It’s been an exciting week here in Serenity Valley. A couple of days ago, my neighbor came by to tell me about some bear tracks he’d found about half a mile away from our respective camps. The tracks were very faint, but two of them were very close together making them look like “Big Foot” tracks. Bears have five toes, like humans, so the confusion isn’t entirely surprising. But this is the clearest evidence of bears in the area, though these are probably black bears, and my neighbor estimates them to weigh 200-300 pounds based on the size of the tracks, so I’m not terribly concerned.
Later in the day, I went on an ATV ride with my neighbor’s granddaughter through our “backyard”, also known as Lassen National Forest. I feel truly fortunate to have a 1700 square mile backyard, that’s literally a fence hop away. There’s a network of well maintained logging roads throughout the area, as well as narrower hunter’s trails, and a trail that follows the BNSF line that cuts through our section and through the national forest. We followed the BNSF line for a while to one of her favorite spots, then I saw a meadow in the distance, so we went to check that out. It turned out to be a rather large field, maybe a third of a mile long and a couple hundred yards wide, and completely treeless. We found a pond or a spring in the middle of it, which we predicted would be there based on the greenness of the grass. Near that, we found an old crumbling log structure of some sort, probably not a cabin but perhaps a corral or pen for livestock.
From there, we followed some dirt roads back towards our respective properties (my neighbors live in the same section, and have setup a trailer about 300 yards from my camp), by way of an interesting (and random) sand quarry, and the pond near my property, where we found interesting tracks (pictured above). These tracks were huge, but I’m not sure whether they’re dog prints (it’d have to be a giant dog) or mountain lions. (Check out this photo for an analysis).
I went into town one day with my neighbors too, and while on the county road leading into town, we saw smoke in the distance. It was still light colored and faint enough that we thought it was maybe a huge dust devil, but the smoke had turned darker in color by the time we reached town, and if that wasn’t clue enough, it was clear from the trucks driving out of the volunteer fire station in town that we were witnessing the first significant local forest fire of the season. The smoke continued to grow larger and thicker while we were in town, and apparently the fire had grown to 140 acres in a matter of an hour. We could see fire fighting planes and helicopters with buckets slung underneath them circling around and through the smoke. Fortunately, they evidently got the fire under control, though I don’t know what the total burnt area was at the end. And the sign at the local ranger station only said fire risk was “moderate”… (The ranger I talked to today said they thought it might’ve been a sleeper from lightning that struck last week, that suddenly flared up.)
While in town, we also heard the big news of the day: a local boy had been killed in Afghanistan. I’m sure losses like that hit harder in small communities like these, where everybody knows everybody else. I also wondered whether people here reflected on the fact that their boy ostensibly died fighting “terrorists” who would never possibly strike rural communities like these1.
Other than that, life’s been pretty chill. I’ve given up on trying to do much work, and have been relaxing. In some sense, I think it’s an accomplishment that I’ve gotten my property to a level of comfort where I actually can just relax all day. Between sleeping in the tent, and the fully enclosed hammock I got, the bugs haven’t been too much of a nuisance either.
1 – I might mention, though, that during WW2 the Japanese hatched a plan to bomb and shell the Pacific North West, to start massive forest fires. They did manage to send bombs on hot air balloons that did reach the US homeland, and a submarine also managed to lob some shells at the Oregon coast, but they didn’t do much damage. Though, if done right from the actual interior of the country, a similar plot could do quite a bit of damage….