Gravel Foot Vision #3
I awake to darkness before the buzzing of the alarm. Gina appreciates that. It’s 3am Friday morning. super excited! Deep snow is our adventure a head. Cold apparel packed, could be 15 to 20 feet of snow. Big Pine is where we are heading. High Sierra. Last storm a few days ago. O great! “Really Brett?” Are my thoughts.
Right on time, head lights flash me, better than Brett doing it. The car door opens and the first words from Brett are “where’s my wallet” I thought I was in a capital one nightmare. We pack the truck, push start, “hey don’t hit the hedge” geez. We head up the 405 to the 5, not takin 15 this time, and over to the 14 where the UFO’s start to appear. Heck, with the fog, there appears to be these flying creatures in the sky. Creepy. “TAKE ME!” As we approach Bishop in Mojave we merge onto the 395 and the snow appears on the peeks ahead. Light now fills the sky. No clouds, thats good. “Welcome – Eastern Sierra Scenic Byway” There goes Fossil Falls, what the heck is that? The famous Jerky shop, we gonna hit that on the way back. I dig the signs along the road “Karma Indian Restaurant..Bishop 80 miles.
Its 7:01 in the am and sun grazes across the Earth exposing the terrain in a beautiful golden color.. Wow! Made it to Lone Pine in 3hr + 15 minutes. Bretts Happy. We wait to pee at a gas station and wait for the range station to open to get permits (so humans know where we went in case we don’t return). We see a sign that reads ‘OPEN at 8” duh, “the station doesn’t open til 8, shit we got here too fast, it’s winter hours.” There is another sign that reads “ self serve” So far so good. Let’s sign and go, the mountain is awaiting. (so is the snow I’m thinking)
We slow into Independence at 8:15am. The old mountain fish Hatchery is to the left. BIG PINE 8:51am + turn left onto Croaker street. A mile up the road we are greeted by a sign thats says “NO pedestrians, Avalanche Area”. Luckily we called ahead + and rangers said it was for road clearing. We parked, rearranged the packs, snow shoes attached, weighed in. Step count is 1850. The adventure begins at 9:30am, 7700 ft. The road is icy with plowed berms on either side, Oh great “what have I gotten myself into?” Just a short time walking and coming from the rear… rangers in a truck. Busted! or so we think, turns out they wanted to know if we knew Andrew + Owen. You see remember the reason for permits???? Well these two guys are missing, 2 days over due and family is calling for answers. Officer Jacob, super cool guy, says this happens often. WHAT the Heck! Really! O great! There is also a missing marine long over due as well. (assumed deceased). The river, with nooks and crannies can take life in a second they were saying. “If you see these guys please let them know they need to check in” Thanks and have fun. Hmmm. Our journey begins with a little more than deep snow on the mind. The sounds of the creek keeps us grounded. We finally get to the workers clearing the road to the camp grounds and we have a chat. (Danger – Stay clear while spinner is turning) love signs. They say call the county next time for road closers, the number ends with 2020.
We are at the 7700 ft level and the trail heads upward. North Fork, South Fork, Big Pine Creek. It’s now 12:00 and it’s snow shoe time, 7900 ft. set GPS point. A beautiful valley floor is ahead with towering canyons on either side, magical and we are here, right now. Cool. “Holy Crap what a work out. It’s gotta be the air…..hahahahah. Snow shoe waking is a challenge, even for me , Bretts laughing, you walk funny Hodson. A few miles, or what seems like a few miles, we eye a spot to set camp. River to our left cutting through the trees, the south facing mountain to our right. Quiet is all we hear.
