Rancher Tim Erickson, of La Grange, whose family goes back five generations in the Groveland area, worked with about a dozen horseback hands on a four-day cattle drive from Merced Falls up to Kassabaum Meadow off Highway 120.

Erickson said he and his group were moving about 360 cow-calf pairs. They reached Highway 120 at Hells Hollow Road before 3 p.m. Friday, and the California Highway Patrol helped stop traffic.

Tourists from Singapore, including Jillian Kau, 21, and Etaine Chai, 22, were among people who stopped to watch and photograph one of the oldest springtime rituals in the Mother Lode: moving cows up into the lush, green Central Sierra for spring and summer.

Dan Erickson, 39, of La Grange, helped rope an excited calf next to Highway 120. Garrett Kiernan, 28, of La Grange, used a syringe and medicine to treat the calf for hoof rot.

Erickson, 71, said he plans to turn his herd loose at Kassabaum Meadow for about 40 days and then push them farther up in the Meyer-Ferretti allotment east of Buck Meadows for the rest of the summer.

Ranchers have been grazing cattle in the Sierra Nevada since before the Forest Service and other federal agencies formed more than a century ago. The Stanislaus National Forest was created in 1905, and grazing has been permitted in parts of the forest since then.

Erickson is one of about two dozen grazing permittees who are allowed to graze livestock in the forest. There are about 356,000 acres in the Stanislaus National Forest considered suitable for livestock grazing. Of that, about 37,400 acres are considered primary range, and the rest is considered secondary.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter @GuyMcCarthy.

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