strangers on the trail? | High Sierra Topix  

strangers on the trail?

If you've been searching for the best source of information and stimulating discussion related to Spring/Summer/Fall backpacking, hiking and camping in the Sierra Nevada...look no further!
User avatar

strangers on the trail?

Postby balzaccom » Sun Mar 29, 2009 8:42 pm

I thought I’d start a new thread here about strange people on the trail—those folks we remember years later for one reason or the other. And it wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t get the ball rolling with a couple of tales of my own.
My all-time favorite was meeting two young (mid 20’s or so) who were hiking in Illiloutte Canyon about 3:30 in the afternoon, a good five-seven miles up canyon from Glacier Point. They had a very small day pack and a single bottle of water that they were sharing. When we met them, they had just started hiking back down the canyon…and asked my wife and me if we could show them on the map where they were.
Something felt a little odd about this, so I asked them where they thought they were. They thought they were pretty darn close to Half Dome…but had missed the trail somehow and were up around Merced Lake. I showed them where they were –actually off the map by a couple of inches—and told them that if they didn’t take any MORE wrong turns, they still had about 9 miles to go to get back to Happy Isles. They assured me that they weren’t worried---as they had flashlights.
I could only imagine how lost they might get in the dark, if they got that lost in broad daylight.

The second group was a couple hiking up the Snow Creek Falls trail in mid-October during a snow flurry. It was cold, and they were in shorts…with maybe a light fleece on top. We were on our way down from a day hike to the top, and they were packing in for a few days. We chatted with them and while we chatted the young woman went from being slightly cold to whole-body involuntary shivering. Both my wife and I expressed concern—and were sorry that we couldn’t offer any more clothing to her. Her boyfriend/husband told us that they were fine---no problem. Which meant that he was fine. She was in full blown hypothermia, as near as we could tell. He basically told us to mind our own business….and we did. I am still bothered by it. Sigh.

Finally, on a lighter note, at about 12 miles us a trailhead in Yosemite, we ran into a group of three—an older woman, about 70-75? And a middle-aged man (maybe 45? And his son. She had done the same route 55 years ago when she graduated from high school, and had taken her son on that same trip when he graduated.
Yep—the young man was her grandson, and they were hiking the trail one more time. We still smile about that family, and the wonderful times they must have had together.

So what about the people YOU have met on the trail?
Balzaccom

check out our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/



User avatar
balzaccom
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1292
Joined: Wed Dec 17, 2008 9:22 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: strangers on the trail?

Postby Timberline » Sun Mar 29, 2009 10:57 pm

Great thread suggestion, balzaccom! So many of my own Sierra trips stay vividly alive in memory because of unexpectedly meeting people who turn out to be special in some unique way. I'm sure there are many stories out there in HST-land; I hope others will share theirs, too.

One I still recall fondly was meeting a hiking party consisting of Grant, a 65 year old retiree, his nearly-as-old cousin, and his brother's oldest son. Out on our first week long Sierra hike together, my 14 year old son and I had backpacked over Mono Pass to visit Pioneer Basin and the Mono Recesses. Grant and his party had hiked over from Silver Pass, and camped next to us at 4th Recess Lake. Seeing such old guys enjoying themselves so grandly prompted us to go over and introduce ourselves over some hot chocolate and schnapps. They were gracious and welcoming to us total strangers, and we spent a short evening in pleasant conversation, as if old friends. Their stories totally captivated my son's attention. The next morning, as they were about to depart for Mosquito Flat, Grant stopped by our camp and greeted my son, then showed him an old black and white photo taken along the trail just below Mono Pass, with Bear Creek Spire and the peaks bordering Little Lakes Valley in the background. In the foreground stood a smiling, 14 year old boy. The boy was Grant himself, at my son's age, on one of his first high country backpack trips. He revealed that one purpose of his hike had been to re-visit that moment in his childhood past and share it again with his relatives. I'm not sure which of us was more impressed by this gesture, but I know at that moment my son's Sierra hiking experience had become everything I hoped it would be. Later that day, my son and I climbed Mono Rock and found their names written in the peak register, further tying us to their remembered friendship. Ever since, the memory of that casual, unexpected meeting has been a touchstone of affirmation between my son and myself. I'm forever grateful to Grant and his family members for offering themselves to us as an example of what special people Sierra backpackers are.
Let 'er Buck! Back in Oregon again!
User avatar
Timberline
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 216
Joined: Wed Dec 28, 2005 1:55 pm
Location: Prineville, Oregon (Since 7/15/13)
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: strangers on the trail?

