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TR Rancheria to Tehipite Valley (1)

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TR Rancheria to Tehipite Valley (1)

Postby Jimr » Mon Jul 23, 2012 4:48 pm

The first day was like any other first day out. The packs were heavy and the legs are not yet into pack mule mode. We made Crown Valley in about 4 hours. Not too bad for a first day with a 14 year old. My son and I are in good physical shape from 7 years of Hapkido, but as my son exclaims, “the only real way to train is to hike”. We set-up camp in CV using a nice stock camp. My son asked about the likelihood of seeing any deer. I told him the probability was high that we would see one right from camp. The next morning, as we were packing up, a deer strolled right through camp. It didn’t seem to be bothered by our presence. He was thrilled.

The second morning we headed out early as there were many miles to cover that day. My son was in prime shape. I had told him that each day would be easier hiking as his legs found their second wind. He was unstoppable. We quickly hit the trail that forks off toward Tehipite Valley. Soon, we were in the burn area with lots of deadfall. The trail was in good condition, but was easily lost at each meadow. I told him that trails were not normally constructed through meadows, so these tracks were from others who lost trail and decided to cut the meadow to the other side. After attempts to locate the trail, I decided to follow the tracks through the meadow, but told my son that it is something I do not like to do as the meadows are fragile areas. Once past the meadow, we would drop our packs and I would recon the area to find the trail. I told my son that you did not want to keep going without trail in the forest. It was too easy to end up in the wrong watershed and it is difficult to orient with map and compass when you cannot see any landmarks through the trees. We did this several times, trying to keep our path as close to off-meadow as possible, then recon the other side for trail.

We hit Hay Meadow approaching mid-day with plenty of daylight left for the switchbacks down to the valley. We had lunch and stocked up on water for the trip down the switchbacks to the valley. We lost trail out of Hay Meadow, but a bit of recon and we were back on track. The upper half dozen or so switchbacks are hidden by 8 ft weeping willow type growth that is very soft and easily pushed away with our ski poles to uncover the path below our feet. After negotiating this section, we were met with conifer forest. The detritus all along the path consisted of pine needles, cones and small branches. It was a bit slippery, but easily dealt with using care to secure footing before putting weight forward. Things were going well and we were putting switchbacks behind us at a very good pace.

Well over half way down the slope, we entered the deciduous forest. I suppose they were quaking aspen and the like. The forest detritus changed dramatically and so did the slope. Soon, we found ourselves in very slippery forest debris that got thicker with every step. The thin branches we were accustomed to dealing with turned into large branches. The leaves were up to my shins and the slope steepened to about 50 to 55 degrees. My son felt he would slip down the slope with every step and if frightened him terribly. Soon, he was unable to move fearing his own death. It took great effort on my part to keep his focus on here and now so he could concentrate on his movement. He became more and more terrified, but we were entirely committed at this time, being well over half way down. We stopped at the end of each switchback so he could breathe and regain his composure. I told him he really needed to stay out of the “what ifs” and keep his head focused on only two things; his next step and his next step. Both needed to be right behind me. I told him that the number one killer is fear and he needed to keep his head on only these two things. I took his pack from him and slung it over my shoulder, then using my boots, I cleared the path of leaves and limbs so he could see the trail and eliminate much of the slippery stuff. I told him the trail was the width of two curbs and he could manage if he did exactly as I said. We managed this through several switchbacks, but it was painstakingly slow. We were running out of water and light. Soon, we came to a tree that had fallen over the trail. I had him scoot under and sit on the trail while I slid his pack under, then walked around the broken trunk. I dropped my pack and scouted ahead as the trail seemed to be entering a brush choked ravine. I knew this could not be right. I tried to follow the trail, but it disappeared at the ravine. I thought it may be a water control runoff to redirect water off the trail, so I looked through the debris for a switchback. I could not find one anywhere. What I did find was foot tracks from someone who went before us and experience the same predicament. The tracks were going straight down the side of the mountain. I didn’t want to blindly follow someone else’s mistake, so I searched some more to no avail. Finally, looking down I could see a series of clearings here and there going down the slope. I told my son that we were going down and would eventually find the trail below as it switched back. I went down, but could not find the trail, so I went back and decided trail or no trail, down would get us off the hillside and to the river.

