May 7 Day 29

12 miles

I am writing this entry from "Black's", at the junction of Bull Creek and the forest road to Briceburg, where we are staying with new friends, Richard and Lynn Ferry, who live off the grid, on the route of the old Coulterville Free Trail. I am amazed that after hiking 12 miles through wilderness we would end up in a place where I could write and send an email. I can't even imagine how much more John Muir would have been amazed. Sadly I cannot figure out how to send any photos but will add them in when I get the chance.

Sunday we took up where we left off the week before, in Coulterville. It was good to be hiking again after our rest, if you can call all the work we did rest. The trip itinerary had us walking along Highway 132, but after our previous experience with that busy road we decided to take a smaller alternate. What a great decision. Sunday morning proved a great time to hike. The sun was shining and we were smiling. Dogtown Road was paved for the first few miles and then turned to dirt, and there were no cars. We walked past oaks and gray pines, popcorn flower, buttercup, Indian warrior, shooting stars and scarlet campion, as well as the ever-present lupine and fiddleneck. We passed quaint old buildings that still lived the history of the region, and mining claims with No Trespassing and No Hunting signs posted everywhere.

The roads were not clearly marked, and we sort of got lost a few times, but we knew the basic direction to walk, so never were concerned. We climbed up through chaparral, missed a turnoff and ended up on a steep ATV road that led us to a knoll with a 360-degree view. To walking the trailthe west we could see the lower foothills and was it ever satisfying to see the distance we had come. To the northwest was Penon Blanco, with its white stripe of quartz, and to the east, ever so far off, Pilot Peak, our goal for Tuesday. Above everything was a hazy hint of snowy Sierra and the Yosemite Valley.

Just past the Schilling Road turn-off we walked through a bunch of old buildings, clustered together, with the road running between them. It was clearly a real old farm and I couldn't resist peaking into one of the open barns. Surrounded by all sorts of machinery, tools and random bit of old metal, was a rough old sawmill. I was so excited. It was an ancient machine, like the one Muir had run for Hutchings in the Yosemite Valley.

Across the road we heard a lawn mower whining away, and I went over and gave a "halloo." The owner, happy to stop work to chat, told us the history of the mill. His grandfather had moved it there from Anderson Flat, long before he was born. There was a planer in another building that had turned miles of board feet of lumber into finished tongue and groove siding for interior walls of neighboring cabins. When he was younger he had run the mill with his father. He told us stories of sparks flying when they hit nails as they sawed local trees into rough pine boards. The mill had two circular saw blades, one above the other, each about four feet in diameter, the top one rusty and the bottom shiny: "We don't get trees that big anymore."

The next time we do this walk we will stay on Dogtown Road all the way to Bower's Cave, but since we had arranged to stay the night at the Yosemite Westlake Campground to give a talk, we finished the day walking on small paved roads into Greeley Hill.

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