Postby Strider » Mon Mar 30, 2009 7:44 am

I passed the usual collection of casual hikers going up the Yosemite Falls trail, including moms with kids and an eldery German couple wearing shorts and suspenders. Then I got passed by a group of twenty-year-olds showing off. To make a point, I pushed it to leave them in the dust, got a few turns ahead, and was leaning over huffing and puffing, when here comes the German couple right behind me. I didn't see them again until they were headed down before I reached the top!
'Hike long and perspire'
User avatar
Strider
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 145
Joined: Tue May 23, 2006 11:12 am
Location: Paso Robles
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: strangers on the trail?

Postby balzaccom » Mon Mar 30, 2009 8:43 am

Hah! Strider, I love that story!

And yes, that trail is certainly one for meeting the odds and ends. One time, walking back down the trail, I caught up to a young man limping along badly. I asked if I could help him, and he said no---he had just torn his hamstring muscle, and was basically walking down very slowly under his own power. I had to hand it to him--I've torn a hamstring myself--but there isn't much anyone can do. So on he limped. Slowly.

I am grateful that I have never really hurt myself badly on a backpacking trip--only playing soccer!
Balzaccom

check out our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
User avatar
balzaccom
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1292
Joined: Wed Dec 17, 2008 9:22 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: strangers on the trail?

Postby rayfound » Mon Mar 30, 2009 9:04 am

On our first trip, My buddy and I Left Piute lake after the other two guys, and we were all to meet up at Desolation Lake.

We were expecting to see a trail branch to desolation, and never did. We ended up about 2 miles down Piute Canyon, getting towards hutchinson meadow, before we met a family hiking, and together determined, we'd gone way to far. At that point, we made the decision to just do it cross-country.

So we "aimed" northeast at Mount Humphreys and hiked in a straight line towards is, knowing that Desolation Lake lay at its base. When we arrived, we were alone.

We dropped out packs and hiked about looking for the rest of the group, on the assumption (false) that they had arrived hours earlier, and were now off looking for us.

Then, down from Humphrey's came this old guy that looked like he couldn't have weighed more than 120lbs soaking wet. He'd been in the backcountry for God-only-knows. He proceeded to tell us that we were NOT at Desolation Lake. I looked again and again at my map. Pilot knob there. Mount Humpreys here, and OH YEAH - There's no other lake in the area that is even close in size to desolation!

Of course, the crazy mountain man tells me this lake is no more than 1/4 mile long. (desolation is a mile). In my mind I'm thinking... OK, a 1/4 mile would mean basically 2 decent golf shots.... look at the lake - NO WAY.

The old guy wanders off and later comes back saying he took a bearing with his compass and map, and this and that, and we're at Muriel Lake. At this point I know he's lost it, and thank him, and send him away. And we wait. We make a flagpole out of a Fishing rod tube, and attach a mylar blanket and a orange rain poncho for our Party to see in case we're not at the camp when they arrive. And eventually they get there... it seems they took some wrong turns on the trail also!

Sometimes I wonder if that old guy ever made it out of the Sierras. His Navigation skills were not helping him any!
User avatar
rayfound
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 328
Joined: Thu Apr 24, 2008 4:44 pm
Experience: Level 3 Backpacker

User avatar

Re: strangers on the trail?

