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It was a (miraculously) sunny, fast and fun couple of weeks on Orcas Island and we weren’t sure we ever wanted to leave. Then the weather turned back into Northwest Gloom, a hawk attacked Louise, Rosco’s nose started bleeding and River fell into a depression. So it was with nine happy hearts that we all packed up, jumped on the ferry and headed back to Colorado.
Let’s start with all the drama: Before we had the chicken coop erected, The Ladies were hanging out in their travel tent when a hawk zoomed down from the sky, talons out, and attempted to grab Louise through the netting. Louise has not laid an egg since and, in expected solidarity, neither has Thelma.
Rosco, poor guy, had two long pieces of grass stuck up his nasal passage for days, causing an infection and a bout of bloody sneezing the likes of which I never need to see again. Late one night he was sneezing so fiercely we had to hold one of his diaper sleeping pads in front of his face for a good ten minutes after which it looked like a Pollock painting.
The following day yielded a quick trip to the vet where, while waiting in the exam room, Alan noticed something hanging from Rosco’s nose, he gently began pulling it out and it just kept coming: At least 6” of bloody grass. Once the first one was out, Rosco sneezed out the second blade so the vet walked in to find two bloody lengths of grass, a mess of blood on the floor and more dripping from Rosco’s nose. But mystery solved. I am happy to report Rosco is feeling fantastic now.
As you will see in the pictures we managed to get the Gypsy Chicks coop erected, thanks to Alan and the folks at Urban Coop Company. Amazing service from that company and they send everything you need except for a screwdriver and hammer. I thought it would take two weeks, Alan thought two hours, it turned out to be two days. The Ladies, however, never quite felt right on the island. First the hawk attack, then eagles would soar overhead almost constantly waiting for their chance for a chicken dinner. Dom could be heard quite often emitting a throaty growl alerting all chickens to take cover.
So when the drama hit the sky in the form of sunless days, we hit the road.
Already being in northern Washington, we decided to start our drive over the North Cascade Highway (Highway 20 is closed in winter but opened this year in early April.) I had forgotten how beautiful that drive is although I disagree with their characterization of it being the “Alps of America”. It in no way resembles the Alps but is a gorgeous drive in its own right.
We spent our first night in Alta Lake Campground, a Washington State Park on the other side of the mountains. A fire had ripped through the campground last year so it was quite barren of trees, but due to all the spring rain, green sprouts were emerging, making it appealing. The chickens went into their travel tent and we went fishing. Alan caught two trout and we enjoyed them for dinner.
The next night we made it to Fish Creek, Montana, about two hours east of Couer D’Alene, Idaho, on I-80. I had read about the area and the abundance of dispersed camping options and we were thrilled to find it absolutely true. More details on how to find the spots can be found here.
Our spot had so much space around it we decided to let the chickens out of their travel tent for some real free-ranging. What a blast! They ran around and ate a ton of bugs and only occasionally ended up inches from River or Rosco’s teeth.
I worried about how to get them back but one of the greatest things about chickens is that they like to go to bed. So as darkness began to fall, they easily returned to their tent and then we helped them into their travel cages for the night.
Our third night was spent five miles down a dirt road at the Cliff Lake Campground off the beautiful Highway 287 in Montana. (Next to Wade Lake.) It was a long, slow, dusty five miles but it paid huge dividends in that we were completely alone. (There are only seven campsites anyway but it was still nice to be all alone.) What wasn’t so nice was the howling winds which made it difficult to put up the chicken tent. But we muscled it up and pinned it down and set The Ladies inside. They hated it. With the wind blowing so hard, they just wanted out. But we wanted to fish and the dogs were running free so I made them tough it out.
Until I heard Alan call, “Chicken loose!”
I ran from the lake back up to the tent to see that JJ had gotten out and was hiding under the truck. Thankfully, River and Rosco were completely unaware. Good thing it was JJ; she is the only one that will come when called. And so I did and she did and I picked her up and listened to her griping about the wind as I put her back into the tent. (Yes, chickens have a lot to say.)
Day four on the road was Rookie Mistakes Day—two Rookie Mistakes in one day.
We headed into West Yellowstone to get some gas and then entered the park with the intention of scooting around the western edge and out the southern entrance as quickly as possible.
Hello? When doing my route planning did I even check whether Yellowstone was open? No. It was open but the only way out was the way we came in or exiting even further to the north. We turned around and promptly created our now favorite saying, “If you aren’t going to be smart, you better be adaptable.”
So adapt we did: Unfortunately, we had had so much fun with our short drive days and long fishing afternoons that we still had over 800 miles to go and only two days in which to do it. So we opted for a long highway drive-day. It started out nicely on Highway 20 in Idaho through the Targhee National Forest, a spot at which we will stop next time, but ended with hours and hours (and hours and hours) along Interstate 15 south through Utah.
Not long after Salt Lake City we jumped on Highway 6, found our way to Scofield State Park, hooked up to water (hot showers!) and power (electric tea kettle!) and promptly made our second Rookie Mistake: We left the hose attached all night and the weather dropped below freezing. How easy it is to forget the small stuff! Thankfully the sun rose to shine on our hose and after about an hour we were back to flowing water. (Equally thankfully Salt didn’t burst any pipes.) The Ladies enjoyed extra time free-ranging around the (again empty) campground.
And so we made it to I-70, home so close we could taste the martinis. But it was a long haul; we got stuck in construction traffic for over an hour, had temperatures up to 81 degrees and down to 39 degrees (with snow!), and totally pissed off dogs and chickens who had spent two long days in the car. We pulled into our sweet spot in Evergreen around 5:30 p.m., after eight hours in the car.
The Noses hopped out, we carried The Ladies’ travel cages to their Country Club and set them free. They had a good two hours of running around their quarter acre yard before climbing their familiar ladder and putting themselves to bed.
PS: Sadly, Thelma and Louise are still not laying. The most consistently laying chicken turned out to be Goldie Hen who, as I first posited, enjoyed the privacy and peck-free environment of her travel cage. Dom and JJ are close to back on track.