July 5, 2006
Pork Power

Of course I had a hot dog on the Fourth of July. It wouldn’t have been the Fourth without one. In fact, I grilled and started eating the dogs the night before. So, the dog on the Fourth was a leftover. Didn’t matter, it still was dandy, even without mustard, relish and bun. It was a true Fourth of July popper, with plenty of snap to its natural casing. The surroundings only enhanced the pleasure.

But first the backstory:

Where you going? asked the attendant in the reception cabin at Carson Pass, 100 miles up the Sierra from Sacramento.

It’s the Fourth of July, so Fourth of July Lake is our destination, I answered.

He came out from behind the counter, took a look and asked, Dressed like that?
I looked to make sure I hadn’t forgotten to put on shoes and shorts.

No poles? he asked.


No crampons?


I suspect he next wanted to ask, No sense? But he was a gentleman, just eager to be helpful.

No one’s made it to Fourth of July Lake yet this season without poles and crampons, he explained. Too much snow.

Nevertheless, we set out.

For years, this was a family tradition, hiking into Fourth of July Lake in the Mokelumne Wilderness on the Fourth of July. For various reasons, this was our first trip back this century.

It’s five miles from Carson Pass to the lake, on the far side of a wind-blown saddle, down a slim switchback trail.

We pass Frog Lake, Elephant’s Back and Winnemucca Lake before the snowfields become truly wide, steep and slippery.

But foot traffic is light, the day is glorious and we march on, without poles, without crampons.

We skirt Round Top, cross the saddle, pass Round Top Lake and then see Fourth of July Lake far below us. It looks close, but the descent takes forever, and I start to wonder how we’ll get out.

Three and a half hours after we started, we arrive. Lacy white waterfalls more numerous and powerful than any I can recall at the lake spill down walls of gray granite. It’s hot, but a welcome breeze blows across the lake. A long slim snake with yellow stripes glides along the water’s edge at our feet.

About that hot dog: It was a “natural pork hotdog” from Bledsoe Natural Pork of Woodland.

John Bledsoe and his son Dan run 300 hogs in Dunnigan, raising them without growth hormones and antibiotics.

The business is only five years old. It started when Dan’s high school FFA project got out of hand.

At the Sunday farmers market in Sacramento and the Saturday farmers market in Davis, they sell just about any pork product you could want – baby back ribs, boneless pork loin, pork chops, hot dogs, bacon and so forth.

Corti Brothers carries some of their products, and Mulvaney’s Building & Loan, Centro Cocina Mexicana and Spataro use some on their menus.

That one hot dog, along with a nectarine and a plum, trail mix, water and a fistful of Ibuprofen was all I needed for the hike out. Somehow, it took us just three hours on the return trip. Must have been because of that pure pork protein.

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