Loon Lake up in the Sierras at 6,358′ altitude is across the “hilltop” from Lake Tahoe below (6,224′) and one of the destinations along the famous Rubicon Trail. I’m blessed to have like-minded and enthusiastic neighbors one of whom had heard there was big bucks up there, and invited me to hunt-along with him.
The plan was to leave at 5:00AM. I prepped the truck the night before stowing my long un-used camping cooking-gear in a Rubbermaid ActionPacker bin along with the tent and some (warm) clothing, an and threw EZ-Up and a collapsible table into the back of the Ford and cinched the tie-downs.
I got-up at 4:O’dark-freezing-30 on Friday, and showered (to warm-up, brrr!), then threw together the remaining ice-chest amenities: some frozen meatloaf, beer, milk, water, beer, Starbucks doubles-shots (the last coffee I would see for 24-hours – and grabbed the rifle…and that set me back a half hour. In a hurry I hopped in the F-150, keyed the ignition, and took-off up to Highway 50 heading-up to the turn-off at Ice House Road to hunt.
As I passed through the small community of Camino I opened up the cell phone to call (illegal here in CA, wrong to do it but I did it anyhow) and let him know I was just a half-hour behind and making-up time. As I bombed up the mountain in the dark I got a call and picked it up to find out his alarm had failed and he was the one behind me. For once! I stopped up in Pollock Pines to wait and meet-up, and imagining I was on a more relaxed camping-type expedition went in to Safeway and got: some salt-and-pepper, ground coffee for the little Italian espresso maker, a bag of chips – and fortunately, two ready-made sandwiches.
Up at loon Lake (and way out of cell-phone range) it was a gorgeous morning, and the sun came out to warm us up. We walked and glassed down a power-line road off the side of a high bluff. We went out to a drop-off and looked over the deep ravine 200-feet below and across the majestic mountains. On the top the wind swirled around, so we hiked back into cover and tramped across marshy high-alpine meadows covered in beautiful weathered lodgepole pine deadfall. We snuck between fallen trees and through stands of young evergreens. Every shiny broken tree branch looks like an antler, and each weathered gray stump looks like a doe bedded-down in the tall grass. We saw signs of bear everywhere and I felt a bit under-gunned with just a .243 but my neighbor was carrying a Winchester Model 70 in 7mm Magnum so I felt a little better – Plus I also had my P245 on my hip and two re-loads.
After seeing more bear poop and beat trails through the very congested underbrush, we beat a path around another rather large swampy “lake,” past bear-bushes and through densely woven thickets of manzanita and bear-berries, and made our way back to the truck. No does up here for the rutting bucks to chase and little deer sign. No rubs on trees and more coyote scat than deer prints. What we did see looked days or even weeks old, half-filled with pine needles and tree-duff.
So we headed down off the top-country to high-alpine country where there was a bit more cover and warmth. Van Vleck is a horse camp and there’s a Forest Service Bunkhouse and large meadows with plenty of cover and forage to hunt. So we went out and hunted.
Hunting is a lot like tramping through the woods looking at stumps and shadows with binoculars and enjoyin Nature while carrying a rifle. We hiked around for several miles in every direction and repeated the experience on the following morning until around midday when we called it a day. In the absence of deer we ensured our rifles were properly sighted-in on a stump, lasered at 180yds., and were rewarded with satisfying THWACKS with each shot. OK not our fault.
Deer are not stupid and it was freaking cold at night, as evidenced by a heavy layer of frost on the ice-chest in the morning. They probably all went down to lower and warmer elevations to frolic, eating all the fallen apples at Larsen’s Apple Farm, and rutting about in the land of plenty. There’s a whole bunch of them piled up in ditches by the road where they ended up after an automotive encounter.
The hunting thing isn’t shaping-up exactly as planned and we’re about a week out from closing the season. The guy I was supposed to connect-with just had a kid, and I’m sure besides very little sleep he’s got a lot of other things to do right now. Anyhow there’s always next year and I’ve got a ready-rifle. I rode the mighty KTM around yesterday after basically getting the garage back in order and that felt good, and discovered a hole I had forgotten about – and an acre-and-a-half of acorns.
So we got out there in the morning before the heat came up and raked-up half-buried sticks and clumps of stuff, found about ten more half-buried golf-balls.
The long lopers are worn down and just crushing branches and small limbs – I need to take a file to get the edge back. Also there’s still a half-a-hump to level-out, and a couple holes in the Prairie to fill-in.
