Suzy Hermann has had it with backpacking. Enough. No more nights on the cold,
hard ground. But she still needed the peaks of The Big 3 to progress with her
dreams of a 2X List Finish. So when she heard that a few of us were planning
on a private trip out to Santa Barbara County to knock out McKinley, Santa
Cruz, and San Rafael over the Memorial Day Weekend, she eagerly joined in. Not
only would she get those coveted 2X peaks, but she could do so while being
fully, blissfully, consciously, 'in-the-moment' aware that this weekend would
be the last one that she'd have to spend sleeping on the cold, hard ground.
On Saturday May 28, 2011 Jim Fleming, Dave Baldwin, Elaine Baldwin, Winnette
Butler, Suzy Hermann, Stella Cheung, Tanya Roton and I all drove across open
and debris-free roads to meet at the trailhead at Cachuma Saddle, where we
shared hearty greetings and promptly started up the dirt 28W01 road toward
McKinley Saddle. Temperatures were cool under sunny skies as we hiked with
steady, gentle winds gusting in occasionally. After some debate we opted to
get the LPS Cachuma Mountain as we headed up to camp rather than try to find
the energy to do so on our way out.
Summit of Cachuma Mtn. Clockwise from Maui Fleming (the dog): Suzy
Hermann, Winnette Butler, Jim Fleming, Stella Cheung, Tanya Roton, Mat
Kelliher, Elaine Baldwin, Dave Baldwin.
After getting that summit we slogged on up
the dirt 28W01 and arrived at McKinley Campground in mid-afternoon where we set
up our tents, refilled our water (after filtering!) from McKinley Spring, and
set off for McKinley Mountain. After getting that summit we headed back to
camp and enjoyed a low-key Happy Hour, ate dinner, and all ducked into our
tents to get out of the rapidly descending cold.
As if to reinforce Suzy's resolve, it rained lightly but steadily all through
the night. When we awoke in the morning, ice had found its way into most of
the moving parts around camp; not enough to freeze things solid, but enough to
slow everything down a little bit. But as the sun rose higher in the sky, we
found ourselves under beautiful partly cloudy skies with cool but pleasant
temperatures as we headed towards Santa Cruz Peak. As we toiled up the
numerous steep sections, occasional strong gusts of icy-cold wind would remind
us now and then that it really wasn't all that hot out there after all. We
achieved our summit shortly after noon and enjoyed our lunch out of the wind
down just a bit below the top. We returned to camp in high spirits - 2 of the
Big 3 behind us, and only one more night sleeping on the ground for Suzy.
Post-Santa Cruz Peak Happy Hour at McKinley Spring Camp. Back row
from left: Tanya Roton, Suzy Hermann, Winnette Butler. Front row from left:
Dave Baldwin, Elaine Baldwin, Jim Fleming, Stella Cheung.
The cold winds blew all night - clear, moonless, starry skies visible to any of
us who dared outside of their tents. In the morning we awoke to dry ground in
our camp. Still in high spirits we dashed off to San Rafael Mtn to complete
our triad. We got there under crystal clear blue skies and enjoyed views that
seemed to go for hundreds of miles in all directions. After a hearty round of
high-fives and with well deserved feelings of accomplishment, we hurried back
down to camp, packed up, enjoyed a last lunch together, and slogged it back
down to the cars under warming temperatures.
Back at the cars we all gave one-another our mutual congratulations and looked
forward to our next shared adventure, wherever and whenever that might be.
When we left, Suzy drove off ahead of us all. A few miles down the road,
probably about where cell phone reception first comes in, we passed Suzy's car
stopped alongside the road. We slowed to look in and be sure she was okay.
She was - she waved us along to indicate that. But as we passed we could see
her cell phone pressed against her head, she seemed to be excitedly telling a
loved one that her nights of sleeping on the ground were at long last, over.