When a quad of city boys, suburban hands, of an age within two and a half to three and a half decades, gather together at a campsite just outside of shelter cove drinking whiskey and pondering the universe, their locus in it; When this happens, they begin to take turns composing the tale of Whiskey Dick – the dumpster diving, dive bar frequenting, freight train jumping, down on his luck, anti-antihero, cantankerous lech and all around good-ole-boy.
Three were brothers, Mucky, Lucky, and Jolly. The fourth, Brunt, was a good friend. That they did, passing around the journal upon which each took a turn crafting a tale so far fetched and unbelievable that it’s origin’s must be in the truth. The whiskey bottle was passed also, though in the opposite direction. The tale was spun by turns, replete with laughter, and lost to the vagaries of time. The next morning they stopped by the visitor’s center to listen to the sage advice of the docent. “This is Elke mating season. You will probably come across lone male elk, there’s about one in each ravine. When two of these Elke come in contact, they will fight – charge each other and butt heads. Give them lots of space and do not look them in the eyes. If you look into their eyes, they will take that as a challenge and may charge you. Remember, this is their home and you are just visiting, please give them space and be careful.” Well it turns out one of the boys missed the docent’s sage wisdom because he was taking a piss.
The Sinkyone Wilderness, south of Shelter cove climbs from sea level to 2000 feet over and over again as these rugged mountains dive into the mighty Pacific. It is no wonder that this place is called the Lost Coast. The main highway skirts eastward around the Humbolt Redwoods State Park, various private properties and King Range National Conservation Area (home to innumerable heavily armed dope growers). Another warning from the docent was to not head north into the King Range unless you were fixin’ to get shot by a pot farmer or die on the high tide, stuck beneath the cliffs as a few tourists do every year.
They headed south, their main objective: visit Sally Bell Grove to give thanks and remembrance to the indigenous heroine of the Lost Coast, of the Sinkyone Wilderness. They planned to walk south and then head back north again. They gave themselves 3 nights to find the center of the protected old growth, relic of thousands of years, testament to human destruction and remnant of what could have been. On the first night they set up camp very near the beach at Bear Harbor. Brunt and Mucky went up stream a ways to filter some water for cooking their dinner. About a quarter of a mile up the trail they encountered two bull elke on either side of the trail. The two elk squared off and charged each other smacking head and antler in a cosmic collision. Brunt and Mucky stopped and marveled at the two elke, carefully heading the docent’s advice. They waited. A few minutes passed and the elk collided again. The site of the collision was right in the middle of the trail. The two water fetchers were perplexed. The stream was further up the trail and without wading through stinging nettle and poison oak there was no access except where the trail crossed up ahead. So they waited and marveled at this fantastic sight. The bull elk bugled and foraged, still on either side of the trail. The rut was on and would be for at least another month. Brunt and Mucky waited; silent, observant and fearful. Jolly came loping up the trail, saw the two waiting and asked, “What’s up guys.” They explained the situation. “What?!” Jolly said, incredulous, “We need to get dinner started.” He picked up some stones and started throwing them at the Elk. He also started yelling at them to move along the trail. They looked up and for a moment, just a fraction of a moment really, Brunt and Mucky were certain the elk were going to charge and skewer the youngest brother. The elk raised their heads and directed their gaze at the loud, obnoxious bellowing human throwing stones which landed not on them but near them. The stones were carefully aimed. The tense moment passed and the two elk sauntered off into the forest away from the trail. Human bravado, stupidity, innocent meanness and impatience can never be underestimated. After all, what was the hurry? Regardless of what could have been they were able to get to the stream and filter the tainted water that had been poisoned by years of deforestation and underground fuel storage. Brunt and Mucky felt a mixture of WTF? and Why Didn’t We Just Do That? Jolly had made them look both foolish and patient. Jolly had missed the docent’s talk and had little regard for them sovereignty of the Elke. He thought he was helping and yet…
The next day they made a couple of 2000 ft. ascents and descents. They made a break from the costal trail in search of Sally Bell Grove, were assaulted by poison oak and stinging nettle (navigation was all done with USGS topo-maps, so long ago was it). When they found the grove they noticed tiny colorful bags of tobacco hanging from the old growth redwoods. They sang some rounds inside of a tree and felt relief at achieving their purpose.