Hiking On the Clock

The NPS requires its trail crew members to hike a minimum speed of three miles an hour. Once you get in shape and acclimated to the altitude, three miles an hour is pretty easy to do. Five miles an hour is common with trail workers on the top of their game.

At the end of one day on the trail through Rafferty Meadows, Mark, Chris, Glen, Wayne, and I were clustered together hiking back to camp. We played different music trivia games on this hike. First we played The Alphabet Game with band names. The first person might say “Aerosmith”. The next person would say “Aerosmith, Beatles.” The next person would have to say all of the names already given, plus add one for the next letter in the alphabet.

When that game ran its course, we began a discussion of the state of contemporary music. The question under discussion was “Name a good band who had put out their first album since 1980.” The discussion was vigorously progressing when Moose caught up to us from behind.

Moose said, “Hey! Come on! You could hike faster than this!”

“Well, yeah, we could, but it’s the end of the day and we’re on our way home.” I’m not sure who actually said this. The cheekiness indicates that it was most likely either Mark or myself.

“Doesn’t matter. You’re on the clock. Let’s go! It doesn’t look good for all you young guys to be outhiked by a thirty year old woman with bad knees!”

We kicked it into gear and picked up the pace with Moose right behind us. We were hard-headed youth, though, and so as soon as our watches hit 4:00…quitting time…we dropped our pace back to a speed that would let us continue our discussion.

Moose almost crashed into us from behind. “Hey! Let’s go! Three miles an hour.”

“Well…it’s after four o’clock now and I’m hiking on my time. I don’t think we’re obligated to hike three miles an hour on our own time.”

“Aw, come on! You’re going to let a thirty year old woman with bad knees beat you back to camp?!”

“Yup. Today we are, anyway.”

“I don’t have anything to prove.”

“I’m secure in my masculinity.”

Moose spit on the ground as she passed us.

We never did come up with one good band active in 1987 who had released their first album since 1980.

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

August 1, 1987: Glad I Came

Here I sit on the bank of Reyman Lake with Dewey and Derek. It was just a short hike, but we’re all pretty tired just the same. Dewey is crashed out under a tree. Derek is kicking back against a rock reading a book.

Like I said, it was just a short hike around Rafferty Peak, but to be honest Derek and I didn’t really want to come in the fir t place. Derek and Dewey don’t know it, but I’ve been so tired from work that I haven’t felt like doing anything for the last couple of weekends. I just don’t want to be a proverbial camp slug. The only reason I came today was because I’ve been telling Dewey and Derek I was going to.

Now that I’m here, I’m glad I came. With everyone so quiet the animals and birds are resuming their normal activities around us. A couple mountain chickadees were feeding in the trees above us; a squirrel is playing in the tree in front of me.

I guess I’m not like most backcountry types who are into hiking marathons and peak bagging. I like to go someplace and stick around a while. Sure Jose and Rolando did Amelia Earhart Peak. But do they know about the rock rabbits and marmots that live up there? Jose insisted that marmots wouldn’t live up there, but I saw one right at the peak. Do they know how beautiful the moonlight is reflecting off the glacial polish down by Ireland Lake?

I agree with Tom Brown’s philosophy that we have to slow down and become a participant with nature, not just rush right through it. To me it is more desirable to sit quietly in one place for an hour or two just to get a glimpse of nature as it accepts my presence and resumes its normal activities, than it is to hike for an hour or two just to see how far I can get. When you’re hiking, all you see are rocks and trees and glimpses of animals and birds as they hurry to get away from you. And the only reason the rocks and trees don’t run is because they can’t.

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

Boots on the Ground

Backcountry Corpsmembers take great pride in our boots.

(This piece is based upon 1987 Backcountry boots. I hear they’ve changed.)

For one thing, our boots set us apart from everybody else in the CCC. Just like jump boots identified elite paratroopers on World War 2, Red Wing Irish Setters identified Backcountry Corpsmembers to everybody else in the CCC.

Regular issue CCC boots are made by Prison Industries (PI). Yes. Inmates in the California penitentiary system make the boots worn by the CCC. They are black steel-toe safety boots with a high ‘logger heel’. The high heel is supposed to give the wearer’s foot a better grip on wet, uneven surfaces like logs. The heel and sole are supposed to collapse in upon each other a little, acting like a big clamp. It actually works that way on logs.

The quality of PI boots is uneven. Most of the time they are pretty good. Sometimes there can be tacks sticking up through the boot’s sole. It is always a good idea to feel around inside the boots with your hand before you put a pair on for the first time.

