View Full Version : El Rojo's Dope Story (marijuana, dogs, and bears: OH MY!)

11-20-2010, 8:15 AM
The following is an exciting hunting tale. The year was 2000.

I had just finished my two days off and climbed into my car to travel the 150 miles from Taft in the Southern San Jouaquin Valley up to R.M. Pyles Boys Camp in the newly designated Sierra National Monument. Pyles Camp is an outstanding non-profit program that offers a two week wilderness experience for inner city, at risk youth. I had been working for Pyles for 8 years and it definitely beat the summertime heat of Taft.

Over the break I had heard we had another bear wonder into camp and was becoming a problem. Earlier in the summer we had two bear problems. One of the problems I was able to solve with my paintball gun. We discovered that shooting a bear at close range with a paintball gun acted as a very good deterrent in keeping the bear out of camp as we still hadn’t seen that bear return. The second bear had the misfortune of wondering into camp while the Department of Fish and Game had two agents in camp and he had expired in a tree in the middle of camp at the expense of a 300 grain .45-70 bullet.

Now we had a very large, 350-400 pound black bear wondering through a camp with about 70 care free campers and the bear was definitely a concern. The United States Department of Agriculture has wildlife service agents that travel over the entire length of California that handle health and safety issues dealing with wildlife. Joe was the main agent for the entire southern half of California and he had traveled up to our camp the night before and set a culvert trap in camp. The bear walked to the opening of the trap, ate all of the bait there, then he walked over to Joe’s truck and stood up against it to look inside. The bear went all over camp that night and had even walked through one of the camper cabins, fortunately the campers were out on their backpacking trip.

Joe knew this was not going to be as simple as the last time he was here two years ago. He called one of his coworkers, Leo, and asked him to bring up the dogs. I arrived at camp before Leo at around 1 PM. Leo arrived at about 2:30 PM. Our camp director Sean, facilities manager Darren, and myself were going to go out on the hunt. I asked Sean if we should take along our guns, as he had a Smith and Wesson .40 and I had a Glock 27 .40. Not really the best bear guns, but I had my CCW permit and was used to carrying it in my waistband. Sean said that Joe and Leo had enough guns and that we didn’t need to bother. Darren had just about grabbed his pistol on the way out of his trailer, but decided not too. We set out with Joe and Leo and headed up to the paved road where Joe had last tracked the bear.

When Leo opened up his back tailgate there were two truck mounted cages with about four hound dog heads sticking out of the narrow slits. Two more dogs were anxiously wagging their tails from inside a coyote sized live trap in between the other cages. Sean, Darren, and I thought this was pretty entertaining to see all of these hounds wagging their tails and really excited to be out on another hunt. Joe and Leo put on the dogs tracking collars just in case the hunt went really bad and the dogs chased the bear up and over the ridge.


The bear had appeared to head south from our location up towards the Needles Lookout. The Needles Lookout was built back in the late 1930’s on top of a huge granite spire that rose above the Kern River Canyon to a height of 8,250 feet. The lookout was perched precariously on top of one of the Needle’s spires with 200-400 foot cliffs on all sides. On the south side of the Needles ridge were the exposed faces of these spires, offering some very popular climbs for rock climbers. On the north side the exposed spires were only about 200 feet high and then the densely covered ridge dropped off very steeply into our basin.

Leo let loose one of his dogs and the dog quickly picked up the bear’s trail. We set loose two more dogs and Leo and Sean headed off with the dogs while Joe, Darren, and I remained at the trucks. After about ten minutes Sean raised Darren and I on our handheld radios and relayed that Leo needed the .308 rifle. Joe gave me the rifle loaded with 180 grain softpoints and I quickly caught up to the search party. When I arrived Leo asked us to call back to Darren and have Joe release two more dogs. After a brief radio silence, Darren came back on and said that all four bolted out of the cage and that four dogs were now heading our way. About three seconds later four hounds went racing by us and up to join the rest of the pack. Darren later told us that the dogs had basically bolted out of the cage and despite him having a hold of two of them, another one clambered over him, got caught on his shorts pocket and ripped it nearly off before he got free and took off.

We could hear the dogs tracking the bear to the south and paralleling the paved road that traveled from the south and Johnsondale up through our basin and dead ended a few miles north of our camp at the Jerky trailhead. Leo decided to head back to the trucks and head south on the road and see if we could follow the dogs. We got back to the trucks and I jumped in with Joe and Darren hopped up in the back and Sean went with Leo. Leo led the convoy and we rolled south for about a half of a mile. We stopped and listened, but couldn’t hear the dogs. Leo and Sean stayed there and Joe took us further down the road another half a mile to where a large gully intersected the paved road. We stopped and listened for about 10 minutes and didn’t hear a thing. Finally Joe and Darren could hear the distant bark of the hounds. We raised Sean and told them to head on down to our location.

The barking died off for a couple minutes and so Leo and Sean drove down the road about 300 yards. The gully we were next to dropped down from a saddle on top and to the west of the Needles lookout. We had led many groups from the top of the Needles down through that saddle and ravine and down into the camp. It was a tough hike full of large rocks, natural springs, thick brush, steep slopes, and swarms of Yellow Jacket Wasps. What made the hike a little more bearable was that about half way down the monstrous ridge was a maze of old logging roads that snaked all along the side of the ridge.

