Tag Archives: Mineral King

“Mountains, Mules and Memories” by Bill DeCarteret




Few of us know what it’s like to fall in love with the mountains, the backcountry of the High Sierras, and fewer yet who can put that feeling into words, but Bill DeCarteret has humbly woven a lifetime’s love of its rivers and rugged terrain with the mules, horses and the ‘kids’ who worked for him at Wolverton and Mineral King Pack Stations from 1958 through 1982. Over fifty years ago, I was lucky enough to be one of those kids.

Bill became acquainted with the High Sierras as a Boy Scout in 1941 as he wrangled his way to his first job as a packer for Vaud Cunningham in 1945 near Huntington Lake. In 1947, he packed out of Mineral King for Ray Buckman from whom he later bought the pack station in 1958 with a $12,000 loan from Adolph Gill. As the author unwinds his stories in chronological order, it becomes apparent from the outset that they could never happen again, that his experiences were limited to a slice of time that will never be repeated. In this regard, “Mountains, Mules and Memories” becomes a part of our local history.

The author’s voice on the page is consistent with the man I know, replete with his understated humor as he relates his stories, especially his observations and compassion for his horses and his mules—a must read for animal rights advocates, DeCarteret was light years ahead of most. Like so many outfits in the business of packing people on horses and mules, anything can happen anytime and usually did. It’s from the stories that we not only learn about the man, and his wife Marilyn, but what it took to keep their summer enterprise afloat for twenty-five years.

Perhaps the most important thing I took away from this book was the impact that Bill and Marilyn’s business had on so many lives, affording many their first glimpse of the Sierras, cooking on a wood fire, catching fish in mountain streams and lakes in the middle of miles of untarnished landscapes, and all the degrees of awe that must have inspired them. The 83 ‘kids’, mostly teenagers at the time who worked for him in those twenty-five years, had to know how to work, often long hours, and to take responsibility because he couldn’t be with them on the pack trips—his business depended on it. Many are involved in the stories he tells as they became packers ‘his way’, safety first, learning to observe and read horses and mules—and most of all, how to reach inside for something more they didn’t know they had. Thank you, Bill.



Saturday, October 29th
Noon to 4 p.m.
Courthouse Gallery and Museum
125 S. ‘B’ St.
Exeter, CA

% Bill DeCarteret
758 Sherwood St.
Exeter, CA 93221
(559) 592-2878
349 pp. $21.95

Scalebud Anisocoma acaulis




The dramatic changes from bud-to-flower-to-seed make this large dandelion intriguing to photograph. In the sunflower family, their pale yellow flowers range from 2-4” in diameter and stand 1-2’ tall. The scaly bud is about the size of a gopher snake’s head that bursts into reds and yellows as petals develop. Likewise, as the dandelion head explodes into filaments, remnants of the yellow petals retain their color with red accents before turning white, all happening in a matter of days.

I first noticed the wildflower in April 2014 as a pale yellow patch on a south-facing bank of sand in the company of some Yellow Pincushions that were barely noticeable by comparison. Once found and identified, I revisited the same location last year and recorded the sighting with Calflora. At that time, it was the northernmost sighting in the state, as all other sightings were at elevations between 5,000-7,800’ in the Southern Sierras on latitude with Johnsondale, and on either side of the Kern River. However, returning to the website this morning, Calflora indicates another observation in April 1940, now the earliest recorded on Calflora, by Lewis S. Rose, above the town of Three Rivers at 2,000’. The Jepson Manual sets its elevation range between 300-7,800’.

The 1940 observation, east of the Kaweah River above the town of Three Rivers, was prior to the construction of the Terminus Dam. These Scalebud are photographed below Terminus in a highly disturbed area around 500′ that has been subject to the heavy construction of the dam in the early-60s, rock and gravel mining from 1950-1970, as well as the 1955 Flood.

As an amateur photographer and neophyte botanist I find the elevation differences intriguing that such an isolated dandelion family can be dispersed so far apart over such rough terrain into different watersheds. An observation in 1975 by the Consortium of California Herbaria on the Little Kern River may be a clue: Farewell Gap, the common connection between the watersheds. It may be that the Scalebud is more dependent on the unique mineralization of the granite from the Mineral King area than it is on the dispersal of its seed.

None of this matters, of course, and why in the hell would an aging cowman waste what’s left of his time on some dandelion when he could be otherwise occupied with the spectacle of 2016 GOP Presidential Primaries?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…




I made a quick tour of Greasy yesterday before the current rain to check our cattle and feed conditions and to cut a Kubota-load of Manzanita. The lighting beneath the cloud cover and view of Sawtooth (elevation 12,343′), above Mineral King Valley in Sequoia National Park, from below Sulphur Peak was eerie and intriguing, enhanced by the 30x telephoto of my point and shoot. Only a light dusting of snow remains from our last storm, but the forecast is for three feet on the Great Western Divide.