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River Views

A couple of weeks ago this column took the Sierra Club to task for stating that wolves kill no more than the small amount of cattle that vultures, or buzzards, do. Let me make this clear again for any reader, even one who might use “Vulture” as part of their nom de plume: Vultures do not kill cattle. Anyone doubting this should consult with the Turkey Vulture Society.

I did want to remind readers about what the Sierra Club does best: getting people into the great outdoors. This February I will have ventured out on my second snowshoe trip of the season in the Sierra, both trips being sponsored by the Sierra Club, with Sierra Club trained leaders. Earlier this winter I was among 15 skiers and snowshoers who ventured about five miles into the mountains to Bradley Hut (owned and maintained by the Sierra Club). The cost to each person for the three day trek: $38 plus a communal commissary charge of $14. If you are lucky enough to get Jim Gannon or Don Anderson as trip leaders or co-leaders, you will not come home complaining about the food.

Of course, on that trip you had to get yourself to the Truckee area, paying for your own fuel and food on the way. The February trip to Ludlow Hut near the northeastern edge of Desolation Wilderness will be similarly priced. A basic yearly membership in the Sierra Club costs only $25. The Sierra Club also provides healthy day hikes closer to home. One that’s caught my eye is a ten-mile jaunt on the Glen Eden Trail, east of Blue Lakes, on Saturday, March 23rd.

If you have money to burn, the Sierra Club offers trips all over the country and all over the world. If you are interested in the Sierra Club hut trips, simply join the Sierra Club and look for the notices in the “Redwood Needles” newsletter that goes out to members in our area. Generally, trips to Peter Grubb Hut set out in early to mid-December; Bradley Hut in January; Ludlow Hut in February; and Benson Hut, the most physically demanding, goes in early to mid-March. Our January trek to Bradley, the largest of the Sierra Club huts, occurred during pristine winter weather. Right now the forecast for the Ludlow trip looks nearly as good.

We had rain in abundance in December, but January and February have proved to be about as dry as mid-winter can get in Mendocino County. The contrast, though noticeable is nothing compared to the weather of 1931. That September, soaring temperatures and high winds ignited the Great Comptche Fire, which burned from Big River down to the area around Dimmick State Park on the Navarro River. A mere two and a half months after that calamitous conflagration, temperatures throughout California dropped to astounding lows. Snow line in the Sierra descended to unprecedented levels. The Tuolumne canal froze solid.

Locally, the Mendocino boy’s basketball team had to get out of their vehicles to shovel snow to reach Covelo. After licking the home team by a score of 83 to 25, they undoubtedly shoveled in a hurry to bid a hasty retreat.

Here on the Albion, freezing temperatures sustained for days and nights on end. My great uncle, John Robertson’s, milk cow walked directly over the frozen river as a shortcut home from her grazing meadow. A teenaged Emory Escola witnessed the cow walking on frozen water, improvised homemade skates, and spent hours on the ice.

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