Beautiful country! Matt and I had a short “weekend” with just 3 days before I had to go back on duty. Since time was limited, we opted for a drive over our beloved Sierra Nevada range to the eastern slopes. We had remembered a place we wanted to return to, Buckeye Creek area outside Bridgeport, CA. An even shorter stay at the Forest Service Campground in 2012 had been worthy of returning for more exploration.
So excited to get back to the mountains and our adventures, we packed up OGRAVE and left early morning, July 5th. Our travel over the mountains was perfect, leaving the summer heat wave of the Valley behind. We arrived at Buckeye Campground in early afternoon, found the perfect place to set up camp, close enough to hear the creek all night, but far enough away from the few campers left. Excellent!
Hmmm, No Potable Water in the entire campground, and no posted reason? Good thing we had a full H2O tank and love boondocking. Yet, paying full price for a Forest Service Campground without any potable water seems silly. Thank goodness for the America the Beautiful Access Pass and a 50% discount. Oh well, we were not dismayed, the peace and quiet would be worth it.
The temperatures were warm, in the high 80s, but since home was breaching the 110 degree mark, 86 degrees seemed like heaven. We had a wonderfully relaxing afternoon, early evening dinner and then an evening stroll to the trailhead.
Now here’s where things got sketchy. We love to read the maps, learn the trail and what to expect of the terrain. We also love to follow the signs, cairns, blazes and paths when hiking or backpacking. Our evening scout trip revealed a single sign with an arrow pointing to the left that said “trail”. Wonder where all the other signs were that we had read about from previous hikers? Maybe the harsh winter had displaced the signs? We are sure that the Forest Service will have other trail markings ahead to mark the path appropriately.
We started up the “trail” to check it out for tomorrow (it was really a Road for the first 2 miles). What did we run into? Has anyone ever heard of Harris Ranch? Better yet, have you traveled Interstate 5 in Central California and smelled Harris Cattle Ranch? Harris Cattle Ranch
We had found it’s olfactory competitor. But, since we were headed up trail to the Hoover Wilderness tomorrow, how much of this would we be seeing and smelling, really? The base of Eagle Mountain is just right there beyond the meadows. The trail heads off to the Wilderness, so we should be in good shape.
After the best sleep in months, we were up early. With daypacks loaded and donned, we started our Buckeye Creek adventure.
Three miles later, we had slogged through four wet meadows and were up to our shins at times in sloppy, biodegradable pollution.
But look, there’s Buckeye Creek in all it’s winter-thaw glory! Let’s go Fishing!
Hmmm, not a single strike, although the creek appears to have the perfect scenario to find a Brookie or two. Looks like we will just head up the trail when we find it again and check out the wilderness area. We’ll definitely catch something on the way back, for sure.
Another mile up the poorly marked trail, we spotted our first Blaze, and were excited to be out of the meadows and up on the base of the mountains. Ohhhh, nevermind, just over that ridge we were again slogging through yet another bovine-infested meadow. Not to be deterred, we found another creekside stop begging for the casting of the rod, and we were going to need to filter some water soon.
Packs off and casting began. Hmmm, still no bites, not even nibbles…interesting! We’ll just take off our boots, cool our heels in the creek and enjoy this beautiful weather. Ahhhhh, that is some cold water, but feels so good.
Then, as if on cue, we hear it: “moooo”; about 10 yards behind us come the trampling cows and their calves, through the meadow and now splashing across the creek, leaving their generous amounts of manure along the path for all of us to enjoy. And in case we thought we might be able to filter some precious water for the trip back down the trail, two of them suddenly stopped mid creek and added their own flavor to the water for us.
Understand please, I grew up in Ranch country, and understand the necessity of grazing cattle upcountry. We often reap the rewards supplied by healthy, grass-fed animals, including dairy products and ribeyes to sustain our carnivorous tendencies. I also have an affinity with ranchers who provide this Country with the products we need. We believe 100% in sustainability and self-sufficiency. But, We do not think that routing a recreational wilderness trail through grazing grounds is a healthy or responsible endeavor.
With that said, we implore the USDA and Forest Service to think about re-routing wilderness access, trails and any other recreation areas to avoid the lands used by our local ranchers. There are several points to be made here, and I’m sure there are other “scientific” reasons that a lowly little street paramedic is unaware of, but consider these: