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strangers on the trail?

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Re: strangers on the trail?

Postby Timberline » Sun Apr 26, 2009 7:43 pm

Tom wrote:She asked if I had seen her old man and invited me in to chat. When I eneterd the cabin the thing that caught my eye was the bong an the table. She poured me a lemonade, started cutting up carrots asked if I wanted a hit. I declined, but when the ranger showed up and offered...well it was the 60's. What an enjoyable sunset that evening.


Tom, your experience brings back a significant memory along those lines, from a similar time, which I wrote into a story last year. If I may, I'll share it here:

Bogarting at Bishop Pass
©2008 by Bruce Peet

How could fate smile so warmly on us? Here we are, Lance and I, into our fifth day on the trail, having experienced so many sublime moments already - - John Muir surely would have called them sublime – since leaving our car at Florence Lake where we began the Muir Pass Loop. Here we are, reclining against our packs at Bishop Pass, sunburned, dusty, marinated in sweat, munching our trailmix, and completely swept up by the glorious view above Bishop Lakes over to the Inconsolables, with Agassiz and the Palisades so close we could almost lean back and rest our shoulders against them. Here we are, saying a friendly good morning to two lovely young backpacking ladies from Arizona just arriving at the Pass from Dusy Basin, as we had, although we'd not seen them before. We offer some of our trailmix. “Homemade,” we say. “Looks good,” they say, and unshoulder their packs to join us sitting in a circle, and we trade introductions, first names only, and after a brief, relaxed conversation about nothing in particular one of the girls produces a well rolled joint and offers to share it with us, and we accept. Was this having everything turn out perfect, or what?
I met Lance while living in a Sonoma County hippie commune. He was ruggedly handsome, physically fit, with a blond ponytail and a gentle, frequent laugh that lit up his features. I sensed he was practicing paying attention to some inner guru of his, and since I was doing some personal searching of my own around then I quickly gained a respect for his quiet, meditative, but purposeful manner. Somehow, one afternoon we got to talking about backpacking. Lance was from the East Coast, Massachusetts I recall, and although a hiker, had never spent time in the Sierra. I had been away from these mountains for the last six years, so I was feeling a powerful need to get myself back into the Sierra, and I needed a trail partner. I suggested the Muir Pass Loop would be just right for us.
Lance was a vegetarian, which introduced a new backpacking variable for me. On my hikes, I was used to consuming lots of animal protein and carbohydrates, usually of the dehydrated variety, and burning up calories like a locomotive uses coal. This venture required an alternative approach to calories and cuisine. We negotiated a menu for ourselves with lots of trailmix and daily rations of dried fruit, granola, dried soups, hardtack, cheese (for me), and chocolate. To me it seemed almost like a “no-cook” diet; we would use stove fuel very sparingly if at all, and thus reduce pack weights a little.
We spent our first night atop Kaiser Pass, arriving after dark and sleeping next to the car. It gave us extra time to acclimatize to the altitude, and it seemed a great place give Lance a first impression of this country. I was also curious to find a witness tree marker I placed there while on a Forest Service summer job some years back; I went looking for it the next morning. Sure enough, there was the placard still nailed to its tree, referencing one of the forest growth sample plots I established and measured during my first summer in this region. I was elated to find it. Next stop, trailhead.
Neither Lance nor I had the fare for the Florence Lake water taxi; we only had enough cash for food and gas on the trip home. So we got to enjoy views of the Lake slowly passing by on our left as we hiked along the shore and got adjusted to our packs in the first few miles. With the added time and miles, we decided to press on after reaching Muir Trail Ranch, so we could spend our first night on the trail at the confluence of Evolution Creek and the South Fork of the San Joaquin. It was more than satisfactory. The next day brought us to McClure Meadow and Evolution Valley. I had spent a summer at the doorstep of this fabled Sierra locale, but this was my first visit into the Valley. It was enthralling; I think Lance was as uplifted as I was to be here. Later that day at Evolution Lake we met a young couple with their two sons. Their youngest boy had just lost his first tooth. I admired that couple enormously for the love and confidence they were giving their children by introducing them so positively to a backpacking experience, and I hoped someday to offer something like that to my own children. Our second night's camp was on the shore of Sapphire Lake.
