Over Memorial Day weekend I went camping down in Seqoia National Forest with Rachel and two of her co-workers, our goal was to find 4 different types of beetles
that haven’t been collected in 30+ years. Now, to be honest I was expecting some fairly typical car camping – lots of relaxing by the fire and taking naps and wondering around looking at nature. This was a bit different. First, we were in the national forest and not the national park. The national park is world renowned, all the big nature lovers tend to go the park, while the national forest is where all the locals go to live it up in the woods. I realize this is a massive generalization, but in our case the reality lived up to the myth. We were camped next to a large number of young redneck ‘dudes’ in the late teenager and up age range. Playing music, burning things and generally carrying on. The only decent thing about it was the campgrounds were fairly far apart and in this case there was a small ridge so we didn’t actually have to see any of them. However the first night we were there they were carrying on late into the night. Car alarm going off for 10+ minutes at 1am, varoius random hoots and hollers, etc. Luckily they seemed to have burned themselves out that night and were pretty quite the next night. We eventually found out that as part of the revelry they had chopped down several trees and carved up the picnic table with an axe. Lovely people, oye!
So apparently the way to go for collecting these beetles is you go to a collection site during the day, poke around for a while turning over rocks and bark and such (an putting them back in the same place after) to see if there are any beetles at all around. Then you come back after dark with lights and look around the ground for the beetles which are now out and about wondering around. We did that the first day at our campsite (about 5500′ elevation) and found quite a few of one type of beetle Meghan was looking for. That type of beetle looks identical to one of the others except under the microscope so we might have found 2 of the 4 at this point.
The next day we drove down to town (a ‘quaint’ place an hour+ away with 1000 people) then up another road to check some other sites. One was along the river which was was a nice place with great steps down into the river. Sadly the endless numbers of locals had managed to kind of trash the place, lots of garbage. We kept going up to another camp about half an hour up into the woods and had lunch. Walking around after saitiating ourselves we did see a couple of beetles, but also saw a couple of snakes. Some kind of racer snake and what we think was a Mountain King Snake. Pretty cool. We went back to town to get dinner and wait for dark.
Nothing in town was open at all, so we waited in the park next to the police station till five when the bar and nice restraunt in town were going to open. Super hot, but that was fine sitting in the shade playing cards. Well it was fine till a fairly crazy woman came over and started talking to us. Seemed fairly coherent but would just not shut up or take a hint. She just kept talking and talk, bizarre medical procedures, what was wrong with the local youth, various horror stories from the reservation (she was a good percentage native american) lots of catch phrases that were repeated over and over. We finally managed to say our goodbyes and leave, and she was still talking as we walked away. Crazy! Nice enough but not exactly the peaceful relaxing in the park we were expecting.
Dinner was OK, the bar had a few quality redneck locals talking it up, the bartender seemed a bit more worldly and relaxed. The food wasn’t super great, the pasta primavera was more like pasat with thick cream and cheese sauce with a couple veggies tossed in it. The service was super slow as a huge party showed up after we did and the wait staff was having a hard time keeping up. There was a couple of people having fancy dinner for prom which was cute. The best part of the night was either when we told the waitress we were camping in the woods and thought it would be fun to have a nice dinner (at which point she looked at us in horror) or later when we asked for a pen so we could sign the credit card statement and we were told not to steal it. Good times!
We made it back to the collection site and poked around for a while, finding a few beetles. Knowing we had a long drive ahead of us I was talking up the merits of leaving and everyone was getting ready to turn back toward the car when Rachel spotted one of the beetles we needed and hadn’t collected yet, excellent timing! The drive back took ages and various people were feeling car sick by the end of it, but it was great because of all the animals we saw. In the course of the night we saw a bobcat, three foxes, and various little rodent like things all on the road as we drove back.