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Camp Meeker Beat - February 2017


Camp Meeker Beat - February 2017

by Tom Austin

Ah, winter.  I sat most of the day huddling by my space heater, waiting for Godot.  Ooops, I mean waiting for the furnace repairman. That, or shoveling the mud from my parking space. That’s okay, I have plenty of hot water and an electric blanket. I’ll get by.   It has been quite a winter so far: it’s a warm day when the mercury tops 45 degrees, morning frost is a common occurrence, and the Russian River is our local version of the Big Muddy.  Meanwhile a deep and luxurious snowpack in the Sierras promises that, for this year at least, our water worries have eased.  There are some other worries – nothing major, but still.   That big tree fell in what I call Camp Meeker’s “front porch”: the wide area over the culvert that is both Tower and Market Streets.  The part of the tree blocking traffic to Market Street was quickly sectioned off and carted away, but the rest of the tree remains where it fell, and of course the foliage still covers a good portion of the front porch.   Who is responsible for that? I guess no one is.   A tree fell on Redwood a few years back, cutting neatly in half an (abandoned and condemned) house, cracked the foundation of the house on whose property it was rooted on.   The family who owned the house had been complaining the water coming out of the culvert was eroding the soil holding the tree’s roots – were on the phone with the county 30 minutes before it fell, in fact – but the county said “your land, your problem.”   Five years later, still the tree sits where it fell. 

The moral, I guess, is that we’re on our own.  That’s why we need to stick together.

Speaking of sticking together (NOT), some bozo left a big pile of rusty equipment trash on the basketball court outside the fire station.   There, too, it sits to this day.  Chances are it was not a Camp Meeker resident who did that – just some cheapskate who didn’t want to pay a dumping fee. 

Yeah, the floods.  I bet that, like me, you get calls and emails from relatives around the country who just watched the news and want to know if you got washed out to sea.  The funny thing is, Camp Meeker doesn’t really need to worry about floods.  I live on the front row, so to speak, on Redwood Avenue, and at its highest Dutch Bill Creek was still thirty feet below my property.  Even downstream toward Tyrone, those houses right on the creek stayed dry. Yes, I know this wasn’t a historic flood by any stretch – but Dutch Bill’s Creek bed is wide enough, and the sides of the canyon generally steep enough, that the water doesn’t rise very high.  It just gets FAST.  

That isn’t to say there’s nothing to worry about when it gets wet.   Mud can slide, and trees can fall.  In the meantime, enjoy winter in Damp Sneaker!  My very first year, I found a pacific giant salamander in my back yard.   You think of salamanders as little things smaller than your hand.  Not this one! Easily over a foot long.   What else might you find wandering in the woods?  All the squishy things come out when it’s wet.   The humble banana slug.  The feisty rough-skinned newt.  The surprisingly compact rubber boa. The elegant black salamander.  The startling ring-necked snake.   Or look up into the trees: Sonoma County is the wintering ground of choice for most of the large raptors – hawks, red-tailed, red-shouldered, sharp-shinned, and Cooper’s.  Kestrels and Ospreys.  The Northern Harrier. The majestic Golden Eagle.   It’s true that these birds tend to like the open dairy country better than the forest – but you needed an excuse to get out anyway.   The sun sets early in Camp Meeker, so do your creek clambering in the morning, then pick up a picnic lunch for some bird watching.   I particularly recommend the environs of the estero, the green swath between Valley Ford and Tomales.   One day we saw a whole family unit  of Golden Eagles. Five of them at once!  That’s nothing compared to what was clearly the Red-Tailed Hawk National Convention on a hill just off of Middle Road.  There must have been two hundred of them, schmoozing with each other over where to find the most scrumptious field mice voluptuous voles.   It’s all there for the seeing. You just got to slow down, look up, look down, sit down, wait. It’s simple, but it’s not easy.