Thu, Jun 22, 2006
This was the last of three days of peak bagging with my 9yr-old son Ryan. It is our first hiking trip together, and we both had loads of fun.
We awoke at 6a from our motel in Reno. Ryan's first visit to Nevada was a big deal to him, and he was thrilled to see the tall casino buildings lit up at night in pink, green, and flashing neon. We didn't even go visit one, but that was enough for him. We had some trouble finding our way to US395, but from there we easily navigated our way to SR431 and drove to the Mt. Rose trailhead. It wasn't much before 8a when we started out on what would be Ryan's most difficult hike yet - 9 miles roundtrip and almost 2,000ft of gain. It was a gorgeous day with nary a cloud in the sky. The trail started off well enough, but within a half mile we encountered the first patches of snow on the trail, and soon thereafter lost it altogether. Ryan did well negotiating suncups, cross-country travel where we had snowless stretches. But I realized fairly soon that we'd not likely reach the top. Though he didn't complain, it was just too much work for the distance we had to travel. Having never been to Lake Tahoe, Ryan got his first views of that beautiful Sierra gem while on the hike and he was immensely impressed. He asked all sorts of questions about which parts were Nevada and which were California, and what all the other snowy mountains were named that he could see around its perimeter. Mostly he wanted to know what kind of fish would be in the lake. I called a halt when we reached about 9,700ft, just shy of Tamarack Peak. We'd climbed about half the elevation, but only a fraction of the distance. Still, it was high enough to have really fine views, just over the highpoint of the Mt. Rose Ski Area across SR431. We could see the cities of Reno and Carson City, and many snowy peaks on the California side. Ryan wanted to know if we could still count the hike as reaching the highpoint. When I informed him that would be cheating, his immediate reaction was, "No it wouldn't!" He was unable to expand on this belief and unable to provide any elaboration to back up his assertion.
I let Ryan play with the ice axe in the surrounding snow, pointing out the pitfalls of playing with it as it bounced off the snow and nearly caught him in the shin. He had grand ideas of how one should use an axe, most of them resembling gruesome martial arts weaponry. When I showed him how one actually uses the point, pick, and adze for walking, climbing, and step-cutting, he only half believed me - such dull uses seemed wholely unfit for such a fine weapon.
Upon our return to the trailhead, Ryan needed to take a most serious potty break, No. 2. Unfortunately, only one of four bathrooms at this elaborate outhouse established at the TH was open, and it was labeled "Women." Ryan found this very disconcerting, but eventually let his bowels win out in the internal struggle he waged as to the acceptability of crossing the established gender boundary. Afterwards, we drove down to Lake Tahoe to let Ryan take another crack at fishing. The lake was exceedingly blue and clear, allowing us to see well over 20 feet down from the surface. Unfortunately, all we saw were rocks, not the large fish we hoped for. There were swarms of small fry swimming close to shore amongst the rocks, and these entertained Ryan between casts enough to make up for not catching anything. Ryan amused himself with the small fish by dangling his line with PowerBait on it in the water and watching the little guys swarm over it, taking little bites as they went. We also found that they liked the spicy Thai peanuts I was eating when I tossed a few in the water. We played the fishing out for about an hour until Ryan got bored, then back in the van we went.
We drove to South Lake, stopping so Ryan could put one foot in Nevada, one in California, and this he found exceedingly funny. We walked through Harrah's to let him get his first view of a casino, and I let him blow $5 in the arcade while I blew $20 at the blackjack table. Ryan simply loved Nevada, and can't wait for his next visit. I'm afraid I may have created a future compulsive gambler.
Not to be completely skunked on our third peakbagging day, I kept a few easy ones in the sleeve for the return home. We stopped at Sacramento County's Carpenter Hill, making one of the most difficult ascents possible - not only was the gate closed requiring us to hop the gate and walk almost 100 yards to the summit, but it was ungodly hot, 107F, and we broke out in an actual sweat. Ryan was amused by the geocache hidden at the summit rocks, and while he wanted to take most of the little toys and goodies collected in the box, he was happy that I let him take a pingpong ball as a souvenier. He spent the next hour during the drive playing with the pingpong ball in all sorts of inventive games and dialogues with imaginary friends and enemies. It was all very amusing to me.
Ryan took an interest in noting all the signs relating to counties and cities. I would point out the county boundary signs and he would check our Suttle book to make sure the county we just left did indeed connect with the one we just entered. For each city he would try to read and repeat the population figure as we zoomed by it. If it had over 1,000, he figured it would have decent choices for restaurants (fast food is Ryan's idea of decent restaurants). If it had over 10,000 it was sure to have a Starbucks. We counted many of these on the drive back.
Lastly, we drove up to Contra Costa's Mt. Diablo as we neared the Bay Area. We were the only ones at the summit. The views were so-so due to smog weighed down by the oppressive heat hanging over California (it was so much pleasanter in Lake Tahoe). Inside the historic brick building hosting the Mt. Diablo meridian marker, I tried to impress upon Ryan the uniqueness of this primary marker used by the USGS of old in mapping the state 150 years ago. Ryan was far more impressed with the coins lining the outside window pains around the building. Tossed by well-wishers from outside and 15 feet below, the coins had collected over the years. Since the windows don't open, the coins were virtually irretrievable. I impressed Ryan with some rock climbing gymnastics, climbing around to the first window pain to retrieve about 25 cents in pennies. This was far more interesting to Ryan than the United States Geological Survey. Josiah Whitney has nothing on a rock climbing Dad.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Carpenter Hill - Mt. Diablo
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