Trail work requires a different type of boot. Steel toes do not work in hiking boots. The steel toe caps intended to protect the toes actually become a hazard to the toe when hiking long distances. An inflexible toe on the boot leads to more injuries than are prevented from falling rocks. The logger heel creates poor posture for hiking.

Red Wing Irish Setters became the official CCC Backcountry trails boot. They are all leather construction with high tops, a low heel, and a Vibram sole. It’s a big day in the life of a Backcountry Corpie when the Red Wing representative, George the Boot Fairy, comes by your center to fit you for your boots. Your brand spanking new Red Wings are delivered to your center shortly afterward. The Red Wings are expected to be broken in by the time a Corpie reports to Backcountry, so the Red Wings become a matter of pride as a new Backcountry Corpie struts around in his/her brand new Red Wings. And they are the color of an Irish setter! The make the new Backcountry Corpies stand out in a crowd.

There is an initial bonding moment among trail crews at Orientation as all of the new Backcountry Corpies meet for the first time. Everybody shows up at Delta Center in ones and twos from the bus station or dropped off by family or friends. We all sport our brand new Red Wings. The second moment of bonding is when everybody gets chewed out by Delta staff for wearing our boots inside their center. The audacity we had, to wear our CCC-issued boots inside a CCC facility! It turned out to be Delta Center policy that work boots were forbidden inside because their floors were maintained with a high polish. Boots scuffed the polished finish. This little note had not been included in any of our ‘report to Delta Center’ instructions. In hindsight, getting chewed out by Delta staff over our boots was just one more thing that set us apart from the ‘regular’ Corpsmembers at Delta. Maybe that was Peter’s plan all along!

The beautiful new Irish setter-colored boots would be unrecognizable by the end of the season. We had seen the pictures in the Backcountry recruiting slide show. The leather would be dried out if you did not keep your boots oiled throughout the season, or a buffed to a deep, rich brown if you had oiled them. Seams had probably started to come apart, and glued back together with the Backcountry Corpies best friend…Shoo Goo! The Vibram tread would be pretty thin by the time you hiked out of the Backcountry, too. Most boots could survive to the end of the season, but probably not much longer. I think I got an extra six months out of my first pair. And I did get an honest extra six months out of them…I never went back to PI boots! When I had to replace my original pair of Backcountry Red Wings, I bought another pair of Irish Setters. (Well…I traded a pair of PI boots for a pair of Red Wings…but that’s another story!)

The pride in our Backcountry boots is what led to Wayne’s injury. He wanted to ‘save’ his Red Wings, so he wore his PI boots whenever he thought he could. Wayne found out how necessary that low heel is. He was wearing his PI boots when he pulled up lame on that weekend hike. A few days after Wayne was evacuated, after he had been to a doctor and prescribed treatment, we received word on his condition. He has developed stress fractures in his foot. The most likely cause of the stress fractures was hiking in the logger heels. The elevated heel shifts more of the body weight forward onto the metatarsals. The metatarsals are not designed to take that much pressure. After so much time and pressure, they start to crack. This causes pain. The only treatment is to stay off the stressed metatarsals for six to eight weeks.

The life lesson for today is simple: never hike in high heels!

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

Losing Another

The great weekend that I’d had with Moose and Anne on Amelia Earhart Peak received an ugly jolt on Sunday afternoon. Wayne, Mark, Glenn and Chris had been hiking and Wayne pulled up lame. He couldn’t put any weight on one of his feet and couldn’t hike at all. Mark and Glenn left Chris with Wayne out on the trail while they hiked to camp for help. Fortunately there were some packers nearby. They took horses out to bring Wayne in. They came riding into camp right around dinner time. Wayne’s face was longer than his horse’s. He sat slumped in the saddle and had his hands crossed on the saddle horn. He looked totally worn out and dejected. He looked like an old west outlaw headed to Federal prison. Wayne and the packers got something to eat and then headed down the trail.

Wayne was one of the most upbeat, motivating people on the crew. He was a crewleader from Placer Energy Center and had technical skills that were needed on the septic system project. He really set an awesome example for the rest of us. His last crew journal entry says it best:

I’m so glad that we’re doing this class with Cheryl. It really is helping this crew be a ‘crew’. I feel we all really care about each other a lot and that we are closer now than ever before. I hope this really lasts the rest of the season. I think it will. Just remember, don’t sweat the petty shit, just let it pass. So far all the conflicts have been petty. Let’s be a family & really enjoy what times we have left. (Mount) Lyell on Labor Day!

