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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Newly Updated Cluck Truck Adventures: Always and for Never

More pictures here!

You would think after traveling to and from Evergreen, Colorado to the San Juan Islands in Washington, by truck, with chickens, three times we would have it down; and indeed, we had most of it down.  Particularly the new batch of chickens who proved to be fantastic travelers due mostly to their great early-life training (if I do say so myself.)  Nonetheless, we still managed to pick up one Never Again to offset our two Always Agains.

Our first day driving was short due to having to lock up our little log cabin and leave by ferry from Lopez Island so we planned a short 70 mile drive to Marble Creek Campground outside of Marblemount.  (Campground reviews can be found on  After our stressful days leading up to leaving, we decided to start the trip off right by staying two days; allowing one full day for hiking.  What a treat and our first Always Again.

We pulled in and I was desperate to get the chickens out of their travel crates.  I set about getting the roaming tent up (a 10x10 bug tent with an open floor for pecking and, apparently, taking dirt baths) while Alan secured Salt and the dogs. 

With seven chicks at six weeks old, we had them riding three in one dog crate (adapted for chickens of course with two perches at varying heights and lots of pine shavings on the ground) and four in another.  Even with such space, they were happy to get into the tent and fly around, chase bugs and, in the case of Dove and Ocean, hop on my back. 

In the morning we let them into the tent again until it was time to go hiking.  Then a quick “Chicken Chicken” call with pieces of corn on the cob brought them back into their travel cases.  Coming when called was a major part of their early training and now the “Chicken Chicken” call works much better than Opus’ “Come Opus”, “Now Opus”, or “Don’t you dare run the other way Opus.”  But I digress…

The host, Steve, mentioned a nice 5-mile hike along the river (FSR 1590) that we thought would be a great way to warm up our hiking legs and it was perfect.  It was the first time we left the chicks alone in the truck but it was a cool day with no sun and when we set off they were all roosting quietly—probably thrilled that the truck wasn’t moving.

Back at camp, the chicks tucked into their exercise tent, and we tucked into some gin.  Come nightfall, the ladies dutifully filed into one crate (all by themselves) leaving the second crate empty.  I thought this was a good idea as the nights were about to get cold and seven nestled on the perches seemed like a cozy start to camping.

Day three was a long, long, did I say long? LONG driving day and our only Never Again of the trip:  We stayed on Highway 20 through Winthrop then dropped down toward Spokane as quickly as we could.  But there was nothing quick about it.  And if I ever see the Grand Coulee Dam again I will vomit.  Just not a pretty part of Washington.  Slow and hot.  So Never Again will we take Highway 20 unless we plan on staying on it until Idaho.

Tired, hot (84 degrees and we do not have down like the poor chicks), in need of a dump site so we can shower (hopefully) and wanting to be settled to watch the presidential debate, we opted to stop earlier than planned.  I found Liberty Lake Campground, a Washington County Park that had a dump site and water at the pitches.  Serviceable is all I can say.  That, and thankfully we were the only camper that night as it was basically an RV parking lot.  Even the lake at that end of the road was dried up.  But we managed to shower and get a bit of reception (the old fashioned way with an antennae) to watch the debate.  Mission Accomplished (every pun intended.)

The next day we took off down I-90, one of the prettiest Interstate drives.   You can go fast and still enjoy scenery; exactly what we needed after the previous day. 

We hopped off I-90 and headed down Montana 359 to 287 (love this drive!) and camped for two nights at Harrison Lake—utilizing our Always Again, again.  I was really looking forward to the following days' hike but before that, fishing!

After about four casts into the lake, I landed a huge something.  It flopped around and bent my pole nearly in half before my line snapped and he took off with my favorite lure.  Never caught another.  Alan too had one on the line the following day and his line snapped.  I guess it’s time to get better line!

Speaking of the following day, I threw together some bread and we left it to rise as we headed out to hike.  It was a hot day so after the chickens went into their crates, I loaded them into Salt so they could enjoy the shade and fans. 

We hiked up North Willow Creek Trail just outside of Pony.  A really nice trail, particularly after 1.75 miles where it narrows a bit.  I would say the 10-mile round trip to Hollow Top Lake is quiet do-able but not when you are as out of shape as we are; we opted out after four as we were pooped and I was worried about the chicks.

Back at Salt, we baked the bread, released the chickens into their exercise tent, watched as the sunset changed the color of the distant mountains and noticed a hunter in the brush going after quail (we think.)  So not quite as peaceful an ending as we were hoping.  On the plus side, at least he didn’t shoot at the chickens.

We got an early start the next morning as the day would involve driving through Yellowstone and in our experience, you can never give this stretch enough time.  But our tanks were in need of freshening so we stopped at the Ennis RV Village.  This lovely spot (for an RV park) had me invent the “full hook-up lunch break” which will become an Always Again but doesn't classify as one at this point; we didn’t stop for the full hook-up, merely a dump and run.  We hardly spend money on campsites so spending $40-$60 for a few hours of cleaning out during the middle of the day seems like money (and time) well spent.  No one says you have to stay the night!  Anyway, back on the road…

As luck would have it, we sailed through Yellowstone in record time; hardly any traffic on a rainy Thursday in late September.  Popped out the other end and turned up my second favorite highway in the area, Highway 26 toward Dubois.

As Friday was my birthday and I wanted to hike for the Big Day, we stopped for two nights at Falls Campground which was officially closed for the season but the Forest Service (thoughtfully) leaves the gates open until snowfall.  There were no facilities and no trash service, but also very few people.  (Friday evening it picked up a lot with hunters coming in for the weekend.)

We enjoyed our first thunder and lightning storm in a long time on Thursday night (Opus and the Ladies were unimpressed, River huddled near the bathroom) and Alan took advantage of being inside to bake my birthday cake.  Normally he does a pineapple upside down cake from scratch (yes scratch!) but due to being in Salt we thought an old-fashioned boxed one would be ok.  Everything tastes better in Salt anyway.  But although it was delicious, it wasn’t close to the scratch one.  Being the great guy he is, he will make me another.  But baking the cake the night before gave me my second “Always Again”: Birthday Breakfast Cake.  Oh yeah, great way to start (and end) the day.

We tried to hike a trail in the Teton Wilderness that starts at Brooks Lake and goes up the valley to Upper Brooks Lake but after two miles we gave up; the mud was so thick it was coating our boots and clinging to the sides so that eventually we had to walk with our feet wider than normal.  Sticky, awful stuff.  But a lovely sunny day at a gorgeous lake and creek as the pictures can attest (the picture at the top of the post is of the creek coming into Brooks Lake.)

Unbelievably, the next day we drove almost 500 miles and made it all the way home to Evergreen.  Let me just say, if you are going to be gone for six months and want house sitters, make sure they are German.  The house was spotless, the yard delightful and, best of all, the chicken coop was stocked with fresh straw and shavings—not that the ladies appreciated it right away.

You see, we bought them as chicks while on Lopez Island so their life to date had first been the brooder box, then a small 4x4 enclosure for the daylight hours outside before filing into their travel crate for the night and sleeping out in the truck.  This is what they thought life was like.  So when I put them into their 8x10 Safe Zone with access to their coop, they ran around, flapped their wings (particularly after the grueling 500 mile day) but refused to go into the coop at night; they crowded into a corner of the run waiting for their travel crate to appear.  Eventually, I went out and picked them up one by one and placed them inside the coop.

The next night they managed it on their own.  They know a good thing when they see it.