Thursday, December 13, 2007

Nature Corner

Continuing the manly saga of Nature Hunter ...

Welcome to one of the most dangerous places in California (click to enlarge). You don't ever want to go down there.

This is the very northwestern edge of the Angeles National Forest. Off to the left is Rattlesnake Canyon, and straight ahead gobs of carnivores lusting for a taste of your blood, lying in wait for the Uninformed Backpacker (UB) out on a lark. What the UB doesn't know is that after 9/11, Homeland Security declared this region off-limits because roughly 12 miles to the south, and a few miles to the west, lie two major resevoirs that supply water to the Los Angeles Basin, Castaic and Pyramid Lakes. The entire section of the forest north of Castaic was sealed off by the Water District to discourage terrorists. No trespassing signs were posted. All roads leading into this section of the forest were closed.

The area - once heavily populated by Indians (you can still find arrowheads here), a haven for Spanish pirates (there is a mountain in the area pocked with thousands of caves, and the seafaring cut-throats hid their rifles and gold there) - was already thick with dangerous animals ... bears, snakes, cougars, bobcats, hyenas, all sorts of vermin. Once the state declared this section of the forest a high-security zone, humans stayed completely out - the beasts were allowed to multiply freely, Biblicly, without interruption by homo sapiens, who had claimed the surrounding country with tract housing. It is a de facto sanctuary for dangerous creatures.

No one, of course, notified the UB (myself in this instance) - who disregarded the no trespassing signs and went exploring in the Castaic Lake region - that this place was crawling with man-eaters. I had intended a cross-country jaunt to the lake, but the tarantula nest stopped me two miles along the trail. One bite was particularly painful, the one just above my right ankle. Positioning myself to suck out the poison was quite a chore, but I managed to swallow most of it. After a brief respite of freeze-dried pot pie and mash potatoes (that gave me the runs), set out limping on the trail again. Another mile on, I came between a mother bear and her cubs. Well, I spent the entire afternoon in a tree, and made my escape only when the beast lumbered off to intercept one of her cubs, who had disappeared into the foliage. Lucky me. Once back on the ground, I set off with some interest back to Lieber Mountain, where this unfortunate trek had begun. I tip-toed and held my breath to pass the hornet's nest, nearly managing to sneak past without accruing painful facial welts to show for it. A hungry bobcat stalked me for a mile or so before the mother bear emerged from the forest again, and pursued me back to Lieber Mountain at an appreciable pace. Once again, my encounter with nature had ended at the ER. While lying there for the transfusion, it occurred to me to amend my approach to nature, to view it not as a pleasure outing, but a primal struggle for survival. I would not be defeated. On my next outing in the wilderness, I would control all factors, and the hunted UB would become - by application of undaunted, inextricable will - the formidable ...

- Nature Hunter

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