Four days after Wayne wrote that, he was being packed out on a horse. We were going to miss him.

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

My First Peak

The weekend after my solo adventure I went on a legal cross-country overnighter. Moose wanted to climb Amelia Earhart Peak. Anne and I volunteered to go with her.

We left camp after brunch and camp chores on Saturday. We hiked past the High Sierra Camp and then turned east off the trail. We had to climb over one ridge (more boulders) and cross the Ireland Lake basin to get to Amelia Earhart Peak.

Amelia Earhart Peak photo 33.jpg
Amelia Earhart Peak. We were headed to the low spot on the left.

The Ireland Lake basin is a perfect example of glacier action in Yosemite. Millennia ago, there was so much snow and ice packed down into this little valley that weight and gravity did their job. As the ice slowly slid downhill, it carved out the u-shaped valley that now existed. The ridge that we had to cross to get into this basin is what geologists call a ‘lateral moraine’. As glaciers carve their way downhill, they push rock and dirt debris, or til, out of the way. This debris gets pushed either off to the side (a lateral moraine) or in front (a terminal moraine) of the glacier. As we hiked across the floor of the basin, we could see and feel the granite slickrock that had been polished smooth by the abrasives carried along by the ice. The polished granite in the Yosemite wilderness could be as smooth as a cut countertop. If you got close enough, you could see the individual quartz crystals in the granite. What a world this was!

Moose and Anne were such great company. They are both happy, upbeat and positive people with great senses of humor. Anne is also a very punny person!

Climbing Ameila Earhart Peak photo 37.jpg
Can you see Moose?

Moose led the way up Amelia Earhart. We went up the left side of the mountain to hit the ridge where it was relatively low. The plan was that if we got up on the ridge, we could walk easier up the ridge to the peak than we could by bouldering all the way to the top.
We worked our way slowly but steadily up. Most of the climbing was similar to what I had done a week before on Rafferty, with only two differences. For one thing, this one went a lot higher. More importantly, we weren’t trying to beat sundown, so we had plenty of time to pick our route. That made all the difference. Eventually, we made it to the top of the ridge. Making it to the peak was now a simple matter of walking up the incline.

Yeah. Simple.

Almost nothing in the mountains is as smooth and simple as it looks on a topo map or in a long distance panoramic photo. Some sections of the ridge were open enough to simply hike up. These sections always had steep cliffs dropping off both sides of the trail. Sometimes it felt as though we were literally walking up the razor’s edge. These are the sections that an acrophobic would not make it through.
Other sections of the ridge get wider and steeper, so that you are once again heading up a near vertical surface. Sometimes there is only one way up through the rocks. There can be a well-defined trail going up these sections. We got to use some of our newly acquired climbing skills to get through some of these sections. In fact, there were a couple places where we had to ask ourselves “Are we going to be able to get back down here without ropes?”

By mid-afternoon we were at the summit—11,982 feet.

Obviously, we were not the first ones in history to summit Amelia Earhart Peak. However, it was surprising to find signs that someone had been there in just the last few days. A pair of very small, brand new flags…maybe six inches high…had been planted at the summit. One was an American flag. The other had a star field and said ‘The 96ers’. We had no idea what that meant. I later learned that they were a climbing group focusing on peaks higher than 9,600 feet.

Almost the first thing that Moose and Anne did upon reaching the summit was search for the peak register. Most named peaks have some way for people who make it to the top to leave a record of their ascent. We found an ammo can under a little shrine-like structure built out of…of course…rocks! This helped protect the can somewhat from the elements.

Inside the ammo can was a small spiral notepad and some short stubby pencils. People had been recording their names, where they were from, the date they summited, and sometimes even their thoughts on top of the mountain. I signed it “My first peak. We ain’t got nothin’ like this in Illinois!”

Now, peak baggers might have stayed there to eat lunch before racing back down and moving on to the next peak. We moved in to stay! Moose gave Anne and me a tour of every peak in sight. She seemed to know something about the history, geography, and geology of every peak around. Moose knew a lot of those things because she had run Backcountry crews right across the border in Inyo National Forest, around Mount Dana, Mount Ritter, Banner Peak, and Kuna Peak. What an afternoon that was!

Around late afternoon or early evening, clouds started rolling in. The sunset light through the clouds, which quickly became fog for us, became an ever-changing kaleidoscope of pinks and purples. I had never seen a show like it, and the admission price had simply been a good workout and some sweat. Well before sundown the clouds had socked the peak in so much that the three of us could barely see past each other. Everybody decided to turn in early and see what the morning brought. I took my sleeping bag and pad down from the peak a few steps onto the west side. Sleep came quickly.

