Excessive Sierra Snow for 2011 Hiking Season ?

Here we go again. If I was heading out to the Pacific Crest Trail again, I’d bring along a cheap GPS this time, and get ready for slow going through the frozen stuff up there. Hope it’s not a repeat of last year’s conditions. I would consider MSR Lightning Axis snowshoes sent to Kennedy Meadows as well.

Snow Water Equivalent map

Check out the purple band running up through CA and WA, etc.
“The Sierra Nevada typically get a lot of snow, but what is most important this year is the amount of water locked up in that snow. The amount, over 40 inches in much of the region, is averaging 150% of normal.The storms that have come ashore have had a great deal of moisture with them, as evidenced by the rounds of flooding problems and mudslides experienced thus far.”
That’s 40 inches of water, not snow- there is excessive snow right now. My son was just visiting San Francisco this past week, and drove over the Sierras from Montana there and back. He got over I-80 through Donner pass with chains heading over, but on the way back the snows closed that route and he had to head all the way up to Oregon and drive along the Columbia River to reach Montana.
It’s gonna be slow going.


Biking, March 2011

Back at it with the Brewmaster today for a quick 16 miles up and down, with some serious ups. It was fun, it was real work, and my back is sore tonight, but good sore. There is going to be serious bicycling this season, as the Brewmaster is solid in his decision to be on the starting line of the Tour Divide in Banff in June 2012.

Hurley Creek Crossing

Trek Across Lincolnville To The Sea: part 3 of 3

We made it out before the rains came to wash the big snow away. It always comes down to this, on these weekend trips- packing up, retracing steps, and coming home.
In the end, Roy’s back held up. Dave and Kristi had fun. Clarkie played out the persona of Tenzing with aplomb. We did miss Pat’s happy affect on the second night. We helped each other on the way out, with Dave’s sled sucking up the additional weight of Roy’s backpack, with the twin Percheron team of Tenzing and Uncle Tom in double harness, relieving Dave of most of the hauling. We did have some issues with the plastic sled tipping over, but there were no home made pies to worry about on the way out.

Tenzing, Roy, and Dave

What’s good about a backpacking trip is that it is so easy to put away gear when you reach home. In my case, I keep the backpacking stuff in a few plastic bins upstairs in an unused bedroom, so it’s often just dry the bag and pad up on a second floor landing where the heat from the wood stove work its magic, and then toss the dirty clothes in the washer and that’s it.
Kristi beamed triumphant as she mastered the ice in the parking lot.
Kristi on the ice
We’ll be back, and you should consider renting the ski shelter for your own enjoyment in Camden Hills state park.

Trek Across Lincolnville To the Sea: Part 2 of 3

“This is it. This is finally looking like pirogis,” said Roy as he hovered over Dave’s gigantic fry pan.

Polish Power

The pan was brimming with rapidly browning cabbage and potato cheese pirogies as well as kielbasa links. The melted butter base was also sauteeing up sliced onions, both green and whole. They sour cream garnish is ready, willing, and able. Did I fail to mention that the first course was kapusta, the millennial-old gustatory fusion of sauerkraut, shredded pork, garlic, onions, and split peas?
” I never thought they would come out this good, cooked like this, ” murmured Roy.

We didn’t go far in the rain today. But Roy revived his back and Tenzing, Roy and I were able to hike up to the top of 1, 385 foot Mt. Megunticook and schloosh our way steeply down in time for a modest lunch.
Dave and Tenzing were busy reading and planning.

It's Dave , it's a mystery.
Prudent Planning?

We only had one visitor today, a snowmobiler who was up visiting his brother who lived over by Slab City Road. He borrowed to sled from his brother, brand new a week ago and who had unfortunately broken up his knee on a ride just two days after he bought the unit.
No phone reception, no electricity, no TV here brought us back to the way life used to be before we became connected. Meaning another early to bed night.

Kristi and the Purple Cloud

Pat went home this morning vacating a bottom bunk that fit my Big Agnes Air Core mattress perfectly, the plush thickness elevating me above the top of the sideboard so that I had plenty of space to stretch out.

Trek Across Lincolnville To The Sea: Part 1 of 3

I’m so blasted tired that it’s only 7:30 and I’m in my sleeping bag fighting the inevitable act of falling asleep. It’s all part of day one on this third annual “Trek Across Lincolnville To The Sea” hiking challenge.   I haven’t had as intense day of backpacking in the snow for at least 15 years!  Not only was the snow wicked deep, I also walked several additional miles in order to assist my hiking comrades.
Our first test was struggling with the depths of the actual snow. My brother Roy, Tenzing Clarkie, and I set off from my house across snowy fields to the snowmobile trail running part way down the abandoned end of the Proctor Road.

Clarkie and Roy set out

Without backpacks, we initially found firm footing on the snow-packed trail. Unfortunately, the trail veered off from our direction, and we were without snowshoes. After wallowing up to our crotches for a few hundred feet, trailblazer Clarkie swam, rolled and eventually even crawled his way through the ridiculously deep powder until we reached actual pavement.

Clarkie on Norton Pond

For the next mile we wound our way along a snowmobile trail through the woods, across Norton’s Pond, and up to Drake’s Corner Store, where we found an inspiring display if brown, yellow, red, and chocolate varieties of Whoopie Pies.

