Monday, August 8, 2011

They'll have to make the best of things, It's an uphill climb

No Thursday night race report for last Thurs. Loren and I had tickets for the Giants/Phillies game so no racing for me. I checked the overall standings for the series and I have a thin lead for my age group. 3 weeks to go! It's been a fun series.

This weekend, we went on our first backpacking adventure since moving. This would be Bea's, our dog, first backpacking trip. We've gone car camping and hiking with her but this was new.
Friday afternoon, we headed up to the Snow Mountain area of Medocino National Forest for the weekend. We started out with some less than wonderful google map directions to get to the ranger station for a more detailed map. We hit the trail head at 4:30, later than expected.
Friday evening was our day of dumb. Nothing terrible happened, things just didn't go as planned. We hiked a bit further than expected up a really really steep trail with lots of switch backs. Bea was game. The ranger we spoke to hadn't really had a trail report for where we were going for about a month. There was less water than expected. Less being almost none. We took a trail in a different direction than our overall plan to get water. We still had about a liter, but for 2 people and a dog. more would have been better.
We found a very nice camping area at another trail head. It was clear no one had been here for months. Apparently the road leading up to this trail head isn't passable, leaving it unused. It's really too bad, it's an awesome camping area. We followed the map to where a spring should have been. It was a bit of a hunt. Then, there in a field, was a bathtub. No really. LIke an old clawfoot tub someone dragged up there. There was a hose coming out of it but no water. I guess in the spring, when the snow is melting of the mountain, there is a lot of water. For now, there was a trickle running down hill. It wasn't great, but it was enough for the night.
While it was clear no one had been up here in a while, a ranger did stop to talk to us as we were getting ready to hike in. He told us to be on the look out for growers (people go up into the forrest to grow weed). He said they wouldn't look like hikers, they would usually be alone and not carrying anything. I find it hard to believe people would hump all the way out there empty handed but I guess they have some nice set ups deep in the woods. I can understand why people would grow up there, everything grows up there. During our conversation, he said he didn't mind the growing so much as the pesticides which were killing other plants and trees and starting to kill the wild life. I said they could really use the organic label as a marketing tool if they stopped using pesticides. He chuckled, shook his head and said "yea, I really can't say anything about that".
By the time we got camp set up and ate, we were in the dark and pretty pooped. Even though Bea had been camping once before, she got a little freaked out if one of us went off to do some sorta chore that require breaking the pack up. For the first night and most the next day, we did everything together which could get to be a pain.
Once in the tent, we came up with a plan for the next day. We knew there was water where we were, but it sucked. We would hit the next trail split, and decide if we should ditch our packs, day hike for a while, then hike out or bring our packs and find a nice camping area along the trail. We ended up with option 2.
The trail we were on was 2 miles long then would split into a few different trails. At the juncture, there was an awesome spring. We refilled all our bottles, ditched our big packs, packed up a day pack, and went for a few more miles up the trail.
It was beautiful, lots of wild flowers and huge trees, old burnt out trees from a 1987 fire. It was getting warm and we were at about 6500'.
As the day went on, it was clear Bea was hot. She started running from shady patch to shady patch, sitting down every once in a while. We'd let her sit in a shaded area for a while then move on. This was a lot for her.
We got back to the site where we dropped our stuff, set up the tent, which bea could not wait to get in, and spend the afternoon lounging about, playing cards, snacking. The dog pretty much slept.
After a few hours, we went to scout a better campsite for the night.
In the back country, there really aren't campgrounds. Where we were for the afternoon was clearly a set camp, but other areas campers aren't suppose leave fire rings or make it seem like people have been there. But they do, which is ok by me, it makes it easier when the next person shows up as long as the area isn't trashed. At this point, we hadn't seen another person since we got on the trail.
We found an awesome spot. Tucked in behind some big trees off the trail, it had a fire ring, a cozy little spot shaded by some trees for our tent, and an AMAZING view.