Bunking on Amelia Earhart Peak photo 32.jpg
Bunking on Amelia Earhart Peak

I woke up in the middle of the night. I looked up and the skies were clear. I put my glasses on and laid back to enjoy the sky show. I had never seen the sky so clear. Even with the full moon, I could see more stars than I ever had before in my life. If you stare at a clear sky like that long enough, vertigo can sneak up on you. I suddenly saw such depth of field to all those stars, I felt like I was going to fall upwards into them. I looked down over the edge of the rocks to shake off the vertigo…and saw the entire Ireland Lake basin sparkling in the moonlight! I had never seen anything like this, either! It took me a minute to figure out just what I was seeing. The glacial polished granite on the basin floor was smooth enough to reflect moonlight! I never even tried to go for my camera. There was no way this was going to come out on 400 speed film with my point and shoot. All I could do was sit there and stare at the beauty below.

How many people have had the opportunity to sit on top of a 12,000 foot mountain looking down at such a light show in the beautiful remnant of a glacier track? I could not believe how much I had been blessed to witness these works of God’s art that so few people had ever seen.

Categories: Backcountry, Backpacking, Camping, CCC, Hiking, Yosemite | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

July 4, 1987: Finally, Backcountry!

Happy Fourth of July!

Well, we finally made it to the Backcountry. We’re here at Vogelsang, and I’m actually kind of glad we won’t be changing camps again. It’s such a pain. Especially when your first priority gear doesn’t get here until the third day.

Vogelsang Peak photo 30.jpg

Our camp is at the base of Vogelsang Peak, just down the trail from the High Sierra camp. I think this is the best camp we’ve had yet. It took a long time to get camp set up 100%. We worked until 6 or 7 o’clock all last week, except Thursday, when we got off a little early.

Lucky me had KP yesterday, so I missed out on the three day hikes this weekend. When I got off last night I tried to catch up with Wayne, Anne, and Dewey over at Nelson Lake, but I didn’t make it. I had a killer time anyway. I left camp about 20:00, but still hadn’t made it over the ridge by dark, so I settled in on a ledge on the hillside for the night. I woke up at about 05:30 and at 06:00 started trying to find my way over the ridge. At about 08:00 I decided that I probably wouldn’t catch them at Nelson Lake, so I started for home. I happened to hit upon an old trail not marked on the map which led to the main trail up here and was home in time for breakfast.

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


Our second camp move was to be our final camp move. Measles shots and SAR had cut into our trails time out of Tuolumne Meadows, but the project at Vogelsang was ready for us now in the High Country.

Several of us started out hiking in a group up Lyell Canyon. We turned right at the junction to the Vogelsang trail and started the climb out of the canyon. At the first switchback, I saw two interesting hikers. An Asian guy was sprawled across the rock wall at the corner. He still had his daypack on, but he was panting heavily and had unbuttoned his shirt all the way. His partner was taking his pulse. Yup. They hadn’t even finished the first switchback yet.

It was a steep climb out of Tuolumne Meadows, but it wasn’t very long. Once we climbed to the top, the next ten six miles were a relatively gentle stroll. Seven of those ten three of those six miles were over the unbroken causeway of Rafferty Meadows.

Rafferty Meadows Causeway photo 44.jpg

Rafferty Meadows was legendary. A popular high country route, the trail through the meadow had been one of the most spectacular examples of trail rutting of all time. Being a meadow, Rafferty collected the water runoff from all around. This made the trail wet and marshy. Well, nobody likes to walk through ankle deep mud, so people started hiking to the sides of the official trail, up on the grass that was still above the mud. Over the years, new trails were beaten down alongside the original…and then these trails were worn down into the mud. So what would people do then? Move over onto the higher grass and make new trails.

This process went on for decades. Eventually there were up to fifteen side by side ruts through the meadow. Some of these ruts were a full three feet deep. The meadow turned into a nasty quagmire. The entire meadow ecosystem was impacted. NPS realized something needed to be done to correct the problem.

The first solution was to reroute the trail up the hillside to drier terrain. The reroute went the full seven three miles. The only problem with this was that the new higher trail stayed buried in snow until well into the hiking season. Early season hikers really had no choice but to hike through the muddy ruts in the meadow.

