Leaders: Byron Prinzmetal and Rich Gnagy
Pack, check. Socks, check. Poles, check. Hat, check. I busily
shoveled my stuff from the back of my car into Byron's at the Myrtle
Park and Ride. It was early, I was tired, I didn't feel like driving
all the way to the trail head. Twenty miles later, it hit me out of
the blue: my boots! They were still back in my car, hiding behind the
passenger seat instead of in the cargo area where they belonged,
where I would have remembered them. "I'm not hiking today," I said
plaintively to Byron. He suggested I might be able to do it in my
sandals, if they had good tread, if I had socks, if I felt foolish and
brave. "It's all on trail, though the bit after Wright, going up
Pine, is a little steep..."
I've always suspected I live a charmed existence. Now I have proof.
Our next stop was the McDonald's at the Wrightwood exit from I-15. I
shared my woeful situation with Winnette, who looked at my feet (the
ones that shoe clerks at REI and Adventure-16 have failed to find any
boots I can get on, let alone fit properly) and said, "I have a spare
pair in my trunk that will probably fit you. They're even broken in."
Yeah, right, what are the odds?
Would you believe, Winnette's boots fit me more comfortably than my
own? I couldn't believe it myself, but it's true. So when Byron
Prinzmetal and Rich Gnagy headed out from Guffy Campground for Wright
Mountain, I was one of the six hikers accompanying them. (I did slip
my sandals into my pack, just in case.) Also participating were
Winnette Butler, Doris Duval, Joanne Griego, Ingeborg Prochazka,
and Sheldon Slack.
My boots weren't the only equipment missing in action. Doris was hiking
without her trekking poles, which she was fairly sure she had left
back at Myrtle. We theorized her poles and my boots might go out and
have a nice day hiking on their own, without us.
Our first peak, Wright Mountain, wasn't too challenging, even in
borrowed boots. We'd had a nice walk along the PCT and the road
(noting that we started out by going down, which meant we'd finish
by coming back up, oh well), though Rich (for whom this was a new
peak) wasn't quite sure where to find the register atop the relatively
flat wooded summit. Problem quickly solved, we signed in, took a short
break, and were soon on our way.
The bit after Wright would be a little steep?!? Gulp. Looking up
at the Devil's Other Backbone, snaking abruptly up that narrow narrow
ridge, with scree falling steeply away on each side, I knew where I
would have sat and waited, if my only footgear had been my trusty
sandals. I wasn't at all sure about tackling it, even in boots.
And Doris, how was she going to do this without poles? (She bravely
told me that for terrain that ugly, she'd rather use her hands than
Up we went. It was a little slippery, but not as bad as it had looked
from below. Oh, and hey, it's leveling off already, whew! "That's it,
that's the Devil's Other Backbone?" asked Doris. "That wasn't so bad!"
Turns out we were only on a bump part of the way up, and the really
good bits were yet to come. Figures. Though even the second part wasn't
too bad -- a bit more rock scrambling, a bit less loose stuff, but I
was terrified I would slip on the way down, on our way back.
Even after getting off the Backbone, there's still rather a lot of mountain
to climb, but at least it's less steep, and there are trees to shade
the trail. Byron was amused by the chorus of numbers atop Pine: "98! 96!
146! 106! I'm 146, too!"
We decided we'd eat lunch after visiting Dawson and returning, since
at that point most of our elevation gain would be complete, with only
the last bit before returning to the cars remaining. So we were off
and down a steep slope (sometimes it seemed our whole day was spent
going either steeply up or down, whatever happened to well-graded
switchbacks?), and then gently up Dawson. Another chorus of numbers
-- Winnette and Joanne were at 147, Rich at 228, Sheldon somewhere in
the 50's or 60's, Ingeborg at 97, and I'm finally at 99. Look out
100, here I come!
But first, there was the little matter of getting back up and over Pine.
Ingeborg: "The hard part of Dawson is the return." Karen, remembering
that to get to Dawson in the first place, we'd had to climb Pine: "The
hard part of Dawson is Pine."
I was terrified (I said this already, right?) about descending that
steep trail off Pine along the Devil's Other Backbone. I still have
to internalize that I haven't fallen down once since Byron showed me
how to properly use my poles. But I was also worried about my feet --
it's on the downhill stretches that boots often turn on me and
generate blisters. So far, Winnette's boots had treated me
miraculously well, only biting slightly on my right ankle on occasion,
during the really steep uphill portions. But would my feet be
hamburger by the time we'd descended to the saddle?
I think under that gruff exterior, Byron may have a heart of gold.
(Er, don't tell him I said that?) He took us down that trail at the
sluggiest pace I've ever seen him set. I was able to carefully choose
where to put my feet, didn't slip once, never felt a twinge of worry.
And my feet, when we got to the bottom? Not a single hot spot. Doris
came down OK, too, even without her poles. A wonderful conclusion to
a hike that had gotten off to such an addled start.
Oh, guess what we found in Winnette's trunk when we got back to the
campground? Doris' poles weren't out hiking with my boots, they had
come along and then simply hidden at the trail head. My boots, on the
other hand, really were back in my car. But I'd managed ten miles or
so, over 3000' gain, and three peaks, rather tidily without them.
On the other hand, you can bet I'll never leave them behind again!