We went no farther than Muir Pass on the third day. The weather had been ideal, and we wanted to savor the afternoon and evening at this milestone along the John Muir Trail. We had time to leisurely read the Hut register, and both Lance and I smiled at the entry by someone who had reached Muir Pass in late May that year, only to become snowed in and forced to remain in the Hut for four days before being able to continue his journey. We had chosen nonchalantly to lay by, and only for part of a day; we wondered how it must have felt to be “trapped” at the Hut by bad weather for an uncertain period. Not as pleasant, we concluded.
By the time of the descent from Helen Lake to Big Pete Meadow in Le Conte Canyon I imagined Lance's conversion to being a lifetime Sierra aficionado was complete. If anything, this dramatic trail section only embellished the grandeur he had seen on our arrival at McClure Meadow. The descent seemed like strolling down all the flights in a grand museum, only better: a continuous visual treat of surpassing beauty and magnificence. For me, reaching the Meadow for the first time was a dream come true, the actualization of so much fantasizing from years of pouring over Sierra maps and trail guides; I had an enormous desire to just keep on hiking south. We had agreed, though, to find a campsite that night in Dusy Basin, so a major ascent awaited us in the hottest part of the day. We lunched in some welcome shade next to the trail and then began our climb.
Overheated and panting at a rest stop on the umpteenth switchback, Lance was still marching, slowly but steadily, some yards ahead of me. I was determined to keep up, so I shifted back into my lowest gear, my steps marking the beat to a rendition of “Pomp and Circumstance” playing in my head. This pattern of listening to repetitious, mental music always seems to kick in about the time I think I can't take another step. It keeps me going, but the endless repetition, pleasant at other times, can drive me nuts. After reaching camp later I joked with Lance about seeing myself as if at a graduation ceremony, trudging uphill to receive my diploma at the end of the day's walk. He chuckled, and said that he visualized a huge magnet, too strong to resist, relentlessly pulling him up the trail. That inner guru again. As it was, that day we had descended about 3,500 feet elevation and regained about 2,700 feet to reach our campsite at the first lake in lower Dusy Basin. Trout were rising everywhere, dimpling the otherwise calm waters. I found some wild onions and diced a few to garnish our dinner soup. We had front row seats to a free show of alpenglow on Columbine and Isosceles until the daylight was finally spent.
Next morning, there we were at Bishop Pass, where the heavens really smiled on us. I no longer remember the two girls' names, or where they were from in Arizona. But the feelings of flying down the switchbacked cliff below the Pass, and soaring effortlessly all the way to the South Lake parking lot was such a rush it remains with me still. The girls gave us a ride in their station wagon the short distance down to the Tyee Lakes trailhead, where we bid them good luck and safe driving; they were headed home. So were we, via Table Mountain to Lake Sabrina, North Lake, Piute Pass, and Piute Canyon, to ultimately close our trail loop and return to Florence Lake four days later.
To this day, the Muir Pass Loop remains one of my favorite Sierra jaunts and the only one where the high was anything more than natural. Those last four days had their own special moments to be sure. Most unexpected and inspiring perhaps was a chance meeting with an older couple, well into their '60's we guessed, on the trail downstream from Muir Trail Ranch; she in a floral print dress, wide-brimmed straw hat and tennis shoes, looking like she was going out to the backyard garden, and he, carrying a full pack and walking with crutches! We must have looked pretty trail worn and grizzled by this time, while they were in high spirits, eager to begin their week's stay at the Ranch. I'm not sure which pair of us was the most impressed with the other, but Lance and I greatly admired their audacity and confidence. We wished them well.
In the end, I think I owe all of the superlatives of that trip to Lance himself. I'd never spent mountain time with anyone as calmly balanced and centered as he was, and I still believe that all of the good vibes of those ten days emanated from his poised serenity even during the most strenuous moments. Ever since, I have considered myself fortunate in two respects: for having been the person who introduced Lance to the Sierra, and for having learned so much from a real guru. I suppose its just the way these mountains bring out what is best in each of us.
Let 'er Buck! Back in Oregon again!



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Re: strangers on the trail?

