I may not have mentioned it here before but sometimes I call Mr. Mudlips, Mr. Map. He’s like a walking, talking world atlas. He knows more about place geography than just about anyone I know. He can answer questions about the rivers, lakes, mountains, and cities, of far away places he’s never been.
This works out quite well for me as I know I’ll have no difficulty finding the cool secrets a place has to offer if Mr. Mudlips has even done so much as think about that place before. So, when it comes to places he’s been, and especially places he’s lived (no matter how long ago) saying he knows that place well would be a gross understatement.
Mr. Mudlips grew up as a Fish Hatchery brat. That’s like an army brat but his dad worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, not the Army. He spent a few formative years in the woods north of Portland; in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest (or The GP as I like to call it). The GP is one of the closest national forests to our current home so when the woods tug on me, that’s often where I go. I thought I’d been to all of the cool secret places in The GP: the trails, the huckleberry fields, the viewpoints, and springs, thanks to Mr. Map’s guide service.
One of the first places Mr. Mudlips took me when we met was a place called Government Mineral Springs. He used to ride his bike here as a kid and was anxious for me to see the place with its big old cottonwoods and get some water from the spring. He didn’t warn me of the effervescent, mineral-sulphur taste of the water coming forth from the Iron Mike Well (the name of the place should have been a clue, eh?). So, being parched from a taxing mountain bike ride I took a big gulp only to choke in surprise at the taste. Don’t get me wrong, that water is better than expensive imported stuff, I just wasn’t prepared for it! On our recent visit we filled every bottle we could to carry as much home as possible.
On that same recent foray , I learned I hadn’t seen all The GP has to offer. We pulled off the highway onto the shoulder into a gravelly spot barely big enough for our car. A rusty old rail crossed what used to be a road and a small marker denoted a trail. We’d pulled over here with the intention of visiting Tyee Springs. There’s no parking lot, no official signs directing you here. It would be very easy to miss, in fact on all of our previous trips past this spot I had no idea what was hidden in the woods; you have to know it’s here.
I’d heard all about the spring before. It provides the cool, clean water to the fish hatchery where Mr. Mudlips lived as a boy. I’d seen the water as it lolled into the hatchery but I’d never seen its source. It’s a natural spring and its consistent water temperature moderates the ambient temperatures in the surrounding forest and meadows, often keeping them free from frost and snow when everything else in the area is frozen and white. It’s also a haven for the local elk who can always find water and browse to satisfy their needs almost any time of year.
We followed the remnants of a trail until it petered-out, then bushwhacked a bit heading towards the promise of water. It is a lovely sight, the ponded water of Tyee Spring. It reflects the sky, trees, and light from above but it’s not like most Cascade mountain ponds. I can’t tell you exactly how, but I felt transported to a swamp in the south. If moss had been hanging from the branches, I would have doubted my presence in the Pacific Northwest.
A little more trail-breaking and we found our way to the head of the spring. The water gushes out at a fairly high rate; this is no sleepy bubbling spring: this baby flows! We spent a leisurely while exploring around the spring, saw some elk, peered into the clear water, watched the water as it channeled into a stream, left the idyllic pond in the woods, and headed towards the hatchery.
Eventually, we too emerged from the woods; but with me knowing I knew one more secret about the world thanks to my private tour guide.