As we are preparing the snow pack for the tent (fun, we get to sleep on the snow) we are also thinking about fire. It’s gonna get cold tonight. We hear voices coming up the valley floor, we’re not alone. Hello, we meet a couple on a day hike. “snow shoes are not fun” I laugh. have fun. Back to work. We start digging a hole for the fire. I know we need to dig down to the ground. 4 feet plus later….There is no ground. How deep is the snow? Forget it, let’s try the fire on the snow and see what happens. (Like we don’t know) Try doing anything productive and as you do, you keep falling through the snow and not only that but the light headedness is everywhere. Like a creature you can’t see but wipes you out constantly. Crap, I thought I was better shape than this. (Lightheadedness is a feeling of faintness, dizziness, or being close to passing out. It can occur alongside vertigo, which affects balance and makes a person feel as though they or their surroundings are spinning.) See it’s serious! smiling. 2:35pm, the tent is up. 8200 feet in elevation. Faint voices are heard through the trees and the couple reappears, backlit. How was the hike ahead? SMILING as BIG as could be, Kristen presents her hand to us. The sparkle of a ring glistens brighter than snow. WOW! got engaged! Cracking up I grad my camera and snap some fotos. Brett gathers Rich’s info and as they head down the mountain we just shake our heads and say…that was pretty cool. What are the chances. (see photos)
Brett decides to melt snow, first time, for water. THIS TAKES FOREVER. Let’s get water at the river. Agreed. Falling through the snow trying to get to the river is fun, not know knowing if we are over the flow or not, is not cool. Filtering water in a magnificent setting like this doesn’t suck. Hurry up gotta pee. Brett doing the hard work slips off the rock and drenched his boot in the icy creek. Getting chilly and it only 4pm. Crazy how the temp changes instantly as the Sun slides behind the hills. It’s time to start the fire from gathered, fallen limbs, fingers crossed. Spark, spark, spark. ignition. A flicker. Light. Heat. Success. Added twigs + kindle start the blaze. Heat felt to only 3-4 feet. “Can we eat?” Thank goodness for Jet Boil + Mountain House meals. In seconds the bag is opened and filled with the magic liquid that starts the reprocess of dried goodness. chicken and rice…turkey + stuffing, not a bad way to end a splendid day. We sit by the fire and snack our meal as we watch the flames descend downward. How deep is the snow you think? I guess we’ll know in the morning. By 7pm we were exhausted and in our bags. Sun dipped behind mountains at 4pm, and that’s when it went frigid. Change of socks a must. A new game created….How many pockets does it take to go through to find your melatonin?
We wake to the sounds of running water, pretty cool indeed. Its FREAKIN COLD! Bretts socks + boots are frozen solid. As Brett starts the coffee, I ran sprints to warm my toes, you should have seen that. As the sun creeps through the canyon and the temp rises, I go to snap some images of the surround. Gods reflector at its prime fills the shadows. At camp it kinda sucks when the water in the filter hose freezes and you can’t make breakfast. Luckily we kept a bottle in the tent. (TIP) As we start dismantling the tent, Brett is cracking up cause with only half my body in the tent and the other rolling the sleeping mats…. he said it looked like I was helping give birth. What a vision, huh? BTW, the fire hole never did hit solid ground. A rescue crew approaches camp and makes themselves quite invited into out space while interrogating us. weird but OK. “have you seen David + David? Whistles are blowing and names are being yelled out in the distance, kinda surreal. They were all dressed in neon orange. “Are we on Candid Camera?” They move on. All packed and camp secure “LEAVE NO TRACE” we get on our way. Hey Bob, shoot a few snaps of me trekking through the untracked snow. It’s 11:00am and we start our retrace down the mountain. Off the snow and back on land, Brett asked, “have you seen the movie, Mile. Mile and a 1/2 on Netflix? No. A bit later I said, “watch the ice on the road” heading back to truck, which was right before Brett slipped and fell hard on his hip and elbow in front of a couple hiking up the road + boy did he bruise his ego big time on that one. + I laughed. then made a note….., Brett can’t walk on ice and tell a story.
We make it back to truck and our greeted by more rescue humans. It turns out the D + D they were looking for were only a practice mission. (still NO word about Andrew and Owen) There was a full page form on the truck windshield left by officers Guido + Derr, (see foto) they thought it was owned by these two guys, asking them to contact their family. Serious Shit. Hope they are OK.
Last 2 stops before home….Fossil Falls (which raged 5000 years ago is pretty darn cool) and the famous jerky shop. Goods for the drive.
Bob + Brett