Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Tale of Bears, Beers and Anglers

The Kings River, our destination at the end of a two mile hike downhill.
One day while camping, we found a trail that goes down to the Kings River.  Not that you have to hike down to the river necessarily.  There are places where you can drive right along the river.  But we were looking for some exercise and diversion from sitting at our campsite and so we hiked the trail from the paved road down to the river, a distance of about two miles of switchbacks that drops you down 1000 feet to the river below. The trail is just wide enough for one person, no walking side by side.  Who created the trail we don't know. It probably precedes the creation of Kings Canyon National Park, but there it is. 
At the trail head, our car was the only one there, so we had the trail all to ourselves.  A sign posted at the trail head informed us that the portion of river accessed by the trail supports native trout and that catch and release was the only form of fishing allowed.  So apparently, this trail is commonly used by fisher people. I don't know how many hikers use it since once you hike downhill for two miles you have to hike back up two miles.
So we hiked down to the bottom of the river and had a lunch of crackers and hard boiled eggs.  I was musing that it would be nice to also have a bottle of wine.  It's nice to drink wine in a beautiful place, but experience has taught me that once you've drunk a bottle of wine, even with the help of others, hiking becomes much harder since your legs feel like lead and are much harder to lift than when you haven't been drinking.
After our little lunch, I did some exploring around the next bend of the river and tucked in next to a large boulder was a pile of litter spilling out of a plastic cooler.  The litter consisted mostly of aluminum beer and soda cans, some empty plastic chip bags and some plastic catsup and mustard bottles with chew marks on them.  My guess was that the chew marks had been made by a bear who had gotten into the cooler and rummaged through the contents. And when I rummaged around the cans myself, I found six of them unopened, four Buds and two Bud Lites. The bear apparently did not have a taste for beer.  I looked around for a way to carry the beers back with me and found a discarded tee shirt which I turned into a tote bag.  
Aside from being pleased to have found some beer, I was also wondering why people would drag heavy coolers full of beer and sodas two miles downhill on a narrow trail.  Apparently it was enough of an ordeal to dissuade them from carrying the empties back.  Or maybe they thought they could leave their stuff down by the river and come back another time and drink or eat what was left over.  Who knows?
Later, we ran into some more abandoned litter, one stash was a plastic tub full of clothes - 4 pairs of jeans, some sweat shirts two pairs of sneakers and an assortment of tee shirts and a disintegrating pair of waders. Was someone planning on living down at the bottom of the hill?  Again, who knows?  by the looks of it, the tub of clothes had also been searched by a bear. 

The Buds cooling in the river.  I had two and Joan opened one but didn't finish it. 
Knowing the ill effects of too much beer, we left the remaining cans for the next hiker.
On our way out, we spotted another cooler stashed a little ways up the hill next to a tree.  Seems like the bears hadn't found this one yet.

Another camping spot next to the river, obviously a site for many a cookout.

Canned food seems to be the preference on the Kings River. Skeletons of many cans remain in the ashes.

Assorted kitchen implements generously left behind for the next person.

And a few essentials, also unopened and left behind for the next visitor.
So on to some possible morals of this story. Zero or more options may be true. You may be able to think of more. Option 1, maybe this story has no moral.  Simply, hikers find trash left behind by other hikers/fishermen. Option 2.  Sometimes when you wish for something, it appears, in this case, six cans of beer.  Actually, I wished for a bottle of wine, but a six pack of beer is ok.  Option 3. This particular moral relates to my previous post as space travel.  When you're camping, you can't expect food to be there when you get there so you have to bring it.  Option 4.  The caching of food in remote location has always been a practice.  Part of wilderness etiquette has always been not to disturb someone elses cache of food.  If food is cached, someone expects to find it there when they come back.  If you mess with their cache, you might put them in a bad situation. If you used their pile of firewood, you were expected to build the pile back up for the next person to come that way.  Seeing that whoever left the beer around, had already drunk most of it, I did not feel that I was violating their cache.  I suspect that whoever left the beer behind had had enough of it and just didn't feel like dragging it back up the side of the canyon. Option 4.  Traditional wilderness etiquette does not involve packing your trash out of the wilderness.  Wilderness was everywhere. You would merely be packing trash from one part of the wilderness to another.

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