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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The hot rocks of Deadman Scree

The hot rocks of Deadman Scree -- home of Little Chief Hare and Bushy-tailed wood rat.

I knew they'd soon be ahead of me so my parting advice was "Keep an eye out for urine stains on the rocks."

With that the class began the ascent through the red firs and hungry mossies to the hot rocks of Deadman Scree.

Actually, the adventure began with a foot bath because the Yuba River was a bit too high for rock hopping.

Footbath in the Yuba

The hikers spread out in the forest as they climbed to the scree and good-will-ambassador Fred dashed about paying visits.

I was busy photographing orchids and wintergreens.

The guy could use sun glasses.

When I finally reached the scree the troops were catching their breath half way to the top of the rock slide, but not far away was Christian, who was apparently moving at my more leisurely pace.

He seemed to be in a peaceful reverie -- perhaps meditating.

"Let's look for urine stains," said I.

We began the search for bushy-tail's pissing rocks, and in no time found them in the rubble.

Bushy-tail's white-washed pissing rocks.

This stuff was not the golden amberat (or crystallized urine) that fooled the 49ers into thinking it was peanut brittle.

It seems the stone-oven heat of the scree cures rat urine differently. The finished product is a powdery whitewash.

I coached Christian in making the set.

We notched a stick with the kukri, lashed a cross piece for the camera mount, and jammed it between the rocks.  A few taps with a stone lodged it firmly in place.

Christian with camera trap crucifix.

Then it was time for the essenses -- castoreum and civetone -- dabbed on twigs and tossed on a likely rat perch.

Finally we powered the camera, reached up into the recess and waved our hands before the camera's sensor -- it was working.

The set was ready and the uphill climb continued.

Christian was soon out of sight, while I  plodded onward and upward with frequent pauses to gulp water and study the scree.

Near the top of the rock slide I found another place that whispered -- "this is where rodents and little chief hares do their thing".

I set a second camera and GPS'd the location.

It took another half hour for Fred and me to negotiate boulders and fight our way through a thicket of huckleberry oak, and suddenly Deadman Lake and Peak were in sight.

The troops were eating their lunches and disporting themselves in the cool water of the lake.

They were in good spirits; we took pictures and they hammed for my camera.

All agreed Sean's pose was more like
Teddy Roosevelt than John Muir.

"Did you set any camera traps?" I asked.

"We couldn't find any sign or good places", they replied.

There was only one nut who obligated himself to climb Deadman again.


Anonymous said...

Geez I wouldn't sign up for that climb these days. Must be getting old?

Buford Nature said...

I recently wrote a blog post re "marking trees." I had not thought of "marking rocks." Thanks for the tip!