Before we could even set up the tent, Bea wanted to be in it. She was so tired she was giving up on caring if one of us went off.
I decided to go fetch water as Loren finished up setting up camp, this way it would be done and we wouldn't have to back track on the way out the next day.
I'm walking down to the creak having a hippie moment in nature, enjoying the few minutes alone, the quiet, thinking about how I haven't seen anyone else.
And then
I see someone else.
A few someones actually, a youngish man and woman and their dog. They're right by the trail junction where the water is. I know just by looking at them they're lost. They're both in shorts, t-shirts, and sneakers.
I had looked at the map pretty closely and several times, I knew where all the trails in the area were. Loren and I had been hanging out in the same area for hours, we would have seen them had they come this way. There was another trail head much further north. I quickly figured that's where they came from. They were WAY off from where they wanted to be.
This isn't like a national park where rangers are patrolling the trails. National forests are more like, ok, here's a trail, here's a mark on a map where there's water, there are some established campground out there but you're not going to find much. HAVE FUN! And it is fun, until you're lost and have no idea where you should be going and it's 6:30PM. This can and does happen as demonstrated by the couple I just ran into.
We talked for a few minutes to try and determine where they were and where they went wrong, but they didn't have a map. I brought them back to our camp. Loren and Bea were both surprised to see other people. Bea was very surprised and not too happy to see another dog.
We figured out where they missed their turn around point, which was several miles away. Which was several miles away from the trail head where they parked. I gave them our map of the area, as we would be hiking out the way we came in in the morning and we were pretty familiar with where we were going. There was only 1 turn off to our trail and we had already passed it 3 times. We also gave them a headlamp since they had a dying flashlight, some food, and the space blanket out of our first aid kit. They had about 7 miles of hiking to go and about 2.5 hours of day light at most. I think they'd make it out, it just wasn't going to be a whole lotta fun.
My public service announcement for the day: if you go out hiking someplace unfamiliar, bring a map, bring water, bring snacks, something warms, a light, and let someone know where you're going and when you expect to be back. It really doesn't take much to go from, oh lovely walk in the woods, to oh crap I'm stuck and drinking my own pee.
After our new friends were on our way, we settled in for the night, falling asleep before it was even totally dark. I wanted to get up early and head out before the heat of the day.
We all fell right to sleep. Some point during the night, I woke up to coyotes singing somewhere out in the woods. Such a cool cool sound.
The next morning we were on the trail by 7:20AM. It was a lovely morning and the hike out was mostly downhill. I hadn't realized just how steep those switchbacks were until we went down them.
Half way down the trail, we had our 2nd human interaction. We ran into a young guy with a big pack, he was headed out for 5-6 days. We gave him the lowdown on the water situation and good camping areas and we were all on our way.
Bea got some of her energy back for the hike out. There were squirrels and chippies all over making her totally crazy.
Once we hit our car though, she was in the back seat and sound asleep. She slept the whole way home. This trip took a lot out of her! I think it'll be a couple of days before she's back up to her normal energy levels.
On our way out, we stopped by the ranger station to tell them about the folks we saw, just it case. I didn't think to give them my # so we'd know if they got out. The ranger thanked us and said, well, this is more information than we usually have. Last time someone got lost out there they just sat on a rock until we found them. Im pretty sure they made it out ok.

I was due to do a speed workout today. But ya know what? My ass is sore and my calves are killing me which I'm a little surprised by. I'll either do a short recovery run or take the day off. Taking the day off is really winning in my head at the moment.


Girl In Motion said...

I think this is my favorite blog post of yours! What a story. Those people were SO lucky to have found you. Made me laugh how the ranger said most people sit on a rock and wait. Rest those weary legs, you used 'em!

L.A. Runner said...

You girls are so tough! I loved reading about your camping adventure!

jesse.anne.o said...

Oh my god that's horrifying and basically my worst nightmare about being in wooded areas. And you know my sense of direction SUCKS.

Lucky them to run into you and how generous to give them your map!