I recently returned from a backpacking trip with my friend and sometimes bandmate Barbara Higbie. She had never been backpacking before, and left it up to me to choose the route for a 6-day adventure. It could be argued that I went overboard in the expectations department, but since we made it through, I personally don’t think so. Barbara did say that she wants to go backpacking again, which is a good sign!
On June 28, immediately following my very fun “jam” gig at Petaluma’s Roaring Donkey, I drove off to meet up with Barbara to drive to Fresno for the first leg of our backpacking trip in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks (referred to herein as SEKI). Here is my journal from our first day: June 29, 7:30 AM Barbara and I are on the Big Trees shuttle bus, headed to Grant Grove from Fresno. I played yesterday at the Roaring Donkey in Petaluma, with Tom Rozum and Mike Witcher. Keith Little was supposed to be there, from 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM, but the Donkey website listed the start time as 5:00 PM, so he got there just before we quit. He got caught up in the Hwy 37 traffic jam caused by the NASCAR races at Sears Point. There was soooo much traffic that day, with the convergence of the San Francisco Pride Parade (on the heels of the historic Supreme Court ruling) and the races.
Leaving Tom, Mike and Keith to play a few songs together, I ran out the door, jumped in my car, and proceeded to sit in traffic trying to get home for two hours. By 8:00 I was back home. Babz and I left at 8:30 and arrived in Fresno at 12:30 AM. There was work on I-5, and the freeway was shut down, causing us to spend another half-hour crawling along (that’s when I wish I didn’t have a manual-transmission car), wishing for our beds. I had set my GPS device for the Fresno address, but of course, thinking I knew better how to get there, ignored the nice lady telling me to take Hwy 99. If I had, we would have saved that wasted half hour. There’s a lesson there, which I may or may not decide to take to heart.
Our host, the irrepressible member of the Raging Grannies, Pat Wolk, woke us up at 5:30 and fixed us a lovely breakfast of cantaloupe, toast, coffee and peaches. The last fresh fruit we’ll have for 6 days. Then she drove us to the Fresno AMTRAK station where we caught the 7:05 AM shuttle. We are the only two people on the bus this morning! It must be government-subsidized. Our tax dollars at work, for which I am grateful. Writing is difficult in a moving vehicle. Hope I can read my shaky scrawl when it comes time to write the blog. Not enough sleep. I’m worried that today will be hard. Mike Weinberg will meet us at Grant Grove and drive us to the ranger station at Roads End to pick up our permit and begin our hiking part of the journey.
July 29, continued…8:00 PM
Got to Grant Grove at 9:30 and Mike was waiting for us. He drove us to Roads End, regaling us with stories of The Bench (he’s a retired traffic court judge). He said the three most common speeding-ticket excuses are:
1. I had to pee.
2. someone (wife, mother, father, daughter, son, cousin, self) is sick/dying
3. it’s a rental car, and I didn’t realize how fast I was going.
I used the #3 excuse when I was stopped in Texas a few years ago, and the very nice highway patrolman didn’t give me a ticket.
It was a beautiful day of hiking, about 6 miles and 3,000 feet of elevation gain. Going up the last part, we were really dragging. It seemed interminable. We finally found a campsite at Upper Sphinx Creek, very nice, but with TONS of mosquitos! I’m hiding out in my tent because they were eating me alive. Rinsing off in the creek was maybe crazy, but it felt so good to wash off the accumulated salt and grit of the day. But the bugs attacked me and I had to take a Benadryl. I guess I’ll sleep well tonight.
Today, we made our dinner (the hot meal) at about 2:00 PM, and I really liked that. The food tasted better than when you’re bone-weary at camp, and my appetite was better. Barbara and I decided we’d do that every day. Barbara seemed worried about not having enough food, so she brought all these snacks, which won’t fit in the bear canister (which we have to have out here). I hope we don’t get attacked tonight, before we’ve had a chance to eat more, and it can all fit in the canister.
It rained today–light but with thunder and lightning off in the distance. There’s nobody around, which is really nice. I don’t think we’ll see many people out here. A ranger on the trail looked at our permit and said it was a great itinerary, that we’d really get the “wilderness experience.” I hope so. So far, so good!
I saw a tanager today, and loved hiking up through the golden chinquapin, manzanita, sage, shooting stars, Mariposa lilts, lupines, and the different oaks, pines, junipers, incense cedars and firs. I am so excited to be back up here in the Sierra, to an area I’ve never experienced.
We drove past a campground today: Big Stump Camp. There were enormous Sequoia stumps scattered everywhere, and not one Sequoia still standing in the are. They cut every single one down.