11-20-2010, 8:15 AM
Soon we could hear the dogs a little closer and barking and howling at full strength. Joe thought they had the bear treed and that all we needed to do was head on up and get them. Our truck headed back up the paved road to try to find the highest point to start traveling up through the woods and towards the dogs. Sean called us and told us that they had found a logging road that they could get the big Dodge 4x4 trucks up. We headed back and sure enough, Leo had blasted up this old, steep logging road. I thought it was some pretty fun four bying as we took the big trucks up over the earthen logging roadblocks. We quickly caught up to Leo and Sean as they were out of the trucks moving some small logs that had been placed in our way. We moved the logs and continued to maneuver our way up the overgrown logging road. I suddenly realized that this was a new national monument that we were blazing our trucks off road through. I asked Joe in a sarcastic tone, “Do you realize you are traveling off road, destroying a national monument?” Joe responded, “We are federal employees acting on official business on a health and safety issue and we need to use this road.” This naturally had me laughing at Joe’s quick and witty humor.



We finally came to a large pile of old lumber and could not travel any further. We dismounted the trucks and readied to travel up further to find the dogs. By this time we had reached the base of the Needles ridge and every step we took to the south would be straight up the side of the ridge. We left the trucks and Joe led with his .308 pump action, I followed him with Joe’s .308, Sean was behind me, then Darren, and finally Joe. We followed the logging road most of the way for about half of a mile. We could hear the dogs barking further up the hill and it sounded like they were baying him on the ground. We came up a steep section of old logging road and the barking was now coming from our west. We had finally made it parallel to the dogs and we were going to try to cut the bear off and keep him from continuing up the hill. We had to cut through a ravine, but we could hear the dogs baying the bear just on the other side. Leo told me that if we had the bear treed that I could go ahead and take him, but that if he was bayed on the ground that he would get him. I asked him if I saw him running through the brush what did he want me to do. He said to just put some rounds into him, but to be careful because those were $2000 dogs running around too.

We somehow found a trail that looked like it had been used recently we was sort of odd considering the terrain we were in. We came up the other side of the ravine and the barking was really close. I was right on Leo’s heels and Sean was close behind me. Darren and Joe were trailing behind a ways as we made our way across the stream in the bottom of the ravine and up the other side. The barking was really close now and I was getting pretty excited. Suddenly Leo stopped and told us to hold still. He whispered back to us while pointing ahead, “marijuana farm!”

11-20-2010, 8:16 AM
The bear had led the dogs and us right into the middle of a large marijuana plantation. Leo told us to watch for booby traps and I quickly chambered a round and put another round in my magazine. One of the dogs stepped out of the nearby brush and was sniffing around. The bear must have been really close at that time, but we had more pending problems. Leo noticed there was half inch irrigation tubing running between the dozen or so plants we could see in front of us and that the plant wells were still wet. Whoever was tending the farm had been there that day! Sean was trying to signal Darren and Joe who were still walking up behind us to be careful of possible booby traps. Darren was trying to figure out what in the heck Sean was signaling him about. Finally the link was made and we got together. The dogs were still baying the bear somewhere very close by. Leo and I kept a very close eye out. Sean noticed what looked like a encampment just up the hill from our position. He took Leo’s .44 magnum and crept up the hill. The small flat spot on the hill was empty of humans, but the signs that someone had left in a hurry were all over. Shoes and boots were left laying around, there were some socks and shirts hung on branches, large sacks of fertilizer were stacked around the site, and someone’s diet of lemons and peppers were left lying on the ground.

I had brought along my camera so I got up right in the middle of some of the plants and had Darren take some pictures of me next to the greenery. Joe wanted some pictures too because his office wanted some unique pictures of them on the job. Unfortunately Joe wanted to hold the rifle for the pictures and I had to suddenly give up my means of protection. We took pictures of Joe kneeling next to a big marijuana plant, rifle in one hand, him holding a big leaf in front of him and sniffing it in another hand. The rest of us were not quite taking Joe’s humor as far considering whoever was tending the plantation was quite likely still in the area.


By this time the dogs had already moved on with the bear and we all moved up to check out the encampment. Sean got on the radio back to camp in order to let law enforcement know we were neck deep in the middle of a large marijuana field. Luckily for me he handed over the .44 magnum and felt a little better, but really wishing I had my Glock 27 instead. I knew how to use my Glock really well, but my confidence was not as high with the hand cannon. We hit a relay through our radio repeater on top of the Needles lookout and had them call the Tulare County Sheriff’s and the United States Forest Service Law Enforcement. We decided to split up into two groups. Joe and Sean would go back to the trucks and head down to the road to meet the law enforcement that would be on their way. Leo, Darren, and I would try to gather up the dogs and eventually meet them back at the road.


We were heading due north from the plantation and Joe and Sean had left more to the east. Our group was able to find about four of the ten dogs and call them off. We crossed the ravine again and ran back into the base of the steep road we had hiked up earlier. Sean called us on the radio and said that they were now following the dogs again and that the dogs were following the bear to the east along the side of the ridge. We walked back up the steep road in order to try to cut the bear off or at least get our dogs back into the pack. After another brief radio conversation, we decided to head back down to the truck since Leo had a spare key in his wallet and get back to the paved road. Our dogs went ahead and tried to rejoin the pack.

