d Mining Days, the Trinity Alps

Mining Days: In the Trinity Alps

by Kayak Peter Wait

concerning: more fireside tales
Do Bears Shit in the Woods?

  Do Bears Shit in the Woods?  

This is a tale I originally wrote out for my sister-in-law Terry for Christmas, 2012. Having recently unearthed it it from the bottom of a box while looking for something else entirely I remembered that I always intended to include it here with more tales as I either heard them around a camp fire or as I experienced them. There are a great many for bears are always interacting in interesting ways with humans. Hopefully I will get around to it some day, but not today.

It was late in the day when I finally got the two donkeys loaded with all the supplies at Hobo Gulch. It would soon be dark and the waning moon will rise too late, only the stars to light my way to the cabin. I decided to take the high trail, by passing the four river crossings and the dark riparian woods, it was shorter and I would be able to see better on the open ridges. I decided I would have to outwit the donks for Chico, the usual lead donk, goes up hills soo-slowly and I was in a hurry. Little Joe while he has to be dragged across streams goes up hills as though they were flat. So little Joe became the substitute lead as we head out into the gathering dusk.

Everything goes well, Little Joe follows follows like a trooper with Chico bringing up the rear. Up hill, down hill, even across the two small streams with no problem, they are shallow, presenting no problem to Little Joe. The test will come at Rattlesnake Creek, which is considerable deeper. Up we go, the long fairly steep ascent on the last ridge before Rattlesnake. It is quite dark now, but the good trail and the faint light from the starry sky allow reasonable progress.

Suddenly all progress ceased! Little Joe the paragon of the up hill has stopped! I reason with him, plead, cajole, demand. No good, he is a stubborn donkey after all. I pull, yank, jerk, probably curse, finally he condescends for some unknown reason to continue. We proceed to the top of the ridge where I call a halt to rest, well the donks can rest I must check the loads, make sure nothing has come loose. I pull out my flashlight, play it over Little Joe and his load, pull at the lashings, all secure, I walk past him to check Chico. Wait! Where is Chico? There is no Chico!

When making up a pack string the lead ropes of the following donkeys are attached to an easily broken loop on the pack saddle of the preceding donk so that if one falls off a cliff he doesn't pull the whole string over after him. Little Joe's break-out loop was broken and Chico was missing. I'm panicky, What happened? Where's Chico? There is no cliff to fall over, anyway I would have heard something. Something must have happened at the bottom of the hill when Little Joe refused to continue. Nothing to do but go back and find Chico.

I find some trail-side edibles, tie Little Joe to a shrub and head back the way I came. At the bottom of the hill I see Chico, he is head down, apparently sniffing at pile of dung, which is something the donks do. As I approach him I see that he is actually eating a great pile of bear shit. The shit is full of imperfectly digested manzanita berries. Donkeys, just like bears, are always looking for something good to eat.

I manage to pull Chico away from his trail snack and haul him up the hill to Little Joe. Chico went back to lead donk. We eventually arrive back at camp quite late, where the donks are relieved of their burden, fed their portion of oats and released. I stowed the equipment and supplies and finally had a very late supper and so to bed.

Be verry wary when you change the established order of things!


Ha! that reminds me of the year I hauled into this camp that great load of oats in preparation for the next year ―exclaims Lee ―we secured the top of the grain barrel with wire mesh and buried it all amongst the stove wood in the shed. Come spring the horses and mules would have their feed and we could travel light. But when we got here, what disaster! That wood shed was all tore up, the grain barrel was rolling around on the flat, empty!

You recall that damned pest of a cinnamon bear with the deformed right front paw? From the tracks she was the one that did it. She ate the whole barrel of grain, there was winding trails of loose bear shit all over the flat. What a case of the shits! It was almost funny except there was no feed for the animals. But they quickly solved that problem. Before we had unloaded them they had discovered that grain filled shit and were feeding.

...and you know, we never saw or were bothered by that bear again.


Here are some actual photos of bear shit. At Las Vegas, New Mexico in 2011 we experienced severe drought after a couple of years of plentiful rain. Now we had a lot of bears and little for them to eat, so they came to to town to see what they could find here. I saw only one bear, no photo, only these bear signs.


  Bear shit, both new and old with grain from the feed mill by the Gallinas River Park, downtown Las Vegas

    Some bear signs, street artist & official Game & Fish at the entrance to the park.
Old bear shit with garbage bags, the black viscus shit is similar to shit after feeding on dead whale on the beach in Mendocino...

  That reminds me...


        That's all for now, Kayak Peter

© 2015, peter j wait

edited by Peter J Wait, 7/12/2015