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Across California: Wind Wolves Preserve - Explore

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Across California: Wind Wolves Preserve

We have crossed the Wind Wolves Preserve in three days. I have been out of contact with the Internet since my entry about the six condors. Wind Wolves is a marvelous place. The part we traversed was like a Wilderness area. Bear and mountain lion tracks were prevalent. The road we were following became a trail impassable to 4-wheel drive vehicles. It looks as though no vehicle had been over it in years.

We camped in a rough, sloping place called "The Bathtub," where I had to kick bear scat out of the road to set up my tarp in a light rain. Everything got filthy overnight. My hat is now a mud collection. The next day we continued on with Tom and me taking the short route and Dave and Mad the longer, more scenic way. We all ended up at the group campsite for Wind Wolves called The Willows. Mad was excited about the flush toilets, but even more excited about the blue grossbeak she saw. That night the Wind Wolves manager Dan York and his wife Sarah showed up with a bottle of fancy French wine. I managed to spill my organic plastic glass.

Ranger Luis agreed to put a big container of water over near the western boundary of Wind Wolves. So, the next day (April 24) we finished out 3-day crossing, ending up on what we thought was the eastern border of the Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge, a critical component of the recovery program for the California Condor. Cattle were everywhere, even though they are supposedly not allowed on the Refuge. We spent the night in tall grass with red ants and earwigs invading everything.

This morning, we had hoped to meet Mike Stockton, the Refuge manager. Sure enough, he found us but with difficulty. Apparently the Refuge has fenced its border a couple of miles west of where it shows on the map. We spent the day (April 25) with Mike and Joseph Brant, the senior supervising biologist for the condor recovery program on the refuge. We learned a lot about condors. For example, did you know they have a hinged tongue with a ratchet mechanism for scooping the goodies out of their supper? The Refuge feeds them the occasional still-born calf from a nearby dairy herd, but the big plan is to encourage them to find more of their own food, which they are doing. Well, we had a long day, with tremendous ups and downs trying to follow Joseph, a studly rock climber and surfer who monitors cliff-side condor nests.

My BlackBerry batteries are all empty and the chances of finding cell connections over the next four days are about nil. We are headed north on Carrizo Plain National Monument and will reach Selby Camp on April 27. After laying over there for a day, we'll head west to the Los Padres National Forest. It now looks as though we'll reach Morro Bay on May 4 rather than May 1.

-- Cal French

Cal, 74, a member of the Sierra Club for 42 years, is trekking 530 miles from the Colorado River to the Pacific Ocean to highlight the threatened natural corridors of Southern California.


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