Dog Blog

Monday, October 05, 2009

I'm back in Sac but wish I was back at Tahoe, where I was visiting the past week.  I would at least have liked to stay through Sunday, because they got their first dusting of snow.  There were actually two waterspouts moving across the lake.  It was on the news.  Quite a sight!  I saw a lot of other sights up there this time.  It was salmon spawning time and they were having a Salmon Festival at an unspoiled natural area called Taylor Creek.  It's where the salmon return to spawn each year.  They turn a brilliant red color, and it was a beautiful sight but a little sad because you know the salmon have come to the end of their life's journey.  Once they deposit and fertilize their eggs, they die.

Of course, this event brought the bears down to the creek to feast on salmon, and feast they did.  

In all the years I have been going to Tahoe--a lifetime--I had never seen a bear.  I saw my first on this trip.  I saw two, actually.  I was walking Peaches toward the lake at Tallac Point, where we've walked so many times, when some rather wild-eyed-looking tourists coming down the path said there's a bear coming our way.  I was a little worried that it might attack my dog or she might instigate an attack so I made my way back the way I came, but then I stopped and watched from a safe distance.  I only spotted the back of the animal.  I could see the bear was pitch black and it lumbered slowly along the path.  It was obviously a large animal.  Apparently, it took a detour when it saw other tourists.  A couple and their child walked right down the path toward the bear, despite warnings.  I thought that was a bit stupid, since they tell you not to approach the bears.  He could have endangered his young daughter.  

This was about 3:00 p.m.  I took Peaches back to the cabin and killed some time writing at my favorite Alpina Cafe on HWY 89.  Determined not to leave Tahoe the next day without having seen a bear, I decided to go back down to the creek around 5:00 p.m.  A good decision, it turns out, because it was feeding time.  I walked the Rainbow Trail, a little paved tourist trail that meanders through the Taylor Creek marshland, and as I was nearly at the end, some tourists were gathered watching another large bear that had come to fish in the creek.  He put on quite a show for us.  This bear was a golden brown in color, and I got some pretty good shots with my camera, which I will post when I get them downloaded.  The bear leapt atop a dam of logs and devoured a fish before jumping back in the water for more.  It peered up curiously (or was it threateningly?) at us gawkers.  

I was so excited to finally see a bear and see it in its natural habitat, not foraging in garbage cans.  It was an unforgettable experience for me.

The only down side of the trip was seeing how the forest service had thinned out the forest behind our cabin.  It was so thin you could see sky right at the top of the hill, which you never could before because the trees were so thick.  All in the name of preventing fires that threaten property and lives, but I suspect the underlying reason was to profit from harvesting all that lumber. 

My brother was up there when the clearing operation was going on, and he described the giant machine that ripped out the trees and shaved the branches and bark, then chopped them up, all in one fell swoop, like some great wood-eating monster. I don't think he's a tree hugger like I am, but I could tell it upset him. The woods are no longer "lovely, dark and deep" as Robert Frost would say.  The familiar forest paths I have walked all seven of my beloved dogs on had been obliterated, and the
underbrush Bubba meandered through and watered so happily for so many years is gone.  I wept for the decimated forest as I walked Peaches straight up to the top of the hill, with no trees to impede our progress.  It was a far less pleasant climb. Those trees won't grow back in what's left of my lifetime.  

They even cleared all the underbrush, so the poor chipmunks and ground squirrels have no place to hide from the coyotes, and all the animals are starving.  Coyotes are preying on people's pets and the bears are breaking into cabins in their search for food. I heard one almost broke into ours.  I'm glad I wasn't there when it happened!  

Interestingly, the woodsmen spared the burned-out stump I have used for years as a kind of shrine to all my dogs that have passed.  It's where I scattered Bubba's and Daisy's ashes, and I placed a stone the color of each dog's fur in the hollowed out spot on the top.  I always said little prayers for them and communed with their spirits in our sunny spot, a clearing in the forest where the sun shone through the thick pine branches. I even wrote it into my books.  I don't know why they left it behind.  That old, charred stump was probably just something that was no threat in the event of another forest fire, but I like to think maybe they surmised it was special to someone and decided to spare it.  I felt better when I discovered it was still there. 

It's a shame that Lake Tahoe was not designated a National Park before they cleared it of its trees during the Nevada Silver Rush to shore up the mines and the wealthy laid claim to nearly every inch of its shoreline. Tahoe is a national treasure, just like Crater Lake or Yosemite or Yellowstone, but sadly it's treasure for the taking because it has not been preserved for future generations.  We should have left it to the Indians who lived in Tahoe thousands of years before Whites ever laid eyes on its beauty.  The Washoe knew better that we do how to conserve the land and its native creatures.  Their footprint was light on the land.  

Anything not protected from man's greed and his notion of "progress" will surely be systematically stripped of its resources.  I fear it will soon be impossible to "Keep Tahoe Blue," and the Jewel of the Sierra will no longer be as brilliant as it once was.


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