Pick-up Dogs How Two Rescue Dogs Save the West from Being Won

Mushroom hunting with dogs in the October light

In a place marked by mazes of logging roads I had to try every one, so the dogs and I went up a new spur off the 38, a dirt National Forest road hidden off Mosquito Lake Road that brings you pretty close to the Twin Sisters, two masses of dolomite and small glaciers. We have wandered spurs off every logging road that connects to the 38 in search of adventure. There’s always a new place to explore, one that can give a broader vista of the surrounding territory, a network of logging stands and overwhelming volcanoes. Now that it is October, splintering light flickered in between the trees, golden brown and green.

I wanted to cross Ridley Creek to head up in the highlands around the Mazama area, a path that would lead me to certain glory and amazing views of glaciated peaks and unprecedented vistas. But alas, the 38 was blocked by a log in the path.




It would have been easy to go under it, but I was worried about scraping the top of the cab of Tommy the Truck, so I went to look for the only spur in that area that I have not been up. (Later in the day, we saw another truck about the size of Tommy that easily made it under the log. Obviously, tracks led under the log and I should have just followed them. But my paranoia snuck in. What if the top of Tommy’s cab hit one the scaly bottom of this tree?)

The other spur led us up almost at a 40 degree angle. Tommy was cranking hard, wheels digging into a rocky surface that was hard to call a road.

Lu was wound up, tight like a rubber band ready to snap. She hadn’t had a mountain adventure for a few days, and her wild wolf spirit was just itching to get out and explore. She bowled out of the truck when I opened the door after we stopped at a small ravine. The logging road widened here and the charcoaled remains of a campfire lingered. I parked. The red foliage was exploding with the Twin Sisters in the background.


 The Sisters are a pair of mountains almost forgotten by recreationists, but the mining and logging operations in the area haven’t forgotten about them. Massive mining bulldozers were kicking up dust on the southern flank of the South Twin. The various growth levels of trees around—from old growth to clearcut to second and third growth and everything in between—were clear to view. The dogs and I walked up the spur to an impressive view of Mount Baker, the Black Buttes spitting out, icy and impassable.


I tried to get closer to Mt. Baker in Tommy by heading up other spurs that led from the first spur we were on. A promising butte off in the distance would have provided us with an amazing panorama of the volcano and seemed an easy drive away. I took Tommy up a spur headed in that direction. We drove over logs and wound through huge boulders in the path. Tommy dove into creek beds, spitting water all over us. Lu had the windows open. She’s a smart border collie mix who knows how to open the windows in the truck so she can stick her body out and suck in the forest air.

Finally we arrived at a dead end, littered by shotgun shells and empty beer cans.

I turned around and drove, my eyes peeled for animals or any trails—game, human, or otherwise. But mushrooms were calling us.

We found a nice bolete specimen, a slippery jack.






The dogs were interested and we paused by the toadstool patch.

The dogs were sweet and pensive in this mushroomic moment.







We kept pushing further. The light was exploding through the trees. There’s no excuse for not pushing the shutter speed on your camera to the limit in the attempt to capture the light of October, as I was trying to do with these ferns that I found in a patch off the road.






You see ferns all the time on the western side of the Northern Cascades, but somehow these ferns were just exploding with green energy in the October light.






Marcos hid in the shadows from the terrifying forest, the splintering light covered him.

We pressed on after this momentary pause for full-on sunlight ended.

Then I encountered this enormous specimen.






Massive beyond belief, my hand still smells of its richness.

The mushrooms kept calling us deeper into the forest.

We penetrated further. The forest’s darkness called us into its little portals, alleyways of firs that drew us deeper into its mysteries. Marcos was terrified.

A sound. A noise. It stirred his senses. Something had been here before and the dogs and I knew it. It was easy to know we weren’t alone. And that was why our senses were stirred.

Bones. From what? What beast left these behind? We pressed further to find ridiculous alien creatures hanging from trees. 






Veiny little vertebrae surrounded by mossy pieces bellowing.


We split. Running hard back to find the main path, we found ourselves in a tunnel of trees and light. 






Listen. What do you smell? 




We kept on keeping on through the tunnel of foliage, Marcos following me one paw in front of the other.






I scouted out some more mushrooms. The buddies came to check on me.


We kept our noses to the ground, pushing on.

We heard a strange noise. What beast could be following us? 



We stopped to survey the scene.  All around us the sound of fear penetrated our souls. It was frightening. It was a maze of images that blew Mar away.

 We were terrified. Finally, we spotted the truck and Marcos followed me happily, trotting in a victory run, knowing that we had cheated death again.



Surviving adventures with Lu is not for the faint of heart. But we still had a significant course of adventure left to traverse.




The drive back, with mushroom identification book up on the dash, always is Lu’s favorite part of the day. 




With total seriousness, she acts as my co-pilot, scouting the road, ready to bark at any animals, real or imagined, that might cross our path. 




We ride on through the forest. My dashboard covered in a thick mucous of forest detritus from previous adventures. My blood and the dog’s blood, along with squashed mosquitoes linger on the inside portion of the window-shield. The outer portion overwhelmed with many coats of the muddy streams that Tommy has forded.

Lu’s seriousness outweighs everything on the planet. Her frilly hair covered in souvenirs we took from the forest. Pine cones, fiddleheads off ferns, bark hanging from her tail, needles hanging off of her fur, her face marked in the rear-view mirror, we will make it home safely. 




We have to make it home safely. But first we need to head to the North Fork Beer Shrine for the world’s greatest pizza and beer.

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