Monday, June 28, 2010

Meeting Baden Powell

May 24: Charmin and I woke up early to tackle Mt. Baden Powell. We hoped. We were both a little apprehensive about the climb, and hadn't been able to find anyone who even knew if the route was passable. I took that as a slightly good sign--if the route weren't passable, I would have expected at least some hikers to have come back into Wrightwood, defeated. We never found any of them, however.

Charmin commented, "There's no bad weather, just bad equipment." Which I thought pretty funny, but she was just repeating a phrase she heard from somewhere else.

"Well, then," I told her, "I might have bad equipment." Which was actually more than she had. At least I had microspikes. Charmin didn't have any traction devices for her shoes.

We were packed and up and ready to go by 8:00 in the morning, and she managed to hitch us a ride before we even got off the front door step of the hotel. The owners of the hotel were getting into their vehicle, and Charmin smiled at them, and they waved us over saying they'd give us a ride to the trailhead. We had expected that we'd need to hitch a ride and were prepared to stand out on the side of the road for who knows how long with our thumbs stuck out to get the five or six miles back to the trailhead. And she nabbed us a ride before we even got three feet out the door! Sweet!

The one downside--for me, at least--was that I planned to call both my mom and Amanda while we were standing on the side of the road with nothing better to do than stick out our thumbs. Once we left town, my cell phone no longer worked, however, and I wouldn't be able to make any calls for a few days. I know my mom in particular would be worrying. She worries all of the time anyhow, and unfortunately, she actually got to see the snow from the day before which I was certain would heighten her concern. But I wasn't going to pass up a ride to the trailhead, either!

It was time to "meet" Baden Powell, as Charmin would explain. We wouldn't climb the mountain, or conquer the mountain. No, we were going to meet the mountain. For someone who doesn't know English as a first language, Charmin often surprises me with a lot of her word choices. I liked this particular wording. It sounded so elegant and formal, like a handshake with someone you've just been introduced to.

"Yes, let's go meet Baden Powell," I agreed.

From a distance, the mountain looked steep, snow-covered, and nothing short of intimidating. The first few miles of trail just got us to the base of the mountain, then we started following a long series of switchbacks directly up the side of the mountain. It didn't take long before we started seeing the first small patches of snow. About halfway up, the snow started becoming thicker and more problematic, requiring small traverses. We met three day hikers coming down, older men, who told us that they turned back. The snow was just too bad. They did meet another hiker ahead, however, Hurricane, who they thought might have the gusto to make it.

I was a little surprised to hear that Hurricane was ahead of us. He kept getting himself lost on Fuller Ridge and it seemed a little crazy to think he'd try to navigate his way through the treacherous snow alone. However, so long as we didn't see him turning around and going back down the mountain, we were optimistic that the trail was still passable. We continued ever upward.

At many of the switchbacks, where the trail turns sharply, thick piles of snow blocked the route, and we found it easier to cut the switchbacks completely and go straight up the slope on dry ground. We'd find where the trail crossed above us, then follow it until snow blocked the way away, then go off trail again to repeat the process.

Which worked pretty well for a mile or so, until finally we reached a point where there was snow as far as the eye could see, just going upwards. There was no more dry ground. There was no more trail to be seen. It was all buried in snow. Everything was buried in snow.

We could see quite a few footprints heading directly up the slope, and we started following them. "As long as we're going upward," I said to Charmin, "we're going in the right direction." The trail, we knew, switchbacked up the mountain along a steep slope. Since the trail was completely invisible, we just started going directly up. No sense bothering with switchbacks that couldn't be seen.

The slope was steep, but it wasn't too bad. The light snow from the day before helped give us extra traction that the frozen layer of ice below it wouldn't have provided. It also helped to follow the footsteps of hikers before us since they had made a lot of footholds for us to climb up with. One small section was steep enough that I was a bit concerned about my safety had I lost my footing, but it only lasted about 20 or 30 feet before I got to a location that I felt was relatively safe again.

And, after much huffing and puffing, we finally reached the summit, 9399 feet above sea level. We did high fives and took celebratory photos of ourselves, then sat down to rest and eat some snacks. The north-facing slopes were covered in a thick layer of snow down the ridgeline the trail more-or-less followed, while the south-facing slopes were completely and totally devoid of snow. According to our maps, the trail hovered somewhere near the top of the ridge, but along the north-facing, snow-covered slopes, and we decided to do some more cross-country travel along the ridge top on the south-facing slopes without snow instead. Safer and faster that way.

The register at the top of the mountain showed that we were the seventh and eighth people to make it to the top that day, and strangely, Hurricane never logged into it. (Maybe he got lost--again?) I was thrilled to see Tradja and Jess had logged in a mere two hours before us. I hadn't seen them since Warner Springs and they had gotten days ahead of me. Seems that they took a few days off in Wrightwood so now they were just around the proverbial corner.

Just as we were picking up our stuff to continue when Argentina reached the summit. He had done this section of trail a couple of times before, he told us, and could help us get through the section. I thought we had been doing pretty fine already, and I was a little annoyed at his showing off. As if we'd be lost and dead if he wasn't for him coming to the rescue. I wanted to give him the benefit of a doubt--maybe he just wants to feel helpful--but it ended up annoying me more than anything, and I hoped he'd blow past us.

We followed the ridgeline, occasionally spotting traces of the trail on the snow-covered side, but sticking to the dry land as much as possible. Argentina hiked fast, blowing past, but then he'd stop to wait for us to catch up.

