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Stairway to    Umm     Heaven

Page history last edited by lmckeega@... 9 years, 9 months ago

STAIRWAY TO ... UM ... HEAVEN

Emerald Bay to Meeks Bay August 3-6, 2000

written by Jenine Wilson

 

Conci Mack, Jenine Wilson (97), Lynn Spalding (00), Laura Draper (99), Jeff Pike (99), and friend Mark met at the old Yardbirds parking lot at 6 am. Thursday. It's not Lupe's habit to be late, and Mark and Jeff had seen her at REI a few days prior. As far as we knew, she was supposed to be there. A phone call from Conci to Randy to Lupe confirmed our suspicions that Lupe Perez (00) hadn't known about the time change on the web site, and was intending to meet us closer to noon. Ever-ready, Lupe was already packed, and was soon standing in the parking lot ready to go. We met Deb Rauschi (96) in Cordelia, and drove on. After lunch, we picked up our permit, and the nice rangers informed us that there had been just a bit of bear activity at Stony Ridge Lake, where some careless campers had left dirty dishes in their tent. That gave us something to think about while we hiked. We arrived at the Eagle Falls trail head, unloaded, and snagged a parking spot which we held with bodies and packs while cars were shuttled to the Meeks Bay exit point.

 

As the clouds gathered and the thunder began, people moved rain gear to the tops of their packs. At last, around 2:00, we were ready to begin hiking. Temperature and humidity were high. The sign said, "Velma Lakes ... strenuous ... 3 hours." So we started up the stairs. We wondered about the leg length of the people who put the stairs in. These were not your standard steps. We climbed. We sweated. We climbed some more. We sweated some more. It never really rained, though it continued to threaten. The views were lovely. Wildflowers were abundant. Then we climbed. It took us about 4 hours to get to Middle Velma Lake.

Laura and Jeff wondered whether it would be better to eat their canned salmon on the first day and chum for bears for the rest of the trip, or whether Laura should haul those heavy, full cans for three days. They finally decided to eat the salmon Thursday night and risk the chumming. As it turned out, that particular salmon dish didn't appeal to Jeff, so perhaps the bears wouldn't like it either.

Seems it was uphill to get to Phipps, too, though there weren't quite so many stairs. We cut off the trail to bushwhack down to the lake. Lupe took the easier route to the right, while the rest of us took the hard way straight down. We spread out, looking for flattish spots for our tents. After a hot, dusty hike, the lake was cool and lovely for swimming. Laura caught the first fish on her second cast, and decided that fishing was too easy to be much fun. Jeff caught the other fish so we'd have enough for everyone to have an appetizer. Now the fry pan, knife, net, and fishing gear could be a part of the bear bait. From where we sat, it appeared that the west end of the lake was at the edge of the world. The sun set silhouetted the trees at the edge of the lake and was quite lovely. Fish jumped and bats swooped over the water. Deb planned to get a bat named Fred to follow at her shoulders and eat all the mosquitoes that get within arm's length of her.

 

Saturday, nobody was in much of a hurry to get on to the next lake, so we had a leisurely morning before packing up. We tried Lupe's route to get up out of the bowl, and then we had a short, rather easy hike. We stopped for a long lunch at Rubicon Lake. There was swimming, fishing, and sunning. Jeff caught the cutest little trout, and let him go. He just wanted a little fresh fish scent on his net and hands. Mark had a bit of an accident while eating his lunch. Those who like to eat with knives should practice at home first, where medical help is more readily available. Tuna cans and the scent of fresh blood were added to our collection of bear bait.

Stony Ridge Lake wasn't far from Rubicon. We chose to go to the far end of the lake, so we'd have that much less to walk on Sunday morning. Deb and Conci found us a nice group of campsites across the outlet creek on the northwest end of the lake. For a special treat, all tents were on level ground that night. We hadn't seen any sign of bears, and the fishermen at Stony Ridge hadn't had any encounters. We wondered, though, of the significance of the scratched up earth and the upside down, half-buried trowel nearby. Could a bear have killed a hiker and then buried him/her with a trowel as a warning to others? The committee voted to have our kitchen well away from our campsites. Our scouts found a nice level spot up the hill a bit, with plenty of good bear bag trees all around. This was a good trip to practice rock-throwing skills.

 

Jeff was able to discourage the overly-curious ground squirrels, and most of us were able to get our ropes over our branches. Billy the snake made an appearance, but as he didn't seem too dangerous, we refrained from throwing rocks at him. He did get hit with a pinecone, but was unharmed. We discussed distinguishing characteristics of dominant females. We contemplated the Top Ten Overshares of the 2000 Season. We did our best to keep Mark away from sharp objects and Lynn's stove. The ground squirrels appeared to be throwing pebbles at Jeff, but perhaps there's another explanation.

 

All our scented products, food, and garbage went into the bear bags. Did everybody put on their lip balm before hanging it from the tree? Did everyone empty their pockets? Should we just hang our shorts in the trees as well? The standard stuff sacks are much easier to push with Jenine's hiking stick than are the oddly shaped bags with cups and pots attached. Billy the snake had another showing, was poked with a stick, and went calmly back to his place.

The next morning we wanted an early start, figuring the day's hike would be a long one. All food was intact in the trees and retrieved without too much difficulty. Keep in mind, though, that when a 5-foot hiker gets a 6-foot hiker to hang her food for her, she needs to be sure she can get him to get her food back down the next day. The hike proved to be rather easy, and we cruised right along. We took our rest stops at points halfway between our previous rest stop and our exit point, until we realized that we would never get out if we continued that practice. Billy the snake made yet another appearance in a surprising place, but was soon back to his natural habitat. One hiker noted that, while she was careful to step into bushes away from the rest of our group, she wasn't quite so conscientious about the whereabouts of hikers in other groups. That brought to mind an idea for the group to get tattoos rather than t-shirts...something along the order of, "If you can read this, you are too close," or, "Carried this thing too far." Ideas should be submitted for committee vote.

We arrived at the Meeks Bay trail head in the early afternoon, freshened up, shuttled cars, had cold drinks and drove off to "Pisanos" [sic] for lunch. The restaurant was Mark's recommendation, yet we ate there anyway. The tables were slanted, the waitress was as expected, the restroom was in the kitchen. The food was actually quite good...cannelloni crepes, good pizza, even Romaine lettuce! After lunch we hopped back into the cars and spent the next 6 hours driving at a rather too leisurely pace back to Santa Rosa (with stops in Dixon for ice cream and in Cordelia for Deb's car).

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