The orange ground-color under the oaks is mainly acorns. And there’s a ton to put on the burn pile. Or maybe I’ll just let them lay there and see if the deer get ’em. Deer like acorns and there’s evidence of a few coming in and rubbing the small miniature pear tree out between the oaks. That is the fruit the pear produces is miniature, and as bad as the sticky plum-tree droppings.
Meanwhile the cows are out there and keeping company.
From the Paleo recipe book we prepped and marinated a small rack of lamb riblets for 24-hours. and then grilled-up a batch of the medallions – yum!!
I realize that in Nature (red in tooth and claw), all things find their balance and there is a hierarchy of who eats what and who is eaten by whom. The previous owners had a relaxed and laissez-faire attitude towards much of the outdoors and its’ creepy and feathery inhabitants. Too bad they adopted the Hippie, spider-friendly ethic – or maybe they were overwhelmed by the volume indicated. Maybe they didn’t recognize the terminal threat to their own children that existed with the “peaceful co-existence” and co-habitation with Spiders.
Out there in the thick prairie, in the Moeibus Loop of Life, there are mites feeding off bugs feeding off katydids feeding off…our eventually decaying corpses. And it happens whether we are shipped to a burning Ghat or a more efficient crematorium, or (especially) just wrapped in a cloth and laid six-feet under.
The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out,
The worms play pinochle on your scalp,
They eat your eyes, they eat your nose,
They eat the jelly between your toes.
A big green worm with rolling eyes
Crawls in your stomach and out your sides.
But in my admittedly vastly negative experience, there is no place in a HOME where I LIVE for an infestation of any kind of spiders. My extreme prejudiced for spiders is based n experience, and is akin to how I would respond to a thief creeping around in the house in the dark at night with a .357 magnum – with extreme prejudice.
Spiders are not the benign victims of anti-spider Media-frenzy, illegal-spider immigration, or a raaacist anti-Spiderphobia. Spiders in the wild are like rattlesnakes in the wild. You do with them as you please, and I’ll do with them as I please – Bang!
In this ranch-house on the primeval-vegetal Prairie, I have notice a few here and there, and some also inside. I’ve sprayed the house perimeter with the stuff that comes in a white jug from Homie-Despot or Costloco.
I have sprayed the thick nests and webs in the garage – and removed them physically. I chased a big fat hairy one from those nests as it darted quickly back and forth and tried to dodge the insatiable sucking maw of the ShopVac. And I missed. I stepped on one outside and saw a dozen teeny-tiny ones run in every direction. I think the host (Mom) was dead and they were feeding on/off it.
This may become a frequent war-effort, as I will NOT be bitten by a Brown Recluse again.
And tonight I was cleaning-up crumbs under the corner-cabinetry toe-kick, down on the3 floor by the sink, when the back of my hairy hand brushed a thick cobweb. So I proceeded to spray inside. The result will be as with a thief in the night, like the game of Clue – Mr. Spider/Thief was “stopped” in the Kitchen, by Mr. Sig Nitron-P220, in .45 – with the laser and hollow-points.
But I fear this is not yet game over.
We drove up int he rain to Pilot Hill and met our friend at The Hindquarter restaurant for lunch. Nobody else was there and it never opened, so we drove a few miles up to Cool and the craft brewpub – talking with the pub-staff we discovered that her (the server’s) husband had just played a gig at The Hindquarter – on its last night. They shut down last Saturday. After lunch we went back down the hill for a hike at the Cronan Ranch Trails.
Gradually the sun came out and temps shot up from the mid 60’s to the low 80’s. The dry grasses were burnt blond and still wet, and a musty smelling steam cam up from the sheaves. This dilapidated shack was a movie-set for a 2000’s era made-for-TV movie, “Love Comes Softly”. There were a couple other movies in the series.
We got down to the South Fork of the American River and skipped stones. Normally a lot of kayak-ers and river-rafters pull in here and have lunch, but it was Thursday and the river was quiet. The sky cleared and we knew that the rain must have helped the firefighters.
Some of the smaller Oak trees down by the river were thickly festooned with moss and lichen.
The walk was about a 4-mile round-trip and we saw nobody, only hoof-prints of horses and dogs and deer – and a bicycle tread. Hunting is allowed (smoothbore shotgun for deer) and there’s all kinds of tendentious wildlife besides rattlesnakes, including mountain lions, so I carried.