Postby Eastern Sierra » Wed Jul 21, 2010 1:31 am

My story isn't as good the ones above.

But, I hiked to Keane Wonder Mine in Death Valley a few years ago before it was closed to the public. There was a lady standing on a hill with a black shawl thing outstretched and making noises like a raven. That's the extent of my stranger on the trial, cause I never talked to her. I prolly shoulda.
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Re: strangers on the trail?

Postby freestone » Wed Jul 21, 2010 5:24 pm

Eastern Sierra wrote
My story isn't as good the ones above.


Actually, it is.... So typical of a raven trying to impersonate for attention!

Nice blog, thanks for sharing.
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Re: strangers on the trail?

Postby sparky » Thu Jul 22, 2010 11:11 am

All the stories of the random smoke outs heh..I have one, only I was on the other end. Me and a buddy were in the stone hut near the summit of San Jacinto cooking lunch. A solo backpacker popped in and he sat down and we had a nice conversation. After we finished up lunch I invited him to join our safety meeting ;) He respectfully declined, as he didn't partake, was a naval officer so it was risky to his job, he was out solo, was from the east coast ect... no biggie, and not long after he grabbed his pack and headed out. As I was preparing for the safety meeting, he suddenly poked his head back in and said "well.....maybe I could join, just this once".

He puffed a couple times and went on his way. It was very powerful stuff and I am sure he had a magical journey that day.

I have helped out a few lost souls. Just two weekends ago a couple guys came into our camp at night, lost, and the one was a total jerk. He might have been embarassed, but I soon didn't care with his mouth. I showed him the way to go and he said "thats not right, we just came from that way!!" My patience ended at that point, and the result wasn't pretty. His buddy was laughing, and I could tell he had been listening to that all night stumbling lost through the woods.

How about just strange things in general you have seen hiking? I have a few stories but will have to type them up later if the thread decides to go that direction.
There is a million ways to be human, all are worthwhile.

True happiness is the absence of striving for happiness.
-Chuang Tzu.
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Re: strangers on the trail?

Postby rightstar76 » Thu Jul 22, 2010 1:57 pm

I was hiking to Bass Lake in Point Reyes National Seashore from Palomarin Beach. I saw several people heading toward me on the trail. They were dressed in multi-colored gowns. Their faces were covered with plastic multi-colored masks. They had what appeared to be windchimes hanging from their metallic hats which made noise as they walked. Their hats had metal sticks pointing upward. Their shoes also looked like they were made out of metal. Aside from the sound of metal clanking, they muttered not a word as they passed me. That was the weirdest thing I have ever seen while hiking.
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Re: strangers on the trail?

Postby Jimr » Thu Jul 22, 2010 5:13 pm

In 1985, four of us were in Ionian Basin. One of our group had smashed his ankle and to his luck, Ranger Randy strolled by within an hour of the incident. He camped near by, around a rocky outcrop and called for a helicopter to transport him out the next day. It was quite a fiasco and another story, but finally, around 2pm, he was on his way to a nearby hospital. The remaining three of us decided to cut our trip short and bypass some of our trip by hiking over Reinstein pass catching the Muir trail from their to Dusy basin and out.

A storm was rolling in, but we headed up toward the pass anyway. We had to deal with hail all the way to the pass and as we approached the pass, thunder and lightning. Just before assaulting the pass, we were hit by a huge strike with immediate thunder that shook the whole place. We threw off our external frame packs and ran down from the pass to a rock cliff face and huddled there until we could count roughly 7 seconds between the lightning strike and the thunder roar. At that point, we ran back to our packs and flew over the pass and down the snow covered North slope until regrouping at a rocky outcropping to give our nerves a little break. Hiking down the pass, we came immediately upon the Muir Hut and went inside. We were welcomed by 17 or 18 hikers who were coming up trail through the rain and soaked to the skin. Since we were coming down, we were nicely dry.

All of the hikers had their stoves going trying to warm up, get a hot meal and hopefully, dry out their sleeping bags a bit before night fall. We found ourselves a spot and cooked some grub, then we all sat around drinking hot toddies and sharing stories. We opted to sleep outside of the hut and leave room for those who had to sleep wet.