The second solution worked but it was labor intensive and took three full seasons to complete. Trail crews built causeway trail for the full seven three mile stretch through Rafferty. In a causeway, the sides of the trail are lined with a single tier rock wall, and the space in the middle is filled with crushed granite. Then dirt is piled on top of the fill to provide a smooth trail tread. This raises the trail bed around a foot, but water can still pass through the rock wall and crushed fill. The meadow ecosystem was restored, and hikers stayed on the trail with dry feet. Win-win!

My Del Norte C-1, Kristen, had worked on the Rafferty causeway. It was about five years old when I hiked over it in 1987, and it was still in great shape.

(Edit: When I first posted this, I was wrong on the distances. Oops.)

Categories: Backcountry, Backpacking, CCC, Hiking, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

NPS says “Hike fast!”

Hike fast!

That’s a pretty simple guideline for hiking on a trail crew. The National Park Service has a minimum hiking speed for trail crews of 3 miles per hour. This is the minimum under any condition. It doesn’t matter if you’re only going one mile with a daypack or twenty miles with a full backpack plus tools. Of course, once you get in shape you can easily hike faster than that, especially on shorter distances.

Everyone develops their own hiking techniques, too. I developed one that I don’t think I saw anybody else use, but I think it contributed to my bad knees after two seasons.

The one rule that NPS had about hiking technique was “No running”. Running on those steep grades, especially while packing gear, would tear up knees and ankles pretty quickly. People got pretty picky over a definition for ‘running’. We were told we were running if both feet were off the ground at the same time. With that definition of ‘running’ in mind, I used some advice my high school friend Jerry had given me from cross country running.

1. Work hard on the uphill.
2. Let gravity do the work on the downhill while you rest.

I was never a very good uphill hiker. I tried to keep a constant stride. I leaned forward and took as large a stride as was comfortable. I rested my hands on the tops of my thighs, pushing down on my legs as I needed to in order to throw the next step forward. I would get winded fast. My hamstrings would scream in protest. Sweat constantly dripped into my eyes with the salt sting. I was always toward the rear of the pack on the uphill.

Downhill hiking…now that’s where I shined! I would lean back and let gravity do most of the work. I’d pick my feet up and put ‘em down as fast as I could. I’d take as big a stride as I could. On steep downhill grades, large strides would send me so far down with each step that I was always in danger of letting both feet come off the ground. As my foot hit the ground, I would bend my knees slightly to absorb the shock. Many times it didn’t feel like hiking downhill so much as a controlled fall down the hill. It wasn’t a pretty technique, but it was fast. I could gain back all the distance I had lost on the uphill and pass most everybody else on the crew.

The speed eventually came with a price. My second season on Backcountry trails was in Kings Canyon National Park. At the end of the season, especially the last week, my right knee had finally had enough. It started screaming in protest as I hiked out of the backcountry. I rested it over the last weekend and hoped it would be fine on Monday for our last week of the season in the front country. Monday morning it felt fine. It gave out again on the hike home in the afternoon. Our boss asked if I wanted to see as doctor for it, but I insisted it just needed rest. Tuesday through Friday were all the same. It felt fine in the morning but like it was on fire in the afternoon. I still insisted it just needed some rest, which I would be getting plenty of in the off season. It never was the same, though. I never saw a doctor for it, and it kept me from ever working trails again.

So remember…hike fast! (But use good technique!)

Categories: Backcountry, CCC, Hiking | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Waiting for Jen

The rest of the story…

Yosemite 2 began its 1987 season working in the south part of Yosemite, at Wawona. Our front country camp was on the banks of the South Fork of the Merced River at an NPS house usually used to house seasonal fire crews. It was called Comfort House. We didn’t sleep in the house. The NPS workers did. We were outside in tents. For the first few weeks of our season, we would commute to the worksites in our crew van and pick up trucks, whether that was a trailhead for a maintenance run or the Wawona Grove of sequoias.

Our front country work projects at this time started with maintenance runs all over the south end of the park. The hiking helped to acclimate us to the higher elevation in the mountains. However, the main project in Wawona was building a long section of causeway trail through the Wawona Grove of giant sequoias. We spent more time rolling rocks than hiking for a weeks. By the beginning of June, since we were getting closer to our camp move date to Tuolumne Meadows, our bosses decided that we needed to get some more hiking in to start toughening up for the move to higher country. Instead of loading into the van at the sequoia grove at the end of the day, we hiked from the grove over a ridge to a trailhead where the van would pick us up.