Postby paul » Mon Mar 30, 2009 9:54 pm

We were finishing the JMT, and since the weather was great we were planning to spend the night on top of Whitney. We arrive in the early afternoon, amid the usual crowd of whitney hikers. As the afternoon wore on, nearly everyone headed down, leaving a few folks who clearly were prepared to stay the night. Maybe an hour or so after the last of the crowd had left, a guy shows up who I recognized from earlier in the day - he was wearing a bright yellow jacket that was very noticeable. He was a little panicky, and said he'd been wandering around the summit plateau for hours looking for the trail down. He wanted to borrow some gear and stay the night in the stone hut. I immediately thought "If this guy stays here, we're going to become responsible for him", and convinced him his idea was a bad one. He was worried about finding and following the trail down, and I reassured him that once he got past the snowpatch(which was where he had lost the trail) he'd have no problem, as there was only one junction - at trail crest - and he couldn't miss it. I convinced him to head down by promising to guide him past the snowpatch to the clear trail, which I proceeded to do. Once we were past the snow, he was very grateful - "you saved my life, man" - and I told him again that he had to bear left when he got to trail crest. I headed back to the top to have dinner. But I was worried about the guy, since he seemed panicky and a little out of it, and celarly his sense of direction was not the best - I had visions of him heading down the west side - so I couldn't relax until I saw that yellow jacket on the switchbacks, which I finally did an hour or so later.
User avatar
paul
Topix Expert
 
Posts: 446
Joined: Thu Mar 15, 2007 3:35 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: strangers on the trail?

Postby Snow Nymph » Tue Mar 31, 2009 12:00 am

I hiked to Towne Peak and the Albatross in Death Valley in 2004. There was a register entry that caught my attention.
Image
This guy is my age. I was impressed!

I posted my pix on a desert site, with the caption "I hope everything turned out ok". A year later his brother replied, and said everyone was ok and they were rescued.

In 2006 I was hiking White Mountain, and a guy said "your'e Snow Nymph". It was Tom Gossett, 38 years later! Last year a group of us got together to hike to the Albatross, and celebrate 40 years after TomG's first hike ever and unexpected overnighter. He always says "Don't stop climbing!"

He is now one of my best friends and a great hiking partner! :D
Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free . . . . Jim Morrison


http://snownymph.smugmug.com/
User avatar
Snow Nymph
Founding Member
 
Posts: 2041
Joined: Fri Oct 28, 2005 6:43 pm
Location: Santa Barbara & Mammoth Lakes, CA
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: strangers on the trail?

Postby Ozark Flip » Tue Mar 31, 2009 7:46 am

Four nude backpackers (two guys and two gals) made their way past me while I was relaxing and having some lunch on Bighorn Plateau. I ask them how they dealt with the skeeters and high altitude UV and their reply was that they were naturalist. I said, okay, naturalist study plants and animals but whay are you all nude? Again, they stated they were naturalist and wanted to be as nature and god intended. As they started to head on down the trail I said, "What's up with the hiking boots and big hats?" There they went, four full moons going down the trail.

I witnessed a wild eyed fisherman and his super model girlfriend about four miles from a Yosemite trailhead. Neither one had a backpack or any other gear other than a fishing pole and small tackle box. The eye candy girlfriend was wearing a very short shoulder string dress and very high heels. A designer purse dangled from her wrist as the wild eyed guy was urging her to hang in there. They stopped and he asked me a few questions about fishing in the area. I indicated some concern about them being so far from a trailhead so close to dark (it was getting dusk). Best case scenario is the super model hiked out 4+ miles, barefooted and in the dark.

I am a friggin' magnet for these type of people. So many backcountry travlers I met and will always wonder what ever happened to them.
User avatar
Ozark Flip
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 373
Joined: Wed May 10, 2006 12:31 pm
Location: Escalon & Cottonwood California
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: strangers on the trail?

Postby balzaccom » Tue Mar 31, 2009 8:32 am

Naturalists?

We met a group in Emigrant last year--ten-twelve young people, all hiking together. We pulled off the trail so that they could go through, and I remember thinking that I was glad I wasn't with a group that large.

As they passed, I made some comment to the first in line about it being quite a parade.

No answer.

So as number 4 or 5 passed, I asked them where they were headed...

Still no answer.