That’s the only strangers on the trail story I have, so I guess I still have some living to do. It was quite a drastic change of events from one moment battling hail and possible death by electrocution to a warm wilderness party.

A little side note. Several year later, I read where a ranger named Randy was found dead in the Sierra, I suspect he may have been one in the same. If so, thank you Randy for giving up your day off to help us. The most notable part of Ranger Randy was the fact that his boots were more shoe goo than leather.
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Re: strangers on the trail?

Postby Cloudy » Thu Jul 22, 2010 11:00 pm

rightstar76, that has GOT to be the weirdest meeting experience that I have heard of so far. That is really O-double-D...

Jimr, you should read "The Last Season" by Eric Blehm. It's the sad but interesting story of Ranger Randy Morgenson which should bring a tear to your eye. I think that I also ran into him somewhere in the 1980's one evening on a trail. We got to talking about picking up trash I think and the impact of human beings in the wilderness in general and he ending up inviting me to spend the night at his station. I shared some of my hiking treats with him and we ended up talking for quite awhile. He made pancakes in the morning for both of us and it was a memory I treasured. The only problem was I couldn't remember his name!

Years later, I happened to be hiking past the Bench Lake Ranger Station and saw a posted notice indicating that a ranger was missing but other than hoping that I'd run into him, I didn't think too much about it until last month when I read the above book (thinking it may have been about the Bench Lake Ranger), saw his picture and noted the fact that he made pancakes for somebody in the book also. I can't say for sure that it was him but the circumstantial evidence points to it so it really touched my heart. Heartbreaking actually - and I'm not a sentimental person.

On another tangent, I've run into a couple of odd types on the trail- once, I was hiking up the HST and a couple of people passed me on the trail. This wouldn't normally be too odd except that they were carrying a stretcher with their camping gear on it... Another time I was again hiking up the HST and a girl came running down saying "There's a guy with a knife up there" etc. and apparently she had been cut. She said she was OK and went running down the trail for help. This happened in a space shorter than the time it takes to type this so my friend and I looked at each other and said "Let's camp here rather than continuing on, eh?" We heard a helicopter fly past a couple of hours later... Another time on the HST I ran into a lone hiker (as was I) who said he had escaped from a religious cult and said he was hiding out in the mountains for awhile to "clear his mind". For some reason, I hung out with him and had what I hope was a meaningful discussion about centering one's life rather than swinging to extremes whether religious or political. I hope I helped him find his way. The most memorable thing was that he had a bear canister filled with the only three items that he had to eat - tortillas, powdered refried beans and some sort of green algae powder... More power (powder) to him. What's with nutcases and the HST anyway?

Alan
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Re: strangers on the trail?

Postby Jimr » Fri Jul 23, 2010 10:48 am

Thank you Cloudy. Randy Morgenson was the ranger I remember reading about being found. I will look up the book. I googled the book just now and THAT PICTURE, THAT WAS HIM!!
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Re: strangers on the trail?

Postby AlmostThere » Fri Jul 23, 2010 3:55 pm

Let's see...

There was the troop of monks, all shaven-headed and wearing the orange, walking in those fun sandals, down the Mist Trail.

The lady in Wildly Inappropriate Shoes (I know, which one? so many) holding on to each little rock, tree root and outcrop on the way down from Nevada Falls, oh, her feet had to hurt like hell.

The gal in the bikini and flipflops on the subdome.

The Jillion Japanese tourists in long heavy coats walking around Mirror Lake.

Guy wearing a loaded backpack, Z Rest down the back, six longnecks (!) in the side pockets and one open in hand, walking with a lady with a hip pack with half a liter of water sticking out, and a teenage girl in shorts and halter top. All wearing the wrong shoes (running shoes, sandals). At 2 pm. Cloudy and starting to rain. Wandering on paved trail in the Valley. Guy asks me is this the trail to Half Dome?

The old guy with the very old, very worn pre-Gossamer Gear G4 pack, that appeared under-filled (had a Bearikade and not much else in) coming down Donahue Pass. He had done the JMT with it for years and this was the year he was planning to retire it. Neat.

