Someone had made a small camp at the broad junction of the Mother Lode and Pansy Lake Trails. We happened upon this spot late around mid-day, after summiting to the Bull of the Woods watch tower. We sat in the place where someone had obviously pitched a tent, and we ate our lunch of tortillas and cheese and sausages and almond butter. We noticed a thin stream of smoke rising from the dust of the trail. Whoever had camped there had buried their fire while the embers were still hot; I was worried it might burn slowly down into the roots of the old- and second-growth trees around us. We dug up the remains of the campfire and spread them around until they were cold.
A month and a half later, on Labor Day weekend, the Beachie Creek fire tore up the southward edge of the Bull of the Woods wilderness, along the beautiful Santiam River. Trapped in our house by the smoke outside, I obsessively refreshed the incident website, mentally marking the course of that trip — would this spot we loved be spared? By a narrow miracle, it was.
That trip last summer, before the fires, to the Bull of the Woods Wilderness, unexpectedly became one of our favorite backpacking trips. It wasn’t the easiest, and it wasn’t the most beautiful, but this is maybe why it was one of our favorites.