June 30, 2019
I just returned from my first backpack trip of the year, and am anxious to write about it while it’s still fresh in my mind. But I realize that I never wrote about my last day of last year’s trip. So here we go, back in history to July 19. 2018!
As you may recall, Barbara Higbie and I were in Markleeville, after having gotten smoked out of our backpacking trip in the Mokelumne Wilderness by the big fire near Yosemite. We had stayed overnight at a little motel in town, and are just waking up from a blissful night’s sleep in clean sheets after having showered and removed the dust and grime of the trail.
JULY 19, 2018
We ate breakfast at the Alps Diner, and I ordered the most excellent “Breakfast Bowl” of eggs, little yellow potatoes, sausage, cheese and salsa. When it arrived, I couldn’t imagine eating the whole thing, but I plowed right through it. We checked out at around 10:00 AM, and headed to the campgrounds and hot springs at Grover Hot Springs. The campground is beautiful, clean and well-kept. Very well-run state park. It became a park in 1959. Barbara and I checked in and chose a campsite nicely situated away from other sites, and not far from the creek.
Then we checked out the hot springs. It turned out that it’s a favorite with Sacramento’s Ukrainian community. Many people speaking Ukrainian or Russian (I can’t tell the difference), very old to very young, families with babies, teenagers, and grandparents. A woman I spoke to said that they come every year and find the waters to be very healing.
Hot cold hot cold hot cold relax. Barbara and I then went back to our campsite to set up (it’s like a hotel, with a check-in time, though we could choose our “room” in advance). I felt drugged by the heat, which reached 107 in the sun that day. So I spread out my pad in the shade and napped. Then we cooled off in town with a visit to the Alpine County Museum and one-room schoolhouse. This place used to be a town of 4,000, but now is more like 250. The tall stands of pines were cut down to furnish fuel for the silver mines, and when the timber was gone, the town was, too.
At around 4:30, w returned to our camp and hiked the 1.5 miles to the waterfall. It was very beautiful, especially climbing up the rocks to the upper pool. We were the only ones there. It was such a magical place!
Then it was back to the hot springs for a final hot cold hot cold dip, which was disappointing after the creek. The place was filled with even more Ukrainians, and it was pleasurable to just let the language flow over and around me, not understanding a word that was being said. Then at 7:00 PM we attended the evening’s entertainment: a ranger talk on the Grover family. We were the only two people there. The ranger who gave the talk was very knowledgeable and an inspiration. He walked with the aid of crutches, probably he had polio as a child. But he had backpacked all over the Sierra, usually hiking about seven miles/day. He had really powerful arms and shoulders. He said the Park was bought by the State of California in 1959 for the price of $62,000. Now, that was taxpayer money well-spent!
We were in bed by about 9:30 or 10:00 PM. It was a day full of surprises. I remember waking up probably around 11:00 PM to the sound of crackling fire, and I freaked out, thinking the forest was alight in all that heat and dryness. I was relieved to find that the neighboring campsite had been occupied, and the inhabitants had a big fire going in their metal oil-drum fire pit. Whew. Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was the wrong thing to do in those circumstances.
The following morning, we set off for home, stopping first at Lower Blue Lake (a PG&E reservoir) for a swim, and just to check it out, and then taking a short hike at Carson Pass.
We drove home through the Delta, to escape the horrendous traffic on I-80. It was the perfect end to a fabulous last day of our trek.