The weird guy who asked everyone he ran into who was behind them, and greeted everyone by name as he approached going the other way. He was taking pictures of everyone too. Carried an enormous camera and talking about all his adventures. I found his website where he swore he would post our pictures... he never did, and the website is gone now. Think he went by Boots?

Then there was the little Japanese gent who I scared the crap out of :eek: by opening the restroom on the Mirror Lake Trail - he hadn't latched it, or the latch was broken. Sorry, guy. Good thing you were already sitting down. :( I saw him leave a little later, he had the only serious backpack in his group - they all had these net bags on a single string over one shoulder, he had this nice well-fitted Marmot pack and trekking poles.

The lady carrying a two week old baby up the Yosemite Falls trail :mad: Darn it. That was steep, she could have fallen.

The guy with the can of bear spray the size of a small child. :D

The little girl who WOULD NOT pee behind a bush. Six miles from the nearest toilet on the JMT switchbacks, crying her heart out. I think her mommy finally talked her into it.
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Re: strangers on the trail?

Postby Timberline » Fri Jul 23, 2010 6:25 pm

Ha ha. . . great recalls.

Well, AlmostThere, I think you just may have won the prize on this thread! :lol: Let's see what else is still out there. . . .
Let 'er Buck! Back in Oregon again!
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Re: strangers on the trail?

Postby yosehiker » Wed Jul 28, 2010 4:08 pm

Good Replies by all.

When i was doing the JMT in 2003 i was passed a group of hikers going up the 'Golden Staircase' up to Mather pass late in the day. They were going really slowly, with one guy having an enormous pack. We both ended up camping right after the top so i spent the evening talking to them. It turned out the guy had an 80 lbs pack including an old school camcorder with two spare batteries along with a bunch of other unnecessary stuff. At some point in the conversation miles per day came up. I was doing big miles while they were only going about 5 - 8 miles per day. They seemed really perplexed that i was averaging such long days while they weren't even doing half as many as i was, never thinking that the 80 lbs pack had anything to do with it.

The best 'stranger on the trail' was one a buddy of mine I had, I only wish i could take credit for it. He was working as a Ranger for Yosemite, and while on patrol along the Echo Creek drainage, he came across a couple having sex on the trail whilst filming the act! Needless to say he was surprised. I mean, really, if you are going to make a sex tape in the woods, just go off trail a ways so you won't get interrupted or be seen. Furthermore, why on that particular section of trail, along the HSC loop? He yelled to them to stop, got out of sight and then waited a bit. After they were dressed, he went and gave them a little talk about respecting the park and went on his way.

I don't think i will ever bet that story.
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Re: strangers on the trail?

Postby rightstar76 » Thu Aug 26, 2010 11:43 pm

Last week I was hiking with my wife back to Echo Lakes from Lake Aloha. We then ran into a mom, dad, and daughter. It was about a quarter to six in the afternoon and it was the section where the trail switchbacks up to Haypress Meadow. The dad was wearing a large backpack and carrying another in his hands. He asked me how far it was to Lake Aloha. I estimated it was between 2 and 3 miles. I figured he was carrying the backpack up the switchbacks so his daughter wouldn't have to. "Nope," he said. "This is my wife's pack and it's not fitted right. I'm carrying it all the way to Lake Aloha."

At that moment, I wondered whether I should tell him my opinion which was that he was nuts, or should I ask which REI he bought it from. I decided to go with the latter. "So which REI did this to you?" I asked. "REI?" he responded. "No, it was me. I'm the person responsible. I fitted my wife. She just couldn't wear it anymore. Now I've got to carry hers."

"Sorry about that," I said. "Are you really going to carry that all the way to Lake Aloha?" Maybe he would get the hint. No luck.

"Yup," he said. "We're going all the way. Then we'll be spending 2 nights."

"Hope you don't have to carry it all the way down," I said. Perhaps now he'd get the hint.

"Oh I will be carrying it all the way down," he said. "I don't mean to cut you short, but we've got to get going. Have a nice hike back."

He then picked up the pack and with his wife and daughter continued up the switchbacks. My wife and I looked at each other in amazement.

"What time do you think they'll get there?" my wife asked.

"The question is if they will get there," I responded. "And if they do, will they be able to get back?"

Nuts.
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