There were a handful of folks that I’d see every season. It was one of the greater pleasures of rangering, forming genuine friendships with amazing people (who I referred to as “my best customers”). Old Rod Davis was one of the most colorful. He always traveled alone but in the presence of a small herd of…pack goats! They actually had tiny little pack-saddles, quarter-scale versions of what goes on the back of a horse or mule. They’d carry all his stuff and were boon companions as well. (And when he’d come with the grandkids, a couple of the she-goats provided the childrens’ milk as well.) Rod, who owned property near Nevada City, lived there with his son’s family and a bunch of animals. He was a real character—a depression era relict with stories of being a cowboy in the Dakotas when he was a teen…a small, wiry man, hard of hearing, who usually wore a bandana stuffed under a crumpled hat (to keep the sun off his ears), jeans, and plaid shirt. He liked climbing mountains, was always off to attempt some peak he hadn’t yet been up. But this was just Rod’s excuse to wander in the woods. I always enjoyed seeing him, loved the goats—very intelligent animals who followed like dogs. The packers, however, couldn’t stand him—goats terrify pack strings and can cause all sorts of havoc. (Horses and mules see goats as some kind of space aliens.) Then, later, I’d hear from the packers about some wreck that happened while the old man just stood there watching, ignoring their pleas to ”GET YOUR *&%#√$@ GOATS OFF THE TRAIL!” He seemed utterly clueless about this and I’d admonish him: “Rod! Whenever you see horses coming, PLEASE get off the trail, take ‘em into the woods ‘til after they pass.” It wasn’t just the pack station folk who suffered; the same thing happened with me—more than once. (I’d scream, too…and to no avail.)
30 Aug (Tue) An “unusual” day, even for this ranger; when I was riding out yesterday I ran into Rod Davis (third time this season), back with his lovely daughter-in-law, three grandkids, dog, and seven pack-goats. This same bunch was up about six weeks ago. Then Rod returned with just the dog and two goats to climb Forsyth Peak [on the Yosemite Park/Toiyabe Forest boundary] but he didn’t make it and was up to try again. They were—all 42 legs of ‘em—going up to Helen Lake and he was going to try for the summit again. I casually commented that I might come up to visit and, after thinking about it more, thought it’d be neat to go up Forsyth with this motley bunch. My alarm got me up at five this morning and it still sounded like a good idea. ◦◦◦◦◦ So I left at 8:30 and just 100 minutes later parked Redtop right above Cora Lake. Slipped into the nearest phone booth and changed from chaps–Stetson–green pants–lace-up packer boots–spurs into nylon shorts–ball cap–Asolos [hiking boots]. Walked up to Helen but saw no one. Backtracked and searched all around, listening hard, but heard neither chattering children nor bleating goats. Oh well. I gave up on them, disappointed, and headed back toward Helen Lake. Cruising along the west shore I came around a rock bluff and saw a bunch of goats grazing. ◦◦◦◦◦ Minute or two later I was talking with Rod & Evie; they weren’t going up Forsyth today after all! Instead, they were all gonna walk to Dorothy Lake. But since I showed up, ready to go, they changed plans again and we left almost immediately for the original objective. (The two older grandkids elected to stay in camp.) Our party consisted of Rod (71), Evie (38), Will (7), Sharee the dog, and five goats (ages unknown). The goats were Johnny, Bobby, Highland, Silver, and Vulcan. This was surely the most unusual party ever assembled to make an assault on seldom-climbed Forsyth Peak. And undoubtedly the first ever ascent by goats. I was utterly charmed by each & every one of my compatriots. ◦◦◦◦◦ We slowly proceeded to the very headwaters of Cascade Creek, into a fine alpine vale with a lovely tarn I’d never been to. Stopped there for a snack & chat, goats asking for handouts. From there it was a talus-slog and I watched the nimble goats scramble through boulders and scree, often causing small landslides. After Evie gave Will a handful of M&Ms he turned into a tiny dynamo and surged ahead, chiding us adults for our slowness. An hour later we all gathered on the meager, flat summit for lunch and the goats raised clouds of dust while digging out shallow depressions to lie in. (A goat thing….) Fine views of many peaks that both Rod and I had climbed in years past. I introduced Will to the joys of trundling [rolling boulders off cliffs]. An eagle flew by to investigate the noise (I’d told them we’d see one) and I was very much impressed to see Will scrambling around on the edge of a significant precipice and not once did his ma or grandpa say things like, “Stay away from the edge, Will!” or “Be careful, Will!” Thought it was very cool of the grownups to just let a seven-year-old have a good time on a mountain-top; he was being as cautious as we were, after all. ◦◦◦◦◦ After an hour or so we departed, reversing our route. Vulcan was the slow party on the way down. Back to Helen at 5:30, Will chatting me up the whole way. ◦◦◦◦◦ Said my goodbyes and cruised back to Red, my bad ankle hurting. He’d been tied to that tree for over seven hours but hadn’t dug at all. Good boy, Red! Got back to the cabin at 7:30 after a truly memorable day. Wrote in this log ‘til it was too dark to see, took a bath in the shriveled river and built a fire. The milky way was blazing. And, by the way: this morning in the dark I saw Sirius (first time this year) just risen over the ridge and there was the “winter triangle” of Betelgeuse, Sirius, and Procyon. A lovely sight. Autumn cometh.
→ 9 visitors → 13½ miles
Quotes copied on the inside cover of this volume of The Piute Log:
We must keep our amazement, or own eagerness alive. And if we ever fail in our quest for insight, it is not because it cannot be found, but because we do not know how to live, or how to be aware of the minds narcissistic tendency, which cuts thought off at its roots.
Abraham Joshua Heschel
Some folks sleep on a problem but you can camp on one as well. Camping is for the mind what a high-speed run on the highway is for a car. It tends to blow out all the sludge that accumulates in the type of urban driving most of us are forced to do in order to earn a living.
Tim Cahill, “Cosmic Camping”
© 2015 Tim Forsell 21 Dec 2015