The Bobcat Story
Once when hiking in Lopez Canyon in San Diego, I faced off with a bobcat. I was on a winding, brushy trail, about to reach a dirt road, when I came around a bush and was about 8 feet from a bobcat. He didn't move and neither did I, we stared each others down. Moments dragged on as I considered my options. I didn't want to turn around and hike away, I would have been showing my fear, and perhaps worse, my back. Waiting around wasn't producing any results. I decided to walk straight at the cat and see what happened. A couple of steps closed half the distance, and the cat turned around and sauntered down the trail and across the road into some 2 foot high grass. Maintaining a confident stride, I turned up the road, and watched over my shoulder. The cat stayed still in the grass, I could see his head. I walked on, and when I returned home, the bobcat was not to be found where I had left him.
The Coyote Story
On a Christmas sea kayak trip to Magdalena Bay in Baja California, I and a party of about 8 camped on the barrier islands protecting the bay from the pounding Pacific Ocean. I usually camp a little away from any big group, so I chose a spot between two sand dunes about 100 feet from the main camp. Also as usual, I slept in a sleeping bag with no tent. As dusk came on and I laid in my bag, some coyotes came around to check the camp. They first watched me from a couple of dunes over, then the closest dune, then started to come right up and check me out. This I met with swipes. I never managed to hit one, and after a few minutes they were no longer afraid of being slapped. The islands are made entirely of fine, almost dusty sand, there wasn't a rock to throw within miles. So I went down to the kayaks and brought up an armload of canned food. This ammo was quite effective, after several accurate throws, they left me alone for a while. But as I was drifting off to sleep, I felt one come up and bite through my hair. I could actually feel his teeth slide against my scalp, and then comb through my hair as I chased him away with an automatic swipe. I moved my bag down among the tents of the others and stayed awake for a while. They did not come back, and the rest of the night was uneventful.
The Bear Story
In the summer of 1980, I was 15 and had just finished my freshman year of high school. My dad and I joined a group of about a dozen guys in a weeks hike from Tuolumne Meadows down to the Yosemite Valley. On the very first night, a mother bear and two cubs came to visit our camp. Although we had hung our food to the best standards of the day (Counterbalanced on a high skinny branch way out from the base of the tree), they got our food down by sending a cub out on the branch. Bears can climb amazingly well. One swipe of a paw was enough to slice the rope and send our food crashing down. We watched as they ate our food, tearing open packages and tossing food everywhere. We had all kinds of discussions. Should we shoot the mother bear? Probably not, if we didn't kill her, she would be really mad. Could we scare them away? Probably not, we were all standing there talking and watching them eat our food, and they didn't seem the least bit concerned. I guess we eventually got bored and tired and went back to bed. In the morning, we surveyed the mess and inventoried what food we could still use. I suppose since we were only an afternoon's walk in, we could have gone and gotten more food, but we decided that if we ate small meals and no snacks, we could make the trip without interruption. It was early in the season, and we climbed over lots of snow banks, and had to wait till morning to cross a couple of snowmelt swollen streams. It was a nice trip. The day we finished we went to an all you can eat joint in Mammoth Lakes, and did our best to make up for a lean diet on a weeks hike.
In the early 90's I visited my sister in Guam. One interesting thing we did was visit an ancient village site. Most foundation stones were just tumbled down in heaps, but a few houses had been rebuilt to various stages to show how they worked. You can see from the photo that they were elevated, this kept moisture and critters in check. I also tried to start a fire by friction there. The local method was to sit down, holding a 2x4 sized stick between your thighs. Then you would take a pencil sized stick in your hands and push it forward and back with lots of pressure and speed in a groove in the stick between your thighs. Eventually, at the knee end of the groove, wood dust should pile and heat up and become glowing embers. Now, you would transfer the embers to a dried and shredded coconut husk, and blow on it to get flames. I got as far as getting the glowing embers onto the husk, but it went out while I was blowing. My arms were too tired to start over.
While we were there we went to Terague Beach. It was a beautiful day. We went out to toss the football in the water. Then, the guys started to swim. I tried to stop them, as there were powerful currents, but to no avail. Soon the currents swept us onto a barrier reef. Breakers smashed and swept us toward the shore, and the returning water swept us away, back and forth across the razor sharp reef. I tried to talk Larry across the reef: Ride the waves toward the shore and hold on with all your might to any razor sharp thing you can grab during the back wash. And we made pretty good progress towards shore, in spite of losing grip occasionally. When you lost grip, you had no control whatever, the water pushed you where ever it was going. And often, you went through tunnels under the reef, lined with razor sharp coral. If you were lucky, the tunnels were large enough to pass through. You would then come to the surface and you could breathe again. At one point, I was almost to the inside of the reef, and I discovered that I had lost Larry. I turned, and saw him almost on the ocean side of the reef. I continued in and struggled through the powerful currents in the lagoon, finally making it to shore. Later Jamie also made it in. Early rescue attempts for the 2 remaining in the water were fruitless until someone thought of calling the Navy rescue helicopter. The helicopter found Danny, swept out to sea and treading water. Then they found Larry, who had drowned. We spent a good bit of time in the hospital that afternoon. I had coral scratches all over my body and my fingers were absolutely shredded where I had been holding for dear life onto the razor sharp coral. So I scrubbed myself with Povidone Iodine and Mercurichrome for a long, long time, and went on antibiotics for a while. Larry's big plan was to get out of the Navy and take good care of his daughter. He missed it by just a few weeks.Valley of the Moon, Recently Burned in the Cedar Fire
|In late 2003, My friend Jim and I went hiking in the Valley of the Moon, well east of San Diego on the Mexican border. There had recently been a brush fire. Here are a few pictures.|
The Howitzer Round Story
Once, while hiking in Mission Trails Park in San Diego, I found this 155mm Howitzer projectile. If it were live, it would be filled with explosives and have a nose cap, but this was just a dead piece of steel. Still, I had to spend most of the next day with the fire department removing it. Mission Trails Park and the adjacent Tierrasanta neighborhood were both part of Camp Elliot during World War II. Many thousands of Marines practiced in Camp Elliot for the last time before shipping across to battles in the Pacific. They did as much live fire training as they could, and so old munitions are found there on a regular basis. I used to find all kinds of military leftovers, brass from up to .50 caliber rounds, ration tins, and other stuff. And several times that I saw, crews would come and remove brush from acres of land and use metal detectors to find buried munitions. Mission Trails Park also has a dam constructed to supply water to the old Spanish Missions in Mission Valley, and if you know where to look, you can still find the old flume, lined with clay tiles and ready to carry water once again.