Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ain't No River Wide Enough....

Smedberg Lake
July 4: Independence Day, but no fireworks for me. For some reason, the authorities don't want people setting of fireworks in the forest. Go figure. *shrug*

For GQ, being from Scotland, he didn't have much interest in the holiday, but he did tell us that a tourist--an American one, of course--asked him if they celebrated the Forth of July in Scotland. "Yes, we enjoy celebrating the beginning of the end of the British empire." *rolling eyes*

Anyhow, I woke up above Smedberg Lake and planned to continue my idea from the evening before to follow the outflow from Smedberg Lake down to the PCT after losing the trail so completely the evening before. Everyone else, who had not yet had the pleasure of losing the trail at this point, would try to keep following the trail. I'd be on my own for this cross-country section.

Just before leaving camp, The Kern (formerly known as Ten Spot), Half-Ounce, and Neon walked past our campsite. I waved and wished them good luck in following the trail, then I headed south on the trail back to Smedberg Lake.

The Kern, Half-Ounce, and Neon
I found the water outlet easily enough, crossed to the far side of the water, then started following it down the mountain. A hit a few minor deadends along the way, overlooking high cliffs that I didn't dare try to scale down, requiring backtracking a few minutes until I found a better route down. After an hour or so, I reached the valley bottom no worse for wear. At the bottom, I found The Kern, Half-Ounce, and Neon on the other ride of the river asking if I knew where the trail was. At this point, I wasn't actually back on the trail yet, but at least I was on the correct side of the river. They asked where I crossed, and I pointed way back up the mountain and said I had no idea where the best place to cross here was at.

They went off to look for a place to cross that wouldn't require wet feet, and I went off in search of the PCT which I found a couple of minutes later. For much of the rest of the morning and afternoon, I continued hiking with The Kern, Half-Ounce, and Neon. There was another allegedly 'dangerous' river crossing ahead, and I wanted people around for that. Better safe than sorry!

The Kern admires the views.
I'm not sure what the name of the river was--it didn't show up in my topo map, but it was at the junction with the Bear Valley Trail. It was also the last of the allegedly dangerous river crossings, and I was excited to finally get those nuisances behind me. The river turned out not to be a big deal, coming up barely past my knees. The water was swift, but manageable.

On the other side, we all took a short lunch break. I lingered a bit longer than the rest, and had fallen behind when I reached Stubblefield Canyon Creek. I stopped short of the water, thinking that the water look very deep--deeper than anything I had experienced before. It wasn't fast moving water, though--just deep. If I had to guess, I'd judge it to be a solid five feet deep. It would certainly come up at least halfway up my chest. I suppose technically, the river crossing wasn't 'dangerous' since the water was so slow, but it seemed ludicrous that my guidebook had no mention of this river crossing.

The Kern was on the other side of the river, and I shouted out to him asking how he crossed.

Half-Ounce points out where he plans to
cross the last 'dangerous' river crossing
of the trail.
"Hold your pack over your head and go!" he shouted back.

"No, seriously!" I asked again. "Where did you  cross?"

"Right here," he insisted. "I held my pack over my head and crossed!"

Fine, don't tell me. I'll find my own route across.

I followed the creek upstream where the creek split into three smaller (but faster) creeks and decided to make my crossing. Each of the streams was only about knee-deep, but the water was very swift and I clutched my trekking pole tightly as a third, steady leg. It also required a little bit of bushwacking between the individual creeks, and after about ten minutes, I finally made it to the other side.

Things are improving...
at least the snow isn't ON the trail!
Upon reaching the other side, The Kern asked me how deep the water was.

"Only about knee deep," I told him, "but you already know that!"

"No I didn't. I really did cross right where the trail intersected the river. Held my pack over my head and crossed."

Hmm.... How 'bout that. All this time, I thought he was just yanking my chain, but he really did cross there. Wow, that must have been a cold, unpleasant experience!

I pulled ahead of the three, and late in the day reached another surprisingly deep river that also failed to make it into my guidebook. This river crossing would be the most difficult of the day--about waist deep and with a strong current. Not a fast current, but uncomfortably swift given the depth. I struggled across, reaching the other side, then started looking for a place to camp.

I set up camp near the Tilden Lake Trail junction, next to a raging river. The Kern, Half Ounce, and Neon caught up with me a half hour later, but decided to go a bit further up the trail, not wanting to camp next to the noisy river that they compared to the sound of a jet engine. They told me that Neon had lost a trekking pole in that last river crossing. "Better than losing your whole pack, eh, Mr. Kern?" =)

It seemed surprising to me that someone could lose their trekking pole at a river crossing. I hold mine very solidly while crossing, with both hands, and realized that was the problem. Neon carried two trekking poles. She had one in each hand--she wouldn't have had such a solid grip on them as I did having two hands on my one trekking pole. But still, the river was bad enough to cause her to lose a trekking pole.

The 'official' dangerous water crossings were behind us, but it seemed that we still faced 'unofficial' ones ahead. Those that would strike without warning. I couldn't wait to get out of these mountains. They were taking their tolls.


Funhog said...

I ran into the Kern in the Jefferson Wilderness a couple of weeks back. He told me to say "hi!"

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I also use two trekking poles, but if I had to cross a deep river I think I would make sure the straps were pulled tight around my wrists before crossing.

What's up with half ounce? I though he was helicoptered out because of HAPE?

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers