What an unusual fall, so stormy, so cool and cloudy! So often, October is bright and warm. Today it begins to find its old self.
Our Black Bears, which are often not black, have been much in the news over the summer, breaking into homes in the Tahoe area. Here, it is not uncommon for a bear or three to wander through. Various adventures and misadventures have occurred; why, once a whole family of bears broke into our car, peed in it, and jumped on the roof, denting it. Another time, a bear found its way into our bathroom, entered the shower, and left a strangely indelible paw print on the white shower wall. It also scratched the bathroom door, which had swung shut behind it.
More typically, a bear will get its paws on a bag of garbage, and strew it across acres of hillside. Some years ago I built a sturdy garbage-bin, which has not yet been successfully broken open, although it bears the scars of their efforts. They have literally rolled this cumbersome and heavy plywood bin down the hill.
The other day, a most sad and horrible bear came by. It was almost coal black, and strangely leggy, which as I later realized, meant it was thin. Why thin? Because someone had shot it, and its lower jaw dangled low from a generous thread of flesh and ligament, flopping to this side and that, useless teeth jutting forward. It would not be chased away, which is quite unusual, for it had found no food here, and for a bear to stand its ground against a man wielding a shovel, a man throwing firewood at it, a man shouting at it, a man advancing against it, when said bear has found no food, well, in my experience, that means it is sick. This was my second such sick bear. The other, a few years back, a dusty golden color, bore no visible injuries.
I tried calling the CA Department of Fish and Game, but their line was busy for half an hour, and I gave up. The poor poor thing should be euthanized.
On a happier note, I was contacted by descendants of the Dunckhorst family, who own land down in Green Valley, on the North Fork American River, south of Dutch Flat. The land is the old Opel & Williams claim, patented in the 1870s, and includes Joe Steiner's Grave, and the Hotel Site. The East Branch of the Green Valley Trail passes through their property. Joe Steiner lived down there for many years, working their claim, and acting as their caretaker.
They called the place "Pine Shadows," and drew their water, bucket by bucket, from nearby "Crystal Springs." These springs are on a lost little patch of trail leading down to the Hotel Site from near the Dunckhorst cabin.
On the 7.5-minute USGS "Dutch Flat" quadrangle, a small black square immediately south of the "r" in the words "Green Valley" seems to mark the Dunckhorst cabin, now gone. A wildfire in the middle 1950s erased the cabin. The descendants have several old family photo albums, and sent me some pictures. The cabin was a small affair with a gable roof. Of most interest is a picture of their summer sleeping platform, raised about ten feet above the ground, labeled "The Roost." My other Green Valley friends, the Dentons, who spent summers there in the 1930s and 1940s, also had a raised sleeping platform, and also called it "The Roost." The Denton Roost was built by Joe Steiner himself.
The way the Dentons tell it, the summers were so hot one simply had to sleep outside, but the rattlesnakes were so fierce, and so pesky, and so determined to somehow, some way, enter one's very bed, one could not sleep on the ground, or even near the ground. Hence, The Roost.
The Dentons had mentioned the Dunckhorsts to me, specifically, I recall their story about a young Dunckhorst man who set the record for the fastest descent of the Green Valley Trail, back around 1940. He made the descent to the river in eighteen minutes!
Such is some news.