We got back to the trucks in about 10 minutes and still being a little paranoid we cautiously approached the trucks. We drove back down to the paved road and found a turnout and waited about 45 minutes for the law enforcement to show up. Occasionally we could hear the dogs barking way up on the ridge. Sean called in and said the bear was now heading straight up the Needles and that they were gaining a lot of elevation. Eventually the bear would circle back around and start heading west again. Sean and Joe later told me that they were having to jump down off of some serious rocks and it was a pretty hairy climb and hike.

11-20-2010, 8:16 AM
A Tulare County Sheriff finally arrived and close behind him was the USFS law enforcement officer. We described the plantation and the supplies we had found. The officers were upset because they knew exactly who it was from previous farms and that they had already moved into a new area. Judging by the farm and location, we figured that this was not really a new farm, but probably had been there for at least a year or so. Sean called back in while we were talking with the officers and told us that they had now moved past the plantation, but that they had passed well above it. By this time it was about 5:30 PM and they decided not to go in on the farm until early the next morning. We told them that we could lead them in there no problem and they said they would get a hold of us if they needed us.

Leo, Darren, and I left and returned to the location where we first started tracking the bear. Since it was getting dark, Leo wanted to try to intercept the bear and dogs as they traveled west along the side of the ridge. Joe and Sean had turned off their radio for the most part as they would get within 100 yards of the bayed bear, but the bear would break away from the dogs every time they got close. Joe said that there were a couple of times he shouldered his rifle thinking the bear would pop out of cover, but he never showed himself.

Leo and I took off to the southwest to try to intercept them and Darren stayed back with the truck just in case the bear came back to the northeast towards the paved road. Leo had his .308 again and I just had my radio. After we got a ways up the hill, Leo decided to mention that I should have grabbed a gun. Too late now to head back, we continued on. We lost the sound of the dogs for about 20 to 30 minutes as we climbed through some steep gullies and ravines. We finally reached a high point on a small finger coming off of the main ridge and the dogs were pretty close. They had passed us to the west and we were now behind them. We had not heard from Joe or Sean and did not know where they were. Once we got in close I turned my radio down to where I could only hear it next to my ear. We started down the side of the finger towards the dogs and then suddenly the barking had stopped. We had missed our chance again, the bear was again on the move.

Unknown to us, Joe and Sean had decided to head back to the truck. As they neared the truck Sean saw a head pop up over some brush. Sean still being unarmed was very comforted to see that it was the USFS officer’s head. Sean and the officer had worked together before when Sean was in the California Highway Patrol and knew each other well. Sean led the officer back up to the plantation to show him where it was and then all of them came down the hill and drove back to the paved road.

Back across the basin, Leo and I were breaking some really thick brush trying to catch up to the dogs and bear on the side of the ridge about three miles from the plantation. We were going up and down the side of some steep ravines and trying to find some open country to catch the bear in. Leo was doing pretty good for being 43 years old and I was doing pretty good right behind him being 20 years younger than him.

We finally reached the top of another point and the dogs were going wild below us as they had the bear bayed again. At this point Leo knew the bear had made his final mistake. We circled around to the west of the barking dogs and jumped up onto this large fallen tree. As we walked down the tree we had a good view of a small meadow and opening. We suddenly saw one of the dogs wondering around in the meadow and the rest of the dogs were barking back in some thick brush just to the east and above the meadow. I was tempted to pull out my camera as I had a great shot of Leo right in front of me on this big log and the meadow right over his shoulder. After all of the hiking and work we had done, I didn’t want to blow a shot because of a flash or something on my camera so I left it in my pocket. We stopped and waited anxiously, staring straight ahead at the small green patch of grass waiting for something to jump into the open.

Suddenly from out of the green brush, something came crashing through the bushes. A large chocolate brown bear came charging into the small opening. What seemed like forever to me, Leo stood and stared. I said quietly “get him”, and Leo raised his .308. The bear came to a halt about 50 yards away and stood perfectly broadside and looked over at us. Boom! Leo shot once and the bear moved a few steps to the left. I couldn’t see the bear through Leo anymore, but Leo shot two more times. We came down off of the log and the dogs were starting to swarm in on the bear. Leo shouted at them to get away and he put one more round into the bear to make sure. The dogs came down and started to randomly bite on the big bears hide. I was sort of in awe watching all of these tired dogs come down and start just chewing on this bear. They were just letting the bear know who won I guess as some of them chewed and some of them barked, all of them wagging their tails.


Leo popped out a Hawaiian Punch and started swigging it as I took some pictures of the dogs and bear. He handed me the punch and I finished the rest and like that the hunt ended. It was about 7:30 PM by then and getting dark quick. We took a quick count of the dogs and there were eight there. One of the younger pups had a good sized bite in her shoulder, but she was fine. Leo started to call the dogs and we started to head down the hill. I got on the radio and let Darren know we got the bear and that we were heading back and told him where to meet us.


When we finally got back to the truck, we were still missing two dogs and Joe had gotten out the radio tracker and dialed in the missing dogs collar frequencies. We drove around and honked our horns and tried to get the dogs to follow in. One of the missing dogs was a younger pup, Rose, and her signal was moving. What really worried Joe and Leo was that the other missing dog, Bear, was a more experienced dog and was always on top of the race. His signal was stationary and more towards the plantation. By then it was dark and we decided to head back to camp around 9:30 PM. We would come up and look for the dog in the morning after the law enforcement came in on the plantation.