I retrieved the packs and brought them down to the first clearing, then had my son follow the path I’d laid in the forest floor. I showed him each time where my next target was, breaking it down into small moves downhill. The sun was fading fast. My last move, I lost footing and slid downhill. Quickly, I leaned left pushing the packs into the leaves and planting my pole under my armpit to self-arrest. I thought the old Tyrolean bamboo ski pole was going to snap, but between the packs and the pole, I came to a safe stop at my planned spot. My son yelled to me and I assured him I was o.k. and he was to come down to me. I laid our packs shoulder straps down against two trees and sat my son down against the packs. The light was now all but gone. I told my son that we were going to have to bivy right here for the night as it was now too dangerous for us to go any further. We had about 4 gulps of water left, so I arranged the packs solid against the trees, put my son in his sleeping bag with his legs over the packs and his but wedged between the packs and the forest floor. We each took one gulp of water, swished it around in our mouth and saved the last swigs for the morning. I pulled into my bag next to him, we held hands and I told him it would be a long night. Soon after bedding down, a small critter shuffled down the leaves right next to my leg. I gave a couple of tch, tch’s and it looked at me, then began to move down hill. I pulled my flashlight from my pocket to see a small skunk. Great! All we need now is to be sprayed with polecat perfume. It went on it’s merry way leaving us only to our own sweaty stench. My son said “Dad, how are we going to get out of here? I can’t go back up.” I said “son, we’re not going back up. I could not ever ask you to go back up that thing and have you freeze with fear. We are going to become overdue hikers. You’re mother is going to freak the F--- out, but she will report us overdue and get a SAR started.

We must have slept fairly well as morning light was soon creeping over Tehipite Valley. I packed the bags, we each took the one last swig of water each, then I asked my son to please try to carry his pack as much as possible as the extra weight on top of my 60lb pack was exhausting me. In the light, I could see that below us was a berm, then what appeared to be a leveling out of the forest below. I angled left toward the low end of the ravine that was terminating toward the area below. After breaking down a bit of dead wood, we were able to move into a much flatter area and low and behold, the trail re-appeared just 20 ft below us. We moved to the trail, but something was wrong. It was supposed to be going down to the right, but it was going down to the left. I thought maybe it was a small up section before proceeding down again. I told my son I though the right way was to the right, but I knew we would be going nowhere until I was sure of the right way. My son yelled “no dad, down is this way… down is life!!!”. I figured it didn’t matter which end I checked first, as I would be checking both ends before moving. As I looked down, I notice it switched back. He was right. We must have passed the trail and caught it switching back again.

We were very thirsty and our throats were dry with no ability to produce spit. I told him I had to pee. Perhaps we ought to do a Bear Grylls and drink it. My son looked at me and asked “Dad, will you share your pee with me?” It’s amazing how fast one can go from “I’d never drink piss” to “me first” when you are really thirsty. After a couple of swigs of dark yellow cocktail, we headed down what was now an easy, clear trail. Within a half hour, we hit bottom and were greeted with an 1800’s flintlock rifle with no wood stock, but the complete metal portions fused together with 100 years of rust. My son asked if we were going to keep it and I told him it told a better story right where it lay leaning against the rock. . We soon came across a spur trail leading to the river. We dropped our packs, grabbed our water bottles and headed down. I told my son to drink slowly and sparingly at first, then let it settle in so as not to get sick from gulping too much water when dehydrated.
(To be continued)
Last edited by Jimr on Tue Jul 24, 2012 3:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: TR Rancheria to Tehipite Valley (1)

Postby maverick » Mon Jul 23, 2012 5:00 pm

Great read Jimr, looking forward to part 2! =D>
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Re: TR Rancheria to Tehipite Valley (1)

Postby schmalz » Mon Jul 23, 2012 5:57 pm

What a story! Looks like we need to get some trail crews to that area.
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Re: TR Rancheria to Tehipite Valley (1)

Postby Mike M. » Mon Jul 23, 2012 6:35 pm

Wow! Photos please . . .

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Re: TR Rancheria to Tehipite Valley (1)

Postby cgundersen » Tue Jul 24, 2012 8:39 am

jimr,
just when i'd started thinking about a future trip to Tehipite..........
hmmm, i'll wait for part 2.
cg
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Re: TR Rancheria to Tehipite Valley (1)

Postby Mradford » Tue Jul 24, 2012 11:55 am

This sounds like some epic movie plot. Glad you guys are ok. Also, coming from personal experience, you should be VERY happy you didnt get polecat perfume lol!!

Cant wait for part 2.


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