Nevada City

Lower Salmon and the Sierra Buttes

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A divine Labor Day weekend spent in the Sierra Nevada high country, soaking up the wild of it all. A pristine mountain lake at 7000 ft. elevation, Lower Salmon is protected by two large metal gates along a twisting rocky and rutted road. We had the keys. Our destination was a privately owned mining claim along the south shore. 

It was once a working claim, but long since has fallen into disuse. It is now a remote campsite with a bit of sheltered level ground and a ring of stones for a campfire. Gigantic trees grow right out of the rock, gnarled by the profound snows of winter; they are like great soldiers crusted with lime-green lichen and inches-thick, fibrous bark. The lake is fed by several crystalline springs. It is very high and dry in the late summer. Very secluded. Very beautiful. 

 The road into camp.

The road into camp.

 Remnants of the old mining operation sit just north of the campsite.

Remnants of the old mining operation sit just north of the campsite.

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I am particularly taken with the weathered carcasses of these magnificent trees when they finally surrender, laid down at last by the austere conditions. I don't know how long they live, but they have a kind of afterlife on the ground, shockingly immense and immobile, a silken whitish gray, like the bones of some fantastic beast. They shine in the early morning light.

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 Water lilies flourish at one end of the lake. So do fish, ducks, deer, grouse, and the tiniest frogs I've ever seen. To my unending delight and dismay, there were no mosquitos, no pests of any kind.

Water lilies flourish at one end of the lake. So do fish, ducks, deer, grouse, and the tiniest frogs I've ever seen. To my unending delight and dismay, there were no mosquitos, no pests of any kind.

 My sister Susan in the front of our canoe.

My sister Susan in the front of our canoe.

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 Local flora.

Local flora.

 Little campers Lola and Bowman.

Little campers Lola and Bowman.

We had glorious weather for four days. The nights were crisp with a brilliant full moon, and after it set around 3am, stars forever. Two owls sang after moon-set, their calls echoing over the still water. 

 My bivouac. 

My bivouac. 

Forever grateful to Susan and Eric Neumann for their love and generosity and skills, making our high country journey possible.

Beth Ford