Leaders: Bobcat Thompson, Diane Dunbar
When I asked Bob to lead this with me, and planned it, I had no way of knowing I would be sick for a month before we did it. The week before, I had decided to build conditioning by climbing the three T's with Rosemary Campbell on Saturday, and climb something big with Harriett Edwards privately Wednesday, and then arrive confidently the morning of this trip to lead on the 7th. I started out with Rosemary's group at Manker Flats, and when we reached 7,000 feet (before Baldy notch) I suddenly could go no further, not one more step uphill. I can never remember doing this in the middle of a hike! I actually went back, went home, and went to bed for the rest of the day. Then it occurred to me that I had not felt well for three weeks, so I saw my doctor, got on antibiotics, and made plans with Harriett. Wednesday morning I called her early and backed out, because I was still flat on my back! Friday night I called Jim Fleming and arranged to have him substitute for me as sweep the next morning. HOWEVER, at 5:00 am Sat the 7th, I woke up human again and decided to try it. I half expected to back out part way through the trip, so I asked Bobcat to lead and tagged along in the back as a sweep. Instead of getting weaker, I gained strength as we went, and actually did respectably well at keeping up! Bob is such a considerate leader and person; he kept a very modest pace and stopped often to see how I was doing.
We had started hiking toward Williamson at about 8:00 am after leaving some cars at Buckhorn campground for the shuttle. Everyone was enthusiastic and happy, with a total of 19 including leaders.
The scenery from that ridge is spectacular all the way to Pallett Mtn, and we all enjoyed it. There is a tricky place closer to Pallett where the ridge branches in an invisible way, and it very common for people to take the wrong branch. Well, Bob did this briefly, but recovered miraculously by zipping down a slope and over to the correct ridge branch without losing any elevation and what seemed like no extra distance at all! This is one of the reasons I like to lead with him, he's very good at route finding. He's also witty, and as the sweep I missed a lot of his famous quips along the way, but one that I was there to hear was a series of quotes from an Edgar Allen Poe poem, punctuated by a few crow imitations.
Some of us were getting fatigued from the constant climbing by then (we had covered a LOT of ground along that ridge) and so were learning and practicing the "rest step," which always helps at lot. (If you, the reader, can't do this step, learn it! It really helps, as it enables you to rest with each step, requiring less breaks on consistently steep terrain.) On the way down from Pallett, some of us saw some very clear and numerous bear tracks.
We had lunch on top of Will Thrall, with its inspiring plaque. (It reads, "There is physical, mental and moral strength to be found on a mountain peak.") At that point, with only a few hundred feet to go to Pleasant View Ridge, I let Jim sweep and went down ahead to Burkhart Saddle to conserve my strength for the hike back to Buckhorn. (Quite a climb to the cars.) (I couldn't believe I was doing so well!) Pam Allen went with me, and we spent the time resting and looking up snow plants in her flower book. Did you know that they grow symbiotically (cooperatively) with fungi in the forest floor? That they have no photosynthesis and depend on the fungi for those nutrients, supplying some to the fungi in return? And they belong to the same family as orchids? Or that they come up after the snow melts simply because that is the time the soil is the most damp for the fungi, and it has nothing to do with freezing or snow or temperature?
A far-off Bobcat shriek (roar?) signaled the return of the group, and they descended to Burkhart Saddle, where they picked us up. We continued down the trail toward the bottom of the canyon and the climb back to our cars. On the way, Barry Holchin was kind enough to stop in the middle of a washed out portion of the trail, where we needed to traverse across a very steep soft slope. He waited and gave a hand to the few participants who were slightly unnerved by this traverse. It's always nice to have another leader in the middle of a group who is kind enough to lend a hand like this. Thank you, Barry. I did lead from the bottom up to the cars at Buckhorn, and I am still amazed at the fact that I did not run out of energy at all. Good grief, 17 miles and over 4,000 feet gain. After a month's illness. Somebody Up There likes me. This really is a beautiful hike.
At the campground, we were going to take the drivers back to Williamson and then return for their passengers, but it occurred to me that we might have room to take everyone, in 4 cars. SO, I began a conversation that should have been recorded for posterity as a second "Who's on first?" comedy skit. My question to everybody there was: To the drivers: "How many people can you carry in your cars including yourself?" First answer, "One ... (more)." Second answer, "Two." "Including yourselves?" "No, four." Back to the first driver. "How many people can you carry in your car including yourself?" Answer: "One ... (more)." Question to a couple who had a clear back seat: "How many people can you carry in your car including yourselves?" "Three." "Are you including yourselves in that count?" "No, five". Now, laughing, and with a headache, I was about to tear out my hair and give up, when Mike Baldwin, who had been listening selectively, said to me, "Diane, that's three fives and a four, nineteen riders!" And I said, "I'll take that count!" and we all piled into the cars and left.
Thank you to all the participants, who were all enthusiastic, for good company for a wonderful day, and to Bobcat for doing his usual expert, considerate and phenomenal job of leading.