11-20-2010, 8:17 AM
The next morning Joe and Leo woke up and drove out and found Rose up by our gate right where we started the hunt the day before. Bear’s signal was still in the same spot and things were not looking good. The odds were that he was dead, but there was still the chance he was wounded. Our only real problem was that his signal was coming from the area near the plantation, and we did not want to get into a shootout with the law enforcement or the farmers.

Leo, Joe, and I left the camp at about 8 AM and drove up towards the logging road. This time I had my Glock and Joe and Leo had their .308’s. We thought we saw the tracks of more vehicles going up the logging road and we figured that the sheriff’s had sent in the SWAT team to clear the area at first light. When we got up to the end of the logging road, there were no vehicles around. The law enforcement had not come in as planned. I suddenly didn’t like the idea of looking for the lost dog back in the middle of the plantation. I tried to raise someone on our frequency from the Forest Service, but no one answered. Our radio phone at camp was down too. I personally didn’t want to go wondering back through the woods looking for the lost dog. However, Joe and Leo’s only concern was that dog and they had no other options but to go find it.

The signal was coming from up the hill right towards the plantation and so we started back up the way we had traveled the day before. I did not think going back up in there was one of the smartest things I have ever done, but I didn’t want to let Joe and Leo go alone. As we got to the east side of the ravine that fed the farm’s irrigation supply, we decided to announce our presence. We figured the only reason we didn’t get into a firefight the day before was because whoever was at the farm, probably thought the dogs making all of that noise were probably after them. Our guess was that they made record time getting out of there. We didn’t think the farmers would be back, but at the same time, we didn’t know if the law enforcement was set up on a sting or in the area. The last thing we wanted was to get in a shootout with the law enforcement.

Leo started to yell that we were with USDA wildlife services and that we were looking for a lost dog. Joe was yelling for Bear and calling him to come over. I said lets just follow the signal and get the hell out of there. I thought we were coming in lower and to the north of where we had found the farm the day before. As soon as we crossed the ravine and climbed the side, we ran into some more plants. We stopped and talked about our options. We figured if the farmers had come back, they would have done it last night and been gone first thing in the morning, so we would just find the dog and get out. We followed the signal through rows of marijuana plants. When one set would end, we would cross through some brush and find another set. The half inch pipe was running through the entire area.

After a short ways, we found the signal behind us. We had passed the dog, but he was really close. We walked just a short ways back up the hill behind us and found Bear, dead. At first we thought the bear had got him, but we soon discovered he was secured to a small tree by some wire. There were torn down marijuana plants where he had appeared to struggle around. Joe and Leo got pretty upset. I tried to calm them down just a bit and we all were worried about booby traps. I slowly attached a leash to Bear’s collar and getting as low as I could started to pull him away. The Yellow Jackets were all over the dog and more started to fly around near him. Bear was not booby trapped, but he had a lot of Yellow Jackets on him. Before I could drag him very far, I got stung on the neck and the arm and a large swarm was forming. I bolted back down the nearest trail, swatting at Yellow Jackets while high stepping to avoid stepping on anything that might kill me.


The wasps didn’t really follow me and I quickly unholstered my Glock and watched back toward the rest of the plantation while Joe tried to cut the wire and get the dog away from the wasps. Joe got stung about 15 times while he tried to pull Bear out of there. The wire Joe was pulling on broke and he went sprawling backwards falling into some brush. Joe finally got the dog free and dragged him down the hill away from the Yellow Jackets. We discovered that Bear had unfortunately got caught in a snare that the farmers had set up to catch some sort of small animal either to keep them from eating the crop or maybe for food. The poor dog had probably sat there and struggled while we were on the hill nearby the day before, but we had no way of knowing then. We took the radio collar and name tag off the dog and quickly buried him by a tree. Joe was really upset to lose his dog because it was such an experienced dog. Both Joe and Leo were now looking forward to seeing one of the farmers on our way out as they understandably wanted to even the score. I just wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible. We crept out the way we came in and headed back down the hill to the truck.

Joe and Leo left right after returning to camp. We bid them farewell and I got ready to start back at my management job at Pyles Camp. Later that day I phoned the Sheriff’s department in order to find out what was going on with the plantation. The local sheriff, Al, came up and I knew Al from some deer hunting trips in the area before. Al said that they were going to lay low for a couple of days and then send in a team the next Monday to bring all of the crop out. Al explained that the marijuana was no good until it started to bud, that occurring usually in October. Al told us to be on the watch out for any suspicious vehicles or persons in the area. We thanked Al and he left the camp.

11-20-2010, 8:17 AM
Two days later on Friday as we were working around camp, Darren and I heard a small helicopter buzzing around the basin. We figured they must be out doing the bust early so we hopped into one of our vehicles and drove up to the paved road to investigate and see if we could talk to the USFS Officer Brian. We found another USFS officer, Kevin, up at the road and we stopped and talked to him. Kevin said that they chopper was flying around the basin trying to find more plots of marijuana and so far the chopper had found two more sites. He said that they still probably wouldn’t go in until Monday, but they were still checking it out nonetheless. We chatted for a few more minutes and then Kevin had another pending call so he left and Darren and I returned to camp.

