December 2008

Black Bear 



 What Would John Muir Say?

A Mid-Winter’s Tale  

I drove up with Susan to Yosemite last weekend, hoping to peddle my new book What Would John Muir Say? to the various bookshops in the valley. We met with the buyer for the Ansel Adams gallery, and dropped off copies at the Yosemite Association, and the Ahwahnee Hotel, and were generally very well received. As night fell we snuck into the Christmas party at the Village Store, where we bought enough food to fuel ourselves through a freezing winter’s night, then returned to our empty campground to eat.

Susan built an impressive campfire and I got the campstove lit (and nearly started our picnic table on fire-another story). We were just finishing our meal when the table gave a tremendous lurch, and before I could wonder if we’d had an earthquake –or a rock slide– an enormous Bear reared up on the table, just inches from where we were sitting.

We both jumped up with great haste, and I grabbed a cooking pot and started banging on the table, as they say you should do to frighten the bear. Instead of retreating, as they say it will, the bear grabbed our crate of food and pulled it to the ground. I walked around the table towards the bear, banging my little pot with absolutely zero effect. When I got too close the bear reared up snarling on his hind legs, then lunged at me as I beat an Olympic retreat, with Susan, to the truck.

The Bear quickly rummaged through our food, choosing a carton of cream as his prize, and retreated several paces off to enjoy it. I had to hold Susan back from attacking the bear, for this was cream for next morning’s coffee-and no wise creature gets between Susan and her wake-up cup of French Roast.

We ran back to the table, and as Susan watched the bear with her flashlight, I began throwing all our food into the bear locker, which is a metal box the bear can’t open. Susan grabbed all our food and garbage from the truck (even toothpaste!) and all was secure by the time the bear came back to our table for his second helping.

I’d had my glasses off for dinner, and wanted to see the bear more clearly. Susan soon found them on the table, but when I put them on, I couldn’t see any better than before. I took them off and looked more closely. They had no lenses. When I’d pounded the table with the little cooking pot, I’d shattered my glasses to pieces.

The bear left when he found no more treats at our campsite. Susan laughed all night at the thought of me pounding my glasses to smithereens trying to scare the bear. I had to wear my dark glasses all day Sunday.

And the Ahwahnee called later that week to say they will carry the book in their store next Spring.

Best Solstice Wishes,



Environment News Services – December 17, 2008

Regulations announced by Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne last week that would exempt many federal activities, including those that generate greenhouse gases, from review under the Endangered Species Act were published in the Federal Register Tuesday.


“This rule makes a mockery of the Endangered Species Act, our nation’s most important wildlife protection law,” said Defenders of Wildlife Executive Vice President Jamie Rappaport Clark.





Here’s a 5-minute video from the Jordan Cove Urban Watershed Project that nicely explains how non-point source pollution works.

You may recall that there was a recent sewage spill in the Lower Calaveras River.













Common name: California Central Valley Steelhead
Scientific name: Oncorhynchus mykiss
Status: Threatened.                             

The Calaveras River has been designated as Critical Habitat for Steelhead

 Chinook Salmon

Chinook Salmon












Common name: Central Valley Fall Run Chinook Salmon
Scientific name: Oncorhynchus tshawytscha
Status: Species of Concern.

Did you know that some Chinook Salmon have been known to grow over 5 feet long and weigh over 110 lbs.!

 River Otter

River Otter

Common name: River Otter
Scientific name: Lontra canadensis
Status: The US Forest Service has declared them a Sensitive Species.
River otters have frequented stretches of the Lower Calaveras River, and have been sited from the campus at University of the Pacific.