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In 1997 I was asked to take part in a primitive canoe trek into a lake in the Sierra Mountains of California. The participants were asked by the Booshway to make sketches or right down their impressions of the event. The following is my report to the N.C.E.S.




A report on the Northern California Exploration Society expedition into the Carson - iceberg wilderness, on the shore of Spicer lake.


Thursday, august 14

I arrived, at the appointed place of embarkation at approximately 1:30 in the afternoon. Immediately, I noted the large number of savages in the vicinity of the lake. These are of a fishing tribe referred to as the 'Ned'. They are not known, to be hostile but discretion is always important when dealing with indigenous peoples. I put my canoe in the water and loaded my equipage. The landing was on the northern shore of a large cove, at the western end of the lake. The lake is long and narrow and runs roughly from the southwest to the northeast. With many large coves and fingers mainly along it's north shore.

My commission as scout, required of me to seek out a suitable camping spot for the rest of the brigade and to return to the point of embarkation to report my findings by 10:00 the following morning. With my first view of the lake, I knew that finding a flat area with enough room for fifteen men and one woman, would not be an easy task. Nevertheless, I set out upon the choppy water to execute my charge as well as I could. A strong wind blew from the West, which made for difficult paddling, since it was in that direction that I must travel to attain the main body of the lake. Once around the point of land, which formed the cove, the wind became a crosswind. I found it difficult to keep my craft from being blown ashore. Much of the lakeside is shear granite rock toped by pine trees. There is a formation of cliffs rising some thousand feet above the south shore called the Dardanelle's, an inspiring sight The western third of the lake contains many large coves, bays and fingers. Some of the bays are choked with dead trees, protruding from the surface of the lake. Others are clear of such obstruction. Most of the bays have shear cliffs jutting up from the water's edge. My search for a good camping place continued for the remainder of the afternoon. After traveling approximately two thirds of the length of the lake, I determined to discontinue my search and find a bivouac for the night. Noticing what appeared to be a shelf, some twenty feet above the lake on the S/E shore, I nosed my canoe into a small notch at its base. Upon investigation, I discovered that the shelf was indeed flat with some sand for my bed. It was also protected from the wind by a large boulder on its West side. Here, I determined to make my camp for the coming night. I spent my first night of the expedition alone among the granite boulders. My small campfire the only light save that of the moon.


August 15

I spent an uneventful evening, and awoke just as the sun was peeking above the eastern ridges. After a quick breakfast of oatmeal and boiled Mexican chocolate, I loaded my canoe and set off upon my return trip to join the rest of the brigade. The lake was calm with a slight breeze from the east, which made for a pleasant paddle. While passing one of the large coves on the N/E shore, I heard the discharge of a rifle. As I was well, out from the shore I saw neither the smoke, nor those who had fired the salute. Being in unknown territory, I felt it prudent to continue my coarse to the appointed rendezvous at the landing. Later I mistook the wrong cove for that which contained the landing and was in the act of altering my coarse when, I was hailed by name from the shore. I returned the hale and made coarse for that position. As I neared the shore I discerned the persons of our captain, (Brown Ass Bob), his wife (Blue Belly) and his segundo (Powder Dan). Upon landing, I was greeted with hot coffee and good cheer. After making my report, it was suggested by Cap'n Brown Ass that he and I repair to the landing and form up the rest of the brigade. Upon arrival in the vicinity of the landing, we found some members of our expedition already in their boats upon the water. Two of these men (Cougar and Tall Bear) were sent ahead by our captain with orders to proceed until finding a suitable situation in which to encamp, thence to remain until joined by ourselves and the remainder of the expedition. Thus dispatched, the two men set off on their scout. Also waiting upon the water was our chief hunter, a Mr. Badger, his dog Stubs, and a hunter named Burnt Stick who was awaiting the arrival of his paddling partner the assistant camp cook and medical officer a Mr. Coon Hill. The head camp cook Known as K.B. and his partner, the hunter Broken Drum were at this time completing final preparations as Mr. Hill arrived at the shore. Also to arrive at this time was the hunter who originally was to be my paddling partner one Dancing Bare. Dancing Bare however, had elected to paddle solo hence leaving me with the freedom to do likewise, a situation that I found most agreeable, as I prefer to paddle alone. Unaccounted for were the hunters, Iron Hand, Two- Thirds, Grey Tick and the historian one Captain Steed. Our Bourgeois, Cap'n Brown Ass gave orders that all those who were now present were to rendezvous at his camp around the point. The cap'n and I remained behind and wait for those who had not yet arrived. As we awaited our missing comrades, we became aware of large numbers of "Ned" in the area of the landing. The captain, after holding council with some, Ned chief's, decided that although the Ned's seamed friendly enough, two lone hunters among so many savages might be too tempting a target for their young braves. As it was well past the appointed hour set for our departure the decision was made to shove off and make for the captain's camp. Captain BA tacked a message to a post and we were off upon the smooth body of the lake. It was a fine morning with pleasant temperatures and little wind. We made quick time to the camp of the cap'n , where all awaited orders. Blue Belly had loaded the captain's craft whilst we were away. As soon as my canoe touched the shore, the captain leapt from the craft and gave orders for all hands to take to there canoes. Having had experience upon this lake the cap'n ordered me to lead, which I did.

