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Our Cinnamon Friend

Page history last edited by lmckeega@... 10 years, 3 months ago

Our Cinnamon Friend


Spicer Reservoir / Carson-Iceberg Wilderness July 20-23, 2000


DAY 1.       Thursday morning 6am we met Karen Valentino (00) and Lupe Perez (00) at the old Yardbirds/Sonoma Bagel parking lot, loaded up the s.u.v. with backpacks, then rolled on down the road. We ate a delicious lunch at the Bear Valley deli cafe and then continued down Hwy 4 to the Pacific Valley Campground. Once there, we opened the cattle gate and four-wheeled up the dirt road a bit before parking. It was mid-afternoon and warm when we started walking south on the Bull Run trail. We made camp at the base of Bull Run Peak.

After selecting a tent site, kicking away the cow patties, and refreshing ourselves nearby in the Pacific Valley Creek, I stretched out on a high, flat granite rock. Looking up the valley bowl, I noticed what appeared to be a brown tent by the creek in the middle; no, it was a brown log... no, it's moving. WOW --- it's a beautiful cininnamon-colored Black Bear
(Ursus americanus) . Yesiree maam, I sat up attentively. Okaaay, I want to share this experience with others so I hotfooted it back to camp "come quick" and we went back to watch from the rock. We were downwind, roughly 1000 yards away, and we watched as our host (hostess?) nosed around perhaps for food (rats, no binoculars), laid down against a rock, moved to a new spot, disappeared in the tall perennials and bushes to reappear nearby, our fascination mixed in various degrees with our apprehension. We decided to get to our business of dinner. Afterwards, we bearbagged any and all even remotely scented yummy things. During this time, we kept our 8 eyes on him/her; hours passed and he was pretty much doing the same bear things in the same bear spot. Never seemed to notice us or pay us any attention; must be a wild - not a park - bear. We went to bed. Most went to sleep. I thought more about the various piles I'd seen of black grassy scat.

In the middle of the night, Karen heard licking and scurrying movement. After the guest left, Karen got up (brave soul!) to discover her pack moved about 5 feet and several articles strewn about - but it wasn't the bear; this animal (raccoon?) was too light-footed over the decayed woodpile near her tent. We went back to sleep. Later, after another bout of unknown sounds, she got up sleeping bag in arm and invited herself into Lupe's tent. Safety in numbers.

DAY 2.       Friday, and all was well in the morning. We got our food down, ate breakfast, then packed up. Before we were ready, Jeff Pike (99) and Laura Draper (99) arrived in the camp. Soon we started the climb across the side of the bowl through the wildflowers to the base of Bull Run Peak. At the ridge we took a pack break and decided to "bag" the peak. With water bottles in hand, up we went across the loose scree, scattered plants, and windblown low growing trees. At one high point we stopped to take pictures and watch the smoke from a wildfire two canyons over drift across the sky. Most of us continued on, circling the peak like turkey vultures; however, the peak was not to be bagged this time. The angle increased and precarious clunky rocks and scree discouraged us. So we descended, stopping to roll melon and basketball-sized rocks over a cliff. The airborn rocks touched down, bouncing and rolling across the snow patch, then picking up speed and crashing into boulders and trees. How delightfully juvenile.

We ate a snack/early lunch by our packs then crossed the Carson-Iceberg boundary fence. We walked down, up and down some more with our toes crammed forward in boots and our knees starting to talk to us. Before the Spicer Meadow Reservoir, we sliced through a blackened charred mosaic section of last year's lightening strike forest fire. It seemed rather sad even though I know periodic fires rejuvenate a forest by reducing duff and undergrowth, plus stimulating germination in some plant species. Finally we came to a tributary for a pack break, water pump, little snack, and head dip ... aaahh, that's better. Refreshed, we moved on, turned left at the tip of the reservoir (not muddy this year, in fact, quite inviting), then started uphill parallel to Highland Creek to our next campsite.

We arrived at The Spot: next to Highland Creek near the confluence of Slaughter Canyon. A couple of years ago, Jenine Wilson, Mike Hardison, and Randy walked by This Exact Spot, vowing to return to stay. And here Randy was without them. Upon arrival, exhausted, we dropped our packs without hesitation and like cows to a barn, migrated to the creek. By "Our Spot" the creek gushed through and around clean granite, glided into an upper pool, then waterfalled into a deep pool perfect for swimming; it cascaded over boulders around and down swirling into little pools below and beyond... We brought our dusty clothes and rinsed them along with our bodies (with absolutely no soap of course - need I even mention it). Jeff caught and released 2 trout with his most awesome fly rod; I caught and released 1 fish with a waterlogged 5-inch stick ... uh huh, really. (Ok, I admit it was a "mort".) Later, after napping or lolling around the rest of the day, we sat around and cooked dinner. We took some more ibuprofen, then sat around some more. Finally we went to bed. It was
A Glorious Spot. DAY 3.       Saturday. We awoke early in morning, ate and packed. We looked around and said goodbye to the beautiful creek, checked our maps, then meandered down the trail again. A mellow "wook, to-wook" sound caught our attention while crossing a creek: Mountain Quail with offspring skittered under the bushes. The male has a long straight head plume compared to our more familiar California Quail with their curved top-notch feathers. We stopped for a pack break at the rustic cabin; a sign said it's used for administration of grazing allotments. No doubt, there are extra cow patties, horse dung, rutted dusty trails, muddied creek crossings, and flies on this trip.

We continued on, gradually climbing. The trees were tall, but we peered through the forest and kept our eyes out for Peep Sight Peak; Jeff and Randy confirmed the compass coordinates of our rendezvous site. Another hot and dusty walk; cranky, finally we dropped our packs and looked around for a relatively flat rock-free camp site. We hadn't even pulled out our tents when Michael Hardison (97), Deb Raushi (96), and Kyle Brunelle arrived in camp. Deb had rejuvenating homemade brownies to share. We rested and swapped a couple stories while we went about chores. Soon enough, we were all somewhere in or next to Weiser Creek. It was narrower and colder than Highland Creek, but that didn't prevent anyone from splashing, dipping, or getting body parts under the waterfall. Tall wildflowers grew along the edges and between some of the rocks.

Eventually we gathered around for dinner. We ate and as time passed the laughter seemed to increase with our tiredness. The Blackberry a definite hit as usual. We talked of bears and men in camaflouge outfits with gas masks jumping out of the forest onto the road in the pitch black night; we retold the KFC non-chicken and Taco Bell/Campbell fat sucking machine stories. Eventually we went to bed.

DAY 4.       Sunday morning, we were up and outta there relatively quickly. I think talk of lunch at the infamous Markleeville restaurant and bar motivated our actions. A little bit of an uphill, and then it was downhill all the way and in no time we were back to our cars at Pacific Valley Campground.

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