Leaders: Byron Prinzmetal and Mars Bonfire
Sugarloaf Mountain (almost) on Sunday, then home, then back to meet at
the Mill Creek Ranger Station at 6AM on Monday. What's wrong with
this picture? Do I live in my car, on the freeway? Sometimes, it
feels like that, but with one car on the fritz and Brian due at the
office on Monday, this seemed the only way. Hopefully I didn't yawn
in anyone's face and offend them that morning. At least this time I
would remember to pay my share of the gas and fish my trash out of
Mars' car. When we descended from Dragon's Head the previous Friday,
all I could think of was getting in my own car and heading for home,
so besides stiffing him on the gas, I left his car full of garbage.
Although the weather had chased us off the mountain the previous day,
we were here to try again. This time the goals were 10,000 Foot
Ridge, Old 10,000 Foot Ridge (where we hoped to find a really old
register), Lake Peak, and Grinnell Peak. Our leaders were Byron
Prinzmetal and Mars Bonfire. Also there were Joe Gross, Karen Leverich,
Martin Parsons, Ingeborg Prochaska, George Tucker, and Ron Zappen.
The plan was to go up the trail to Fish Creek Saddle, visit Grinnell to
the right, then back to the saddle and up Lake on the left and on to
10,000 Foot Ridge, thence down an interesting cross-country ridge.
Mars had pointed out portions of the route to Martin and I the previous
Friday, and it definitely sounded intriguing.
How does that cliche go? No plan survives contact with the enemy?
Although the sky was clear as could be (the previous day at the same
time it had already looked downright evil), it simply wasn't to be.
It's impressive how fast weather can develop in these mountains.
All looked well at Fish Creek Saddle, but by the time we were atop
Grinnell, we were concerned. And by the time we were atop Lake,
we were almost ready to run. The thunderheads piling up over San
Gorgonio were massive and growing taller in real time. Byron and
Mars felt we'd be way too exposed on 10,000 Foot Ridge, so instead
we turned back for Fish Creek Saddle.
Which isn't to say the day was a loss. Far from it! Simply getting
to Fish Creek Saddle is a non-trivial hike. On our way up Grinnell,
I learned that Ron Zappen had been hiking since before there were
topographic maps. ("But Ron, I have one dated 1943. Just how old
are you? Did they have cars when you were growing up?") This segued
nicely into a discussion of old topos. If you can get your hands on
any, grab them, and look them over. They're fascinating! You can
find trails that may still exist but are no longer maintained. Or
here in my neighborhood, I was able to see where the old ski lift ran
on Cerro Noroeste, and eventually visited it.
On our way up Grinnell we spotted a few deer. The top of the mountain
itself was a bit perplexing, being flattish with no obvious summit.
Even Mars looked a little puzzled, before heading off south (I think
south, my internal compass is not a trustworthy instrument), through
a clearing of sawed down trees (disease? helicopter landing place?
pointless but energetic vandalism?) to the register.
The trail from the saddle to Grinnell (except the last bit, finding
the true summit) was not very steep and was easy to follow. Lake Peak
was a bit more of a challenge -- steep, no trail, a bit rocky.
Compared to other places these guys have taken me, though, not bad at
all. A quick clamber up the rockpile, a quick scribble of a signature
in the register, a quick glance at the alarming clouds piling up
overhead, and we were ready to scoot. I almost neglected to get the
name of my 84th peak. Tsk!
So there we were, back at Fish Creek Saddle, with a good chunk of
the day still in front of us, but truly annoying weather developing
not only behind us, but also in front of us. What to do, what to do?
Well, obviously, go back. "Wouldn't you like a bit of adventure?"
Byron asked, obviously in the mood for some himself. I'd swear these
guys are allergic to simply following the trail. He and Mars studied
their maps, looking for promising ridges, Ron related that he'd been
down a good one in the neighborhood once upon a time, and next thing
we knew, we were peering down the mountain hither and thither, trying
to decide which ridge to take. I couldn't stop giggling, thinking
of how the day before, I'd assured my too easily impressed luncheon
acquaintance about our leaders carefully prehiking all ridges. We
were all going to do the Daniel Boone thing together, and pioneer
our way back from Fish Creek Saddle. Er...
Well, of course it went fine. The ridge wasn't too steep (much less
steep than that famous world-class ridge off of Shields), nor too
brushy. In fact, for a promising interval, it even sported a definite
use trail. (Ron thought perhaps it was an old trail alignment. Ingeborg
theorized we'd round a bend and find the bodies of all the hikers who
had walked that way. Instead, we rounded a bend and it kind of disappeared
in a pile of rock, go figure.) I must have been looking a little wild-eyed
and alarmed, because Ron assured me we would all live, and that I needn't
panic. Shortly after that, they spotted the trail across the valley,
we hiked down the ridge, around the meadow, and caught it at the corner
of a switchback, and not long after that were back at the cars. Much
faster than the night we'd hiked out by headlamp! But no peaceful
intervals of starwatching, either.
I understand Mars and Carleton will be leading these same peaks sometime
next month. Once I get my new Lookout, and know when, I'll make a note
on my calendar. I need that peak! (Am I starting to sound obsessed,