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More Cow Bell!

Do you find the sound of bear bells in the Sierra annoying? We do. You are far more likely to be involved in a car accident driving to the trailhead than you are to be attacked by a bear in California. And yet some hikers still wear them, jingling along as they warn all the other wildlife in the Sierra that a human is on the way. So much for anyone else seeing any wildlife.

But that’s not the point of this post. Because if you share our opinion of bear bells, how do you feel about cow bells? On our recent hike in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness, we were often hiking to the accompaniment of cowbells. The cows were in the summer grazing range, grandfathered in by ranchers who were running cattle in these mountains before the Forest Service took over their management. And they still run cattle here. It can’t be very lucrative at all, but I suppose they do it because they can, and because it has been a part of their lifestyle and sense of self for generations.

We noticed a few cows in the Highland Creek drainage, and even hiked past this ancient cowboy cabin along the trail—surrounded by a minefield of cow pies. But it was along Arnot Creek that we really saw cows. For miles our hike was punctuated by the sounds of those bells, and the mooing and moaning of cattle as the scattered away from us. Oh well. The good old days, I guess.

The result was the same, though. We didn’t see any wildlife around the cattle either. Only cow pies and a lot of muddy footprints at every source of water.

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