The Last Blast

The end of the season was rapidly approaching after Labor Day. Only two weekends remained before the end of the season. We still had a long way to go on The Mound and the leach field, but we started to tie up the loose ends of other aspects of the project.

Snyder was through blasting, but he still had a good amount of explosives left in his Vogelsang shot locker. They didn’t like to pack explosives out of the Backcountry. Movement of explosives was just too great a hazard. Every time it had to be taken out of the shot locker, loaded onto a mule, transported, unloaded off the mule, and stored somewhere else there was always a risk of an accident. It was better for everybody if we could just find a way to use it at Vogelsang.

Snyder and Marty decided to get a whole lot of fill added to The Mound at one time. The draft horse, Tony, was still around with the stone boat. We helped load huge rocks onto to the stone boat to be dumped onto The Mound. When we had The Mound loaded with huge rocks, Snyder and his crew set to work placing the three hundred pounds of remaining ANFO all over the rocks. ANFO is a fairly common high explosive made up of Ammonium Nitrate (fertilizer) and Fuel Oil…hence, ANFO. ANFO was discovered accidentally after World War Two when a freighter loaded with fertilizer blew up at a dock in Texas City, Texas and destroyed most of the harbor facilities around the city. Somehow the fertilizer accidentally got mixed with some fuel oil and ignited.

When the charges were placed, the det cord was laid out. The rocks looked pretty freaky with plastic bags full of ANFO stuck on them all over the place and held in place with mud, and chained together with lime green det cord. The final connections were not made until everybody was out of the danger zone. We all remembered the road worker who had been killed on a blast earlier that summer. He was outside the danger perimeter for the size blast the road crew was doing. He was where he was supposed to have been. However, a freak piece of fly rock had still hit him in the head just below the rim of his hard hat and killed him instantly.

Snyder wanted to play it safe and posted us as trail guards a half a mile away, well beyond the recommended safety radius. And that wasn’t all. He wanted everybody to be behind hard cover. I guarded the trail down to Merced Lake with Glen. We found a big rock bench to hunker down behind. All of the trail guards radioed “Ready!” when each team got in place. When all of the teams had checked in and Snyder replied “Copy ready,” we all switched our radios off. We did not want a stray radio signal to detonate the explosives prematurely. Snyder and his crew hooked up the det cord to the plunger and backed up to their safe spot, which was a lot closer than we were.

Glen and I knew all of this was happening, but with our comm off, we had no idea when the blast was actually going to go off. It seemed to take forever. Then we felt a jolt through the ground, and a few seconds later heard a huge BOOM.

Glen said,”Wow. And that was a half mile away.”

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Categories: Backcountry, CCC, Vogelsang, Yosemite | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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