Finally, one guy near the rear explained that they were on a religious retreat, and today was their day to hike in silence.

Ookkaaayyy...

So you go in a big group, and then you hike in silence.

Good plan.

Ah well. It takes all kinds
Balzaccom

check out our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
User avatar
balzaccom
Topix Fanatic
 
Posts: 1292
Joined: Wed Dec 17, 2008 9:22 pm
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: strangers on the trail?

Postby Hetchy » Tue Mar 31, 2009 9:05 am

I was decending the Trail from Bear Valley to the bottom of Kerrick Canyon at the end of August.
Just as I reached the trail junction and began my up canyon leg, I noticed a singular individual about 20 yards off the trail sitting on a log.
I said nothing cause he was obviously deep in thought, writing in a journal or something. But as I passed by I could not help but notice his attire and gear.
He had on a Full Length Black Trench coat.
A Tree Branch (Think: Gandolf's staff!) for a Hiking stick leaning on the log next to him.
His pack was a huge round rucksack with a cowboy style bedroll.
Well, he never looked up. So I just kept on my way in silence thinking; with that rig he's got ,that will probably be the last I'll see of him.(That trench coat must weigh 10 pounds!)
So I continue on up Kerrick at a good clip, turn up Rock Island Pass and stop at Snow Lake.
No sooner do I unload my pack when I hear, "Ka-Thump..Ka Thump..Ka-Thump!"
Here comes "Trenchcoat" Man!
And yes, He was hiking in the coat!
His round pack dangling by it's single strap behind one shoulder.
He wasn't moving fast, just steady, and planting that "wizard's" staff with every other step!
He never stopped moving and I watched him clump along down over the Pass and out of sight.
Now I know for a fact I had literally raced down the trail to get there.. How he made it there in so short a time is still a mystery.
You can make more money, but you can't make more time.
User avatar
Hetchy
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 269
Joined: Sat Jan 31, 2009 8:51 pm
Location: Santa Cruz Mountains Ben Lomond
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: strangers on the trail?

Postby Strider » Tue Mar 31, 2009 10:03 am

Hetchy wrote: A Tree Branch (Think: Gandolf's staff!) for a Hiking stick leaning on the log next to him. How he made it there in so short a time is still a mystery.


:unibrow: He was probably carried by Ents.
'Hike long and perspire'
User avatar
Strider
Topix Regular
 
Posts: 145
Joined: Tue May 23, 2006 11:12 am
Location: Paso Robles
Experience: N/A

User avatar

Re: strangers on the trail?

Postby giantbrookie » Tue Mar 31, 2009 1:09 pm

Great idea for a thread. I don't think I can equal any of these. In July 1996, my wife and I were descending the Shepherd Pass trail just below Anvil Camp when we overtook this fellow carrying a .22. He was a jovial enough fellow and we got to talking. It turned out that this guy positively hated marmots. He did like eating them, however. He apparently liked to pack into the Anvil Camp area, then go shoot marmots, which he would use as in the main ingredient in what he claimed to be delicious marmot stew. Seemed to be a rather tough hike to do just to shoot and eat a few marmots.

Another totally different set of characters were two guys dressed in fatigues and sporting handguns at the outlet Big Bear Lake in the Trinity Alps Wilderness in May 1984. My girlfriend at the time and I didn't much like the look of these two, whom we initially took for some weird survivalist guys. Still, the question they posed to us when we saw them (on our arrival at Big Bear) did not sound like a survivalist type of question "have you seen any bears"? In any case my girlfriend and I, perhaps with a bit of Deliverance creeping into our heads, headed off trail to the inlet side of Big Bear to get as far away as possible, a hike that involved some serious bushwhacking and a high risk crossing of a very steep snowslope (slip and die). In the evening, as if to add to our discomfort, we heard a few gunshots. In the meantime, we found that the concentration of bear scat in the vicinity of our camp at the inlet end was as high as cow flaps in a cow pasture. Yet, we never actually saw a bear. Two days later, it was time for us to leave. We were so spooked out by the two guys at the inlet, we did an absolutely hellacious bushwhack around the other side of the lake, a trek designed to get us hooked up to the trail downstream of the inlet and to bypass the camp of the two guys. The route was a big pain, but we succeeded in bypassing their camp. What we didn't know is that they were headed out, too, and to our dismay we soon overtook them on the trail. The first thing they asked was "did you see any bears"? At that point it began to sink in. With a bit longer conversation we found out that these guys were from New York and this was their first California backpack trip. The name "Big Bear" had apparently scared the daylights out of them, hence they had brought there sidearms to "protect" themselves against the bears (of course, more accurately this meant give them a bit more peace of mind). The unanswered question is why, out of the hundreds or thousands of possible backcountry destinations, did these two fellows decide to hike to a place that had a name that scared them stiff?

