My next campground was at the bottom of the Tuolumne River valley. I knew that; yet still, seeing the gently rolling forest open up and plunge down before me was a thrill.
At the bottom was a roaring river,
a moss-covered landscape of the sort I like to imagine dinosaurs scrambling and darting and clawing through,
and rain. Steady, persistent rain.
Songbirds like juncos tend to hide out in the rain. I searched anyway, and found some squabbling Brewer’s Blackbirds, a female Black-headed Grosbeak on a tall snag, and a pair of Common Mergansers paddling across the white-water river as if it was a placid pool.
A suspicious ground squirrel watched me when I came back to the campsite for the night.
It was still raining the next morning. The river gage indicated that river flow had increased from 2870 cubic feet per second the previous evening to 3500 cfs. Even in the rain the land was beautiful; but no juncos.
I did see a male Black-headed Grosbeak on the same snag that the female had perched on the previous evening, suggesting that the two were paired.
Late in the morning I gave up and drove out. I don’t recommend driving out of a valley on a steep, narrow, windy and precipitous dirt road after it has been rained on for twelve hours. Slippery mud, in this context, is terrifying.
Then it was on to scout Sierra National Forest.