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The Great Al Roundup, or "I'm not a cow."
I met Steve's three stock-seeking dogs before I met Steve. Funny Story.
The dogs thought I was a cow, and I thought the dogs were wild. When they came through the underbrush to "round me up" I was ready to do battle with dogs.
It started when I could hear three medium sized animals coming East up the forest and brush through one of Boulder Creek's little feeder creeks towards my Southbound position on the Pacific Crest Trail above the East Fork of the Carson River.
Listening to three animals intentionally approaching and flanking me was disquieting. Bears do not travel in packs, neither do coyotes, so I guessed wild dogs were on my trail. They were intentionally tracking and flanking me.
I came up with a quick plan.
I charged the dog on the left as they broke through the underbrush around me in unison. I saw what I instantly thought were three crazy dogs who had somehow packed-up in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. I would isolate the dog on my left, keeping him between me and his two pals as I did what was necessary.
The dogs instantly knew they had met a frkn crazy backpacker. As far as I was concerned it was on. The dogs would die and I would live.
The dogs, on their part of the deal, were quite surprised that I was not a cow, and were even more shocked that someone was charging them with threats of mayhem, death and a big stick. And trying to isolate their right flanking dog from their pack...
The dogs made themselves scarce quick. I instantly noted their puzzled looks and the fear in their eyes sparked by my aggression. This instantly informed me that they were not lost or wild dogs.
I said, "good dogs," and all three wagged their tails in unison from their safe observation spots, as I expected they would. They were good dogs. They were a team of working dogs. Then I heard the mounted rider coming hard and fast up the mountain through heavy undergrowth.
Steve rode hard up the mountain when he heard my battle-cry, knowing his dogs had not found the cow they were tracking. Steve rode up apologizing profusely. I assured him that all was well that ended well. The dogs returned and we had a formal introduction. They were not getting anywhere near me until Steve called them in.
Steve's dogs were tracking a stubborn stray up one of Boulder Creek's little drainages reaching up to the Sierra Crest. His dogs had the wind to their backs and picked me up with their ears, so their noses had not rejected me as a bovine target.
The dogs came in and nosed my hand, and let me give them a quick pat, but they were more concerned with their objective, which made finding the cow they were chasing much more important than hanging out with me. They were good working dogs who loved their job as much as Cowboy Steve.
Steve's family has had a stock lease up here for generations. They come out in late September and early October to start rounding up their grazing stock and comb the deep valleys for strays and stubborn cows.
Steve was as nice a guy as his picture indicates. We spoke for a while and went on with our different tasks through the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness.
Down the trail his dad and brother rode by fast a couple of times trying to box-in the stubborn stray they were all chasing around the mountain. The stray was doing everything in his power to avoid capture. The cowboys were chasing the cow through the mountainside ravines, then cutting up to the PCT to ride fast and hard to get in front of the stray's maneuvers, then cut off the trail back down the mountain to force the stray back down the drainage.
Just another day in the Sierra.
Late Sept 2009.