Category Archives: highway 16

“I’m a coon hunter extraordinaire.”

“You’ve got raccoon problems? I killed one at my house with an arrow. Right through the chest.”  This comment from a hunter staying at my B&B Cache Creek Inn last night. I had complained that a raccoon – or some other critter – had eaten two of my ducks in the last week. Nick lives in Walnut Creek. He and I both keep poultry and he was telling me about his encounter with a raccoon who had been after both his hens and his dog.

“You hunt with a bow and arrow?”

“Yes, that’s what I’m using to hunt wild boars up in the hills in the BLM land.” He pointed out the trail he planned taking, asking me to note his whereabouts in case he didn’t return home by 11 p.m. The “three ponds” trail takes off from the high bridge on highway 16. I had been on this trail myself, only going as far as the first pond.

“This is my first boar hunt, to be honest,” he said as he ate lunch at my kitchen counter. “I got interested after reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma.”

“…but I thought Michael Pollan was a vegetarian?”

“Oh no. He describes going on a boar hunt in your area. These pigs are special. They are descendants of pigs brought over by Italians decades ago. Those pigs escaped and bred with the wild pigs, resulting in a very flavorful pig.”

I was intrigued and decided I would have to read this book. Nick set out for an evening hunt, with a head lamp and down vest, plus bright orange hunters’ gear and his bow and arrow. The head lamp was important, as the moon is in the third quarter and doesn’t rise until after midnight. I spoke with him when he returned about 7 pm. “No pig, but lots of beautiful countryside and deer.”

He is getting up before dawn again tomorrow morning and coming back for a hearty breakfast around 9 a.m. Originally Nick had planned to stay at the Cache Creek Casino but decided our B&B was a better choice: closer to the hills and more peaceful. As I write, coyotes are howling and the milky way is spangled over the sky.

Cortina Rancheria Endangered

Rancheria: an amount of land set aside for  small native American communities, specifically in California.

I drove to the Cortina Rancheria one day, just to see what was there. The Wintun Indians have lived in this community for over a hundred years, probably much longer. It is not easy to find, although a mapview will show that the rancheria is just over a range of hills from our B&B in Rumsey.  I drove north on highway 16 to its junction with highway 20; then east until I came to a two-lane road winding between oak covered hills.  Deep within the hills, and at the end of the road I found the community with its cluster of homes and a…roundhouse!

I was too nervous about disturbing residents to get out of my car, although I longed to discover when and if the roundhouse is still used for celebrations.  I had read accounts of the Big Head Dance being performed at the Cortina Rancheria outside an earlier roundhouse in 1916. Anthropologists from the Hearst Museum were present to take photos. It was possibly the last Big Head Dance performed, certainly one of the last. The dance is named after the turkey feathers worn on the headdress of the male dancers.  The feathers splay out in all directions. The dance is involved with mystery and magic, keeping evil spirits at bay. This blog entry isn’t really about the Big Head Dance, just the fact that the Cortina Rancheria is an important historical place for Wintun Indians.

A Wintun roundhouse where Big Head Dances were performed.  This roundhouse was at a neighboring rancheria near Cortina, Grindstone Creek.


Big Head Dancers

Today I learned that the Cortina Rancheria is threatened by fire. The “Highway 16 fire” has bloomed out of control in the last few days. Reports say the beautiful Cache Creek Canyon, just above my home at Cache Creek Inn, is blackened and charred. The fire has spread over the hills toward the rancheria.

Today’s fire nearing the rancheria