Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Mehrten Creek

A rustling of leaves
Tinkling and trickling over
Dry and toned from the Live Oaks
Pile on top of each other
Upon soft Earth between the rocks
While the Sugar Pine needles
Remain where they like

Dusk begins its darkening ways
Mists roll through
Obscuring the canyon slopes
The air chills unexpectedly
Uninvited arrangements amongst the bite
Springtime at 4,500

This'll have to do
There's water here
A fine easy flow
Canyon walls that ease away
May not leave us too exposed
It's settled then

To hunker down amongst the boulders
Tent is set and tarps are taut
Branches and brambles set the wall
Not as planned but it'll do
A fine set against the flurries
Which intend to chill and divide

The wood is gathered
Resting within and sheltered
Sleeping pads and bags inside
Luxurious now as rabbit fur rugs
A palace waiting for final touches
With just enough room for two and gear

A spark, an ember
The tinder goes aflame
Branches pop as the fire engulfs
The warmth eases in slowly
But soon runs throughout
The humble abode turns royal
Basking in the glow

Snows through the night
But soft with heavy flakes
Unexpected this time this spring
As is their way
Creep up and persist

Awake the next morning
With half a foot on the ground
Still dumping but something strange
Snowing but relatively warm out
Piling up and melting together
Remaining half a foot all day
No more no less
Just constant and not so bad
Shows the tracks of the bobcat
That stole the bread

Right then the course is set
To stay another night
And thrive against the freeze
Stand up and hunker down
Any way to weather the storms
And enjoy the time together

Morning of the third day
Still half a foot that greets
Blue skies that smile
Twinkling eyes through the oak and pine
Hot coffee and warm breakfast
Shed the snow and pack up
And leave this frosty delight behind
Put out the fire we're headed home

To the one who weathers the storms with me
And here's to many more sunny mornings
Happy Anniversary Baby

Sunday, July 28, 2013

New Video from Alex Yerks

Well folks he's done it again. Alex's videos seem to get better and better as he goes along. His latest one has a little insight into his kuksa making magic. Truly hot stuff in this one!

Whether it's movie makin', professional photography, professional music makin', or treen carvin' with Scandinavian made tools, Alex's art work is drenched with nostalgia. Dude's puttin' out some serious North Americana Art on a weekly basis folks. Check out his website http://www.theaxeisboldaslove.com for more of his art, or to order some handmade treenware.

So without further delay, Alex's Axe Carving & Treen:

True Temper -Flint Edge- Kelly Works Connecticut Axe

This one took awhile as I cut a 36" straight handle into a 32" and thinned it out a little with a lot of rasping and sanding. That was some work, but I like how it now has a thinner profile to the handle.

A True Temper -Flint Edge- Kelly Works Connecticut Axe.

3 lb head, 4 7/8 inch bit, 32 inch handle on this one.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Visiting Ancient Villages Part I

This past Saturday I had a few hours to take to the woods. So I chose to spend the day visiting some of the ancient village sites of the Native Americans who inhabited the Kaweah River long ago.

In the Fall, http://awatermanswoods.blogspot.com/2012/12/falls-finally-arrived.html ,
 I touched on some bottomland terrain which was inhabited by the local Yokuts people. They lived the whole expanse of California’s southern Central Valley, as well as the lower foothills that rim the area. They were a Penutian people who originated from along the coast and Bay Area, then settling further inland.

Along the Kaweah River, their limits of upstream elevation habitation is sorta hazy, but it appears they lived in peaceful contact with the Monache who lived above them. The Monache, or Western Mono, are Shoshone descendants who originated from the deserts to the east, following the high passes over the Sierra crest, and settling on the upper western slopes. They lived year round in the upper foothills above the Yokuts, and enjoyed summer travel and trade in the higher hunting grounds and summer camps.

My first stop above the valley floor was the area now called Lake Kaweah. In the late fifties, a dam was raised to help with irrigation of the fertile plains below, but also to try to stem the tides of floods which could come roaring down the river canyon shown in the center of the photo. Before the dam, this was ranch land. But before that this little valley was shared by two bands of Yokuts. The Wukchumne had a village on this south side of the river, and the Kaweah a village on the north side. This was a center for an annual trade rendezvous and ceremonial gatherings. This was the upstream limit of the Yokuts people’s villages. From here on up, the river was inhabited by the Monache.

As I followed the river upstream entering Sequoia National Park, I drove past an old village site. This area was inhabited by the Potwisha band of Monache people. I stopped here in the spring during the peak snow melt season. I will include pictures taken then in this write up.


