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It walks at night....

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It walks at night....

Postby balzaccom » Sat Oct 29, 2011 11:17 am

The first pack trip that I ever took was to Paradise Valley in Kings Canyon. I was twelve years old, and went off with my older sister and her best friend, both of whom were about sixteen. We were young and adventurous, and prepared for just about anything.

Almost.

Actually, we were green and a little nervous, but what could go wrong on a simple overnight trip? My pack was cleverly contrived out of a pair of my father's pants: the two legs became the shoulder straps, tied into the belt loops, and my sleeping bag and clothes went into the torso section of the pants. The two older girls also carried the food and a tent.

And in those days, we drank straight from the stream, out of our Sierra Club Cups.

We hiked about seven miles up to Paradise Valley, and managed to get there in plenty of time. We set up camp and had a pleasant evening around the campfire. Paradise Valley really seemed like paradise!

It was so peaceful...too peaceful!

Near dusk, as the sun settled behind the canyon walls and shadows reached over the forest, we began to hear a metal clanging noise--a bit like the noise of someone pounding metal tent stakes into hard ground. WE had thought we were the only people there, and yet...

We let it go on for some minutes...and the more it continued, the stranger it seemed. Ping ping ping.


We tried to find the source of the noise, but it was getting dark, and we didn't want to wander around the forest and away from our campsite. We'd seen enough horror films to know that was a bad idea. The noise stopped for a while, then started up again. Ping, ping, ping.


Now we were getting worried. We tried calling out, to make some kind of contact--but there was no answer. We called louder. Still no answer. That was weird. Ping, ping, ping.

We convinced ourselves that the person making the noise couldn't hear us, because we were close to the river, and the noise of the rushing water obliterated our voices. But we didn't really believe that.

And then the noise started getting closer. Now we knew it wasn't another camper,m pounding in tent stakes. As we discussed the matter among ourselves, we tried to imagine what was making the noise. Then we began to realize that this might be a bell attached to an animal. And what kind of animal would require a bell in a National Park?

Our best guess was a dangerous bear--one that needed to warn people of his approach.

And still the noise got closer. Ping, ping, ping.

We climbed into the tent and huddled inside, hoping that the bear would pass us by. The pinging came closer and closer to our camp. As we listened intently, the noise got closer and closer, until it was just outside the camp site. Right outside. Twenty feet away. Maybe fifteen. Right in front of the tent. Our eyes were huge as we looked at each other. What should we do?

We could take the suspense no longer. We threw open the tent and flashed our lights in the direction of the noise.

There stood beautiful stag, rather stunned by the bright lights in the night.

We watched for a minute, just to make sure that this wasn't a Dangerous Deer, and then closed up the tent and fell asleep to the sound of ping ping ping walking away in the forest.

The next morning we felt good enough to laugh about the incident.

When we returned to Road's End, we mentioned the deer to one of the rangers. He immediately asked us what color the bell had been--this was a new program to track the deer within the park. We thought the bell was either silver or blue.
He smiled indulgently, and told us that there were no silver or blue bells in the program.

hmmmph. It seemed like a stupid idea to us at the time---and I bet they don't bell stags in the parks anymore, either!
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Re: It walks at night....

Postby Timberline » Sat Oct 29, 2011 8:43 pm

Great story, Balzacom. Who hasn't had that moment of uncertainty, sometime or other, about "that noise" our there in the dark away from camp? Probably mostly when we were all younger and still believed in snipe hunts, eh? It's a theme that once enthralled us around Boy Scout campfires. But yours was real! Thanks for the chuckle and the memory. . . :nod:
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Re: It walks at night....

Postby Cross Country » Sat Oct 29, 2011 11:35 pm

That was a really fun story to read. Did you not encounter any bears in PV?
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Re: It walks at night....

Postby balzaccom » Sun Oct 30, 2011 7:14 am

glad you enjoyed the story...but this was more than 40 years ago...and we didn't see a single bear there!
Last edited by balzaccom on Tue Nov 01, 2011 3:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: It walks at night....

Postby Cross Country » Sun Oct 30, 2011 2:26 pm

My first backpacking trip was with the Boy Scouts, 57 years ago when I was an 11yo Tenderfoot. You mentioned snipes and sure enough we were taken on a snip hunt. They did a good job of selling it, really they did, but even at 11 it just seemed contrived (at that time I didn't know that word) to me, and sure enough it was. Many of the boys bought it and for me it still was fun and maybe a tiny bit scary because they sold it so well.
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Re: It walks at night....

Postby rlown » Sun Oct 30, 2011 2:35 pm

From the DFG upland game hunting regs website:

Species: Common Snipe
Season: The third Saturday in October extending for 107 days
Bag Limit: 8 per day
Possession Limit: double the daily bag limit


CommonSnipe.jpg
Common Snipe
CommonSnipe.jpg (38.11 KiB) Viewed 137 times


They are hard to hit, but they are out there. A waste of a shotgun shell, as they're all of 4"-6" long, hence no meat. We see a lot of them on "blue bird' days, and they dart around even more so than a Teal does.
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Re: It walks at night....

Postby Timberline » Sun Oct 30, 2011 8:10 pm

Geez, rlown, is THAT what all the snipe fuss was about? I should have known. Better to have spent my time and energy hunting side hill gougers, eh? :confused:
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Re: It walks at night....

Postby balzaccom » Sun Oct 30, 2011 8:19 pm

You're supposed to catch them in the bag,..not shoot them!
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Re: It walks at night....

Postby rlown » Sun Oct 30, 2011 10:21 pm

well, the bag idea actually is a good one. Think of snipe kind of like really small pheasants. They run through the underbrush much like the pheasant before taking to flight to escape. So theoretically, you can catch them at night, in a bag, if you know the path on which they run. You still need a valid hunting license and upland game bird stamp to hunt them and it has to be in season, which in itself would have been a boy scout violation for the infamous "snipe hunts".

Back on topic.. I'll take a deer anyday to a bear snooping around. We had a deer jump over us in the mid 90's when cowboy camped up near Evelyn Lk. We were in our bags.. Glad it cleared us.
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Re: It walks at night....

Postby balzaccom » Mon Oct 31, 2011 7:58 am

Agreed. Although we were once entertained for most of the night up Illilouette Canyon in Yosemite by three or four stags, all dancing and running at each other across our campsite. They generally stayed 20-23 feet away from us, but the pounding hooves were not conducive to sleep!
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Re: It walks at night....

Postby sparky » Tue Nov 01, 2011 1:26 pm

Me and my nephew were roused from our sleeping bags one night, by a flying beeping noise. Either some bird that was dive bombing our tent had some sort of transmitter around its neck, people playing a trick, or some sci fi stuff was going on. We packed up and left. This was just a few years ago in bee canyon at the yellow posts site in the san bernardino national forest.
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