Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Backpacking 2011

The mighty annual backpacking trip!  Can never come quick enough for me to get out into the woods and pounding some ground.  This trip was going to be great!  Casey was our navigator and did us good in terms of distance and brutality.  Some days were literally brutal and everyone was wiped.

Our trip this year would be in the Ansel Adams Wilderness, bordering Yosemite and we even entered into Yosemite a few times.  Our total miles were around 64 miles, though us on the trail will tell you that was probably another 10 miles in there of off-trail scrambles and such.

Here is a link to the entire trip mapped out.  You can see the elevation changes for each day (the 2 pass scramble day was pretty cool).


I was in shape for this trip and I didn't even know it. 2 years ago I was huffing and puffing up the hills in far last place. This year I was out front almost every day knocking down elevations left and right. Felt really great. Drove to Yreka, picked up by Gordon, drove to shawns for night before. We went bar hopping and had a blast. I wont go into too many details but the night mostly involved happy Tom greeting and buying every girl in the bar a drink. LOL

My pack weighed in at 52 pounds with everything for 9 days including 2 liters of water in my Camelbak.  Most of the others weighed pretty close to the 45-55 mark.  Pretty hefty packs to be carrying around long distances.  After the trip my pack weighed in at 42 pounds so 10 was mostly food.

Next day was to the trailhead, outside of Bass Lake at Fernandez Trailhead. We met the crew for this year. Myself, Shawn Bates, Paul Warmath, Brent Bakeman, Casey Dake, Gordon Metz, and Paul's friend Rodney (for a few days).

Guess I should point out the mosquito hatch in Yosemite was delayed this year because of the weird weather.  Yeah, they all hatched for our trip and the one constant on this trip were mosquitoes...more than anyone had ever seen in their lives.  Brent ended up a mosquito pin-cushion.

Fernandez Trailhead

Our only incidents at the trailhead night before were that I kicked a rock with my toe in my Birkenstocks that would haunt me the whole trip.  We also had Paul get lost early in the morning at the trailhead as he was taking care of business.  In the dark there is no telling which way is which so he stood still until someone finally acknowledged his yells for help.

Day 1, Trailhead to Rainbow Lake

About 7 1/4 miles uphill.  Went from around 7200' to around 9300'.  We had one hiker become incapacitated early on this section of the trail and many of us were worried we were camping on the trail and adjusting our plans.  Myself and (Gordy?) plodded ahead and found the beautiful campsite at Rainbow Lake, and we finally got our companion to camp.  

The Trail Machines: Shawn Bates, Tom Buckner, Casey Dake, Paul Warmath, Brent Bakeman, Gordon Metz

Fire pit at Rainbow Lake

Rainbow Lake

Day 2, Rainbow Lake to Isberg Lakes.  
This would be an ass-kicker day as we would go over 2 passes, Post Peak Pass and Isberg Pass.  Much of the hike was steep climbing, or descending only to climb again.  Much of trhe trail was covered in snow or permanent glaciers and many sections we were walking across pretty gnarly snow-covered hillsides.
10,700 was around the first pass and the 2nd was around 10,500.  The day was getting late when us wornout hikers finally found a suitable place on the far side of the lake.  The only incidents to report at this site was at night me (not being a drinker) wasn't quite handling my booze too well and ended up 1st outside my tent passed out, and than in my tent with my head laying outside the entrance, resting on top of my vomit! sigh...

Random no-name lake

Top o the world
Top of Post Peak Pass

Awesome vistas
Birds wouldnt budge from the trail as we approached

These side-traversing areas were scary and treacherous 
Little creatures were everywhere scrambling around the rocks of our camp 

Day 3, Isberg Lakes to Cora Lakes
This was a relatively nice hike since most of it was downhill.  Cora Lakes were beautiful and we caught some nice fish here.

 One of many river crossings, some were manageable, others we had to remove boots and wade

 Cora Lake

Day 4, Cora Lakes to Hemlock Crossing
This was a good hike, nothing too extreme with both up and downs the whole trip.  Hemlock Crossing has a newer bridge crossing the river and some spectacular falls, especially with the swollen rivers.  This would be the North Fork of the San Juaquin River, which we would be near all the way to its headwaters.  When we arrived the only suitable campsite was taken with a group.  Where to go?  Well a kind older man who used to work for the Forest Service in trails in this area in the 70s decided to personally walk us to a 'secret' site that used to be along the old trail.  It involved some more uphill and about a 30 minute walk but the site was worth it.  Secluded and beautiful the site sat at the bottom of Long Creek at the bottom of its tumbling fall from above.