A small trick was plaid upon our captain while he and I where at the landing. One of the men found a large dolphin shaped piece of lead weighing an estimated 10 bounds. They then tied the weight to the bow of cap'n B. A's canoe. As our flotilla set off, the captain was left further and further in the rear. He, paddling alone with the weight hanging in the water was destitute to make sufficient headway to keep up with the rest of the brigade. After a time, Blue Belly took pity on him. Being in her own craft, she paddled back to him and apprised him of the cause of his paddling difficulties. After retrieving the weight cap'n Brown Ass was quick to catch up with the rest of the brigade. All had a good laugh at his expense. The captain being a man of good humor laughed as heartily as all the rest. Being in the lead, I was not aware of this amusement until later that day, at which time I also had a good laugh with the captain.

As our boats entered the eastern arm of the lake the breeze arose and provided us with a good tail wind for the remainder of the trip. After about two hours on the water, a signal was spotted from our scouts who used a mirror to deflect sunlight in our direction from the eastern end of the lake. We made directly for their position and arrived within another hour. Upon arrival at the spot, we were surprised and gladdened to find that two of our missing men had been found by our scouts and had accompanied them to this place. In later talking with these men (Iron Hand and Two Thirds), I found that it had been they who had saluted me earlier that morning. The scouts had done their jobs well. They had found a large shaded flat some twenty feet above the lake with plenty room for landing the boats on a long sandy beach below the spot. The remainder of the day was spent unloading boats, setting up our camps and relaxing. Some of the hunters went on a scout to locate signs of game in the area and to determine where each would hunt the next day. In the late afternoon, a canoe was spotted far out on the lake. A spyglass was unlimbered and it was determined that the craft was that of our two remaining members. The scout, Tall Bear signaled them with his hand mirror and shortly they joined us. We were glad to see them unharmed. They (Gray Tick and Cap'n Steed) reported to our bourgeois that their trip had been uneventful and they remained unmolested by the "Ned".

All the men turned over their supplies of meat and vegetables to the cooks. That evening, we where rewarded with a large kettle of savory stew. We ate heartily and lounged about the campfire telling lies and sipping on a jug, which was circulated among the men. After a few hours of these pleasantries, we took to our blankets for a well deserved nights rest.

August 16
At approximately 3:00 am. the camp was thrown into some confusion by the sound of a blood-chilling scream from one of our hunters. The entire camp was in turmoil, questions were fired back and forth among the men: "What is it? Who was it? Are we under attack by the Ned"? After things calmed, we discovered that one of our men awoke out of a sound sleep to find himself confronted by an unknown creature. All that he could say about the alleged animal was that it was, in the words of the hunter (Broken Drum) "bigg as a pig". When the alarm was over and no one seamed in danger we all had a good laugh at the hunter's expense and snuggled back into our blankets in an attempt to continue our slumbers. Before dawn the hunters were awakened by cap'n B. A. Each archer quietly left camp to try to find game. The rest of us lounged in our blankets until sunup. We awoke to another fine morning with clear skies pleasant temperatures and no wind. The cooks, again prepared an excellent repast of fried potatoes, bacon and onions washed down with good campfire coffee. Along towards midmorning the hunters began straggling in. By their dejected demeanor, we knew that none had made meat. As the morning progressed, Blue Belly and some of the other hunters, myself included, tried our hands at fishing but met with no more success than our deer hunters. The West wind had come up early on the lake. Controlling the canoes and fishing was next to impossible with the wind blowing as it was. Four of the men left on a scout around noon. Shortly after that, the last of our hunters returned empty handed.
The rest of the day was spent relaxing around camp. Powder Dan attempted to make fire with a fire bow, using local materials. He was unsuccessful but we all benefited from watching his experiment. Blue Belly tried to make a pump drill also using local materials and had similar results.
Occasionally "Ned" approached the camp. Powder Dan, being our interpreter was sent to parlay with them and on most occasions was successful in dissuading them from entering our perimeter. Only once did a family of them actually enter camp but since we were well armed and in a condition of readiness they were courteous and left with out begging or stealing.

That evening the cooks once again prepared a toothsome stew and all hands partook heartily of the viands. After the hearty meal, we all gathered around the fire for stories and the passing of the jug. Those of us who were to return to the settlements the next day, myself included, retired early as we wished to be under way well before the wind was upon the lake.

August 17

Before the Moon set there was a steer in camp as four of our men prepared to leave. I and two others, who had planed to leave this morning, remained in our blankets until first light. At which time we arose, struck our camps and loaded our boats. After a quick breakfast of nuts, dried fruit and Mexican chocolate I said my farewells and set out upon the lake for the return journey. It was a fine morning with a clear sky and only a slight breeze blowing from East to West. I had an uneventful trip and returned safely to my cabin near the mission Santa Rosa.

Tanglefoot (scout N.C.E.S.)

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