Early the next morning, another one of our staff members drove up from the city and when he got here we informed him of all the excitement that had been going on in the previous days. He said that on his way up he had seen this Chevy S-10 and a El Camino parked on the side of the road and he thought they looked sort of odd and out of place. Our phone was still out, but we had recently received a satellite phone for emergency situations. I hooked up the satellite phone and called the Tulare County Sheriff’s and informed them of what was going on. They took down the information and said they would send someone up to check it out.

About 30 minutes later, Al came pulling into camp in his squad truck. He said that he was already in the area and as he got the call from dispatch about the vehicles, he was already running the license plates. We chatted a little bit and he noticed that our board of directors were up for their annual visit. Al mentioned that it was too bad I was busy with the board members because him and the USFS officers were going to go check out the boundaries of the marijuana plantations and that I would have probably have liked to have gone. I wanted to hang out and talk with the board members, but I surely wanted to go out and search for more plantations even more. I told him I could probably get free and he told me to go grab my stuff and lets get going.
I went and asked Darren for permission to go and he said that was fine. I ran and grabbed my Glock 27 and my Camelback water pack threw them in my daypack and ran back up to the truck. As we drove up to the paved road Al was explaining to me that he wanted me along as the original reporting party and that I was just showing them around. He wanted to CYA just in case we got into a shootout or I had too shoot someone and someone started asking questions why I was there. I told him I had my Glock in my bag and he said just keep it in there unless I really need it. He didn’t want me getting shot because I had a gun but no badge or other identification to show I was with the law enforcement.

It turned out that we were not heading to the original site (now called the “Bear site” by the law enforcement), but to find another grove that had been spotted by the helicopter two days before. We went north on the paved road about ¾ a mile and pulled off by the USFS’s Bronco. Brian and Kevin were there and they were dressed in full battle dress uniforms and they had a M-16 each to compliment their side arms. Al just wore his regular green and tan Sheriff’s uniform and had a Armalite .233 carbine in addition to his side arm. I was in a blue camp shirt, jeans, and had my little Glock 27 in my backpack, but I felt much better having these guys around.

The plan of action was to go about ½ mile up this small drainage that was about ½ mile south of the Freeman Creek. Up the drainage there were some small creeks that flowed down from the side of the Needles ridge that I had run all over searching for the bear earlier in the week. From one of the creeks and ravines was where the helicopter found the other marijuana groves. We were just doing a reconnaissance to find out how extensive the grove was and to see if we could get lucky and catch some of the farmers still in the area. We geared up and set off to the west up the drainage.


We moved real slowly up through the drainage being really cautious about where we stepped and our surroundings. Brian and Kevin had ear pieces with their radios and could quietly communicate to each other as we moved up the drainage area. We eventually reached the ravine running south back up the hill and slowly made the turn that direction. It reminded me of the numerous books I have read on long range recon patrols out of Vietnam and I tried to remember as much of those stories as I could to make sure I didn’t do something stupid. We moved as quietly as possible slowly up the side of the area next to the ravine.

After about forty five minutes of making our way up the hill, Kevin tried to contact his dispatcher and see if the chopper had marked the grove with its GPS. After a short back and forth, it turned out that the chopper had not used its GPS or either the coordinates were not available. They told us the general location again and it seemed we were heading in the right direction. I began to think we might be walking around that side of the mountain all day long and never find anything. We started climbing up a little steeper slope just short of a small crest. On our west side was a deep ravine, but Kevin reported that it was dry. Al and Brian were leading in front of us a ways while Kevin was looking into the ravine. When Kevin and I started again, he suddenly had me stop.

11-20-2010, 8:17 AM
Just to our east on the top of a small crest we could see it plain as day, big green leafy plants. We had found the grove. We signaled Brian and Al and they came back to our location. Brian and Kevin raised their rifles and slowly started to creep up to the marijuana plot. Al followed closely behind and I stayed near a tree and watched them and behind us. This plot was different than the original Bear site. Here the farmers had planted the marijuana in the middle of a patch of manzanita bushes. They would thin out the manzanita and leave just a few tall branches, then plant the marijuana right in the middle of the manzanita. This provided a good hide from observation from the air. Second, the cut down manzanita was stacked all around the plot acting as a really effective fence that appeared to keep out animals, block the marijuana from view, and to make it really noisy to get inside the plot.

Al and Brian entered the plot and then Al and I slowly caught up. We entered the plot and found about 100 plants or more in the plot. The ½ inch irrigation tubing was there again and it was all over the place. We could follow the tubing to the south back up the hill and out of that plot and into the forest. We took a few pictures and then started to follow the tubing up the hill. We were still unsure whether there were farmers around so we still continued to move as quietly as possible and to keep a real sharp eye out for booby traps and other trouble. We quickly found one more plot with its irrigation source coming from the west down towards the ravine. We took some more pictures and some video with a camera that Brian had brought with him.




We started following the irrigation line to the west and across the next ravine. As we followed the line, we noticed that the farmers had spent a lot of time trying to conceal it. If you were just walking through the area you would not even notice the tubing in most spots. The farmers had made it easy for us though with taking so much time to conceal the pipe. They had laid bark and branches over the tubing after they buried it and so there was a linear pile of bark and branches that ran through the forest. A line of bark and other rubbish just doesn’t happen to fall into place it the woods.