Trail crews never hike in one huge heard. NPS has a minimum speed of three miles an hour, but as long as a crewmember met that criteria, he/she could hike however they wanted. Some people would hike in groups of two to four people. Some people would hike solo. People usually didn’t get spread out too far, and with everyone going down the same trial, there really was no hazard of getting separated and lost from the rest of the crew.

The first day we hiked out of the Wawona Grove was great. There was a little climb up the ridge. Then the trail followed the ridge for a bit before dropping back down to the main road through the south end of Yosemite. The trail followed the road for a few hundred yards before getting to the trailhead. There were several ‘unofficial’ paths connecting the trail to the road before the trail actually got to the trailhead. Since we had hiked a lot of maintenance runs for the first two weeks and had seen a lot of trail, it was fairly easy to tell that these spurs were not the main trail. Well…for most of us, anyway…

Glen Meyer had driven the van from Wawona to the trailhead. One by one we came down out of the woods and threw off our daypacks, wiped off the sweat, and sucked down some water. Before long, the entire crew was assembled, except for one. Jen.

Jen had begun the season with a cheerful upbeat attitude. She spoke with a Valley Girl accent, and always put a cheerful Valley spin on things as they happened. She had a willowy, thin build. She had been having a hard time keeping up with the hiking and rock work. Everybody was pulling for her to get into shape and have a successful season, but at this point, that was in doubt. We waited for almost thirty minutes for her to come down out of the woods. Finally, Moose had Glen take the crew back to camp. She was going to wait for Jen. After Glen had dropped the crew off, he was to come back up pick up Moose…hopefully, with Jen.

There was a general store and the Wawona post office right on the corner of the main road and the road to Comfort House. Glen dropped several of us off at the store to pick up some snacks and then hike the half mile or so up to Comfort house. Then he drove the rest of the crew back to camp.

I remember buying ice cream at the store. Ice cream seems to be the most popular snack food for trail workers right off the trail. I was eating my ice cream with Tammi and Cory outside the store when we saw Glen, with Mark Guthrie in the van, drive by on his way back to pick up Moose and Jen. No sooner had Glen and Mark driven out of sight, then Jen came walking around the side of the store.

“Sooooo…you went off and left me, huh?” Jen teased.

“Where did you come from? We waited for you at the trailhead and never saw you!”

“I got to the road and never saw the van. I thought you guys had ditched me, so I hitched a ride.”

Jen had obviously taken one of those side spurs off the main trail down to the road. She thought she had reached the trailhead, but she had still been a few hundred yards short.

Moose and Glen and Mark were still waiting for Jen to come down out of the woods.

The solution was obvious, but nobody was eager to get it done. Somebody had to let them know Jen was back. And since we had no vehicle, the only way to do that was to hike back down to the trailhead. We really had no idea how far that was. One mile driving down a highway feels really different from hiking one mile. The trailhead could have been one mile up the highway; it could have been three.

Finally, Tammi, Cory, and I started hiking back up the road to the trailhead. This was no tranquil meander through the woods. I thought I had hiked hard to get to the van. I really kicked it into gear now.

Twenty minutes later I was at the trailhead. It had turned out to only be one mile! Good news!

As I struggled to catch my breath, I got out the word that Jen was back at camp.

Jen didn’t last on the crew much longer after that. Her boyfriend came up to visit one weekend, and she just went home with him. Jen’s memory lived on, though. “Sooooo…you went off and left me, huh?” and “I thought you guys ditched me, so I hitched a ride” said in a Valley accent became regular fixtures in Yo2’s lexicon.

Categories: Backcountry, Backpacking, CCC, Hiking, Yosemite | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

June 1, 1987: Call Off the Search!

Today occurred one of those ‘Backcountry stories’ you hear all the time from Backcountry vets.

We hiked home from Wawona today. No problem. Jen was bringing up the rear, and after everyone else got to the van we waited around for a little while. Then Moose told Glen to take everyone else home, she would wait for Jen, and Glen would drive back and pick them up.

Glen dropped us off at the store, then continued on his appointed rounds. We saw him driving the other way a little later, to pick up Moose and Jen. Literally two minutes later, Jen comes walking up from out of nowhere, greeting us with a cheery, “So, you drove off and left me, huh?”

She told us that when she hiked out she didn’t see anyone, not even Moose, and she hitched a ride to Wawona.

We waited around at the store for about ten minutes more, then I decided that I should go tell the others to call off the search. Twenty minutes later I walk, panting, up to the van. The news absolutely thrilled them.

Categories: Backcountry, Backpacking, CCC, Hiking, Yosemite | 1 Comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.