs and pepsi slushies, what a star. We chatted for sometime before finally departing and wending our way through town to Sulphur Gates. This is the confluence of the wide, meandering Smokey River and the narrow, gorge inhabiting Sulphur River. Hopefully you can even make out the different coloured waters as they merge.
We embarked on a beautiful walk to Eaton Falls. The path took us up hill and down dale through benign looking deciduous woods, wild flowers blooming at the side of the track, some looking quite familiar, some not so. Wild sweet pea, honeysuckle and dog roses merged with orchids and Indian Paintbrush. Not the best photos I’m afraid. The whole route was awash with butterflies, one particular section Roger named butterfly alley as they were so numerous. Tiny ones, about a centimetre long, opted to buzz the ground, flying at ankle height, we really had to watch where we put our feet to ensure we didn’t step on any. Again, not great photos but they never seemed to land. This meant that we couldn’t keep an eye out for bears at the same time!
I was walking armed with my camera in one hand and bear spray in the other, but which to use first? No contest really. We had paid avid attention to the bear safety video in the tourism centre (where they seemed a little surprised to encounter international tourists). We were instructed on the difference between Grizzly and black bears. The latter are excellent tree climbers, in order to reach the honey store, so no escape there. We also learnt that your response is determined by whether it is a defensive or predatory attack! Yeah right, so a bear is coming at me, adrenalin is coursing through my veins, my mind is in blind panic and I’m meant to be able to objectively determine under what type of attack I am! If you think it is defensive and play dead but transpires to be predatory, you’re lunch!
There was no such information regarding cougar safety. The common knowledge hereabouts is that if you see a cougar then 50 will have seen you. They know when you’re coming so if one is there, you’re lunch. When we told Bailey where we were going she said that she thought it was closed as there had been 2 recent cougar attacks, on dogs. So no, Brandy wasn’t coming with us. She also said how upset a girl had been in a shop the previous day as a cougar had got into her stable and attacked her horse. Fortunately the horse kicked the stuffing out of it. So hopefully, the bear spray would work!!
My dilemma was which hand to carry it in as it had an emergency release. Should I carry it in my left so that I could release effectively but my aim be poor or in my right so that my aim was good but I may not be able to get the top off? Presumably the camera would be ditched by this time. This anxiety quickly dissipated as we enjoyed the beautiful walk in the warm but not sunny conditions. However, there was a perceptible drop in temperature as we entered the area of the waterfall and it chilled further beside the stream. On our return, the sun decided to make an appearance as we ambled back down to the Jeep. In the whole of the 2 hour walk we encountered one other couple, who, judging by their packs, had been camping. Hope they had their bear spray.
We took the dirt track road back the 8km towards the main road passing only a stoneworks when I yelled, as quietly as I could, to Roger to stop! Atop of a large pile of boulders by the entrance to the works stood a vixen with her 4 cubs. (you may need to zoom in to see them in the photo) We pulled up and spent an enchanting 20 mins watching the juvenile rough and tumble whilst a rather skinny mum kept one eye on them and the other on us. Eventually they disappeared amongst the boulders and we continued on our way. It had felt like a magical moment which mum had allowed us to observe, no doubt proud of her boisterous, beautiful offspring.
On return to the ranch Brenda was just finishing cooking a joint of beef on the BBQ accompanied by jacket potatoes cooked in the coals and side salad. We ate in the newly prepared kitchen tent as it was cloudy outside but this had cleared by the time we’d finished so we gathered around the unlit camp-fire chewing the fat with her, son Rory and daughter-in-law Tina with grandson Ryder riding roughshod over an inert Brandy. A lovely end to a great day.