During one snack break, Turbo came by, explaining that he headed up the mountain by himself. He was hiking with others, but the talk of snow scared them into the detour for the section and that he was trying to catch up to them when their detour met the trail again. (By this point, I started calling the detour to avoid Baden Powell the "Wimp Walk.")

We introduced ourselves as Green Tortuga and Charmin, and he said, "Wow! I get to meet two celebrities!" My little green turtle stamp is pretty well known by anyone hiking behind me, but Charmin draws a little roll of toilet paper whenever she signs a registry and I guess that's making her a celebrity among the folks behind us on the trail as well. She seemed pleased to think that someone would consider her a 'celebrity' for drawing rolls of toilet paper.

At one point, a side trail led off to a spring. We didn't need water (we were already surrounded by it!), but Charmin and I stopped to snack here while Argentina tore down the trail following the footprints in the snow. We didn't much care for the snow, however, and so Charmin and I clambered back up to the ridgetop, following the ridge a short ways, where it came back and intersected with the trail. I saw Argentina further down the mountain, stopped, and seemingly waiting for us. Except from my point of view, it didn't actually look like he was on the trail.

"Are you on the trail?" I shouted to Argentina.

"No," he replied. "I think it's over there somewhere," he continued, waving his hands to my left. "I'm going to go over there to look for it, but I didn't want to leave you in the lurch."

I laughed. "No need to do that. I'm on the trail now. It's up here!"

Oh, gosh, if he's our rescuer, we're doomed..... =) He seemed a little embarrassed that we found the trail first. Though admittedly, it was largely by accident, just because we headed to the top of the ridge to avoid the snow. We knew the trail was close, but he didn't realize it was that close!

From the small patches of snow we passed, it looked like we were the first people to travel on this section of trail the entire day. At least a dozen people were ahead of us, but it appeared as if every single one of them ended out where Argentina had walked. There were absolutely no fresh footprints on that half-mile or so next section of trail we covered.

The trail eventually started descending from the ridgeline, and once again we found ourselves hiking through more and more snow. Progress slowed down, but we plodded along. Late in the day, we reached Little Jimmy Spring, where we found Hurricane resting.

He had, indeed, gotten lost during the day's hike and seemed quite upset about all the snow, but he was in good shape and seemed back on track in any case. The Little Jimmy Campground was a short way further up the trail, and fortunately most of the snow in the campground had already melted so we were able to set up camp on dry ground.

Hurricane made a campfire for us. Near sunset, Running Wolf came into camp, seemingly glad to have seen people. He actually hiked out from Wrightwood, tackling nearly ten miles more of walking than any of the rest of us, and he seemed wore out. He set up his tent, then asked where the water source was.

"You should have walked right past it," we told him. "There are big old signs and everything pointing to the spring."

He had seen the signs, but didn't realize that that was the water source. At least if he didn't want to melt snow. Then he looked around.... "Which direction did I come in from?"

Charmin and I found this particularly amusing. We wondered about his sense of direction after watching him pass by our window a dozen or more times the day before. But we wrote it off to his being exhausted. Were exhausted from the snow travel, and we did a full ten miles less than Running Wolf did. I'm not sure I'd have been capable of covering the distance he did.

So we met Baden Powell. He was a bit grumpy and rough around the corners, but nowhere near as bad as the rumors swirling around Wrightwood would have led us to believe.


Anonymous said...

What's the deal with the highlighted words?

Anonymous said...

So, who knows what Baden Powell (the person) is famous for?

1 bug point to the first one with the correct answer.


Anonymous said...

Hey Now, Bug!

Baden-Powell, aka: B-P, founded an oil company, of course! LOL, no. He founded the Boy Scouts. ;)


Okie Dog said...

That picture of Charmin? Is she wearing clogs? OMG! Not enough coverage, seems to me, in snow, no less! amazing. Great pics, as usual, Ryan.

Lisa said...

I know who he is. Ask any Scout, and they can tell you too.


Anonymous said...

Being from New York State, Cortland was in the Baden Powell Council out of Dryden, NY. Interesting to read about our fearless leader and Charmin meeting the western Baden Powell.


Anonymous said...

2010 the 100th year of BS! Great year to climb BP mountain. We have Boyce Park here for another founder.

Larva Lady-ZZ
Assist. scout master

ArtGekko said...

I think Charmin's "clogs" are really regular shoes with socks turned down over the back part. click on the picture to see the enlarged version.

I love her TP sig. She needs a stamp! :)

Anonymous said...

Congrats to Connfederate for knowing Lord B-P was the founder of Boy Scouts. 100 yrs strong in the USA this year. Your 'Bug Point' entitles you to some help (as in a hint) deciphering an eevil box clue of mine...


Kaaren said...

I think the highlighted words are his "Spell check." When you spell check on Blogger, it highlights the misspelled words. I think Ryan is publishing his blog posts without clicking the "done checking spelling" button/link.

Ryan said...

Yeah, it's the stupid spell check. I *though* Blogger was smart enough to figure out that spell check was meant for the person writing a blog--not for people who are reading it! By the time I found out it was showing the highlighted words to the public at large, I didn't want to go back and retroactivelly "end" the spell check. My newest posts don't have them, but until those start posting, you'll be subject to yellow highlighted words on occasion. =)

-- Ryan

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

That ridge walk reminds me of hiking along Sandia Peak. It's above 10,000 ft and in the Spring there is often snow, too.

You and Charmin could sign the registries as T & T.

Tortuga and Toilet Paper. :D

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers