Wed, Jun 21, 2006
This is the second of three days of peak bagging with my 9yr-old son Ryan. It is our first hiking trip together, and we are both having loads of fun. Our misadventures are almost as fun as our successes.
I set the alarm for 5:30a, but when it went off I looked around the dark room, saw Ryan sound asleep, and I promptly set the alarm for another half hour. It was a good half hour. When we got up we ate breakfast in our motel, packed up, drove to Safeway for some ice for the cooler, and headed south for Mt. Ingalls.
I didn't know what the state of the road would be, possibly there might be washouts or lingering snow that could stop us during the drive in. Though Ryan was eager to do another county highpoint (Ingalls is the highpoint of Plumas County), he was more eager to try his hand at fishing again. As we drove past Lake Davis, a large reservoir south of Mt. Ingalls, his eyes lit up with delight. I promised to stop on the way back for some angling. That was enough to make him quite happy, beaming ear to ear.
When the pavement ended we drove only a few miles before we turned off onto FS 25N10, following directions we'd garnered from the www.cohp.org website the night before (yes, wireless access has come to Quincy - the Gold Pan motel). It was only a short distance before we came to a rut formed by spring runoff across the road. I slowly worked the car across the ditch and in no time at all had the car's front wheels firmly stuck. Forward or reverse, the wheels happily spun freely, kicking up dust and smoke. We got out to examine the situation. The front of the car was nearly scraping the opposite side of our rut, so going forward looked a bit dangerous. I stuck a few rocks behind the wheels and backed the car back out of the rut. Then Ryan and I proceeded to build two rock bridges across the ditch that I hoped to drive over. My first attempt was a failure. Ryan was in front of the car, supposedly guiding me over the rocks, but his hand motions were as unintelligible as his thoughts were on what he was supposed to be doing - he'd never done this before, and rather than say, "What am I supposed to do?" he merely waved his hands in random fashion. We backed the car out again, rebuilt our bridges (wider, this time - Dad and Ryan were both learning), and drove over it successfully. From this point on Ryan was a bit nervous every time we came to a new ditch, but none were as bad as the first and we were able to negotiate a half dozen or so before the road improved. We drove around fallen trees, a huge rock blocking half the road, and some snowbanks, managing to get within 2.6mi of the summit before the road grew too rough. Close enough, we'd hike it from here.
It was Ryan's longest hike yet, but he did admirably, only asking about five or six times if we were almost there. When we finally made it to the summit after about an hour and a half, we were both elated. We both agreed it was the best of the three peaks we'd climbed so far, and the view was much more commanding than we'd had on Anthony Peak or Black Butte. We could see both Lassen and Shasta to the north, Sierra Buttes, Lola, and a number of the snowy peaks around the north side of Lake Tahoe. We could even see the town of Quincy far below to the northwest, and this seemed to impress Ryan the most.
For the return, I offered Ryan a shortcut by heading over the south summit along a connecting ridge, and Ryan was all for whatever would be the quickest way back. Most of the way along the ridge is class 1, punctuated with a few short, easy class 2 sections. I watched Ryan marvel at the talus. "Hey, they sound like plates!" I told him it's called 'dinner plate talus' which got a laugh out of him. Even better, he liked that the plates broke into pieces if they were tossed in the air. Rocks that break! Cool! It was great fun for me watching Ryan get a kick out of stuff I took for granted. This bit of fun was quickly followed by one of climbing's harder lessons when Ryan took a spill amongst the rocks. His shin struck one rock while his chest entertained another, and the tears came as quickly as the shouts of pain. No holding back on either. I consoled him, examined his wounds (no blood, hardly a scratch), and we both waited for the pain to subside to dry our tears. It was kinda cute in it's own way, but Ryan would probably disagree strongly.
Without further incident, we made it back down to the road and back to our car, Ryan's first foray into class 2 travel behind him. We drove back to Lake Davis, and as promised we stopped for fishing. As is our practice, I helped him prep the rod, he went fishing, and I read my book under the shade of a nearby pine tree. We saw no fish, caught no fish, and had no bites, but Ryan seemed only mildly disappointed by this. He even changed into his bathing suite so he could wade out into the lake like he was surf fishing. I looked up regularly from reading to watch Ryan and muse. This is his favorite thing to do and it shows in so many aspects. The insects hardly bother him, he coolly casts his line time after time out into the lake, he seems in a zen-like oneness with his surroundings. And his surrounding are indeed quite spectacular - A large, beautifully blue lake surrounded by pine trees with a few peaks poking up above the forest, spotted with snow. I was having a hard time imagining a finer place to be at the moment.
Ryan eventually determined through experimentation and cold logic that the fish were not going to be caught. An hour had been enough to reach that conclusion. We packed up and headed back to the highway. Hungry, we stopped in Sierraville for lunch. Problem was, two of the three places to eat were closed, and the remaining one, Dos Hermanos, was mexican - which we had eaten for lunch the day before. This didn't sit well with Ryan. I suggested they might offer other choices, and he agreed to give it a try. Having noted the sign announcing our entry into the town along with the population and elevation figures, Ryan has decided that 350 persons is not enough to run a town with sufficient food choices (he would be happy to find later that Truckee had a population of 14,000).
After lunch I had a clever plan to climb English Mtn (the only SPS peak in the northern Sierra I had yet to climb) while Ryan fished in a nearby lake. It was brilliant in its conception, but very weak in execution. First, I had no real maps of the area, but had copied down on paper some notes from Yamagata's site the night before. This got me easily to Jackson Meadow Reservoir (another very beautiful lake in forest surroundings), 17 miles of nicely paved road off SR89. After that, it didn't go so well. I took a wrong turn, starting down an unmaintained forest service road. After scraping bottom a few times, I gave up on that and retreated to a better road, but also the wrong one as it would turn out later. The road took us high up a hillside where we encountered some snow across the road. Feeling brave, we plunged across the 10 yards of white stuff, only to find ourselves stuck fast. Forward, reverse, it was all the same now - tires just sitting there spinning. The first effort to toss rocks under the wheels did not have the same magic effect they had had when we were driving to Mt. Ingalls. I had a handful of ideas (Ryan was keen to know what we would try next), and one by one they all failed as the car sank deeper into the snow. What I hadn't realized was that once the bottom of the car is resting happily on the snow, the wheels, without the full weight of the car above them are even more ineffectual. The dirty snow grew dirtier as did I, and none of it was having an improving effect on my disposition. I had to ask Ryan to stop asking questions, but that didn't really help get the van unstuck any. After half an hour I decided on the secret weapon - I had brought chains in the van for just such purpose. Putting them on was a chore in itself. I had to dig the snow out from around the tires (the inside was a real pain) before I could fit the chains on, but just the clearing of the snow was setting up the tires to sink deeper once I tried backing out again. And of course they did. The chains simply spun around in the snow and soon I was churning mud. Somehow I had thought that the tires would stop sinking once they reached the bottom of the snow. It was now obvious that they would be more than happy to continue digging into the dirt road, and possibly to China if I let them have their way. I was as despondent as I could get at that moment. Ryan asked if we'd be stuck there forever. "Probably not," I replied, "but we might be here overnight." It was only 5:30p so we had plenty of daylight, but it didn't seem I was making the most of it. It was time for more drastic measures. Ryan suggested I could dig out the snow under the van with the ice axes we had with us. Interestingly, it hadn't occurred to me. Seemed as good as any plan I had tried yet. In practice it was quite difficult. I dug out maybe a third of the snow under there before my shirt was wet, my gloves soaked, and my hands freezing. And I couldn't reach the parts furthest under the van. I also imagined the fun of explaining how I punctured the catalytic converter with the pick of my axe. Time for more drastic measures. I would jack up the car and stuff rocks under the wheels to lift it up out of the holes they dug. I didn't even know where the jack was, so I had to consult the owner's manual in the glovebox which pointed me to it's hidden location under one of the back seats (I'd have never found it without the manual). Once I had the driver's side jacked up, things went miraculously well. I got three good-sized rocks under the one tire, and this was enough to lurch the car off the snow and back on the road. Hurrahs went up all around. It took awhile to put the chains, tools and everything else away. An hour had gone by and I was a mess, but we were free from the clutches of the evil snowbank. No more snowmobiling on this trip.
I gave up on English Mtn. Might have been the first to ever fail at the peak, one of the easiest on the SPS list. Driving back to the reservoir, we stopped at the dam to let Ryan try more fishing. I sat there reading again, and looking up noticed English Mtn looming in the background, maybe five miles distance. I could probably have started from the dam, climbed it, and returned in less than 4 hours, but I had to let that go. I turned my attention to Ryan fishing. As usual, he was enjoying himself. Wandering around the rocks along the shore, balancing on logs floating nearby, casting his line out into the waters. There were swarms of small fry swimming about the edge, and these excited Ryan almost as much as any big fish would have. If only we had had a net so he could scoop some up, that would have made both of our day. Note: bring net next time!
After another unsuccessful hour we called it a day. One successful peak, one failed one, no fish. Great day, still. Driving off towards Truckee, it occurred to me that Ryan might enjoy his first visit ever to the state of Nevada. This got him excited, so off we went to Reno. Maybe we'll try Mt. Rose tomorrow, and give Ryan his first shot at a Nevada county highpoint.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Mt. Ingalls
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