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Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus
Letters from Our Readers

April 2010

Beware of Mad Hikers

Bearpaw Meadow camp lies at about 8,000 ft. below the Great Western Divide in Sequoia National Park and is actually a hotel, accommodating 12 guests in six floored tents. It is a delightful haven after the 11.3-mile hike from Sequoia Village along the High Sierra Trail. The camp is only open three months in the summer, and food supplies are delivered twice a week by mule train.

We had been to Bearpaw 25 years before and had no trouble then with the hike, although I do remember worrying about bears. This time, except for running out of steam about the 9th mile, all went well even though it did take us 8 hours to walk the distance. And actually, the hike back three days later was also easy for us, at least for the first 9 miles. We covered the distance nearly as fast as we had done 25 years before, still in awe of the iconic Sequoia scenery.

I actually said to my husband: “I think we’ve done it, and we didn’t see any you-know-whats.” Obviously, our tinkling bear bells had done the trick. Then a guy comes around the corner yelling, “There’s a bear on the trail! I hit him with bear spray, but the safety valve broke and I sprayed myself too!” He pulls out the defective can of pepper spray which explodes in our faces at close range. Here we were on the trail, both of us blinded, two miles away from help, with an irate bear and a mad hiker. It took 15 minutes for our sight to return.

Our next vacation should be at a resort! We are 75 and 69 respectively.

Lesson for people and bears: Beware of hikers with pepper spray.

—Suzanne Wood
Monterey

 

Toward a more effective Santa Cruz Group

Here in Santa Cruz County we face big environmental issues: how to get people to change their carbon-intensive lifestyles so we can reduce our contribution to global warming, and growth and the various infrastructure projects that may induce that growth (Highway 1 widening, desalinization, etc.). We need the strongest possible Santa Cruz Group of the Ventana Chapter to deal with those big issues.

Our greatest strength is the large number of members we have in the County, nearly 4000. But too often the Group’s decisions are made without involving those members in the discussion or the decision. The result is members who are too often less inclined to support the now-hear-this directives subsequently issued by the Group leadership. And even worse, there are too many ex-members of the Sierra Club here, people who often say they left in frustration at never being involved, except to be told after-the-fact what the Group’s position is.

A case in point is the “From the Editor” column in the last issue of The Ventana. In it, only one side of the environmental argument on Arana Gulch is presented. In it, the case is made that the City’s proposed Master Plan and trail would harm the tarplant. Not mentioned is that the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s biologists found that the Plan would actually benefit the tarplant and its habitat. Included is an argument that the trail could instead be routed around the north harbor and through Frederick Street Park. Not mentioned is the Port District’s position that that route is not safe and they would not make their property available for it (as they would need to in order for this alternative to be feasible).

Group members are intelligent people with great environmental values. They can be trusted with the environmental arguments on both sides of an issue such as this. They can be trusted to make their own thoughtful and pro-environmental decisions. And they would appreciate being treated accordingly.

Next time, for example, when stating that the Plan and trail will harm the tarplant and bisect the habitat, you might want to also include the conclusion of the Coastal Commission’s biologist, Dr. John Dixon, that without approval of the Master Plan the tarplant is likely to decline toward extinction at Arana Gulch, and that the proposed trail would not constitute a biological barrier bisecting the habitat. We’re adults. We can handle information from both sides in an argument among environmentalists.

—Paul Schoellhamer
Watsonville

Editor’s Note:
Articles in The Ventana reflect the positions of the Sierra Club. A more extensive discussion of this issue is found in the editor’s column.

 

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