We followed the tubing for about a ¼ of a mile before we found another plot in the same manzanita style fenced off area. We fanned out and found two more plots close by. Pretty soon we began to find plots all over the hill side. We found that the irrigation line continued to run to the west towards another ravine and also to the north back down the hill. We followed the line running west in order to try to find the source for the water.

As we worked our way down into the ravine, we were amazed at how much time and effort the farmers had put into concealing that irrigation line. We still could follow the same line of bark and branches, but to the casual explorer, you would never have suspected anything was wrong. The farmers had buried most of the line and there was a good layer of pine needles over most of it. As we approached the stream, the concealment improved. It appeared that they had taken a layer of moss and grass and placed it over the line where it ran past some rocks near the small stream. We filmed as we tore out the line and tried to find the source so law enforcement could use the tape as a training aid for officers who had not yet been on a search like we were doing. We finally found the source quite a ways up the ravine from where the irrigation tubing met the water. There was a man made damn with a deep pool and the tubing was simply feeding through that pond with no filter or large opening. The damn was the most noticeable sign the farmers had left, but it still would probably have not raised the suspicions of your typical forest explorer or hiker.

At this point we decided to bring out the irrigation tubing and haul it back up to the closest marijuana plot. It was pretty easy to carry long strands of that tubing and I had about a dozen of the strands anywhere from 10 foot to 40 foot long. That was the hardest work we had done up till then. All of the time previous we had spent walking very slowly and quietly through the forest. Now I was walking up the side of the ravine and hill dragging a lot of irrigation tubing behind me. We got back to the plot and we discovered that we were actually in a different plot than the one we had left before. Brian had set down his rifle and Al’s rifle in order to check out the new plot and do some filming. Al and Kevin eventually caught up to me, but Brian had started back down the hill to the north in order to follow the new lines we had coming out of the newest plot.

We started following after Brian and I was carrying his rifle. I noticed that his selector switch had a full auto mode on it and I started to debate in my mind what I was going to do if we got into a gunfight. It turned into one of those situations where you might have spent more time wondering if you should go full auto or only semi-auto instead of just shooting. I quickly put it behind me as we had already lost most of our noise discipline dragging the irrigation tubing out of the ravine. Brian called Kevin on the radio and said he had found a base camp where the farmers had been staying. We walked down and sure enough, there was a small encampment, similar to the one we had seen over at the Bear site.

11-20-2010, 8:18 AM
At the site there was a torn down tent, a bunch of cardboard boxes, and some clothes thrown about. In the boxes there were a lot of groceries. There was a full box of canned goods like mixed vegetables, beans, tuna, fruit cocktail, and some soup. There was another box full of animal crackers, flour tortillas, cup o soups, and the biggest box had about a dozen 50 packs of corn tortillas. We also found some fresh mangos, a cantaloupe, some bananas, peppers, and some oranges. By this time it was about 1:45 PM so we decided to have some lunch courtesy of the drug cartel. I started in on the animal crackers and they were not the least bit stale. Kevin cut up the cantaloupe and Brian and I shared it with him. It was some of the tastiest cantaloupe I have ever had. I had a flour tortilla and as we ate we sifted through the rubbish around their encampment. There were bottles of butane and a stove as well as toiletries and clothing. We snapped some pictures of the encampment and I had Al take some pictures of me enjoying my lunch in order to finish out my roll of film. Right before we left, Kevin was looking the small mirror the farmers had in a tree branch when he noticed there was a finger print on the mirror. Al put it in a plastic trash bag and they decided to take it back and run the print and hope the guy who left it might have been arrested before.




We packed back up and followed the irrigation line back to the east down the side of the hill. We found a couple more plots and then started to swing back around to the south towards where we first crossed the first ravine prior to finding the big group of plots. Brian and I were split up from the other two and we started to hike through some thick manzanita bushes. Brian mentioned this would be a good place for them to put another plot and I was thinking the same thing. After only about 30 more yards we found another plot. We eventually ran back into the original line that came from the first two plots we had found to the east. We followed the line back over to the first plots and after looking around, found that there were no more.

We left the plots figuring we had found all of the plants in the “Pyles Grove” as it was now named. By this time it was nearly 4:00 PM and we were pretty tired. We had a nice walk back to the trucks enjoying looking at some of the redwood groves that ran through the area and it really was a pretty sight. When we returned to the trucks, some of the Pyles Camp board members were driving by to go visit the George Bush Redwood Tree. They stopped and Kevin gave them a brief botanical lesson with the little marijuana he had packed out and our executive director introduced the board members to Al and Brian. They left and the four of us took a rest and they decided that they would wait until the next day to go scout out the Bear site. Al asked me if I would like to go again and I surely said yes. I mentioned to Brian it was a good thing I was not a dope smoker or I would have been walking around with a major hard on all day long. He then decided to torture me by telling me that I could retire with all of the marijuana we found today. I looked at him sort of puzzled and he told me that just with the plants we found at the Pyles grove, the net worth would be somewhere between 20 and 30 million dollars! It makes someone kind of queasy to realize that they were walking around in so much wealth, but in reality it could never be used to benefit you.

I was pretty tired at the end of the day and returned to camp to get some dinner. I shared my adventures of the day with the rest of the staff members and retired as early as I could. I was really beat at the end of the day. My clothes all had a sticky feel to them and smelled like skunk. I guess that is what your clothes are like after walking through marijuana all day long.