Roy headed to Drake's

They also have a killer $3.89 chicken salad submarine sandwich which I polished off at the picnic table and washed down with a cup of hot coffee.
Up the Thurlow Road we went. A short climb to Dave and Kristi’s house found us reunited with our backpacks and snowshoes. The real walking was about to begin. But first, grief strikes- in the form of a verbally distressed Roy, now doubled over and clutching his back. We had just walked up to start an untrammeled section of abandoned road and started strapping snowshoes and grunting up backpacks.  Despite our best efforts at medicating, resting, and relieving him of his backpack Roy was done for, or so it seemed. We called Dave up to request a personal ambulance transport. The hope was that resting up with Dave and Kristi for a couple of hours would fix Roy’s back.
Undaunted by the apparent physical risk of just putting on, and not even walking with, a backpack Tenzing Clarkie and I trudged due south heading straight into the welcoming arms of this winter’s  edition of Camden Hills State Park.
After another half-mile we had steadily ascended 350 vertical feet, reaching the other side of Cameron Mountain and the start of the unbroken one mile final uphill section of the Cameron Mountain Trail. Despite the sub freezing temperatures, we were overheating. It was tough walking even with snow shoes, as we were pitched to, fro, and partially backwards with each lumbering step.
A phone call from the top to Roy astounded us that he was back in the action, and that he, Dave,  and Kristi were about to depart the parking area at Steven’s Corner.  Dave had volunteered to add Roy’s pack to the gear that he was hauling in a large black plastic sled.
Encouraged by the impending rendezvous with our companions Tenzing and I plummeted down the half-mile steep Zeke’s Trail, eventually reaching the Ski Lodge Trail (SLT).  Tenzing, in true mountaineering spirit, dropped his backpack and headed north on the SLT. Mission: rescue and relieve. He instructed me to proceed a half-mile south and drop my pack at our destination at the Ski Lodge then come back and ferry his pack likewise.
And then head back out again, hiking over a mile, when I finally reached Tenzing and Roy, who were making steady progress. The unselfish Tenzing was now in full rope harness, pulling uphill a top-heavy and voluminous pallet of gear supporting three people.  I shared the tow rope with him, encouraged by the much improved and ambulatory version of what had appeared to be the wincing, immobile Roy.
Dave and Kristi were holding steady behind.
Eventually we all reached the Ski Shelter, which was still warm, thanks to someone who had earlier in the day kindled and stoked a fire in the massive airtight wood stove.  Continuing to set an example that would have impressed even Hillary, Tenzing slid and skidded his way down a dangerous slope to fetch water for the group.


The details on this relatively new shelter can be reviewed on my previous post.
Later Pat arrived to join us for the evening. He was instrumental in locating the barbecue grill which was indistinguishable below the sea of snow outside the door.  Pat is famous for all things coffee.
We needed that grill. Roy was packing steaks. Tezing was Sherpa for a half- dozen baked potatoes ( with all the fixings), me the appetizers and salad, and Dave the apple pie that he had made especially for this well- earned feast, which leads me to this horizontal position and soon asleep.

Roy's Steak Dinner

It’s 7:30 PM.

Coldest Night ? Hike, yeah!

Flash! Bubbas hit the trail.

Last night Craig and I  headed up the George’s Highland Path from the Thorndike Brook Access.  It was predicted to be the coldest night left this season as we approach Daylight Saving Time change next Sunday and the official start of Spring two more weeks ahead.  When I awoke this morning it was  just 1 degree outside.

We left the road at 5:45 PM while it was still light out. Snowshoes were a must.  While there was  depression on the trail marking someone’s ascent, it was clear no one had been up since the last storm.  We believe that someone skied up, because our snowshoes did not fit in the track, making for extra work as we broke through the edges.  We both agreed that we were in desperate need of a couple of hours exercise in the quiet of the snowy woods.

The first half mile of travel is relatively gradual, ascending about 22 vertical feet.  Headlights went on  as we approched a stream.  After crossing a narrow, snow covered footbridge at the 550 foot level, it was time to go up.  After about a mile, the packed trail was no more, so Craig and I took turns breaking the trail out, packing it down for the other guy.  I discovered that I had lost the tip of one of my Leki poles somewhere in the deep snow, rendering the pole useless.  We struggled with the increasingly steep trail, eventually reaching Thorndike Junction at 1150 feet.

After a quick drink from a thermos of hot chocolate and gnawing away at one of Craig’s home-made pemmican bars, we reversed direction and skidded down the trail, this time without stopping at all.  At times the steep pitch and deep snow allowed us to ski down on our snowshoes, despite the heavy metal claws on the bottoms of our feet that should of held us in place.  We both fell several times, and thankfully the powder cushioned out falls.

Nelson: horizontal

We never made it to the top of Ragged Mountain tonight, we just ran out of time.  I had to be home by 8 PM.  Nevertheless, we averaged about 2 miles an hour on the way up, a very respectable speed given the conditions.  We also broke trail all the way up to the GH Path, so if someone else wants to pack the additional mile south to the summit, that’s OK with us.

Highland map.