July 12 (1987, 2006)
Bears and Butterflies

7/12/87 [...]

At sunset, walked through the meadow, gleaning thimbleberries, enjoying the billowing golden clouds over the Sierra crest [...]

[Russell Towle's journal]

Bears and Butterflies
[North Fork Trails blogpost, July 12, 2006:
http://northforktrails.blogspot.com/2006/07/bears-and-butterflies.html ]
First, a reminder that the work party to restore damaged sections of the Big Granite Trail, is scheduled for this Saturday the 15th, meeting at the Yuba Gap exit on I-80(south side) at 9:00 a.m., carpooling from there. Ron Gould is in charge of the project, and he wrote:

"This trail work is being done under the Forest Service’s Adopt-a-Trail program. At the trailhead we will have a sign up sheet, go over some safety issues and the trail work we will be doing. For the work we will be doing we need to wear long pants, long sleeved shirts, boots and gloves. We will also need to have signed parental or guardian consent for each individual under 18 years of age."

Second, I joined Catherine O'Riley for a visit to the damaged trail yesterday, which begins up around 6600' and reached Four Horse Flat at about 6000', on its way south to the North Fork American at 3000'. All the work will be at Four Horse Flat and above. Catherine wanted a preview. So we toured the trail, taking time to visit an interesting promontory of Sailor Canyon Formation metasandstone and slate along the way. This resistant set of strata seems identical to that making the rough spur ridges dropping into Big Granite Canyon from Cherry Point. The place was swarming with flowers.

We lunched late down in Four Horse, a meadowy area dotted with tall aspens and firs, where the Cherry Point and Big Granite trails actually meet. Since these trails have not been maintained by the Forest Service, the sign is missing, but the 4X4 post at the junction still maintains a forlorn vigil; for the laughing backpackers are gone, the trails, ruined by logging.

Well, we're going to set one trail right on Saturday.

There were small oceans of Pussy Paws where we lunched, with clouds of butterflies of many types and colors flitting from flower to flower.

We decided to follow the "old" alignment of the BGT south along the west (right) bank of Little Granite Creek. (The "new" alignment crosses Little Granite creek to the east side at the west end of Four Horse). This is quite a nice old trail. We saw signs that someone else has also been working to keep it open, recently.

In about a mile one drops a thousand feet and passes from the heavy timber of Four Horse into a modest and more open forest of Kellogg's Black Oak and Incense Cedar. The trail becomes a little problematic and we missed a switchback somewhere, crossing Little Granite a hundred yards or so below the true crossing.

I thrashed up through a patch of dense forest and found the eastside trail. Were we below or above the true (lower) crossing? As Catherine climbed the last few steps to me, I saw a somewhat brindled bear fifty yards down the trail, running away from us. It was a kind of grey-grizzled brown in color. We ventured south down the trail after the bear, and I heard a bit of crashing around below us, and wondered whether it was our bear.

We sat and rested. The sun was lowering in the west, and the shadow of the Sugar Pine Point ridge was about to engulf us. After five or ten minutes, I saw a spot of dark brown twenty feet up in a Douglas Fir just below the trail, and a moment later a tiny bear peered around at us, and rapidly descended the trunk. It loped away into the woods below.

That meant that the bear we'd scared off the trail, the brindled bear, was the mother. She could not be far, and we were interfering with at least one of her children. So we snatched everything up and marched quickly up the trail and well away from the bears, before actually pausing to put our packs on.

We made a slow slog of the climb up to Four Horse, enlivened by the buzzing of a rattlesnsake we forced off the trail. We found many trees down across the "new" trail in this reach. Clearly there is an opportunity for more work parties.

It was nearing sunset when we finally reached Catherine's truck, and we felt it had been a fine day, what with all the flowers, the slate promontory, the bears, and the rattlesnake.

Hope to see you on Saturday!

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