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TR: Rush Creek to Thousand Island and some words of caution

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Re: TR: Rush Creek to Thousand Island and some words of caution

Postby no2haven » Fri Jun 08, 2012 8:59 am

Benches can be tricky for determining water drainage, especially when they're covered with only a few inches of granite sand since water can pool underneath the sand and run down the solid granite to re-emerge lower down on the bench. Also, if the edge of the bench has a lip near/upstream of your tent you can easily get more water through your site than you're expecting. As Mike said, small rises are usually a good bet. If you can't avoid upstream water you can also dig small drainage channels to funnel the water around your site - it doesn't take much to divert enough of the water to make a difference.

jfelectron - Good job making the best of a bad situation. I think the quickly melting hail was what really messed you up...instant water release that was independent of local geography. Probably the only thing you could've done was to clear as much hail from the uphill sides of your tarp as possible, but I doubt I would think to do that in the moment. Your story reminds me of a fluke storm I went through last fall (clear skies and warm temps after sunset -> cold and storming before dawn) that made me rethink what I bring on fast overnight trips and what margins of safety I'm comfortable with.

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Re: TR: Rush Creek to Thousand Island and some words of caution

Postby zorobabel » Fri Jun 08, 2012 9:17 am

If it rains hard enough, most camping sites can get flooded. The only "dry" places would be small platforms/rocks significantly raised.

The last time I got flooded was in October 2010 at Clover Creek (where the W and E forks meet). We ended up sleeping in a "pond" - only about 2" deep around our tent. Fortunately our REI Quarterdome only let a tiny bit of water in, so we were fine (sleep was only lost to worrying and to the sound of pounding rain). Site location wasn't great.

I wanted to try my new Golite SL3 without the inner this weekend, it's your fault if I carry the nest OP!
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Re: TR: Rush Creek to Thousand Island and some words of caution

Postby mattherrington » Fri Jun 08, 2012 10:43 am

Someting wicked this way comes... Excellent picture
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Re: TR: Rush Creek to Thousand Island and some words of caution

Postby jfelectron » Fri Jun 08, 2012 11:09 am

I guess what you have to ask yourself when carrying an lightweight possibly floorless sheleter is am I going to be thinking clearly enough after a long day of hiking and the effects of altitude to choose a site to maximize the likelihood of staying dry? Maybe right down a checklist culled from Mike's tips and bring it with you so that your oxygen starved brain has something to remind you.

I didn't observe it from the outside as it occurred, but from what I could tell I didn't see any obvious runoff. There were runoff creeks about 30 ft. to either side, but they were deeply recessed and didn't overflow. Rapid melting of the accumulated hail produced a slush puddle 3-4" deep within minutes. The granite sand on the bench was definitely a factor. A site with more pine or plant cover likely would have faired better.Depending on the height of the sides of your bathtub floor and/or the hydrostatic head of your floor material, you may or may not have stayed dry at that particular site. In general, being in a lake basin during a storm is tricky because the entire area inherently funnels water down to the lake.
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Re: TR: Rush Creek to Thousand Island and some words of caution

Postby Jason » Fri Jun 08, 2012 11:53 am

Dang! Crazy story and thanks for posting. It's always good to read things like things like this as reminders to be careful out there, not just for surviving an ordeal, but also to preserve a trip.
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Re: TR: Rush Creek to Thousand Island and some words of caution

Postby Vaca Russ » Fri Jun 08, 2012 11:59 am


I think you failed to properly select the correct equipment (IMHO). An eighteen pound Terrier is completely inadequate for providing body heat in the Sierra.

The Terrier must be between 22 – 25 pounds. And two Terriers are a MUST, one to provide warmth for your torso and the other to warm your feet. It also helps if they are cute. :)

Bean Girls.JPG

Your chose to bring along your Fiance is probably what saved you. :)

In all seriousness I’m glad you guys are all OK. Great job on keeping a cool head and not panicking! I am also glad you shared your story with the rest of us. You certainly have got me to think about my equipment and camp selection.

I think we should all print out Mike’s advice and commit it to memory.

