Written by Guest Columnist Ed Hart
Friday—it’s sunny, 85 degrees, with clear skies, and my dear sweet Ann was reading the local e-news paper and sees a story about how this group is going up to some high Sierra lakes, to pick up trash and do good and all that warm, fuzzy feel good stuff, so she says, “It’s not far from here, just past Bass lake, we should go.”
So the next day, we get up at 5 a.m., load up two empty backpacks, walking sticks, water, food, all the accouterments and head out to Oakhurst. Stopping for coffee, we watched the sunrise, and then continued on our safari. Now keep in mind, these Sierra lakes are at 8,000 to 9,000 feet. (I somehow forgot that when I agreed.)
Driving towards our destination, we turned off on Road 632, which we had never been on before, and started going up and up; my ears popped three times.
Then, we met our guide. We could tell it was a professional outfit, by the laminated signs hanging out of the back of her truck. Well, it turns out we were the only ones who had volunteered. Okay, fine, I can deal with that.
Some vague warnings were given about the hike; I recall the words “guinea pigs” being floating about, but at that point, we’d already made a commitment, so we followed along.
As we made our way up, the road narrowed, and we saw signs saying things like, “This road no longer maintained from this point!” Then the pavement ran out, and we drove on dirt for awhile; well, for about an hour. There were potholes and small rocks, so we had to drive fairly slowly.
Then, we turned onto road 5S306XY (I think) and drove several more miles, up and up. The road became a little rougher, and we had to weave from side to side to miss large holes. We began to wonder, where’s this lake?
“Oh it’s a few miles up the road,” our guide stopped to assure us. So we kept going, and unbelievably, it got worse. Jebus! Ruts and huge rocks turned to boulders, the kind that rip out your oil pan, or just stop your car.
Driving past monster 4×4 trucks, backwoods hunters looked down on us from their cabs as we bounced along going three miles an hour. I swear that Bigfoot passed us. No really—Bigfoot passed us. My ears popped again, as the road (and I use the term loosely) became even more narrow and hairpin curves skirted the cliffs edge where we could see the tree line and the bare granite of the Sierra.
Going on, the road became one lane and even steeper. But we kept following our guide, who kept saying, “Not much farther.” Finally after nearly two hours, we reached the end of road. Well, actually it was not end of the road; it had simply become impossible to go any further. Hell, I was already worn out, when I remembered the hike.
Again our guide says, “It’s not far, just over a couple of hills.” Now keep in mind, we are in the Sierra; there are no hills. Everything is attached to a mountain. Clouds rolled in, and it got much colder. We put on loaned hats, coats, spare socks for gloves and started out on our “hike.” Up and over one HILL, then another and then another. Funny, how walking a couple of miles seems a little difficult when it involves climbing mountains.
Five hours from when we left the house and 5,000 plus feet later, we arrived. Yes, the lake was beautiful. It literally took my breath away, because at that point I could hardly breathe.
Then, we saw the trash, and I was sure I’d never catch my breath again. What the hell? A folding table, a jumbo tent, ice chest, rubber mattresses, cans, and on and on.
We gathered it all up, bagged it in eight jumbo garbage bags to be packed out, when it started snowing. Yes, snowing, and we had the AC on back at home, and here we were in light jackets high in the Sierra with 40 lbs. of trash on our backs and in our hands too. We traded off who carried the bags by hand, while we marched uphill in the snow.
I’d tell you about the trip back, but just read this backwards.
I am starting to regain feeling in my fingers this morning—that’s a plus.
All in all, it was actually a very cool trip. We accomplished something, and I know a lot more about backcountry roads here, and oddly, neither of us is sore today. We’re in good spirits.
Well, you all stay safe. Just FYI: Our guide has threatened to lead more clean-up hikes, and we just might go.