Here the Marble Fork of the Kaweah River comes down from a canyon skirting the Giant Forest, and enters the main fork of the river. It is a good flat in the oak woodlands which would be an ample supply of acorns to leach and grind into flour. A grouping of mortar holes are located on the river bank as well as some rock art. Poison oak is very prevalent here and I can’t for the life of me see how people got along among such a high concentration of the stuff. They must have had a means of keeping it under control.




Visiting Ancient Villages Part II

On this current trip, I stopped a few miles further on up the road at a village site known as Pahdin or Hospital Rock. Here was a large village which housed a couple hundred Potwisha at a time. This village was inhabited year round, and camp fires were kept so that at least one was never allowed to be extinguished. This was the last village before the summer hunting camps and trade routes above.

A rock palette of red paintings is clearly shown. No one knows the true meaning of these pictographs, but from all the one’s I’ve seen in the area, they appear to be a record keeping of the many plants and animals that inhabit the area. Sort of a natural history record not unlike what Lewis and Clark or Charles Darwin made on their journeys.


Here, many large boulders provide caves for protection from the elements. But the Potwisha’s main shelter were thatched conical houses 9 to 12 feet in diameter. Their structure was made from willows and oaks, and thatched with brush, long grass mats, or fine willow bunches.

Archaeological excavations here and above have shown that this area had first been established as a village in the 1200’s. The Monache had come over the mountains from the eastern deserts and found the West side of the Sierra’s a much more hospitable area.


Rock formation at Hospital Rock. Took this pic on the way back down as it was 102 and raining!

Leaving the foothill woodland and chaparral behind, my final destination for the day was a 2 mile hike to a village site I had never visited before. What I found was a location that I believe anyone who would be so inclined to live in the forest, or even just to camp, would find as a paradise of monumental proportions! For this camp was on a ridge in the middle of the Giant Forest.

Marble Gardens

Trailhead Meadow

Visiting Ancient Villages Part III

It would have been a grand spectacle of enormous scale to live among these giants! To be among them for weeks or months on end, must have given these people a much deeper philosophical sense of place within this world. For when you gaze upon these trees and realize how old they are, and how small you are compared to them, you can not help but find yourself thinking backwards in time to ages of long ago.

Most of these large trees were mere saplings in the time when the Lord roamed the Middle Eastern Deserts. You will hind that when you think in that way, you will begin to contemplate what the forest must have been like going back through the ages. These trees live in separate groves now, but they must have been in one continuous large forest belt, and became separated as the mountains grew towards the sky and the rivers carved out the canyons. Those forces of nature didn’t happen over night. Ages upon ages upon ages. To me these trees and mountains take you back in time. It’s not a yearning to go back to a different period. It’s just something that naturally happens when one begins to think of mountain building and landscape development, and how the features of the Earth came into being.

Jeffrey Pine Cones

Upon finding the acorn mortars and larger carved out basins, I had also seen why the Potwisha had chosen this ridge as a village site. For even in this drought year which had been the driest in 35 years, a stream emanating from the Sequoia grove could be found. Not much now, but enough to sustain a constant flow. A trickle of water down the granite slopes of the ridge, with a forest of giant trees all around. A summer paradise fit for royalty if ever there was one!


This muley snuck up on me. Saw a doe and another buck in this grove as well.

These larger basins in the granite have been extensively debated whether or not they were human made. But I would refer you to this report http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2008/5210/ made by the USGS to conclude that they were indeed carved out by human intention. Building a fire upon the granite made it slightly more brittle than normal to where it could be chipped away slowly. They could have been for any number of uses in food preparation, and even for hide tanning.
This type of basin building and acorn mortar production shows that this village site had been inhabited year after year for many generations. And why would you not want to return to this paradise summer after summer? At this elevation of 6,000 feet, the Black Oak with its prized acorns were still present within this conifer forest. As was Greenleaf Manzanita with it’s delicious berries. Deer is plentiful now and probably was a main reason for these summer hunting camps.

Whitethorn Ceanothus berries. The deer were after these all afternoon.
See my hat for size reference
Greenleaf Manzanita

Black Oak on the upper fringes of it’s range


It is a joy to sit and imagine not only what the landscape was like ages ago, but also to fathom how it must have been like when the Native Peoples roamed these woods. Their summer paradise.

Sierra Gooseberry. Ouch! Will have to come back later in the summer to try these.

 Got to test out my new lightweight, low cost, low drag system. A nice and large 1,800 cu.i. Fieldline waist pack with suspenders attached to a Condor Battle Belt, Condor 10x4, and Lowepro Camera Bag. Some shoulder pads from a USGI ETLB Vest to top it off. Very comfortable as most of the weight is on your hips and lower back. Nice and easy breezy.