Thanks again,

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Re: TR: Rush Creek to Thousand Island and some words of caution

Postby maverick » Fri Jun 08, 2012 2:31 pm

Hi JF,

Mike wrote:
My good friend mark is a little harsh in his criticism

Not really Mike, if the OP did not learn a lesson from his experience, than he
is setting himself and those he travels with for another possible run in with
Mother Nature down the line in which they may not be so lucky that time around.
Your experience got you through this, really? Experience would have never gotten
you into this situation in the first place.
It's more like Mother Nature gave you a break this time!
Hopefully you'll take her warning to heart, learning from this experience like the
many us who have before you, and some who did not, and are no longer
with us because of there egos. The ego has no place in the wilderness, you must
approach her with humbleness, and respect, otherwise you will feel her wrath.
As someone who chases storms, and visits the Sierra when 99.9% of folks would not
think about going out, I have learned this lesson, and unfortunately seen a few
people parish by pushing beyond there capabilities/experience levels.
Not saying what you did was completely off the wall, but were you aware of the
weather system before you headed out? Becoming an amateur meteorologist is a
very important aspect of backpacking. Being able to monitor weather systems before
they impact the Sierra or California for that matter should be one the pre-planning
stages for all backpacker, but unfortunately many don't take the time and are
surprised when they get hit by a storm leaving them in several inches of snow, and
the temps dropping into the teens.
As someone who used to tarp before, it is not easy to set up ones tarp against the
onslaught of a storm, especially if the winds keep changing direction.
Have moved on to a tarptent because it gives me peace of mind in that my camera
gear is more protected against the elements.
Setting up on a big slab of granite is good, as long as there are no large holes for the
water to pool in. When out last year in SEKI a storm moved in dumping 5 hours of
constant heavy rain, fortunately I picked a site that was on a bench that had drainage
onto another bench below, but even with that here was a least 2-3 inches of water under
my tent for hours. All my down gear went into my garbage bag for protection
immediately. Protecting you sleeping bad, and warm clothes is extremely important
and you life can depend on it.
As mentioned sometimes even good location will swamp up if there is too much
precipitation and no drainage, the ground simply can only soak up so much water.
This happened to me near Horseshoe Lakes in SEKI when several storms moved in
and what seemed to be a good spot just got overwhelmed by the amount of water
and the whole place started to turn into a pond. All my down and warm clothes went
into the garbage bag, and I packed up looking for a new location that was not under
water. Unfortunately another groups tent got completely over run by water getting
everything in there tent soaked including clothes and sleeping bag. They packed up
and proceeded to hike back out towards Granite Lake.
Luckily this time you all got out alright, and you were not in an isolated part of the
Sierra like Ionian Basin, where this kind of mistake could have turned into a SAR
mission, or worse, a recovery one.
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I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member:
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Re: TR: Rush Creek to Thousand Island and some words of caution

Postby Troutdog 59 » Fri Jun 08, 2012 2:35 pm

Wow!!! What a post and thank you for sharing it. We all to often only post the better parts of our trips, not the parts that stressed us out. I think your experience is a good reminder to us all that cutting weight is fine and good, but be sure in what your leaving behind. Not sure the bottom would have helped that much with that kind of quick water build up, but it couldnt have hurt. What it does show is things can get tricky in a minute in the backcountry. IMO you did fine. You guys are still here to share the adventure and you now have a tale to tell in the future. Heres a shout out for all three of you being safe and sound and for less adventure of this kind on your future trips!!
Once in a while you can get shown the light
In the strangest places if you look at it right.

The Grateful Dead
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Re: TR: Rush Creek to Thousand Island and some words of caution

Postby FeetFirst » Fri Jun 08, 2012 2:45 pm

Hi Jonathan,

Thank you for sharing this story. I'm curious to know if you think having an inner with a bathtub floor (70D silnylon w/ 4" tub) would have prevented or at least mitigated the flooding issues you experienced?

I ask because I've used an MLD Duomid (silnylon) a few times in the Sierra in conjuction with a Bear Paw Wilderness Designs single inner and have always felt that my shelter was up to snuff Spring - Fall . I've dealt with strong winds, heavy rain, and light snow and the inner net tent has kept all migrating precip out of my space. I'm now thinking hard about this situation and how my similar setup would do.

It sounds like you made the most out of the situation, but sometimes you just need the right tool for the job. Are you looking into changing your setup?

Thanks again for sharing.
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Re: TR: Rush Creek to Thousand Island and some words of caution

Postby kpeter » Fri Jun 08, 2012 3:32 pm

I am sure that it was not easy to make that original post. Thank you for having the courage to share your misadventure. It might save a life.

ps I think I recognize the approximate site of your camp, having camped in that area three or four times before. It gave me a "could have been me" moment.
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