11-20-2010, 8:18 AM
The next day Al came by camp and picked me up and we headed back up towards the “Bear Site” as it was coined. Brian and Kevin were already set up and ready to go. We started the hike back up the old logging roads and towards the Bear Site. I walked in the back again and we just cruised up the hill the majority of the way until we started to get closer to the plants. We then slowed down a little bit and started scanning for possible threats. We were in a more relaxed mood than the day before as it seemed the farmers were long gone by this time. We crept down the side of the ravine and back up the other side into the plantation. We started snooping back through the camp site that Beaver, Shotgun, Leo, Joe, and I had been in just a few days before. Nothing appeared to be changed and it seemed as though the farmers had not returned. I found a entrenching tool that the farmers had and I used it to help me climb around and dig for evidence.

We started scanning around and to leap frog from plot to plot as we had at the Pyles Grove. We soon found a platform that the farmers had built up in the trees about 50 yards from the campsite. The platform was made of wood logs and was slanted in the trees. Whoever had made it appeared to be sleeping up there as there was a sleeping bag. The person also didn’t like falling off of the slanted platform so they had created a wall of bailing wire on the down slope to keep them from falling 10 feet to the ground. Kevin and I figured that whoever decided to sleep up there must have not liked the bear cruising around their plantation and getting into their garbage dump.

We repeated our search for the water source as we had the day before. We started following the lines up the mountain and it was pretty steep at times. I took the lead up the hill and started to enter another plot further up the hill. As I started to step into the plot, I noticed my foot was resisting on something. Before I stepped again I looked down and noticed I had stepped right into one of the farmers game snares. I stepped back out of it and called down to Brian to come check it out. There were two snares in this set and I marked them with some orange tape so no one else would step in them. They weren’t any kind of hazard to humans, but we marked them anyway. I would end up finding quite a few snares into that one particular plot that was the highest on the hill.


The pipe appeared to end up at the highest plot and start to head back to the south towards the main ravine. Brian and I started to follow the pipe to the south and we were having to really break some brush to stay with the irrigation lines. They were installed through some really steep terrain and through some think brush. After about 300-400 yards we finally started to come up to the ravine and the water. After some more search we found the source and pulled the pipe out. We back tracked back towards the plantation and carried long lines of the pipe with us. The trip back was pretty strenuous with all of that black pipe and I was working up a good sweat. We arrived back at the highest plot and I dropped my pipe. Al and Kevin were there and I had Al snap a quick photo of me doing my official marijuana eradication job.


We returned back down by the lowest plots and Kevin said he could smell Bear dog back in the brush somewhere as he was starting to stink pretty bad. I never did see the dog again and I figured with all the yellow jackets we had seen the time before, that was fine. We ate lunch and relaxed in the shade in the middle of a plot. We shot the breeze and just relaxed for about 30 minutes. Brian and Kevin decided to split the four of us up into two groups. Al and Kevin would walk back down towards the Pyles Grove using the GPS to see if they could find some more plantations. We figured there was a really good chance to find some more plots between the two sites. Brian and I were going to head up the hill to the south and try to find the well used trial that Joe and Beaver had run across the day of the bear hunt. We all thought there was a good chance to find some more plots up there somewhere. Before we left Brian and I decided to camouflage ourselves with some of the natural vegetation of the area and then we took off.



Brian and I started marching up the hill back on the logging road that was on the east side of the ravine. We went a ways up the hill and started to side hill more towards the east. We then cut back down the hill and headed north back towards the vehicles. As we hiked we started to realize with our camouflaged hats that we kept smelling marijuana. Brian soon discarded his camouflage, but I kept mine. After some searching we were separated and continued our search. I started to head back towards the vehicles and started to act a little more stealthy now that I didn’t know exactly where Brian was. I decided that it might not be a good idea for me to have a bunch of marijuana in my hat should I stumble upon some Mexican guys wandering around through the forest. It would be hard to convince the farmers that I was just a lost hiker when I had marijuana hanging from my hat. I ditched the marijuana and there went the only actual plants that I had taken from the plantations. The only souvenir I would take with me other than my pictures was that entrenching tool. I still carry it in the trunk of my car today.

I returned to the vehicle and Brian was leaning up against a tree taking a break. I was glad he was back as I thought I might have to use the spare keys that I knew were in Al’s gas cap to radio to Brian that I was back to the trucks. I had been paying attention to their call signs so I didn’t think anyone would really notice as long as I acted professional. I never got the chance. Brian got in his Bronco and I got in Al’s Chevy truck and we drove back down the hill towards the road. We got on the road and headed back down to where we parked at the Pyles Grove. We parked the trucks and started to head back up the drainage towards Kevin and Al. We eventually met up and stood around and shared what we found in a thick grove of redwoods. Brian and I found absolutely nothing and it turned out that Kevin and Al had found the same. We were sort of disappointed to not find anymore plots.

We returned to the trucks and I said my good byes to Kevin and Brian. Al drove me back over to Pyles Camp and I thanked him again for taking me out on the recon missions. I was more tired than the day before and I was really drained after hauling pipe and searching for marijuana farmers and plots all day long. I shared my stories with Shotgun and Beaver and some of the other staff and decided to turn in early.

