Fish and Game Warden Tag

Every fall, aspens put on a magnificent display in California’s Eastern Sierra. Photo by Steven T. Callan.

Golden Trout and Golden Trees

Every fall, aspens put on a magnificent display in California’s Eastern Sierra. Photo by Steven T. Callan.

Every fall, aspens put on a magnificent display in California’s Eastern Sierra. Photo by author.

The first time I experienced the awesome grandeur of California’s Eastern Sierra was in 1975, when, as a rookie Fish and Game warden, I drove there on assignment to work the Crowley Lake trout-season opener. That spring, the majestic mountains to the west were covered with snow, and the entire scene, from Mount Whitney to Mammoth Lakes, looked like something you’d see on a Christmas card. Over the years I’ve visited again and again, sometimes in the spring, sometimes in the summer, and sometimes in the fall.  Whatever the season,  the Eastern Sierra always offers an eye-popping display of color and natural beauty.

Revisiting the Eastern Sierra

Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower forty-eight states, is the peak in the background with the jagged spires. Photo by author.

My first opportunity to visit California’s magnificent Eastern Sierra came in late April 1975, while I was a young Fish and Game warden stationed on the Colorado River. During the next three and a half years, I was sent to the Eastern Sierra six more times. My assignments included working the opening weekend of trout season at Crowley Lake, the opening weekend of deer season near Walker, and covering the June Lake Loop while district warden “Bigfoot” Johnson was on vacation. Regardless the duty, I couldn’t wait to go.

Entrance to Cave Creek Canyon and the Chiricahua Mountains. All photos by Steven T. Callan.

In Search of the Elegant Trogon

Entrance to Cave Creek Canyon and the Chiricahua Mountains. All photos by Steven T. Callan.

Entrance to Cave Creek Canyon and the Chiricahua Mountains. All photos by author.

I’ve always been fascinated with birds, but I really became hooked on bird-watching, or birding, as it’s often called, during the mid-seventies when I was a rookie Fish and Game warden down on the Colorado River. Warden Bill Peters and I were patrolling the river south of Earp, California, when we spotted a large bird off in the distance.  “That’s a peregrine,” said Peters, focusing his binoculars on the fast-flying raptor.  “Looks like a female.”

An adult chuckwalla sunning itself at Joshua Tree National Park. Once exploited for the pet trade, native reptiles, like the chuckwalla, may no longer be sold in California.

Our Friends the Reptiles

An adult chuckwalla sunning itself at Joshua Tree National Park. Once exploited for the pet trade, native reptiles, like the chuckwalla, may no longer be sold in California.

An adult chuckwalla sunning itself at Joshua Tree National Park. Once exploited for the pet trade, native reptiles, like the chuckwalla, may no longer be sold in California. Photo by author

“I’m waiting,” taunted Darrell, his threatening mug now two inches from my face. My stomach churned and my heart pounded furiously as adrenaline coursed through my body. I had painted myself into a corner. The question crossed my mind: Was I willing to get beaten up trying to protect a lizard? While Darrell and Randy laughed at me, I remembered something my father had said. Never start a fight, but the best way to end one is to hit the other kid in the nose as hard as you can. . . .

—From The Game Warden’s Son