 Rested for lunch at this great overlook of the valley we would soon dive down into

 Where's the trail?  Ran into lots of this

 Hemlock Crossing

 Long Creek Falls above, our camp just across the river from it

 More falls tumbling into our campsite area

Day 5, Hemlock Crossing to below Twin Island Lakes
This was an all uphill climb to the top of the North Fork gorge and the trail ends at the end of this gorge.  The trail was lost many times over snow and rocks as we ascended to our 'Sabbath' spot.  The Sabbath is a spot where we spend a day of having fun, exploring, and resting.  We found a great spot, even though it was semi-near a group of campers.  This group was part of a larger group scattered throughout the forest, nestled in small solo '48 hours of solitude' for some religious school.  

 Look at those cute little fishes

 Creature making fun of us crossing the snow

Day 6, Sabbath
Our rest day was a blast!  4 of us hiked up no trail to get to Twin Island Lakes.  When I say up, it was literally UP!!  We were almost rock climbing at one point and we almost turned back.  Luckily we got to the top and were greeted by a beautiful lake that still had ice floating everywhere.  Duke got in first then I stripped down and dove in, followed by Gordon.  Paul wimped out!  The scramble down was great, especially since we all made it safely down.  This lake is one of the beginnings of the San Jauquin River, the North Fork. 

I investigated my little toes a little bit, as you can see in the picture one was pretty thrashed.  It hurt but hiking was bearable and I drove on.  Gordon was injured on his neck when he tried to catch a big branch that Paul was trying to break.  I also evidently gave amusement to the crew as I played Spiderman in my 'barefoot' shoes all over the rocks and jumping across the river.

 Was on about blister number 3 in the same spot by this point


 Twin Island Lake
 The lake tumbling far below

 Post dip in the lake

 Paul, one with the rocks
 Camp from up high

 Our filter hose xmas tree
Brent trying to dry his roll of TP he accidently washed

Day 7, back to Hemlock Crossing
I decided to head out solo for this section, back to Hemlock Crossing where we hoped to get the camp at the crossing, with our 'secret' spot in reserve.  I had a great hike, got lost a few times coming back and eventually got to the crossing and secured our site for the night.  Quite a few fish were caught by others on the way down and while we were here, eating was delicious!!

 Hemlock Crossing

Day 8, Hemlock Crossing to ?
We wanted to get to Granite Creek Campground, or somewhere closer to our trailhead.  This was a brutal day as the beginning of our trail took us up 1500 feet in 3 miles.  It was a brutal uphill, I plunged on without stop the whole way, feeling good.  We didn't reach the campground but found a fantastic site along the river only 4 miles or so from the cars.  Camp here was finishing up our food and booze and having a great time.  Paul ended up doing the superman into his tent (see other hikers' pictures).  
 Thick brush

Day 9, The End
A short hike to our cars and we were done.  Lots of people we never saw were back returning at the trailhead.  About 6 different trails begin from this Fernandez Trailhead.  We hopped into our cars and drove into Oakhurst where we met at Cids for some Mexican food and beer.  Everyone had shorter trips than me and I had to get to Yreka and then back to Fortuna.  I rolled home about 0400 in the morning and showed up for work without any sleep (I didn't count on taking Monday off) and they promptly sent me home sick.  I slept all day and into the night.  My backpack is still unpacked in my trunk as we speak, Haahaa.

Closing Comments
Seeing Brent and Casey for the first time since our 10 year reunion was fantastic!  Seeing the rest I don't get to see all year was a blast.  Good times always.  I hope to increase my visibility and get together with these guys more than just for our yearly backpacking trip.  

My change in running form translated nicely to backpacking.  I shortened my stride, increased my cadence, and always tried to land my feet under my center of gravity.  Worked out nicely my endurance was incredible compared to 2 years ago.  Keep it up, Tom! 

My Merrell Trail Glove 'barefoot' shoes made great camp shoes and all-around running/scrambling.  They were not good for river crossings.  They worked good, but did not dry quick enough to be used comfortably in camp the same day.  I ended up just crossing barefoot.

More goodies next time.  Again, I packed the basics food-wise while most others had great snacks and treats they kept pulling out of their asses.  Next time I'm packing more treats!  

My new head buff has a million uses.  Besides capturing all my sweat the whole trip, it doubled in this trip as a great mosquito net.  The early picture way above shows my face wrapped up in it at night.

Shawn says 'it is written' that next years trip will be in Colorado.  We'll see.  Wherever it happens I hope to see some of the other faces I haven't seen in so long.

Thanks Gordy for driving so far with me.  Thanks Shawn and your family for the wonderful hospitality and the great pleasure of meeting your awesome family!!  Thanks Casey for planning such an awesome trip, hope to see you more often than every 3 years.  Thanks Brent for being my birthday buddy and always making me smile (and blocking all those mosquitoes from biting me).  Thanks Paul for always providing the right words and entertainment and being a cool person.  And a big thanks to all those who continue to follow my posts or adventures and continue to inspire and encourage me.

Fantastic trip!!!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great blog regarding our 2011 backpacking trip! Good job!