Two days later they brought in the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) group and hauled all of the marijuana and junk the farmers left out of the forest. They had the helicopter buzzing around all day long and taking loads out on a sling. The local newspaper was there as well as some TV media. A few days later we got to read the big article they printed up in the paper about it. It was a pretty impressive article along with some big pictures and quite a write up. It was at this time I discovered that the actual worth of all of the marijuana was estimated at 17 million dollars. Our executive director asked that the paper not mention us in there article specifically as we didn’t want a mad rush of parents calling asking about their kids. It did mention that some hunters had found and reported the find, but that was as specific as they got. It was sort of amusing to see that there were all of these CAMP personnel running around taking all of this marijuana out and the paper made it look like the CAMP personnel were pretty professional workers. The facts were that I was in there scouting out that entire place and doing a big part of hauling out that irrigation pipe with only three other guys a few days before.

That was the highlight of my summer. I returned home in the fall and enjoyed using a new conversational piece with all of my friends. “I found $17 million worth of marijuana over the summer.” I still enjoy telling this story. Who knows, maybe someday I will see about getting it put in a Field and Stream issue or something. I hope you have enjoyed my story.

11-20-2010, 8:26 AM
wowza, thanks for sharing red.

11-20-2010, 9:06 AM
Great story Wes. You shouldwrite a book and sell it on bidscape!

11-20-2010, 9:45 AM
Really good story.

took a bite out of crime.

did they ever catch the guys? bumed about the dog.

11-20-2010, 9:59 AM
Great story Wes. You shouldwrite a book and sell it on bidscape!

Maybe I will just sell a link to this thread on Bidscape!

Really good story.

took a bite out of crime.

did they ever catch the guys? bumed about the dog.

I took a nibble out of crime. There is so much marijuana in that forest. And I doubt they ever caught the guys.

11-20-2010, 10:50 AM
Wes...YES Great story...nice pictures....really sorry to hear about the dog.


11-20-2010, 10:51 AM
Wow what an adventure.
That sure sucks about the dog .

What a read to I had to get up and take a rest from it LOL.

11-20-2010, 11:19 AM
Great Read! thanks for typing that all up and sharing with us.

Beetle Bailey
11-20-2010, 11:33 AM
Cool story :) Thank you for sharing.

11-20-2010, 11:57 AM
What elevation were the patches at?

11-20-2010, 12:34 PM
Wes, that's the best (non-court-case related) post I've seen on this site in several years.


11-20-2010, 2:02 PM
Great story and it was made 100% with the addition of pictures!

11-20-2010, 2:22 PM
What elevation were the patches at?

Probably right around 6000 feet give or take 200 feet. Pyles Camp is at 5500.

11-20-2010, 4:35 PM
Great story!

11-21-2010, 3:23 PM
Awesome story. Thanks for taking the time.

11-22-2010, 5:44 PM
Nice write-up and an interesting read.

Big Jake
11-22-2010, 6:07 PM
Heck of a thread. Kudos to you for being able to write that much!

11-22-2010, 6:57 PM
I wrote this like 10 years ago. It was fun to go back and re-read it for this thread and see how many details I had forgotten over the last decade.

11-23-2010, 3:03 AM
Great story. Thank god thing nothing dangerous happened on the recon and so sad for the lost of the hound.

11-23-2010, 7:13 AM
Great story. Thank god thing nothing dangerous happened on the recon and so sad for the lost of the hound.

In hind sight the dogs probably directly saved us from entering a gun fight. As soon as they started marching up the hill, the growers had to be running for their lives thinking it was a raid.

I have no idea what would have happened had we wandered into their quietly with a couple of guns.

I would highly encourage anyone who wanders about our national forests or wilderness areas to go well armed. You just never know.

11-24-2010, 12:31 PM
I wrote this like 10 years ago. It was fun to go back and re-read it for this thread and see how many details I had forgotten over the last decade.

Reading it, I had a hunch you wrote it back then, otherwise I'd commend your memory, it would have been like a steel trap! Good for you to write it all down back then, great read!

Super Spy
11-24-2010, 2:06 PM
Great story! Makes me wonder what kind of operation pot farmers are running these days as they've had ten years to improve there game...Definitely will be on the lookout when in potential spots.

11-24-2010, 2:36 PM
Great story, thanks for sharing.

It's definitely good advice to go armed when in the woods. If you're in a place where you can't (State Park for instance) then stick to the trails. There's pot groves all over this state now and sometimes armed people out there willing to shoot you to protect them.

Meety Peety
11-24-2010, 10:54 PM
Cool story and a great read.

We're definitely from different walks of life, keeps it interesting.

05-30-2011, 9:48 PM
Great story man! What an experience!!!

05-31-2011, 4:28 PM
Wow!! That was an excellent read. Thanks for sharing that. I've run into many of them damn irrigation lines, and my senses get immediately heightened.

05-31-2011, 5:12 PM
That was one incredible read. Thank you. Cleaning up whats ours.

05-31-2011, 6:32 PM
I took a nibble out of crime. There is so much marijuana in that forest. And I doubt they ever caught the guys.

I bet there's areas where MJ has basically been reintroduced as native flora.

05-31-2011, 7:23 PM
Hell of a long story. Hell of a good read. Good story. Keep em comming.

06-02-2011, 8:30 AM
helluva story thanks for posting