Other odd character encounters involve trail hikers who seemed to have a competitive streak that got in the way of good judgment or manners. The first came when my wife and I were descending the Pine Creek trail. We overtook these two guys just below the lower lake. The second guy, who was huffing and puffing, quickly pulled to the side of the trail to let us pass. The guy in the lead accelerated but was still vastly slower than us and continued to impede us, switchback after switchback after he left his buddy far in his wake. The trail in that section was too narrow for my wife and I to do the turbo pass and go around the fellow who was annoying us in the manner of a big Winnebago who passes turnout after turnout without pulling out. My wife and didn't want to outright say "excuse me" or "move your fat arse", so we simply carried on a loud conversation and coughed a few times, since it seemed as if the fellow didn't realize we were stuck behind him. After a bunch of switchbacks it became abundantly apparent that the fellow knew we were there, but his competitive nature wouldn't let him yield the trail. He had probably put a mile between him and his buddy when my wife and I exploited a place where we could sprint sidehill above the trail and pass him. After passing him, we noticed that he immediately stopped to wait for his buddy. Somehow that hike out was fated to be "stuck in traffic". Not long after we found ourselves stuck behind a packtrain in the brushtunnel toward the end of the trail. My wife who was really gunning it started "tailgating" the last mule. I called out to her "I wouldn't trail that closely if I were you". No sooner did I say that then the mule, as if on cue, dropped a load. Judy backed well off after that.

I had another memorable encounter (2003) with a really large party that consisted of students from Univ. North Carolina on a multiweek backpack. My two death march buddies were on day 7 of an 8 day trip which had taken us over Pants Pass into all the nooks and crannies beyond (Pickett Creek, Kaweah Basin, Red Spur, etc.) and returned via Kaweah Pass, and we had been rained on 7 of 7 days. This annoyed us veteran Sierra hikers to no end (the 24-7 thunderstorms had thwarted at least 3 peak bagging attempts, among other things) and we had groused about it constantly. Then we met this cheery group of students. They had been in the backcountry for something like 3 weeks (long distance on the JMT followed by westward cutover on HST) and had been rained on for 3 weeks straight, yet they thought it was the greatest thing. The Death March Trio felt like a bunch of California wimps in comparison. The group had some strange leadership, though. The non student leaders, seemed as if they felt it was their obligation to set the pace and just make sure they were fast. In their wake was at least one student that we felt they should have been paying more attention to. We nicknamed her "hypothermia Mary" because her garments were not even close to water resistant. She was drenched and very slow, yet cheery as all of the rest of them. We passed the group in the vicinity of the tunnel above Upper Hamilton and we didn't run into one of the leaders until we were near Bearpaw (and this after a pretty long stop to fish and eat at Lower Hamilton). Only then did we encounter a leader who asked about whether we saw someone whose description was clearly Hypothermia Mary. The question on our mind was, why, when your group has multiple leaders, doesn't one of the leaders bring up the rear?
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
User avatar
giantbrookie
Founding Member & Forums Moderator
Founding Member & Forums Moderator
 
Posts: 2439
Joined: Wed Dec 28, 2005 10:22 am
Location: Fresno
Experience: N/A

Next

Return to Backpacking / Hiking / Camping



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot], MSNbot Media [Bot] and 15 guests