Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Best - Part 1

We're back from the best backpacking trip!

Before I left Julie asked if I had any expectations. My response was no for a variety of reasons. I don't try to plan or control the future. I like the unexpected, going with the flow, accepting and adapting to the unforeseen. Life plans a better adventure and this one was fantastic.

My son, Cheet (I may explain this nickname sometime), and I after only three hours of sleep picked up Todd at 4 AM as agreed. We drove to Tusayan and found forest road 328 without problems. A park service brochure contains this sentence. "Driving to the South Bass trailhead can offer almost as much adventure as the hike." Yes, we had an adventure.

Stuck in the snow.
Stuck in the snow about one mile down FR328. (Larger version)

Less than one mile from the highway old tire tracks ended. This road hadn't been used in weeks and the snow was getting deeper. I stopped in a bad location to discuss the situation and we broke through the crust in the snow and the frame settled on the snow. The snow under the crust was fine crystals, feather light, free of friction and traction. We spent 45 minutes getting free and back to the highway. As we worked Todd suggested the obvious that access to FR328 must be via FR328A which is accessed inside the park farther north.

We drove to the entrance to the park and I realized I didn't have my parks pass with me. When we stopped at the entrance station the kind lady said "go ahead" without hesitation rather than charging us the entrance fee. We found FR328A, drove passed the "road closed" barrier and headed south toward 328. By this time the sun was over the horizon and temperatures were starting to rise. On the way we met a truck and I slowed down to talk with the driver.

"Where you going?" he asked?

"South Bass trail head!"

"You can't get there!"


"You can't get there."

Hmmm? The conversation wasn't making much progress. I pressed for more information and learned that he has gotten stuck the day before just a little farther down the road. He had the look and the truck of an aging cowboy with weathered skin, dirty hat and bead stubble. He explained that he hadn't been to the trailhead since last November and he gave the details of the truck that had gotten stuck the previous day, a truck with higher clearance and more tread than my Explorer Sport.

I said we'd keep going until it seem wise to stop and turn back. With a raised index finger and a smile he said something like "That's the smart thing to do."

Pasture Wash Ranger Station.
We parked by the historic Pasture Wash Ranger Station. The building is no longer used but is being preserved.. (Larger version)

We continued through snow and mud for several miles following a set of fresh tire tracks. A few miles before the Havasupai Reservation boundary we met a vehicle coming toward us. The occupants were a woman and a young boy about nine years old. We stopped and the woman told us she had shuttled two hikers to the trailhead but had high centered in the snow about one mile from the trailhead and couldn't go any further. She dropped the hikers there and turned back. We were advised to park at the historic Pasture Wash Ranger Station and walk the remaining three point six miles to the trailhead. This turned out to be good adivce for an unexpected reason that I'll explain later.

Walking to the trailhead.
Near the ranger station walking 3.6 miles to the trailhead. (Larger version)

The station at the reservation boundary wasn't manned so we passed through without stopping or paying the $25 fee and found the ranger station. Parked by the building was a vehicle which told us there were two other groups ahead of us, the group tha the woman had dropped near the trailhead and the group that had left this vehicle.

Near the trailhead.
Within one mile of the trailhead. (Larger version)

We made good time walking to the trailhead taking only one break to shed outer layers of clothing to keep from getting too warm. Finally we arrived, took a couple photos and sharted down the trail.

Todd and my son.
Todd, on the left, and my son at the trailhead. (Larger version)

Our destination.
Our destination is to the plateau, turn left and pass in front of the hill in the center of the photo. (Larger version)

The top of the South Bass trail.
The top of the South Bass trail. (Larger version)

The snow near the rim was over knee deep. Sometimes the crust held our weight; sometimes we broke through and boggled around like oversized weebles. There was plenty of laughter. Someone commented that we needed snowshoes. My son disagreed. It was more fun without them.

Thus began one of the best adventures of my life.


Blogger Anvilcloud said...

I'm with you. Looking forward to the rest of it.

3/18/2010 05:58:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Hodgens said...

Welcome back. Glad it all went well and safely.

I'm dittoing Anvilcloud


3/19/2010 05:25:00 PM  

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